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Archive for the ‘Software & Tools’ Category

When discussing a new web project with clients, it is so important to know that you are on the same page before putting any efforts to create mockups or the real product.

Samantha Warren is sharing her design process tool; Style Tiles, a design deliverable consisting of fonts, colors and interface elements used to create quick/dirty outputs with the clients to better understand the style + expectations of a customer.

Style Tiles

Simply, things are not blurry as a moodboard but not too-specific and time-consuming as mockups. It helps building the connection with the client so that you better know "the product being designed is what the client wants".

Style Tiles don't imply dimensions nor device, it focuses more on creating a design system rather than imagining fixed-width pages.

There is a sample PSD file provided to better understand the process and Samantha discusses it in detail in her blog Badass Ideas.

LESS is a great language for writing styles faster and getting more out of CSS with its dynamic nature (variables, mixins, operations and functions).

Normally, .less files are live-converted to CSS via JavaScript by the browser (or server -like Node.js-).

SimpLESS brings another option for designers willing to generate the CSS from .less files quickly.

SimpLESS

It is a desktop-app that has versions for Windows, Mac OS X + Linux and works simply by drag 'n' dropping your project files into the app and getting the CSS output.

P.S. SimpLESS is also an open source project.

Adobe's Flash is probably having the most difficult days since its launch considering the no-iOS support and the increasing popularity of HTML5 + web standards.

A strong competitor to the Flash platform now comes right from Adobe with a tool named Edge that eases creating web-based interactive animations that only use HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3.

There is a Flash-like timeline for building the animations and the built-in JavaScript engine used for them is jQuery.

Adobe Edge

Check out these demos and consider downloading the source files for the demos to start playing with the application quickly.

Adobe Edge is currently released as a preview release and offered for free during that period.

MIX Online, a Microsoft-powered website on web design and development, is sharing a free Adobe Illustrator plugin for converting .AI files into HTML5 canvas.

AI->Canvas plug-in offers options for drawing, animation and coding, such as "events" so that you can build interactive, well-designed canvas-based web apps.

AI to Canvas Plug-in

It can be used to export simple-to-complex shapes, gradients, transparencies, drop shadows and any other stuff.

And, the animation features include rotation, fades, movement, easing, triggers and more.

AI->Canvas comes with versions for Windows + Mac.

Photoshop, Illustrator and Freehand, besides being amazing applications, all have a bad feature; their initial load is pretty slow.

And, when you only need to see what is inside a vector file to find the right one or you don't have these applications (but may need to open vector files), PSD, EPS and AI Viewer softwares can be a quick solution.

They are free applications (for Windows) which loads fast and not only opens the related vector files but can save them as JPEG, Bitmap, GIF, PNG and other extensions. Also, you can resize or rotate them too.

P.S. What would be better is: a single application that can open them all.

PSD Viewer

Sometimes we work on a PSD file, duplicate it and work more on it when creating a new version.

And one day, we need a layer or effect that only exists in only one of these files, search for it which can become complicated (what we're looking can be invisible as well).

ComparePSD is a free Windows software that helps finding the differences between 2 PSD files in such situations to save you time.

ComparePSD

The software enables you to select the files to be compared from Windows Explorer.

When it is started, the files are compared layer-by-layer including layers styles (effects), styles attributes, layers visibility flags and highlights the differences.

LightShot is a simple & free tool which makes taking screenshots very easy.

With the click of a keyboard shortcut, a cropping interface appears where it is possible to:

  • set the area of the screenshot
  • make it fullscreen
  • copy to clipboard
  • upload to the net & get a link
  • edit it on a web-based service

LightShot

Most of the similar tools instantly take a screenshot of the area you selected before clicking any approve button. LightShot makes it kindly, waits for you to arrange the area, shows you the size of it & a click is required which is better to prevent wrong screenshots.

The tool can work in every computer as it comes as a Windows desktop application, a Firefox add-on & an Internet Explorer add-on.

#grid is a tiny tool, built with JavaScript & CSS, which inserts a layout grid into web pages & enables you to detect alignment issues in place.

It is activated with a hotkey (Alt+g) & can toggle between displaying the grid in the foreground or background.

HashGrid

By default, #grid comes with a 980-pixel-wide background image to provide the vertical grid lines (a 940-pixel-wide content area with 20px gutters).  But, when working on different grids, you can create a new image for your guides.

Usage is very straightforward, just include the JavaScript file & CSS to your project.

Screenpresso is a simple-yet-powerful & free screenshot tool that improves your Ctrl+Print function.

It can capture the entire screen, region or window with various options like "including the cursor", "automated resizing of them" or even "applying automated effects".

Screenpresso

The tool sits in the system tray & allows you to keep an history of the last 100 screenshots.

It can auto-name the captured images or batch convert them (resizing & adding effects) after they are taken.

The screenshots can be drag'n dropped into any application or there are other sharing features like "send to e-mail", "send to Twitter" or "save to clipboard".

Screenpresso also has a built-in image editor that can apply image effects, insert objects (textboxes, arrows, annotations, etc.), apply resize or crop to the screenshots.

For Mac & Linux users, sadly, it only works in Windows.

StylePix is a free image editing software, an alternative for Photoshop or Fireworks, with numerous advanced features.

It has an intuitive user interface where all the controls can be selected easily.

Hornil StylePix

The software works with layers & offers multi-layer/group editing support.

Some features of StylePix are:

  • various selection types (auto-range, color-range & rectangular, circular, polygonal, lasso area selection)
  • batch processing
  • 30 different filters
  • thumbnail, histogram & waveform view for current image
  • & more..

StylePix works on Windows OS & consumes very few system resources, even the installer is ~800kb, which makes it an ideal solution for less-powerful computers or running from portable devices (a portable version exists).

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