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Idea for an app..want feedback

Ive been thinking about starting a side project, and I want to hear what you think.

Ive been playing with a program called synthedit (screenshot: )
In synthedit, the components of a synth is represented by boxes with connectors and the user basicly builds a synthesizer by hooking the components together and then assigning controls to them to make a gui.

The other part of the idea comes from the standard nix shell bash where you can hook programs together by using pipes to connect their standard input/output interfaces.

See where Im going yet?

Essentially, I would make modules like file-load/save/copy/move/delete, file search, apply regexp, Get-HTTP, Get/Put-FTP, ziping, Listing files/dirs and various other information retrival functions.
The connetions could be text, numerics, triggers and possibly sequenced or tabularized data.

And ofcource a graphical interface where you draw lines between the modules. Kind of like a visual scripting environment, except that modules that need it would have visual controlls assigned to them which form a gui for the script.

On nix this would be redundant, but on windows I think it might be quite useful. What do you think?

Eric DeBois
Monday, February 2, 2004

You might like to check out this page,, which mentions a cool idea similar to yours.  The difference is, that idea morphed in Visual Basic!

John Rusk
Monday, February 2, 2004

Check out SQL server's DTS package editor for another example of how this could be done (and shouldn't be as far as usability is concerned.)

Something like that would also work good for an image processing application (filter, resize, rotate, overlay, convert, ...) I'd be surprised if someone hasn't already done this.

Big B
Monday, February 2, 2004

Who is your target audience?

For example, is it really the case that there are those who want to program a concept like "apply regexp", but would prefer to do it in a graphical way rather than simply using a traditional scripting and/or programming language?

I'm skeptical :)

Mike Treit
Monday, February 2, 2004

>>Who is your target audience?

umm, Me and people who are just like me!  =)

Maybe I should have mentioned that this is mostly for fun and will probably be GPL or something.

Regexps is just a way to get a great deal of functionality without having to do a shitload of coding. Im looking to use alot of freely available libs and stuff and just write the framework.

Eric DeBois
Monday, February 2, 2004

Go for it, see what happens.

Just a few questions though. How does someone do a diff on two or more scripts? How do you copy & paste? How do you copy a brilliant piece of code off of a newsgroup?

Just as a note, you might want to check's on the tip of my fingers, but I can't remember it now.

They have a graphical interface for writing simple code, such as loops, etc., for the hardware dev/testing market.

This is going to bug me all night now...

Monday, February 2, 2004


That's what I was trying to remember. Phew, now I can sleep...

Monday, February 2, 2004

I remember seeing products a lot like this. You might want to drop by and ask in the forums there, one of the admins is really into synths and would probably have a lot of interesting feedback.

Disclaimer: I own and that admin is someone I know personally.
Monday, February 2, 2004

ps... Feedback, that's funny.
Monday, February 2, 2004

Without even commenting on the merits of the application, I 'd say go for it if you don't have any other projects to do.

I've lost track of the number of fun personal applications that I've started on, then quit. But each time I learned something and kept sharpening my skills.

Learn. Go have fun. Go do it. Even if it's been done before.

Mark Hoffman
Monday, February 2, 2004

Isn't SmallTalk programmed graphically? There are dozens of such applications in music, circuit design, math analysis, laboratory testing equipment setup programs and application programming.

Dennis Atkins
Monday, February 2, 2004

">>Who is your target audience?

umm, Me and people who are just like me!  =)"

Ummmm.... if YOU are the target audience, then why are you asking for *our* opinions?

(I really do want to know - are you looking to meet the needs of someone besides yourself and people like you, or are you looking for technical insight on the internal workings of your program?)

The real Entrepreneur
Monday, February 2, 2004

As someone who worked on a flowchart style product, I can tell you right away that the big limitation is in the UI clutter. It won’t matter too much if you use just 10 boxes but if you have to insert 100 boxes to make your application work, it becomes annoying, first to drag, drop and position the boxes and second to follow all the links inside and outside the screen area. Writing 100 lines of code is much faster.

