Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Haha, so much fun on the web. Here comes Perversiontracker, the logical consequence of the rubbish software posted at Versiontracker. I read a couple of their reviews and simply love it. They're so right (and luckily they didn't slag off any of our applications).

And with great minds occasionally thinking alike they hate brushed-metal windows, distrust the lovely AppleScriptStudio and scorn anything proudly boasting that it's Made with REALBasic.

I must admit that I am a bit schizophrenic about the latter two things: It cannot be denied, that most of the REALBasic applications shouldn't have made it to the public's screens, ever, as – despite it being fairly easy to create OK interfaces in REALBasic – most people using it prefer arranging things in ways that are extremely poor to use or cause eye cancer of some sort just by looking at them (and that's a logical 'or'). To add insult to injury there is a tendency of people to (a) ship their applications with REALBasic's default icon, (b) have a large 'Made with REALBasic banner somewhere and (c) charge at least a US$ 10 shareware fee for a dysfunctional application.

On the other hand, we've been there – used REALBasic for our old applications. Most notably SETI Checker and the old version of GeburtstagsChecker. And from those experiences I claim that REALBasic can be powerful as you can use objects and access Toolbox methods if needs be (which is rarely). It's also reasonably fast – in fact, for most things, I was impressed with the speed. And finally it's nice. Not horrible bracket-ridden C syntax. No redundant header files. A nice IDE. A good debugger, letting you sometimes modify your code while debugging etc. There are of course downsides as well, e.g. REALBasic being slightly more limiting than using Cocoa, large executable sizes (although people seem to perfectly capable to get those with Cocoa as well by not removing debug-symbols before shipping their apps) or the price tag.

As I still like to think of the interfaces of our REALBasic applications as reasonably nice, the question remains why so many of them are utterly crap. In my opinion, the answer simply lies in the fact that it's too easy to get results with REALBasic.

This way, too many people can 'program' their own applications, which is fine as it empowers them to make their work easier or more efficient. However, the next step is to think that these applications are fit for human consumption, despite having spent less time thinking about the app's usability than it takes to say Human Interface Guidelines.

Perhaps, it can also be explained by not everyone having the 'touch' for creating proper Mac applications as mentioned in John Gruber's interview with the creator of NetNewsWire. This may be similar to what I tried to elaborate in my previous post on languages – people have to start thinking differently [no pun intended] to make a good Mac application. Many people don't and you can tell because their apps don't 'feel right'.

March 30, 2003, 1:20

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