helftone robots

Monodraw: Progress Update #2

by Milen

It is time for our second Monodraw beta progress update. I have been busy implementing some very important changes that have significantly increased the app's utility and usability. Let's take a detailed look at what has been happening over the past few weeks.

Time Frames

I know a lot of people just want to find out when the public beta will ship. Our stance on the topic has always been – it's done when it's done. As we slowly but steadily complete more of the tasks left for the launch, we are getting a slightly better idea about the time frames.

We have just announced our lab programme, so if you want to be one of the first people to get your hands on Monodraw, sign up. At the moment, it seems that I have about two weeks worth of work left until the app is in a state to be distributed to the lab participants – my personal aim is for this to happen before the end of the year.

Once we have shipped the alpha, there is one major feature left for the beta – a special tool that we have kept secret, which we will reveal when the beta launches. Once 2015 rolls around, we will be at the final 10% but as it usually happens, those last few bits of work might take a disproportionate amount of time. Depending on how we progress over the next few months, we are hoping to ship the beta in the first quarter of 2015.

Line Tool

One of Monodraw's main goals is to make common operations very easy thus saving you time. When using ASCII art to draw diagrams, lines are used to connect the various shapes. I completely changed the way they work, so you automatically get the right behaviour in almost every case. And for the rare times when the app cannot guess your intentions, full manual control is avaiable – the best of both worlds.

Before I describe the changes, we need to revisit how lines worked up until now. We used to have two types, orthogonal and step. The line itself had a starting orthogonal direction (whether it will firstly go along the X or Y axis). There were two major problems with this approach:

To resolve all of these problems, I removed the starting direction and introduced four different modes which fully determine a line's behaviour:

You might have noticed that lines' automatic behaviour depends on the endpoints' preferred directions. How are those determined? You don't have to do anything for built-in points as those work out of the box – for example, rect attachment points prefer perpendicular directions to their respective sides. For custom points, you can manually set the directions via a contextual menu thus giving you full control – a point can have multiple preferred directions, all of equal priority. Check out the screencast below for all of the new functionality.

Pencil Tool

The pencil tool allows you to "paint" characters using the mouse and up until recently, using it was confusing for several reasons:

All of the above problems were resolved by making the following changes:

Text Tool

The text tool introduces an interesting conundrum because editing can mean two different things – editing the text or the shape itself. The intuitive and consistent behavour is to always edit the text first but we must also provide an alternative way to edit the shape – this is done using a popover. This approach removes any confusion that might arise when dealing with text fields, as the screencast below demonstrates.

Notable Changes

I made lots of other changes, some of the more notable ones are:

Thanks for reading this far – until next time!

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