The Breakroom

Project Phoenix’s Home Stretch

March 2, 2017

By Ged Maheux

Project popover showing the new

If you’ve been following Project Phoenix then you know we now have less than $8k to go before the Kickstarter is officially funded! Ollie is so excited he’s started to root around the forest floor for food. (He wants to bulk up his wing muscles.)

The Phoenix team got together this week to go over the design of a rough prototype Craig put together. We want to be ready when we cross the funding line so that beta 1 will be that much closer to showing up in backer’s inboxes. While the current prototype is non-functional, it has been helpful to visualize how the structure of a modern macOS Twitter app could work.

We’re using this prototype as a baseline to compare and contrast approaches to interacting with accounts, timelines, specific actions and more. Once we have that analysis in hand, we can use it to wireframe the final user experience of Twitterrific Phoenix for the Mac.

There’s much work awaiting us and the road to success will be riddled with unforeseen challenges, but we’re more confident than ever Phoenix has the potential to be the best, most exciting way to interact with Twitter on the desktop. The prospect of developing for the latest and greatest version of macOS, combined with all the elements that make Twitterrific easy to use has Ollie itching to leap out of his nest but we’re not there yet. With your help he’ll soar again, and when he does we’ll be ready to fly with him!

Linea Adds Tilt Support for Apple Pencil & More

February 24, 2017

By Ged Maheux

Linea portrait of Motoko by David A. Brasgalla

Today we’re pleased to announce an important update to Linea, our new simplified sketching application for the iPad. Version 1.0.2 adds several awesome new features, chief among them is tilt support for the Apple Pencil while drawing with any of the tools, including the eraser. By tilting the pencil towards the drawing surface, you can achieve some stunning results. Here’s a quick rundown of how tilt support affects each of Linea’s tools:

  • Technical Pencil – A smooth, faded stroke along the edge of hard lead
  • Art Pencil – Soft, wide shading that varies with both size settings & pressure
  • Pen – Flat nib great for hard edges or calligraphic writing
  • Marker – Wide flat stroke perfect for coloring large areas of the screen
  • Eraser – Flat oval instead of a round tip for erasing

Linea pencil strokes

We’ve worked hard to make Linea’s tilt support work as well as (or better than) Apple Notes and we hope you’ll be pleased with the results. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or an aspiring novice, you’ll find drawing and shading in Linea is both fun and inspiring.

Project popover showing the new

The new version also adds several other important improvements such as the ability to move sketches from one project folder to another. Simply long-press on a drawing in the Project view and tap Move… to re-assign it to a different folder or select multiple drawings and move them all at once.

You can also create a new sketch directly from within the canvas without having to leave your current drawing. Just tap the More Actions icon (…) at the upper left of the canvas and then tap New Sketch. This action creates a new, blank canvas that is preset with your current grid and background settings. It’s very handy when storyboarding or doing interface work!

Other improvements include hexagonal grid templates and the ability to double-tap the eraser as a shortcut to clear the current layer.

Finally, Linea now has a presentation mode that can be used with AirPlay in Control Center or a Lightning-to-HDMI adapter. This lets you display the current sketch full screen without tool palettes, zoom, and rotation. It’s perfect for showing off your work or for educators in the classroom.

We invite you to download Linea 1.0.2 for the iPad today and explore the creative possibilities of sketching simply. Enjoy!

Twitterrific for Mac: Project Phoenix

February 14, 2017

By Sean Heber

Ollie as a burning Phoenix with the Project Phoenix logo

We’ve been missing Twitterrific on our Macs for a long time and we know we’re not alone. Today we’re announcing a plan to bring it back: Project Phoenix.

After much consideration, we decided that the best way forward was to go back to the beginning. Rather than bending the long-neglected Twitterrific for Mac into a new shape, we will borrow what we can from iOS and use it to build a modern new macOS app.

To achieve such a large undertaking in a reasonable timeframe, we’ll start small: Our goal is to deliver a minimal Twitter client much like the original Twitterrific for Mac, but with a feature set that fits how we use Twitter in 2017 instead of how we thought we wanted to use it back in 2007.

