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Show HN: My first web app – PDF memo creator (createamemo.com)
297 points by probolsky on Nov 1, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 140 comments

I liked it as well, but from his tweet (https://twitter.com/AdamProbolsky/status/793357675996196864) seems he didnt make it!

You're right. Looks like the actual development is done by CodeGophers.


"Email us a programming task and we'll finish it in 48 hours"

I would say most HN'ers (me included) thought this was done by a beginner web developer and looking for feedback from the community. And based on the comments provided, many of them are quite positive and constructive.

CodeGophers founder here.

First off, congrats to Adam for getting his idea launched and hitting the top of HN with his first project.

Adam came to us with idea, designs, domain, and coding as much as he could. We helped him finish the coding portion, explaining the changes and tools we were making to get the site ready to go. He was involved in every step and learned a lot from the process. I think most coders got some (or a lot) of help when they just start out.

CodeGophers helps people make MVP's as fast as 48 hours over email, and we get all sorts of people writing in. Some are like Adam who are just starting out learning coding, some are designers/marketers who don't know any coding at all and others are more experienced people who just don't have time to build the MVP.

Really? He let's other people code such a simple tool and then acts like it's his student project?

I think we should wait for OP’s explanations before jumping on a conclusion.

Frankly I'd be interested in a write-up on their experience using this service, walking us through they scoped it, solved challenges, cost etc.

Part of running a business is effectively and efficiently allocating capital. Depending on their goal with this project and how much it cost, this could be an excellent approach for getting low tech MVPs built.

If you're interested, we put together a quick blog post describing the process. You can read it here: https://blog.codegophers.com/createamemo-com-idea-to-mvp-in-...

Look at their site: https://codegophers.com

My guess is this dude literally said "make a web form with these inputs that will produce a PDF formatted like this".

I'm not so sure this wasn't just a brilliant marketing ploy to pimp out codegophers. I can't read anything online anymore without some skepticism.

It wasn't but I am happy to give props to people who help me. I am pollster - so feel free to hate me even more for that. But have like 100 web and mobile app ideas I want to make and I want to learn how to develop them. More coming soon. Other than the true haters, I've really enjoyed the process and look forward to getting deeper into coding.

1) I guess there's an assumption around here that "My $THING" implies the owner is the creator. It is indeed an assumption. I am guilty of this assumption. However, there is no claim that this was written entirely by OP.

2) He does say "...helping with" - perhaps it was indeed help

> I guess there's an assumption around here that "My $THING" implies the owner is the creator. It is indeed an assumption

What would be the point of showing people your first $THING if you didn’t make it?

Thanks for the help does not mean he did not do the bulk of the work. Let's not jump to conclusions.

Give a guy a break. I did as much as I could and got help too. That's how you learn, right?

Not only that, the editor (which seems to be one of the main points of this Show HN) is a plan version of Quill.js: http://quilljs.com/playground/

I am all about reusing components, but what's original in here to make it a Show HN?

Edit: after thinking about it and trying it I think the main point is about simplicity to generate a PDF with decent default styles, which is a good point. So I retract my previous opinion; it's about a good experience and nice output using pre-made tools. Well done (:

I still like it! I don't like Apple products any less because Steve Jobs didn't program all of them himself.

Are you serious? Didn't you get help from SOMEONE on your first project. Thanks for the encouragement.

I have some encouragement for you: whatever you do, however you do it, don't do it for the praise. Do it because you enjoy doing it.

Did you write any of the code yourself? That's what people are wondering.

"He was #1!"

What the fuck is wrong with people, this blows.

Wow, chill down.

It sucks that people take advantage of HN's eagerness to encourage newcomers. This is toxic behavior and it must receive an appropriate response: outrage.

I like it. Dead simple. Makes nice output. The UI is correct. I would use.


Consider replacing "We take privacy seriously" with "I take privacy seriously".

Better yet, consider removing that sentence so you don't make people second guess it. It's even easier then because there's less information that needs mental processing. You might just say, "Once you generate your memo, your information is deleted forever" or you might not say anything at all.

> Consider replacing "We take privacy seriously" with "I take privacy seriously".

There's some tension between wanting to be taken seriously ("we" makes it sound like there is a team supporting the product) and using the correct pronoun number for a single author. I see the appeal of using the royal "we" everywhere, even when there is only one person behind the project, because at least then the pronouns don't need to be updated once a second team member joins.

