Meet the Developers: Pieter Omvlee of Bohemian Coding

In today’s interview, we’re talking to Pieter Omvlee of Bohemian Coding. We’ve covered Pieter’s software extensively on AppStorm before, and I’m a huge fan of his notoriously well-designed apps. If you haven’t already, head over to Bohemian Coding and take a look at what’s on offer – particularly if you’re a designer!

Pieter has been kind enough to share a few minutes to talk about the story behind Bohemian Coding, his thoughts on iOS development, how he stays up-to-date with the Mac industry in general, and the hardware and software he uses to get the job done.

I hope you enjoy the interview!

Where did you start out as a Mac developer, and how did you come to form Bohemian Coding?

I started out as a Mac developer about 7 years ago in (shame on me) RealBasic. The first version of my application DrawIt was actually written in it. I found it difficult to learn Objective-C and Cocoa at that time so I kept going back and forth between Xcode and RealBasic. When I went to University the dots suddenly fell into place in the first programming course I took, and never used RealBasic again. First thing I did was completely rewrite DrawIt in Objective-C.

I started selling it at for lack of a better name but when I got the idea for a second application (Fontcase) it was clear that I needed a proper company name and a generic website etc. Thus Bohemian Coding.

Which of your applications do you, personally, use most often?

That’ll definitely be Sketch. I do lots of UI and website mockups in it and I find it works great for that.

Your applications are notoriously well designed, and widely regarded as being a pleasure to use. Is this interface polish something that you add at the end of the development process, or start considering right from the outset?

Well thanks, that’s a big compliment. I work closely with a few interface / icon designers (Kevin Kalle and Emanuel Sá) and I never ship a feature without involving them. When I start on something new – whether it be a new feature or an application – I wouldn’t start coding before I have a the interaction and UI completely worked out in my head.

Sometimes a wireframe-like idea is enough to get coding, and the real graphics (icons or custom UI elements) can come at a later date. But at other times I feel I need a finished mockup from my designers before I code anything. It depends.

I’m currently working on a completely new version of SketchPad (the iPad version of Sketch). I’m in love with my iPad and it’s now absolutely clear that the UI SketchPad has at the moment (designed before I got my hands on an actual iPad) doesn’t work at all.

SketchPad for iPad

SketchPad for iPad

I had a vague idea of how I thought we could make the UI a lot better and I went to one of my designers with this vague idea and what he came back with was similar but at the same time an enormous improvement. So in this case the basic interaction-idea is mine but the rest is his idea, whereas in Sketch only the raw icons and custom controls were designed by them.

Tell us a little bit about your Mac setup – what hardware and software do you use to get the job done?

My main machine is an almost 3 year old 8 Core Mac Pro with one of the old 30″ Cinema Displays. I got the display from Apple because of the design award I won for Fontcase. I would never have bought that display myself. I have a first-gen Macbook Air for on the road and have thrown everything of importance in Dropbox. I love Dropbox. The Air is too slow to do any serious work on it, though.

I have a 64BG Wi-Fi iPad that I had a friend buy me in the US as soon as they became available. It’s a great device but I can’t wait to see what the next one will be like. If it has a Retina Display I’ll buy it immediately.

Your personal site mentions that you live in London . Do you feel that being based outside of the USA/Bay area is a disadvantage as a software developer?

I don’t think that’s a real disadvantage. There are quite a few Mac/iPhone developers in the UK and plenty of opportunities to meet up. That said, I’ve never been to the US or a WWDC so I might not know what I’m missing out on.

What has the experience of developing for iOS been like, and are you excited about the possibilities offered by the Mac App Store?

I’m really enjoying developing for iOS. The frameworks are much more modern and they fit better together. The iPad experience is also a lot simpler anyway. There’s so much on the Mac that you don’t even have to think about on the iPad – and that really simplifies development. Think about drag-drop from/to other applications for example. That’s simply not there and one less thing you have to worry about.

The Mac App Store is an exciting new thing for the Mac. I think we had all been expecting it ever since the store opened on the iPhone. It certainly took them a while. As expected, the terms are pretty much the same as on iOS store and that means no trials and upgrade pricing.

I hope they’ll add that possibility, though. Trials are really important I think. I just can’t see myself buying a $50 app without trying it first. The same goes for major updates. If your 1.0 isn’t horribly broken I doubt that users will find the typical 2.0 compelling enough to spend the same amount of money once again.

The banning of private API is expected but really inconvenient. You need it a lot more on the Mac than on the iOS platform. Take WebKit as an example. Apple engineers sometimes even recommend using a certain private API.

I have submitted all my applications and they’re now waiting for approval. I’ll keep selling my applications on my own website as well and if people want a free trial, they can get it there. We’ll see how things develop. Maybe soon all my sales will come from the Mac App Store and I’ll remove my web store completely. We’ll have to see and wait.

Which websites, Twitter users, and magazines do you follow in an effort to stay up-to-date with the activities of other developers, and the Apple eco-system in general?

I get most of my Apple-related news and commentary from Daring Fireball, Shawn Blanc, The Brooks Review, and Marco Arment – those are the first that come to mind. Of course I follow the blogs of quite a few other Mac developers and other more or less random people.

I don’t follow websites like TUAW/TechCrunch/Mac Rumors because they simply post too much stuff. I don’t want (nor have the time) to read all of that. Mac Rumors is particularly annoying as they don’t put the full article in their feed. I don’t want to subscribe to feeds that do that.

I also listed to a lot of podcasts. As to the Mac-related portion of that, I’ve basically subscribed to almost all the shows. I think they’re well done. I gradually unsubscribed from all the TWiT shows as their shows were getting longer and longer and the interesting content became less and less.

Dan Benjamin produces an awesome series of podcasts

Dan Benjamin produces an awesome series of podcasts

Do you have any interesting updates or apps in the pipeline that you can give us a sneak peak at?

I’ve already mentioned that I’m working a big update for SketchPad. Apart from that, both Fontcase and DrawIt really need a major update so that should keep me busy for a while.

The new SketchPad should bring (almost) all the stuff from the desktop version to the iPad and also make exchanging documents much easier – provided Apple doesn’t fix this themselves before I get to it. It’s a bit too early to share screenshots though.

More About Bohemian Coding

Bohemian coding produce a handful of really useful, thoughtful applications for OS X and iOS. They are:

  • Fontcase – Fontcase is a font management application that provides an elegant and powerful workflow to help you organize the fonts you have installed on your system.
  • Sketch – Innovative vector drawing for Mac OS X with an infinite canvas.
  • Drawit – DrawIt is a vector editing application with support for bitmap-like image filters. Vector editing as well as the filters are completely non-destructive, which means that a vector layer can still be edited even after a stack of filters has been applied.
  • Review – If you’re doing iPhone UI design, Review is the quickest way to judge your mockups on an actual device. Review will accurately display your mockups on both Retina and older displays.
  • Sketchpad – You can just draw on your iPad with your fingers, it’s that simple. Sketchpad is designed to look as a sketch book and can be treated as such; draw with your fingers and swipe left and right to flip pages.
  • Slipcover – SlipCover makes it easy to create custom case icons for all your media files. SlipCover can then easily apply these custom icons to any file, making SlipCover the only application you’ll need for cases.

Thanks, Pieter!

I hope you’ll join me in saying a big thanks to Pieter for taking the time to respond to our questions. I always enjoy gaining an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at fantastic companies such as Bohemian Coding!

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