We’re confident that we can do this, but we need your help! Please check out our Kickstarter page, watch the video and study the plan. There are many different funding levels including regular access to beta builds all through Phoenix’s lifespan. If you’re the kind of person who loves to see software evolve through it’s development, or just want to start using a new Twitterrific on your desktop sooner rather than later, this one is for you.

This is our first Kickstarter project and a new way for us to fund our software development. The main reason the Mac app languished is because we aren’t sure that there’s a market for a desktop social networking product (it’s easy to make a case that all our social activities have moved to mobile.) For our small software company, the risk of recouping development costs was just too high. Kickstarter removes this unpredictability and gives us an exact budget to work against.

Together, we can make a new Twitterrific for Mac a reality. Make a pledge, and with luck, we can get started soon!

Linea in the Wild

February 2, 2017

By Webmaster

We’ve been floored by the overwhelming response to Linea, our new sketching app for the iPad. Reviews from across the web have been wonderful, but even better than all the positive feedback is seeing what people have been creating with it.

Artists such as Eric Merced, Audra Furuichi and Fredo Houben have been posting some amazing drawings and sketches that show what can be done when you have the right set of tools in front of you. We’ve started an Instagram account to showcase what people have been creating, from professional artists, to hobbyists, to people who just love to doodle. Check out Linea on Instagram to take a look.

One of the highlights for us this week is Serenity Caldwell’s animated review of Linea she created for iMore. Serenity sketches her way through the Linea interface, giving a grand tour of Linea’s powerful simplicity. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but Serenity’s incredible review left us speechless.

Download Linea for the iPad today from the App Store.

Introducing Linea

January 31, 2017

By Webmaster

Iconfactory's Linea sketching app for iPad

There are plenty of great drawing apps for the iPad that can produce polished and stunning work. Like you, we use and love them.

So why did we make our own drawing app?

Less is more

While other apps can help you create amazing artwork, they’re not great for the simple act of sketching. Extensive controls are useful when you’re trying to fine tune a piece, but they also get in the way when you’re trying to figure out where to start.

Linea color palette showing auto-generated tints & shades

Something similar has happened with writing apps over the past few years: folks have realized that powerful word processing apps can get in the way of making great words. When you remove the controls and complexity, you end up with a more productive writing environment.

With Linea, we’ve done the same thing for sketching. You’ll have everything you need to record your visual ideas, and nothing more. Linea auto-generates tints and shades so you don’t have to waste time mixing & matching colors. It also provides the power and flexibility of layers but in a simplified form that’s easy to understand and quick to manipulate. The entire app is designed so you can focus on the work, not on the tools.

Digital sketching

Once you start using Linea, you’ll realize that it has a great advantage over a traditional sketchbook.

Sketches are just a beginning: you’ll discuss them with clients in email, show them to colleagues in Slack, upload them to project folders on Dropbox, or use them with Photoshop as a background layer. With a traditional sketchbook, you have to scan the paper first.

Linea crop & export interface

In Linea, you bring up an export sheet that lets you select which part of your drawing you’d like to share. Then you use the standard iOS sharing panel to pick where the images will go: it’s quick and easy, which is essential when you’re iterating on a design.

Another benefit to a digital sketchbook is not being stuck with a predefined grid. Linea lets you choose what’s right for each sketch: it includes standard graph paper, dots, and even isometric guides. Templates for quick storyboarding or app design and development are just a few taps away.

Not just for artists

We originally created this app as a tool for our artists, but our developers love it, too!

a finger swiping to erase a drawing in Linea

Anyone who’s worked at a whiteboard knows that it’s a great place to experiment with ideas. Being able to quickly get rid of mistakes is just as important as capturing a thought. You know your fingers will be dirty at the end of a good session.

Linea’s innovative Touch Eraser works the same way. There’s no switching of tools, just a quick swipe of the finger and then you’re back to drawing with your Apple Pencil. And the best part is your hands stay clean!

This is just one example of how we’ve thought about the process as much as the implementation. Linea’s gestures make it the perfect companion when you need to take notes, diagram, or sketch.

If you’re ready to start sketching simply, the Linea web site has videos of the app in action and samples showing all the ways Linea can help you visualize your thoughts and creations. Have more questions? Be sure to visit the Linea Knowledge Base for answers and then head to the App Store to download Linea for the iPad today.

