APPS AND SOFTWARE
Drawing and sketching were once activities limited to pencil and paper, but for budding artists in the digital age, there’s a wealth of online, browser-based tools to let your creativity run wild.
It doesn’t just have to be a hobby or pastime, though — drawing is useful for brainstorming and problem-solving, and these web apps can aid in any profession.
VISIT ALSO: 3 Tools to Build Your Mobile Apps
We’ve picked 12 of the best drawing and sketching apps to suit any level of artist, ranging from professional-grade applications to simple tools for doodling. They’re all free, and since they’re all online, they can be accessed from anywhere.
Sketchpad is a browser-based drawing and image editor built in HTML5, combining WebGL effects with vector editing. Its rich, flexible feature set means you can create almost any image you want. It’s super simple to save your work — just click the disk icon in the top right of the screen, and the program displays your image as a PNG, which you can then save to your desktop.
The drawing tools include text, brush, shape, pencil, paint bucket, stamp, spirograph, calligraphy, marquee, crop, eraser and color-picker. Sketchpad also supports gradients, and the History palette allows you to review previous revisions.
PencilApp is a recently released, simple, browser-based pencil application that is perfect for quick sketches and drawings. It features a minimalist interface with just a pencil, eraser and a text-typing tool. You can change the size of the text and choose from one of the five pre-defined colors.
While there’s no “undo” command, you can choose the eraser tool and edit out something you’ve drawn. The Save function allows you to save your artwork as an image.
PencilApp is built using HTML5, CSS3 and the (jQuery) jqScribble plugin.
AWW (which stands for A Web Whiteboard) is an online whiteboard and drawing app that allows for basic collaboration with a group of people using a variety of devices. The simplistic nature of the interface and controls means there is a low learning curve and you can get started straight away.
It features a choice of seven colors, three sizes of pencil, an eraser and a text tool. To invite others to collaborate, just send them a link to your drawing board and they can join the project. You can save the drawing as a PNG image and upload, share or send through email.
You can embed AWW on your own site using the plugin or API.
Sumo Paint is a fully featured image editing and painting app, which at first glance feels like a browser-based version of Adobe Photoshop. You can edit existing images or start with a blank canvas, with a wealth of advanced features to make use of, including layering tools, blending modes, blur tools and the ability to make finite adjustments to an image to improve the quality.
Other options include contrast, color balance, brightness and more. Once you’ve finished your creation, you can save the image to your desktop in PNG or JPG format, or as a SUMO file that you can open and edit at a later time.
QueekyPaint is a unique online drawing tool that allows you to create videos of your work while you’re painting. You can create your own speed paint artwork, or visit the galleries to learn from the creation process of other artists. It also offers you the ability to edit your photos, publish your artwork and collaborate in projects and groups to meet artists with similar interests. You can even create your own group for a specific topic and invite others to join.
Save artwork to your desktop or Queeky account, or export it as a JPG, GIF or PNG. You can edit images using the suite of tools provided, which includes generic tools, layer effects, filters and adjustment options such as contrast, brightness and more.
Pencil Madness is a simple app that lets you draw and publish images to the Pencil Madness gallery. You can save Images to your desktop as JPG or SVG files once you’re finished. The app features a number of brushes and brush effects to draw whatever you choose, along with a range of colors. You can change the size and opacity of the brush, use the eraser, zoom in and out, and even undo and redo actions. Extract colors from an image to create a color palette to use within your drawing.
The app is also available on the Amazon App marketplace to use on your Android mobile device.
Sketchpad is a fun, feature-rich drawing application written in HTML5. It’s non-destructive and doesn’t limit itself to just drawing and sketching — you can even sign PDF documents and export them to your desktop, which is much more efficient than downloading, printing, filling in, scanning and so on. It features an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface with many tools, including text, paintbrush, pencil, calligraphy, stamp, spirograph, crayon, arrows and more.
You can undo, redo and erase any part of your creation, and even take images using your computers in-built camera.
