1. Technology

What is the OS X DigitalColor Meter?

Overview of the Mac Color Utility

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The OS X DigitalColor Meter

The DigitalColor Meter is a handy utility app that comes with Mac OS X.

Within the Applications folder of Mac OS X is a Utilities folder that contains a range of applications, including the DigitalColor Meter. Many Mac users will never venture into this folder and the applications contained here are generally aimed at more advanced users, though there are some that could be useful for all levels of user.

For example, the Activity Monitor, that monitors memory and processes, is very similar to the Task Manager in Windows and if you save passwords into the OS X Keychain, the Keychain Access app is also stored here.

For designers, the DigitalColor Meter could prove to be a useful little utility when trying to match and select colors. While many apps have their own built-in color pickers and, indeed, OS X has one itself that is often used by many native apps, the advantage that the DigitalColor Meter app offers is the ability to pick a color from absolutely anything that is visible on screen. If you can view it on your monitor, you can find out the color information of any element by mousing over it with the DigitalColor Meter. In fact, if you are so inclined, you can even use the DigitalColor Meter to identify the color values of its own interface.

Highlights of DigitalColor Meter

DigitalColor Meter is a very simple app, but there are still points of note.

  • Identify the color values from a file opened in any application
  • Get the value of a single pixel or the aggregate of a group of pixels
  • Display color values in a range of different formats
  • Copy color values to pasteboard
  • Copy a graphic filled with the sampled color to the pasteboard
  • Hold a sampled color to allow easy switching between different color models

Why Use DigitalColor Meter?

When you need to get the value of a specific color that is displayed in any type of file, if you can display it on your screen then DigitalColor Meter will give you the values of that color. This is a common requirement for designers for print and web, perhaps when trying to match a specific color from a logo.

The aperture control allows you to pick the color from a single pixel, but you can also increase this setting so that you get the aggregate color values for a range of pixels. This may be useful if you're trying to put together a color scheme that will harmonize with a specific image. For instance you could select colors from the image and then use them for headings or block quotes, so that they produce a calming effect when combined with the image.

Being able to specify colors in a number of formats is a useful feature and getting the Hex value of a color makes it very easy to recreate a color in other apps or, for web designers, when specifying colors in CSS. The RGB options will also be popular, but there are other options too for more specialist uses.

Limitations of DigitalColor Meter

There's not too much to complain about with DigitalColor Meter as it is a very focused app that just carries out a single job. The Preferences offer a few options, including keeping the app floating in front of other windows, which perhaps should be the default setting.

Other than that, having an option to convert color values to CMYK might be handy for print designers, but most of the apps that they're likely to use would handle this conversion anyway, once supplied with the RGB or HEX value.

Help and Support

It is hard to imagine that many people could really want for help with using DigitalColor Meter as it really is such a straightforward app with a very intuitive interface. However, should you find yourself scratching around for something to read on a wet afternoon, you could click on the DigitalColor Meter Help entry in the Help menu. It won't keep you diverted for long though.

If you use Apple Mac OS X, you can find your copy of DigitalColor Meter by going to the Utilities folder which is inside your Applications folder.

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