Federico Viticci

9189 posts on MacStories since April 2009

Federico is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, and iOS productivity. He founded MacStories in April 2009 and has been writing about Apple since. Federico is also the co-host of AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps.

He can also be found on his three other podcasts on Relay FM – Connected, Canvas, and Remaster.

| Instagram: @viticci |

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Connected, Episode 226: The Instagram Secret Society

The boys discuss a bunch of Apple products that may be receiving refreshes after years of neglect, including the iPad mini and iPod touch, then are taught how to edit photos like pros by Tyler Stalman.

If you want to get better at taking pictures on your iPhone, you don't want to miss the second half of this week's Connected. I learned a lot from Tyler and now have a handful of new apps to play with. You can listen here.

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Dates with Siri

Before I get any further, let me tell you that some of what I’m going to say here was already covered by David Sparks in this post from almost six years ago. This was just a year and a half after the “beta” introduction of Siri with the iPhone 4S, and David was pleased with what Siri could do. I like a lot of what Siri can do with dates, too, but there are still some frustrating blind spots and inconsistencies. In fact, with one of David’s examples, Siri isn’t as convenient as it was six years ago.

Context has always been one of Siri’s weaknesses, and that’s where it failed Casey. Any normal human being would understand immediately that a question asked in January about days since a day in December is talking about the December of the previous year. But Siri ignores (or doesn’t understand) the word “since” and calculates the days until the next December 18.

Solid collection of examples of date calculations with Siri by Dr. Drang. As he notes, it's not that Siri can't answer complex questions involving dates – it's that you often have to phrase your questions with an exact syntax that a computer program can understand. This is frustrating because Apple promotes Siri as a smart assistant that can infer context without a refined syntax. I still run into a similar problem with time zone conversions; of course, the old trick I used to rely on no longer works for me unless I preface the question with "Ask Wolfram".

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Connected, Episode 225: The Bear Will Charge You

Stephen, Myke and Federico kick off 2019 with annual predictions, a look at Apple's recent TV moves and the most amazing Shortcut of all time.

On this week's episode of Connected, we share our predictions for Apple in 2019. You can listen here.

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Apple Frames Shortcut, Now with Support for the 11″ iPad Pro and Apple Watch Series 4 40mm

Apple Frames, my shortcut to add device frames to screenshots taken on modern Apple devices, has been updated with support for the 11" iPad Pro and 40mm Apple Watch Series 4. This marks the second major update to Apple Frames, which now supports the following Apple devices:

  • iPhone 6, 7, 8, and X
  • iPhone XS and XS Max
  • iPad Pro 11" and 12.9" (2018 models)
  • Apple Watch Series 4 (44mm and 40mm)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina 13")
  • iMac 5K

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Apple Music Wrapped: A Shortcut to Visualize Your Most Listened Songs, Artists, and Genres of the Year

When Spotify was my music streaming service of choice, one of the features I really liked was its personalized Wrapped report generated at the end of the year. I've always been a fan of geeky annual reports and stats about the usage of any given web service – be it Spotify, Pocket, or Toggl. I appreciate a detailed look at 12 months of collected data to gain some insight into my habits and patterns.

I've always been annoyed by the lack of a similar feature in Apple Music; I'm surprised that Apple still hasn't added a native "Year in Review" option – a baffling omission given how the company is already collecting all of the necessary data points in the cloud. Official "Apple Music Wrapped" functionality would bolster the service's catalog of personalized features, providing users with a "reward" at the end of the year in the form of reports and playlists to help them rediscover what they listened to over the past year.

But Apple doesn't seem interested in adding this feature to Apple Music, so I decided to build my own using Shortcuts. The result is the most complex shortcut I've ever created comprising over 540 actions. It's not perfect due to the limitations of iOS and Shortcuts, but it's the closest I was able to come to replicating Spotify's excellent Wrapped feature.

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Jason Snell Goes Hands-On with Brydge’s Upcoming Keyboard for the 2018 iPad Pro

Jason Snell tested a pre-production unit of the Brydge keyboard for the 2018 iPad Pro (in the 12.9" flavor) and it sounds like this will be the iPad keyboard worth waiting for:

To attach the iPad to the Brydge 12.9 Pro, you slide it into two hinged clips covered with rubber padding. As with previous models, it takes a little practice to get the feel right. My main concern once the new iPad Pro was unveiled was if Brydge would be able to design a clip small enough to only cover the iPad’s much smaller bezels that also held the iPad securely. I’m happy to report that the answer is yes—there’s enough room and once the iPad is attached, the connection feels solid.

The clips are the same size front and back, meaning you can remove the iPad, flip it around, and insert it back into the clips to use the Brydge as a “movie mode” stand, or even fold it down and use it as a double-thick, double-weight tablet. (I don’t really see the appeal, but Brydge says that some customers requested it.)

In a nice touch, the Brydge 12.9 Pro comes with a slight indentation at the bottom of the wrist-rest space (below where a trackpad would be, if it had a trackpad). This creates a natural lifting point to open the “laptop”, which was sometimes tricky on the previous models.

