Instagram Adds Caption Editing, Improves Discovery

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Good news, Instagrammers! You can now edit the captions on your photos after they’ve been published. Instagram rolled out a new update earlier this week that allows users to edit their captions and also added improved recommendations via the app’s Explore menu.

Mobile photographers have long been frustrated by the lack of editing capabilities within the Instagram app, and Instagram addressed that in a blog post that was published on Monday.

This has been one of the top requests that we’ve heard from the community, and we’re excited to finally bring it to you today.

The only caveat is that edited posts will display a note indicating that the post has been modified after its original publish date.

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In addition to the editing capabilities, Instagram also revamped the Explore tab of their mobile application, making it easier for users to find interesting content and people to follow. The Explore tab has two sections: Photos and People. The photos tab is the same as it’s always been, but the people tab showcases interesting accounts for users to follow along with an inline follow button.

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The new version of Instagram is available now via the App Store and Google Play.

How to Change Your System Font in Yosemite

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If you’re not a big fan of the revamped version of Helvetica Neue that ships with OS X Yosemite, I have great news for you! You can replace the system font fairly easily in OS X by downloading Input by Font Bureau. Credit for this little trick goes to Jeffrey Zeldman, who posted about it on Facebook.

Downloading Input

First things first, you need to download the Input font to your computer. Just visit the Font Bureau website, scroll down, read & accept the license terms, and then click the big green download button.

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Installing the Input Font

Once you have the font downloaded, you then need to install it into your Library/Fonts folder. This can be found by navigating to your Macintosh HD folder and then selecting Library/Fonts. This is NOT the User/Library/Fonts folder.

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Once the fonts are installed, all you have to do is log out and then log back into your Mac. Then your system font should be changed from Helvetica Neue to Input.

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Uninstalling Input

If you’re not satisfied with your new system font, you can always remove it by deleting all of the font files from Library/Fonts and the logging out and back in to your Mac. That’s it!

Disclaimer

Even though this method for changing the system font works, it’s not 100% foolproof. There are some apps that specifically call for Helvetica Neue to be used in their user interface elements, and therefore you will not see Input as the font within those applications. If this seems like something that might bother you, I’d suggest not changing your default font, as there is no way around it.

 

Why You Should Care About Net Neutrality

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Today was a big day for the issue known as “Net Neutrality”. President Obama started off by endorsing it, and outlining a plan on how to keep the internet free and open.

 

Shortly thereafter, Texas Senator Ted Cruz decided he’d issue a rebuttal via Twitter:

Senator Cruz is (obviously) uneducated on the subject, and has decided instead to spew propaganda to further his political agenda against the President and his Affordable Healthcare Act. No matter which side of the proverbial aisle you sit on, however, Net Neutrality is an issue you need to support and care about deeply. That is, if you care about the future of technological innovation and the future of the society that your children grow up in and inherit. In this article I’ll explain a bit about what Net Neutrality is, why it’s important, and I’ll give you some ways you can get involved to help us keep the internet free and open.

What is Net Neutrality

As of right now we live in a pretty open market when it comes to the internet. You’re free to go where you want, consume what you want, and access it at whichever speed tier you deem necessary for those activities. The big telecom companies desperately want to change that. Monopolistic entities like Comcast are lobbying for “fast lanes” which users will have to pay extra for in order to consume the content they want. Basically the telecoms are going to start walling off sections of the internet to those who can’t afford it or refuse to pay their outlandish tariffs.

Not only that, they’re also threatening businesses as well. They want businesses to pay more for access to their customers. Think I’m crazy? Well, they’re already doing it to Netflix. Just imagine if you’re a startup company trying to attract new users on a shoestring budget. If Comcast has their way, you might have to pay them in order for people to access your content or at least to have them access it at a decent speed. For companies like Google and Facebook that might not be a big deal, but for small businesses, it’s a huge deal.

The idea of Net Neutrality means keeping the internet free and open. No fast lanes. No restrictions. Just the same internet we’ve grown to know, love, and depend on for the last 10-15 years. President Obama’s idea of treating the internet like a utility is intriguing to me. Basically he’s saying we should act as though the internet is in the same class as water and power services. It’s an interesting thought, but I still don’t think it’s the perfect solution.

