TheMacBundles.com

TheMacBundles.com. Fifty dollars will get you nine solid titles, including notables such as Default Folder X, Spell Catcher X, DragThing, GraphicConverter, and HoudahSpot.

The idea behind TheMacBundles.com is similar to what you may be familiar with from promotional bundlers MacHeist and MacUpdate. The difference is in the details, and it all comes down to weighing cost versus benefit for developers and consumers.

Let’s look at the criticisms of the ‘traditional’ model. The main complaint is that application developers see very little in terms of profits. The big controversy over the past few years has centered around the benefit of participating in such a deal: for the developer, does the exposure gained by selling en masse via a bundle outweigh the cost of receiving very small returns? The answer to that question is, well, still in question. What is clear is that, despite the apparent growing success of the bundle model, it will only continue to work if developers continue to think it’s worth it.

For the consumer, criticisms center around what you get for your dollar. Often, packages include a few big names alongside many little-known ‘filler’ applications. Added to this, the licenses you receive from traditional bundles are sometimes limited, meaning that you must pay full price for an upgrade when new versions arrive—and those upgrades may be released sooner than later.

In my experience as a bundle consumer, I’ve generally found that benefits outweigh the cost. For developers, however, it must be a real conundrum: is the exposure worth the cost of practically giving an application away?

TheMacBundles.com is a fresh attempt to address these concerns. The new bundling site is self-billed as ‘the farmers market for software.’ While the analogy doesn’t fully hold, I think I get the point. In the U.S. at least, buying goods from a farmers market generally means supporting small-scale, locally-grown produce. Consumers generally pay higher prices, but do so willingly to support the hard work and dedication of the local farmers. They do so to keep those farmers in business and because the quality of the local produce is generally superior to the stuff you would get at a big box supermarket. I can get behind that.

At ‘the farmers market for software,’ you support the ‘local developer’ (read: more so than if you shopped around with those other bundlers). And this is the main point: the business model is centered around supporting the small-scale developers who are working hard to bring us outstanding third-party apps for the Mac. I often tell my Windows brethren that the third-party software one can get for the Mac has no parallel. If this model better supports the people behind this software and brings forth higher-quality, more frequent discount bundles…then I can certainly get behind that, too.

From TheMacBundles.com mission statement (yes, there’s a mission statement):

* All of the software titles in each Bundle are of outstanding quality and often are recognized as best-of-class programs-there are no “filler” titles in the Bundles.
* Only developers that have demonstrated a commitment to providing outstanding customer service and technical support are invited to participate in a Bundle.
* Except for very small order processing and administrative costs, all of the proceeds from sales of a Bundle go to the developers of the software-no middlemen are involved.
* The savings realized by the innovative business model used by TheMacBundles.com is shared with its customers-buyers of a Bundle on TheMacBundles.com get the best software at the best prices.
* All of the programs included in a Bundle are the latest versions of the software.
* All users who buy a Bundle are entitled to the same level of support and the same reduced price for upgrades that apply to users who paid the full retail price for the software.

The first bundle is a good one, and it’ll be offered for two weeks. After that, we’ll hopefully see another package. And that’s one other notable difference from other bundle marketing efforts: we can look forward to bundled app deals throughout the year.

Yep, another MacHeist

MacHeist 3 is here.

There’s a lot of controversy about the pros and cons (for developers of Mac software) about steeply discounted bundles of Mac applications, and MacHeist is at the core of it. The controversy revolves around what these kind of steeply-discounted bundles portend for third-party Mac developers. Will it ruin their ability to make a decent profit? Will it kill or maim third party development? Well, it’s the third year of the MacHeist bundle, and I say the developers know well what they’re getting in to. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

What we, users of Mac apps, need to know is that bundles are great deals, and MacHeist is hard to pass up. This year, I initially thought I’d pass on MacHeist, but I ended up purchasing it…even though I had no interest in many of the apps. Why? Because I could re-gift the ones I didn’t want to my friends, and the few I did want justified the relatively small price. The price, by the way, is $39 for over $600 of apps, and if all applications are ‘unlocked’ (meaning they sell enough bundles) three more apps will be included to raise the total value to $950. Twenty-five percent of each bundle purchase goes to charity, which is an added incentive and a nice touch.

I decided to buy this bundle for Wiretap Studio so I could try this out as a replacement for my much-appreciated, but aging license of Audio Hijack Pro. What appeals to me about Wiretap is a much more simple interface and what looks to be a better (again, simpler) way to hijack audio. I also decided to spring for the bundle to get a Kinemac license. It looks like a promising app to create nice 3D animations, and at a retail price of $300, it’s software that I wouldn’t otherwise try.

