The Breakroom

Listening to Poo, Your Emoji and You

July 13, 2018

By Ged Maheux

A 1950's PSA style woman gazes up from behind a book to floating emoji above her head including the smiling poo

Let’s face it, it’s a struggle to get attention in 2018. Users wage a constant battle for eyeballs in the ever-widening war of compelling content versus fake news and funny memes. One of the ways people stand out from the pack is to employ Emoji and special characters in their names. Scroll through your Twitter timeline and you will undoubtedly spot more than a few people relying on this technique: it acts as a visual cue to pay special attention and adds an extra dimension of personality to a profile.

But these benefits have a significant downside.

The problem with using these special characters centers around how they are presented to folks with vision difficulties. If you’re relying on a screen reader, like Apple’s VoiceOver technology, Emoji can make browsing Twitter a nightmare. This is because VoiceOver reads the name of the character: you may see a simple 😊 Emoji, but a blind person hears “Smiling face with smiling eyes”.

In a tweet, it’s helpful to hear something like “Awesome job! Smiling face with smiling eyes Emoji”. But when this same character is used in a screen name, you’ll hear “John Doe Smiling face with smiling eyes” at the beginning of each tweet. This adds friction and dramatically slows down the process of “reading” your timeline because this longer phrase is read every time.

There are more characters within Unicode than just Emoji, and some of the codes let you change the way a name appears visually on your screen. You can pick a different font like Copperplate Gothic or add funky symbols – thanks to standard support across a wide variety of platforms, your unique creation will look great everywhere.

But what happens if you’re not looking at it and relying on a screen reader? Compare what you see for this tweet to what the VoiceOver user hears in the audio clip below:

Tweet from Janie Plum with her name defined in unicode characters

The user name takes over half of the total reading time and is difficult to understand because it must be spelled out as J-A-N-I-Pulsating heart-P-L-Small Latin Letter Capital U. You’ll also note that a few letters are missing as VoiceOver attempts to speed things up. Looks can be deceiving.

Now imagine hearing this over and over as you scroll through your timeline – a tweetstorm by Janie will be excrutiating! And then her friends pick up on the trend and add to your frustration!

So what’s the solution?

The Iconfactory recently introduced a new feature in Twitterrific that allows users to turn off Emoji in names. When activated, these problematic characters are no longer displayed or used by VoiceOver, resulting in a smoother reading experience. We’re also looking at ways to remove other characters that need to be spelled out. While this all helps our customers, it remains a problem on the web and in other apps.

If you want to make your tweets accessible to the widest possible audience, consider removing Emoji from your online user names. This goes doubly for the stylized Unicode characters that some people have fallen in love with. Sure, they may elevate your online profile to the social media equivalent of the Matrix code, but for folks with disabilities, it’s just making their lives more difficult.

Now you know, and as they say, that’s half the battle. The accessibility community thanks you!

Ten Years on the Aisles of the App Store

July 10, 2018

By Craig Hockenberry

Time flies when you’re having fun. Today marks the tenth anniversary of the App Store.

Of course there are a lot of people celebrating this event besides the factory workers. I was honored to be a part of the Appstories podcast where James Thomson and I chat with John Voorhees and Federico Vittici about those early days of selling iPhone apps.

I’m also enjoying the retrospectives about how apps have changed over the past decade. Michael Steeber’s visual look at the evolution of app interfaces and icons is fascinating. Alex Guyot takes this theme and adds some context from the developer’s perspective.

Another, but less obvious, benefit of the App Store is how it’s brought accessible software to folks in need. My colleague Sean Heber talked to Steven Aquino about this revolutionary change.

It’s been an excellent ride. Here’s to another ten!

Push Nope-ifications

July 5, 2018

By Ged Maheux

Today we’re rolling out an update for Twitterrific on iOS and macOS that addresses upcoming changes with how apps interact with Twitter. Unfortunately, these changes hinder the ability of third-party apps like Twitterrific to do push notifications and live-stream events.

We had hoped there would be cost-effective ways to work around these limitations, but since that’s looking increasingly unlikely, today we’re here to explain exactly what these changes mean to Twitterrific users like yourself.

Push Pulled

If you purchased the Push Notifications Advanced Features on iOS at any point in the past, you will continue to receive notifications until Twitter deactivates their API. Sometime after August 16th, 2018, Twitterrific won’t be able to receive and display notifications natively.

