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Four Mac Apps That Have Stood the Test of Time
Over at Macworld, Glenn Fleishman profiles four independent Mac apps that have survived for 25 years or more: the text editor BBEdit, calculator PCalc, file transfer client Fetch, and graphic editor GraphicConverter. All four have weathered Apple’s ups and downs and platform changes. But while BBEdit, PCalc, and GraphicConverter are going strong, the future of Fetch is in doubt. Developer Jim Matthews, who was able to form his own company around Fetch after winning $500,000 on the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2000, has no major new releases planned, but Fetch would need significant revision to become a 64-bit app in time for the late 2019 release of macOS 10.15, which will eliminate 32-bit apps.
It’s not as widely used as the four mentioned here, but Provue’s Panorama certainly deserves an honorable mention. Panorama itself dates back to the 1990s and precursor programs to the 1980s. Plus it’s been continuously developed, never sold off, and has a pretty devoted following.
Panorama X is indeed great—see our review:
I think PopChar X was first released in 1987, and Default Folder X in 1988. What else?
From first owning a Mac 2003 I have used GraphicConverter nearly every day. Thorsten Has been great answering questions and agreeing to develo new features.
Vuescan is another software that has been around a long time, predating OS X
To clarify a bit, I’m not planning any major Fetch releases other than an update to 64-bits – which is major in terms of the effort required, but won’t have any new features other than the ability to run in 64 bit mode. It’s still accurate to say that Fetch’s future is in doubt, though, because I can’t promise I’ll manage to ship the 64-bit update. I’m hopeful, and making a bit of progress every day, but there is a lot to do.
I use Nisus Writer Pro as my main word processor. First produced in 1989, recently had another major version update. I always enjoy their email newsletters, rocking things old school.
I took the hint from the article about easter eggs in BBEdit and scrolled down the about BBEdit box.
OMG, I am listed as an unindicted co-conspirator. I assume this is a tweet I made about how BBedit is an invaluable part of my toolbox.
Make sure to get all the way to the bottom of the BBEdit About box and play the song!
You don’t show up on my copy, but I do. I’d be curious what happens if you run an unlicensed copy.
Alan Forkosh Oakland, CA
I thought “Unindicted co-conspirators” section pulled your name from your license but it’s actually the macOS user name of the account running BBEdit.
Yes, I got the correction from Bare Bones. You got it right. I saw my name where it places the long name of the account.
My dreams are dashed. I will now crawl under my covers.
I am listed too! I don’t tweet but I’ve been using BBEdit for, well, forever!
Made my day
Diane aka Diane D
Oh damn, you ruined it.
My computer name is Diane D
But the copy came up unregistered
OMG, I’m also listed as an unindicted co-conspirator. I can’t remember why… maybe from my emacs/latex oooold days…
ooops, now I see
How about 35 years? R.I.P. MacDraw, MacPaint, MacProject, and MacWrite; R.I.P. HabaDex, HabaWrite, and Micro$loth Multiplan. But Helix is still cooking! Helix is a quintessentially Mac relational database development system (“Rapid Application Development Environment” in 21st-century-speak). It was sold as “the database for the rest of us,” and lauded by Guy Kawasaki (remember him?). It gives “object-oriented programming” a whole new meaning, using literal objects (“tiles”) to accomplish its programming magic by sliding them around until they do what you want them to do. Apparently because of some bad blood between its original publisher and Steve Jobs, Apple never give it the prominence it richly deserved.
Along with my Macintosh 128K, I purchased my copy in February, 1984. I opened my business with its client-server version in 1987; I sold the business in 2014, but my original programming, much updated over the years, is still in use today. I use Helix’s direct descendent, maintained and updated by its most recent developer, QSA Toolworks (qsatoolworks.com). It has had its ups and downs, changing hands among at least 4 different publishers (3 of which are out of business), but it has not only survived, it’s flourishing, running on current hardware and software and planning for the future.
What’s more, one of its original programmers still works on it. Now THAT is longevity. Too bad it’s such a secret.
Thanks for that info about Helix - it is indeed a secret and I will look to it.
My relational database programming started with DOS Open Access by SPI in the early 1980s. It had SQL and a superb high level programming language but, of course, all the limitations of DOS. I have managed to keep it going through DOS emulators in Windows (95 to 10 + Parallels for macOS) and, better still, DOSbox for Mac:
I still use some of the apps that I created (before they were called apps)
I have documented my frustrations with Microsoft Access here:
I now regularly use Filemaker but wish I had the tools of Open Access.
Wolfram Mathematica was first available on the Mac in 1988 (see timeline in its Wikipedia article. Mathematica notebooks have maintained compatibility over the years. Stephen Wolfram spends his days writing in Mathematica notebooks. He showed a notebook from the 1980s – running on a Macintosh SE/30 – that runs unmodified on modern machines. From his recent description of his workflow, he spends essentially all his time in his creation – a rather extreme version of “eat your own dog food”.
Mathematica for MacOS is expensive, but there is a free version available on the cloud through browsers. Wolfram has provided a free version for the Raspberry Pi for over 5 years. Speed is quite reasonable on a Pi 3 B+.
I own GraphicConverter but haven’t dug into it. What are your main uses?
Amazing – I have Helix on my shelf and thought it had long since expired.
Actually, Helix is still very much alive! A new version 8 is in beta testing now. You can download a v8 beta client and use it to log into techdb.qsatoolworks.com, the support collection, and see it in action for yourself. Or, join the independent email discussion list at [email protected] and see what people are asking and commenting.
I use Graphic Converter for:
rescaling/resizing images, cropping images, inverting/swapping colors, adding text or shapes, converting from/to JPG … etc
I have a simple Applescript that I saved as an app and keep in the Dock. Clicking on it activates the partial screen capture function of macOS where I can select an area of the screen. The app then opens GC and creates a new image with the clipboard. The Applescript is here:
It has worked well for more than a decade but with High Sierra or Mojave you need to allow the app to send keystrokes in System Preferences/Security & Privacy/Privacy/Automation (which is not easy to do!)
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