Just three days after the release of Blast 1.4 we bring you Blast 1.5. It brings some of the most requested features and fixes an important bug (Sidebar items were not remembered between launches). Here are the full release notes:
Archive for June, 2010
We don’t know how it happened but our application Blast is now the featured download on Apple’s download page. It’s great news for us and we hope it will make Blast known to a wider audience. Here’s the historic screenshot:
We’re also preparing Blast 1.4.1 release with a few new features very soon.
If you haven’t check Blast, simply download it now.
New version of Blast and of ImageFramer were released today. The Blast release is especially large and sports a major new feature – filtering recent files by kind. Now, the top of the Blast window sports a selection control where you can select which files you want to see:
The number of recent files remembered was increased tenfold from 25 to 250. Together with the filtering, it won’t overwhelm you.
The performance was also improved. Blast’s window now opens instantly even if the previews will take some time. File preview generation was moved into background and they now appear as they are generated, making Blast much more snappier in use.
There were some UI changes, such as the Blast menu button move to the top and its icon replaced. The scroll bar on the right of recents file list was made larger for easier handling. The window size was changed a little as well.
Among other new features, the context menu now has an option to move the file to Trash and an option to clear the list. If your list becomes irrelevant to the task at hand, you can clear it to remove clutter.
Also, Blast no longer displays splash screen on launch, which irritated some of you and it is now also 64-bit universal.
ImageFramer 2.4.8 adds 7 new frames into the “Wooden frames” set in “Real” collection.
Cashculator 1.2 brings three main changes to Cashculator, all of which were driven by our customers’ feature requests and our own vision. These are:
Export tables to CSV file
You can now export the amounts that you see in the cells as a CSV file. A CSV file can be opened by all spreadsheet applications. Cashculator defaults to exporting what you see right now in the table – the selected scenario, current screen (income or expenses), current filter for the view (Plan, Actual or Combined) and the horizon. Cashculator will even propose a file name for your export based on these values. If you want, you can still modify the screen and the filter in the save dialog:
CSV export has several benefits:
- You can import the data into your favorite spreadsheet application to perform some analyses or build some graphs that Cashculator doesn’t currently allow
- You can print the table from the spreadsheet, until Cashculator support printing by itself
- CSV export of the data also prevents “vendor lock-in”. Some potential customers were afraid of the closed nature of Cashculator. It’s a valid concern. Users should have the ability to get their date out of the application in a portable format
Comments for “transactions”
This is a major but non-intruding improvement to how you can keep track of your transactions. While for the sake of simplicity Cashculator doesn’t keep separate transactions, you could keep simple records by writing expenses as sums, for example, you could write in a cell “100+200″ and you’ll see 300 but pressing Enter on the cell would show you the 100+200 string and you could add to it. Yet, when this list grows you might not remember what these numbers mean. This was especially true for multi-month transactions. You could use cell notes in the sidebar to write some remarks but it was uncomfortable.
Introducing Comments. The new Comments feature allows you to add description of the specific transaction right into the text of the cell. So now, you can write the following “100(Dress)+200(Jeans)”. The cell will still show you 300 but the full text with the comments is now saved.
In addition, for split transactions the current and total count of payments is automatically added to the comment. If you write “800/4(insurance)” in a cell you’ll get 4 cells, where the first will be “200(insurance 1/4)”, the second will get “200(insurance 2/4) etc. This works for all split transactions with “/” or with “*”. Comments can also be added to transactions from the sidebar with the new “Comment” text field.
Another additional to this is that we simplified how you can see the cell’s contents without pressing “Enter” on the cell since it enters an edit state, which is not something you might want. You can now see cell’s content both with keyboard and with a mouse.
If you hover over a cell, you’ll get the text of the cell in a floating tooltip. We’re forcing the tooltips to show fast, without large delay as usual.
The second way to show the details is with a keyboard. When standing on a cell press the Space key. A floating window will popup to show the cell’s content. Press any key to remove the window or click somewhere with the mouse. What’s good is that unlike pressing Enter it doesn’t enter edit state and you still see the sum of the cell.
We’re very happy with this elegant solution to keeping track of your expenses details. We’re sure you’ll find this new ability very convenient.
We’ve added support to add notes to your scenarios, if the scenario name doesn’t hold enough information to differentiate them. To enter a note for a scenario, select a scenario in the sidebar and from the scenarios menu on the bottom or in File/Scenario click “Scenario notes…”.
An dialog will open where you can enter the text. To see the notes you can either open the scenario notes again or simply hover with the mouse over the scenario name in the table the notes will appear in a tooltip. It couldn’t be any easier to remind you what this scenario stands for.