Yeah, I'd be very curious to hear what people think about this.

Is it better to us "I" or "We" when running a site yourself? And does the answer change depending on the type of site?

We choose "we".

Even if you're the sole author of the app/site, the voice of any text should be abstracted away from your identity at least to this small degree. Use "I" only in testimonials, quotes, or in a "message from our founder".

This discipline helps keeps the voice/tone of the text consistent throughout the app, which inspires trust and confidence. It's more polished and professional, especially if you ever contemplate expanding your team.

I think it depends on who is speaking: a team is always a plural, so if it's the team behind X, then you use 'we'; if you're speaking as an individual, you use 'I'. (This can get confusing for some projects, if you're speaking in both capacities while being the only team member.)

So it comes down to how much you want your site associated with you personally, versus having its own identity (and associated "team", even if it's just you on the team).

For hobby projects, I generally go with 'I'; for anything I'm asking for money in exchange for a service, I go with 'we'.

If you feel uncomfortable using 'we' instead of 'I', just file a C-corp and get a registered agent. Now there's two of you, and when you're speaking as the corporation, it's a 'we'. (I'd argue it's always a 'we' for the C-corp, though, because again, it's a team, and teams are always plural.)

Of course, I've been known to use language strangely, so make up your own style rules and go with them.

I would suggest:

Pretigious Technologies takes privacy seriously.

Sounds professional and is "future proof."

"We" is fine. Just ask your dog or cat what they think first.

The problem with "We" is that I've heard it all before ... and it's either BS, or if it isn't, it will eventually be BS (in my evaluation).

I agree, either "I" or a proactive statement of intent: "We guarantee your data is deleted" or along similar lines ...

It's been mentioned in a few articles that a lot of startups try to make themselves be more official and less of a personal touch to be more "professional" and this is generally not helpful.

I would use "I" as long as it is correct.

IMO both are perfectly acceptable.

If you are using a name, like Google, even if that only means one person, then use the name of the app/company.

Gooogle takes your privacy seriously.

"I, Sergei, takes you privacy seriously." Not as convincing.

+1 on removing it completely, you need a privacy policy link instead, you might create one your own with some online template or better yet have a lawyer write it for you, shouldn't cost so much I guess and will give you the professional look you're trying to show

I don't get it. What's the benefit over starting libre office and saving as PDF ?

Yeah that's what I was thinking. I trust Libre Office way more since it's free software and I can actually inspect the source code to see what it's doing. I don't trust web apps like these at all.

Loads faster than libre office for one thing.

It loads faster, but it's not faster to use.

- you have to open a new tab.

- then remember the name of the stuff and type it.

- then make sure you are online (not in a plane).

- then type it without all the LO tools such as good spell check and typography fixes.

- then you wait for the generation, download the file and the go to the download directory, and then copy it where you want.

All in all, I'd say it's the same, except you can change stuff in the LO version, work offline, and refer to the one tool that does all the other stuff as well instead of having to manage 1000 of tools to tools such a simple task.

On the business end it doesn't matter overtly, privacy claims are worthless until backed by law.

Like Microsoft signing data protection agreements with the European Union, before any serious company would consider using their cloud type legal documentation.


Why not just say "Your privacy is taken seriously" to remove the ambiguity?

People that are politically on the left spectrum tend to address themselves and the others in the plural form. Having that in mind, not sure how asking the author to consider the replacement is considerate :)

Nice work! Would you be interested in sharing anything interesting you used or learned while making this?

These are the kinds of posts that made me fall in love with HN over 2535 day ago.

> These are the kinds of posts that made me fall in love with HN over 2535 day ago.

And are sadly relatively rare these days :(

Not really, they just don't always surface to the front page.


This is really great! Thanks for sharing.

Here are some comments: * Make a title of your webpage using <title> tag in <head> * I was not sure the "organization" was meant to be a input field. Please make it more obvious.

It's great! The first web app I made printed "hello, world" in HTML :-). One thing I would recommend is releasing some part of your code so that people can give feedback on that as well.

Keep it up!

Not really "Show HN" stuff. Poster did not code it, mercenary programming shop did.

What's really funny, is I saw the link submitted on /new at least five or six times yesterday. So there was a lot of work put in to get it up here on the front page too.

Not true.

