For 14 years, Apple’s flagship retail store was a fixture at the north end of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, the shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile. Built in 2003, Apple’s Michigan Avenue location was the company’s first flagship store, featuring a glass staircase that seemed to float to the second floor just beyond the store’s entrance. Yesterday though, after many months of construction, Apple opened a new flagship store to the public along the Chicago River that reflects the new direction in which Apple began taking its retail locations last year.
This summer Ulysses announced a major business model shift, with its iOS and macOS apps moving from up front purchases to subscription supported. As tends to happen, the move stirred up some controversy. In my mind at least, the company’s reasoning was sound – as the app’s co-founder stated, “Writers want to rely on a professional tool that is constantly evolving, and we want to keep delivering just that.”
Today brings the first major update to Ulysses following its switch to subscriptions. Bolstered by Apple’s recent focus on evolving the iPad platform, Ulysses 12 is primarily an iOS release; while the Mac version gains some improvements, it clearly isn’t the centerpiece here. Ulysses on iOS gains drag and drop support, multi-pane editing, streamlined library navigation, and image previews – all of which make an already powerful writing tool even better.
Flexibits took much of the frustration out of calendars when it introduced Fantastical for macOS in 2011 by leveraging natural language input of events. It followed up with iPhone and iPad versions. Now, Flexibits wants to do the same for contacts with a brand new app called Cardhop by integrating contact creation, management, and interaction into a single text field of a macOS menu bar app. The app is beautifully-designed and powerful but solves a problem that I’m not sure many people have today.
Many contacts apps are notoriously clunky, hard to get information into, and prone to creating duplicates, which limits their utility. However, contacts apps are less necessary today than ever before. Email clients and messaging apps automatically fill in contact information based on past messages you’ve sent. Other apps and services make it easy to bypass contacts apps altogether with favorites and recent contacts lists. In a communications app-centric world, I expect Cardhop will be a tough sell.
We are on the cusp of a financial revolution fueled by crypto-currencies and Balance makes it easy for everyone to get involved. You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin, one of the earliest crypto-currencies, but there are others including Ethereum. Balance connects to the most popular crypto-currency exchanges like Coinbase along with traditional financial institutions bridging the gap between the old financial world and the new one.
Balance connects with crypto-currency exchanges as well as traditional bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, and online services like PayPal using Plaid, a super-secure platform that works with financial institutions around the world.
When you set up accounts in Balance, the app automatically updates them periodically with new transactions, so you’re always up to date. You can view balances, transactions, notifications and gain insights about your spending. Soon, Balance will release an iOS version of their app too.
Balance is ready for the future. The current financial system is based on outdated, legacy software. Blockchains are the bedrock of a more secure and open system based on cryptocurrencies, but not many people are using them yet. Balance is poised to change that by becoming a single destination for traditional financial accounts and crypto-currency exchanges.
Balance has a great offer for MacStories readers who want to see what crypto-currencies are all about. Just go to bal.money/macstories this week and submit your email address to join the Balance iOS beta when it's released along with $2 worth of Ether in a Coinbase account that you can track with Balance. It’s a great way to see for yourself what the financial world’s future looks like.
Our thanks to Balance for sponsoring MacStories this week.
Live in Chicago, the boys discuss the Google Home Mini's rough launch, the future of AR at Apple and Federico's baker.
We had so much fun recording this episode of Connected live in Chicago last night. We rarely get to record Connected in person, so this episode is extremely special to me. You can listen here.
Tom Warren of The Verge reports on Outlook for Mac details shared at the Microsoft Ignite conference last month:
A lot of the changes look very similar to the Outlook for iOS app, with a single-line ribbon and a smaller set of default commands. Reducing complexity is one of the key aims of the redesign, to make it easier for new and existing Outlook users to navigate the email app.
A new customizable ribbon will let Outlook for Mac and Windows users control which buttons are available, so you can tailor the email interface to your own common tasks. The left navigation panel will include quicker access to folders across multiple accounts, and looks like the switcher in Outlook for iOS.
Outlook for iOS has long been among the top email clients on the mobile platform. It pairs a clean, beautiful interface reminiscent of iOS’ Mail.app with the power user features Apple appears content to ignore. Moving Outlook for Mac away from its traditional desktop roots and further into the modern era looks to be a clear win.
The full Ignite session detailing future Outlook changes is available on YouTube.
Making, accessing and using versions of files is something that has been built into some iOS apps for a while now but few know how to access the feature.
On this week’s Canvas, Fraser and I take a look at our favorite options for dealing with file revisions on iOS, including my workflow for collaborating with the MacStories team. You can listen here.
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Last month after iOS 11’s launch I pulled together a roundup of iPad apps belonging to a whole new category of apps. Dropped, Workshelf, The Shelf, and Scrawl Pouch all launched as manifestations of Federico’s dream for a drag and drop-powered temporary holding place for content on the iPad. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, here’s how I described it in my last shelf roundup:
The need for a shelf springs from the addition of drag and drop to iOS 11. It’s not always practical to drag content directly from one app to another; sometimes you know you’ll need that content soon, but you’re not ready to drop it elsewhere yet. Additionally, in some situations you may wish to drop the same data into multiple places over a short period of time, and it can be cumbersome to re-open the data’s source app to pull it out multiple times. A shelf can solve these problems: it serves as a temporary resting place for anything you know you’ll need quick access to soon. In this way it can serve a role similar to the macOS desktop, which is commonly used as a temporary holding zone.
While all the apps I originally highlighted continue to fill this role well, several additional quality apps have launched that bring new things to the table in this young category of apps.