5 Awesome Tools for Mobile App Designers

By: David 3. August 2012 10:47

Skala View/Preview

Sick of saving your designs and emailing them to yourself to view on your iOS devices? Skala Preview (MAS €3.99) and the accompanying iOS app, Skala View (Free) allow you to view pixel perfect, colour perfect previews of your designs in real time on your iOS devices. Skala works perfectly with Photoshop etc. letting you see changes as you make them, and even works on multiple devices at once. Great app, particularly when working with designs for Retina devices, the ability to see them on the actual devices in real time is just awesome.

Also, developers bjango are fantastic and well worth checking out for their other apps and also their various articles on design.

 

Paintcode

Paintcode (MAS €79.99) allows you to design vector graphics and export as resolution independent code for use in Xcode etc. This can greatly help with filesizes, with lines of code replacing .png images in your project. The interface takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the results can be really great. Just design your buttons or interface elements, copy and paste the code (for either OSX or iOS) and throw it at your nearest programmer and let them deal with it :)

 

I found it particularly useful on a recent project where I needed to some simple on/off LED lights, but in 15 different colours. Doing them as separate images would have been 60 different .png images (on/off states at regular and Retina resolution). Paintcode allowed me to design a simple on and off state in one colour and have all the colour changes done in code. Greatly simplified the process, saved a tonne of time and file size. Screenshot of the results below.

 

LEDs

 

ImageAlpha & ImageOptim

Size does matter. Keeping app sizes down is a constant battle, and even with the 20mb cellular download limit finally being increased to 50mb, getting an app with full Retina graphics (particularly on the iPad) below the limit can be a pain. Applications like Photoshop can export in the lower quality PNG-8 but unfortunately never deals well with any transparency.

ImageAplha converts 24-bit PNG to paletted 8-bit with full alpha channel. This greatly reduces file size while maintaining image quality. It offers some great settings for tweaking the results to best suit your image. Then combined with ImageOptim, which optimises images to take up less space and load faster, the results can make huge differences to your overall app size. A good case study of its use in Tweetbot for iPad can be found here

 

FluidUI

FluidUI is simply the best mobile prototyping tool out there. Create iPhone, iPad and Android app mock-ups in no time. But the greatest thing about it is being able to actually touch and test the designs on phone and tablet, with actual functioning transitions and navigation. Choose from the vast library of mobile elements and create great looking prototypes in minutes. FluidUI has a tonne of other great features but instead of me listing them here, just do yourself a favour and go check it out!

 

Renamer

As a mobile designer, we often need to adhere to different naming conventions based on project and/or platform. With the same project, we may need regular and Retina versions for both iPhone and iPad and also Android versions too. All these files have various different naming conventions and even between iOS and Android there are various differences in the ways files need to be named. For projects with a lot of images this can be a real pain.

 

I've found Renamer to be indispensable in this respect. Easily batch change case, find/replace, append and prepend, add numbering (very handy for animations etc.) and just about anything else you need to do to rename files. Not only a great app for this particular purpose, I find myself using Renamer for various reasons on a daily basis.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Dropbox - While I use it for a lot more than design, I can't imagine how I would work without Dropbox. They also recently doubled the amount of space for Pro Accounts. Just as I was running out of space!

 

Hype (MAS €39.99) - Quickly and easily create HTML5.

 

Cheetah3D (MAS €79.99) - Simple, affordable 3D modelling and animation application built specifically for Mac.

 

ColorSchemer Studio (MAS €15.99) - Fun, fast and easy to find colour palettes or even just browse palettes for inspiration with the COLOURlovers.com integration.

 

Snapz Pro X ($69 from Ambrosia Software) - Versatile application for taking screenshots and desktop recording. Very handy for recording app and gameplay videos while running them in the Simulator.

 

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