The Breakroom

xScope on the Big Screen

September 15, 2015

By Craig Hockenberry

As every iPhone developer knows, you don’t really understand an app’s design until you see it on the device. We’ve all been fooled by text or controls that looked just fine on your Mac’s simulator, but elicited “What the heck were we thinking?” when run on the phone.

With the release of tvOS, there’s going to be a new version of this phenomenon, just bigger. Our tool xScope can help.

In the 4.0 release, we added a new AirPlay Mirroring feature. Like many developers, we had our fingers crossed that native app development would be coming to the Apple TV and were hopeful that this feature would come in handy some day. We were thrilled to be proven right on September 9th!

Any file or document you’re working with on the Mac can automatically be transferred to any Apple TV and projected onto a full-size 1080p screen using AirPlay. Here’s what it looks like while I’m working in my living room:

xScope Mirror running on a TV screen

This means you can work directly in Photoshop, or any other editor, and changes to your 1920 × 1080 layers will be presented in real-time to the big screen. All you have to do in xScope is check a box in preferences and select the name of the Apple TV you want to use:

xScope preferences for AirPlay Mirroring

After enabling the feature, just drop a file on the xScope Dock icon or connect to Photoshop using the Mirror tool and your pixels will immediately start getting bigger!

Even if you’re not working on a tvOS app, this trick is a great way to review designs in a conference room: it’s much easier than everyone hovering around a laptop and it keeps dirty fingers off of your beautiful screen :-)

Twitterrific 5.13.1 Fixes Accessibility Bugs, Improves General Usability

September 1, 2015

By Ged Maheux

Today’s release of Twitterrific is an incremental but important one that fixes several annoying bugs and improves overall usability of the iOS app. Muffling and muting rules now apply to the content of quoted tweets, which should help keep your timeline clear of TV spoilers and unwanted tweet topics. In addition, viewing a tweet’s conversation returns more results including quotes of the original tweet, making threads more useful. We’ve also improved both the hash tag and username autocompletion features significantly. When you type a hash tag or username the app tracks which ones you like to use the most and presents those items first when autocompleting. This makes getting at them a breeze when composing tweets.

We’ve also fixed a host of accessibility related bugs that made using the app frustrating at times for the hard of seeing. Controls behind the sidebar can no longer be accidentally activated, we’ve improved focus reliability after favoriting, retweeting or performing other actions as well as fixed a few other Voice Over related strangeness on iPad. In general, v 5.13.1 is much more Voice Over friendly so if you use Twitterrific with Voice Over, we strongly recommend you update today.

All of these improvements, plus fixes to right-to-left languages like Arabic, improved kerning of the San Fransisco font on the iOS 9 beta and more can be found on Twitterrific’s version history page. Twitterrific 5.13.1 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.

Yep

August 6, 2015

By Craig Hockenberry

While we may not have contributed in our normal way, we were happy to learn today that some of our work made it into Windows 10!

Windows Bridge for iOS is an open source project that makes it easier for iOS developers to target their products to the new operating system from Redmond. This work was based on our own Chameleon Project, written by Sean Heber.

It’s good to know there’s still a little factory inside Microsoft’s latest product!

Introducing Flare 2.2

July 21, 2015

By Travis Zuker

Today we’re updating Flare, our award-winning photo editing application. We’re also updating its companion app for iOS, Flare Effects with support for the new filters and features in the Mac app.

Important: We’re aware of the problems with Flare on the El Capitan public beta and working to fix things. Flare 2.2 does not address any issues you may be having with the pre-release software.

We’re excited to debut two all-new filters today – Colorfilm and Timestamp.

The Colorfilm filter is designed to emulate the characteristics of saturated color film, but it uses a new approach to achieve better results than what’s been available in the past. The Flare Blog describes this unique approach in detail.

Before applying the Colorfilm filter:

And after applying the Colorfilm filter:

colorfilm-example-with

The effect is subtle, but notice how the wood plaques become warmer, the details in the woodgrain become more pronounced, and background colors gain a bit more vibrance.

The Timestamp filter simulates the time or date stamp feature found in older film cameras. We’ve tried hard to preserve the vintage look and feel for those of us that remember those bygone days.

The full size view of the photo

Here’s a closeup:

Time stamp closeup

We hope you enjoy these two new filters and other new features in Flare. For an overview of everything that’s new in Flare 2.2 check out the Flare Blog.

We’ll Meet Again, Mr. Anderson!

July 17, 2015

By Ged Maheux

Today we say farewell to our talented friend, developer and comic book aficionado, Tyler Anderson. Tyler has decided to head back to school and expand his knowledge base beyond mere software development and into the realm of interactive media design at Elon University. All of us here at the factory, especially Sean Heber and I have enjoyed working closely with Tyler these past five years and even though his departure will hurt deeply, we wish him nothing but the best in his newly chosen journey.

