Bridge to no where...

Adobe Bridge wasn't upgraded with the Creative Cloud 2015 update. The last time it was updated, the main change was removing the Output module – which for many of us was the only reason to use Bridge. So obviously, either:

  1. Adobe is going to let Bridge die a quiet death.
  2. Adobe is going to replace Bridge with something more useful.

It's important to remember that Bridge was created to be a replacement for a file system. I always felt Bridge was intended to be a trojan horse – a way of providing a single file browser for Adobe customers regardless of whether they were on Macs or PCs. That customers would (hopefully) prefer the Adobe "operating system" for the native one. To entice users, they included features for server-based version control (Version Cue), a stock photo service and more. But the app was slow and unweildy. And no one that I know really used it.

Technology has changed a lot since Bridge debuted. Bridge was designed for a world where workgroups collaborated with servers, not clouds. Now, Adobe's switched to a cloud-based system. Creative Cloud is the only way to purchase most of Adobe's products and many of their new features leverage the cloud.

I assumed that Adobe was letting Bridge die. 

Lately though, I've been experimenting with the file storage features of Creative Cloud and it's reasonably powerful, simple and straightforward. Most of the file management is handled in a web interface, but as the file storage and collaboration features of Creative Cloud grow, I could see Adobe building a new "Bridge" – one that was built from the ground up in the cloud era. 

Maybe having a web app to tie it all together is enough. The web app isn't bad, but it feels detached from the software. A native app would be much more powerful and user friendly.

(Desktop development is different than mobile development, but for what it's worth, Adobe's new Creative Cloud iOS app has a handful of the features that a mobile Bridge would need.)

The nice thing about Adobe Creative Cloud distribution model is that they can update an app or introduce a new app at any time. So Adobe doesn't have to wait until Creative Cloud 2016 to update Bridge. That said, every update that doesn't include a new version of Bridge sends a very specific message: Adobe's Bridge is going no where...

Writing with Ulysses

I recently started using a new application for most my writing. Ulysses is a distraction free text editor with a wide range of additional features and an outstanding interface. It's available for Mac and iOS. I was planning on writing a long article about Ulysses, but the folks over at the Sweet Setup beat me to it. They've got a great review of the app.

Ulysses is a Markdown app. (If you aren't familiar with Markdown, it's a way of formatting documents quickly and efficiently.) I'm still uncovering all of the features in Ulysses, but I'm impressed. It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny.

Ulysses features an intuitive interface that works well on the Mac And iOS devices.

Ulysses features an intuitive interface that works well on the Mac And iOS devices.

I did have one problem with Ulysses and syncing. When I first bought the iPad app, some text it had written on my MacBook Pro wouldn't sync. I struggled with the issue for a little while, but then figured out that if I made any change to the text, it would then upload and sync. So I added a space to the beginning of each problem file and everything synced perfectly from that point on.

They also mention a few other writing apps as honorable mentions at the bottom of the article. And they are some of my favorites, too. Specifically:

Scrivner: I really love Scrivner. It's exceptional powerful, but really complicated. Lack of sync is challenging and I prefer the Ulysses interface, but for really long form work, it might be the best option in the App Store. 

Byword: Still one of my favorite distraction free writing apps. Byword works on iPhone, iPad and the Mac. Great app and I highly recommend it if you want a Markdown editor that isn't as expensive. My go-to note taking app.

That one weird little InDesign printing trick...

I was digging through InDesign CC 2015 looking for new features and found a quick little printing trick that, it turns out, was also in CC 2014.* 

Ever want to just print the spread that you are working on? Instead of going to File > Print... and trying to remember what page is selected, just go to Layout > Pages > Print Spread... The print dialog box will open with the printing range set to the spread you are working on.

A nice little feature that I had no idea was there…

* And honestly, maybe it's been there forever. I really don't know.

InDesign CC 2015: Paragraph Shading

Adobe has released the 2015 version of Creative Cloud. And that, of course, brings new versions of InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Lots of blogs are covering the headline features, but I often find that the small improvements often impact my workflow the most. I’m still exploring the applications, but figured I'd start posting new features as I discover them.

The first one in InDesign that jumped out at me is paragraph shading. You can now apply shading to any paragraph… so no more drawing a color block behind a block of text you want to highlight.

The blue box is created using paragraph shading. Here, I've ALSO inset the paragraph margins.

The blue box is created using paragraph shading. Here, I've ALSO inset the paragraph margins.

