Pleco Desktop

Fernando

举人
I don't think it's very useful to think about which group of users would see themselves unjustly treated. This is about an economic calculation. Making the Mac version free now will create the perception that the windows version should be free as well if it's ever created, preventing it from seeing the light of day if it turns out to be viable at a price. Now if the windows version isn't viable even at a price, then I don't think it should stop the Mac version (either free or paid) from existing. In that case windows users should simply understand that the development costs for their platform are much too high to justify it. If neither version is a sound business proposition, then neither ought to be created, if both are, great, but if the mac version makes sense from a business perspective while the windows one doesn't at any possible price/demand level, then I don't see why the latter should hinder the former.
 

Shun

状元
I feel we are entering a slightly too hypothetical terrain here. Overall, it's great news that a Mac version of Pleco will see the light of day with a very high probability. Does anyone know if there is any move from Google and Microsoft to bring Android apps to Windows? Android is much more different from Windows than iOS ever was from macOS, but with Apple's growing integration across almost all product categories, Microsoft and Google may feel the need to move closer together. In any case, I'm happy that Apple's future looks bright, and I am very curious to see how far they will be able to take the Mac platform with Apple Silicon over the next 5-10 years.
 
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Fernando

举人
If economic talk is a bit too abstract I think we can illustrate the issue with the case of another indie/small-scale developer that makes a very fine app: Scrivener. Those guys started out on Mac many years ago, and at some point they created a windows version of their app. They did create an iOS app, which is also very fine, but their focus is desktop, where they started, so expanding to windows makes perfect sense from a biz perspective. But, as I understand, right now they're having a hell of a hard time bringing their windows app to feature parity with the mac one. They've hired outside help for development but the thing (Scrivener 3 for windows) keeps getting delayed. I have no doubt that their development costs are much higher for windows than for mac, but they still have to sell both licenses for the same price. Right now what you buy on windows is inferior to what you get on mac, a suboptimal situation, but if they waited for feature parity between the platforms to release the app they'd be stuck with a fairly outdated and uncompetitive mac offering. It just seems true, other questionable commercial practices aside, that apple is trying to make it as easy as possible to develop for their platforms, and this trend is just increasing with Catalyst/Apple Silicon macs. Windows is a solid desktop platform, but MS don't have a mobile platform they can draw some momentum from. I can see them doing some deals with google to help them out, but the new trend for them seem to be open source (e.g. new Edge browser).
 

Fernando

举人
Just a quick update on the example I mentioned above: I've been using the release candidate beta of Scrivener 3 for Windows for the past couple of weeks and it's pretty nice. I guess they're finally pulling it off.
 

zhouyi

秀才
My prediction--

Windows will likewise be able to run Android apps, as Mac will run iphone apps.

Microsoft is making an Android Surface phone, Microsoft apps are coming to Google Chrome, and it is not a problem to now run Linux desktop GUI apps on Windows via Windows Subsystem for Linux--as Android is based on a, as I've read, very heavily modified Linux kernal--I would, in my limited understanding, imagine there is no great technological jump to having Android apps running natively on Windows work. More than this, though, it is clear that the feature of running iOS apps on Mac will be a great advantage for that platform. To compete successfully, I would say, Microsoft and Google will have no choice but to cooperate and offer the same mobile->desktop capability. My reasoning being that Chrome OS is in no position to overtake Windows as a dominant desktop platform, and Windows has likewise long since abandoned Windows Mobile ambitions.

All this is to say, perhaps the likely answer is a "lazy" or basic Pleco port to both Mac and Windows from iOS and Android respectively? Needless to say, I am unconvinced by the argument that allowing for a Mac port of the iOS app would prevent the development of a Windows version

I have tried running Android Pleco via Bluestacks on Windows, but the experience was not good--perhaps due to limited RAM on my computer. In my experience using Pleco for translating Chinese texts, it is more satisfying to place an Ipad beside my PC--not only for the smoother experience but also for the extra screen real estate. I have found the problem of integration between the platforms, when copying and pasting text and so on, has not in my experience been annoying enough considering the available workarounds to not think that most would prefer to pay a hundred dollars for a used Ipad or Android tablet to use in tandem rather than pay for a dedicated desktop app.

