By John Gruber
Plan your novel, finish your dissertation, launch a product. You need Tinderbox.
It is with profound regret that we inform you that Casady & Greene will close its doors on July 3rd, 2003, after nineteen years in the Software Publishing business. We have endured many industry downturns, but the last three years have presented a series of economic disasters from which we were unable to rebound.
Well that sucks.
The folks at Casady & Greene were, without question, on the side of the Good Guys. They published a slew of stellar Mac titles, including popular utilities like SpellCatcher and Grammarian, and outstanding games like Glider and Crystal Quest. (Crystal Quest was one of those games that was so addictive and time-consuming that it probably had a noticeable drag on the U.S. gross national product.)
In recent years, their two most important titles were Conflict Catcher and SoundJam. Casady & Greene were software publishers, not developers, and both Conflict Catcher and SoundJam were developed by Jeffrey Robbin. SoundJam was a terrific and very popular MP3 package; so good and so popular that Apple bought the rights to it and hired Robbin, and turned it into iTunes.
Conflict Catcher is simply amazing. Right up there with Alsoft’s DiskWarrior in terms of must-have utilities for the enterprising Mac nerd. The idea behind Conflict Catcher is that managing classic Mac OS extensions and control panels was a complicated task. It was (a complicated task), and Conflict Catcher made it easy.
Sure, Apple shipped an Extensions Manager control panel starting sometime in the Mac OS 8 era, but Conflict Catcher was to Apple’s Extensions Manager what BBEdit is to SimpleText. Not only did Conflict Catcher make it possible to define sets of extensions that you could enable and disable with one click, but it had the ability to find conflicts for you.
When people complain that the old Mac OS was unstable, what they really meant is that it was too easy to make the Mac OS unstable by adding conflicting third-party extensions. Finding these conflicts could be maddening. So maddening that when faced by such a problem, many Mac users would turn to Windows-style troubleshooting: reinstallation of the system software from CD. Conflict Catcher could find these conflicts for you. It sounds too good to be true, but it worked.
Conflict Catcher’s third big feature, after extension management and conflict catching, was assisting with clean installations of the system software. Many Mac OS users strongly believed that when upgrading to a new major revision of the Mac OS, that it was better to perform a clean installation than to update directly over top of the existing one. Conflict Catcher could assist in this process, greatly, by moving to the new System Folder the fonts, third-party extensions and control panels, Apple menu items, and whatever else you might have installed in your previous System Folder.
And not only did Casady & Greene publish good software, they published it well. Documentation was outstanding, not an afterthought. The Conflict Catcher User Guide, for example, was authored by none other than David Pogue. It’s a real book and a good read.
But of course while the news is sad and depressing, it’s not exactly surprising. When the economy is bad and your flagship product is a troubleshooting tool for an operating system that Steve Jobs put in a coffin onstage over a year ago, well, let’s just say that’s not a strong position.
It’s also the case that small software publishers aren’t nearly as important as they used to be. Casady & Greene got started in 1984, and it was at least 10 years until online access was widely available. Before the web, it was hard for independent developers to even get new software titles into the hands of users. Today, most independent developers publish their own software, via the web. It’s not just a different market than 1984, it’s different than 1994.