First look at Graphite and Interview with dots & lines

By on November 24, 2011
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A look and an interview with the developers of the best twitter app for TouchPad.

I picked up the HP TouchPad during the firesale and one of the applications that I immediately looked for was one to tweet from. There was just one at HP’s Webstore called Spaz HD which worked but was strictly OK. I began scouting forums and found out that TouchPad owners were looking forward to .graphite, the tablet version of an extremely popular twitter client on Pre phones called carbon.

That name immediately rung a bell as I know the team that developed that app- dots & lines. Saleh Esmaeili, the founder and UX Director, is based out of Dubai and I contacted him about the app. He was kind enough to send it to me and I must say that I immediately fell in love with it. Not only is graphite functional, it is also beautiful- more so than most twitter clients I’ve used on any platform. The following video shows you some of the features and UI of graphite

Now with WebOS’ future unknown, I thought I’d ask Ismail his thoughts on the bigger picture as well as possibly porting his applications to other platforms. I’d like to thank him for his time and wish him the best of luck with dots & lines.

1) Can you please introduce yourself and what you do?

I’m a designer at heart with a little coding skills. Most of my career was involved around brand building and designing online user experiences for Microsites and Online Campaigns. I dived into Mobiles Apps a year ago, and ever since I’ve been hooked and exploring different Mobile OSes for design goodness & product development.

2) What made you decide on developing for WebOS- especially since it was never officially launched in the Middle Eastern region?

My story with webOS goes way back before it was even launched in 2009. I was waiting for an alternative touch screen phone with a keyboard and webOS was that long awaited phone. I ordered the original Palm Pre even though it was locked to AT&T and waited about 6 months ’till the homebrew community finally came up with an unlock solution.

Then came Palm Pre+ and that was when I made it my daily driver and needed a decent Twitter client as I couldn’t buy apps through webOS App Catalog due to Geo Restrictions. So, decided to build something simple for myself. And that was when “Carbon” was born. A few tweets from me with #webOS hashtag and a webOS community member invited me to share screenshots. Four months later I launched it and were among one of the most successful webOS apps ever. Carbon was featured on HP Veer commercial as the Twitter client on the phone. Just a personal need evolved into a widely adapted app.

3) How do you feel about the uncertain future of WebOS?

Awful. Being part of the webOS community and having apps that are still under development for webOS and seeing what kind of brutal fate webOS has come to have has been real painful. Specially that HP is really confused at this point and even their last “All Hands” meeting resulted in another 3 to 4 weeks wait that we’re still hanging on to.

4) What made Carbon successful?

There are a great number of Twitter clients out there for any given Mobile platform. What makes each and every one of them unique for their loyal users is the one-and-only kind of User Experience. And that’s what we did right with Carbon. Apart from parallel timelines and swipe-interface we introduced a great number of fresh features such a gesture that we called “Power Scroll” where swiping up/down on any timeline using two fingers jumped to top/bottom of the timelines.

In Carbon we tried to utilize all of the webOS goodness including the Card views and functionalities and rich notifications. For instance users could open up more than one instance of the application in different cards, that way users could have more than one Account open at any given time as opposed to Switching accounts in other platforms and apps. It’s been a hit and I’ve been very pleased with the acceptance of the users and the great number of loyal enthusiasts who keep asking us what is our next platform that we’re porting to so that they could switch to with us. Been a great Journey.

6) Tell us about some of the key features of Graphite.

Graphite was made with a simple idea–to get all of the Twitter accessible through one screen in a smooth experience that involved interaction rather than tapping or clicking. It’s the kind of app that can be understood only when used. Even screenshots won’t do it any justice either even though our graphics and visual elements are gorgeous you gotta’ swipe around and interact with it.

It utilizes the Sliding Panes for the interface where you swipe around and have screens stacked on top of each other. Having three sliding screens on the home screen that you can access your Profile, Main Timelines, and a new signature feature that we call the Quick Timeline where you can access your Favorites, Search & Saved Searches, Lists, and Trending Topics w/o having to leave the home screen, all you need to do is swipe back to your main timelines. Twitter multi-tasking at its best. Apart from the sliding panes the main timelines are laid in a creosol that even in a deeper level all you do is swiping your way around Timeline, Mentions, and Threaded Direct Messages.

We have high-resolution inline image previews right on the timelines, after all this is a Tablet app and what good it would be if we had to tap/click on a Url to view an image, so we load them in high-res right on your timeline. Interaction with tweets are another unique part of Graphite where while on Timeline users can take all of the regular actions on the tweet in addition to a “Quick Reply” action that is fired when user double-taps on any tweet.

User profiles are as rich as they could get on Graphite as we put that Tablet touch to it loading high-res profile pictures that makes viewing users profiles as smooth as flipping through tablet magazine pages.

With all the UI goodness, and simplicity, Graphite is still rich in features as we support multiple Image uploading services and implemented and pro for Url shortening along with Read Later support for Instapaper & Read It Later.

7) What were some of the challenges you faced during development?

I started working on Graphite when the platform was not public yet. So developing on a framework that is itself being developed and changed at the time of development has been tricky. Lots of changes to the platform was being made that we had to cope up with and be proactive with. We recoded the app three times and redesigned the UI at least five times. All this was due to working on the emulator as once HP generously sent us the Touchpad back in June before the official launch we came to have a different idea about the UI elements of the OS upon physically using it. So some more rounds of redesigns and a great number of set backs and here we are ready to launch.

8) Any thoughts on porting it to other platforms like iOS or Android?

While Carbon(the mobile version of Graphite) is already being ported to WP7 it is going to iPhones as well. We’ve been playing around with porting Graphite to iPad and it has been tried on Honeycomb as well. Of course using a fast porting tool call Phonegap. That really got us hungry and got us started on working on Graphite for iPad using native iOS tools instead.


Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

  • Magnus Nystedt

    Nice. I’ve not tried it myself, but have used the smartphone version and it has some really cool features.

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