John Voorhees

1126 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John joined MacStories in 2015. He is an editor and regular contributor to MacStories and the Club MacStories newsletters, co-hosts AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps, with Federico, and handles sponsorship sales for MacStories and AppStories. John is also the creator of Blink, an iOS affiliate linking app for the iTunes Affiliate Program.

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Apple Updates Its MacBook Pro Line with Faster CPUs and New Keyboard Mechanisms

Apple updated its MacBook Pros today with new, faster processors and changes to the notebook line's keyboard mechanism. According to an Apple press release:

The 15-inch MacBook Pro now features faster 6- and 8-core Intel Core processors, delivering Turbo Boost speeds up to 5.0 GHz, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar features faster quad-core processors with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.7 GHz.

Apple says that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with an 8-core processor is up to two times faster than the previous top-end quad-core model. To put that performance in perspective, Apple claims that:

  • Music producers can play back massive multi-track projects with up to two times more Alchemy plug-ins in Logic Pro X.
  • 3D designers can render scenes up to two times faster in Maya Arnold.
  • Photographers can apply complex edits and filters up to 75 percent faster in Photoshop.
  • Developers can compile code up to 65 percent faster in Xcode.
  • Scientists and researchers can compute complex fluid dynamics simulations up to 50 percent faster in TetrUSS.
  • Video editors can edit up to 11 simultaneous multicam streams of 4K video in Final Cut Pro X.

Interestingly, Apple's press release makes no mention of the MacBook Pro's keyboard. However, the company spoke to Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch who was told:

  1. The MacBook Pro keyboard mechanism has had a materials change in the mechanism. Apple says that this new keyboard mechanism composition will substantially reduce the double type/no type issue. Apple will not specify what it has done, but doubtless tear-downs of the keyboard will reveal what has been updated.
  2. Though Apple believes that this change will greatly reduce the issue, it is also including all butterfly keyboards across its notebook line into its Keyboard Service Program. This means that current MacBook Pros and even the models being released today will have keyboard repairs covered at no cost, in warranty and out of warranty.
  3. Apple tells me that repair times for keyboards have been longer than they would like. It is making substantial improvements to repair processes in Apple Stores to make repairs faster for customers with issues.

According to Panzarino, failing third-generation keyboards will be replaced with the new fourth-generation keyboard found in these updated MacBook Pros.

It's not unusual for Apple to release product updates shortly before a major event that don't make the cut for the keynote presentation. Notebooks with faster CPUs fall squarely into that category. With the company's annual developer conference just around the corner, today's announcement is likely also be designed to try to satisfy one its biggest pro user groups that the company is trying to put keyboard issues behind it. However, only time will tell whether this version of the MacBook Pro's keyboard is more reliable than prior iterations.


Beyond the Tablet Extras: eBook, Special Episode of AppStories, and Making Of Essays

Today, Federico published Beyond the Tablet: Seven Years of iPad as My Main Computer, a comprehensive evaluation of the advantages and shortcomings he’s experienced using an iPad as his primary computer. Weighing in at around 50,000 words, Beyond the Tablet rivals Federico’s annual iOS reviews in scope and depth of coverage. As a result, it felt appropriate to release the same sort of extras for this story that we’ve provided for iOS reviews.

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Timery for Toggl: The MacStories Review

I have a long, rocky relationship with time tracking. For years I tracked my time because I had to; clients were billed by the hour. I hated the tedium of it. A big part of that was because I didn't have access to time tracking apps. Instead, I kept track of my time in a notebook or a plain-text document. When I left that job, I celebrated, figuring that I'd left time tracking in my wake. I was very wrong.

No sooner had I started writing and podcasting full-time than I found myself tracking every minute that I work again. There was a difference this time though. I was doing it for myself to ensure I spent my time wisely; no longer was I just feeding the back-end to an invoicing system.

Time tracking helps me weigh the value of the time I spend on every project, identify inefficiencies in the way I work, and acts as an early warning system to avoid burnout. Tracking for my own benefit has made all the difference in the world, but it didn't make keeping up with the habit any easier. For that, I needed a better set of tools than a notebook or text file.

The service I decided on was Toggl, which Federico and a few other friends were already using. It's perfect for anyone tracking their time for their own purposes because the service has a generous free tier. If you want more extensive reporting, advanced features, or project and team management though, there are paid tiers too.

Toggl also offers a rich web API. That was important when I first started using Toggl because early versions of its iOS and Mac apps weren't great. Those apps have improved, but early on, I switched to using Federico's Toggl workflows which evolved into his current set of Toggl shortcuts alongside the Toggl web app running in a Fluid browser instance on my Mac.

Toggl running as a Fluid browser app.

Toggl running as a Fluid browser app.

I'm still using Toggl in a Fluid browser on my Mac, but since last summer, I've been using the beta of Joe Hribar's Timery on iOS and loving it. In fact, Timery is so good that even when I'm at my Mac, I find myself turning to it to start and stop timers instead of the web app. There are additional features I'd like to see Timery implement, which I'll cover below, but for flexible, frictionless time tracking, you can't beat Timery. The app has been on my Home screen for months now and gets a workout seven days a week. Here's why.

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Perfect Tempo Brings Tempo Control to Apple Music Tracks


Nearly 11 years into the App Store, it isn't often that an app surfaces that does something unexpected which no one else seems to be doing, but Perfect Tempo by developer Open Planet does precisely that. The app is a simple utility designed for musicians and dancers who want to slow down or speed up music without affecting its pitch and loop it as they learn a song. Other apps have similar functionality that I’ve covered before, but what makes Perfect Tempo unique is that it can slow down and speed up streamed Apple Music tracks, which other apps can’t do.