Why is Net Neutrality Important

As someone who works for an internet-based company, the idea of tiered or restricted internet scares the hell out of me. However, even if you’re not a “techie” you should be just as worried. More and more schools are implementing online tools and utilities in the classroom, and that means that kids today need the internet in order to get a decent education. If the we abandon Net Neutrality, schools, libraries, and other public institutions will all be subjected to the same tiered system. This could cause schools to abandon online curriculum and slow down innovative teaching methods that help students learn and retain information more efficiently. That might also mean tuition hikes at private schools and universities. Do you think they’re going to incur that cost and not pass it along to the students? I don’t think so.

Another thing to think about is how this will change your daily life. How many times per day do you check your phone or tablet? How often do you jump on Amazon to order something? How often do you and your family sit down together to watch Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go? Ending Net Neutrality will fundamentally change the way you do all of these things. You might wind up paying extra the next time you want to order a pizza online, or sent to a different search engine instead of Google because you haven’t paid the surcharge to be able to access that quadrant of the web. Does that sound like fun? Again, I don’t think so.

By instituting true Net Neutrality we ensure that everyone has full, unfiltered access to the internet and all of the doors that it has the potential to open. The internet was originally created to be a worldwide source of information, like a public library that you can access 24/7 with no limitation on the number of things you can read, download, or consume. By putting up roadblocks and denying certain classes of individuals and businesses access to this information is spitting in the face of the spirit in which this amazing utility was created.

What Can I Do to Help Save the Internet?

My first suggestion is to write to your senators and congressmen (and women). Tell them that you’re in favor of a free and open internet, and that you’re not interested in corporate America dictating what you can/can’t have access to. After writing to your elected officials, consider signing a petition like this one. Finally, educate your friends, family, and co-workers on the idea of Net Neutrality and the companies/people who are trying to destroy it. Explain to them that this isn’t an issue of Republican vs Democrat. This is an issue of freedom, and that is something that everybody agrees on no matter which side of the aisle they choose to sit on.

Conclusion

The internet has given us so many wonderful things, and I’m not just talking about cat videos. I have a full-time job that I love because of the internet. You’re able to reconnect with old friends that live thousands of miles away because of the internet. And our country is creating thousands of jobs every single year because of the internet. Let’s do everything we can to keep it safe, please!

My First Impressions After Using Apple Pay

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Today is the day I’ve been waiting for ever since Apple announced the iPhone 6. The new payment system, Apple Pay, is now live (in the United States) and it is awesome. I just used it this morning at my local Walgreens and I’m already reluctant to use anything but Apple Pay in the future. If you aren’t familiar with Apple Pay, let’s examine the service and what it does.

What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is a new way of paying for things, both at brick and mortar stores and online, that eliminates the need to swipe your actual credit card at the point of sale terminal. As far as I can tell, it works by storing your credit/debit card information securely within your device locally, and then it relies on a separate number (unrelated to your actual card number) to complete transactions via NFC. The big draw here is that your card will no longer be susceptible data breaches like the ones Target and Home Depot have encountered this past year. Accompany that with the fact that it might just replace your physical wallet altogether one of these days, and this is a very attractive option for many.

How Does it Work?

Apple Pay requires an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus running iOS 8.1 or later to work. That means if you have an older model iPhone, you’re out of luck, unfortunately. iOS 8.1 was released today and is available as an OTA update from your iPhone settings. Once you’ve updated your phone to the latest OS, simply go into your settings and find a new section labeled Passbook & Apple Pay. Once inside that screen you’ll be able to add your credit/debit cards either by taking a photo (which is absolutely amazing to watch) or manually by entering in the card details.

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You may have to verify your card either via email or SMS text, but once you’ve verified it, your card is all set to be used with Apple Pay. I also went in and added my default shipping/billing address as well as my phone number. This will help expedite online checkout when/if you run across an online retailer that accepts Apple Pay.

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When you go to a participating store, paying with Apple Pay is really simple. When you’re at the checkout, look for an NFC terminal (like the one above). Hold your phone close to the “Tap to Pay” area. Your phone should automatically recognize that you’re attempting to pay, and it will ask you to authenticate the transaction using Touch ID. The transaction will use whichever card you’ve designated as your default payment method in your settings, but you can also change cards on the fly if you wish. Once you’ve verified the card and authenticated using Touch ID, that’s it. I was really shocked at how fast the transaction happened. I walked up, pressed my finger on the Touch ID sensor, and had a receipt in my hand in under a minute.

Where Can I use It?

