Federico Viticci

7075 posts on MacStories since April 2009

Federico is the founder and editor-in-chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, and mobile software. He can also be found in the iBooks Store and on his two podcasts, The Prompt and Directional.

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Photos+ 1.1 Adds Dropbox Support

Photos+, which I first covered in December when Second Gear launched it on the App Store, has today been updated to version 1.1, adding Dropbox integration and finding a new home at SilverPine Software.

Photos+ 1.0 was a simple Photos.app replacement with viewing features that supported EXIF metadata for location, time stamps, and more. From my original review:

Photos+ provides an alternative way to view photos you’ve taken on your iPhone if you don’t like the new Photos app of iOS 7. Photos+ doesn’t have any time or location-based sorting feature – it’s a mosaic of large photo thumbnails displayed in reverse chronological order (from newest to oldest). There are no settings, no filters to exclude screenshots from the list, and no special gestures to learn. As you scroll, you can tap thumbnails to open photos in full-screen; when you want to dismiss a photo, you flick it up or down like a card.

Photos+ 1.1 has kept the app’s straightforward approach and visualization of photos, but thanks to Dropbox integration it can now look for photos inside a Dropbox folder. Photos loaded from the Dropbox retain the same options of local photos: you can view metadata, share photos, and open a location panel to see where a photo was taken on a map. Obviously, the app requires a few extra seconds to load a full-resolution photo from Dropbox — thumbnails are loaded at a lower-res to speed up the experience — but everything else works just like the old app.

Unfortunately, I can’t use Photos+ 1.1 with my current Dropbox photo management workflow because the app doesn’t support sub-folders: the app can only load photos stored in a single folder (like the default Camera Uploads one in Dropbox), and this means that I can’t currently use Photos+as a photo viewer for my photo collection, which is organized in folders for years and sub-folders for months. I understand that most users who rely on Dropbox for photo storage and management usually keep photos in one folder, but I think it’d be nice to provide a setting to specify where and how the app should look for photos in your account (Carousel, released last week by Dropbox, shares a similar problem).

Photos+ 1.1 is available on the App Store.



Bjango Releases Skala Color, Free Color Picker For OS X

Skala for Mac isn’t ready for its public debut yet, but Bjango, makers of Skala Preview and iStat, have today released Skala Color, a free plugin for the OS X Color Picker that comes with useful options for designers and developers and that offers a glimpse of features that will be included in the final Skala app.

Skala Color is a standard OS X color picker, so it works with most Mac apps. Skala Color is free, to help spread the word about Skala, our upcoming design tool.

Once installed, Skala Color adds a special color picker tab to the system-wide OS X color panel, which has supported a plugin architecture for years now (notable examples include Panic’s Developer Color Picker and Jesper’s Hex Color Picker). Skala Color combines a traditional color picker UI with sliders for opacity and 4x precision hue. The hex code of the color you’re currently previewing is available in the middle of the window with a button to quickly copy it in the clipboard; if you already have a color code in the clipboard, Skala Color will automatically recognize it and let you preview it in the picker with the click of a button.

With Skala, Bjango wants to build a “precise user interface and icon design tool”, and today’s Skala Color provides a sneak peek at the development and design-oriented options that will likely be part of the final product. Color codes can be displayed in standard hex, but you can also use Float and CSS RGB/RGBA/HSVA/HSL, as well as NSColor and UIColor formats – Bjango wants to offer options for web, iOS, OS X, and Android developers, so whether you need to pick colors for an iPhone app or a website, Skala Color will come in handy.

Skala Color is available for free from Bjango’s website; you can check out Skala’s teaser page here.


