May 24, 2016

How Well Is the Mac App Store Curating?

Apps for WritersApps for Writers

The Mac App Store has a ton of applications. Unless you know about an application, it is very difficult to wade through all of the choices and make an informed, intelligent choice. This process is helped by the special sections Apple curates to help the customer along the process of decision making. This is a responsibility Apple should take seriously, they are the authority providing the direction. Their credibility and trust are on the line. I wanted to see how well Apple is doing.

I decided to look at the special section called Apps for Writers. Primarily because this is the category I know best in the store. The section is broken up into four categories:

  1. Manuscript Makers
  2. Distraction-Free Writing
  3. Journaling & Blogging
  4. Notes & Clippings

I would have liked another section. Aid to Writers. This would include tools which make the process of writing easier and better. This would include Pomodoro timers, grammar checkers, Markdown previewers and the like.

Manuscript Makers

Product Last Updated Comments
Pages May 10, 2016 Great
iBooks Author Mar 29, 2016 Great
Ulysses Apr 20, 2016 Great
Scrivener Sept 30, 2015 Great
iA Writer Apr 22, 2016 Fits better in Distraction-Free Writing, Great
Final Draft 9 Sept 18, 2015 Industry Standard
Storyist Dec 10, 2015 Meh
Mellel Apr 13, 2016 Great
MovieDraft Feb 07, 2012 Old
Slugline Feb 17, 2016 Great

I am not certain iA Writer fits in this category. Distraction-Free Writing is the better category for it. iA Writer has broadened its scope through support of file directories but it is still a single document centric application. You can read a review here.

MovieDraft hasn't had an update for more than four years now. Is this still a viable product?

This list doesn't seem to be an attempt to pick the best of breed. Ulysses, Scrivener and Storyist, are all playing in the same space. Final Draft 9 and Slugline though fundamentally different products are catering to the same audience, the screenwriter. So, it is not a best of breed exercise. It is a list of the notables. In that case, it makes sense to visit the word-processor category.

Besides Pages, Mellel is the only word-processor in the list. Wouldn't it make sense to include Nisus Writer Pro also in this list? It is being continuously developed, has an absolutely fanatic bunch of users, and is very competent at what it does, process words.

Distraction-Free Writing

Product Last Updated Comments
Byword Mar 24, 2016 Good
Rough Draft Mar 24, 2016 Gimmicky
Flowstate Feb 08, 2016 Gimmicky
Paragraphs Feb 18, 2016 Meh
Write Dec 14, 2014 Developer classifies as abandonware.
Ommwriter Dana II Dec 31, 2012 Old and Gimmicky
WriteRoom Aug 08, 2012 Old
Macchiato Aug 24, 2011 Old
MachWrite Mar 24, 2015 Good

iA Writer should be in this section.

I think Rough Draft, Flowstate, and Ommwriter Dana II are just too gimmicky. I would never use them. But I understand that gimmicks sell. So, I am not going to bitch too much about the choice of these products.

Write is classified as abandonware by the developer. Why is it on this list? WriteRoom? Almost four years without an update? The last update was to make it compatible with Lion! Macchiato? That is a product which last got updated five years ago? Really? That is the best available in the App Store?

What about Focused? What about Writed Pro. There are alternatives which are more current than the ones listed. You cannot tell me that there is no better product in the App Store than the one last updated in 2011.

Journaling & Blogging

Product Last Updated Comments
Day One Apr 25, 2016 Good
Desk PM Apr 07, 2016 Good
MarsEdit Apr 14, 2016 Great
Blogo May 21, 2016 Good
My Wonderful Days Apr 07, 2015 I don't know this one
Memories Mar 11, 2016 I don't know this one
Memoires Apr 01, 2011 Old

This is a shorter category. I don't have any gripe about the choices, except for Memoires which is 5 years old. I also don't know anything about two of the choices.

Notes & Clippings

Product Last Updated Comment
Evernote Apr 22, 2016 Good
Notability Mar 17, 2016 Meh
Notefile Sep 01, 2015 Meh
Ember Oct 23, 2015 Aid
Simplenote Jan 26, 2016 Great
1Checker Apr 28, 2015 Aid
MindNode May 17, 2016 Great
OmniOutliner Pro May 17, 2016 Great
Together 3 May 19, 2016 Good
Scapple Oct 21, 2014 Good
Scribe - Intuitive Outliner Dec 02, 2014 Meh

Ember and 1Checker shouldn't be in this section. They are aids to writing/thinking. They are not involved in notes or clippings. They belong to the Writing Aids section Apple should add to this list. There are however, some glaring omisions in this list. I think Quiver should be in this list, so should TextNut. I think OmniOutliner Pro is a great choice, but Scribe has a lot more competitors in its price range, and OutlineEdit, Tree 2 and Outlinely all deserve consideration. Likewise Together 3 is a great product but Growly Notes deserves some attention too. Notability and Notefile have iOS counterparts, and if that is a consideration Notebooks should be on this list.

Aids to Writing

This is the section that is not present.

This can include the following products:

Product What it does
Noizio Provides background noise
WordService Provides commands for working with selected text
Marked 2 Previewer for text markup languages.
Focus - Productivity Timer A pomodoro timer
Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary A good dictionary.


So how did Apple do?

A mixed bag really. Some sensible suggestions, but some howlers too. There should be a cut-off date for old products. For instance, if a product has not been updated for the last two OS revisions, it doesn't deserve inclusion in any curated list. I think the Aids to Writing would improve this list.

I am going to keep a lookout on updates to this and other curated lists for future coverage.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Curating Mac App Store Writing

Previous post
Links of Note 2016-05-21 This is beautiful. A Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City Guide - Life & Thyme A write-up on the advantages of Markdown. You Should Probably Blog in
Next post
Segue Down the Analog Road: The rOtring Rapid Pro 2.0 Mechanical Pencil Product: rOtring Rapid PRO Mechanical Pencil, 2 mm, Matte Black I don't know much about Bauhaus School of Art and Design. I do know that they