I Think Icon, I Think Icon…

For my new release of TADS Workbench for Macintosh, I’d like to get it a new icon for it.

It’s a freeware app, so I’m not going to be able to pay rates that I assume commercial companies would require.

Are there freelance designers out there who do this on the side? I realize this might be like asking, “Is there a freelance programmer who will write my app on the side?” but it’s worth a shot.

Could I use a generic app icon from one of the free icon sets out there? Sure, but I’d like to explore other options first.

Saving My Bacon

I never used to be a fan of auto-saving.

The last time I really experienced it was with Word, probably back on OS 9. The documentation for Word said that auto-saving would make your file bigger, since Word would not save the whole file, but only a log of your most recent changes. And there was a noticeable pause each time the auto-save occurred that was really annoying.

No thanks, I thought.

But when a perpetrator in my household who shall remain nameless jiggled the power strip enough to turn it off when I was writing a blog post in MarsEdit, after the cursing was over, I did think to myself, “It would be nice if MarsEdit had auto-saved that.”

I hadn’t read the MarsEdit documentation, and I hadn’t experienced any pauses while I worked, so I had no inkling that MarsEdit was in fact auto-saving my drafts.

When I reopened MarsEdit, it notified me that it had detected an auto-saved file, and showed me that file.

Rock on!

A brief survey of the MarsEdit documentation doesn’t reveal anything about this feature. I should know this, but can Cocoa do this automatically now? Is it so mundane that it doesn’t warrant mention?

More interestingly, does the auto-save only kick in when there’s a lull in user activity? That would be cool. Otherwise, I guess I can chalk up the paucity of pauses to faster processors and hard drives.

…Through Obscurity

This is the second time (at least) I’ve learned a useful UI tip from a Helpful Tiger reader.

Thanks, everyone!

First was the the ability to disable the Preview column. Now, I should have seen that one, since it’s in the regular Finder UI. In my defense, it’s not entirely straightforward how to get to it. You have to be looking at a column view in order to change options about any column view. This is like being required to be looking at a Web page with JavaScript in order to change your browser’s JavaScript settings.

Second was the ability to open a folder from one window in a different new window. Now, Henry Maddocks suggested I use the “always new window” Finder mode, but while that works OK in OS 9, the Finder windows in OS X are just too heavyweight to make that the norm. Now, my case below is better supported by this feature, since as far as I can see it’s something that can only be found in the Help by an explicit search.

Finally, today, a coworker told me about Cmd-tilde. What does this do? It brings to the front the next window in the foremost application. But it’s not in the Window menu of any application.

What do all these features, especially the second and third, have in common? Obscurity. This isn’t something new to X; 9 had its share of techniques you needed to find out from friends or mailing lists.

But X is the new guy, the one getting the ongoing improvements. It has lots of really cool features. So it shouldn’t hide them!

I want every keystroke shortcut and mouseclick/keystroke combination to have a contextual menu item. I want to be able to find out how to do things by exploring the interface, not by reading the help, however thorough it is and well it’s written.