Every so often someone asks whether there will be a version of BTZS Plotter for OS X. I can sympathize and understand where they are coming from but unfortunately the sad truth is that the development costs and time associated with such a project makes it just not financially feasible. The market for Plotter was never a large market even in its heyday but just as interest in film has tapered off over the years so has buying desktop oriented software.

The current version of Plotter was written 10+ years ago now. It was written specifically to bring Plotter to Windows since at that time, there was a version for the Mac. As such Plotter for Windows was written without any consideration of it being ported to other platforms. It is written using a software framework that down to its core, just isn’t suitable to porting. To “port” Plotter to other platforms at this point means starting from scratch and I mean really from scratch - going back to the BTZS book for a fresh start. There is virtually no code that can be shared – not even the code that reads and writes the file formats. It is simple just too Windows-centric.

As such I’d estimate that a complete re-write of Plotter to be somewhere between 1 and 2 man-years worth of effort. It is 10’s of thousands of lines of complex code, most of which hasn’t been touched for many, many years.

The good news is, Plotter for Windows runs just fine on OS X and you don’t even need to buy a copy of Windows or anything else to install it on OS X. Is it a native OS X application? Well no – but it runs and functions very well. The key to using this is an open source project called “Wine”, which is an emulation layer that allows Windows programs to be run on lots of platforms such as OS X and Linux.

Traditionally setting up Wine on OS X has been somewhat complicated for non-developers but that has changed now. Using a Wine package builder such as Wineskin, WineBottler, or Crossover makes this very easy. I just did it from scratch using Wineskin and including the time to download it took about 10 minutes from start to finish. In the end I had a Wine-Plotter application that I could just launch on OS X. It really is very easy. I just followed the excellent but short manual for Wineskin.

Here is a quick rundown of the process for installing Plotter on OS X from scratch:

  1. Download the Winery package to your Mac and launch it. If this is your first time of using Winery, you have to download a Wine Engine. I just used the latest available (WS9Wine1.7.0X)
  2. Select an Engine and Create a new Wrapper and give it a name – I called mine WinePlotter (a wrapper is a Mac App that you launch to run a Windows program)
    • Note: As part of the new package creation process you’ll see two notices about not having Mono and Gecko packages installed. You can just hit cancel for each as neither of these are needed by Plotter.
  3. Once the wrapper is created in your ~/Applications/Wineskin folder, open it like any other application. The first time it is run you’ll be presented with options. Click Install Software and point it at your WinPlotter.msi installer file. Once the installer finishes you’ll be ask to choose the .exe program to run when launched (it should be /Program Files/WinPlotter/Plotter.exe). Once Plotter is install, Quit the wrapper app as no other options should need to be set.
  4. To launch Plotter just open the finished wrapper app and Plotter will automatically launch.

From this point on you can use Plotter just like any other installed app. I know that not having Plotter as a native OS X application rubs some people the wrong way and I am sorry for that but given the constraints of time and development costs, this is the best option for those who want to use Plotter on their Mac at this point in time.

Postscript: A few of you have asked where to get Plotter from these days. Plotter as a product for sale has transitioned back to me from the View Camera Store. I’m working on making Plotter available as an online purchase. I’m now also looking into making a pre-packaged Wine version for Mac users. I’ll post more details when Plotter is available.

Flux and Mutability

The mutable notebook of David Jade