Posted on

Friday Report: September 4, 2020

On Monday we released Take Control of Big Sur and Take Control of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, and sales of both have been brisk. Since both operating systems are still in public beta testing, these books can tell you only what we know right now, but we’ll update both of them to version 1.1 (free to everyone who owns the book) when the final versions of Big Sur and iOS 14/iPadOS 14 appear.

Next week we plan to release Andy Affleck’s new book, Take Control of Podcasting, which will cover creating podcasts on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad. A couple of other authors tell me they’re very close to finishing drafts of updated books, so we hope to have a few more releases before the end of September. My next project, as I mentioned earlier, will be a massive update to Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac. I hope, but can’t yet guarantee, that it, too, will ship by the end of the month.

October looks like it’s going to be a completely crazy month. There are currently 15 titles on my “maybe” list for October, which is to say that if the authors finish writing them in time, and if the editors finish editing them in time, and if there’s space in our publication schedule, they’ll ship next month! Realistically, however, it’s completely infeasible to release 15 books in a month, but even half that number would make for a pretty frantic 31 days. We’ll see!

My Take Control to-do list this week grew from 95 items to 98, because I discovered a few bugs I was previously unaware of. I’ll get to them as soon as I can.

Moving on…I’d like to say a few words about two topics that have become FAQs recently. (They’re also covered in our actual FAQ, naturally!)

Why Are Your Filenames Inconsistent?

When you download one of our books, it might have a title like Take Control of Zoom (1.1) or it might look like TCoZoom-1.1. (In both cases, there will be extensions afterward, like .pdf or .epub, but whether you see these depends on your device, operating system, and settings.) Sometimes you might have books on your device with both types of names, and that can be confusing (as well as making it harder to sort your files and see which versions you have).

So, why aren’t our filenames always the same?

Consider a book like Take Control of Zoom. That’s the book’s title, and we think it’s helpful to put the version number right in the filename, so the name we want to use for it is the first example—Take Control of Zoom (1.1). The problem with that is, downloadable files on our website can’t have spaces in their names—that screws up all kinds of things. We can’t have the “pretty” names we prefer. So, many years ago (long before I started running Take Control), the decision was made to remove the spaces, turn “Take Control of” into “TCo” (for compactness), and put the version number at the end following a hyphen, rather than in parentheses. That’s how we end up with things like TCoZoom-1.1.

But wait! You may very well have a file with the “pretty” name on your computer. How did that happen? Well, we offer our PDFs in two forms: regular and zipped. The regular, raw PDFs will have filenames like TCoZoom-1.1.pdf. But when we zip them, we start with the original file that has the nice-looking name, and then we give the awkward name to the Zip file, so it’ll look like But once you download that and unzip it—your browser might even do this automatically for you—you get the file with the nice, original name.

So, for PDFs, you can get the file with either the full name or the abbreviated name, depending on whether you download the zipped version. Then…why can’t we do the same for EPUB and Mobi formats?

Ah. That’s where it gets tricky. Macs and PCs have no trouble unzipping downloaded files, but depending on your mobile operating system and version, you might need a third-party app to unzip a file on your phone or tablet. (And even if you don’t need a separate app, it could be an irritating and non-obvious extra step.) What we want is for people to be able to download an EPUB or Mobi to the Files app and then open it immediately in the Books or Kindle app, without having to figure out how to uncompress it first. And that’s why we don’t offer zipped versions of the EPUB or Mobi files.

So, our EPUBs and Mobis always have the “ugly” names, and the PDFs sometimes do.

Now: your follow-up questions are inevitably:

  1. Why don’t you at least offer the option of zipped EPUBs and Mobis with the nice names? We could do that. But then having to explain why we have six different files you can download, what the implications of each one are, and how to decide which one you want, becomes extremely complicated—especially for busy people with no interest in tech minutiae.

  2. Why don’t you put all the files together in a single Zip file, so that you get the nice names when you unzip it? We could do that too. But we’d still have to offer separate EPUBs and Mobis for those who need them, and a lot of people have bandwidth and storage constraints that make downloading stuff they don’t need an unpleasant prospect.

  3. Why don’t you just give up on the “nice” names and, in the name of consistency, use the “ugly” names everywhere? We could do that as well. But then we’d get complaints from people who are used to the PDFs with the nice names, and we’d lose our one opportunity to give the files what we think of as their proper, canonical names.

If we had it to do all over again, I think we’d adopt a different convention: we’d give our files “proper” names but just use hyphens instead of spaces or parentheses: Take-Control-of-Zoom-1.1.pdf. At this point, however, switching to that type of naming would be certain to infuriate people with dozens or even hundreds of our books collected over the years, because the new names wouldn’t match either of the old patterns.

We’re very sorry this situation exists, but we don’t currently have a solution that will make everyone happy.

Where’s My Download Link?

When you buy a book from us, we immediately email you the links to download it in the aforementioned formats. But multiple times a week, I get inquiries from customers saying they never got those links. Why does this happen and what can you do?

First, I should mention that if you use any browser other than Safari, after you complete the checkout process, you should (after perhaps a brief delay of a few seconds) see download links right there on the page. I wish we could do the same thing in Safari, but we have to use a different payment mechanism in Safari to support Apple Pay, and that mechanism has some unfortunate limitations (including being unable to display download links at the end). This is as annoying to us as it is to you, and we have an idea about how to fix it, but we can’t do that unless or until we move away from FastSpring for payment processing. So: not impossible, but not soon.

Regardless of which browser you use and whether it displays download links on screen, we immediately send you two email messages. One is your receipt (which is actually sent by FastSpring), and the other contains your download links. However, two things commonly interfere with you getting that email message:

  • Spam filters. For reasons that are beyond my ken, we frequently see that even if you successfully receive the receipt email from FastSpring, your spam filter may swallow the message with the download links. So, all I can say is: check your spam/junk mail folder! Nine times out of ten, you’ll find the message there.

  • Invalid email addresses. Sometimes people mistype their addresses, like somebody@gmail.con or whatever. If your address is incorrect, then obviously you won’t get the email! (If this happens to you, just contact us and we can sort it out.) But a lot of people—especially when downloading free books—use completely fake addresses on purpose. (You wouldn’t believe how often we see things like or Look, I get it. We all hate spam. But if you order something from us that’s delivered by email, ipso facto, we need a valid email address to send it to. (And don’t worry, we honor whatever contact preference you set.)

Now, occasionally, due to any number of other random glitches, something else could go wrong resulting in you not receiving your download links at all. Don’t worry, that’s still not a problem! We have two solutions:

  • You can always go to your Take Control Library to download any book you’ve ever ordered from us, in any format. You will, of course, have to log in with your email address and password. Wait…what if you don’t have a password? Well, everyone who places an order automatically gets an account. But we don’t force you to create a password during checkout, because that’s a pain. Instead, we make it an optional step you can do later if you want. To set a password if you don’t already have one, just visit our password reset page. Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a link. Click that link and you can then select your password. Once you’ve logged in with that password, you can see all your books in your library.

  • If you write to us, we can easily re-send the links. No problem.

Until Next Week

We genuinely want our customers to be happy, and we’re sorry that the constraints of technology and time prevent us from making everything exactly perfect for everyone. But we are trying to improve, bit by bit, as conditions permit. Thanks for sticking with us!