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x2y version 4

It was all the way back at WWDC 2014 that my friend Hans vershooten suggested what eventually became the marquis feature of x2y 4.0: Percentages.

x2y has always been able to calculate x or y dimensions for you automatically. It would be nice, Hans suggested, if it could also tell you the percentage difference between the original image and the new one. So if you want, for instance, a rectangle that’s exactly 245% of the original, x2y should be able to calculate both the x and y dimensions for that.

And now it does. (Sorry it took so long, Hans.)

Other new features in this update include 3DTouch shortcuts on the home screen, for devices such as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. You can jump straight to a particular aspect ratio with one gesture. To customize which aspects end up in the shortcuts, simply put them at the top of your customizable common aspects list.

Also new in this update, two new color themes. I have fun changing up the look of x2y on occasion, so I wanted to add a few more options. Also, all themes are now unlocked by default, so no more hunting around looking for ways to get all the themes to unlock.

I’m a bit surprised that years after this app was first released, I still find myself using x2y several times a week. This was my first app, and I never imagined that I could take it so far. Once again, I can say with confidence that I’ve spent more time thinking about aspect ratio calculators than anyone else on iOS.

x2y an invaluable tool for any designer or developer who needs to resize images often, particularly in code. You can download it on the App Store here.

iPad Pro: Early Thoughts

Just throwing out some early impressions of iPad Pro, after having used it only a day or so.

  • It’s heavy. Not heavier than you expect heavy, but as heavy as you expect, which is different from the most recent iPads. After a year of holding an iPad Air 2, this is surprising. If you’re used to a 3rd-gen iPad or iPad 1, it’ll feel right at home.
  • This is not a hold in one hand, tap with the other device. At least not for long periods. It’s a sit down with the iPad on a desk while tapping with both hands device. Developers should keep that in mind when deciding where buttons should go. The Air is a better form factor for those who need to work while standing.
  • The screen is gorgeous, as expected. Split screen becomes a whole lot more useful with all that extra real estate. This is a productivity machine, to be sure.
  • I tweeted a pic of myself using Keynote and OmniOutliner in split view. This will change how I prep talks in the future. It’s about more than art apps, in other words. Tons of use cases for this device. Apple is right to be marketing it to everyone, not just artists. The ”Pro" name almost seems wrong, given this.
  • Having said all that, the Pro will also be a great consumption device. Videos on this thing are awesome. Now I just need 12South to make a HoverBar attachment that fits the new size, and watching TV in bed will become as good as if I had a 40-inch television across the room.
  • Split View Controllers should really show both Master and Detail in portrait as well as landscape. Developers can override the standard behavior on on their own, but Apple should make it automatic. Give the Pro its own size classes. That would be even better.
  • I understand some people are upset the Pencil and Smart Keyboard weren’t ready at launch. But if you think about it from a Retail perspective, they couldn’t wait until December to ship this thing. And personally, I don’t think either accessory is as critical to the Pro as others think. I have no plans to ever get a keyboard for this thing. I will likely buy the Pencil but not use it for long. In the end, the device makes perfect sense for a lot of people without either.
  • Apps that aren’t yet ready for the new screen size scale, the way they do on the larger iPhones. And somehow, the scaling doesn’t look as bad as it does on the phones. Until you need a keyboard. Then it’s “Oh my god, this expereince is total crap” territory. Seriously, the scaled up keyboard is a horrifying experience. Lesson: get your app ready for multitasking and the new screen size ASAP if you’re a dev. This won’t be a problem for long for most apps.
  • Speaking of keyboards, I’m still getting used to the on-screen one. It’s technically big enough in landscape to use my pinky on both hands, but I’m still typing with six fingers and thumbs like I do on my Air. Having devoted number keys is awesome. Having devoted keys for brackets, apostrophes, etc. is nice, too. But I wonder what the thinking was behind removing gestures like the swipe up on comma to get an apostrophe. That gesture is so engrained in my head from my Air that I can’t stop doing it.
  • Experimenting more, I see that swiping up on certain keys, such as comma, period, semicolon, etc. gives you the same effect as if you had tapped shift first. That’s sort of handy, but it’s inconsistent. Why doesn’t the same gesture give me capital letters?
  • My text replacement shortcuts still haven’ synced from my iCloud accout. Why is that so inconsistent?
  • I’m really missing the ability to do multiple user accounts with this thing. It would be silly to buy two of these, and yet both Jessica and I would gladly share it for our various work tasks.
  • Battery life seems as good as any iPad, if not better. Glad they didn’t make it heavier by adding more battery.