Tuesday, February 3, 2004


I like the idea,  sort of like Informatica (expensive and nice) or SQL DTS (cheap and nasty) but broader.  I'd give it a go.

So would it 'export to .bat'?

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

>>Ummmm.... if YOU are the target audience, then why are you asking for *our* opinions?

Basicly because while the idea seems good to me, there may be something about it that makes it hard, boring or useless. So, Im asking basicly to get other perspectives on the idea. And the answers have been good so far.

Koz >
I dont think Ill bother with BAT-files. The 'scripts' would have yo be able to use dlls and display UI componenets.

Eric DeBois
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

I was going to write something similiar using Delphi a few years ago (seriously). I got as far as creating a quick IDE prototype when something else came up. I was also going to have a timer component that you could plug in.

John Topley (
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Buzz ( does that for tracking. Take a look at how it works from a GUI perspective.

I have to agree with the point about housekeeping. When you get hundreds of boxes it may be a pain to keep everything neat.

Gavin van Lelyveld
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

I worked with a output management product called FormScape which used a tree based development environment. You could add objects to the tree and drag them around, providing you worked within the available objects it was very productive.

One of the original requirements it didn't satisfy though was for end users to be able to use it, although it was nice and easy to navigate most non programmers just can't deal with the logic of writing an application.

Tony Edgecombe
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

I would say the people who are into this kind of thing are typically used to odd user interfaces and may actually enjoy something that feels obscure and that they have to coax something out of.

Of course there's another wider audience who just wants the sounds without any diffculty, just twiddle knobs and have fun.

I don't really see any problem with the flow chart UI. Add a slick GUI to it and it's not much different from what synth guys do in real life. If you've ever played with Reason you know what a slick UI looks like for this kind of thing, you can plug in / unplug boxes in a very realistic way:
from the page

The cables even bounce up and down as you move them, and look at the masking tape with sharpie.

What the synth guys want is control, and the more ways you can let them control their sound the happier they are.
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Am I misreading you here and this *isn't* an audio app? lol.
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Do it Eric!

A flowchart editor for piped scripting would be really cool.  Also, a 'pipe monitor' to see what gets sent when running interactively would be cool.

i like i
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Great input guys.. and marktaw, no its not an audio app, its the same concept but with system utillities for modules instead of DSP stuff. =D

John Topley > timer functionality would probably be great. You could for example make automated backaup scripts in minutes.

Im looking to make this a very high level thing though, or I'd be better off just installing python.

Eric DeBois
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Your idea sounds exactly like Ab Initio, a very expensive  extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) software used in large enterprise data warehousing projects. I would tell you to check  for more information, but their web site is unusual for a software company in that it doesn't really tell you much about the product.

Other products/companies playing in the same space are Informatica and Ascential (used to be Informix). They all charge an arm and a leg, so there is probably room for a cheaper tool that will do 70% of the work for a fraction of the cost.

Miguel Barrientos
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Shows you what I get for reading 1/3 of a post and looking at the screen cap and skimming the rest.
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

"I would tell you to check  for more information, but their web site is unusual for a software company in that it doesn't really tell you much about the product."

--You can say that again, I get a 404 error! When I was researching the idea myself, the closest I could find was OpalisRobot, see

John Topley (
Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Lots (all?) of the big iron CRM packages (Siebel, etc.) have similar graphical scripting tools.  They're for marketing types to "program" the business rules for a particular campaign.  They look and great and are easy to use ... at first.  The trick comes in as soon as the user wants to do something "complicated," where "complicated" means "not exactly what the program intended."  What they then have is ways to mix in little lines of script with the boxes, but then you're mixing metaphors and it gets difficult.

As someone else mentioned, it also becomes cumbersome when there are lots of boxes and you have to scroll your screen around to see it all.  Inevitably, some lines get stretched out to where you lose perspective of the logic flow.

So basically, it's a great idea, but in practice it falls apart.  If you are sure that the entire problem domain can be handled by a reasonable number of boxes, then it can be a great tool.  Unfortunately, those types of problem domains are few and far between.

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

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