I am not sure if this is against the Pleco ethos, but perhaps Pleco could consider charging for further upgrades from Pleco version 3 to the expanded version 4? Then native desktop could then be another limited feature for those who paid for the upgrade? I see no other direct way that the Pleco project could fund its continued development in a new way, as in my opinion both an additional desktop port or a web-based or otherwise formatted subscription based version seem as if they would have difficultly competing with Pleco as it is now. So, as I see it, perhaps the program will be victim to its own success--Pleco is such a great program now that I find it hard to imagine how future versions could compete well with Pleco in its current form. Of course, there is room for significant improvement worth financial support, I just think there may be a problem of diminishing returns for development effort as the program achives its basic purpose so well as it currently is.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
I don't really agree there - while iOS and Android are competitors, the strategic purpose of Android for Google is totally different from the strategic purpose of iOS for Apple. Google dutifully continues updating Android because it benefits them to have the primary competitor to iOS be a) open-source and b) friendly to Google's other objectives design/policy-wise, but they have no particular desire to get people using Android APIs on more platforms; they'd much rather see people use web technologies to build cross-platform (and even Android) apps. (Android-on-Chrome was a half-hearted effort on a platform Google seems to have largely lost interest in)

If Google and Microsoft collaborate, it seems much likelier they'll do so with further improvements to PWAs / WebAssembly / etc (in the hopes of dragging Apple reluctantly along and eventually producing a common standard for cross-platform apps) rather than with some sort of Android-apps-on-Windows solution. And to be honest it's at least as likely that an eventual Pleco Windows port will be built on those technologies as it is that it'll be built on actual Windows APIs.

We're not planning to charge existing users to use the functionality they have now on 4.0, but we might charge for some new features, and we certainly might charge people to use it on desktops. And there are a lot of ways we might do that - could be an upgrade fee, could be a subscription, could be a brand new purchase.

Another strategy I've been thinking about recently is whether we might offer the desktop version exclusively through our website for the same price as the mobile app and with the mobile app bundled with it for free (we'd offer it to users who bought our mobile app through the App Store / Google Play for an upgrade fee); basically we'd be paying for ongoing development costs out of the hopefully-quite-large portion of our sales that were moving from the App Store to our website (sparing us Apple/Google's 30% commissions).
 

Fernando

举人
Please don't do subscription. I hate software subscriptions with passion. I think paying for upgrades (e.g. I'd gladly pay for 4.0) or new platforms/functionality is ok, but subscriptions just make me feel like I want to go live on an island without access to any sort of tech. I get the need for a steady stream of revenue and all that, but subscriptions just feel too hostile.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
I'm not generally a fan of subscriptions either, I'm just worried that unlike with mobile we won't see a steady enough stream of new customers on desktop to cover the cost of maintaining it; the relatively small % of Pleco users who are desperate for a desktop version would quickly buy it and then pretty much nobody else would.

Paid upgrades are dicey because it's not really possible to adapt that model on mobile and we need to keep people in sync with file formats / available databases / etc; I'm already nervously contemplating how we're going to handle database incompatibility between 3.x and 4.x for people who have some devices that can run 4.x and some that can't.

But honestly, since Catalyst development thus far is proving easy and fun (Apple made *so* much progress on this in iOS 14) I'm still awfully tempted by the idea of keeping this an indefinite free-if-you-own-the-mobile-version 'beta' on desktops; it's the path of least resistance in a lot of ways, and if we don't charge people for the desktop version then they don't really have a right to complain if it doesn't work that well or if it subsequently declines in quality or breaks on some new version of macOS or whatever. (which actually seems quite unlikely, since most of the things we're doing to make this more desktop-like (mouseovers, key control) are equally useful on iPad and so are things we need to put in the work on anyway for iOS users)

With Windows I'm still increasingly of the opinion that the best strategy there is to wait a year or two for WebAssembly to get a bit more advanced and then do the whole thing as a PWA rather than a native Windows app, so that could end up being some sort of weird web / offline hybrid, in which case the web version (which most definitely would involve a subscription fee) would probably cover the bulk of the development costs.
 
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Shun

状元
Hello Mike, hello Fernando,

great prospects for the future! Just wondering, how could the database incompatibility between Pleco 3 and 4 be an issue? Pleco 4 would of course be able to convert Pleco 3 databases to the Pleco 4 format, and users who are forced to keep using Pleco 3 on some devices could still export parts of their Pleco 4 databases to tab-delimited text files, and then import those in Pleco 3. As a user, I wouldn't expect Pleco to do anything more.

