Tablets

Adobe is bringing Photoshop CC to the iPad 

It’s no secret that Adobe is currently in the process of modernizing its Creative Cloud apps and bringing them to every major platform. Today, the company is using its Max conference in Los Angeles today to officially announce Photoshop CC for the iPad. Sadly, you won’t be able to try it today, but come 2019, you’ll be able to retouch all of your images right on the iPad. And while it won’t feature ever feature of the desktop from the get-go, the company promises that it’ll add them over time. As with all of Adobe’s releases, Photoshop for iPad will play nicely with all other versions of Photoshop and sync all the changes you make to PSD files across devices. Unsurprisingly, the user experience has been rethought from the ground up and redesigned for touch. It’ll feature most of the standard Photoshop image editing tools and the layers panel. Of course, it’ll also support your digital stylus. Adobe says the iPad version shares the same code base as Photoshop for the desktop, “so there’s no compromises on power and performance or editing results.” For now, though, that’s pretty much all we know about Photoshop CC on the iPad. For more, we’ll have to wait until 2019. In a way though, that’s probably all you need to know. Adobe has long said that it wants to enable its users to do their work wherever they are. Early on, that meant lots of smaller specialized apps that synced with the larger Creative Cloud ecosystem, but now it looks as if the company is moving toward bringing full versions of its larger monoliths like Photoshop to mobile, too.

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The Surface Go is the laptop of the year

As a nearly constant traveler I’ve been looking for something like the Surface Go all my life. I’ve lugged around everything from massive ThinkPads to iPad Pros and I’ve always found myself stuck in one of two situations – the laptops that made the most sense were too heavy to be comfortably portable and the tablets and ultraportables I used, including the Surface Pro, offered too much of a performance trade-off to warrant swapping from a full desktop device. I tried a number of other laptops over the past year including my daily driver, the TouchBar-powered MacBook Pro, as well as a Lenovo’s oddly designed YogaBooks. Nothing quite clicked. The trade offs were always drastic. Wanted power? Sacrifice weight. Wanted thin and light? Sacrifice the keyboard. Want battery life and compatibility? Sacrifice the desktop experience. So when the Surface Go came out I wasn’t too excited. Now I am. When Brian Heater first reviewed the device he found them lacking. “And the Surface Go isn’t a bad little device, at the end of the day. At $400, it’s on the pricier side for a tablet, and certain sacrifices have been made for the sake of keeping the price down versus the souped up Surface Pro,” he wrote. “And unlike other Surface devices, the Go is less about pioneering a category for Windows 10 than it is simply adding a lower-cost, portable alternative to the mix. As such, the product hits the market with a fair bit of competition. Acer and Lenovo have a couple, for starters, most of which fall below the Go’s asking price.” He’s right. There are thin and lights available for far less, and the Surface Go, with its 6-hour battery life and mid-range specs, is no hard core gaming machine. However, the user experience of the Go when matched with a keyboard cover have blown other contenders out of the water. Why? Because, like Google’s Pixel line, Microsoft knows how to tune its hardware to its software. The Surface Go easily replaced by MacBook for most activities including light photo editing, writing, and communications. The Go ships with Windows 10 in S mode, a performance improving mode that reduces the total number of available apps available but, thanks to a certification process, ensures the apps will be more performant. It is trivial to turn off S Mode and install any other app you want and most people will do this, realizing that while noble, S Mode just doesn’t fly if you’re trying to use the whole breadth of the Windows universe. Once I turned off S Mode I could install Scrivener and a few other tools and even got some games running, although the tablet gets a little hot. That’s the real benefit of the Surface Go – you don’t compromise on apps, performance, or size and all of it is specially tuned to the software it runs. If you’re thinking of exploring the Surface Go you’ll find it’s not the cheapest ultraportable on the market. At $399 for the entry level model – I regret not splurging on the $150 upgrade – and $99 for the keyboard cover – it’s still more expensive than similarly appointed devices from Asus and Lenovo . That said none of those manufacturers could hit on all of the sweet spots that Microsoft hit. In terms of design and ease-of-use the Surface Go wins and in terms of price you’re basically paying a little more for more compatibility and performance. So if you’re looking for a portable, usable, and fun device that beats many other current laptops hands down, it might be time to turn your gaze on Microsoft. As someone who got sciatica from lugging around too many heavy laptops, your buttocks will thank you.

