John Voorhees

594 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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Airmail Incorporates Drag and Drop, Quick Look on iPhone, and Voice Reply on Apple Watch

Airmail is my primary email client on iOS and macOS for two reasons. First, I can customize nearly everything in the app, so it’s laid out and works the way I want. Second, Airmail integrates with several third-party apps and services that I use, so it’s easy to get information out of Airmail and dump it into apps like Todoist or Trello. But sometimes, I want to put a little context around the information I’m exporting from Airmail. For those times, Airmail’s new drag and drop new functionality is ideal.

I get email from MacStories and AppStories sponsors every week. Many of those messages include a combination of files and text about an upcoming sponsorship. Often, those messages are also the conclusion of a back-and-forth conversation that includes additional relevant information I need. To keep track of the details in one place, I typically start a note in Apple Notes.

With the addition of iOS 11’s drag and drop support on the iPad, the process is easier than ever before. I can start with a few background notes for context and then select and drag in just the parts of a message that I need along with any images. I could accomplish this with the share sheet too, but I’d end up with extraneous information from the message and spend more time tapping around in Airmail and the share sheet. Instead, the result with drag and drop is an organized note that includes only the information I need, which makes it easier to use as a reference.

Another option that I’m considering using for some tasks is Apple’s new Files app. Dragging text into Files creates a rich text file that can be stored alongside any attachments producing a similar result to what you can accomplish in Notes.

You can also drag an entire message out of Airmail, which generates a PDF of its full text but without any attachments. That’s less attractive to me for most of my day-to-day tasks, but it is a nice way to archive an important conversation. Of course, you can also drag files from Files into Airmail as attachments or drag links, text, and other content into the body of a message.

Quick Look is available with Spotlight search results on iPhones that support 3D Touch.

Quick Look is available with Spotlight search results on iPhones that support 3D Touch.

On iPhones that support 3D Touch, you can now press on a message to open a Quick Look preview from Spotlight search results. Just press on a message as you would from your Airmail inbox to pop up a preview of a message in Spotlight. The feature is a nice way to be sure you've found the correct message before launching Airmail.

The final addition to Airmail is Voice Reply on the Apple Watch. If you’re out and can’t type a response, you can pick Voice Reply to record a short message that’s sent as an MP4 attachment to your reply. I’m not a fan of responding to email on my Apple Watch, but when a response has to be sent right away, replying with a short recording is easier than other methods.

Email is a competitive category on the App Store. Airmail, which won an Apple Design Award at WWDC this year, has continued to improve with regular updates and currently has one of the broadest sets of features and highest levels of customization possible on iOS and macOS, which means it will remain my primary email client for the foreseeable future.

Airmail is available on the App Store.

Working Copy Integrates with the Files App and Drag and Drop

We use Working Copy every day to collaborate on articles for MacStories and Club MacStories. It’s an excellent tool for working as a group because it lets us easily track edits to documents and stay in sync with the latest version of an article. Ours isn’t the most common use for an iOS Git client – it’s usually used by developers – but it serves to illustrate the flexibility of Working Copy, which has only grown more useful with an update that incorporates new iOS 11 functionality.

Working Copy is a file provider in the Files app. This is a very big deal. Ulysses has had external file support for a while, but iOS 11 streamlines the process of accessing articles in our shared repos greatly. With a couple of taps in Ulysses, the document browser opens up with the familiar Files interface. There’s a folder for each of the repos I share with MacStories team members. All I need to do is select the document I want to edit, and any changes I make are saved to Working Copy. When I’m finished, I open Working Copy and commit my changes – that's it. You can do the same with any app that supports document providers like Textastic, iA Writer, and 1Writer.

Because Working Copy is a document provider, you can also access your repos from the Files app. There, you can move files into folders, drag new files in, and delete files. When you’re finished, just sync everything up in Working Copy. You can even add tags and assign favorite folders.

With drag and drop support, it’s easy to get files in and out of your repos. When we do Home screen features in Club MacStories, I typically get drafts and screenshots sent to me by email. Now, all I have to do is drag attachments from Airmail straight into the Club MacStories repo in the Files app then commit the changes in Working Copy. This is the sort of thing I used to prefer to do on my Mac or would do by pasting text into Ulysses and then adding the document to Working Copy with its share extension, which was cumbersome and fiddly.

You can also drag files out of Working Copy to send them by email or drop them into another app for editing in place. Though I haven’t needed to do this yet, ZIP archives can be dragged into Working Copy where you are given the option to extract them into your repo.