A couple of obvious advantages to this:

  • If you want to shade a paragraph within a long block of text, it will move and resize automatically as you make changes.
  • It can be completely controlled and modified through style sheets, making it infinitely more powerful.

You can apply basic paragraph shading from the Control Palette or Paragraph Palette, but to gain full control, select “Paragraph Shading…” from the flyout menu on the Paragraph palette. The dialog box provides options to use a tint, set an offset and control how the shading is applied.

The full paragraph shading dialog box offers more options.

The full paragraph shading dialog box offers more options.

There is also an option for “Do not Print or Export*,” which is pretty cool if you want to highlight a passage that needs to be updated, but don’t want it to print. (I often set text that needs to be updated in 100% magenta. Now I have the option to shade it…)

* Not sure about the capitalization here, Adobe...

Artboards in Photoshop!

Love this sneak peak demo of artboards in Photoshop. This feature has the potential to seriously change the way I work in Photoshop, especially for things like web ads. In fact, I really could have used this feature earlier this week. I don't know when the 2015 edition of Creative Cloud will be released, but I'm definitely looking forward to this feature.

Rebranding with stencils

I've been playing around with stencil designs a lot lately and I recently came across this rebrand of Army West Point athletics by Nike. I love how they've used the stencil throughout everything. Check out the rebranding microsite to see the entire identity.

"Stenciled" on the back of a lacrosse jersey.

"Stenciled" on the back of a lacrosse jersey.

Also, while I'm not a big fan of overly constructed design rationales, this explanation for why Nike chose a stencil was perfect:

During World War II, the U.S. Army deployed approximately three million trucks, tanks and other vehicles, each of which was marked. Items were tagged using stencils because they were fast, easy to use and produced clean markings. The distinctive look of stencil type is created from the gaps between horizontal and vertical portions of the letters designed to serve a routine function durability.

This typographic style is authentic to military culture and the use of stencil letterforms by the U.S. Army dates back to the Civil War. New and innovative stencil fonts have been common throughout the twentieth century and never fall out of style. Strong primary typography is a critical component of the Army West Point Athletics identity.

After hours

John Gruber writes mostly about Apple, James Bond and Stanley Kubrick*, but he also has a side project with a couple of partners called Q Branch that makes an iOS notes app, Vesper. Brent Simmons, one of the partners has decided to leave the group to work on other projects. Gruber wrote a short snippet supporting Brent's decision and dropped this great line at the end of the post.

He’s still full-time at The Omni Group, which means Q Branch work had been relegated to nights-and-weekends time. Nights-and-weekends time is for your passions, not for obligations.

I work on lots of projects in my spare time. From typeface designs to AIGA South Carolina, I do these things because I love them. When people ask me where I find the time and the energy to tackle these projects, my normal answer is that I don't sleep a lot. While that is somewhat true, it's only part of the story. I'm passionate about the projects I work on and I'm really lucky to have time to do the things I love.

* Sometimes, he writes about the NY Yankees, too. But only when they are winning.

All of my fonts in one place...

I just completely overhauled the fonts* section of Sketchbook B. You can now see everything I've released over the last 7 years** in one place. I've created bigger previews and a more interesting layout.

A few notes:

  • I had forgotten about some of my older Fontstruct designs. I really need to dust some of them off and finish working on them in Glyphs. Woodrow and Grande, I'm looking at you.
  • Also, I completely need to do something with my dingbots. Maybe a t-shirt? Coffee cup?
  • The pro fonts are available through Creative Market and/or MyFonts. Free fonts can be downloaded directly. And Fontstruct designs can be downloaded from Fontstruct after you sign up for a free account.
  • Squarespace really does make the process of creating these pages easy. I've had a Squarespace site since 2008 and it just keeps getting better.

The fine print: * I really prefer the term "typeface" over "font," but I fear that is a losing battle. And a much longer blog post. ** Well, everything that I've released with the exception of a couple of designs I took off the site until I can update them...

B.A.R.E. (Bad Acronyms aRe Everywhere)

Why are so many people and organizations obsessed with acronyms? Especially acronyms that spell another word. From small nonprofits and churches to schools and large corporations, really bad acronyms are everywhere. 

NASA's Messenger Probe crashed into Mercury after a long and successful mission. And as I read CNN's account of the mission, I was stunned by the fifth paragraph:

Messenger (an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) was launched in 2004 and traveled more than 6½ years before it started circling Mercury on March 18, 2011.

