Issue #68 - Till Konitzer
Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to Issue #68! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
Deep Dish Swift is a brand new conference being held in Chicago April 30th to May 2nd in 2023. The conference aims to bring togethe Swift and iOS developers of all experience levels and backgrounds in an inclusive environment to share knowledge and experience from a diverse set of speakers. The first day is focused on indie development and and the next two are focused on Swift and iOS!
Today’s Spotlighted Indie Devs
📆 Today I’m featuring Till Konitzer.
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
1) What is your name? Where do you live?
My name is Till. I live in Vancouver, Canada but I’m originally from Munich, Germany.
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
I started my BA in Economics in Canada and finished it in Germany. I’m slowly working on my Master’s degree in CS. It’s on the back burner right now as Essayist is taking up a lot of time but I hope to get back to it in the next year. I’ve been an indie developer for the last 10+ years. I love to travel, although that has been rather difficult the past couple years. And I love my cat 🐱!
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
Yes! In fact, I’ve only ever been an indie developer. I’ve been fortunate enough that this has been my only job.
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
My dad’s love of technology had a big impact on me. He always had the latest Apple products and I loved playing around with them. I remember I watched one of the first Keynote’s about the App Store and saw a video of an indie developer testing a game he made on the bus and then going home and working on it, and I thought “that’s what I want to do!” I was going to school in Canada and was here on a student visa that didn’t allow me to work so I started looking into app development as a potential means to make some money (not sure if that was allowed, it was a little bit of a grey area). There was so much opportunity in the App Store at that time because there were very few apps. My first app was a simple Templates for Pages app. Coding-wise I had really no idea what I was doing, but the app worked and made a little bit of money.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
Honestly, I’m terrible at balancing my time. Especially since the inception of Essayist I’ve had a really hard time doing anything other than working on it. It doesn’t help that it’s difficult to travel currently as that’s usually when I have breaks. My thought process is always: after this next update I won’t work so hard. But this never actually happens. I’m constantly working on better work/life balance. If anyone has any tips or suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them!
6) Essayist - I’m no longer in an academic environment so I don’t need to write MLA or APA essays but this app would have been an insta-download for me back in my school days! It’s so easy to get started and use. Citations are just so easy to make 😊 What got you interested in creating an academic writing app? Were you writing a lot of essays at the time and wanted something easier yourself? 😉
My partner, Erin, and I actually came up with the idea of Essayist about five or six years ago but we weren’t confident enough in our skills at that time to bring it to life. I can’t remember what exactly triggered the idea. I have some old Keynote mockups of our vision at the time that are really funny to look back on. We definitely weren’t ready to develop it and needed these years in between to become better at what we do.
When the pandemic hit and I was working on my thesis we felt like it was the right time to revisit the idea. We spent eight months building Essayist and I used it to write my thesis, which was a great way to test it out in a real life setting. It really did save me a lot of time. My partner had to write a lot of essays for her BA and is very familiar with the struggle of formatting essays. It is really surprising to us that there hasn’t been a lot of change in the area of academic writing in terms of streamlining the process.
7) Essayist - I think the majority of my sources back in the day were books 🦖 I see that Essayist has a Google Scholar integration which looks amazing! Is Google Scholar what most students use? I’m curious if you have any other insight on how much other mediums are used these days?
Within Essayist, most users use the built-in Google Scholar search to find sources. We also recently introduced the ability for users to paste a link from a source directly into Essayist and we find as much information as we can from that link and format the source for them. Most of our users cite journal articles and websites in their papers.
8) Essayist - What has been the hardest thing about making a cross platform document editor? And especially one focused on academic writing? I can’t imagine some of the things you’ve come across 😅 What has been the most fun thing to work on?
We started with the iOS version of Essayist and always planned on using Catalyst for the macOS version. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out and we re-wrote the entire app in AppKit. We are hoping to start using SwiftUI for various aspects soon to share more code between iOS and macOS. Another difficulty was achieving the page layout on iOS. We couldn’t use UITextView and had to implement a custom text editing view, which had a bit of a learning curve. The most fun aspect was the citation UI. We were very much inspired by Xcode’s code completion. Making inserting citations so seamless felt very rewarding.
9) Essayist - Also, congrats on getting Apple’s App of the Day 🥳 I think is where I actually got introduced to Essayist. Getting App Of the Day is one of my dreams! What was the feeling like?! I feel like I’d stress way to long on getting the perfect promotional artwork 🙃
Getting App of the Day was surreal. I’ve dreamed of just being featured by Apple in any capacity for the past 10 years, let alone becoming App of the Day! There wasn’t a lot of time to really process it, though, because, as you mentioned, we had to concentrate on creating the perfect artwork for it. I think I lost 10 years of my life stressing about the artwork! We spent lots of time looking for a designer to realize our vision, and we eventually connected with Anastasiia Kolenchuk. She is an incredibly talented individual and such a pleasure to work with. She took a lot of stress out of the process (I highly recommend her!). I probably opened the App Store every 20 minutes the day Essayist was App of the Day and made sure to open it one more time before going to bed.
10) Essayist - I have a thing for awesome app icons and logos and Essayist’s are 😍 I love love love how the three paragraph lines make up the “E” is “Essayist”. Genius 🤯 So simple. So clean. So perfect. Not really a question but have this 🏆
Thank you! I wish I could take credit for coming up with it but it was an amazing logo designer, Juanjo Marnetti, based out of Argentina. We really wanted to keep it simple but recognizable. And not a pen 😝. Check out his profile here: https://dribbble.com/juanjomarnetti. He is super talented!
11) Essayist - What’s next?! Do you have any future features that you can share with us? 😁
Yes! Next week we will be introducing Chicago citation style to Essayist, which will also include footnote/endnote support. Footnotes are notoriously difficult to format in other word processors. Essayist will format the footnotes and bibliography automatically, which we think our users will find pretty helpful. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into this update and it will be our biggest one since launch in January 2021. We have a lot more updates planned for Essayist in the future so stay tuned!
12) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What’s most fun part of being an indie dev?
The hardest part and the most fun part of being an indie dev for me is the same thing, and that’s the freedom. It’s great to be able to make your own schedule and work from anywhere. My partner and I have really taken advantage of that aspect of our work in the past. We’ve lived all over the place, including Germany, Spain, Argentina, Vietnam and Australia. But at the same time, making your own schedule makes it incredibly hard to shut down. If I was employed somewhere I think it’d be easier to work 9 to 5, and outside of those hours just relax.
Also, the feeling of creating something that didn’t exist before and having people appreciate your creation is phenomenal.
13) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
I’m very outspoken about the “three finger drag” gesture on macOS. It’s the right way to drag things!
I’m proud to be able to call myself an indie dev. It’s a community that’s not primarily driven by monetary goals but creating world class products with limited funds.
14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
Definitely follow Kai (@airkai) and Malin (@malinsundberg) (who previously did an interview here) of Orbit! Their app is so cool, useful and beautifully designed. Also check out Hendrik (@pocketpixels) and Chris (@chrisvasselli) and their apps.
Indie Dev Stuff From Around The Web
Here is another amazing indie dev comic from our friends over at @IndieLifeComics 👇
Phone Sizes pic.twitter.com/HclaQiO0Xb— Indie Life Unfolding (@IndieLifeComics) October 4, 2021
Newly Released and Updated Indie Apps
Here are some newly released and newly updated apps from this past week! If you would like to possibly see your app in this list, please submit your app to the look at me form 👀
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