DocFetcher Server 1.0 Release

After over a year of development, DocFetcher Server 1.0 is now finally out!

For those not in the know, DocFetcher Server is a cousin of DocFetcher and DocFetcher Pro, featuring a proper implementation of the long-requested multi-user and remote-access support that is poorly implemented in DocFetcher and unavailable in DocFetcher Pro.

In essence, DocFetcher Server is a background process that runs on a server computer, indexes files on that computer, and makes those files searchable and downloadable for one or more clients through their web browsers. Typically, you’d want to deploy this kind of software on a server machine in a private or company network, or deploy it on a rented server machine for remote access to your files. Accordingly, DocFetcher Server is geared more towards businesses than individuals, and this combined with the substantially more complex server technology under the hood is why the software is situated at a higher price range than DocFetcher Pro.

During the first 3 weeks after launch, until August 21, 2022, DocFetcher Server will be available at a reduced price (15% off). This will hopefully compensate for any early-release bugs. If you do find any bugs, please help getting them fixed by reporting them to Support.

To be sure, development of DocFetcher Server took much longer than initially expected. Like, how hard can it be to build a web UI on top of the existing DocFetcher Pro core? – Well, turns out, very hard, for two reasons: First, the existing desktop UI turned out to be a lot bigger and deeper than expected, and taking it to the web revealed all kinds of hidden features that took a considerable amount of time to reimplement. And second, designing a web UI turned out to be not only considerably more complex than, but also vastly different from designing a desktop UI, so that in the end very little existing UI code could be reused. – You may not realize this, but a web UI is basically an HTML page pretending to be a user interface. Naturally, all kinds of hacks are involved to make this happen.

Unfortunately, because of these difficulties, DocFetcher Server currently lacks some of the more advanced and/or less frequently used features of DocFetcher Pro, notably the ability to load and save indexing settings, CSV export of search results and indexing errors, and the file size and Custom Types filters. For a complete list of missing features, see this page. – Reimplementing all of these would probably have added three months or more to the development process, and the madness had to stop somewhere.

Speaking of the past, DocFetcher Server was formerly announced as “DocFetcher Pro Server”, but in the end the “Pro” was dropped for the sake of brevity. It’s still “Pro” software though, even more so than DocFetcher Pro!

So, now that DocFetcher Server is out, what about the future of the DocFetcher project? Of course, there are plans for DocFetcher Pro 2.0 and DocFetcher Server 2.0, but no, don’t expect them to come out in the near future. The thing is, the DocFetcher project has been on a development sprint for over two years now (since early 2020), producing as results DocFetcher Pro, a major bugfix release of DocFetcher, and DocFetcher Server. During this sprint, cleanup and maintenance activities were mostly left by the wayside, and this is not sustainable in the long run.

Consequently, the DocFetcher project will now enter a prolonged cleanup and maintenance phase, which will probably produce very little in terms of visible, flashy results, but will produce a lot of internal changes that contribute significantly to the long-term future of the project. To give just two concrete examples:

  1. Since the very beginning, before 2007, DocFetcher has been developed in a development environment known as the Eclipse IDE. Unfortunately, the latter has fallen out of favor with the development community for some time now, and some vital tools needed to develop DocFetcher are no longer being updated. That’s why the DocFetcher project sooner or later needs to get off that sinking ship and migrate to a new development environment. On that occasion, the currently used programming language Scala needs to be upgraded from the aging Scala 2 to the new Scala 3 as well. All this takes a lot of work and will produce exactly zero new features.
  2. DocFetcher Pro and DocFetcher Server will be equipped with so-called “unit tests”, which is programming jargon for automated testing of the software. Among other things, unit tests serve as a safeguard against new major features and changes breaking existing functionality. – That’s just what’s needed when new major features and changes finally get implemented for DocFetcher Pro 2.0 and DocFetcher Server 2.0. Unit tests themselves produce exactly zero new features, unfortunately, but they support the addition of new features down the road.

So, hopefully, DocFetcher Server 1.0 was worth the long wait, for those who were waiting, and hopefully whatever big thing comes next will be worth the wait too. Until then, you can expect to see some more bugfixing in DocFetcher, DocFetcher Pro and DocFetcher Server.

On a final note, until now everyone who bought DocFetcher Pro was automatically subscribed to the DocFetcher Pro newsletter. With the arrival of DocFetcher Server, this has to change a little: The DocFetcher Pro newsletter will cover both DocFetcher Pro and DocFetcher Server news, but if you bought only one of them, you will only receive the subset of the newsletter that pertains to the product you bought. If you want the full newsletter instead, you have to subscribe manually on the Subscribe page. This news article right here will be the first and last article about a DocFetcher Server release that DocFetcher Pro users will receive, unless they subscribe to the full newsletter.

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