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MacStories Unwind: A WWDC Preview, Timery and HomeRun Updates, ADAs, Swift Student Challenge Winners, and a Design Concept

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This week, Federico and John preview MacStories’ and AppStories’ upcoming WWDC coverage and recap updates to Timery and HomeRun, along with news of ADA finalists, Swift Student Challenge Winners, an iPadOS design concept, and link posts about the App Store and AirTags along with two music Unwind picks for the weekend.

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • MacStories Unplugged
    • John has an update on his cul-de-sac, we preview MacStories’ upcoming WWDC coverage, and Federico lifts the veil on Apple’s restoration of historic Palazzo Marignoli, home of the company’s latest flagship retail store.
  • MacStories Weekly
    • ReadKit
    • A collection of iOS apps for Readers
    • A tip for removing Home hubs
    • Lots of App Debuts
    • A Timery giveaway

AppStories

Unwind


HomeRun 2 Launches as a New App with Home Screen Widgets, an In-App Grid System, and an Updated Watch Complication Editor

I’ve long considered HomeRun by Aaron Pearce a must-have app if you’re into HomeKit automation. With version 2, which is available for the iPhone and iPad and is out today, HomeRun adds all-new ways to access HomeKit scenes with in-app grids and Home Screen widgets, along with an updated Apple Watch complication editor. Although the initial setup process can be a bit laborious, investing some time in a setup on multiple devices pays off, allowing you to trigger scenes in many more ways than is possible with the Home app.

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HomeRun Adds Thousands of Icons for Customizing Your Watch HomeKit Triggers

Browsing custom icons in HomeRun's iPhone companion.

Browsing custom icons in HomeRun’s iPhone companion.

Customization options have never hurt an app, and in many cases they make apps far more functional and endearing. Today HomeRun, the Apple Watch app for running HomeKit scenes, has expanded its customization options immensely by adding over 4,400 new icons that can be used for configuring the app’s grid of HomeKit scenes, and also for adorning your watch face via HomeRun’s complications.

HomeRun debuted last November as the best option for running HomeKit scenes from your Apple Watch. Unlike Apple’s own Home app, which only displays two scene triggers on-screen at once, with HomeRun you can fit up to 12 on-screen with a 44mm Watch, plus create complications for those scenes that run on a user-set schedule, so the right scene complication is always present at the right time.

HomeRun's scene grid (left) and custom complication (right).

HomeRun’s scene grid (left) and custom complication (right).

Previous releases enabled customizing HomeRun’s scene grid, which makes up the app’s main UI, by choosing from different colors and glyphs for each of your HomeKit scenes. The number of options was fine before, but now it’s much more than fine. Developer Aaron Pearce has added thousands of new icons by including the full set of Apple’s SF Symbols, the full set of Simpaticons, plus emoji options. The over 4,400 icons can be browsed inside HomeRun’s companion iPhone app, where a search option has thankfully been included.

I love that these new options work not only inside HomeRun’s grid, but also for configured complications. The sole exception is emoji, since they don’t fit watchOS’ design standards for complications. That slight drawback aside, this is a fantastic release for HomeRun that ensures I have no reason to ever look elsewhere for HomeKit scene control on the Apple Watch.

HomeRun 1.3 is available now on the App Store.


HomeRun Launches Advanced Daily Routine Feature for Complications and Siri Face

HomeRun 1.2 was released today from developer Aaron Pearce, the latest evolution of the Apple Watch app for controlling HomeKit scenes from your wrist. Its last big update introduced the ability to create custom complications on the Watch, which was a fantastic addition because it enabled users to implement the complications that work best for them personally. Today’s update extends the theme of user customization and programmability, but takes it to a whole new level – exceeding anything I’ve seen from another Watch app before now.

Version 1.2 of HomeRun revolves around one main feature – daily routines – which takes a couple different forms. In each manifestation, however, daily routines equip users to program which actions the app surfaces on their wrist during the course of a normal day.

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HomeRun 1.1 Enables Creating Custom Watch Complications

HomeRun is a simple Apple Watch utility for controlling HomeKit scenes from your wrist. Where Apple’s Home app for the Watch can be clunky to navigate, especially if you have more than a couple HomeKit devices set up, HomeRun makes controls easily accessible for all your scenes. And today, with version 1.1, HomeRun has introduced custom complication creation, making it possible to have different launcher complications for each of your configured scenes.

Inside the HomeRun app on iPhone, the Complications screen in version 1.1 appears largely the same at first glance, but once you start tapping around you’ll discover that Watch complications are now fully customizable. Visit the detail view for a specific watch face and you’ll be able to update any and all complications for that face with custom colors and icons to accompany your selected scenes. The Series 4 Watch’s Infograph face, for example, presents options to customize both the corner slot and circle slot complications.

Creating custom complications works just like setting up scenes for the main Watch app itself, with the same set of colors and glyphs available in both places. That means the excellent assortment of glyph options for scenes are all accessible as complication icons as well.

When it launched last month, HomeRun enabled adding scenes as complications to your watch face, but you had to use the app’s icon for each complication. Custom complications were a natural next step for the app, and I’m thankful we didn’t have to wait long for them to arrive.

HomeRun 1.1 is available on the App Store.


AppStories, Episode 87 – Pick 2: Grocery and HomeRun

On this week’s episode of AppStories, we go in-depth on two apps we’ve been using a lot recently: Grocery, a grocery shopping list app, and HomeRun, an Apple Watch app for triggering HomeKit scenes.