Finally, I’m interested in Espresso 1.0 from MacRabbit, creator of my much-loved CSSEdit. I use TextMate, but I have to say…there haven’t been many updates over the past few years. Espresso, on the other hand, seems poised to mature rapidly. Most people say it’s a Panic Coda competitor, which I don’t use. I do, however, use Panic’s Transmit. If Espresso competently handles the chores that I rely on with TextMate and Transmit, then I’m all for it. I’m counting on the eventual unlocking of this app, I should add. It’s the last app in the bundle, and I’m not clear what it’ll take get unlocked. Still, every bundle I’ve purchased in the past has reached sale levels that permit unlocking of all apps, so I’m somewhat confident MacHeist will reach that goal. If not, I’m still content. It’s still a good deal.

P.S. After I bought the bundle, I was pleasantly surprised by two apps. I like the included game ‘World of Goo.’ It’s a lot fun and has great style. And I’m pleased with LittleSnapper, a screen capture utility from the makers of RapidWeaver, a great web development tool. As a user of SnapNDrag and Skitch for capturing and manipulating screenshots, I thought I wouldn’t get much from LittleSnapper. But I like it. I like the library management, the clean and professional look of added text and other accoutrements (including callouts) that I can easily add to screenshots, and the ability to blur parts of my screenshots. It’s still early in my testing phase, but this appears to be a promising tool that might just displace SnapNDrag and Skitch.

MacUpdate launches new bundle

Drive Genius: Well-regarded tool to save a dying hard drive, fix a corrupted one, or to keep a disk optimized. Once you download this app, you can create a fully-legal bootable disc. I own one copy of DiskWarrior. Looking forward to compare and contrast these two tools.

* RapidWeaver: Already own two copies of this excellent web creation tool. Hoping to gift this license. RW now costs $80, so this is a good deal.

* Default Folder X: A superior open/save tool for the Mac with seamless integration. I’ve wanted this for quite a long time.

* VirusBarrier X5: My wife is going to use this on her laptop. You get a year of virus updates with it. I use the free ClamX AV, occasionally.

* MacGourmet Deluxe: This one is going to my spouse. There are many positive reviews for this app. Not sure why it’s called ‘Deluxe,’ since there are no other MacGourmet offerings (i.e. non-Deluxe).

* Little Snitch: Great tool to manage/monitor outgoing network activity. I own a multi-user license of this for all my Macs. Hoping I can gift this or give it away on this site.

* iVolume: Never heard of it, but I’ve found that I generally like German-made Mac software. Might be useful. This tool corrects the volume levels for your iTunes songs so that all play at the same level. Suprisingly, this feature is not built into iTunes.

* KeyCue: A tool to help you find, learn, and remember menu shortcuts in all of your apps. Excellent aid for those who rely on keyboard shortcuts. Yes, I want this.

* MacPilot: Easy access to tons of terminal tweaks and optimizations for your Mac. Looking forward to trying this out. For those who buy the bundle, Koingo Software (developer of MacPilot and other apps) is offering a steeply discounted upgrade ($30) to their $100 ‘Utility Package,’ which includes free lifetime upgrades, and licenses to every application currently on their website. Not a bad deal.

* WhatSize: Allows you to see what files are eating up all of your disk space. Not sure if this will be any better than the free (donationware) tool I currently use (Disk Inventory X).

* iDive : This is an app from Aquafadas, a French company. Apparently it’s a video organizer. I’ll be curious to try it out. I love PulpMotion by these developers (a very unique app picked up in a previous bundle!). This one only goes to the first 10,000 bundle consumers (was originally the first 5,000, but was increased apparently).

The offer ends on Dec. 19. You can also choose to gift a bundle to someone else. You might have trouble accessing the site. It’s getting slammed with traffic right now.

The main question everyone is asking on the forums is about giving away licenses for the apps they already own or don’t want. The short answer is that you must either buy the whole bundle, or gift the whole bundle to one person. If you buy the bundle, you get licenses tied to your name. There would be nothing stopping you from giving away that license, I suppose. For the apps I’d like to give to others, I’m going to write to the developers to see if the registered name could be changed. I recall doing this with Parallels when it was offered in a previous bundle, and it worked.

Stay tuned for other apps over the holiday season. MacSanta may be coming soon. We may also soon see a new Macheist and another ‘Give good food 2 your Mac‘ bundle from Europe.

Round up of interesting things

Here are a few items that caught my interest this week:

1. MacHeist Bundle

They’re back. MacHeist announced a $49 bundle today (a variety of 12 apps offered during the past two Heists). If you bought the previous bundles, this isn’t for you. If you didn’t, you might find something here to pique your interest. The apps that stick out from the pack for me are Cha-Ching and DevonThink Personal. To my surprise, I’ve grown quite fond of CoverSutra, too.

2. Apple news aggregator debuts

Apple Enthusiast is a new, unimaginatively named Mac site launched this week. It strives to be your one-stop-shop for all things Mac, the page refreshing every 15 minutes to keep you up to date with the latest. Me? I don’t care for it. It’s too busy. Too crowded. It reminds me of CNN’s Situation Room, which I can’t stand. There is such a thing as too much when it comes to presenting information. I prefer to subscribe to feeds of individual sites of my choosing using the free and excellent NetNewsWire. Speaking of feeds, you can’t subscribe to an Apple Enthusiast RSS feed (which makes sense given that RSS is how they are aggregating all of these links).

