Right on cue, Apple released a Mac OS X 10.6.6 update which includes the Mac App Store first previewed back in October. Launching with over 1,000 apps stocking its virtual shelves, and potentially just as many questions which we’re all too happy to answer for you.
Apple is hoping for a worthy sequel to its iOS App Store first launched in July, 2008 with Thursday’s launch of the Mac App Store. On the surface, the Mac App Store offers the same ease of use as the iTunes-based App Store, but many users (especially those who just got their first Mac for Christmas) will likely still have questions -- and as always, MacLife.com is here with answers.
How Do I Get Mac App Store?
First the potentially bad news: You’ll need a Mac capable of running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in order to get it. That immediately disqualifies all older Macs with Power PC (or earlier) processors, since an Intel processor is required to install Snow Leopard. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since Apple long ago laid down an edict that the future of the Mac lies with Intel processors, and even recent updates to its own software (including iLife ’11, Final Cut Studio and Aperture 3) all leave Power PC systems in the past.
Getting the Mac App Store is simple: Under the Apple menu, select Software Update and you’ll shortly see a Mac OS X 10.6.6 update pop up. Run that update (along with any others that appear, for good measure), then restart your computer. When your Desktop reappears, you’ll see the Mac App Store icon in the Dock, to the right of the Finder icon.
Where Do I Find It?
As mentioned above, after installing Mac OS X 10.6.6, you’ll find a new Mac App Store icon in the Dock, in the second position, to the right of the Finder icon. From there, you can open with just a click.
Can I Move It Off the Dock (or Remove It Entirely)?
Not only can you move the Mac App Store icon off the Dock by dragging it up and letting go of the mouse button to make it vanish with a poof of smoke, you can also move it to any other position in your Dock, the same as with any other app. If you do choose to remove it, you can always access it directly from your Applications folder or even move it back to the Dock -- but take note, the app is actually called “App Store” rather than “Mac App Store” in the Finder.
How Does It Work?
Even though the Mac App Store is a separate app, it works pretty much the same as the iOS App Store within iTunes. Click on any software title to get more details on it, including when it was released, what version number it is, the download size and what language(s) it supports. There are also plenty of screenshots to entice you with, and of course, the requisite button in the upper left to allow you to purchase and download to your computer.
How Do I Navigate the Mac App Store?
Most everything you’ll need is right at the top of the screen, with five buttons covering the key areas: Featured, Top Charts, Categories, Purchases and Updates. Arrows at the left side allow you to maneuver back and forth through the virtual aisles, and a search field at the far right helps you quickly find a specific title you’re after.
When you click on one of the five buttons, it will turn blue to indicate it’s selected. Featured shows 12 apps from select categories such as New and Noteworthy, What’s Hot and Staff Favorites, with a Quick Links section at the right, followed by top 10 charts for Top Paid, Top Free and Top Grossing apps. If it all sounds familiar, that’s because the iOS App Store has had the same general appearance for quite awhile.
Top Charts will show you an expanded view of the Paid, Free and Top Grossing charts, while Categories allows you to drill into 21 different areas of interest, ranging from Business to Games, News to Productivity and much more.
Once you’ve made a purchase on the Mac App Store -- even a free one -- they’ll show up in the Purchases panel, complete with the title, name of the publisher, date of purchase and a graphic showing whether or not the app is currently installed. Last but not least, the Updates button will alert you to which apps have been updated -- but don’t expect to find anything there yet, since the doors have only been opened a few hours at this writing.
How Do I Purchase Apps?
Buying is just a click away -- whether you’re on the detail page of a title or even looking at one of the category pages, you simply click on the price below. The Mac App Store will ask for your username and password the first time around (and you’ll need to enter your password for future purchases), then you’ll see the app icon fly out of the window and onto your Dock, complete with a small progress bar showing how the download is proceeding. The same process occurs for free apps as well.