Working Copy continues to grow in its versatility. With each passing revision, there are fewer and fewer reasons for me to use the GitHub Desktop app on my Mac. My needs are relatively simple. I work with a relatively small set of Markdown files shared with one or two people at once, but even if you have more robust requirements from a Git client, take a look at Working Copy, you may be surprised at just how much you can accomplish on your iPad these days.

Working Copy is available on the App Store.

Getting Tasks out of Your Head and into Todoist Has Never Been Simpler

Todoist, one of our favorite task managers, has added deep integration with iOS 11 as well as adding a handful of other handy features in its latest update. At its core, Todoist is a web service, but you wouldn’t know it most of the time. Unlike many web service-based apps, Todoist continually adopts iOS-only features that help it compete in a category that is packed with strong rivals.

Apple didn’t add many new SiriKit intents with iOS 11, but it did add one for tasks. It took a while to get in the habit of using Siri to add tasks to Todoist, but I’ve been delighted with how well it works. It’s been both quick and reliable. Not only can you ask Siri to add tasks to Todoist, but you can also assign a due date and ask Siri to show you tasks in a specific date range or from a particular list.

iPad users can take advantage of drag and drop to add content to Todoist. For example, drag in a Mail message and the subject becomes the task name, and the body becomes an attached comment. You can also drag in images, text snippets, URLs, and other content. However, Todoist does not support dragging tasks into other apps.

Todoist is one of the few apps I’ve found so far that implements iOS 11’s new Password AutoFill. You may be familiar with a similar feature that’s been part of Safari for a while. The concept is similar. If it’s stored in your iCloud Keychain, Password AutoFill will suggest that it fill in your password for you, which makes for a much smoother login process.

Todoist has a few other nice features in store for users. The app could already attach photos to comments, but now you can attach nearly any file-type. This is especially handy when assigning a task to which you want to attach reference materials. Todoist has also added haptic feedback to supported iPhones when completing or rescheduling a task. Finally, Todoist has a custom Quick Add keyboard that includes ‘@‘ and ‘#’ for faster labeling and task assignment.

Todoist continues to evolve with iOS. The new iOS 11 features added to the app make it easier than ever to get information into Todoist quickly and efficiently so you can get on with your work. As Todoist adds features that bring it closer in line with the macOS version, I find myself switching to my iPad Pro for work more and more often.

Todoist is available on the App Store.

CARROT Weather Adds Augmented Reality Mode

CARROT Weather transcends iOS apps in its category by infusing a full-featured weather app with a personality that makes it a delight to use. Earlier this summer, CARROT Weather received a major redesign that managed to incorporate all its weather data into a single screen interface without feeling cramped. That’s not an easy task for a highly customizable app. CARROT Weather also has one of the most performant and useful Apple Watch complications available. It’s a combination that’s made the app a MacStories favorite.

The app's latest update takes advantage of ARKit to bring CARROT, the app’s snarky robotic protagonist to life as never before. Tapping the button in the top right-hand corner of the screen opens a drop-down menu for accessing AR Mode, Time Travel, and Settings. As with other ARKit apps, tapping AR Mode requires a few moments of calibration. When it’s ready to go, the icon projected into your environment turns green. Tap it, and CARROT drops into the scene surrounded by the current weather conditions and other data. Swiping on the ring below CARROT changes the weather data floating around CARROT to the next hour’s forecast and then the long-range forecast.

You can pinch and zoom in AR mode to adjust the frame of the scene and move your iOS device around to admire CARROT from different angles, all the while being taunted by its snarky comments. If there's precipitation, that animates in the scene too. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but try poking CARROT’s ocular sensor. It’s a bit of game-like interaction that makes me smile every time.

In addition to AR Mode, CARROT Weather has added Time Travel so you can check the weather up to 20 years ago and the forecast 10 years into the future. There’s also a new dark mode, three new secret locations, and hundreds of new lines of CARROT snark.

AR Mode fits perfectly with CARROT Weather’s style. It’s not a way I’ll check the weather most days, but dropping into AR Mode is a fun diversion when you’re not trying to check the weather quickly before running out the door. It’s entertaining and complements CARROT’s personality perfectly, making the app a pleasure to use.

CARROT Weather is available on the App Store.

Opener Adopts Drag and Drop on the iPad

I'm particular about where links open. I want to open Instagram links in its app. I’d rather watch YouTube videos in ProTube, while it still works (RIP). I never want links to tweets to open in the official Twitter app. The point is, I want to follow links the way I prefer, not according to someone else’s defaults.