Depending on where you live, Apple Pay may not be available at very many locations. The full list of supported retailers can be found on Apple’s website, but some of the more recognizable brick and mortar stores include McDonald’s, Subway, Walgreens, Macy’s, Nike, Office Depot, Panera Bread, Petco, Toys R Us, and Whole Foods. In addition to these retail outlets, you can also use Apple Pay inside of various apps like Airbnb, Groupon, Target, and even Uber. Later this year you will also see Apple Pay supported at PetSmart, Disney Stores & Parks, Urban Outfitters, and inside applications like StubHub, Ticketmaster, and Starbucks.

Aside from the limited amount of partners at launch, the other major downfall of Apple Pay is that it is only available in the United States. However, I think if it catches on Apple will rapidly roll it out to other countries as soon as they possibly can.

Final Thoughts

Apple Pay is exciting for many reasons, but I think the thing I am most excited about is the security that it provides to the consumer. The traditional payment system in the United States is outdated and flat-out dangerous. Hopefully more retailers get on board with Apple Pay soon and help push it to the forefront of the mobile payment ecosystem. Time will tell if Apple has what it takes to revolutionize this industry the way they have others (see music and mobile phones), but I think their implementation is darn near perfect and their rollout strategy is solid. What are your thoughts on Apple Pay? Have you used it yet? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments or drop me a line on Twitter.

How to Enable VoLTE on Your Verizon iPhone 6

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I’ve been debating on whether or not to switch to Verizon for a few years now. The one thing holding me back was their inability to use voice and data at the same time (talking on the phone while checking email). However, with the launch of the iPhone 6 and Verizon’s new VoLTE network enhancements, that day has finally come. In this article I’ll show you how to enable VoLTE on your Verizon iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

The Steps…

  1. Go to Your Settings
  2. Tap on Cellular
  3. Tap on Enable LTE
  4. Select Voice & Data

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Once you’ve selected “Voice & Data” you may see a spinning wheel that indicates your phone is attempting to perform some sort of operation via the network, and the check mark might not appear immediately. This is normal. If you back out of the settings and give it a minute or two your settings should be in place.

I should also note that some people have reported that in areas where VoLTE isn’t the best, they tend to drop calls more than usual when this feature is enabled. In my hometown, we have pretty decent coverage, and I’ve yet to drop a call.

Conclusion

Hopefully there are more handset manufacturers that add this functionality into their devices soon and I also hope Verizon continues to expand its VoLTE coverage so that everybody gets a chance to experience this. Believe me, you never realize how much you miss a feature like this until you don’t have it anymore, and until I figured out how to turn this on I was very lost! What are your thoughts on Verizon’s VoLTE service? Have you tried it yet? Let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

My First Week with the iPhone 6 Plus

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The iPhone 6 Plus is perhaps the hottest and most controversial gadget on the market today. Whether its popularity is due to actual demand or Apple’s own hype/supply constraint is difficult to say, but nonetheless it’s a topic that a lot of people are very interested in. Because of this, I’ve decided to write up my own review of the iPhone 6 Plus after using it non-stop for a solid week. You might be wondering why I’m using an iPhone, especially since I famously declared I was ditching iOS for Android last year. Well, in short, I gave Android a shot, hated it, and then patiently waited for Apple to give me the device I’d been waiting for. Whether or not that device is the iPhone 6 Plus, well, you’ll have to read the rest of the article and surmise that for yourself.

What Model Did I Choose?

Like millions of other people, I waited up until 3AM EDT on September 12th to preorder my shiny new iPhone. At the time I was on vacation with my wife (who has a strict no device/internet policy when we’re away together), however I was able to persuade her to allow me to use the hotel lobby computer just this once (and after I agreed to buy her a phone too). As the clock struck 3AM I was feverishly clicking refresh on both the Apple and Verizon websites. Luckily Verizon went live well before the Apple online store and I was able to breeze through checkout with relative ease.

I had debated long and hard about the choice of iPhone that I was going to make, and up until the very last moment had decided on a 64GB Space Gray iPhone 6 Plus. However, just as I was about to click “add to cart” something in the back of my mind told me to bite the bullet and go for the 128GB model… so I did. That’s right, I’m that guy. I got the biggest and baddest iPhone they make, and I make no apologies for that. This will allow me to store all of my music locally on my device and still have plenty of space for photos, videos, and maybe a movie or two. After all, my plan for this device is for it to semi-replace my iPad, right? So, naturally I’m going to need to maximize its capabilities.

Why Did You Need the Big One?

