THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

MacStadium

Orka Virtualization Is Coming to Apple Silicon Hardware


Pok Pok Playroom Releases Major Town Toy Expansion

Pok Pok Playroom, the delightful collection of digital toys that won an Apple Design Award earlier this year, got a big update today that expands the app’s town toy significantly. In the months since the app’s launch, the Pok Pok team has been hard at work adding to and refining the app’s digital toys, but today’s update is particularly noteworthy for its depth.

Source: Pok Pok.

Source: Pok Pok.

It’s not surprising that the town toy is among kids’ favorites. The town’s wide variety of buildings, people, animals, and other elements provided a rich environment for exploration and imagination. Today’s update grows the town into a thriving, diverse metropolis. The original parts are still there, but kids will also find more occupations, green spaces, new means of transportation, a farm, and even a movie set complete with a dinosaur.

Pok Pok's revamped town has a movie set.

Pok Pok’s revamped town has a movie set.

The all-new town was developed in collaboration with Sarah Kaufman, an urban planner from New York City, who helped the Pok Pok team incorporate the cultural, design, and community elements of modern cities. The results are fantastic. There’s a wealth of new areas available that I expect kids will find engaging and fun.

If you have kids and haven’t tried Pok Pok yet, now is a great time to do so. For a limited time, the app is 50% off a 1-year subscription, which is a terrific deal. You can learn more on the Pok Pok website and donwload the app on the App Store. Also, if you want to hear from the Pok Pok team themselves, listen to the interview we did with them on AppStories when they won an Apple Design Award.


AppStories, Episode 252 – Obsidian In Depth: Core Plugins (Part 2)

This week on AppStories, we continue our series on Obsidian with a discussion of the app’s core plugins, which control many of its most advanced features.


On AppStories+ this week, we discuss Apple’s 2021 Apps of the Year and take a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming MacStories Selects Awards.

We deliver AppStories+ to subscribers with bonus content, ad-free, and at a high bitrate early every week.

To learn more about the benefits included with an AppStories+ subscription, visit our Plans page, or read the AppStories+ FAQ.


MacStadium: Orka Virtualization Is Coming to Apple Silicon Hardware [Sponsor]

Orka is MacStadium’s virtualization layer created for Mac build infrastructure that allows Mac and iOS developers to orchestrate macOS in a cloud environment using Kubernetes on genuine Apple hardware. Soon, Orka 2.0, which is currently in beta, will be released, allowing developers to harness the combined power of Apple’s M1 chip architecture and Orka for the first time.

Since Orka was first released, users have used it to streamline their development pipeline with high-performance, scalable, secure, and reliable Apple Hardware. Soon, Orka will run on Apple silicon Macs too. With Orka 2.0, developers will be able to virtualize macOS across M1 Macs just like they’ve been doing on Intel machines and even mix clusters using both Intel-and M1-based virtual machines. It’s a big step forward, which will make it easier for developers to migrate their Mac and iOS build pipelines to Apple silicon. With Orka 2.0, you’ll be able to control Orka VMs with a native Kubernetes command line too.

The possibilities created by Orka 2.0 don’t end there, though. Just last week, AWS announced that EC2 instances on M1 Mac minis are on the way. AWS’s M1 mini instances are currently in preview, but the news opens up intriguing possibilities for developers, such as running Orka 2.0 on AWS or building a hybrid cloud pipeline on MacStadium servers and AWS.

Learn more about Orka 2.0 at MacStadium and sign up for the beta today to be among the first to experience your development pipeline on M1 Macs. It promises to be a big leap forward that you won’t want to miss.

Our thanks to MacStadium for sponsoring MacStories this week.


