Developers, A Love Story

While browsing my Application folder on my Mac, I noticed something. I have a fondness for some apps that I rarely use. I’m just glad that I own them. I may not use them all but I feel good about the money I’ve spent.

If I like a developer I buy their wares just to support their work. When I say “I like a developer” I don’t just mean I like their products. I mean that I like the people behind the products. I like the philosophy, the commitment, the personalities. Sure, I’ll buy software and services from people I think are ass-hats if they make polished high quality stuff. But I’m more likely to buy less awesome software from someone I like than I am to buy highly polished stuff from a jerk. This is especially true in the Indie Software scene. There are real people behind every pixel and algorithm.

Rather than highlight bad players[1], I’ll call out some of the greats along with the software I own from them.[2] If you’re on your way to Macworld (iWorld) stop by some booths and thank these people. Better yet, but some kick-ass software.

The Devs

Flying Meat: Gus MuelerAcorn (Mac), Voodoo Pad (Mac), FlySketch (Mac)

Red Sweater: Daniel JalkutMarsEdit (Mac), FastScripts (Mac), BlackInk (Mac)

Iconfactory: Craig Hockenberry, Gedeon Maheux, David Lanham and too many other awesome people to listTwitterrific (Mac, iOS), Astronut (iOS), Ramp Champ (iOS), XScope (Mac), Candy Bar (Mac), Flare (Mac), Frenzic (iOS)

David Lanham: Ok, not a developer but an artist. I like his work, but I also like him as a business owner.

Brett Terpstra: Marked

Hog Bay Software: Jesse GrosjeanTaskPaper (Mac, iOS), PlainText (Mac, iOS), WriteRoom (Mac, iOS), QuickCursor (Mac)

OmniGroup: Ken Case and whole lot of other peopleOmniFocus (Mac, iPhone, iPad), OmniGraffle Pro (Mac, iPad), OmniGraphSketcher (Mac, iPad), OmniOutliner Pro (Mac, iPad)

Indev: Scott MorrisonMail Act-On (Mac), MailTags (Mac), Mail Perspectives (Mac)

St. Clair Software: Jon GotowDefault Folder (Mac)

Smile Software: TextExpander (Mac, iOS), PDFPen Pro (Mac)

Panic: Cabel Sasser, Neven Mrgan, Steven FrankTransmit (Mac), Coda (Mac), Prompt (iOS), Candy Bar (Mac)

Agile Bits: Roustem Karimov, Dave Teare, Ben Woodruff1Password (Mac, iOS), Knox (Mac)

Devon Technologies: Eric Böhnisch-Volkmann, Christian Grunenberg and Bill DeVilleDevonThink Office Pro (Mac), DevonAgent Pro (Mac)

Stairways Software: Peter N. Lewis – Keyboard Maestro

Literature and Latte: Keith BluontScrivener (Mac)

What make these developers so great? What makes any person or business great? They’re a bunch of nice people. They provide great services and actually care about customers. I don’t know any of these people personally but I’ve had memorable experiences with most of them. Let the gushing commence.

The Gushing

Gus Meueller shares a ton of work on his blog and is building a freely available framework called JSTalk. Think about how much work it probably took to make Acorn. Now look at the price. It breaks my brain. How can he afford to make such a great app and work on JSTalk for free and charge so little for Acorn. I have to assume he is royalty or something.

Daniel Jalkut (Red Sweater) makes products he cares a lot about. But even more than that, he genuinely cares about his customers. MarsEdit support is always friendly and helpful. He’s a joyful person on Twitter and gives great talks with honest advice. His C4 talk is great too. I don’t think there is anyone out there that is better at customer service.

Iconfactory as a company is just great. I contacted them for some art work and they were so nice, I actually felt guilty when I did not proceed with the project. You want to see someone that loves the Mac? Watch this C4 video of the fleshy palm presenting UI for iPhone.

David Lanham could also be included with Iconfactory. He’s one of their talented artists. I list him second, because I live with his art everyday. It adorns my office and desktop. My daughter plays with a vinyl Zog that I love more than she does. But he’s also a nice guy. Everything I’ve ever purchased from him came with extras. Little thank you notes and tiny doggie stickers. Nice little friendly touches.

Brett Terpstra is one of the best. I don’t think I can say anything new about him. If you read this site regularly, you’ll know what I think. Salt of the earth.

