Tuesday June 25, 2013

• The Tools I Use

Following my piece about the design of Vesper, a lot of people wrote to ask how I did those animatics. Rather than name-drop a single app, I thought I’d share a list of the tools I use to work on Vesper.


ScreenFlow is for capturing screencasts, but it has the ability to drop in images, and the animation tools are a fairly close match to the basic stuff you get from Core Animation. Because of this, if you start with a blank document you can just drop in your app’s assets and start setting up animations. A lot of people would use After Effects for this sort of thing (and I’m working towards becoming one of those people), but sometimes the best hammer is a coffee mug.


When I take a screenshot, CloudApp automatically uploads it to their servers and puts the share URL on my clipboard. When I save a comp from Photoshop, I just drag the file to the CloudApp icon in my menubar and it puts the share URL on my clipboard. For someone who spends most of their waking life sending screenshots and comps to their co-workers, this is a massive time-saver. The pro account is a no-brainer.


Brent’s previous project helped make his current one, which is a neat bit of poetry. If you don’t know, Glassboard is a private communication tool, with apps for iOS, Android, and web. Each board is invite-only, and members share ideas, comments, and files in a Facebook-y sort of way. For Q Branch, all of our official company communication went through Glassboard instead of email.

Lighthouse and Resolve

It’s hard to develop an affection for a ticket tracking system, but Lighthouse is what we picked and it works out just fine for us, especially when paired with Resolve, a Lighthouse client for iOS made by my friend Kyle Richter. Resolve is one of those lets-me-work-from-anywhere utilities I used to dream about.


Obvious enough, but Photoshop deserves to be mentioned. For all my complaining over the years, Adobe has really started getting their act together to make Photoshop less painful and, dare I say, enjoyable to use. My Creative Cloud membership is some of the best money I spend every month.

Skala Preview

Skala Preview takes the frontmost document in Photoshop and sends it to my iPhone, allowing me to see the work on an actual device under real-world lighting conditions, removing the discrepancies of screens and color profiles. As a bonus, check out designer Marc Edwards’s excellent series of articles on the Bjango site. That guy is incredible.


Xscope is really a bunch of tools all in one, but I mostly use it for measuring pixels. I’m obsessive about measuring pixels.


Before sending to the App Store, I run the Xcode project through Slender to ensure my Retina and non-Retina images match up and are all in the right place. It also keeps me from accidentally shipping unused assets. Every designer, developer, and QA engineer needs Slender.


John estimates that we sent tens of thousands of iMessages collaborating on design, I think that estimate might be low. iMessage isn’t perfect, but the ability to have a conversation on my Mac and continue uninterrupted while I buy groceries is no small thing. This is probably the tool I use most.

And since the launch of Vesper, there are three tools that have been daily life-savers for me.


Tokens talks to your iTunes Connect account and pulls down your available promo codes. That would be enough, but Tokens goes the extra step of giving you a shareable link which the recipient can click to redeem the code. Double bonus: you can see which recipients have redeemed their codes.


If you have software on the App Store and don’t use AppFigures, you’re crazy. Daily sales and revenue reports, chart tracking, and App Store user reviews. I don’t remember how much it costs per month but whatever it is it’s too cheap.


I don’t like canned responses, but we get a lot of email from the lovely people who buy Vesper, and their questions tend to follow a certain pattern. I use TextExpander to handle writing out the repetitive parts of the responses, letting me focus on talking to (and thanking) the person who was thoughtful enough to write an email. In short, it lets me handle email support and still feel human.