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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Apple’s WWDC 2020 Design Sessions

I’ve watched a lot of sessions this week. I’ve been impressed with the production quality of them all and the shorter, more condensed format of many of them. I’m still working my way through everything that has been released, but my favorite sessions by far have been the ones presented by Apple’s design team. Through a combination of under-the-hood peeks at how various design elements work and practical tips for implementing new UI controls, the sessions are terrific resources and provide fascinating insight into where design is heading across all of Apple’s products.

Probably my favorite session of the bunch has been Design for the iPadOS pointer. The session explains not only how the pointer works on iPadOS, but why it works that way through a technique called adaptive precision that accounts for the context in which the pointer is being used to define its level of precision. The talk also covers pointer inertia, magnetism, and interaction with controls and other screen elements. It’s an excellent place to start for anyone adapting an iPad for pointer support.

Designing for the unique characteristics of each platform.

Designing for the unique characteristics of each platform.

One of the big picture themes that I came away with from the design sessions I’ve watched so far is the emphasis on designing for the unique qualities of each platform’s hardware. As Design for iPad explains, this doesn’t just mean designing something in between a Mac and an iPhone for the iPad, it also requires developers to consider what makes using an iPad different from either of those platforms. Having used far too many iPad apps that feel like blown up iPhone apps in the past, I hope this session is watched by a lot of developers and designers. I also enjoyed the Design with iOS pickers, menus and actions session, which explains the migration away from (but not complete elimination of) action sheets and popovers in favor of pickers and menus.

Menus and Pickers.

Menus and Pickers.

Finally, I want to mention the SF Symbols 2 and the details of UI typography sessions. I’m a big fan of SF Symbols. I love the consistent look and feel they provide across UIs. This year there are over 750 new glyphs including Apple device, transportation, game controller, and human-related images, plus multicolored symbols for the first time.

As someone who looks at text all day, I also enjoyed nerding out on typography with the details of UI typography session. It’s a fun deep-dive into a subject that I don’t know well, but appreciate for what it adds to an app’s experience.

Even if you’re not a developer or designer, the design sessions at WWDC are some of the most accessible talks released this week. I highly recommend them to anyone who has any interest in how the apps they use are made and the care that goes into the process.

You can also follow all of our WWDC coverage through our WWDC 2020 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated WWDC 2020 RSS feed.

David Smith on Sleep Tracking in watchOS 7 and Its Likely Effect on Sleep++

Few developers have as many years of experience building Apple Watch apps or as many Apple Watch apps on the App Store as David Smith. One of Smith’s apps, Sleep++, has been available to users who want to track their sleep since watchOS 2.

During Monday’s keynote, Apple announced that it was adding sleep tracking to watchOS 7, placing the viability of Smith’s app in jeopardy. But ‘sherlocking’ as it’s called when Apple builds a system feature already provided by third parties, doesn’t necessarily mean a third-party developer’s app is doomed. As Smith explains, his step tracking app Pedometer++ saw increased sales after Apple began tracking users’ step count in the Health app because it raised awareness of the feature. In turn, that led some users to seek out third-party apps that could do more than Apple’s basic feature could.

After trying watchOS 7’s sleep tracking for a couple of days, Smith is optimistic that something similar will happen with Sleep++:

I suppose a good summary of my expectation is that right now (say) 1% of Apple Watch wearers think to try sleep tracking. After this fall, most Apple Watch wearers will be aware of it and (say) 50% will try it out. Apple’s approach will be sufficient for 90% of them, but 10% will want more. Leading to now 5% of Apple Watch wearers looking for a 3rd-party app to augment their experience…so I end up way ahead overall.

This is entirely speculative and it is possible that the market for Sleep++ will completely evaporate, but I’ve been doing this for long enough and have seen this pattern repeat itself often enough that I really don’t think so.

I’m eager to try Apple’s sleep tracking feature and see how apps like Smith’s Sleep++ improve with the availability of new data. There are a lot of third-party sleep tracking apps available, and they all use slightly different tracking methodologies. Hopefully, the addition of sleep tracking to watchOS 7 will raise the quality of them all, allowing developers to focus more on differentiating based on the features that extend the category beyond what Apple offers.

You can also follow all of our WWDC coverage through our WWDC 2020 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated WWDC 2020 RSS feed.


Apple Silicon Macs Will Add a New Boot and Recovery Mode

Jason Snell describes on Six Colors how Apple Silicon Macs will handle boot and recovery modes:

With the advent of Macs running Apple-designed processors, things will get a whole lot simpler. As described Wednesday in the WWDC session Explore the New System Architecture of Apple Silicon Macs, these new Macs will only require you to remember a single button: Power. (On laptops, that’ll be the Touch ID button. On desktops, presumably it’s the physical power button.)

Holding down that button at startup will bring up an entirely new macOS Recovery options screen. From here you’ll be able to fix a broken Mac boot drive, alter security settings, share your Mac’s disk with another computer, choose a startup disk, and pretty much everything else you used to have to remember keyboard shortcuts to do.

