The Coppice Blog

News, tips, and sneak peeks

Coppice 2022.1 Released

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I'm happy to announce that Coppice 2022.1 is now available for release. I've been working hard on this since the start of the year, focusing on improving the functionality and usefulness of image pages.

Image Linking

The big new feature in 2022.1 is the ability to link from image pages. You can now drag hotspots over sections of an image. These hotspots can be linked to other pages or URLs, just like links on text pages. Clicking on the hotspots when viewing an image page will take you to that page (or open it on a canvas).

I'm really excited about this feature as it opens up entirely new workflows inside of Coppice. For example, if you're using Coppice for world building for a story, you can have a map of your world with links out to information about locations in it. Or you could be planning out a home renovation and have a floor plan that links out to various options for furniture or materials.

Rotation

Sometimes images aren't oriented the way you expect. It's annoying to drag an image into Coppice only to find it's on its side or upside down. Thankfully you can now rotate images directly within Coppice.

Cropping

Sometimes you want to focus down on a particular part of an image, so Coppice now supports cropping image pages. This cropping is fully non-destructive so if you change your mind in the future you can move or resize the cropped region.

Pro Features

Coppice Pro users gain a bunch of great improvements too. Firstly, you get even more choice when creating image links. Free users can create rectangular hotspots, but Pro users also gain access to Oval and Polygon hotspots, giving you a lot more flexibility.

One of the coolest features I've built to date though is auto-linking for images. As you probably know, Coppice Pro has supported auto-linking in text pages from the start, automatically finding text that matches page titles and creating links for them. Well thanks to the power of machine learning, Coppice can now find text within your images and do the same thing. As an added bonus, this also enables Coppice's search feature to match against text inside an image!


You can download Coppice 2022.1 by going to Coppice > Check for Updates… in Coppice's menu bar or by clicking the button below

Streaming Coppice Development

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Software development can seem like a rather opaque practice at times. People tap on keyboards and software comes out at the end. Most people only see the final result, not the many decisions that led to it. You also often don't get much communication with the people behind those decisions, beyond the occasional blog post, tweet, or support email.

I've been thinking of ways to help change that with Coppice. Last week you saw one aspect, with the introduction of the Dev Diary to chronicle what I have managed to work on the previous month. Another aspect is what I want to talk about today: the Coppice Dev Stream.

Developing Live

When most people think of live streaming services like Twitch they think of people streaming playing games or chatting with people. However, there's a small but ever-growing community of people developing software too. From games to websites to server side code, developers are sharing their process with people all over the world.

I've been enjoying quite a few of these streams. In particular I've enjoyed both Pirate Software (who is building a game) and DoigSwift (who build their entire streaming environment in Unity). These streams have inspired me to experiment with building Coppice live.

There are multiple benefits for me in this. For one, having a regular streaming schedule helps lock my focus down purely on Coppice. I've found that I'm far more productive while streaming than I would have otherwise been because I'm very present in those 2-3 hours of the stream.

I also have the benefit of people in chat offering suggestions when I'm stuck on a problem. I would have got to a solution eventually, but I've had several cases where chat has helped speed me up by pointing out the more obvious answer.

Streaming can also help work as a "low effort" marketing tool. Marketing is one of the hardest things for an indie developer to do, and it usually takes away from time that could be spent improving the app. Streaming allows me to make the development part of the marketing. It's too early to say how real this benefit will be, but it doesn't cost me anything to do.

Finally, streaming offers me a way to give more back to the community. Others can watch and learn how a Mac app is built. They can bring questions along for me to try and answer. Or they can just see out in the open that everyone makes silly mistakes or writes messy code from time to time.

Building the Stream

I want to go a little bit into how I've built up the stream. The first key part is the video. This is handled via OBS (the Open Broadcaster Software), which lets me build up various scenes. Most of the time I'm on a scene that captures my iMac's screen and adds an overlay and my little robot avatar over the top.

Screenshot of OBS. The top left is a preview of the screen. On the right is a Twitch chat. On the bottom are areas for Scenes, Sources, Audio, and Controls

The little robot avatar is my answer to the fact I don't want to have a camera on me for several hours. It uses an app called veadotube mini, which lets me set up a series of PNGs that will change based on my audio input.

Speaking of audio, that is the next key component. For hardware I'm just using my regular gaming headset. Now I did buy this headset because it's meant to have a better than average mic, but I haven't gone for some sort of fancy set up. With a few audio tweaks in OBS it's sounding pretty good.