This is the question I get asked all the time. Why did I need to get the bigger iPhone? The answer is much more complicated than you might think. On the surface it looks like I went for the most expensive iPhone on the lot simply because I could and because I wanted the biggest and the best. While I’m sure vanity played its own special role in my decision, the real reason I went for the bigger iPhone has nothing to do with the iPhone at all. For the past 4 years I’ve struggled to find a place in my life for the iPad. Everybody seems to love their iPad, and I wanted to love mine just as much as they did, but I just couldn’t get into it. For me, the iPad was always a large iPhone that could almost be a laptop, rather than a unique device that had its own special use case. Seeing that I already had a phone and a laptop, you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm.

Yes, there are some instances when the iPad comes in handy. I like to use it during meetings to take notes. I enjoy watching movies with it on an airplane. I’ve even grown fond of using it as a digital sketch pad. Those fringe use cases aren’t enough to keep me using it on a daily basis though. As I sit here and type this blog post, I can’t even tell you where my iPad is or the last time I used it. That’s the problem.

My hope is that the iPhone 6 Plus becomes that hybrid device that I’ve been looking for. I want something that is part phone/part tablet that will act as an intermediary between me and my desktop Mac. I think the 6 Plus is on the fast track to becoming that, but I’ll reserve that judgement for when the full suite of Continuity features go live this Fall with the release of Yosemite.

How Big is it… Really?

Well, it’s pretty damn big. It’s definitely the biggest phone I’ve ever owned or picked up for that matter. That being said, I don’t think it’s too big. The phone actually fits well in my hand and also in my pockets. Now, let’s pause for a moment and discuss pockets. As you know, there have been reports of people bending their iPhone 6 Plus units by simply wearing them in the front pocket of their jeans. What the reports fail to mention (I’m guessing) is that the people who are bending these phones are the kind of people who shop at babyGap and think that “the tighter the pants, the hipper the dude” is an actual mantra worth having nowadays. I, on the other hand, wear normal pants. Just plain, simple, normal, fit-the-way-they’re-supposed-to pants. Therefore the iPhone 6 Plus is in no danger of bending, warping, or otherwise disfiguring itself while on my person. Here are some comparison photos of the 6 Plus for you to get an idea of just how big it really is.

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How Thin is It?

This thing is thin. There’s not much else to say about it. For comparison, I’ll show you this model vs the original iPhone from 2007. Remember how svelte and awesome that thing was? Yeah, it now looks like a bulbous hunk of ugly next to the iPhone 6 Plus. All kidding aside, the thinness of the device is grossly overshadowed by the width/height of the device. All-in-all it doesn’t feel any thinner in my hand than an iPhone 5 or 5S did.

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Do You Like the New Design?

When I first saw the design of the iPhone 6 leak online I was a little skeptical as to whether or not I’d like it. The antenna lines in particular were off-putting to me. Once you have the device in your hands, however, there’s no denying that this is a thing of beauty. I don’t care about the lines on the back at all now. The curved glass on the front of the device coupled with the smoother edges make this thing an absolute joy to hold in your hands. The iPhone 5/5S felt very boxy and utilitarian to me. This is like it was molded out of a butter or something (seriously, it’s slippery). I’m still on the fence about the color choices that Apple offers, but as per usual I went with the Space Gray model because it is the only one that offers a black front bezel. I actually prefer the silver back casing, but the white face is distracting for me and I’m always afraid of potential yellowing over time.

Using the Phone One Handed

Ok, if you’re Andre the Giant, you can use the 6 Plus one handed with very little issue, I’m assuming. Me? I’m not Andre the Giant, but I’m certainly not an infant either, and I simply can’t do normal tasks one handed like I used to with my old iPhone 5. That being said, I don’t think that this device is meant to be used one handed in the first place. There’s a reason the term phablet was coined a few years ago. These devices are indeed a new class of device that are meant to accomplish the tasks of two very distinct devices (phones and tablets), and I believe they should be treated as such. I understand that logic and habitual tendencies will tell you to use this device one handed, and you’re certainly welcome to try, but I think you’ll be sorely disappointed when/if you do.

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There is a “feature” on the 6 Plus called Reachability, which allows you to double tap (not click) the home button on the device and have the screen shimmy down to (what Apple considers) a more reachable position. While this certainly does increase the one-handedness of the device, it’s still a painful reminder of just how big this thing really is. Not to mention the fact that it is totally counter-intuitive to what we’ve been taught to use the home button for all these years.

How’s That Big Screen Treating Ya?

