Imagine you’re trying to write a really fancy-looking OS X app, and you want it to mimic all the cool UI Apple is doing in their native apps, but they don’t expose this in any public APIs to you. You’ve got a few choices.
You can’t use private APIs, because then you can’t get into the app store, you can’t codesign your app, you’re basically left in the dust.
Fine. So we resort to legit custom drawing instead, right? Except, Apple hasn’t quite exposed primitive drawing APIs to the user either. Well, they’ve exposed something like it, but not quite it. So you resort to drawing in an empty borderless window and hoping and praying that what you end up with looks close enough to what Apple’s got, so your app can finally walk down cool-street with its head up high.
And after a few weeks of constant tweaking, it finally works! So you release the app proudly, and grin feeling all content that you finally have a pro-looking app that looks just like it might have come from Apple themselves!
Well, a new OS X update comes out, and they change something in the UI slightly. Naturally everyone jumps on it (because OS X update are literally the best thing) and upgades. Now what do they see? They see your app, looking kind of.. well…. weird actually. “I can’t tell what it is, but something about this app is just not right” they may say to themselves.
There’s obviously some things very off, even you notice it. The pixels aren’t quite the same shade anymore, or aligned just like Apple’s UI anymore, or the size is a couple pixels too big now, or whatever. Suddenly your app lost a few points in the minds of every single one of your users. And the worst part is, you know it’s legit, because even you don’t like the way your app looks on the new upgrade.
So what do you do? Spend a few more weeks constantly tweaking stuff until it looks just right again. Ahh, there! Finally, it’s all better! Behold, MY SUPER-PRETTY APPLICATION everyone!
Oh but just wait. In 2 years Apple actually changes the entire UI. All the hard work you did to look modern now actually looks really, really terrible. Your custom drawing is so completely old-fashioned, what are you living in the 80s or something?
So that’s why I’m quitting the GUI wars. I don’t care about making my apps look pretty anymore. Or rather, I do care, but I’m not going to chase after Apple’s looks anymore. Or Microsoft’s, or whoever’s the big cat these days, or in 2030, or whenever. If it works, it works, good enough for me. If I can make it look somewhat decent with a minimal amount of work, then fine. If I can’t, oh well.
Unless I’m getting paid for it, of course. I’m only talking about open-source apps that I don’t get paid for. But hey, if someone’s paying me to make things pretty, sure I’ll do it! With a smile, too!
My name is Steven Degutis, and I've been writing software professionally for a decade. During that time, I've written many apps and websites, quite a few technical articles, and kept up-to-date with the rapidly evolving software industry.
If you have software needs for web, mobile, or desktop, and are looking for a seasoned software professional, please reach out to me at email@example.com to set up a phone call.
- Self-employed – present
- Clean Coders – 5 years
- 8th Light – 2 years
- Big Nerd Ranch – 1 year
- Self-employed - 1 year
- Web: full-stack
- iOS (UIKit)
- macOS (Cocoa)
- REST APIs
- AWS / EC2 / ELB
- HTML5 / CSS
Over the past decade, I've written a total of 169 technical articles on various programming languages, frameworks, best practices, and my own projects, as I kept up-to-date and active in the software industry.
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- 2017 — "Clean code" isn't actually clean
- 2017 — Passion in your field is overrated
- 2017 — What I learned in 5 days of writing an experimental website
- 2014 — Age of the Polyglot
- 2013 — How to Program
- 2013 — Ignore the Naysayers
- 2013 — Writing Clearly
- 2012 — Reinvent the wheel
- 2010 — Good usability
- 2009 — Twitter is the wrong tool
- 2009 — We're all pretty bad at driving
- 2008 — Why I Code
|March||Notes on Haskell Extensions|
|February||Second thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||First thoughts on front-end tools|
|February||Some thoughts on GUIs|
|February||First thoughts on OCaml|
|February||First thoughts on Haskell|
|August||Age of the Polyglot|
|August||The history of Mjolnir|
|August||Quitting the GUI wars|
|June||Lua: my new favorite extension language|
|January||My programming life-goals|
|January||Lingua Latina, Pars I|
|January||Allocating an AST on the stack|
|April||Ruby Accessors Considered Pernicious|
|March||Reinvent the wheel|
Here are some of the projects I'm most proud of. They were created using a variety of technologies, running on several different platforms and OSes. They're all finished products, and many of them are open source.
I made Docks in 2009 for users who wanted to swap out icons in their Dock with a single click. Its unique functionality and design aesthetic attracted the attention of Apple, Engadget, MacWorld, and led to an acquisition of my start-up by Big Nerd Ranch.
This toy was made in a weekend to entertain my 1 year old daughter. It lets you create bubbles with your fingers, which then simulate physics by bumping into each other and falling.
When I couldn't find an app in the App Store that let me make very simple lists extremely quickly, I made one myself. I use it almost every day to organize and track my activities.
I created this app to increase my productivity by letting me move windows around in macOS using keyboard shortcuts. It grew into a community-driven highly extensible app, using Lua for its plugin system.
Implementing this elite social network gave me experience integrating both Apple Pay and credit card payments (via Stripe.com) seamlessly into web apps, for a frictionless and pain-free payment experience.
This isn't just any chatroom. In this web app, you can see what everyone is typing while they type it. I made this in order to scratch my itch for making real-time apps and games, and learned how to use WebSockets in the process.
This was written in 2009, before the time of Slack, when IRC was the main way for programmers to get short-term assistance from each other. Its purpose was to be a beautiful app with an emphasis on simplicity and usability over technical power.
This is an app I actually use every single day. It lets you move windows with global keyboard shortcuts. Since it uses Vim-like key bindings, it should feel pretty natural to any programmer. There's no configuration needed; it Just Works™.
As an evolution of Phoenix, Hydra was my first attempt at embedding a full Lua virtual machine into an Objective-C app, to make a lightweight and efficient window manager that focused on speed, low memory usage, low CPU usage, and overall being gentle on laptop batteries.
These may be tiny, but they're interesting technical feats.
|Lua4Swift||Swift framework for embedding Lua with a native Swift API.|
|choose||Command line fuzzy-matching tool for macOS that uses a GUI|
|music||Command line music daemon for macOS that only speaks JSON|
|hecto||Command line text editor with an embedded Lua plugin system|
|ZephSharp||Window manager for Windows using Clojure for scripting|
|management||Minimalist EC2 configuration & deployment tool in Ruby.|
|go.assert||Assertion helper package for writing tests in Go.|
|go.shattr||Go library for printing shell-attributed strings to stdout.|
|OCDSpec2||Objective-C based testing framework with Xcode integration.|