Tucked in the middle of the Component 100 booth at Macworld Expo was a family-owned business that best exemplifies why OpenDoc is important to anyone struggling with bloated software. Hutchings Software consists of Brad Hutchings, programmer and doctorate student at UC Irvine; sister Jennifer, graphics specialist and webmaster; Mom, chief financial officer; and Dad, whose specific job title and duties were not given. This Lake Forest, California, family hand-colored their promotional refrigerator magnets and lapel buttons, and Jennifer hand-sewed a few dolls of Rappie, the company logo/mascot, a blue "spokesblob."
Other than their refreshingly low-key marketing approach, why should you care about the Hutchings family? Because their first commercial product, Rapid-I Button, is the definitive button tool for OpenDoc. This is a fully developed, full-featured component, on par with other commercial offerings from OpenDoc suppliers like Adrenaline, SoftLinc, Corda, or Digital Harbor (whose WAV word processor I'm currently using). Rapid-I Buttons can be used to control Cyberdog, open files, run scripts, play sounds, and more.
Although he had been a Macintosh programmer since 1988, Brad first caught the OpenDoc bug after watching a Cyberdog video in 1995. He contacted OpenDoc Evangelist Jim Black, who sent him information and tools. His first effort, a signaling flag part, was included in the OpenDoc Developer Release 4 CD-ROM. Rapid-I Buttons was first introduced at the World Wide Developers Conference in 1996.
Apparently competing button parts are in the works, but, other than Apple's simple button component, none have shipped yet. "When they pop up, I squash them," joked Brad, when asked about the competition. "But I'm not just a button pusher. I want to be known for OpenDoc tools that are the best of class." Toward this end, Hutchings Software plans to release Rapid-I Surfboard, a Web part, at the end of February.
So how did Macworld treat the Hutchings family? "The response has been great," said Mom, "Consumers, especially educators, have been very excited."
OpenDoc has once again opened the door for the rest of us. Just when you think it takes a room full of venture capitalists, a campus full of programmers, and a marketing department the size of a small army to launch a new product, along comes Hutchings Software to prove that insanely great things still come in small packages.
[Charles D. Wheeler is a FileMaker Pro for Macintosh consultant, Macworld Expo party crasher, and occasional TidBITS contributor.]