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Hi, I'm Michael from fman.io, cross-platform file manager


#1

Hi,

I’m Michael, creator of fman.io, a file manager for Windows, Mac and Linux. It aims to revolutionise the file manager niche like Sublime Text has revolutionised text editors.

fman has been in development for 13 months. Sales started two months ago. When it launched, fman made the top 10 on Product Hunt and the front page of Hacker News. Revenue so far is $3,200.

If you’re interested in what it’s like to bootstrap a desktop app, you may like the following blog posts:

I post more day-to-day and unreflected thoughts as @m_herrmann on Twitter.

My current challenge is funnel leakage. Every day, people download fman. However, the number of daily active users stays roughly the same. The question is why. I’m here because I stumbled over @Andy’s post successfulsoftware.net/2009/04/23/the-truth-about-conversion-ratios-for-software/. I just spent 2 hours (from 6 to 8am) scouring your blog Andy. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Take care everyone!
Michael


#2

Hi Micheal, welcome, that’s a nice utility app. I just downloaded it and I like that it remembers the most visited folders, I think it will come handy, and also like the ST feeling, as I literally live in that application :smile:

I used TotalFinder in the past, enjoyed the split view but I since stopped using it, as the native Finder improved a lot in the most recent OSX releases.


#3

Hey, thank you for the nice feedback! Glad you like it. :slight_smile:


#4

Nice site, nice product.

Your price is crazy cheap. Feeling brave? If so, as a little experiment, why don’t you try doubling your price for a few days, or even a month? Don’t announce it, just do it, and in the rare case anyone complains, give them a discount code for 50% off…

If you do this, please do let us know and report on the results.


#5

If you want to get more people into your funnel, then I have a suggestion:

You say on this page that you created fman as a “Mac alternative to Total Commander”. Assume other people have the same problem when first moving to Mac: they want something like TC for Mac.

I highly recommend writing a page for your website titled “Mac alternative to Total Commander” that explains more or less why you wrote it and how it compares to Total Commander. With some good writing and some patience you should rank well for “Total Commander Mac” and other similar queries. IMHO these types of articles deliver extremely high quality traffic.


#6

It’s not clear to me what it does exactly.
I’m on Windows, so maybe the Mac video is just foreign to me.

Does it worth within native file dialogs?
(I.e., one huge pain point is working in 4 programs on a file in a single directory, buried quite deeply)

Might be worth having a link to Windows Version Video

-Clay


#7

Congrats on first sales!

That being said, I’m not surprised you don’t get more use. It’s a good start but you need more features. Waaay more features.

As it stands, you have one feature that is nice: Cmd-P but in almost all other ways you’re worse than Finder.

Personally I’m a paying user of Path Finder because it’s more powerful, so there’s a market for better/different file managers. But you need more features.

A few obvious things:

  • you need a white color scheme. I know this is personal but it’s at least 50/50 and I hate dark color schemes and most people on Mac are trained (by Finder) to white color scheme
  • Cmd-P doesn’t work as I expect i.e. it doesn’t find “Downloads”, I have to type “~/Downloads”
  • right-click does nothing
  • you need some way to educate (via UI hints) about keybindings; almost no-one on mac knows that e.g. F5 is copy (I do because I used Total Commander on Windows). I wouldn’t figure out Cmd-P if I didn’t know.
  • tabs. it’s table stakes those days
  • , the path elements need to be clickable, the whole thing needs to be editable
  • what you do Cmd-P and move the main window, the search bar stays in place

And those are just the table stakes. I think there are many things to do better than existing file managers, but you have a long way to go before you’re even at parity with existing (and sometimes free) solutions.

Also, the website could use some facelift. It has this “basic bootstrap theme” look.

Also, I would drop Linux. It’s like 1% of your potential market and 100% of that 1% doesn’t pay for software. I know that you want to emulate Sublime Text, but that’s one of the things that don’t make sense in your context (it’s probably a significant amount of work for what I assume is literally $0 reward).

Raise the price to at least $29. If someone is willing to pay $14, they would almost certainly pay $29.


#8

Also, when I subscribed to rss feed of the blog in feedly.com, I only see the title, not the content because https://fman.io/blog/rss.xml doesn’t have the content.

