Amar Sagoo

11 January 2014

5 years later…

Wow, that was longer between posts than I had intended.

Seriously, though, I'm sorry for the long silence, and for the lack of updates to my software. I'm going to tell you a bit about what's happening with my apps, my life and this blog.

So what’s been going on?

After many years of working mainly as a software engineer with a passion for design, I managed to fulfil my dream of becoming a full-time interaction designer in 2011 by joining Google. I moved from London to Switzerland to join their office in Zurich, where I live today.

Previously, my creative energy needed an outlet outside my job, which my free Mac and iOS apps provided. Since becoming a full-time designer, I feel that much less of my capacity has been available to put into extra-curricular projects.

Let me tell you my plan for each of my apps. There is a general theme of retirement, but I think these are the right decisions to make, and, as I explain at the end, I intend to direct my energy into efforts that I hope will be of more benefit.


As I mentioned in a previous post, I suspected that the writing was on the wall for Namely (my app launcher for Macs) after Apple introduced application search as part of Spotlight. At some point I thought I'd give Spotlight a fair shot, and started using it instead of Namely. The truth is I haven't gone back to Namely since. I think Spotlight's personalised ranking works very well; I feel just as efficient as I did with Namely. It also has the advantage that system preference panes are included, which is a feature I had planned to add.

The only advantage I can still see to Namely is that it is more focused: in Spotlight, the other results appearing below the list of applications can be distracting. However, this minor advantage does not seem worth the effort of updating Namely with some much-needed improvements (making it a faceless app and including preference panes). I think Spotlight is now good enough that my help is no longer needed in this particular area.


If you are a user of Cambio, my iOS unit converter, you may already have noticed that it is no longer available on the App Store. This is mainly due to the fact that, to avoid a conflict of interest with Google, I would have to create an Android version if I wanted to keep supporting the iOS version. I haven't been able to make that time investment. Also, I believe that the most efficient way to do conversions nowadays is using speech in Google Now or Siri. So I'm not sure I would use my own software much anymore, which is usually a bad sign to me.


Tofu is probably my most popular app. It arranges text in a horizontal array of columns, which is intended to make it easier to read long texts, by avoiding vertical scrolling.

However, more and more reading happens on tablets rather than on Macs, and here, plenty of solutions exist that offer some of the same strengths as Tofu.

I still sometimes receive emails from enthusiastic users. (I'm sorry to those I haven't replied to individually.) Many have suggested open-sourcing Tofu to allow the community to improve it further. However, in light of what I said, I'm not sure a need still exists for it. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments if you disagree. (Note that even if there's strong support from you, I cannot guarantee that I'll maintain it further, since other constraints may limit my ability to do so.)


Although I myself still use Licensed to manage my software licenses, I think it's becoming less and less relevant as fewer and fewer apps require license codes, instead using mechanisms like the Mac App Store. I'm therefore not planning any significant improvements to it. However, before I completely stop supporting it, I would like to add an export function, so that users can get their data out and into other tools such as a spreadsheet.

Deep Notes

Deep Notes is a tool for making hierarchical lists that I created about 10 years ago, when to-do lists were flat and outliners too heavy. Maybe this is still the case, but I think the different use cases for Deep Notes are now well served (and often better served) by other tools. Plenty of apps and web sites exist for creating to-do lists, and they offer features Deep Notes doesn't, such as reminders. For more complex needs, creating a text document with a multi-level list or with headings is a more powerful solution, and doesn't require you to learn special shortcuts like Deep Notes does. Also, many of these alternatives offer cloud-based syncing and multi-platform support, something I would not be able to offer. I therefore consider Deep Notes "archived".

This blog

One of the things that moved me to finally resurface is that I've been thinking a lot about design in the last couple of years, and there are a lot of things I'd like to write about. I therefore plan to start publishing articles again. (Update: here's the first one.)

For more frequent and shorter thoughts and updates, you can also follow me on Twitter.


wedjyt netjeru said...

I just wanted to say that I still love and use Tofu regularly and it remains one of the first programs I download on a fresh install. If you do not want to maintain it any further, it's completely understandable, but I really do think releasing the code is the way to go. You gave us a fabulous App, and I'm sure there would be someone out there willing and able to take care of it if you can't anymore.

