Building a better MarcEdit for Mac users

By reeset / On / In MarcEdit

This all started with a conversation over twitter (https://twitter.com/_whitni/status/583603374320410626) about a week ago.  A discussion about why the current version of MarcEdit is so fragile when being run on a Mac.  The short answer has been that MarcEdit utilizes a cross platform toolset when building the UI which works well on Linux and Windows systems, but tends to be less refined on Mac systems.  I’ve known this for a while, but to really do it right, I’d need to develop a version of MarcEdit that uses native Mac APIs, which would mean building a new version of MarcEdit for the Mac (at least, the UI components).  And I’ve considered it – mapped out a road map – but what’s constantly stopped me has been a lack of interest from the MarcEdit community and a lack of a Mac system.  On the community-side, I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve had someone request a version of MarcEdit  specifically for a Mac.  And since I’ve been making a Mac App version of MarcEdit available – it’s use has been fairly low (though this could be due to the struggles noted above).  With an active community of over 20,000, I try to put my time where it will make the most impact, and up until a week ago, better support for Mac systems didn’t seem to be high on the list.  The second reason is I don’t own a Mac.  My technology stack is made up of about a dozen Windows and Linux systems embedded around my house because they play surprisingly well together, where as, Apple’s walled garden just doesn’t thrive within my ecosystem.  So, I’ve been waiting and hoping that the cross-platform toolset would get better and that in time, this problem would eventually go away.

I’m giving that background because apparently I’ve been misreading the MarcEdit community.  As I said, this all started with this conversation on twitter (https://twitter.com/_whitni/status/583603374320410626) – and out of that, two co-conspirators, Whitni Watkins and Francis Kayiwa set out to see just how much interest there actually was in having dedicated version of MarcEdit for the Mac.  The two set out to see if they could raise funds to acquire a Mac to do this development and indirectly, demonstrate that there was actually a much larger slice of the community interested in seeing this work done.  And, so, off they went – and I set back and watched.  I made a conscious decision that if this was going to happen, it was going to be because the community wanted it and in that, my voice wasn’t necessary.  And after 8 days, it’s done.  In all, 40 individuals contributed to the campaign, but more importantly to me, I heard directly from around 200+ individuals that were hopeful that this project would proceed. 

Development Roadmap

Now the hard work starts.  MarcEdit is a program that has been under constant development since 1999 – so even just rewriting the UI components of the application will be a significant undertaking.  So, I’m breaking up this work in chunks.  I figure it would take approximately 8-12 months to completely port the UI, which is a long-time.  Too long…so I’m breaking the development into 3 month “sprints”.  the first sprint will target the 80%, the functionality that would make MarcEdit productive when doing MARC editing.  This means porting the functionality for all the resources found in the MARC Tools and much of the functionality found in the MarcEditor components.  My guess is these two components are the most important functional areas for catalogers – so finishing those would allow the tool to be immediately useful for doing production cataloging and editing.  After that – I’ll be able to evaluate the remainder of the program and begin working on functional parity between all versions of the application. 

But I’ll admit, at this point, the road map is somewhat even cloudy to me.  See, I’ve written up the following document (http://1drv.ms/1ake4gO) and shared it with Whitni and asked her to work with other Mac users to refine the list and let me know what falls into that 80%.  So, I’ll be interested to see where their list differs from my own.  In the mean time, I’ll be starting work on the port – creating wireframes and spending time over the next week hitting the books and familiarizing myself with Apple’s API docs and the UI best practices (though, I will be trying to keep the program looking very familiar to the current application – best practices be damned).  Coding on the new UI will start in earnest around May 1 – and by August 1, 2015, I hope to have the first version built specifically for a Mac available.  For those interested in following the development process – I’ll be creating a build page on the MarcEdit website (http://marcedit.reeset.net) and will be posting regular builds as new areas of the application are ported so that folks can try them, and give feedback. 

So, that’s where this stands and this point.  For those interested in providing feedback, feel free to contact me directly at reeset@gmail.com.  And for those of you that reached out or participated in the campaign to make this happen, my sincere thanks. 

–TR

3 thoughts on “Building a better MarcEdit for Mac users

  1. Hi Terry,

    I’m a Mac user, and would love a Mac version, but I never said anything before because
    a) I have access to PCs at work (even if it means finding a time someone else isn’t on that machine) and
    b) I knew it would be a huge undertaking for you. You already put so much into creating MarcEdit that I didn’t want to ask, lest I seem ungrateful. (I was initially excited about the Mac app version, but it doesn’t work well for me, so I’m continuing to use the standard version on my student workers’ PC.)

    Thanks for all you do. We’d be lost without you!

  2. Thanks for the update – the roadmap looks a) ambitious and b) like it will hit about 95% of my (modest) needs as I am more systems-y than cataloger-y. (And remoting to a windows machine for the other 5% is no biggie.)

    Thanks again for all your work!