5 years ago, I started a web app called GistBox as a hobby. It was built to solve a need I had for a code snippet organizer. While GitHub’s Gist did a great job letting users embed snippets on blogs and company wikis, I wanted a library that could be curated for my personal consumption. What started as an exercise in building a personal client for Gist quickly turned into a part-time job cranking out features for a loyal user base. When GistBox passed the 10,000 user mark in its first few months, I knew I was onto something.
But while the app was gaining traction, I wasn’t prepared to go off on my own just yet. I had a fun and stable job at a Boston startup at the time and didn’t feel the need to jump ship just yet. I spent a few more years learning and growing in my skills as an engineer and designer before finally making the leap to solo consulting.
Once I gave myself the freedom to pursue a wider range of projects, I realized there was plenty more I wanted to do with GistBox. The frontend client, built on Backbone, was becoming harder to maintain in the absence of a robust open-source community. The visual design, while hip for 2012, was also looking quite dated in 2017. I decided to start from scratch.
Version 1, the second time
Cacher is the next step in the evolution of GistBox. It builds on the best features of its parent and introduces new workflows for developer productivity. Below are a few key highlights in Cacher v1.
A native OS client was one of the most requested features on GistBox’s UserVoice. Cacher, being a frontend-heavy codebase, was tailor-made for the Electron framework. It features clients for macOS, Windows 7/8/10 and Ubuntu/Fedora Linux. When you’re away from your dev machine, you can also use the Cacher Web App.
Labels allow coders to quickly organize snippets by project as most people do with Gmail labels. This makes retrieving a particular snippet a quick process. Cacher’s labeling system introduces the ability to set custom colors, another popular request from folks who happen to like certain hues more than others.
Building a shared knowledge base is an important side-job for any engineering team. A common snippet library ensures that every member can stay current with best practices and useful techniques. Cacher’s team functionality expands on GistBox’s by giving owners the ability to set per-member roles.
Cacher implements fuzzy search for snippet content. Under the hood, it uses a ranked scoring system to determine relevancy. This provides for a more intuitive search experience.
Cacher’s interface was designed to be keyboard-accessible. There are keyboard shortcuts for all major actions. Check them out.
With a nod to the numerous enterprise development teams using GistBox, Cacher offers a way to provision and remove users from a centralized organization account. Admins can also perform billing functions from a single location in the app.
Before I started work on Cacher, I thought about the application’s purpose and how this would translate into concrete milestones. Here are some of my (rather amorphous) thoughts on where the app could go from here.
Cacher is wherever the developer codes
Being a code snippet organizer, Cacher needs to be accessible in a way that other developer tools aren’t. It must be faster than Google and StackOverflow for retrieving content while at the same time providing for a more personalized experience. Most of all, it should be integrated into the developer’s coding environment — whether thats vi on Linux, Atom on macOS or Visual Studio on Windows.
Snippets can be a source of inspiration
When I’m blocked on design, I often scour sites like Dribbble and Behance for inspiration. Seeing the work of other talented designers gives me the boost I need to get on with it. Code snippets can be that inspiration for developers of all backgrounds. It takes only a few lines to communicate the beautiful syntax of Rust or to help a budding frontend developer bootstrap a React project. For those who aspire to teach and inspire others, I hope Cacher can become their platform to reach a wide audience.
Having accepted over 75,000 registered users and stored thousands of gists, GistBox will be bidding a sorrowful farewell. After a period for migrating existing libraries to Cacher, GistBox will enter maintenance mode (no new users) on October 1st, 2017. GistBox will be inaccessible starting December 1st, 2017. If you have any questions, please contact Cacher support.
Here’s to the start of a new chapter.