Monthly Archives: November 2009


Space efficient + readable = not easy task

Being space-efficient is crucial for any application. Not being space efficient results in the app showing less data than what it potentially could, resulting in being less productive. On top of this, you need to make sure that the data is rendered in an easy-to-read manner and there is a whole science behind this.

Maurizio is the expert (read: “the freak”) of readability, on several occasions he explained me what is cleartype and why it exist and how it works. Having a pretty good sight I’ve never been into this stuff, but many people have trouble reading if the font is not big enough. There is a whole bunch of guidelines on how to  make good app design, and one universal rule is “don’t use text below 12points”. Plus, only the system default font is optimized, therefore it’s advisable to stick to it and forget about using fancy fonts.

Reading without reading
While Maurizio cares a lot of making sure the text is always readable, I’m a freak of making the text quickly readable. What I mean is that very often within a paragraph or a whole page, one or two words are important and sometimes they’re even expressive enough to summarize the whole page. This is particularly important when you have computer generated strings where you know the strings follow a certain pattern and you know you don’t need to read the whole thing cause all the information you need is in one word.
In these situations it’s important being able to understand how the strings are arranged before even starting to read. Color coding combined with bold text is one way to solve this:

Now, we agree that this window is butt-ugly, but the interesting information stands out of the noise. In the first line you read: blah blah blah blah “xls” blah blah blah blah “Tabbles”, “about Tabbles” blah blah. All the blah blahs they’re maybe interesting the first time you read them, but once you find out what it’s all about, then you just want to skip it and jump to the useful stuff.

Variable length
Being space efficient when the item to be displayed can be of a variable size, adds more spice to the issue. Windows Explorer has the same problem with the file name: it can be very short or very long. The solution that Microsoft opted for is truncating the filename. We have the same problem, along with a much bigger problem which is displaying the tabbles next to the files: the problem is that you can have anything from zero to a lot of tabbles linked to any file, possibly 2 files next to each other have very different amounts of tabbles linked to them. There is no way you can truncate this smartly… the solution we’re opting for is to put the tabbles in a sort of tab, and the tab can be shown/hidden, depending on what suits you best in that moment. Smart, isn’t it?

Jumpy eyes
One more or less direct consequences of having “information items” of variable length, next to each other, is the fact that corresponding strings can be disaligned. This makes my eyes jump around and loose focus. I believe this is a major generator of perceived confusion. One more reason to rearrange the file item ๐Ÿ™‚

What we have today
Finally the screenshot. This is how it looked yesterday.
We’re also adding the chance to hide the the tabbles under a file. Here is what it looks like today, next to the Vista’s explorer:

Quite an improvement, isn’t it? And by the way:
– we didn’t learn everything overnight
– it’s not our first attempt
– it’s the result of several discussions + mockups + more thinking + banging_heads_on_wall + sleep_deprivation.
– it’s not the final solution, we can still improve it ๐Ÿ™‚
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1st part:
We’re really running at full steam guys… that’s the best I could do this time:

2nd part:
I’m sorry for not have been writing a lot lately… basically we’ve been adding a lot of stuff, testing a lot and as we do that the ghost of the installer shows up again and keeps us awake at night (I promise you: the Ghost of the Installerยฎ is way more evil than the ghost from Paranormal Activity!!!).  

Anyways, currently we are
fighting with the installer and the main issue now is that in order to install the shell extension – the thing that allows you to right on a file in Windows Explorer (a.k.a. “My Computer”) and show “Tag file” – the program “Explorer” needs to be restarted, and it seems that the technique we use to restart it works differently depending if you are on Xp, Vista or Win 7, and possibly also on the day of the week and the weather.
– working to get soon to a Freemium version (a free but slightly limited Tabbles “lite” + a few commercial versions)
– writing to some paper magazines worldwide and one (!!!) wrote back… have we been writing to the wrong emails?
– getting ready to pitch bloggers in order to make some proper noise.
– thinking of killing Mantis and move the bug report thingy to
collecting testimonials! Guys, please write your love-story with Tabbles here :mrgreen: 

What we achieved:
– big thanks to nefycee: he made a page for us on
– a blogger named Tarlith wrote me asking for a serial number for Tabbles and within 2 days we had a peak of traffic and 7 other bloggers wrote asking for a serial… cool, isn’t it :) Based on a conversation with one of them we also thought about the fair price campaign… how does it sound?

On my own to-do list, for whenever I get the chance to:
– update the web with the auto-tagging rules and the one-click tagging.
– make training videos, the ones we have now on youtube are from WWII :oops:
– update the user manual, but before that transplant the user manual to the wiki … I’ve actually been trying uploading the current manual.docx on zoho and google-docs but the result sucks, therefore there is nothing else I can do apart from some brutal copy/paste from word to wiki, and some patient re-formatting… :roll: 

– uh, I’m sure I forgot something… better this way :)

Well, that’s alll folk :mrgreen:

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Today my bro posted this link on facebook: 8 ways to kill an idea.

