A collection of screenshots of Pika, in dark and light modes.

Introducing Pika

A free, open-source colour picker app for macOS

Charlie Gleason
Jan 11, 2021 · 4 min read

Pika (pronounced pi·kuh, like picker) is an easy to use, open-source, native colour picker for macOS. Pika makes it simple to quickly find colours onscreen, in the format you need, so you can get on with being a speedy, successful designer.

It was designed and built from the ground up as a love letter to macOS, by a designer, for designers. In that spirit, the source code is freely available, as is the app, and I would love for more people to get involved in its roadmap and its future.

The TL;DR:

  • You can check Pika out at superhighfives.com/pika.
  • The source code is available on GitHub. Contributions are welcomed and encouraged. I have a laundry list of stuff I’d love to do in the project roadmap, and you can create issues, or open your own PR. The world is your oyster.
  • The core code licence is MIT, while all libraries and third-party extensions have their own licences, which are flagged in each.
  • I’d love to hear your feedback, and your contributions. The easiest way is to open a feature request on GitHub.
The primary Pika interface, pronounced pi·kuh, in light and dark mode.

The Longer Story

I’ve always wanted to develop for macOS.

I got my first iMac (the ridiculous, and ridiculously great, G4 lamp) when I started university, and coming from Windows I grew a real affection for the craftspersonship of Mac apps. I loved the attention to detail, and the way the operating system seemed really connected–you could easily add the rad emo song you were listening to in iTunes to a LiveJournal post you were writing in another app. It felt effortless, and magic.

Since then, I’ve wanted to craft something that made people feel how that felt. But every time I tried to start learning, I’d download XCode, open it up, and come unstuck. Objective-C has always felt wildly verbose to me, and when I got the urge to dip yet another toe in the water I’d end up wrestling with certificate signing until I gave up, deflated.

Then, in 2014, Swift was announced, and it promised to be the answer to all of my questions. A new syntax, with modern features, and an excited new community. In 2019, the declarative SwiftUI framework followed, as did opportunities to share code between macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS. Suddenly all I needed was a genuinely horrifying pandemic to justify not leaving my study for a couple of weeks, and I was all set to fulfil my lifelong dream.

As tends to be the case, it ended up leading me down an endless warren of endless warrens of rabbit holes, which included (but was not limited to):

  • Diving deep into the Apple ecosystem, its history, and the many, many different frameworks and APIs (from UIKit to AppKit to Cocoa to SwiftUI).
  • Writing some very questionable, and then hopefully slightly less questionable, Swift code.
  • Designing and building a NextJS-powered marketing site, at superhighfives.com/pika, enchanced with WebGL and GSAP.
  • Constructing a toolchain to support the Sparkle release framework, generating XML via markdown.
  • Creating a custom shader in WebGL, and porting it to Apple’s (very cool) Metal framework.
  • Refactoring things an absurd number of times. Just an absurd number.
  • And, because I couldn’t help myself, designing and developing a brand, with its own colour scheme, typography, iconography, and look and feel.

But, even with all that, it was an absolute blast.

The Pika visual mark.

I genuinely sweated every single pixel of it, and while there’s much more to do (and some wild SwiftUI features / bugs to dig deeper into) hopefully that effort shows. I’m incredibly excited about the future of Swift and SwiftUI, and I don’t think there’s been a better time to dip your toe in.

In that spirit, I’d love it if you’d take the time to check out Pika, and to contribute to its future, so we can collectively keep this love letter going.

https://superhighfives.com/pika

PS: You can check out more of my work at charliegleason.com,or explore more helpful apps and libraries at superhighfives.com.

superhighfives

Tutorials and thoughts on front end development