Federico Viticci

9461 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, iPad, 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, and Dialog, a show where creativity meets technology.

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

Mastodon: @viticci@macstories.net

| Instagram: @viticci |

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The Mac and iPad Pro Are on a Collision Course

Jason Snell, in an excellent column for Macworld:

Sometimes I look back at all the effort Apple has made with the iPad Pro and wonder if it was worth it. All the additions of Mac-ish features have added complexity that’s probably lost on most users of iPadOS, and the power users for whom they were intended are probably well aware of all the ways they don’t really match up the Mac features they’re duplicating.

I want to see what happens when the walls come down. Today’s iPad Pro is powered by the same chip that’s in the MacBook Air. Would it be such a cataclysm if I could simply reboot that iPad into macOS or run macOS inside a virtual machine?

Likewise, what if the Mac had a touchscreen and Apple Pencil support and came in shapes that weren’t the traditional laptop? What if the Mac began to offer the ergonomic flexibility that iPadOS is so good at? What if I ripped the keyboard off a MacBook and had the option to switch to a touch-based mode that was essentially iPadOS?

I love this story, which I recommend reading in its entirety, because it feels as if Jason stared directly into my soul and wrote about something I’ve been feeling for the past several months.

From my perspective, Stage Manager’s failure to reinvent multitasking and iPadOS’ perennial lack of pro features (Jason mentions a proper audio subsystem in his story, and I agree; I wrote this four years ago, and nothing has improved) were the final straw that convinced me to start looking elsewhere for a convertible computer in my life. I could buy a MacBook Air, but I don’t want to be stuck with a laptop that doesn’t have a touchscreen and whose keyboard you can’t detach.

I fear that I’m going to have to wait a couple of years for the Apple computer I want to exist, and I’m not sure anymore that iPadOS can evolve in meaningful ways in the meantime.

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Apple Frames 3.1.1 with Support for Passthrough Mode

The 'Shortcut Result' variable, used as an image variable in a shortcut that calls Apple Frames.

The ‘Shortcut Result’ variable, used as an image variable in a shortcut that calls Apple Frames.

I just released a small update to Apple Frames 3.1, which came out earlier this week, with a new output command: &passthrough. With this output command for the Apple Frames API, you’ll be able to generate a framed image (from whatever source you like) and simply pass its result to the next action in a shortcut as a native image variable.

I wrote about this as part of my Extension column in MacStories Weekly today, where I also covered the ability to run Apple Frames from the command line on macOS. Here’s the excerpt about version 3.1.1 of Apple Frames and the new passthrough mode:

As I was researching this column for Weekly, I realized there was an obvious candidate for an output command I did not include in Apple Frames 3.1: a passthrough command to, well, pass framed images along as input for the next action of a shortcut.

Here’s what I mean: when you run Apple Frames from a helper shortcut using the ‘Run Shortcut’ action, that action produces an output variable called ‘Shortcut Result’. If you’re running Apple Frames as a function, thus turning it into a feature of another workflow, it can be useful to take the framed images it produces and use them as a native variable in other actions of the shortcut. The problem is that the output commands I launched with Apple Frames 3.1 all involved “storing” the framed images somewhere, whether it was Files or the system clipboard.

This is no longer the case with the &passthrough output command I added to Apple Frames 3.1.1, which you can redownload from the MacStories Shortcuts Archive or directly from this link. If you run the Apple Frames API with this command, framed images will be passed along as native output of the shortcut, which you can reuse as a variable elsewhere in a shortcut that’s invoking Apple Frames.

And:

Any shortcut or longer workflow that involves running Apple Frames in the background and retrieving the screenshots it frames can take advantage of this method, allowing you to bypass the need to store images in the clipboard, even if temporarily. Essentially, passthrough mode turns Apple Frames into a native action of the Shortcuts app that returns a standard image variable as its output.

This is the only change in version 3.1.1 of Apple Frames, and I’m excited to see how people will take advantage of it to chain Apple Frames with other shortcuts on their devices. You can download the updated version of Apple Frames below.

Apple Frames

Add device frames to screenshots for iPhones (11, 8/SE, and 12-13-14 generations in mini/standard/Plus/Pro Max sizes), iPad Pro (11” and 12.9”, 2018-2022 models), iPad Air (10.9”, 2020-2022 models), iPad mini (2021 model), Apple Watch S4/5/6/7/8/Ultra, iMac (24” model, 2021), MacBook Air (2020-2022 models), and MacBook Pro (2021 models). The shortcut supports portrait and landscape orientations, but does not support Display Zoom; on iPadOS and macOS, the shortcut supports Default and More Space resolutions. If multiple screenshots are passed as input, they will be combined in a single image. The shortcut can be run in the Shortcuts app, as a Home Screen widget, as a Finder Quick Action, or via the share sheet. The shortcut also supports an API for automating input images and framed results.

