This month I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Tom Bender, creator of some great shareware programs like Tex-Edit, Tex-Edit Plus, Eliza, Azile and Re-Pete, some of the best shareware programming available for Mac users.
Tom Bender, besides doing some very creative work with his programming skills, also extends his skills to producing and supplying one of the best user manuals (as in the case of Tex-Edit Plus) for Mac users. He presents his manual and his product in a straightforward, friendly manner that just wants to make you sit down and try it out.
If you haven’t tried it yet, Tex-Edit Plus version 1.8 is available online through the major providers and through any of the info-mac archive mirror sites under Text processing. You will also find Tom’s other program within these site locations. And don’t forget to send in your shareware fee; I sent mine.
How good are Tom Bender’s programs? Well, for Tex-Edit Plus, Tom was awarded the MacUser 1995 Shareware Award (check out http://www.zdnet.com/macuser/ mu_1095/shareware_awards.html and a finalist for the MUT 1996 Shareware Award from AOL (check out http://members.aol.com/macutility/mut_awards.html).
Click here to get into … the mood…..
And now, meet Tom Bender.
My Mac: Can you give us a little bit of your background and how long you’ve been involved with Macs?
Tom: I bought my first computer in 1981. It was an Apple ][+ with a B&W monitor and 48K. Cool machine. I also did some programming on an IBM PC we had at work. Ick.
I learned Applesoft BASIC using the excellent tutorials that came with the Apple. As soon as the Mac came out in 84, I just had to have one. Got my first one in February of 84 and of course never regretted it.
I switched over to Pascal as soon as TML introduced their compiler for the Mac. My first efforts were simple little games and such. I also played a lot with Eliza, finally translating it into a Mac version. By its nature, Eliza works best if running inside a text editing environement, so I decided to create a text editor to facilitate my BBS travels.
Thus Tex-Edit was born.
My Mac: What type of Mac do you use at home and for work?
Tom: I use a 7500/100 with 48meg/1 gig and an APS DAT, which has come in handy at times.
At work I occasionally use a generic clone of unknown origin--it runs Windows, is slow, soundless and ugly. Nice solitaire game, though!
My Mac: What gave you the idea to develop Tex-Edit Plus?
Tom: Tex-Edit Plus was an outgrowth of Tex-Edit based on Marco Piovanelli's outstanding text engine. (It allows unlimited file sizes and works with multibyte scripts.)
My Mac: Tex-Edit Plus fits, as you would say, perfectly between Apple's very simple Simple Text and a full blown word processing program. Where do you see yourself taking Tex-Edit Plus in the future.
Tom: I have a list of things "to do" that is quite extensive. I hope to keep Tex-Edit as a useful part of OpenDoc and would like to use it as a platform to experiment with all of Apple's advanced technologies.
My Mac: You are a major advocate and supporter of Apple's Drag and Drop system. Why is it taking everyone else so long to jump on the bandwagon with you and Apple over the capabilities of the system?
Tom: It takes some effort to enable Drag and Drop correctly. Claris and WordPerfect are doing well. Unfortunately, Microsoft wants to rely on its proprietary OLE system, which is different than Drag and Drop, so their products are at a disadvantage.
It has been suggested that Microsoft occasionally makes mistakes.
My Mac: Your programs offer Drag and Drop, speech, sound record/sound insert, blocking options, find/replace, multi-file search/replace support, modify options, CR-LF strip options, is PowerPC native plus many other options/capabilities, all in a shareware package. A lot of commercial programs don't offer these yet. Have you been tempted to go bring your products on to the commercial market?
Tom: No, unfortunately I am not able to devote enough time to program development to release my programs to the commercial market--despite some tempting offers.
I think Tex-Edit's users find the current distribution arrangement more useful.
My Mac: Unlike most shareware authors, you do not "hound" the user with reminders or limited capabilities. In your own manual, (and about the only place I found a reference to shareware payment (now $10), you state "You may use Tex-Edit Plus for as long as you wish (i.e., there is no time limit on the trial period). You are under no moral obligation to send in the Shareware fee and you are under no obligation to erase the program if you don’t pay the fee. Simply think of the Shareware fee as a much-appreciated way to encourage future development and to say “thank you!” Why such a policy?
Tom: I created the program for my own enjoyment and utility, not to make money. The more people that use it, the more feedback, suggestions, assistance, support, postcards, etc. I get. The shareware payments are NOT the reason I keep working on the program--but they are greatly appreciated and I am very impressed with the number of people who have made a payment. Apparently, Mac users are the greatest.
