Sketch It Out

In the course of every project or endeavour, there is an inevitable need for open discussion and the effective capture of ideas, goals, and requirements. Whether you’re taking notes, doing UI/UX planning, or are deep into design, taking a step back to leverage sketching can prove to be a key part of a productive creative process.

Sketching allows you to freely and more quickly explore concepts and solutions without involving a more rigid digital design tool like Photoshop or Sketch. There are no rules or constraints, just the freeform expression of ideas. Continue reading →

Automation in Your Daily Workflow

Automation saves you time, your company money, and your employee’s sanity. At gskinner, we have a long history of building workflow tools to aid with anything from creating a simple button in Flash, to managing the build process for entire web apps or JavaScript libraries like CreateJS. Automation doesn’t need to be complicated. Some of my own tools only have a few lines of code, but those few lines can take hours off any project. For large scale projects spending hours or even days building an automation tool can have the same impact as a small tool. I generally start with a small scope (no more then a few hours) and see if what I’m building is a) Useful and b) Useable. If it doesn’t meet both of those criteria then I can re-evaluate my approach without burning too much time.

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A Mental Model for Media Queries

A Mental Model for Media Queries

Handling layout changes across a broad landscape of devices and browsers typically involves the use of media queries, which enable layouts to bend and flex based on their viewing environment.

Most queries I see are built around the concept of width:

@media screen and (max-width: 640px) {
    body { background-color: blue; }
}

I love the simplicity of this methodology. It’s straightforward, easy to implement, and it works with content that comprises most websites. But what about web-based apps, the website’s younger cousin? Is this model the most effective media query strategy that can help us with the unique challenges of designing web applications? Continue reading →

Check. Check. Is this thing on?

It’s been nearly a full year since I last blogged. (Do people still blog? Maybe I should snapchat this instead?) I used to blog a lot, but life became busier, posts became more infrequent, and eventually it stopped being a habit and became a chore.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to say. It’s just that the last few years have been a crazy and exciting ride, and I haven’t had a lot of time to dedicate to writing posts.

Five years ago, Flash as a platform died. For a lot of shops, the migration was gradual. Not for us. Our clients come to us for cutting-edge tech, and almost overnight, Flash didn’t meet their criteria. We went from almost 100% Flash work, to nearly 0% in less than a year.
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RegExr v2: Build, Test, & Learn RegEx

RegExr is exactly six years old today. Built in Flex and AS3, it was a largely accidental outcome of exploring a few technical concepts I was interested in at the time (tokenizers/lexers, advanced text interactions, regular expressions).

RegExr v1 circa 2008

I thought the end result might be useful to others struggling to learn or work with RegEx, so I released it online. Its popularity took me by surprise, with around 10M hits and 150K patterns saved to date. This is despite being essentially abandoned since 2008.

I’m happy to announce that the neglect is finally ending, with today’s release of RegExr v2. Rebuilt from scratch in HTML/JS, and (hopefully) improved in every way. I’d like to believe that RegExr v2 is the best way to learn, build and test RegEx online today.

RegExr v2

Key features:

  • clean, modern design
  • video tutorial
  • expression syntax coloring
  • underlines expression errors in red
  • contextual help for all regex tokens and errors on rollover
  • updates matches as you type
  • support for testing substitution/replace
  • full reference of all JS RegEx tokens, with loadable examples
  • searchable database of community submitted patterns
  • drag and drop text files to load their content
  • save and share patterns with others via direct links
  • undo/redo
     

I also dug through over 240 comments on the original blog post, and implemented a ton of suggestions:

  • larger monospaced text and support for browser zoom (my eyes are older, my monitors are larger, and 10pt font just doesn’t seem so cool now)
  • vastly improved tokenizer, that is (hopefully) 100% accurate to JS RegExp standards
  • improved documentation, now with examples
  • support for pasting full expressions (including flags)
  • save includes your sample and substitution text
     

Now that it’s released, we’re going to try not to let it stagnate again. The first order of business is to clean up the code and commit it to the RegExr GitHub repo, so that it becomes a living project with community support.

We’re also going to try to clean up the existing community patterns – likely scrubbing any that now have errors (due to differences in AS3 and JS for example).

Following that, I’m going to be taking a look at different options for wrapping it in a desktop installer, so you can run it offline and save your favourites locally (input on this is welcome). I’d also love to make it usable on mobile devices, not because I think there’s a huge demand for testing regular expressions on mobile phones, but as a challenge to see if it can be done well – I think the “click to insert” feature of the reference library could work really well.

I’m also planning to write up a blog post exploring some of the technical challenges and decisions that we made while building this.

If you enjoy using RegExr, you can help out by tweeting, facebooking, gPlussing, blogging, or otherwise sharing/linking to it so others can find it. Version 1 disappeared almost completely from Google a few months ago (I believe they downgraded pages with only Flash content), and I’d really like it to recover in the rankings.

As always, I’d love to hear what you think of the new version of RegExr, and any feedback on how to make it even better.

Bardbarian on Steam – coming soon

Thanks to everyone that has played and supported Bardbarian so far! It has been amazing to see what the Treefortress guys have come up with, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the result.

An update has been posted on the Steam Community about what players can expect from Bardbarian once it arrives. Check it out, and be sure to leave your thoughts.

Bardbarian

If you haven’t checked out Bardbarian on iOS, yet – you can download it in the app store. Keep an eye here, or on the Treefortress blog for more Bard-related announcements in the coming months.

WebGL Support in EaselJS + Mozilla Sponsors CreateJS

We’re absolutely thrilled to welcome Mozilla in joining Adobe, Microsoft, and AOL to the roster of CreateJS sponsors!

We’ve been working with the Firefox OS team to ensure our libraries are well-supported and valuable tools for app and game creation on Firefox OS.

The first big announcement as a result of this collaboration, is WebGL Support for EaselJS (currently in public beta on GitHub), which is supported in both the browser and application contexts of Firefox OS (as well as other WebGL-enabled browsers). In our tests, we’ve managed to to draw a subset of 2D content up to 50x faster than is currently possible on the Canvas 2D Context. You can learn more about our WebGL implementation on the Mozilla Hacks or CreateJS blogs.

Be sure to let us know what you think in the EaselJS Community forum.

Welcome Mozilla, and a huge thank-you to all our amazing sponsors!

Bardbarian Launches on iOS!

I’m very excited that our first big TreeFortress game, Bardbarian, has launched on the iOS App Store! Bardbarian offers a unique gameplay style (think tower defence merged with a top down shooter), and some really fantastic artwork.

Bardbarian

Check out screenshots & gameplay videos on the Bardbarian game site, or check it out on the App Store.

Bardbarian has also been greenlit on Steam, and will be coming to PC, Android, and other platforms soon.