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Happy anniversary, Android

It’s been 10 years since Google took the wraps off the G1, the first Android phone. Since that time the OS has grown from buggy, nerdy iPhone alternative to arguably the most popular (or at least populous) computing platform in the world. But it sure as heck didn’t get there without hitting a few bumps along the road. Join us for a brief retrospective on the last decade of Android devices: the good, the bad, and the Nexus Q. HTC G1 (2008) This is the one that started it all, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the old thing. Also known as the HTC Dream — this was back when we had an HTC, you see — the G1 was about as inauspicious a debut as you can imagine. Its full keyboard, trackball, slightly janky slide-up screen (crooked even in official photos), and considerable girth marked it from the outset as a phone only a real geek could love. Compared to the iPhone, it was like a poorly dressed whale. But in time its half-baked software matured and its idiosyncrasies became apparent for the smart touches they were. To this day I occasionally long for a trackball or full keyboard, and while the G1 wasn’t pretty, it was tough as hell. Moto Droid (2009) Of course, most people didn’t give Android a second look until Moto came out with the Droid, a slicker, thinner device from the maker of the famed RAZR. In retrospect, the Droid wasn’t that much better or different than the G1, but it was thinner, had a better screen, and had the benefit of an enormous marketing push from Motorola and Verizon. (Disclosure: Verizon owns Oath, which owns TechCrunch, but this doesn’t affect our coverage in any way.) For many, the Droid and its immediate descendants were the first Android phones they had — something new and interesting that blew the likes of Palm out of the water, but also happened to be a lot cheaper than an iPhone. HTC/Google Nexus One (2010) This was the fruit of the continued collaboration between Google and HTC, and the first phone Google branded and sold itself. The Nexus One was meant to be the slick, high-quality device that would finally compete toe-to-toe with the iPhone. It ditched the keyboard, got a cool new OLED screen, and had a lovely smooth design. Unfortunately it ran into two problems. First, the Android ecosystem was beginning to get crowded. People had lots of choices and could pick up phones for cheap that would do the basics. Why lay the cash out for a fancy new one? And second, Apple would shortly release the iPhone 4, which — and I was an Android fanboy at the time — objectively blew the Nexus One and everything else out of the water. Apple had brought a gun to a knife fight. HTC Evo 4G (2010) Another HTC? Well, this was prime time for the now-defunct company. They were taking risks no one else would, and the Evo 4G was no exception. It was, for the time, huge: the iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen, and most Android devices weren’t much bigger, if they weren’t smaller. HTC is gone The Evo 4G somehow survived our criticism (our alarm now seems extremely quaint, given the size of the average phone now) and was a reasonably popular phone, but ultimately is notable not for breaking sales records but breaking the seal on the idea that a phone could be big and still make sense. (Honorable mention goes to the Droid X.) Samsung Galaxy S (2010) Samsung’s big debut made a hell of a splash, with custom versions of the phone appearing in the stores of practically every carrier, each with their own name and design: the AT&T Captivate, T-Mobile Vibrant, Verizon Fascinate, and Sprint Epic 4G. As if the Android lineup wasn’t confusing enough already at the time! Though the S was a solid phone, it wasn’t without its flaws, and the iPhone 4 made for very tough competition. But strong sales reinforced Samsung’s commitment to the platform, and the Galaxy series is still going strong today. Motorola Xoom (2011) This was an era in which Android devices were responding to Apple, and not vice versa as we find today. So it’s no surprise that hot on the heels of the original iPad we found Google pushing a tablet-focused version of Android with its partner Motorola, which volunteered to be the guinea pig with its short-lived Xoom tablet. Although there are still Android tablets on sale today, the Xoom represented a dead end in development — an attempt to carve a piece out of a market Apple had essentially invented and soon dominated. Android tablets from Motorola, HTC, Samsung and others were rarely anything more than adequate, though they sold well enough for a while. This illustrated the impossibility of “leading from behind” and prompted device makers to specialize rather than participate in a commodity hardware melee. Amazon Kindle Fire (2011) And who better to illustrate than Amazon? Its contribution to the Android world was the Fire series of tablets, which differentiated themselves from the rest by being extremely cheap and directly focused on consuming digital media. Just $200 at launch and far less later, the Fire devices catered to the regular Amazon customer whose kids