Last week’s release of Yojimbo by Bare Bones Inc showed that the company is not content to rest on its BBEdit-colored laurels. Lots of people had lots of questions following Yojimbo’s release, and earlier today I had a chance to put some of those questions to Bare Bones boss Rich Siegel.
Siegel denies that the app is part of a diversification effort by the company, which relies on continued sales of BBEdit for a large part of its income. Instead, he says, Yojimbo was a long time in the making, and like BBEdit and Mailsmith, resulted from one of the Bare Bones team feeling the need for a specific function.
“Steve Kalkwarf (Bare Bones software developer) had been thinking about about this particular need for over 10 years. In other words, how to manage all of these bits of stuff,” says Siegel.
“Some products are too complicated to set up and use. Others ask you to conform to the designer’s view of how you should structure your data,” he says, referring to the many other information managers available for OS X.
Which is a possibly controversial thing to say to people already quite happy using one of them. Siegel says he’s not out to compete with the established rival apps, but his potential customers will certainly be doing comparison tests to see which of the many options suits them best.
Siegel is confident that Yojimbo’s ease of use will pull people in. He says the motivation at Bare Bones HQ was to make something “effortless and reliable.”
And that’s one reason why you won’t be seeing more “pro”-oriented features like nested folders and scriptability in Yojimbo any time soon.
The whole point, says Siegel, is that use of Yojimbo should be effortless, and therefore require no effort by the user. Nested folders means creating - and maintaining - a hierarchy for your information.
“There’s a forced need for hierarchy, but it doesn’t have any benefits,” Siegel says. Making your information hierarchical means adding effort. Don’t hold your breath for scriptability, either.
“We didn’t want to put scriptability in for its own sake. In a more complex app you would have to, of course. Rather than invest the time in making it scriptable, we might invest it in automating creation and import of data items,” says Siegel.
“But before that we shall allow people to create their own Smart Collections,” he adds.
Yojimbo is all about keeping things simple. Siegel says that he hardly uses the Collections feature - he just throws data into Yojimbo and trusts that the search function will help him find what he needs.
He’s also a .Mac customer, and has been since the service began: “Personally, I think the sync feature is worth the price of .Mac.” He’s been making lots of use of it to sync Yojimbo databases between home and work.
Towards the end of our chat, Siegel is prepared to admit that in some respects at least, Yojimbo is a new direction for Bare Bones. It’s not the company’s first use Cocoa code, but the app looks sufficiently different to make people sit up and notice. For many, it looks like Bare Bones’ first use of Cocoa.
And Siegel is very wary of meddling with the look of older apps like BBEdit, no matter how out-of-date they may seem:
“There’s modernization work going on in BBEdit, but you have to be very careful of the ‘tyranny of the installed base’. I was speaking to a guy at Apple about it, and he warned me: ‘Don’t break the customer experience.’ That’s the kind of thing we have to think about all the time.”
He admits that Yojimbo’s target market is a new one for Bare Bones. “Yojimbo is a different problem domain. I agree that the customer base is not going to be limited to the tech-oriented people as it has been with our other apps. Anyone who can use iTunes can use Yojimbo.”