inessential by Brent Simmons

October 2005

My favorite Xcode tip

My favorite Xcode tip is a few related tips on navigating within a file.

1. With a source file in front, use ctrl-2 to popup the list of functions.

2. Navigate the menu using the keyboard—including type-ahead find.

3. Within your source files, use #pragma mark Whatever to set off sections. These appear in the popup menu in bold, making it easy to find sections.

(Like many, if not most, Mac developers, my goal with Xcode is to never have to touch the mouse.)

Gus on DrunkCamp

Gus Mueller: “So here’s the thing—I’m just some guy who lives in Everett, WA who writes software for the mac. I’m really no different from anyone else. I just put some hard work into what I do and got lucky. So there’s no need to treat me any different. But I do appreciate the free beer :)”

Guest post from Nick Bradbury: What Can I Learn from You?

Hi folks, this is Nick Bradbury, the author of FeedDemon for Windows. Now that Brent and I are co-workers, we thought it would be a great idea to guest post on each other's blog today as a way to introduce ourselves, and also to find out what we could learn from each other's customers.

Even though I develop for Windows (and have no plans to switch), last year I bought an iBook, motivated in large part by my desire to keep up with all the cool features Brent was adding to NetNewsWire. My previous experience with the Mac was back before the OS X days, and quite honestly I wasn't wild about it then - the lack of preemptive multi-tasking alone made me dislike it.

Well, as you can imagine, I was unexpectedly impressed with OS X. So much so that I had this to say about it:

"After working with OS X for a few hours, switching back to Windows is like partying with Charlize Theron then coming home to Kathy Bates. Sure, Kathy Bates is exceptionally talented, but sometimes a little glamour is exciting."

Following my brief experience with OS X, I decided I could learn a lot from Mac applications, many of which are more elegant and simpler to use than their Windows counterparts. And NetNewsWire is the one I've learned from the most - it packs an awful lot of power into a deceptively simple UI.

But I don't have much experience with Mac users, so I'm wondering what I can learn from you? If you use Windows as well as the Mac, what drives you nuts about Windows apps (or, if you were forced to use Windows, what would you miss the most)? And if you've used FeedDemon at all, what Mac-like features do you believe it would benefit from?


PS: Here's Brent's guest post in my blog.

More Adler Links

MacZealots: A Developer’s Podcast. “In our inaugural podcast, MacZealots chief writer and co-founder Justin Williams takes in the sounds of the Evening At Adler after party.”

Chicagoist: “Chicagoist attended the event and unlike most corporate-sponsored conferences and panels, we were impressed with the speakers, their content and thoughts, and the job that DB did as the M.C. for the evening.”

drunkenbatman: it burns.

Launched Xcode, angels sang

Last Wednesday evening I launched Xcode for the first time in something like two months. It was fun to do actual programming.

(Of course, part of the hiatus was working on the deal with NewsGator and then working on the transition, which is continuing. At one point we bought a fax machine, even though it’s the year 2005.)

And tonight—Monday Oct. 24—I’m going to launch Xcode again. By the time you’re reading this, I’m programming. Cool.

More Evening at Adler links

More Evening at Adler links...

Paul Kafasis: “The previously mentioned Evening At Adler took place this past weekend, and it was a blast...”

Gus Mueller: “As Ferris Bueller would say, ‘I highly recommend it.’ DB did a hell of a job putting it on, and I was delighted to be a part of it.”

carpeaqua: All E-Mail Sucks

Justin Williams: “There’s no incentive for a company to dive into the email client market because competing with decent freeware is difficult and not nearly as lucrative as filling a niche.”

There are some email clients I personally like—Mailsmith and mutt, in particular—but I’m not the first person or the last to say that there is no Ultimate Email Client for OS X. Justin is right in that nobody can afford to create it. Even if you made Pretty Much the Greatest Email Client Ever, it would be hard to compete against and gmail and so on. Email clients are like air: people don’t want to pay for something so basic. (Okay, some rare people will.)

What’s frustrating is the sense that, by the year 2005, we should have a great email client. It’s not like it’s new technology. It could be done. The problem is the economics.

Continuing development of MarsEdit

MarsEdit IconYou may have seen the report on The Unofficial Apple Weblog that we will continue MarsEdit development at NewsGator. (I’ve already heard from a bunch of folks who are quite happy about this! Me too.)