were pestering them about getting a tablet on which to play Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds, but who didn’t want to shell out for an iPad. Turns out this was a wise strategy, and of course one Amazon was uniquely positioned to do with its huge presence in online retail and the ability to subsidize the price out of the reach of competition. Fire tablets were never particularly good, but they were good enough, and for the price you paid, that was kind of a miracle. Xperia Play (2011) Sony has always had a hard time with Android. Its Xperia line of phones for years were considered competent — I owned a few myself — and arguably industry-leading in the camera department. But no one bought them. And the one they bought the least of, or at least proportional to the hype it got, has to be the Xperia Play. This thing was supposed to be a mobile gaming platform, and the idea of a slide-out keyboard is great — but the whole thing basically cratered. What Sony had illustrated was that you couldn’t just piggyback on the popularity and diversity of Android and launch whatever the hell you wanted. Phones didn’t sell themselves, and although the idea of playing Playstation games on your phone might have sounded cool to a few nerds, it was never going to be enough to make it a million-seller. And increasingly that’s what phones needed to be. Samsung Galaxy Note (2012) As a sort of natural climax to the swelling phone trend, Samsung went all out with the first true “phablet,” and despite groans of protest the phone not only sold well but became a staple of the Galaxy series. In fact, it wouldn’t be long before Apple would follow on and produce a Plus-sized phone of its own. The Note also represented a step towards using a phone for serious productivity, not just everyday smartphone stuff. It wasn’t entirely successful — Android just wasn’t ready to be highly productive — but in retrospect it was forward thinking of Samsung to make a go at it and begin to establish productivity as a core competence of the Galaxy series. Google Nexus Q (2012) This abortive effort by Google to spread Android out into a platform was part of a number of ill-considered choices at the time. No one really knew, apparently at Google or anywhere elsewhere in the world, what this thing was supposed to do. I still don’t. As we wrote at the time: Here’s the problem with the Nexus Q: it’s a stunningly beautiful piece of hardware that’s being let down by the software that’s supposed to control it. It was made, or rather nearly made in the USA, though, so it had that going for it. HTC First — “The Facebook Phone” (2013) The First got dealt a bad hand. The phone itself was a lovely piece of hardware with an understated design and bold colors that stuck out. But its default launcher, the doomed Facebook Home, was hopelessly bad. How bad? Announced in April, discontinued in May. I remember visiting an AT&T store during that brief period and even then the staff had been instructed in how to disable Facebook’s launcher and reveal the perfectly good phone beneath. The good news was that there were so few of these phones sold new that the entire stock started selling for peanuts on Ebay and the like. I bought two and used them for my early experiments in ROMs. No regrets. HTC One/M8 (2014) This was the beginning of the end for HTC, but their last few years saw them update their design language to something that actually rivaled Apple. The One and its successors were good phones, though HTC oversold the “Ultrapixel” camera, which turned out to not be that good, let alone iPhone-beating. As Samsung increasingly dominated, Sony plugged away, and LG and Chinese companies increasingly entered the fray, HTC was under assault and even a solid phone series like the One couldn’t compete. 2014 was a transition period with old manufacturers dying out and the dominant ones taking over, eventually leading to the market we have today. Google/LG Nexus 5S and 6P (2015) This was the line that brought Google into the hardware race in earnest. After the bungled Nexus Q launch, Google needed to come out swinging, and they did that by marrying their more pedestrian hardware with some software that truly zinged. Android 5 was a dream to use, Marshmallow had features that we loved … and the phones became objects that we adored. We called the 6P “the crown jewel of Android devices”. This was when Google took its phones to the next level and never looked back. Pixel If the Nexus was, in earnest, the starting gun for Google’s entry into the hardware race, the Pixel line could be its victory lap. It’s an honest-to-god competitor to the Apple phone. Gone are the days when Google is playing catch-up on features to Apple, instead, Google’s a contender in its own right. The phone’s camera is amazing. The software works relatively seamlessly (bring back guest mode!), and phone’s size and power are everything anyone could ask for. The sticker price, like Apple’s newest iPhones, is still a bit of a shock, but this phone is the teleological endpoint in the Android quest to rival its famous, fruitful, contender. Let’s see what the next ten years bring.