Editorial 1.1 Teaser

In post published yesterday on the Editorial forums, developer Ole Zorn shared more details on Editorial 1.1, announcing some features he's been working on for the update, such as the ui module, which will allow users to create custom interfaces inside Editorial:

It's not just a module, there's also an integrated visual editor for setting things up without code, and in Editorial there's also a way to build UIs around workflows, without having to write Python at all (though you can also mix and match). Before you get the wrong idea: This is in no way a complete wrapper around UIKit or some kind of Cocoa bridge, so you won't be able to do a all the things you could do in a native app, but it provides a (hopefully) easy-to-use and pythonic way to create UIs that look and feel “at home” on iOS, and it's possible do some relatively advanced stuff with custom drawing and touch handling.

For Editorial, I tend to think of this as a “plugin” interface that allows the creation of workflows that are nearly indistinguishable from native features. Obviously, this won't be for everyone, and there will definitely be a learning curve, but given what I've seen this community come up with, I'm pretty confident that it will enable some people to really push the limits of iOS text automation (and others to reap the rewards via shared workflows).

I can't stress this enough – the new module fundamentally reinvents the way you can build visual workflows in Editorial, and I can't wait to share more about the workflows I've been working on.

Make sure to check out Ole's post for screenshots of Editorial 1.1 on the iPad and iPhone.

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Apple Is Not Here To Entertain You

Jason Snell offers a great take on the tech press' obsession with an Apple iWatch:

So in the end, why do we want Apple to make an iWatch? Because it’s fun to see new products from Apple. Because we want to try one out and see if we like it. Because we like to buy new gadgets. Because we want to complain about how Apple got it wrong. Or because we’re residents of the financial sector and see everything in the context of growth, like a predator that can’t see the prey standing still right in front of it.

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Brilliant UI Details In Carousel

Even more ingenious is the way Carousel surfaces photos it thinks you’re most likely to want to see. To start, the app scans every photograph in your collection for human faces. Based on the qualities of the mugs it detects, it assigns each picture a “smile score.” The one with the highest ranking for a given event is displayed with a double-size thumbnail, serving as a sort of hero shot for that subset of pics.

Wired's Kyle Vanhemert talked to Gentry Underwood about some of the UI details in Carousel – as I wrote, there are some fantastic touches in the app. The way thumbnails are generated and deployed is quite clever.

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Screens 3 for Mac Review

Since 2010, I’ve been using Edovia’s Screens for all my VNC needs: an elegant client with a polished interface and just the right amount of options, I’ve always been a fan of Edovia’s focus on elegance and simplicity combined with touch controls.

The iOS app has changed quite a bit over the years: notably, with iOS 7 Edovia took the opportunity to completely redesign Screens with a cleaner UI and updated gestures, adding on-disconnect actions, hot corners, and trackpad mode with subsequent updates that continued to strike a good balance between feature additions and intuitiveness. I don’t need to access dozens of Macs remotely every day – I only log into my local MacBook Air (when I’m in bed or in another room) and my remote Mac mini – but I know that Screens for iOS has everything I need.

Screens 3 is Edovia’s latest update to their Mac client, originally released in 2011. A free update for existing Screens 2 customers, Screens 3 is available both on Edovia’s website and the Mac App Store at $34.99, but only the Mac App Store version can offer iCloud sync across devices; because of this limitation, I recommend buying Screens from the Mac App Store.

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Xcode Plugins

Indeed, significant progress has been made in recent years to break open the developer workflow, from alternative IDEs like AppCode to build tools like CocoaPods, xctool and nomad. However, the notion that Xcode itself could be customized and extended by mere mortals is extremely recent, and just now starting to pick up steam.

Xcode has had a plugin architecture going back to when Interface Builder was its own separate app. However, this system was relatively obscure, undocumented, and not widely used by third parties. Despite this, developers like Delisa Mason and Marin Usalj have done incredible work creating a stable and vibrant ecosystem of third-party Xcode extensions.

If you're an iOS or OS X developer and have been looking for ways to customize Xcode, Mattt Thompson has a great roundup of Xcode plugins. I had no idea it was possible to add a Sublime Text-like mini map to the app.

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