Get the shortcut here.

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Apple Frames 3.1: Extending Screenshot Automation with the New Apple Frames API

Apple Frames 3.1 comes with a lightweight Apple Frames API to extend its automation capabilities.

Apple Frames 3.1 comes with a lightweight Apple Frames API to extend its automation capabilities.

Update, March 3: Version 3.1.1 of Apple Frames has been released with support for a new passthrough output command. This post has been updated to reflect the changes. You can redownload the updated shortcut at the end of this post.


Today, I’m happy to introduce something I’ve been working on for the past couple of months: Apple Frames – my shortcut to put screenshots captured on Apple devices inside physical device frames – is getting a major upgrade to version 3.1 today. In addition to offering support for more devices that I missed in version 3.0 as well as some bug fixes, Apple Frames 3.1 brings a brand new API that lets you automate and extend the Apple Frames shortcut itself.

By making Apple Frames scriptable, I wanted to allow power users – such as designers and developers who rely on this shortcut to frame hundreds of images each week – to save valuable time without compromising the accessible nature of Apple Frames for other people. This is why all of the new advanced features of Apple Frames are optional and hidden until you go look for them specifically. Furthermore, even if you do want to use the Apple Frames API, you’ll see that I designed it in the spirit of Shortcuts: it does not require any code and it’s entirely powered by simple, visual ‘Text’ actions.

I’m incredibly excited about what Apple Frames can do in version 3.1, so let’s dive in.

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Six Colors’ ‘Apple in 2022’ Report Card

For the past eight years, Six Colors’ Jason Snell has put together an ‘Apple report card’ – a survey that aims to assess the current state of Apple “as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple”.

The 2022 version of the Six Colors Apple Report Card was published yesterday, and you can find an excellent summary of all the submitted comments along with charts featuring average scores for different categories here.

Once again, I’m happy Jason invited me to share some thoughts and comments on what Apple did in 2022. MacStories readers know that last year didn’t exactly go as planned. While iOS 16 delivered a meaningful update to the Lock Screen for people who care about customization and the iPhone 14 Pro came with substantial improvements to the display and camera tech, the iPad story was disappointing and confusing. This is reflected in my answers to Jason’s survey, and it’ll be a recurring topic on MacStories in 2023. At the same time, I was also impressed by Apple’s performance on services, concerned by the evolution of the Shortcuts app, and cautious about the company’s newfound approach to HomeKit.

I’ve prepared the full text of my answers to the Six Colors report card, which you can find below. I recommend reading the whole thing on Six Colors to get the broader context of all the participants in the survey.

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macOS Isn’t as Small as You Think

Interesting comparison of macOS and iPadOS interface elements by Matt Birchler:

I will say that there are certainly some macOS UI elements that could be tricky to use with touch, but I think they’re the exception, not the rule. Still, Apple will certainly make some UI changes to accommodate touch as an officially-supported input method on the platform.

And:

There’s a narrative out there that touch is just so incompatible with macOS and that in order to make it work, the macOS UI would have to get blown up to comical proportions, but I don’t think that’s the case. Changes will be made, but I think macOS is more touch-friendly today than many people give it credit for.

I don’t disagree, and count me among those who think Apple should consider bringing touch support to the Mac.

I’ve seen this argument regarding the concern of “blowing up” the macOS UI in recent years too, and I think it’s shortsighted. Look no further than the iPad Pro: in a single device, Apple was able to let touch, pointer, and now even hover interactions coexist. Even without display scaling, I don’t think iPadOS has a comically large interface, as some believe.

There is a lot of work to be done to achieve a similar kind of input balance on macOS (think of all the elements that haven’t been redesigned in recent years, like drag controls for windows; the list is long), but it is possible, and I hope Apple gets there in the near future.

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The Practicality of Art in Software

I’ve been following with great interest this series of articles by John Gruber (and Matt Birchler’s related story) about the chasm between iOS and Android apps. I have some thoughts since expanding my app knowledge beyond iOS and iPadOS is one of my goals for 2023.

About a month ago, during my holiday break, I purchased a Google Pixel 7 as a way to re-familiarize myself with Android.1 To say that I found the ecosystem worse than I remembered would be an understatement. It’s not just about the fact that – as Gruber and Birchler noted – most Android apps suck compared to their iOS counterparts; it’s that the entire OS lacks cohesiveness.

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Unread 3.3

Saving an article from Unread to Readwise Reader.

Saving an article from Unread to Readwise Reader.

Unread, the elegant RSS reader by Golden Hill Software that we’ve covered before on MacStories, received its 3.3 update today, and it’s an interesting one I’ve been playing around with for the past week. There are two features I want to mention.

