Federico Viticci

9450 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.

| Instagram: @viticci |

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Last.fm Turns 20 – and People Are Still Scrobbling

I enjoyed this story about Last.fm’s 20th (!) anniversary by Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:

I was a little surprised to see that Last.fm was still around when I first started writing this story, let alone that it had new communities flourishing around its data. (The company didn’t respond to a request for an interview.) But I suppose in a world where most services close off and hide your data, there’ll always be people looking for a way to track it and analyze it themselves. And in exchange, they get the joy of arguing about music stats every day — and not just once a year when Wrapped comes out.

My co-hosts on Connected like to make fun of me for being One of Those People Who Still Scrobbles, but I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I’ve done for my music consumption in the past few years. (That, plus having an offline library with albums I own that I can enjoy with my favorite headphones and amp – which I also scrobble via Roon.) Ever since I started scrobbling again last year thanks to Marvis Pro on iPhone and iPad (and NepTunes on the Mac), I’ve been able to enjoy some fascinating monthly and annual breakdowns of my music listening habits that go much more in depth than Apple Music or Spotify would ever want to.

An example of a monthly Last.fm report.

An example of a monthly Last.fm report.

In Internet years, it’s pretty wild for anything to turn 20 – let alone a service that faces competition from the likes of Apple and Spotify. And yet Last.fm has been able to carve a niche for itself by appealing to people like me, who want to know more about the music they listen to. Maybe it’s a weird thing to say in 2022, but if you listen to a lot of music every day, I can’t recommend dusting off your old Last.fm account enough.

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Masto-Redirect, a Mastodon Shortcut to Redirect Profiles and Posts to Your Own Instance

Using Masto-Redirect in Safari.

Using Masto-Redirect in Safari.

Like many others over the past month, I’ve been thinking deeply about my experience with Twitter and whether I want to align my social media usage with the kind of platform Twitter is rapidly becoming. It’s a complex discussion (if my readers are still on Twitter, am I doing them a disservice by not using Twitter?), but in the meantime, I’ve decided to learn more about Mastodon. And in doing so, I came across an aspect of the service that I wanted to improve with a shortcut.

I created an account on Mastodon.social all the way back in 2018, and you can find me as @viticci there as well. I don’t want to turn this post into a guide to Mastodon (you can find an excellent one here), but, long story short, Mastodon is a decentralized service that is based on a federated network of instances. Essentially, there isn’t a single “Mastodon website” like, say, twitter.com; instead, there can be multiple Mastodon instances across different domains (hence why it’s “decentralized”) but, thanks to an underlying API, you can follow and be followed by people regardless of the instance they’re on. I can be on Mastodon.social, and you can be on Journa.host or Mastodon.online (different instances of Mastodon), but we can still communicate with one another via the protocol Mastodon uses. It’s like living in different countries but speaking the same language. You can read more about this here.

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Apple’s Taken the Joy out of its Books App with iOS 16

I enjoyed this article by Mitchell Clark, writing for The Verge, about the removal of the classic page-turn animation from the redesigned Books app in iOS 16:

Apple Books has been my main reading app for years for one very specific reason: its page-turning animation is far and away the best in the business. Unfortunately, that went away with iOS 16 and has been replaced by a new animation that makes it feel like you’re moving cards through a deck instead of leafing through a digitized version of paper. And despite the fact that I’ve been trying to get used to the change since I got onto the beta in July, I still feel like Apple’s destroyed one of the last ways that my phone brought joy into my life.

I forgot to mention this in the Books section of my iOS 16 review. The Books app received a major redesign this year, and I’ve heard from quite a few people over the past few months about why, for serious readers like them, the new UI layout of the Books app is a regression from iOS 15. All that aside, however, I don’t understand why the page-turn animation – a fun, whimsical aspect of the Books UI that felt uniquely Apple – had to be taken away.

I agree with Mitchell on this: the page-turn animation should come back – if anything, as an optional setting.

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‘Command-K Bars’ as a Modern Interface Pattern

Maggie Appleton (via Michael Tsai) has written about one of the UI trends I’ve seen pop up more and more lately, and which we mentioned on AppStories several times over the past year: the so-called ‘Command-K’ bars inside apps.

Command bars are command-line bars that pop up in the middle of the screen when you hit a certain keyboard shortcut.They’re also known as ‘command palettes’, ‘command launchers’, or ‘omniboxes’ Traditionally CMD + K, hence the moniker “Command K bars.” But CMD + E and CMD + / have also been strong shortcut contenders.

