Young NZ developer readies multi-author Web tool

Building a cheap and easy way to have multiple authors working simultaneously on one Web page or help file, looks set to thrust a young New Zealander once again into the spotlight.

Stefan Olson, 23, first came to attention in 1995 when aged 17. Back then, a U.S. Microsoft Corp. executive was so impressed with Olson’s HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) help authoring tools he took him to company headquarters in Redmond, resulting in a story on TV3’s 20/20 program and other media coverage.

Six years later Stefan is still beavering away and his company Olson Software Ltd. is about to launch an enterprise-level version of his software suite as a public beta.

Olson says he realized that in both the help file authoring market and the Web page authoring market, corporate users wanted a much simpler and more intuitive system than was currently on offer, with features like drag and drop. As well, many large organizations have a team of two or three working on projects, he says.

“We listened to our customers and heard that they wanted to do multiple authoring, something our competitors don’t do, or don’t do well,” he says.

“While our Web authoring tool may not be nearly as complex as the others out there, users don’t have to learn so much and they don’t need an expert to install it,” he adds.

The enterprise edition HyperText Studio suite is based on Olson’s earlier WYSIWYG HyperText authoring tool. It is aimed at both the help file authoring markets (Windows and HTML-based) and the content management/ Web authoring market. In this latter market, HyperText significantly undercuts U.S.-based players such as Macromedia DreamWeaver and Microsoft Front Page or content management systems like Vignette which costs around US$500 a license.

One beta user, Auckland-based Help Systems co-director Rhonda Munster, part of a team contracted to build Web-based help files for GDC’s Telecom work, says she chose the enterprise edition over well-known U.S.-based RoboHelp both on price and the fact it is multi-user.

“Its processes are much better,” Munster says. “I’ve never had to second-guess where things are because of the way it is laid out through properties.” Munster, whose Web site has just gone live, says she also likes the fact it won’t allow users to overwrite each other, and Olson and his team’s response times to queries.

Olson, who began programming when he was 14 and left school in the seventh form to run his business, says he had the vision for the enterprise version in 1995, but only after years of work and a NZ$4,500 (US$1,800) grant from Technology New Zealand have he and his team been able to launch it.

He hopes the enterprise edition will soon bring in 30 percent to 40 percent of the company’s sales, and is setting up an international reseller and distribution channel. Germany has proved the biggest market for Olson’s products to date, and a distributor there is keen to convert the enterprise edition into German.

Olson says he would love to see his company grow and may consider bringing in an investor. But says he hasn’t had time to think much about that yet; he’s been too busy developing.