Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Independent projects I worked on while being a software developer

Note : Everything mentioned here was developed after regular office hours and mostly for fun/learning purpose only.

When I started my career as a software developer(Java), all I knew was OOPS concepts, Collections, I/O and Exception packages, a bit of Multi-Threading and XMLs (DOM parser only).

Apart from regular day-to-day development, the first personal project I worked on was a file-search-app. Very similar to how Windows file search works. After doing some coding, I was able to: 1.Search in sub-directories 2. Search by file-type/modified-date 3. Search by file name patterns (*VO.*, notes*.txt) etc.
Next, I wanted to create a UI for this app. So learnt Swing and created a nice (If I can say so) UI for the same.
Couldn't find time to do file-indexing to improve search performance. 

Few months later, I got some more interest in Swing and started working on another project - A Java based IDE. It was just for fun and not with the intention to build something better than Eclipse or NetBeans :) After I spent few weekends on coding, I was able to build and run a Java project through my IDE. Auto-suggest for method-names etc. was interesting to develop (Learnt reflection).

It was the 2nd year of my software development career and I was working on web/enterprise apps. I was getting introduced to various web technologies like - JSP, Servlets, Struts, JSF, GWT etc. Influenced by the magic of web technologies, I decided to build my own social network (you can laugh now :)). I knew I would never launch it but it helped me think like Mark Zuckerberg. Someone found this project interesting and finally used it for a closed group networking (with a small user-base). To be honest, what I gave was a very basic version (I realised it is a lot of work and not worth spending that much time on it) which they got enhanced later by others.

Learning so far from my independent projects - Even though I was a software developer in good companies, I was working as a Product Manager, Designer, Architect and Programmer on my pet projects.

My next project started when Google App Engine was launched. It did not take me more than a second to realize that I can now host and run my web applications for free. I was so motivated that I learned python to create my first web app on GAE (as python was the only supported language at that time). And published one more app few months later, but gradually lost interest as I was using Java, Java EE, Spring, Hibernate etc. in my office-related work.  

But hey...wait a second...Google adding Java support to GAE. Is it true?...yes it is...and GAE with Java support was released. I had a big smile on my face!!!

And then I started again and never stopped actually. Till today I have created around 15 apps (using 4 Google Accounts).

Learning so far - apart from what I highlighted in the first part of my answer, I also got the opportunity to learn new language (and related tech-stack), GAE (and hence Cloud computing- IaaS/PaaS/SaaS etc and other cloud service providers) and enjoyed seeing my web applications live (at appspot dot com).

Next - I became the API-maniac. I got into the habit of breathing with APIs. Every week I used to choose some APIs from programmable-web(API directory) and do something with it. Apart from learning API programming, it also helped me win an iPad in PayPal X Developer Challenge.

Chrome Apps and Extensions - Rolling out my ideas in the form of utilities was quick, easy and interesting. For example - 'Java Populars' which I build in half an hour, has 40K+ users. Similarly, News-You-Like and Favorite-Bollywood-Tweets apps got featured in the Digit magazine. I learnt a lot about HTML5 and JavaScript through this and built 20+ apps/extensions so far - 'Quick Chart', 'Simple Task Manager', 'TechCrunch Slides' etc to name a few.

Summary : The entire journey helped me become a better contributor in the main projects (for which I am getting paid).

PS : Getting lazy to share my interest in mobile apps ( and other areas) and what did I do as part of this.


  1. you are correct . these additional projects definitely help in improving tech skills. Also such activities also motivates developers working with you. So even if such projects are successful or not they are really worth of the time spent.

  2. Hi Ranjan

    I followed this answer of yours in Quora and I completely agree with your thoughts. Learning from independent projects can help improve a lot. I am basically a software developer who is now working as an Automation Tester. Daily after work I will try to spend some time on personal projects which involves Reinventing the wheel. ie; building applications which are already very popular just for the sake of learning the underlying concepts.

    I request you to put some of your projects in Public Repository sites like Github or Google Code which you think will be useful to other people. I would personally like to know how you implement the Java IDE :)