Once I was able to get my hands on a functioning unit of the original Brydge keyboard, I fell in love with the idea of turning the iPad into a "convertible" computer that could work both as a laptop and a tablet. I later upgraded to the second-generation Brydge keyboard and used it until I upgraded to the latest iPad Pro in November. Products like the Brydge keyboard tie into the iPad's hybrid nature – the multiplicity of input systems and work contexts that make it, as Jason also notes, more flexible than a traditional laptop or desktop computer. I was concerned that the smaller bezels of the 2018 iPad Pro were going to be an issue for a redesigned Brydge keyboard, but it seems like the company has not only worked around the iPad's new design constraints, but even improved upon previous generations of the keyboard case. I'm going to pre-order one as soon as possible.

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Connected, Episode 224: 2018 in Review

A look back at 2018: our predictions and a review of the news that mattered, as well as some that didn't.

On the final episode of Connected for the year, we look back at all the major Apple news and announcements of 2018. You can listen here.

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iA Writer 5.2: Better Typography and External Library Locations

As I wrote in my roundup of must-have iOS apps, I've been using iA Writer as my text editor, primarily because of its integration with Working Copy, beautiful typography, and syntax highlighting mode. As a non-native English speaker, I find the latter particularly useful when editing articles. iA Writer was updated to version 5.2 last week, and I'd like to point out a few welcome enhancements in this release.

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My Must-Have iOS Apps, 2018 Edition

Putting together my annual list of Must-Have iOS Apps is an exercise in analyzing the trends of the year and considering which ones had the biggest impact on how I use my iPhone and iPad. Two years ago, it was web services and open APIs; last year, I focused on collaboration with the MacStories team and making my workflow consistent across devices; this year, there isn't a single overarching theme behind this list, but rather a collection of trends and changes that I've observed over the course of 2018.

First and foremost is the switch to a subscription-based business model by some of my favorite apps. As we noted in our look at the modern economics of the App Store earlier this year, it is becoming increasingly challenging for indie developers – the ones who make the apps we tend to use and cover most frequently on MacStories – to find a balance between reaching new customers with paid app updates and supporting an app over the span of multiple years for existing users who already paid once.

A subscription seems like an obvious solution: new customers can try an app for free and later decide to subscribe; longtime users of an app get to support their favorite app over a longer period of time; developers are more incentivized to keep making an app better thanks to the financial security provided by an ongoing revenue stream. Recurring subscriptions for all apps launched two years ago just before WWDC, and it feels like we've only now reached a point where more and more developers are willing to experiment with them. This major shift in app pricing wasn't always met favorably by longtime users of existing apps, which has resulted in developers testing different approaches such as optional subscriptions, bundles containing subscriptions and In-App Purchases, or even multiple ways to unlock the same features. In looking at the apps included in this list, I was surprised by how many now include some form of recurring subscription; I think this transition will only become more prominent in 2019.

The second trend I noticed in my usage of third-party apps is a strong preference for those that fully embrace modern iOS technologies. From Siri shortcuts (by far, the most important iOS developer framework of 2018) to Files integration and support for external keyboards on iPad, I tend to prioritize apps that eschew proprietary functionalities and adopt native APIs such as iCloud, the Files document browser, or Reminders. With iOS growing more powerful and complex each year, I think it's only natural that I've stuck with apps that shy away from Apple-provided solutions as little as possible; those frameworks are always going to be more integrated with the rest of the system than any alternative a developer can come up with, and I seek that level of integration because I enjoy the comfort of an ecosystem where all the pieces work well together.

Lastly, I've noticed some overall changes in the kinds of apps I consider my must-haves for iPhone and iPad. In the "pro" app department, the Photography and Development lists have grown to include apps such as Lightroom, Scriptable, Darkroom, and Halide – all new entries this year. One of my goals with the new iPad Pro is to use it as a workstation for editing photos and programming my own little additions to iOS; I felt like my increased usage of these apps warranted some changes in the annual picks. You will also find more apps designed to interact with macOS as a result of my purchase of a Mac mini (which I'm using as a home server for various tasks) and different utility apps as some of the old ones have been replaced by Shortcuts. An app that, by the way, I can no longer include in this roundup due to my self-imposed rule of not featuring Apple apps because they're kind of obvious choices for an iOS user (this also applies to Shazam, officially acquired by Apple this year).

Below, you'll find a collection of the 60 apps I consider my must-haves on the iPhone and iPad, organized in nine categories; whenever possible, I included links to original reviews and past coverage on MacStories. What you will not find is the usual list of awards for best new app and best app update, which we've relaunched as a team effort under the MacStories Selects name this year. Instead, at the end of the story you'll find my App of the Year, which is also joining MacStories Selects as an award that recognizes an overall outstanding iOS app that had a profound impact on my workflow over the past year, regardless of its release date.

Let's dig in.

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