refBoard! Nifty little reference viewer.

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Equanim
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Equanim polycounter lvl 6
Updated to v1.0.1 on 5/4/2014 - Scroll down version notes.

This is a little tool I wrote that I've been meaning to package into a desktop application for a while. "refBoard" is basically a simple image viewer, but designed specifically for artists. (* Requires Adobe AIR) Here's why it might be useful:
  • Very discrete window chrome and UI to stay out of the way.
  • Always stays on top of other applications. (Window is collapsible.)
  • Every function can be performed between the left, right, and middle mouse buttons and scroll wheel.
  • Open as many images as you want simultaneously, and arrange them on the board however you like.
  • Supports .jpg, .gif. and .png file formats.
  • Works on Windows and OSX via Adobe AIR.
  • Save boards for use in multiple sessions.

Here's what the tool looks like in action:
banner.jpg
shot2.jpg

You can grab it here!

Documentation is included in the install folder, or you can click the little "?" in the bottom left corner.

Yes, there are alternatives out there, but here's one more! Enjoy guys :)


Update: v1.0.1

New Stuff!
  • Contextual Menu: Right-click now opens a contextual menu, allowing users to perform any relevant actions bound to a click event. New features will also appear here in future updates.
  • Saving! Users can now save refBoards as .refb files. Save and load options are located in the contextual menu. Double clicking a .refb in the system's explorer will launch refBoard (if it isn't open already) and automatically load that board's information. This method can also be used to rapidly switch between boards, but be sure to save any changes to the old board first.
Note: .refb's do not currently save dependencies. They contain only url and placement information. If a ref's image file is moved, deleted or renamed, the board will still load, but the affected entries will be omitted. (refBoard will throw an alert when this occurs.) Users may however, move and rename .refb's without affecting their performance.
Changes:
  • Zooming now centers on the mouse location.
  • The degree to which users can zoom out on refs is no longer limited to size of the ref's frame.
  • The amount zoomed on scroll has been adjusted to be based on the ref image's current size, rather than its original size.
  • Ref UI now fades on mouse out and reappears on mouse over.
  • Double clicking the board now opens the "Add image" prompt. (Formerly assigned to right-click.)

Bug Fixes:
  • App window restores automatically when maximized. (Maximize and full screen will be addressed in future updates.
  • Resolved a scaling issue when importing certain images.


Also if anyone has any suggestions or feedback, especially Mac users since I haven't tested it there yet, toss me a PM.

Replies

  • katana
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    katana polycounter lvl 10
    Just installed it. Seems like a handy little app. Are you able to have the child frames automatically size proportionally to the individual refs? That would be helpful. Also I think a smoother scaler for the frame, like a slider or something. It's a bit slow to drag and fit the image.

    It's great though and i thank you for putting it together.
  • ExcessiveZero
  • Dylan Brady
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    Dylan Brady polycounter lvl 6
    holy crap I was literally JUST telling my friend how amazing it would be too have something that did this.
    you are a god.

    Edit: I guess if I had to find something to gripe about Id say that when you collapse the window, the question mark stays where it is and doesn't disappear. but I'm sure that's just a thing that will be fixed in the future.
  • ExcessiveZero
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    ExcessiveZero polycounter lvl 5
    is drag and drop features possible in the future ?
  • Equanim
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    Equanim polycounter lvl 6
    The future is now! (Help button bug is fixed, it collapses like it should.)

    Drag and drop should already work, but the file needs to be a .jpg, .gif, or .png in order to load.

    Improving the scaling is definitely on my to-do list. Currently, when an image is loaded, it's scaled to fit the application window with a small gutter. The child frame should match the ratio of its image however. I'd also like to add some sort of free-rotate and possibly flip functionality at some point.

    What OS are you guys using?

    The same link works for the new build. No need to uninstall the old version, AIR updates it with the new one.
  • Tobbo
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    Tobbo polycounter lvl 6
    Really cool! Thanks! :)
  • ExcessiveZero
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    ExcessiveZero polycounter lvl 5
    Equanim wrote: »
    The future is now! (Help button bug is fixed, it collapses like it should.)

    Drag and drop should already work, but the file needs to be a .jpg, .gif, or .png in order to load.

    Improving the scaling is definitely on my to-do list. Currently, when an image is loaded, it's scaled to fit the application window with a small gutter. The child frame should match the ratio of its image however. I'd also like to add some sort of free-rotate and possibly flip functionality at some point.

    What OS are you guys using?

