I currently support and maintain one Windows based application. I inherited this application when the company I work for went out of business in 2004 and the user base just didn’t stop using it. At first it was just the occasional support call. I would help and then encourage them to migrate to a replacement since the application was no longer under active development or support.
Then the magic words were spoken. A law firm who built their practice around the application said they were willing to pay for me to support them because they didn’t see any other viable alternative to this application. I reached out to the owner of the source code and got their permission to do whatever I wanted with the code.
I resolved the support issue with a small change to the application and didn’t charge the client because I had just started working for another company at the time and I didn’t have the spare time to ramp up a side business. But the occasional support issues still came up and I still helped resolve them when I could.
Then Windows 7 came along and the law firms still relying on the application were rightfully very concerned. The application would not work on Windows 7. There was no work around other than staying on Windows XP or keeping Windows XP machines around to use the application. This is actually what one of the original firms using the application did. They bought up old machines and old Windows licenses to make sure they can use the application.
In 2010, I talked to many of the users and found there was enough interest to warrant a rewrite of the application to run on Windows 7. But there were a few other issues. The trademark of the name of the application was abandoned when Valeo Software went out of business in 2004 and was now owned by another firm. Okay, so a name change was required. New product, new name, not so bad. It took a few months to do the rewrite and testing. All went smoothly and RediDraft was launched to replace FastDraft and RediDraft is still in use today.
In the fall of 2014 when I started doing consulting work again I started using RediDraft for a number of things like contracts, reports and invoicing. I still use it for those things and more but since it is exclusively Windows based I have a few hoops to jump through since Windows is not my primary operating system and hasn’t been for several years. The current users still see value in RediDraft and the usage statistics have seen steady year over year growth since it’s alpha release in 2010.
But now there is a new release of Microsoft Word on the horizon. RediDraft is tightly integrated with Word and when Word 2019 is released an update to the Windows client will most likely be required for it to work with Word 2019.
I’m facing the Windows 7 situation all over again.
There is enough interest to do the update for Word 2019 but for myself, and my own use, I’d prefer a different solution. For my use the content is just as easy to represent in html as it is in MS Word. That isn’t the case for at least one of the current RediDraft users. Their content is very dependent on Word for correct layout and formatting. My needs aren’t as restrictive and I would also prefer a web based solution instead of an executable requiring a Windows desktop.
I spent a little of time earlier this week exploring some options for maintaining content and building drafts from the bits and pieces of text. Things seem promising and it’s actually motivating me to consider making this new iteration of RediDraft an open source project. It’s been a while since I ran point on an open source project and it feels like this could be a great opportunity to get back into the give and take of an open source project.
I’ve started compiling a list of must have features for a minimum viable product and those will comprise the 1.0 release. While I don’t have a specific timeline for this project I know I won’t be able to spend much time on it until after I get the update for Word 2019 completed and released. But once that happens I should be able to devote a few hours each week towards this new project.
It will be interesting to see if any of the current users will migrate to this on-line version. Historically, this has been a tough market and I don’t have any real expectations for this beyond building a tool for my use. If others see value in it that will be a bonus.