TotW June 3, 2012 — browsing PDFs in knitCompanion

Now for tip 2 of the week! This tip is specific for knitCompanion, and how to get at PDFs, either local to knitCompanion or in your Dropbox.

When you go to the current projects page, and look locally or at your Dropbox projects, what you are really doing is looking just for .kcprojects –that is, projects that are setup (or at least created from a PDF even if the pieces aren’t done). So, how do you create a new project using a PDF that is local to kc or in Dropbox? From Current Projects tap New Project. Name the project and tap Choose PDF. Viola, you can browse for PDFs both locally and in your Dropbox.

Alternately, if you have a PDF in your ravelry library, from a website, or in your email and you want to bring it straight into kC without file sharing or Dropbox, just use open in. There is a tip of the week here on this functionality which is provided by apple. The list or apps to open in does scroll, but Remember, if iBooks is installed, apple limits the number of items in the open in list to 10, so if kc (or any other app you want) isn’t showing up that is why. You need to start deleting apps that you don’t want in the list one at. Time and keep checking for kC (or goodreader or whatever app you want to who up).

Sally

TotW June 1, 2012 — Working with e-mag PDFs

This weekend there will be two tips! This first tip is less about knitCompanion (although it is applicable), and more about working with PDFs that are very large in relation to the number of pages. This applies to any PDF where the photographs in the PDF are very high “dots per inch” and also any PDFs that are based off of professional print quality sources (such as e-mags).

So first let’s explore the PDF world. Most of the PDFs put out by designers are fairly normal in size in relation to the number of pages. Much of what controls the size of the PDF is the size/quality of the images inside the PDF. Most often this is a result of photographs, but other things can play into this as well. Overall, the measure of how much information (size of file) is needed is determined by the “dots per inch” used in images. For on screen viewing you don’t need much more than 150-200 dots per inch. Remember, all electronic displays are based on 72 dots per inch, and you want some extra so you can zoom without things getting blurry or grainy. However, if you are going to print an image professionally (say in a book or a glossy magazine) you need at least 600 dots per inch and many cameras take images of even higher quality (more dots per inch).

Most pattern PDFs are perfectly reasonable. Even if the photos are larger, there are not a lot of them. But, if you’ve worked with PDFs that are from e-books or e-mags where the provider took the original print layout and packaged it as a PDF without any image compression or size reduction you will notice that the PDF is VERY large in relationship to the number of pages. Anything that is more than 500k-1M/page probably falls into this category. So if you have a 5 page PDF and it is 5M, it probably has some very high quality images in it.

High quality images are great, but they can pose challenges for our mobile devices! Rendering these large images is tough for the mobile devices, and ultimately, all those “extra” dots per inch aren’t going to do you any good when you work with the file electronically. You will find that the PDFs may or may not open on your mobile device (depending on its horsepower) but working with them might be klutzy.

So now on to the tip, which is all about what to do about these REALLY BIG PDFs and make them easier to work with on your mobile device. Do not fear, it is pretty straight forward to “regenerate” these large PDFs into something more reasonable. You do need a computer, either windows or Mac will do.

For Windows:

  1. Install the free Primo PDF system. (there are other systems, including Cute. And if you have full acrobat that will work to. I have to pick one to give instructions for tho).
  2. Open the PDF you need to fix in acrobat reader, nitro (the reader that come with primo), etc.
  3. Print it, but instead of printing to your printer, select Primo PDF as the printer. Now instead of a paper copy, you will get a new file.
  4. The Primo print driver will kick off once you hit print and pop up a dialog box. It has several settings, you can select Screen, eBook, etc. I generally choose eBook or Screen for optimal use on my mobile devices. Continue on and name your new file.
  5. Once its generated, compare the size of the new file to the original. It should be much smaller and should work much more efficiently in knitCompanion or any other app on your mobile device.

Mac:
Apple provides a built in PDF system called Quartz. Using Preview you can access this system, and use it to reduce the size of your PDFs. Please note the ability to access this functionality changes between Leopard and Lion and could continue to change as apple updates the Mac OS. Hearty thanks to mamajag for the written instructions below for both Leopard and Lion below.

You can use the quartz preset “reduce file size”. It will really shrink the file size, but the quality is not very good. Instead, followed the instructions at this link to create a new quartz filter that reduces the file size while remaining decent quality. Set the slider to about ¾ of full quality and get a good mix of quality/size.