That defeats the purpose of using rss.


#9

Thank you very much for the feedback everyone!

@SteveMcLeod, you’re right I’ll have to raise prices and write that page about “Total Commander for Mac” for SEO.

@Clay_Nichols, it’s an alternative to Windows Explorer. You use it to browser directories, copy/move files, … Its advantage is that it’s optimised for keyboard usage. Once you know a few shortcuts, you become much quicker at the mentioned tasks. From that point onwards, whenever you have to use Explorer, it feels sloooooow.

@kjk, you’re right that I need more features. Many basic things are still missing. Let me pick out a few of the ones you mentioned.

  • Cmd-P should really display ~/Downloads as soon as you start typing dow. Does it work once you’ve visited the folder at least once with fman? Otherwise, it’s a bug.
  • Re key bindings & Mac users: I believe there should best be a tutorial educating you about the key bindings the first time you start fman.
  • Why does the path bar have to be editable when you have Cmd-P?

The other items are already represented by (partially user-added) cards on fman’s issue tracker.

You see, I still have a lot of work to do. All your points are valid. The question is, where do I start so my limited resources have the highest impact.

Re Linux: I actually have several paying Linux users. One of fman’s unique selling points is a Plugin API. I want fman’s users to contribute plugins. Linux users are (I think) more likely to do so. What’s more, by offering a good option in a market (Linux) ignored by other solutions, I might gain an advantage there. But you’re right - I need to be careful about whether it actually pays off.

I’ll add the contents to the RSS feed!

Cheers,
Michael


#10

On your buy now page, why would you not choose to include updates? It looks like a wasted control to me, that increases friction.

Or does the free update require signup for automatic billing for subsequent years?

I also have a product that a high proportion of customers are installing on desktops (although we actually target servers as the most natural deployment environment).


#11

Yes, the free update requires signup for automatic billing. Do you have any measures of your funnel download -> install? Have you found techniques for improving it?


#12

No, I only have stats for download > install conversion, and it’s also a little kooky because there are some platforms which have different install paths.

Which installer are you using? Can you track each page of the installer to check drop offs?

Obviously there’ll also be a drop off from download to install. And then from installed to first-run.


#13

I see. I use Google Omaha for auto-updating. This gives me an installer that has no pages. The user downloads a 1MB .exe. As soon as he runs it, fman is download, installed into the default location, and run. This is for Windows. On other platforms, I don’t have installer “pages” either.


#14

Sounds cool, but what sort of feedback is given when the app is downloading and being installed?

I tend to think a lot of the drop-off is from download -> install. I find download to completed install only runs at around 60-70% for example.


#15

It looks like this: https://fman.io/static/blog/img/omaha-installer.png. Are 60-70% your numbers? That’s pretty good I think. Mine are ~50%. Have you found things that improved them?


#16

Yes, those are my numbers only.

I’ve never tried to optimise that part of the funnel. There’s a horrible disconnect from download -> run the installer, although browsers normally make this a bit easier, showing the download at the bottom of the Window. Even more surprising, a Java installation is required in my case, it’s a wonder the numbers are as high as they are.

But I guess it’s all about removing whatever friction you can. Maybe take inspiration from other downloadable software? I always thought Chrome had a fairly good experience, but haven’t tried it recently.

It’d be good to do another up to date survey in the manner of Andy’s original.


#17

I’m torn between whether this is a bad idea or genius. As a developer, getting the recurring revenue is brilliant, and this possibly gets you around the major-update-every-year-please-buy syndrome. As a user, it makes me stop & think carefully before making a purchase. (I’m pretty sure I’m going to forget that I subscribed.)

I prefer how Xojo implements this - they include a year of free updates with the initial purchase, but their releases are named in a way that makes it fairly clear which updates you’re entitled to (ie Xojo 2016 Release 4.1, Xojo 2017 Release 1). There’s a user portal where I can login and enable / disable renewals at any time, or buy annual renewals when they have a 30% sale. And when my subscription finishes, I can still use all the releases that came before my subscription expired.

