Sofa’s co-founder and former art director relaunch their static site generator as Cactus for Mac

Sofa’s co-founder and former art director relaunch their static site generator as Cactus for Mac

Koen Bok and Jorn van Dijk, veterans of the acclaimed Dutch software firm Sofa, have released Cactus for Mac, an attractive OS X version of their open-source static site generator.

Sofa attracted plenty of attention a couple years ago for the work it did on apps like Kaleidoscope and Versions. In fact, it got the attention of Facebook, which acquired the team in 2011. Sofa sold its apps to developer Black Pixel and moved to Palo Alto/Menlo Park.

After two years at Facebook, Bok and van Dijk decided that they wanted to go back to working for themselves, so they left to start a company. To start off as they struck out on their own, the pair dusted off their Cactus project and created a Mac version of it.


The idea behind Cactus is that it allows web designers to go back to hand-coding websites by creating an auto-refreshing local version of the site for you to view in your browser as you work on it. Once you’re ready to deploy, it’s extremely simple. However, this type of tool only works with fairly static websites, though you can still rely on Javascript to add dynamic features like comments and forms.

Sofa created Cactus while working on design-centric website templates for their clients.

“Slowly, we started to figure out that it was kind of a hassle to let designers set it up. If you want to use a template engine, you would need to set up a whole environment with Ruby and Django. It was a hassle,” Bok told The Next Web.

After the Facebook acquisition, the team released Cactus as open source software. However, the project had limited reach because it relied on terminal commands.

“After we quit Facebook, we looked at this thing and thought, ‘Hey, this is something that could become pretty big if we make it more accessible for web designers,’” Bok said. “We made it into an easy Mac app with a nice interface so it became an entire workflow.”

While Bok and van Dijk worked on the app last fall, Apple shook up the design world with the release of iOS 7.

“It was pretty interesting to see how the design world responded to that mostly aesthetic change, so we took some of the cues of iOS 7 and mocked them up on the desktop to see how far we could push that,” van Dijk said. “We figured it would be nice to wrap the whole app in the minimalistic design.”


The new Cactus app, which costs $29.99 in the Mac App Store, includes boilerplate templates for blogs, portfolios and profiles. The app is integrated directly with Amazon’s S3 hosting service.

While at Facebook, Bok and van Dijk had the opportunity to reach over a billion people with their work, but they eventually decided they wanted to work on something smaller.

“We’ve always enjoyed building stuff for a little bit less people that really, really enjoy what you’re building,” Bok said.

Cactus is the first step in their return to entrepreneurship, but the team plans on creating more tools and consumer products over the next few years. Thanks to Facebook, they can take their time choosing their next endeavor.

“We have the luxury to pick a problem that we like before we go all in,” Bok noted.

Cactus for Mac

Image credit: Curioso / Shutterstock

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