Thanks for everything and I really hope your life continues to be great!

Kelvin said...

I'd like to agree with the above comment on Tofu. It's simple, lightweight, and fulfills a function on laptops that I can't find elsewhere.

Given the Mac programmer community, I'm sure it would be easy to find competent people who would be happy to keep Tofu up-to-date with periodic new OS X releases.

merle said...

Another happy user of Tofu here, wanting to thank you for many excellent years of reading texts with Tofu.

The way you approached reading is still unmatched by many programs; to be able to set your own columns and advance column by column, all this in a clean interface. Over the years I've often been happy when reading, knowing I could do so undisturbed by distracting icons and awkward formatting.

So thank you very much, and good luck in your endeavours!

I'd been looking for an update since under Mavericks Tofu sometimes skips ahead a few columns when using the keyboard, but now I know this I will try and look for a replacement program. Maybe it's out there.. however much I doubt this. ;) If Tofu could be released as some sort of FOSS I'd be sure to return to it.

Scipio said...

I think the different use cases for Deep Notes are now well served (and often better served) by other tools."

Oh my gosh are you kidding me?

I love Deep Notes and have never found anything that even approaches its utility!

I use it all the time for classifying things. Not everything is a 'to-do' list, ya know!!!

Spencer said...

I think open-sourcing any apps you are retiring would be a great idea. Tofu especially!

Michel said...

Dear Amar, I cant't believe Deep Notes is no longer supported. You underestimate your creation. Great hierarchical utility. But I understand your time is precious. I hope it will still function if I update my system. Never used it as a to-do list. Never joined the cloud fad. Thanks for having taken the time to program this little jewel and still making it available.

adrian charles said...

Another Tofu user. I think I emailed you a few years ago, and I've been visiting your website every six months or so, hoping for a sign that your lovely app won't be incompatible with my next MacOS system update.

Consider this another plea for Tofu to be open-sourced if you don't think you can maintain it any longer.

I have and use Calibre, but Tofu is just nicer for actual reading on my Mac.

Christian said...

Dear Amar, i want to send you a BIG THANK YOU for all your effort you put in Namely. I use it every day some several hundred times and it is still one of the first applications i install on my new Macs. As you mentioned, there is spotlight, and yes it also searches for apps. BUT he simplicity of your app is exactly what makes it so beautiful.

Thank you and all the best at google.


Anonymous said...

Cambio is fantastically useful, especially because, when travelling internationally, I (like many) have data roaming disabled (it's just too expensive). I can run Cambio without a data connection. I can't use Google or ask Siri without data.

Please make Canbio open source.

Anonymous said...

Tofu is still one of the first programs I add to new Macs. An earlier poster noted the skipping ahead problem. It's minor compared to the value Tofu provides!

The problem with open sourcing it is that you, Amar, would lose control. Now you know what people are getting when they get Tofu. You can associate your name with it without concern.

Looking at many of my favorite open-source tools with forking and disputes and bloat, I can understand why you might leave it as is. Right now it hits a sweet spot for many people.

merle said...

I agree with Anonymous above here, Tofu is worth even with the skipping ahead problem. I said I'd look for a newer program, and I did.. didn't find it.

I still use Tofu even with the skipping ahead issue because I came up empty. Tofu is still plain ( ;) ) better than anything else at the moment.

Can't but share Michel's opinion: You are too modest about your software. I'll be using Tofu until it doesn't work anymore. :)

Anonymous said...

It's funny you now work at Google. I've been desperately trying to get some kind of functional outline capacity out of any of the options in Google Docs and finally gave up and turned to freeware, and only found your DeepNote today. I'm hoping it solves my issues (which are quite immediate).

However, since you do now work at Google, maybe you could see if you could build or suggest some clear outlining tools into the GoogleDoc/Drive/(whatever it's called now) resources, or if they already exist, suggest something to show them up more clearly, since the best I could come up with was fumbling around with numbered lists in Doc mode. :-P

Héctor Lecuanda said...

Hi.. Please open source Tofu... wonderful app, and i am sure some new coders like me will find wisdom in the source code beyond what the app itself provides... (Design, code organization, etc)

Obsinguod said...