Cashculator 1.2 also fixes some bugs that we and our customers have found. one major bug was related to disappearing totals for customers who move time zones. Another bug could cause issues when using password protection.
Cashculator 1.2 is a must have update for all Cashculator users. And it’s a free update, so there should be no regrets. Download Cashculator now.
As you might know, following our major problems with PayPal during our MacGraPhoto bundle, we switched our payment processor to FastSpring. We considered several options based on the excellent article featuring e-commerce providers’ survey results by Andy Brice. We then went to try FastSpring based on the high scores that they got in the survey and based on the features that they provided at that time.
If you’re not familiar with FastSpring, they are a California-based company, relatively young and their website tagline is “The industry’s best customer service”. So let’s start with this aspect.
I can’t compare all the companies but FastSpring’s customer service is indeed top notch. Starting from their help to build the web storefront (in fact, they can build it for you based on the design of your site) and continuing with answering any questions, technical or business related, in a timely and personal manner.
FastSpring assign an “account manager” to each customer, so you know by name who’ll answer most of your questions. They answer to support emails or inquiries through the website fast and in a personal, transparent manner. They’ll sometimes go much over the required minimum. For example, at one time I asked about A/B testing possibilities and Ken answered deeply not on the technical but also on the business side of A/B testing, advised us to modify store flow and even spotted that we haven’t updated our copyright footer to include year 2010. This kind of attention to customer service is rare these days. Now, let’s see what’s in the service.
Backend software (Springboard)
Springboard’s interface is powerful yet easy to use. I can only compare it to Kagi and eSellerate which we’ve used and FastSpring’s one is much clearer and easier to understand than any of them. See the screenshot below for the main page:
Unlike PayPal but similarly to other companies FastSpring provides an integrated solution by combining shopping cart functionality with accepting payment from customers and distributing it to the sellers. You define products that you want to sell, their pricing (including prices in multiple currencies) and offers, like cross-sales, coupon or quantity discounts. You can choose several “flows” for the shop’s behaviour (separate payment information to another page or not, for example).
The store can be edited and tested at any time in a convenient test mode, leaving your live store functional until you’re ready to make the changes active.
FastSpring fits well small software companies that want to sell their software, like us. They provide a highly customizable notification engine to add customers to your own database. Similar to PayPal’s IPN but more customizable. FastSpring can also call your server to retrieve licenses for the purchased products and then display and email these to customer with the template that you choose yourself. This part of their backend really shines for control freaks like some of us are.
There’s a reporting section in the backend. You can see there the sales history and also tables and charts to show sales by country, by promotion, by product, by days and some more options. I would prefer some more deep analysis options, like seeing specific product sales by country. Yet, it might just appear in the next release. UPDATE: This is possible to do as well, I just didn’t find how to do it. Got an email from them that explains how to do it.
All the sales data can be conveniently downloaded in CSV format. This can be handy if you want to do some deeper analysis on the data in a spreadsheet or for accounting purposes.
During our first couple of weeks I’ve found several minor bugs in Springboard and they were all fixed in the next release. In fact, they seem to be working like an agile development shop, releasing a version of it at least once a month. The releases add new features to the store management, UI improvements or bug fixes. All promptly displayed in release notes.
There are some more advanced capabilities in the store’s backend, like the ability to split the income between several accounts which is good for bundles or for major affiliates. We’re currently preparing the infrastructure for MacGraPhoto 2 bundle and we’ve verified all the important issues with their customer support first, to find a solution that would work well for us. In fact, the recent MacBuzzer software bundle used FastSpring for the sales.
Payment options and fees
FastSpring accepts the regular payment options such as credit cards and PayPal but they also allow to receive Purchase Orders and you have some control about how to work with them. This might be important if some of your customers are governmental institutions or other companies that use POs.
FastSpring’s fees are higher than PayPal’s but on par or lower than most other companies in the same category propose. Of course, you get much more from them than from PayPal, since it’s a more integrated solution. A quote from their website: “…5.9% plus $.95 per transaction or a flat rate of 8.9% (minimum fee of $0.75 per transaction).”
FastSpring itself pays you twice a month (or monthly if you prefer). They can transfer the money either to your PayPal account, by wire or by check. Like in other companies, you can also set a minimum amount to be transferred, if your sales are low and transfer fees are high.
Wrapping it up
In the past 6 months I’ve seen several fellow Mac and non-Mac developers who moved to FastSpring or added them as an additional option to their current payment provider and I’ve only heard good feedback.
Personally, we’re extremely content with the combination of extraordinary customers service, the desire to please the seller and the constant improvements to the already powerful but comfortable store backend.