For most applications that I use on a day-to-day basis, I am quite happy with the current version in my distro de jeur's (Ubuntu, of late) repositories. Sure, a little more cutting edge would be nice, but good enough is good enough. I had technical writing professor once who bemoaned the fact that most people, students, professors, and professionals alike, only know about 10% of what their word processor could do. His facts were right. In non-technical fields, most people are probably only aware of 1% of what Microsoft Word could do. The same thing is true with command line apps. My most typical use of find is probably

find . -name 'foo'

Find has tons of options, but this one is the one I use the most. So, it is true that the versions in a given distro are not the bleeding edge, but, normally, I don't need the bleeding edge--and I don't have the time to care intimately about everything (I'm looking at you Gentoo--you're a lot of fun if I've got a lot of time, but I don't).

But there are a few applications that I use where it pays to be, or at least sit closer to, the bleeding edge. For me, those applications are:

  • sup--simply the greatest CLI mail program in human history. The best of mutt, pine, and Gmail in one easy to use application. I started using it version 0.8 or 0.9 (I forget which) and am using the current release, 0.11.
  • tmux--this upstart to GNU Screen offers lots of goodies to the discerning user. The first and most obvious is the ability to slice either horizontally or vertically, a much friendlier configuration file (I don't use standard bindings on either GNU screen or tmux), UTF-8 support, and plenty of little technical details (true client/server being not the least of these).

The commonality is that, in both cases, we are talking about relatively young applications and projects that offer a nice set of changes to existing software. The features are the main mover, here. I would not go through the hassle of manually upgrading (through a manually-installed gem system for sup or from manually downloaded sources for tmux) and maintaining either of these applications if their corresponding old and stable projects had what I wanted. In the case of tmux, the biggest thing was horizontal and vertical splitting. The only way to get this in GNU screen is to download an unofficial patch and keep it up yourself. In my opinion, this is even more obnoxious than keeping a separate app, because GNU won't breakdown and just add support.

What applications, if any, do you run on the bleeding edge? Or do you think the bleeding edge is a complete waste of time?