Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bending “Bend” and Related Miscellanea

A few posts back I made note of a sexy new notepad application for Windows 7 systems

Bend - A modern text editor -- (freeware) -- a positively beautiful GUI with an almost zen-like quality.  Spotted via Tenniswood Blog.  Windows 7 only.  Stunning.

The ever practical How-To Geek has a detailed walkthrough as well with lots of images : Edit Your Text in Style With Bend.

Granted, it was a bit slow on launch (at least on my Win7 system), coders reported some of the supported syntax highlighting was off, and internal search didn’t quite deliver all the goods.

Overlooking those minor quibbles, it is a great first-delivery in a new application GUI design paradigm for most users.  It simply looks stunning in simplicity and breaks decidedly with the typical Windows application form, including the Ribbon style.

Only one thing.  You can’t officially have it any more.

In echoes of Right Said Fred, “Bend’s too sexy for my Window, too sexy for my Windows, too sexy it hurts….”

Seriously, not too later following Bend’s public splash and meteoric rise on it's home on CodePlex, this mysterious notice appeared on the How-To Geek’s post.

*Update* – It looks like the developer has removed Bend from the CodePlex page. We are trying to find out what happened and will keep you updated!

Hmm…Indeed, for days the Bend link would only return directly to CodePlex home page.

Now, it at least falls on a Unpublished Project Page for Bend.

The mystery swirls!  Was it powered with escaped alien technology? The MiB? Did the Men from Redmond find it was too sexy and violated Windows development EULAS?  Did Apple perform a buyout to prevent Windows from moving in the All Things Beautiful™ land that they own for computing resources?  Where is the Mystery, Inc! gang when we really need them!

The Windows world needs more application design like Bend!

Lacking any news on what happened with the developer and the project pull, I set about working on an alternate mystery…where was the application stored on my system…and could I possibly port this Windows 7 goodness over to my XP system?

The Bend download actually appears to consist of a web-based “seed” installer that is reminiscent of the Windows Live mechanisms.  Once executed it retrieve the main file set from the Net.

Unfortunately for me, I had done a CCleaner and CleanAfterMe pass on my system shortly after installing and scrubbed all these juicy bits away.  I suppose I could have dived into my Shadow Volume stores but this is more fun.

I figured, maybe I can just copy the program’s folder to a USB stick and fire her up on my XP system.

The quickest way I know how to find the executable on a installed program is simply look at the target properties for the shortcut icon placed in the start menu list.

However this doesn’t help with Bend as it is really a “break-the-mold” app.

Turns out this icon is a “ClickOnce Application Reference (.appref-ms)” link.  Goodness.  That means if you follow the target path you will end up at somewhere like

C:\Users\profilename\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Bend\Bend\Bend.appref-ms

Decidedly not helpful and a portent of new kinds of shortcut links to come (and more headaches for examiners and sysadmins no doubt.)

Aside #1 - ClickOnce Application Reference (.appref-ms)

Nir (not That one) describes it thusly:

If you open the appref-ms file in a text editor you'll see it contains the Url for the application, culture, processor architecture and key used to sign the application, so yes, it's just a link.

The difference between those "Application Reference" files and shortcuts (.lnk) is that the application reference points to the original application Url and not the location of the exe on disk, when you run the appref-ms file the system knows how to find the copy of the program on the local disk and run it from there without accessing the Url (this is not accurate and depends on settings in the ClickOnce manifest, but its a close approximation).

DotWhat.Net has more:

The APPREF-MS file is an application reference file that is used by the Microsoft ClickOnce deployment system in order to install, update, and run remote or local applications.

The APPREF-MS file and the correspoding APPLICATION file is part of the .NET framework and give the remote or local link to the application that is to be run; this link also contains information relating to the updates for the application.

These files are created by the Microsoft Visual Studio software for application development.

Johnny Coder has great info on how this interfaces with AutoStart: ClickOnce Run at Startup

Finally, CODE Magazine - Article: Welcome to the Future of Deployment has on page #3 a more detailed presentation by Craig S. Boyd.