3. Keep your day job

The last episode of MacBreak Tech was very interesting. The topic was making your Mac your business. Lots of great tips, including the best advice of all: “Don’t quit your day job.”

4. One phone number to rule them all

 

Also featured on the above-mentioned podcast were a couple of powerful phone services. One you’ve probably heard of (Grand Central from Google), one you’ve probably not (k7.net). Grand Central is currently an invite-only Beta (anyone?), but you can now sign up with your preferred area code and see what happens. The features of this service are amazing — one more example of how Google is taking over the world. The other service, k7.net, offers to send your faxes and voicemail straight to your email inbox for free. The only downside is that you can only choose from a Seattle area code.

5. SpaceTime

Here’s a new application that I couldn’t resist trying out. SpaceTime is a Windows-only 3D web search browser (currently in beta). The Mac version is in the works. I fired it up via VMWare Fusion and…I was underwhelmed. It’s an interesting idea, but I just don’t see myself using such a tool. At least not in it’s current form. It did raise an interesting question, though. What’s in store for the Mac in terms of the 3D user interface? I haven’t seen any app hit the streets yet using the full-blown, Leopard-powered 3D capabilities embodied in Time Machine. I think user interfaces that embrace 3D will walk a fine line between utility and eye candy. One could make the argument that Time Machine is a bit heavy on the eye candy, after all. But I kinda like it; I think the Time Machine metaphor is uniquely suited for 3D presentation. Still, I wouldn’t mind an alternative 2D Time Machine interface option, similar to what we have for the 2D or 3D Dock (just because I’m always for customization options). But I digress. All I really can say at this point is that I’m eager to see how Mac developers integrate 3D ideas into future UIs — I’ll bet the most successful ventures will use it sparingly.

6. Get IRCed

Internet Relay Chat is still going strong. I haven’t used IRC for a long, long time, but I recently came across an app that spurred me to once again tap into the conversation. It’s a top-notch free client called Colloquy.

 

7. Cocoa links

Here’s a small ‘aggregator’ of sorts that I really do like. It’s Cocoa Dev Central, a collection of links that are quite handy if you’re interested in learning how to program for the Mac and don’t know where to begin. Make sure you check out Cocoa Lab’s free online book.

While you’re waiting … Macheist II

While I’m working on my task management application opus, here’s something to keep you interested. Macheist II started today. This year’s bundle initially didn’t do much for me, since I already have 1Password, AppZapper and CSSEdit (and I use iShowU instead of Snapz Pro X, so I’m already invested in this great and cheaper alternative) … but MacHeist just added Pixelmator to the line up. Now I may have to get this.

Why? I own Adobe Photoshop CS3. The license for CS3 allows one to install this package on two Macs, as long as both copies are not running at the same time. That’s great, but I own three Macs. I need to edit images on all of them. I’m intrigued by Pixelmator as a photo editing application that is both affordable and powerful. I want it, mainly so I can put it on my third Mac (an older laptop) AND because I think Pixelmator is going to be big – precisely because it’s cheap and it’s very robust (and Adobe’s Photoshop Elements for the Mac hasn’t been updated forever, leaving a big gaping hole for an independent consumer entry like Pixelmator). While I’m planning to add some Photoshop tutorials on this site, I’m very interested in posting some comparisons between Pixelmator and it’s much more expensive cousin.

By the way, if you don’t already have some of the applications featured in the MacHeist, this package is quite a good deal. CSSEdit is an outstanding application. I use it daily, and I frankly couldn’t live without it. If you edit Cascading Style Sheets routinely on a Mac, give this a try. A warning, though: if you’ve never edited a Cascading Style Sheet, you may find this application confusing. I learned CSS with a program called StyleMaster, which is a nice learning tool. However, the developers haven’t updated it in over a year. I lost hope.

AppZapper is nice, although there is a very nice free app that does the same thing (see AppDelete). Interesting to see TaskPaper here as I contemplate task manager applications. I’d like to give it a spin. Once I’m done looking at GTD-based task manager apps, I’d like to look at this as well as other non-GTD mac ‘to do’ list managers in comparison. TaskPaper looks to be a solid entry in this field, as does Anxiety. Finally, iStopMotion looks like a lot of fun if you ever wanted to try making your own stop motion film – what a cool way to use your built-in Mac video camera. As for 1Password, if you don’t own this … I strongly suggest you try it. I can’t imagine not having this handy password manager. MacHeist is offering a 25% charity donation if you buy the $49 bundle.

Holiday season software deals

It’s the time of year for mac software promotions. MacSanta just kicked off yesterday. This site offers daily 20 percent discounts on selected applications each day until Dec. 24. And over in Europe, mac developers have put together the “Give good food to your Mac” promotion, offering discounts up to 70 percent on a sliding scale (the more apps you buy, the better the discount). There are some really good applications on this one … and only six days left before it ends. And one more … I just discovered that MacUpdate also has a promo for the next eight days … 10 apps bundled together for $50.