At one time Tex-Edit was freeware. When the shareware notice was added to the documentation, the volume and quality of my feedback jumped dramatically. Interesting. Incidentally, I don't like copy protection, serialization, crippleware or any of that other stuff. And I sure don't like being charged exorbitant fees for buying or UPGRADING a program. Finally, I believe that good programs will make good money--no matter how much "piracy" goes on. (From these statements, you might imagine where I stand on the piracy debate.)
Shareware is a wonderful distribution method, especially in the Mac community.
My Mac: If you could clarify/expound further on "piracy" and the impact that it has/doesn't have.
Tom: Well, I don't believe piracy is the same as theft. I don't believe casual piracy has ever made the difference between a product being a financial success or a failure. I think software should be sold, not "licensed." I object to being asked to pay for multiple copies of a program used in my household. I think commercial software is generally over-priced. I don't like copy protection in any form.
My Mac: Tex-Edit Plus also provides the user with the capability to quote passages from email, reformat email or text, handle word wrap problems, and prepare text for easy viewing by those with MS-DOS systems. Have you ever considered expanding TE+ into a viable email system permitting cross user capability and greater flexibility then a lot of mail programs now provide?
Tom: No, but thank you for the suggestion!
My Mac: Besides Tex-Edit and Tex-Edit Plus, you are also the creator of Eliza (the clinical psychologist), Re-Pete (a memory game) and Azile (Eliza's evil twin) Where did you get the ideas for these programs, particulary Eliza and Azile?
Tom: Eliza is an Apple ][ -> IBM PC -> Mac translation of the famous Weizenbaum mainframe program from the 60's. I think it's just as fascinating now as it was then.
Azile was the product of a great (?) idea I had once while sipping suds and watching Don Rickles on the Carson show.
Actually, it would be fun to create lots of different personalities, but it takes so much TIME. Maybe someday I'll add a few more.
My Mac: Part of the appeal of these two programs is that they will question you and talk back to you, particularly when you utilize Apple's Speech Manager. Where did you find the colorful verbiage utilized by these programs, particularly Azile? Example: "YOU DEMENTED BUCKET OF REEKY SINUS CLOTS."
Tom: Azile uses the renowned "random insult generator" to produce some rather interesting expressions on the faces of users. The response stubs are the result of many, many hours of trial and error.
My Mac: What do you have in store for us Mac users?
Tom: I want more AppleScript support, GX support and OpenDoc support. It may take awhile.
My Mac: What are your favorite pieces of shareware/freeware that you consider must haves for the Mac user of today?
Tom: There are lots of cool things, but not many that I use regularly or have installed. Let's see...
I love Disinfectant. It's very well done even though I've never had any virus problems. The Internet Config/IceTee panels are very useful also.
My Mac: What are your favorite software programs that you use? Why?
Tom: My favorite program is ClarisWorks. It is powerful and elegant and fast and uses RAM efficiently. It even does Drag and Drop now! I love Metrowerks Codewarrior. It is an excellent development system. I constantly use Spelling Coach Pro. It runs unobtrusively, is fast and is accurate.
I love Netscape Navigator. It could use further refinement and seems to utilize system resources inefficiently, but it has widened my horizons with effortless access to the web. I love Myst. A work of art. Are those guys rich, or what? I love Hellcats. Great game uncluttered by ultra-complexity.
And I want back all the hours I burned up playing Warcraft with the kids. Great concept--just wish it didn't look like a Windows port.
My Mac: What is your idea of the ideal Mac?
Tom: I would love to have a 5300ce--or whatever follows it. Portability adds so much to the computer's utility. Hope Apple can find room for a CD-ROM drive in the next version.
For the next 10 years--I hope that Apple can actually produce the kind of stuff seen in their futuristic documentaries. (Intelligent assistants, natural language/voice interface, wireless connectivity, super-portability, etc.)
My Mac: What advice do you have for those Mac users who are involved in or thinking of becoming involved in developing shareware/freeware programs?
Tom: Metrowerks' development system is wonderful and their support is unsurpassed.
It's a great time to be developing software for the Mac. All it takes is the right idea and an understanding of the Mac Way.
My Mac: What do you see as the future of Mac computing from your viewpoint as an innovator and developer of Mac programs?
Tom: Well, I'm certainly no innovator. I just try to stay as close as possible to the Mac ideal.
My mind swims when trying to grasp what "computing" will be like 10 years from now. Heck, improvements in mass bandwidth may even make "personal computers" obsolete. (Coming full circle back to the mainframe paradigm--seems rather poetic.)
I suspect "programming" will be software-assisted to the point that anyone can do it. Voice recognition is just about to hit the big time.
Whatever happens, Apple will most likely be out in front.
My Mac: What do you consider as your greatest contribution to Mac computing?
Tom: I would like to think that my program has helped someone, somewhere salvage some usable text from a jumble of characters they downloaded over the net.