As digital designers and creators, you probably agree that having a streamlined workflow is hugely important. There’s nothing worse than being interrupted by clunky, unintuitive interfaces, which is why we’re constantly working to improve the Vectornator (now Linearity Curve) experience.
Earlier this year we introduced some major changes to how layers, groups, and masks work, and we also upgraded our powerful Auto Trace feature. But we’re not done yet. Our talented Product team recently worked on a bunch of new improvements that bring the Vectornator interface to a whole new level.
In a bid to compliment the changes in Apple’s iOS/iPadOS 16, we created a sleek and customizable iPad experience that feels similar to working on a desktop app. Plus, we streamlined the Vectornator Inspector so that you can access all the options you need easily.
Read on to find out what’s new with 4.11.0 and scroll down for an interview with the team behind the changes.
Customizable action bar
Depending on what you’re designing, you probably have a few different actions that you use frequently. For example, perhaps you often select or deselect everything on your canvas, or you regularly copy the style of an object.
On iPad, you can use gesture controls for many actions, but when you need more of a visual reference, the Action Bar is best. With the 4.11.0 update, you can customize the Action Bar so that everything you need is quickly and easily accessible. Simply drag to add or remove items, such as Guides, Rulers, and Copy Style / Paste Style.
To learn more about using Vectornator’s Action Bar, head to our Learning Hub.
On iPad, the Inspector Tab (to the right of your canvas) is home to tools controls, style properties, layers, and import options. Dedicated Vectornator users will be familiar with its five tabs—Style, Arrange, Path, Layers, and Library—however, we wanted to simplify things a little. Instead of five tabs, you’ll find everything you need in just three.
The Layers Tab and Import Tab remain the same, but the Style, Arrange, and Path Tabs have merged into one streamlined Style Tab. Our clever Interface team tidied up the UI with collapsable menus, organized icons, and neat sections. By eliminating the clutter, we made it easier for you to focus on what you do best—designing!
Plus, you won’t need to spend time searching through our editing menus for the action you need. The Style Tab is content-aware, meaning it adapts according to the selected object or tool. For example, when you activate the Pen Tool, the Node options will be displayed, and when you import a raster image, the Auto Trace controls will automatically appear.
We recently sat down with Senior Product Manager Sabrina and Developer Lennart to learn more about the 4.11.0 improvements. But before we dive into the details, Lennart explains some of the changes in the video below.
Interview with the team behind 4.11.0
Hi Lennart and Sabrina! Please introduce yourselves and tell us what you do at Vectornator.
L: I’m Lennart and I work as a developer on the user interface.
S: Hi! I am Sabrina, a Senior Product Manager working with the user interface team at Linearity.
For those who aren’t familiar with Apple's iOS 16/iPadOS 16 update, can you explain why it’s important and how it affects Vectornator users?
L: iPadOS 16 is a big change for iPad users. Apple has announced a new set of API’s that are used to build Desktop Class Apps. At Linearity, we already have experience in building desktop class apps, as Vectornator is available for all platforms including the Mac.
The features that Apple has announced are designed to take parts of the experience from the Mac and take it to the iPad for the first time.
People who are familiar with Vectornator on the Mac will feel right at home with the changes on the iPad. The biggest change is the new top bars that are used throughout the operating system. Editor apps will have the possibility to customize the bar just like Mac users have been doing for the past 20+ years. You don’t need undo/redo because you’re always using the tap gestures? You can now replace it with a quick toggle for the grid or rulers, or maybe even snap settings!
S: Of course! With the iOS/iPadOS 16, Apple has invested in adding some more customization options for users. What I mean by that is that Apple is giving users more freedom for UI configuration, such as lock screen configuration, or a focus mode that expands the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature. This allows users to set up different permissions for apps but also many SwitftUI changes that we at Linearity can leverage to make Vectornator more customizable.
Our users are going to be able to configure their files, change settings, or select preferred tools more easily.
The main related features added in Vectornator are the new customizable Action Bar for which users can select exactly which tools they want to add or remove from the bar. We changed also our Navigation Bar to have direct editing capabilities and the integrated settings Context Menu to change up files configurations. We also added content awareness to our tools so that users get presented only with configuration options that are relevant to their selected tools.
4.11.0 comes with some big changes to the Vectornator UI. Can you tell us a bit about your goals for this release?
L: The goal of this release was to bring more consistency between all platforms, without losing their unique features that make Vectornator work great on every device.
The new Action Bar lets users that are running iPadOS 16 customize the app, making it easier to adapt the app to your needs. This is not only an amazing feature, but something that with iPadOS 16 is going to be a standard practice around the entire operating system, just like on the Mac.
We also simplified the Inspector by unifying the Style, Arrange, Path tabs into a single unified tab that’s content aware. Mac users will be instantly familiar with this design. The UI is also condensed and we added icons to the buttons in the Path and Arrange section just like on the Mac, making is easier and faster to make changes to your documents.
S: This release should help our users be more productive with their tasks by finding what they need more easily and effectively.
How can people use the customizable Action Bar?
L: The customizable Action Bar replaces what was known as “quick settings.” Adding them to your bar makes it quicker than before, because the option is just one tap away. They just have to go to the 3 dotted menu on the right of the screen and press “Customize Toolbar,” which is consistent across iPadOS.
You don’t have to customize it, though! We think the standard options are great and familiar to our long time users. However, it’s a great opportunity to make the app work like you want it to.
S: Depending on which tools are important for the user to create and export their document they can remove or add these tools to the Action Bar for quick access and avoid multiple clicks. This feature is of course only available if the user has updated to the new iOS16.
What were your reasons for changing the layout of the Inspector, and how did you go about implementing the new design?
L: We’ve been wanting to rework our Inspector for a long time. The iPad and Mac version were drifting apart more and more as they were developed separately. Also, from a design perspective there was a lot to win here. The Path and Arrange tabs were using a lot of real estate on the iPad, while on Mac they were just sectioned like any other. We brainstormed a lot of ideas on how we could make the UI smaller and more useful, by adding icons or adding support for selecting multiple values, adding an alpha field next to colors, or adding popup buttons to our UI. A lot of the changes we imagined in these brainstorm sessions have already slowly been released, initially to the Mac. Now we’re bringing them to all platforms.
S: We are a very user-focused company and therefore we are constantly monitoring user feedback channels and conducting user interviews. As a result of multiple interviews we understood that our Inspector was a potential area in the app where we could improve to increase user performance. Based on this hypothesis we started prototyping different solutions on how to improve/simplify our Inspector to make it easier to use. We tested multiple prototypes doing live user testing and came to the conclusion the selected Inspector unification prototype should be developed as it showed the most improvement to users.
What challenges did you face when developing the new improvements?
L: Big changes always mean that you have to consider a lot of use cases. People have grown accustomed to our UI and we want to make sure that what we’re changing is making everyone happy. These changes took a long time to take shape and changes have been very gradual. Now we can finally release our complete vision to everyone.
Thanks Lennart and Sabrina!
your ideas with
Take your designs to the next level.
Emma is a Content Writer for Linearity in Berlin. Her hobbies include making ceramics, roller skating, drawing, and 2D animation.