John Voorhees

2367 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.





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A Conversation with David Niemeijer of AssistiveWare About Personal Voice, Assistive Access, and Developing Apps for Accessibility

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Earlier this week, Apple announced a series of new accessibility features coming to its OSes later this year. There was a lot announced, and it can sometimes be hard to understand how features translate into real-world benefits to users.

To get a better sense of what some of this week’s announcements mean, I spoke to David Niemeijer, the founder and CEO of AssistiveWare, an Amsterdam-based company that makes augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps for the iPhone and iPad, including Proloquo, Proloquo2Go, and Proloquo4Text. Each app addresses different needs, but what they all have in common is helping people who have difficulty expressing themselves verbally.

What follows is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

Let me start by asking you a little bit about AAC apps as a category because I’m sure we have readers who don’t know what they do and what augmented and alternative communication apps are.

David Niemeijer: So, AAC is really about all ways of communication that do not involve speech. It includes body gestures, it includes things like signing, it includes texting, but in the context of apps, we typically think more about the high-tech kind of solutions that use the technology, but all those other things are also what’s considered AAC because they augment or they are an alternative for speech. These technologies and these practices are used by people who either physically can’t speak or can’t speak in a way that people understand them or that have other reasons why speech is difficult for them.

For example, what we see is that a lot of autistic people is they find speech extremely exhausting. So in many cases, they can speak, but there are many situations where they’d rather not speak because it drains their energy or where, because of, let’s say, anxiety or stress, speech is one of the first functions that drops, and then they can use AAC.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

We also see it used by people with cerebral palsy, where it’s actually the muscles that create a challenge. [AAC apps] are used by people who have had a stroke where the brain system that finds the right words and then sends the signals to the muscles is not functioning correctly. So there are many, many reasons. Roughly about 2% of the world population cannot make themselves understood with their own voice.

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Introducing the 2023 Automation April Shortcuts Contest Winners

John: One of the things I love about judging Automation April is seeing the wide variety of problems people use Shortcuts to solve and their creativity in solving them. This year’s Automation April Shortcuts Contest was no exception. We judged well over 100 shortcuts in the following categories.

  • Best Everyday Shortcut
  • Best Productivity Shortcut
  • Best Health Shortcut
  • Best Media Shortcut
  • Best Mac Shortcut
  • Best Overall Shortcut

The shortcuts we reviewed ran the gamut from simple shortcuts with a few actions to complex systems for automating elaborate workflows. What all of the shortcuts we judged had in common is a dedication to problem-solving. That’s reflected not just in the ingenuity of the shortcuts created by participants but also in their willingness to work with others in the Club MacStories+ Discord community and elsewhere to work together and learn. The Shortcuts community is a vibrant and generous group of which we’re fortunate to be a part.

Like last year, the quality of submissions to the contest made it exceptionally hard to pick the top shortcuts, but with the help of Simon Støvring, Jack Wellborn, Christopher Lawley, Matthew Cassinelli, Jason Snell, and Rosemary Orchard, we have come up with winners in each category. We’ve also included a handful of honorable mentions to showcase some of our favorite shortcuts that didn’t win a category. There are some real gems among the honorable mentions, so don’t forget to check them out too.

With that, we give you the 2023 Automation April Shortcuts Contest winners and the shortcuts they’ve created.

Table of Contents

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AppStories, Episode 329 – Our watchOS 10 and tvOS 17 Wishes

This week on AppStories, we explain the changes to watchOS and tvOS that we’d like to see made in 2023.

On AppStories+, troubleshooting hardware and software issues.

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Apple Adds Live Music Features to Maps and Music

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Today, Apple has launched new Apple Maps and Music features for live music fans. Apple Maps has added more than 40 Guides highlighting over 10 venues worldwide. In addition to editorial content about the music scenes in the featured cities, users can learn more about each venue and its upcoming shows using features that the Shazam app incorporated last spring, using information from Bandsintown.

Apple Music Guides.

Apple Music Guides.

In the Music app, Apple has created a new category called Set Lists that offers information about major artists’ concerts, along with a playlist of songs they’re playing on tour. Apple’s press release says users can browse upcoming shows of the artists spotlighted in Set Lists using the same Shazam tools that power the similar Apple Maps feature too.

Set Lists. Source: Apple.

Set Lists. Source: Apple.

The new Apple Music Guides announced today include Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York City, San Francisco, Berlin, London, Paris, Vienna, Tokyo, Melbourne, Sydney, and Mexico City. To view the guides, you can visit Set Lists are beginning to appear in Apple Music, too, although as of publication, I’ve only been able to locate them via search. Later, you should be able to browse all Set Lists at too.