Seems nice and simple, good job! Some comments/suggestions:

* There seems to be no <title> tag on the page, or at least I don't see a title for the page.

* When the browser downloads the output, it is served to it as a "binary file" (Firefox on Mac), not PDF, meaning I have no other option than to download it. I think (though I'm not sure) that if you set the content type correctly it could open straight in a new tab, or at least let me open it straight in a PDF viewer.

* The paper format looks a bit off to me, I guess it's because it's letter? In that case, not everyone uses that (we use A4), though lettings users set it would increase UI complexity.

Maybe kind of quirky, but I think letter is more popular in the USA and a4 more popular in some other countries... So maybe base it on IP location?

++kudos for that. Simple, yet effective. Does one thing, but does it well. I was impressed that when I didn't fill in the "Organization" field, it left it out of the PDF completely. I sort of had the expectation that it would create an empty box in the PDF. But it didn't, that shows that you thought about it.

Any chance you can share some information on what you used to build this?

One piece of feedback though: The "contact" placeholder didn't seem like a text field to me. It took me a while to figure that it's editable. The same goes for the "Organization" placeholder.

> One piece of feedback though: The "contact" placeholder didn't seem like a text field to me. It took me a while to figure that it's editable. The same goes for the "Organization" placeholder.

Came here to say exactly the same thing. Other than that, 5 stars. =)

Looks great, works great. I'd recommend setting up a free TLS certificate from LetsEncrypt

I really like the fact that something this simple can make the top of the HN's front page. It makes this site feel really beginner-friendly and encouraging. A great contrast with many other websites where programmers exercise in putting down other's work to boost their own ego.

And while I don't have any use for this app, I have to admit that it looks awesome and simple. Good job.

Thank you all for such great feedback, encouragement. I am adopting a lot of your suggestions. Please, keep them coming.

Looks beautiful, dude. I love your typography. Very similar design in terms of simplicity to something I'm working on. So maybe I'm just patting myself on the back, but I dig it. Great job!

so umm if the poster didn't do it...why is this here?

I'm not saying it should not be here...just asking what exactly the "show HN" in about. If it's about showing of the skills of codegophers...should they have not worked on something more complex?

just confused.

Congrats! Always great to see first time apps. Keep on learning and building, and always share what you make with this and other communities. :)

> share what you make with this and other communities

Just curious, apart from some programming related subreddits, where else would one share something like this?

There are local groups on facebook for example. You could share it on twitter. You can share it in your company. You can share it in your university group.

Cool. For even more privacy, you could generate the PDF client-side.


Plus this would allow the author to host this service on an cheap and robust s3+cloudfront setup!

Asking as a self-taught not-so-advanced-yet guy wanting to build a similar I/O web app: Could you elaborate a bit on how client-side transformation/ generation could be achieved?

Perhaps using http://pdfkit.org/

or using https://github.com/bpampuch/pdfmake e.g. http://pdfmake.org/playground.html "pdfmake is based on a truly amazing library pdfkit.org"

I couldn't tell if it was an "office space" joke or not, and didn't want to put my e-mail address in just to find out.

Here: https://mytemp.email/2

The link takes you, without clicking on anything, to the inbox of a disposable email address that perishes if you don't visit it for 24 hours or if you close the session.

I just recently used Prawn to make a PDF receipt generator in Rails for work.

It's surprisingly fun when you get into it, and Prawn is very powerful.

I've been thinking of making a Resume generator using Prawn in my spare time, but I haven't really found the time.

Prawn is wonderful. I used it to make a worksheet generator for teaching and was blown away by what I could do.

Two things stood out right away (on Firefox 42) and point 2 particularly dissuaded me from checking it out any further. 1. It doesn't check for empty content and produces a pdf with just 'memo' and horizontal line. 2. Can't paste, ctrl+v won't work and there is no paste in context menu.

Very nice!

A few questions:

- Where are you hosting this site?

- What is your tech stack?

- Do have any plan to build on this web app?

Quite simple to work out some of this yourself:

>Where are you hosting this site?

    $ dig +short a www.createamemo.com
> What is your tech stack?

    $ curl -I www.createamemo.com
    Server: WEBrick/1.3.1 (Ruby/2.2.4/2015-12-16)
So, it looks like it’s a Rails app hosted on Heroku.

wkhtmltopdf [0] is being used for generating PDFs.

