Turning inner space into outer space

May 2, 2021

My other website got a major makeover

An old thriftmac T-shirt in all its dingy glory

thriftmac is a project that has been been kicking around since 2006 — almost an eternity on the internet. It's older than that if you count it's predecessor. There was a thing called Free for X for a couple of years.

It's a place where you can find 100-per-cent free Mac apps. It's not like the Mac App Store, where "free" might mean free trial or useless unless you pay for a subscription.

You can download these apps and use all the features for as long as you want. Yes, apps like this really do exist.

In its heyday, thrifmac was chock full of Google ads, bringing in $100 US on good months. It peaked at $200.

The site wasn't just a collection of links to apps. I blogged like crazy. Nothing was too trivial to write about if it involved a free Mac app.

I actually ran contests. thriftmac has a worm for a mascot (because apples sometimes have worms in them) so I ran a contest to name the worm. The winning name was Scrimpy, and the winner got a free thriftmac T-shirt.

Another contest was based on the Survivor TV show. I listed 10 apps I thought were only borderline deserving of being on thriftmac, and people voted in weekly rounds to eliminate one of them. The loser was OneButton FTP.

I wrote literally hundreds of articles until I finally ran out of steam. Since that time, thrifmac has existed for the several years as an app repository only — no blogging. (Although that might change soon.)

The thing is, the site is basically a database with a lot of useful information in it. thriftmac presents that database through a content management system called Textpattern.

That means it remains, after all these years, something to play with. What are the various ways I can present this database?

And so we have arrived at version five in 2021.

The biggest change for visitors — aside from the spiffy new look — is the switch from sections to categories. Before, you would have to click on one of eight sections, then look through the categories within the section.

Now, you can just go straight to whatever category you want.

Behind the scenes, I set several challenges for myself — challenges only a coder might appreciate.

  1. No divs. Much of the web code I see is littered with divs. I've seen tutorials where they have a div for the sidebar with a class of "sidebar" and a div for the main content with a class of "main." It's bizarre. Why not use the perfectly good tags we have available to us — aside and main.
  2. No classes. If you use semantic tags throughout, you can dispense with many classes. I managed to whittle them down to just one.
  3. No JavaScript. I've got nothing against JavaScript — in fact, I've used it to make a lot of fun staff. But I wanted to resist the temptation this time.
  4. Use grid and flex. I wanted to be done with bolting on third-party layout solutions like Bootstrap or Foundation. thriftmac now uses grid for layout, with a touch of flex.
  5. Creative use of CSS. There's a few touches so far, and I hope to sneak in a few more.
  6. No CDNs. I wanted to dispense with third-party dependencies, but I couldn't resist one Google font (Raleway, which was also used in the previous version of thriftmac) and Font Awesome. I thought about just using the generic sans-serif and letting people use whatever system font they have on their computer, but it seemed too lacklustre. I'm also a sucker for icons, and the site has precious few graphics otherwise. But that doesn't mean I'm using CDNs. I downloaded both, and they're being served up from the site.

I enjoyed the exercise, and I think the site looks pretty good. When it's a hobby site, it's really only your own opinion that counts anyway. And there's sure to be more tweaks coming.