Digging Deep Into Bare Bones with Rich Siegel

| Reporter's Notebook

Bare Bones Software has been involved in the Mac community since 1993, predating Mac OS X, the iMac and Steve Jobs's return to Apple. Looking back at the company's history offers some idea about where it might be headed, but it's easier to figure out what's really happening by going right to the top, so The Mac Observer sat down with company founder Rich Siegel.

The company's current software lineup includes the code and text editing applications BBEdit 9 and TextWrangler 3, the data organizing application Yojimbo 2, and WeatherCal.

Missing from that lineup are Super Get Info and MailSmith -- the company's venerable email client. Bare Bones discontinued Super Get Info because Mac OS X now offers similar file and folder info features in the Finder. Mailsmith, however, lives on because Bare Bones recently spun off the application to Stickshift Software, which just so happens to belong to Mr. Siegel.

Bare Bones' flagship products, BBEdit and Yojimbo, were both recently updated. The changes in Yojimbo pushed the product up to version 2.0, and added in new categorization and searching features to help more easily users keep track of the information they tuck away.

The company isn't, however, offering any hints about what's in store for both applications. The secrecy is intentional since promises made now can come back to bite you later.

"We made an exception to this once, and it didn't go well -- ironically, it was for IMAP support in Mailsmith. We intended to support it, and said so publicly, but then when it came time to start planning and scheduling the details, we realized that it was just not going to happen," Mr. Siegel said. "So we had to go back on something we'd said, which was of course really disappointing -- but it also reinforced our longstanding notion that wisdom exists in waiting to announce until it's real and ready for the customer."

The Bare Bones Software lineup

For some, the announcement that Mailsmith was being spun off and Super Get Info was discontinued raised concerns that Bare Bones might be in financial trouble, which Mr. Siegel said isn't the case. Instead, he wanted to focus development on the company's flagship products, and investing additional resources in a paid application that's competing with free software, namely Apple's Mail, just didn't make sense.

Before handing off Mailsmith to Stickshift Software, users had to pay for the product, but Apple's Mail is bundled for free with Mac OS X. "Competing with 'free,' be it in the form of services or bundled applications, really does make it difficult to justify investing the kind of resources that would have been necessary to implement and market a significant competitive feature set," Mr. Siegel said.

That said, Mailsmith became a "labor of love" for Mr. Siegel, so transitioning it to Stickshift Software seemed like the right move. There are still plenty of Mailsmith fans, Mr. Siegel among them, and now they have a new place to look for Mailsmith updates. Those updates may not, however, come quickly or as often since Mr. Siegel will be working on them in his spare time.

Based on the popularity of BBEdit and Yojimbo, spare time might be hard to come by. Even in the current weak economy, the company is still going strong and working on new ideas, although what those ideas are remains something of a mystery since Mr. Siegle wouldn't tip his hand.

"I will say this, however, about our direction," he said. "We're headed forward into the future. There's lots of shiny new stuff in Snow Leopard, and I predict never a dull moment."

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