The Breakroom

Dy-nam-ic!

February 28, 2020

By Ged Maheux

As an icon designer who’s worked in the field for over 25 years, I’ve pretty much seen it all, and then some. So when a chance comes to do something not only new, but totally unique, I jump at the design challenge.

Introducing Tot’s dynamic app icon!

One of the most fun features of our new text gathering and editing app, is its ability to display a dynamically updated application icon in the macOS dock. The app constantly adapts the icon using the color of the currently selected dot. This cues the user into what content is currently active. This additional context can reduce friction if you copy and paste a lot of text while switching between apps. As far as I know, no other app in the Mac universe does this, and we think it’s very cool.

Craig came up with the idea of an app icon that would update depending on where you were in the app, and it was my job to take the idea and design an icon that could be built in code and still look great.

So how was this accomplished? Basically we built the app icon like a tiny Tot sandwich. The bottom and top layers are the icon’s “bread” and in between is the meaty, adaptive colored fill layer that changes depending on what dot is currently active. 

Twitterrific 5 promo banner

The tricky bit was coming up with top level visual treatments that would allow the colored fill layer to show through properly in both light and dark modes. This was done by using layers of white or black and adjusting their opacity as necessary in Adobe Photoshop. 

All this means that the app icon is theme-ready. In theory, we could allow users to specify any color they wanted for each of the seven dots and Tot’s app icon would adapt accordingly. For those who find this feature distracting, they can of course turn it off with a right-click on Tot’s icon in the Dock, but where’s the fun in that?

After so many years of pushing pixels, it’s rare to design an app icon that gives me so much joy. I hope you love using Tot as much as we did bringing it to you. Download Tot for macOS for free and try out its dynamic dock icon for yourself from the App Store.

Meet Tot – Your Tiny Text Companion!

February 25, 2020

By Craig Hockenberry

Twitterrific 5 promo banner

You have text. Lots of text. A screen full of digital stickies. Your notes app. That scribbled-on napkin tucked in your jacket pocket (you forgot about that, didn’t you?).

Tot is here to help. It’s an elegant, simple way to collect and edit text across your Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Use Tot for jotting down notes. Brainstorming. Organizing a project. Whatever you need. Tot is your tiny text companion!

Less Is More
Tot’s single window design and simple formatting controls mean no more hunting for that chunk of text. Seven color-coded dots let you organize your notes while keeping them from getting out of hand.

Tot running in both dark and light mode on macOS
Dark / Light Mode
Designed to look stunning both day and night, Tot takes full advantage of iOS and macOS themes.

Small Footprint
Stays out of the way on the desktop with minimal chrome and can even be controlled via the Menu bar. On mobile, each dot is just a swipe away.

iCloud Sync
Seamlessly syncs your text across iOS and macOS using iCloud so you can capture thoughts wherever you are.

Markdown Support
Full support for rich or plain text and even automatically translates text to Markdown for handy use on the web. Have an RTF file you need marked up? No problem!

Killer Keyboard
Tot puts common text operations on the keyboard and keeps track of word and character counts as you type.

And a special treat for folks on macOS: something we’re calling the “dynamic icon”. The Dock icon adapts to whatever you’re doing in Tot and acts as a nice cue for keeping track of your work. Control-click on the Dock icon to make things look their best on your desktop!

Be sure to follow Tot on twitter for the latest app-related news as well as tips and tricks. Tot is available today for iOS and macOS.

Triode – App of the Day

February 25, 2020

By Ged Maheux

We’re honored to report that Triode has been selected by the App Store as their App of the Day. Triode lets you easily listen to any of tens of thousands of free internet radio stations around the world with just a few taps. Listen in the car, in your pocket, living room or from your couch.

Be sure to visit the official website for more information and then be sure to download Triode to get started.

Say Hello to Our Thready Little Friend

January 24, 2020

By Sean Heber

Illustration of Twitter bird sitting atop a spool of thread

Today’s release of Twitterrific 6.1.5 introduces a new feature that makes it easier than ever to start or continue a thread of tweets. We also added the ability to save videos and animated GIFs on your timeline directly to your photo library along with a setting to prevent the device from sleeping while connected to power. Of course we didn’t stop there – we fixed a bunch of bugs, too!

If you’ve ever wanted to reply to one of your earlier tweets but didn’t want to hunt for it, our new threading feature is just what you’ve been missing! Simply tap the compose button to start a new tweet, then tap the thread button. From there, you can display a list of recent tweets and quickly choose the one you want to continue.

Sometimes you know you’ll have a lot to say and it’s not going to all fit in one tweet. Before hitting send on your opening salvo, activate the new automatic threading option from the compose view.

