A while ago

(Un)shipped

Everyone on the Pixelmator Team agrees that creating new features is the most fun part of work. When developing Pixelmator, we experiment with lots of things (new technologies, code-level tricks, user interface stuff, etc.), and we create lots of mockups, sketches and prototypes…

However, we adopt only a few features that we come up with.

For various reasons, we remove numerous features from our products one or two weeks before they are released to the public. For example, some Mac GPUs do not have some specific features that a feature uses, perhaps the code or UI was complete nonsense or the user interface looks or feels terrible or appears cluttered. In addition, there might be usability issues. We have created hundreds of bad features that are discarded.

We try to ship only those features that are useful and complete. In our opinion, learning from our mistakes only makes us a stronger company.

Some features that we removed the last minute include Shadows and Highlights (in Pixelmator 1.5 codenamed Spider), reflection filter (1.4 Sprinkle), indexed color for GIF and PNG Indexed in save for Web (1.5 Spider), precise numbers (1.3 Tempo), black and white (1.4 Sprinkle), page bounds (1.3 Tempo), gradient map (1.4 Sprinkle), document presets in cover flow, and send to Mobile Me (1.5 Spider).


We removed the aforementioned features for the following reasons:

  • Shadows and Highlights was too slow.
  • Reflection filter was too heavy and had too many controls.
  • Color indexing in save for Web had no future (Web no longer requires it) and added too much clutter to our easy-to-use save for Web feature
  • Precise numbers looked cheap.
  • Black and White adjustment had the wrong user interface that nobody liked.
  • Page bounds was not useful.
  • Gradient map was too simple and useless; it was better suited for Microsoft Paint.
  • Document presets in cover flow looked wrong.
  • Send to Mobile Me had some quality issues.

The removal of indexed color for GIF and PNG resulted in the biggest loss due to the fact that it took us nearly two weeks to develop the quantization engine. Although the indexing looked and worked great, we removed it following the last Pixelmator Spider 1.5 inside pre-release review. We thought that indexing had no future; we still think this. I assure you that I am completely confident that we did the right thing.

There were many more canceled features like those mentioned in Pixelmator. Unfortunately, I am not able to discuss them or show you how they look because some include secret UI objects or will appear in upcoming Pixelmator releases. I hope that you have an idea of how difficult and interesting it is to develop a single feature in any software application. I am sure that Pixelmator is not the only app built in this way. It is also likely that we will cancel some features of the Pixelmator 1.6 Nucleus; we have already canceled the new Crop Tool. It is a good thing, as I am sure that it will be much better in the 1.7 version.

P.S. A day or two ago, we created a fast version of Shadows and Highlights, which we might add to Pixelmator Nucleus 1.6. Further, you can try the slower experimental Shadows and Highlights adjustment now at your own risk by taking the following steps: Press Control + Option + Command + H when in Pixelmator.

Comments

  • Max Howell

    Not shipping something until it is done right is a hard thing to do, but I think it shows its value in how immaculate your product is. Well done.

  • smithsocksimon

    “ou can try the slower experimental Shadows and Highlights adjustment now at your own risk”

    You weren’t kidding — that is slow. As Max Howell says, you’ve admirable — some might say Apple-like — quality control and attention to detail.

  • Kieron

    Is there anything we can do to have you reconsider the indexing of colour? It’s the one reason I have to go back to PS when I edit images for use on digital TV set top boxes. Perhaps a new filter could be created that allowed the loading of a swatch and then performed the indexing?

  • Mark

    I wonder how many features are being removed/have been removed due to legal pressure from Adobe.

  • rado

    No!
    My situation is exactly what Kieron said. Images size is terribly important and THE reason I still use PS.
    (btw it did not work great, it had serious quality issues, compared to PS)
    regards

  • Santiago Lema

    Congratulations on being able to make good decisions. I once developed a competing product (ChocoFlop, now abandonned) and feature creep without proper optimization of testing was one of the main reason it ended up in a disaster.

    Pixelmator is looking better and better every day. Keep up the great work and one day you’ll have something that’ll really make Adobe not love you anymore 🙂

  • Hugh Gallagher

    Great article. I’m pleased to see you are doing semi regular news updates now – keep it up!

  • Deg

    Interesting post! Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look. Hopefully layer groups and editable text layers aren’t features that get unshipped!

  • fluffy

    When I save my webcomics out I almost always do them as indexed color PNGs, with dithering if necessary. 24-bit PNG is way too massive, and JPEG usually looks pretty crappy unless the quality is set high enough that it ends up being a larger file than the 8-big PNG.

  • Matt

    Indexed 8 bit PNG’s with alpha transparency is my most common type of file that I export when creating web site interfaces because a) the file size is often smaller and b) the transparency degrades well for Internet Explorer 6. The alpha transparent 8 bit PNG is one reason why Fireworks is better than Photoshop for web graphics. Without the ability to create indexed PNG files from Pixelmator, it will not be very useful for the creation of graphics on the web.

  • kasuja

    weird to show us what wo dont get.

    but did it give me hope for improved versions of the pulled features.
    how fare away is the next payed update?

    and are the rumors true about a pixelmator ap for iPhone.
    i thought i saw something about that on the pixelmator twitter

  • adrinux

    I have to agree with Matt. Index transparency for web exported graphics is a must for IE6, until IE6 dies a tool without it is only half a tool. I’m another Fireworks user, but it’s slowly being subsumed into the Adobe tar pit, *really* need a replacement tool.

