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A napping developer

Essential design apps for solo Apple ecosystem developers

Thursday, March 16, 2023 9:46 AM

Developing and distributing apps by yourself can be incredibly rewarding, but the effort involved can seem overwhelming if you’re just starting out. You don’t just need to write and maintain a great app, you need to create all of the assets required by Apple to get your app accepted and noticed. You also need a website to promote your app, support your users and host the required privacy policy. You may be able to write amazing code, but are you also an accomplished graphics designer, video editor, web developer and marketer? I’m not.

In this post, I’ll review some of the tools I rely on as a solo independent developer of apps like Remembered for iOSRemembered for Mac and Silly Sounds. Most of them are free. The others are reasonably priced. They all have a relatively quick learning curve. I list them here in no particular order. These are the apps and tools I rely on. The links are provided for your convenience. 

*** I do not participate in affiliate programs or otherwise receive compensation if you click a link or purchase one of these. ***

SF Symbols

Don’t even think about creating your own symbols/icons for use in your app without searching Apple’s free, expansive, versatile library. They integrate seamlessly with SwiftUI and UIKit. Can’t find what you need in this 4000+ symbol library? You can modify what’s there or even create your own.

Pixelmator Pro


I use Pixelmator Pro for practically everything other than coding. It’s an intuitive, powerful tool for drawing, illustrating and editing images. In order to submit your app to Apple, you’re going to need to create an app icon and screenshots for all supported devices. The specifications are here. Miss by one pixel and your app submission isn’t going anywhere. Pixelmator Pro has everything you need, and recently added templates make it even easier. It’s reasonably priced and a pleasure to use. Download the free trial and give it a try.



Rotato boasts “3D mockup images and movies in minutes” and that’s no exaggeration. If you’ve seen high resolution iPhones, iPads, Macs or other devices sliding, spinning or flipping across your TV or other screens, chances are you’ve seen Rotato in action. It’s that near impossible blend of power and ease of use that most of us can only dream about achieving. Record your app in action in the Xcode simulator or on a device, then use Rotato to make it look like it came from a high-end video production studio. I also use it to create high quality app screenshot images for submission to the App Store. Pixelmator Pro recently added templates that make it easier to do this, but Rotato can generate iPhone screenshots (which it calls “snapshots”) for all iPhone sizes in one click.



App previews aren’t required but are highly recommended. Having at least one increases the likelihood that your app will be noticed in the app store. Like screenshots, the specifications for app previews can seem overwhelming. iMovie simplifies this process by giving you the ability to create and export properly formatted videos. Record your app in action using the Xcode simulator or on a device, then follow this guide. Tip: When Apple says your preview video can’t be longer than 30 seconds, they mean 30, not 30.1 seconds. Trim your video in Xcode to make sure it’s no longer than 30.0 seconds.


When you submit your app to Apple for review, you’ll need to provide URLs for a website, user support and privacy policy. There are lots of “no code” web creation options out there. EverWeb arose as an alternative when Apple dropped iWeb and has done a good job of keeping up with modern features while remaining easy to use. I use it because it has built in support for responsive design, includes options for hosting and email, is regularly updated with new or improved features, and has plentiful tutorials. It sometimes gets a bad rap in the developer community because it’s built with Xojo (formerly RealBasic), but it’s the end product that matters. It has some quirks that I must relearn if I haven’t used it for a while, but it’s been a reliable design plus hosting solution for me.

Apps that I find useful but not essential



RocketSim provides numerous enhancements to the Xcode Simulator. You can use it to create screenshots with and without bezels, preview videos, and much more. It gets better with each release. I still use Rotato and Pixelmator Pro for screenshots, but have started using RocketSim to capture preview videos which I then edit in iMovie.

Art Text

Before Pixelmator Pro, Art Text was my go-to design tool. It focuses on text effects but is pretty versatile and simple to use. It’s a bit less expensive than Pixelmator Pro, so you might want to download the free trial if you decide Pixelmator Pro isn’t for you.

Assets Maker for Xcode


Meeting Apple’s strict requirements for app icons has gotten easier with newer versions of Xcode, but old habits die hard. I still use this handy app to generate the required app asset catalogs. Create an app icon in Pixelmator Pro or Art Text, drag it on to this app, done.



Keynote isn’t essential, but I use it for text animation in movies on my website. iMovie provides some text animation capabilities, but it’s pretty limited. Text animations are easy to create in Keynote, and bringing them into iMovie is simple.

Digital Color Meter


Want to inspect/copy colors from your screen? You’ll find this in Applications/Utilities.



Not an app, but a website where you can learn about marketing your app, and easily create and host press kits and press releases to let the world know about your app. Here’s an example.


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