Sketch & Paint allows you to get creative and get started quickly. Its simple interface and variety of sketching tools include a paintbrush, color kit, zoom view, eraser and opacity. You can set the dimension of the canvas, set your color and brush properties (such as size, pressure, diffusion, scatter and shake). Multi-level undo and redo is included, and every line you draw is treated as an individual object and can be dragged and deleted separately.
Keyboard shortcut functionality is provided, which makes it easy to select and adjust tools and settings.
Draw Island is a simple web-based tool for creating drawings and GIF animations, with the option of various canvas sizes, and featuring pencil and paintbrushes. You can increase the brush size and opacity level, or choose between the shapes available to create your drawing. There’s an undo and redo function, as well as an eraser to remove any unwanted parts of your artwork. You can use the color wheel to pick any color you want, or you can enter your own Hex code.
You can import images, easily create a GIF, control the animation delay, and add text to any drawing.
Slimber is a browser-based app that allows you to draw, replay and save your artwork. It’s easy to get started — just choose your canvas dimensions and begin creating. A palette of tools is provided, which includes a pencil, brush, line, shapes, paint bucket, eraser and color-picker. You can choose the size, spacing, shape, overlay and flow of your paintbrush and specify your preferred RGB color.
Once you’re finished, you can click “play” and it will rerun your artistic process. Then you can save and write a description of your artwork. Submit your piece to the gallery to see your creation and receive the URL address or embed code to share.
deviantArt Muro is an online HTML5 drawing application, released in 2010 as a celebratory offering for deviantArt’s 10th birthday. It’s perfect for both hobbyist doodlers and professional artists. Your work is saved automatically (to your Sta.sh account) from your first brush stroke, and you can share your creative process to be replayed, published and shared. There are more than 20 brushes to choose from, and you can specify brush opacity, size and fill opacity. You can add or remove layers and adjust brightness and contrast. Filters include blur, sharpen, high pass, emboss, noise and more.
Images can be exported as PNG, layers or saved to your Sta.sh account.
FlockDraw is a seamless collaborative drawing and painting tool that makes it easy to draw in real-time with other people (or simply create your own art). To begin, click “Create your session” and start drawing, and invite others to join by providing them with your unique URL.
Use shapes, text, lines, the brush tool and the provided color palette to create your own drawing. You change the size of your brush, and save your image to the gallery or share it on social media or via the unique URL.
Google Map’s newest version continues to deliver impressive upgrades, and now has the ability to display multiple routes on one page when plotting a trip.
When users search for directions by entering a starting point and destination, they can continue to add destinations to the maps without losing sight of their original route, Google announced in a blog post published Wednesday. During a test run of the feature, the number of destinations we were able to display on a single page topped out at nine.
As each destination is added, the map view automatically shifts to accommodate viewing all destinations on a single page. What’s more, the order of the destinations can be shuffled to offer different options in regards to time and mileage via foot, bike, car or public transit.
Once a user enters their destinations, they’ll notice a string of snapshots along the bottom of the map, which offer a look at some of the locations they’ve selected. But the photos aren’t just for show: If you roll your cursor over one of them, a grey line shoots out to indicate where on the map the photo was taken, delivering a bit more context, as you plot your journey into unfamiliar terrain.
Yet another practical addition to the new version of Google Maps is “upcoming events.” Users simply type in the name of a venue and, along with its location, they’ll find a drop-down list of upcoming events scheduled for that particular location.
Currently, these features are only available in English to users across the U.S. But as they roll out globally over time, touring unfamiliar locales around the world — as well as in your own country — will only get easier, and probably a lot more fun.
If you’ve upgraded to iOS 7 on your iPhone or iPad, you’re probably familiar with a whole collection of new features. But some of the best additions in the software update are hiding beneath the surface and take a little time to uncover.