    The same link works for the new build. No need to uninstall the old version, AIR updates it with the new one.
    windows 7 for me, ive tried compatability mode admin and compatability mode xp service pack 3 still no drag and drop get the red cross circle sign when I try
  • Equanim
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    Equanim polycounter lvl 6
    windows 7 for me, ive tried compatability mode admin and compatability mode xp service pack 3 still no drag and drop get the red cross circle sign when I try

    Ah, that makes more sense, I think it's a security setting.

    When you drag a file over the app window, refBoard checks the file's extension, and Windows checks refBoard's privilege level. The slashed circle indicates one of those checks is coming back negative. The app's extension check should be fine since it's working on some systems (otherwise it wouldn't work at all) so I think the problem is that refBoard's privilege level doesn't match that of Windows Explorer. (Windows doesn't allow applications with different privilege levels to communicate like that.) Some people run into this exact issue with GoZ.

    The reason for refBoard's low privilege level is because I haven't licensed a security certificate for it. That's why when you install refBoard, the prompt says (in big scary letters) "Publisher:UNKOWN". Were I to officially sell refBoard, I'd want to go to a third party company, like Symantec, and license a certificate that would provide both Adobe and Windows assurance that someone is claiming responsibility for the app. It costs around $400/year. Since refBoard doesn't have that certificate (though it is signed) Windows keeps it on a short leash.

    You could probably adjust the privilege level, but it might involve changing some security setting on your entire system, which I don't recommend. Drag and drop was really just a quaint little feature I realized has some relevance here. (Personally I just right click the app window.)

    You can still add images via the "+" on the top left corner, or by simply right clicking on the application. I really appreciate your testing and feedback, sorry I couldn't do more. :(
  • Urzaz
    My friend and I have been talking about having a nice always-on-top image viewer. Our studio is OSX-only, so I really appreciate this!

    I'll let him know and check it out myself. We're currently setting up a studio-wide image reference library using Bridge, I'd be interested to see how it works with this.
  • MrOneTwo
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    MrOneTwo polycounter lvl 6
    Used for like five minutes. Looks great. One feature that would be could is to be able to zoom on the cursor location not relatively to image top left corner.
  • BARDLER
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    BARDLER polycounter lvl 6
    I haven't played with it yet, but is it possible to have tabs that I can label so I can easily jump around to a different groups of reference.
  • mats effect
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    mats effect Polycount Sponsor
    Using it now, thanks!
  • Torch
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    Torch polycounter lvl 7
    There's also Irfanview or XNview for viewing images on top of another app for anyone wondering. Thanks for doing this, looks cool!
  • WarrenM
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    WarrenM Polycount Sponsor
    Being able to paste images into it would be super useful. I often clip pieces of the screen and then paste them into Evernote as reference for later. Pasting them into this would turn it into a living mood board.

    And then be able to save the whole board out as a file to be reloaded later.
  • PsychicFreak
    this looks awesome. I use xnview on windows. Been looking for a similar thing for mac osx as I use it at work :D
  • Razorb
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    Razorb polycounter lvl 9
  • tobylewin
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    tobylewin polycounter lvl 3
    Dude this is awesome! Really useful little app!

    Just a few personal suggestions. I'd prefer it if there was no frame around the images and perhaps the close X button appears if you scroll over the top right corner of that image.

    The other thing that would make this a winner for me is if you could drag a folder of images over the window and it automatically creates a tile/mosaic from them, similar to picasa. If it did that I'd never close it :P

    But solid work. Keep it up!
  • Jeff Parrott
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    Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 13
    Pretty great idea man! Also you get +2 points for the Air app. That means it's Mac/PC/whatever plats have Air on it.
  • ExcessiveZero
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    ExcessiveZero polycounter lvl 5
    Equanim wrote: »
    Ah, that makes more sense, I think it's a security setting.

    When you drag a file over the app window, refBoard checks the file's extension, and Windows checks refBoard's privilege level. The slashed circle indicates one of those checks is coming back negative. The app's extension check should be fine since it's working on some systems (otherwise it wouldn't work at all) so I think the problem is that refBoard's privilege level doesn't match that of Windows Explorer. (Windows doesn't allow applications with different privilege levels to communicate like that.) Some people run into this exact issue with GoZ.

