Archive | Tools & Apps

Easily measure the pixel size of any part of a web page

screenshot of measureit ruler in ChromeHow often have you wondered what the pixel measurement of a given image or space was on a web page? How wide is that column? How much room do I have for a banner? Kevin A. Freitas has created a brilliant add-on that works with Firefox, Chrome, and Safari called MeasureIt. Once installed, you’ll see a small ruler-like icon in the upper right corner of the browser window (this screenshot is in Chrome).

web page with picture of a zombie and measure it in action

Just what size is a zombie, anyway?

Click on it, and you get a crosshairs cursor that lets you measure anywhere within the browser window. Figuring out web page measurements used to be a pain. If I wanted to know the size of an image, I’d copy the image and open it in an image editing program to check. If I wanted to know the size of an available space, I’d make an educated guess and do trial and error until I got it right. Those days are gone, thankfully :) 

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How to lose an app sale: use bad typography for a typography app

screen shot of type itType It! is an iPad app that promises to turn your photos into beautiful typography.

I don’t believe you, Type It!

As a huge iPad fan and type geek, I’d normally buy this app without a second thought. Sadly, this epic fail of a screenshot not only lost the developer a sale, it flagrantly bolsters the stereotype of coders being inherently bad at design.

For starters, Brush Script?! Brush Script has to be one of the ugliest typefaces out there. Comic Sans would be an improvement! Ok, maybe not, but it wouldn’t make it any worse.

And what’s with the double primes instead of real quotation marks? On top of that, this slogan doesn’t need quotation marks. There was absolutely no excuse for making this typography 101 mistake.

The sample picture? It’s not typography. This is a photo with a bunch of typographic characters on it. I think. I don’t know, but it sure is ugly.

Lastly, “beautiful” and “typography” are not a proper nouns, and do not require capitalization.

(Yeah, I’m feeling kinda cranky today.)

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Find your lost phone or get out of a boring meeting

Phone My Phone logoI haven’t had a land line since the early 00s. The only time I miss it is when I lose my mobile phone. I check every room, I check under piles of paper, I check the fridge, but I can’t find it.

Form to use Phone My Phone I no longer let myself get apoplectic. Instead I turn to PhoneMyPhone. Type in your number, and PhoneMyPhone does just like the name says. It phones your phone. A few times, if you want, to give you time to run to the car and check there.

You could also use it to be sure you receive an important call during a boring meeting or a bad date. I’d never use it for that though. Never.

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Moodboards: my profile/guest post on the Evernote blog

Evernote logoI’ve been using Evernote for over 2 years (I checked. I thought it was longer, actually, since it’s such a regular part of my work process). I only recently started using it for moodboards. A tweet from @Evernote asking if anyone used it this way caught my eye, I responded, we emailed, and voila! My thoughts are right there on the Evernote blog as part of their Creative Series. Nice!

screenshot of my interview on the evernote blogIf you’re a designer and are unfamiliar with moodboards, definitely give this a read. They’re a powerful tool to add to your presentation/process arsenal.

If you haven’t tried Evernote, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s web-based, but there are also desktop, iPhone, and iPad apps that sync to it, and of course bookmarklets that make it easy to clip and save stuff to your notebooks. I’ve used it not only for moodboards, but for market research, read-it-later types of things, recipe collections, shopping research, wishlists, idea lists… the possibilities are endless.

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When technology bites back

PanicSo there I sat Friday morning, an hour away from an online meeting, surrounded by 5 robust computers, unable to do anything I needed, ready to tear my hair out. Some of the problems I brought on myself, some were beyond my control.

My first mistake was trying to do a shortcut installation of a CD full of fonts the night before. On my MacBook Pro, I was gradually, painstakingly installing them in Fontbook one at a time. But on my desktop Mac I tried to take a shortcut and copy a ton of folders directly into the Font folder. The fonts seemed to work fine in Fireworks and Dreamweaver, but when I tried to open Word, I got a popup window telling me about a corrupt font. I clicked “Ok” (the only option) and up popped another one. When I realized this was going to happen for each of the thousands of fonts I had copied, I forced Word to quit. “Crap, gotta deal with that soon,” I thought, and used a different word processor.

The next morning, an hour before my meeting, I went to open the Powerpoint presentation I’d need to reference in the meeting. The same thing happened — I wasn’t going to be opening the presentation on my iMac. Unfortunately, I don’t have Office on my laptop Mac, so I was going to have to turn to one of the PCs. I booted up the nearest one, and turned back to my iMac to see if I could solve the font problem. After several minutes I realized the PC wasn’t booting. It was trying — over, and over, and over. The reset button was stuck, and it was booting over and over, never quite making it. No time to mess with that — I moved onto the next PC. It booted fine, but the wireless keyboard batteries were apparently dead. I ran downstairs to scrounge for batteries. Couldn’t find any. Did I think to grab a wired keyboard from a different PC and plug it in? No I did not. OK, one computer left, and it’s the old PC laptop.

When I said earlier I was surrounded by 5 robust computers, I lied. I was surrounded by 4 robust computers and one rather slow machine. It’s a decent PC —  a newish X41 Tablet — but it’s only got 256k RAM, so it’s dead slow. I knew it would be 15 minutes or so before the thing booted, updated, and finally downloaded the 11MB file, so I decided to tackle the font problem. I decided to simply delete all the fonts in folders. Bad idea. Suddenly the IM conversation I was having with Susan turned to gibberish. My keyboard was responding to my typing, but not with the correct letters. My email and stickies no longer displayed correctly. I had broken my Mac.

I watched my PC laptop struggle to get the file open. I tried to launch YM on it, but it was too busy struggling with Powerpoint to respond.

