App Store: UI for large downloads

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
April 1st, 2011 • 1:20 pm

The default user interface in the App Store for really large downloads, like Xcode or the latest Mac OS X Lion Developer Preview (both larger than 4 GB) is rather frustrating.

All you get after completing your purchase is a Dock icon with a small progress bar on top of it. If your default view options for the Dock are to have fairly small icons with no magnification, the progress bar is pretty much useless for a large download that can take several hours, even with a broadband connection, because progress is so slow that you basically have no idea whether the download is even working.

At first, I thought that this was the only option, i.e. that the Dock icon with the progress bar was the only visual feedback available during the downloading process.

But it turns out that there is another place to get visual feedback on the downloading process, which is significantly more useful. It’s far from obvious, but if you click on the “Purchased” toolbar button in the App Store application after the download has begun, you will get a full list of all the stuff you have purchased, along with the current status of each purchase. If the download is still in progress, you get a decent-size progress bar with an indication of the total size of the download and the amount of data downloaded so far, and a button to pause/resume the download.

That’s pretty much all I need and I am glad I have discovered this. It’s not obvious that you will get visual feedback on the downloading process itself in the “Purchased” section of the App Store, but that’s where it is, and it makes the downloading process for large files much more tolerable, because you are no longer faced with the uncertainty associated with such a limited display as the Dock icon with the tiny progress bar.

The App Store might be designed primarily for selling applications with a much small file size, but it’s clear that Apple has decided that it will be the primary venue for the distribution of all kinds of things beyond small, third-party applications, including its own Xcode package and other really large resources. So it is clearly a relief that the App Store UI includes an alternative to the default Dock-based UI for file downloads.

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