John Voorhees

1500 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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FoodNoms’ Widgets Thoughtfully Combine Goal Summaries with Actions to Make Food Tracking Easier Than Ever

I first reviewed FoodNoms late last year when it launched and was impressed. The app is a privacy-focused food tracker to help you keep up with your nutritional goals. FoodNoms sets itself apart from its competitors by proving that logging and tracking can come in a user-focused, elegantly designed package. The result is an app that makes forming good eating habits a simpler, better experience than most food tracking apps I’ve tried.

In the months since its launch, FoodNoms has received a long list of useful updates. For instance, there are more ways to save and access the foods you track than ever. Items can be marked as favorites and saved along with other foods as reusable recipes or meals. Also, the app’s search functionality lets you search foods, meals, recipes, and favorites.

One of the shortcomings of FoodNoms that I pointed out in my initial review was that it only included short-term graphs, which made it hard to track trends. That’s been remedied with the inclusion of weekly and monthly charts. The database of foods has also been improved, and a community-driven food database was introduced to allow users to contribute foods. FoodNoms’ Shortcuts actions have been expanded, and alternative icons added too.

FoodNoms' four widget types in action.

FoodNoms’ four widget types in action.

Most recently, FoodNoms added widget support, so users can get an overview of progress towards their goals throughout the day and quickly access the app’s functionality. FoodNoms includes four types of widgets: Goal, Goals Summary, Log Food, and Quick Actions.

The Goal widget, which comes in the small size only, is a simple widget that can track a single goal you’ve set for yourself. Perhaps my favorite option that it and the Goals Summary widget share is the ability to pick what happens when the widget is tapped. For the Goal widget, the options are opening the app, going to the Today view, searching, scanning bar codes and food labels, logging a drink, and viewing goal details. The Goals Summary widget includes the same options, with the exception of viewing goal details. Goals Summary also allows two separate nutrient goals to be tracked instead of just one.

Log Food, as you’d expect, lets you pick foods to log. The widget can be set up to offer smart suggestions based on recently-logged foods or show foods of your choice instead. The medium version can fit two foods, while the large version supports four. Tapping on one of the foods takes you directly to it in FoodNom’s database, where you can adjust amounts and other settings before logging it. Of course, if you want more food items on your Home Screen, you can use multiple instances of the Log Food widget and stack them.

The final widget is a medium-sized one that includes six Quick Actions that remind me a little of Anybuffer or Drafts’ quick action widgets. FoodNoms includes actions to start a search, view your library or favorites, access the app’s Quick Entry feature, scan a barcode or nutrition label, and log a drink. The widget is a great way to jump to exactly where you want within FoodNoms with minimal effort.

Between multiple options for tracking your goals and the thoughtful use of actions tied to widgets, FoodNoms offers users a ton of flexibility on their Home Screens. FoodNoms is also a fantastic example of a subscription model that supports ongoing development. The subscription allows developer Ryan Ashcraft to update and refine the app throughout the year with new functionality. In return, users get an excellent food tracker they’ll use multiple times every day that is ad-free and won’t sell their data, which is well worth the app’s $4.99/month or $29.99/year subscription.


Apple Health Records Expands to the UK and Canada

Apple’s Health Records feature was added to the Health app for US residents in early 2018. In the years since, Apple says the feature has been adopted by over 500 institutions with over 11,000 care locations. Now, Health Records is expanding to the UK and Canada for the first time.

Initially, the feature will be used by two institutions in the UK and three in Canada. In the UK, Health Records is being adopted by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. In Canada, Women’s College Hospital, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, and Mackenzie Health are adding the feature.

Apple’s Kevin Lynch commented that:

“We designed Health Records on iPhone to empower people to easily view their health records at any time, and we are thrilled to put this feature in the hands of customers in the UK and Canada,” said Kevin Lynch, Apple’s vice president of Technology. “We believe people should have access to their health information in the most private and secure way, and we have worked hand in hand with healthcare institutions and organizations to put privacy at the center of the patient experience.”

It’s great to see Health Records extending beyond the US. Healthcare is a highly regulated industry worldwide, so it’s no surprise that it has taken time for the feature to expand beyond the US. Hopefully, this is just the start of a broader rollout.


Apple Announces October 13, 2020 Online Media Event

As tweeted by Federico, Apple has announced a media event for October 13, 2020, at 10:00 am Pacific. The event will be held online only.

Based on widespread speculation, Apple is expected to introduce its new lineup of iPhones. Rumors point to the possibility of over-ear headphones and, perhaps, the long-rumored AirTag location trackers too.