The screen is the best part of the 6 Plus for me. I’m in awe of how beautiful it is and how bright and crisp everything looks on it. The unfortunate thing is that most developers aren’t taking full advantage of the real estate on the 6 Plus, but that’s more of a knock on Apple for keeping the thing a secret than it is a knock on the device itself. I can honestly say it is far more enjoyable to work and play on the iPhone 6 Plus than it was to do either on my iPhone 5 or my iPad Air.

Wait a minute… Did you just say that you like using the iPhone 6 Plus more than you do your iPad Air? Yep. For instance, when I’m in bed at night, it can be a real pain to hold up an iPad for any length of time. The iPhone 6 Plus is as light as a feather and still gives me plenty of screen to watch Netflix, play Threes, or read/write emails. It’s perfect!

How Long Does the Battery Last?

While it’s still very early on, and iPhone batteries tend to fade out progressively over time, as of now the battery life is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! With my iPhone 5 I had to scramble to find a charger at least two to three times per day. As I’m typing this post it’s been nearly 20 hours since my last full charge on my iPhone 6 Plus, and my battery is holding strong at 39%. Your mileage, of course, will vary depending on how you use your device and the strength of your wireless signal(s), but if you’re looking for the end-all-be-all in terms of iPhone battery life, the 6 Plus is it.

Tell Us About the Camera

Ah yes, the single differentiating factor (other than size) between the 6 and the 6 Plus. While I haven’t had a chance to fully field test the iPhone 6 Plus camera (I’m saving that for my upcoming trips to New York), I can safely say that the camera is pretty awesome on this device. I was never disappointed by my iPhone 5 camera though, so it’s tough for me to say that this camera is that much of a leap forward. I’ll have more to report on this after I put it through its paces in a few weeks, but in the meantime here are a few shots I’ve taken thus far with the 6 Plus.

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Is it Faster than the iPhone 5/5S?

I never owned a 5S, so I can’t speak to that, but this device is definitely faster than my old iPhone 5, especially when it comes to running iOS 8. I haven’t done any benchmark tests, but everyday use just feels zippier on the 6 Plus. I’ve noticed that video playback seems smoother, app switching is definitely faster, and even processing photo edits is a breeze on this thing. Overall it’s a definite speed upgrade from just about any previous model iPhone, I think.

How do You Like Touch ID?

Touch ID was the biggest selling point for the iPhone 5S, but at the time I just didn’t get it. Now that I actually have Touch ID, I’m amazed at how I ever lived without it. The fact that I no longer have to enter in my passcode to unlock my phone or enter in my Apple ID to make a purchase on the App Store is fantastic! I’m also madly in love with the fact that other applications can now take advantage of Touch ID. I am a big 1Password user, and I now have the ability to unlock 1Password and authenticate within it using Touch ID… Score! Amazon is another app that takes advantage of Touch ID. I can now make purchases and authenticate my Amazon credentials with the tap of my finger. That’s both awesome and dangerous at the very same time. Impulse buys, anyone?

What are Your Thoughts on iOS 8?

If you’ve been using iOS 7, you’re not going to be blown away by a lot in iOS 8. Yes, there are some new apps and features, but for the most part it’s the same iOS you’ve loved (or hated) for the last year or so. The Health app is the most interesting new app for me, but until the other apps I use (Nike+) start integrating with it, I see it more as just a novelty at the moment.

The one feature I was actually looking forward to in iOS 8, however, turned out to be a huge disappointment. Family Sharing has long been a problem with iOS devices. In that I mean it was difficult to share an iTunes/App library with your family. Then iOS 8 introduced iCloud Family Share plans. However I was very disappointed to learn that while I can share things like photos, calendars, and even app purchases with my iCloud family plan, I’m unable to share iCloud storage. While I’m sure they’ll add this eventually, not having this is a huge let down for me.

Did You Buy a Case?

You bet I did! No, I’m not worried about bending this thing, but I am terrified of dropping it! The iPhone 6 Plus is a big, slim, slick device. I don’t mean slick as in the aesthetics, either. The phone is slippery, and thus in need of a case, in my opinion. I went with the Apple branded silicone case for the iPhone 6, mostly because it was the only one available for sale in the Apple Store that day that I happened to walk in. I do have a few other cases on order from various vendors, but they’re all running behind due to the immense popularity of these new devices, so I’m still waiting.

The Apple case is very nice, adds a lot of grip, and not a lot of bulk to your iPhone 6 Plus. The case offers all-around protection except for the bottom of the device, which is left inexplicably open and susceptible to drop damage. The grippiness of the case doesn’t impede normal in-and-out of pocket operation, again presuming you’re wearing normal pants, which was a surprise for me given the size of the device. The case costs a bit more ($39) but that is par for the course when you’re dealing with Apple products, I guess.

