All our software is Mac OS X Mavericks ready

As you may know Apple have released Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks during their keynote last night.

It is available for free on the Mac App Store as of now.

Apple has given us developers early access to the new release to give us time to test compatibility and take advantage of new features. We have over the past months quietly released a few minor updates to address compatibility issues and at the time of writing this all our current software titles are Mavericks-compatible.

As always, however, problems that are not apparent “in the lab” can start popping up when a new version is released into the “wild”, so if you encounter any problem, please let us know at and do not rely on other people to do so.. most people wait for “somebody else” to report the problem and then months later frustrated users post a “I can’t believe they still haven’t fixed this!” review.. while all the while developers are blissfully unaware of anything being amiss.. please just drop us a line.

There is one known problem for Vitamin-R on Mavericks that affects only multiple display setups.

Mavericks is the first Mac OS release ever to feature “multiple menu bars”; this is to make it easier to select items in the menu bar without having to mouse back to the main screen all the time. Unfortunately, Mac OS X was never designed to work that way and while Apple’s implementation works it leaves much to be desired.

The main problem is that menu bar items, such as Vitamin-R’s (R) icon appear in multiple different places at once, but Apple hides this fact from the program. As a result, programs only get to know one location for the menu item, but it exists in two or more places. On top of that which location the program is made aware of seems pretty random and is not documented.

All this makes it hard to position popup menus such as Vitamin-R’s or indeed Fantastical’s or Dropbox’s accurately.

We’ve done our best, but with only a single beta tester, we are not entirely certain that it works for everyone. We thought we’d have a little more time to test this before releasing it, but with yesterday’s surprise announcement, we’ll be releasing an updated version of Vitamin-R today.

Let us know if you run into problems!

Vitamin-R 2.0 Upgrades & Mac App Store

It’s been almost 3 years since Vitamin-R was first released into the public eye.

Those who experienced version 0.01 beta 1 (!) can testify to how much the product changed between then and the 1.0 release and of course Vitamin-R has never since stood still for more than a few weeks. In total, we have up to this point released no fewer than 109 updates and I think you would agree that it’s now nearly time for the big 2.0 release.

If you own any of our software, you will have noticed that we release features as soon as they’re ready. This helps us create better product as we get feedback earlier and it also gets new features into your hands quicker.

The price we pay for this practice is that we don’t get to do the “big reveal” when the time comes to ask you for an upgrade fee.. but rest assured that we are making an extra special effort to make 2.0 more than just another point update!

Many people hate upgrade fees and we accommodate these people by providing “forever upgrades” both with your initial purchase and at any point after.

While upgrade fees may be a little painful, they are instrumental in ensuring that a product meets the requirements of experienced users. Without them there is little economic incentive to develop a product beyond what is necessary for its immediate appeal. It is no coincidence that most iPhone apps get used only a couple of times before they are forgotten forever.

Without upgrade fees there’s no economic incentive for developers to look past the moment of the sale, leading to software that is optimized for immediate appeal but fails to live up to its promise shortly thereafter. We want none of that. With Vitamin-R we want to introduce you to a more productive and enjoyable way of working and support you at every stage of your journey. In order to do so we want to furnish you with the tools to evolve your own style. This means making Vitamin-R highly customizable and leveraging your usage information to provide you with insights into your own work patterns; neither of which does much to increase the immediate appeal of the product to prospective new clients.

Please note that none of this means that we are intend on making Vitamin-R more complicated. On the contrary, streamlined operation is even more important for experienced than for novice users.

In the past, we have always given customers very generous “grace periods”, meaning that if you bought the product shortly before a major upgrade, we would grant you a free upgrade.

Unfortunately in the changing world of Mac software development this is no longer so easily done.

As you may know the Mac App Store, through which many of copies of Vitamin-R are bought, does not offer any support for paid upgrades. Instead Apple is charging full price for major new versions of its software such as “Pages”, “Numbers”, “Keynote”, “Final Cut Pro”, “Aperture”, etc.

This makes a lot of sense for Apple who operate on the “big reveal” model more than perhaps any other company in history and who of course make money on the software sale, their 30% App Store processing fee and on hardware sales.

This puts software developers like us into an awkward position.

We are masters of our own web stores and can continue to offer discounted upgrade pricing, forever upgrades and “grace periods” and we will.

On the Mac App Store, however, it’s Apple’s rules all the way. There are no discounted upgrades, no grace periods and we do not even know the identities of the people who buy our software.

All third party software developers are facing the same problems. Some decide to go Mac App Store only. Some decide to stay off the Mac App Store altogether. Most, like us are trying to mitigate the problem as much as we can.

