Always something new to learn

I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator almost every day for years now, so I’m always surprised when I discover something new by chance.

For instance, I constantly use the cmd-space and cmd-opt-space shortcuts to zoom in and out while working, usually by drawing a marquee around the area I want to zoom to. What I just found though is that if you draw the marquee in the wrong place (something I do quite regularly), then releasing space bar and pressing it again (keeping the cmd and/or option key pressed) allows you to reposition the entire zoom marquee. Release space again and you can continue resizing the marquee. Genius.

While playing with this discovery, I also found that after pressing cmd-space to select the zoom tool, you can release the space bar and the zoom stays active. Am I stupid for not finding this sooner?

Some new images added to my portfolio

Flirtomatic doctor

I have been really busy lately, and have generated a lot of new illustrations that I am pretty pleased with. I’ve added samples of some of this new work to my portfolio. There is still a fair bit of new stuff to be added, but I’m waiting for clearance from the client before I publish it.

Posted in Illustration, News | Comments Off on Some new images added to my portfolio

Indus Valley makes the shortlist at the Digital Media Awards

After been nominated at the start of the month, The BBC Indus Valley site has made the shortlist of Finalists for a Digital Media Award.

I am very pleased to say that I have been invited to attend the award ceremony with the members of the BBC production team who worked on the site. This is the first time I have been to a Black Tie event, so I have had to hire a dinner jacket. It should be an interesting night, and hopefully the site will scoop the eLearning award too.

Digital Media Awards Award Finalist 2006

Posted in Illustration, News | Comments Off on Indus Valley makes the shortlist at the Digital Media Awards

Iridium 1.7 released

Steven Jay Cohen has released a new version of Iridium, my favourite theme for Mac OS X.

Iridium gives all application windows a smooth, uniform theme. I combine this with a 50% grey desktop background to give me a subtle interface that stays out of the way and doesn’t interfere with my colour perception while I’m working. If you are not a fan of Brushed Metal (why would you be?), and miss the uniform look of the Platinum UI, then I recommend giving Iridium a try.

It comes with it’s own installer, and creates a backup copy of the default Aqua theme if you want to restore the “factory” look. I have just installed this new update; everything works perfectly and looks great.

Indus Valley nominated for a Digital Media Award

The BBC Indus Valley site that I provided the illustrations for in March 2005 has been nominated for a Digital Media award.

The first ever Digital Media Awards launched in Dublin in January 2003. The objective of the event was to raise awareness of the emerging digital media sector in Ireland and more importantly to act as a showcase for the creative and dynamic work of Irish companies and third level institutions across a broad spectrum of categories. The first event attracted 220 entries across 20 categories. Over 500 people attended the event. The main sponsors for the inaugural event were O2, Nokia, The Irish Film Board and the Department of Communications.

Since then the event has grown both in terms of entries and attendees, culminating last year in an entry level of 350 and an attendance level of 650.

The Digital Media Awards continuously seeks to recognise and reward excellence in the digital media sector by introducing new categories, involving more companies and generating more press interest with each event.

The 4th Digital Media Awards will be once again seeking to reward the best and most innovative companies and pieces of work.

Fingers crossed!

Posted in Illustration, News | Comments Off on Indus Valley nominated for a Digital Media Award

Vote for this site on silktide

After reading about the silktide sitescore tool on Nitallica’s blog, I put this site to the test. It fares pretty well, getting the maximum score for accessibility and design, and scoring a respectable 8.5 out of 10 overall.

What brings the score down is my lack of visitor votes (hint, hint). If you would like to help me improve my overall rating, you can vote here. If you are feeling very generous, you could even link to me on your site. I’ll let you to bask in the warm glow of my appreciation (and a probably a reciprocal link) if you do.

Silktide SiteScore for this website.

Open discussions removed

For the few folks who frequent my forums, you may have noticed that the Open Discussions sections have been removed. Now all the forums require registration to be able to post comments.

This move has been forced on me by the continuous abuse of the forums by spammers, who post link laden comments in an attempt to leech off this site’s good search engine rankings. A few weeks ago I was forced to change the settings so that I now have to approve all new member registrations, in an effort to restrict the number of junk accounts being created. However, I left the Comments and Feedback and the Bug Reports forums open to guest comments, as I didn’t want to make it difficult for anyone to make casual feedback.

Unfortunately, the number of spam comments has continued to far outweigh the legitimate entries, so I have decided to remove the open forums completely. Even though the forums are not very active, I really hate having to make changes because of the actions of spammers and so called Search Engine Optimisers. These people are bottom feeding scumbags, who pollute the web with rubbish while leeching off the hard work of other people; much easier for them to try and take advantage of another site’s search engine rankings than to put the work in creating a site that will be indexed well itself.

Posted in Comment, News | Comments Off on Open discussions removed

OughtoSave 1.0

For Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) only

By Richard Smith,

Download (130Kb)

What is it for?