The background music is a bit more involved. First is finding the music, as you need to get royalty free and DMCA friendly music, but thankfully I've managed to put together a playlist. Next is getting the audio into OBS. This is a bit Rube Goldberg-esque, but essentially I use SWB Audio App to create a virtual output for OBS to read. It also creates a virtual input for me to pipe the audio from the Music app to, which I do using SoundSource. A bit awkward to set up, but it works really well.

Finally, I have my Stream Deck. This is probably the biggest amount of money I've spent on this set up but, to be honest, the stream was just the justification to finally buy something I've wanted for a while. I've configured various actions to let me switch my OBS streams, switch my avatar between states, post messages to the Twitch chat, and even post my "going live" tweets to both @coppiceapp and @pilky.

Screenshot of streamdeck app. On the left are buttons for controlling OBS, in the middle are buttons for twitter and twitch, and on the right are buttons for controlling avatar expressions

Watching the Stream

If you want to follow along with Coppice's development, ask questions and provide live feedback as I design and code, learn more about software development, or just chat with me and others watching, then you can follow along live at twitch.tv/pilkycrc.

Currently I'm streaming twice a week. Every Monday I stream from 2pm-5pm UK time (9am-12pm EST). And each week I alternate between Friday from 2pm-5pm and Saturday 2pm-4pm, to fit around other work commitments. If you follow the pilkycrc account on twitch, you can be notified whenever I start streaming.

If you can't catch the streams live then you can watch the videos on-demand. The videos go up on Twitch immediately after the stream ends and stay up for 2 weeks. I've also started a YouTube channel for Coppice where I'll be uploading each stream a few days later.

A grid of 6 youtube thumbnails for Coppice Dev Streams

I hope you'll join me as grow both the stream and Coppice itself. As always, if you want to stay up to date with Coppice then also be sure to follow @coppiceapp on Twitter and subscribe to The Coppice Blog

Dev Diary – January 2022

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Back in October I wrote about how I wanted to be more transparent about the development of Coppice. There are several ways I'm wanting to do that, but the one I'm focusing on today is a new series of posts called the Dev Diary. This will be a monthly account of what work I managed to get done on Coppice, be that design, development, marketing, or anything else around building and selling an indie Mac app. So let's get started with January's edition.

Recovering from 2021

After the release of version 2021.2 I was feeling dangerously close burnt out. I took the decision to take the whole of December off from working on Coppice, and then take two full weeks off all development work over Christmas. Burn out is a dangerous thing, especially for an indie developer. I've learnt the hard way that it's far better to tackle it early to save yourself in the long run.

Thankfully, after this rest I'm now feeling a lot happier, healthier, and more enthusiastic about working on and improving Coppice, which bodes well for the rest of the year.

Starting Streaming

The first thing I worked on this month wasn't actually Coppice itself, but a live development stream. This is a place where people can tune in to watch me work on Coppice live, and bring comments and questions for me to answer as I work. It's another pillar of my transparency strategy and one that is also helping keep me motivated and focused on the task at hand.

Most of the work this month was just building the initial stream setup and getting used to the software, but I'm pretty happy with how things are going. I'm planning a more in-depth post next week, but you can check out the stream (including VODs of old streams) over at twitch.tv/pilkycrc.

Starting Version 2022.1

The next big version of Coppice is version 2022.1. This will focus heavily on improving the functionality of image pages. The two key areas I'm working on are some basic image editing tools, such as rotate and cropping, and the ability to create links from image pages to other pages.

I've already managed to get the rotation functionality built and have made a good start on the cropping functionality. The latter is going to take a lot more time than I anticipated as there are lots of small UX problems to solve.

Screenshot of an app displayed inside Coppice. Part of the image is highlighted by a rectangle, with resize handles around it

I've also started building out the designs around how linking hotspots might look, though this may take a bit longer to implement. One enjoyable thing about this whole version is it's pushing my graphical coding abilities beyond my usual comfort zone, allowing me to explore parts of Apple's APIs I haven't had opportunity to touch in the past.

Screenshot of the Coppice website inside Coppice as a page. A rectangle is highlighted and surrounded by dotted lines with resize handles at the corners

That will do it for this month's dev diary. As always, if you want to stay up to date on Coppice then be sure to subscribe to The Coppice Blog and follow @coppiceapp on Twitter.

Coppice 2021.2 Released

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I'm excited to announce that the second major update to Coppice, version 2021.2, is now available to download. This release brings improvements to linking and navigation, plus a huge number of quality of life improvements and bug fixes.

You can find a summary of the new changes in the recent Sneak Peek post, or you can peruse the detailed release notes for a comprehensive list of changes.

