Sticky Widgets Brings Simple Sticky Notes to Your Home Screen

If you’re anything like me, the steady stream of apps adding support for iOS 14 widgets have put your Home Screen in a constant state of flux. Just when I think app releases have settled down and I can step back to consider which widget types I want on my devices, an app with an interesting new widget idea comes along and throws my just-birthed Home Screen strategy for a loop. The latest app continuing that trend is Sticky Widgets.

Sticky Widgets enables placing sticky note-style widgets on your iPhone or iPad Home Screen which can be modified simply by tapping on the widget. It’s utility that’s such an obvious fit for widgets, I’m surprised I haven’t seen a hundred other apps doing the same thing.

What makes Sticky Widgets great is the simplicity of the experience. When I’ve considered the idea of building widgets containing nothing but text, as is possible with several widget creation apps, I’ve always thought that would require writing the text inside an app then manually setting up new widgets every time I wanted to change the text that’s displayed. That sort of workflow felt far too cumbersome, so until now I never set up widgets that displayed static text.

With Sticky Widgets, however, there’s no need to create new widgets every time the text changes. Rather, you can have a single widget that stays in the same place on your Home Screen, and whenever you need to change its text, just tap the widget, type away, and your widget’s been updated with the new text. You don’t need to worry about writing too much or too little text for the widget to display either, because whether you’re using a small, medium, or large widget, text will automatically resize to best fit the widget space.

Sticky Widgets is light on additional features, but that’s fine for a simple utility like this. You can change your widget color between yellow, pink, and blue, and use MarkerFelt, Noteworthy, or the system’s default San Francisco font for your text. One valuable feature is the ability to save different notes for different widgets, which is done by modifying the Note ID from a widget’s configuration screen (long-press the widget and hit Edit Widget). That way you can have multiple different sticky notes if you need them.

Sticky notes have been a tried and true method of remembering important things throughout the day. Historically they’ve been used on computer monitors, desks, refrigerators, or a million other places where we know they’ll catch our eye. With Sticky Widgets, you can bring that same valuable utility to your iPhone or iPad Home Screen.

Sticky Widgets is available on the App Store as a free download.


MacStories Unwind: iOS 14 App Reviews, a Home Screen Customization Shortcut, and Changing Your Default Browser and Email Apps

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Sponsored by: Tara AI – Tool for Thought on iPad

This week on MacStories Unwind:

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Apollo Brings the Best of Reddit to iOS 14’s Widgets

Christian Selig, developer of the excellent Reddit client Apollo, has always been deeply connected with his users and Reddit culture on the whole. Many of Apollo’s updates focus on the kind of nit-picky features and tweaks that heavy users of the app and platform care about. So it should come as no surprise that in building iOS 14 widgets for Apollo, Selig took inspiration from some of the things people love most about Reddit.

Apollo offers a whopping seven different types of widgets, roughly half of which are the sort of widgets you would expect – displaying posts from your favorite subreddit or providing launchers into different subreddits – while the other half specialize in bringing the best of Reddit to your Home Screen.

Let’s start with the fun ones: Wallpaper, Showerthoughts, and Jokes.

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Lire Brings Its Highly-Customizable RSS Reading Style to an All-New iPad Design and Widgets

I love that there are so many excellent choices of RSS readers on iPhone and iPad. Currently, my favorite in terms of iOS and iPadOS 14 feature adoption is lire, an RSS client that is packed with power user features. With the latest update, the app has been relaunched on the App Store, which means it’s a new purchase, with excellent support for the iPad’s new three-column design and widgets.

RSS readers are perfect for the iPad’s new three-column design. Lire’s left pane includes numerous ways to navigate your feeds, the center pane lists your articles, and the right pane displays each article. The first two columns can be hidden so you can focus on what you’re reading.

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Apple Publishes New Webpages Explaining the Benefits of the App Store and the Company’s Developer Program

Apple has published new online resources about the App Store and its developer program. The new webpages cover a wide range of topics related to the App Store and developing for it, and include several new facts and insights about the Store.