I agree with increasing the price, but not if you’re doing an annual subscription. I paid $70 for Sublime Text, but that was 3 years ago, so the cost of Sublime is already trending down towards your $14/year price point once you amortize it.

[That said: I’m old, and have a feeling you’re onto something clever with this.]


#18

I’m torn between whether this is a bad idea or genius.

So far, 97% of fman’s customers have opted for updates. Of course, that doesn’t say whether these people will not cancel their subscription a day before it renews (and thus needs to be paid for the first time).

I am against including a year of free updates. Updates require consistent effort on my part, and provide continuous value to the user. Why should that come “for free”? It needs to be said though that fman is very cheap.

That’s how fman’s pricing is different from other apps. Instead of a larger initial fee with one year of updates “included”, the initial fee is low and the user can decide whether (s)he wants updates.

That model, as you point out, also solves the major-update-every-year-please-buy problem. It’s one of the main reasons why I like it. That way, I can focus on making fman more awesome instead of having to produce “shiny” new features that I can then use to convince people to upgrade.

The point about ST and the $70 amortising themselves over years is a very good one.

fman’s pricing model is similar to JetBrains’ products. I just think it makes much more sense.


#19

You’re talking yourself into what you want the world to be, not necessarily what the world is.

I guess you’ll find out in a year or so when first renewals come in but there is a real danger that people are doing yearly subscriptions without realizing it and they’ll be very pissed when they figure it out.

The copy on /buy page is very “read the fine print” to the point of being deceptive. I only noticed the distinction on second reading mostly because a yearly subscription for a small utility program is not in my world view so I assumed that it’s a one-time fee.

You bring up JetBrains but a file manager is not in the same universe of utility/value as JetBrains tools or Adobe tools.

No one (that I know of) in the “small utility” category is doing yearly subscriptions.

Unless you make it super clear that you offer a single purchase vs. yearly subscription (e.g. by having 2 buttons [Buy without updates $14] [Buy with updates $12/year]) and don’t bias the outcome with a selection that defaults to to yearly, you can’t really know if people buy yearly because they were tricked by the copy or because they really want to pay you every year.

Given what I think the distribution would be (not 97% in favor of yearly subscription) I’m pretty sure you’re simply duping 80%+ of buyers into a choice they wouldn’t have made if they carefully read the fine print.

People don’t like subscription commitments even when that’s the obvious choice (web-based saas apps that require ongoing expenses to keep going), no other vendors of small desktop utilities sell by subscriptions and you haven’t been around long enough to earn the trust that you’ll be there 3 years from now, making frequent updates to the app to justify ongoing expense.


#20

there is a real danger that people are doing yearly subscriptions without realizing it and they’ll be very pissed when they figure it out.

My plan is to email people 2 weeks before their subscription renews. Then they have ample time to react.

a file manager is not in the same universe of utility/value as JetBrains tools or Adobe tools.

It’s a different kind of tool of course but I don’t see a reason why that means the license scheme must be different. Moreover, my target audience are developers - who often use JetBrains products.

you can’t really know if people buy yearly because they were tricked by the copy or because they really want to pay you every year.

It clearly says “subscribe to updates” on the buy page. It’s not like it’s hidden in some fine print. I don’t want to “trick” anyone - one of the reasons why I’ll send out the “your subscription is about to renew” email. But it is my full right to make updates as appealing as possible.

I’m pretty sure you’re simply duping 80%+ of buyers into a choice they wouldn’t have made if they carefully read the fine print.

I think the main reason you’re criticising the approach is that you simply don’t like updates, either in general or for such an app. That’s fine. But to claim that there’s “fine print” is unjustified. The page is very clean and simple. There is one choice: “subscribe to updates €/$12/yr” or “don’t include updates”. How is that “duping”?

you haven’t been around long enough to earn the trust that you’ll be there 3 years from now, making frequent updates to the app to justify ongoing expense.

Firstly, licenses are perpetual meaning that you can use fman forever. The “trust” only needs to be there for the one year you’re buying updates for. If it isn’t there, don’t buy them.

Having said that, I understand that people don’t want to be “locked in” to a tool that isn’t maintained. That’s why fman makes an “open source promise” in case development stops: https://fman.io/blog/transparency/#open-source-promise