We realize that not everybody will be happy with our solution, but what we have decided to do is the following.

To Get A Discounted Upgrade to Vitamin-R From Our Web Site / To Take Advantage of the “Grace Period”

1. Direct and Mac App Store customers alike will be able to buy a discounted upgrade from our web store via

2. Direct customers who have purchased Vitamin-R after the 1st of January 2013 will be able to obtain a free upgrade code to version 2 from

3. Mac App Store customers who have bought Vitamin-R after the 1st of January 2013 will be able to obtain a free upgrade by mailing their iTunes Store receipt to

This is much the same retrofitted solution that OmniGroup are going to apply to OmniFocus 2 upgrades.

Vitamin-R on the Mac App Store

As many of you know, Apple has decreed that all new Mac App Store submissions must comply with their new requirement for using the Mac OS X Lion “Sandbox”.

This is a security mechanism that restricts what applications can do. By default applications can do almost nothing other than bring up a window and respond to mouse clicks; there’s no access to your files, the internet, etc. This limits the damage that a crashing or virus-infected application can do. If the application, for instance, cannot access the internet or the file system, it can’t steal your data and it can’t transfer it anywhere.

It is then up to the developer to define which “entitlements” their application requires (e.g. I need access to user files, I need to be able to open a web browser on the product homepage, etc.) and up to Apple to grant or reject such entitlements. Obviously the fewer entitlements Apple grants the higher the security.

This is how iPhone and iPad apps have always worked: can’t do much, Apple decides what they can do.

It’s also the exact opposite of how Mac or PC or any other applications have traditionally worked. Mac applications by default have access to everything on your machine and the internet. The only restrictions are based on the file system permissions, so you can’t look at or change the files of another user unless you are a system administrator.

In principle, sandboxing does increase security and that is a good thing.

Unfortunately in practice, Apple have made a dog’s breakfast of both the technical implementation and the policies around the sandboxing.

While it is possible to define “entitlements” to cover almost every aspect of what an application could possibly want to do, Apple have not allowed third party developers access to these entitlements. For many things there are no “third party accessible” entitlements and for many other things, Apple is unlikely to grant those entitlements anyway. The mechanisms that are available do not allow for all existing features of existing applications to be preserved when that application is sandboxed.

I have spent considerable time adopting the Lion sandbox for the Mac App Store versions of my products, as I want to continue to update them in order to bring you the latest (and hopefully greatest) features.

Vitamin-R is the first of these sandboxed versions that I have submitted and now after two rejections it seems that it will finally be accepted.

In order to comply with the Sandboxing rules and Apple’s rejection of my request for several entitlements, the following features had to be removed:

  • Support for the Neurosky Mindwave headset was removed
  • The ability to quit applications in the “eliminate distractions” screen was removed.
  • The ability to automatically close Finder windows in the “eliminate distractions” screen was removed
  • Growl support was removed

Other changes include:

  • If you use the Dropbox integration on Mac OS X 10.7.0, 10.7.1 and 10.7.2, you will be prompted to locate your dropbox folder every time you launch the application. (Upgrading to the latest Mac OS X Lion version will fix this).
  • The download now includes the Noise Machine soundscapes files and is therefore much larger
  • Many other minor and hopefully invisible changes

I understand that many of you will be upset to lose these features and all I can say is that “it wasn’t my idea”.

When I mentioned that these features had to be removed because of the sandbox requirement in the “What’s new” section of the Vitamin-R Mac App Store page, my “meta-data” was promptly rejected and I was asked to remove any mention of Apple policies.

In other words, I’m not allowed to use Apple’s Mac App Store to inform Mac App Store customers of what is going on, because that would make Apple look bad. Apple prefers its customers to be mad at me for complying with their rules rather than to put up their hand and say “it was us and we’re not sorry because we think we are right”.

Well, I’m gutted about the whole thing.

If accepted in its current form, Vitamin-R will have survived its migration to the sandbox relatively intact. Many of the features that had to be cut were minor and won’t be missed too much by most users.

In any event, if you have bought Vitamin-R on the Mac App Store and you are missing a feature you need, please just contact us at and we’ll issue you with an unlock code for the “full” version.

Please don’t vent on the Mac App Store because this penalizes developers for something that they have absolutely no choice about. It also does not allow developers to respond to criticism as they cannot post replies and do not have any idea of who you are and how to contact you to resolve the problem.

Unfortunately, the new Mac App Store sandbox requirement means that henceforward there will be two versions of most Mac applications: a sandboxed one that misses features and a full one that is only available directly from the developer. You can basically choose between greater convenience and greater freedom. Usually it is convenience that wins out.

