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The new Dental Software for Mac’s

September 11th, 2005 · No Comments

MacDDSMac,  LLC has taken it upon themselves to write a new Dental PM for the 
Macintosh OS X platform that does that and more. It’s not just about 
the clicks though as it’s more about usability of the software and 
the leveraging of what the OS provides.

Apple’s basic philosophy is this… Make it as simple and elegant as 
you can, then do it again and again until you can’t distill the 
combination of power and simplicity any longer. The iPod is a great 
example of this design philosophy. We have striven to do that with 
our new application, MacDent Professional, and feel we have achieved 
that milestone.

Two years ago when we started development, myself and my development 
team took a long hard look at EVERYTHING out there. From Mac-based to 
Windows-based products. The first comment from the programmers’ mouth 
following these demos were, “That’s so 70’s”.

 From a programmer’s and designer’s perspective there are several 
factors which come into play when designing and creating software. 
First is the interface, second is the underlying data engine and 
third are the underlying tools needed to produce the product. The 
order listed is not particularly significant, but every piece has to 
be there.

Our basic design and implementation is defined below:

1) Apple almost demands a certain sense of perfectionism from their 
developers which carries through into every piece of software 
designed for the Mac. This is evident in how common menus among 
different applications ALWAYS work the same. The user is not left 
guessing what and how they are supposed to use something. Drag and 
drop works as expected. Contextual clicking works where appropriate. 
A rich set of controls is provided by the Apple API (Application 
Programming Interface) that allows the programmer to include the 
functionality needed within the application. But even beyond that is 
the extensibility provided by the fact that every new application 
written for the Mac is purely object-oriented. This means that code 
can be reused throughout the system and extended in ways that are 
very difficult in conventional programming systems. Objective-C was 
created specifically for this purpose and melds perfectly into OS X. 
I’ll discuss this more below.

As noted above, Apple is stickler for good interface design. I don’t 
see this on the Windows side as developers seem to run the gamut and 
produce their own interfaces much to the dismay of their users. For 
you Windows users, take a good look at iTunes (on Windows) and you’ll 
understand precisely what I mean. Compare it to any Windows 
application and you’ll see the superiority of the Apple design 
philosophy. Our design philosophy mirrors Apple’s precisely.

2) Dental data is an intricate weaving of so many entities and 
relationships. Hence there was no real choice but to go with a 
database engine that provided such. Even more importantly is we 
wanted to retain industry standards so as to provide for easy 
upgradability and extension of the system as it grew and newer 
technologies come on board. We chose the Postgres SQL engine because 
of this. It is an Open Source engine that is non-proprietary and is 
constantly being improved by people who really care about good 
software. Apple even uses it within their OS for a technology known 
as Apple Remote Access.

The prime example of this, is that we can have “partners” access the 
data of our application without having to know anything about our 
application. In this case it is eClaims and as it goes forward it 
will be for third party report generators and the like. In the end it 
extends our system like no other. No longer are you strapped by a 
system that is defined only by the application’s developers. The 
speed of such systems is also a pleasure to behold. Using relational 
methods of data interconnection, the data you request is 
instantaneously available. Flat file systems as Ekram described 
literally “fall flat” when speed is required. Case in point, Postgres 
can process upwards of 10000 requests per second. No dental office I 
know of will ever need that kind of power.

Being open source, Postgres requires no licensing fees. What this 
means to our customers is that you won’t be charged additionally for 
the data engine. There are several other products out there that do 
impose an additional surcharge for this. In many cases there are 
limits on the numbers of users as well. This is fee related and if 
you exceed that number you have to pay again. So ask first before you 

3) What tools are available? Are they consistent? Do they mesh well 
with the OS?  Let’s answer each of these individually first.

     a) Apple provides the XCode development environment with EVERY 
Mac. You do not have to be a developer to purchase the environment. 
It is part of the OS.
     b) Apple makes it (XCode) as they do the machine and the OS. The 
integration is unlike anything you see anywhere. In a Windows 
development environment you are strapped by the individual hardware 
vendors and their own CMOS implementations. Every bit of code we 
write runs the same on EVERY machine that Apple produces.
     c) XCode speaks OS X’s language. The intimation needs to be seen 
to be understood. From a developer’s standpoint, it’s WOW! No having 
to buy a separate editor or version control package to manage code. 
Multi-language support is built in. Testing tools are provided to 
check for memory leaks, performance, code analysis, etc.

Apple’s API’s (Application Programming Interface) provides direct 
links to the OS. Technologies that are embedded in the OS are also 
available to the developers. For example, connection to digital 
cameras is but a call of an internal OS function. Synchronization to 
your PDA (doesn’t matter what kind) or iPod is seamless and easy to 
implement. OS X Tiger introduced something known as Core Image. We 
are leveraging that for our Imaging View to provide you with a mini-
Photoshop within MacDent Pro. Searching for data? Spotlight 
technology is built-in. Email functionality? All applications have 
access to something called AppleScript. We can literally “talk” to 
other applications on your Mac and have them do things like create 
emails and send them, add your day’s schedule to iCal or a selected 
patient or patients to the Address Book. The list goes on and on, but 
I think you all get the point.

Remember what I said about usability? That is what it’s really about. 
I don’t want to have to waste time fiddling with my computer trying 
to get it to work and dealing with incompatibilities. The Mac OS and 
Apple’s hardware see to that. MacDent Pro see’s to your office needs 
because we are a good Apple citizen.

3 clicks? Most everything in MacDent Pro is accessible with ONE click 
or ONE double-click or Right-Click. Three (3) clicks is passé and old 
school. Sorry Ekram, but it’s true. Interface studies have 
demonstrated that delving down into 2 or more levels begins to 
preclude your user from remembering just what they did to get there 
ultimately resulting in lost productivity.

Tags: Apple Computers · Events

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