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Apple Names App of the Year Winners

Every year, Apple chooses a handful of standout apps and games from among the millions available on the App Store, naming them the Apps of the Year. In recent years, the company has also picked trends its editorial team has spotted on the App Store.

For 2020, Apple has honored fifteen apps and games as the App of the Year winners from a wide variety of categories. According to Apple’s press release:

“This year, more than ever before, some of our most creative and connected moments happened in apps. This was thanks to the amazing work of developers who introduced fresh, helpful app experiences throughout the year,” said Phil Schiller, Apple Fellow. “Around the world, we saw remarkable efforts from so many developers, and these Best of 2020 winners are 15 outstanding examples of that innovation. From helping us stay fit and mindful, to keeping our children’s education on track, to helping fight hunger, their impact was meaningful to so many of us.”

This year’s app winners are:

Apple also recognized games on each of its platforms, plus its Arcade service:

The App Store editorial team sees a lot of apps every year, and the trend it saw emerge in 2020 was ‘Helpfulness,’ a theme embodied in the following apps that also received an award:

In addition to naming this year’s winners, Apple called out each of the developers of the apps and games on a special page that lists the developers of each of the award-winning apps and published its top free and paid apps of 2020.

To commemorate this year’s App of the Year winners, Apple’s designers created physical awards for the first time. The blue awards resemble the App Store’s icon and are made from 100% recycled aluminum with the winner’s name engraved on the back.

It’s nice to see Apple provide a physical token of its awards this year, an opinion that I’m sure surprises no one. Congratulations to this year’s Apple App of the Year award winners. It’s always great to see developers’ hard work and contributions to Apple’s platforms recognized.


Apple Recognizes Best Books, Audiobooks, and Podcasts of 2020

Today Apple updated its Books and Podcasts apps with recognition of the most popular, and Apple’s selection of the best books, audiobooks, and podcasts of the year. There are ten different groups of selections, some just being the most popular items based on Apple’s metrics, and others being Apple’s own subjective favorites. Here’s a subset of Apple’s choices, but be sure to check out the full lists of picks in the Books or Podcasts apps on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad:

Books

Best Books of the Year:

Most Popular Fiction Books:

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Downloading YouTube Videos on iPad with youtube-dl and a-Shell

Greg Godwin, writing at NonProfit Workflows:

There are various apps for the Mac that’ll download YouTube videos, but there’s nothing comparable for the iPad. I discovered that it’s possible to download these videos using the iCab browser if you change the user agent, but I could never get this to work consistently. There is a command-line program you can run called youtube-dl that will download videos from YouTube (and other sites). The problem is, the iPad doesn’t ship with a Terminal app like the Mac does, so while I could do this on my Mac, I struggled to find a way to use this command on my iPad.

Greg has written an excellent tutorial on how to install the (recently reinstated) youtube-dl utility (which I’ve been using to download YouTube videos on my Mac mini for years) and use it on iPad via a-Shell. I followed their tutorial and was able to get youtube-dl up and running on my iPad Pro – with support for encoding files via ffmpeg – in literally two minutes. There’s probably less of a need for downloading YouTube videos on iPhone and iPad now that the YouTube app supports native 4K playback on Apple platforms, but I think it’s great to be able to download videos offline for research and archival purposes regardless. I always like to download the best possible version of a video in the WebM format, which plays beautifully at crisp 4K in the free VLC app for iPad.

One crisp Tyler.

One crisp Tyler.

Side note: I’ve been trying to use this shortcut to pass the URL of the current video from Safari/YouTube to a-Shell via the share sheet. Unless I’m missing something obvious, the a-Shell app launches but doesn’t run my command, which is passed as a ‘Text’ parameter to its Shortcuts action.

Update: Thanks to MacStories reader Jay, I was able to make a-Shell’s Shortcuts action work by switching from single- to double-quotes. I’ve made a shortcut that lets you pass a YouTube URL from either Safari or the YouTube app to a-Shell – which will start downloading it – so you don’t have to type the command (and related options) manually each time. You can find it below and in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive. Also, don’t miss this tip by Greg on navigating a-Shell’s local folder structure.

youtube-dl

Download a video from YouTube using youtube-dl and the a-Shell app for iPhone or iPad. The shortcut accepts any YouTube URLs passed from Safari or the YouTube app via the share sheet. Detailed instructions on how to set up youtube-dl and a-Shell can be found here.