    The reason for refBoard's low privilege level is because I haven't licensed a security certificate for it. That's why when you install refBoard, the prompt says (in big scary letters) "Publisher:UNKOWN". Were I to officially sell refBoard, I'd want to go to a third party company, like Symantec, and license a certificate that would provide both Adobe and Windows assurance that someone is claiming responsibility for the app. It costs around $400/year. Since refBoard doesn't have that certificate (though it is signed) Windows keeps it on a short leash.

    You could probably adjust the privilege level, but it might involve changing some security setting on your entire system, which I don't recommend. Drag and drop was really just a quaint little feature I realized has some relevance here. (Personally I just right click the app window.)

    You can still add images via the "+" on the top left corner, or by simply right clicking on the application. I really appreciate your testing and feedback, sorry I couldn't do more. :(

    it is actually very strange as some images work some don't.
    Notworking.jpg~original
    working.jpg~original
    hope it helps maybe it has to do with the difference of .jpg no caps and .JPG caps.
  • kaptainkernals
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    kaptainkernals polycounter lvl 8
    Seems like the app only recognizes lower case file extensions, and not uppercase extensions.

    I just did a test now, dragged and dropped a .jpg in, worked fine, changed the file extensions to uppercase (after editing in windows explorer it will still show .jpg, and not .JPG, but it is .JPG) then you can't drag and drop.

    It also doesn't recognise .jpeg - which some programs like to save .jpg's as.

    So I think you'll be able to fix the drag and drop issue by allowing the app to not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase in the extensions - or just those variations to the list of extensions that can be opened.
  • pior
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    pior quad damage
    Ok, this is extremely cool !!! Loving it so far. I tried a few similar applications in the past (online and offline) and this is by far the best.

    A few suggestions :

    - I would love to be able to add a new image by double-clicking the background space of the app (just like in Photoshop). This was my first instinct, and I think other users might go for that too on their first try :)
    - Right-click on an image to open a little context dropdown, with the options of : duplicate image, close image, browse to image (to swap it with another one)
    - Some options to export the board, either as a simple XML format with path to the images, or as a fully exportable zip containing a copies of the actual images for easy sharing/archiving.
    - I would love the zoom to focus on the location of the mouse cursor instead of the top-left corner of an image (would make zooming on a detail much easier)
    - I think I would like it if zoom and pan were working consistently on both images and the board itself, depending on the type of object the mouse is hovering over. (mouse scroll on an image = zoom in/out on that image ; mouse scroll on the app background = zoom in/out on the whole board. Same for pan.)
    - The "select an image" browser window should remember the last folder location an image has been loaded from.
    - Need to be able to launch multiple instances of the app, for multiple boards.

    Fantastic work so far - using it already :) It looks slick too, which makes it even more of a pleasure to use !
  • katana
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    katana polycounter lvl 10
    Pior actually got me thinking of one more thing related to Photoshop, That is the difference between d/c on the zoom Icon vs. the Hand icon.

    You might be able to write it where d/c on the image, fills the screen with one image and d/c again goes back to a stack mode or perhaps similar to what Lightbox does, which is stacking the pics by size...
  • FoxbergArt
    Wow, that's awesome! Thanks a bunch :)
  • Equanim
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    Equanim polycounter lvl 6
    Wow, thanks guys! :) Also thanks for the great feedback!

    All of the ideas put forth have been great and some are actually already started. This began as a little tool for myself that I thought others might find useful, that's why it's a bit rough around the edges, but I'll definitely be polishing it now that I see there's an interest.

    @ExcessiveZero: Yup, I think that was it. I was able to duplicate and fix the error on my machine, so try the new build and let me know. Thanks again for being so thorough!
  • ExcessiveZero
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    ExcessiveZero polycounter lvl 5
    Equanim wrote: »
    Wow, thanks guys! :) Also thanks for the great feedback!

    All of the ideas put forth have been great and some are actually already started. This began as a little tool for myself that I thought others might find useful, that's why it's a bit rough around the edges, but I'll definitely be polishing it now that I see there's an interest.

    @ExcessiveZero: Yup, I think that was it. I was able to duplicate and fix the error on my machine, so try the new build and let me know. Thanks again for being so thorough!

    awesome dude, works great now :thumbup:
  • Norron
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    Norron polycounter lvl 7
    This is super cool, thanks for releasing it!

    It would be nice to be able to snap an image back to it's fullsize as well, maybe with something like "f" as a hotkey like Maya or Max's focus shortcuts.
  • pior
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    pior quad damage
    After a little bit more time spent with the app, I think I'll retract my suggestion of a zoomable canvas. It sounds good in theory, but, in practice, I end up liking the fact that app doesn't feel infinite (even tho it is), as it pushes the user to be a bit selective with moodboards.