If you have Lion, the new preset doesn’t show up until you have a copy in both the main Library>ColorSync>Presets folder and the main Library>PDF Services folders. Library is hidden by default, so if you need to get to it hold option and use the Go menu. Library should be an option then.

With Mac you may want to play around with the filters a bit. In some cases, I’ve found that the regeneration can make the colors of some photos wonky. Charts should still be ok, but you might lose some of the beautiful pictures.

TotW May 26, 2012 — Sliding Markers

This week our tip is going to focus on the sliding stitch markers. These were introduced in 2.0, but we had a bug that made them annoying to use. That is all fixed up in 2.1, so “slide” away!

First, a screen shot to demonstrate what these markers are: 

The marker pictured is the sliding stitch marker. As you can see, it is just like a chart stitch marker, but it has a control to slide it back and forth easily from the main page. There is also a sliding row marker that looks just the same but runs the other way. These markers are available for both text and chart pieces. You can control the width and color of the marker, as well as the location of sliding control. You can easily hide and show the slide control by a single tap that toggles it on and off on the main screen (tapping to make the slide control disappear will not affect the visibility of the marker itself). You can turn the control off entirely as well. All of these settings are available under Preferences.

I find the sliding stitch marker so very useful to keep my place on a row that is wide and complex. Especially on the phone, or even the iPad when the chart I’m using is wider than my screen at a comfortable viewing zoom, this sliding marker makes it super easy to keep my spot as I scroll side to side to knit a row. On written instructions, especially for lace, I use it to help me track where I am on a row, by using the junction of the row marker and the sliding marker. The sliding row marker is very useful for those shorter pieces that you don’t want to setup a text row marker for.

Happy knitting! 
Sally

TotW May 19, 2012 — Navigating Dropbox from knitCompanion

In honor of the new 2.1 release we may have more than one tip per week the next few weeks. Make up for my slack over the last few months, lol.

Today, this weeks tip is navigating your Dropbox inside knitCompanion.

First, Dropbox gives all apps that link to it a home. That home is in your Dropbox under a folder(think of a folder as a room) called Apps. knitCompanion’s home is Apps/knitCompanion. In kC’s home, there are three rooms (folders). One is projects, and this is where kC will ALWAYS export a .kcproject to. It is also the default place you will be if you browse your Dropbox for projects. The second room is pdfs and this is a place you can put PDFs if you want. It is also the default place you will be if you browse your Dropbox while making a new project (I.e looking for PDFs). The third room is manifest, and you can think of this as the boiler/furnace room in the back of your basement that you never go into. We put stuff there that it is best you don’t mess with unless you want all those lovely sync flags to get out of step.

Now, we also setup kC so that you can easily leave the “house” that is kC’s home and explore the larger world of your Dropbox. To navigate, you will see some folders that have an up arrow, tap this and move up “up and out” of the room you re in. Some folders don’t have up arrows, tap one of these and you open the door and walk into that room.

The view will always be filtered…you will only be able to see .kcproject or .PDF. And only one of these at a time depending on what task you are doing. If you are browsing for projects you will see any available .kcproject in any room, anywhere in your Dropbox. If you are making a new project, when you browse Dropbox, you won’t see .kcprojects, but you will see all PDFs in any room you go into. You can import PDFs and kcprojects all day long, but kc will only ever export kcprojects. That means you can’t accidentally mess with anything other than kC specific stuff.

Finally, you can move .kcprojects out of your knitCompanion home, into storage (think of a box under the bed). I would only do this when you decide you also want to remove that project from your device, probably because you are done knitting it. Put it somewhere else in Dropbox (or your computer) that will be your “box under the bed” for kcprojects you don’t want to throw away and you might want to use again. (gee, did we just invent a whole new thing to hoard? Thank goodness bytes are smaller than yarn ;)). You can get it anytime..if you leave it in Dropbox, but somewhere outside the knitCompanion home, you can always navigate to it and import it again.

Happy knitting!

Sally

TotW — May 6, 2012 — Newsletter and 2.1

This week, our tip will again focus on preparation for the new 2.1 update. I’ll be dropping our next newsletter update that will provide detailed information about what is coming in 2.1. It will also have a link and PASSWORD so you can get early access to the PDF version of our new help. This early access will only be available via the newsletter. Once 2.1 is released, the PDF will be available on knitCompanion.com to all.