Twitterrific's new Threading control activated in the compose screen

When activated, the compose view will re-open after the tweet is posted and will automatically be configured to continue the thread – perfect for those rare times when someone is wrong on the Internet.

In the past, when a great cat video appeared on your timeline, the best you could do was like the tweet and move on. Now you can long-press on the video and send it to the photo library or share it using another app. Never miss a chance to add the next perfect reaction GIF to your stockpile!

We also addressed a host of issues that could cause Twitterrific’s internal database to slowly grow and take an excessive amount of processing time when the app was put in the background. These changes should also fix most of the remaining background crashes, which caused the app to have to relaunch instead of remaining suspended and ready to tweet at a moment’s notice.

Be sure to visit Twitterrific’s version history page for the full list of what’s new and then follow Twitterrific on Twitter for the latest news plus tips and tricks. Happy threading, everyone!

Picard Patreon Wallpaper

January 22, 2020

By Ged Maheux

Twitterrific 5 promo banner

We’ve been Star Trek fans for as long as we can remember and have lost track of all the Trek downloadable goodies we’ve created over the years. Today we’re adding one more entry into the Star Trek logbook with the release of Picard, a wallpaper that’s available as a FREE download over on Patreon.

Patrick Stewart returns to his iconic Star Trek role in Picard, airing Thursday, January 23rd on CBS All Access. We can’t wait to take part in these new adventures that promises to reveal what’s become of Jean-Luc Picard, the Borg, Seven of Nine and more of our favorite Star Trek characters.

To celebrate the premiere, artist Dave Brasgalla has crafted a stunning digital portrait of Patrick Stewart as Picard that you can download FREE for use on your home screen, lock screen or computer desktop. Be sure to subscribe to our Patreon for instant access to dozens of custom wallpapers, social media avatars and mac desktop icons plus tons of exclusive content each month.

Make it so and enjoy the world premiere of Picard tomorrow! LLAP! 🖖

Triode 1.1: Keeping Track of Tracks

January 13, 2020

By Craig Hockenberry

Today we’re happy to announce a new version of Triode with a brand-new feature called Track History. Track History remembers the last 100 songs you’ve played in Triode, and is easy to access on each platform:

  • iOS: Tap Track History in the Now Playing view under the play/pause button (that’s revealed with music note icon). A long-press on the artwork or track information will also bring up Track History.
  • macOS: Click Station > Show Track History… in the menu bar (or use the Cmd-T shortcut.)
  • tvOS: Swipe up for controls in Now Playing, then select Show Track History.

Triode's new Track History and zoomable track artwork features

You can select any item in the list to get additional information about the track, including when and where it was played. There are options to open the track in Apple Music or iTunes and share links or artwork. On iOS, you can even tap on the artwork to zoom in (double-tap toggles the zoom).

We’ve been testing this feature for a few weeks and find it’s really helpful to answer the question of “what was that song?” Radio is often something that you listen to while doing other things, and knowing that you can go back later and check out something new is super handy. Especially when you’re using CarPlay while driving: “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel!”

This feature has also been designed with your privacy in mind. Your listening habits never leave the device: there are no tracking servers collecting statistics. We’ve also included a Clear Track History button to completely remove the data from your device (it’s in Settings on iOS, and in the Station menu on macOS).

For details check out the version history, or download the FREE app and have fun keeping track of your tracks!

Year In Review for 2019

December 19, 2019

By Ged Maheux

As we once again close out the year, and decade, here at the Iconfactory, we’d like to reflect back on all our accomplishments and look forward to the next year. Our 23rd year in business was a mix of familiar favorites and exciting new ground, as we laid foundations for making a sustainable business in 2020 and beyond.

Something Old, Something Blue

Back in January, we launched the Twitterrific Ad Network as a way for small developers to promote their apps to the thousands of tech-savvy users who enjoy Twitterrific every day. The network has been an overwhelming success and has helped bolster Twitterrific’s revenue over the past year. If you have a product or service you want to advertise, contact us and get on the waiting list for 2020: we’d love to have you!

Twitterrific 5 promo banner

In June, we announced Twitterrific 6. The update introduced over 30 new features and improvements but also moved Ollie to a sustainable subscription model. This switch was a challenge but it allowed us to expand Twitterrific’s features. In 2019 we added custom themes across platforms, a new browser extension for macOS, expanded media thumbnails, and multi-window support on the iPad. We also fixed a bug that had been bugging us for years!

Music To Our Ears

Just last month we introduced Triode, a fun new app to enjoy Internet Radio. Our best apps, like Linea and xScope, are born from personal necessity, and so it was with Triode. Craig wanted a powerful, yet simple, player app that worked seamlessly across all of his devices (iPhone, CarPlay, Airplay, macOS, and tvOS.) That desire gave birth to Triode.