About the App Store’ is a page meant for consumers that explains the advantages of Apple’s Store, starting with the lead tagline: ‘The apps you love. From a place you can trust.’ The page covers the Store’s editorial curation, search functionality, global reach, privacy and security features, and the benefits of App Review. The page reveals several new facts and updates to other information we’ve heard from Apple before, including:

  • The App Store has published almost 20,000 editorial stories to date
  • The App Store has over 150 people on its global editorial team
  • Over 10,000 apps use Apple’s health-related frameworks
  • Over 150,000 apps were rejected for privacy violations last year
  • App Review includes over 500 reviewers who consider over 100,000 apps per week
  • Over 1 million apps have been rejected for objectionable, harmful, unsafe, or illegal content
  • In 2020, Apple removed over 60 million user reviews considered spam
  • Over 2 million outdated apps have been removed from the store

The developer-centric pages take a similar approach with a focus tailored to the audience. ‘Developing for the App Store’ explains the tools and opportunities Apple has created for developers and its commitment to helping developers succeed:

Apple is committed to helping developers turn their brightest ideas into apps that change the world. That’s why the App Store helps you from start to finish — to build, test, market, and distribute your products and grow your business. Our marketplace is secure, trusted, and accessible — connecting you to over 1.5 billion devices in 175 regions. The App Store and you. Together every step of the way.

Here too, there are new facts and updates on number previously reported about the developer program:

  • There are 28 million members in the development program from 227 regions
  • Apple provides over 160,000 technical documents and code samples for developers
  • 90% of apps are reviewed within 24 hours
  • 500 million people visit the App Store every week
  • Apple has paid $155 billion to developers since 2008
  • 85% of apps are free
  • Over 50% of apps are downloaded from outside a developer’s local region
  • In 2020 over 250 million user reviews were removed for not meeting integrity standards
  • Apps accounted for 50 billion impressions in 2020 across email, social media, and advertising
  • Over 130,000 apps have been featured on the App Store and other Apple channels
  • An Apple-commissioned study found in 2019 that apps facilitated $519 billion in global commerce
  • The App Store ecosystem supports over 2.1 million jobs in the US

A second developer page titled ‘Built for growth and scale’ provides additional details about developer services and tools like app distribution and payment processing, app marketing, analytics, Apple’s many frameworks, volume distribution outside the App Store to enterprise and education customers, and developer support. Finally, Apple has also published a page that explains the Apple Video Partner Program. Apple explains how the program for video streaming services works, lists the companies that participate in it, and who is eligible to participate.

Apple has faced growing criticism in recent months over App Review guidelines, the share of revenue paid to offer apps on the App Store, and other aspects of the App Store and developer program, so it’s not surprising to see the company respond with materials that put its programs into the best light possible. It’s good to see Apple communicating its position more clearly, though it does strike me as a little defensive given the current climate in the developer community. It’s also one of the downsides of being so secretive as a company. Had this information been shared over time when Apple was not in a defensive posture, I expect it would have been more effective. Instead, I expect it will be met with cynicism from many developers.

Perhaps the experiences of the past few months will lead Apple to be more open about the App Store and developer program in the future. Despite recent issues and criticism, there’s no denying the success of the App Store for Apple, many of its developers, and its customers. I’d like to think that the global numbers that tell a story of immense success don’t prevent the company from focusing on and improving the more granular issues faced by individual developers every day and communicating more openly with them.


Computer Personalization Is a Good Thing, and It’s Nothing New

Jason Snell at Six Colors, providing some historical context for the current wave of iOS 14 Home Screen customization:

The Mac has a long history of customization. When I became a Mac user in the early 90s, it was de rigueur to give your Mac hard drive a name and a custom icon. Ideally, you had a custom wallpaper pattern or image, too. Apps like SoundMaster let you set custom sounds for various actions. The list went on and on. Your Mac felt like home—and like no one else’s.

What’s more surprising is that Apple was so slow in bringing real customization to the iPhone home screen. If adding widgets to iOS 14 has caused enormous burst of creativity, it’s only because all that desire had built up over years and years with very little outlet.

This is not a surprise. This is not the effect of young whippersnappers raised on social media wanting to do goofy things with their phones. Users of computer platforms have wanted to customize and personalize for decades.

Lots of people are having lots of fun making all kinds of personalized Home Screens and even themed ones. This is made possible by a combination of iOS 14, app launchers configured through Shortcuts with custom icons, and a new crop of widget creation apps.