In conclusion: using the Pro for the first hour or so, I didn’t feel drawn or connected to it. I liked it, but I didn’t feel affection for it, if that makes sense. Then again, I really loved my iPad mini, but I found myself using it very little. I wanted to hold it more than I wanted to use it for anything productive. I suspect the Air is the ultimate balance for the three iPad form factors. Having said that, I do think I’ll find plenty of uses for this larger one. And the more I use it, the more I seem to like it. It fits in my Waterfield Muzetto, just barely. So it is still as portable, from a practical standpoint, as my Air 2. But I imagine this device will stay at home more often than not. Unless I start seeing some apps that compel me to want to use it in the field, so to speak. If Apple were to make Mainstage, for instance, for this iPad, I’d take it on stage in a heartbeat. Perhaps as we see new apps arise, there will be more and more use cases where the Pro really shines.

More Space, More Buttons

Seeing this tweet a lot today in my timeline.

The comparison is wrongheaded, because the people sharing it are confusing points with pixels.

The original iPhone screen did indeed have 320 horizontal pixels. It was also a 1x screen, which means it had 320 points, as well.

The iPad Pro’s screen, on the other hand, is a 2X Retina screen. Thus, the 324 pixels between the app columns on the home screen represent 162pts, or roughly half the width of the original iPhone’s screen. Even that isn’t quite accurate, because the two screens also have different pixel densities. But the point is, the comparison makes no sense.

I am typing this on an iPad Pro, and I assure you, an original iPhone’s screen wouldn’t come close to fitting in between the home screen columns of the Pro.

More importantly, the point those who are sharing this are trying to make is also flawed. More space on the home screen does not mean we should jam pack it with more icons. Just because you have the space, that doesn’t mean you should fill it with more options. This is UX design 101.

I don’t know what the maximum number of icons on a screen is before the number of options becomes too confusing to the average user, but I’m willing to bet Apple does. I’m also willing to bet there’s value to having a little bit more consistency between the layouts of the various home screens of our iOS devices. Imagine setting up your new iPad Pro from a backup of your old iPad Air. Having all your apps not only restore, but restore to their familiar layout goes a long way to making that first run experience more familiar and pleasant.

“But the home screen just looks ridiculous with all that space between the icons.” This is an unbelievebly dumb reason to add another column or row of icons as well.

There’s no doubt in my mind Apple tested the Pro home screen with more densely packed icons and decided it was a bad idea. They obviously have the technical expertise to have the Springboard space icons in various ways, because they’ve done it with the various screen sizes of the iPhone. Perhaps in this case, the extra icons didn’t add value. Perhaps they have research from their customers that users find it annoying having inconsistent layouts. Who knows? The assumption that Apple is simply being lazy, or that average Twitter guy knows better is astounding, though.

Why Now is the Right Time For Indie Devs to be Gathering

I’m trying out Medium for this next piece. I still plan to write the bulk of my posts here, but over the past week I’ve been spending more and more time over on Medium, and I think it’s an interesting space.

Why Now is the Right Time for Indie Devs to Be Gathering

Airplane Mode’s First Music Video

Airplane Mode’s first music video goes live today. I can’t even express how much fun this was to make. Nor can I express my gratitude for everyone involved in the process.

I’ll have more to say on the Airplane Mode blog later. Dave has written a wonderful piece about putting the video together from his perspective.

In the meantime, enjoy the video. And if you’re in NYC tonight, come to Subject LES for our release party at 7pm.

And don’t miss our podcast episode about this song. Lots of background info, for those of you who like the inside scoop.