    Or is this discussion of ‘indexing’ nothing to do with index (aka binary) transparency vs alpha transparency?

  • Tschundee

    IE6 is dead. Keep up your style pixelmator Team 🙂

  • Brooke

    I’d love to see Pixelmator come to the iPad (ahead of Photoshop!). Any plans for that?

  • Lightfoot

    I am so glad I stumbled upon you guys! I was about to buy elements and really didn’t want to. You have my support and I will stop sending people to G!MPi

  • Guntis

    “Further, you can try the slower experimental Shadows and Highlights adjustment now at your own risk by taking the following steps: Press Control + Option + Command + H when in Pixelmator.”
    Well, I press this shortcut, controls appear, I can move sliders, image is changing, but OK button is not active. Can’t apply anything. Only Escape button works.

  • Guntis

    Graphics side in Pixelmator is OK, now you really need to improve text handling in Pixelmator: please add controls for individual character spacing adjustment, line spacing control, adding drop shadow and outline effects to the editable text. Text handling is the weakest link now, especially comparing to the Big Brother.

  • Torsten

    Tschundee: “IE6 is dead.” – That my friend is wishful thinking!
    About 95% of our customers are forced by corporate standards to use IE 6, we must develop for IE 6 as the lowest common denominator.
    The stats show it clearly, IE 6 still has about 15 – 20% marketshare (depending on the statistics).

    Until this beast dies out, which might well take another 5 years, we are forced to develop for it.

    Until then we need a tool that copes well with indexed graphics, and for me this is Pixen.
    I am sorry I have to say this, but until Pixelmator ships with features the industry actually needs, it will stay a hobbyist tool. But then, maybe this is what the PM Team wants… who knows?

  • Mario

    I totally agree with Matt, adrinux and Torsten. Indexed 8 bit PNG’s with alpha transparency is the reason for still using Fireworks. Most of the time the file size is better the PNG24 and it’s the only solution for IE6. Please don’t remove already developed and working features because of the “clutter”. For many people, this would be a really great and useful feature that no application has (except of Fireworks).

  • Jimmy

    @Torsten
    The 95% of your customers don’t deserve rich graphics on a web. How hard is it for them to download a 17mb+ web browser like firefox, safari, Chrome or Opera and use it?

    If they’re too lazy to upgrade then theres no point encouraging poor behaviour. Anyone using IE on my website will get a recurring bug that won’t go away until they restart the computer and use a real browser.

    IE is dead to me.

  • Mario

    @Jimmy:

    Sorry, but you are the person who decides what web users deserve or not? Of course, the IE6 is a bad beast, but they’re people who can’t upgrade/change their browsers. Because they’re not allowed to change the browser in the company’s network. And we’re talking about a really helpful feature which was already developed and implemented in PM.

    IE is dead to me too! But i’m not the only one in the “internet”.

  • Marc

    It’s great to see careful consideration of features, and the confidence to wait for a better implementation, but I have to agree that indexed 8-bit PNG is an important file format.

    Working on web sites (esp. mobile), and various embedded systems (mobile apps, set-top box UIs etc.), I have to produce indexed PNG graphics in PS, then batch dither to various bit levels, and then optimise via ImageOptim (i.e. OptiPNG, PNGCrush, AdvPNG, Jpegoptim, PNGOUT.)

    In one sense I’d be tempted to ask for the PNG optimisers to be integrated into Pixelmator (a la ImageMagik), but with Pixelmator’s AppleScript/Automator support I could automate a lot of this process, and pass the files to ImageOptim.

  • Brian Burrow

    I would really like to see layer styles.. Drop shadows and blending.. That is the only thing that makes Pixelmator a no go for me.. I do like the Shadows and Highlights feature mentioned above. My iMac 3.06 doesn’t seem to render those features slowly as mentioned, but possibly on slower intels it would. I know you can fake a drop shadow, but that’s just too much work.

    On your save for web dialog, I would really like to change the size of the exported image, rather than editing it small to begin with. I like to edit in high res and then have a really sharp image when exported.

  • jojo

    Like to see desktop dimmed when im in pixelmator

  • Jake

    I’m really hoping for a decent implementation of Highlights and Shadows tools as those are super important for me.

  • Xero

    Hmm.. I know (Command-Option-Control-H) for highlights, and (Command-Option-Control-R) for a ‘reflection’ filter…

    I wonder what the other experimental commands are >D

  • Ian

    Another one is “noise”, or (Command-Option-Control-N), and another thing (I’m not sure if this is experimental), copy a layer quickly and drag it around using (Command-Optionl-Click)

  • Zaph

    I think the Reflection controls are great. Fast, and just the level of control needed. The realtime preview of what is happening makes it very clear and easy what to do.

  • Jet

    I need indexed output support to make indexed files for my videogame.

    Indexed files will always be useful in some domains; it’s just crazy not to include them.

  • Florent V.

    For the record, indexed PNG with RGBA colors is not only useful for IE6. It’s a nice graceful degradation trick for IE6, but the main purpose of this format is to reduce filesize drastically. When you care about front-end performance, serving a 10kB PNG-8 instead of a 80kB PNG-32 is a no-brainer, especially if the visual quality is close or identical.

    There are two tools on OS X for creating indexed PNGs with RGBA colors:
    – Fireworks (big stuff, not cheap, effective)
    – ImageAlpha (small utility, free, some limitations)

  • Jack R

    Gradient Map is not useful? Try doing a gradient map in Photoshop with two colors other than Black/White. A common, yet very cool, effect. Tell me how else you’d accomplish this.