Software Copy-Catting


Those of us long in the Apple Camp are familiar with the trend of Windows platform entities copying our friends in Cupertino. (And yes, I know, the copying goes both ways. Always has. Relax.) The one most will argue about – regardless the stance you take – is the way the operating system ‘wars’ have shaped up in recent years. Another trend is the way the hardware manufactures like to mimic various styles that Apple tends to bring to market first. It’s all perspective, but you get the point I’m making.

Well lately I’ve been noticing another similar trend. My estimation is that the software developers on the Mac side of the computing world have an unusual flair for software design. More so, they have an alternative point of view on the needs that software may be able to fulfill. For instance, back in my Windows days, I’d never even imagined a ‘Launcher’, let alone what it might do for me and my computing experience. But upon moving to the Mac, Quicksilver soon made me realize all that I was missing. And there are several such Launchers for OS X as a matter of fact.

So yeah, OS X supports some really cool software that you just can’t find for our Windows counter-parts. In recent months I’ve seen where developers on the Window side of the house are mimicking some of the great software ideas found on the Mac platform. Launchy is similar in idea to Quicksilver, and now Snarl is a rip-off Windows version of OS X’s Growl. Granted, the developers of the Apple software I mention here may have gotten their inspiration from the likes of Linux, but I’m not as familiar with that side of things. But the naming conventions of these Windows apps (Snarl? Growl?) are awfully inspired, aren’t they?

What other apps have I missed that have been inspired on the Windows platform, by popular OS X examples?



I love linux but the fact that I needed to try *every* distro, and on top of that *every* window system/desktop that grabbed my interest just meant that I never did anything useful.

That’s what I love about OSX. Unix power, customisable/scriptable where you need it to be, and a nice GUI that enables you to just get on with your work.

Of course there is also X11 for OSX, but I have resisted the temptation to install this.


Being a Linux user considering buying a MBP in the near future, I think it’s fair to say that every OS has it’s ups and downs. I personally am not a huge fan of having the toolbar for each window be at the taskbar at the top of the screen, as OS X does things… it will take me a considerable amount of time to retrain my thought processes to use this. I also am not a fan of the fact that Windows and OS X both are fairly rigid in the UI dept, with very little flexibility in design available.

However, on the flip side, Linux suffers from almost the exact opposite problem. Linux’s UI (or really UI’s since you can choose from any number of them) are more customizable than any other OS out there.. the problem is that this leads to disparate libraries of data making different programs look strange. A GTK (Gnome’s native toolkit) will look strange under KDE, and vice versa from QT (KDE’s toolkit) to Gnome. Plus, it’s easy to get caught up in constantly tweaking your UI, to the point where you don’t get anything done!

Anyway, the point is this: what is it you are looking for in a UI? Ease of use? Go Mac. Familiarity? Go Windows. Customizability? Go Linux. (Of course any of the three can fall in each category depending upon how it’s set up).

… /long digression



It’s not weird that there are so called ‘ripp-offs’ in the case of snarl and growl.. Growl is released open-source, so is Snarl.. It’s not ripping off, it’s making a product better, it’s taking the source of one piece of software, and then making it better or porting it to other OS.. It’s not cheating or something..

It would be worse (like in the case of Mediaman) that there are developers who really rip-off other software makers by copying software and making money out of it..


The plugin architecture and resulting flexibility of Quicksilver really make it a non contest when compared to LaunchBar

Pierre Lourens

I agree that is a bigger issue, and yeah: The Snarl / Growl thing is a little cheesy/cheap, and a more imaginative name could’ve been used.


I don’t think picking ‘Snarl’ was an attempt to copy Growl, maybe it was just to indicate for Windows users who had heard of Growl that it was similar.

And as to your second point, I don’t know anything about development, but I think that it’s not only hooks into the OS, but hooks into the individual apps as well that allow for such rich interactions. I don’t know how well something like Yojimbo or Midnight Inbox would work if it had to go through the registry or something.

Nick Santilli

Pierre – I agree. I absolutely respect the people who are trying to bring a better experience to the windows platform. I just thought it was funny that the name ‘snarl’ was used for the windows version of growl.

I think the more serious issue – which I didn’t even touch on, nor do I know enough about to speak to confidently – is whether or not the Windows platform offers as complete a set of tools to hook into the os and make a product like Quicksilver as useful as it is on OS X. maybe some devs can speak to that and enlighten me (or ‘us’).


The inspiration for Quicksilver definitely didn’t come from Linux. The last time I used KDE, there was this “Katapult” program that was /like/ QS, except it did nothing but launching and had no learning algorithm. The UI was even an exact copy of the “bezel” interface.

Sad, really.

Pierre Lourens

I don’t think the two apps that you mentioned were so much as rip-offs as much as trying to offer the same experience in Windows. It’s a compliment to the original developers, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

That being said, development should still be made on other operating systems instead of just copying all the time. The only features of Windows Vista that impress me are the ones not already found in Mac OS X.

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