[POLL] From iPad app to macOS app. Now it’s possible!

Would you like the actual version of Pleco (3.2) to be converted into a Mac app?

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The new macOS Catalina has just been released, and it makes it possible to convert an iPad app into a Mac app with very little effort. I still gotta understand if it also allows ports for iPhone apps. Anyway, I was wondering if this means that Pleco (4?) is coming to the Mac in a few days, or if its release date is still far.
For instance, instead of waiting for Pleco 4 to be ready, you developers could test the market by releasing the actual version of Pleco for Mac.
Have you considered this?


Staff member
It would actually be a good bit harder to get the old Pleco working on Catalyst than the new one because there a lot of old APIs we still use that aren't supported - for example, the handwriting recognition box uses an ancient OpenGL view that still works fine on iOS but doesn't exist on Catlina. Same for Web Reader, it uses an old API they haven't brought to Catalyst. There are of course replacements for these things that do work on Catalyst and we're using them anyway for 4.0 but it would be a lot of work to back port them.

Also, Catalyst in its current form is very very buggy, has almost no documentation, and seems to still be evolving considerably; a lot of people who'd been planing to launch Mac apps this fall have held off on doing so because they don't want to be responsible for Apple's bugs. I expect that will improve pretty quickly but until it does it's very hard to justify releasing a Catalyst app.

I'm also still a little uncertain about the business model to use for a desktop version, i.e. whether I want to charge for it or not. If I could be confident that it would be easy both to port and to maintain - i.e. Catalyst will work well and not be buggy and keep working this well for years and that Apple won't, say, dump it in 2 years and make everybody rewrite their apps in SwiftUI - it would be easier to offer for free, but under the present circumstances I'm worried we'll have a bunch of happy Pleco desktop users who then end up angry and unsupported and demanding a refund on their mobile dictionary purchases when Apple wrecks it in a future macOS release; better to charge for it separately and thus have a sufficient income stream from it that we can justify that sort of major rewrite / maintenance work.

I'm also thinking ahead to a potential Windows version - which we would have to charge for since it's not being underwritten by a bunch of mobile users - and wondering whether that'll work better if we make "Pleco Desktop" a separate thing for everybody rather than having a bunch of people pissed at us because Mac users get to use Pleco for free but Windows users don't.
i dont mind paying separately for a mac app, but, i would not be willing to pay again for the dictionaries. i suspect your plan is in accordance with my wish, though your text left me doubting...


Staff member
I don't expect we'd charge again for dictionaries on desktop unless we were compelled to do so for licensing reasons - we'd just charge for the app itself.

The big question mark is whether we could charge for a desktop app that included access to your dictionaries without also paying royalties again on those dictionaries; we might potentially consider restricting the dictionaries available on desktop to those where this was legally unambiguous, rather than create the confusing situation of charging again for some dictionaries and not for others.


Staff member
And honestly until recently my intent had been to make the Catalyst app free, it's just become increasingly clear that this is going to be a more complicated project than I expected - both initially and long-term - and so I'm worried about committing myself to a business model that'll draw resources away from other work without making enough money back to justify it.

(and again, Windows - if Pleco on some desktops is going to be a paid product then we might as well figure out how to price that now and use that model for all desktops)
thanks, i see. maybe a solution would be to require users to always first buy the phone/device ios/android app (there should be no reason to exclude androiders, right?) and from there (in-app) automatically opt-in to the mac app. that way users could be forewarned that the mac service might experience turbulance in the future. and in any case, users would always retain their (principal) acquisition, the phone/device app.


Staff member
No reason to exclude Android, no, those licenses are totally interchangeable now.

The problem with 'turbulence in the future' is that even if we're perfectly well justified in switching from a free Mac app to a paid one and even if we literally make people activating our Mac app go through a form and type "I understand that Pleco may charge for continued access to this Mac app in the future," they're still going to be upset about that change, and the headline is still going to be that we've started charging for something that used to be free.
ok, honestly, id much rather see you invest resources on the mobile app. although... maybe one could consider using pleco as an external device from the pc/mac. the user then must buy an intercom-app (that you construct in one week*) that takes input from the pc/mac keyboard/screen/touchpad, relay this to the mobile device and recieve back the "result screen" from the device and display it on the pc/mac. *not... just focus on the mobile app:)
I hate to be “that guy” but isn’t investing in desktops/laptops a bit like polishing the brass on the titanic? Don’t get me wrong I have Pleco running on my laptop in ARChon and I have it running all the time. Overall trends seem to be more mobile & tablet heavy - there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason why this would change.
I run Pleco on my iPad and just have it sitting beside either my work Windows PC or my personal MacBook at home.

On my network with my Mac, any text I “copy“ on the MacBook wirelessly becomes “paste” content on my iPad, and vice-versa (I cant remember if this was out-of-the-box behavior or a switch on MacOS I had to flick, but I’m thinking it may have just popped up on my Mac asking if I wanted to share the clipboard with my iOS devices). So, even though Pleco isn’t running on my Mac, it’s been just as good since it’s virtually connected. You can use iCloud to allow you to take snapshots and images from one device and then have them available within seconds on another device. And using Catalina’s Sidecar tech (previously using the Duet app on Mojave) you get dual-monitors (MacBook screen plus iPad screen).

