Sketch Keypad

Part of me hopes that Apple’s Pro Workflow group is exploring something like a Touch Pad (not Bar) for use with desktop apps. A multi-touch panel that augments the keyboard, mouse, and trackpad that can be used to execute application-specific actions using an interface provided by the application. It could be a great way to provide color pickers, shuttle controls, etc. The kind of things the Touch Bar provides on the laptops, but with greater potential because of the less restricted height. Fingerprint authentication would be nice to have too, I suppose.

Mojave Finder Ideas

The Gallery View

As a designer and photographer, I was particularly interested in Finder’s new Gallery View. While the functionality is solid, there is room for improvement, particularly in pointing device and keyboard interactions.

  • The QuickLook view does not scale down to the proper location on screen when filenames are displayed in the thumbnail strip.
The QuickLook preview is misaligned when scaling back down to the thumbnail.
  • The mousewheel might as well be mapped to scroll left/right when the cursor is over the thumbnail strip. As it stands, it’s useless unless you know that you can switch the scroll axis by holding Shift. If you already knew this, congratulations — you too have spent a lot of time at your Mac.
  • Similar to the interaction in Preview when in Single Page mode, people should be able to two-finger swipe left/right with the cursor over the selected image to navigate the thumbnail strip.
  • When you have both a trackpad and mouse connected to your Mac, you can’t grab the scroll thumb by horizontally scrolling with Shift+mousewheel and then moving the cursor into the scroll track; the scroll thumb disappears too quickly. You can easily do so using the trackpad. Once the trackpad is disconnected, the scrollbar is displayed persistently. I guess no one on the Finder QA team uses both a trackpad and mouse simultaneously.
  • I swear Option+mousewheel over the selected item preview to zoom was working at one point. It’s not, but it should.
  • The pinch-to-zoom gesture could be used over the thumbnail strip to switch between the three thumbnail sizes offered in View Options (⌘J), though they are fixed sizes and the pinch-to-zoom gesture is usually used for smooth, continuous zooming.
  • After disconnecting a trackpad, the thumbnail strip can be scrolled vertically such that the thumbnails (or filenames, if displayed) overlap the scroll track. See below.
Disconnecting a trackpad causes layout issues.
  • Using the Home/End keys to jump to the ends of the thumbnail strip causes the vertical position of the thumbnails to shift. They reset once you scroll or use an arrow key to select another item. See below.
Using the Home and End keys causes layout issues.
  • Unlike the three other Finder views, the Page Up/Down keys do not work in Gallery view.
  • The splitter between the Preview and file display panes (or preview and metadata in Gallery View) does not provide double-click behavior. Double-clicking it could either toggle between minimum (480 points) and maximum (960 points) widths for the Preview pane or, like Finder’s Sidebar, reset it to the default width.

If you are a designer and currently use just a mouse or just a trackpad, you are missing out. Assuming sufficient desk space (and hands), you can use the trackpad with one hand to pan and zoom in design apps while simultaneously using the mouse with the other to drag or resize objects (though screen update performance ranges from a bit janky to pretty smooth, depending on the app). Once you’ve tried it, you won’t want to go back.

Making Metadata More Useful

I’ve always found metadata interesting for the possibilities it presents to retrieve and explore information based on attributes, so I’m glad Apple added the ability to display more file metadata in Mojave’s Finder. The problem is that you can’t do much with it aside from view it and select an individual label or value. Below are videos of prototypes I built in Kite for how it could evolve to be more useful.

Showing Photo Locations

Assuming an image has GPS coordinates embedded in its Exif metadata, it would be nice to be able to show the image on a map without having to add it to Photos to use the Places view within that app.

Video of a prototype showing an image location on a map. Prototype built in Kite.
  • Command-clicking the pin icon in the metadata list could launch the Maps app directly rather than having to first access the map pane, then click Show in Maps.

Creating Smart Folders from Displayed Metadata

It would be great to be able to create a Spotlight-powered Smart Folder based on metadata displayed in Finder’s Preview pane. Currently, the process of creating Smart Folders from image metadata (other than the basics like filename and type) involves opening the “Other…” menu in the Spotlight query builder, scrolling to or searching for the metadata type you want to use, then clicking OK. It’s pretty well tucked away and the list of available metadata is extensive.

For example, say I want to create a Smart Folder of all the images captured with my Olympus and exported to JPEG. As you can see below, it’s potentially a fairly easy process when you can start with metadata that’s already displayed.

Building a Smart Folder in Mojave’s Finder from displayed metadata.

At narrow pane widths, the Search Quick Action would collapse into the Other menu.

I first thought of this design for Capture One, but it can fit into most any app that displays metadata in a label-value list and lets you build collections based on metadata.

Further Metadata Notes

  • I’d love it if a future version of Finder displays IPTC metadata (particularly keywords) in the Preview pane. IPTC metadata is already indexed by Spotlight and displayed in the Info window. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be too much work to add support to the Preview pane.
  • It would be possible to do at least rough location mappings of photos based solely on IPTC location metadata such as Location, Municipality, etc.
  • Embedded keywords are more useful than Finder Tags because they travel with the file, regardless of the filesystem.
  • Referring to the pane that displays metadata as Preview doesn’t really make sense in Gallery View, where the metadata and content preview are separate. “Details” would make sense.

Folder Content Previews

Rather than simply displaying a folder’s icon at a larger size when selected in Gallery View, Mojave’s Finder could give users a peek into the folder (information scent) by previewing the folder’s contents. In the case of populous folders, the items shown at the front could be based on the date last opened or modified to increase the odds they are more recent in the user’s memory.

A prototype showing Finder previewing a folder’s contents in Gallery View.

While this example only shows images (for which I think the feature would be most useful), it would work with any file type providing QuickLook previews.


As long as I’ve used Sketch, I’ve wanted a way to display the letters in hex color codes in lowercase, which I find easier to read. See the two contrived but possible examples below. The top inspector screenshot is Sketch, the bottom with a few typography adjustments.

First example comparing Sketch hex codes rendered in all upper case and in mixed case with typography enhancements
Second example comparing Sketch hex codes rendered in all upper case and in mixed case with typography enhancements

The adjusted hex codes are rendered in Apple SF Pro Text with the “High legibility” (note the open 4 and slashed zero) and “One storey a” settings enabled in the Typography panel accessed in Sketch from View > Show Fonts > gear menu > Typography. I also applied character spacing of 0.2 to give the glyphs a little more breathing room.

On a related note, it would be great if Sketch’s text styles accounted for settings enabled in the Typography panel. As of the 53 beta release (71998), things like the “Single storey a” are not saved to and applied by Sketch text styles.

World Wide Weave

A tapestry of variously colored blocks representing the Google homepage.
Rafaël Rozendaal, 2017. Part of the “Programmed” exhibition at the Whitney Museum, 2018.

Abstract Browsing 17 03 05 (Google) is a machine-woven tapestry depicting an abstract version of the Google browser’s interface. To produce his Abstract Browsing series, Rafaël Rozendaal created a plug-in for Google’s Chrome browser; available to anyone online, it reduces images and text on any website visited to colored rectangles. The artist surfs the web every day using his plug-in and compiles thousands of screenshots, which he then narrows down to a small selection to be produced as tapestries. The tapestries are created at the Textile Museum in Tilburg, the Netherlands, where Rozendaal’s screenshots are converted into a file for output by a weaving machine. His project connects layers of machine abstraction: the initial transformation of the webpage exposes a composition optimized to grab our attention, while the tapestry references the roots of computing in nineteenth-century weaving machines that automated the creation of patterns.

The Whitney Museum of American Art