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Unread 2 Review: The Elegant RSS Client Leaps into Modernity

Unread has always been one of my favorite RSS clients due to its clean, elegant, gesture-based design, but as competing apps have continued advancing at a steady pace, Unread’s development stalled leading up to its acquisition in 2017 by Golden Hill Software. Since that time, the app has received new life in the form of regular updates, but nothing on the level of what’s debuting today.

Unread 2, on one hand, brings a lot of change and propels the beloved RSS client into the present. It does this, however, with almost no design changes. Unread 2 looks and feels just like Unread 1, but with more power and a roster of modern features under the hood.

If Unread wasn’t the app for you before, then version 2 almost certainly won’t change your mind. But if you already appreciated the elegant RSS reader, Unread 2 provides a lot more reasons to love it.

There are so many big and small upgrades in Unread 2, for my review I’ve chosen to break its noteworthy improvements into three different categories: RSS, iPad, and OS features.

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Tot Review: Collect and Edit Bits of Text

Tot for iPhone, configured with SF Mono as a custom font.

Tot for iPhone, configured with SF Mono as a custom font.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been on a quest to discover the best iPhone and iPad apps to collect and edit various bits of text I come across every day. The result of this research was a collection in Issue 211 of our Club-exclusive newsletter MacStories Weekly, in which I rounded up the six most interesting plain text apps I’d found browsing the App Store. Members can check out the full collection in the newsletter archive, but, for context, here’s how I led the story:

I often find myself wanting to store random bits of plain text in a document, which I don’t want to save in Apple Notes or iA Writer where my more important notes and documents live. I just want a quick way to stash random, disposable pieces of text – phone numbers, addresses, URLs, etc. – that I will discard shortly after. Inevitably, my research led me to discover a bunch of apps I wasn’t familiar with.

[…]

For the purpose of this roundup, I have excluded apps like iA Writer, 1Writer, Drafts, and other, more complex text editors that go beyond the simple act of just saving text in a scratchpad. While it is possible to use those apps for that kind of task – and I believe plenty of folks use Drafts like that – I was effectively looking for iPhone and iPad alternatives to Apple’s TextEdit for Mac.

I use Apple Notes for general-purpose note-taking, but I’ve started moving some of my videogame-related documents and notes that require heavier formatting to Noto (which Ryan reviewed here). All my writing happens in iA Writer, where I do not want to store any other plain text (Markdown) content that won’t end up either on MacStories or Club MacStories. Lately, however, I’ve found myself searching for a tool that lets me jot down (or otherwise collect from Safari or Mail) random bits of text that are important for the moment, but ephemeral, and as such not a good fit for the richness of editing tools available in Notes or Noto. You may be familiar with this problem: maybe it’s a phone number you need to keep handy for a couple minutes, or a list of three items you need to buy at the supermarket, or a URL to a webpage you need to share with a colleague. To me, using Apple Notes or Drafts for this kind of plain text content expiring soon feels excessive; I just want a scratchpad that frees my brain of the responsibility to hold this text with as little friction as possible.

Enter Tot, the latest release from The Iconfactory. At a high level, Tot is a plain text editor that lets you swipe across seven documents from a single view; each document is represented by a colored dot, and the color is also used for the document’s background to make it visually stand out from the other six. You can switch between plain text and rich text editing modes with the tap of a button; there are word and character counts above the keyboard; when you’re done editing, you can share your text as .txt or .rtf documents with other apps. On a superficial analysis, Tot may not seem that different from the plethora of lightweight Markdown or rich text editors available on the App Store. What sets The Iconfactory’s latest app apart, however, is the combination of embracing constraints and adopting system technologies with a thoughtful, balanced design. Allow me to explain.

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Eero WiFi Routers Add HomeKit Support

Amazon’s Eero routers are the first out of the gate with HomeKit support, which promises to provide greater security to your Internet-connected HomeKit devices.

The update, which appeared today via an update to Eero’s iOS app, walks users through the setup process of adding their Eero gateway to the Home app. Along the way, the Eero app explains that enabling HomeKit support allows Eero to firewall off each HomeKit device, so they only communicate with approved devices and services.

Setting up security for HomeKit devices.

Setting up security for HomeKit devices.

Users can set the level of security for each of their HomeKit devices from inside the Eero app’s setup process by choosing ‘More Options’ from HomeKit Accessory Security screen. Alternatively, security settings can be modified from Apple’s Home app. The three security levels available include:

  • Restrict to Home, which only allows connections to your home hub, which the setting warns may block firmware updates or other services.
  • Automatic, which allows connections to manufacturer-approved services and devices
  • No Restriction, which allows connections to any service or device
Adding your Eero router to an existing HomeKit room and viewing its settings in the Home app.

Adding your Eero router to an existing HomeKit room and viewing its settings in the Home app.

I don’t currently use an Eero router as my main WiFi router, but I have a spare one, so I gave the setup process a try. The instructions for setting up HomeKit support were clear and easy to follow as you’d expect given Eero’s reputation for simplifying home networking. I wasn’t able to find the Eero router in the Home app initially, but as a reader pointed out, it’s near the bottom of the Home app’s settings that appear when you tap the house icon from the Home tab. I hope more router makers add this to their products soon. The promise of being able to limit access to more sensitive HomeKit devices like cameras and alarm systems is certainly an enticing one.