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iOS 12.1 beta hints at new iPad Pro

iOS 12 is still brand new, but Apple is already testing iOS 12.1 with a developer beta version. Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo found references to a brand new iPad that would support Face ID. First, there are changes to Face ID. You can find references to landscape orientation in the iOS 12.1 beta. Face ID on the iPhone is limited to portrait orientation. Chances are you didn’t even notice this limitation because there’s only one orientation for the lock screen and home screen. But the iPad is a different story as people tend to use it in landscape. And even when you hold it in landscape, some people will have the home button on the left while others will have the home button on the right. In other words, in order to bring Face ID to the iPad, it needs to support multiple orientations. This beta indicates that iOS 12.1 could be the version of iOS that ships with the next iPad. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a new device codename in the setup reference files. This device is called iPad2018Fall, which clearly means that a new iPad is right around the corner. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo previously indicated that the iPad Pro could switch from Lightning to USB-C. This would open up a ton of possibilities when it comes to accessories. For instance, you could plug an external monitor without any dongle and send a video feed to this external monitor. As for iPhone users, in addition to bug fixes, iOS 12.1 brings back Group FaceTime, a feature that was removed at the last minute before the release of iOS 12. If it’s still too buggy, Apple could still choose to remove the feature once again. Memojis could support iCloud syncing across your devices, which would be useful for an iPad Pro with Face ID.

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A new CSS-based web attack will crash and restart your iPhone

A security researcher has found a new way to crash and restart any iPhone — with just a few lines of code. Sabri Haddouche tweeted a proof-of-concept webpage with just 15 lines of code which, if visited, will crash and restart an iPhone or iPad. Those on macOS may also see Safari freeze when opening the link. The code exploits a weakness in iOS’ web rendering engine WebKit, which Apple mandates all apps and browsers use, Haddouche told TechCrunch. He explained that nesting a ton of elements — such as <div> tags — inside a backdrop filter property in CSS, you can use up all of the device’s resources and cause a kernel panic, which shuts down and restarts the operating system to prevent damage. “Anything that renders HTML on iOS is affected,” he said. That means anyone sending you a link on Facebook or Twitter, or if any webpage you visit includes the code, or anyone sending you an email, he warned. How to force restart any iOS device with just CSS? Source: https://t.co/Ib6dBDUOhn IF YOU WANT TO TRY (DON’T BLAME ME IF YOU CLICK) : https://t.co/4Ql8uDYvY3 — Sabri (@pwnsdx) September 15, 2018 TechCrunch tested the exploit running on the most recent mobile software iOS 11.4.1, and confirm it crashes and restarts the phone. Thomas Reed, director of Mac & Mobile at security firm Malwarebytes confirmed that the most recent iOS 12 beta also froze when tapping the link. The lucky whose devices won’t crash may just see their device restart (or “respring”) the user interface instead. For those curious, you can see how it works without it running the crash-inducing code. The good news is that as annoying as this attack is, it can’t be used to run malicious code, he said, meaning malware can’t run and data can’t be stolen using this attack. But there’s no easy way to prevent the attack from working. One tap on a booby-trapped link sent in a message or opening an HTML email that renders the code can crash the device instantly. Haddouche contacted Apple on Friday about the attack, which is said to be investigating. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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How to watch the live stream for today’s Apple iPhone keynote

Apple is holding a keynote today on its new and shiny campus in Cupertino, and the company is expected to unveil new iPhones, an updated Apple Watch and maybe some other things. At 10 AM PT (1 PM in New York, 6 PM in London, 7 PM in Paris), you’ll be able to watch the event as the company is streaming it live. Apple’s September is the company’s most anticipated event. And that’s because Apple releases new iPhone models every September. Rumor has it that the company should unveil three new devices, including an updated iPhone X, a bigger version of this phone and a new model to replace the iPhone 8 with a notch design. If you have an Apple TV, you can download the Apple Events app in the App Store. It lets you stream today’s event and rewatch old events. The app icon has been updated a few days ago for the event. And if you don’t have an Apple TV, the company also lets you live-stream the event from the Apple Events section on its website. This video feed has always worked in Safari and Microsoft Edge. And just like this year’s WWDC keynote, the video should also work in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. So to recap, here’s how you can watch today’s Apple event: Safari on the Mac or iOS. Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox on the Mac or Windows 10. An Apple TV with the Apple Events app in the App Store. Of course, you also can read TechCrunch’s live blog if you’re stuck at work and really need our entertaining commentary track to help you get through your day. We have a big team in the room this year.