[…]

They don’t even have to remember its exact name. Fuzzy search can help them find it by simply typing in similar names or related keywords. For example, if I type “make” into a command bar, it’s likely to show me any actions related to creating new items. Even if “make” isn’t part of the action name.

[…]

These bars also do double duty as universal search bars. You’re not only searching through the available actions in an app. You can also search through content like documents, file names, and tasks.

You’ve probably seen these command bars in apps like Obsidian, Craft, Todoist, Arc, Cron, Notion, and lots of others. (On Apple platforms, Things did something similar all the way back in 2018 with a feature called ‘Type Travel’.) It feels like every modern productivity app – especially on desktop – has its own flavor of this interface element nowadays. In a way, this visual trend reminds me of pull-to-refresh before it was standardized by Apple and became a native iOS UI component.

I’m intrigued by Command-K bars as a feature that speeds up keyboard-driven interactions on iPad and Mac while at the same time serving as a search box for an app’s own commands. Think of the typical Command-K bar as a mix of Spotlight, the macOS menu bar, and iPadOS’ keyboard shortcut menu, but as an element that can be invoked from anywhere in an app and dismissed with just a keystroke. As the examples in Maggie’s article show, Command-K bars can be genuinely useful to surface hidden commands and allow power users to save time when using complex apps.

There are plenty of cases where Apple’s apps could benefit from this kind of in-app search makeover. Here’s Notes, for instance, when you activate the ‘Note List Search’ command:

Search inside Notes.

Search inside Notes.

And here’s the rather complex list of keyboard shortcuts supported by Safari:

Keyboard shortcuts in Safari for iPad.

Keyboard shortcuts in Safari for iPad.

I said this on AppStories and I’ll say it again: I think Apple should consider an in-app version of Spotlight that replicates the functionality of Command-K bars and is optimized for keyboard usage on iPadOS and macOS. Modern productivity software is clearly moving in this direction on desktop and the web; I’d like to see Apple apps offer faster keyboard navigation and command discoverability too.

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Apple Frames 3.0: Completely Rewritten, Support for iPhone 14 Pro and Dynamic Island, New Devices, Multiple Display Resolutions, and More

Apple Frames 3.0.

Apple Frames 3.0.

Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of version 3.0 of Apple Frames, my shortcut to put screenshots taken on various Apple devices inside physical frames for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

Apple Frames 3.0 is a major update that involved a complete re-architecture of the shortcut to improve its performance and reliability on all Apple platforms. For Apple Frames 3.0, I entirely rebuilt its underlying file structure to move away from base64 and embrace Files/Finder to store assets. As a result, Apple Frames 3.0 is faster, easier to debug, and – hopefully – easier to maintain going forward.

But Apple Frames 3.0 goes beyond a new technical foundation. This update to the shortcut introduces full compatibility with the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max with Dynamic Island, Apple Watch Ultra, and the M2 MacBook Air. And that’s not all: Apple Frames 3.0 also brings full support for resolution scaling on all iPad models that offer the ‘More Space’ display mode in iPadOS 16. And in the process, I also added support for ‘Default’ and ‘More Space’ options on the Apple Silicon-based MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, and iMac. All of this, as always, in a native shortcut designed for high performance that uses Apple’s official device images and requires no manual configuration whatsoever.

Apple Frames 3.0 is the biggest, most versatile version of Apple Frames to date, and I’m proud of the results. Let’s dive in.

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Stage Manager in iPadOS 16: At the Intersection of Bugs, Missing Features, and Flawed Design

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.1.

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.1.

This article wasn’t supposed to go like this.

iPadOS 16 is launching to the public today, and it carries a lot of expectations on its shoulders: for the first time since the introduction of the original iPad in 2010, Apple is embracing a Mac-like windowing system that lets you use up to four windows at the same time on the iPad’s screen. You can even resize them and make them overlap. If you’ve been following the evolution of the iPad for a while, you know that’s very unusual.

But the reason this story was meant to be different isn’t to be found in Apple’s design philosophy for iPadOS 16. Typically, MacStories readers would expect a full-blown ‘The MacStories Review’ to go alongside a new version of iPadOS. That’s what I’ve been doing for over seven years at this point, and I don’t like breaking my writing patterns. When something works, I want to keep writing. That’s precisely why I had to stop writing about iPadOS earlier in the summer and until last week.

Stage Manager, the marquee addition to iPadOS that lets you multitask with floating windows, started crashing on my M1 iPad Pro in mid-July and it was only fixed in early October. When I say “crashing”, I mean I couldn’t go for longer than 10 minutes without iPadOS kicking me back to my Lock Screen and resetting my workspaces. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. For nearly two months, I couldn’t type with Apple’s Magic Keyboard or use keyboard shortcuts when Stage Manager was active. Before it was pulled by Apple and delayed to a future release, external display support in Stage Manager was impossible to rely on for production work. The list goes on and on and on.