It’s fantastic to see Apple Music and Maps expanding into live music. These sorts of features are something that Federico and I have been hoping Apple would implement for years, and I hope with time, we’ll see more guides for more cities around the world as well as a growing collection of Set Lists.

Apple Marks Global Accessibility Awareness Day with Features Coming to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS Later This Year

Thursday is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and as in years past, Apple has previewed several new accessibility features coming later this year. This year, Apple is focusing on a wide range of accessibility features covering cognitive, vision, hearing, mobility, and speech, which were designed with feedback from disability communities. The company hasn’t said when these features will debut in its operating systems, but if past years are any indication, most should be released in the fall as part of the annual OS release cycle.

Assistive Access

Assistive Access. Source: Apple.

Assistive Access. Source: Apple.

Assistive Access is a new customizable iPhone and iPad mode created for users with cognitive disabilities to lighten the cognitive load of using their favorite apps. Apple worked with users as well as their trusted supports to focus on the activities they use most, like communicating with friends and family, taking and viewing photos, and listening to music. The result is a distillation of the experiences of the related apps. For instance, Phone and FaceTime have been combined into a single Calls app that handles both audio and video calls.

Calls, Messages, Camera in Assistive Access mode. Source: Apple.

Calls, Messages, Camera in Assistive Access mode. Source: Apple.

The UI for Assistive Access is highly customizable, allowing users and their trusted supporters to adapt it to their individual needs. For example, an iPhone’s Home Screen can be streamlined to show just a handful of apps with large, high-contrast buttons with big text labels. Alternatively, Assistive Access can be set up with a row-based UI for people who prefer text.

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FitnessView Teams: A Team-Based Fitness Tracker for Coaches and Trainers

Today, Funn Media released FitnessView Teams, a fitness-tracking app that allows coaches or personal trainers to track multiple team members or clients at once. I’m not a coach or a trainer, but I’ve been trying the app with demo data and like what I’ve seen a lot.

FitnessView Teams provides a home base for tracking the performance of multiple athletes.

FitnessView Teams provides a home base for tracking the performance of multiple athletes.

FitnessView Teams, which builds on Funn Media’s FitnessView app for individuals, works on the iPhone and iPad, but it’s best on the iPad where you can see more data at once. From the main view, you can switch among multiple teams, browse data by team member, invite new team members, and invite other coaches to your team. Coaches and team members can both be added via a QR code or an invitation link that allows FitnessView Teams to access the data collected by a team member’s Apple Watch. You can also browse team member data by date using a calendar strip along the top of the iPad’s screen.

Tapping any of the home view's tiles drills deeper into the details of each.

Tapping any of the home view’s tiles drills deeper into the details of each.

Most of the app’s main view is dedicated to health metric tiles that are fully customizable in the app’s settings. Tapping on any health metric brings up additional details, including a graph for that data over time, as well as daily averages and monthly progress. Reports for each athlete can be exported as a customizable PDF-formatted report too.

The app includes calendar and metric-based views of team data too.

The app includes calendar and metric-based views of team data too.

Other data visualizations include a tab dedicated to a full month overview per athlete. There’s also a tab that breaks down a team’s progress by fitness metric, which allows coaches to easily compare the stats of one athlete compared to another on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. All of the same data is available on the iPhone, too, but the limited screen space requires more navigating between views and scrolling of data.

I’ve always been a fan of FitnessView for individuals. The app’s simple, clean design provides an excellent overview of core health metrics, with the ability to dive into each for more detail. FitnessView Teams takes the same approach and succeeds in organizing an even bigger set of health data for multiple people at once, which is an impressive accomplishment. If you’re a coach or trainer, FitnessView Teams is worth checking out.

FitnessView Teams is available to download for free. However, a subscription is required to add multiple team members or clients to the app, which starts at $59.99/month to track ten users.

Last Week, on Club MacStories: Things Shortcuts Tips, App Pricing Complexity, and New and Updated Apps

Because Club MacStories now encompasses more than just newsletters, we’ve created a guide to the past week’s happenings:

MacStories Weekly: Issue 368

MacStories Unwind: First Impressions: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom


In this special episode of Unwind, Federico, who received The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom one day earlier than most people, shares his first impressions of the game, which has received rave reviews from critics.

First Impressions: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

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AppStories, Episode 328 – Our iPadOS 17 Wishes

This week on AppStories, we continue our wish list series with our wishes for iPadOS 17.

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On AppStories+, stand-up lawn mowers and my struggles with social media.

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