Wait. So the Messenger probe is actually M.E.S.S.E.N.G.E.R.? Or is it Me.S.S.En.Ge.R.? 

NASA designed a space probe that is going to fly to a plant named after the messenger of the gods. And NASA feels like they need to construct some bogus acronym to justify the name "Messenger."

Speaking of MESSENGER, check out this awesome shot of the sunlit side of Mercury. B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. Photo credit: NASA.

Speaking of MESSENGER, check out this awesome shot of the sunlit side of Mercury. B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. Photo credit: NASA.

Acronyms are fine if they really help people remember and understand the program or product name. But in most cases, the acronym simply becomes a name and slowly loses all connection to the meaning. 

And the worse case scenario is that you are so obsessed with creating an acronym, that you select a poor name in the process. Avoid creating acronyms just to be clever or just to justify a name choice.

Your best bet is always to give products, organizations and programs strong, appropriate names.

Trying out the Apple Watch

We made the trek to Southpark Mall in Charlotte Saturday to check out the Apple Watch. The process was simple. Walk in, tell them your name and they can pull it up the appointment on their device. If you favorited any items in the store app, they can see those, too. The Apple Store employee was great. Well-trained and genuinely excited about the watch.

I tried on several different models, all in the 42mm variety. I really liked the Milanese Loop and the Space Gray Sport. I've seen reviewers complain about the leather loop, but I actually liked it, too.

The watch is smaller and lighter than I expected. My current watch is bigger than the biggest Apple Watch so size and weight wasn't an issue for me.

The watches that you try on are in demo mode, so you can't really interact with them. The demo does include "taps" so you can feel them. The taptic engine is pretty crazy and not at all like what I was expecting. Not really sure how to explain the feeling other than to say that it feels like someone is lightly tapping you on the wrist. It's very subtle.

In the store, it's hard to get a feel for how you will interact with the watch. Watch displays are set up around the outside edges of the store and are connected to iPads that explain the features as you navigate the watch. It's a very well designed experience. However, I don't think you will be able to fully appreciate what an Apple Watch can do until you have it on your arm and it's paired with your phone.

My wife also tried on the Apple Watch and she liked the modern buckle in the 38 mm. She hasn't really been paying attention to the Apple Watch hype so she had lots of questions for the sales guy. She's struggling to figure out how it would work for her. She's a teacher so during the day, the communications functions would be pretty useless for much of the day. But several other features - like fitness and maps - intrigued her. 

I'm excited to buy one. I think it will work well for me and my routine. I'm leaning toward the Space Gray Sport. The Milanese Loop is really nice and stainless steel finish gives you more flexibility by matching a wider selection of bands. So I may change my mind. 

Other notes from the Apple Store:

  • They don't sell the Gold Apple Watch Edition at Southpark. Considering that the cars on display inside the mall included Maseratis and a Ferrari, that should tell you how exclusive the Apple Watch Edition is. 
  • Apple's going to sell a lot of watch bands. Let's hope that the watch bands will work for at least a few generations. Most people are going to have multiple bands.
  • The new MacBook. Wow. Love it in Space Grey. So unbelievably thin. I know there are lots of compromises with it. But once an USB-C ecosystem exists, I could see opting for one of these. 
  • Bluetooth headphones are going to be necessary to use the Watch while you are running. While I knew that, it puts a new perspective on why Apple purchased Beats.
  • I received an email survey after the try on experience. I've written before about how sales people push you to give them the highest score. Well the Apple Store folks didn't do that. They didn't mention the survey to me at all. I used the opportunity to explain the issue I had signing up, but gave the entire experience high marks.  

Getting an appointment with Apple Watch

I'm trying on an Apple Watch today. I live in Columbia, SC – which incomprehensibly does not have an Apple Store. So I'm heading up to Charlotte.

Last Monday night, I decided I wanted to try on an Apple Watch. And considering that I'm taking the whole family with me, I wanted to go ahead and see if there were appointments available for the next weekend. When I searched, I discovered a couple of things:

  • There were appointments for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but there were "No Appointments Available" on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Okay, the Southpark Apple Store is a busy store. It prompted me to check other stores so I checked Augusta Mall, which is actually closer anyway... Same story... Checked Charleston... no availability for the weekend... Checked Greenville... Nope.
  • So I figured I'd book for the weekend after. But you couldn't. You could only book a week out. Monday was the last day listed.

Ugh. Nevermind. 

Except I knew Apple was going to continue to do try on sessions. A quick theory developed: Apple only allows you to book an appointment a week out. The next day I logged in and sure enough, Tuesday was now available for booking.