Normally, I would use the introduction of my iOS and iPadOS reviews to tell you how I’ve been living and working with the new operating system every day for the past three months. I’ve always tried to publish annual OS reviews that are informed by practical, consistent usage of a new operating system which, I hope, has led to highly opinionated, well-researched stories that can stand the test of time. That kind of story hasn’t been possible for me to produce with iPadOS 16 yet.

Effectively, I’ve only been able to sort-of use iPadOS 16 with Stage Manager on my M1 iPad Pro again for the past two weeks. Before that, it’s not that I didn’t want to use iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager because I hate progress; I literally couldn’t unless I was okay with my iPad crashing every 10 minutes. So, at some point over the summer, I made the call to revert to Split View and Slide Over – which are still the iPad’s default multitasking mode in iPadOS 16 – and I’d check back in on Stage Manager on each beta of iPadOS 16. It was only around two weeks ago that, despite some lingering bugs I’ll cover later, I was able to finally leave Stage Manager enabled and go back to where I was when I published my iPadOS 16 first impressions article in July.

Think about my position this way: there’s a hole from early August to early October in my typical “reviewer summer” during which I couldn’t use the biggest addition to iPadOS 16 at all. The fact that Apple delayed, slimmed down, and kept iterating on Stage Manager until the very last minute seems to suggest I wasn’t the only one desperately trying to make it work.

I started using iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager again two weeks ago; what kind of “review” should this be?

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The New iPad and iPad Pro Review: Mixed Signals

The new iPad Pro and iPad.

The new iPad Pro and iPad.

Last week on Thursday, I received review units of the new 10th generation iPad and 6th generation iPad Pro. I’ve spent the past few days testing and getting work done with both of them – including finishing a big story about Stage Manager I’m going to publish in a few hours on MacStories.

These are relatively easy iPads to review with a fairly straightforward narrative around them. The new iPad Pro is an iterative update that shows us Apple has seemingly hit a plateau in terms of innovation with this particular design – save for one feature that truly surprised me. The new base model iPad is a massive update compared to its predecessor, adding an all-new, iPad Pro-inspired design and a brand new accessory – the Magic Keyboard Folio – that has turned out to be one of my favorite accessories Apple has launched in recent years. I’ve had a ton of fun playing around and working with the new iPad over the weekend; if you’re in the market for an 11” tablet, you shouldn’t sleep on this one.

When considered individually, these new iPads are solid options in their respective categories – each delivering on the different goals Apple set out to accomplish for these product lines in 2022.

It’s when you zoom out and take a broader look at the new state of the iPad lineup that things become…a bit more confusing.

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Creating Lock Screen Widgets for Specific Notes via the Apple Notes URL Scheme

All I wanted was a widget.

All I wanted was a widget.

A few days ago, as I was playing around with my Lock Screen on iOS 16, I wondered: would it be possible to use the hidden Apple Notes URL scheme to create widget launchers to reopen specific notes in the Notes app?

That led me down a fascinating rabbit hole filled with hidden Shortcuts tricks and discoveries I thought would be useful to document on MacStories for everyone to see.

You know, for posterity.

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iOS 16: All the Things I Didn’t Like

Earlier this week, I published my review of iOS 16. As you may have seen, throughout the eight chapters of the story, I pointed out some of the flaws of iOS 16 and aspects I didn’t particularly like. That gave me an idea.

First, however, allow me to thank to everyone who read, enjoyed, and recommended the review. I’m glad the story resonated with MacStories readers. I take my responsibility to work on these annual reviews very seriously, and I’m excited about having found a format that lets me review a sprawling operating system such as iOS in a review that’s still approachable and fun to write.

Anyway: as I was writing the review, I realized that I had several complaints about things I didn’t like in iOS 16 (shocker, I know). So I had an idea: I asked Finn Voorhees1 to work on an update to my Obsidian plugin that lets me compile chapters of the review into a single Markdown file. This update, which will be released for Club MacStories+ and Premier members this Saturday, enabled me to mark specific passages of the review as “complaints” and extract them all at once. You will be able to use this new plugin option however you want: it’s going to work for any kind of text you want to highlight from a long-form story in Obsidian.

That being said, I compiled all my iOS 16-related complaints, organized them into sections, and you can find them below.

Here are all the things I didn’t like in iOS 16, which I hope Apple will fix in the future.

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