When I relaunched The Web Atom back in March, I mentioned my plan to add a download mirror and using SingularLabs’ apps to initially build traffic.
There are so many download mirror websites in existence that it seems foolish to create another, but I’m in the unique position of owning a software company that experiences tens of thousands of monthly downloads. That traffic could be leveraged to push The Web Atom’s download mirror into relevancy quite quickly.
I spent most of the day designing the download pages for software titles. Thanks to the fantastic WordPress community, the file management and tab creation functionality was available from free plugins. I just needed to create a bunch of theme templates and put together a bucket of CSS.
It’s going to take a while to get all SingularLabs‘ downloads migrated from the existing file management solution into the new software. The homepage for the download mirror section hasn’t been started yet either. There’s a very slim chance that this little side project will be completed by the end of the month.
MetroTextual has always been one of my favorite projects, even though it hasn’t gained the traction that I would have liked. Why? It’s just not very good. MetroTextual is trying to do too many things; it’s marketed as a “simple, minimalist” text editor, but there’s a lot of interface complexity that baffles users. Want to save? Click the little options icon and… no wait, save is hidden under the program icon on the top right. Change the settings? There’s an options button and a settings button. Even the context menu has it’s own set of options.
I sat down with a pen and paper and wrote down a set of tasks I might like to perform when I first open MetroTextual. Simple things like “change to HTML syntax highlighting,” “open a file” or “translate the UI into Russian.” Then I wrote down how many mouse clicks it took to perform each of these tasks. It didn’t take long to realize there’s very little MetroTextual can do with less than four clicks.
With MetroTextual’s new layout, I’ve stripped back as much complexity as possible. The MetroTextual logo (and that weird attached menu) is gone, with the existing menu items moved to the existing sidebar and hidden out of view. To improve discoverability, the icon that toggles the sidebar has been replaced with a hamburger menu icon – similar to what you’d find in most mobile apps. Then I completely removed the ‘metrotextual‘ title and replaced it with the ‘text mode’ combobox.
Next I worked on making it look visually slick. A darker ‘Carbon‘ theme was designed, drawing inspiration from my upcoming Clippy project. This theme will likely become the default when version two finally launches. The challenge was adding this new radically different design, without affecting the existing. If you like how MetroTextual looked before, I’m happy to say that you can make it look virtually identical.
Finally, bug fixes. MetroTextual is trying to be a lot of different things at the same time. A plain text editor, a code editor, a markdown parser and even a rich text editor. These elements do not always play nice together, hence why MetroTextual has always suffered from more bugs than the average software project. I’ve spent a lot of team cleaning up the code and reducing the amount of chaos. This release is already a few hundred lines of code smaller than the previous. There’s obviously still a long way to go on this particular stage of development.
And finally; features. There’s really not many new features in this release. Sometimes it’s nice to stop adding stuff and clean up the shit you already have. That being said, I’m exploring the possibility of supporting custom, user-defined highlighting rules and languages. I’ve also added Ruby support at a friend’s request, but’s that pretty minor.
Back in January I wrote an experimental app that preserves text or images that are copied to the clipboard.
There were a lot of issues with the code, the interface and that name; but I spent a few hours today improving various parts of it. I intend to release it as a SingularLabs product in the next few months.
There’s still a lot of work to be done. Just off the top of my head; it needs update checking, localization support, search, item deletion and a ‘start with Windows’ option.
I’ve always regarded MetroTextual as an all-purpose text editor, but it’s always lacked in one huge area – rich text editing. I’ve decided to finally tackle the feature, with the intent of shipping with version 1.8.
When you select “Rich Text” option a new toolbar will appear, providing a number of new text formatting tools. As you can see, there’s not many options available yet as it’s still very early in the development process.
I’m also planning on writing code that will allow the Rich Text Format to be exported as clean HTML code. In the future, this would allow MetroTextual to act as a WYSIWYG editor for writing blog posts. I’d love to explore writing a WordPress plugin for MetroTextual, allowing posts to be published directly from its pretty little interface.
Last month I subjected The Web Atom to yet another pivot, this time transforming it into a more generic technology publication.The topics covered on The Web Atom and this blog have been converging for some time. Occasionally I would write a post about a great new app or service, then struggle to decide which blog it would be more appropriate for. Instead of running two competing websites, I’ve consolidated all of my non-personal blog posts on The Web Atom and exclusively use this blog for personal posts.
Broadening topics covered on The Web Atom will allow me to experiment much more. I can phase out topics that weren’t working (such as WordPress stuff) and replace them with new topics through a gradual process of trial and error. Casual gaming and technology culture have proved themselves popular already, so expect to see them popping up even more.
The site will probably remain in a state of flux (as it has been since it’s peak in 2009), while I explore a number of ideas. A download mirror for third party software is one of the first things on my agenda. There are so many download mirror websites in existence that it seems foolish to create another, but I’m in the unique position of owning a software company that experiences tens of thousands of monthly downloads. That traffic could be leveraged to push The Web Atom’s download mirror into relevancy quite quickly.
Restoring The Web Atom‘s traffic to its previous volume should be an interesting challenge.