Triode promo banner with woman listening to music with headphones

Users and critics alike appreciate Triode’s ease of use, accessibility, and ability to take the complexity out of navigating thousands of stations to find the music you love. We have some great updates planned for Triode next year: the app is free to try, so we hope you’ll check it out!

Back to Basics

We broke new ground in March with the launch of our Patreon account. For over 20 years we cut our teeth bringing icons, desktops, and other downloadable goodies to life as freeware releases. Over time these releases slowed and finally stopped as paying work vied for our attention. Thanks to the support of our patrons, we’ve gotten back to doing the thing that we’ve loved for so long.

Patreon promo banner featuring a small sample of some of the wallpapers we've produced in 2019

Since the launch, we’ve produced nearly 50 amazing wallpaper releases and dozens of fun icon sets. Our Patreon subscribers also get early access to new products like Triode, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks on our Discord server, and special offers you can’t get anywhere else. Patreon support even allowed us to create our first iMessage Stickers in over three years: Skullmoji was a Halloween treat!

The support of our subscribers has re-established a personal and creative outlet that was neglected for far too long. Whether it’s a podcast, a new app, or a fun set of wallpapers, we’re grateful to everyone who has given us the opportunity to explore our creativity and have fun while doing it. If you haven’t signed up yet, check out our Patreon page and join the party!

That’s A Wrap

As we head into our annual Christmas break to enjoy a well-earned rest with friends and family, we look back on these past twelve months with pride. We’ve helped important clients bring new work into the world, introduced new products and planned for the future of existing ones.

Lastly, we were humbled and honored when Apple spotlighted Craig with a special feature in the App Store back in May. It’s always wonderful to be recognized for our contributions to the community, but when it comes from Apple, it’s extra special.

We look forward to all the amazing opportunities the next year will bring to the factory. Thanks to loads of hard work and the support of people like you, we feel blessed to be here after all these years. All of us wish you and yours a happy holiday season. Thanks everyone!

A Factory Record

December 16, 2019

By Craig Hockenberry

Last week was a busy one, we released 10 product updates: a record number! Rather than bombard you with bunch of posts, here’s a quick recap of all that’s new:

  • iPulse – Our system monitoring utility got a refresh for some small issues on Catalina, mainly with the new startup disk layout.
  • xScope – Every developer and designer’s favorite tool for measuring, inspecting, and testing their work got some performance improvements and crash fixes, both on macOS and iOS.
  • Linea – The iPad, iPhone, and Mac products all got some new features, including a pricing change to keep the product sustainable.
  • Triode – Our new Internet Radio app for iOS, macOS, and tvOS got its first update! We included a bunch of features requested by new customers including the ability to arrange Your Favorites as you please.
  • Stickers – If that wasn’t enough to kill your average developer, we also released an update to our Sticker packs. Mallow & Puddin’ got some new icons, while other packs got a refresh to ensure compatibility with the latest iOS release.

We even started testing a new product idea ‐ if you want to know more about that, join our club of supporters, and get lots of goodies before anyone else :-)

The Swipe Stuff

December 13, 2019

By Sean Heber

For many years, Twitterrific on iOS used a relatively simple custom presentation for modal popup views such as conversation threads and profiles. With the release of iOS 13, Apple changed the design of standard modal popup views to have a more card-like appearance and behavior.

With this change, our custom popups still worked, but they didn’t feel like they fit in anymore. The native iOS 13 popups have a bit of bounce when dragged, a new size, they stack visually, and have a different background fade.

Rather than trying to duplicate all of this behavior in our own custom presentation code, we removed it all and used the native functionality instead. In short order, the app was looking refreshed and more modern – but there was a problem: the new modal popups were harder to dismiss.

Our prior presentation system had several handy ways to dismiss the popups, including tapping or swiping down in the space outside of the view, swiping down from the popup’s title bar, or swiping back from the edge of the screen.

Apple’s default allows you to swipe down and easily dismiss from anywhere in the panel – but only if the content doesn’t scroll or is pinned to the top. There is no support for tapping to dismiss or swiping down in the area outside of the popup.

To make matters worse, if the popup view needs to support pull-to-refresh, it has to disable that nice swipe-down dismissing gesture or else it’s impossible to actually pull down when you want to refresh!

That leaves only two ways to dismiss a standard popup when using pull-to-refresh: swipe down from a nav bar or title bar in the popup or a close button. Both of those approaches involve reaching to the top of your screen, which is not an easy feat if you have a large phone and small hands!

Our loyal customers have enjoyed our easy-to-dismiss popups for years. While the new ones looked and fit in better, they were also a significant usability regression. We weren’t happy about that and decided we needed to address the problem.

After considering several design options, including a close button at the bottom of all popup views, or ensuring there was always a bit of stable chrome somewhere low enough to grab, we eventually arrived back where we originally started: the popups just needed some better gestures!

