Charcoal: A Minimalist Drawing Experience

I’ve always been a big fan of Linea for the iPad, despite possessing absolutely zero artistic ability. Despite the fact I really like the app, the aforementioned lack of talent means I very rarely use the app.

Back in December 2019, the Linea team at Iconfactory posted an update announcing that their app will soon move to a subscription model, costing 99p a month / £9.99 a year. Before I go any further, I just want to make it clear that I have absolutely no issue with this decision and I’m all for subscription pricing for apps (when it’s suitable). A single one off cost for an app that is constantly updated, improved and kept in line with all of the latest iOS / iPadOS enhancements is not sustainable. In this situation, a subscription really is the only option to make such an app viable and I am, again, 100% for this. That being said, however, I am trying to keep my subscriptions to a reasonable level and I likely don’t use Linea enough, combined with my lack of actual ability, to justify an ongoing expense to use it. This left me looking for another app I can keep around for the occasional ‘as and when’ moments that inevitably come up when the mood takes me, or usually when I need to entertain my little one for a few minutes.

Enter Charcoal by Lars Augustin. Charcoal positions itself as a streamlined and clean app to visualise your ideas. It is, essentially, a drawing app like Linea, but one that is laser focused on keeping things simple, so you can focus on getting your ideas or sketches onto the page.

The apps UI is very clean, and any unnecessary UI clutter that could interfere with putting ideas to paper have been removed. There are no layers, property panels or really any of the features you’d expect from a professional drawing app. While, to some, this may feel too barebones, I find it works perfectly. This isn’t a Linea replacement for people that needed the feature set of that app. It is, however, a perfect app for jotting down ideas or the occasional doodle.

When you open the app you’re presented with a clean interface with an option to add a new page. You can choose from simply vertical, rectangle or square. No dimensions, just that basic shape. You then have a spare tool set consisting of a pen, pencil, highlighter, smudging tool, ruler, and knife (to cut and move drawn items around the page). You can then choose a colour and away you go. That’s really all there is to it.

Once your masterpiece is complete you have an option to then share the image, via the share sheet, to other apps as you see fit. The images can also remain within the app itself, of course. There doesn’t appear to be any syncing available between the iOS and iPadOS versions of the app, which is a bit unfortunate, but completely expected. The files are also not stored into iCloud / Files, which is again a bit of a shame.

Despite being very minimalistic, Charcoal is a very good iOS / iPadOS citizen by supporting all of the latest features of the OS’s such as multiple window support and dark mode. It truly is a very beautiful app.

As I’ve said before, Charcoal won’t be for everyone. True artists and creators would be serviced best by Linea or more feature rich counterparts. If, however, you’re looking for an incredible simple, clean and focused app for quick sketches, doodles, and mind dumps Charcoal is well worth a look. At the ridiculously low price of FREE you really can’t go wrong. I’m a big fan of the app icon too, which goes a long way in my book …

🔗 And You Are?

Greg Morris:

Thats right, the podcast is back – bigger and better than ever. There are some awesome guests coming up over the next few weeks from all sorts of interesting fields. Technology, sports, development, radio, and some completely new people.

I was a big fan of the And You Are? podcast during it’s initial run, so I was sad to see Greg shut up shop last July. As you can see above, however, like a phoenix from the flames, the show is back and I couldn’t be happier.

For some time now I’ve been slowly moving my time away from podcasts and into audiobooks during my long commutes. I found myself getting bored of the usual tech podcasts I followed religiously, which is why I think I found Greg’s podcast so compelling when I started listening to it. While the content of each episode can, and often will, veer into a tech sphere, it’s not the focus of the show.

Greg is an excellent podcaster, and he really does a great job of getting some interesting insights from his various guests. It’s always a fascinating deep dive into a multitude of topics and there have been a plethora of impressive guests so far, though they can’t all be winners.

