So you want to mock up an iPhone application design

This may be a cool set of Photoshop widgets, but if you’re considering using them, please consider using the Interface Builder app that comes with the iPhone SDK. All free, and it’s the actual tool that real iPhone developers use to build interfaces.

Extending an element is as easy as dragging it out; adding another icon to a toolbar automatically redistributes the others. Everything auto-snaps to build a GUI that follows Apple guidelines — it’s easier than Photoshop!

Just as designing a website in Photoshop gives you very little insight into how a website is actually built, designing an iPhone app in Photoshop is not going to help you understand how that’s going to work either. Interface Builder can be daunting, but for mockups it’s dead easy:

1. File > New… and make a new Cocoa Touch application.
2. Window > Library and drag objects into the window.
3. Double-click on buttons to change their text.
4. Window > Inspector and use the first section (Attributes) to change colours/styles if needed.
5. When you’re done, File > Simulate Interface and it’ll appear in the iPhone Simulator.
6. Command-shift-4, then press space. Click on the simulator to grab a pixel-accurate screenshot of your iPhone app, with shadow.

Make sure you take some stills next time you’re on a video shoot. In the near future, you might be able to use photographs to enhance your videos out of sight. Some fantastic, gobsmacking work here. Automatic retouching, resolution enhancement and high dynamic range for video.

Hazel’s starting to speak. Her spoken vocabulary now includes “boobies” or just “bbies” along with “mummy”, “daddy”, “yum” and “yayayayayyayaya”. This morning, though, she gave us a fresh example of learning in action. We told her that the flat thing at the edge of the room was called a “wall”. Then, after being read a tiny alphabet book which she likes, she pointed at the “Ww walrus in the waves” and said “wall”.

She hears, she says, we smile.

Oh, and she’s walking almost everywhere now. Still with a fair likelihood of falling over backwards and often with her hands in the air like she just doesn’t care.

Photoshop Shortcuts

Photoshop Secret Shortcuts has done a decent job of listing many of the non-menu shortcuts in Photoshop. Here are a few more.

You probably know that command-[ and ] move a layer up and down in the stacking order — and it’s in the menus. However, option-[ and ], while you have a single layer selected, moves your selection (not the layer!) up and down. Handy in recorded actions when you don’t know the name of the layer you want to select.

Another: backslash makes the current layer mask visible as a rubylith, like a Quick Mask.

Two other techniques, not just shortcuts:

When you’re painting a mask, set the Dodge tool to work only on Highlights and the Burn tool to work only on Shadows. That way you can paint straight over edges to sharpen them up, without destroying them.

If you ever need to fill text with your own painting, don’t rasterize the text! Instead, create a new layer above the text and use Layer > Create Clipping Mask. Why Photoshop doesn’t do this for you (instead of admonishing you) I just don’t know.

Plug: I teach a Photoshop Masterclass at Next Byte Charlotte St in Brisbane. You’re welcome to come along. 🙂

Colour Gamut

One reason it’s a good idea to edit in a colour space with a larger gamut than your target space is that your colour adjustments will have greater fidelity. If you limit your working space early, your colour adjustments and retouching work will be artificially limited, and in some cases this can cause banding. For example, if you adjust contrast by stretching the colours in a small range out to a larger range (as in Levels) then using 16-bit with ProPhoto gives you more information to stretch out, and therefore better quality. Think of colour fidelity as similar to image resolution.

Working with a larger gamut up-front also gives you more options later. In ten years, when we have better quality monitors, all the sRGB images will look flat compared to ProPhoto RGB images. The same applies now if you print to a higher-quality printer. Many layout artists have historically worked directly in CMYK (even less gamut than sRGB) space, but again, this is a device space, not a working space. If you try to print a CMYK image on a 6-color printer or show it on screen, it looks flat. Stick with a higher gamut (like Adobe RGB or better) for as long as you can.

Also remember that dynamic range is one of the important things that you get when you buy professional equipment. You’re not going to get truly good results out of any kind of cameraphone, for example.

iPhones are awesome gadgets: really, really impressive. One thing that’s less than impressive is sync time. Every time you connect, it performs a “backup” that takes (for me at least) far too loooong. Given that all the details it’s syncing (nearly) are on my Mac already, I’d really like to skip this step. However, should something go wrong during a sync, if you don’t have a backup it’s a pain to rejig everything. Solution?

Use the Sync menubar widget to “Sync Now”. That takes care of bookmarks, mail accounts, contacts, calendars and all the stuff that changes frequently. Interestingly, the iPhone doesn’t tell you this stuff is going on, but if you have the developer tools installed, look in Developer/Applications/Utilities for Syncrospector, with which you can track all the sync updates to your iPhone or anything else.

Managing larger media is easy too. In iTunes, select your iPhone, turn off “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected” and turn on “Manually manage music and videos”. Now you can update your music, ringtones and podcasts by dragging them to the iPhone directly, which you’d likely have to do anyway if you have a music collection of any reasonable size.

I’m still going to run a full sync once a week or so, but it’s good to be able to update bookmarks etc. very quickly without going through the full backup. One last thing: if part of the sync process seems to be taking a long time, make sure there isn’t a tiny dialog sitting behind other windows asking for your permission. Nothing proceeds until you say yes.

I’m much happier now.

If you also ordered your iPhone from Optus over the phone, don’t believe them when they say it can’t be activated outside of business hours. They were only talking about the SIM card and the phone account attached to it.

The iPhone itself, after inserting the otherwise useless unactivated SIM and hooking up to iTunes, works fine. Wifi works, downloading applications works, syncing works, and all is well with the world. Awesome, awesome box of tricks.

You know what’s almost worse than not having an iPhone yet? Having just received your iPhone and not being able to activate it until Monday morning.

That’s right, if you ordered from Optus by phone, you can only activate it during business hours, Monday to Friday.

What’s worse it that they refused to deliver to anybody but the named account holder during the day today. No spouse or other authorised person is allowed to receive the package. So I went to the damn airport courier depot after work, then got home all excited and spent half an hour on hold with four separate people to eventually be told to wait 2.5 days.

My iPhone is inviting me to make an emergency call, but that’s all.