Share Tweet Reccomend

How to Take Retina Display Screenshots on PC using Firefox

In previous posts we looked at how to create mobile application projects using Apache Crodova and we saw how we could use HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript to develop mobile applications on this platform. And we also walked through the submission process of your app to various app stores (Apple’s App Store and Google Play).

One component of the submission process that we didn’t really cover is the process of taking screenshots of your application. These are required to create the “preview” aspects of your app that the app store will present before a user purchases/downloads your app. Obviously there are any number of ways you can take screenshots… everything from browser extensions, to online services, to pushing the “PrtSc” button on your keyboard. But one of the things that inevitably comes up is the need to take high resolution screenshots, particularly those of the retina displays of iPhones and iPads (displays with 2x and 3x pixel densities). Taking screenshots at these resolutions will lead to some pretty large screenshots. You can see the full list here in Apple’s developer documentation. As you can see, some of the screenshots require some fairly large dimensions. At the time of this writing, the 5.5 inch iPhones require dimensions of 1242 x 2208 pixels for hi-res portrait and 2208 x 1242 pixels for hi-res landscape. The iPad pro screenshots have to be 2048 x 2732 pixels for hi-res portrait and 2732 x 2048 pixels for hi-res landscape. Those are pretty big and you may not have a way of capturing a display this large.

So what to do? Fortunately there is a way to take high pixel density screenshots using the Firefox web browser. You don’t even need an extension and you don’t need a monitor with a high DPI (dots per inch) display. Here is how you can do this…

  1. To start it is assumed that you have your app viewable as a demo in the
  2. Open Firefox and from the menu select Tools > Web Developer > Responsive Design View.
  3. Set the resolution according to what you need. e.g. for 4.7-inch Retina displays (iPhone 6) set 750×1334, and for 5.5-inch Retina displays (iPhone 6 Plus) set 1242×2208
  4. Open the hamburger menu in Firefox and set the zoom level e.g. for 4.7-inch Retina displays (iPhone 6) you can set the zoom to 200% and for 5.5-inch Retina displays (iPhone 6 Plus) you can set the zoom to 300%. Firefox will change the pixel ratio according to the zoom level and will respond to resolution media queries. This will give you the correct responsive layout and high DPI rendering.
  5. Press Shift + F2 to open the console and type in “screenshot” (and maybe hit space bar) then <ENTER>. This part is important. You must use the console instead of the screenshot button to get a high DPI screenshot. Using the little screencap button in the developer tools is no good. If all goes well, you should see some kind of indication on the screen that the screenshot has been saved/created

Now you will have a high resolution screencap with the correct dimensions that you can upload into iTunes connect! Thanks Mozilla!

Share Tweet Reccomend

Base64 Encoding Web & Icon Fonts in CSS

For quite some time now, web developers have been making use of web fonts quite ubiquitously to add an intricate level of design to websites. Believe it or not, there was a time (late 90s / early 2000s) when there were only a handful of “web safe” fonts that developers could use and know that they’d be rendered consistently in all browsers across all systems. The main problem always has been that if the system did not have the font specified in CSS installed then the browser will usually fallback to some default font like “Times New Roman” (Ewww!) or something else. The only way to get web fonts rendering across all browsers on all systems is to have some way of downloading/importing the font into the web page that the user was viewing.

There were earlier attempts to solve this using things like cufon (*cringe*) but eventually browsers came around and all started supporting the loading of web fonts in CSS. With this approach you could include font files and reference them in your CSS like so…

@font-face {
    font-family: 'Rokkitt';
    src: url('fonts/Rokkitt-webfont.eot');
    src: url('fonts/Rokkitt-webfont.eot?#iefix') format('embedded-opentype'), 
         url('fonts/Rokkitt-webfont.woff') format('woff'), 
         url('fonts/Rokkitt-webfont.ttf') format('truetype'), 
         url('fonts/Rokkitt-webfont.svg') format('svg');
  font-weight: normal;
  font-style: normal;
}

This approach was taken from the “bulletproof @font-face” syntax detailed by Paul Irish from Google in the article here. At the time it was written it was necessary to use all those different font formats because different browsers supported different font formats in implementing web font functionality. By putting something like the above in CSS a developer would be able to use the “Rokkitt” web font simply by specifying the font-family…

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 {
    font-family: "Rokkitt"
}

As long as the paths to the font files were set properly in the @font-face block all the headers would be rendered in a slick web font called “Rokkitt.” And the great thing about web fonts is that they are not just limited to typefaces. You could also load up an icon font in the exact same manner to easily implement a vast catalog of icons into your project. Using something like Font Awesome, which was/is used by the very popular Bootstrap front-end framework developers can do something like this…

@font-face {
    font-family: 'FontAwesome';
    src: url('../fonts/fontawesome-webfont.eot');
    src: url('../fonts/fontawesome-webfont.eot?#iefix') format('embedded-opentype'), 
            url('../fonts/fontawesome-webfont.woff2') format('woff2'), 
            url('../fonts/fontawesome-webfont.woff') format('woff'), 
            url('../fonts/fontawesome-webfont.ttf') format('truetype'), 
            url('../fonts/fontawesome-webfont.svg#fontawesomeregular') format('svg');
    font-weight: normal;
    font-style: normal;
}

And then use icon fonts in a project like this…

.fa-glass:before {content: "\f000";}
.fa-music:before {content: "\f001";}
.fa-search:before {content: "\f002";}
.fa-envelope-o:before {content: "\f003";}
.fa-heart:before {content: "\f004";}
.fa-star:before {content: "\f005";}
.fa-star-o:before {content: "\f006";}
.fa-user:before {content: "\f007";}
.fa-film:before {content: "\f008";}
...

