The Breakroom

Twitter Expands Twemoji for Unicode 9

July 13, 2016

By Ged Maheux

Twitter Twemoji Unicode 9 examples

Twitter has published an update to their custom suite of emoji – Twemoji – that covers over 70 new icons from the Unicode 9.0 specification. The Iconfactory was pleased to once again help Twitter bring these new additions to the social networking service. The update covers a wide range of subjects including an expanded set of diverse skin tones, food, animals and more.

Jeremy Burge has compiled a complete list of the new Twemoji which rolled out today along with a few notable updates to the existing Twitter suite over at Emojipedia’s blog. Be sure to check it out.

Twitterrific 5.15 Improves Discussions, Retweeting & More

July 11, 2016

By Ged Maheux

Twitterrific v5.15 adds several new features and greatly improves the way discussion and reply threads are handled within the app. When selecting a tweet in the timeline, users will notice a new explicit Quote Tweet button. This replaces the previous behavior of tapping and holding on the Retweet button in order to quote. Giving Quoting its own icon on tweets has allowed the tap & hold gesture to take on a new, powerful aspect that users will multiple accounts will love.

Screen shot of a selected tweet showing the new explicit quote button

Now when you tap and hold any of the primary action buttons on a tweet (Reply, Quote, Retweet or Like) if you have multiple accounts set up, you are presented with an option to take that action from any account. Want to like a tweet in your current timeline but from another account? No problem, just tap and hold the Like button and then select the account you want to like it from. Users can still choose to reply or quote from any account directly from the compose screen by tapping on their round avatar and changing the active account, but this new gesture acts as a shortcut to bypass that step and reply or quote directly from the tweet itself.

The other important improvement in v5.15 pertains to how Twitterrific fetches and displays both reply and discussion threads. When you swipe left on a tweet to open its discussion Twitterrific now does a much better job of fetching the entire contents of that thread or reply chain. This comes in handy when viewing tweet storms or complex, in-depth discussions from multiple users and even works if the linked tweet was first, last or in the middle of a discussion. The new discussion view also now shows replies and quotes of the tweet in realtime if streaming is enabled.

Twitterrific 5.15 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.

Iconfactory Founder to Appear on Food Network’s ‘Cake Wars’

July 5, 2016

By Cheryl Cicha

Emoji Cake Wars Banner

There’s no denying that emoji are all the rage these days. That’s why we were excited when the producers behind Food Network’s hit reality baking competition, Cake Wars, invited us to fly to LA to help judge a special emoji-themed episode which airs nationally in the United States next week.

It’s the most expressive episode of Cake Wars ever, as four talented cake artists compete to take their cake creation to a party celebrating everyone’s favorite little icons, Emoji. Who will earn a smiley-face, and who will earn a frowny-face? Judges Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas, along with guest judge Gedeon Maheux, co-founder of Iconfactory, will decide which baker will take home $10,000.

Ged had the time of his life participating in Cake Wars and we can’t wait to see how the competition heats up and turns out. Be sure to set your DVR’s for Cake Wars’ emoji episode premiering Monday, July 11th at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network!

Behind the BitCam

June 29, 2016

By Ged Maheux

The folks over at The Apple Google interviewed me about BitCam, how the app came about and what went into bringing it to the App Store. There’s some fun insights in the discussion that are worth checking out like the specific challenges we faced when developing the retro camera for your “mini pocket computer”:

One challenge was the nature of today’s hardware with retina displays. Pixels are so small these days that they can’t be seen by the naked eye and so to make an app like BitCam where everything was pixellated and chunky took some planning and additional time. Also, today’s hardware is so fast that animation transitions can be nearly instantaneous, but obviously this wasn’t the case back in the day so we intentionally built in “slowness” into some portions of the app like the Super-Res view. When you pan your camera around, the display doesn’t update at 60fps, it does so in a “chunky” manner to help convey what it might have been like to have such a pocket camera back then.

