A Better Finder Launcher is set free

A long, long time ago, in another life time (the 6th of August 2003 to be precise), I released version 1.0 beta 1 of “A Better Finder Launcher”, my entry into the perfect Mac OS X application launcher contest. Back then I was full of plans for all the cool things I could do with that program..

There were already plenty of contenders our there, but I didn’t like any of them. My problem with them was that they did too much. All I wanted was a quick way of launching the applications that did not fit into the dock. Period.

I reasoned that I can’t possibly be the only person on the planet (or at least the Mac) who wanted something quick, simple and effective, rather than something bloated with features that nobody could possibly want, and so I set out to build a radically fast, radically simple and 100% effective application launcher.

As it happens, I was totally wrong about my market analysis. As it turns out, nobody wants a quick, simple and effective application launcher rather than a bloated “launch everything and the kitchen sink” launcher. And certainly the perceived value of a “simple” product is much less than that of a “complicated” product.

A Better Finder Launcher never took off: not even in a small way. Feedback on the product was never more than a trickle and most of the time was about “why does it not do more”, rather than “couldn’t it do this better”.

Development continued in a haphazard manner, driven more by individual user’s requests and my own whims than by market forces 🙂

The fact that Mac OS X 10.4 introduced “Spotlight” and that the QuickSilver (“Less is more” can mean many different things) guys continued to do an impressive job and do it for free, didn’t help the product to flourish either. Still a hard core of loyal A Better Finder Launcher users continued to exist and I was probably the most hardcore of them.

I have long ago given up on making A Better Finder Launcher a commercial success and as a full time developer that means that I can’t really spend that much time on it (people keep sending me bills!). I was often tempted to acknowledge defeat (I have really) and discontinue the product (I will not) for good.

The thing that stopped me from cutting my losses and get out of the launcher market altogether was that hardcore of users. I didn’t want to let them down. Moreover, right from the start, A Better Finder Launcher was bundled with the A Better Finder series of tools and there are thus potentially tens of thousands of avid users out there that I know nothing about; my guess is that it’s more like a hundred or so, but still..

Unfortunately, I know for a fact that many A Better Finder users don’t like A Better Finder Launcher and that they would be much happier if I stopped bundling the program with the series installer. A Better Finder Launcher is a launcher and not a file utility per-se and it never really fitted in that well with A Better Finder Rename, A Better Finder Attributes and A Better Finder Select, which really are pure file utilities. For me, it was a way of adding a free goodie for the existing series owners.

How then do I get myself out of this predicament? Keeping the existing users happy while acknowledging defeat in the larger market?

My solution in the end is simple: As of today, A Better Finder Launcher is no longer part of the A Better Finder Series and it is no longer a paying product. Instead it becomes freeware (which may widen its appeal at least a little bit). I will continue to update the product in the same haphazard way as before and accept voluntary donations; existing users can now consider themselves early “donators” (thanks!) and customers who want the A Better Finder file utilities, but not the launcher, no longer need to “implicitly” pay for it.

I hope this will make the A Better Finder Series more focused, as well as giving A Better Finder Launcher a new lease of life. I’m currently considering changing its name and icon to reflect its new status, but this will need to wait until an icon can be procured, but a plan is already starting to take shape..

As a loyal user, I don’t want “my launcher” to go out on a low, however, which is why today’s 2.2 release features a number of much requested improvements:

  • two user interface modes: run as a normal application complete with menu bar and dock icon, or run as a hot key-only application (no dock icon, no menu bar)
  • improved responsiveness (always a goal)
  • all known bugs fixed

As Steve Jobs would put it “This is best A Better Finder Launcher we’ve ever done and it is really, really amazing.” … and one more thing … now it’s free.