But there was something else, too. Thursday, which previously had "No Appointments Available" now had a full slate of appointments available. Yesterday, there was nothing. So after a little testing, I figured out the rules:

  • Apple shows you only the next week of dates.
  • You can only book appointments for the next three days.
  • The days that you can't book say "No Appointments Available," but actually should say "No Appointments Available, Yet."
  • Nowhere on the reservation site is this explained.

I'm not sure if this is for all Apple Stores or just the ones in the Southeast. It seems very sloppy. Maybe Apple assumes that most appointments are impulsively scheduled. I don't know, but I almost didn't go to a try-on appointment because I thought – incorrectly – that no appointments were available.

It's easy to fix. Show only three days instead of seven. Or just explain it somewhere.

That said, I'm very excited to try on an Apple Watch today. My wife and I both have appointments. I'll write a detailed post on my impressions later this weekend.

Linked: The MacBook doesn't need you to love it, but someone will

Nice article by Jason Snell on the new MacBook. It's beautiful and I love the Space Gray finish. But I personally need more power than the MacBook will provide, so my next laptop with be another MacBook Pro. Can't wait to try out the Force Click Trackpad, though.

Fast wi-fi fix!

A few months ago, we changed our internet service from Time Warner Cable to AT&T Uverse. The service is great, but we've had an issue with the wireless signal cutting out randomly. My assumption was that there was some interference since the Uverse runs over wi-fi.

We've got an Apple Time Capsule. And when they installed the new service, we connected the Time Capsule to the new router with an ethernet cable and everything worked, until it didn't. I assumed I was going to reconfigure everything. And while I was fine with that, I just didn't have the time to mess with it. So we just tolerated the occasional frustration.

Today, I saw an article on Six Colors by Dan Moran about changing the channel on your wi-fi base station. So after following that guidance and setting my channel to 48, the internet was instantly more responsive on all my devices. Awesome.

Not quite, though. For some reason, while my Macs and iOS devices worked better, my Apple TV freaked out. So I started looking for more details and Six Colors had already posted a second story with more details on how to pick the best channel for your network. I followed their instructions and now everything is working perfectly.

I have no idea why the automatic channel selection wasn't working on the Time Capsule, but manually selecting the appropriate channel seems to work like a charm. Thanks to Dan Moran and Six Colors to solving my wi-fi issue.

(As an aside, if you are a Mac user and aren't regularly reading Six Colors, you are missing out. One of my favorite new sites. Jason Snell is building something awesome.)

Wanted: A family email solution

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My daughter got an email address recently. She's our oldest child and it's the first time someone other than my wife and I have needed an email address.

Here's the thing about email addresses: We often keep them for a really long time. I've had my main email address since 2000. My work address is the same email address I had in 1993. (I work at my alma mater so my current work email address is the same as my student email address.) Others change frequently. I've had numerous work email addresses that ceased to exist when I changed jobs.

I got my daughter an email address through a commonly used email service and she'll probably have that email address for a long time. In fact, until she goes to college, I imagine that will be her email address.

The more I think about it, though, I'd really love to have something like Google Apps for Business... but for families.

A Google Apps for Family (or something similar from someone else) could be a family email service that allows you to use a custom domain name. It'd have some parental controls and would be easy to manage. But it could solve a bunch of other family issues, too. Just off the top of my head:

  • Family Calendar
  • Synced Shopping List
  • Photo Sharing
  • Family Blog
  • Document Sharing

I'd happily pay for a single service that could help me manage my family's chaos.

I can use any number of services to host the email. And other apps can cover the other needs. But as the parent/administrator, I want something easy to manage and a single, cohesive solution would be so much easier.

My oldest child just got email. I hope by the time my youngest is ready for email*, there's a better solution. 

*Assuming people still use email, but that's another blog post all together.

Linked: Wired In

I work in an open office environment. And while I love being connected to my team, there are times I need to let everyone know I'm working. Wired In is a company that is trying to make a USB-connected busy sign. It looks pretty cool and I'd love to get one. It would definitely look cooler than the sign I taped to the back of my chair this week. Coming this summer.

Linked: I didn't think I could love Wunderlist more...

I'm a big fan of Wunderlist. It's an amazingly simple and powerful to-do app that syncs effortlessly between all my devices. And now they are making it better. Adding folders is a big improvement. I currently start all my lists with a prefix (for example, SBB Blog Post Ideas) so I can keep all my similar lists together. But that gets clumsy. So having folders is a big improvement.

