posts tagged with the keyword ‘applications’


UI Apps

I wanted to mock up a control panel for a project (a real physical control panel, not a software control panel) and remembered that I had OmniGraffle on one of my machines, so I started with that. Unfortunately it appeared that it was a demo version and was limited to 20 objects.


OmniGraffle is a sweet application, and I considered buying it, but at $99 for an individual license, for an application I probably won’t use that much, I opted not to pursue it. (Oh, and I did think about just using Inkscape, but I thought it would be more fun to use a diagramming specific application for this project.)


I found Dia, an open source, multi-platform application for creating diagrams. Dia actually looks like a pretty nice application, and I do prefer open source when possible, but I also find X11 applications a bit clunky, and while I’ll keep an eye on Dia, it didn’t quite live up to what I wanted…


I ended up revisiting the Pencil Project, which I looked at last year, and I really like it. It’s a great application for mocking things up, and it even ties into one of my favorite sites,

Pencil Menus

The one annoying thing about Pencil is the menus. I’m using Mac OS X, and I’d like the menus to work as they do on Mac OS X, and these are just weird.

Here’s the output I got from each application. It should be mentioned, these are all rough, and by no means final. I really just wanted to quickly kick out a design from each application.

OmniGraffle Mockup
OmniGraffle Mockup

Dia Mockup
Dia Mockup

Pencil Mockup
Pencil Mockup

I’ll probably use Pencil moving forward and see how much I can push its capabilities. (And yes, it’s also open source and multi-platform, which is one more great thing about it.)


3D Model

In the last month I’ve made some progress in my 3D modeling education, so I thought I’d provide an update. (Besides my last post, I got some good feedback on Google+) Oh, and just a reminder, my interest in 3D modeling all has to do with creating objects I can produce with a 3D printer like the MakerBot or the RepRap.

So what am I using (or not using) now? Here’s the list:

Google Sketchup
I’ve made some good progress with Sketchup. A few tutorials (and a lot of playing around) has me creating actual 3D models. You’ll want the STL Importer and STL Exporter to deal with STL files. Sketchup is nice, and I’m sure I’ll end up using it more as time goes on, but it’s not the end of my 3D quest.

Urgh… I’ve made no progress with Blender. Haven’t even tried. I may just wait until we do a Blender class at Milwaukee Makerspace.

Still no Mac OS X version.

3DTin and Tinkercad
I talked about 3DTin last time. I haven’t used it since, but it still seems like a great way for kids to get into 3D modeling. As for Tinkercad, it seems like a more advanced version of 3DTin. Make: Live covered Tinkercad in Episode 17 if you want to check it out.

Say what!? Inkscape is a 2D drawing application. I’m still using it. I’ll often open vector files (SVG) and export them to DXF files and then extrude those to 3D files. Here’s a great Inkscape to OpenSCAD dxf tutorial that explains it all.

I’m still just barely using OpenSCAD, mainly in conjunction with Inkscape as mentioned above. I need to dig in a bit deeper, as time allows.

So what else is there? Well, I found Pleasant3D, which isn’t exactly modeling software, but it’s what ReplicatorG might look like if it were a full-on Mac OS X application. I’ve found it useful on a few occasions.

The other one worth mentioning is MeshLab, which may have some uses when it comes to converting or transforming files. I haven’t created anything with it yet, but it sure looks impressive.

So that’s my 3D modeling software update… Anything new to report from your desktop?



In the world of professional media making (and other things) it often pays to learn not just the One Tool™ but some of the alternatives… especially some of the free/open source alternatives.

In the world of video, there’s Final Cut Pro, which will often do 95% of what you need done with video, but when you need that extra 5%, that extra push over the cliff, there’s other applications to make that happen. Things like MPEG StreamClip, FFmpeg, and VLC have become extras in our toolbox that we’ve come to rely on. MPEG StreamClip is killer for getting things into the needed format, and if it can’t do it, I’ll move on to FFmpeg or perhaps VLC. They’ve all got their specialties.

Even things like iMovie (the most recent version, as well as the older version) are worth keeping around… Same goes with iDVD, which is usually a simple and fast option when all you need is a looping DVD. Photoshop? I love it…. but sometimes iPhoto is exactly what you need.

On the audio side of things, we tend to use Logic, but we’ve also got room for things like Audacity. What’s that? Need an 8 bit/8kHz mono WAV file for an antiquated phone system? I can kick that out in Audacity in 1/10th the time I’d figure out the settings in Logic. (And yes, that’s something I had to do last week.)

NeoOffice, OpenOffice, LibreOffice? I’ve used them all, and believe it or not, they all have subtle differences which maybe of use depending on the situation. (In fact the one I left out is Microsoft Office, because I don’t use it, but years ago, if you used a Mac and wanted to open the latest Word files from Windows, you could only do so with NeoOffice.)

So here’s my advice…. Learn the pro apps, and learn them well, but spend some time digging through the open source/free tools as well. Figure them out, what they are good at (and bad at) and keep them around for that special task that they excel at.

Have you got any favorite “lesser” apps that complement your “pro” apps?


3D Modeling Applications

Well, the time has come… For years I ignored the third dimension, working only in 2D. Even then, I typically favored raster graphics in Photoshop over vector graphics in the likes of Illustrator. Of course the Egg-Bot brought with it the need to dig into Inkscape, and I’ve done well enough there, finding it useful enough for my vector-based tasks… but now comes…. 3D!!!

Now that I’ve got access to a MakerBot, I have this need to deal with 3D modeling software, starting out with converting formats, and eventually designing things on my own, and actually output STL files. So begins my journey, and a look at some of my options:

I mentioned in my last MakerBot post, and while it’s a great way to get started and have something usable in less than 10 minutes, I don’t know that it will be a serious tool for what I’d like to do. It seems to have no concept of converting formats. It’s still a great (although limited) tool, for what it is…

Google Sketchup
Our pals at Google have Sketchup (the free version) which seems pretty darn popular, and thanks to a few awesome plugins, I’ve been able to import and export STL files. (I haven’t tested the printing of any yet, but that will happen soon.) Sketchup confuses me. I should probably spend some time with a tutorial and figure it out. Is the free version limited? I know that they took out the ability to export DXF files in the latest version, and to get that back you’re expected to buy the pro version for $495. Yikes!

I must say, that without a doubt, Blender is one of the most confusing pieces of software I’ve ever used, and I’ve used Windows… at a large corporation even! I know Blender is powerful, and in the hands of @knellotron or another skilled operator, great things can be done. But even just trying to import and export a file was too difficult. The “File” menu kept disappearing!

From the folks at Autodesk comes 123D. Windows only. I won’t even look at it unless they create a Mac OS X version.

Well, there’s always OpenSCAD, the “Programmers Solid 3D CAD Modeller.” But it’s all codey and programmey, and not visual, which may be cool for some things, but it’s probably not the best to start out with…

I even went so far as to fire up Processing and write code to output STL files via the unlekkerLib library, which is outdated anyway and I should be looking at the ModelBuilder library. Argh…..

So that leaves me with a “???” which should be obvious is a question to you: What do I do?


A few months back David from Korporate Media sent an email to a few folks titled “Dear Macintosh users, let’s talk apps” and a bunch of people replied. It took a while to compile, but here’s my list. Some of these I don’t use much anymore in Mac OS X 10.5 but still do in Mac OS X 10.4, and some of these I almost never use, but still think they might be useful to others…

(Oh, and Perl, which does everything else.)


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