Jesse Grosjean (Hog Bay Software) is a luminary in the plain text fan club. His apps started it all. He’s a humble guy that makes great pizzas. Every support email he’s answered has been considerate and friendly.

The OmniGroup is inspirational. They make some damn fine products. But they also have damn fine staff. Just read their bio page. These people care about everything. Ken Case personally responds to inaccurate posts and is honest and forthcoming about product delays or releases. I mean holy-hell, they have a publicly advertised email to directly contact the founders. They also do a gorgeous blog and divulge great details about their business.

Scott Morrison (Indev) puts care and detail into his products. He doesn’t rush it. He does it right. He also helps to put-on Cingleton. What more do you people want?

Jon Gotow (St. Clair Software) has been perfecting Default Folder for many years. I don’t know how he does it. Just when I think it can’t possibly get any better, he releases a new and better version. He also provides great support and has always been friendly when he responds.

Smile Software could be great just by association. They sponsor most of my favorite podcasts. I often wonder if my favorite podcasts would have made it this far without Smile Software. But they also make great products. How many people live by TextExpander? Generous company with awesome products is a good combination.

Panic software is like a warehouse of awesome people. Between Cabel Sasser, Neven Mrgan and Steven Frank they have some of the most interesting people in software development on any platform. I loved the story of Audion. Neven makes the delightful The Incident game which makes the world a tiny bit more joyful. If you really want joyful, just watch this awesome talk by Cabel and try not to smile. They also have impecable taste in every detail of their business. I dare you to ever make something cooler than their status board.

Everything from Agile Bits is required for a Mac. Don’t be an idiot. Buy 1Password. If you need a reason to love the company more, watch this interview done by Merlin Mann with Dave Teare. Nice guy. I may not always like their decisions but they have great support. That Ben Woodruff is one classy guy. If you want to see how to correctly manage a bunch of pissed off users, read that forum post. He did a great job and I’m sure that was a rough night.

I’ve been a fan of Devon Technologies since 2004. I joined their forum in December of 2004 (username = Knight of Nee). I lived on their forums and really enjoyed just hanging out there. That’s where I first came in contact with Eric Böhnisch-Volkmann, Christian Grunenberg and Bill DeVille. If I asked for DevonThink to do something off the wall, I could expect to see Christian or Eric throw out a mind blowing AppleScript within a day. And don’t even get me started on how great Bill is. He was a power user that graduated to employee. Before he made a dime off of DevonTech, he was spending huge amounts of time just helping people use the software.

Peter Lewis has developed Keyboard Maestro for more years than I’ve used it. Not only does he make one of my favorite applications, but he’s also great with support. He replies to emails within hours and he’s on the other side of the planet from me. I’m not sure when he sleeps. I’m grateful for his generous support of my ridiculous plans to conquer my Mac.

Keith Bluont makes one of the most highly regarded Mac apps available, Scrivener. People have switched entire platforms just to use it. It’s a monumental achievement in re-imagining a writing implement. That’s enough of a reason to like him. But he’s also a very nice and generous guy. I emailed him back in 2006 complimenting him on Scrivener and asking for some advice. If you don’t know the history of Scrivener, it’s pretty amazing. Keith was a writer that just wanted a better application. So he taught himself to program in Cocoa and made Scrivener. I know, right. Totally amazing! So I wanted to know how he did it. I had/have dreams of making my own applications and I wanted to know what his experience was like. He was more than generous with information. He emailed me a lovely response full of detail and encouragement.


Whew! This post has no less than 89 Links. I think that’s enough. Of course I couldn’t fit in every developer that makes great stuff. These are the ones I think of fondly and will gladly buy almost[3] anything they make. I thought about trying to total the amount I’ve spent on these apps, but that would cheapen it. These apps are worth their price. They are all high quality and they support things that are far too rare. They support excellence, kindness and generosity. Thanks to all.

    <li id="fn:1">They do a pretty good job highlighting themselves. <a class="reversefootnote" title="return to article" href="#fnref:1"> ↩</a></li>
    <li id="fn:2">No associate links. It would make me feel like this was a post full of links to make a buck. That feels dirty. Instead, follow the links and find great software. Enjoy. <a class="reversefootnote" title="return to article" href="#fnref:2"> ↩</a></li>
    <li id="fn:3">Seriously, I’m right on the edge with <a href="">OmniPlan</a>, but it’s $200 and I’m making do. <a class="reversefootnote" title="return to article" href="#fnref:3"> ↩</a></li>