Porting “Poker Copilot for Mac” to Windows: the long story

(I’m writing this in the style of “why use 100 words when 1,000 words will do?”)

“I cannot find available a Windows version of Poker Copilot. Could you please let me know if there is one. If there is not, why?”

That question is from early 2009, less than a year after Poker Copilot’s initial Mac launch.

Poker Copilot for Mac was released in 2008. For Mac has always been my “unique selling proposition”: I create native Mac poker HUD and tracking software.

The first release of Poker Copilot for Mac was in a primitive form. The software industry traditionally calls this version 1.0, although more recently the term of non-endearment is “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP). Poker Copilot quickly got a substantial amount of users, as online poker was in its big boom, and there was no Mac alternative to products like Poker Tracker. My early customers wrote every day with requests for features they wanted, needed, couldn’t live without. Or features they thought would be pretty nifty.

“Why not also a Windows version, too?,” I asked myself. Poker Copilot is mostly written in Java; Java runs on Windows just as well as it does on Mac; porting it seemed like a feasible endeavour. I even amused myself in my then-day-job as a Windows-based freelancer developer by seeing if I could make Poker Copilot compile and run on Windows. It did compile and run, so I knew it was possible. And maybe I’d get some more sales.

In 2009, I mentioned on the Poker Copilot blog that I was considering a Windows version. I was overwhelmed with responses from loyal users, my early adopters, desperately saying, “No! Please don’t! Please add a ton of new features before getting distracted with making a Windows version.”

Listening to users was one of those business things I claimed I was doing. Really listening and not just sending placating answers like, “sure, maybe, could be, sorry.” I listened to what people were requesting. I kept a feature request list in an order of most-demanded to least-demanded. I would regularly weigh up the relative likely workload of each request and my time constraints as a one-person operation. I then implemented the requests in order.

And so, I listened to our Mac customers, and didn’t yet create a Windows version. I sent this response to anyone who asked for a Windows version:

“We’ve only got a Mac version. We started Poker Copilot because there was no Mac software for poker tracking. We might release a Windows version later this year but we have no definite plans at this stage.”

A year later, Poker Copilot was in version 2. I had added most of the high-demand features. Some features were helpful to poker players; some were essential things that I should have done already in version 1, such as the not-too-revolutionary idea of persisting user data to the disk so that hand histories didn’t need to be imported anew each time you started Poker Copilot.

More requests came for a Windows version, and I was thinking again about doing it.

And then came Poker’s Black Friday. Online poker in the USA was switched off.

Overnight 55% of my business – the entire US portion of my customers – could no longer play online poker, and no longer wanted my software. Mac, Windows – it didn’t matter. It was an uncertain time for anyone working in the online poker industry. And so I shelved the Windows plans again, until I could be more certain that there was a future for Poker Copilot.

Poker Copilot version 3 came, and went, still without a Windows version. I continually added more features to the Mac version. And each feature was designed with Mac users in mind. Every feature was made to work the way Mac users would expect. Mac keyboard shortcuts; Mac user interface standards; Mac menu structures. Each new feature meant that making a Windows version would be an ever harder task. And so the Windows version kept slipping in priority.

By the time Poker Copilot 4 was released, any hope of a Windows version had faded away.

And then, in early 2014, came an email that brought the idea of a Windows version back to life. An email with an offer. Not from a poker player, but from a company in the poker field. “Could we,” asked the company, “license a version of your software with our brand on it and with some custom features? A version that runs on Mac and on Windows.”

It was an offer worth investigating. The problem was that there was no Poker Copilot for Windows. So something had to be done.

A big problem – maybe the biggest – was that for years, I no longer used Windows. I barely touched Vista and I missed out on Windows  7 and 8. I had forgotten the look and feel of Windows software.

Luckily a good friend of mine who has his own business and knows Windows very well had some time to spare. He was available to work with me for a while. I gave him a task: “I’m making Poker Copilot work on Windows. Please tell me everything that feels wrong about the Windows port.” And tell me, he did.

My Windows-expert friend found problems in icons, keyboard shortcuts, menu layouts, feature usages, and install procedures. He was savage. He analysed every screen, every button, every mouse click, and told me what wasn’t right for Windows. And one by one, I made these things better.

A nice side benefit: he also found some bugs, broken features, and oddities in Poker Copilot that I wasn’t aware of. As the only person designing, developing, and testing Poker Copilot, I had become blind to some problems; problems like a “Cancel” button that behaved like an “OK” button, a window not behaving well when resized, and a minimise button that sometimes didn’t minimise at all. Or missing translations, or translations that exist but sometimes weren’t used. Or a workflow for a feature that made sense to me, but turned out to be somewhat cryptic to other people.

So our Windows conversion project also became a “make Poker Copilot better” project.

We released Poker Copilot 5 for Mac at the end of 2014. We also made Poker Copilot 5 for Windows available as a long-term private beta, with a different brand and a slightly different feature set.

As I write now, in November 2015, Poker Copilot for Windows has been rigorously tested for a year. Every week, I’ve subsequently hardened Poker Copilot for Windows with reliability and performance improvements.

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And now, when people ask:

“I cannot find available a windows version of Poker Copilot. Could you please let me know if there is one. If there is not, why?”

I can say, “you can download Poker Copilot for Windows from our home page.”