BitCam has been receiving lots of great reviews from users and we couldn’t be happier with its reception. You can check out the entire interview over at The Apple Google, learn more about the app over on the BitCam home page or download it for free from the App Store.

Iconfactory Celebrates 20 Years

June 20, 2016

By Ged Maheux

Iconfactory founders: Corey Marion, Dave Brasgalla, Gedeon Maheux, Craig Hockenberry and Talos Tsui

Company founders (left to right): Corey Marion, David Brasgalla, Ged Maheux, Craig Hockenberry, and Talos Tsui in the same room for the first and only time back in the summer of 1999.

If you had asked any of us in 1996 if we’d still be busy making icons and crafting software twenty years later, we probably would have thought you were crazy. It’s hard to believe we’re still here designing icons for you, our loyal fans and clients. What started as a hobby between three (and then five) friends has grown to become something beyond our wildest dreams. Throughout this journey we’ve been blessed to work with some of the most talented people in the industry, honored by our peers and all while doing something we love. Who could ask for more?

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Iconfactory, and in order to help celebrate, we’ve put together “20 Years“, a webpage that highlights where we’ve been and how our art, techniques, and products have changed over the years. We’re also marking the occasion with special pricing on Flare, xScope and iPulse this week, so be sure to mark your calendars to take full advantage of these promotions.

We’ve also launched two brand new products. The first is BitCam, a fun, retro camera that lets you take old-school pictures circa 1996. BitCam is a great way to re-live the heady, early days of the Mac and has been receiving great reviews from users and press alike. The second new product is Exify, an iOS app that lets you peer inside your digital photos giving information on color range, metadata, location and much more. Written by veteran engineer Craig Hockenberry, Exify will help you better understand what makes a great digital photo. Both BitCam and Exify are available in the App Store today.

All of us here feel especially privileged that you’ve downloaded our iconic creations and software for the better part of a quarter century. In our own small ways we’ve done our best to contribute to the Mac & iOS community by giving back whenever possible. It’s our way of showing gratitude for the generous support you’ve all given us. As we look to the future, we’re filled with excitement for what technology and design trends have in store for us all. Join as we pause momentarily to look back and discover just how we got here. Explore and enjoy our digital tribute to the past twenty years, but please excuse us, we’ve got to get back to work. These icons and apps won’t design themselves!

Introducing Exify

June 20, 2016

By Craig Hockenberry

Exify for iPhone screen shot

For the past year or so, I’ve had an app on my iPhone that no one else has. It has helped me become a better iPhone photographer by letting me check composition and exposure. It also remembers when and where I took a picture. It lets me grab colors out of an image and even helped me understand how the CCD sensor in my phone works.

That app is Exify and you can download it today.

I originally wrote this app after I discovered how much additional information is embedded in the photos we take every day. Apple follows the Exif standard and includes a lot of metadata in our files. Unfortunately, much of this data doesn’t make its way into Photos and other apps that use our imagery: so I wrote my own.

Additionally, there is a lot of information you can extract from an image: things like sampling colors, measuring the proportions of a composition, and generating histograms that help you get the right exposure. Exify can do all that, too.

If you’re a professional photographer, you already know how important it is to copyright your work before distribution. Exify’s editing extension lets you add both a copyright and watermark to an image while editing in the Photos app. These edits are non-destructive, so you can easily remove the information and get back to your original photo.

One of the features I love the most about this app are the action extensions. They let you examine or query any image using the share sheet. Want to know where a photo in Messages was taken? Or check the info for an image you’re viewing in Safari? Or magnify the pixels of an image in Photos? Exify can do all of that and more.

For a full rundown of what this app can do, we invite you to check out the short video and documentation on the product page. Exify is available from the App Store today. Enjoy!


June 9, 2016

By Craig Hockenberry

BitCam Tout

With WWDC just around the corner, we thought it would be a great time to release an app that takes advantage of all the latest technology in your pocket.

Announcing BitCam – the world’s most advanced camera for your mini pocket computer. Years in the making, this is just a hint at what’s to come as we celebrate the Iconfactory’s 20th anniversary this month.