If you’re after a relaxing, yet intriguing listen, you can’t go far wrong with this show.

iPadOS Tidbit: Desktop Mode

I have a bit of an obsession with sharing my iPadOS homescreens. When I do, I often get queries about what the enticingly titled Desktop Mode one does. As you can see below, it actually does very little:

Now the reason I’m sharing this in a quick post isn’t to show off my incredibly advanced Shortcut building skills. It’s to just draw your attention to a very small, but useful iPadOS feature.

Whilst it’s relatively rare for me to do so, I do occasionally use my iPad Pro whilst connected to an external monitor. If you’ve browsed the iPad or iPad Pro subreddits much you’ll often see pictures of people’s setups which will involve this same setup, an iPad connected to an external monitor. In these posts they generally always have the iPad screen on whilst doing this. Did you know, however, that you can in fact close the lid or Smart Folio case and continue to use the iPad with an external display, mouse and keyboard. A truly docked experience, as seen in the slightly iffy image below:

The screen stays on during this time, however, which is why my shortcut also dims the screen as much as possible. This is far from groundbreaking, and the letterboxed image obviously is its own issues, but this can be a really useful way of connecting and using an iPad whilst perhaps reading or writing for extended periods of time. This way you can avoid being distracted or frustrated by having to look at two displays mirroring each other, which usually makes using an external monitor an annoying experience.

This just highlights one of the reasons I love my iPad. There is so much flexibility afforded to you to use it however you see fit.

🔗 Clicked: A Jeff Perry Production

I’ve always been a big fan of newsletters, for one reason or another, so I was pleased to see the recent resurgence of the humble newsletter as a way for a blogger to either consolidate their content into a single, regular digest, or to supplement it with extras. It’s something I’ve often considered myself, though my poor track record on consistency for both my blog and podcast has held me back.

Jeff Perry, blogging at has today announced the launch of his new newsletter, Clicked. On the subject of Clicked, Jeff writes:

One common thread I have harped on over the years on my blog has been consistency. I tried to blog everyday for one month, which got me about 6 days in a row before I fell off the wagon. The way that I see it is that if I have a deadline I will make it so I meet that deadline. I have always worked better under pressure, and I think the having a weekly newsletter is exactly what I need.

Jeff is a fantastic writer, so if a move to a newsletter format helps him get the content he wants out there I’m all for it. I can appreciate that Jeff can thrive under pressure of a deadline, and I’m often the same way, though I hope he doesn’t put too much pressure on himself. While consistency is always important, side projects should also be enjoyable to do, or there’s no point. That being said, I enjoy receiving my regular emails including the content I enjoy, so I’m looking forward to the first issue starting on the 21st January.

If you want to follow along for the ride also, you can sign up here.

If you’re looking for some other newsletters while you’re at it, I can highly recommend the following:

If you run a regular newsletter please feeL free to get in touch and let me know.

Good luck with the launch Jeff!

Decline: Saying No Never Looked So Good

Over the last few months I’ve had a few developers contact me to show ofF some of the apps and games they’ve been working on. Until recently, however, I’d not heard from anyone about an iMessage Sticker Pack. To be completely honest with you, it’s a part of iOS and iPadOS that I’d nearly forgotten existed. Until I received a message from Timothy Buck on Twitter that is.

Today see’s the release of the Decline Sticker Pack, a project Timothy has been working on with his wife Alyssa. Some people find simply saying saying ‘No’  difficult, or at the least a little awkward. Others, like me, quite enjoy it. Whatever your preference, this elegant Sticker Pack helps you get the message across in style.

The pack contains 25 beautifully hand crafted stickers, all with various options and styles for simply saying ‘No’.

As someone with absolutely shocking handwriting ability, and zero creative talent, I find these designs fascinating. If you’re interested in seeing a bit more about the process that went into creating these mini works of art, Alyssa uploaded a short video of the lettering to her Vimeo page, which you can see below:

The stickers themselves are also available as a physical purchase, which is a great touch. I think I’m going to have to pick a few of these up myself. They’ll be used liberally around my place of work, the next time someone approaches my desk …

You can find out more about the Sticker Pack on Alyssa’s website and purchase them for £1.99 (or local equivilant) over on the App Store. This is a purchase you really can’t say no to!


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