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Scientists make a touch tablet that rolls and scrolls

Research scientists at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have built a prototype touchscreen device that’s neither smartphone nor tablet but kind of both — and more besides. The device, which they’ve christened the MagicScroll, is inspired by ancient (papyrus/paper/parchment) scrolls so it takes a rolled-up, cylindrical form factor — enabled by a flexible 7.5inch touchscreen housed in the casing. This novel form factor, which they made using 3D printing, means the device can be used like an erstwhile rolodex (remember those?!) for flipping through on-screen contacts quickly by turning a physical rotary wheel built into the edge of the device. (They’ve actually added one on each end.) Then, when more information or a deeper dive is required, the user is able to pop the screen out of the casing to expand the visible display real estate. The flexible screen on the prototype has a resolution of 2K. So more mid-tier mobile phone of yore than crisp iPhone Retina display at this nascent stage. [gallery ids="1702214,1702215,1702211,1702212,1702213"] The scientists also reckon the scroll form factor offers a pleasing ergonomically option for making actual phone calls too, given that a rolled up scroll can sit snugly against the face. Though they admit their prototype is still rather large at this stage — albeit, that just adds to the delightfully retro feel of the thing, making it come over like a massive mobile phone of the 1980s. Like the classic Motorola 8000X Dynatac of 1984. While still bulky at this R&D stage, the team argues the cylindrical, flexible screen form factor of their prototype offers advantages by being lightweight and easier to hold with one hand than a traditional tablet device, such as an iPad. And when rolled up they point out it can also fit in a pocket. (Albeit, a large one.) They also imagine it being used as a dictation device or pointing device, as well as a voice phone. And the prototype includes a camera — which allows the device to be controlled using gestures, similar to Nintendo’s ‘Wiimote’ gesture system. In another fun twist they’ve added robotic actuators to the rotary wheels so the scroll can physically move or spin in place in various scenarios, such as when it receives a notification. Clocky eat your heart out. “We were inspired by the design of ancient scrolls because their form allows for a more natural, uninterrupted experience of long visual timelines,” said Roel Vertegaal, professor of human-computer interaction and director of the lab, in a statement. “Another source of inspiration was the old rolodex filing systems that were used to store and browse contact cards. The MagicScroll’s scroll wheel allows for infinite scroll action for quick browsing through long lists. Unfolding the scroll is a tangible experience that gives a full screen view of the selected item. Picture browsing through your Instagram timeline, messages or LinkedIn contacts this way!” “Eventually, our hope is to design the device so that it can even roll into something as small as a pen that you could carry in your shirt pocket,” he added. “More broadly, the MagicScroll project is also allowing us to further examine notions that ‘screens don’t have to be flat’ and ‘anything can become a screen’. Whether it’s a reusable cup made of an interactive screen on which you can select your order before arriving at a coffee-filling kiosk, or a display on your clothes, we’re exploring how objects can become the apps.” The team has made a video showing the prototype in action (embedded below), and will be presenting the project at the MobileHCI conference on Human-Computer Interaction in Barcelona next month. While any kind of mobile device resembling the MagicScroll is clearly very, very far off even a sniff of commercialization (especially as these sorts of concept devices have long been teased by mobile device firms’ R&D labs — while the companies keep pumping out identikit rectangles of touch-sensitive glass… ), it’s worth noting that Samsung has been slated to be working a a smartphone with a foldable screen for some years now. And, according to the most recent chatter about this rumor, it might be released next year. Or, well, it still might not. But whether Samsung’s definition of ‘foldable’ will translate into something as flexibly bendy as the MagicScroll prototype is highly, highly doubtful. A fused clamshell design — where two flat screens could be opened to seamlessly expand them and closed up again to shrink the device footprint for pocketability — seems a much more likely choice for Samsung designers to make, given the obvious commercial challenges of selling a device with a transforming form factor that’s also robust enough to withstand everyday consumer use and abuse. Add to that, for all the visual fun of these things, it’s not clear that consumers would be inspired to adopt anything so different en masse. Sophisticated (and inevitably) fiddly devices are more likely to appeal to specific niche use cases and user scenarios. For the mainstream six inches of touch-sensitive (and flat) glass seems to do the trick.

