I haven’t shipped many apps, but each time I do, it seems to mark a milestone for me.
My first was Due for iPhone, which debut on the App Store close to three years ago on September 2010, and kickstarted my journey as an app developer.
My second was Due for Mac, which I shipped about a year ago, and marked my foray into Mac OS X development.
Dispatch, like all apps I’ve shipped so far, grew out of a personal need: responding to, and triaging support emails for Due on the move.
Responding to support emails on the move
For years now, I have been using TextExpander on my Mac to respond to support emails for Due (I still do, but increasingly I prefer to respond to them with Dispatch on my iPhone. More on that later).
There, I said it. If you’ve sent an email to me before and wonder how I can sometimes respond in the next minute with a detailed reply, it’s because of these semi-template snippets that I’ve written and stored over time.
I say semi because no one template can respond to all kinds of email, and I try to personalise my replies whenever I can.
I love TextExpander—it’s hard to imagine how I can get by without it—but there were two issues for me.
First, there wasn’t any email clients on my iPhone that could make use of my TextExpander snippets.
Trying to respond to my support emails on my iPhone for 3 weeks in Japan was the impetus for Dispatch.
TextExpander has had an iOS SDK for sometime, and late in our development, they launched a new SDK that I haven’t had time to check out. Federico also wondered why we decided to build our own snippet engine instead of integrating the SDK, which should be easier for us.
After shipping Due for Mac, and as the number and variations of snippets I have increases, I found it difficult to remember the exact TextExpander abbreviations that are used to trigger them (I have close to 200 snippets related to Due and Due for Mac).
Having an option to use my snippets by searching for a descriptive title or its content would solve my problem of having to remember the increasingly obscure abbreviations that I’ve came up with.
Now that we’ve shipped 1.0, I’ll have time to check out whether the SDK is suitable for Dispatch in future updates.
Triaging support emails on the move
The kinds of support emails that I get can be largely broken down into:
- questions about how to do something, or whether something can be done,
- problems that I know about and have a solution or response for,
- bugs that I’m not aware of that need further action on my part,
- feature requests
Having support for snippets solves 1 and 2, but not 3 and 4.
I make use of OmniFocus to plan future updates for Due, and being able to triage these feature requests and bug reports into OmniFocus would be really nice, and so that’s what we did.
And while we’re at that, we added support for 14 apps in all, most of them apps we use on a daily basis. Due, as you can imagine, is one of the 14.
So what’s next for Due?
Dispatch took two of us an entire year to ship, and on hindsight, a mail app is probably an overly ambitious project for our first app.
In the past year, I haven’t found much time to update Due, and now you know what I’ve been up to. Juggling multiple projects is an art that I’ve to master.
So the question that must be on your mind is: what’s next for Due?
I’ll be fixing some non-critical bugs that I haven’t had chance to, and hopefully a few new features coming your way. A 2.0 overhaul, of course, is my ultimate goal, but that would take time.
I’ve learnt a lot in the last year working on Dispatch, and I’m excited to make use what I’ve learnt to make a better Due.