toketaWare Shuts Down, Orphaning iThoughtsX Mind-Mapping Software

Originally published at: toketaWare Shuts Down, Orphaning iThoughtsX Mind-Mapping Software - TidBITS

Although iThoughts will no longer receive updates, the Mac, iOS, and Windows apps should continue to run, and downloads, license codes, and documentation remain available.

Has the author considered either selling the apps to someone that could continue development, or open sourcing the apps? Seems a shame to abandon customers with no recourse.

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Mindnode has received regular updates for years and their subscription transition should support them. They export OPML so there’s an exit strategy – though some data will be lost.

Ideally they developer would provide a utility, even command line, to export to MindNode or some other alternative. If their customer base is large enough MindNode would likely help.

I have no information beyond what’s on the toketaWare site, but it’s easy to imagine situations (significant health issues, for instance) where he doesn’t want to think about it again.

Brett Terpstra posted in his Web Excursions a couple of weeks ago that ‘he had checked in with him [the developer], he says he’s fine, he just moved on.’

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@jfaughnan iThoughts has all the usual exports - to OPML and more. But it was such a great app I’m super bummed! I went through a lot of mind mapping apps before choosing iThoughts but I will be moving on.

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On a lark I opened MindNode and asked it to open a mind map made by iThoughts and it opened right up. I don’t use a lot of the fancy stuff like schedules, but text and images and links are all preserved. I thought I’d have to wash my 183 mind maps through OPML but it looks like I won’t have to.

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I’ll sound like a broken record but this is a reason why I only choose open source software today. I just feel that my data shouldn’t be held hostage within a proportionate application/database/etc.

You may wish to look to Freeplane as an open source mind mapping alternative. I believe I’ve been using it for over a decade. YMMV.

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I’ll check it out, @Nuke. I like open source software too, but it can be abandoned just as easily as any paid-for app. And in this case, the data is not held hostage, and is in a format readable by other mind mapping applications, and includes a full suite of export options to keep your data free.

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I’ll keep using iThoughts until it stops working, as it’s a better design for me than any other mind-mapper I’ve tried, and I stopped caring about new features long ago. My only actual concern is when it will stop working. If it’s written well enough it could potentially survive a lot of OS updates (I can’t really say how vulnerable it is, but it hasn’t tended to update just to keep up with Apple). As others have noted, since it’s canonical OPML, there’s no need to switch yet. In the meantime, I’ll wish someone might buy it from Scott for a dollar and keep it going somehow.

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The difference is that if the original creator abandons an open source project, anybody else who chooses can fork the code and keep developing it.

Unlike a closed-source project where once the original author stops development, nobody else can take over (unless, I suppose, the code is sold to a new company.)

Now, in this case, if the original author is ceasing development and sales, and is not planning on selling the code, maybe he’ll publish it as open source. This isn’t typical, but does happen from time to time. And this would allow someone else to take over development (or at least keep it compatible with future macOS releases).

At what point will I discover that iThoughts has been offloaded from my device, and I can no longer download it, making the files useless, as just happened to me with Matcha?

Configure your systems to not auto-offload apps, so they won’t go away unless you remove them. And then don’t ever remove them, because (as you found out), if the publisher goes away, their Apple ID becomes invalid and all their content gets purged from the App Store.

On iOS, this is Settings → App Store → Offload Unused Apps.

I don’t think macOS does this automatically for apps (although the Optimize Disk Storage feature of iCloud drive can do this for your documents if you enable it).

Making good backups is also a good idea. For iOS devices, software like iMazing can backup and restore apps even without the App Store. For Macs, I think normal backup/restore solutions should be sufficient.

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I am aware you can turn off offloading (I wish you could just choose to offload individual apps), but it just seems like extremely bad practice, and un-Apple-like, for the system to auto-offload apps you can never get back.

I didn’t, however, know that iMazing allowed you to download iOS apps to disk and later reload them as iTunes used to do. I’ll check that out.

But I really was asking a question: At what point will it no longer be possible to download the app?

You can. Go to Settings → General → iPhone Storage. Tap on an app. There’s an “Offload App” button you can use to offload that application. Along with the warning:

This will free up storage used by the app, but keep its documents and data. Reinstalling the app will place back your data if the app is still available in the App Store.

When you offload the app, you will see a cloud icon next to its name in the app launcher. Trying to launch it will download and reinstall it. There will also be a “Reinstall App” on the app’s storage page.

That’s going to depend on how long the company’s developer certificate remains paid-up. Since the company no longer exists, then it will depend on how long the developer certificate remains valid. Assuming nobody keeps paying for it, then when its term expires, Apple will probably remove all associated apps soon afterwards.

If someone continues paying for the certificate (maybe it’s Craig Scott’s personal certificate, or maybe he wants to keep it current to use for other projects in the future), then Apple will probably keep the app in their servers for as long as the certificate remains paid-up.

Either way, making a backup of the app bundle with something like iMazing so you can install it without the App Store sounds like a really good idea. And do it now, before it becomes impossible to re-download in the future (it’s already impossible to download a new copy).

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Thanks for the tip; I did not know (or had forgotten) you could choose to offload individual apps.

But I guess that last bit is what really chaps my a**. I understand that storage space and bandwidth cost money. But if I bought an app, I should have access to it indefinitely, barring some good reason to remove it—and “the developer stopped giving us money” is not a good reason.

I agree completely, but they’re not preventing you from running the app. They are removing it from their server, preventing reinstallation if you delete it. That’s not quite the same thing, although it may seem that way if you don’t have or know about a way to make a backup for local reinstallation.

And just to play devil’s advocate here, Apple secures everything with digital signatures. Those signatures expire on a regular basis and need to be periodically renewed. That’s why (for instance) old macOS installers have been known to expire, forcing you to download a new copy - in order to get a copy signed with a current certificate.

In the case of third-party apps, the developer needs to do that re-signing. I think it can be done though a menu or two from within Xcode, but it needs to be done in order to permit installation to succeed. But if the developer account is closed, whether due to non payment or because the company no longer exists, then there’s nobody who can sign it.

But I agree with you. Apple should have a mechanism to allow re-download and re-installation of apps from defunct companies. I can understand blocking new purchases, since there’s nobody to receive payment, but free actions like re-downloads or installing free apps should be allowed to continue for as long as possible (basically until it ends up incompatible with your system).

But on the other other hand, this isn’t unique to Apple either. There have been many great Mac software companies that no longer exist, like Ambrosia Software and Freeverse. You can’t buy or re-download purchases from them either (although I’ve occasionally had luck via the Wayback Machine and a saved copy of my license key). When companies go out of business and nobody else decides to buy the assets to maintain sales, existing customers are left holding the bag and often must jump through hoops in order to keep the software running for as long as possible. The fact that Apple is acting as the sole storefront for sales doesn’t change the situation very much.

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These are good points, and back in the day when you could back up .ipa files, made perfect sense. But taking that away, and then adding the ability to auto-offload apps to save space, seems casually malicious. And I can still move my old Freeverse apps to a new Mac.

But I realize you can’t change this, and I’m unlikely to convince @ace to go on the warpath about this, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