SEE ALSO: iPhone Reborn with iOS 7
We’ve been digging deep into Apple’s new mobile operating system, discovering some surprises along the way. From night mode in Apple Maps to a faster way to close apps, here’s a few useful features that you can find — as long as you know where to look:
Go ahead and look at your clock app icon. Take a closer look. It’s an actual clock with a working second hand. A nice little touch from Apple.
If you slide text messages to the left, you can see the timestamp for all of them — not just the most recent.
By opening up the Compass app and swiping your finger across it, a new digital “level” feature is revealed. You’ll never have a crooked painting on the wall again.
Night Mode for Maps,
If you’re driving late at night, the glow of your iPhone screen can be nearly blinding as you try to use the Apple Maps app. Now, the platform displays a darker interface at certain times. This is less distracting and easier on the eyes when navigating at night.
Closing Multiple Apps,
You can close multiple apps at once! Here’s how: double click the home button to reveal open webpages and platforms.You can then swipe up to three apps at once by using three fingers and dragging them upwards.
Siri Controls Settings,
You can use Siri to set alarms and reminders on previous iOS versions, but now you can lean on her to navigate settings too. For example, by saying “Open Settings,” Siri will open the Settings folder. By asking Siri to “Turn Off Wi-Fi,” she’ll gladly oblige without you having to lift a finger. You can also tell her to make calls and play voicemail messages too.
If you’re getting harassing calls, you can now put a stop to it. Visit Settings > Phone > Blocked to add numbers you want to restrict.
Apps Near Me,
The Apple App Store has a new “Near Me” feature, which shows apps that are popular near your current location. So if you live in New York City, it will highlight handy apps such as NYC Subway KICKMap and Way2ride taxi, which lets you pay for cab rides via the app.
Find any other not-so-obvious features? Let us know in the comments below.
iOS 7 is being heralded as the most significant update to iOS since the debut of the iPhone back in 2007. But are the changes enough to keep up with the mobile competition?
iOS 7 is now available and as millions of users are learning, it’s different. Really different. Since its debut at WWDC in June, commentary about the OS has been mixed. The first few betas were rough — both in looks and in stability. We’re happy to report that the official release of iOS 7 is polished, thoughtful and packed full of new features.
The most visceral change to iOS 7 is its interface. As we’ve discussed (and dissected) before, iOS 7 is a complete visual rewrite of the operating system. Literally every pixel, every screen, every icon was redrawn and rethought for the new OS. The results are stunning.
Although the initial beta versions of iOS 7 left some users — and online commenters — feeling less than friendly, the final result is incredibly well executed.
Let’s set one thing straight — calling iOS 7’s UI “flat” is not accurate. Yes, the heavy textures and intricate icon details from iOS 6 and below are gone, but the amount of shadow, gradient and subtle texture in iOS 7 is anything but “flat.”
The parallax 3D background effect — while subtle — is one of my favorite parts of the new UI. It’s playful and whimsical — the opposite of the sterile, emotionless effect that often accompanies more “flat” interfaces.
The bigger change is actually with the color palette. Richer, more earthy tones are out and bright, bold primary colors and gradients are in. White space is also in abundance and when combined with accent colors and the Helvetica Neue typeface, everything looks ultra-crisp and modern.
Beyond just the look of icons, Apple has also changed the way apps interact. Animations are abundant — opening an app or popping into a folder is Ken Burns-esque. Gestures to move forward or back are viewable throughout the OS, especially in Safari.
Moreover, as I said when discussing the first iOS 7 beta, everything just feels faster and more fluid.
The visual language for text also received an overhaul. Not only did the system font change to Helvetica Neue, buttons have largely moved from icons to being driven by text. Some will appreciate this change while others will prefer the old glyph style.
Text takes a big priority in Notification Center — with natural language replacing the old widgetized look.
Notification Center and Control Center
Apple introduced Notification Center back in iOS 5. Originally, it was just a place to store app notifications, as well as offer a look at stuff like weather, calendars and reminders.
