How I Work: App List

I use a lot of extra, smaller programs to make my work easier. After gauging interest on Twitter, it seems many people are curious about what I use. A while back, I wrote about some iOS apps, but an expanded and updated list including Mac apps is due, since many of those apps have been abandoned, or have been replaced in my workflow with others.


Post Haste (Free) As the original developer of Post Haste, I may be a little biased, but it’s such an indispensable app for preparing a folder structure (and template project files) to keep everything organized. Digital Rebellion has done a terrific job with version 2 and is continuing to take it places I never could have.

Alfred (Free, £15) A long time ago, I was an avid Quicksilver user. But Alfred has since taken it’s place. Alfred is a great way to not only launch apps, but quickly browse or search the file system, open 1Password logins, assign system-wide hotkeys to nearly anything it can control, and so much more through extensions. To get the most out of Alfred, you’ll need the Power Pack, but it’s well worth the cost of entry.

iStat Menus ($16) I like to keep an eye on my system, especially now that I’m on a laptop. iStat Menus is an easy way to do that. With a quick glance to my menu bar, I can see how hard my processors are working, how much RAM I have available, the ambient temperature of my machine, disk activity, and network activity. There’s also a free dashboard widget available with access to the same info, but I’m not sure if it’s still actively maintained.

Transmit ($34) FTP is just a part of online life ((Personally, I prefer not to use services like YouSendIt, DropBox, etc… It just never seemed very professional to me. But I realize not everyone has access to their own FTP server.)). Transmit is my go-to FTP (and more) client. It’s just very well polished, and can even keep favorite connections in your menu bar, or mount servers right in the Finder. There are other free FTP clients out there, but Panic really knows what they’re doing.

Carbon Copy Cloner ($20) Although many might dismiss this as simply an rsync wrapper, Carbon Copy Cloner is such a great utility to have. For me, it makes a weekly bootable clone of my system drive, and will also be used to make incremental backups of project files and assets to archive on a 3TB Guardian MAXimus I have coming in.

CrashPlan (Free, $1.50-$12/mo.) I know I am no longer biased since I work for Code 42 Software, but CrashPlan has been such an integral part of my backup solution for many years prior. It’s free to use if you just backup locally or to a friend’s computer. If you wish to backup remotely to CrashPlan’s servers, a CrashPlan+ subscription is required. I have the Family Unlimited plan which allows me to back up up to 10 computers.

Growl (Free for OS X 10.6 and lower, $1.99 for OS X 10.7) I really don’t like pop-ups interrupting me while I’m working, but sometimes they can be extremely useful. Growl lets me configure notifications from supported apps and even has a Boxcar plugin, which is great for getting notifications from BG Renderer.

iOS Apps

ColorSchemer (Free) I’ve only recently started using it, but ColorSchemer is a great app for browsing and generating color palettes. You can arbitrarily set up your own color schemes, or pull them from a photo. This has replaced both ColorSlide and cliqcliq Colors (the latter has since been abandoned).

Animator SW ($2.99) Sometimes, you just need an easy way to time out actions when animating. Animator AW allows you to time frames of action. For example, if you’re animating a character, you can act out the motions yourself, and mark a keyframe at each important step. You’ll then have a list of how long each action takes and on which frames they occur. FPS is fully customizable and a log can be emailed out.

KataData ($4.99) Video footage takes up a lot of space. KataData can calculate storage for various camera & codec formats. Just enter the total running time of your footage (or renders) and it will show you how much drive space you’ll need.

Timecode ($6.99) Panoptik’s Timecode is just a great timecode calculator. It can even display comparative timecodes of different formats (eg, DF vs NDF, PAL vs NTSC, frames vs 35mm 3-perf, etc).

Due ($4.99) I usually need reminders or timers running. Due is the best timer/reminder app I’ve seen for iOS. It’s extremely fast and easy to set up reminders or timers on my iPhone 4, which is important because I want to do stuff, not spend time setting up a reminder to tell me to do stuff. There’s also a companion or stand-alone OS X app available.

Clear ($2.99) While a simple list app, you really have to use Clear to see how smart it is. Completely gesture driven, Clear a fun way for me to keep lists throughout the day, and check things off or remove them as needed. Are there other apps that do the same thing? Definitely, but this just works for me.

So there it is, the list of small but important software in my daily workflow. Do you use anything you think I should check out or that might work better? Let me know. I’m always willing to try something new.

iPhone Apps for Designers/Post Production

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m slightly addicted to my iPhone. It’s a really useful piece of tech, not just for communication, but for my work as well. Here’s a list of apps I use almost daily for my motion design & post production work :

WhatTheFontWhat The Font (Free, iTunes Link)
Take a picture of a sign, layout, billboard, or pretty much anything and upload it to What The Font. It operates much like the website and can be a lifesaver. Though it can be tricky to get matches back unless you have a 3G S, as the fixed focus camera on the original and 3G iPhones makes it tricky to get a decent picture.

