Monday, October 31, 2011
Everyone who is a regular Smashing Magazine reader will know that we have a traditional habit of regularly researching the latest resources, tools and services out there on the Web, as productivity is a crucial asset of professional Web designers and developers. We could, and should, all integrate workflow optimization into our working practices.
Perhaps we should warn you upfront for the long compilation, but what can we say — there are so many excellent tools out there which deserve attention of the community, yet unfortunately remain obscure way too often. We love all the designers and developers out there for releasing and producing useful, valuable resources for all of us to use! We, for one, surely sincerely appreciate it in the name of the Web design community. Whether you like it or not, here are some of the most useful coding and workflow tools released recently.
Feel free to comment to this post and let us know how exactly you use these tools in your workflow and also share other tools you’ve found with others who may also find them useful and still haven’t run across them. Please do avoid link dropping and share your insights and your experience instead.
Useful Coding and Workflow Tools
Stripe: Easy Credit-Card Processing For Online Stores
A website owner has many options for accepting credit card payments. Most of those options have a verification process that is quite slow; some have APIs and interfaces that are more or less robust than others; and some solutions are much easier to use than others. With Stripe, you can forget the tedious experience of the PayPal API and other mysterious programming environments. Unfortunately, Stripe is currently available only in the US.
The Web Developer’s Wonderland
Web development comes with truly enjoyable, creative tasks and some mundane, boring ones. Probably the most frustrating task is having to reload the browser page during development or debugging every time you make a change to the page. Livereload is a desktop app that monitors changes in your file system. As soon as you save a file, the file is preprocessed as needed, and the browser is refreshed. Also, every time you change a CSS file or image, the browser is updated instantly without you having to reload the page. The tool supports CoffeeScript, SASS/SCSS, LESS, Stylus, HAML and Jade, and it ships with all of them included. Currently available only for Mac.
Open-Source Exchange Rates and Currency Conversion
Easier Number and Currency Formatting
Tilt Firefox Extension: DOM Inspection In 3-D
Mou – Markdown editor for web developers, on Mac OS X
When current available Markdown editors are almost all for general writers, Mou is different: It’s for web developers. Syntax highlighting, live preview, fullscreen mode, auto save, powerful actions, auto pair, incremental search, custom themes, HTML export, enhanced CJK characters support. It’s exactly the app you want.
Creating Buzz With Launch Effect
The one-page theme lets visitors sign up using their email. Upon signing up, the page generates a special URL for them to share with their friends, so that you can track your most active promoters and reward them for spreading the word. What more do you need from a pre-launch page? This is a good tool to bookmark for your next creative breakthrough or start-up idea.
A Better Responsive Grid
The Golden Grid System uses the concept of “folding” grid columns into one another, based on the browser’s size. So, a 16-column grid that works great in desktop browsers would fold down to an 8-column grid for tablets, and a 4-column grid for mobile devices. It can handle screen sizes ranging anywhere from 240 pixels wide all the way up to 2560 pixels. The columns themselves are not the only things that are elastic either; while the column’s widths are based on screen size, the gutter widths adjust based on the page’s font size (specified in ems). The Golden Grid System comes with other features that make it perfectly suited to modern responsive Web design.
The Semantic Grid System
CSS grid frameworks can make your life easier, but they’re not without their faults. Fortunately for us, modern techniques offer a new approach to constructing page layouts. But before getting to the solution, we must first understand the three seemingly insurmountable flaws currently affecting CSS grids.
Bootstrap Kick-Start Development Toolkit
Bootstrap is a toolkit that includes the base CSS and HTML for typography, tables, grids, navigation, error messages, modal boxes, buttons and forms. It’s built with the LESS framework. It comes with a standard 940-pixel grid (i.e. 960.gs without the side margins), or you can create your own. Bootstrap allows you to create fixed or fluid layouts, and it comes with many elements that can be used as is or restyled to fit your website. Of course, the toolkit is free to use.
Drag the Colour Bookmark link to your toolbar to find out the colour palette of the website you’re currently on. Then simply: copy, paste and use the colours you choose.
The library offers a variety of map layers, including tiles, markers, pop-ups, image overlays and GeoJSON. It supports panning on both mobile and desktop browsers, double-tap zoom on mobile browsers (plus multi-touch zoom on iOS) and more. On iOS, hardware acceleration is enabled, and Leaflet has a modular structure that lets you reduce the size of the library to make it even faster. The project is open source and available for further development and forking on GitHub.
weinre is a Web Inspector Remote that is essentially a debugger for web pages, like FireBug (for FireFox) and Web Inspector (for WebKit-based browsers), except it’s designed to work remotely, and in particular, to allow you debug web pages on a mobile device such as a phone.