Eero’s updated app is available on the App Store as a free download.


AppStories, Episode 151 – Apple’s Blending of Apps and Services

This week on AppStories, we explore how Apple is increasingly blending services with its apps, where the mix has worked, where it hasn’t, and where we expect the trend will lead next.

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First Look: RTRO by Moment Vintage Video Camera App

Source: Moment.

Source: Moment.

RTRO by Moment is a brand new vintage video camera app for iOS from the makers of my favorite add-on camera lenses for the iPhone and the excellent Moment Pro Camera app.

The app is a new direction for Moment. The company’s Pro Camera app, combined with its add-on lenses for the iPhone, push the boundaries of what’s possible with the iPhone’s camera. Packed with settings and customizations, the Pro Camera app can create stunning photos and video in the hands of a skilled photographer.

In contrast, RTRO is a video-only camera app focused first and foremost on making fun, short videos for sharing that use filters crafted by photographers to create unique retro looks. It’s those filters, which Moment calls ‘looks,’ paired with a simple, approachable interface that make the app work. It’s easy to get started, fun to use, and the videos the app creates have a unique vibe that makes even the most mundane video more interesting for viewers.

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Connected, Episode 282: Three HomePods Too Late

On last week’s episode of Connected:

Stephen shares a prepared statement. Myke suggests some games and Federico envisions a March iPad Pro event. Also: more Qi chargers have come on the market and a discussion about the HomePod’s future.

You can listen below (and find the show notes here).

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01:34:13

Connected, Episode 282

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Airmail Pro – Your Mail on All Your Devices, iPhone, iPad and Mac [Sponsor]

Airmail Pro is the Apple Design Award-winning email client for iOS, the iPad, the Apple Watch, and the Mac that combines elegant design with rich, customizable features that tame your inbox with a single subscription for all your devices.

Everyone’s email workflow is a little different. With Airmail’s extensive customizations, unique actions, and deep integration with other apps and services, the app works for you instead of against you.

The app can handle every major email service and standard. It’s smart, unified inbox filters out less critical messages like newsletters too. Sending and managing messages is just as powerful too. You can snooze messages until later and set them up to be sent in the future. There’s even a privacy mode that processes all the data locally on your device, blocks tracking pixels, and prevents images from loading automatically. On the iPad, Airmail Pro shines with Split View support, drag and drop, keyboard shortcuts, an iPad-optimized layout, and a lot more.

Airmail Pro was just updated across every platform, adding terrific new and updated features for Pro subscribers like a brand new design, revamped search functionality, new themes, and custom actions. There’s also support for dark mode, interactive notifications so you can delete, archive, or reply to messages from inside a notification, bulk message management, tons of sorting and filtering options, and message templates.

Take control of your email across all of Apple’s platforms today by downloading Airmail for the Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch now.

Airmail Pro is free to try without multiple account support and with other limitations. If you’re an Airmail Pro subscriber on iOS or bought Airmail 3 after January 1, 2019, the full, unlocked versions of Airmail are available for no extra charge. Other users can still use earlier versions of the app by going to Preferences → General → Airmail Legacy.

Our thanks to Airmail Pro for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Twitter Simplifies Adding Tweets to Past Threads

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out a useful new feature that makes it easier to append new tweets to a past thread in its iOS app. Although you could already find an old thread and add to it, the new feature lets you do so from inside the compose field. That way, you can start a fresh tweet and decide after you’ve written it that you want to tack it onto an old thread.

The mechanic is simple. From the tweet compose view, pull down. Your most recent tweet will appear so you can continue it as a thread. Alternatively, there’s also an ellipses button next to ‘Continue Thread’ that you can tap, and all of your tweets come into view in reverse chronological order. Pick one, and the tweet you were composing is added to that thread. If you have second thoughts, there’s still an option to remove the tweet from the thread before tapping the Tweet button and sending the new message.

Twitter announced the feature with a tweet that includes a GIF demonstrating how it works:

Features like this have slowly but surely led me to start using the official Twitter app again. It’s been a painful process after years of using third-party Twitter clients, and I’m still doing a lot of my tweet reading in Tweetbot where I have an extensive collection of muted terms. Yet, as my overall time using the service has waned a little, I’ve found that the features that I can’t get from third-party apps have drawn me in more and more.


Noto Review: Beautifully Modern and Versatile Note-Taking

Top-tier note-taking apps don’t come along very often. For years Evernote was king, then Apple Notes gained new life in 2015, and since that time apps like Bear and Agenda have made compelling entries to the notes market. Noto, a recent debut across iPhone, iPad, and Mac, is the first new note-taker in two years that I’ve been thoroughly impressed by.

Noto reminds me a lot of Notion, but in the form of a native app rather than a web wrapper. It offers a clean, elegant design and a diverse array of tools so you can mix and match different content types inside each note. But it also integrates with key system technologies like drag and drop, multiwindow, iCloud sync, and more.

It’s these dual strengths of Noto’s modern integrations and versatile toolset that make the app compelling. A few minor drawbacks aside, it’s one of the most powerful and beautiful note-taking apps available on Apple’s platforms.

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