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Kevin Walzer, software developer.



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Sun, 18 May 2008

Manpower 1.0

I've just released Manpower, which provides a GUI for viewing man pages on OS X.

This isn't the first program of this type that I've developed. For two years I developed VuMan, another man page viewer--first as open source, then as commercial software, then put out to pasture as open source again.

If you download and play with VuMan, you'll see that it has a somewhat clunky interface. I could never decide what I wanted the program to be--a viewer? A browser? A complete listing of man pages on your system? A tool for saving man pages in various formats? It did all of these things, but it made the program somewhat difficult to use. VuMan was also sluggish, calling out to multiple Mac command-line tools any time a user pressed a button.

Manpower is significantly different than VuMan. It lists all the man pages on your system, but it uses a more coherent design: it uses the same three-pane interface that Apple's Mail program, and iTunes, use. Man pages come up with a click of the mouse, not with selecting and pushing multiple buttons. Manpower also saves man pages, but only in basic text format.

Simplicity is the key here. By simplifying the feature set and design of the program, I think I've made it much easier and more pleasant to use. I have a few ideas of additional features to add, but they will be added sparingly--in a way that is consistent with the lightweight design of the program.

Not coincidentally, Manpower's simplicity and elegance is why I think the program justifies a $19.95 price tag. There are a lot of free man page viewers out there, but they either do less than Manpower, or are (in my view) more complicated to use. I don't think there's a free man page viewer out there (including VuMan) that is as clean and elegant as Manpower. I hope you'll agree.

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