Ovation Pro History

Work on Ovation Pro began at the end of 1992. The idea was to do a new version of Ovation for Beebug. Their idea was a modest upgrade, something that might take six months. I only got involved with the project because I enjoyed working with Beebug. Both of us could see the potential at the time for Internet software.

What happened is that the project became an attempt to do the best DTP program, six months turned into six years, all thoughts of Internet software were put to one side.

By this time I'd written several substantial pieces of RISC OS software and had enough experience to do a good job. I'd also written the Ovation DTP program and had learnt from that.

From both my and Beebug's point of view the project was not a success. Although it was finished and worked and sold in some numbers. The money raised was not fair reward for the time and effort put in. Ambition to do bigger and better projects collided with the constant reduction in the size of the Acorn market.

Beebug had full time staff, and the program was supplied as the times demanded with a lot of printed material and a complicated set of cardboard boxes, which someone had been paid to design.

The program was released to end users in 1996, and called complete in 1997 when the "Colour Supplement" was available. There followed another year of fixing bugs, which ended with the demise of Acorn Computers. On the first of July 1999 I took over the program from Beebug having paid them a substantial amount for the software and the remaining printed material.

I spent 2000 upgrading Ovation Pro for RISC OS, the Impression loader, Fill applet. Version 2.60 appeared as a paid upgrade on CD. Previously the program had been on a box of eight floppy discs. As the Beebug stock ran out I had the manual reprinted in a pack originated by Crawford's of Southport. There was also a nice printed script language manual.

In 2001 I commenced work on a port to Windows. The motivation was that I was in possession of a considerable amount of work - code, documentation and I would be unlikely to possess it again, given it had taken 10 years to accumulate. The existing RISC OS users would provide a toe hold in the Windows market and all I had to do is gain 0.0001% market share and I'd be OK.

It took me until late 2005 to get a "finished" version written. Windows has many similarities to RISC OS, but some new stuff had to be written. For example at the time Windows 98 did not support scaling bit maps, Windows NT did. People insisted on support for ancient versions of Windows and of course despite their protestations they were eventually forced to abandon those ancient versions.

There was a excellent printed manual from Crawford's and RISC OS users could buy the Windows version at a reduced price.

The sad truth was that producing a Windows version had taken me years, twice as long as it did to write the original RISC OS version, and deliberately (to save time) the Windows version was a simple conversion of the RISC OS version. I had added no new features and retained code that did not work well. I could not put in the hours I did in the glory days of RISC OS. Also whilst I was writing the RISC OS version I'd been busy with other software, for Windows I did nothing else at all for four years.

At the start of 2006 I embarked on a project to add Unicode to Ovation Pro for Windows. This went well. However at the end of Spring a family health crisis erupted, it turned out OK, but I concluded that I was unlikely to ever be able to put in sufficient time to make the software viable on Windows. At that point I gave up new work on the project and settled for keeping it going.

To a good approximation sales of the Windows version have been limited to former RISC OS users. It is of the nature of the software that there is an unlimited demand for extra features. My biggest mistake was not allowing import/export of MS-Word documents. This blunder goes back to when Acorn funded Icon Technology to add that feature to their Techwriter product for RISC OS and we did nothing to compete. I knew that if I did add MS-Word support, the conversion would be imperfect and there'd be demand for MS-Word formatting features I had no time to add. Whilst I was doing that I should be adding a PostScript interpreter and a million other things.

As to woulda, shoulda, coulda... I should never have written the program in the first place. The biggest mistake I ever made was not burning all my RISC OS hardware and code on the 1st July 1999. I should never have done a Windows version (which was "the Concorde fallacy" made real, sunken costs, throwing good money after bad). I could have done a Mac version. I could have made the project open source in 2006, but it was all I had from many years of hard work, so I clung on to it.

Anyone who has written a 10 line Basic program considers they're a software superman, they can write anything. Alas with Ovation Pro I met my match, simply too big and complicated for me. I pushed myself to the limit in the 90s.

There's lots of things I'd like to do, improvements to the code. A lot of time has passed and along the lines of its better to do something than nothing I half wish I'd carried on, it's not as if I have anything as good to show for my time. But I can't say that if I'd done another 16 years the program would be a success on Windows.

It is a useful piece of software I still often use it, as do other people.

I'm grateful to all the users of my software. Some put considerable effort and money into it. At the end of the day they have not got what they might have wanted.

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Page last modified on August 13, 2022, at 04:44 PM
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