Now, the link itself is funny, being being the curious monkey I am, I couldn’t help from digging into the site…which led me to find the M.Sc. thesis of the blogger and there I found this word I’ve been looking for a long time. This is the definition of crowdsourcing on wikipedia and the article sounds a bit “capitalistic”…

– How do we apply the principle of crowdsourcing?
In our tiny software house weรข??re bringing users on this forum page.

– Does it work? YES
We had our software localized in 4 languages by our community plus we have a small crew of beta-testers checking and writing on our forum everyday.

– Is it all about the “profit”? maybe…
Well, it’s always about the profit… depends what kind of “profit” one is looking for. At this stage, we’re not yet profitable, but nonetheless we deeply love what we’re doing. When you love something, one of the most rewarding thing is sharing what you love – and this is a very strong motivator. So, in this sense,ย we get a large ย “profit” fromย crowdsourcing: we’re building a community, we LOVE THEM and hopefully they love us too.ย  Probably one day we’ll make some money too, but until then, we’re still getting a lot out of our crowdsourcing.

the more you give the more you get back?
Once again this let me think of the Balsamiq blog…ย connecting the dots is so straight-forward this time.

Free for bloggers, do-gooders and charity (link)

Yes, no hidden trick here! ๐Ÿ™‚
If you belong to any of those categories, just drop us a line!


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the changelog is coming soon… the biggest feature is the auto-tagging rules.

The download is at the usual place. More to come later on….

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Guys, probably this week for the first time, we started seeing some real interest in Tabbles, coming from different fronts. It feels good.

Development (1.2.1 is very close) -> look at this
– Recursive untabbling added
– Improved auto-categorization (just “sticky” for the moment)
– “Bleached” file window and graphical tweaks 
– Tracked (and hopefully fixed) 2 very buggy bugs causing to database corruption. We’re probably preventing future bugs too.
– Layed out the basic functionalities of the shared tabbles (we’ll blog something about this later). Basically soon we’ll have something similar to a server-less shared tagging app.  Sounds like sci-fi but apparently it isn’t.


– Updating stuff here and there
– Getting ready to a real press launch (yes!). We’re making a list of magazines… wanna see it?
– The wiki is alive!
– Our Combine feature is officially Patent Pending ๐Ÿ˜Ž

– I finally added an OPML with all our feeds.

P.S. another great idea from the balsamiq blog: whoever has a webcam and is willing to tell about how Tabbles is making your life easier, just shoot the video and we’ll add it to our youtube playlist ๐Ÿ˜€

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1.2.0 is out and 1.2.1 beta1 was out 1 day later…why that? Read on…

Marketing (shopping list style)

  • Homepage update: it was just about time! Our homepage described Tabbles as it was supposed to be (8 months ago), but the way it evolved is a bit different from what we initially planned (not much though).
  • Main product page update: check this out.
  • Special pages appearing when users interact with the installer: welcome page on installation, the un-installation poll and to “special users“. This is a part of our plan to find out what happens with trials and also to deliver the most information possible to the user. But who are the special users? does it have anything to do with piracy? Maybe… just read on.
Piracy, free-riding, friendship and building a community.

Ok guys:
-> anyone who has never downloaded a pirated software/videogame/song/movie, raise your hand.

-> anyone who doesn’t currently have any pirated software/videogame/song/movie, on your home pc, raise your hand.

I have the feeling I won’t see many hands up in the air ๐Ÿ™‚
And what’s the problem with it?

Piracy = revenue loss.

A 3 mins search on Wikipedia will show Microsoft’s point of view (one and two) on the issue, and also a nice article about the “piracy controversy” is here. I guess we all read/heard/thought about the problem already.

What I want focus here, is 3 aspects of piracy.

1) Natural born pirates. I’m a west-european and as a such I’m a part af that privileged part of the earth inhabitants who can afford to pay for software. There is a great quote I heard at a university which sounds like “the western countries are like people sitting in a limousine and drinking champagne while the rest of the world is outside starving”. Well, that’s just the way it is… beside that (not even) 1 billion people who may afford buying software, there are more than 5 billions who probably can’t, but they still can afford a 400$ computer to run software. Maybe they can still do something for my company?

