iTunes U Collections Are Moving to Apple Podcasts

Apple has announced that in September, when iTunes 12.7 is released, it will migrate iTunes U collections to Apple Podcasts. iTunes U courses will be available only through the iTunes U app on iOS.

iTunes U was launched in 2007 to offer downloadable collections of free educational content through the iTunes Store. In 2012, Apple introduced the iTunes U iOS app, which allowed educators to create iTunes U courses that go beyond audio and video by incorporating handouts, homework, quizzes, ebooks, and other content. Although courses are currently listed alongside collections in iTunes on macOS, courses are designed to work best in the iTunes U app, which is iOS-only.

According to Apple’s announcement and support pages, it will automatically convert iTunes U Collections to podcasts in September and eliminate the iTunes U section of iTunes on macOS. That means there will no longer be a way to download iTunes U course materials on a Mac. The change also means that the iTunes U catalog will only include courses and will only be accessible from an iOS device.

The transition of iTunes U collections to podcasts will occur automatically but carries a couple of caveats. First, iTunes U and podcast categories are different. Collections will be assigned podcast categories automatically, but they may differ from the ones assigned in iTunes U. However, collection creators can use their new iTunes Podcast Site Manager sites to change the category at any time.

Second, collections that include ePub files may want to substitute them with PDF files. According to Apple’s iTunes U Public Site Manager support page:

Apple Podcasts supports all media types currently supported by iTunes U collections, with the exception of ePub files. If your collections contain ePub files, you might want to replace the ePub files with another file type (for example, a PDF file).

This advice seems at odds with the Apple Podcasts Connect support page that says ePub files are supported by podcasts. However, unless Apple provides clarification, it is probably best to switch to PDFs as suggested.

As podcasts grow in popularity, converting iTunes U collections to podcasts should expose them to a broader audience. The transition also simplifies iTunes on macOS and limits the iTunes U app to the content that is designed to work best with it. Each of those reasons makes sense in isolation, but there is a gap that hasn’t been addressed. What’s missing is a way to access iTunes U courses on the Mac. It’s possible that Apple has decided that iTunes U courses should be iOS-only, but I can’t help but think we’ll see a new approach to iTunes U on the Mac this fall and that this transition may be part of a broader plan to dismantle iTunes.


Game Day: Pigeon Wings

Pigeon Wings is a hyper-fast, racing game with shoot ‘em up elements and a lot of personality. You play as Pigeon, a pigeon-pilot tasked with saving Megalopolis from the evil Duke Dexter. The backstory immediately sets a light-hearted, humorous tone for the game that doesn’t get bogged down in long cut scenes explaining what’s happening. What sets Pigeon Wings apart though, is its tilt control steering system. The controls work flawlessly becoming second nature so quickly that they fade into the background making it easy to get lost in the game’s short races.

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Slack for iOS Gains Quick Replies for Notifications

The latest update to Slack’s iOS app introduces a feature I’ve been waiting for since we started using the service for daily communications at MacStories: quick replies to notifications. Now when you get a Slack message, you can pull down on the notification banner – or, if you’re viewing an old notification, press on it – to send a reply without opening the app. I’ve tested this feature in the Slack beta over the past week, and it’s considerably reduced the number of times I have to open the app.

The fact that Slack’s native iOS app still feels so slow when loading and switching between channels makes this addition all the more welcome. It would be nice to have both quick replies and emoji reactions as options upon expanding a notification, but this will suffice.

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Apple Releases iOS 11 and iPad How-To Videos

Apple has published a series of six short videos to YouTube highlighting the marquee features of iOS 11 on the iPad. Each of the how-to videos is about one minute long and shows how to use a new feature:

  • 'How to harness the power of the amazing new dock’ demonstrates how to add items to the dock, access recent files, and drag files into apps like Messages.
  • ‘How to mark stuff up with Apple Pencil’ shows how to mark up notes from the lock screen, Mail attachments, photos, and screenshots.
  • ‘How to manage and fly through your files with iOS 11’ is a quick tour of the new Files app, including how to use recents, favorites, and various cloud services.
  • ‘How to effortlessly scan, sign, and send a document with iOS 11’ shows someone scanning, signing, and sending a lease using the the Notes app.
  • ‘How to get more things done more quickly with multitasking with iOS 11’ explains how to share images in a Keynote presentation in Messages using Slide Over.
  • ‘How to get the most out of your hands with iOS 11’ demonstrates how to use two hands to drag and drop multiple images.

The videos do an excellent job of describing and demonstrating each new feature quickly and simply. With iOS 11 just weeks away, a little pre-launch education about its new capabilities on the iPad is a smart move by Apple.

You can view each of the videos after the break.

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Transmit 5 Review

If you’ve used a Mac for a while, you’ve likely come across Panic’s file transfer app Transmit. Not long ago, I would have probably still described it as an FTP app even though it’s handled things like Amazon S3 file transfers for a while. However, with the recent release of version 5, Transmit for macOS has become much more than an FTP client adding support for ten cloud services. Moreover, Panic has taken the opportunity to rewrite its file transfer engine so that it’s faster, tweak virtually every feature, and update and streamline the app’s design. The result is an all-new Transmit that is both familiar and more capable than ever before.

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Tim Cook Responds to Events in Charlottesville in a Message to Employees

BuzzFeed reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email message to employees yesterday responding to recent violence between hate groups and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, and to subsequent statements by US President Donald Trump. Calling hate a cancer that ‘left unchecked … destroys everything in its path,’ Cook wrote that:

I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans

The message goes on to call on all employees, regardless of their political views, to stand together for equality:

As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.

Cook also announced $1 million donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League and that it will match employee donations to those organizations and others two-for-one through September 30th, and offer a way for customers to donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center via iTunes in the coming days.

The full text of Tim Cook’s email message to employees is available on BuzzFeed.

BuzzFeed separately reports that Apple has also disabled Apple Pay support for a handful of websites that sell Nazi paraphernalia.


Neo Angle Review: No Turning Back

You might be tempted to feel confident after the first few levels of Neo Angle, the follow-up game from Blyss developer Dropout Games. After all, you just have to move your triangle to a certain spot on the grid, occasionally picking up small fuel cells along the way. Early on, the most challenging part may be refraining from bobbing your head to the music.

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ESPN for Apple TV Launches MultiCast Feature, Enabling Multiple Simultaneous Streams

Todd Spangler has a story for Variety on an improvement to the ESPN Apple TV app that should make the most avid sports fans very happy.

A new version of the ESPN App for Apple TV’s tvOS, available Wednesday, includes a feature called MultiCast that provides the ability to view up to four simultaneous live streams at once. On any given day, ESPN users can choose from 30 or more live events airing across its networks.

From everything I’ve seen, the implementation of this feature appears well designed and well thought through. As seen at the top of the image above, MultiCast makes a number of different customization options available to users. You can watch anywhere from one to four different streams at once, and depending on the number you have playing, the screens are resized and optimized for the best viewing experience.

While I don’t see myself using MultiCast often, I know there are bigger sports fans than me who constantly flip between different games at certain times of year, such as during the upcoming college and professional football seasons.

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