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This happy robot helps kids with autism

A little bot named QTrobot from LuxAI could be the link between therapists, parents, and autistic children. The robot, which features an LCD face and robotic arms, allows kids who are overwhelmed by human contact to become more comfortable in a therapeutic setting. The project comes from LuxAI, a spin-off of the University of Luxembourg. They will present their findings at the RO-MAN 2018 conference at the end of this month. “The robot has the ability to create a triangular interaction between the human therapist, the robot, and the child,” co-founder Aida Nazarikhorram told IEEE. “Immediately the child starts interacting with the educator or therapist to ask questions about the robot or give feedback about its behavior.” The robot reduces anxiety in autistic children and the researchers saw many behaviors – hand flapping, for example – slow down with the robot in the mix. Interestingly the robot is a better choice for children than an app or tablet. Because the robot is “embodied,” the researchers found that it that draws attention and improves learning, especially when compared to a standard iPad/educational app pairing. In other words children play with tablets and work with robots. The robot is entirely self-contained and easily programmable. It can run for hours at a time and includes a 3D camera and full processor. The researchers found that the robot doesn’t become the focus of the therapy but instead helps the therapist connect with the patient. This, obviously, is an excellent outcome for an excellent (and cute) little piece of technology.

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Apple releases new iPad, FaceID ads

Apple has released a handful of new ads promoting the iPad’s portability and convenience over both laptops and traditional paper solutions. The 15-second ads focus on how the iPad can make even the most tedious things — travel, notes, paperwork, and ‘stuff’ — just a bit easier. Three out of the four spots show the sixth-generation iPad, which was revealed at Apple’s education event in March, and which offers a lower-cost ($329 in the U.S.) option with Pencil support. The ads were released on Apple’s international YouTube channels (UAE, Singapore, and United Kingdom). This follows another 90-second ad released yesterday, focusing on FaceID. The commercial shows a man in a gameshow-type setting asked to remember the banking password he created earlier that morning. He struggles for an excruciating amount of time before realizing he can access the banking app via FaceID. There has been some speculation that FaceID may be incorporated into some upcoming models of the iPad, though we’ll have to wait until Apple’s next event (likely in September) to find out for sure.

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Bannersnack makes it easy to punch the monkey (and more)

An app like Bannersnack is something you never think you need until you do. Designed by a digital marketer from Romania, Gabriel Ciordas, the app was originally called FlashEff and was used to create Flash banners for online marketers. Over time, however, HTML5 and graphics overtook Flash and the company pivoted to offering easy-to-use design tools for marketers and business owners. The service is free to try and costs $7 a month 30 thirty static images and $18 a month gets you embedded banners with full analytics. The company is completely bootstrapped and has been working in the space since 2008. “Bannersnack has always been self-funded. We built our resources step by step, as our business grew together with our efforts. We think it’s fair to say that we worked for every penny we’ve ever gotten and further invested it back into growing our business,” said Ciordas. The service has 100,000 monthly users who create 180,000 visuals a month. They offer standalone graphics as well as responsive HTML5 images. The most interesting tool, the Banner Generator, creates banners in multiple sizes instantly, freeing business owners up to do what they do do best: sell stuff. Again, it is rare to see a product so focused on a single, important niche and Bannersnack fits the bill. While you could fire up Pixelmator and try to make your own banners, this tool is surprisingly pleasant to use and works quite well. “Our main objective is to empower marketers, designers, and business owners, while reshaping the way agencies and businesses create visuals for their marketing purposes,” said Ciordas. After all, not everyone has the skills or talent to create flashing banners featuring exciting mortgage reduction opportunities and free iPad sweepstakes.

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