Achievement unlocked! Looking forward to your smartphone that looks like a chestnut to keep people on task...or maybe widgets for phones with the Dolby Brite (8000 NITS?) aggression feature.

That pdf spec is quite the read...ClearView is getting good reviews lately; if cloud readers and note apps haven't completely eclipsed it, that and 80 other current pdf applications can surely pick up where Tofu looks best in ResEdit?

ORG 7 mode (SLIME? No slime?) for Google Docs sounds like a thing. And it is for tasks but of course the Docs API rabbit hole turns through a warren of other brainfiles and other mindmapping notions before asking if you'd like vim support (and what Mac workouts and fabrics you'd like on that.)

Cabrio...he needs a proxy app?

Anonymous said...

I love Cambio for its perfect simplicity, and it’s still defending its spot on my homescreen. Other conversion apps I’ve tried usually have one or more additional steps before showing a result, or hurt the eye with a ton of useless chrome (or both).
Cambio keeps crashing when I try to delete a favourite, and it (obviously) lacks retina optimised and support for the iPhone 5/5S’s taller screens, so I’ll give it 4 1/2 stars ;)

Robert Hencke said...

I still use Tofu and love Tofu. I have yet to find an app that meets that sweet spot of simplicity, customizability and usability like Tofu does. Would love to see an open-source version, if you don't have bandwidth to maintain it.

Bojan Seles said...

Tofu is one of the most unique app concepts I've ever encountered -- not kidding -- and an unparalleled app in design and practical use. I've been returning, hoping for an update for many years now. Please Amar, open source it -- don't let it go to waste. Whichever way others take it further is still better than letting the app slowly die.

Plus, with open-sourcing there is hope that it will be ported to other computer platforms. I would love to see Tofu on Android or Windows, and immortalised on Linux.

Anonymous said...

"However, more and more reading happens on tablets rather than on Macs, and here, plenty of solutions exist that offer some of the same strengths as Tofu."

Which iOS apps provide columns?

Monk Zungzin said...

I think your Tofu is most useful and joyful s/w.
Thank you a lot!
May the force be with you. :)

voyager said...

Here's another vote for Tofu, and here's why. There's a well-used and -maintained site out there for people interested in stars ( Not a high priority site, unless you're into stars, but if you are… And the site uses the absolute basic html, so that the info on every star is just solid text, as wide as the screen. Could the professors use a web designer? Sure. But on the other hand, we star enthusiasts could use Tofu.

There are a zillion sites out there. Not all of them are built for tablets, and who knows if they ever will be? IMHO, Tofu is never going out of style.

yclipse said...

Another in favor of Tofu. I use it on a desktop Mac and a MacBook Air. The fact that there might be similar reading apps for iPad seems to me to be irrelevant.

I think an alternative to open-sourcing the software is to find it a new home, in the hands of someone who can give it the attention it deserves.

batmanu said...

Thanks for a great app (Namely). It was really helpful. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Count another extremely happy tofu user here. Thank you very much for making it in the first place, and it is perfectly understandable that you would want to sunset it, but please do consider open sourcing it or giving it some other possible path to survival. A lot of reading does happen on iPads nowadays, but I believe there will always be room for a Mac app. Many's the time I have gotten sick of reading badly formatted web sites and just cut and pasted the lot into tofu just to read cleanly.

Spam Account said...

Tofu still fills a function for me also. Reading text online in the browser is always a bit disorienting. Different fonts, different sizes and page widths. Images, ads etc. But It' still works in El Capitan and I'm not really lacking any features.

Anonymous said...

Glad to know Tofu works in El Capitan. OS Sierra will be available soon and I'm hoping Tofu will work with it, too. I keep a copy on all my Macs.

Just downloaded Deep Notes and it seems to work well in Mavericks. It's a simple, clean, useful, app. Hope these apps keep working on Macs for a long time to come.

Many thanks to Amar for making these great apps available to us.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Spotlight is a serviceable replacement for Namely but Namely does one thing very quickly launches an app. It doesn't throw up a lot of cruft to wade through, it just quickly launches an app. It has been, and hopefully (MacOS Sierra??) will continue to be, my go to app launcher and for that I thank you!