Here’s the story...

We announced the acquisition fairly soon after the papers were signed, and some things were left undecided, just due to timing issues. We talked about a number of possibilities for MarsEdit (you can probably imagine most of them).

What surprised us—me included! or even especially me—was the amount of feedback we got regarding MarsEdit. I knew that there are lots of people passionate about NetNewsWire, but I didn’t know that was true for MarsEdit. For whatever reasons, I have always gotten lots of email from folks saying how much they dig NetNewsWire, but I rarely heard that about MarsEdit.

And then the acquisition announcement was made, and we heard from lots of people who love MarsEdit.

So we listened—and decided to continue MarsEdit development at NewsGator.

What people like about MarsEdit

The two main weblog editing apps for OS X are ecto and MarsEdit. I’ve said before, on this weblog and elsewhere, that ecto is a cool app and Adriaan is an excellent developer.

Ecto and MarsEdit take very different approaches. Both approaches are valid, just different. Ecto has more features than MarsEdit, while MarsEdit has a simpler, as-minimal-as-possible user interface.

That interface was my goal for MarsEdit from the start: to take the complex-and-getting-worse task of weblog editing and make something that feels like writing email. (That email-like feeling is meant to put folks at ease while they’re writing, to encourage people to write more and write better.)

I can’t speak for Adriaan, of course, but if I had to guess I’d say his approach with ecto is to make sure that whatever cool things you want to do, you can do—and to think up new cool things you didn’t even know you wanted to do.

Both approaches are not just valid but good. They appeal to different tastes.

What I didn’t realize was that there were so many people who really like MarsEdit’s approach. They like the minimal user interface, they like the email-like feel. Sure, people want more features, but they don’t want new features in MarsEdit at the expense of the feel that they like.

(More about Adriaan: I worked with him on the external weblog editor interface that NetNewsWire, ecto, and MarsEdit support, the thing that makes the Post-to-Weblog button work with different weblog editors and different RSS readers. He’s a cool cat, and it was a pleasure to make our software work together.)

Going forward: how you can help

Here’s the issue, straight up: MarsEdit support costs are higher per copy than for NetNewsWire.

Partly it’s because writing apps are harder to support than reading apps—but even more it’s because configuring a weblog editor can be difficult, and because weblog editing is quite a bit more complicated than email. (Not to mention—okay, to mention briefly—the fact that some of the weblog systems have bugs in their external weblog editor interfaces.)

So we’re looking for ways to make supporting MarsEdit easier. Some of those ways are obvious and I won’t enumerate them (since they’re not all in place)—except to say that it’s a big help when MarsEdit users help support other MarsEdit users. The more that happens, the more time we can spend fixing bugs and adding features, and the better MarsEdit is. (The good news is that this already happens: we’re just working on ways to make it easier to do, to encourage more of it, and to make it easier to find the answers you need.)

Perhaps it was always true, but it feels more true than ever that software development is a partnership between developers and users.


I worked on MarsEdit a bit this past summer, and a new version is already in progress. We’re working on getting some help on finishing it so that I can also work on NetNewsWire. (Better to have both apps move forward in parallel.) It’s at the stage where mostly what it needs are bug fixes and polish. (Quite a few of them, though: it’s not beta quality yet.)

(Before you ask—we don’t have a timetable for shipping yet.)

Postscript: a personal note

I was talking to Wolf Friday night—and I’ve mentioned this to other folks before—that my background is in literature. I was not a computer science major. My first and most passionate aesthetic love is for words and books.

So it’s no wonder that my two main apps are for reading and writing: they might be the only kind of apps I could write, the apps I was born to write.

Which is just to say that being able to continue working on MarsEdit feels good. I am glad.

Hivelogic hivey and logical

Dan Benjamin returns! “You’ve been on quite a ride over the last year. You’ve weathered hurricanes. Your career path and primary focus has shifted. You’ve switched to a buzzcut. You moved north, and then relocated back south, purchasing a home on your return.”

Cool apps, websites/services?

What new (in the last six months) desktop apps, websites, and web services do you think are cool? And why?

(I’ve been so concentrated on other things that I need to catch up!)

Daring Fireball: The Life

John Gruber writes about the economics of indie development in The Life: “Once a developer gets enough paying users to consider quitting his day job so he can devote full-time effort to writing code, he’s quite possibly got so many paying users that he’ll spend much of his time helping customers in ways other than writing code.”