If you haven’t signed up for our newsletter, now is the time!

Also, there are about 33 folks who asked to register, but who never confirmed. Mostly this is because the confirmation email probably went to your junk or spam folder (some systems have multiple layers of protection so you might have several spots to look). To avoid this, you should add newsletter@knitcompanion.com to your safe, non-junk senders list.

Later today, my webmaster (aka hubbie) is going to send a new confirmation email out to everyone who is not yet confirmed.

On Tuesday May 8th (later in the day Colorado time) I am going to send a “test” newsletter to all subscribers who are confirmed. If you think your are subscribed but don’t get that test, then try again. Remember, after you subscribe, we send a confirmation email that you have to respond to to really be signed up. (Its an anti-spam thing).

The actual newsletter will come out on Friday May 11th our next newsletter will drop, with all the 2.1 details AND access to the new documentation. Keep in mind the 2.1 documentation won’t match 2.0, it is a sneak peak.

Sally

TotW — April 22, 2012 — Cloud and Dropbox

This weeks tip is focused on getting you ready for the upcoming release of kc 2.1. More later on the full set of features, but today we will focus on the concept of a cloud and one specific cloud called Dropbox.

What is a cloud? A cloud is a place on the Internet where you can store stuff. You can think of it as a giant hard drive in the sky. Then, you can access this stuff from any device, computer, etc. You don’t need a cable to get at your cloud (either to put something there or get something down). And what you put in the cloud isn’t available to anyone else unless you chose to share it with them. Its very convenient if you have more than one computing device and want things accessible at random times when you are out and about. Or, if you hate wires, or want to store things in a second place for safety. You can get at your cloud from pretty much any computing device you have, which means it becomes a very convenient way to both sync information to and from a common place across devices as well as a super location for organizing your content.

What is Dropbox? Dropbox is a brand of cloud. It’s is quite popular, and many of you may have a Dropbox account already. If not, you can learn more here. Basically, you setup an account. Dropbox gives you some storage for free and if you want more than that there is a fee. Once you’ve got an account, you can have all your computers see your account, so everything you put there is available. There is a dropbox app for windows, mac, iDevices, etc. and of course you can get to all of it using any browser too.

What does this have to do with kc 2.1? Starting with the next update, we will be supporting direct access to dropbox. That means:

  1. you will be able to use any PDF in dropbox to create a kc pattern. No open in , no iTunes.
  2. you will be able to sync your kc projects between devices easily using Dropbox as a transfer mechanism. No more iTunes file sharing.
  3. you will be able to back up your projects to a new location outside of iTunes and apple so if there is a burp you won’t have lost your projects. And, it happens with one step from inside kc. No more iTunes file sharing and copying files to your hard drive manually.
  4. You will be able to archive a kc project off of your iPad. You can then delete it from kc, but it is safe for retrieval from Dropbox if you want to knit it in the future.

Now, kc 2.1 isn’t going to require that you use Dropbox. You will be able to use iTunes still (but you will have to sync and tether and copy things manually). However, we are going to recommend that you use Dropbox, it will be seamless and easy with no extra steps for sync, backup, etc.

If you already have a Dropbox account and use it, you are in good shape. Now might be a good time to start thinking how you’d like to put PDFs up there for easy kc setup. If you don’t have Dropbox, there are a few weeks for you to investigate and check it out. I’d encourage you to get setup and play around with it. That way when 2.1 comes out you’ll be ready to decide how you want to proceed, and you’ll have some experience that will let you learn the new kc features faster.

Finally, yes, there are other clouds. We will expand to them over time. This includes iCloud. We had to pick one, and there were lots of reasons we picked Dropbox to go first over iCloud and others. Suffice it to say it was the quickest path to solving as many challenges at once as we could find. It solves the open in dilemma, the sync and backup dilemma, it’s free up to 2g so it’s economical for you, and it’s very widely adopted so we know many of you use it already.

TotW — April 15, 2012 — Stitch Marker Width

This week we will explore controlling with width of stitch markers. Specifically, we are talking about the width of the stitch markers that mimic your real world stitch markers that sit on the needles between stitches in your knitting (Quick Edit, Stitch Markers, New Stitch Marker) as well as the line that you can move with the sliding markers (stitch or row).

