TextSoap, App Store departure, and the update void

Although we should know better, the Mac App Store lulls us into a false sense of update security. We assume that, because so many of its apps just keep updating, they all do.

Just recently, when writing an article on preparing text for import into Storyspace 3, I had need to turn to a favourite if not essential utility, TextSoap. This filters text in many ways you might not even think possible, something that I don’t do very often, but when I need to, it is worth my weight in gold.

textsoapThe last time that I used it much, I was trying to extract text from PDFs written in Georgian. Because these often do not contain Unicode characters, I used TextSoap to perform extensive mapping between pre-Unicode and Unicode character sets, and unscramble text files which had been exported from Adobe Acrobat Pro.

I had bought TextSoap 7 through the App Store, and became a little concerned that the version in my Applications folder was about a year old. A quick check on its website confirmed that version 8 had been available for some time, and was already starting to accumulate minor updates. I checked back on the App Store, where there was no sign of any version 8.

In common with some other notable apps, its vendors had decided that, as from version 8, they would revert to selling direct, rather than through the App Store. I had been completely unaware: Apple was hardly going to inform me that one of its fine products had departed its App Store. But neither could Unmarked, its developer and vendor.

So I had fallen into an update void, expecting the App Store to maintain TextSoap for me, when it had quietly left its product listing.

I have had similar, if not more frustrating, problems in the past when an App Store vendor produces a new version of an app which has to be purchased afresh: then the App Store stops pushing out updates for the old version, but does not inform its users of the new version’s availability.

These are not major issues, and certainly not something that we could expect the original vendor or the App Store to address. But it is very frustrating for both to drop us into this update void.