Fraser Speirs - Hiatus while my brain catches up

Fraser Speirs writes:

- Flickr has gone supernova.
- Everyone uses FlickrExport.
- People notice what you do and say.

This takes me back—I could have written something like this a couple years ago about RSS. It’s an interesting time when suddenly you find that you go places and people know who you are and tell you how much they like your software.

In fact—this was so cool—at the end of the Web 1.0 party last week I was talking to Fraser and another person, and the person was a big fan of FlickrExport and wanted to talk to Fraser. It’s probably unwarranted on my part—I’m sentimental, no doubt—but I found myself full of pride. So cool.

My advice to Fraser, and anyone in a position like Fraser’s, is to relax and enjoy it. You done good.

macsb list handed off to Gus Mueller

A couple years ago I had the idea for a mailing list for small, independent Macintosh software businesses. So I created a new list at Yahoo Groups and named it macsb. (Which is pronounced “max-bee,” by the way, even though it doesn’t make sense to pronounce it that way.)

The list has been a great resource for folks—it succeeded way beyond what I expected. It has over 700 members! And it’s often quite busy, and the discussions are great.

If you have a small Mac software business, or are considering starting one, I recommend subscribing.

Now that I no longer run such a small business, I decided to turn over ownership of the list to Gus Mueller, and Gus agreed.

I’m sure you know Gus—but, just in case you don’t, I’ll mention that Gus runs Flying Meat (Flying Meat is a reference to rock climbing), home of cool apps VoodooPad, FlySketch, and FlyGesture.

Thanks, Gus! I’m certain it’s in good hands and will remain a fantastic resource.

I’ll remain subscribed, since I do have some knowledge in this area and may have things to say from time to time. (Plus, it’s fun: I enjoy the discussions.) But Gus is your new Flying Meat Overlord.

Loading up

Now that iTunes isn’t brushed metal and I can actually use it... I’m loading up. It’s all about ska today: Hepcat, Specials, Desmond Dekker, English Beat, Madness, Skatalites...

I’m not sure what to do about my records, though. Yes, I still have vinyl.

A few things...

The article in TidBITS on the NetNewsWire acquisition reminds me of one thing that perhaps hasn’t been explained properly: NewsGator purchased all of Ranchero Software’s software, including MarsEdit and the freeware apps.

We’re still deciding what to do with these and we’re listening to feedback. If you have ideas, please comment here or send me email.

I’ve also seen the sentiment expressed (though not in the TidBITS article) that NewsGator is some kind of big corporation. It’s a corporation, yes, but it’s actually still small—about 40 people, which isn’t close to the number of employees in places like Google, Yahoo, and Apple. (How many people does Google hire in one day, I wonder.)

And folks at NewsGator—executives and investors included—have weblogs. Here are the ones I know about:

J.B. Holston
Greg Reinacker
Sandy Hamilton
Nick Bradbury
Brad Feld

Chat app?

So, for my new job I have to use MSN Messenger’s chat service—but I don’t have to use the MSN Messenger app itself. (I’d rather use one app that works for various services, and, well, I don’t like brushed metal.)

I’m trying out Adium, and so far it seems pretty good. Other recommendations? What do you use and why?

Mork calling Orson, come in Orson

My iPod nano just arrived! It’s black, of course, to match my heart. ;)

(When I was a teenager we used to joke, “I wear black to match how I feel on the inside.” Said with a mock-serious, mock-whiney voice.)

So now I actually have to give in and put music on my computer. Step one, import from CD nearest at hand: Napoleon Dynamite Soundtrack.

Congrats to Dave!

Big-time congratulations go to my former employer Dave Winer for the deal. Very cool!

I actually remember working on back when I was at UserLand, doing a little work, but just a little—Dave always treated it personally and specially.

It was a cool thing then and I hope this deal means cool things for the future of


Last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with a couple folks from Joyent. I missed their demo earlier, but had already checked out the demos on their website: their software looks pretty cool.

I had dinner with David Young and John Gruber—who you know as the author of Daring Fireball. Here’s John: Introducing Joyent.

(John lives in Philadelphia, and I can hear it in his voice. For me it’s the sound of my childhood home: I grew up outside Newark, Delaware, and have family all around southeastern PA, south Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland’s eastern shore. I think about TastyKakes every day, but we don’t have them in Seattle. [In case you’re wondering, I will admit, doubly parenthetically, that every weblog post I write could eventually turn into a post about TastyKakes.])

