Detecting favicons in Yoink v3.3

One of Yoink v3.3‘s new features is the detection of favicons for webloc files dragged into the app, making it easier to quickly identify individual weblocs at a glance. (A webloc file is something Finder creates when you drag a URL/link to it).
Think of it as QuickLook icon previews, just for websites:

Yoink with webloc files without favicons

weblocs without favicons

Yoink with webloc files with favicons

weblocs with favicons

The advantage is obvious right away, that’s why I jumped on it the second the feature was suggested to me.

Optional Setting

Even though I really like favicon detection and have it enabled on my Mac, I decided right at the start that favicon detection would be opt-in (disabled by default), for a couple of reasons:

  1. It requires an internet connection
  2. It uses data (very little, but still)
  3. I thought I’d use a Google Service for this (which I discarded after the prototype) and wasn’t comfortable having users use it without their “consent”

1) Internet Connection

Yoink is not an app that should require an internet connection at all.
It’s a “local” Mac app, it helps you with drag and drop, why need an internet connection?

As a side note, the connection itself actually doesn’t happen in the main Yoink app, it’s an XPC service that has the sandbox privilege, so the main app isn’t affected.

2) Data Volume

A Mac usually connects to the internet over WiFi or an Ethernet connection, and the data transferred for favicons *is* very small.
But there’s still a chance you’re using weblocs like crazy on a Mac connected to the internet via your iPhone’s Personal Hotspot on a data plan, which also makes it obvious why the user needs to be able to turn this option on and off.

It just made me more comfortable to have users opt-in to this option, instead of opt-out.

3a) Google?

Google has a nice favicon detection service, which is just a URL you pass another URL into to receive the image data:

http://www.google.com/s2/favicons?domain_url=PERCENT-ESCAPED-URL

There’ no need to parse the HTML yourself for the URL to the favicon, Google does it all for you.

3b) So Why Not Google?

What if the service goes away?
With Google having a bad rep for some users, would they use this feature?
What about privacy? (I don’t know, but they might collect your IP and then know what URL a favicon was loaded for, etc.)

So even though it worked very nicely, I decided to implement it myself.

Getting the Favicon

With Google out of the picture, I had to roll my own detection and parsing.
What I do is actually very, very simple.

I load the webloc’s URL’s HTML content, and then look through the header part.
In particular, I look for one of the following lines:

rel=“apple-touch-icon”
rel=“shortcut icon”
rel=“icon”
rel=“apple-touch-icon-precomposed”

in that order. (I’m sure there are more I could go through, but those were the ones that I came across while testing.)
Should none of those exist, I just try something like:

•) http:// … /favicon.ico
•)  …/favicon.png
•) rinse and repeat for every image format you can think of

If I have no luck there, either, I bail and return macOS’ default webloc icon.

If I am lucky and I find a “rel” I’m interested in, I figure out what the href contains (an absolute link to the image, a relative path to the image, or just the name of the image file itself). Once I know that, I can load the image file and composite it into the final icon.

The final icon is cached so Yoink won’t have to connect to the internet and re-download favicons for weblocs that point to the same base URL.

Drawing the “personalized” webloc icon

I went through three iterations, each at its own, unique laziness level.

Iteration 1, laziness level 3 (extremely lazy)

Just show the favicon:

Iteration 1 of Favicons in Yoink

No wonder I didn’t use it. It’s so lazy.
Second, it doesn’t even remotely resemble a webloc file anymore. It actually looks more like an image file’s QuickLook preview icon, and that’s a bad thing, as it could very possibly confuse users.

So I went on to

Iteration 2, laziness level 2 (pretty lazy)

Show the favicon super-imposed on the webloc icon:

Yoink Favicon Icon Iteration 2

That’s better. But not good, either. Favicons can be transparent, like the one here, but they can also be opaque, blocking the WEBLOC text in the icon and making the overall icon look more blocky and less nice.

Onwards and upwards!