Colorscliqcliq Colors ($2.99, iTunes Link)
Choosing the right colors for a project is important and inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. Chose your own colors (up to 16) or use a photo as the basis for the palette. You can work in RGB, HSB, Gray or CMYK (for you print designers). When you’re done you can name & rate your palette, or even send it in an email. The email is especially thorough, providing ACO, ASE, Office Open XML Color Theme, bitmap, plaintext, and CSV file formats, along with a preview.

ColorSlideColorSlide (Free, iTunes Link)
Speaking of color palettes, you’re probably familiar with Adobe Kuler. ColorSlide is basically an iPhone front-end allowing you to search, browse, and bookmark the palettes. Unfortunately, there’s no way to sign in with your Kuler account, though you can email links.

ColourMill Colour (Free, iTunes Link)
A great little photo adjustment app by The Mill. Allows you to chose from predefined looks or adjust lift/gamma/gain (both luminance & separate RGB) and saturation on your own.

PSMobilePS Mobile (Free, iTunes Link)
From Adobe themselves. Crop, adjust exposure/saturation/tint, apply filters and save & upload your completed image to I admit I don’t use this too often, but it’s handy to have.

AnimTimerAnimation Timer ($4.99, iTunes Link)
Tap out timing for your animation. It’s similar to the “lap” feature on stopwatches, though instead of fractions of a second, you get frames, 35mm footage or timecode. It’s handy for timing everything from edits to complex character animation.

EditCalcEditCalc ($0.99, iTunes Link)
A simple timecode calculator. Works in 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 59.94, and 60 fps. You can also work in varying film footages, from 16mm 1perf all the way up to 70mm 5perf.

DataCalcAJA DataCalc (Free, iTunes Link)
Recently released, this app will calculate storage for varying frame sizes/rates and codecs, and closely mirrors their Mac & Windows calculators in function. You can work in days/hours/min/sec or timecode. What I really like about the app is you can chose between working in KB (1000 bytes), KiB (1024 bytes) or even Bits, which is handy if you’re working in Snow Leopard. One complaint is that they don’t offer 720p24 as a preset, though you can use custom setups, so it’s not that big of a deal. When you’re all done you can mail a summary of your calculation; useful if you’re on set and need to let your assistant know what’s coming.

iBlueSkyiBlueSky ($9.99, iTunes Link)
If you’re not familiar with mind mapping, you might not care much about this app. But it’s hands-down the best app for this purpose. What I really like is that I can email my maps as OPML files (along with other formats) and open it up with OmniOutliner on my Mac.

PocketVFXPocket VFX ($0.99, iTunes Link)
This is just for fun. Framestore (vfx credits include Avatar, The Dark Knight, The Golden Compass, and Where the Wild Things Are) has released an app of their own. You, too can have Framestore’s power in your own pocket!

Have other favorite design/post apps? Share them in the coments.

This Now Please (iPhone Camera Monitoring)

ProLost has an interesting idea for an iPhone software/accessory. As you may have heard today, Apple had a press event to discuss the upcoming iPhone 3.0 software. One of the features is the ability to access devices through the dock connector. Imagination went wild:


The idea is that someone could manufacture an HDMI-to-Dock Connector accessory to monitor footage in the field. (I love the addition of lens settings & RGB waveform, by the way.)

However, while I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, I’m pretty sure this isn’t quite possible. I doubt the iPhone hardware is capable of crunching HD video. But perhaps that hardware accessory itself could crunch the video down to iPod friendly 480×360 h.264 video on the fly? With the ability for the on-screen controls to send commands to the accessory to show pixel-pixel video (with paning, of course) for a focus aide?

Actually, hot damn! That does sound like an awesome idea!

KERN – Typography Nerds Can Have Fun Too

Kern GameThink Tetris, but upside-down, with letters. That’s the best way I can think to describe KERN (App Store), a new game for the iPhone. From the site:

KERN is a minimalist typography experience challenging you to precisely place a missing letter into a falling word while avoiding any unnecessary ligatures!  Practice and prove your typographical acumen with a score that gives new meaning to point-size!

The design is beautifully minimal and well thought out. It’s also easy to pick up and well worth the $0.99, even if your not into typography. I think this might be my new go-to game.

Video of the game play available after the break.

[via @rohdesign]

Read More…

Upgrade your iPhone Camera Lens

789_iphone_t_mobile_g1_htc_phone_wide_angle_lens_1USBfever is selling 2x telephoto, 0.7x wide-angle macro, and fish-eye lenses for the iPhone. They attach with a magnetic ring with a self-adhesive backing. Now, it’s no secret that the iPhone camera sucks, but they are so prevalent that some have managed to get better-than-mediocre pictures.. At US$16.99 each ($19.99 for the fish-eye), it might be with it to pick one up. Throw in Camera Bag (App Store), and you have a nifty little toy camera!

[via core77]

iPhone NDA Dead (Mostly), Rejections still confusing

As has been reported all over today, the iPhone NDA has been dropped for released software and features. However, I’m pretty sure it will still cover rejected apps (specifically, rejection letters). Even so, it is great that developers now have the opportunity to share their code and techniques with one another.