Vitamin-R & the Mac App Store Sandbox

It is finally happening. Apple have made good on their promise/ threat of requiring all applications on the Mac App Store to adopt the Lion Sandbox technology by June 1st.

You may already have heard many Mac developers moan about this, while others are trying to see the bright side or are at least putting on a brave face. It’s all true and it’s all a lie.

First off, sandboxing does improve security. The idea is that every application that is launched by the operating system works in its own “sandbox”. It can do anything it wants within its sandbox, but when it tries to interact with the rest of your system by accessing files, connecting to the internet, talk to other applications, etc.. it is restricted by its “entitlements”. All this so that even if your application is infected by a virus or is deliberately “naughty” (aka malware), it can only do so much damage.

The kinds of entitlements that exist are defined by Apple and while it is the developers who decide which entitlements they believe their application needs, it is Apple that grants or rejects each entitlement.

The basic equation is this: the less your application is allowed to do, the less damage it can do. So if Apple is serious about the security aspect of the sandbox, it will grant what it deems to be the minimal entitlements required by the application.

Even though it means more work for developers, the sandbox in itself is not a bad idea. Security is good, right?

The rub lies in the fact that unlike iPad and iPhone applications which effectively take over your whole device, most Mac applications live in an eco-system together with other applications. They share files, they interact with other applications and the system to deliver an integrated user experience.

The sandbox gets into the way of all this. Sandboxed applications can only access files on your disk after you have opened them in the “Open…” or “Save…” dialog. They can only interact with other application via AppleScript if they have a specific entitlement for that specific application and that means that Apple has to grant that specific entitlement during the review process. Worse yet, there are no entitlements for a whole range of things that a powerful app could potentially want to do.

For many applications, this will mean that existing application features that have existed for a long time will need to be removed in order to comply with Sandboxing rules.

I have finished sandboxing Vitamin-R and I have managed to keep most of its features alive and well.

Some features, however, did not make the cut. So I have removed the following features from the Mac App Store version of Vitamin-R:

  • the ability to quit other applications from the “Eliminate Distractions” screen
  • the integration with NeuroSky’s MindWave brain computer interface

(There are entitlements for either of these things).

Other features require “temporary entitlements” that Apple may or may not grant.

The features “at risk” are:

  • Things integration
  • Things beta integration (new if accepted)
  • OmniFocus integration
  • Growl integration
  • The Hit List Integration

There is no rational reason for doubting that Apple will grant these entitlements, but the MAS review process is notoriously capricious. The term “temporary” also does not fill one with great confidence, so these features may well disappear somewhere down the line even if accepted now.

I will be submitting Vitamin-R 1.81 to the Mac App Store as soon as version 1.80 is released next week and if everything goes smoothly and Apple isn’t backlogged, it should be available within a fortnight.

On a personal note: I do not want to remove a single feature from any of my applications. Apple is forcing my hand and I’m doing what I can to preserve functionality. The versions of my software distributed via my own website will remain outside of the sandbox and thus unaffected.

I’m also looking into ways of allowing users who have purchased via the Mac App Store to download and use the “full” version of Vitamin-R from my website for free. This is made more difficult by the fact that Apple does not share customer data with third party developers and I thus have no idea of who buys my software on the Mac App Store.

I hope to have a simple solution ready sometime in June, but this again depends on whether the Mac App Store review team accept the solution.

If you are upset about losing features, the best idea is to let Apple know about it. We developers have already done all we can. There’s a “Support” link in the “Quick Links” section of the Mac App Store front page and of course there are Apple Stores all over the world.

Vitamin-R receives 4.5 out of 5 mice review from MacWorld

It’s always nice for an indie developer to get a good review, but doubly so if it’s MacWorld:

I like the conclusion:

“Overall I found Vitamin-R to be one of the few get-thing-done applications that actually works for me—in my book, that’s a huge task accomplished.”

so much that I had to plaster it over all the product pages 🙂

Vitamin-R Progress Report

This is just a quick update on where development of Vitamin-R is going for the next few months.

A lot of the recent updates had to do with the text system. Getting a full grip on the byzantine complexities of the MacOS X text system takes a bit of time and in the 1.0 version of Vitamin-R there were lots of rough edges to the Now & Later Board and text entry fields. Ironing those out takes precedence over most other issues. I also spent quite a bit of time trying to understand a rare, but crashing bug on Leopard also related to the text system. I have quietly released a fix and haven’t heard anything about this bug rearing its ugly little glyph head, so I hope that’s over and done with.

The OmniFocus integration has been a big hit for many people, but hard on the heels of that came a flood of “Why don’t you integrate with X, Y, Z, etc”. I’ve been doing some experimental work on getting integrating with other to-do list managers.