With iOS 6, Notification was improved, but the basic conceit was the same.
In iOS 7, Notification Center not only gets a big visual overhaul, it gets increasingly more useful too.
Now, instead of having all notifications displayed in one window, They can be grouped into three categories “Today,” “All” and “Missed.” The “today” tab is fabulous because it shows a textual overview of weather as well as your next Calendar event. Beneath, there’s visual overview of what’s happening on your Calendar that day. You can also see your stocks and a text preview of your events for tomorrow.
In the “all” tab, you see notifications from various apps. This includes text messages, email notifications and other app updates. The “missed” tab shows any notification you missed, either while your phone was locked or in another app.
For me, this has made Notification Center infinitely more powerful and useful. My only lament is that it’s no longer possible to compose a tweet or Facebook post from the Notification Center. This was one of my favorite quick-action features of iOS 6, and it’s sad to see it go.
The other “center” in iOS 7 is the new Control Center. Control Center answers a long-standing gripe amongst iOS users and offers easy access to frequently updated settings.
Pulling up from the bottom brings up a window that provides access to music controls, brightness, one-tap access to Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Night Mode and Orientation Lock. You also have one-tap access to a new flashlight, the timer/alarms, the calculator app and the camera. AirPlay and AirDrop are easily accessible as well.
The whole concept of Control Center is old hat to Android users, who have had easy access to these kinds of settings either through widgets, OEM skins or from Android proper since at least the Eclair days. In fact, some of the earliest Jailbreak tweaks for iOS were to add this sort of quick-toggle functionality. I’m not claiming that this feature is innovative — I’m just glad it’s finally on iOS.
If I have any complaints, it’s that there isn’t a Safari button on Control Center. Having one-tap access to the browser from any other place on the phone would be excellent.
Folders, Spotlight, Gestures
In the past, iOS was limited to 16 apps per folder on iPhone and 20 on iPad. This may seem fine for some users, but if you have hundreds of apps on your phone, you’ll be like me and have three full folders just of photo apps. In iOS 7, you can have an unlimited number of apps in a folder. Instead, folders now have pages that are easy to swipe through.
Spotlight search is also improved. In earlier versions of iOS, you had to swipe to the right of the first page of apps to access Spotlight. Now, you simply pull down any home screen (except for from the top or the bottom strip of “permanent” apps) and a Spotlight search pops up. This is easily one of my favorite features because I frequently use Spotlight to quickly access apps rather than navigating through folders.
The swipe-down-for-Spotlight feature is just one of the many gestures added to iOS 7. With iOS 5, Apple added experimental multi-finger support for the iPad. This allowed users to open, close and scroll through apps more easily.
This has been expanded in iOS 7 and also includes more iPhone gestures. Swiping to the left or right on a tabbed top menu layout (like in Notification Center) swipes between tabs. In Safari, swiping to the left or right of the screen acts as back or forward.
Just as pinch-to-zoom naturally made sense as soon as it was released, the multi-touch gestures — especially for navigating forward and back — just feels right.
If you’ve ever used Palm’s webOS, you know how multitasking works on iOS 7. Double-tapping on the home button brings up an app selector — just as in prior versions of iOS — but instead of seeing icons, users see full previews of their other apps in a card-like fashion. Tapping the app window launches the app and flicking the app window towards the top stops it from running.
This is a much more preferable way of switching between apps than prior versions of iOS. It’s also easier for users to decide to stop an app or shut it down.
In addition to the new multitasking metaphor, Apple has given applications the ability to continue to update in the background. This is similar to the way Android apps work, and it lets apps perform tasks even if they aren’t currently open or being used.
In the past, Apple has restricted background operations to apps that use certain accessibility settings, some location settings (for things such as turn-by-turn navigation) and built-in applications. With iOS 7, developers now have an API that can allow an app to refresh in the background, grabbing new content and pushing it out to the user.
This is both a good and bad development.