Do you ever get so absorbed into your work that you forget to save your progress, sometimes for hours at a time? Although most OS X applications are very stable, crashes do happen from time to time, and lost work can be disastrous, especially if you are working to a tight deadline. OughtoSave is a simple AppleScript application that uses Growl to remind you to save your work every 15 minutes.

What is Growl?

Growl is a global notification system for Mac OS X. Any application can send a notification to Growl, which will display an attractive message on your screen. Growl is free and Open Source. You can find out more about Growl at


To install OughtoSave, drag the application to [home]/Library/Scripts/ (You are free to install OughtoSave wherever you choose, but the Scripts folder is recommended because it will be available from any application via the Scripts Menu in the menu bar).

Starting the Save Reminders

To launch OughtoSave, double-click the application from the Finder, or select it in the Script Menu pull down list (to enable the Scripts Menu, launch /Applications/AppleScript/AppleScript Utility and check the “Show Script Menu in menu bar” box).

The first time OughtoSave is run, it will ask you for permission to create a launchd configuration file (a property list called com.drawingbusiness.oughtosave.plist) in [home]/Library/LaunchAgents/ (if this folder doesn’t already exist, it will be created automatically). Click Create to continue, or Cancel to quit.

If the installation was successful, you will be asked if you want to start displaying Save Reminders. Click the Start button, or Cancel to quit. You should see a Growl notification that the Save Reminders have been activated. The first Save Reminder will be displayed 15 minutes later, and every 15 minutes after that, until you stop the notifications. Note that OughtoSave will quit after you click Start.

Stopping the Save Reminders

To stop the notifications, launch OughtoSave again and click the Stop button. The Save Reminders will be deactivated until you run OughtoSave again. Clicking Cancel will quit without deactivating the notifications.

How does it work?

OughtoSave uses the Growl notification system and launchd to generate the Save Reminders. Launchd is the scheduling system that Apple introduced in OS X 10.4 (Tiger). It replaces the traditional UNIX Cron tool (among others), and enables events to be run at set times or intervals.

OughtoSave uses a simple Perl script to generate a launchd configuration file (com.drawingbusiness.oughtosave.plist), then uses shell commands to tell launchd to load or unload this file when you start or stop the notifications. Launchd actually runs a small AppleScript application called, which is hidden away inside the OughtoSave package.

I choose this method because, although it makes the application package more complex, it uses far less system resources than an AppleScript that has to stay open to issue timed notifications. Launchd is always running, so there is almost no resource hit adding another event.


To remove OughtoSave, first make sure that the Save Reminders are deactivated: launch OughtoSave – click Stop if it is available, otherwise click Cancel.

Move the following files to the Trash:

  • OughtoSave application
  • [home]/Library/LaunchAgents/com.drawingbusiness.oughtoSave.plist

That’s it.


Currently there is no user friendly way to change the alert interval. I chose 15 minutes because that is about the most work I could suffer loosing, but a long enough interval that the reminders don’t become obtrusive. If you want to change the notification interval, you must open the application package and edit the growlInterval variable in The value is the interval in minutes.

After editing this value, trash [home]/Library/LaunchAgents/com.drawingbusiness.oughtoSave.plist if it exists. Next time you run OughtoSave, it will create a new file using your custom interval.


If you have problems with the application, they can usually be solved by throwing away [home]/Library/LaunchAgents/com.drawingbusiness.oughtosave.plist. If you have a persistent problem, please send me an e-mail using the e-mail form on my web site.


This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license.

You are free to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work under the following conditions:

  • Attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.
  • Non-commercial – You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Share Alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.

More information:


Thanks to John Gruber for AppleScript version detection and POSIX file path coercion, which I took from his CSS Syntax Checker for BBEdit Script (

Thanks to the Growl Development Team for their excellent application.


This software is provided “as is” and any express or implied warranties, including, but not limited to, the implied warranties of merchantibility and fitness for a particular purpose are disclaimed. In no event shall the copyright owner or contributors be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special, exemplary, or consequential damages (including, but not limited to, procurement of substitute goods or services; loss of use, data, or profits; or business interruption) however caused and on any theory of liability, whether in contract, strict liability, or tort (including negligence or otherwise) arising in any way out of the use of this software, even if advised of the possibility of such damage.

A small complaint about Illustrator Smart Guides

I love the Smart Guides in Adobe Illustrator. They makes life much easier when selecting and constructing artwork. But they can be a real pain when trying to make small edits using the pen tool, as the handles and anchors can keep snapping to the Smart Guide constraints instead of where I actually want them to go. The only solution is to keep switching the Smart Guides on and off as I edit (the construction guides are too useful to be disabled in the Smart Guide preferences).

I really wish there was a modifier key that would temporarily disable the Smart Guide snapping, like the Ctrl key in Photoshop. This would make life much easier; fingers crossed for CS3.