Bundles: The good and the bad

In the Mac world so called “Application Bundles” exist – this means that about a dozen commercial software packages are sold together for a pretty cheap price (usually $50 instead of more than $500!) for a limited time. Experience has shown that there are one or two packages that are pretty “strong” and try to convince the users to buy the package, the other applications are rather unknown, but might also be useful. But it pays off.
For example I recently bought my “upgrade” to Parallels Desktop 4.0 – the whole bundle including other software cost me about the same as just the upgrade directly from Parallels. So even if I don’t use any of the other applicatins included in the bundle it does not really matter, as it did not cost me anything.

Now that I already bought 4 bundles (from MacHeist and MuPromo) I have a lot of commercial software to test and rant about… and trust me, there are great differences when it comes down to support, updates and quality. Therefore I want to write about some of the top notch applications included in the bundles:

1Password is still the most used application on my Mac and I’m very happy that it was included in the first MacHeist bundle. The password manager includes support for all major browsers on OSX, syncs its data flawlessly across an iDisk and “just works”. It allows me to “remember” very complicated passwords in a secure way and it also synchronizes to the iPhone, so I have my passwords with me all the time.
They release new versions of their software very regularly (usually every 3-4 weeks) including bug fixes and new features. Recently they came up with the best WiFi iPhone sync process I every saw – 1Password automatically detects the iPhone using Bonjour and synchronizes automatically. That’s how every software should sync with the iPhone – flawlessly and automatic!
1Password is highly recommended to every Mac user to manage passwords! And all other application developers should have a look at how easy it is to sync across Macs and to the iPhone.

Parallels Desktop
This was the reason to buy the first package from MuPromo – it included a cheap license of Parallels Desktop 3 and the recent bundle included the new 4.0 release. A great deal to get a license for an amazing piece of software that allows me to run Windows on the Mac. It just works and got even better after I upgraded my Mac to include 4GB of RAM. Highly recommended to test Websites in IE or execute Windows-only applications.

The Hit List
The recent MacHeist bundle included The Hit List, a GTD app I already wrote about, as their main application. While still beta the developers are very active and release a new version every few weeks. They also listen to the forums and communicate with their users – and because the MacHeist sold more than 88.000 bundles I’m sure they receive a lot of support requests these days 😉
Nevertheless the very promising application is still unfinished – to be a real, serious GTD application it misses two featuers – a rock-solid way to sync tasks between different machines and an iPhone counterpart. But until now, long time after the Heist, there is no iPhone application available, rendering The Hit List pretty useless (at least for me). So I’m still waiting (together with a lot of other folks) for the release of an Hit List iPhone application…. hopefully they look into 1Password to learn about synchronization!

The article is named “the good and the bad”, now let’s talk about the bad one… MacRabbit released Espresso 1.0 just before the last MacHeist took place, but to be honest this application is still in “heavy beta mode”. It tries to be an source code editor which matches up with Coda, TextMate or BBEdit and it was one of the reasons for buying the bundle.
Unfortunately the application is not anywhere being ready for production. While the overall approach looks great it lacks required features, that you would expect from a source code editor. For example Espresso only supports syntax highlighting for a few languages, the application crashes too often, and I can’t even enter the ^ character, which is used quite often within regular expressions. Even worse, the support does not reply to bug reports at all – see the forums (i.e. here) for details. Just on a side note – they don’t seem to participate in their own forums at all.
So how about updates? Well, there have been some, but neither did they fix a lot of bugs nor did they bring Espresso anywhere near a serious text editor.
Unfortunately Espresso has been a waste of money and I’ll stick with the free TextWrangler instead.

Voila! and MoneyWell
Now that I complained about the Espresso support being not responsive at all I want to highlight two great software companies where the support is just amazing!
Voila v2.0 enhances the OSX built in screenshot feature and allows editing, rotating, modifying screenshots without any need to fire up Pixelmator. There are still some bugs and missing features (copy to clipboard!), but the support wrote back within minutes on all my requests!

The same applies to MoneyWell, a simple but powerful personal finance application – the support wrote back within minutes (from the iPhone) and they participate actively in their own forums. That’s how it should be!

The summary :)

  • Bundles are great! They are even so successful that there will be a bundle every month!
  • Developers should listen and respond to their customers – in the forums and via mail. Pre and Post sales!
  • Developers have to release often and react fast on bugs – otherwise the majority of the users will move away and a great opportunity is lost.
  • Mac bundles can bring a lot of users to unknown applications, which helps the developers to build up a user base and users to get cheap software directly from the developers.

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