You can download Coppice 2021.2 by going to Coppice > Check for Updates… in Coppice's menu bar or by clicking the button below

Sneak Peak: Coppice 2021.2

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After many delays, the next major release of Coppice is almost ready. I'm still putting the finishing touches to it but Coppice 2021.2 should hopefully be out in the next few weeks.

2021.2 is focused on improving navigation and linking within Coppice. I've also had the opportunity to use Coppice more intensively the past few months. While I've used Coppice throughout its development, this more recent use highlighted a bunch of smaller fixes and improvements that should make using Coppice a lot more enjoyable. So let's take a closer look!

Redesigned Page Selector

The Page Selector is used in many places in Coppice. It can be used for jumping to a Page, adding a Page to a Canvas, and linking to a Page. The initial design was quite narrow with large rows for each search result.

The old Coppice Page Selector. Each result row has the page title and content on separate lines with large icons on the left

Part of the reason for these large rows was to allow for a preview of Image Pages. Unfortunately, these previews were rather small and not particularly useful, so I've decided to get rid of them. This opened up the potential for reducing the height of each row by moving everything into a single line, letting you see more results in the same space.

The new Coppice Page Selector. Each result row has the page title, content, and a smaller icon on a single line, allowing more results to be shown

The next big feature added to the Page Selector is the ability to create Pages. Every Page Selector now has a list of options at the bottom. Selecting one of these will create a new Page, title it with what was entered in the search field, and then perform whatever action you were wanting to do. This makes things like creating a link to a new page far easier, and I can't wait for you to get your hands on it.

The new Coppice Page Selector. The search field contains the term 'Creating'. The selector shows 2 matching results. Below is a section titled 'Create New…' with options 'Text Page' and 'Image Page'

Link Inspector

Linking is one of the key features of Coppice. Since its release, Coppice has been pretty good at letting you create links (even helping find links for you). But the UI for editing and removing links left a bit to be desired, and there wasn't really any way to view where a link points without clicking on it and seeing what popped up.

To solve this, I've added a new inspector: the Link Inspector. This inspector only contains one control, but it is incredibly powerful. If you select a link it will show it in the inspector. To change a link you can click the Link Control and start typing. Select one of the suggestions and the link will be updated. And to remove a link simply click the x button to the right of the Link Control.

3 images of the new link inspector. The first shows an empty control with the title 'Click to add link', the second with a link to a text page titled 'Pages

The Link Inspector does more than just let you link to existing pages though. The auto-complete is actually a variant of the Page Selector so gains the same ability to create new pages. On top of that, you can start typing a URL to add an external link, no longer needing a separate sheet.

The link inspector with the word 'Coppice' typed in the control, with an auto complete based on the page selector

Quality of Life Improvements

As I mentioned above, I've been using Coppice a lot more over the past few months and realised there were a few areas where I could make small changes which improve Coppice in big ways:

  • You can now duplicate Pages, either from a context menu or by holding option when dragging Pages in the side bar.
  • Text Pages now support tables. This adds a lot more flexibility in how you lay out Pages.
  • The Welcome View now lets you drag documents out of its sidebar. This is great for when you want to make a quick copy of a document without opening it or having to search for it in Finder.

There are also numerous bug fixes, including:

  • Changing the font size or weight now works more reliably
  • Auto-linking no longer links Pages to themselves and now works with smart quotes
  • Ordered lists now start at the correct number

Pro Features

Finally, Pro users are getting some improvements. The first of these is in the new Page Selector, where you can hold down the option key to display the folders a Page resides in, great for when you have multiple Pages with the same name.

You will also find two new options in the inspectors. The first is the ability to exclude a Page from auto-linking. Sometimes you create Pages to act as templates, or maybe they have a common word as their title that is linking too often. Well now you can exclude them with the click of a checkbox. And for those who want to see Page titles permanently on a Canvas, there is now a checkbox to make sure they're always visible, without needing to hover over the Page

Finally, I've redesigned the Coppice Pro screen in preferences. Previously, logging into your M Cubed Account to activate Pro left you with a screen that was a bit plain and awkward to parse.

The old Coppice Pro info screen

After a quick redesign, everything is better laid out, with additional options such as taking you to your M Cubed Account online.

The new Coppice Pro info screen

There are still a few more bugs to fix and various support documents to update, but I'm hoping to be able to get Coppice 2021.2 and all these great new features out to you in the next few weeks. If you want to be the first to know when it's released, then be sure to subscribe to The Coppice Blog or follow @coppiceapp on Twitter.