The writing on the wall
Of course, tweaks--however well thought out--do not a new version make. xScope 4 also comes with two brand-new tools that help designers take control of text and realtime development.
The first--aptly called Text--provides a window through which you can explore every glyph available on your system. Much more than an ordinary font browser, the tool allows you to search through the entire collection of Unicode symbols, providing a wealth of information about each of them, such as all the available variants, hex values, HTML entity names, and so on.
Once you've found the particular symbol you're looking for, you have the option of copying it to your pasteboard, or to examine it in more detail in a special panel, where--upon selecting a font available on your system--you can visualize and measure its component parts, such as ascenders, descenders, height, and so on.
The second new tool, called Overlay, superimposes a see-through panel over your screen, through which you can display a grid that helps you quickly format your contents according to a set of well-defined guides.
Although you can use the overlay with any window, this tool is particularly well-suited to Web design, as it can help you make sure that your content is properly aligned to your CSS grid. Even better, you can set the window to display a translucent image of your choosing--for example, the mockup of an app or a webpage--and use that as a guide for your design work.
Cleverly, the Overlay tool can be "locked on" one of the windows on your desktop; this causes the overlay to automatically match the window's dimensions and position if you resize or move that window. In the App Store version of xScope, this feature requires a few gyrations to get around the limitations of Apple's sandboxing model, but it's otherwise an easy-to-use tool that has turned out to be quite robust in my testing.
The fairest of them all
Another "new" feature--not new in version 4.0, but added since our previous review--bears mentioning because of its importance: Mirror. Mirror works in conjunction with an inexpensive companion iOS app and allows you to, well, mirror a portion of your Mac's screen, in realtime, to your iOS device. Think of it as a version of AirPlay that can take the content of a Photoshop or Xcode window and seamlessly that content on your iPhone or iPad as you're working on a project.
Of all the tools in xScope, Mirror strikes me as the one that has the most universal appeal, allowing both designers and developers to improve their workflows by getting immediate feedback on the way their work looks when deployed on a real device.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.