    Really loving it more and more :) Very cool stuff !
  • afisher
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    afisher polycounter lvl 6
    This is great, thanks for sharing it. I was using this over the weekend and I really like it.
    Would be great if there was a way to save/load different reference boards, rather than importing multiple images each time. And as others have suggested, a tab setup for multiple boards and a fullscreen shortcut was be great.
  • bounchfx
    I've been using it as well and want to say thanks for putting this together, it's great.

    For me, the two biggest things would be to get rid of the 'sub-windows', it would be great to be able to simply click drag an image to move it throughout the entire board instead of the mini board

    secondly, zooming going towards cursor as others have said.

    thanks again, this is great!
  • chronic
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    chronic polycounter lvl 7
    2nd the desire to save/load a refboard
  • snoops3d
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    snoops3d polycounter lvl 11
    This is great I love it!!, I do agree with chronic it would be great to have a save/load for the refboard
  • Jesse Moody
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    Jesse Moody polycounter lvl 10
    yep def a huge plus if we could save/load ref boards


    great app by the way
  • Setes
    This is awesome!, really nice little tool.

    A thing which i would like to see though, is when you zoom, the zoon is centered on the mouse instead of the center of the image. And as others have said, a way to save boards so you dont have to load images every time you open the tool :)

    Again, great job!
  • Avanthera
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    Avanthera polycounter lvl 8
  • moose
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    moose Polycount Sponsor
    awesome! this is cool, would be very useful. Fast, easy to use.

    have some feedback:

    - i kept rclicking and opening the load menu by accident. would expect the rclick menu to not pop open an open dialog. maybe a quick menu for zoom options (25, 50, actual, fit to window, find in explorer, duplicate, remove) would be more intuitive.

    - Wanted the titlebar & close image on each image to go away after a few seconds and leave a borderless image floating in there, that can be brought back by L click, or a long hover?

    - i was lost initially when i dragged a higher res image in, and it placed the title bar outside the top left bounds of the frame. Took me a minute to fix it, thought i was boned. Should at least always put the title bar of an image inside the working frame/autoscale-to-fit window, and you can move it out if you prefer.

    - it may be my personal preference, but id prefer lclick move, mclick pan in frame over the lclick pan, mclick move. the main window & subwindow have two control schemes.

    - would love to be able to save out a file like what Pior mentioned, so i can later load in refboards of different configurations, and or export a png/jpg of the scene (also a reason to remove titlebars unless hovered).

    - will second/third/fourth'ed whatever zooming to cursor instead of UL corner.

    - maybe option/slider to adjust bg value? the gray is neutral, but sometimes i like to go darker or lighter, or a different hue based on images gathered.
  • Boonta
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    Boonta polycounter lvl 7
    very cool app!

    idea:

    not sure if its been mentioned but an option to save the board or reopen a previous session with all the images/postions saved would be cool

    bug:

    on windows 7 with two monitors i am having an issue where if i drag it to the corner of a screen it and let windows full screen the app, it gets locked in at full screen ... i cant seem to re-size it after that.

    the selection boarder for bringing the app into focus while in another app appears to be larger than the actual frame of the refBoard app. i.e. if my mouse is about 2-3 millimeters from the boarder edge of refBoard it will select it.



    +1 for remembering last folder accessed.
  • SuperFranky
  • leslievdb
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    leslievdb polycounter lvl 9
    great program!

    indeed a save/open option would be really handy so i can save my refboards for different projects

    thank you for sharing this
  • Beestonian
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    Beestonian polycounter lvl 5
    Dunno if this has already been suggested, but the first thing I tried to do was paste into it from the clipboard, to no avail, sadly.

    That would be really helpful for making a series of film or game screenshots to do studies from or just from other PSD files that I have open without saving them to an image externally before bringing them in.

    Drag and drop feature is bowse though.
  • aajohnny
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    aajohnny polycounter lvl 6
    Any chance there could be a download link that isn't Dropbox?
  • Gannon
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    Gannon polycounter lvl 9
    Really useful for single monitor setups.

    I found a bug though

    When you tap the window to the top of the screen, Windows likes to full screen the program. I use this feature for my browser and other things when managing my screen space.

    Doing this locks the application in place and you can't un-dock it, lol.
  • ilyaivanovart
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    ilyaivanovart polycounter lvl 4
    Gannon wrote: »
    Really useful for single monitor setups.

