by Cesare Rocchi

Where's that App?

by Cesare Rocchi


Tons of words have been written about the problems that developers have with the App Store:

I enjoy a lot the fact that whenever I buy a new machine or install a new version of Mac OS X all the apps are “there”, in the list of my purchases. It’s just a matter of clicking on a bunch on “Install” buttons and wait. With third party software is a bit more complicated:

  • Go to the website of the app
  • Download it
  • Find license token and enter it

The App Store app collapses all these actions in one click, it’s a huge win for the final customer. There are drawbacks though. This is my recent experience.

I recently installed Yosemite on one of my Macs and I started digging through the list of purchased apps as I usually do. While some where downloading I wanted to write a blog post so I looked for Clean Writer Pro, a very nice and simple app that I bought a while ago. It wasn’t in the list of my purchases. It’s not unusual to experience glitches like this in the App Store app. So I ran a quick Google search and ended up on the app website. I clicked the black button and:

The item you've requested is not currently available in the Italian Store, but it is available in the U.S. Store. Click Change Store to view this item.

Weird, but again not the first time. So I asked a few of my American friends to open the website and click on the black button. Same story, the app is not on the store. What? I bought something and I think I have the right to use it. A developer can pull an app from the store whenever he/she wants, but since I bought it I should be able to use it as much as I want. To be clear, we are not in the case in which the app is not compatible with Yosemite. It is not in the store anymore.

The app was not expensive and there’s plenty of similar apps, even free. Clearly I can write posts using another editor. Yet, this is not a great user experience. In the good old days we used to buy boxes with floppy disks or CDs, in other words we “owned” a copy of the software. I am comfortable with the idea that now we don’t “own” it anymore, as long as I can download it as many times as I want! In this case what I expect is that an app I have bought appears in the list of my purchases even if the developer pulled it from the store.

I got in touch with the developer via the contact form, but I didn’t hear back and I am not blaming him/her at all. Should I start including my Applications folder in Time Machine? It doesn’t sound like a great idea. To me only data should be included in the back up.

Anyway I quickly put on my The Wolf hat and solved the problem the good old way. I just didn’t expect it to work. I copied the app from the Applications folder of another Mac! And it works! I could have copied it also from a backup I guess. It works because I bought it using the same Apple ID. I solved my problem but still I don’t feel it’s the right solution. It looks more like a patch. Plus not anybody has two machines and can afford to use one as a “cache” for apps :)

This issue got me thinking about a few other edge cases that I could stumble upon in the App Store:

  • I buy an app, then I ask for a refund and I get it. Later I change my mind: can I buy it again? I think so but I am not sure.
  • I buy an app, the dev takes it off of the store a few days later. Can I ask for a refund? I think so, but who knows.
  • An app implementing Auto-Renewable subscriptions gets pulled form the store. The app is still installed on my device. Am I still billed monthly? I have no idea

If you had similar experiences let me know on Twitter. I am curious.