John Voorhees

1904 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John, MacStories’ Managing Editor, has been writing about Apple and apps since joining the team in 2015. He also co-hosts MacStories’ podcasts, including AppStories, which explores of the world of apps, MacStories Unwind, a weekly recap of everything MacStories and more, and MacStories Unplugged, a behind-the-scenes, anything-goes show exclusively for Club MacStories members.




Customize Your Input Devices

MacStories Starter Pack: Why I Abandoned the Search for the Perfect Email App and Am Making Do With a Hybrid Approach

Editor’s Note: Why I Abandoned the Search for the Perfect Email App and Am Making Do With a Hybrid Approach is part of the MacStories Starter Pack, a collection of ready-to-use shortcuts, apps, workflows, and more that we’ve created to help you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

I’ve been revisiting my approach to email every year for what seems like forever. No matter which app I picked, I was never satisfied. On one level, that’s surprising because I don’t think my email needs are unique or complex. Even so, the features I value in an email app are ones that I care about a lot. The trouble is that a lot of MacStories readers could say the same thing but would pick an entirely different set of features they care about the most. This is a problem and conversation that goes back to the early days AppStories, and really, long before even that.

As 2021 came to a close, I knew something had to change and that I’d have to let go of my longstanding preference of using the same app across all of my devices. I don’t abandon that approach lightly because I don’t like the mental overhead of juggling multiple apps with different features to accomplish the same task. However, what started as patience as I waited for Apple to modernize Mail or a third-party developer to build something better, began to feel like stubborn inflexibility on my part. I knew it was time to make the most of an imperfect situation by cobbling together a hybrid solution that I hope will provide readers with some pointers on how they can improve how they manage email too.

Before I get to the apps I’m using to manage my email day-to-day, I want to cover how I dealt with my email backlog. My email accounts get messy as the end of the year approaches because it’s our busy season at MacStories. I used to feel bad about it, but I don’t anymore. It’s not my job to have a perfectly organized inbox, which is good because it can be a mess at times. Still, a backlog of messages makes any email app harder to use no matter how good it is, so I spent some time over the holidays tidying up.

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MacStories Unwind: The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap and The Protégé


This week on MacStories Unwind, Federico revisits The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, a game originally released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004, and John enjoys an action-thriller movie starring Samuel L Jackson, Maggie Q, and Michael Keaton about a pair of globe-trotting assassins.

Federico’s Pick:

John’s Pick:

MacStories Rewind

Start The Year Off Right with Next Week’s 2022 MacStories Starter Pack Event

Monday, we’re launching a brand new special event: The MacStories Starter Pack. The idea is simple. As our busy OS review season winds down, Federico and I dig into a wide range of experiments every year. We build shortcuts, try new apps, and look for new ways to get more out of the technology we use. This year, we’ve collected the best of what we’ve learned from that annual process into a series of stories we’ll publish over the course of next week.

You’ll find a lot of variety in what we’ve got planned, but the common thread is that every story will have something you can take away and use right away. There will be shortcuts, app recommendations, workflow ideas, and more, spanning everything from ways to work more efficiently to making the most of your downtime. We think you’ll love what we’ve got in store for you.

Would you be shocked to learn that Federico has a bunch of shortcuts lined up for the Starter Pack? I’ve had a front row seat to what has to be one of Federico’s most inspired periods of shortcut creation ever. I won’t spoil his surprises, but what Federico has in store for next week represents weeks of reverse engineering, testing, and refinement of a collection of shortcuts that is incredibly useful on all of Apple’s platforms and will include two advanced, Club MacStories-only automations. Federico also has a special surprise for Obsidian users that I’ve been testing and has quickly become a cornerstone to my own note-taking and writing workflows.

The MacStories Starter Pack isn’t just about automation, though. A substantial part of what I do at MacStories changed in 2021 with the introduction of Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. Most of those changes happened behind the scenes, but changes in how we produce everything from Club newsletters to podcasts strained my existing workflows. As I headed into the holidays, it was clear that the old ways of doing things had to be rethought and adapted to last year’s changes and where MacStories is heading in 2022.

As a result of my holiday workflow experiments, I’ve done more than mix up the apps I use. I’ve also reconsidered how those apps fit together, which is something that is more important to me than ever and dovetails nicely with the app interoperability trend that Federico and I recently covered on AppStories. I also spent the holiday season reevaluating how I manage the torrent of information that crosses my desk every week, so I spend less time looking for things and more time writing about them.

Next week, I’ll share the apps I’m using, how I’ve improved the way they fit together, and how I’m managing more information more efficiently than ever. Along the way, I’ll share what’s worked, along with tips and strategies on how to adapt the workflows to suit your own needs. I’ll also round out the week with a hardware review.

The MacStories Starter Pack will begin Monday and continue throughout the week with new daily stories on MacStories. We’ll have special treats just for Club MacStories members on Friday, too, so be sure to stop by the site throughout the week to get the latest installment of the Starter Pack. We’ve got a Starter Pack hub and RSS feed you can follow too.

The MacStories Starter Pack is just the start of what promises to be a big 2022 at MacStories. Our WWDC coverage, the Summer OS Preview Series, each fall’s review season, and the MacStories Selects Awards have become traditions that the MacStories community looks forward to every year. With the Starter Pack and plans we’re working on for the spring, our goal is to offer something special you can look forward to throughout the year, regardless of whether an Apple event is on the horizon. We’ve got a packed schedule in store for everyone in 2022 and can’t wait to get started next week with our first-ever MacStories Starter Pack.

You can follow the MacStories Starter Pack on our hub, or subscribe to the dedicated Starter Pack RSS feed.