By default, we made these markers 2 pixels wide. Sometimes that is just fine, and sometimes it is not wide enough. You might want a wider marker if the chart lines are more on the thick side, or if you have trouble seeing the markers clearly.

To adjust this, tap Preferences, and find Stitch Marker Width. The bigger the number there, the wider the markers.

TotW — April 1, 2012 — Handling Errata

This weeks tip, handling errata. Errata happens, so, how do we make adjustments once we’ve setup a pattern in kc?

For charts:
I add a row media for each line of a chart that has errata, that is specific about what to do to correct the error. It is knitter’s choice if you want an audio reminder to auto play when you move to the row. My new favorite system is to mark the stitch(es) affected using a single stitch colored black. The black is 50% opaque, but dark enough to make it clear the stitch has an issue, so I remember when I get to it (even if the row is wide) and can look below for the corrections. (Of course you can use whatever color you like, as long as you know it means errata!) See sample screenshot below for what the black looks like.

For written information, I use highlights, also black, to mark the specific words that need fixing and make a popup text (I use blue for errata, but then again, use what works for you) that has the correction and place it on the piece near the error. popups are found under quick Edit/Annotations. They are like sticky notes for your pieces. They come in 4 colors (so you can color code different types of notes, maybe errata is always a color), and like row media you can have audio or typed instructions. you can place them on your chart. To see their contents, just tap the note and it will open. To close it, just tap the piece behind the note and it will close.

TotW — March 17, 2012 – Ordering Pieces

We are doing something new with Tip of the Week!  Starting this week I’ll be putting it here as well as Ravelry, and then it will magically auto-publish to facebook as well.  This is very exciting for the webmaster as it saves him lots of work.

This week’s tip is going to focus on ordering your pieces on the piece bar. By default, as you make pieces, keys, and templates, they are added below the existing items of that type. For templates this really doesn’t matter. If you have several keys, you may want to order them a certain way so that toggling on the main page follows the order you want. But for Pieces, order can be more important. Personally, I like my piece bar on the main page to “flow” from left to right in the order I’m going to knit. Admittedly this doesn’t always work out, but it is generally how I think…finish a piece and move on to the next.

So, what happens if you didn’t create your pieces in the order you want them to show in the piece bar? No worries! You can rearrange pieces, keys and templates easily from the setup page. Just touch where those grabber icons are to the far right of the item and drag that item up or down in the list. You can’t move a type of thing (key, piece, template) out of its section, but you can arrange them in a particular order within a section.

The order for the piece bar will be top to bottom from the setup page translated to left to right on the piece bar.

See this screenshot:

Get Ready, Get Set…

Well, its been a busy 6 weeks here at knitCompanion, and clearly the blog has suffered some neglect. I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the interest everyone is showing.  As I think back over the last 6 weeks, things have really changed.  I’ve gone from not knowing what kind of reception knitCompanion would have (did it just seem like a good idea in my head?) to realizing it actually is a great idea!  Along the way, we have hit several very important milestones:

  • Selection of our final designer team so knitCompanion can bring you free patterns already setup.  That means you can try knitCompanion for free and see what it can do before you buy.
  • Completed beta testing.  Thank goodness for our beta testers, their input was invaluable and made knitCompanion so much better.
  • Launched our group on Ravelry.
  • Submission of knitCompanion to Apple for final review (this is the last step to going live!).
  • Another major website update to provide you the best service possible including:
    • FAQ system complete with FAQs
    • Support ticket system
    • Newsletter system and first newsletter delivery
    • Tons of new information about knitCompanion and our designer partners
  • Our first contest and give-away thanks to the good folks (and yaks!) at Bijou Basin.

We’ve also been working really hard to finalize the availability date for knitCompanion.  I know a lot of you are wondering why this is taking so long, but there really is a good reason.  We’ve changed our target release date twice over the last 6 weeks, but instead of delaying as usually happens, we are actually pulling it in! What was August became July and its been steadily moving earlier and earlier in July. The midnight oil has been burning around the clock to make knitCompanion available as early in July as humanly possible.

Because we are pulling the date in, I’ll be sending a special edition of the newsletter out to all who are subscribed when we have a final date.  So don’t wait, subscribe now so you don’t miss the launch!