2) Pirate = free-rider… really?. Well, it would be futile denying that I have or had illegal copies of software. At the same time, I remember spending a lot of time on forums and communities of various kinds.
A real exemple here: I didn’t pay for my Quake 2 license back in 1997…but in 1998 I did this (which eventually led me to get a job working on this). While doing that I spent a lot of time advocating the verb of Quake on forums, websites and among friends. Now, do you think that the id software guys would run after me claiming their 50$ or would they rather thank all the kids like me who contributed to make the community that generated so much added value to their products? (Not to mention that while I didn’t pay for Quake 2, I bought Quake 3 and Doom 3 afterwards…)

3) The only thing I can get from you are your 30รข?ยฌ…really?. On the amazing balsamiq blog I found this very interesting article about keeping the press’ attention when the spike is gone… Well, I guess you could guess the answer already: The Community.

Of course: if time = money, a passionate user can give back much more than the license price, and can drive the product and the company into new directions by giving his/her opinion or by actively joining the development and/or the marketing processes.

For this reason we wrote this shameless post on our forum. And for this reason we say “pirates, be our friends, we need you!” ๐Ÿ™‚

So: why 1.2.0 and one day later the 1.2.1?
We’re aware of an illegale version of Tabbles floating on the net (hint: try use the google blog search for it ๐Ÿ˜€ ).
The Auto-categorization feature kicks ass: for this reason we’re making sure that everyone who has that pirated version (which uses the serial number released on the GOTD offer) will understand that they won’t receive it unless they “go legal” and this is what our friendly message (inviting them to join our forum and contribute) is about . That’s it ๐Ÿ™‚



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Ladies and gentlemen, the 1.2.0 is out…

the change-log itself looks scary ๐Ÿ˜€ But of course we’re not sleeping: the 1.2.1 beta1 is already available in the forum, featuring the long awaited Auto-categorization rules.
Something useful now: how to get feedback from a trial
We’re fans of the excellent a smart bear blog, and we got inspiration from this article about getting feedback from the users.
How did we implement it? How long did it take?
What we needed was a way to have a user communicating with us what was wrong with Tabbles, this should have included a list of options with check-boxes as well as a few empty fields to write something into. Coding this into our desktop app would have been a nightmare (open a socket, and write into a remote db making sure that the user’s firewall wouldn’t get too angry about it… ) and it would have been even worst having the thing to run when the user was uninstalling… ๐Ÿ˜
Well, our website is based on Joomla, so we thought: why not using joomla to do this? Joomla has a built-in poll, but it’s pretty limited: only radio buttons, no free-writing field and max 12 questions (!).
After a 5 minutes tour in the joomla extensions directory I found the excellent PollXT which does exactly what I needed and within 10 mins our poll was online. This looks like the best component I’ve seen in a while… it does everything it’s supposed to (and as you need more, it’s there already), it’s stable and very intuitive: A+ to the author! Uh, did I mention that it’s donationware? ๐Ÿ˜€
All we did is calling a custom action on uninstalling, so the uninstaller calls a web page (which opens without ringing any alarm bell) and PollXT does all the rest.
P.S.: there is in an interview of me here ๐Ÿ˜€
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Many little things going on. I’ll keep it short this time!


Tweaking | bug-fixing | tweaking | bug-fixing | tweaking | tweaking | bug-fixing. Getting close to a release which was supposed to be a small one, but it’s turning out to be pretty massive ๐Ÿ™‚
But most important: fighting with Windows installer, Installshiled, Installaware, NSIS installer. Even for us it’s hard for us to believe that nonwithstandig the complexity of our app, the crazy GUI, the framework, the file system watcher (soon to move from Win32 to WDMI), the thing we’re having the hardest time with, is still the installation. This does probably deserve a blog post itself… Anyway, we’re considering doing an RC2 just to test the installer.
One last thing: Tabbles looks too much mac-ish right… will this be misleading?
Marketing: how to tune-up a marketing strategy

For the second time, I posted on the joelsonsoftware forum, for the second time the result is amazing. The first post was here.
The second one is here and I also posted on The result is summed up in this table:


How many ppl


Creative marketing

1 (several ideas)

Involve people, register domains (like launching a movie or a parfum)

Key features


A key feature is that you allow people to organise documents without changing their current filesystem layout. (“People ask how I can find documents so quickly when I’m searching the same complicated network drive hierarchy they are, Tabbles is my secretรข?ย)


“Have you ever wanted to put a document in more than one folder? Now you can”

Target specific verticals


“this product solves (put user problem here) problem”.
And you can create different products for different niches.

Force it into a niche


Create a javascript trial


We are in the desktop search niche


Well, thanks (really!) to everyone who wrote something :-).
While nothing is really surprising us, it was good to know what people understand and what they don’t from our site. This led us to rethink a bit the homepage, here is a first draft.
See ya,
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Tabbles 4.1.12ย (~ 19MB)
Compatible with: Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10. For LAN mode, it requires Microsoft Sql Server Express 2008 or above.

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