The Leaking Balloon

The Mac App Store was released in January 2011 and it marked the beginning of a great new distribution channel. Even though it lacked some bells and whistles, the developer community was hopeful the problems would be addressed in due course. Unfortunately, it has been years and there’s no evidence that the core issues would be addressed in the future, at all.

Milen Dzhumerov’s Mac App Store: The Subtle Exodus

I bought Affinity Designer recently because I was able to use the beta releases, which proved the app to be stable, performant, and very functional. I don’t buy Mac apps without being able to try them.

Visual and Interaction Design on the Mac

It’s a hopeful time for design tools on the Mac.

  1. Adobe having killed Fireworks, I’ve moved over to Boheman Coding’s Sketch. The addition of symbols in v3 made it practical to use for larger projects. I still miss shared layers from Fireworks, but not the crashes.
  2. Affinity Designer has great performance, a customizable UI, and a good balance of vector and bitmap tools. It’s not geared toward mocking up numerous screen views, but it seems like a good option for individual illustrations and icons.
  3. Flying Meat’s Acorn is a great alternative to Photoshop if you need bitmap editing capabilities.
  4. Quasado’s Gravit provides a good deal of Fireworks’ functionality in an open source, web technologies-based package. It’s still very much a work in progress (no Boolean ops on vectors, no vector export, bugs, etc.), but it already surpasses Fireworks in some ways. The multiple master pages would have been great in Fireworks.
  5. Not having been released, I have not used it, but there is good reason to believe that Bjango’s Skala will be a quality visual design app.
  6. Relative Wave’s Form looks like a way to build iOS prototypes without all the complexity of Quartz Composer.
  7. Along similar lines, there is Facebook’s Origami.
  8. Framer Studio is another good option for mobile prototyping. There are many examples if you’re new to writing JavaScript.
  9. Tumult’s Hype is a good way to build interactive prototypes without coding. I’ve built fairly extensive prototypes using the combination of Sketch and Hype. Unlike Form and Origami, Hype’s output can run on anything with a decent browser.

Most designers for screens could be well served by some combination of the above. My workflow these days is mostly doing graphics and some layout in Sketch, then prototyping in the browser using jQuery with Velocity.js or Snap.svg for animation.

Minimal Cover in Sight

When in the Artist view in iTunes, rather than album covers scrolling along with the tracks, they should bump up against the header and stay in view until all of the album’s tracks scroll out of view, much like Music on the iPad or the header bars in the iOS Contacts app.

Current iTunes Artist view cover scrolling

Suggested iTunes Artist view cover scrolling

Sketch Align and Add Guides

The persistent alignment controls in Sketch could double as a way to add guides around canvas selections. The basic idea is that depressing a modifier key would switch the toolbar into a guide placement quasi-mode, with the icons and tooltips updating to reflect the change. Ideally, the icons in the toolbar would reflect the guide color set in Sketch’s preferences (red being the default).

Sketch: Add guides around a canvas selection

Built using the recently released Tumult Hype 2.

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.

4K Day

I’m wondering if Apple is going to release a 4K (or better) display alongside the new Mac Pro. Assuming Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro update availability is announced at the same event, it doesn’t seem like Apple to announce a machine that can power three such displays, unveil a version of Final Cut Pro with new 4K features and optimized for the new Mac Pro, and then tell everyone to go find a 4K display elsewhere and have fun calibrating it.