The Long Haul

It's rare to find a software developer who's been plugging away for decades, but that's exactly what the Stillman brothers did with TypeStyler, a favorite graphics program for many Mac users.
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Where have I been, you may ask? The Tech Daddy has been doing private consultations, but I'm glad to be back ... and I've got an inspiring tale of perseverance and loyalty to tell you. It's about brothers Dave and Ken Stillman and their brainchild TypeStyler -- a software program that must be seen to be believed -- which will be demonstrated on Wednesday, May 5th. If you're in the Los Angeles area, make it a point to come. I'll be there as the Tech Daddy, and I'd love to meet you! (Details below)

TECH-CHALLENGED ALERT! The following article assumes some facility with graphics software, so don't feel badly if you don't understand everything. Just hang in there, muddle through, or at least take my word for it.

Talk about hanging in with all sorts of obstacles! The Stillman brothers have shepherded TypeStyler through all sorts of challenges, mostly because it was a favorite graphics program for a lot of Macintosh users.

Yes, the brothers had many obstacles to overcome: not just the shifting sands of changing operating systems and platforms, but family crises as well. But they just kept putting one foot in front of the other, hunkered down, and never gave up.

It's rare these days to find a software developer who has been plugging away for decades, but that's exactly what Dave and Ken Stillman have done. They are celebrating 25 years as stalwart Mac programmers and content creators! Their first big hit was PosterMaker in 1986, which was quickly snapped up by legendary "family friendly" software maker Brøderbund -- which itself was snapped up by a faceless conglomerate sometime later. Which was snapped up by another faceless conglomerate sometime after that.

Later, they created one of the most innovative and fun to use graphics programs ever made for the Mac: TypeStyler. And this time, they decided to market it themselves, which is when Strider Software was born.

I'd like to think software like TypeStyler is part of the reason why there are fewer games on the Mac then on the PC: why play a game when you can play with something more fun like TypeStyler?

TypeStyler is a blast to use, but hard to categorize. For a better explanation of what TypeStyler actually is, I defer to Dave Stillman. But again, I have to warn you this will veer heavily into Esoterica-land:

"TypeStyler is a powerful yet easy to use object-oriented graphic design and page layout tool; it's like 3 programs in one. TypeStyler allows you to bend, shape and style type to create dramatic headlines or logos. With TypeStyler, you can quickly layout ads, newsletters, sales and promotional material, packaging and web site graphics. For packaging and rapid prototyping, you can even get a 3D representation of what the finished product would look like from the TypeStyler Visualizer.

The new version takes TypeStyler's unequaled control over text shaping, styling, flow and layout even further by exploiting Apple's latest technologies found in OS X."

OK then. Perhaps an easier way to understand what TypeStyler does is to see some examples. In this case, a picture really IS worth a thousand (boring) words.

While it's true there are a couple of additions to Photoshop that do something similar to TypeStyler, they don't do it with the same flair. And the added bonus? Since TypeStyler is a standalone product, you can use it in conjunction with any other software. Think of Microsoft Word's "Word Art" feature on steroids. Times a thousand.

So what does all of this have to do with perseverance? This is where the story gets interesting. TypeStyler was a favorite of both mine and lots of other people back in the 90's. And then... Apple's new operating system "OS X" came out in 2001 and everything changed. A completely new operating system written from the ground up, OS X threw some developers for a loop. Apple had promised its developers that making the change would be easy. As is often the case, that often proved to be more hyperbole than fact.

While most of the software people relied on eventually made the transition, TypeStyler wasn't one of them. All the company would say is "we're working on it." When Steve Jobs came out during a presentation a year later with a coffin representing the unequivocal death of its previous operating system, it didn't help matters.

Year after year passed, with no word on the future of TypeStyler other than a few cryptic messages. Most fans of the program gave up hope it would ever reappear. To make matters worse, Apple made the switch to the Intel platform in 2005, making it even more difficult for some programmers.

And then like a phoenix rising from the ashes, after nine years Strider Software announced that on October 15, 2009, TypeStyler for OS X would go on sale. The news stunned many in the Mac community, who had long given up the program for dead. They obviously don't know the Stillmans! Veteran Mac columnist Ted Landau waxed rhapsodic over the return of TypeStyler, while MacWorld and InfoWorld couldn't wait to review it.

Ken Stillman still does the bulk of the programming while brother Dave takes care of marketing, PR, sales and documentation. Even now, he's still writing and tweaking the TypeStyler documentation because the software's capabilities are so deep, yet still intuitive.

Companies may come and go, but the Stillmans and Strider Software are here for the long haul.

I'll be hosting the May 5th monthly meeting of the non-profit MacValley Users Group, where Dave Stillman himself -- aided by associate Peter Christensen -- will demonstrate TypeStyler for Mac OS X. Dave is flying in from Green Bay, WI just for the event. If you are in the LA area and can join us, we'd love to see you!

MacValley Users Group

Wilkinson Senior Center

8956 Vanalden Ave.

Northridge, CA 91324

7:30 pm to 10:00 pm

Strider Software will be offering MacValley members special discount pricing for both new users and previous owners of TypeStyler. And they are also donating a copy to the prize drawing. I've also donated hundreds of dollars worth of prizes to the drawing, so come on out and buy some tickets!

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