By assigning the content of a particular glyph of the icon font to a class you can add that class to an element like so…

<i class="fa fa-heart"></i>

and an icon will appear inside that element! Pretty slick!

Base64 Encoding Web Fonts
As great as web fonts are, their usage does add something that we have to maintain: the font files themselves. The hitch in all this is that you have to make sure that the paths to the font files are correct and in a place of the same domain so they are not susceptible to being blocked by CORS security in browsers. However, different systems might not allow the placing of files on a server or it just might be a pain to try to manage if you have many different web fonts for different implementations. Whatever the reason, if there were some way to take the actual maintenance of the physical font files out of the equation we would probably be much better off. Fortunately for us, there is a way to do this. What we can do if we don’t want to deal with putting the files on the system? Base64 encoding to the rescue! As it turns out, there is a way that we can load up these fonts without even having to deal with the font files if we encode the fonts as Base64.

@font-face {
    font-family: 'Name';
    src: url(data:font/opentype;charset=utf-8;base64,XXXXXX);
    src: url(data:font/x-font-woff;charset=utf-8;base64,XXXXXX) format('woff'),
           url(data:font/truetype;charset=utf-8;base64,XXXXXX) format('truetype');
    font-weight: normal;
    font-style: normal;
}

Where the XXXXXX slots indicate where you would actually paste very very long Base64 encoded string for that particular file. And if we are not concerned about supporting IE8 or 9, or older versions of Chrome or Firefox, all we need is the WOFF format because this format is supported in all modern major browsers: Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11, and the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox. So really, we just need to the one Base64 string of the .woff file.

@font-face {
    font-family: 'Name';
    src: url(data:font/x-font-woff;charset=utf-8;base64,XXXXXX) format('woff');
    font-weight: normal;
    font-style: normal;
}

All you have to do is to convert a .woff file for a web font (or icon font) to a Base64 string. There are plenty of online tools that will do this for you such as this one here.

If there is one downside here, it is that this technique *will* make your CSS slightly larger but it likely all balances out in the end because you have one fewer HTTP request to make.

Share Tweet Reccomend

Asynchronous Processes Inside of a Loop in JavaScript

As the web development world becomes more and more asynchronous with the emergence of technology stacks like Node.js, REST APIs, and some of the features we see in ECMAScript 6 (the latest version of JavaScript), there are whole new dimensions involved with how we exchange data over the web and how we code for this. One of the challenges with asynchronous programming is that there might be some additional considerations regarding the specific time that certain parts of your code executes and/or the order in which data is coming in to your callback functions that you set up to execute when your processes are complete. If things happen when you don’t expect them or in a different order than you expect them if you’re not ready to handle this, you’re going to get some undesirable results.

What is an example of this? What if, say, I had to do something this?

for(var i=1; i < 6; i++) {
    asyncFunction(function(data){
        console.log('The index is ' + i);
        console.log('The data is ' + data);
    });
}

Here I have set up a callback that will execute when our hypothetical asynchronous process is complete, but I also want to have access to the value of the index in the callback. If I had a list of items and I wanted to do an async process on each of the items in my list, this is some information that I would want.

If were to run this we might see something like the following in our console…

The index is 5
{ data: "item2" }
The index is 5
{ data: "item1" }
The index is 5
{ data: "item3" }
The index is 5
{ data: "item5" }
The index is 5
{ data: "item4" }

Hmm, that doesn’t look right. Why is this happening? Well, it’s because as far has JavaScript is concerned the asynchronous process that we run is done executing and JavaScript moves back up to the top of the loop and continues on. Thus, the value of the index in our loop rockets to 5 before any data comes back. What’s more, the data that we are getting back is coming in at different times in no particular order.

If we wanted to do things in a particular order, this state of things might be difficult. We might end up having to do some sorting after we get our data back for each item and we really do not have any idea when we are actually done (apart from maybe keeping a count of the response we get from our async process). This is a cumbersome and non-performant way of doing things. What we need is a way to maintain the context of the index of our loop in our callback function(s) so that we are able to keep some semblance of order as we do these async processes. How can we accomplish this?

Read More »

Share Tweet Reccomend

Submit Apache Cordova Applications for iOS and Android to the Apple App Store & Google Play

In the past, we have looked at setting up Apache Cordova mobile applications for iOS and Android with HTML5, JavaScript and how to develop for this versatile platform. In what follows we will look at how to submit your application to the app stores of the respective platforms once you have finished developing your application.