Here’s what our geeky friends in the press have said about BitCam:

Paul Miller – The Verge:

I paid $1.99, and I don’t even like taking photos. The whole app has a delicious Mac OS 6 feel — even the shutter sound is retro. Can I please get all my apps redesigned to reawaken childhood memories of being an Apple fanboy in the pre-iPod dark ages?

John Gruber – Daring Fireball:

Gorgeous, unbelievably faithful one-bit camera app for iPhone done in the style of the original Mac. A lovely tribute to Bill Atkinson’s remarkable dithering algorithm. “Catnip for old-school Mac users,” says John Siracusa. Check out the fun recent-hire-at-Apple Chris Espinosa is having with it.

Sarah Perez – TechCrunch:

BitCam has invented its own terminology that sounds like something from another era, too. This fun phrasing continues in the settings where you can choose to take photos with the “Self Camera” (the front-facing camera), or square-shaped photos for sharing on Instagram by choosing the “Instaphoto Size.”

Download it today from the application store! You’ll have plenty of time to read the software description as you install it from your 28kbps modem.

UPDATE: IF you tried to install BitCam’s color graphics card and got a vexing error, fret not! An update is coming soon that corrects the problem. Did we say the application store business is complicated? Because it is everything is good now. Enjoy those vibrant 8 colors!

Recipe for Launching Your First App

June 6, 2016

By Cheryl Cicha

Food App Concept

You have a great idea for an app that may be a unique twist on existing software or perhaps just building a better mobile mousetrap. One thing’s for sure – there’s nothing like it in the App Store but you wish there were.

Where to begin?

Everyday I talk to people that have really interesting ideas for apps. Many have spent careers in other industries as vastly different as pro sports, security, automotive and food services – you name it. They recognize a gap and know there is opportunity but getting started can be daunting. Here’s a common generic to do list:

• Find a designer that can make the app look great
• Find a development team
• Make sure I have enough capital to get it shipped
• Figure out how to market it & decide on a marketing budget
• Investigate how the App Store and Google Play work
• What if it fails? What if it goes viral?
• Where will my data live?
• Don’t forget customer support, content monitoring, and …

Don’t bolt yet! There are proven approaches that you can use that have worked successfully for our own clients. Here is a pragmatic recipe for bringing your mobile app from idea to minimum viable product (or as you’ll often hear in the industry: MVP) that will save you time, money and probably some sanity.

Basic ingredients:
To vet the concept, find a way to get the idea out of your head and in a form others can understand. Create a requirements document or do something quick and visual. If you can make a rectangle you can draw your idea. Use anything from index cards (the real ones that you’ve probably had in the back of your desk since 1990-something), to a myriad of apps like balsamiq and Paper. When flushing out your visuals keep it bare bones, black and white. If the core concept doesn’t resonate it won’t be any better with a snazzy logo.

Show your bare bones “app” to a few trusted friends or to an experienced agency under NDA that is invested in your success (vs. I pay you x you do y). Do they understand it, think it’s valuable, have recommendations? Gently fold in criticism and improve on the idea. Not everyone loved it? That’s okay. Better to recycle a few index cards than spend thousands on development and get crickets at launch.

Once the idea starts to sizzle, engage a design and development team with expertise in mobile. This is critical – if it’s pretty but isn’t designed for the latest technologies or a native mobile experience, it’s spoiled; chuck the entire batch and start over.

Taste Test:
Using wireframes or a prototype, it is relatively inexpensive to test the idea on a small, independent target audience. This is a great time to make feature or user experience changes without throwing away gobs of code. There may be a few cycles through the last three steps until you narrow down the highest value features that make a great product people want to use. Your design and development teams should be working closely at this point even though very little code has been written.

Add Seasoning:
Start to think about marketing and monetization. If you’re not an experienced mobile marketer it may be worth looking to a partner that understands not only mobile marketing but your business goals, the feature set and it’s intrinsic value, target market, target budget, and KPI’s.