When this happens, you won’t be notified when someone likes one of your tweets, quotes you, replies to you, retweets, sends a direct message, or follows you. Since these notifications also power the Today view and Twitterrific’s Apple Watch app, we will be retiring both.

Given that notifications are going away, today’s iOS update removes the Push Notification in-app purchase for new users. There is now a single “Enhanced” in-app purchase item including ad removal and tweet translation for $2.99 USD. The Tip Jar remains for those who wish to contribute to Twitterrific’s long-term development.

Unrealtime

Twitter will also be removing the live-streaming service for third-party apps. This means that after the API is shut down, tweets and direct messages will be delayed by a minute or two, instead of displaying in real time.

Starting with today’s update, Twitterrific will still attempt to live stream tweets but will fall back to automatically refreshing your timelines every 2 minutes if it’s unable to connect. Automatic refreshing, unlike streaming, will work even if you are connected via a cellular network.

In most use cases you probably won’t notice the difference, except in cases like live events or with popular searches that update frequently. On the plus side, this change means that Lists can finally auto-refresh themselves like other timelines – something that had been sorely missing for a long time.

I Want My Ac-tiv-ity!

While there is little we can do to work around the removal of live streaming, it will still be possible to continue to receive push notifications for tweets. How? Simply activate all the notification types you want to receive in the official Twitter client. Then keep using Twitterrific to browse your timeline, tweet, respond to direct messages, read threads, like tweets, and much more.

Using notifications via the official app also means you can continue to receive them on your wrist via Apple Watch. Tweet text won’t be color-coded as it was in Twitterrific, but you’ll still be able to keep yourself apprised of the latest events.

The Bottom Line

We sincerely wish Twitter would have offered third party developers a better way forward for our customers. Apps like Twitterrific helped build Twitter’s brand and expand its user base. We even contributed to its lexicon and feature sets (Tweet tweet!) Twitter’s priorities over the last several years, however, have shifted away from end users and toward brands and big companies. We have no choice but to adapt as best we can.

As of this writing, both push notifications and live streaming of tweets will continue to function at least into August, 2018. Installing today’s update means you’ll lose Twitterrific’s Watch app, but as long as you’ve purchased them in the past, the Today view and push notifications will continue to work until the cut off. New customers will not be able to unlock these features going forward as we did not feel it was fair to continue charging for a service that we know is ending.

Thank you so much for your loyalty and support over the years! All of us at The Iconfactory appreciate it more than we can say.

Favicons. Finally.

June 7, 2018

By Craig Hockenberry

If you’re one of those people that got excited by Safari screenshots in macOS Mojave sporting favicons in tabs, we’ve got some good news: you can have them right now in the Safari Technology Preview. And you don’t even have to pronounce it fav-ah-con.

But there’s more to the new feature than you might think. Take a look at what appears on the Iconfactory home page in the latest Chrome and the Safari releases:

Why are the icons different? The answer lies in this one line of page markup:

<link rel="mask-icon" href="/favicon.svg" color="#990000">

We keep a favicon.ico file in the root of the website filesystem for compatibility with browsers that don’t support vector icons. But Safari knows that SVG will look better on a high resolution display, so it checks for a favicon.svg first.

Since favicons are an important branding element for a website, you’ll want to learn more about how this new format works. All the details are in our extensive tutorial. Enjoy!

Tips for Great Service

June 1, 2018

By Ged Maheux

Linea Sketch Tip Jar in version 2.1
With this week’s release of Linea Sketch, we added some important new features and improvements, but also something called a Tip Jar. You can open the Tip Jar from the Settings menu at any time, but you’ll probably only notice it when we deliver new features in the app. You’ll see an icon in the sidebar or a temporary banner at the bottom of the project view.

We designed these indicators to be unobtrusive, but still remind you that ongoing support of the app is needed. Since it’s an optional in-app purchase, you can contribute as often as you like or not at all. It’s all up to you.

We released a major update to Linea in March and made the update free so all customers would benefit from the new tools and features. We considered ways to charge for the update or change the sales model (to “freemium”, “paymium”, subscription, etc.) but none of them felt quite right for Linea. Instead, we decided that we would add a tip jar as a “pay what you want” upgrade.

So why would you want to spend more money on Linea if you don’t have to?

Because you want new functionality. The revenue generated from sales and tips all go to fund development in the app. As developers, our hope is the new tip jar will let us devote more time for improvements.