When using my iPad with the Windows machine, you don’t get the great ‘wireless-cut-and-paste”, but having Pleco right there for viewing works well If you are willing to screenshot the monitor or type things out.

So, yeah, you need an Apple tablet to make the ecosystem work for you, but it works really well with nothing special needed within Pleco to support it working. I understand that’s a more expensive option that may not be available to everybody. But based on the slick MacOS/iOS/iPadOS interactivity, if my vote mattered, which it doesn’t, I’d rather additional Pleco development investment go into iPadOS/iOS rather than MacOS


Staff member
I agree with desktops seemingly being on the way out, yeah.

The best bet for now may be to release a Mac app as part of the 4.0 beta - with a time limit - so we can wait and see how Catalyst develops before deciding on a strategy. If people love it and start sending us long lists of things they'd like to see to make it a better Mac app then that might be an argument for charging for it separately and spending the extra time to implement those things.
I hate to be “that guy” but isn’t investing in desktops/laptops a bit like polishing the brass on the titanic? Don’t get me wrong I have Pleco running on my laptop in ARChon and I have it running all the time. Overall trends seem to be more mobile & tablet heavy - there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason why this would change.
While I don't disagree that this is true as a general trend, there are plenty of people that use Pleco's reader/OCR functions heavily in their work (this seems to me especially true for people that work with Classical Chinese, where dictionaries are not really something you grow out of having to reference all of the time). While the iPad works in a pinch, I would greatly prefer to be able to read documents through Pleco/just be able to use it as a reference work (particularly given the integration of Wilkinson's Chinese History: A New Manual) on my laptop, where I still do the bulk of my reading/writing/etc., and where multitasking still feels dramatically less cumbersome. A simple port of the iPad app would suit my needs, and I'd happily pay for the app, if not for the dictionaries.
Work on v4 please. Revisit this topic after then.

Other thoughts:

If there were a desktop pleco on mac, I'd use it. I'd pay for the app, if it gave me access to the dictionaries I'd already purchased, but I would probably not purchase the desktop app if it didn't (if the price wasn't too high and I wanted access to the free dictionaries, I probably would)

If I were starting all over again, and had to choose between purchasing desktop or mobile, I'd go with mobile every time.
Hey, Mike. My 2 cents:
-Focus on Pleco 4.
-After it's ready, create a Kickstarter for the Desktop port so people can actually put their money where their mouth is. Make the desktop version a paid app right from the start. The desktop is not dead, but I bet it would represent less than 20% of your business, while taking up more than 20% of your customer support resources, thus making no sense from a "Pareto" point of view unless you make it a paid app right from the start.

Yet another cent:

-Not all Pleco features will translate well to the Desktop version (OCR comes to mind), so you could just focus on the main use we want for Pleco on the desktop: To help us read. You could release a paid-for Chrome extension that works like the web reader, but with manual dictionary lookups and with the option to copy-paste text from other apps. You could promote it as a way to learn Chinese with Netflix, thanks to the fact that the "Netflix Dual Subtitle for Learning Languages" extension makes Netflix subtitles selectable and readable by dictionary extensions.

Another idea: This extension could use the SaaS pricing model (think three price tiers), thus bringing in revenue every month for further development of Pleco.

Just ideas.


Staff member
There seems to be pretty clear consensus on:

- Finish 4.0 First (duh)
- Charge for app but not for dictionaries

Which all makes sense, but we still have to figure out whether it’s possible to charge people to use Pleco on desktops without also paying royalties on everything again. I know it will be possible for a number of dictionaries, but I’m not sure about all of them, and I expect that for at least a few it will not be possible.

One possibility might be to keep the straightforward port - and all content add-ons - free on desktops but charge for the desktop iterations of each feature add-on. (There’s precedent there - long time Pleco customers might remember that we charged again for stroke order when we moved to iOS/Android for licensing reasons, and very long time ones might also remember when we did that with HWR on Windows Mobile)

Another one - which I was already considering on Windows - might be to run a desktop Kickstarter (maybe not actually a Kickstarter since there’s not much sense in giving them 8% when we have our own online store and merchant account) that openly acknowledges that existing licenses can be transferred for free, but offers them as backer rewards anyway. People who want to support the desktop version can do so and pay again for whatever they’re willing to pay again for, but if we don’t raise enough money that way then we have a very strong argument for why we don’t offer a desktop version :)
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Long term user first time forum member. Forgive me if this is covered already. The product I would like to see is a login area of the website from where I could access some of my content, particularly flashcards. I don't see the need for a desktop app if you can deliver most of the required functionality through the website. It would also be system agnostic. Maybe it's not possible - as I said, the only thing I really want on my desktop are my flashcards.