By now you are also working on the special sauce – your product’s brand and message. This can be done early with minimal investment in items like a logo, app icon, tagline, website, and a basic video that uses most of the design assets you now have in hand.

When the design and feature set are finalized it’s time to start development. Your dev team has been engaged in the process and now they have a detailed recipe for efficiently building the app as designed. If you’ve chosen a talented team, the artistry and effort required to make it look and feel great on users’ devices will emerge. Add a good dose of quality assurance, and finish it off with beta testing on a larger scale.

A quality team sets milestones, checks in with you often to let you know how things are progressing and informs you of challenges or further decisions that need to be made. You should also be seeing builds delivered to your device on a regular basis. Beware teams with whom you have little interaction. You could order a burger and after a long wait, end up with a bowl of bulgur.

There are several launch strategies we recommend to customers depending on their goals. One approach successfully used on MVP’s is a soft launch. Forego the pricey party and PR and enter the app stores in stealth mode. This gives you an opportunity to get feedback from a wider range of users and fine tune the product before making that big marketing splash.

Making an outstanding meal takes planning and time but that doesn’t mean it needs to break the bank. The early steps outlined here make for a quick, cost effective way to test your idea before a single line of code is written. There is a lot to consider in getting an app successfully to market but choosing an experienced partner that can guide you through the process, make strategic recommendations, and ensure design and development are working together is a recipe for a quality mobile product. Bon Appetite!

We stand ready to help turn the ideas of clients like yourself into great apps. Let us know how we can help.

Facebook Messenger Gets a New Emoji Face

June 1, 2016

By Ged Maheux

Facebook Emoji Hero Shot

Facebook’s popular Messenger app launched an important update today that added, among other things, an all-new, custom suite of emoji for users to enjoy. We’re gratified to have been enlisted by the Messenger team at Facebook to help make this new icon collection a reality. This monumental effort spanned months of work and included everything from the initial concept designs and visual refinements to final production and detailed testing assistance. The results are over 1200 uniquely-styled emoji specifically created to bring a light-hearted and fun feel to Messenger.

The Iconfactory is honored to have contributed to an important visual refresh of a widely loved product like Messenger. It’s always a challenge to design a unique visual style for something that has been done countless times before, but we are delighted with the results we achieved working with the team at Facebook. We hope users enjoy exploring these new emoji and we look forward to expanding the collection in the future with even more fun, friendly icons.

Twitterrific 5.14.4 Adds Ollie’s Tip Jar & More

June 1, 2016

By Ged Maheux

Ollie's Tip Jar

Today’s update of Twitterrific, our popular third party Twitter client, is full of improvements and fixes that are sure to enhance your tweeting experience. Version 5.14.4 now sports a handy search field at the top of most timelines that lets you quickly search for terms and tweets in no time flat. It also corrects several bugs associated with VoiceOver and Notification Center.

Most importantly, however, today’s release addresses a long-standing request we’ve received from users over the years – a way to donate additional funds towards the continued development of the app. To address this desire we’re pleased to introduce Ollie’s Tip Jar – a series of in-app purchases that users can voluntarily buy to help keep Twitterrific up and running.

The Tip Jar is our way of continuing to offer free and notable updates to Twitterrific while still (hopefully) paying for the cost of development. Since it’s launch in December of 2012, Twitterrific has been updated over 40 times – all for free. Rather than stopping development on Twitterrific version 5 and launching an all-new paid version 6, we’ve decided to include the Tip Jar in the hopes that users who enjoy and love the app will give generously so we can continue to provide updates.

There are five levels of tips available ranging from Chickadee (99¢) all the way up to Peacock ($19.99). Once you donate, the jar removes itself from the app’s sidebar for 30 days and then returns, quietly waiting for your spontaneous generosity at some point in the future. The App Store has changed since we first published Twitterrific back in 2008, so we’re trying something new. We hope you’ll donate to the cause but if you can’t, that’s okay too. We thank you for your past support none-the-less.

Twitterrific 5.14.4 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.