Tyler came to us in the summer of 2010 as an intern from Elon with wide eyes and a deep desire to learn iOS development. His first project was Take Five for iOS which eventually came to the Mac, but Tyler’s dedicated efforts have also helped bring some of your favorite Iconfactory apps to life including Astronut and Dine-O-Matic. It’s fair to say Twitterrific wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is today without his important contributions. Just remember not to bug him anymore on Twitter with Twitterrific support or feature requests!

On a personal note, I’ll miss having Tyler’s geeky self sitting only a few feet away. He could always be counted on for a rousing pop culture discussions, help with miscellaneous non-work related projects, or just help me brainstorm through a UI problem I was having with a client project. If you’ve ever had so much responsibility as to need a rock-solid assistant, then you know the value of having someone like Tyler Anderson at your side. I’m excited for him and his new future, but I’ll miss him dearly. He’s a good egg and any future employer would be lucky to have him.

One of our very fondest memories of working with Tyler was when we shot the promotional video for Astronut. Tyler graciously agreed to star in our short commercial that followed an Astronut-addicted geek as he went about his daily routine, with hilarious and embarrassing results. Needless to say none of this was ever in his original job description, but that didn’t matter, he pulled it off with flying colors. From all of us here at the factory, farewell Tyler, all our best!

Twitterrific’s New Facial Detection Keeps Faces Front & Center

June 29, 2015

By Ged Maheux

Screen shot of woman before and after facial framing applied

The latest update to Twitterrific builds upon previous releases and also adds a host of unique new features that users are sure to love. By far the coolest of these improvements is the use of Apple’s facial recognition APIs to improve image previews. What does that mean exactly? It means that as Twitterrific displays media thumbnails in the timeline (pictures, videos, etc), the app tries to detect faces and frame the thumbnail so faces are always showing. In short, if Twitterrific sees a face in a tweet, it tries to make sure you see it too!

The effect when scanning through your list of tweets in the timeline can be dramatic. Previously Twitterrific always framed thumbnails on the center of images, but many times people’s faces aren’t in the middle, especially on portrait shots. Check out these before and after comparison screen shots to see the difference facial framing makes in the timeline:

examples of people's faces being framed correctly in Twitterrific's timeline

Next, we’ve added the long-requested ability to swipe to go back in modal views. Now when you’re viewing a conversation, user profile or even the in-app browser, you can swipe right from off the left edge of the screen to either go back to the previous view (if you’re in a stack) or close the view completely. This makes one-handed use on devices with large screens like the iPhone 6 Plus a breeze.

T5_TabSettings_Thumb

Finally, Twitterrific now offers push notifications for quoted tweets. Now when someone quotes one of your tweets to their followers, you can be instantly notified of it, just like mentions, retweets or any of the other notification types in Twitterrific. To turn notifications on for quotes, simply open the sidebar by tapping on your round user avatar, then tap the Settings gear icon at lower right. From there, access your account’s notification settings and make sure Quotes is activated.

As always, be sure to visit Twitterrific’s version history page for the complete list of new features, improvements and bug fixes. Twitterrific 5.12.1 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.

Aligning UI with xScope’s Overlay Tool

June 25, 2015

By Tyler Anderson

In our recently-released update to Twitterrific (version 5.12), we made the decision to redesign our in-app notifications. Our work on Twitterrific for Apple Watch opened our eyes to some of the ways that we could display more information to the user while they browsed their timeline. Designing a more robust notification system was a clear way to improve things.

Most new features in Twitterrific start with a set of mockups from a designer that are translated into code, and the new in-app notifications were no different. This implementation process is one of my favorite parts of development: being able to take a beautiful, user-friendly UI layout from a designer and make it interactive and alive. Sean Heber had been working on the new notifications based off Gedeon Maheux’s designs, but had moved on to focus on some of the other major features we were fitting into this release. I was tasked with finalizing the notifications and making sure they were as much like the design mockups as possible.

Adjusting the layout of the in-app notifications was going to be a relatively time consuming task. We tend to shy away from using Storyboards in Twitterrific, mostly due to legacy code reasons. This means I would have to tweak the layout of on-screen elements through code instead of rearranging them by hand. Compound that with the number of different notification types we provide and things start to become more complicated.

Screenshot of Dimensions tool measuring iOS simulator

I had been using xScope to measure the placement of UI elements in the in-app notifications, recording placement values using the Dimensions tool and adjusting those code values in comparison to the mockups. After doing that for a couple of the notification types, I realized there was a faster way to handle layout comparison using xScope’s Overlay tool.

Screenshot of Overlay tool attached to iOS simulator

By attaching the Overlay tool to an iOS simulator window, I was able to drag and drop the mockups I had received into the Overlay window, displaying them overtop of a running version of Twitterrific.

Screenshot of mockup overlaid on top of iOS simulator

I then used the top and side sliders in the Overlay tool to adjust the location of the mockup image, aligning it properly with the in-app notification’s placement at the bottom of the simulator window.