Now, not to rain on the parade here, but now can they fix the issue with app rejections? IBM’s Lotus Notes has been approved for sale in the App Store, despite apple rejecting a third party G-Mail app earlier for “duplicating funcionality and potential user confusion.” Granted, Lotus Notes is a bit more complex than MailWrangler, but they both seem to provide “sufficient differentiation” than the built in Mail app.

Still, the NDA shows progress in the right direction.

Flash on the iPhone? (again)

Flash Magazine is reporting that Adobe is indeed developing Flash Player for the iPhone. It appears they have a team working on development, if the report is to be believed. I would note, however, the language used here: Flash Player, not Flash Plugin.

The Flash many have come to know and love (or hate) is embedded in websites and loaded with a browser plugin. As far as I know, Safari on the iPhone has no plugin architecture. I see three outcomes here:

First, Adobe is developing Flash Player as a separate browser, possibly based on Webkit. If you know you are going to a site that uses Flash, you launch the Adobe built browser. Obviously, this isn’t the ideal situation as users would now have two different browsers to use depending on the site technologies.

Another option is to have Flash behave similar to QuickTime on the iPhone. When a user browses to a site with Flash, an icon is displayed which the user can click to launch the content in the Flash player. This might work, but there are two caveats: Only for sites built entirely in Flash or that use Flash for content purposes (think video and games) would benefit. Sites that just incorporate Flash into certain portions, like navigation or animated elements would either break or lose their intended design. Second, Adobe would have to be working closely with Apple for this implementation, which clearly isn’t happening. If they were partnering with Apple in this way, they would be either definitive in ther colaboration, or completely tight-lipped. Not these in-between quotes which continually pop up.

The last outcome, and perhaps most probable: this just won’t happen. I think Flash on the iPhone is the new Duke Nukem Forever.

[via lifehacker]

More App Store Rejection Fun

Apparently, Apple has heard the public complaints about their recent rejections from the App Store. Their solution? Cover the rejection letters under NDA:


Nice. It’s no secret that I can be considered an Apple fan boy and all, but this is getting ridiculous. I wonder how many rejected developers will break the NDA?

Apple and Code Signing

By this point, most of us are familiar with the App Store and the controversy: why do apps have to be vetted by Apple before being deemed acceptable to install on our own devices? This is not a post specifically about that, but rather the extension of that practice.

Several months ago, I ran across a post on Rogue Amoeba’s Under the Microscope blog about code signing in Leopard. At the heart of the discussion was the following quote in an Apple mailing list:

In order to achieve the nirvana of only running valid code, the system must completely refuse to run unsigned code. Since that would really have ruined third party developers’ Leopard experience, we don’t do that in Leopard (except for the Parental Controls and firewall cases, where we surreptitiously sign unsigned programs when they are “enabled” to run).
Eventually you will all have signed your recent releases, and we’ll have fixed all the (important) bugs and closed all the (important) holes, and a switch will materialize to this effect – to refuse (at the kernel level) to run any code that isn’t valid.

Posted to apple-cdsa on March 3, 2008 ((It should be noted that I commented on that post as to who, exactly, “Perry the Cynic” was. He is an employee of Apple as past posts of his in the mailing lists will clearly indicate.))

At that time, I said that no one would accept such measures. How could people possibly use a system where all the code is signed in such a manor? The iPhone App store is certainly such a system, but it’s a closed device with the expectations of a closed device. ((Except, perhaps, for the Jailbreak community.))

However, with the apparent success of the App Store, Apple’s history of using smaller projects as test-beds for OS X, the inclusion of the Trusted Platform Module on Intel chip sets when Apple made the x86 transition ((Even though the TPM is not enabled on Intel Macs, its presence just adds fuel to the fire.)), and the support for signed code in Leopard, I have to wonder.

If Apple does indeed move to a closed system with all applications requiring signing in order to run, it will be a troubling time for those who run on Macs. Take, for example, the recent rejection of a podcasting application from the App Store:

Today I finally got a reply from Apple about the status of Podcaster.

Apple Rep says: Since Podcaster assists in the distribution of podcasts, it duplicates the functionality of the Podcast section of iTunes.

This bears repeating: an application was rejected because it duplicates the functionality of iTunes, an Apple app.

Now, I’m usually an advocate for Apple when it comes to “the whole solution.” I believe that by having control of the hardware and the OS which runs on that hardware enables them to provide a solid experience. That, however, is as far as my advocacy for a controlled system will go.

Yes, I use iCal, Mail, Final Cut Pro, and many other Apple apps, but I do so as a choice. The minute I lose that choice is when I jump ship. No user experience, regardless of polish and ease, can justify that. Imagine if I was forced to use iChat instead of Adium, Safari instead of Firefox… Motion instead of After Effects.

This single tweet from Steven Frank illustrates the worst-case-scenario:

Scenario: Apple makes code-signing mandatory for desktop Mac applications. You can now only buy them through iTunes. Think it can’t happen?

I think it can, I just hope against hope that it doesn’t. If it does? I’ll stick with Leopard (or in some cases Tiger) until I can no longer install those systems on new hardware. Once that happens? Well, I just hope Linux will have matured enough to get the support from the software I need to use on a daily basis.

[thanks to Daring Fireball for inspiring the conversation]