THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

MindNode

Delightful Mind Mapping


MindNode: Delightful Mind Mapping [Sponsor]

Every great idea or project starts with a single thought. And another. And then a million more. MindNode is the most delightful mind mapping app for macOS, iPadOS, and iOS. It helps you capture your thoughts and create a clear picture of your idea.

When you’re in the middle of brainstorming, the last thing you want to worry about is how to use your tool of choice. MindNode excels at getting out of your way, letting you focus on what’s on your mind and exploring where your ideas take you.

Once your idea has formed, MindNode is ready to take it to its next phase. Feel free to rearrange your mind map and easily hide branches by folding them. Attach files, notes, images, links, and stickers to your thoughts and style them just as you wish, or take advantage of the built-in themes. Explore your idea as an outline or capture new thoughts instantly with Quick Entry.

MindNode’s discreetly powerful features let you fully take advantage of the mind mapping process. Add more context to your thoughts and make new connections with Visual Tags - a great way to prioritize ideas and discover groups of ideas that are otherwise not connected. When your thoughts are too distracting, put a spotlight on a single idea with Focus Mode and fade out all the rest.

Try mind mapping with MindNode by downloading it today and experience all of its features with a free 14-day trial.

Our thanks to MindNode for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Little America Expanding to Apple Podcasts and Apple Books, Show’s Behind-the-Scenes Detailed

Simon Thompson has an excellent, wide-ranging interview at Forbes with the production team behind Little America, the acclaimed Apple TV+ series that debuted recently.

Early on the interview covers why the team chose Apple for this show. Executive Producer Lee Eisenberg explains that unlike many other companies, who were “a little scared” by the pitch, Apple “almost immediately started selling themselves to us and trying to convince us why they should have it.” He attributes this to the series’ tone and spirit being a perfect fit for Apple’s brand. Eisenberg also explains how the company’s platform was a big draw:

“Apple is such a worldwide and multi-faceted brand. We’re doing a podcast to delve more into the stories and the music on the show. There’ll also be a playlist for every episode. We’re putting out a book too. Apple has an infrastructure that just felt like it would be able to touch all of the different pieces that we wanted.”

Word of a Little America podcast seemingly confirms reports of Apple developing original podcast content for its TV+ catalog. The whole paragraph, however, highlights the unique place Apple is in as a media hub. As I’ve written several times now, there’s tremendous potential for the company to utilize its various services in concert to provide experiences not possible anywhere else.

Another fascinating portion of the interview involved production challenges the team faced. Executive Producers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani share the story of a time the show, which centers around U.S. immigrant narratives, had to move production out of the country and into Canada due to an actor being unable to get a visa to enter the country.

“There was a Libyan actor who we were flying in to be in the show, but because of the new immigration laws, we couldn’t film that episode in America. We had to move production to Canada for an episode,” Gordon explained.

Nanjiani added: “For an episode about someone coming to America, who came here with refugee status, we could not shoot it in the US, which was crazy. We couldn’t get a visa for him. We really liked him and really wanted him for the part, so, luckily, Apple was kind enough to allow us, at great expense, to move production to Canada for one episode.”

What an incredible and fitting behind-the-scenes story for a series like this.

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Connected, Episode 278: Honey for My Ears

On this week’s episode of Connected:

This week, Phillr gets an update, iCloud encryption is in the news and Federico shows off his home screens. Also: rumors of a new Smart Keyboard, the possibility of Apple making its own podcasts and a bunch of creepy — yet soothing — whispering.

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

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Connected, Episode 278

Sponsored by:

  • Booz Allen: Integrate. Innovate. Get it done with Booz Allen.
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Adapt, Episode 17: iPad Accessories and Gear

On this week’s episode of Adapt:

The iPad Pro’s increasing popularity and its adoption of USB-C has opened a new world of accessory possibilities, and Federico has tried all of them.

You can listen below (and find the show notes here), and don’t forget to send us questions using #AskAdapt and by tagging our Twitter account.

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Adapt, Episode 17

Sponsored by:

  • Pingdom: Start monitoring your website performance and availability today, and get instant alerts when an outage occurs or a site transaction fails. Use offer code ADAPT to get 30% off. Offer expires on January 31, 2021.
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My Must-Have Apps, 2019 Edition

My Home screens.

My Home screens.

Every year in late October, I start putting together a rough list of candidates for my annual ‘Must-Have Apps’ story, which I’ve historically published in late December, right before the holiday break. As you can tell by the date on this article, the 2019 edition of this story is different: not only did I spend the last months of the year testing a variety of new apps and betas, but I also kept tweaking my Home screen to accomodate MusicBot and new Home screen shortcuts. As a result, it took me a bit longer to finalize the 2019 collection of my must-have apps; in the process, however, I’ve come up with a slightly updated format that I believe will scale better over the next few years.

In terms of app usage, 2019 was a year of stabilization for me. Having settled on a specific writing workflow revolving around iA Writer and Working Copy, and having figured out a solution to record podcasts from my iPad Pro, I spent the year fine-tuning my usage of those apps, refining my file management habits thanks to iPadOS’ improved Files app, and cutting down on the number of apps I kept tucked away in folders on my iPhone and iPad.

