John Voorhees

1406 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John, who is the managing editor of MacStories and Club MacStories, joined MacStories in 2015. With Federico, he co-hosts AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps, and Dialog, a seasonal podcast about the impact of technology on creativity, society, and culture. John also handles sponsorship sales for MacStories and its podcasts.



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MacStories Unwind: The ADAs, New Apple Watch Details, and Big Sur’s Redesign


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This week on MacStories Unwind:


Club MacStories

  • MacStories Weekly
    • John shares a collection of small but interesting changes coming in macOS Big Sur
    • Federico shares an OmniFocus shortcut for iOS and iPadOS 14
    • Ryan considers Apple’s plans for gaming
    • We’ve got a reader straw poll about WWDC 2020
  • Monthly Log
    • John on the Big Sur redesign and whether it’s a sign of an imminent touchscreen Mac, part of a longer-term experiment, or something else
    • Stephen considers the design changes coming to the Mac with Big Sur
    • Ryan shares some of the apps he’s switching to while testing iOS and iPadOS 14


Unwind Picks

Michael Flarup on Big Sur’s New Design

In the years since iOS 7 ushered in flat, minimalistic design, Michael Flarup has consistently pushed back, insisting that the trend had gone too far and there was still room for fun and expression in design. With the redesign of macOS 11 Big Sur, Apple surprised the design world by introducing a design that harmonizes macOS with the company’s other OSes, while providing room for expressiveness.

As Flarup explains:

Materials and dimensionality has made its way back into the interface —and every single app icon for every application and utility that Apple ships with macOS has been redesigned with depth, textures and lighting. This is a big deal. Probably bigger than what most people realise.

The post is a fantastic overview of where design stands on Apple’s platforms today and the influence that the company’s choices have on the design community. Whether intended or not, the unexpected design shift on macOS is one that Flarup expects to see radiate out to affect the design of iOS and iPadOS too:

With this approach Apple is legalising a visual design expressiveness that we haven’t seen from them in almost a decade. It’s like a ban has been lifted on fun. This will severely loosen the grip of minimalistic visual design and raise the bar for pixel pushers everywhere. Your glyph on a colored background is about to get some serious visual competition.

It’s interesting to consider where this new direction will lead. Big Sur’s iconography is part of a broad redesign on macOS that runs far deeper than the design changes made to iOS or iPadOS this year. Whether those platforms will follow the Mac’s lead in the future or take their own paths is something I expect to see debated a lot in the months to come. However it plays out, though, I’m glad to see the Mac retain character in its design as it heads into what promises to be a new era for the Mac.


Apple Adds Look Around for Seattle, Washington in Maps

It was clear during WWDC that Apple is forging ahead with its Maps app at full-speed. Not only were several interesting refinements to the app and its underlying data announced during the conference keynote and sessions, but Apple continues to improve the functionality of its maps throughout the year, adding its Look Around feature to Seattle, Washington today.

Look Around was the marquee addition to Maps in iOS 13. The feature, which competes with Google Street View, provides a 3D representation of the world from a car’s vantage point. When you zoom far enough into an area that supports Look Around, an icon of a pair of binoculars appears in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Tapping it opens a separate overlay that you can pan around by swiping and move through by tapping along streets. The animations are smooth and the images high-resolution, making Look Around a terrific way to explore an unfamiliar area before visiting.

Seattle joins ten other US cities as the eleventh area to add the Look Around feature. The last city added was Chicago and parts of its suburbs, which were added in April.

At WWDC, Apple announced that Apple is updating its map data in Ireland, the UK, and Canada later this year. With the US map data updated, I’m glad to see Apple moving forward in other countries. I expect that before long, we’ll see other countries add the new map data too.

Also, I hope that the addition of Look Around in Seattle marks an acceleration of that feature. It’s a fantastic resource in the 11 major urban areas it covers. Still, I’d love to see Look Around expand to smaller cities and public spaces over time, making it useful to a broader cross-section of the world’s population.