If we’ve learned one thing from working on Linea, it’s that people are passionate about their drawing apps. Software like Linea Sketch, Procreate, and others let us express our creativity and be productive. We develop a deep connection with these tools and are constantly looking for ways to incorporate them into our work. All of the Linea Sketch changes in the past year flow from a desire to improve the app for everyone.

We appreciate all the love users have shown for Linea and want to update the app for years to come. But our continued improvements depend on your continued support.

The next time Linea Sketch helps you visualize that complex design problem, or quickly jot down notes for an important meeting, or simply brings a smile to your face as you sketch your latest masterpiece, we’d appreciate it if you’d consider throwing a few coins in our tip jar.

Rest assured that we all thank you and will continue to give you great service!

Linea Sketch 2.1 – Color Is Key

May 29, 2018

By Ged Maheux

Linea Sketch v2.1 for iPad Hero Image

We love color. As any designer will tell you, color plays a critical part in the creative process. Every single day, artists use color to set a particular tone for a project, evoke emotions or reinforce a specific brand. We’re pleased to announce the way you use color in Linea Sketch for the iPad is getting even better. Today’s update extends and improves Linea’s already outstanding color support so that you can choose and manage colors with ease.

Custom Color Picker

Linea Sketch’s Custom Color Picker now offers more options including the ability to adjust the lightness or darkness of a color. It also lets you choose colors for your sketch via hex code or the new eyedropper tool. Choose any available custom color swatch to open the Color Picker. Then simply tap to activate the eyedropper and and use the loupe to track to the desired color on the canvas. When you release, the color along with all of its tints and shades are automatically added to the palette. It’s that easy.

Linea Sketch's new Color Picker

The new Color Picker keeps a running set of your most recent colors so you don’t have to worry about losing track of colors as you work. You can also revert to previous colors or completely remove a color from the palette. Tap any color in the recent list to quickly add it back to the main palette or experiment to find others you like.

Color Sets

From the beginning, Linea Sketch was designed to present colors in an elegant and compact way. Auto generation of tints and shades allowed for consistency across projects but was limited to just 3 color palettes. With today’s update, these three palettes can now be customized using the new Color Sets feature.

Tapping the icon at the top of the color palette lets you customize it and choose from a host of pre-defined sets. New color sets include pastels, art deco, flesh tones, and more. There’s even sets designed for specific use cases like app design and a fun set of familiar colors called “Dry Erase” we think you’ll love.

Choose from a range of pre-defined color sets like fleshtones, pastels and more

Want to forgo Linea’s default color palettes entirely? With the new Color Sets feature you can set all three banks to custom colors, providing the maximum number of custom color slots for your projects. Finally, the new Recent Color set gives you quicker access to the new eyedropper tool and extends the number of recent colors tracked in the Color Picker to its maximum.

New Templates

Linea Sketch now offers helpful productivity templates including a to-do list and calendar. We’ve also added a new category of templates called Web Design that includes several entries for responsive web design. These new templates are great for sketching layouts for both the web and mobile platforms simultaneously and are available in both portrait and landscape mode.

Additional improvements in Linea Sketch version 2.1 include lower latency when drawing with the pencil and pen tools, displaying the selected color in each tool’s size indicator and several important bug fixes. We’ve also added a way for fans to help contribute to ongoing development beyond their initial purchase with Linea’s new Tip Jar. Tipping is completely optional and is a great way to support our continued efforts to bring great new features to your favorite iPad sketching app. To contribute a tip, simply open the Settings view, tap Tip Jar, and choose your level of support. Thank you!

Linea Sketch is currently available from the App Store at 50% off. Current customers will be pleased to know that today’s update is FREE. No in-app purchases or subscriptions are required to get all the great new functionality in version 2.1. Be sure to check out the version history page for the complete list of what’s new in this release as well as the Tips & Tricks page for helpful tips to speed your work flow.

If you’ve been looking for a digital sketch pad that you can use without muss or fuss, Linea Sketch is the app your been waiting for. We can’t wait to see how it helps bring your ideas to life!

Updates Galore!

April 23, 2018

By Craig Hockenberry

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been giving all of our apps some attention. Rather than flood this blog with a bunch of posts about the updates, here’s a quick recap:

  • xScope 4.3.1 — Added a couple of frequently requested features and made sure that everything works great on macOS High Sierra.
  • iPulse 3.0.3 — A small update to address some issues displaying disk statistics with the new Apple File System (APFS).
  • Flare 2.2.6 — Fixed a few small UI issues on High Sierra and improved rendering performance on the latest macOS releases.
  • Take Five 1.2.3 — Updated our FREE utility for controlling iTunes so its window wouldn’t jump around on High Sierra.
  • Exify 1.2.1 — Fixed a problem with the sharing extension hiding controls when being called by some applications.