Two themes emerged over the second half of 2019, though. First, thanks to various improvements in iOS and iPadOS 13, I increased my reliance on “first-party” Apple apps: I embraced the new Reminders app and its exclusive features, stopped using third-party note-taking apps and moved everything to Notes, and switched back to Apple Mail as my default email client. I’ve written about the idea of comfort in the Apple ecosystem before, and I’ve seen that concept work its way into my app preferences more and more over the course of 2019.

The second theme, unsurprisingly, is my adoption of a hybrid Home screen that combines apps and shortcuts powered by our custom MacStories Shortcuts Icons. Following changes to running shortcuts from the Home screen in iOS 13, I realized how much I was going to benefit from the ability to execute commands with the tap of an icon, so I decided to mix and match apps and shortcuts on my Home screens to maximize efficiency. Thanks to the different flavors of MacStories Shortcuts Icons (we just launched a Color set), I’ve been able to assemble a truly personalized Home screen layout that puts the best of both worlds – my favorite apps and custom shortcuts – right at my fingertips.

For this reason, starting this year you’ll find a new Home Screens section at the beginning of this roundup that covers the first tier of my must-have apps – the “ultimate favorites” I tend to keep on the Home screens of both devices. Because I like to keep my iPhone and iPad Home screens consistent, it made sense to start grouping these apps together in their own special section. These are the apps I use most on a daily basis; I’m pretty sure you’ll find at least a couple surprises this year.

This entire story features a collection of the 50 apps I consider my must-haves on the iPhone and iPad, organized in seven categories; whenever possible, I included links to original reviews and past coverage on MacStories. As for the traditional list of awards for best new app and best app update: those are now part of our annual MacStories Selects awards, which we published last December and you can find here.

Let’s dig in.

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Introducing MacStories Shortcuts Icons Color Edition, Featuring 350 Multi-Color Icons

The Color set is a brand new version of MacStories Shortcuts Icons.

The Color set is a brand new version of MacStories Shortcuts Icons.

After working on this for months, I’m thrilled to announce the second product released under the MacStories Pixel brand: today we’re launching MacStories Shortcuts Icons (Color), a different version of our icon set that features multi-color glyphs and two background options.

Here’s the gist of today’s launch: MacStories Shortcuts Icons (Color) are a new, separate set available for $14.99 here. If you purchased the original MacStories Shortcuts Icons set, now called Classic, you can get the Color one for just $6 as a limited-time offer.

What makes the Color set different: while the Classic set comes with monochrome glyphs, the Color version features multi-color glyphs with white or pure black backgrounds.

You can read more details about MacStories Shortcuts Icons (Color) here and buy the new set here.

And here’s a look at the difference between the two sets in practice:

The new Color set (left) features stunning multi-color glyphs. The Classic set (right) now includes black and white icons too.

The new Color set (left) features stunning multi-color glyphs. The Classic set (right) now includes black and white icons too.

As part of today’s launch, we’ve also redesigned the MacStories Pixel homepage to accomodate our new suite of products.

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Sensei: A Beautifully-Designed Dashboard and Set of Utilities for Your Mac

Sensei is a brand new Mac app that monitors the status of various components of your Mac’s hardware and provides a set of utilities to optimize its performance. The app is certainly not the first to offer these features – there are tools built into macOS and third-party apps that can accomplish many of the same functions, and in some cases more. However, what sets Sensei apart, and what has quickly won me over, is its ability to translate the data it collects and implement its utilities in a beautifully-designed, standalone app.

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NapBot 1.3 Adds Independent Watch App, Today Widget, Notifications, and New Awake Minutes Trend

NapBot debuted last fall as a Swift UI-powered app that makes sleep tracking easy thanks to CoreML and a clean, simple design. The app recently received a variety of improvements via a 1.3 update that enhances both the watchOS and iOS components of NapBot.

On the watchOS side, NapBot now features a fully independent Watch app, meaning it can be downloaded from the Watch’s App Store and run without needing the iOS app installed. The current Watch app only shows sleep data for the previous day, rather than the full history that’s available on the iPhone, so I hope this release is just the first step toward offering full feature parity between watchOS and iOS apps.

Timed with its upgrade to independence, NapBot’s Watch app also now has complications available for every type of watch face and every complication size, so no matter which face is your go-to, you can find a fit for your sleep data.

The iPhone app now tracks a new trend, accessed from inside the Trends tab: Awake minutes. This enables keeping a pulse on how much time you spend awake during a normal night, and if the number doesn’t look good, NapBot will recommend you try reducing caffeine consumption during the latter parts of your day. If your Awake minutes trend shows just limited awake time, you’ll receive reassurance that brief waking periods can be perfectly normal.

Finally, NapBot has added a Today widget that documents your sleep data from the previous evening, and a notification in the morning to let you know sleep has been tracked. Using one or both of these options can reduce the need to open the full NapBot app as often and enable passive use instead, which I find ideal for a sleep tracking app.

The appeal of NapBot is in combining an easy-to-understand interface and effortless sleep tracking with data analysis powered by CoreML. Version 1.3 doesn’t change anything fundamental about the app, but it brings system feature integrations that make a meaningful difference in everyday use.