Fortunately, if you’re picky about this sort of thing too, there’s an app made just for you: Opener by Tim Johnsen. The strength of Opener is its action extension, which I keep in easy reach near the front of the system share sheet on my iOS devices. With the extension, you can send a link to any compatible app you have installed. With support for over 200 apps, it’s a rare occasion that I run into a URL that Opener can’t send to where I want it to open.

Opener has introduced new drag and drop functionality along with an iOS 11-style redesign. The new functionality makes Opener’s main app as easy to use as its extension and is particularly handy when researching. With Opener in Split View with Safari, I can manage where links open on the fly as I find materials I want to dig into in a certain app. Dragging in a link displays all the available apps on your iOS device in which you can open the link along with other supported apps with a link to them in the App Store. You can also drag links out of Opener into any compatible app.

Opener has adopted the design cues of system apps like Music, Apple News, and Messages with a big bold title and buttons that link to apps on the App Store that mirror the style used in that app. One additional new feature that I appreciate is keyboard shortcuts for external keyboards. There are shortcuts for Settings, Browser Settings, and numbered shortcuts for each app that can open the URL you feed to Opener.

Drag and drop is about reducing friction. Opener stands in between links and their final destination directing traffic by giving you options that the system won’t. That’s valuable if you care about where links open, but it’s also a step that needs to be as low friction as possible to make it worth the effort to use, which is why I’m glad to see that drag and drop has been adopted by Opener.

Opener is available in the App Store.

iWork Apps Updated with iOS 11 Features

Apple has released updates to its iWork suite of apps, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, with support for iOS 11’s headlining features. There’s a commonality among the features added to each app that serves to tie them together more tightly than ever before while simultaneously making them easier to use with third-party apps. Numbers and Pages also feature a few additional revisions tailored to their specific functionality.

All three iWork apps support the new document browser, a file picker view that looks and feels just like the new Files app. Instead of being constrained to iCloud Drive or pushed into an app-specific folder, you can open Pages, Numbers, and Keynote files from any cloud service that is a file provider. All three apps were also updated to support drag and drop of text, tables, links, images, and other content between the iWork apps and to and from other apps on the iPad.

Apple also added more powerful shape manipulation features to the iWork apps. New Unite, Intersect, Subtract, and Exclude commands were added to make it easier to create custom shapes. Shapes can be broken apart into component pieces now. Apple’s support documents use the example of breaking the state of California apart from a map of the United States to use it by itself in an app. Shapes and other objects can also be arranged using new Align, Distribute, Flip Vertical, and Flip Horizontal commands.

Numbers's new date, time, and duration keyboards.

Numbers's new date, time, and duration keyboards.

Among the unique additions to the iWork apps, Numbers gained new keyboards for more efficient input including date, time, and duration keyboards and ‘smart steppers’ for making minor adjustments to those types of values. Pages also added a modest but handy gesture. Triple tapping a paragraph now selects an entire paragraph, something I wish more third-party apps supported.

I’m glad to see Apple adding iOS 11 features to the iWork suite on launch day. Adopting the latest technologies of its operating system encourages third-party adoption and serves as an example of how Apple expects those features to be implemented by third parties. It also brings new power and flexibility to each app for users, making them useful alternatives to apps like Microsoft’s Office suite.

The Pages, Numbers, and Keynote updates are available on the App Store.

iOS 11 Review Extras: Audiobook, eBook, Making Of, and More

Federico’s annual iOS review has blossomed into something much bigger than just another review on MacStories. In fact, there is more happening around the release of the iOS 11 review this year than ever before. In addition to the review itself, we have lots of fantastic extras that extend beyond MacStories to Club MacStories, AppStories, and Relay FM’s Connected, only some of which were announced yesterday.

The Audiobook

For the first time this year, Federico’s iOS review is available as an audiobook narrated by Relay FM co-founder Myke Hurley. Myke’s narration brings Federico’s review to life in a way that you’ve never experienced a MacStories review before. It’s perfect for commuters or to take with you to the gym or on a long flight. The audiobook, which is over 5 hours long, features a single MP3 file with chapter markers for easy navigation.

Overcast, Bound, and VLC are all good choices for enjoying the iOS 11 review audiobook.

Overcast, Bound, and VLC are all good choices for enjoying the iOS 11 review audiobook.

Overcast Premium subscribers can upload the audiobook, which I've found is an excellent way to listen. Another great option on iOS is Bound, an audiobook player that supports Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. You can also use a more general-purpose media player like VLC.

