Essential design apps for solo Apple ecosystem developers
Thursday, March 16, 2023 10:46 AM
In this post, I’ll review some of the tools I rely on as a solo independent developer of apps like Remembered Mobile, Remembered Desktop 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.
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.
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.
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’s a bit rough around the edges but gets better with each release. I still prefer Rotato and Pixelmator Pro, but this is one to watch.
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.
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.
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.