After the initial launch of the Mac App Store in January, I’ve had some time to purchase a few apps and come to grips with the user experience. So far, so good and I certainly have come to welcome the improvements on the app installation process.
On a fresh install of OS X, I log into my iTunes account and immediately go to the “Purchases” tab. I am quickly reminded of what apps I need to reinstall, which is incredibly useful. The only other step I need to do is click “Install”, and boom my app starts downloading. I don’t need to deal with pulling up a software licence stored in 1Password (where I normally keep my software licences) anymore, or worse yet, search through my email. For the apps that I originally purchased pre-App Store, I need to hunt for the download page and look up my software licences. Once I find said app again and download it from the developers site, I either deal with unzipping a file and dragging the .app to my “Applications” folder, or I need to mount a DMG file and then drag the icon to the proper area. Clearly we’re dealing with more steps here and far more friction to get to the point where I can just run the app, and get to work using it.
Now that Apple has figured out a far better way to handle app installs and updates on OS X, the next obvious step is to figure out the app uninstall process. Right now I can just drag the .app to the trash and be done with it for the most part. Wait a second, what about all the cruft left behind you say? Of course that’s always a pain in the ass. I would say in almost all cases (though it varies to a certain degree) when I trash an app I want it’s bundled resources, plus cache and plist file to go away permanently. The way I currently handle this properly is by using a very handy third party utility called “App Zapper”, which works extremely well. All you need to do is launch it and drag the .app file onto the main window and click “zap,” and all of it’s resources go away. The bottom line though is OS X needs to have a better way of handling the uninstall process, and I think the most obvious answer is the App Store on OS X.
It would silly to think the good people in Cupertino have been twiddling their thumbs instead of trying to crack the code on this problem. For most normal people, they need one place where they can go to uninstall an app cleanly. This is why it makes sense to make the App Store the go-to place if you also want to uninstall anything. How I envision it working would be that the user would go to the “Purchases” tab to manage the install/uninstall procedure. This area currently shows you past purchases not installed, as well as past purchases that are currently installed. Without adding a unnecessary additional category to the menu, a simple uninstall option could be added here. Why not make it so that when you hover over the “Installed” button it just switches to an “Uninstall” option. This strikes me as a clean and elegant way of handling the UX side of things. Of course, when you uninstall your app from the App Store, it would remove the bundled resources plus app cache and plist files as well. I think this would make everyones life easier, both geeks and normal users. I should mention that I don’t want the ability to trash apps the old fashioned way (by dragging said .app to the trash) to be removed from future versions of OS X either.
Although I haven’t played yet with the developer preview of Lion, I haven’t heard of any sort of proper uninstaller being baked into the OS. If it doesn’t have one yet, I would hope the necessary plumbing might be in there, which would allow Apple to simply release an update to the App Store post-commercial release of Lion.