The first one is the ability to set up an article action to instantly send a headline from the article list in the app to Readwise Reader. As I explained on AppStories, I decided to go all-in with Reader as my read-later app (at least for now), and this Unread integration makes it incredibly easy to save articles for later. Sure, the Readwise Reader extension in the share sheet is one of the best ones I’ve seen for a read-later app (you can triage and tag articles directly from the share sheet), but if you’re in a hurry and checking out headlines on your phone, the one-tap custom action in Unread is phenomenal. To start using it, you need to be an Unread subscriber and paste in your Readwise API token.

The second feature is the ability to save any webpage from Safari as an article in Unread, even if you’re not subscribed to that website’s RSS feed. Essentially, this is a way to turn Unread into a quasi-read-later tool: the app’s parser will extract text and images from the webpage, which will be then be saved as a ‘Saved Article’ in Unread Cloud, Local feeds, or NewsBlur, or as a ‘Page’ in Feedbin.

If you’re a new Readwise Reader user, I recommend checking out Unread 3.3, which is available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.

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Ivory for Mastodon Review: Tapbots Reborn

Ivory for Mastodon.

Ivory for Mastodon.

There’s an intangible, permeating quality about Tapbots apps that transcends features and specs: craftsmanship. With Ivory, launching today on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, you can instantly appreciate that level of care and refinement that the Texas-based duo is well known for after more than a decade on the App Store. But there’s something else, too: for the first time in a few years, it feels like Mark and Paul are having fun again.

Ivory is a Mastodon client, and it’s tricky to evaluate it right now because its version 1.0 is launching under extraordinary circumstances.

As we’ve documented on MacStories, Twitter’s idiotic new “leadership” recently decided to unceremoniously and crassly put an end to third-party clients such as Tweetbot with no warning, which forced Tapbots to scramble and figure out a solution on how to discontinue Tweetbot while dealing with subscription renewals while also accelerating the timeline for the launch of Ivory, which they’d been working on for months. I’ve been following the development of Ivory very closely (I’ve been using the app as my main Mastodon client since its first alpha in late November), and I know that the Ivory 1.0 launching today isn’t the debut version Mark and Paul were envisioning. By Tapbots’ own admission, there’s still a lot of work to do on Ivory, but given how the Twitter situation evolved, they had to ship something. There is already a roadmap on Tapbots’ website for Ivory, if you’re curious to know what the developers are planning for the foreseeable future.

As I was saying above, however, there’s something else about Ivory that, in many ways, makes today’s release an important milestone in our community worth documenting and celebrating. Ever since we at MacStories decided to abandon Twitter, we’ve gone all-in on Mastodon and, broadly speaking, we want to embrace the idea of decentralized and federated social media. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen hundreds of other people I used to follow on Twitter do the same. I believe we’re witnessing the beginning of a new social networking era, and even though Mastodon has been around for a few years, many of us (myself included) are only realizing now that we should have paid attention to this kind of technology years ago.

For the second time since I started MacStories in 2009, I can observe developers imagining what interfaces for reading and posting status updates on the web should look like. New conventions are being created as we speak, and we are, once again, witnessing the rise of a vibrant ecosystem of third-party apps designed for different needs, platforms, and people. Only, this time, there is no single company that controls the fate of all this.

So that’s the something that makes the release of Ivory a special one in the Apple community. More than a reactionary “what if Tweetbot, but for Mastodon” move, Ivory marks a new beginning for Tapbots in a way that Netbot never was. (If you know, you know.) We’re living in new and exciting times for indie apps, and I think that you can feel it when the creator of an app feels the same way. Ivory exudes enthusiasm. Even though it’s not the most feature-rich client I’m testing right now, it’s the one I’m constantly drawn towards. Ivory is going to establish a baseline for quality and polish on iOS and iPadOS; it’s the app future Mastodon clients for iPhone and iPad (and, hopefully soon, Mac) will have to measure up against.

Ivory is the start of a new chapter for one of the most beloved indie studios in our community. So let’s take a look.

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Hands-On with Apple Music for Windows

Apple Music for Windows.

Apple Music for Windows.

Last week, Apple released native versions of Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Devices for Windows. The apps, which are available on the Microsoft Store, are labeled as “previews”, and they’re meant to eventually serve as replacements for iTunes for Windows, which is the only flavor of iTunes Apple still distributes after they transitioned to standalone media apps a few years ago. I suppose the apps are also part of a broader strategy from Apple to establish a stronger presence of their services on Windows, as we saw last year with the launch of Apple Music on Xbox and iCloud Photos on Windows (which joined the existing iCloud configuration panel for Windows devices).

As an Apple Music subscriber and owner of a Windows gaming laptop, I thought it’d be fun to take Apple Music for a spin and see how it compares to Spotify on Windows as well as the existing Apple Music experience for Apple’s platforms, which I know very well and enjoy on a daily basis.

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