Thursday, October 30, 2014

Submitted for Review

A reminder: beta 28 is now available from our Beta Program page. You're going to want it when b27 expires on Saturday!

Submitted for Review!

Today I pushed two big buttons: the first uploaded Solitaire Till Dawn 1.0.0 to the App Store, and the second submitted it for review by Apple. But it won't appear in the App Store or be available for purchase until Apple has reviewed and approved it, so you still can't buy it yet!

If we're lucky, it will be approved probably sometime next week. If we're not, Apple will find something they want changed or fixed, and I'll have to deal with that problem and then start the review process again. I've never done this before: over 25 years I've released more apps and upgrades for Macs than I can remember or count, but I have never done so through the App Store. There's a fair chance that, through inexperience, I've left some i undotted or some t uncrossed. We'll have to wait a few days, and then we'll find out.

In the meantime: I promised that I would keep a free beta available until we are in the App Store. Beta 27 will expire on Saturday, so go grab a copy of beta 28 from the Beta Program page. It's good through mid-November, and I really hope that will be long enough. If not, I'll put out a b29, and keep doing it until Apple grants us our place in the App Store.

You can read more about b28 in the previous post.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Beta 28: Waiting for Apple

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 28 is now available from our Beta Program page.

This beta contains almost no significant changes from the previous beta, b27. We are essentially ready to submit Solitaire Till Dawn to the App Store—it could happen as soon as tomorrow or even later today—but we are waiting to get an answer to a tax-form question before we can commit.

Once that's done and we have submitted the app, we will have to wait for Apple to review and approve Solitaire Till Dawn before it can actually become available for sale. We expect this to take at least a week, because Apple has to review every app and app upgrade and they always have a lot of them to get through. If Apple finds any problem with Solitaire Till Dawn, there will be further delay while we work with Apple to resolve the issue. We hope that nothing like that will happen, but it might anyway.

In the meantime, we have promised you that there will be a free beta version available until the real thing can be purchased, and that's what b28 is about. The previous beta, b27, will expire in about three days, but b28 is good for another two weeks, to mid-November. We hope that by then we'll be in the App Store, but if not, we'll put out yet another beta with a later expiration date.

The Help Pages
Nobody ever reads the Help! Or so it seems. We've gone to a lot of trouble to provide you with a complete, built-in guide to Solitaire Till Dawn. It is illustrated; it is searchable; it has a good Table of Contents; and there is a "Quick Start" page, an FAQ page and a "What's New" page to help you quickly get answers to the most common questions.

The Help can teach you about cool features of Solitaire Till Dawn that you may not know about yet! Most bug reports lately have not really been reporting bugs; they've been users expressing confusion about features that they could have read about in the Help. We've done our best to make Solitaire Till Dawn intuitive and easy to use, but it has a LOT of fancy features. The Help will tell you about them—try it and see! 

The b28 release contains a few improvements to the formatting of some of the Help pages, and other recent betas contained some major improvements to the Help pages. But you may not see the changes unless you're careful, because Apple's help system isn't good about showing you the help pages from the latest version of any app. To see the latest, you really should remove all earlier versions of Solitaire Till Dawn from your system—or at least compress them, if you don't want to throw them completely away.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Beta 27: Animation Speeds

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 27 is now available from our Beta Program page.

We're getting down to the little stuff now, and I seriously hope that Solitaire Till Dawn will be finished and available for purchase within the next few weeks.

Beta 27 addresses an issue that a number of users have complained about: the feeling that the new Solitaire Till Dawn feels "sluggish" in comparison with the old one. Part of this is due to Apple's Core Animation package, which did not exist when the old version was current. Core Animation is designed to make animations look smooth, rather than to make things happen quickly; and it operates in the background, so that I can't always guarantee that animations will happen promptly.

But mostly, Core Animation uses a different paradigm for expressing how quickly an animation should happen, and that made it difficult for me to translate the old speeds into the new paradigm. I spent some time on it this past week, and I think b27 is a big improvement. Animations are now faster by default than they were in b26 and earlier betas, and it feels much more like the old STD.

But wait, there's more: I have added an Animation pane to the Preferences window. There's now a slider to let you choose your animation speed. The slowest setting is the speed of b26 and before; the second notch is the new, quicker default; and there are two even faster notches that you can experiment with. If you feel that b27 is too quick, go to the Animations pane and select the slowest setting. If you find it's still too leisurely, select a faster setting.

In addition, I've fixed a bug that could display a game's final duration as being one second shorter than it actually was. The bug happens only in rare cases. Suppose, for example, you play a game and win it in just a hair more than 60 seconds. The clock display in the status bar might still be displaying 59 seconds because that display hadn't quite been updated yet, so it would look to you like you finished in just 59 seconds. But your game would be correctly recorded in your statistics as lasting 60 seconds. This made it look as though your 59-second game was not being recorded correctly; but in fact, it really was a 60-second game properly recorded. It just wasn't displayed correctly in the status bar. In b27, care is taken to ensure that the clock display is fully up to date after you win a game.

There are also a number of new menu items, each of which does the same thing as one of the toolbar buttons. This is for Apple's Human Interface guidelines: you don't have to have all those buttons in the toolbar, but there should still be a way to use their functions. The new menu items let you do that.

The Last Beta?

So is b27 the last beta? Probably not, but I am pretty much out of bugs to fix and features to implement for this first release. Unless I hear something significant from one of you, or find some new problem or issue myself, any further betas will not be much different from b27.

I have promised to keep a free beta available until the finished product can be purchased in the App Store, and I will keep that promise. Beta 27 will expire at the end of this month, and if Solitaire Till Dawn is not in the App Store by then, I will put out a beta 28 with a later expiration date.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Beta 26—Almost There!

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 26 is now available from our Beta Program page.

Crashes and Freezes

If you've been with us for a while, you know that we've been trying to track down and fix a problem that many users never see, but that can cause a freeze or a crash for some. I was one of those who never saw the problem, which made it nearly impossible for me to diagnose and fix it. But with the help of a couple of dedicated beta testers (who wish to remain nameless), I think we've finally got it whipped. The fix has already been tested on several machines and under all versions of Mac OS X, and it seems to work. Beta 26 has this fix.

This was the LAST SHOW-STOPPER BUG that I know about. I am hoping that there will be no more crashes or freezes now, although of course it's always possible that we will find other problems lurking behind this one. But I think we are near the end of the road now. I am hoping to be able to release Solitaire Till Dawn to the App Store sometime this fall, and in time for the holidays.

Card Highlighting

For the previous public release (b24), I made a foolish change in the way that card highlighting behaved. Within 24 hours I decided it was a mistake, and many of you sent me bug reports to say the same.

For b26 I've removed that change and restored the old behavior: so whenever you make a move, any card-rank highlighting will automatically be canceled. (And remember, you can always cancel card-rank highlighting by pressing the Shift key: when you press Shift, available cards will be highlighted; and when you release it, your normal default highlighting if any is restored.)

Built-in Help

The built-in Help pages (available by choosing Help > Solitaire Till Dawn Help, or by clicking the life-saver icon in the toolbar) are a complete, illustrated guide to Solitaire Till Dawn. I've spent most of the past week making improvements to it. The text formatting, page layout, and navigation links are better and more readable. The illustrations are up to date. Some old, out-of-date pages have been corrected, and so on. Really, the built-in Help is like a small book, and any of you who have written and published a book will know how much work that is! But I'm happy with the improvements, and I hope you will be too.