Pipette LogoI heard about this app on a recent episode of the Nosilla Cast by my good friend Allison Sheridan and my immediate reaction was “this app shouldn’t need to exist”. I’ll admit it’s a strange reaction but bear with me. OS X comes with a built in utility, Digial Colour Meter (which resides in Applications->Utilities), which does literally everything Pipette does, and more! So, there really shouldn’t be a need for Pipette, and yet, there is. Why? Because Apple did an uncharacteristically bad job of making the the Digital Colour Meter intuitive, whereas Charcoal Design (who wrote Pipette) didn’t. Visually the interfaces have the same components, a windows showing the area around your mouse pointer zoomed in to aid precise selection, and a readout of the colour you are currently over. The difference is entirely in the interaction.

[tags]Pipette, Apple, OS X, Freeware, HTML Colour Codes[/tags]

To measure a colour and get it to the clip board with Pipette you do the following:

  1. Click and Drag the small pipette icon from the top of the Pipette window and then drop it over the colour you want.
  2. Hit the standard copy key combination (Command+c). That’s it, you’re done!

Now lets have a look at the interaction with the Digital Colour Meter:

  1. There is no pipette icon to pick up and drop. As you move the mouse around the values for the colour recorded by the application change in real time (just like in Pipette), but, since you have no pipette icon to drop, there is no obvious way to lock in the colour you are interested in. You will probably assume that you can’t. You can of course do this, but you have to know a key combination, Command+shift+h.
  2. Since the details of the colour are split over three text areas you would be forgiven for thinking there is no easy way to copy them out to another application. You would again be wrong, but forgivably so. To copy the colour you have to use another non-standard key combination, in this case Command+shift+c.

You’ll notice that both methods have the identical number of steps and give you the same result. Yet, one is much more usable than the other. A simple drag-and-drop operation followed by a standard key combination is a lot simpler than a drag operation followed by two non-standard key combinations. The Digital Colour Meter can work with different colour representations while Pipette can only work with HTML colour codes, so, technically it’s less powerful, but who cares, it’s far more usable! That’s why Pipette now has a permanent place in my Applications folder. You can download it from www.charcoaldesign.co.uk/pipette and it’s free.