25 years and counting
Amazingly, the initial version of Default Folder, called DFaultD, was written in 1987. According to Jon Gotow, the man behind St. Clair Software, he was using Macs running System 3 for research and writing. "Every time you went to open or save a file, it'd point you at the root level of the disk and you'd have to navigate down into your folder again. This drove us crazy," Gotow told me. Partly to fix this, and partly to prove to an officemate that he could do it, Gotow whipped up a basic INIT (system extension) that would let the user set the default folder for Open and Save As dialog boxes. He later created a control panel to configure settings and released the utility--on the Info-Mac archives--as shareware.
The initial version of DFaultD simply let you set the default folder for an application, but Gotow soon added folders for recently accessed and favorite items, as well as pop-up menus in file dialogs for accessing them. As time went by, users requested new features--and Gotow implemented many of them.
The biggest challenge, of course, was updating Default Folder for Mac OS X, although Gotow says the initial versions of Default Folder for OS X, called Default Folder X, were easier to create than later versions, despite a new interface and a different feature set; he was even able to take advantage of some amount of Carbon code from Mac OS 9. Over time, however, Mac OS X changed significantly. For example, Apple rewrote the code underlying file dialog boxes and, of course, switched from PowerPC to Intel processors. St. Clair Software spent a lot of development resources just keeping the utility working.
But OS X also drove new features, according to Gotow. For example, many people missed the classic Mac OS feature of putting folders and volumes in the Apple Menu to get hierarchical access to files, so St. Clair added systemwide menu-bar and Dock menus that provide similar functionality. Spotlight and OpenMeta tagging are also new with OS X. And in early versions of OS X, when Apple failed to provide reliable keyboard-navigation features in file dialogs, Default Folder offered the only way to restore the expected behavior.