2016 Wasn’t All Bad

December 16, 2016

By Webmaster

Animation of snow falling behind an dangling red Iconfactory Christmas ornament

It’s been a hell of a year, no matter how you look at it. Luckily, it hasn’t been all bad and we’ve done some great things at the Iconfactory over the past 12 months!

You might be tempted to call this the Year of Emoji, but to us, every year is the Year of Emoji. We started off 2016 with a major update to Twitter’s open source Emoji suite: Twemoji. That was soon followed by complete visual refresh for the Emoji used in Facebook’s Messenger app. To finish out the year, there were Twemoji updates for Unicode 9 and gendered occupations. In summary, that’s 3,396 images to give your favorite messages more personality!

And speaking of Twitter, our terrific app got a lot of love this year. Every couple of months there were updates for direct messaging, timeline search, discussions and retweeting, replies and today view, quoting and new fonts, and a great new feature called Center Stage. We were also thrilled to be inducted into the AppleVis Hall-of-Fame for our VoiceOver work in Twitterrific.

This year was also a big milestone for us: it was our 20th year as a company! Our retrospective was a great reminder of how far we’ve come over the years. And we couldn’t have done it without you (don’t worry, we’re not going to blame you for the gray hairs).

The celebrations also included two new apps for iOS: Exify and BitCam. Both celebrated the fantastic camera we all carry in our pockets: one was modern, and the other, well, it wasn’t.

Every good party ends with cake, and ours was no exception. Our beloved foreman got the chance to combine his two favorite things: cooking and smileys. We were all thrilled to watch Ged judge the Emoji episode of the Food Network’s Cake Wars.

After we recovered from all this merriment and sugar shock it was time to head back to our roots: creating images that were just plain fun to use! We used to call them custom icons, but now they’re Stickers. If you haven’t tried them out yet, get with it!

We also talked more about our business this year. We shared our recipe for launching successful apps, how to use Stickers for brand awareness, and what it takes to build meaningful experiences in products.

Our last release of the year was something completely different: a book on color. The most basic part of our work has been changing thanks to improvement in display technologies. This affects both our client work and the apps we build. Craig’s effort takes a difficult topic and makes it accessible: check it out!

As we begin our annual holiday break, we’d like to wish all of you the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year. We’re looking forward to seeing what 2017 has in store and we hope you’ll join us as we move forward. Always remember there can be good things in this world if you work hard to make them a reality.

Sweet Pea Mobile App

December 13, 2016

By Cheryl Cicha

Photo of two people's feet in the park, one leaning up on tip-toes to kiss the other with the Sweet Pea logo at center

Michael Bruch, founder of Peas and Love Corporation, partnered with us earlier this year to create a new dating app focused on healthy relationships. His thesis was that a more humanized and enjoyable online dating experience would be possible if a platform focused on enabling self expression, encouraged interesting conversation, and fostered empathy between strangers. While lots of people use dating apps, many people aren’t particularly happy with their experiences or emotionally attached to any one platform. Even in a crowded market, there were a lot of consumer pain points that weren’t being adequately addressed. So, together, we embarked on a journey to create something better – Sweet Pea.

We asked ourselves, what features we could build to provide a friendly, approachable and ‘real’ dating experience? If we were going to be successful, our approach to this process needed to be different than our competitors in a very crowded market. So we settled on three core feature sets – video stories, ice breakers, and detailed Q&A driven settings.

With this in mind, we quickly developed a prototype that roughed out the complex rules behind the algorithm that would provide a higher degree of control over matching than most dating apps. This made it easier to start meaningful conversations, and to provide unique security features making user’s privacy and security a priority.

Screen shots from the Sweet Pea app - Home, Profile, Matching Filters

While the development team was busy writing code for the server side of Sweet Pea, the design team went to work on creating a user experience that made the app feel simple, easy to use and, above all, friendly. We wanted Sweet Pea’s user interface to be welcoming and playful so we designed a bright color scheme and illustrated a band of happy pea characters to convey emotion through animations at key points in the app. These elements, combined with colorful icons remind users that meeting new people is, and should be, a fun experience.

