How do I buy and download a program from the Mac App Store?

I know that there’s a slick iPhone and iPad app store [ed. note: generally this is called the “iTunes Store” or “App Store”, depending on your preference] but I understand that there’s also a similar online software store for Mac OS X applications and games too? Cool. Where is this Mac App Store and how do I use it to buy and download games and other apps?

Dave’s Answer:

You’re exactly right, though since there are so many existing methods of buying software for your computer, notably downloading from individual vendor sites or buying a box at BestBuy, etc., it hasn’t caught on in the way that the iTunes Store has.

Still, for a lot of apps and utilities, it’s very nice to be able to find commercial grade software one click away from being installed and ready to use on your Mac, whether you have an iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, or what-have-you. I definitely use it to find and try out games and being able to see screen shots is a nice boon too.

To demonstrate how to do this, I’m going to show you how I found, purchased, downloaded and installed a handy little Macutility called FaceTab Pro for Facebook.

To start out, you can always launch the App Store from the Apple menu (if you don’t have it on the Apple menu then it’s because you’re not up to date on your Mac OS X. If that’s the case, and if you aren’t planning on updating to Lion or similar, then I’m afraid you can’t use the App Store):

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Launch the App Store and it’s rather a big application window that pops up:

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I’m just showing the very top of the window but you can see that it’s quite similar to the iTunes Store with its big graphic banner, categories on the lower right, and info boxes for individual apps featured on the page.

You can browse to your hearts content, there’s quite a bit available for instant purchase and download, or you can search for a keyword, as I do. To do that, type in a word or two that describes the software app you seek into the search box on the top right:

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You can ignore the suggestions if it’s confusing. Type in the word, then press Return on the keyboard and you’ll have all matching apps displayed. Here are the two from the software developer I’m interested in:

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Each app has a description, ratings and reviews, screen shots and more. After doing the research, I decide that the $1.99 for the “Pro” version of FaceTab is well worth the extra investment, and 42 reviews and 4 1/2 stars is impressive in any case!

You’ll notice that the price is a clickable button. Click on it and it’ll change to “Buy App” to confirm you really want to purchase and download it:

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I do want to buy it so I dutifully click on the green button, at which point it prompts me to log in to my iTunes account (sorry, “Apple ID”) so it knows how to bill me for the acquisition:

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Once I enter the correct credentials it gets a bit weird, because you are then automatically switched to your Launchpad where you’ll see a download progress display:

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You can sit and watch it if you want or you can click anywhere on the screen to get back to the usual Finder view in Mac OS X. Either way, it’ll continue to download and install as necessary.

When it’s done, the new app should show up in your Applications folder, accessible from your Dock if you’ve enabled it, as I have here:

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A single click on the new app icon and I’m running FaceTab Pro for Facebook and can configure and tweak it to my heart’s content.

Hope that helps you get more out of the Mac App Store. Give it a whirl, it’s pretty slick…
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By Dave Taylor

Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since 1980 and is internationally known as an expert on both business and technology issues. Holder of an MSEd and MBA, author of twenty books and founder of four startups, he also runs a strategic marketing company and consults with firms seeking the best approach to working with weblogs and social networks. Dave is an award-winning speaker and frequent guest on radio and podcast programs. AskDaveTaylor.com http://www.intuitive.com/blog/