LateNight Software Script Debugger at 20

December 5, 2014 at 07:29:46

Mark Alldritt has posted a memory of his 20 years developing LateNight Software’s flagship product, Script Debugger. This generated a thread of further memories and thoughts from users on the SD-Talk email group, including mine. The email group is private, though, so I decided it might be nice to reproduce my email here, in public.

It all started for me in 1995 when I took over as editor of MacTech. LateNight was an advertiser, so Gerry got in touch with me. MacTech needed some heavy AppleScript tasks and I used SD to develop them. When I left MacTech I got heavily into Frontier, for which SD was an “external editor”, and I documented its use for that purpose in my Frontier book.

However, my close association with LateNight and Mark didn’t start until 2000, when Mark asked me to step in and supply some chapters of the documentation. I hammered Mark with questions and criticisms which he took in very good humor, implementing many of my suggestions, and starting a major Gilbert-and-Sullivan type collaboration; I don’t think most people are aware of my work over the years as a primary bug-finder and interface-tweak-suggester for Script Debugger, and this is when it started. We both worked very hard and I supplied the documentation in record time while he had worked on SD at the same time.

My memory of the time I minded the booth at Macworld Expo is a little different from Mark’s. What I remember is that I made a sale! (To Brian Shin.) By that time, we had the Explorer, and when I got to that part of my demonstration Brian’s jaw dropped and he whipped out his wallet. To anyone who had spent any time trying to write AppleScript code, Script Debugger sold itself!

My collaboration with Mark got even tighter in 2005. A lot of things happened at once; Mark was working on a new version of Script Debugger (v. 4, the first version in Cocoa) and he was taking over FaceSpan — and I got the contract to write my AppleScript book. That book would have been totally impossible without Script Debugger and, even more important, Mark’s unbelievable knowledge of AppleScript under the hood. For several months I was hammering Mark with email questions about SD or AppleScript every day! After I finished the book I turned my attention full time to the documentation (which was still being produced with Frontier). It all came together in early 2006 and I wrote this article to announce it all.

Script Debugger continued to develop, plus in 2007 I added FaceSpan to my list of things I was helping Mark with. Things got hot and heavy again in 2008. Frontier was getting creaky and I had spent some months developing a replacement written in Ruby, which I call RubyFrontier. Its primary purpose was to allow me to keep producing documentation for Mark, and in early 2008 I was able to build the docs with it. It’s the Frontier / RubyFrontier documentation system that I developed that accounts for the astonishing navigation and interlinking of the Script Debugger documentation, which persists to this day.

And RubyFrontier didn’t come into the world a moment too soon, because we were soon embarked on Script Debugger 4.5 and its amazing beta process, which I commented on in my TidBITS article when it was released at the end of the year.

In 2012 we were on to Script Debugger 5, and by about May I had finished the documentation and was adding something new — the videos. These have been received well, I believe, and I’m still always excited about Script Debugger when I watch them.

I’ve gone into all this detail (and I could say much more about what was happening in 2007-9 with FaceSpan) to show how important Script Debugger and Mark personally have been in my life. Mark has been my employer, my technical guru, my inspiration as a programmer, and my friend. Working for him kept me going during some lean years, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without him!


This page prepared December 5, 2014 by Matt Neuburg, phd = matt at tidbits dot com, using RubyFrontier. RubyFrontier is a port, written in the Ruby language, of the Web-site-creation features of UserLand Frontier. Works just like Frontier, but written in Ruby!
Download RubyFrontier from GitHub.