Code by Kevin, Programming, code, business, and other pursuits
Kevin Walzer, software developer.
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I doubt this announcement will cause much grief, but I'm making it anyway: I'm discontinuing NameFind, my file search tool for OS X. It's been removed from my website and is no longer available for download.
NameFind was first released in Feburary 2006; I had begun working on it in the fall of 2005. I developed NameFind because I was unhappy with the built-in Spotlight search technology on Mac OS X. Thought powerful and free, Spotlight was complicated, and many users besides myself expressed frustration with its limitations; furthermore, many other products, both free and commercial, had been released to improve the Spotlight experience.
In designing NameFind, I decided to use a different technology than Spotlight, which organizes its information into a continuously updated database on OS X. I decided that NameFind would be a GUI for the Unix "find" command, which crawls your file system in real time looking for files or directories that match the search term.
After a couple of initial releases, I had the search aspect working well. NameFind would run its search command, looking for files in a specified directory and its subdirectories, and return the data. However, that wasn't enough to make it a successful application. The external "find" command was somewhat slow, and some reviews of NameFind complained about this. Other reviews complained that NameFind was ugly. Finally, many reviewers questioned the need for a commercial search tool when Spotlight and other free alternatives were available.
As a result, NameFind has sold hardly at all--less than 10 licenses in 18 months of release. And it's hard to justify continuing to put my own time and resources into continuing its development.
I've learned some interesting business lessons from this experience:
Some of the cosmetic limitations of my programming framework, Tk, can be worked around. However, there are some limitations that are more difficult to avoid. For instance, Tk lacks built-in facilities for accessing Mac icons; this make displaying data from the file system, such as the contents of a directory, difficult. I had to decide between showing no icon at all, which was too minimalist; using generic icons, which was jarring in its contrast from other Mac applications, such as the Finder; or finding a way to access system icons, which, while possible with the help of external programs, was cumbersome.
The conclusion I draw from this is that Tcl/Tk is not a good framework for Mac applications that need to display file system views. In this instance I might have been better using a Mac-native framework, specifically Cocoa.
If your application has a large amount of free competition, you may be in trouble unless your application offers clearly superior features that users would be willing to pay for--this is especially true if your competition is bundled with the OS you're running on. In the case of NameFind, it was slower, uglier, and more expensive than the free competition: it's hardly a surprise that it sold poorly.
An additional item about competition: the more crowded the category you're targeting, the harder it is to stand out. If my only competition was Spotlight itself, I might have stood a chance, but there are several "Spotlight alternatives" out there--and a larger number of file search tools.
My work on NameFind has certainly been a good learning experience. It's taught me a lot about what to do, and what not to do, in terms of marketing, choices of technology, and more. And, with the insights I've gained, I'll turn my attention back to developing the four other applications I've released, and which sell much better than NameFind.