This is a first in a series of Software/Shareware developer profiles as
presented by MP3-CDBurner.com. Let's get started with a brief profile of
Unrelated Inventions is an umbrella for shareware developed primarily by Andrew
Fish. The name comes from the fact that Andrew doesn't want to be tied down to
writing collections of software with related purposes, preferring to keep his
imagination in tip-top shape by developing a broad range of applications and
using lessons learned developing one to improve the other unrelated inventions.
He also feels that he should develop software which doesn't pander to the
broadest range of people by only including those features which most of them
will use, but to provide for a broad range of people by providing software which
is flexible enough to be adapted to many tasks, providing many unusual features
whilst lacking none of the obviously useful ones. Few people will use all of the
features, but all will benefit from some. Hence the Unrelated Inventions motto: Catering for the
What motivated you to create shareware software?
I never actually intended to create shareware. Audiotools was developed to solve
a particular problem that I faced back in March 1998 and the release as
shareware was an afterthought. After that I was drawn into continuing its
development by the interesting code and by user feedback.
In developing software, what part of the process do you most enjoy?
I love the actual process of working out new algorithms and techniques -
Audiotools is not an off-the-peg package by a long stick of limestone, so
there's a lot of scope for imagination. I also like responding to user comments
- when I used to work at BSS, the marketing manager told me that nobody ever
contacts you just to say how well you've done: well I've got stacks of email
that proves him wrong, so I'm quite happy about that.
Do you have a clear vision of what the end product will be?
Haven't a clue. The software is partially driven by my ideas and interests and
partially by user requests and, since one effects the other, I can't really
predict the future. I'm continually working out ways to increase the feature
count without overburdening the software with complexity, so I imagine that the
"end product", if there ever is one, will have some unique user interface
What is your favourite feature of your software?
In development terms, probably auto-track - it's a very elegant piece of code
and there were some good ideas went into it.
What do you think is the key to developing good software?
Good ears. The key is to listen to your customers - don't blindly take on every
feature that they request as they request it, try to distill it into something
more general which serves a wider set of purposes.
What were some of your setbacks and highlights you encountered in developing
In terms of setbacks, the obvious and periodic one is the unexplained bug. I
have a virtual armoury of tools to help me test Audiotools on different versions
of Windows, but I can't test for different combinations of hardware. There's
nothing worse than a showstopper bug which you can't reproduce. In terms of
highlights, the fact that two of my users have freely given time and effort to
translate the program into French and German and to continue translating as I
make changes is incredible. I just couldn't have predicted that degree of
support when I started out.
What do you find to be the most effective marketing and promotion vehicles of
I don't really focus on marketing or promotion - perhaps I'd be a millionaire if
I had ;-) My main focus is to keep the software going out and make sure that
it's available from a wide range of websites. I occasionally get approached by
magazines who wish to covermount the software and I usually accept those. Most
of my sales come from word of mouth.
What distinguishes your product from others on the market?
In the beginning it was a combination of being a direct-to-disc recorder and
having auto-track. A few programs now contain an approximation of auto-track
now, but I'm told that mine is probably the most effective. Now, I guess that
the sheer weight of features is a big selling point as well as the degree of
customer support I offer. There are lots of little uniquities (if that is a
word) in the software, but it's really up to the user whether those are what
What kind of market research did you perform prior to developing your
I didn't. I don't really go with the idea of looking for a market and developing
a product for it - it's too calculating and it means that you'll have less
interest in what you're doing than in how much money is coming in. Good
shareware works because users are dealing with a fellow enthusiast.
What tools do you use to manage your software development business?
My development is done with Visual C++ 6.0 under Windows 2000 with Visual
Sourcesafe for revision control. I have VMWare for cross platform testing and
use a combination of Microsoft Word and Doc-to-Help 2000 for my help
development. The rest of the operation is handled by a fusion of MS Outlook, MS
Access and a huge amount of home grown VBA code and C++ plugins. It's a real
timesaver having your website, backups and even your release procedure totally
automated and it also removes the likelihood of mistakes caused by shipping the
wrong file (it used to happen occasionally). I used to use Installshield Express
for distribution, but the old version broke on systems which had used installs
from the new version and the new version couldn't be automated as easily, so I
now use my own installer. Finally, for distribution, I have Aid Submission
Genius, PadGen, AddSoft and Submass (all paid for, of course) and for keeping an
eye on my website I use 123 Log analyser. There are other tools I use for
various purposes, but nothing which is development specific.
Where do you see your business/software heading in the future?
I'm branching out into writing now - my other shareware projects haven't met
with the same degree of success as Audiotools and I don't really want to keep
all my eggs in one basket. There may be some more shareware coming in the next
couple of years (I have a couple of products in development) but I imagine that
Audiotools and my books will be my main focus. I even plan to write a book about
Audiotools at some point, to give shareware developers "the inside story" as it
were. Ultimately, I follow the path of least resistance, so my direction in the
future will very much depend on my successes in the present.
That concludes a very insightful conversation with Andrew Fish from
Unrelated Inventions. Please
take the time to visit his web site and check out his software and some of his