xScope 4 breaks how Loupe and Guides work together

July 01, 2014

Update, November 2014: the problem that I describe has been fixed in Xscope 4.1. So I can finally remove v3 and start using v4.

I do a lot of precise UI layout work. This means that I must be able to measure miscellaneous forms of comps, prototypes, and layouts. xScope has been an indispensable tool in doing this, but the latest version, xScope 4, breaks a particular behavior, that I thought might be useful to document here, so that you could also consider this when buying the upgrade.

I often use Guides and Loupe together. I position the Loupe into a particular position, and then move the Guides in for precise measurements. The magnified guides show up with the rest of the content while I make pixel-precise adjustments to the Guide positions.

For example, in the above workflow, I used the Loupe and Guides together this way, to determine that the spacing between baselines of two lines of text in OS X System Preferences, a.k.a the line height, is 28 pixels, or 14 points, since this was captured on a Retina display. (And xScope 4 lets you toggle between pixels and points in this case, which is great.)

The important point to note above is that in the z-ordering of tools, Loupe is always positioned above Guides, so it shows the magnified guides together with the content, which is absolutely my desired behavior.

The z-ordering of tools has changed in xScope 4. Sometimes, xScope 4 looks like above. And sometimes, it looks like this.

This latter look is useless for me because the guides don’t relate to anything.

See, the z-ordering of tools in xScope 4 is based on which tool is currently active. If you interact with the Loupe, it is above guides, and looks correct. But as soon as you try to start moving the guides, the guides are moved above the Loupe, and it looks incorrect.

This is a deal breaker for me and makes xScope quite useless, so much so that I have to keep using the previous version.

I have contacted xScope support team who essentially confirmed that the above description of the behavior is indeed correct. I don’t yet have an answer about whether this change in xScope 4 is a bug or a feature, or what’s next with this.

I hope that they change xScope 4 to make it possible for me to keep using it like this, with Loupe always above Guides. One way to think about it is that Loupe is a meta-tool that should magnify the output of all the other tools along with the content. I don’t want to use the guides to examine Loupe UI: I want to use them to examine the same magnified content that I am looking at with the Loupe.

I don’t care how exactly they fix it: whether they make this a preference, or default behavior, or I must do some sort of hack (change NSDefaults or whatever) to go back to the previous behavior. I just hope that there will be a way to do this. I will update this post when I get more info about this change.

By the way, if you made it this far, I’m still looking for people for closed beta of my new thing. Check it out and contact me if interested.