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Tips, Tricks & Stuff

Last week Steve Jobs unvieled the new Apple iPad. Happily, almost everything we’ve been learning about developing iPhone Web Apps looks like it’s going to work the same for Apple’s new tablet.

Here is a short video exceprt from the first week of Elisabeth Robson’s course, Learn to Build iPhone Web Apps, showing how to use a simple CSS Media Query to easily customize your website for visitors on mobile browsers.

Note: Although this was presented two weeks before the iPad announcement, the first question asked in Q&A was about Apple’s upcoming then-unconfirmed tablet device.

Source: We demonstrate a simple CSS Media Query for sample CreativeTechs Web App. Visit this page from an iPhone, and you see a sample App. Visit from a desktop broswer and the page is tucked into a simple iPhone preview:

clicktoflash-nytimes.pngOne of the more controversial choices in the new Apple iPad is the lack of support for Flash-based content.

So, what does the web look like without Flash? If you are curious, there are a number of utilities and scripts that allow you to disable Flash on your desktop browser. Here are a couple plugins:

Safari (Mac): ClickToFlash

Firefox (both): Flashblocker

Flash elements are replaced with a simple box – which I find does speed up much of my web browsing. When you want to view the Flash, just click on it to play as normal (and option that won’t be available on the iPad).

Source: I was turned onto ClickToFlash by consultant Kyle Pauley who owns and leads the Mac Support side of CreativeTechs in Seattle.

photgraphers-ephemeris-250px.pngPlanning just the right time and location for landscape photography can be challenging. Landscape photographers typically want to plan their shoots around the times of sunrise/sunset or twilight.

That’s why photographer Stephen Trainor created the Photographer’s Ephemeris, an Adobe AIR application that provides a visual and simplified solution for finding vantage points for dusk and sunset photography. It integrates satellite and terrain maps from Google into a visually pleasing interface.

Link: The Photographer’s Ephemeris App

Read on for a couple video tutorials showing this tool in action. Read more »


This free collection of 220 Photoshop Layer Styles let your quickly sort through glow, gradient, glass, gel, and other effects. Nothing too complex, but a helpful assortment of effects that you can explore and modify for some quick designs.

Link: DezinerFolio’s 220 Amazing Free Photoshop Layer Styles

Source: keeps a slew of fun freebies on their web design & development site. A similar collection was mentioned in the January issue of Design Tools Monthly.

iPhone3GS-Dragon.pngIf you’ve ever spent too much time composing an email on your iPhone’s tiny keyboard you are going to LOVE this! Dragon Dictation is an amazing, free, dictation app for your iPhone.

Just launch the app, press the record button, and start talking. You can dictate anything from a short note to a longer soliloquy. Once the text is transcribed, you can send it as an email, text message, or copy to the clipboard. Clean up some missed words and add punctuation, and you are set!

Link: Dragon Dictation at App Store

I’ve been playing with this app over the last week, and I’m amazed at the accuracy of the speech-to-text conversion. There are typically a few errors, but they are easy to fix.

Tip: You can add punctuation to your text by saying ‘period’, ‘question mark’, or ‘exclamation mark’ as you talk. It’s a nice touch.

Source: I first ran across Dragon Dictation early last week on the always topical TUAW blog. Although I find myself wondering how long it will be before we have an app that combines this type of speech-to-text transcription with something like Google Translate.


Here is a question we get periodically from clients: How can I import videos from a DVD into a Keynote presentation? The answer is HandBrake, a wonderful free utility that easily converts video on a standard DVD into presentation-friendly QuickTime movies.

Link: HandBrake 0.9.4

HandBrake is a small freeware utility that lets you easily capture clips from DVDs as H.264 video files. The resulting files can be played using the QuickTime player, imported into the latest version of iMovie, or placed into a Keynote presentation.

Of course the most common use of HandBrake these days seems to be converting DVD movies into a format you can watch on your iPhone. But we’re sticking with business uses for today’s tip. :)


Designing websites that take advantage of the iPhone web environment requires more than simply designing for a smaller screen size. The iPhone automatically scales websites when needed. iPhone readers use multi-touch gestures to zoom or move around the page. Flash isn’t supported, and neither are larger animated GIFs (a surprise to me).

Tucked away in Apple’s free iPhone Software Development Kit is a terrific iPhone Simulator you can use to test and preview your websites. In the full version of this tip we’ll show you where that iPhone Simulator application is hidden, and include a few tips on how to test various iPhone features.

Download Apple’s Free iPhone SDK

Note: You’ll have to register for a free developer account and agree to Apple’s terms. Read on and we’ll show you where the iPhone Simulator application is hidden, and include a few tips on how to test various iPhone features.

Read more »

DropBox-250px.pngIf you find yourself collaborating and sharing files with a small team, check out

DropBox Easy File Sharing

Dropbox is a terrific application and web service that syncs a shared folder of files over the internet to multiple computers. After you install the application on several computers (using the same account), it creates a synced Dropbox folder on each hard drive. Any file you put inside that folder will be synced and available on each computer or through the Dropbox web interface.

Dropbox works on both Mac and Windows. You can get started with 2GB of shared space for free. Or upgrade to 50GB for $9.95/month or 100GB for $19.95.

Source: We use a free 2GB Dropbox account at CreativeTechs for sharing and working on a variety of classroom materials, including the small weekly class icons that we use to promote each week’s class schedule. It’s a handy tool.


PS-WindowDockingPref-250px.pngPhotoshop CS4 introduced document tabs that make it easy to switch between a variety of open images. It’s a terrific feature that I usually like a lot.

But there are days the tabs feature drives me crazy! If you’ve ever dragged one Photoshop window over another, only to have it sucked in as a new tab, you know what I mean.

So for you, a checkbox in Photoshop’s Interface preferences: Turn off "Enable Floating Document Window Docking" and say goodbye to that annoying feature.

Source: Working with lots of small images for our tips newsletter, this is one of the very first preferences I disabled in CS4. Adobe even posted a recent technote covering how to How to un-tab image windows in Adobe Photoshop CS4.


I was working on this week’s tip, when I got an email from Steve Laskevtich from Luminous Works with a PDF handout titled “11 Ways to Zoom in Photoshop CS4.” There are SO many ways to do the the same thing in Photoshop, that I (like I expect many of you will do) immediately set out to find ways of zooming that Steve had missed.

So let’s call this a group project. How many different ways are there to zoom in Photoshop CS4? I’ve started us off with the eleven from Steve. I’ll be contributing my own additions in the comments along with the rest of you.

Read more »