No idea what all this is about? Please read the historical note at the bottom of this page.
The Novice Programmer's Guide to…
Writing a PD program
Stuck for inspiration? The simple solution is to look around at what functions are performed by utilities which other people have written. Write a utility which does the same thing, spreading your fame in the PD world without hours of brain-racking for something useful to write. Remember, you don't have to do it better than anyone else—you just have to do it again!
Utilities which users never get enough of include:
- Tracker players
- Current-directory setters
- Programs to add sprites to the wimp pool
- Mouse speed setters
- SWI Name/Number converters
- Desktop clocks
- Filetype setters
Note particularly the last one—even better than writing a utility which duplicates the functionality of other utilities is to write one whose functionality is already duplicated in the operating system! This way you don't squander your creativity, giving you more time to spend on the design itself (and the all-important helpfile, of course).
If you're really stuck for an idea, find a command-line program which someone has written and knock up a quick Wimp front-end for it. Credit the original programmer in the helpfile, but not too near the top.
Implementing your program
There are a few techniques which will help you to ensure that your program is aesthetically pleasing. Throw Acorn's fascistic and boring Style Guide out of the window, and consider these points:
- Sprites! The less your program does, the more you can pad it out with sprites. At the very least use a sprite for your program name and (large) photo of yourself in the info box. All your sprites should be put in the Wimp sprite pool where the user can cherish them until the next reset.
- You are blessed with a keen sense of elegance and beauty. Share it with your users. Change their standard Wimp icons, file icons, and pointer shape.
- Big windows Since your program probably does very little, spruce it up with natty window designs. Huge windows and technicolor icons will hold your user's interest.
Remember that as the author, you have the right to optimise your programs for your machine. If you have a lo-res monitor, don't include hi-res sprites. Conversely, if you have a 32-thousand colour desktop screen mode, use 32-thousand colour sprites. Your program should help users to see the unique benefits of your system configuration.
Increasing your program's value
Even with all the above, you may feel there is something missing. You need a way to make your program bigger and better without any more of that time-consuming programming. So try:
- A big helpfile! Include it in multiple formats (Text, Draw, StrongHelp, HTML, Impression, Sprite, Sound sample). Many of these give opportunity for more illustrations to increase the size further.
- If you must have a text-only helpfile, remember that no-one likes reading text in Zap or StrongEd. Include your own / someone else's helpfile reader (preferably bug-ridden).
- Everybody knows the best things in life aren't free, so to make people think more highly of your program, make it shareware. Make it worthwhile to register; for example, if you've written a filetype setter, registration could entitle the user to a version which also date-stamps files.
That's about it. Follow these simple guidelines, and you too can find fame and fortune in the Acorn PD world. Remember—quantity is what counts! Don't spend too long on any one program. Try to finish it off in a day or so, then send copies to PD libraries and magazines. Soon, your name will be a household word.
I wrote this a long, long time ago, when I still used and programmed Acorn Computers, and when the closest I got to the Internet was the Arcade bulletin board's email gateway. I honestly can't remember how I disseminated it; perhaps I posted it in one of Arcade's fora. Then I forgot all about it. A good while later, my friend Matthew got himself one of those exciting new website things, and asked if he could put my screed there. I assented, and he marked it up nicely into HTML and uploaded it. Then we forgot all about it. Now! Fast-forward to 2005! I now have my own website, but Matthew has consigned his personal site to the void. He receives an email from one Chris Bazley claiming that people still want to read my rant, and could he (Chris) host it please? Eager for any excuse to add more content to my rickety site, I decide to put it up myself.
Oh, one more thing: it isn't funny unless you're acquainted with the late twentieth century Acorn public domain software scene. Actually, it's not very funny even if you are.
For the traditionalists, there is also the original plain ASCII version.
Last modified 2005-03-31 21:26 BST