[0] http://wkhtmltopdf.org/

The text editor used is Quill

So cool something like this hits #1 here. What a community!

It's so much easier to open up Ms Word, have a template by your choice, and export as PDF. I don't get it guys. Super nice domain occupied for a trivial thing... edit: Maybe an OK solution if you don't have Ms Word. But, almost all text editors can export as PDF anyway..

What would you use that domain for?

Keeping a Meeting Memo in the cloud, for teams, for example. Memo as a PDF? No thanks.

Looks neat and clean.

Here's my review -

1. Add -

<meta charset="utf-8">

in the head section of the page.

2. Try to avoid jumping from h1 directly to h3. Heading progression should be from h1 to h2 to h3 and so on.

3. Towards the end I see you've added some <br> tags to space out content. I'd use CSS margin top and bottom to do that.

Very cool. Pretty much flawless on iOS (8.3) right down to just opening the pdf in iBooks. Loads fast enough that I can grab it between stops on the metro.

Is the date going to pre-fill with the current date in future revisions? On my red. It was 06/15/2016 I think.

Agree with csydas. Just looked at it and read the text and have to say this is really nice. Makes me happy.

More constructive feedback: If it is to be used in Europe the date must be either configurable or default to a format that isn't totally confusing like month/day/year is.

Very nice. Two features you could add is - more templates and - using local storage to cache what's been typed and remember the fields contents.

Agree with the others, you probably want to mention what you're saving on the server and a privacy statement.

"We take privacy seriously"

With an unencrypted service, without any way for others to audit your code, without even basic contact info and with a misleading company name...

Who are you kidding? Is that some sort of social science experiment?

Take it easy. Let's encourage others and give feedback, not nerd rage on them for releasing their first web app.

I really dunno people also come here to read tech advices. And even if I appreciate the effort, it would really be dangerous to use this service for real confidential uses.

I mean unless someone personally know the author how can you tell this isn't a guy phishing for personnal data and posing as a newbie? Here more than everywhere else we should not take privacy statement at face value. And even if he's honestly wrong, lake of encryption mean this really isn't as secure as claimed.

I find it confusing, especially in the middle of the Hilary e-mail stuff that so much HN commenters are so forgiving about a serious flaw.

Of course I understood that there is a lots of irony in some comments. So sorry to be captain obvious. But I'm not sure given the context that irony is more serving than a plain and brutal reminder.

Everything you said could have been said in a polite, or even educational way, without sacrificing its importance. Usually we use "but this is wrong!" or "this really needs to be said and I am passionate about it" as an excuse to be harsh or to vent but really it just causes your comment to drop to the bottom of the comments where people are less likely to read it.

Well English is not my mother thong so maybe I was harsher than I though.

However the current top comment is basically saying that the OP is a poser and that it might have been a viral campaign for codegophers this don't qualify as not harsh... When reality is harsh how are we supposed to soften it without lying?

NP :). There are many ways to not deny reality and still be polite! One of them is reserving outrage or judgement until one is sure it is actually warranted. (not referring to you specifically with that one)

Would you publish the code too? Congrats!

Hi,nice work! found a bug only worked for me when filled all the fields. Internal Server Error when i left "cc" field empty. Keep up the good work.

I tried copying some text from a URL (copy/paste the content of that page) into the memo box and hit the create button: Internal Server Error

Here's the URL I used. Hope this helps.


Preview.app says "PDF Producer: Qt 4.8.6" and "Content creator: wkhtmltopdf". Is that intentional?

So now we know all about the development of this idea, but what is the genesis behind this probolsky? Why did you want it built? If it was to truly learn "development," then I suspect you would have done it yourself. Scratch your own itch? Expand it into a business offering? Where does it go from here?

'Pretigious Technologies'


Or just awesome joke?

Nope. The name of my 'company'. Yes it's prestigious without the s in the middle.

Why? A google search only shows misspellings and an urban dictionary entry you do not want to be associated with.

Minor bug: If I hit "Create a PDF" without entering any data I get an internal server error page.

Would you mind telling my what device you are using? OS?


I saw exactly the same behaviour; Chrome on OSX. Funny thing is, I entered a single character company name, hit the button again and it worked. Then I deleted that character and it still worked.

CentOS 6.7 + FireFox 45.3.0 here, no error when I hit the Create PDF button without typing anything.

