The Breakroom

Toys for Tot

May 28, 2020

By Craig Hockenberry

We’re happy to announce a new version of Tot with some features frequently requested by the app’s legion of fans.

The main focus of today’s release are system extensions that allow Tot to co-exist with other apps. To this end, we’ve added a Sharing extension for both iOS and macOS. Additionally, there’s also a widget for iOS that lets you quickly access any of Tot’s dots. Like everything else in Tot, attention was paid to minimizing friction, allowing information to be collected as quickly as possible.

Screenshots of the new sharing extensions on macOS and iOS.

These new extensions are easy to set up:

  • On macOS, go to System Preferences > Extensions > Share Menu and enable the checkbox next to Tot.
  • On iOS, use ⋯ in the Share sheet’s list of app icons to add Tot.
  • On iOS, use Edit at the bottom of widget view to add Tot.

Once enabled, you can share any text or link with Tot. Here are few ways we’ve started using the functionality:

  • You find a link while on iOS and want to check it out later on your Mac: just tap the Share icon in the middle of Safari’s tab bar, select Tot, then a dot, then tap Done. You can then format the text and link separately using “T <>”, combine them with”<T>”, or create a bare link with “<>”.
  • The opposite direction works great, too. Control-click on a link in Safari and use Tot from the Share submenu. Tot’s quick syncing makes the link immediately available from the comfort of the iPad in your living room.
  • If you have some text in a Mail or Notes that you want to move into Tot, just select the text and use “Share…” in the context menu. This works on both macOS and iOS.

Besides selecting a dot, Tot also gives you an option to to put the information at the beginning of the text and add some line padding.

Other notable changes in this release is our continued commitment to VoiceOver accessibility and hot new icons for everyone else.

If you haven’t tried Tot yet, give the FREE macOS app a try. There’s also a companion app for iOS. You can also learn more about both apps on the Tot website. Enjoy!

Tot – A New Kind of Accessibility

May 5, 2020

By Craig Hockenberry

Today we’re happy to announce the release of Tot 1.0.5 for both iOS and macOS. If your eyes work well, there’s not a lot to get excited about. But folks with vision difficulties will have a wholly different outlook.

The initial releases of Tot didn’t have great accessibility. We knew it needed improving, but experience has shown us the folks who need these features have great ideas and happily share their opinions. Over the years, this feedback has driven our development with VoiceOver.

This time around, one of those people was our pal Jason Snell. Shortly after Tot’s launch, I got a few text messages:

This is going to break your app but one piece of feedback I would give is about accessibility. Well, it won’t break your app, it just hurts the metaphor a bit.

I have “Differentiate between color” turned on in accessibility because I’m color blind. The nice thing about “differentiate without color” is it only affects the UI for those who turn it on.

Luckily we have a tool that let me approximate what Jason was seeing. xScope’s vision defect simulator confirmed that Tot’s colored circles had serious issues. We had a new kind of accessibility problem and one that went to the heart of the app’s visual design:

This began an exploration on how Tot’s colorful rings could change, while keeping the existing “dot” metaphor, a strong visual navigation element.

Since we draw Tot’s dots in code, our first approach was to differentiate using shapes, much like iChat did many years ago. But varying the number of sides on polygons didn’t pan out: it felt impossible to quickly differentiate between a hexagon and pentagon. And the angles of a heptagon are just plain weird.

Then a lightbulb went on. We refer to dots by a numerical index as often as by hue. Numbers have unique shapes, and like color, are largely immune to localization issues.

Ged and I went through several iterations of this design. Initially, we thought that the colors and numbers could coexist, but that quickly led to issues with contrast.

Eventually we landed on grayscale values as a good way to etch the dots into the app’s titlebar:

Implementing the same color accessibility on iOS was simple: we could reuse all our drawing code. Getting a boolean value for the customer’s setting on macOS and iOS isn’t rocket science.