Get the shortcut here.

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Apple Announces Partnership with (RED) to Combat HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 and Highlights Its PPE Donations in Zambia

Apple announced today that it is expanding its partnership with (RED), a relationship that spans fourteen years and has raised nearly $250 million to fund HIV and AIDS programs around the world, offering prevention, testing, and counseling services.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted HIV/AIDS programs around the world, so earlier this year, Apple’s (RED) contributions were redirected to the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on HIV/AIDS programs.

According to Apple’s press release:

These funds have allowed for additional contact tracing in South Africa, helped secure critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and emergency medical equipment in Ghana, and enabled the purchase of motorbikes to deliver HIV treatment to local communities that have been unable to seek in-person health services due to COVID-19. Apple also donated millions of PPE units to the Ministry of Health in Zambia, including both surgical masks sourced from its supply chain and face shields designed and produced by Apple.

The PRODUCT(RED) iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Series 6.

The PRODUCT(RED) iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple’s support of (RED) continues this year with donations of 100% of all eligible proceeds from PRODUCT(RED) devices to the Global Fund’s COVID-19 Response through June 30, 2021. The company will also donate $1 of every purchase made using Apple Pay on apple.com, or in the Apple Store app or an Apple retail store through December 7, 2020.

Apple is working to raise awareness of World AIDS Day too with red logos and window displays in retail stores, features on the App Store, tie-ins with Apple Music and The Ebro Show on Apple Music 1, and a special Watch Now collection in the Apple TV app.

A Zambian healthcare worker wearing an Apple-produced face shield.

A Zambian healthcare worker wearing an Apple-produced face shield.

Separately, Apple issued a press release about its donation of PPE to healthcare workers in Zambia to help them combat COVID-19 and HIV. Working with Zambia’s Ministry of Health, Apple donated:

millions of units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Ministry of Health in Zambia. That includes both surgical face masks Apple sourced from its supply chain as well as face shields designed and produced by Apple.

As the press release explains, the donations have protected front-line healthcare professionals and provided patients with the confidence to continue their treatments for HIV.


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Our thanks to pCloud for sponsoring MacStories this week.


MacStories Unwind: Big Sur Widgets, Our Big Icon Sale, a MacStories Weekly Milestone, Plus Bonus Unwind Picks

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Sponsored by: Permute: Quick Image, Audio, and Video Conversion

This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • MacStories Weekly
    • John’s Holiday Gift Guide
    • Reading DRM-Free EPUBs in MarginNote for iPad
    • Tips for Remote Tech Support
    • Mac Dictation and Big Sur beta tips
  • MacStories Unplugged: The Year in Music, 2020 Edition
    • Federico and John share their Apple Music playlists, collecting their favorite songs of 2020, pick their albums of the year, second-guess the Grammy nominations, and each chooses five bands that define their tastes in music.

AppStories

Unwind


MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons: 40% Off from Black Friday to Cyber Monday

MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons are 40% off for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons are 40% off for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us, and we’ve prepared something truly special to celebrate the occasion at MacStories: starting today through Monday, November 30, MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons are available at 40% off their regular price.

To purchase MacStories Shortcuts Icons at $17.99 rather than the usual $29.99, click the ‘Buy’ button below:

Similarly, to purchase our Perspective Icons at $14.99 rather than the usual $24.99, click the ‘Buy’ button below:

All sales are final. You can read our license and terms of use here and here.

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macOS Big Sur: Widget Roundup

Developer adoption of new macOS features is often a little slower than it is on iOS and iPadOS. However, that hasn’t been the case with Big Sur widgets. Apple wisely took the same SwiftUI-based system used for creating widgets on the iPhone and iPad and implemented it on the Mac, providing a relatively simple approach for developers to bring their existing widgets to the Mac. The result has been an immediate explosion of widget options for Mac users.

Over the course of the summer and fall, I tried several different widgets as I ran the Big Sur betas. A few of those widgets — which have been in development the longest and were highlighted in my Big Sur review — remain some of my favorites and are recapped below. However, many more terrific widgets have been released since and deserve consideration as well, so let’s dig in.

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