Making A Mac App in 2015

How I got around to creating a Mac app after years on iOS.

The Inspiration

Chazz Palminteri said it best. Menu bar items are like the great boxing champions. One comes along every ten years. Lot of apps try to take up prime real estate in the menu bar for little or no reason, but they usually don’t even pass the Mario test. (See Bartender if you have too many.) But for me, Snippet was one of the great ones.

Several years ago, I came across Snippet. It keeps code snippets — templates, scaffolding— and any other type of text you’d like in a little app that lives in your menu bar. Simple & sweet. Keyboard shortcut, type a few letters, press return, boom. I loved it.

The Prompt

Mac OS X Yosemite was released last fall now. It marked a shift in Mac OS by trying to bring some of the cues of iOS 7 to the Mac. For Snippet on Yosemite though, you’d click the menu bar button, the icon would stay selected after you were done. You were stuck with a blue box in your menu bar. Well this was something I was not gonna be able to put up with for too long. It hit me one day. I make apps. After some research, it turned out Snippet was somewhat abandoned. So I reached out to the developer and asked to acquire the app. After I schemed on a game plan of where to take the app, we reached an agreement, and I had an app.

Enter Snippy

The app echoes PCs of yesteryear. Snippy is a personal assistant that lives in your menu bar to serve other apps, namely text editors. Most everyone can remember the most famous text editor assistant out of Redmond. Call it a distant cousin.

He even comes with a pair of shades to boot.

I rewrote the app from the ground up but it works much the same to the original Snippet app. Gone are the Leopard style black HUD threads in exchange for OS X California threads. The difficulty with building a Mac app was the old crusty APIs, poor documentation and lack of community. The overall community is there because of iOS, just the ability to find specific answers to quirky Mac related issues was a problem. Some questions I had in building the app relied on blog posts from 2006. Having the old app code base was essential in answering those questions that didn’t have easy to find answers.

Sandboxing — One of the awesome aspects of Snippet app wasn’t just it’s ability to copy the text to your clipboard, but to also automatically paste into the text editor of application you were working on. Not possible with Sandboxing.
iCloud Sync — One of the many things that simply needed to be rewritten from scratch was syncing. Snippet had MobileMe syncing. I went with iCloud syncing although it has its share of problems. It works automatically like a charm. You don’t even need to think twice about it. (Snippy though got rejected by the App Store review several times because I unknowingly needed to press a button to make the Cloud Kit database scheme push to production. TestFlight for Mac would have helped diagnose that issue.)

Snippy is available for free for a limited time. Go get it here!

iPad Pro vs. Mac

Apple has expanded its line of platforms over the last few years. We have Mac, iPhone, iPad and most recently watchOS and tvOS. The iPad Pro is an attempt to reinstate iPad as its own unique platform to iPhone that sits a little bit closer to the Mac than the iPhone.

While TV & Watch are places for micro focused services and apps. iPhone is the platform to reach anyone, anywhere at any time. Flickr would have loved to create an elegant interface right on your 5.0 MP camera to directly upload photos and allowed anyone to browse it’s giant photo collection from anywhere ten years ago. So in sense iPhone became a place to create better more integrated experiences where intense work wasn’t being done.

iPad Pro is trying to compete head to head with what the Mac does best. The Mac and the point & click interface has been the go to platform for work intense type tasks. The success of the iPad Pro relies on the ability for it to be as powerful enough as the Mac, and the ability of the community to support apps that are truly worthy. Until then, it’s You. a Mac, the world.