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Did You Buy a Screen Protector?

Normally I don’t buy screen protectors, but this time I did, and I’ll tell you why. My iPhone 5 was the first iPhone I owned that actually got a scratch on the screen. Considering I’ve owned every generation of iPhone prior to that, I consider that a big win. What this told me was that I was becoming increasingly more comfortable treating my iPhone as more of a utility than a luxury item, and thus I needed something to protect my new one because I’m sure it’ll meet the same fate as its predecessor.

As you can see from the photos above, the screen protector I purchased does not go edge-to-edge on the new curved glass screen of the iPhone 6 Plus. At first this may seem as though the product is inferior or otherwise flawed in its design. But if you think about it curved edges are always hard to cover, especially when talking about using a thin, sticky film of some kind. Therefore it makes sense that screen protector manufacturers would stop short of the curves. I chose the Zagg Invisible Shield Glass for my screen protector, and WOW, what an amazing fit and finish this thing has. The film itself is made of glass and it’s super thin, so it’s next to impossible to tell the difference between it and the native surface of the iPhone. The glass model isn’t cheap ($35) but I figure that’s worth it for the piece of mind (and lifetime guarantee) that it affords me.

Conclusion

The “new device smell” hasn’t even faded off of my iPhone 6 Plus yet, so it’s tough for me to give a serious yay or nay as to whether or not this device is a home run for Apple. I think for customers who want and need a big phone, this is going to be a very attractive option, but I also think that over time that demographic may be much smaller than originally anticipated. I’ve already made the decision to stick with my 6 Plus, and I’ll probably stick with this size iPhone going forward (providing they continue to make them). As I continue to test the device and figure out exactly how it fits into my daily routine(s) I’ll write some more posts. Until then, thanks for reading!

How to Create Realistic Spinning Wheels in Photoshop

The 2014 version of Photoshop CC brought some really cool new features to designers and photographers alike. In this video tutorial I’ll walk you through one of my favorite new features, the Spin Blur, and show you how to create realistic spinning wheels using Photoshop CC. You must have the 2014 version of Photoshop CC installed in order to complete this tutorial.

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Step 1: Convert Your Layer to a Smart Object

You can easily convert your layer to a Smart Object by right clicking and choosing “Convert to Smart Object” in the menu. I do this because I want to run the filter non-destructively, and also so I have the ability to mask out any unnecessarily blurred areas after the fact.

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Step 2: Run the Spin Blur Filter

You can access Spin Blur by going to Filter > Blur Gallery > Spin Blur.

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Step 3: Move and Adjust the Blur Ellipse

Drag the default blur ellipse over the first wheel you’d like to Blur. Then using the adjustment handles, resize the ellipse to fit the shape of the wheel. Once in place, adjust the blur settings (see photo for my settings) until you’re happy with the blur appearance.

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Step 4: Duplicate the Blur

Holding down Option/Alt + Command/Ctrl, drag the blur ellipse to create a copy onto the second wheel of the car. Make any necessary adjustments to the blur settings and then click OK.

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Step 5: Add Motion Blur (Optional)

The final step is to add in a motion blur to the car itself, but this is only optional. You may be happy with the results above.

My Wish List for Adobe Illustrator CC

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As Adobe MAX is rapidly approaching, we’re undoubtedly close to a new round of updates from Adobe for several of the Creative Cloud applications. Over the past few years I’ve become more and more involved with Adobe Illustrator CC, mostly because of my work at lynda.com, but also because it’s become my go-to application for a lot of the graphics work that I do now. That being said, there are some areas I’d like to see improved in Adobe Illustrator CC, and I thought I’d share those with you in this article.

A Better Image Trace Workflow

When Image Trace was first introduced, I was really excited about it. In fact, I was so excited, I devoted an entire online video course to it. Since then, however, it seems like Image Trace has been forgotten. I expected the algorithms to be updated and more presets to be developed, but so far there’s been very little change. I’m hoping that is corrected in a future version of Illustrator CC, because there are a lot of users that could benefit from a true raster-to-vector workflow enhancement like that. I’m not looking for a one-click-fix here, but just a better method of controlling the output of the vector artwork I create with this tool. Oh, and while they’re at it, I sincerely hope they add the “Output to Swatches” checkbox back into the Image Trace panel!