It’s good because it means that a podcasting app — say Downcast or Pocket Casts — can automatically download new episodes in the background. The same is true of an RSS reader or an app such as Instapaper or Pocket. This type of background refresh was available to Newsstand apps in earlier versions of iOS — allowing users to have new issues of a publication automatically downloaded and ready as soon as they launch the app.
The extension to more types of apps theoretically means that loading apps that regularly poll data servers should be faster than ever.
To be clear, this isn’t a full adoption of Android’s multitasking system — which is closer to the “full” multitasking systems that desktop operating systems such as OS X and Windows 8 employ — but it does let apps get more information without being open or actively running.
The bad part of background app refresh (as Apple calls it) is that it also means that apps can suck more battery power.
Users can opt to turn off background app refresh — or select what apps have permission to refresh in the background via a panel in Settings — but let’s be honest: Most users aren’t going to be obsessed with finely tuning their background app controls.
As a result, apps that users don’t use very often might be able to make background requests, and this could drain battery life. I’ll be interested in seeing how Apple support starts advising users to use background refresh. In my own tests, once apps with background refresh became available, I noticed a more significant drain on my iPhone 5.
It’s not just the UI that changed with iOS 7; Apple also gave its built-in apps a fresh coat of paint, and in many cases, new features.
The Reading List feature gets a big update with support for links from your Twitter followers. Any link that’s included in a tweet from someone you follow on Twitter shows up in a stream. Tapping on the link opens it up and you can choose to read it now or save it for later.
iTunes functions the same as before, except it now has iTunes Radio — Apple’s long-expected Pandora competitor. We’ll cover iTunes Radio more in-depth in a future review, but it works well on the iPhone and iPad.
Apple Maps was given a visual overhaul. The realistic 3D maps are still there, but the mapping view is cleaner, and similar to what you see with Google Maps. Transit maps still aren’t built in, but we hope the recent acquisitions of HopStop and Embark mean that will soon become a native feature. Speaking of Maps, if you haven’t used them in a while (and I hadn’t), it’s worth revisiting. Most of the biggest problems from iOS 6 are fixed and I find the location data just as good as what you get with Google, albeit without built-in transit.
Siri gets a big update with iOS 7 — by way of an updated female voice and a male option for the U.S. Siri can also now be used to do system tasks — “open settings” or “open brightness,” for example. Siri is also better integrated with Twitter and can search tweets and mentions.
The camera software in iPhone 5 got a total overhaul. You can now easily move between photo and video with a swipe and take photos in a square format. There are also an array of live filters you can use for taking photo or video. The burst button lets you take shots in quick succession.
Viewing photos is now easier as they are auto-arranged by date and location, making it super-easy to find the right shot.
FaceTime now supports audio-only calls, which means you can have a voice call with a contact.
The phone dialer looks new and fresh, but otherwise works as you would expect.
AirDrop works on the iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPad mini and fifth-generation iPod touch or later. It requires that Bluetooth and WiFi be enabled and it lets users quickly share items with one another.
It’s a proximity-based technology — you can’t be more than about 15 feet away from a person in our test — but it allows for seamless sharing of files or photos. AirDrop is a snap to use. By default, you can share only with those in your contacts — but you can also enable AirDrop to work with anyone around you.
It’s not NFC, but for file transfer, it’s every bit as good.
Automatic Updates and New Built-In Services
By default, all app updates are applied automatically. This is great for users that hate having to slog through their updates. If you want to turn off this option and update manually, you can.
Vimeo and Flickr are now built-in to iOS 7 — just like Facebook and Twitter. This means you can share photos or videos directly to those services from the camera app and in other share sheets.
On the iPad
As of right now, the iPhone version of iOS 7 seems a bit more solid and refined than the version on the iPad. This isn’t to say iOS 7 is bad on the iPad — it’s not — but it doesn’t feel as polished or as finished.
On my third-generation iPad (the first with the retina display), I noticed that some tasks seemed a bit slower. This wasn’t as evident on an iPad 4 or iPad mini, so that just might be my device.
