Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In praise of the little app

Coming up on 10 years with my lightweight application Class Viewer on SourceForge, I've put out a request for feedback with no response at the time of the writing of this post. But that's NOT a surprise. I have almost ten years of experience with this project and over that entire time period I have almost no feedback beyond downloads. Which isn't terrible. It's GREAT to be downloaded.

But it occurs to me that I should try things to see if it might not entice people to talk about their use of the project--assuming it's being used after being downloaded--by talking more about the design philosopy around it.

So, for instance, it's deliberately small and lightweight. I like little apps.

Years ago when I was developing I got frustrated with development tools that took forever, in my opinion, just to load for me to do something simple, like get some info. Also I got hostile towards IDE's that suggested methods to me! I considered it cheeky.

I pick my methods. I don't like some tool pushing a method at me.

The project is also stateless, deliberately, so that every time you open it, you have a clean slate. I even made that emphatic by giving you a lot of blank screen when it loads versus some "splash". I don't like splash with apps.

So there is a LOT of my possibly peculiar philosophy in my application. And it will be 10 years in February where I've stuck to it.

Also along with the above is the principle, only just enough!

I don't like feature creep.

In addition I think that needing a lot of documentation for simple application probably means you have a design problem. That's just my opinion.

However, I think it kind of ironic as mobile devices begin to really take over that my approach is probably better.

Who wants to have to read a book before they can really use their smartphone? Do you really wish to need to take a course before you can get your tablet really working really well?

Oh yeah, and back in February 2004 when I put Class Viewer up on SourceForge, I was giving the world a web enabled app that didn't care if it was working on the desktop, or as an applet.

To me THAT more than anything else IS the future, when applications will be web enabled, web active, web-centric, or useful completely off the web.

(Should add that applet functionality is mostly gone now until and unless I address things like security certificates and security settings. So yes, I am aware of this issue. I really don't like how Java does security. I think it needs to be entirely re-done from the bottom up. But what does my opinion matter?)

So why so little user feedback with so much in the process?

Maybe because I never really explained.

Next month marks ten years of my Class Viewer for Java.

If you've used the application during that time, hey, do me a favor! Tell me something.

I'm curious to know if any of the above resonates.

Did the app appeal to people with similar notions about software development?

What do you think? Will the web take over with applications blurring the line between the desktop and, um, what else is there? I guess browser?

If you ponder the dominance of an idea, consider the dominance of a name.

With so little feedback I will admit I've tried to keep my spirits up, with things like, web searches.

But what does it really mean?

Search on any web search engine: Class Viewer

How'd I do? An inquiring mind wants to know.

James Harris