I'm still waiting for this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12489586 ;)

Might default the date to current date.

I played with the editor and a js plugin to create pdf a little bit:


Maybe your server is overloaded or having some other issues - but didn't work at all for me on Android+Chrome. Tried multiple times.

Also tried in Desktop Mode, and received a server error.

Still interested in trying it out, will wait for a bit.

Frequently fails with Internal Server Error. And please, add HTTPS: https://letsencrypt.org/

If we can comment on functionality too (not just UI and design), I would say at least add an option to your text editor to do left/right alignment to support RTL languages.

This is great, and you're receiving well-deserved attention. I have to ask, did you mean to call yourself "pretigioustech" or was that an accidental misspelling?

I am probably missing something in the mobile view. What makes this page easier than creating this in any product from Libreoffice to Word and exporting to pdf?

This app makes it possible to (easily) create PDFs on PCs (and other access devices) that don't have LibreOffice or Word (or other similar tools) installed, using just a web browser (and an Internet connection).

Great work, btw.

I think you need some sort of input validation on the length/size of the text. Is the application just throwing everything away if it's too large?

Internal Server Error

Should it perhaps be Prestigious Technologies? And I suggest that you tint your placeholder-text a bit, so it doesn't look like the actual input.

Might want to fix typo: © Pretigious Technologies

I see simplicity i upvote. Another good example is https://www.resyum.com

I tried to use it on Opera Mini native on Android. Download dialog is shown but it never starts transferring data. No error message shown.

That's great. It's very simple and I like it.

Feedback: I think you're missing your web app title. It only shows your default URI.

Good job for shipping. I'd love to use it, but the page said internal server error when I clicked on the button.

Entering a non-American date format, or leaving the date blank, gives an internal server error.

Nice project, well done!

Also entering an odd number of double quotes in the from line creates an error too.

Special characters such as čšž are not rendered correctly in the bottom Contact information field.

Someone may have misspelled "prestigious" at the bottom.

Good job! Very nice for a first web app.

Content doesn't fit on an iPad

great stuff man! congrats! good idea too


Wtf. 1st in the HN? Is this a joke I don't get?

Perhaps readers are happy to see something about a hacker hacking than the latest Elon-love-fest or continued Apple drama or discussion of SF real estate.

I want Elon to get the top job at Apple, it would halve the number of posts on reddit and HN.

Mayhaps people like supporting someone who made something nice and useful, learned something in the process, and helped us remember why we do what we do.

EDIT: Upvoted OP too. Well done!

I also can't understand what's cool with this app. Could someone explain that?

Well, I always thought HackerNews was supposed to be about hackers doing newsworthy things... Dissing the establishment is all fine and good, but personally I love seeing people building stuff, especially first web apps.

> hackers doing newsworthy things

What part of create-a-memo is newsworthy exactly? /agree with GP.

Well, you would think that a community of hackers that are focused on, you know, building stuff would be supportive and encouraging of others who like tinkering and building stuff. It's the way to keep the momentum and keep newbies in the ecosystem rather than scaring them off via derision or plain ignoring them.

Strange as it may seem even Musk/Jobs etc. didn't create their masterpieces the very first time out of thin air. They would have started on a project that would be considered plain/pointless/boring/embarrassing, but they built upon that experience and platform. Something to remember when talking to the young creators who will be continuing their work in the future.

There is a lot of very cool stuff that gets built which never makes it to the front-page here. Again, it's not about being un-supportive or derisive it's about there actually being nothing particularly interesting in this project (and somehow the defense of that is always this kind of hand-waving calling out people's bad manners for pointing out the obvious), you can have a quality ecosystem or a warm, fuzzy, let's praise everyone ecosystem - pick one.

I totally get your point. I've posted my own projects here in the past only to see them sink faster than a tabloid editors ethics, but I take that as part of the 'luck' and natural filtering nature of this platform. It certainly doesn't mean I bear a grudge for any other post that does make it to #1. Especially if it saves me from the 700th post this week on "Why I won't be buying another Apple device ever"...

I really don't think this is (or should be) a place where everyone gets a participation medal, but from what I have seen, the success and failures of posts by people announcing new products here seems to mirror the success rate (and seemingly random stickiness) of real world product launches, so perhaps that might help creators to get used to it and build up some resilience.

I thought maybe its just an April's fool day somewhere in Australia so they upvoted the post.

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