And last, but certainly not least, there are new versions of Twitterrific for both iOS and macOS. Last Friday’s update added support for attaching a photo or video when sending direct messages, improved keyboard support for messages, fixed a few bugs, and more!

To check out all our apps, head over to iconfactoryapps.com. Thanks!

Apps of a Feather

April 6, 2018

By Craig Hockenberry

If you use a third-party app, such as our own Twitterrific, upcoming changes at Twitter will significantly affect how you use the service.

An API that all apps use to receive a continuous stream of updates for push notifications and timeline refresh is going away. Twitter has not yet provided third-party developers with a replacement.

At this point, all we can do is raise awareness about what’s happening. To this end, third-party developers have joined together to explain the situation in more detail: please take a moment to visit the Apps of a Feather site.

For the past 11 years, we’ve worked hard to make a great experience for our customers. It’s not hyperbole to say Twitter is putting it all at risk on June 19th, 2018.

Ged Talks Linea Sketch on the iPad Pros Podcast

April 5, 2018

By Webmaster

iPad ProsCurious about how Linea Sketch came to be? Check out Episode 20 of the iPad Pros podcast to hear Ged talk about Linea Sketch’s past, present, and future.

When you’re done listening, find out more on the Linea Sketch website, and download Linea Sketch from the App Store.

Movies and Mutes and Muffles, Oh My!

March 27, 2018

By Sean Heber

Our latest releases of Twitterrific bring video uploading, support for Twitter’s native mute functionality, and powerful new muffling capabilities to both iOS and macOS.

It’s been a long time coming, but you can finally attach videos to tweets with Twitterrific! It couldn’t be easier – just tap the camera icon and pick a movie to attach. That’s all there is to it. Twitterrific takes care of transcoding the video for Twitter (if necessary) during the upload process, so you don’t have to worry about formats and bitrates – just make sure it’s 140 seconds or shorter.

On iOS, there are a couple of other new options for attaching media to your tweets. In addition to photos and links, our sharing extension now supports video, so you can share your favorite video clip directly from the Photos app without needing to open Twitterrific at all. If the image or video you want to tweet isn’t in your photo library, simply long-press on the camera icon in the compose window in Twitterrific to open a general purpose document picker. From here, you can navigate to anywhere on iCloud Drive or within other supported apps to find and attach the exact file you want.

Super Powered Muffles in Twitterrific

Twitterrific has long supported blocking users, but sometimes blocking someone is a bit more heavy-handed than you’d like. Muffling and muting was one of the ways that we addressed this situation, but where was no way to synchronize our rules with Twitter since they didn’t support anything like it. Eventually Twitter caught on and decided to implement their own basic muting feature, so we’ve integrated theirs with ours.

If you’ve created any muffle rules for users that you had switched to “mute” mode, Twitterrific will now migrate them by creating a Twitter mute for that user instead. This automatic migration only affects screen name muffle rules set to mute – all other muffle rules remain unaffected.

You can now easily mute a user from the actions menu on a tweet or on a user’s profile. This immediately mutes the user in Twitterrific as well as on twitter.com. Once a user is muted, their tweets disappear from your timelines in much the same way as when blocking a user. You also no longer receive push notifications from that user. To unmute a user, navigate to their profile and unmute from there. Muting a user does not unfollow them and the muted user has no way of knowing they’ve been muted.

Super Powered Muffles in Twitterrific

Muting tweets from a specific person is useful, but it lacks nuance. We decided to explore a few new ways of muffling tweets that give you more control when you want it. Sometimes you follow someone interesting that keeps retweeting the same uninteresting person over and over. With our new rules, you can muffle retweets from a specific person that retweets any other specific person. Or you could muffle all retweets of someone but not anyone else. Whatever you want! Likewise, there are new rules for muffling quoted tweets, tweets quoted by others, mentions of a specific person and more. In addition to these new ones, all of our other muffle rule types have also been extended so you can apply any given muffle rule to either everyone in your timeline, or just a specific person. To learn more about how these powerful new controls work, check out our knowledge base article.

This release may be packed full of new features, but we also squeezed in a few bug fixes, too. Check out the iOS and Mac release notes to see the full list. The download the updates from their respective App Stores. Enjoy!