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Development Advice from the Author of BBEdit


That’s the wonderful thing about collaborating with The Webby Awards: they know all the right people.

For this week’s installment of Webby Connect, they were able to snag an interview with the legendary Rich Siegel, the original author of BBEdit and one of the founders of Bare Bones Software.

Read on to find out why his company remains so steadfastly Mac-centric and get his recommendations for developers who want to up their game.

Be sure to bookmark our Webby Connect page to get all the latest on three key online trends: Elevation of Craft, Sharing Economy, and Careers With Meaning.

How is Bare Bones Software a different company today than when you founded it in 1993?

In our 20+ year history, we've seen many cycles of growth and shrinkage in the industry, tectonic changes in the world, and we've grown and matured as individuals. This has all served to shape our attitudes toward work and life. Individually and collectively we work as hard as we ever have; but we also spend more time doing things that aren't work. :-)

What hasn't changed is that we have a single-minded dedication to software development as a work of craftsmanship, and to serving our customers' needs to the best of our ability.

Why does Bare Bones only develop software for OSX and iOS?

We all started using Macs in the mid-eighties, and although we had experience with other platforms (UNIX mainframes and "supermicro" workstations, DOS and Windows, and so forth) the Mac was the first computer that we all felt at home writing code for.

Since many of us "came up" using and writing software for Macs, we chose to focus our commercial efforts on Mac OS as well. OS X and iOS came along (much) later, but OS X was still about building Mac software, so we've stuck with where our expertise is strongest.

What’s your day-to-day like, and what equipment and/or software are your must-haves to get your work done on a regular basis?

My working setup is split between a desktop and a laptop. The laptop does all of my email, as well as work-related stuff that isn't immediately related to coding: administration, legal and marketing matters, and so forth. It's also usable for coding when I have to work someplace without my usual setup.

The desktop machine handles all the heavy lifting for everyday development work. It's usually the biggest iron that makes practical sense (right now it's a six-core Mac Pro with lots of memory). I build, test, chase down bugs, prepare releases, coordinate with colleagues over IM, and do all my workaday stuff on the desktop machine. After hours I'll use it for World of Warcraft (unless we're preparing to release a major upgrade, in which case there is no "after hours").

Besides BBEdit and other software from Bare Bones, are there any killer programs, sites, or tools you recommend for those looking to get started in software development?

Much of what I would have recommended in days past is now included with the OS (or available from Apple at no charge) -- Xcode is a first-class tool chain, with excellent facilities for building, debugging, and testing.

Similarly, what are some programs - whether created by Bare Bones or otherwise - that you recommend for experienced developers looking to elevate their craft and keep up with ever-changing technology?

If you're developing for Mac OS or iOS, there are some products that I can recommend without hesitation:

LaunchBar - This started out as a simple application launcher, but has steadily grown deeper and more powerful over time, and I don't consider a system install complete until Launchbar is running.

xScope - There are parts of the development cycle where I use this tool continuously, for making sure that I've gotten layout pixel-perfect, or assessing the metrics when new versions of OS X change things around, or for lightweight design work.

SuperDuper! - This is a central part of my daily backup strategy; if you haven't lost data or had a drive fail yet, it is only a matter of time, and having a bootable clone of your OS will minimize downtime and occasionally save you when you accidentally overwrite or delete something that you didn't mean to.

Dash - An excellent tool for aggregating documentation from many diverse sources in one easy-to-use location. (And BBEdit supports it, too.)

There are so many useful tools out there to help people develop apps, which is great for those looking to get started in the industry, but it also means there’s a ton of competition in the apps marketplace. What are your top tips for app developers looking to stand out from the crowd?

The most important thing, I think, is that you should focus on developing products that solve a problem that is important to *you*. This gets you personally invested in the product's success, and gives you a reason to stand behind it.

Then, combine this with a dedication to providing the best possible customer service. This will help you refine your solution and make it appeal to the broadest appropriate audience.

Craftsmanship and engineering discipline are tools that you employ in the service of these goals, and when you have the courage of your convictions, you'll find that you have produced a standout product without really thinking about it. :-)

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