Tranquil and Papertrail

For the start of the development diary for my current pet projects I’d like to introduce you to both of them. I chose two codenames that I really like. If the apps should ever see the light of the App Store, I’m not sure those will stay… but as long as they are living only on my devices, they are perfect.

I won’t go into any details about the features itself though. I want them to stay a little more under the radar. It’s nothing secret or highly important. I just don’t want it to be too public. Those projects are hobbies and I would like to keep it that way. The important thing is that I work on something and create tools that make my life easier. The dev diary part is a companion that might help me keep focused and motivated and also help me to solve some issues by discussing different options and approaches. Sometimes being too vague about the projects will be a stumbling block, I might get more specific then. Otherwise I think there will also be value in discussing some aspects on a broader scale. We’ll see how it will develop.

But now, let’s get to the projects and why I’m working on them:

Papertrail

Papertrail is an app that I desperately need in my daily life. I need one of my favorite apps on the Mac also on my iPhone and iPad. It’s crucial for me, but there is nothing that would even remotely fit my needs. There are a couple of apps available that kind of do parts of what I need, although the features are not 100% there, the usability is horrible and even if a cloud storage provider is supported, it’s only Dropbox. I am living a Dropbox-free life since a couple of years now and having my files on my server is very important to me. This is the key issue with all the other apps. I’m not going back to Dropbox only to satisfy a single tool.

This app will be a very straight forward and simple productivity app. I’m not much of a designer, so there will be no fancy stuff to show off, but using only the available controls and some standard styling will be perfectly fine. It even helps because it keeps the focus on the task at hand. As long as the interaction is intuitive and everything can be done and accessed quickly and easily, there’s no reason to spend too much time on a design that will only make it worse if I do it myself.

I’m using an existing library that helps a lot in handling the data for me. Managing this data is also not too complex. So the main problem on development side will be some things that I did not use at all up until now. Integrating the app with document providers will be by far the trickiest part of the app. It will definitely require some studying and fiddling around for me.

This project has the bigger priority of both projects. I really need it, so I hope to make some quick progress and be able to start using it rather sooner than later.

Tranquil

The second project, called Tranquil for now, is something that I have in mind since a couple of years already. I even did some development for it and when I went into my archives and dug out the code I was pleasantly surprised about how far I’ve gotten already. It was fully functional! All that was missing was some in-app purchase code, a decent icon and design and it could have been a pretty neat app in the store. But I lost focus and even completely forgot about it over time until I recently realized that this thing is still missing for me.

Unlike Papertrail, there is already some competition available for Tranquil. It seems to be a problem for more people than just me. But all the apps do not work the way I want them to work and there’s some stuff missing where I just can’t understand why those apps are missing the key features for their use case.

On the technical side there are some more interesting problems to solve for me. In-app purchase would be the biggest issue, but since I want to build this for my personal use now, I guess this part will be stripped out until I decide to go live with it after all. Besides this I need to do some testing and check whether the system functionality I need to use got more stable over the years. If I remember correctly, the flakiness in that area was also something that kept me from publishing the app in the end. If it didn’t work, it would have seemed like the app is crap whereas the reason it didn’t work was a wonky system feature. I’ll find out soon what’s the status here.

Soon because none of the existing code even compiles at the moment. I did the mistake of coding with an early Swift version. Turns out… current Xcode versions are unable to transform or compile old Swift code. I’m undecided about whether I should just start over or try to make the current code work again. This will probably be the first topic for the Tranquil dev diary.

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