Microsoft provides virtual machine disk images to facilitate website testing in multiple versions of IE, regardless of the host operating system. But setting these virtual machines up without Microsoft’s VirtualPC can be extremely difficult. The ievms scripts aim to facilitate that process using VirtualBox on Linux or OS X. With a single command, you can have IE7, IE8 and IE9 running in separate virtual machines.
The tool allows you to easily get CSS typography details about the text you are hovering on.
WordPress TextMate Bundle
The WordPress TextMate Bundle is a TextMate bundle built with the sole purpose of reducing the amount of time spent digging around the WordPress core to look up the little things that we work with every day. The plugin features auto-completion of WordPress functions, snippets for common sections of code, and templates for WordPress components. We even snuck in function completion for the Carrington template framework functions. We’re always making improvements as we find more that we want covered by the plugin (merged from WordPress MU with the WordPress 3.0 code base consolidation).
No matter how much you see someone changing the parameters, if you don’t picture it in a 2D plane, it’s very hard to understand how bouncing animation with cubic-bezier works. Lea Verou searched for a tool could use to show how bezier curves are formed. She found plenty, but all of them restricted the the coordinates to the 0-1 range. Lea then proceded to create her own cubic_bezier() curves generator.
Patternizer – Stripe Pattern Generator Tool
With Patternizer, it’s easy to make something amazing in just a few minutes. It takes all the work out of creating complicated patterns, letting you focus on creativity and play. Patterns can be saved and shared with anyone, allowing for collaboration and remixing. And you can access them from any device worldwide.
A tiny, modular library that can add chaining to any API that isn’t naturally chainable, like the Canvas API, the DOM and more.
Comparison Table Generator
This generator allows you to create beautiful HTML/CSS comparison tables on the fly.
<select> elements. It works on IE7+.
-prefix-free lets you use only unprefixed CSS properties everywhere. It works behind the scenes, adding the current browser’s prefix to any CSS code, only when it’s needed.
An automated folder scanning/parsing tool for LESS. Once you add your project folders to the application, it will automatically start monitoring the less files inside these folders for changes. After you have saved the less file, the application will automatically parse your less file into a regular CSS file. Also, see: SimpLESS, an app for Mac, Linux and PC to compile *.less files into valid CSS.
This tool allows you to easily embed a PCI compliant order form within your website. The library performs in-line validation, real-time total calculations, and gracefully handles errors. Your customer stays on your website while their billing information is securely sent to Recurly for approval. Because the cardholder data is sent directly to Recurly, your PCI compliance scope is dramatically reduced.
Responsive Overlay Grid for In-Browser Development
The Heads-Up Grid is a recently released grid overlay for in-browser development. It works with fixed-width designs but also works great with responsive grids. Just specify the page units, column units, page width, number of columns, column width, gutter width, top margin and row height, and then paste the Heads-Up Grid code into the
head element of your website to generate the grid overlay.
This library allows you to create tooltips that can be rotated around a given element at any angle. Any distance can be specified. Any CSS style can be applied. There’s auto-magic size adjustment for use with localised text. FX queues for animating multiple grumbles. And it works in IE6+, and all modern browsers.
A standalone, portable WordPress development environment for Windows that can run from USB.
CSS Stress Testing and Profiling
A bookmarklet for stress testing the CSS on any given webpage. It indexes all the elements and their classes, and then — class by class — it removes one, and times how long it takes to scroll the page. Selectors that save a considerable amount of time when removed indicate problem areas.
Needle: Automated Tests for Your CSS
This tool checks that CSS renders correctly by taking screenshots of portions of a website and comparing them against known good screenshots. It also provides tools for testing calculated CSS values and the position of HTML elements.
Cutting-Edge Web Typography Experiments
The website is essentially an ongoing collection of experiments and writings on Web typography and the possibilities of cutting-edge standards-based Web design. Christopher is pushing the boundaries of what is both possible and practical in Web standards in a way that is compelling and exciting to the visually minded creative.
It is time for your favorite font to stand its ground. The idea of this project is to build robots out of typeface glyphs, showcase them and hope others put together an opponent. Participating is not hard, the rules are clear: all Robots must be built of type alone (A-Z). You may reflect and rotate the letters. Keep it civil. May the best bot win. Let’s see if your type design has what it takes to defend its corner. Fight!
More posts with useful tools and techniques are coming very soon here, on Smashing Magazine. If you want to be among the first to be informed about the new tools, resources and techniques, please
You won’t regret it. Thank you.
Thank you to the Smashing Editorial team, especially Christiane Rosenberger, Iris Ljesnjanin and Luca Degasperi for their help in preparing and editing the post.
© Vitaly Friedman for Smashing Magazine, 2011.