Introducing Sparkle 2.0

by Duncan Wilcox — May 9, 2016

Boy oh boy where do I start. Sparkle 2.0 is glorious. You’re in for a treat!

First, Sparkle 2.0 is a free update for everybody who purchased any 1.x version from any channel, we thank you so much for your interest, support and early investment in Sparkle. We couldn’t have done this without you. The Mac App Store is now free to use just like the version downloaded direct from our site, with an In-App Purchase to unlock all of Sparkle’s potential (automatic for purchasers of 1.x).

Our Sparkle roadmap is chock full of improvements, but 2.0 is a particularly important landmark in Sparkle’s development. Sparkle 2.0 signals first and foremost that we have created a sustainable business and you don’t have to fear about Sparkle’s future. It is safe to jump in and use Sparkle to it’s deepest potential.

So what’s new in Sparkle?

Video and audio 

Sparkle’s video element has several significant improvements. First, it is now possible to embed mp4 video and mp3 audio from the local disk, Sparkle will generate an HTML5 player (based on plyr.io). An mp4 video file can be hosted on a web server, perhaps a content delivery network such as Amazon S3. For mp4 files, both local and remote, it is possible to scrub through the video and pick a poster image, or set a custom one.

A nearly identical video feature is available for full-window page background video.

All video flavors, Youtube, Vimeo, From Disk and From Network Location, add the embedding mode, that is how to display them in the page. You can embed them in a page directly, with the video player showing at the position and size you have chosen on the canvas, or you can have the on-canvas picture be clickable and open the video in a lightbox.

Editing 

There are a bunch of new editing features. For example you can rotate elements via the arrange pane, including rotating groups that contain rotated elements, mind bending geometry!

Holding shift while resizing now resizes elements proportionally, very useful for preserving the frame proportion of an image. Another neat new trick is copy/pasting an element style.

Something that was very complex to set up was independent borders, used in boxes, images, buttons and menus. It’s probably a very seldom used feature, but once you account for different border thicknesses, styles and radii it becomes pretty tricky! Here’s an interesting “debug mode” view of how the different curves are set up and clipped to match HTML/CSS behavior.

Contact forms 

Since forms are in large part used as contact forms, we improved and added to this significantly. You can still place a form elements freely on the page, the button you use to submit the form now has a special “email form via server” feature that automatically adds a little PHP to the form “thank you” page.

Links 

Interactive elements now have a uniform “On Click” section of the inspector, with slight variations. Significant additions are the ability to link to a scroll location within the page, with smooth scrolling of course, and to a downloadable file, for example a PDF. A shortcut for the latter is to just drag the PDF right into the Sparkle canvas.

Publishing 

What used to be a pain becomes the best thing ever. Sparkle has a super-polished FTP setup that nearly disappears once you’re done. After the streamlined configuration of our FTP settings, you only need to click on “Publish”, and Sparkle will upload only changed files to your web host. An extraordinary amount of effort went into this, including being held up by encryption export laws and having to wait months for a paper reply from some Paris office,

Sparkle 2.0 still supports MacOS X 10.9 Mavericks, on which we launched just over two years ago. There are however some low level differences in how Mavericks and later OS X versions are built that affect Sparkle with more complex websites, while we aren’t finished improving Sparkle, if you are on 10.9 and experience sluggish performance we strongly suggest you switch to 10.10 Yosemite or 10.11 El Capitan.

There are tons of new features that we’re in the process of adding to our documentation and in new videos. Thanks again for coming along and go download Sparkle now!

Sparkle is striving to become the best visual tool to create websites.

We will soon be adding more articles with example websites and more thoughts on visual web development.

Please check out the documentation for an idea on how Sparkle can help create websites visually, or download the free trial.

If you have any questions or feedback please get in touch.

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