Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A GUI appeal?

As the years have gone by I've looked at my open source Java project Class Viewer as something of a puzzle to be figured out, as to how I should handle it. And with downloads growing on a year-over-year basis, in over 100 countries, I have decided at least I should give more information for people who are using the application.

So I have been doing posts meant to give more information, like my view that the application is in essence a GUI on Java Reflections API, with quick access to Javadocs. And those were the key features I wanted, and with them I have a tiny application in terms of lines of code, which doesn't in my opinion need many updates. And in eight years I haven't done many.

Since I was a professional software developer at one time, and even was a team lead on a multi-million dollar project, where I was the person who wrote the document for the project for unit testing, I think I should explain even more. For instance I didn't put a unit test framework into the project.

The reality is, I didn't design the project much at all, as it started as test programs for the Java Certification exams.

So refactoring has been on the to-do list for years now, if I ever figured everything out.

And I had already left working as a coder by the time I put it up on SourceForge and had vague ideas of how things might go, like maybe I'd end up with a bunch of other people interested who could polish out the product, but that didn't happen. And it has stayed a single developer project.

Weirdly enough, I've been looking at downloads for years with very little information except a number, like 10 downloads in a particular day, which isn't exactly inspiring. But SourceForge began giving more information like countries, and then it was cool!

Suddenly I found out I had an application with downloads from over 100 countries.

And, um, my attitude began to change.

And I guess it's remarkable that the project has done ok for years with me puzzling about how to proceed with it, and limited development but my theory is that I have a very focused problem space, and most importantly did ok with the graphical user interface aka GUI.

It is built to be as easy as possible with big screens that I want to be intuitive, where you don't need much instruction on how to use it. (I think.)

Rather than focus on a lot of features I was deliberately minimalist, wanting to have only just as many as I thought were necessary, and I just rewrote the top left command bar completely as I just so thoroughly disliked the File, Edit, View format. So I just threw it away. THAT was a lot of fun.

How well did it all work? I don't know. Sure I have growing downloads but not a ton of them, but it's a Java developer tool, so a smaller possible base, but also presumably a very picky one. Still being around after eight years with steadily increasing downloads I think is definitely a plus.

Who knows where things will go from here, but hey, if you want to give me feedback, feel free! It would be helpful. Commenting tools are much better today as the web continues to evolve, and I'm in an assessment phase as I try to figure out where things are with the project.

But in the meantime least I can do is give more information to people who could have been using Class Viewer for years wondering what was going on.

James Harris