John Voorhees

959 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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macOS Mojave: The MacStories Review

I went to San Jose this June not expecting much from macOS. After all, it’s a mature OS that already did what I need. My expectations were reinforced by rumors and leaks that Apple would introduce a Dark Mode and the fact that High Sierra introduced several significant foundational changes to macOS. I concluded that Mojave would focus primarily on a design refresh.

I was wrong. Dark Mode is the most visible and one of the most significant changes to macOS, but Mojave is much more than a UI refresh. Dark Mode and Mojave’s other system updates include productivity enhancements that have made meaningful improvements to the way I work on my Mac.

It took some time to acclimate to Dark Mode, but now I prefer it. As much as I like Dark Mode though, the most important changes to macOS have been those that surface existing functionality in new places making them more useful than in the past.

Mojave adds a collection of Desktop, Finder, and screenshot tools that are notable for the way they meet users where and how they work. It’s a functional approach to computing that has had a bigger impact on my day-to-day workflow than other recent updates to macOS, even where the Mojave updates provide new ways to do things I could already do before.

There’s a lot to cover in Mojave, so I’m going to dive right in and dispense with explaining how to set it up. Apple has a whole page devoted to the topic that you can explore if you’d like. Instead, let’s start by considering how Mojave's Dark Mode.

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Google Maps Adds CarPlay Support

I just got home from a trip to my local drugstore using Google Maps’ new CarPlay integration. Once I had a destination selected and was on my way, the experience was fine, as long as I didn’t stray from the path. Overall though, from my very preliminary, single test drive, I wasn’t left wanting to switch away from Apple Maps.

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An Oral History of Apple’s Former Headquarters

Steven Levy spent more than a year talking to past and present Apple executives and employees about the company’s former headquarters at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California. As Levy describes it:

Infinite Loop was the place where Apple’s leaders and engineers pulled off a historic turnaround, and it will always be the source of stories and legends—many of them untold. Until now.

It’s hard to pick among the anecdotes in Levy’s history, but one of my favorites is this from Phil Schiller because it captures the tough choice that had to be made when Steve Jobs returned to Apple and his empathy for customers:

Schiller: We’re like, “Steve! Newton customers are picketing! What do you want to do? They’re angry.” And Steve said, “They have every right to be angry. They love Newton. It’s a great product, and we have to kill it, and that’s not fun, so we have to get them coffee and doughnuts and send it down to them and tell them we love them and we’re sorry and we support them.”

There are fascinating details about Apple’s history in Levy’s piece that you won’t find anywhere else, and he’s done an excellent job weaving them into a cohesive, chronological narrative that shouldn’t be missed.

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Text Case Adds Siri Shortcut Support for Text Transformations

Not long ago, I reviewed an update to a new text transformation utility for iOS by Chris Hannah called Text Case. That update added support for title casing text according to popular style guides including the Chicago Manual of Style that we use here at MacStories. The app can do 13 other text transformations too like URL encoding and decoding, all caps, sentence capitalization, and many more.

I have the title casing rules of the style guide internalized for the most part, but every now and I want to check on a headline to be sure. In the past, I used an online service, which works well, but switching to a browser is an interruption. It’s a small interruption, but it’s one that may lead me to check another open tab or do something else that distracts me from completing an article. When I’m writing, I’d rather stay immersed in my text editor.

With Text Case’s extension, I can run a headline conversion right inside my text editor from the share sheet that’s accessible from the contextual popup menu that appears when you select text. With version 1.3 out today, Hannah takes the app a step further by adding Siri Shortcut support too.

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Streaks 4 Adds iPad Support, Timed Tasks, HealthKit Improvements, and Siri Shortcuts

There are a lot of habit trackers on iOS, but Streaks was one of the first and remains the gold standard against which I measure all other trackers. Even as Crunchy Bagel has added new features and customization options, Streaks’ simple, elegant design has remained at the center of its user experience. That’s important because habit tracking only works if it’s easy to log events. Even the slightest friction makes it too easy to abandon your efforts.