The audiobook version of the iOS 11 review is available for $9.99 (plus VAT for EU customers), but Club MacStories members can get it for 60% off the regular price – just $3.99. Instructions on how to use the exclusive Club promo code are available in the member Downloads area.

Now is a great time to join Club MacStories, especially if you are interested in the audiobook. By joining and taking advantage of the audiobook discount, you can enjoy your first month of Club MacStories, which costs $5/month or $50/year, and the audiobook for less than the price of the audiobook to non-members. That’s a bargain by itself, but by joining, you also have access to the free review eBook, past eBooks, the full archive of back issues and new issues of our weekly and monthly newsletters, plus hundreds of dollars of discounts on apps and services being announced through the end of the month, and other perks. We’d love you to be part of our growing community, so please consider joining the Club.

The eBook

This is a special time of year for all of us at MacStories because Club MacStories just passed its second anniversary, which we are celebrating through the end of the month with discounts on apps, services, and other surprises. One of the perks members of the Club enjoy is complementary eBooks of Federico’s iOS reviews and other longform articles. The eBook looks great in iBooks and features all the media and layout options you’ll find on the MacStories version, including interactive footnotes and video players.

The eBook version is available for free exclusively to our Club MacStories members, and can be downloaded in the members-only Downloads area.

The Making Of

More than ever before, Federico’s iOS 11 review is a collaboration with a team of talented people who helped bring it and the extras to life. In this week’s edition of the Club MacStories Weekly newsletter, the people who contributed to the review will tell the story behind their roles. Among the stories Club members can look forward to is Myke Hurley’s tale of transatlantic narration as he recorded sections of the audiobook in New York and London throughout August and into September.

The Podcasts

In keeping with tradition, this week Federico, Stephen Hackett and Myke Hurley have released a special episode of Relay FM’s Connected dedicated to the review. Among other things, expect to hear Federico’s thoughts on iOS 11 now that it has launched and an inside look at the process of creating the audiobook from Myke.

This is the first iOS review released since Federico and I launched AppStories, and we’ve got two episodes for listeners this week. The first is Episode 23, the regular weekly episode of AppStories, that we released alongside Federico’s review. This week, we focus on the apps Federico used to create the review from the day he landed in San Jose for WWDC to today when he hit the publish button. We also discuss some of the third-party apps featured in the review that highlight iOS 11’s marquee features.

The second episode is something entirely new for AppStories that we’re calling AppStories Unplugged. It’s a casual, more free-form, and longer version of AppStories that we plan to release periodically as an exclusive perk to Club MacStories members. In the inaugural episode, Federico and I discuss some of our favorite iOS 11 apps and what writing at MacStories during the summertime review season is like.

Club members can download AppStories Unplugged from the members-only Download area now.

This is the most exciting time of the year for all of us at MacStories. We’re a small team that grows a little each summer to accomplish all that the iOS review adds to the day-to-day of running MacStories, Club MacStories, and AppStories. We make it through propelled by Federico’s enthusiasm and inspired by his dedication to creating the very best for our readers and listeners.

Now, after many long months, it’s nice to take a moment to catch our breath and share it all with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as Federico and we did making it.

Apple Posts How-To Videos Featuring Third-Party Apps

Last month, Apple posted a series of short how-to videos to prepare customers for iOS 11. The videos each featured one new aspect of iOS 11 delivered in a light-hearted humorous style. Apple has added three new videos in the same style that feature third-party apps.

The first spot, ‘How to retouch a photo,’ features Pixelmator and demonstrates how to erase a stranger from a photo. The video concludes on a light note with ’You did great! The guy never knew what hit him.’

The second video, ‘How to copy and paste across devices with iOS 11’ features Curator, but highlights the Universal Clipboard, an iOS system feature. Curator is a mood-board and presentation app for creating collections of photos. The spot shows how to copy an image on an iPhone and paste into the Curator app on an iPad, explaining ‘the ice cream cone is now going to fly through the air’ and showing a time-lapse video of copying and pasting images over and over commenting ‘Really nice time-lapse everybody.’

The final video features GoodNotes and is called ‘How to magically convert notes to text and share them with iOS.’ The video shows how to use the lasso tool in GoodNotes to select handwritten notes and convert them into text that you can share via the system share sheet.

Like the videos posted by Apple in August, these spots strike a good balance between being informative and humorous. I’m glad to see Apple calling out third-party apps too because the ‘Pro’ in iPad Pro is as much about the third-party tools that are available as it is about the device’s hardware features.

You can watch each of the videos after the break.

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