Smashing Magazine - #390: Little Helpers

With AI helpers, toggle optimization, better SVGs, useful PDF tools, generating spreadsheets and automating meeting notes. Issue #390 Jan 31, 2023 View in the browser 💨

Smashing Newsletter

Dear Smashing Friends,

Are you a fan of improving your workflow and productivity as much as possible? We’re sure you are! After all, who doesn’t love a good little tool that is dedicated to helping them get better and faster at their daily work?

In today’s issue, we turn the spotlight on just a few — we hope you’ll find at least one that will help you find your spark and inspire you to try something new! We’ve also had a glance at the most useful front-end tools that were popular last year, so please do dive into those when you find a moment.

Of course, if you are looking for slightly more sophisticated helpers, we have our online workshops on frontend & UX (see all workshops), and hope you’ll also be able to join us for a Smashing Meets Figma edition on February 28 at 8–11AM (PT) (with inspirational talks by three speakers and an interactive panel discussion). We’d love to see you there!

Smashing Meets Figma

Beyond all of that good stuff, the Smashing team is getting the final bits ready for the next SmashingConf in San Francisco (in-person + online!) taking place this upcoming May — with Josh W. Comeau, Una Kravets, Shaundai Person, Jake Archibald, and others joining in. The venue has only 400 seats, so don’t wait too long to get your ticket! ;-)

Iris Lješnjanin (Senior Editor)

1. Debugging Strategies

Nobody likes debugging. But let’s be honest: where there’s code, there’ll be bugs. Luckily, we can learn to find and fix them as quickly as possible, to not let confusion and despair take over whenever code doesn’t work as expected.

The Pocket Guide to Debugging

In his post “Debugging Tactics,” Addy Osmani shares debugging techniques that have worked well for him. You’ll learn to ask the right questions to get to your goal faster and what you can do to work through issues that are proving difficult to debug.

Another useful resource comes from Cornell University. They published a lecture on debugging that explores different classes of bugs, difficulties you may come across when debugging, and, of course, debugging strategies.

Last but not least, there’s Julia Evan’s “The Pocket Guide to Debugging.” The zine offers a fun approach to debugging even your hardest bugs. The focus lies not only on solving bugs effectively but also on learning from them. (cm)

2. Browser Details Without The Hassle

Your customers encounter a bug on your site and you need to know more details about their browser? and Support Details are bound to make anyone’s life easier. Customers who aren’t that tech-savvy won’t need to fiddle around to find the details you need and you skip the back-and-forth explaining to them where they find the required information.

Support Details makes it as easy as sending a link to your customer. Once they open it, you automatically receive an e-mail with a complete report of your customer’s browser. Support Details works similarly. You send your customers the link to the site, and they can instantly share the link they get in return, leading you to information about their browser’s capability and operating system. (cm)

3. Download SVGs From Any Site

A handy little tool to enhance your SVG workflow is SVG Gobbler. The browser extension finds the vector content on the page you’re viewing and gives you the option to download, optimize, copy, view the code, or export it as an image.

SVG Gobbler

When you click the browser extension, it shows you a grid with all SVGs detected on the site. You can quickly download the ones you like or copy them to your clipboard. When you view the code, you can toggle optimization options from SVGO — to beautify the markup or clean up attributes or numeric values, for example. And if you need a PNG version of an SVG, you can export it in any size you want. A fantastic addition to any developer’s toolkit. (cm)

4. Upcoming Online Workshops

That’s right! We run online workshops on front-end and design, be it accessibility, performance, or design patterns. In fact, we have a couple of workshops coming up soon, and we thought that, you know, you might want to join in as well.

Smashing Online Events
With online workshops, we aim to give you the same experience and access to experts as in an in-person workshop from wherever you are.

As always, here’s a quick overview:

5. Excel Formula Generator

Excel can be hard. Or do you know how to figure out the sum of column A when column B contains the word "marketing" and column C is today’s date? Well, luckily, AI is here to help you solve all those Excel challenges you’re facing, no matter how hard they might be.


Available as an add-on for Excel and Google sheets, Excelformulabot turns your spreadsheet problem into a formula in seconds. All you need to do is describe the problem in plain language, and the bot will do its magic. If you’re a light Excel user, the free plan might be just what you need, covering five formula requests a month — perfect for solving those really tricky spreadsheet problems you’re bound to encounter every now and again. For the daily user, there are paid premium and business plans available. (cm)

6. Automating Meeting Notes

Do you take notes on a virtual meeting or team call? Then might be for you. The tool records and transcribes meetings so that you can focus on what really matters: the meeting itself. captures video and audio across several video-conferencing apps and generates transcripts in minutes. The built-in AI takes the transcripts to the next level: You can search and filter for key topics that were discussed and see action items, tasks, questions, and other key metrics. Voice commands help you automate workflows and commenting features come in handy when reviewing the meeting with the team. The tool is free for individuals, covering 800 minutes of meetings. Paid plans are available, too. (cm)

From our sponsor

Northwestern’s Online MS in Information Design and Strategy

Northwestern’s Online MS in Information Design and Strategy
Prepare for a range of dynamic communication roles and build the skills needed to lead communication strategy, translate complex data, and drive user interactions. Choose from specializations in content strategy, UX/UI, communication with data, and learning design. Learn more.

7. PDF Tools For More Productivity

Whenever you’re dealing with PDFs, PDF24 is a resource you might want to keep close. The site features 30 free and easy-to-use PDF tools for everything in the PDF area you can think of — from merging PDFs and rotating PDF pages to adding page numbers and optimizing PDFs for the web.


The tools work directly in the browser and put a special focus on safety: PDF24 guarantees that all file transfers are encrypted and all files completely removed from the servers within one hour of processing. If you want to be even more secure — or want to use the tools offline — you can install the PDF24 Creator where all files remain on your machine. (cm)

8. Recent Smashing Articles

That’s All, Folks!

Thank you so much for reading and for your support in helping us keep the web dev and design community strong with our newsletter. See you next time!

This newsletter issue was written and edited by Cosima Mielke (cm), Vitaly Friedman (vf) and Iris Lješnjanin (il).

Sent to truly smashing readers via Mailchimp.
We sincerely appreciate your kind support. You

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