Thanks, regards,

Shun
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
That's all true but I'm not sure if users would be satisfied with that arrangement; we're probably going to offer either a 'Pleco Legacy' app for people who want to keep using the old version, a Pleco Legacy mode within our new app (embed the old app as a framework), or some sort of round-trip export feature provided you keep your 4.0 flashcard profile configured in 3.0 emulation mode. (which we've already done / are already supporting for the sake of people who don't want us to ruin their carefully-constructed flashcard systems)
 

Fernando

举人
I guess that's what Apple is aiming at: if it works well on iPadOS (with keyboard + trackpad support) it will definitely work well on macOS (though the opposite won't be true)

As for Windows, I really have no idea how good, or bad, PWAs can be. What I don't get is this: if people can own the iOS/Mac/Android apps, why would they subscribe to the windows/web version? You mean people will be able to "rent" the databases instead of purchasing the dictionary add-ons outright?
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
I don't think the Windows version would be a subscription in this scenario, only the web version.

The web version would probably come with database sync, in fact in its first release it would likely offer little else besides that, so that would be the reason to subscribe. There might also be an option to rent other Pleco features as part of that.
 

Fernando

举人
I guess the subscription model does make sense for a large enough database of dictionaries. But you probably won't get any input from me on that department. I'm the kind of guy who still buys music CDs and rips them to the hard drive.
 

zhouyi

秀才
Yesterday's Forbes reports, "Microsoft has confirmed that it is working with Google to improve the experience of Progressive Web Apps (PWA) in the mobile operating system."

So, Mike Love is correct here! My limited understanding on this topic is that while PWA's (programmed in HTML, CSS, JSON, and JavaScript--I read) can run through Google Play store, normal more powerful Android apps must be written in other not web-based programming languages (mostly Java, but also other languages--and in Pleco's case, as I understand it, C and C++). Microsoft will abandon their Edge browser for a new Google Chrome based Edge browser in the next Window's update, so they have been helping Google in Chrome development now including web apps.

The problem with Windows, more than the Edge browser though, is the terrible Windows Store. If Windows also sold Android API's for download, less customers would abandon Windows for the Mac/Apple Ecosystem. Moreover, even if Microsoft could negotiate a cut of Google's 30% commission for sales, it seems reasonable to think in consideration of the many desirable Android programs unavailable on the Windows system, that both parties might end up with a few more bucks after giving payment to the software developers tasked to such a project.

I like to idea of downloading and paying to the Pleco website directly, to support independent software developers while giving no cuts to the App Stores of Big Tech. Sounds like the winning strategy!

To take absolute full control though, to bring the impetus of this strategy to its logical conclusion--☆dedicated Pleco hardware☆!

Many moons ago in 2008, I spent an initial year studying Chinese in China using a dedicated electronic dictionary I purchased at an electronics store there for about 600 RMB ($90 USD). This dictionary had a monochrome touch enabled LCD display of not great resolution which folded into a simple clamshell design where there was a smaller second touch screen, a small dedicated keyboard, and housing for a stylus used for writing characters or selecting them on both displays. The only dictionaries I remember it having were Oxford C-E and E-C, and an all Chinese dictionary (could have been Xindai guifan). The brand was Besta, and the design resembled very much the model in this link, though I might have had a slightly different or earlier model. Although "Plecodict," as it was known then on the internet forums about Chinese learning, was of course also around in 2008, most of the other Americans and other native English speakers l knew still did not have smartphones at that time and used these kinds of electronic dictionaries. My first smartphone ever was a Windows Mobile phone, I purchased the following year in 2009, specifically for the purpose of using Pleco and the superior ABC dictionaries it had licensed.

I certainly am not a Luddite, but for all the convivence of having Pleco on a smartphone, tablet, or now a desktop computer, I also see benefit in having Pleco on a format similar to the electronic dictionary I had so long ago. The battery to that device would go on and on and would only rarely (if ever?) require replacement with standard batteries available for purchase anywhere. It did not beep, vibrate, deliver phone calls, browse the internet, or take photographs--yet I found the ergonomic experience of the clamshell design, with the dedicated character writing screen at the bottom, superior to that of using a finger to write characters on a flat device. I also have run into a specific use case of libraries which disallow devices with cameras (that is smartphones) from being used in their reading rooms out of concern of photographs being taken of their collections, so "the Pleco" as I imagine it would have no camera.