Click-through Prototyping

As a former Fireworks user, this is a big one. Remember how cool it was to build quick prototypes within Fireworks that could actually show the intent of the design? Well, why not bring that into Illustrator? When Adobe sent Fireworks off into the sunset with version CS6, I thought Illustrator would jump to the forefront as its replacement. Sadly, it seems as though Photoshop and Illustrator are duking it out over who can become the web designers tool of choice these days. Photoshop has added Generator and an enhanced vector shape workflow, while Illustrator is pushing forward with copy/paste SVG and many other web-centric features. The time has come to name a successor to Fireworks, and if Illustrator would add in this small bit of functionality, it would clearly win this fight.

Adobe Generator

While we’re on the subject of web-centric tools, let’s just go ahead and talk about Generator. Why this technology isn’t being used in Illustrator is beyond me, quite frankly. Again, if Illustrator wants to be in the “big leagues” when it comes to web design, they’ve got to address their web graphics optimization and output methods. The Generator feature in Photoshop isn’t the greatest thing in terms of UX, in my opinion, but the underlying technology is fantastic. Adding a feature like this to Illustrator would render the Save for Web dialog useless, and give designers a more flexible way to generate graphics for their web/screen based designs.

Cloud Sync for Symbols

I’m a huge fan of symbols in Illustrator, and I use them a lot, but the workflow for getting symbols from one machine to another or sharing with your co-workers is tedious. I want to be able to have my symbol libraries sync to Creative Cloud like my TypeKit fonts and other app settings. Think about how great it would be if you could create a symbol library on your laptop, sync it to the cloud, and then have that same symbol library show up for everyone on your team or just on another machine. Please, Adobe, make this happen!

Mini Bridge Panel

Yes, I still use Bridge. I know, you probably don’t, and that’s okay! The Mini Bridge panel that used to exist in Photoshop was phenomenal! If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a panel that allowed you to browse files using Bridge without ever having to leave the parent application. To be honest, I’d love to see this in all the CC apps, not just Illustrator. I really miss the Mini Bridge!

Scrubby Sliders

This isn’t a big one, but it’s something that just drives me bat sh*t crazy! Every time I jump from Photoshop to Illustrator and I’m not able to scrub through a value in a panel or adjust width and height values with a scrubby slider, I want to pull my hair out. The Photoshop team always ships a ton of JDI (just do it) features when they release a new version of Photoshop… It’s time to do the same for Illustrator, and give me my scrubby sliders!

Conclusion

As you can see, I’m not overwhelmingly unhappy with Adobe Illustrator, but there are a few things I’d like to see tweaked. Hopefully throughout the next few years, thanks to Creative Cloud, we’ll get some of these updates trickled down to us by the fine folks at Adobe. What’s on your wish list for Adobe Illustrator? Let me know in the comments or shoot me a line via social media. Thanks for reading!

I’m Speaking at Adobe MAX 2014 in Los Angeles

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Adobe MAX, the big annual conference for designers, is coming back to Los Angeles, CA in October, and I’ll be there teaching some Adobe Illustrator classes. If you’ve never been to MAX, it’s an amazing event where you can network with fellow creatives from all over the globe and learn from some of the most amazing instructors on the planet. This all goes down October 4-8 in downtown Los Angeles in the L.A. Live area. Registration is pricey ($1,295 this year) but once you see the lineup of speakers/events, I think you’ll agree it’s well worth the money.

Event Highlights

Some of my favorite parts of Adobe MAX are the community events and the community pavilion that you’ll have access to as an attendee. This is your chance to meet a ton of new people and talk to fellow creatives about their work and how they’re using Adobe tools. In addition to this, I love the keynotes and “sneaks” that Adobe puts on. The keynotes are always a huge production and very cool to watch, and Sneaks is a great opportunity see some top-secret stuff Adobe is working on, and there’s almost always some celebrity special guests (Erik Estrada).

What I’m Teaching

I’ll be doing two classes at MAX this year. The first is a 90 minute lab for beginner Illustrator users. I love teaching labs because it’s a great opportunity for me to teach in a true classroom environment. I also spend countless hours putting together a fully illustrated workbook that you can take home with you when the class is over. You can check out the full session description and register for my lab(s) here.

I’m also teaching a 60 minute session on “Designing for Any Screen with Vector Graphics.” This session is more lecture-style and will be a condensed version of my Illustrator for Web Design course that I have on lynda.com. I’ve switched to Illustrator almost exclusively for my mockup/wireframing needs these days, and in this session I’ll share my personal workflow with you. Click here for more info on this session.