While an app is downloading, you can also go to the Purchases page to pause, resume or cancel the download. If you have multiple Macs, this is also where you’ll go to download a previous purchase onto the second (or third or fourth) Mac as well.
Where Do My Purchases Go?
Mac App Store apps are downloaded and install with a single click into your system Applications folder, which is also the best place to keep your non-App Store installs. To make it easy for newbies, the Mac App Store also keeps a purchase pinned to the Dock, where you can choose to move it to another position or drag it off the Dock to remove it completely. But don’t worry, your app is still quite safe in the Applications folder, same as before.
What If I Want to Get Rid of an App?
Good question -- for all of the simplicity of the Mac App Store, there is currently no easy way to remove an app you don’t want any longer.
However, you can do it the manual way by going to your Applications folder, selecting the app in question and dragging it to the Trash -- you’ll be prompted for an administrator password (which is probably different than your Apple ID account used for purchasing) and then the app will be moved to the Trash.
Returning to the Purchases tab, you’ll now see the option to Install the app again, or you can simply reverse the process by dragging the app out of the Trash and back into the Applications folder and entering your administrator password to approve the process. Now the Purchases tab will again show the app as “Installed.”
What About Apps I Already Own?
This is something of a tricky area -- with the current version of iLife ’11 installed, the Mac App Store versions of iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand show “Installed” rather than list the price, although they don’t appear in the Purchases tab with apps that were actually bought in the Mac App Store.
In the case of non-Apple, third-party apps, the news gets worse. Several apps we already had installed, including Evernote, Stuffit Expander and TextWrangler, did not recognize as being installed by the Mac App Store. However, since these are free apps, you can easily delete the existing versions from your Applications folder and then “purchase” them on the Mac App Store again. Your preferences will remain intact, so in the case of Evernote, for example, you’ll be back in business with the Mac App Store version without having to even reenter your login credentials.
A word of caution, however: If you attempt this trick on a paid app, you’ll have to purchase it on the Mac App Store all over again -- there is currently no upgrade path for existing users of paid third-party apps. We don’t view that as a problem, since most developers will likely continue to offer direct updates to their apps until a new major version is released, which you can then purchase at the Mac App Store to keep everything in one place.
How Do I Pay for Purchases?
Buying from the Mac App Store is exactly the same as iTunes -- that is, everything is tied to your Apple ID, so whatever payment method you have there (credit card or PayPal) applies to the Mac App Store as well.
That also includes iTunes gift cards or certificates, which you can add via the Quick Links section on the main Mac App Store page. Click “Redeem,” enter a code and then the Redeem button, and your credit will be applied to your iTunes account, where you can spend it from any iOS device, iTunes or the Mac App Store.
You can view your account information at any time by clicking “Account” from the main Featured page under Quick Links, or go to the Store menu and select “View My Account.”
Can I Download Purchases to All of My Macs?
But of course! Mac App Store purchases are tied to your Apple ID account, which means that you can download and install them on your main system, then log into the Mac App Store on your other Macs and install them there as well. There is no limit to how many systems you can install it on, and subsequent installs are free, even for paid apps.
If you’re the more adventurous type, you can even copy your downloaded app from one Mac to another -- when you open it on the second Mac, you’ll be prompted for your Apple ID in order to use it. Enter your account info and you’ll be off and running, but your other Macs will still need to be running Mac OS X 10.6.6 or they won’t work.
I’m Getting an Error Code 100 -- How Do I Fix It?
We didn’t have any problems with this, but judging from Twitter posts, it’s a problem for many. According to TUAW, if you get an error message when trying to make a purchase -- something like “An unknown error occurred (100)” -- quit the store app, restart your computer and launch the Mac App Store again, which appears to clear it up just fine.
So what are you waiting for? Update to Mac OS X 10.6.6 and see what the future of Mac software purchasing looks like -- just be sure to keep those piles of old software discs out of sight so they don’t start sobbing.