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MacTech Spotlight: Brian Webster, Fat Cat Software

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 09
Column Tag: MacTech Spotlight

MacTech Spotlight: Brian Webster

Fat Cat Software

http://www.fatcatsoftware.com


What do you do?

As the owner and sole proprietor of Fat Cat Software, I write Cocoa applications for OS X. My two products for sale are iPhoto Library Manager, which lets you shuffle photos among multiple iPhoto libraries, and PlistEdit Pro, an advanced property list editor for developers and power users. I've mainly come at the business from the programming perspective, but of course, I handle all the other various things that need to be done as well (website, marketing, etc.)

How long have you been doing what you do?

I first started programming for the Mac back in high school. I took a programming class they had there, then my brother lent me his copy of Macintosh Revealed, and I was hooked. I started programming using the Mac Toolbox and Think Pascal, then eventually worked my way up to C and C++ with CodeWarrior, and so forth. I picked up on Cocoa as soon as the Apple-NeXT merger happened, and started doing Cocoa programming professionally in 2002. I decided to venture off on my own in the fall of 2006 and have been coding away ever since.

Your first computer:

We first got a Mac Plus back in 1987, when I was about 9 years old. It was purportedly to be used for schoolwork, but ended up spending most of its time running Dark Castle and Wizardry.

Are you Mac-only, or a multi-platform person?

I've been Mac only pretty much my whole life. I didn't even really know what PCs were until late high school. I have also learned a fair bit of UNIX, first in college then of course using Mac OS X, so I can be fairly comfortable there as well.

What attracts you to working on the Mac?

The frameworks are definitely what makes programming on the Mac attractive, with the Cocoa framework leading the way. Openstep, then Cocoa, was built with a primary goal of trying to minimize the amount of code the programmer has to write, so they can get right down to implementing the meat of their program without having to fiddle around writing boilerplate code over and over again. With each iteration, Apple seems to add a whole new layer to the framework that lets you actually delete code from your program, which is surprisingly satisfying. They were also designed from day one to work with tools like Interface Builder, which makes for a much more well-integrated GUI builder than most other similar tools out there.

What's the coolest thing about the Mac?

The "it just works" factor. Computers can often be enigmatic and frustrating, but the Mac platform sets the bar higher for user experience. On other platforms such as Windows, programs often seem to be written under the theory that as long as the functionality exists somewhere in the program, then it can be called "done", and you can check that checkbox off of the list.

When you're working all day on a Mac, you get used to using programs that have good interfaces and ideas, and doing so affects your own application development. You can have something working OK, but still have it not "feel right", because you haven't gotten it to the same level where the apps you use every day are. If you used Windows every day, those kind of details might not catch your eye nearly as easily.

If I could change one thing about Apple/OS X, I'd:

Ease back on the whole super-double-top-secret attitude, especially when it comes to developers. I appreciate that Apple is usually developing some very cool new stuff and doesn't want to have their ideas stolen. However, when it gets to the point where developers can't get basic, straightforward answers about Apple's plans for the future, I think that does them harm, both in terms of giving developers the information they need to make the best Mac apps they can, and also just maintaining developers' goodwill.

What's the coolest tech thing you've done using OS X?

It's not exactly whiz-bang, but I'm pretty proud of the underlying Apple event handling code in iPhoto Library Manager that lets it do complex operations with iPhoto while maintaining a good level of performance.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

All my work can pretty much be found at my website, http://www.fatcatsoftware.com

The next way I'm going to impact IT/OS X/the Mac universe is:

My next project will be a similar product to iPhoto Library Manager, but for iTunes instead of iPhoto. This has been my number one customer request, so I figure I should give the people what they want. :-) Its feature set will be different, though, since the needs of iTunes users are different in many ways from those of iPhoto.

 
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