Conclusion

I’m really excited about MAX this year, and I hope to see some of you there. If you’re going, please find me and be sure to say hello and that you read about it on my blog. I’d also be super excited if you decided to attend one of my sessions, but with the amount of amazing speakers, I totally understand if you don’t. Thanks for reading!

WYSIWYG Apps Won’t Make You A Web Designer

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The term web designer has lost its meaning. Nowadays any and everyone thinks they are a designer simply because they’ve put together some sort of “flat” layout using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) tool like Adobe Muse or Macaw. While these tools are great entry-level apps for aspiring web designers, they are NOT a replacement for learning the languages and semantics of the web. WYSIWYG apps won’t make you a web designer, and in this article I’ll discuss why I believe that to be true.

The Problem with These Apps

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with these apps, when they’re used for their intended purpose. For instance, Adobe Muse is meant for people who need to get something on the web as quickly as possible. Macaw (and other tools like it) are meant to give you a quicker functioning prototype that you can then iterate on using your own coding skills. These tools aren’t meant to be a creation engine for complex, data-driven, or content-rich websites.

The problem is that these apps are marketed like diet pills, offering up a quick fix solution to your lack of coding knowledge. However, much like diet pills, it does very little to help you address the underlying problem. Taking a pill to lose weight doesn’t teach you how to properly diet and exercise, just like using one of these apps doesn’t teach you how to properly build a modern website. Sure, you might lose a few pounds initially, but eventually you’ll reach the limitations of your so-called wonder drug and be unable to advance past that point.

Apps like this also tend to write very sloppy code. Yes, the code is technically “standards compliant” but it’s a far cry from what any true web designer/developer would write.

Treat These Apps Like Gateway Drugs

If you want to truly become a web designer, I do think these apps are a great place to start learning the trade. They give you a clean, easy to understand view of the front end of a website, which hopefully will help you understand why certain things are coded the way they are once you get to that point. You have to treat these apps as gateway drug to the much harder stuff (HTML, CSS, etc.).

Think of it in terms of wine or coffee. When you first start trying either one of these, you start with the easy stuff. Wine usually means something simple and fruity, while coffee is usually something from Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. As you become more familiar with your own tastebuds and understand the intricacies of these drinks, you can begin to explore more exotic blends of coffee and more complex flavors of wine.

The same holds true for web design. These apps are the fast food equivalent of web design tools, and they’re meant to simply train your palatte and get it ready for the the bolder, smoother flavor of the more complex ways of website creation. True coffee drinkers don’t believe Starbucks to be capable of brewing a decent cup of coffee, just like true web designers don’t believe these apps are capable of delivering a modern, dynamic website.

What You Should Do

If you’re making the jump into web design, these apps are definitely the low hanging fruit at the moment, and I realize how tempting it can be to pick them up and never look back. However, I think you’ll be much happier and much more capable as a web designer when/if you buckle down and learn how to build things with code.

I suggest progressing slowly from one platform to another, until you’re comfortable just firing up a text editor and going to work. Here’s an example of what you might do:

  • Start by using a WYSIWYG app like Muse, Macaw, etc.
  • Push that platform to its limit.
  • Graduate to a more sophisticated, yet still user-friendly app, like Dreamweaver.
  • Use this tool to begin learning the basics of HTML and CSS.
  • Study the semantics of coding (maybe with lynda.com).
  • Challenge yourself to create something without looking at the WYSIWYG view more often.
  • Move on to using a plain text editor like Sublime Text or Atom.
  • Start building more complex websites, incorporating in some Javascript or PHP.
  • Begin working with frameworks and CMS platforms like WordPress.

This isn’t a magic bullet, and it may take you a year or more to really grasp all of the concepts of modern web design. In the end, I think you’ll be much better equipped to handle client work or get a job as a web designer if you go down this road. Remember, nothing worth doing is ever easy. If web design were that easy, more people would be doing it already.

Conclusion

Like I said before, there’s nothing wrong with the apps I’ve mentioned in this article. In fact, I’m quite fond of Muse and Macaw, and I use them on a regular basis. They are, however, limited in what they can do, and I think that they’re niche products that serve a very specific purpose. If your goal is to truly learn the trade of web design, these apps can help you get there, but they certainly won’t serve all your problems. Remember, diet pills only get you so far, and in most cases are nothing more than a placebo. There is no substitute for hard work and dedication in life or business. Thanks for reading!