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Smashing Newsletter: Issue #4

This newsletter issue was sent out to 22,079 newsletter subscribers on March 23rd 2010.

Every other week our editorial team works on short, entertaining and (of course) relevant articles for the upcoming issue. The newsletter is sent out on Tuesdays, and contains unique tips and tricks for designers and Web developers, written by us exclusively for our email subscribers. You can subscribe to the e-mail newsletter1, of course.

Table of Contents

  1. Create a Batch Installer for Your Applications2
  2. User Interface Style Guides3
  3. Create Stick-Figure Animations With Stykz4
  4. DocsPal Online Converter: Clever, User-Friendly and Practical5
  5. CoffeeScript: Boost Your Efficiency in Writing JavaScript Code6
  6. Pressing Letters: A Collection of Inspirational Letterpress7

1. Create a Batch Installer for Your Applications

How many times have you put off formatting your computer because of the dread of having to reinstall all your applications? If a lot, then you need the software installer Ninite8. This website lets you pick your favorite software from among an extensive list (Web browsers, messaging, media, images, documents, security, runtimes, file sharing, utilities, compression, developer tools and more), creates a batch installer for them and then installs them for you automatically. You just need to press the “Install”-button once.

Create a Batch Installer for Your Applications9

The tool keeps your system clean and lightweight: all settings are set to their default and Ninite automatically removes toolbars, spyware and other junk. Even better, your system’s language and 64-bit support are checked to install the latest and optimum version of each program. Ninite is free for personal use, it runs on Windows XP/Vista/7, and no sign-up is required.

Unfortunately, you cannot create a batch installer for applications that are not listed on the website or for mobile applications. However, you can suggest an application, and most requested applications are added to the software list. (jb)

2. User Interface Style Guides

A style guide is a set of standards for the design and writing of documents, either for general use or for a particular publication or organization. When a style guide is created for for a particular organization, it is called “house style.” And style guides are very helpful tools. On the Web, their main purpose is to ensure consistency across websites. They have more advantages, of course, including facilitating group collaboration and training new members of a product team.

User Interface Style Guides10

User Interface Style Guides11 features some useful links to style guides used by large websites, corporations and news agencies (e.g. the BBC Style Guide12), including editorial guidelines, quality guidelines and online standards. An interface style guide can be very helpful because it serves to document a website’s design, and it informs clients and content editors of branding guidelines, including rules for typography, colors and images. Also, development standards are no less important; the style guide for them keeps development smooth and efficient, and it often accompanies the design style guide. (cs) (jb) (vf)

3. Create Stick-Figure Animations With Stykz

Recall your childhood. Stick-figure drawings were your first “graffiti.” You scratched in those simple shapes with a sharp object or drew them with crayon on concrete walls. Stick figures made their first appearance as Pictograms in the 1960s. Afterwards, they were used in advertisements, entertainment and the film industry. Stick figure animation marked a useful advancement in drawing and became very popular with the Xiao Xiao series and Joe Zombie.

Create Stick-Figure Animations With Stykz13

Stykz14 is frame-based freeware that is simple for creating great-looking stick-figure animations quickly and efficiently. Many features are included, and drawing figures is very easy. Segments are automatically drawn, and figures can be rotated, scaled, flipped and duplicated. The line segments in a figure can be individually adjusted, and you can set their length, width, color and angle to suit your taste.

You can export your animations to QuickTime, an animated GIF or a sequence of images. The program works on Windows XP and Mac OS X. (cs)

4. DocsPal Online Converter: Clever, User-Friendly and Practical

Working with freelancers and virtual teams sometimes reminds you of what it must have been like to live in Babel. Dozens of various formats for documents, images and archives prevent you from opening files. If you often find the need to convert RAR files into ZIP or convert PDF documents into text to edit in a word processor, you’ll be happy to know that DocsPal15 does exactly that.

16/”>DocsPal Online Converter: Clever, User-Friendly and Practical

DocsPal converts a variety of documents, images and archives into various formats. The interface is pretty simple, and no registration required: just go to the website, choose your file and then select the original format and the format you want to convert it to.

After the conversion, a download link is displayed. You also have the option to get the link by email. Files remain on DocsPal’s server for five days, giving you enough time to download them before deletion. Also, the maximum file size allowed for images is 20 MB and for archives is 50 MB. Overall, DocsPal is a helpful, user-friendly service. (mm)

5. CoffeeScript: Boost Your Efficiency in Writing JavaScript Code

CoffeeScript is a little programming language that compiles JavaScript while simplifying the code that developers actually have to deal with. It works with current JavaScript libraries and compiles clean code, leaving even comments intact. Once developers familiarize themselves with how CoffeeScript works, they could potentially save themselves a lot of time and headaches with the simplified code.

CoffeeScript: Boost Your Efficiency in Writing JavaScript Code

The developer’s page has a detailed reference guide that covers dozens of functions, constructs and shortcuts: assignments, arrays, objects, conditionals, loops, splats and much more. Note that CoffeeScript is currently available only in a development version, and there is no guarantee that the syntax won’t change between versions. (cc) (vf)

6. Pressing Letters: A Collection of Inspirational Letterpress

Whenever the word “letterpress” is mentioned, type designers are usually the first to jump into the discussion. No surprise either: if prepared carefully, letterpress excels at fine typography and enhances the visual impact of type and artwork. After all, artwork is not just seen but “felt.” Letterpress is a kind of printing by which a raised surface is inked and then pressed onto a sheet of paper. Although it doesn’t sound very spectacular, the results can be very impressive.

Pressing Letters: A Collection of Inspirational Letterpress17

And Pressing Letters18 tries to prove just that. The project is an effort to catalog work and promote creativity in the letterpress community. Anyone can submit their letterpress work, references, tips and links. The website has many different categories, including business cards, books, calendars, identity design, music sleeves, stationery and posters. A blog definitely worth bookmarking and visiting regularly. (vf)

The authors in this newsletter are: Vitaly Friedman (vf), Christina Sitte (cs), Cameron Chapman (cc), Jessica Bordeau (jb), Manuela Müller (mm).


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The Smashing Editorial prepares bi-weekly newsletter issues with lots of love and appreciation for the good ol' web with the latest tips and tricks for designers and web developers. Vitaly Friedman, Smashing Magazine's editor-in-chief, started this project back in early 2010. Today, we can't imagine a better way of informing and communicating with our fans and readers!

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