Jacob is the founder and lead developer at Apparent Software.
- What do you currently do?
I’m the founder and lead developer at Apparent Software. Mostly, we develop Mac applications for consumers. From time to time we also organize Mac software bundles at Productive Macs. We have one running now.
- How did you get started in Mac and/or iOS programming?
I started developing on the Mac in 2005, after I bought my first Mac, a 17″ PowerBook G4. Programming has been my hobby since childhood but it never was my job, until I went full-time indie in early 2009. I started to learn development for the Mac because I liked the OS and wanted to learn how to make such nice applications. Also, I had aspirations to start a business of my own, and software business is relatively easy to get going these days.
- What was the first app you created and what did it do?
My first application was ImageFramer. Its initial goal was to help people who wanted to frame paintings or photos. You could add layers of color frames around the image to find which color combination works the best, before you go and order a real one. Photographers also used to post framed images on the web. ImageFramer is in its 3rd major release now and is quite a mature and capable application.
- Where did you get the idea for the app?
My mother paints. I thought that such an application could help her visualize frames before ordering them. Also, so basic functionality is quite simple, so it made a perfect project to learn a new language (Objective-C) and a new development framework (Cocoa).
- What went well? What could have gone better?
The things that went well were that I finished it enough for a 1.0 release, and that I got inspired by other prominent indie developers of that time to start selling it.
The unexpected outcome was that people actually started to buy it and even give constructive feedback, driving its development further. It was exciting.
The visual design of the application was quite hideous. But the basic idea was, apparently, good.
So for version 3.0 I decided to hire a designer to help me with the user experience and visual design. Version 3 was a major rewrite. I was a much more experienced Mac developer by that time. The project was ambitious and challenging. Luckily, it turned out very well and I’m very proud of my “first baby”.
- What is your favorite among the apps you’ve developed?
We currently have 4 Mac applications on sale, two of which I development myself (ImageFramer and Trickster).
Cashculator’s development was interesting. We had the idea for it in early 2009 but I was busy developing ImageFramer 3. Also, at that time, I was working part-time in the business. We hired a guy to develop the initial 1.0 for us. He didn’t have experience in developing for the Mac, so I gave him seemingly the only book that was available at that time — Cocoa programming for Mac OS X by Aaron Hillegass. I’d been helping him while he learned. He brought it almost to 1.0, when I took over to add finishing touches and further development, past 1.0. This guy is now quite a successful and experienced iOS developer and I’m happy we (my partner and I) were the ones who introduced him into this world of Cocoa development.
My feelings about a favorite are split between ImageFramer and Trickster. ImageFramer was the one that started it all and I’d invested a lot of time and energy into it over several years. But Trickster is the one I use every day and it’s useful to much more people, which makes me very happy. So I’ll go with Trickster, I guess.
- What advice do you have for young people who want to make apps?
I started programming before I was 10, on very old computers, and I loved it enormously. It allowed me to express my creativity. It was stimulating my mind.
Today I feel that programming is an art, no less than it is a technical skill.
You design and build applications bit by bit, little by little, until they grow into something useful to you and to others. Something that other people love to see, love to use themselves and recommend to others. It’s a very rewarding feeling.
These days, especially on iOS, we see how the apps are an expression of taste, attention to design and visual beauty.
I also find the Cocoa developer community to be especially great. It’s full of friendly and passionate people from all over the world. I believe that learning software development together with other young people is a great way to start. You’ll be making new friends. You’ll have someone to ask for advice, get honest feedback, and share your successes and difficulties.
I wish I had such an opportunity when I was starting my journey.
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