MacStories Unwind: The Best Music of 2021

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This week on MacStories Unwind:

Our Favorite 2021 Albums and Singles

Federico

Albums:
- Screen Violence by CHVRCHES
- If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power by Halsey
- 30 by Adele
- An Evening with Silk Sonic by Silk Sonic
- Who Am I? by Pale Waves
- SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo
- Knebworth 1996 by Oasis
- Draw Down the Moon by Foxing
- Futures: Phoenix Sessions by Jimmy Eat World
- XOXO: From Love & Anxiety In Real Time by The Maine
- Pressure Machine by The Killers

Album of the Year:

Singles:

Song of the Year:

John

Albums:

Album of the Year:

  • SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo

Singles:

Songs of the Year:

Rewind

MacStories and Club MacStories Highlights

AppStories
- Obsidian In Depth: The Basics (Part 1)


Apple Names the 2021 App of the Year Award Winners

Apple has revealed its annual App of the Year winners. This year, the company picked a collection of 15 apps and games from among the millions available on the App Store, naming them the Apps of the Year. In recent years, Apple has also used its App of the Year awards as an opportunity to highlight trends on the App Store. This year, the company’s App Store editorial team picked just one trend, Connection, sharing a collection of 5 apps that span a wide spectrum of genres.

Just like last year, Apple has honored 15 apps and games as the App of the Year winners from a wide variety of categories. According to Apple’s press release:

“The developers who won App Store Awards in 2021 harnessed their own drive and vision to deliver the best apps and games of the year — sparking the creativity and passion of millions of users around the world,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “From self-taught indie coders to inspiring leaders building global businesses, these standout developers innovated with Apple technology, with many helping to foster the profound sense of togetherness we needed this year.”

Mac App of the Year, Craft.

Mac App of the Year, Craft.

This year’s app winners are:

Apple Arcade Game of the Year, Fantasian.

Apple Arcade Game of the Year, Fantasian.

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

Apple Watch App of the Year, CARROT Weather.

Apple Watch App of the Year, CARROT Weather.

The App Store editorial team sees a lot of apps every year, and the trend it saw emerge in 2021 was ‘Connection,’ a theme embodied in the following apps:

Bumble is among five apps selected as embodying the Trend of the Year, Connection.

Bumble is among five apps selected as embodying the Trend of the Year, Connection.

In addition to naming this year’s winners, Apple called out each of the developers of the apps and games in a special ‘Developers make all the difference’ story, which links to profiles of each app and game. You’ll also find features on each app and game in Apple’s App Store apps.

Apple has created a profile story for each App of the Year winner.

Apple has created a profile story for each App of the Year winner.

To commemorate this year’s App of the Year winners, Apple’s designers created physical awards, which made their first appearance last year. 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.

Picking the best apps of the year isn’t easy, which makes it easy to quarrel with individual picks. However, I think the choices by Apple’s editorial team this year do an excellent job of capturing a wide range of the best that the App Store has to offer.

Congratulations to this year’s Apple App of the Year award winners. I always enjoy seeing developers’ hard work and contributions to Apple’s platforms recognized.


Shortcuts for Mac’s Superpower

Earlier today on Six Colors, Jason Snell wrote about running Shortcuts from the command line:

I was reminded by Simon Støvring, maker of the excellent Mac and iOS utility Data Jar (which is a persistent data store that’s accessible via Shortcuts), that people may not be aware of just how well integrated Shortcuts is into macOS.

Jason has put his finger on something I think has gone unnoticed by a lot of users. The deep integration of Shortcuts with macOS is its superpower, especially because it’s bidirectional. You can run your shortcuts from the command line and run command line scripts in your shortcuts. The same goes for AppleScript.

Add to that the ability to run shortcuts via AppleScript files, as applets, or with third-party apps, and there’s an incredible amount of room for creativity in bringing tools built into macOS and third-party automation apps together in new ways. It’s what led me to build the utility shortcuts I wrote about on MacStories and Club MacStories today and Federico to explore new ways to pass input into shortcuts earlier this week.

Be sure to check out Jason’s story for examples of the way shortcuts can be run from the command line and the results passed to other apps or used by macOS in various ways.

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How to Batch Convert Shortcuts for Use Throughout Monterey and with Other Automation Apps

My latest Shortcuts experiments began in earnest on my way back from Rome. I stopped in Ireland for a few days to deal with COVID testing and start ramping back up to my normal work routine. I wasn’t quite ready to tackle the day-to-day yet, so I decided to revisit a Shortcuts experiment I had started back in June.