I’m starting working in earnest on Things (from Cultured Code) integration this week. It shouldn’t take too long so with a bit of luck it should be out in 2 to 4 weeks time.

After that there will be a bit more text system tuning in the form of customizable FastType triggers. Some script writers in particular find the “–” at the end of the line (“strikeout line”) and the “—” on a blank line (“insert separating line”) triggers hard to live with and I also want to give an option for switching off FastType altogether for those who prefer a “vanilla” editor.

At the moment, the absence of a log viewer is also a sore point, apparently mostly for myself. There was always going to be a log viewer for 1.0 but then the complete interface re-do triggered by the early beta feedback pushed that off for later. A simple but dedicated log viewer should make its appearance shortly after the FastType work.

That should mark the end of the most pressing post-1.0 release work and I’ll be able to finally get to making more out of the logged data. Most of the technical backend for creating graphs and analyzing your time slices already shipped with the early betas of Vitamin-R, but with all the other pressing changes, I’ve never quite got around to getting this into a publish-able state.

I expect to do a lot of work on statistics and analysis of your logged usage patterns over the remainder of the year.

I also get a lot of requests for an iPhone or iPad versions of Vitamin-R. There is likely going to be an iPad version and more than likely an iPhone version. At the moment, I’m concentrating on the Mac version.

I’m one of those developers who aren’t terribly happy with the AppStore-only policy and thus can’t work up any real enthusiasm for spending months of time on a program that may-or-may-not be accepted by Apple and may-or-may-not be taken out of the AppStore at the whim of Apple and needs to be priced at less than the price of a decent espresso 🙂

I’m often given to wonder how a young Steve Jobs, famously independently minded and sitting in his garage, would have reacted to a “curated” environment like the AppStore. Hell, he’d probably have created the Pear II and taken the fight to big brother..

My garage is already full of junk and the lighting is bad, so I’ll just have to forget about it and learn to love the AppStore I guess.. concerning an iPad version.. I’m still waiting for the iPad to hit Luxembourg, but I think it could make for a terrific Vitamin-R platform..

Better get back to work.

Best regards,


First beta of Vitamin-R available


Publishing a new product is always a bit of an out-of-body experience. After spending a great many hours (or in this case well over half a year) working quietly away at your “big next thing” in total isolation from the world, you post the link on MacUpdate and Versiontracker and expose it to the scrutiny of the entire world.

What if people think that my baby is ugly?

I have been there a few times before, but I don’t think anything will compare to the first time in 1996 when my Ph.D. prototype “publicspace” went up on the newly bought “” domain. My gift to the world. Three years of research, two years coding. And totally free. An hour later I had half a dozen complaints about Command-A not selecting all the files.. and no congratulations on my huge achievement from an adoring public. You live, you learn 😉

Well, what makes me think about that experience 14 years ago is that my new application, Vitamin-R is a more personal product than any of those that came after the eponymous publicspace.

Vitamin-R is my personal attempt at creating a productivity enhancement tool. Unlike A Better Finder Rename, A Better Finder Attributes, “The Big Mean Folder Machine” and even MacBreakZ which were largely developed by me for other people, Vitamin-R is designed to help me and hopefully people like me, become more productive and more satisfied with how they spend their work days. It’s for creative people who love doing stuff but find it hard to get down to it.

What has always irritated me with the productivity systems that are out there, is that they focus on capturing and organising action items rather than actually getting anything done.

Getting Things Done is a great idea and has a few nice ideas, but if you are anything like me, you’ll soon have a huge to-do list, but will still not have gotten around to actually doing any work. For some real GTD fanatics managing their to-do list and their reference system and all the rest appears to be an end in itself.

What did you do today? Oh, well.. I did my weekly review, worked through my in-tray, reorganised my contexts in OmniFocus and synched my to-do list with my iPhone. Wow, I rock!

This was the starting point for my Vitamin-R project. Instead of spending my time organising in minute detail what my next action should be, I wanted a new system that could live with a little bit of creative chaos and that would help me get my work done. I’m not about to throw out my to-do list manager away, but I’m done hoping that my actual work will magically get done if I just keep reorganising my database often enough.

So as a good former academic, I started researching the issue. Along the way I read many a book from one productivity guru or another, took a brief detour into neuroscience, tried a few things myself and then started coding.. I haven’t stopped reading, thinking or coding since.

What is released as the first public beta today is not the finished product. It’ll never be finished and will keep evolving and my head is already bursting with ideas for all the great features that will be added in the future.. and that is before I get into the feedback loop with (potential) users.

This is merely a beginning. Perhaps you will think that my baby is ugly. That’ll be unfortunate. Please let me know, so that I can improve it.