It’s also a part of our DNA to make sure these changes make their way to the product’s desktop or home screen. As a result, there are now Grayscale app icon choices available in Tot’s Settings:

So while there may be little for the majority of you to appreciate in this latest release of Tot, there is something very important for those who need it. You will also see the benefits of our accessibility work as we continue to make that list of custom app icons longer :-)

We have a full list of the accessibility and other changes in the release. If this is the first time you’re hearing about Tot, take a look at its product page. Enjoy!

Introducing Linea Sketch 3

April 7, 2020

By Ged Maheux

Today’s update marks an important milestone in the life of Linea Sketch. The app launched three years ago with a focus on making it easy for you to express your creative vision. It seems only fitting to launch version 3 with a renewed emphasis on making Linea work best for you with powerful new features and improvements, including a universal app for both iPad and iPhone.

Time Is On Your Side

With today’s release, you can record your creative process as you sketch! Linea’s new Time-Lapse feature keeps a running record of your drawing while you work. When you’ve finished drawing, save a video of the result as either a compressed 30 second clip or a full length movie. The video can be saved to the Photo Library or shared via social media.

Linea’s Crop & Export options are supported and let you focus on just a portion of the time-lapse. It’s perfect for highlighting details in a particular section of a drawing. Sketches with a time-lapse are badged in the project view for easy reference, and the timeline is synced via iCloud to all of your devices. Finally, if you want to save storage space, you can turn Time-Lapse off by default via Settings or delete it when you’re finished.

Quick Additional Control

Version 3 introduces QuickToggle, a handy way to gain extra control when creating ZipLines or sketching with the Pencil tool. When you draw a line and pause to create a ZipLine, you can now place a single finger anywhere on the canvas to snap the end point of the line to isometric and oblique angles. It’s great for technical drawing or those who want perfectly angled strokes.

QuickToggle also lets you temporarily turn off tilt control when drawing. Simply start to draw a broad stroke with the Art or Technical Pencil, then place a finger on the canvas. Linea will disregard tilt and adjust the shape of the stroke until you release. This results in a more free-flowing technique when sketching.

Linea Your Way

Also included are a series of features designed for tailoring the app to how you work best. Folks have wanted the ability to customize the color of the canvas without having to fill one of Linea’s five layers. Now you can! Tapping the Background icon and selecting the new Custom Background option shows you Linea’s color picker, including recently used and hex colors. The texture option even lets you create your own custom paper backgrounds!

In addition to custom backgrounds, you also adjust the intensity of templates to light, medium, and strong. This is great when you need additional clarity while designing or for folks who need more visual contrast.

Twitterrific users know how we love to customize our home screen and we’re now bringing that customization love to Linea. Open Settings and select from a bevy of colorful new app icons to display. Setting a custom theme also adjusts Linea’s interface tinting for both light and dark modes.

One More Thing

Last December we announced Linea Sketch would be moving to a subscription model to generate regular and predictable revenue that keeps bug and feature updates flowing. Today’s release changes Linea to a subscription model. We’ve received a great deal of feedback on our original plan and have removed limits on canvas creation. Instead, we’ll be using less restrictive reminders and badging.

Linea Sketch 3 is free to download and use on an unlimited basis. The app is universal (iPad and iPhone) and feature complete, letting people enjoy all that Linea has to offer, free of charge.

When you pay to support development, you remove periodic notices and a home screen banner that remind you to subscribe. Watermarks on exported artwork and time-lapse movies are also removed when subscribed. You can support Linea with a monthly or annual subscription or choose one-time payment for the lifetime of Linea Sketch. Lastly, if you purchased Linea Sketch in 2019 or later, your first year is free. Please see our Purchase Policy for more information.

If you haven’t tried Linea yet, today’s update is a great time to see what so many people love and call their favorite sketching app for iPad. Visit Linea’s version history page for the complete list of what’s new and then head on over to the App Store to download Linea Sketch. You’ll be creating in no time!

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!