I’ve been a fan of PopClip for years and have played around with creating my own extensions for the app occasionally. So, shortly after WWDC, I tried building a PopClip extension that triggered a shortcut that had been saved as a Service. PopClip works with services, and the extension I built came tantalizingly close to working, but it had too many issues to be useful, so I set it aside.

PopClip.

PopClip.

Sitting in Dublin with the released version of Monterey and a new version of PopClip that had been updated to work with Shortcuts, I revisited my early experiments. The updates to macOS and PopClip made adding shortcuts as PopClip extensions trivially easy, as Federico demonstrated recently in MacStories Weekly. Then, when I got home, my Stream Deck was waiting for me, which led to another round of experimentation and an in-depth story on the many ways it can run shortcuts.

Since then, I’ve been incorporating Mac shortcuts I’ve built into my workflows using multiple third-party apps like BetterTouchTool, Alfred, and, of course, PopClip. It wasn’t long before I wished there was a way to batch process shortcuts, so I could use them in multiple ways across Monterey and in third-party apps.

Scripts built with AppleScript are just one way to integrate shortcuts with other apps.

Scripts built with AppleScript are just one way to integrate shortcuts with other apps.

To streamline the process, I turned, of course, to Shortcuts itself. In total, I’ve created four shortcuts to help me deploy my favorite shortcuts across macOS:

  • Script Builder: Generates .scpt files that can be incorporated in other apps from multiple shortcuts using AppleScript
  • Dock Applet Builder: Creates Dock applets from shortcuts that can be launched from the Finder, app launchers, and more
  • Script Applet Builder: Converts shortcuts into AppleScript applets with custom icons that behave like Dock applets but don’t get automatically deposited in your Dock
  • PopClip Builder: Produces and streamlines installation of multiple PopClip extensions with custom icons that run shortcuts

I’ll cover the first two shortcuts here. Script Applet Builder and PopClip Extension Builder are included in The Macintosh Desktop Experience, my column for ClubMacStories+ that explores new ways to make your Mac work for you.

Read more


AppStories, Episode 251 – Obsidian In Depth: The Basics (Part 1)

This week on AppStories, we introduce part one of a new series on Obsidian, explaining what the app is and does, why it’s important, the compromises that come along with using a non-native app, and how we are using it.


On AppStories+, John says goodbye to his M1 iMac review unit and reflects on how it has changed the way he uses the Mac, and Federico explains how he’s using Spark with Apple’s Reminders app.

We deliver AppStories+ to subscribers with bonus content, ad-free, and at a high bitrate early every week.

To learn more about the benefits included with an AppStories+ subscription, visit our Plans page, or read the AppStories+ FAQ.

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Apple Podcasts Names Its Best Show and Newcomer of 2021

On the heels of the Apple Music Awards, Apple has announced its picks for the Best Show of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, along with the Top New Show, Top Free Channel, Top Show with Subscription, and Top Channel with Subscription. 2021 saw Apple move into subscription-based podcasts and channels that allow podcast producers to create collections of shows, both of which are reflected in the top charts announced today. According to the company’s press release:

“2021 marked the start of a new chapter for podcasting with shows that moved us in ways unlike ever before,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats. “We are honored to recognize the phenomenal creators who are redefining podcasting with this year’s best shows, and to help more listeners around the world discover, enjoy, and support their inspiring work.”

Maya Shankar, host of A Slight Change of Plans.

Maya Shankar, host of A Slight Change of Plans.

The 2021 Apple Podcasts Awards winners are:

Apple’s Podcasts editorial team has also created a curated collection of Top Shows and Top Episodes of 2021 and reported the year-end Top Charts of the most popular free and subscription-based shows and channels. Those lists, along with the award winners, can be found in a special Best of 2021 section of the Apple Podcasts app.

Podcasts continue to be one of the hottest media categories, experiencing rapid growth and experimentation with new business models, including subscriptions like Apple Podcasts program. Apple Podcasts Subscriptions got off to a rocky start earlier this year, but it also isn’t nearly as difficult to use as some people suggest in my experience. I expect that over time, Apple Podcasts Subscriptions will continue to grow as podcasters explore new ways to build sustainable shows.