Swipe

Our solution turned out to be relatively simple: we added two additional gesture recognizers to the presentation controller’s container view after our popup view controller has appeared. When active, these gestures modify the container view’s position to provide the live interaction feedback.

The first gesture is a simple swipe-down on the background behind the popup which makes it easier for iPad users to dismiss the floating panels. The second is a back-swipe gesture that’s triggered at the edge of the screen. For the back-swipe interaction, we implemented a nice springy compression effect that feels right at home on iOS 13 – once you’ve swiped over enough, the standard view dismissal is triggered and the view animates down and to the right in a way that feels surprisingly natural.

Now that we’ve grown accustomed to these gestures in Twitterrific, it’s frustrating to encounter the less usable and more rigid native popups in other apps. We hope this post helps other developers implement a similar mechanism for dismissing modal popups. And who knows – maybe Apple will consider adopting it across the whole system!

Linea 2.8 and Beyond

December 2, 2019

By Webmaster

Linea 2.7 with Rob McCallum illustration of future lady

Today we’re announcing the release of Linea 2.8 with a handful of improvements and bug fixes.

  • Improved performance for ZipShapes drawn with Art Pencil and Felt Tip Pen
  • Multi-page PDF output can now be sorted with oldest or newest sketch first
  • Tweaked color of crop overlay to work better with dark backgrounds
  • Fixed 3×2 app icon template and rendering of hexagonal grid
  • Fixed blurriness when pasting or importing sketches and images
  • Preference to turn off tilt with Apple Pencil

Most important, however, is the news that the app will be transitioning to a subscription payment model. This will happen with the release of Linea 3.0 sometime early in 2020.

I HATE SUBSCRIPTIONS!

We tried hard to avoid a subscription, but the costs to maintain the app are much higher than the income from new sales. This is obviously not a sustainable situation! We have two options:

  1. Let the app die a slow, painful, and unsupported death
  2. Find a source of recurring revenue

The High Cost of Maintenance

We spent over 200 hours on the Linea 2.7 update. A majority of that time was not even spent adding new features, instead it was spent making sure that everything looked right with the operating system’s new Dark Mode!

Changes to the operating system are obviously outside of our control but they must be dealt with or else the app risks becoming unusable. For example, prior to our work to properly handle dark mode, if you went to select a new template, you were presented with a menu that had black text on a black background.

Apple has recently begun to make a distinction between “iOS” for the iPhone and “iPadOS” for iPads. We expect that we are entering a period where new iPad-specific features will require a lot of maintenance in the coming years. If we don’t keep up-to-date, you’ll be working with a broken or unusable version of Linea sooner rather than later.

What You’ll Get With a Subscription

To begin with, Linea will become a Universal app — your subscription will include full access on both your iPad and iPhone.

We’re also planning on some great new additions with Linea 3.0:

  • Time-lapse to capture your creation as it evolves
  • Templates with adjustable intensity
  • Custom backgrounds with adjustable paper color and texture
  • App themes and beautiful new app icons for your home screen
  • QuickToggle: two-handed drawing is all we’re going to say :-)
  • And more…

All of this comes at a low price: 99¢ per month or $9.99 per year (a 20% savings.) Additionally, if you purchased Linea at any time in 2019, you’ll also get a free one year subscription. If you still don’t own Linea Sketch, now’s the time to get on board.

Linea 3.0 will include a free trial where new users can create a handful of sketches without any time limits.

What Happens If I Don’t Subscribe?

Without a subscription, you will be in a free trial that limits the number of new documents you can create. Your existing sketches will still be editable and exportable, so they can be migrated to another app or saved for posterity.

Our companion app for macOS, Linea Link, also provides another way to download all of your sketches. To make this option easier, Linea Link is now available for free on the Mac App Store.

Let Me Keep Using The Old Version!

In our opinion, leaving an old version of the app to die on the App Store is irresponsible.

It is very likely that future changes to the operating system will break the ability to export your existing sketches entirely. If and when that happens, all of your valuable work would forever be lost.

The only way for us to continuously preserve access to your work is for us to keep the app up to date as best we can. To be able to afford to do that, we need your support.

If you still don’t agree, then feel free to export your work and move on.

We Love Linea

This has been a difficult decision for all of us here at the Iconfactory. We aren’t making this change lightly. We’re doing this because we know that many of you are like us—you rely on Linea to do your job or express your ideas and it would really stink if it went away.

Everything we do here at the Iconfactory is thanks to your generous support. We recently moved Twitterrific to a subscription model with positive results that guaranteed its future development. We hope you’ll help us do the same with Linea. Watch for the launch of Linea Sketch 3.0 sometime in early 2020.