Iteration 3, laziness level 1 (not that lazy)

Crop out the “Safari” part of the webloc icon and paint the favicon below it:

Yoink Favicon Icon Iteration 3

If the favicon is transparent, I draw it on top of a white background (so it would fit with the rest of the original webloc icon), if it’s not transparent, the favicon’s background is used, solving everybody’s problems. And you can still see that it’s a webloc file, at first glance!

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Mac Developer Tip: NSTouchBar in a Share Extension

You’re working on your Share extension with support for MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, but it’s empty and doesn’t appear when your extension is loaded?

NSTouchBar Empty

The solution is simple:

Solution for showing NSTouchBar from within a Share extension

Call [self.view.window makeFirstResponder:self.view]; and it will push your glorious NSTouchBar onto the stack:

NSTouchBar working in a Share extension

Hope it helps – it would have saved me 20 minutes if I’d known ;)

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Follow-Up: Inactive Checkboxes Are Poor UX

[This is a follow-up to this blog post. It was inspired by the response I received through social media and different websites.]

In a previous version of Yoink, I had the following conundrum:

Yoink 3.2 Preferences Inactive Checkbox

The checkbox “Show window near mouse pointer when drag is initiated” is inactive and needs extra steps to be activated.
If I’m a new user of the app, at first, I have no idea how to activate that checkbox. At best, it’s something I need to set in this preference panel, at worst it’s a setting in a different one.
As a new user, my only option is to blindly change settings, waiting for one to activate the checkbox so I can select it.

There are different solutions to this problem, of varying degrees of effective- and usefulness:

  • A tooltip. If the checkbox is inactive and you hover over it, a tooltip appears, explaining what to do to activate the checkbox.
    It’s a quick and easy solution, however, it’s almost undiscoverable. I know of many users who don’t even know tooltips exist.
  • Hiding the checkbox instead of having it be inactive.
    That’s better, as it reduces clutter (as the checkbox would be inactive anyway). But it introduces another problem – nobody knows that the option even exists.

“For that UI, I think maybe an additional improvement would be to actually hide and show the checkbox completely instead of disabling it.
Also, indent the second checkbox so that it feels like it’s a sub-section of the first.
Another option might be to split things out into radio buttons instead of checkboxes and the popup menu.
That way you could expose the additional option tied to the appropriate radio choice, which you can’t exactly do with the menu item.”

Manton Reece, via Core Intuition’s slack channel

  • Speaking of radio buttons, Adrien Maston wrote me a very detailed mail with some ideas he had about resolving the issue:
    Adrien Maston Radio Button Yoink

Since there are only two options for « automatically show when », maybe the setting could be radios instead of a select.
Then each option would be formatted as a column and each column would contain specific settings (the « drag starts » column would contain the « Show window near mouse pointer when drag is initiated » checkbox. Then it would make sens that clicking the checkbox would also set to « drag starts ».

Adrien Maston, via eMail

What I ended up doing in Yoink v3.2.1, the release that followed this discussion, was this:

Yoink 3.2.1 Preferences Active Checkbox

Instead of having the checkbox inactive, it’s active at all times and can be clicked right away. The advantage of this is that for one, the user knows the option exists and two, the user can select the option right away without having to figure out how to activate it.
The downside, and this has been pointed out to me a couple of times, and I agree, is that clicking the checkbox changes two settings at once (the checkbox and the popup, as you can see in the GIF above). It changes a setting the user has made before. And that’s bad UX design on its own right there.
My thinking was, it’s in the same preference pane, so the user sees what’s happening right away. It still was the wrong decision (as has been pointed out to me in the comments on designernews.co).

For Yoink v3.2.5, I re-thought the whole thing and decided to make it three options in a popup.
This is the result:

Yoink's Behavior Preference Pane in v3.2.5

It solves a couple of things:

  • The inactive checkbox is a thing of the past
  • The options you have for when and where Yoink should appear are much clearer
  • You get a preview video for every option so you know right away how each setting affects Yoink
Additionally, I think it’s the nicest Yoink’s Behavior preference pane has ever looked, so that’s a plus ;)

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