Screenshot of mockup aligned properly overtop of iOS simulator

After that, I lowered the opacity of the overlayed mockup image, allowing me to see both the designer’s vision and the currently-running application. This is the main benefit of using the Overlay tool for UI layout. It allows you to adjust transparency on the fly, quickly fading back and forth between the simulator and the mockup.

Screenshot of transparent comparison between simulator and mockup

Visualizing the UI in this direct manner quickly pointed out the ways the notification layout needed to be adjusted. Even better, comparing layouts with this method made things easier with each measurement. There was no need to measure origin points and width/height values a second or third time to readjust, since the UI either aligned properly with the overlaid mockup or it didn’t.

Since this realization, I’ve found xScope’s Overlay tool more and more useful in speeding up my UI layout tasks. Hopefully this trick makes your front-end development work a little easier as well.

A Special Feature

June 19, 2015

By Craig Hockenberry

Over the years, we’ve been lucky to have a lot of products featured in Apple’s stores. Yesterday, we got the one we’re most proud of:

Screenshot of Twitterrific in App Store VoiceOver feature

We’re not in this business just to make money: all of us at the Iconfactory hope that our products will make people’s lives better. We’ve worked hard to make Twitterrific work well with the accessibility features in iOS. Hearing that these efforts make things easier for customers with disabilities is rewarding beyond words. (Listen to the podcast file in that last link to get a great idea of what life is like for a VoiceOver user.)

But now there’s another incentive for thinking about accessibility: helping others also helps your downloads:

Graph of Twitterrific downloads going up after VoiceOver feature in App Store

If you’re a developer, you’ll want to learn more about how to implement accessibility in your own app. Apple has also put together a fantastic list of resources that covers all aspects of accessibility.

Over the years, we’ve learned that it’s essential to have folks with impaired vision as beta testers. It’s very easy for a developer with good eyesight to make bad accessibility choices. A beta tester who uses VoiceOver all day long will tell you immediately about a screw up.

Apple remains committed to making their products accessible. Smart developers will follow their lead.

Twitterrific 5.12 Adds a Host of New Features & Improvements Including Quoted Tweets

June 11, 2015

By Ged Maheux

T5_Quotes

Over the last several months, the Twitterrific team has added tons of new features and improvements for iOS, but today’s 5.12 release may be the best yet. We’ve focused on improving Twitterrific’s appearance as well as its user experience by adding several key new features including quoted tweets, bottom-based navigation options, muffle sharing, a re-designed in-app push notification system and much more.

First, Twitterrific now supports Twitter’s popular new Quoted Tweet format. Quoted tweets replace the older Re-tweet with Comment, are easy to create and fun to read. To quote a tweet simply select it, and then tap and hold the RT icon. This opens the compose window with the URL of the tweet you want to quote inserted and ready to go. Simply add your own remarks to the quote and press send. In the timeline, you’ll see the quoted tweet inset within your own for context. Nifty!

T5_TabSettings_Thumb

Next we’ve added an option in Settings allowing iPhone users to shift the main navigation bar to the bottom of the timeline. Handy for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners, it also allows for an additional navigation tab. Here’s a quick video tip on how to move the navigation bar to the bottom. As before, you can tap and hold the icons in the tab bar to customize your favorite timeline destinations. Version 5.12 adds a new custom option called My Tweets that’ll let you gain instant access to your own timeline of tweets.

With the advent of the Apple Watch and its elegant notification system, we thought it was a good time to improve Twitterrific’s own in-app notifications. We’ve completely re-designed the app’s pop-up banners to be color-coded and easier to read. They can also be tapped to quickly jump to the content being notified and even dismissed with a quick swipe. Watch for even more improvements to in-app notifications in future updates.

Finally, for those who love to hide unwanted users, words or phrases via Muffles, v5.12 introduces the ability to share Muffles with other users. Simply open the Muffles UI via the sidebar and tap and hold on any term. This brings up the standard iOS share sheet from which Muffles can be emailed, sent via text message, or simply copied to the clipboard. To import a Muffle URL, just tap on it in a tweet or email and Twitterrific will automatically add it to your running list of Muffled terms. Easy!

We’ve only scratched the surface of what’s new in version 5.12 so be sure to visit Twitterrific’s version history page for the complete list of new features, improvements and bug fixes. Twitterrific 5.12 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.

Two new ‘Best Of’ Effects for Flare

May 14, 2015

By Travis Zuker

Today, we’re introducing two new ‘Best Of’ Effects for our award-winning photo editing application, Flare 2 and our companion application for iOS, Flare Effects. Here’s a small preview of Colorchrome and Dreamy (original images on the left, Flare versions on the right).

Flare_ColorchromeColorchrome

Flare_DreamyDreamy

These new Effects were painstakingly crafted by Wolfgang Ante to recreate the subtleties of analog photography. Find out more on the official Flare blog. Enjoy!

If you don’t already have Flare 2, check it out on the Mac App Store and start creating your very own Effects today!