The caveat I give to this suggestion is that I am currently located in Tokyo where outdated technology like fax machines, CD and DVD rental stores, and, yes, large sections of electronics stores dedicated specifically to the latest electronic dictionaries by brands like Casio and Sharp are still a thing. So, such an idea does not seem so far-fetched to me in my surroundings. Also, I wouldn't suggest an immediate beginning of a Kickstarter campaign or search for specific wholesale suppliers that could carry out such a design. Rather, for now, perhaps the software design of Pleco across the various formats of desktop and mobile design could somehow benefit in an indirect way from asking such questions as-- what would be the Platonic ideal of hardware to run Pleco? Would it be the same as an iPad or different? Would the handwriting input be on a vertical screen or horizontally flat on the desk? Would it need to be in color? Or would it be e-ink? How could Pleco serve the needs or parents and educators who would want thier children or pupils to have a Pleco but not a smartphone? And so on.

Also, whether on desktop or mobile platform, I think it might look elegant for Pleco to separate example sentences by a pilcrow ¶ at the top of each entry rather than by the vertical lines which runs along the left-hand side of the example sentences in Pleco's current format. Chinese reference works would traditionally use a circle 〇 to mark new entries. So, my vision is that Pleco would make its own stylized pilcrow symbol to mark these example sentences that would somehow resemble a design of European book tradition (§ ⸿ ❡ etc.), would resemble enough the quite imperfect circles of East Asian tradition while also looking a little ☯ in its circular middle as achieved by a stripe and a couple dots, then at the same time--get this--it is also an image of the Pleco fish branding turned 90° counterclockwise! How about that?

Then the slogan for the new hardware: Pleco brings together East and West, Pleco balances yin and yang, a Pleco in every pocket!
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
So, Mike Love is correct here! My limited understanding on this topic is that while PWA's (programmed in HTML, CSS, JSON, and JavaScript--I read) can run through Google Play store, normal more powerful Android apps must be written in other not web-based programming languages (mostly Java, but also other languages--and in Pleco's case, as I understand it, C and C++).
Actually the point of WebAssembly - at least in part - is to eliminate that gap; with WebAssembly you can compile C/C++ code into assembly instructions for a virtual machine that runs in the browser. It could eventually make it possible to ship even quite complicated apps like Pleco entirely outside of any app stores, which is why Google/Microsoft are eagerly collaborating on it and Apple are doing everything they can to slow it down.

☆dedicated Pleco hardware☆
Heh, we actually had a few conversations about that with OEMs in the awkward in-between era when Palm OS was fading but iOS had not yet stepped up to replace it. Not really financially viable in the volumes we deal in, sadly; at best we could basically slap a label and preload our software on somebody's Android reference design and at that point you might as well just buy the cheaper generic version of that design and install Pleco yourself.

Also, whether on desktop or mobile platform, I think it might look elegant for Pleco to separate example sentences by a pilcrow ¶ at the top of each entry rather than by the vertical lines which runs along the left-hand side of the example sentences in Pleco's current format. Chinese reference works would traditionally use a circle 〇 to mark new entries. So, my vision is that Pleco would make its own stylized pilcrow symbol to mark these example sentences that would somehow resemble a design of European book tradition (§ ⸿ ❡ etc.), would resemble enough the quite imperfect circles of East Asian tradition while also looking a little ☯ in its circular middle as achieved by a stripe and a couple dots, then at the same time--get this--it is also an image of the Pleco fish branding turned 90° counterclockwise! How about that?
That actually might be something you can configure yourself in the new extremely flexible entry formatting system in 4.0, but I'm inclined to stick with vertical lines as a default because they're pretty well established to mean 'quotation' nowadays (and our app is unintelligible enough already without working in yet another thing people are unfamiliar with).
 

Arqui3D

举人
Hi, Mike! I would totally get a new Mac just to be able to run Pleco on it. Going from my Mac to my iPhone constantly is, literally, a pain in the neck. And if a product solves a "pain", then it's totally worth paying for.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
I saw that, I'm a little skeptical it'll work without lag / other annoyances but would be interesting if it did.
 
Android users: use scrcpy to use Pleco on your PC. It's the best thing out there, don't bother with anything else. scrcpy is the way to go! Game changer for dictionary and flashcards (I combine it with an AutoHotKey script for really fast reviews).
Thanks for the suggestion, @Kaimi . Could you be more specific in how you're using using AutoHotKey combined with scrcpy? (and if you're willing, would you share your script?) Thanks!
 

timseb

举人
What would be nice for is to be able to not only open the app on my PC or Mac, but being able to copy text (like a sentence) *from* the app *to* the desktop. Is that possible in some way with this scrcpy? A simple Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V method, so to say.
 
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