Wednesday, May 10, 2017

30 Years of PopChar

Günther Blaschek:

It all started back in 1987, when I tried to find a few special characters in the Symbol font. Apple’s Key Caps utility was not very helpful because I had to try all sorts of keyboard combinations to see which characters were available.


“Desk accessories” were an exception, as they were accessible from the Apple menu and could open a window on top of the current application. I therefore created a desk accessory called “Character Map” which displayed all symbols in a given font and let me copy and paste them into a text document.


Starting with version 3 (2006), PopChar had a search function for finding characters by their Unicode name. But what do you do if you don't know the name of a character?

In 2014, we extended PopChar 7 with a graphical “shape finder”.

Click a button, draw a shape and let PopChar search for characters that look like this.


To survive all these changes, PopChar has been redesigned and re-implemented from ground up again and again.

I think this is a good example of an app where the paid upgrade model worked well. Looking at the initial version, you might have thought that it was pretty much done. It solved the problem; how many more features could it need? It doesn’t seem like the kind of app that would need a lot of maintenance or that customers would want a subscription for. Yet platforms changed, Unicode and Emoji emerged, and the app continued to receive development attention and thrive. By App Store standards, 30 Euros is a lot for what seems like a little utility, but it’s a deceptively small app. There is a lot of functionality and design there, and from what I’ve heard from customers over the years, people love it.

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[…] Update (2017-09-08): Previously: 30 Years of PopChar. […]

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