Whenever Apple introduces an iOS device with a new user interface idiom or screen resolution, developers have to include additional app icons to match the expected dimensions and filenames. For example, before the iPhone 4 or the iPad, there were only a few app icons:
Three icons: one for the home screen, one for Settings.app (and, later, search results), and one for the iTunes App Store. When the iPhone 4 and the iPad were added, the list got longer:
With the introduction of the 3rd generation iPad this year, the list is even longer:
Along the way, much confusion has been created around iOS app icons. Questions that continually plague developers:
Naming: What should each image be called? For apps that must support iOS 3.1.3 or earlier, icon files must adopt the fixed naming scheme listed above. Apple added the soundalike
CFBundleIcons keys in iOS 3.2 and 5.0 respectively. You use these keys when setting up the “Icon Files” array in the Info.plist for an app. When using the
CFBundleIcons key, filenames can be anything you wish, as long as the retina-resolution files have the same root filenames (plus the @2x suffix) as their non-retina counterparts — unless, that is, you include the file extensions in the Info.plist. If you’re easily confused by all these changes and exceptions, you are not alone.
Info.plist Arrays: The Info.plist allows you to add an array of “Icon Files” in which you list the filenames for the included app icons in your app bundle. Apple has a technical document explaining how to set up this array here, but this document hasn’t been updated since July 2011. Since then iOS 5 has been released (along with the
CFBundleIcons key), the retina iPad has been on the market for months, and we’re 2 weeks away from the iOS 6 announcement. This technical document has not been updated with instructions for how to deal with the new icons and plist key. Adding to the confusion, Xcode may sometimes add a duplicate Icon Files array called “Icon files (iOS 5)”, as per this StackOverflow question. It’s still not clear whether this duplicate array is an intentional effect and should be preserved for forwards compatibility, or whether it’s a bug in Xcode.
Bundle Location: Apple’s technical documents state that app icons and ItunesArtwork files should be kept at the top level of the bundle directory, but neither Xcode nor iTunesConnect triggers an error if the files are buried in some other sub-directory. I only just discovered this requirement tonight. This may explain why Pillboxie’s iTunes Artwork on the retina iPad App Store is still showing the non-retina 512x512 version, even though I’ve included the 1024x1024 version.
Poor Documentation: Developers have to consult way too many Apple documents just to answer the basic questions about app icons. When a blogger offers more helpful documentation than Apple, you know there’s a problem.
Unexplained App Rejections: A few developers, myself included, have had apps that were built, archived, and submitted to iTunesConnect without any hiccups, only to receive a cryptic email ten or fifteen minutes after submission that states that an app icon file appears to be corrupt. Solutions I’ve found range from disabling PNG compression in the build settings, or making sure that no app icons (or launch images) were exported from Photoshop with Interlacing enabled. See this StackOverflow post for more information.
UPDATED: Inconsistent Border Radii: I forgot to mention the problems that Neven Mrgan has explained better than I ever could about the way iOS, iTunes, and Safari apply app icon border radii. Even if you or your designer submits all app icons without alpha-transparent corners (which Mrgan recommends), it is still very difficult to get edge highlights and shadows to appear exactly the way you wish. The worst offender is iTunes Connect’s app info page. Thankfully, it isn’t customer-facing, but it’s a dramatic illustration of the problem:
WWDC is coming soon, so hopefully some of this confusion will be addressed this time around. Or maybe things will continue to get worse.
With business cards, there really is no middle ground. There are two general tiers: there’s digital (or offset), which are both inexpensive, and it shows. These cards will look grainy and bland. Then there’s the old fashioned way: letterpress, foil stamping, duplexing, quality stock, etc. The difference in cost is not trivial. Based on my experience, digital or offset cards can cost from 20 to 50 cents per card, whereas “real” cards can cost anywhere from 75 cents to 3 dollars per card, depending on the options. But the difference in quality is dramatic.
I spent $750 on one-thousand cards for Splint, and I’ve never regretted it. I used Henry & Co in Atlanta (warning: Flash-only site). Everyone has their own priorities. Some people view cards that expensive as a waste. My opinion is that if I’m giving something to a customer (a product, a meal, a business card) it had damn better be nice.
As a longtime fan of yours, I first want to thank you for Daring Fireball. It has become the success that it is because of your high standards. You expect quality and professionalism from your own work and from the work of others, and it shows. When you discover errors, you are swift to correct them. You are quick to respond “I don’t know” when an answer isn’t clear, when many others might give in to bullshit.
I was disheartened by the way you handled the switch of The Talk Show from 5by5 to Mule Radio. I am a big fan of change. I would otherwise be excited to listen to your new show. However, the way the change was announced — suddenly, and without explanation — seemed antithetical to the professionalism you regularly demonstrate at Daring Fireball. Had you just included a brief comment like, “I know this is sudden, but the reasons for the change will remain private. Thanks for being our fans,” it would have been more in keeping with what appear to be your values.
Further, by keeping the name “The Talk Show,” you appear to imply that the show was your show, and that Dan was a second-class co-host. This scandalized me and many of your fans. We tuned in to listen to you both on so many Wednesday afternoons. It was the chemistry between the two of you that was so endearing. Not knowing the details of what actually transpired, we are left to conclude the worst about your intentions and your perception of Dan.
We don’t want to do that. We want to keep being inspired by you.
Thanks for raising the bar of online journalism. My best wishes to you and yours.
My good pal Tony and I had a good email exchange about this season of Mad Men. I was getting worried that with all the strong flavors they were flirting with the shark. Tony thinks otherwise:
In the last ten years or so, good dramas are not considered good dramas unless they have an overreaching season long story arc. So now when we sit down to watch our favorite show, we are essentially reading a chapter of a novel. This is the intention of the showrunners, networks, and everyone involved with tv dramas nowadays. Failed novelists who know some actor buddies and a guy with a camera.
I say fuck that.
I’m getting sick of it.
This fifth season of Mad Men seems to be saying, fuck the novel, here’s some short stories. Good old fashioned episodic television with the same characters every week.
Because of that, because I don’t have to remember every single plot point and have to wonder how this is all going to tie in at the end, I’m really enjoying this season. Yeah there are some dumb things.
But this is not the show we started watching four seasons ago. It’s reflected in the show too. Things are changing. And I dig it.
If you don’t know who Tony is, head over here for more. Tony always has a refreshing opinion.
Dear fans of The Talk Show,
Beginning with this week’s show, The Talk Show will be distributed by my friends at the Mule Radio Network. Dan Benjamin will no longer be co-hosting the show with me. I want to thank you all for supporting us during The Talk Show’s time at 5by5. The show will be different without Dan, but I think its best days are still yet to come. I understand that this change is sudden and seems to beg for an explanation. Our reasons for the change will be kept private. Please respect our privacy, but do not mistake our silence for a lack of appreciation for you, our fans. The Talk Show would not have become popular without your loyal support.