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AppStories, Episode 111 – iOS 13 App Rumors and Wishes

On this week's episode of AppStories, we share our thoughts on the latest iOS 13 app rumors reported by Mark Gurman and 9to5Mac and other features and updates we'd like to see Apple implement this year.

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Snapthread 2.0 Adds a Refined UI, an Improved iPad Experience, and New Tools

When I first covered Snapthread early last year, you could tell where it was headed. The app was conceived initially by developer Becky Hansmeyer as a way to combine Snapchat videos. By last January though, the app had evolved into a general-purpose solution for quickly and easily stitching together Live Photos, still photos, and short videos that could be shared on any social network or directly with friends and family. With version 2.0, which is out today, Hansmeyer has refined the existing user experience, added useful new functionality without complicating the app, and leveraged the iPad to create a more versatile video creation tool that works equally well for quickly sharing your creations on social networks as it does with small groups of friends and family.

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An Interview with Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer at Adobe

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to sit down with Khoi Vinh, Principal Designer at Adobe who leads its Design Practices group and author of Subtraction.com. Vinh, who was in Chicago to speak at the HOW Design Live conference, talks about how Adobe is using Adobe XD to integrate UX and UI design and prototyping into the product creation process for everyone from freelancers to big companies. He also discusses designers' role in addressing the problems social media is facing, how artificial intelligence is beginning to play a role in design, and his podcast, Wireframe.

(The following has been condensed and edited for readability.)

Tell me a little bit about what you're working on at Adobe these days.

Adobe XD is one of the main priorities at Adobe. We're really passionate about the experience design space; really passionate about how product designers, UX/UI designers, they're really kind of leading the way for how professional creativity is changing and XD is more than just an app, it's a platform to help us build what designers need. So we see it as more than just a design app. It's also prototyping and sharing, and so it's really meant to help designers, and also the people who work with them, get more value out of the design process and be more productive in general.

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Bringing iOS Apps to the Mac Will Entail More Than Flipping a Switch

Craig Hockenberry of The Iconfactory has an in-depth look at the challenges developers, designers, and marketers will face bringing their iOS apps to the Mac. Although Marzipan may make it possible to simply flip a switch in Xcode to build Mac and iOS versions of an app simultaneously, it’s unlikely to be that simple in practice. As Hockenberry notes:

that build setting is just the first step on a long and complicated road. Good interaction doesn’t come for free.

That’s because user interactions are different between iOS devices and Macs and driven by multiple factors including differing input devices, screen sizes, and individual UI elements.

One of the many examples of design challenges that Hockenberry covers is moving from iOS device screen sizes to Mac screens:

The most obvious design element that will change as you move from iOS to macOS is the screen. If you’ve designed for the iPad, you already understand the challenges of a larger display surface and adapting your views as that size changes. It’s not easy work, but an alternative design that’s just “a big iPhone” is highly unsatisfying for a customer.

The Mac alters this scenario slightly because your app is presented in a window that’s resizable: you might be running with the constraints of an iPhone SE one moment and the expansiveness of an iPad Pro the next.

Hockenberry also raises concerns about how developers will make money from Marzipan apps if they are universal apps as is the case with the iPhone and iPad versions of many iOS apps:

It’s my opinion that Universal apps were the worst thing to ever happen for the iPad ecosystem. There’s no way for a developer to recoup the costs for new interactions and the extra work needed for more sophisticated apps. Apple makes it easier for a customer up front by offering a single download, but at the same time they make things worse because a Universal version of the user’s favorite app isn’t financially viable.

One thing's for sure, change is coming to the Mac. For some, it will be exciting, and for others, it will be fraught with peril. Mistakes will be made, and adjustments will be necessary, but for iOS developers, designers, and marketers new to this sort of transition, Hockenberry's post is a great place to start thinking about bringing their apps to the Mac. He's been through similar changes in the past, and with the magnitude of what Apple likely has in store at WWDC, there's no time like the present to start considering these issues.

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StopTheNews Forces Apple News Links to Open in Safari

Developer Jeff Johnson, the maker of StopTheMadness, has released a free Mac utility called StopTheNews that forces Apple News links to open in Safari instead of the News app.

The app works with Safari and Safari Technology Preview by registering itself as the default handler for the Apple News URL scheme. As Johnson explains on his website:

When StopTheNews gets an Apple News URL from Safari, it loads the page invisibly, finds the URL of the original article, and then opens the original article URL in Safari.

For example, this Apple News URL – https://apple.news/APIpuWVOoQQCi6gCg7H8zQg – opens a link on National Geographic's website instead of in the News app. In my limited testing, StopTheNews works as advertised, opening Apple News links in Safari quickly. I don't know if it's possible, but I'd love to see StopTheNews also prevent Safari from asking if you want to open an RSS feed in Apple News when its URL is clicked.

Instead of opening Apple News (left), StopTheNews forces Apple News URLs to open in Safari (right).

Instead of opening Apple News (left), StopTheNews forces Apple News URLs to open in Safari (right).

I understand Apple’s motivations to drive users to its News app, but if I'm already working with links in Safari, having another app open can be annoying. Johnson’s solution is simple but clever, and it's free, so if you’d prefer using Safari instead of Apple News for News links, check out his utility, which is available on GitHub.