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Xscope 4.0: do-it-all tool that every graphics pro should have

Marco Tabini | Sept. 24, 2014
Achieving pixel perfection is a challenge that plagues developers and designers alike--the capability to measure, examine, and discover every last detail of your onscreen designs is often what makes it possible for great apps and great graphics to become a reality.

Achieving pixel perfection is a challenge that plagues developers and designers alike--the capability to measure, examine, and discover every last detail of your onscreen designs is often what makes it possible for great apps and great graphics to become a reality.

This fact isn't lost with the folks at The Iconfactory, who've spent the better part of the last twenty years designing graphics and icons for everything from indie apps to multi-billion dollar operating systems.

Since 2004, in collaboration with German developer Artis Software, the Iconfactory has published xScope (Mac App Store link; $50), which collects a number of tools designed to make curating graphic work easier under a single roof. We previously reviewed xScope 2; version 4 hit the digital shelves in late June, packing dozens of improvements over its predecessors.

Old dogs
If Xscope is entering your radar for the first time, it can be best explained as a collection of tools designed to help designers and developers make sense of what happens on their screens.

For example, the Dimensions tool displays a crosshair on the screen and uses advanced image-recognition techniques to determine how far you are from the nearest user-interface elements--a great way to quickly measure the size of anything from text boxes to windows without having to take a screenshot and transfer it into your favorite graphics program. Along similar lines, the Rulers tool superimposes a series of graduated rulers over your screen, allowing you to quickly eyeball measurements and tweak the position of anything you might be working on.

Among the other tools, you'll also find Screens, which allows you to simulate various screen sizes; Loupe, which magnifies the contents of your desktop as you move the pointer around; and Frames, which creates a series of overlays that can act as guides for laying out content.

New tricks
But since our previous review in 2008, Xscope's developers have greatly improved the app, adding hundreds of enhancements to the existing tools; many of those changes reflect advancements that have taken place in Apple's software ecosystem itself.

For starters, the app is now fully compatible with Retina-display-optimized content. You can take accurate measurements on high-resolution screens either in actual pixels or logical window points, "de-retinize" images to simulate what they'll look like on a regular display, or, conversely, scale down Retina images in real time to render them seamlessly on a low-resolution monitor.

In addition, xScope has been updated to take advantage of recent changes in the OS X landscape, such as the introduction of a better-sized settings window that plays nice with the smaller screen of the 11-inch MacBook Air, and code that takes better advantage of both the CPU and GPU for improved performance and lower power consumption.

 

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