So there I sat, with all this technology around me, unable to do a damn thing.

Just my luck: the meeting got moved out an hour.

I was able to fix the font thing. To do so I accessed the Library via the Macintosh HD (as opposed to from my home). The font folder there contains the default set (or the right set, at any rate). I copied them, and pasted them into Home > Library and I was good to go. It was that simple. I loved my Mac again.

The meeting went fine, although there was no speakerphone on the other end, so my “call in” was a cell phone sitting on the table — I had to ping them via IM if I wanted to talk.

We had a good laugh about having bad technology karma for the morning, but man was it frustrating. I’m still not back 100%. My Windows installation on my main Mac is hosed, and I don’t know yet if it’s a Parallels issue, a Windows CD issue, or a CD Drive issue. But I’m up and running again anyway. But I’m really ready for technology to get another order of magnitude simpler and more reliable.

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iCal and iPhone

Well, if the iPhone does indeed offer full calendar capabilities in the form of iCal, I may be switching from Verizon to Cingular, despite Cingular’s lack of decent coverage. I am completely hooked on iCal. I can have as many calendars as I want, and view any combination of them at any time. It has a simple but robust to-do list, is sharable, and has an intuitive interface. I rely heavily on my Palm Treo 650 calendar. iCal easily outdoes it.

iCal is compatible (and very similar to) Google Calendar, and will sync with Palm and Windows CE PDAs.

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Installing Windows on a Mac

(Originally posted Feb. 3)

Installing Windows on my Mac has been, by far, the most painful
aspect of switching. The fact that I could run Windows programs side by
side the Mac OS – no need to reboot – was pretty much what sealed the
deal in my switch to Mac. I need to run YM with Voice and VPchat
– neither are Mac-compatible, and I use them both all day, every day.
Getting up and running on the Mac took hours. Getting Windows going
took days. Why this surprised me, I don’t know.

Here’s what I did:

Installed Parallels Desktop for Mac.
The installation was relatively painless. Unfortunately the interface
isn’t very intuitive. If you plan to use it, make sure you go to the VM
menu and install Parallels tools. This will install the proper tools on
your guest OS installation. Nowhere in the interface are you directed
to do this. I stumbled on it in the Parallels support forums, which have been helpful.

Installed a legit copy of Windows XP Pro. I crashed. 4 times.

I
went to the support forums, where I learned I needed to update my
fresh-out-of-the-box Parallels software. I did so, and am now running
version 1970 (odd versioning scheme, don’t you think?)

More…On
the 5th install, I gave up when I got hung at “7 minutes remaining” for
half an hour. Then I thought I’d try again. I could hear the drive
starting and stopping. Apparently it installed just a little bit each
time. My patience paid off, and the 6th installation attempt worked.

I
planned to get SP2, then Norton. Big mistake. I couldn’t find SP2 at
Microsoft. Oh, there were many links that promised it, but none came
through. By the time I found one elsewhere, I was so riddled with
viruses and malware that I had to reinstall.

The 7th installation of XP went smoothly, albeit slowly. I went directly to the SP2 link I had found and downloaded it.

I ran the SP2 upgrade, and it failed.

I contacted several friends in search of an SP2 CD, to no avail.

I
couldn’t bring myself to buy yet another copy of XP (I’ve bought 3 over
the years), and instead decided I might as well try Vista. Did you know
there are 7 versions of Vista? Microsoft offers very little in the way
of serious comparison. After reading reviews on several blogs, I
decided on Home Premium – full version (not an upgrade).

First installation, no go. Second installation, nada.

Again
I went to the Parallels forums, where it was suggested I make a disk
image (.dmg file) of the CD using Disk Utility and install from there.
Briefly, I wandered back into the wonderful Mac world where things make
sense. Disk Utility was a breeze, even though I had never seen it
before.

I made the .dmg file, but Parallels wouldn’t let me install from it. It showed me the file, but it was greyed out.

Back
to the forums where it was then suggested I make the file an .iso file.
So I renamed it, but got the same results. I’m not sure I did what this
person meant – after this, the thread went dark.

I then went to
my friend Darrell, who knows All Things Windows. He found lots of
evidence online (contrary to what I had found) that showed lots of
people having trouble installing Vista using Parallels (apparently it
works great with Bootcamp, but then I’d have to reboot to use Windows,
which is unacceptable for what I want to do) He suggested we go back
and install XP, then run Vista as an upgrade. The forums implied
updates won’t work in Parallels, but I gave it a try. 2 tries,
actually, but neither worked. I decided to keep trying to install XP.

Darrell
gave me a direct link to a safe SP2 download. I installed XP, and went
directly there to get SP2 and Norton’s. Even that visit to that one
safe site got me a fatal virus. But I install Norton’s anyway, hoping I
can get rid of it. No way – I’m going to have to start over. By this
time my patience is definitely wearing thin… I just want to have my
fabulous new Mac up and running everything efficiently!

I
download SP2 and Norton’s via a PC and burn it to a CD. I reinstall XP
without network connectivity, which for some reason seems to make it
run at a snail’s pace. Several hours later, it fails. I try again, and
let it run through the night.

I came upstairs this morning to a
crashed Mac. I decide to try once more, this time with everything at
the default settings (I had been installing with extra RAM and extra HD
space in anticipation of Vista).

This time I plugged the network cable in, and the installation ran quickly. I unplugged it just as Windows booted up.

I
copied the compressed SP2.exe file and Norton folder to the XP desktop,
then installed. SP2 installed flawlessly this time, as did Norton. I
updated my virus definitions, updated Windows, installed VPchat, and
installed Yahoo Messenger. Both seem to be running fine, although I
haven’t tested voice yet – I’ll let you know.

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Be nice.