The new system is based on iOS’s boot process modified to meet the needs of Mac users. I can’t wait for this change. I don’t use the boot-up key combinations often enough to remember what they are. I expect that as we learn more about Apple’s upcoming Macs, other benefits gained by moving to Apple-designed SoCs will become apparent too.

You can also follow all of our WWDC coverage through our WWDC 2020 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated WWDC 2020 RSS feed.


The Talk Show Remote from WWDC 2020 with Guests Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak

John Gruber’s annual live version of The Talk Show has become a tradition at WWDC featuring a variety of guests from Apple in recent years. This year, with the conference held online-only, Gruber recorded the show remotely with guests Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak.

Apple crams a lot into a keynote, and it is interviews like Gruber’s that provide additional details, helping paint the bigger picture with interesting insights into the thought that goes into the company’s products.

The wide-ranging interview covers developers and the App Store, the Mac and Big Sur, the iPad and Pencil, iOS 14, and privacy. In response to commentators who believe that Apple is merging iOS and macOS or abandoning the Mac, Federighi rattled off a long list of projects related to the Mac, commenting, “We love the Mac and we’re all in.” Joswiak added, “We’re far from bored with the Mac; it’s in our DNA.”

Federighi also addressed the relationship of Catalyst, SwiftUI, AppKit, and UIKit for developers, explaining that there is no single correct path. He said that the best path depends on where developers start. For example, some developers have invested heavily in AppKit and will probably want to stick with it, while UIKit developers may want to bring their apps to the Mac using Catalyst, whereas a new developer may want to start fresh with SwiftUI.

Gruber also asked about Scribble for iPad, the new feature that recognizes handwriting and adds other flexibility to taking notes with the Apple Pencil. The popularity of apps like GoodNotes and Notability haven’t gone unnoticed in Cupertino. In response to Gruber’s questioning, Federighi explained that the feature is designed to extend the utility of the Pencil when you’re already in a Pencil-centric mode, making it an alternative, but not a replacement, for a keyboard and touch.

The entire interview runs roughly 90 minutes and is worth watching in its entirety on YouTube for the full experience, but it is also available in an audio-only format as part of The Talk Show’s podcast feed.

You can also follow all of our WWDC coverage through our WWDC 2020 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated WWDC 2020 RSS feed.


Apple Highlights the Music of WWDC, Including Federico Viticci’s MusicBot

Today as part of the Discover section of Apple’s Developer app, the company shared three playlists and interviews with developers about the role music plays in their lives. Among the interviews is one with Federico, who was asked about MusicBot, the Apple Music shortcut that he created, and shared on MacStories, last December.

Sam Rosenthal, the developer behind the excellent Apple Arcade game Where Cards Fall, was interviewed too. He explains how his love of music informs his company’s approach to game development:

“A lot of the bands that I really loved… They didn’t stick with one sound,” he said. Rosenthal has carried that philosophy into his work: “Every time we make something, it should be different from the last. It should surprise people.”

In addition to interviews with developers, Apple shared three playlists: WWDC20 Power Up, WWDC20 Coding Energy, and WWDC20 Coding Focus.

With WWDC forced to be held remotely due to the pandemic and other troubles in the world, I really appreciate the sentiment shared by Federico at the conclusion of Apple’s story:

“Music transcends our differences and has the power to unite us,” Viticci said. “To make us feel connected no matter what’s going on in the world.”

Be sure to check out the playlists above, I’ve only had a chance to scroll through them so far, but they look like excellent collections to enjoy as you catch up on the latest WWDC developments.


The Mac’s Transition to Apple Silicon

Echoes of the past were woven throughout Apple’s announcement that it is transitioning the Mac from Intel-based chips to its own architecture. During the keynote yesterday, Senior Vice President of Hardware Technologies Johny Srouji kicked things off by explaining the balance between performance and power consumption, something that drove the transition to Intel chips nearly 15 years go. Then, Craig Federighi introduced Universal 2 and Rosetta 2, software solutions that originated with the transition to Intel Macs.

It would be a mistake to conclude that the transition to Apple Silicon will be just like the last switch, though. The computing world is very different from 2006, and so is Apple’s lineup of products. The transition carries the promise of powerful, low-power Macs, but it also foreshadows a fundamental change in the relationship among Apple’s platforms that began with the introduction of Mac Catalyst, SwiftUI, and related initiatives. Where precisely these changes lead is not entirely clear yet, but one thing is for certain: the Mac is changing dramatically.

Yesterday, I covered macOS 11.0, known as Big Sur, which is as much a part of this transition as the Mac’s new system-on-a-chip (SoC) will be. Today, however, it’s worth taking a closer look at the hardware that was announced. It won’t be available to consumers until later this year, and the transition is expected to take two years. However, within a week or so, developers will begin receiving test kits that will allow them to start working on supporting the new hardware when the new Macs start shipping.

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