Apple’s Kevin Lynch on watchOS 7’s Sleep Tracking

Scott Stein of CNET interviewed Apple’s Kevin Lynch about watchOS 7’s upcoming sleep tracking feature. Unlike third-party sleep tracking wearables and apps, Apple’s approach is simpler. As Stein explains:

Unlike other wearables such as the Fitbit or Oura, which measure how much time you spend in the various sleep phases and even give calculated sleep quality scores, Apple’s sleep tech is more simplified. It just tracks duration of sleep, movement disturbances and heart rate. The content of your sleep isn’t analyzed much at all. Instead, Apple’s placed a big focus on the time you go to bed and what you do while you wind down.

Instead of tracking time spent in different sleep phases, Apple’s focus is on winding down before bed and sleep duration, using positive reinforcement to encourage better habits. As Lynch says:

“You can’t really coach yourself to have more or less REM stages,” he says. “We felt like that wasn’t the best way Apple could add value here on sleep. We focused on the transition to the bed, which we think is way more actionable, and will result in people getting a better night’s sleep, which then has secondary effects of perhaps your REM stages sorting themselves.”

I haven’t had a chance to install the watchOS 7 beta yet, but sleep tracking is right at the top of my list of features I want to try this summer. I’ve used third-party apps that made me feel anxious about my lack of sleep, so I’m keen to see how Apple’s approach stacks up.


Apple Design Awards for 2020 Awarded to Eight Developers

Typically, the Apple Design Awards have been held on the evening of the first day of WWDC. With the conference online this year, Apple held off until today to announce the winners. This year, in a collection that has a distinct iPad focus, the company announced four app winners and four game winners.

The 2020 Apple Design Award winners for apps are:


A MacStories favorite, Darkroom by Bergen Co. is a beautiful photo and video editor for the iPhone and iPad that takes advantage of many of Apple’s latest OS features.

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MacStories Unwind: WWDC Wrapped – Themes, Overviews, and Music


This week on MacStories Unwind:


Club MacStories

  • MacStories Weekly
    • Federico shares his first two iOS 14 Shortcuts
    • Ryan collects his favorite and most surprising announcements of WWDC
    • John evaluates which of his workflows worked best during WWDC
    • Plus apps, Q&A, links and more
  • MacStories Unplugged
    • John explains the Illinois cicada invasion, Federico gets ready to write his iOS and iPadOS 14 review, we preview some of our summer plans for MacStories and the Club over the summer, and we explain why we hope that WWDC will return to being an in-person event next year.
  • Join Club MacStories


Unwind Picks

A GoodLinks Read and Listen Later Shortcut and Custom Action

When I reviewed GoodLinks, I knew its unique combination of Shortcuts integration and custom in-app actions that rely on URL schemes had the potential to sit at the center of powerful, automated workflows. My hunch was correct.

When I tried GoodLinks for the first time, I began thinking of ways to integrate it into the research I do for MacStories and Club MacStories. Michael LaPorta’s thoughts, however, immediately turned to music.

LaPorta has built a ton of music-related shortcuts that you can find on his website. After reading my review of GoodLinks, he set out to create a shortcut to allow him to save music reviews and related reviews to read and listen to later. Here’s how LaPorta explains it:

So here’s the concept: GoodLinks can grab music reviews and store them to read or access later. When grabbing the music reviews you can customize the information associated with the review. You can use this customized info to also grab the album and add it to your Music library. Once you have the review (along with its customized info) saved in GoodLinks and the album saved in Music, you can use GoodLinks as a read-and-listen-to-it-later app that can be accessed via Shortcuts in a variety of contexts.

LaPorta didn’t stop there, though. He also added a way to handle upcoming releases and begin listening to an album from inside its review in GoodLinks using the app’s custom action builder.

I highly recommend giving LaPorta’s shortcut and GoodLinks action a try. These are precisely the sort of automations that the new breed of read-it-later apps like GoodLinks make possible.