    I found a bug though

    When you tap the window to the top of the screen, Windows likes to full screen the program. I use this feature for my browser and other things when managing my screen space.

    Doing this locks the application in place and you can't un-dock it, lol.

    The same problem -_-
  • Highelf
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    Highelf polycounter lvl 8
    This is awesome man, thank you!
  • ATaylor
    Have to add my voice to the crowd, this is a great and super helpful app.

    Thank you!
  • bounchfx
    one more suggestion! I really wish I was able to zoom out a lot more in both the main window and sub-windows. I have a lot open within, but theres no way I can 'step back' and look at them all.
  • Equanim
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    Equanim polycounter lvl 6
    UPDATE: v1.0.1

    Gave refBoard some dev time this week, so *cracks knuckles* here we go! You can grab the new build from the same link as before,

    New Stuff!
    • Contextual Menu: Right-click now opens a contextual menu, allowing users to perform any relevant actions bound to a click event. New features will also appear here in future updates.
    • Saving! Users can now save refBoards as .refb files. Save and load options are located in the contextual menu. Double clicking a .refb in the system's explorer will launch refBoard (if it isn't open already) and automatically load that board's information. This method can also be used to rapidly switch between boards, but be sure to save any changes to the old board first.
    Note: .refb's do not currently save dependencies. They contain only url and placement information. If a ref's image file is moved, deleted or renamed, the board will still load, but the affected entries will be omitted. (refBoard will throw an alert when this occurs.) Users may however, move and rename .refb's without affecting their performance.
    Changes:
    • Zooming now centers on the mouse location.
    • The degree to which users can zoom out on refs is no longer limited to size of the ref's frame.
    • The amount zoomed on scroll has been adjusted to be based on the ref image's current size, rather than its original size.
    • Ref UI now fades on mouse out and reappears on mouse over.
    • Double clicking the board now opens the "Add image" prompt. (Formerly assigned to right-click.)

    Bug Fixes:
    • App window restores automatically when maximized. (Maximize and full screen will be addressed in future updates.
    • Resolved a scaling issue when importing certain images.

    Thanks again for all of the feedback guys, keep it coming! I'm glad so many people are finding this useful. :D

    With regard to panning controls being different between the board and refs, I'd like to keep middle-mouse-drag as a global pan for the time being so that the user doesn't have to hunt for empty space in order to pan the board, and because it'll come into play when I finish fullscreen support.

    As for zooming the board, this is something to which I've given a lot of thought. Pior hit the nail on the head, I want users to be conscientious of where they place refs, since it can hold as many as they want. That being said, when I feel the inclination to zoom the entire board, it's to move around faster. I'm thinking of making the space bar sort of a "quick zoom" key where, when held down it zooms out so the user can navigate the board, and when released it zooms back in. Any thoughts?

    I'm also considering overhauling the ref's controls where drag and scroll would affect the entire ref and using the control key as a modifier to affect the image itself. So just scrolling over a ref would make the entire ref scale, while control + scroll would scale only the image and not its frame. Again, if anyone has thoughts on this I'd love to hear them.

    I'm also working on an actual home for refBoard that isn't my dropbox.

    Thanks again guys! I've got more planned, so I'll be updating periodically. Any feedback is always appreciated!
  • katana
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    katana polycounter lvl 10
    Very cool, well done.
  • ExcessiveZero
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    ExcessiveZero polycounter lvl 5
    grabbed the latest one, nice one on the saving feature.
  • BeatKitano
    Very nice, I've got a problem though: no way to zoom without touching mouse, which is a bummer when you use a stylus most of the time while watching your refs :)
  • Dado Almeida
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    Dado Almeida polycounter lvl 12
    First of all. THANK YOU Jonathan for your effort. THIS app instantly a must have in my workflow. Please let me know when you have the page up (with donations enabled) so I can share around.

    I won´t input any request by now since the tool with the latest updated solved mine biggest issue (save the boards).
    But I agree with BeatKitano. To use the keyboard to zoom is the only thing that seems off to me.

    @Beatkitano: I did this small trick in .AHK script that maybe you can try:
    #IfWinActive, ahk_class ApolloRuntimeContentWindow
    
    !MButton::WheelUp
    
    ^MButton::WheelDown
    
    

    First, the script recognize the app window and send the input just for it.
    Then I remapped the Mouse Wheel UP to ALT+MiddleClick and Mouse Wheel DOWN to CTRL+MiddleClick.
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