So... check out Joyent. Also note that Bryan Bell works for them: you may recognize the feel of things from Bryan’s other work—and Bryan keeps getting better. (I was saying just last night that Bryan’s going to be a star. If he isn’t already.)

Audio interview with Niall Kennedy

Yesterday Greg Reinacker and I did an audio interview with Niall Kennedy. Niall had lots of great questions.

In the picture I look a little tired! You might imagine that the last month or so has been a whirlwind, and the wind is still whirling. (I’m still catching up on email from days ago!)

(Niall, by the way, is one those great human nodes who knows everybody. I think the Technorati folks are lucky to have him.)

Web 2.0 conference NewsGator party

Web 2.0 conference folks: at 5:30 pm today there’s a NewsGator party in the Moscone Room, floor 33, at the Argent. Free drinks and a stunning view of the city. See you there!

NewsGator acquires NetNewsWire

It’s true! NewsGator has acquired NetNewsWire and hired me as a product architect! There’s a press release and a Q&A page that go into more detail.

You can also read what my co-workers Greg Reinacker and Nick Bradbury have to say. I’m excited to join both of them and the rest of NewsGator.

What’s it all about?

There are a couple pieces of the story to tell you about...

The first is that we get requests constantly about syncing—not just better syncing, not just between copies of NetNewsWire, but with Windows RSS readers, PDAs, Outlook, and so on. People even ask us to create a website version for when they’re away from their normal computers.

We couldn’t do all this on our own—but we agree completely with NetNewsWire users who tell us that RSS is hugely important, too important to have to read the same news items twice on different computers and different devices.

NewsGator was already working on this—but they didn’t have a Mac client. It was almost like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: NetNewsWire fit right in!

Another piece of the story is the issue of resources. When a software product becomes as popular as NetNewsWire you end up spending less and less time actually programming. But programming is what I love to do, it’s what I’m good at—and the only way to keep making NetNewsWire better is to write code.

I’ll quote Greg on this: “He’ll continue working on NetNewsWire, and we actually expect development and new features to accelerate since he’ll be able to focus more on design and development. He’ll also be contributing in other areas and products, but believe me, we’re committed to NetNewsWire and making sure it remains the best RSS experience on the Mac.”


People have put it to me like this: “How can you—the guy who does what’s right instead of what MBAs tell you to do—do a deal like this?”

The answer is that this is the right thing to do. As I say above, NetNewsWire users are asking for syncing features that NewsGator already has, and so we can make that happen in NetNewsWire.

And NetNewsWire users deserve a product with more resources behind it. If my time can be freed up so I can spend lots more time working on new features (and bug fixes!) then that’s good all around.

It excites me, as a matter of fact. It sounds like bliss.


I have a ton of email from people. (I’m getting to it as quickly as I can!) And I thank everyone dearly who has emailed me their congratulations. It’s much appreciated.


drunkenbatman: OMFG.

If you’re interested in Apple bugs (and, really, who isn’t?) and how they get closed and who closes them, then this piece will frighten you. Our boozy superhero could have saved this for Halloween—but then nobody would have believed it.


We saw Serenity last night—and loved it. We’re going to go see it again.

The last time I walked out of a theater saying that I wanted to see the movie again was probably Star Wars.

Green characters on black == bliss

Robert Daeley and I have about the same background when it comes to computers. Robert writes:

On my old Apple ][+ back in the day, there were a handful of programs I spent the vast majority of my time in, not counting my BASIC programming: Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, Decathlon, and a word processor—the name of which escapes me at the moment, but imagine a terminal window program, all keyboard-command driven (no mice, of course), with simple formatting tools. All geared toward one goal: writing text, saving it on floppy disks (that were floppy), and printing it on our dot-matrix. I wrote school papers, fiction, all kinds of stuff in that program. Loved it.

Were there challenges? Sure, of course. But here’s what it had that trumped everything else:

Green characters on a black background. And nothing else.


I had the same computer—and maybe even the same word processor whose name completely escapes me. The only difference was that I spent my time in Adventure and, later, Zork, rather than in Flight Simulator.

No mouse! Apple didn’t ship any computers with mice back then.

Like Robert, I have a soft spot in my heart for terminal-based editors, and probably always will.