As we looked at before, you will need a computer with the SDKs of the platform(s) you want to release on. If you want to release for Android devices, you will need to grab the Android SDK. I actually recommend you install Android Studio as this will download everything you need for this and future releases. If you want to release for iOS devices, you will of course need a Mac computer with Xcode installed. Unfortunately, you cannot develop iOS applications without a Mac. So if you want to build and release for iOS you will have to find some way to get access to one.

You will also need to sign up for developer accounts for the platforms you want to release on. These developer accounts do cost money. For Google Play (Android) there is a one time developer fee of $25. For an iOS developer account the fee is $99/per year.

Once you have signed up for your developer accounts, we can build our applications for release on the iOS and Android platforms.

Submitting to Your Cordova App for iOS to the Apple App Store


Once you are satisfied with how your app functions on all of the devices that you want your application to run on, you can start the process of preparing your project for submitting your app to the Apple App Store.

To submit your Apache Cordova application for sale (or free download) on the App Store you will need to go through the normal process that all apps must go through before they are submitted to the store. Building an app for release on iOS is a fairly straightforward process. You need to compile the release file by running the following command in the root of your Cordova project…

$ cordova build --release ios

This will build your application for release. There will be a generated Xcode project in the platforms/ios directory

Next, you’ll need go to http://developer.apple.com and click on “member center.” Sign in with your developer account if you have not already.

Creating an iOS Distribution Certificate

Click on “Certificates Identifiers and Profiles” and then on the next screen click on “Certificates.”

Click on the “+” button on the certificates page and scroll down in the production section and choose the “App Store and Ad Hoc” option and click “Continue”

iOS

We will want to create a new certificate so we will need to open up Keychain Access. The easiest way to do this is in your Mac click on the search bar in the top right and search for “Keychain Access” and open this application, Click on Keychain Access in the menu in the top left, and in the dropdown hover over “Certificate Assistant” and choose “Request a Certificate From a Certificate Authority”

iOS

This will open up a modal which you can then fill out the e-mail address with your developer account e-mail and then a common name which can usually just be the same of your organization. After you have filled these out choose the “Save to disk” option and save the certificate to wherever you want on your computer.

iOS

Read More »

Share Tweet Reccomend

Develop Apache Cordova Applications with HTML5 & JavaScript

In a prior discussion we looked at how to set up a project so that we could develop an Apache Cordova application using HTML5 and JavaScript. In that section we mostly covered how to set up, build, and run the project — which consisted of the same application in the www folder that Apache Crodova bootstraps when you create a new project. In what follows we will look at the approach for actually writing own code for our app and will look at how an app in Apache Cordova gets initialized. We will also look at how we can extend the Apache Cordova platform by using plugins to give ourselves additional features and functionality that will make for an all around better user-experience (UX) for the users of our app.

Now that we have our project set up and all our platforms added all that we have left to do now is create our application by creating what basically amounts to a website that runs HTML and JavaScript in the “www” folder. How should one develop for Apache Cordova? Personally, I would delete all of the boilerplate files and folders and start from scratch. That is what we will do here. Just take a quick note of how things are referenced in the index.html file and do the same for your own files.

In doing this, I have modified the index.html file in the “www” folder to the following…

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
    <head>
        <meta http-equiv="Content-Security-Policy" content="default-src 'self' data: gap: https://ssl.gstatic.com 'unsafe-eval'; style-src 'self' 'unsafe-inline'; media-src *">
        <meta name="format-detection" content="telephone=no">
        <meta name="msapplication-tap-highlight" content="no">
        <meta name="viewport" content="user-scalable=no, initial-scale=1, maximum-scale=1, minimum-scale=1, width=device-width">
        <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="css/index.css">
        <title>Cordova Application</title>
    </head>
    <body>
        
        <div id="main">Initializing...</div>
        
        <script type="text/javascript" src="cordova.js"></script>
        <script type="text/javascript" src="js/index.js"></script>
    </body>
</html>

Note: Do not worry about that “cordova.js” reference or the fact that this file is nowhere to be found in our “www” folder. Apache Cordova will utilize this in the proper context when the app runs (so leave it in there).

So as far as the index.html goes, there is nothing too fancy. I have a css file (index.css) and a js file (index.js). That is all you need to get started.

Next, let’s look at our JavaScript in the index.js file. There is really only one thing you need to make note of when you develop Apache Cordova applications in JavaScript. There is a special event that Apache Cordova uses to tell the platform that the everything is loaded and the device you are using is ready to start running JavaScript in your Cordova application. This is what is known as the “deviceready” event. It only fires when you are running an app within a Cordova context (i.e. on a device or an emulator of a device). In a lean version of JavaScript for a cordova application would look like the following (in index.js)…

var app = {
    init: function() {
        document.addEventListener('deviceready', this.main, false);
    },
    main: function() {
        document.getElementById('main').innerText = 'App is ready...'
    }
};

app.init();

Here we are calling the “init” function which will add a listener for the “deviceready” event. When this event fires the “main” function will run, which in this case just changes the inner text of a div element So if we run this using

$ cordova emulate android

or

$ cordova emulate ios

from the root of our project we will see our device boot up, our app launch, and if all goes well we will see the text “App is ready…” so we know that our event is firing.

Read More »