Sketch Guides

A few ideas to improve the alignment guides in Bohemian Coding’s Sketch, which I’ve been using more and more since Adobe announced that they pulled the plug on Fireworks — just like Obama will do to your sweet old granny.

In the current version (2.3.1), guide positions are hard to read and you can’t easily space them from each other and the edge of the artboard.

Guide positioning and spacing
Guide positioning and spacing

There is also currently no way to position them by numeric input, a feature I found very useful in Fireworks.

Numeric position input
Numeric position input

Say you’ve decided to change the height (or width) of an element in your design, a change that must propagate. It would be great to be able to move all of the guides on one axis in one pass.

Y axis ruler contextual menu
Y axis ruler contextual menu
Batch guide positioning adjustment
Batch guide positioning adjustment

The input boxes for individual and batch position adjustment would of course let you increment their values using the arrow keys and change them using mathematical operations, two features I’ve found really useful in Sketch.

Chain of Commands

I’d like to see the app switcher’s ability to quit and hide applications extended to allow other commands to be sent to applications without having to exit the app switcher quasi-mode. This could be handy with browsers, writing tools, and media players.

HUD Commander

This would work best if the selected application’s windows were presented when using the switcher so you can see what you are acting on. If not, it may be best to limit the additional commands to those that appear in the application’s Dock menu (usually, create a new document or window) and have a keyboard shortcut.


Working with a laptop and large external display reminded me of an interface irritation particular to multi-monitor setups in which the displays are of different sizes. For instance, a stacked arrangement with the menu bar on the large display on top and the Dock on the small one below. You can easily move the cursor to the large display anywhere along the top of the smaller screen. The inverse is not true; there are portions of the large display that will not allow the cursor to move to the smaller display.

Gateways animation (use a respectable browser)

Graphics created in Fireworks, animated in Hype.

Design Notes

  1. I believe an indicator showing just the passthrough zone is the best design, but there are alternatives:
    1. Show indicators for the portions of the display that do not allow the cursor through
    2. Show indicators for both
    3. Keep the existing “mouse around until you find it” implementation
  2. The color of the indicator could be calculated based on the desktop background to ensure sufficient contrast.
  3. Some smarts about determining cursor movement direction (like that used to keep sub-menus open when the cursor is moved diagonally) would prevent the indicator from appearing when the cursor is moved toward a hot corner to activate Mission Control or an Exposé mode.
  4. The indicator is obviously not needed when moving between displays of the same size.

Historical Exposé

As of Mac OS X 10.7, applications that provide a list of Recent Items display these documents as thumbnails at the bottom of the screen in the App Windows Exposé mode. The concept could be expanded to allow developers to specify what information appears in this section.

Users could navigate the history by two-finger swiping left and right or clicking the page dots immediately above the thumbnails.

Browsing History

Current browser window with history thumbnails

  1. Notice the bookmark icon displayed atop the page third from the left; I’ve bookmarked the page, so the mark appears to help me identify it.
  2. Modified behavior should apply to clicks/taps on thumbnails just as with links; if I hold Command and tap on a thumb, it should open in a new tab or window as specified by the browser settings.

Listening History

Audio player window with previously heard track thumbnails

  1. Star ratings or a favorite icon could be displayed for tracks.
  2. Hovering over a track thumbnail could trigger a fast crossfade between the playing track (if any) and the hovered track, making it easier to relocate a song you don’t know by name. The key would be a bit of a delay on hover so it doesn’t trigger as you are simply moving the cursor across the screen.

End Task

That the Windows 8 Task Manager in simple view is very similar to the Mac OS X Force Quit window is not surprising. What’s interesting is that Microsoft apparently arrived at this design via telemetry data and user observation. I doubt Apple used mountains of data to come up with what seems like an obvious design.

To the Windows 8 team’s credit, the expanded view’s resource consumption heatmap and contextual command to search the web for a process name are nice additions that I’d be happy to see Apple steal for the Activity Monitor on OS X.


Somewhat belatedly…


  1. I think the most important overarching user feature in 10.7 is state retention. I wrote about it a few years ago in State of the User.
  2. I’m generally fine with the scrollbars not appearing until scrolling. What’s annoying is the inconsistent display in third-party applications, a problem that should disappear after a round of updates.
  3. I switched scrolling behavior several months before installing 10.7 using BetterTouchTool, which is still very useful as a way to assign more gestures, either app-specific or system-wide.
  4. I like the redesigned login screen, but will see it maybe four or five times per year at home. Hooray for stability.


  1. Minor additions I appreciate:
    1. The list view folder inline expand/collapse animation.
    2. All My Files is a nice way of replacing the previous default Smart Folders.
    3. I’m really happy that list view column customization via a header row contextual menu is finally available.
  2. Groupings in Finder are interesting. They will be more useful when viewing /Applications once more developers embed category metadata in their app bundles. At present, I have dozens of apps in Other.

Mission Control

  1. I really like being able to take a peek at an adjacent desktop without fully switching using the Magic Trackpad. I can position iTunes or Twitter at the side of a desktop and check a song name or update without much effort. I wish Dashboard would update when any part of it is displayed rather rather than having to fully switch for widgets to update, behavior that would be particularly useful for Stocks and Weather.
  2. I’m really surprised the Misson Control “Automatically rearrange spaces based on most recent use” is on by default. There is no communication to the user as to what is happening or why; you just see your desktops mysteriously rearranged after some action based on whatever algorithm MC uses. I don’t know of any good “move UI around based on heuristics” examples. Microsoft removed the adaptive menus from Office for Windows for a reason.
  3. I’d like to be able to drag and hold a window against the menu bar to trigger Mission Control so I can drag it to another desktop.
  4. Desktops are labeled as such in Mission Control itself, but referred to as “spaces” in the preferences.


  1. The window of an outgoing message shooting off the top of the screen when sending in Mail is a nice way to convey the action through animation.
  2. When is iChat going to be rewritten to include iMessage and FaceTime functionality? OS X currently has too many real-time communications apps with overlapping functionality.
  3. I eagerly await Contactizer’s full CalDAV support. iCal and Address Book look silly.
  4. Mail/Contacts/Calendars could be a third tab (Accounts) when viewing a user in Users & Groups.


I use the Password Assistant in Keychain Access (/Applications/Utilities) to generate passwords for new accounts. The Assistant is pretty handy, but currently not integrated with any browsers, meaning I have to open Keychain Access, create a new Password Item (File > New Password Item), then click on the key to open the Assistant. I might then have to bounce back and forth between my browser and Keychain Access to find a password that complies with the (frequently unexpressed) password rules of the site.

Password Assistant integrated in browser

The Assistant would only appear when two password input fields are detected. What to do when a site doesn’t require confirmation? Maybe check the Keychain for existing accounts at the domain and show the key icon only if none is found?

Redemption from Error

I finally redeemed two iTunes gift cards last night, finding the process generally straightforward. That said, many Macs now have iSight cameras built-in. As proven by Delicious Library, an iSight can also function as a barcode scanner, moving the bulk of the input burden from the user to the computer.

Scanning an iTunes gift card

A second barcode (which creates a bit of confusion) would not have to be added if the scratch-off alphanumeric code could be recognized as such using OCR. With foreknowledge of the typeface and the processing power of modern Macs, this seems technically feasible.

In case the camera is in use by another application, the Scan via iSight button is disabled and the application name is displayed.

Camera in use by another application

There would have to be some conditional rules to hide the mention of optical scanning and the attendant button on Macs without a compatible camera.