Federico Shares a Starter Pack of Shortcuts on Apple’s App Store

Source: App Store.

Source: App Store.

Today, the App Store published an interview with our very own Federico Viticci, who shared seven shortcuts for users who want to learn more about what Apple’s automation app enables on the Mac. Federico explains his interest in Shortcuts in the interview:

It’s all about removing friction from everyday tasks.

As the story recounts, Shortcuts has been Federico’s obsession for years and the tool that permeates every aspect of what we do at MacStories.

To help newcomers get started exploring and building their own shortcuts, Federico shared seven shortcuts that work on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad that are linked in the App Store’s article and can also be found in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive:

Create Reminder

Quickly create a new reminder from anywhere on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Optionally, the shortcut can also attach a URL previously copied to the clipboard as a rich link to the reminder.

Get the shortcut here.

Quickly open a link previously copied to the clipboard with Safari. The shortcut works on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Get the shortcut here.

Get Image Resolution

Get the resolution of any image passed as input. This shortcut supports images copied to the clipboard, the iOS and iPadOS share sheet, picking images from Files, or images selected in Finder on macOS. The shortcut can also run as a Quick Action on macOS.

Get the shortcut here.

Load Calendar Set

This shortcut lets you reopen one of your existing calendar sets in Fantastical. Optionally, you can also pair a specific set with a specific calendar view in Fantastical.

The shortcut works on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, and it uses Fantastical’s native Shortcuts integration.

Get the shortcut here.

LookUp Definition

Look up a word definition using LookUp. The shortcut lets you choose among different definition types, and it can also add a word to a collection.

Get the shortcut here.

Things Checklist Template

Create a task with a checklist in Things based on a fixed template that is stored in the Shortcuts app.

Get the shortcut here.

Get Articles from Reeder

View articles saved for later in Reeder. You can choose a specific article from your read-later account in Reeder, or open a random article in the app.

Get the shortcut here.

These and many more shortcuts are available for free on the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, a collection that has grown to over 200 shortcuts, that run the gamut from simple, single-purpose utility shortcuts to complex shortcuts comprised of hundreds of actions like MusicBot and to Club MacStories members.

Mac Widgets Need a Dashboard

On 512 Pixels, Stephen Hackett argues that Apple should bring back Dashboard, a macOS feature that disappeared with Catalina. Dashboard gave users access to Apple and third-party widgets: single-purpose utilities that were a lot like the widgets on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac today, except they were better because they were also interactive.

Widgets’ lack of interactivity on the Mac is compounded by the fact that they share a panel with notifications and are hidden behind a click on the menu bar’s clock. I couldn’t agree more with Stephen’s conclusion:

Apple needs to rethink this and let this new class of widgets breathe, being able to use the entire screen like the widgets of yore could. Bringing back Dashboard is an obvious solution here, and I’d love to see it make a return.

The Dashboard metaphor worked for widgets before and it could work again, but I’d love to see Apple make the desktop the Dashboard, letting users mix files, folders, and widgets the same way I can mix apps and widgets on my iPhone or iPad.


AirBuddy 2.5: A Refined Experience That Adds Shortcuts Integration and Other New Features

Today, Gui Rambo released version 2.5 of AirBuddy, his Mac menu bar app for connecting and managing wireless headphones and other devices. AirBuddy has come a long way from its origins as an app that simply connected AirPods and some Beats headphones with your Mac. The app still does that well, but as I wrote about AirBuddy 2.0, the app is a fantastic way to monitor the charge status of a wide variety of devices and hand their connections off from one Mac to another. With the latest version, the app’s core features are faster and more reliable, the UI has been refreshed with a Monterey-friendly design, and there are some excellent new features, too, so let’s dig in.

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Wordle! Developer to Donate Game Proceeds to Charity

Wordle is the web-only daily word game that has taken the Internet by storm. The simple, free game by Josh Wardle struck a nerve, quickly spreading thanks to its social-media-friendly score sharing and a New York Times profile of the game’s backstory.

The game also spawned a legion of rip-off versions that appeared on the App Store and were ultimately taken down by Apple. However, one of the App Store apps that saw a spike in downloads last week wasn’t a Wordle clone. It was an entirely different game called Wordle! that was first published five years ago by Steven Cravotta.

Emma Roth, writing for The Verge reports that Cravotta has decided to donate the proceeds of Wordle! to charity at the end of January. According to Roth:

Cravotta says that downloads for Wordle! slowed to around one to two per day, but when the browser-based Wordle started taking off, so did his app. The app racked up 200,000 downloads in a single week, albeit from confused users who mistook it for the browser-based Wordle. Cravotta reached out to Wordle app developer, Josh Wardle, and let him know about his plans to donate the proceeds from his app to charity — Wardle sent out a tweet of his own to acknowledge the gesture.

Cravotta told The Verge that the earnings from Wordle!, which stand at just over $2,000 so far, will be donated to BoostOakland, a charity that supports tutoring and mentoring young people in Oakland, California. After the gleeful tweets by one Wordle clone developer, it’s refreshing to read about Cravotta’s plans for the windfall he received from the similarity between his game and Wardle’s.

If you’re a Wordle fan, be sure to check out WordleBot, Federico’s shortcut inspired by Wordle’s score sharing feature. The shortcut preserves the game’s iconic score-sharing graphic but adds text labels to each row to improve the accessibility of scores on services like Twitter and provide additional context to the results.


MacStories Unwind: Gossip Girl and Hawkeye


This week on MacStories Unwind, Federico watches the HBO Max reboot of Gossip Girl while John enjoys Hawkeye on Disney+, plus a recap of the past week on MacStories.

Federico’s Pick:

John’s Pick:

MacStories Rewind