Some applications, such as Safari, weren’t modified as much on the iPad. Aside from the new omnibar — which lets you search or enter a URL in the same field — and icon theme, Safari looks the same as it did before.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a point update to iOS 7 arrive in conjunction with the next wave of iPad devices. That update might also bring one of the only features not included with iOS 7 — iCloud Keychain. iCloud Keychain was available in the iOS 7 developer betas, but since it works so closely with OS X Mavericks, it makes sense that it won’t launch until Mavericks arrives later this fall.
iOS 7 is a massive update. It’s not only an overhaul of how the system looks, there are tons of new features under the hood that change the way developers build apps and change the overall “feel” of the OS.
The new look might have been polarizing at first — but I firmly believe most users will come to really like it over time.
You really need to fully use iOS 7 for a few days to really get a sense of the changes. This is a big update but one that makes the OS feel more modern and complete.
Many Android users point out that many of the newest marquee features are merely playing “catch-up” with Google’s mobile OS. That’s a fair point, but it misses one fundamental bit of truth: iOS 7 still feels more polished and unified than even the pure Google implementations of Android.
iOS 7 has a little bit of something for everyone. For power users — the improved folder support, the ability to have background apps pull in new data, and Siri’s improvements really make life easier. For regular users, the new look and bits of UI whimsy are a fun addition.
As more and more apps are updated to support iOS 7, the more we’ll really start to see just what this OS can do. From game-controller support to better features for wearable devices, there’s a lot of stuff in iOS 7 that is still undiscovered. We can’t wait to watch it get better.
Bottom Line: Even if you don’t have one of the new iPhones, iOS 7 make you feel like you have a new device that’s more than ready for the future.
Last week, Apple announced that it would be making its iWork for iOS suite available free of charge for new iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. Now, Google has made its Quickofficedocument editing app available for free as well.
In a blog post titled “Freeing Quickoffice for everyone,” Google notes:
Everyone likes free stuff, which is why starting today we’re making Quickoffice available for free, for everyone. With Quickoffice, you can edit Microsoft® Office documents across your devices, giving you the freedom to work with anyone no matter what hardware or software they’re using. Quickoffice also integrates seamlessly with Google Drive storage so you can safely access your files from anywhere. And while the easiest thing to do is simply convert your old files to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, Quickoffice gives you another way to work with people who haven’t gone Google yet.
Quickoffice was acquired by Google in June 2012 and was relaunched by the tech giant exclusively for Google Apps for Business users in December. Now, it has been reopened for free, for everyone.
The new Quickoffice app also features a new app icon, the ability to create .ZIP folders, and support for viewing charts in Excel and PowerPoint files. Further, it boasts improved integration with Google Drive.
What’s more, if you sign in to your Google account from the new Quickoffice app by Thursday, you’re entitled to get an extra 10GB of Google Drive storage free for two years.
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad running iOS 5.0 or later, the new and free Quickoffice app is available now in the App Store.
Note that all other versions of Quickoffice have been removed from the App Store.
Get ready, Glassholes: Google Glass will get its very own app store next year.
The long-awaited news was first revealed rather off-handedly in a long New York Times Magazine piece this weekend, and Google has since confirmed it to the blog Marketing Land. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night.
It’s expected that the Glass app store will debut next year, and as Times writer Clive Thompson notes, a 2014 launch date for the store does makes sense because Glass will be available to the general public by that time.
Will the Glass app store stand on its own, or be integrated into Google Play? What will the process to get apps listed in the store be like? These are among the many questions that have yet to be answered.
The addition of an actual app store and wider Glass adoption should only cause an exponential growth in the cool ways people use Google’s wearable tech. We’ve already seen it hacked to fly a drone, used to live stream a surgery and leveraged as a virtual tour guide.
What’s next? Share your best, coolest and most out-there Google Glass ideas in the comments.