I’ve reviewed Streaks 2 and last summer’s major 3.0 update before, so I won’t cover that ground again here. Instead, I’ll focus on what’s new: an all-new iPad app, timed tasks, improved health tasks, and Siri shortcuts.

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Club MacStories Is Celebrating Its Third Anniversary with Exclusive Discounts on Apps and Services

It’s hard to imagine that Club MacStories is already three years old. In that time, the Club has grown steadily allowing us to expand its offerings every year. Today, Club MacStories is a cornerstone of MacStories allowing us to share more about apps and the people who make them every week through the Club newsletters and on MacStories.

The success of the Club wouldn’t be possible without its members, many of whom have been part of it since the very first day. Thank you. We sincerely appreciate your support and for helping make it possible for us to do what we love.

To celebrate the Club’s anniversary this year, we have assembled a stellar list of exclusive Club discounts on apps and service from our friends in the developer community. Their generosity has been overwhelming, and we can’t thank them enough for contributing to the celebration. This year we have over 50 apps and services from 30 developers, including:

(See club.macstories.net/anniversary/ for the terms and conditions regarding each deal)

Club members can log into their membership account and access these deals from a special webpage that we’ve set up just for you. The discounts will be available for two weeks from today through September 28th.

There are even more perks coming for Club members, including a free edition of the eBook version of Federico’s iOS 12 review, the ‘Making Of’ the review, a bonus episode of AppStories, and other special surprises.

Thanks again to our Club members. We appreciate the hard-earned money you spend to be part of our growing community. We love making the newsletters for you every week. If you’re an annual member and your subscription is expiring, we hope you’ll join us for year four. We’ve got big plans for the Club and would love for you to be part of them.


Jony Ive Talks About Users’ Personal Connection with the Apple Watch

After the keynote Wednesday, Chief Design Officer Jony Ive was interviewed by The Washington Post about the Apple Watch Series 4. Ive told the Post:

“Every bone in my body tells me this is very significant”

What seems to have Ive most excited about the new Watch is its increasing independence from the iPhone:

“The clues for the future are when you can have a high degree of confidence that you personally are connected to the Net — not your phone, you,” said Ive.

The addition of a cellular radio to the Series 3 made a big difference in freeing the Watch from the iPhone. This year, I expect the difference will be felt more on the software side as developers implement apps that take advantage of the new watchOS 5 APIs.

Despite the Series 3’s cellular radio, I almost always took my iPhone with me for runs because I wanted to listen to podcasts. More than anything else, the ability to listen to my favorite shows untethered has the potential to free me from my iPhone.

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Screen Time for Kids Puts Powerful iOS Monitoring Tools and Use Restrictions in Parents’ Hands

For the past couple of years, the tech industry has grappled with the consequences of people carrying a tiny computer with them all day long. When it comes to Apple, iOS devices have long had a Do Not Disturb setting and notifications can be adjusted, but over time, it became apparent that the existing tools were not enough.

Screen Time is Apple’s solution to the information gap about how we use our iOS devices. The new feature, which is found in the Settings app in iOS 12, provides a wide array of metrics that give an unforgiving and eye-opening look into exactly how you use your devices each day.

Screen Time is also the means for acting on that information. Users can impose restrictions on when and how they use their devices.

The same tools are available to parents through Apple’s Family Sharing feature. Although Screen Time for kids is complex in some respects and lacking in others, it’s an excellent first step. The feature may require a time investment to master, but it succeeds on two levels. First, by working the same way it does for individuals, which Federico will cover in his iOS 12 review, managing the feature for a child will be familiar to anyone who uses Screen Time themselves. Second, although I’d like to see Apple implement some age-appropriate default settings in places, on balance, I’m satisfied that the complexity of Screen Time is a fair trade-off for the customization that it enables.

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