In the case of an installed, offline-available, ClickOnce application, the ClickOnce installs the application in the user’s profile directory. Every user that installs the application on a given computer will end up with their own profile’s isolated installation. The directory into which an offline-available ClickOnce application is installed looks very similar to the following:

C:\Documents and Settings\Profile Name\Local Settings\Apps\2.0

ClickOnce’s installation routine does not simply creating an application directory based on the Product Name and install all of the application bits into it. That would have been too easy. The scheme that Microsoft has devised is much more complex and it involves having the components that make up the application installed in a lot of different directories and subdirectories beneath the 2.0 folder shown above. ClickOnce installs the application in one location, the data in another, and the manifests in yet another. The install is essentially compartmentalized.

Back to White Rabbits and Alien Ninjas

Opening up the Bend.appref-ms reference found on my system, in Bend, resulted in this:, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=0000000000000000, processorArchitecture=x86

Yes Sally, that was a non-local hyperlink reference.  Clearly this is subversive alien technology (or for you few Last Exile fans, maybe Guild managed) released from 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California Area 51 designed to phone home at launch.

I suppose I could have done the easy thing and just launched Bend and peeked at it’s image path in Process Explorer.

Nay. I launched Process Monitor and launched Bend to arrive at the location on my own system:


That’s exactly where any user would have expected it to be!

Underneath there are four more alien technology based directories containing various files:


And of course, logically we will find the application executable under the clearly named bend.exe_0000000000000000_0000.0008_none_fc971fb0826fb84c (nope) bend..tion_0000000000000000_0000.0008_bb2abada039deb14 folder!

Having read all the above side-bits on this appref-ms file stuff, I clearly realized just how important all those other folders really were.  So I copied the main 3KOVR9H8.BMY folder and subs to my USB flash drive.

Then making sure that my XP Pro system was able to receive the alien technology (it was, having the required .NET 4.0 installed), plugged it up and drilled down and launched the Bend.exe file.

It worked, and did launch much faster than on the Win7 system.

So yes, if you have these files, and .NET 4.0 you can take Bend with you to Vista/XP just fine.

Unfortunately, if you just have the Bend installer, you don’t have Jack as the Bend source server isn’t available to pass you the files once run.

I suppose I could package up these files from my system and give them too you, but I’m worried for my safety now that I’ve shared all this fascinating goodness.

So I’m going to let them chase “Juan” from the How-To Geek post’s comments who said this:


Hey, I got it when it was still from Codeplex, though this is not the installation, it is the actual contents from the app. Enjoy!

I checked Juan’s file/contents, and at the time of my access, it did match the contents of my own bend.exe_0000000000000000_0000.0008_none_fc971fb0826fb84c directly perfectly, though Juan did not bother kindly to include all the other alien technology folders as well.  Seemed to work OK though without them.

At the same time I have been writing this post, I have also been concurrently performing the Gutmann method, burning, shredding, and letting a 2-year old borrowed neighborhood child with loosely attached sippy-cup lid to render my blogging system laptop non-functional at the time of writing this post.  Oh, I’m also right now tossing it into my father-in-law’s fish-pond with the old DISH Network disk to swim with the catfish.  This should sufficiently ensure that alien ninjas nor MiB nor Apple execs will not be concerned and disappear me like they did Bend’s developer.  Like I said, go find Juan.

Don’t feel bad for the loss of my laptop.  I’m waiting on a humble little new Dell i7 core laptop so I can putter around safely…free of this heady ClickOnce Application Reference stuff.

Then again, maybe the developer got CodePlex servers hammered with the downloads and distribution/ ClickOnce Application Reference design model and had to yank everything and regroup.

Nahh..that would be crazy talk.  I like Apple alien ninjas better.

More Notepad / Notetaking Software


Bend really is spectacularly sexy in design and getting there in function.

That said, I can’t see any way I currently could leave my trusted and highly-recommended high-production text editors for it anytime soon.

None of these are particularly sexy though they are all very robust.

If you do want a deliverable Notepad alternative that is more “girl-next-door sexy (SFW)” than the sophisticated “Euro/Metro sexiness (SFW)” of Bend, consider bringing FluentNotepad home to meet the folks at Sunday brunch.

It does have that pleasant and predictable Windows Ribbon working for it grandma likes.

See also:

Then there are these spinoffs that aren’t notepad apps, but do have the minimalist form for text composition:


--Claus V.

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