Some of the other additions are great, too. Quick Add looks great. And an API to integrate with other apps has the potential to integrate Wunderlist throughout my workflows.

Why would Apple build a car?

Everyone is talking about whether or not Apple is building a car. Reporters have speculated. Lots of smart people have weighted in. And while I'm not sure that Apple's working on a car, I wouldn't be surprised if they are. For one, very specific reason:

The electric car is the single most exciting design opportunity in generations. 

Everyone has focused on the software possibilities. The integration between computer and electric car. But changing from gas-powered to all-electric is more than that. An electric car removes the engine, emissions system and gas tank. These changes free designers to experiment with new configurations and to reinvent the automobile. The limitations of over a hundred years of automotive design are removed. 

And yet, all of the electric cars on the market still look mostly like... well... cars. The Leaf, Tesla Model S and BMW i3... even though they don't need room for an internal combustion engine, they still look similar to gas-powered automobiles. 

There are reasons for this. Crash test standards are based on non-electric cars. Marketing a completely new concept is challenging and risky. Aerodynamics are vital to achieve maximum range. Car manufacturers have (logically) stuck with what has worked in the past. And once upon a time, phone manufacturers thought physical keyboards were an irreplaceable feature for smartphones.

Apple's a disciplined company. They will only release a car if they can make a profit. But of all the reasons for Apple to tackle the car, I can think of only this: Whoever masters the design of the electric car will shape automotive design for the next hundred years. 

(One more footnote... Mainstream car makers don't really experiment with new materials. The one exception that I can think of was Saturn's plastic body panels. And that didn't turn out so well. Apple loves to explore materials...)

Where's the jewelry counter?

Everyone has questions about the Apple Watch. What will it cost? How long will the battery last? How well will third-party apps work? But I have a completely different question:

Where's the jewerly counter?

When I buy a watch, I want to try it on. See how it feels. Test out different bands, styles and sizes. And the more I think about it, the Apple Store as it is currently configured is a terrible place to buy a watch.

And that's why I think the most expensive versions of the watch will never make it to Apple Stores, or any other mass market retailer for that matter.

The base Apple Watch Sport will cost around $350. And I'm sure you'll buy those like an iPhone or an iPad. They will be on display at your local Apple Store and when you are ready to buy one, they'll bring a box out from the back. And you'll probably be able to get them at other retailers, too, like Best Buy and Target.

But the more expensive models — ones that cost thousands of dollars — will never make it to the Apple Store. Or Best Buy. Or Target. Because quite frankly, that's not how you buy a $10,000 solid gold watch.

Expense watches and jewelry are sold through a network of high-end fashion retailers and small jewelers. And it would make sense for Apple to work with these retailers to sell the most exclusive models. I would imagine that at launch, there will only be a handful of locations in the world where you can buy an Apple Watch Edition. (The lack of leaks coming from these retailers would tend to indicate that it's a very small, very selective network.)

But what about the regular non-sport, non-edition Apple Watch? The stainless steel versions? Where will you be able to buy those? John Gruber's detailed and logical post on Apple Watch pricing estimates these will cost at least $1,000. That's an expensive watch to sell though the Apple Store, but I do think they will carry them. And I would assume that high-end fashion retailers will carry them as well.

(As a random aside, what if one or more versions of the Apple Watch were available exclusively through the Apple Store? Maybe the Milanese Loop?)

So basically:

  • Apple Watch Sport will be available at the Apple Store and other retailers like Target and Best Buy.
  • The Apple Watch will be sold through the Apple Store and a select network of high-end retailers.
  • And the solid gold Apple Watch Edition will be sold in exclusive high-end retailers only.

I'm still skeptical about the buying experience for the more expensive watches at the Apple Store. There's no room for a jewerly counter.* And when the Apple Store is crowded — and it's always crowded — I can't imagine an Apple Store employee pulling out watches for a customer to try on. And I can't imagine a customer buying a thousand dollar watch without ever having tried in on.

I'm sure Apple has a solution for this. I'm sure they are aware that a crowded Apple Store is a less than ideal experience for purchasing a high-end watch. I can't wait to see what they come up with.

*Unless they completely redesign the Apple Stores... 

Linked: Futuristically fake

I love futuristic sci-fi movie interfaces. Noteloop has a collection of awesome links to movie interfaces. Lots of great detail. In addition to the movie links, they also have a handful of links for television shows and video games.