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Darkroom For iPad: Faster. Easier. More Powerful.

Majd Taby
Majd Taby
Dec 18, 2018 · 6 min read

It’s finally here! Darkroom for iPad is now available as a fully responsive universal app. You can download it here.

No Half Measures: Building the Best Photo Editing App for iPad

To build the best photo editor that feels native on the iPad, we need to deliver on three core promises:

  • Respect the platform: An iPad app should not be an upscaled iPhone app nor a downscaled desktop app. The best iPad app is touch-optimized, has easy-to-reach controls, and provides efficient access to its most important actions. Similarly, it must fit harmoniously in the iPad ecosystem. Darkroom shines by supporting Portrait Photos, RAW photos, Siri Shortcuts, and adding support for split screen multitasking and keyboard shortcuts.

Everything that’s new in this release is a reflection of these priorities and promises. Let’s jump right into all the new stuff!

A Responsive, Universal Interface

We wanted to build a hyper-modern iOS interface that scaled to every iOS device size, in every split screen, and in both orientations. To accomplish that, we rebuilt the entire user interface from scratch using Auto Layout, Apple’s declarative layout engine, allowing us to fine-tune the layout for every device.

We’re excited to support three distinct layouts today: Portrait, Portrait-Wide, and Landscape. Darkroom will choose the best layout for each device and size, and you’ll always have a consistent editing experience. This new system allows us to improve how we handle gestures, delivering a more fluid navigation experience.

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Extensive Keyboard Support

Efficiency is in our DNA, and what’s more efficient than keyboard shortcuts? We added extensive support for keyboard shortcuts to help you fly through the app.

Tap the arrow keys to move from next to the previous photo. Use the 1–7 keys to switch between the tools. Use the Command — F key to favorite. Use Command — Z to undo your last edit. Or even use Command — C to copy edits, and Command — V to paste them. To discover all the available keyboard short cuts simply hold down the Command ⌘ key in any view, or app, and get a neat overview of everything that’s available.

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Giving Albums Their Due

Photo editing tools have a responsibility not only to make your photos look great, but also to help you manage your library. We capture photos all day, every day. What we need is a tool to make sense of the stream of photos we’re capturing. That idea informs the design of our library grid on iPad. We believe Albums are a core component of library management, and we’re taking the first step in bringing the same level of efficiency and power to Albums as we have to Photos.

On all landscape interfaces, we’ve promoted Albums to the top level of the library, putting them next to the photos, and added a collection of Smart Albums to the top to help you navigate by file type. Navigating between albums can now happen instantly, rather through complex multi-screen flows.

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The Photo Strip

Having to constantly switch between the library and the editing interface as you navigate your library is a drag. The addition of the photo strip means that in landscape layouts, you can zoom through your library while editing, or quickly compare multiple photos to find the one with the perfect expression or the perfect light.

Most importantly, you have full access to the Photo Actions menu by long-pressing on a photo in the Photo Strip, meaning you can do complex library management and copy/pasting right from within a single editing session. Zoom zoom zoom!

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Color Histogram

The addition of the Color Histogram is the first big enhancement to the Color tool since it launched. With the new Color Histogram, you’ll be able to see at a glance the distribution of colors in your photo, and quickly visualize how the sliders (particularly hue) affect the image. We are constantly revisiting and refining every part of the app, and our tools are no exception. Look forward to more advancements here in the future.

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A New, Friendlier Brand

Every major version of Darkroom has come with a new brand, and version 4 is no different. We’ve loved all our brand iterations, but as Darkroom matures and grows, we wanted to soften the brand and make it more approachable. The new soft gradient and edges of the icon reflect a friendlier design update throughout the app, dropping all capitalized labels, making them more legible, and replacing our Hot Pink highlight color for a bold, Crimson Red.

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As apparent, we are fans of a living brand. The above is just a small sampling of all the frequent explorations we do.

Darkroom × Moment

We’re excited to announce that we’ve partnered with the folks at Moment to add integration with their Pro Camera app. Moment makes the best lenses for iOS, and we love what they contribute to the ecosystem. Now, if you have the Moment Pro Camera app installed, you’ll automatically get a button to open it from Darkroom, and vice versa. And if you have both the Halide and Moment camera apps installed, you’ll be able to choose which default camera app to use the first time.

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If you have both Halide and Moment installed, you will be able to pick what app to use by default the first time you tap. Later, you can also tap-and-hold to re-choose what your default 3-party camera app of choice is.

The mobile photography workflow starts with capture, and ends with export. Halide has set the bar high with the polish and refinement of their app, and their adoption of the latest technologies. Similarly, Moment creates the best lenses and cases, and supporting the wider ecosystem is paramount to building to best mobile photography experience.

App-Wide Refinement

Every tool and every view has been refined to improve performance and usability. For a full list with details head to our release notes. Some highlights:

  • Value labels on sliders: Being able to see the values means being able to reproduce and share looks. It means editing with more confidence and refinement.
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Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and your loved ones. We can’t wait to hear what you think!

Until next time,
Majd & Jasper

Dispatches From Darkroom

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