Apple may also take the opportunity to release macOS 11.0 Big Sur and preview upcoming Apple Silicon-based Macs, which the company said at WWDC are coming before the end of the year. If Apple’s September Apple Watch and iPad event is any indication, the final 11.0 version of macOS Big Sur could be released to the public shortly after the event.



4K YouTube Content Begins to Show Up on the Apple TV 4K

YouTube is being updated to support 4K streaming on the Apple TV 4K for the first time, although it’s limited to 30fps and doesn’t support HDR. The speculation is that higher frame rate, HDR content could be forthcoming in an update to the Apple TV hardware.

First spotted by 9to5Mac over the weekend, The Verge confirmed on Monday with Google that 4K streams are indeed rolling out to Apple TV 4K users, although they are not yet live for everyone. While at least some 4K content is also available on select iPhone models already, including my iPhone 11 Pro Max, The Verge notes that it’s not yet available on all iPhones and iPads with compatible resolutions. When asked about iPhone and iPad 4K compatibility, Google told The Verge that YouTube would support 4K content on the iPhone and iPad soon.


Instagram Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary on the App Store with Classic Icons and Adds New Stories Archive and Anti-Bullying Features

As of today, Instagram has been on the App Store for ten years. To celebrate, the app has brought back classic icons from its past as well as variations on its current icon as an in-app Easter egg.

As The Verge reports, the icons can be accessed by going to Instagram’s settings view and then long-swiping down on your iPhone’s screen until a series of emoji appear. Keep swiping until confetti rains down, and the icons are revealed. Like me, you may also have to restart your iPhone for your Home Screen changes to take effect. In total, there are a dozen icons to choose from, excluding the default option.

Instagram's new Stories Archive views.

Instagram’s new Stories Archive views.

According to TechCrunch, Instagram has released a couple of other features too. From your profile page, you can access three years of archived Stories from a private calendar or map view. For National Bullying Prevention Month in the US, Instagram is also testing a feature that automatically hides comments similar to others that have already been reported by users as abusive. Warnings to people who post offensive comments are also being expanded to alert repeat offenders that their comments may be hidden from view or their accounts deleted.


MacStories Unwind: Sticky Notes for Your iPhone, GoodLinks and Deliveries Updates, Plus New iPad Features for Pixelmator, and Emoji

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This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • Monthly Log
    • Federico on how he uses Sour’s Magic Mixes
    • John’s first impressions of the Nike edition Series 6 Apple Watch
    • Ryan switches to Todoist
  • MacStories Weekly
    • 10 more Giveaways
    • Tempo: Workout Log for Runners
    • A collection of apps with widgets
    • An interview with Tanmay Sonawane, developer of Poor
    • Mail and Twitter tips
  • AppStories

Unwind


GoodLinks Updated with Three-Column iPad Layout, Widgets, and New Keyboard Shortcuts

GoodLinks has only been out since June, but it quickly became my go-to read it later app that I dip in and out of every day. That position has only been reinforced with its frequent updates in the months following release, including its most recent update which adds a new three-column iPad layout, widgets, and new keyboard shortcuts.

The new iPad sidebar design is particularly well-suited to GoodLinks. The first column, which can be hidden, allows users to navigate between Unread, Starred, Untagged, Read, and Tags. The Tags section is collapsible, which declutters the sidebar when you don’t need to view a specific tag.

The second column is the article list that displays the favicon for each post, its title, a short excerpt, image, site and author information, and associated tags. The top of the second column features a button to sort from oldest to newest and vice versa, and one to add new links.

Read more


Justin O’Beirne Details Apple’s Update to Its Maps Data in the United Kingdom and Ireland

Source: justinobeirne.com

Source: justinobeirne.com

As announced at WWDC, Apple has expanded its modern maps to the United Kingdom and Ireland. As usual, Justin O’Beirne has begun documenting the changes on his blog with GIFs and charts cataloging the differences.

Apple’s ninth Maps data update is its first outside the US and covers all of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Although the update represents one of the smaller additions by land area, it’s the second-largest in terms of the total population and population density.

Source: justinobeirne.com

Source: justinobeirne.com

As with previous updates, O’Beirne’s GIFs do a terrific job visualizing the changes with examples from urban areas like London, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Dublin, along with places like Stonehenge, Loch Ness, Wales, and the Cliffs of Moher. The new maps are a clear improvement with more clearly defined green spaces, detailed landmarks, and other improvements.

Be sure to visit O’Beirne’s website for his complete set of GIFs, charts, and ongoing updates.

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