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HomeRun: Quickly Trigger HomeKit Scenes on Your Apple Watch

HomeRun is a simple, elegant utility for triggering HomeKit scenes from your Apple Watch. Through a combination of color and iconography, HomeRun developer Aaron Pearce, who is the creator of other excellent HomeKit apps like HomeCam and HomePass, creates an effective solution for accessing HomeKit scenes from your wrist. It’s a user-friendly approach that’s a fantastic alternative for HomeKit device users frustrated by Apple’s Home app.

Apple’s Home app is hard to use on the Apple Watch. First, when you open Home on the Watch, it’s not clear what you’re seeing. Home presents a series of card-like, monochrome scene and accessory buttons that you scroll through one or two at a time. Although the app doesn’t say so, these are the favorite scenes and accessories from the Home tab of the iOS app. That makes the list customizable, which is nice, but the app should do a better job identifying where the user is in relationship to the iOS app.

Second, although you can rearrange your Home favorites to reorder them on the Watch too, you can only see two scenes or one accessory at a time. Depending on how many favorites you have, that limits the Watch app’s utility because a long list of scenes and accessories requires a lot of swiping or scrolling with the Digital Crown.

HomeRun avoids this by eliminating text and relying on color and iconography to distinguish between scenes. The app is also limited to triggering scenes, reducing potential clutter further. The approach allows HomeRun to display up to 12 scenes on a single screen of a 44mm Apple Watch compared to the two scene buttons that Home can display. If you set up more than 12 scenes, they are accessible by scrolling.

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Elgato HDHomeRun Streams Digital TV To Your Macs, Lets You Record & Export

Elgato’s latest addition to the EyeTV software family for OS X machines and iOS devices is the HDHomeRun, a small device that can be connected to your TV and home router to share digital TV over a network. Combined with EyeTV for Mac and Windows Media Center for PCs, the HDHomeRun allows you to stream TV content from antenna or cable channels, send it off to multiple computers simultaneously for live streaming, and record it for later viewing with options to export to iTunes for maximum iOS compatibility. Alternatively, thanks to the EyeTV app for iPhone and iPad, users will be able to stream digital TV to mobile devices as well. Some of these features, like 3G streaming or iTunes compatibility, are of course iOS and Mac specific.

The HDHomeRun retails at $179.95 and it comes as a bundle that includes the device and the EyeTV 3 software. What’s really cool about the HDHomeRun digital tuner is that it can stream TV content to two connected desktop machines at the same time, allowing two users to watch and record separate shows and programs. Streaming can be enabled either wirelessly or via Ethernet, and a list if supported channels in your country can be found here.

With the EyeTV software for Mac, you also get popular features like:

  • Watch, pause, and rewind live TV on your Mac
  • Search two weeks of Program Guide listings; includes one year of free TV Guide data, with optional renewal for only $19.95 per year
  • Set up schedules to record your favorite TV shows
  • Edit out unwanted content
  • Share recordings with other Macs on the same network

Placed next to an Apple TV, Elgato’s HDHomeRun seems like the perfect solution to get your favorite digital TV programs available over the air for Mac and iOS streaming and recording. The product is available now for purchase on Elgato’s website, and we look forward to a full review in the next weeks.


HomePaper: A Handy Utility for Creating Beautiful Home App Wallpapers

Aaron Pearce, the developer behind some of my favorite HomeKit apps like HomeRun, HomeCam, and HomePass, has a new utility that is out today for the iPhone and iPad called HomePaper that solves a very specific problem: boring Home app wallpapers. The room and home settings of Apple’s Home app let you assign a photo or one of nine colorful backgrounds as wallpapers. The trouble is that photos of a room in your home are often too distracting to serve as wallpapers, and Apple’s other choices are too limited and similar to each other. That’s where HomePaper comes in.

The Home App's wallpaper choices are limited.

The Home App’s wallpaper choices are limited.

Pearce’s app combines the best of both kinds of default Apple wallpapers by taking a photo, desaturating it, and overlaying a colorful gradient. You could do something similar in a photo editor, but HomePaper automates the process with a simple app that lets you experiment with different looks, arriving at one you like quickly and easily, the hallmark of a great utility. The result is an image that helps visually differentiate homes and rooms from each other like a standard photo would but with an additional burst of color and style.

HomePaper provides many pre-built gradients as well as the ability to create your own.

HomePaper provides many pre-built gradients as well as the ability to create your own.

HomePaper makes creating great-looking wallpapers effortless with a huge set of pre-built gradients that you can pair with an image in your photo library or by taking a picture with your iPhone or iPad’s camera. You can also pick the two colors for the gradient yourself using the iOS system color picker. When you’ve chosen or created a gradient you like, tap the download button in the bottom left corner of the screen to save it to your iCloud Photo Library, where it’s available to add to the Home app.

HomePaper is by far the simplest of Pearce’s apps, but it’s no less useful. I had settled on a single generic Apple-provided background that was the same for all my rooms because the choices didn’t inspire me to mix them up, and there was too much friction involved in creating my own. With HomePaper, though, I spent a few minutes snapping photos around my house and then applying gradients, achieving results that look great with minimal effort. The Home app looks nicer now when I open it, but it’s also easier to tell one room from another at a glance, which makes HomePaper a wonderful addition to my HomeKit apps.

HomePaper is free to download, allowing you to make one wallpaper. A $0.99 In-App Purchase unlocks the creation of unlimited wallpapers.