Thursday, December 4, 2014

Script Debugger’s 20th Anniversary

Mark Alldritt:

Interestingly, Script Debugger 1 may never have been a product. I was very uncertain about how to market and sell what was really a $129 piece of shareware. BBEdit was the only model of how this could be done by an independent developer. Remember, the Internet was not as it is today. Software was shrink wrapped in boxes containing floppy disks and printed manuals. It took serious cash to produce product. I had 2000 copies made at a cost of CDN$20,000 (1994 $s). The packing boxes filled an entire room in my basement. Software was sold through mail order outlets (MacTech, Apple’s Developer Central, and others) and trade shows like MacWorld and WWDC. The Mac had no presence in computer stores at that time.


After Script Debugger 2 was released, Apple had its near death experience and our business simply stopped (literally went to zero) in the space of 3 weeks.

During the period that followed, we developed an Adobe Illustrator plugin that made Illustrator scriptable from the Mac with AppleScript and from Windows with Visual Basic. Adobe later purchased this code from us and this went on to form the genesis for the scriptability found in Illustrator, PhotoShop and Acrobat.

A great application that I use nearly every day.

Update (2014-12-05): Mark Alldritt:

I see Script Debugger as a tool that makes professional developers money by saving them a lot of time. Those that really need Script Debugger know it and would pay much more because of this simple equation. In fact, if I had more courage I would raise the price even further.

The problem with the make-it-up-on-volume model is that the market for AppleScript tools (development tools in general) is very small and fragmented. I don’t believe that simply lowering the price by 3/4 on its own would generate 4x+ sales volume because I don’t think 4x+ customers ready to buy at $50 exist. I would have to market more to reach those customers that do exist and that costs. I would have to become involved in justifying and marketing AppleScript (as I once was) to create new customers which costs. Then there are the added costs of supporting a 4x+ user community. And finally, it lowers the perceived value of my software. I have developed many spreadsheets trying to model this over the years.


As for maximizing profit, no. I’ve made a living over the years from Script Debugger, but its a base-hit at best. It makes enough money to keep me working on it, but not enough for me to retire or even hire any help. I could have earned more money from consulting but I enjoy being an indie developer and accept the financial consequences.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter

I don't know how many times I've downloaded demos of SD over the years, but I've never actually jumped the hurdle of that (now) $199 price tag to purchase it. I can't believe the dev wouldn't have made more money over time if he were willing to target more casual scripters. I'd be interested to know his thinking behind setting such a high price point. I wouldn't hesitate to pay $50 or so, and even with AppleScript getting less attention these days, I can't believe I'm alone.

I bought SD 3 for $189 way back in 2002, but haven't upgraded; I just don't use an AppleScript editor often enough. Have thought on several occasions that a rental/subscription model might make sense, but it's also potentially a huge complexity/support nightmare as you'd could need as much support with a (hypothetical) 1-week or -month subscription as with a multi-year purchase.

I hesitated buying Script Debugger when I first came across it (shortly after the release of SD5), when I was doing some automation at work (work wouldn’t have picked up the tab). But when I did buy it, it quickly became irreplaceable.

Mark mentions professionals trading money for time — I’m not a professional, but I feel that Script Debugger fills a nice slot by making potentially quite frustrating work (AppleScript) much less painful, let alone quicker.

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