Everything Else

Helix 6.1.4, RADE and 6.1.5

31 August 2009 — While all of what you are about to read is true, please bear in mind that there is a slight “tongue-in-cheekiness” to this summer-ending Helix sermon.

At long last, the end of the Helix 6.1.4 beta testing cycle has arrived. Version 6.1.4 is now available as a free upgrade for those of you who already own Helix 6.1 products, and as an upgrade purchase if you are still back in 6.0 or earlier.

Way, way back on August 18th, which seems like aeons ago, we told our beta testers of our intention to release this version on the 31st and asked them to “beat the @%*! out of these products as far as you are able and report your findings ASAP. The only thing that will stop this train is a show-stopping, Server-crashing, Engine-crashing, Client-crashing, file-corrupting, easily repeatable error. If you find one of these, we need to know about it right away.” As they say on the TV news, “That’s a direct quote.”

You might well ask, “Why the tone of impatience?” Perhaps we stand on ceremony a bit too much with respect to our promises to you, but one of them has always been to make these updates available to you as soon as they are ready, and we have worked hard to honor that promise whenever we can.

The bet is still on

And yet, once again nearly four months have passed since our last update. We can only talk so much (and only take so much of a beating from those who hate to read what we write). So this time, we didn’t stop to tell you about the interim steps. We’ve had the all-new Power Query working since mid-June, but we wanted this release to also include the completion of the next phase of the Document Management revisions and that turned into one of those ‘snowdrifts’ that stretched out into a two month long project. But that gave us time to fix many more bugs and polish some other areas of the code, making this release a significant improvement over Helix 6.1.3.

So at last we can give you both the new Power Query (click here to read the full technote or just watch the introductory video on the right) and the rest of the advanced Document Management tools* and we can finally get back to RADE and let the real future begin.

For those of you who have sent us emails recently with subject lines like “Are you still there?” or “Awfully quite in Helix cyberspace,” we’ll tell you what we always say: Not only are we still here, we’re still one of the few Mac products that has always been here.

Now, with the possible exception of our wonderful beta testers, we understand better than most people realize what a thankless task this can be, but a bet is a bet and our bet still looks good: there wasn’t another development tool like Helix when we got this process going back in December of 2002 and, to the best of our knowledge, there still isn’t one yet.

And while we seem to go out of our way to reward those who help us and who have stayed with us, upgrade to upgrade, and helped keep this crusade afloat, we also understand better than most what a difficult time everyone is having and how difficult it is to best allocate limited resources. In fact, that’s one of the exercises we’ve prepared for you today, more about which below.

We’re toolmakers. What we’re about is putting the best possible tool in people’s hands. And when we do finally get this thing 100 percent done and 100 percent right, everyone who has ever used Helix will stand to benefit, and a whole new generation of Helix users can be welcomed to the table.

Wait! Did they say just it’s still not 100%?

That’s right. Remember that we also promised to tell you the truth. While these 6.1.4 products contain all the functionality we have slated for the Helix 6.1.x product line, they will continue to carry the "Preview" moniker until we release 6.1.5. (See below.) But first, let’s talk about RADE.

Work on RADE has now begun in earnest. It will likely be some time before there’s anything is ready to show you, but we are currently hard at work building the foundation. As we have taken stock of the situation, we have realized (nearly to our despair) that this may be another lengthy process. In an effort to turn this to our advantage, we are once again soliciting input from you. Before you head into the Helix casino now and place your bets, please finish reading this edition of The Latest Word, but once you are done, head on in and place your bets.

So while there may yet be a long stretch of development ahead for RADE, we are confident that the bulk of the awful, miserable “zero-fun” work is already behind us. Things are heating up here, and three projects are currently going on simultaneously:

  1. RADE development, as noted above, is underway again. And, as promised in this column before, it will be made available in Preview Releases, just as the Helix Engine and Client have been. However, there will be no “free lunch” this time around. We’re going to have to pay for the development work, and only those users who keep their Helix licenses current will be able to join this party. (So if you are hanging back in 6.0 or earlier, upgrade to 6.1 now!)
  2. Performance is finally getting some of the attention it deserves. We are now directing resources expressly toward improving the overall performance, particularly the list performance, of the macOS Client and Engine. We know many people consider lists unusable in their current state and our goal is to eliminate that problem once and for all.
  3. Bug Fixing is not being neglected. As you can see from the Helix 6.1.4 Preview Release What’s New and Bug Fixes pages, Helix 6.1.4 continues our pattern of providing numerous new features and bug fixes in each release. Some bugs remain unfixed but most of them are either relatively minor or have easy workarounds. What you won’t see on that list are the apparently random crashes that some beta testers report. We chose not to keep this release from you any longer even though we know it is not 100% perfect, but rest assured that fixing these remains important, even while macOS performance improvements and macOS RADE are becoming our top priorities.

Our current plan is to release “Helix 6.1.5” — an updated macOS Client and Engine — with performance improvements (and bug fixes) before this year is over. We now know that RADE won’t see the light of day in 2009, but we should have a very good idea of how hard the road will be in time for our annual New Years Eve message. Achieving all three of these objectives is not a project that can be completed in a few short weeks or even a couple of months, so your patience will be desired and much appreciated along the way.

* Two of the Document Management commands, Work on Original and Work on Copy remain undone, but we have bigger plans for those and want to defer them until RADE is fully revived and running in macOS. (Return to Article)

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