It was also important to that Sweet Pea ‘do well by doing good.’ As part of our commitment to healthy relationships, 10% of Sweet Pea’s revenue is donated to charities that help people escape and recover from domestic abuse and other toxic living situations.

Pea mascot as cupid, flying with a heart bow

In addition to the app design and development, we created the marketing assets that help tell the Sweet Pea story including the logo and app icon as well as the website and social media banners.

We’re proud to be a part of this project and help Michael accomplish his mission. Yes, we design and develop mobile apps, but, more importantly, we’re proud to build applications that have a positive impact on people’s lives. Very soon, Sweet Pea will launch on campuses and in cities across the U.S. and Canada. If you’re looking for an app that provides an opportunity for meaningful connection, we hope you’ll give it a try.

Making Sense of Color Management

December 8, 2016

By Craig Hockenberry

Making Sense of Color Management Book Cover

We’re proud to announce the immediate availability of a book that has literally been years in the making: Making Sense of Color Management.

As I outlined previously in Looking at the Future, there are significant changes with today’s display technology. The goal of this book is to help you navigate this new environment whether you’re using Photoshop, a web browser, or Xcode. You’ll not only learn how to manage color, but also be introduced to new techniques and best practices.

To give you a practical example of how this can help your project, the team at Instagram used the book to update the iOS 10 app that was featured during the iPhone 7 keynote.

As John Gruber points out in the book’s foreword, we’ve all considered color management to be a dark art. Hopefully after reading this short book, you’ll have the same reaction he did: “Well, that’s actually pretty simple.”

Order your copy today!

Media Takes ‘Center Stage’ in Twitterrific 5.16

December 5, 2016

By Ged Maheux

Center Stage is a new and dynamic way to browse tweets that contain only media in your Twitterrific timeline. Users have been requesting a media-focused timeline in Twitterrific for quite a while and we’re pleased to announce it’s finally arrived.

Tap the new Center Stage button at the top of any timeline to open a full screen view where you can swipe through all of the tweets that include photos, movies, or animated GIFs. When you’re in Center Stage, you can tap on the tweet to exit or swipe left/right to navigate through your timeline. You can even Like or Retweet directly from Center Stage! A single tap will get the on-screen controls out of your way and swiping down will close the tweet drawer so there’s nothing between you and the media you’re viewing.

The traditional media experience has also been improved – after tapping on a thumbnail to view it, there is a new button at the bottom of the screen which allows you to enter Center Stage right from there. If you swipe to other tweets, a rewind button appears that’ll take you back to where you started without marking the intervening tweets as read. Handy!

Center Stage icon from Twitterrific

Center Stage is available from any tweet or timeline that contains media, even conversations and user profiles! When you tap an image on a user’s profile, you’ll immediately be taken into Center Stage mode where you can quickly browse back through that user’s media history. Finally, tweets in Center Stage are color coded for easy reference, as they are in all of Twitterrific’s timelines. Center Stage is fully VoiceOver compatible and includes support for physical keyboards. Be sure to visit our Knowledge base for in-depth information about Center Stage.

Twitterrific 5.16 also includes an entire host of improvements and bug fixes including finer control over animated GIFs and video including tap to play/pause & pinch zooming. We’ve also improved the interface in several places for clarity, made Muffle rules more powerful and fixed bugs associated with timeline jumps and single-frame GIFs.

Twitterrific 5.16 is free to try via the App Store and is universal for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and iPod touch. Advanced features such as tweet translation, ad removal, and more are available via in-app purchase. Visit Twitterrific’s version history page for the complete list of new features, improvements and bug fixes.

xScope 4.3

November 29, 2016

By Craig Hockenberry

We’re pleased to announce the availability of xScope 4.3 in the Mac App Store and as a direct download from the xScope website.

The main focus of this release was compatibility with macOS Sierra. It took us awhile to figure out why Guides and Frames always appeared at launch, but thankfully they no longer do :-)

Another issue in Sierra is the Rulers sometimes getting really small. If you were affected by this, remember that there’s a Reset Rulers option under Rulers in the menubar. That, along with Display Square Rulers, should help get things back in order.

There are other improvements which you can read about in the version history. This update is FREE for all registered xScope 4 customers.