These Home Screen designs may not be for everyone, but that’s kind of the point: they’re not for everyone, they’re built by and for individual users. Let’s celebrate that creativity, and hope Apple provides better tools for this kind of customization in the future.

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Grocery Brings Lists, Recipe Steps, and Timers to Your Home Screen and Is Right at Home on the iPad with a Three-Column Layout

Grocery has come a long way from its origins as a simple list-building app for the iPhone. The app has evolved to include a terrific Watch app, an iPad app, and support for meal planning, recipes, and inventory tracking. Whether you only use Grocery’s core list-based features or its more advanced features, today’s addition of widgets and a new iPad design enhance the experience of using the app for everyone.

I’ve covered Grocery in depth before, so I won’t retread that ground here, except to encourage readers who haven’t looked at Grocery in a while to try it out. At its core, the app is all about building intelligent grocery lists. No other grocery app I’ve used makes it as easy to add and manage lists as Grocery, through a combination of smart design and dynamic sorting which is based on the order you check items off as you shop. On top of that, the app includes meal planning, recipes, inventory management, and list sharing, extending its usefulness well beyond the grocery store.

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Fantastical Debuts Powerful, Versatile Widgets Alongside Scribble for iPad

Time itself has been under attack in this year of infamy. In some ways 2020 has felt like an eternity, but somehow, simultaneously, it’s shocking that we’re nearing the end of it. Our days have lost so much of the structure and the rhythms we’re used to, resulting for some people in days that are long and void of much activity, while others are overwhelmed in a different way as they juggle work with caring for their children, facilitating virtual school, and of course hopping on too many Zoom calls per day. Whatever your situation may be, your concept of time has likely been thrown off-kilter this year.

Yet time marches on. And for many of us, the assaults on our normal patterns of life have required building new patterns, new structures for our weeks and days so we can find a new sense of normal. Rather than abandon our calendars, we perhaps need to be more judicious with them than ever. Which is where Fantastical with its new iOS 14 widgets and Scribble support comes in.

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Pages, Numbers, and Keynote Add Scribble Support, and Other Features

Apple has updated Pages, Numbers, and Keynote with Scribble support, new editable shapes, along with a variety of app-specific updates.

Scribble is the new iPadOS 14 feature that allows you to use the Apple Pencil to handwrite text into a text field that the app then converts into text. The feature also allows you to do things like scratch out text with the Pencil to erase it.

On the iPad, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote now all support the feature using a custom version of the PencilKit markup tools found in other apps like Notes and some third-party apps. The first tool in the palette, which is marked with a capital ‘A,’ is the Scribble tool. Selecting it allows you to handwrite in any of the three iWork apps, which then convert your handwriting into text. The other tools include pens for drawing, one for creating color-filled shapes, and selecting images. Pages’ toolset includes an annotation tool too.

A particularly nice touch included in Pages that Numbers or Keynote doesn’t have is a message that appears in the body of your document explaining what the selected tool does. Also, one Scribble feature that doesn’t work in the iWork suite is the ability to create perfect shapes by pausing before lifting the Pencil after hand drawing one.

Keynote and the other iWork apps support new editable shapes.

Keynote and the other iWork apps support new editable shapes.

All three apps also come with new editable shapes and the updated iOS and iPadOS image and video picker that incorporate search functionality and album support. I’m delighted that the photo and video picker has been updated and gained new ways to find the images for which you’re looking. The picker hasn’t changed in a long time, and the latest version is light years better than before.

I'm going to use the new customizable forms in Numbers a lot.

I’m going to use the new customizable forms in Numbers a lot.

Each app also gained some features unique to it. Pages adds new report templates. Numbers has made it easier to create and customize forms, which are fast ways to enter data into a table. Keynote added the most features, gaining an outline view for quickly editing the content of slides without distraction, the ability to embed YouTube and Vimeo videos, new movie export options with more formats and frame rates, and the ability to Option-drag objects to duplicate them.

I haven’t used Scribble a lot yet, but it’s nice to see it implemented in the iWork apps. All three apps combine text with other media, so it’s only natural to use the Pencil for text input alongside drawing and other uses. If you haven’t tried Pages, Numbers, or Keynote in a while, especially on the iPad, they’re worth another look. All three apps support deep, sophisticated functionality that rivals their desktop competition.