Waterloo, ON - December 13, 2018. Today SuperMegaUltraGroovy released a significant update to Capo, its flagship software for the Mac that helps musicians learn new music by ear without the help of tabs or sheet music. In addition to an all-new look, Capo adds support for Dark Mode, and introduces the Control Strip that first appeared in its iOS counterpart, Capo touch.
Lipstick and a wig?
Capo’s visual changes in this release go beyond a simple makeover. The most noticeable of these comes from the introduction of a new Heads-Up Display that now spans the bottom of Capo’s main window.
“The new Heads-Up Display was designed to solve a growing problem in Capo touch,” says Chris Liscio, SuperMegaUltraGroovy’s founder and chief developer. “The iOS app needed a place to organize its growing number of controls and functions, and thus the Control Strip was born.”
Despite its singular name, the Control Strip consists of a collection of Control Strips—individual groups of related controls. For example, one control strip is dedicated to adding, removing, and navigating between markers. Another provides the same functions, but for chords.
“We tried a few alternative locations on the Mac,” says Liscio, “but when we stretched the Heads-Up Display across the bottom of the window, we suddenly gained some breathing room in the Song Area—the place where users interact with the current Song View, annotating their songs with chords and tablature. Capo suddenly feels quite different, and much less cramped than before.”
The end result is not only better organized, but it is prepared for whatever is coming next—Liscio suggests that this layout was designed specifically to make way for upcoming features.
“We have a lot in the pipeline, and are excited to start finally moving some of our more ambitious prototypes into production.”
The Grand Unification
Capo 3.7 should feel much more familiar to users that switch between their Mac and iOS devices frequently. That’s because the code used to produce both versions of Capo is more similar than ever before.
“Capo touch was originally created in a separate project, with only the core components shared across platforms, and a UI built almost entirely from the ground up,” says Liscio. “With the updates that we are shipping today, nearly everything that you see and interact on the Mac with was built using the same, shared code that’s inside Capo touch.”
There is still a divide in functionality between the two platforms, with the Mac version offering the ability to quickly “tab out” a song by drawing atop its spectrogram display, and features that allow audio and MIDI exports. But Liscio suspects that it won’t be too long before the two platforms reach feature parity.
“Sharing code is not just for visual and behavioral consistency, but it also forces us to keep the two products moving in lock-step—no matter how daunting the features may seem.”
Bug Fixes and Enhancements
Besides the obvious, visual changes to the product, there was plenty to be improved within the core of Capo. Liscio claims that they implemented dozens of long-standing enhancements, and corrected a number of bugs that had not yet been reported by users.
“We really stepped up our game on the QA side of things, and adopted an aggressive internal testing process that uncovered a number of inconsistencies and unexpected behaviors across the app,” Liscio says. “It was frustrating that this added a considerable delay to our launch plan, but we think that our users will appreciate the added effort.”
Improvements range from increasing the readability of regions, to addressing minor inconsistencies in the way that users move between different points in the song when navigating among regions or markers.
“These seemingly-minor details can have a big impact on your customer’s attitude while using your product. When things don’t work as expected—or worse, inconsistently—their frustration grows over time,” says Liscio. “Spending time to work on these otherwise-boring problems can be quite rewarding, because it strengthens the relationship between you and the people that rely on your work.”
The Long Game
Today’s is the seventh significant update since the company introduced Capo 3 in October 2013. Each of these updates have been free upgrades for existing customers.
“We have been on a slow, steady path of improvements to Capo for a few years now,” says Liscio. “Long ago, we toyed with the idea of a major update that introduced a great deal of change all in one release, but we scrapped that plan for a more measured approach, instead.”
The past 3 years of updates—beginning with Capo’s Isolation feature introduced in November 2015—were part of a long-term experiment by the company. Liscio says, “we faced a fork in the road, and wondered how Capo would evolve if we pretended that our customers were subscribers. Could we sustain regular, noticeable updates to Capo over an extended time scale? More importantly, could we do this without our paying customers noticing?”
“The ’S word’ carries a lot of negativity with it—some of which is justified,” says Liscio. “But I think that a subscription software product is most successful when customers notice change on a regular basis. I did not want to consider such a strategy until I knew we could deliver on our side of the bargain—shipping updates with features just large enough that they wouldn’t go unnoticed.”
After the first 2 years of their experiment—in September 2017—Capo touch became the testing ground for Liscio’s next big idea: a zero-impact subscription. Customers that previously paid for the software would retain access to the base feature set that they paid for, along with enhancements and fixes to those features. Effectively, they all got lifetime subscriptions to a plan that is not for sale.
“I have been watching many companies make the move from a paid to a subscription software offering, cringing as I saw many critical errors in the treatment of their existing customers,” Liscio says. “You can’t move the goal posts on people like that—waking up the day after buying your software and learning that their purchase has reached its end-of-life.”
Today Capo 3.7 makes the same move, using the same zero-impact strategy from Capo touch. Existing users will download it, and there will be no obvious sign that anything has changed. “Except for the great new improvements they just received for free,” Liscio adds.
“The message to our existing customers is this: You will never be forced to subscribe, and your free updates will continue forever,” says Liscio. “But there will come a time in the future when Capo adds a significant feature that will only be available with a subscription. To show our appreciation for supporting us over the years, you will get exclusive access to a non-expiring discount on our subscription plans.”
“And if those new features are not exciting to you,” Liscio says. “you are welcome to continue along with the feature set you paid for, and all the improvements we continue making to them. We will continue adding cool new features, and working to improve Capo until a point when we hope that you can’t pass up the offer. That’s our overall goal—we want to earn your subscription by getting you excited about it, and not force you into one.”
Availability and Pricing
Capo 3.7 is available today as a free trial from the Mac App Store. It is a free update for all existing customers, and new customers can subscribe to Capo Pro for $39.99 yearly to unlock all the trial limitations on their Mac. Capo Platinum—a subscription that grants access to both the macOS and iOS versions of the software—costs $49.99 yearly. All prices are in USD, and will vary based on your currency and region.
SuperMegaUltraGroovy, Inc. is an award-winning software developer that combines top-notch design with cutting-edge research to create world-class audio and music applications. For more information, visit supermegaultragroovy.com.
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