The end of CityDesk
Dec 8th, 2016 by Ken Hagler

RIP CityDesk – Joel on Software. In those days all the cool kids wrote their own blogging platforms. I wrote CityDesk. In what turned out to be a monumentally wrong bet, I thought that people would want to blog on Windows, with all the slick WYSIWYG editing goodness that wasn’t yet available in early versions of HTML. CityDesk kept your entire website in a SQL database (Microsoft Jet, the backend of Access) and had a frontend like a word processor. Every time you needed to publish, it generated the entire site as a set of html pages, which it then uploaded to an ftp server for you.


Over the years the CityDesk code base (VB 6.0, another bad bet) stopped running on the latest versions of Windows. Nobody else cared but by that time I was using a custom version of CityDesk which only ran on Windows XP. So until recently, I had a virtual machine set up with Windows XP running in there, and a copy of CityDesk.


Matt Mullenweg over at WordPress has been trying to get me to move Joel on Software over to WordPress for so long it’s not even funny. I finally gave in. [Joel on Software]

I used CityDesk myself to manage my main website for a number of years after the sad demise of UserLand Frontier, before finally replacing it with nanoc around the time I moved to Austin in late 2012. It was an unusual product in that it was actually better than any Mac alternative at the time (something that’s usually true only of games).

New website publishing software
Nov 30th, 2012 by Ken Hagler

For about eight years now I’ve been using a Windows program called CityDesk to manage the Orange Road website (except for the blog). Although it works well enough, it was abandoned by its developer long ago, and also requires the inconvenience of firing up a Windows virtual machine whenever I want to edit my site. Since I needed to make various changes due to my recent move, I decided it would be a good idea to look for a modern replacement.

After a bit of searching around I settled on nanoc, a static publishing system written in Ruby. It’s a little harder to use than CityDesk due to being a command-line tool, but it’s much more powerful as you can extend it with Ruby. It also has the advantage of using individual files instead of CityDesk’s monolithic database, which means that everything can be put under version control. I’ve put the source for the Orange Road website up on GitHub.

I considered the need to write some Ruby code to be a plus, as I’ve been wanting to learn the language. I read a book a while back, but to really learn a language you have to actually use it for something.

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