Federico Viticci

9120 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 201: An Internal Fortnite

Federico bought an iPod touch, Nest and Instapaper both have new bosses and the world is finally getting the leg emoji it deserves.

On this week's Connected, I also shared a status update on my iOS 12 review and the apps I'm using to put it together. You can listen here.

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Sharecuts

Fun new project by iOS developer extraordinaire Guilherme RamboSharecuts is a (so far, beta and invitation-only) directory to browse and install custom shortcuts created by other users. Sarah Perez has more details at TechCrunch:

But by the time iOS 12 releases to the public later this fall, Sharecuts’ directory will be filled out and a lot more functional.

The premise, explains Sharecuts’ creator Guilherme Rambo, was to make an easily accessible place where people could share their shortcuts with one another, discover those others have shared, and suggest improvements to existing shortcuts.

“I was talking to a friend [Patrick Balestra] about how cool shortcuts are, and how it should be easier for people to share and discover shortcuts,” says Guilherme. “He mentioned he wanted to build a website for that – he even had the idea for the name Sharecuts – but he was on vacation without a good internet connection so I decided to just build it myself in one day,” he says.

The site is currently a bare bones, black-and-white page with cards for each shortcut, but an update will bring a more colorful style (see below) and features that will allow users to filter the shortcuts by tags, vote on favorites, among other things.

This isn't the first time users have tried to launch curated directories for workflows (there were a bunch for the old Workflow app), but I think projects like this are going to be especially important given the lack of an official public directory for Shortcuts; the gallery built into the Shortcuts app is managed by Apple and doesn't accept user submissions. For now, Sharecuts works by uploading plain .shortcut files to the service, but I'm hoping that, once Apple brings back link-based sharing, you'll be able to just paste a link to a shortcut you've created. In the meantime, you can find a couple of shortcuts I've shared here and here.

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iOS 12 AR Quick Look Demos

I recently came across a demo of AR Quick Look, an iOS 12 feature that allows apps to present 3D and AR previews for objects built using the new USDZ file format. Shopify, the popular e-commerce platform, is going to take advantage of AR Quick Look to let customers preview items in their surroundings directly from Safari, contextually to the shopping experience.

Here's Daniel Beauchamp, writing on the Shopify AR/VR blog:

For the past three years, Shopify has been exploring how AR / VR will change the way consumers shop. Last year, we showed how Apple’s ARKit could be used to provide compelling AR commerce experiences. The main complexity was that ARKit needed to be run in an app. This meant that Shopify merchants looking to offer these experiences had to have their own unique mobile apps that customers would need to download.

With iOS 12’s AR Quick Look, 3D models of products in the usdz file format can be uploaded directly to online Shopify stores and viewed in AR right within Safari, without needing to download a separate app.

His video gives you an even better idea of the integration possible between Safari, ARKit, and Apple Pay in iOS 12:

Beauchamp argues that "the web is how AR becomes mainstream" – looking at these demos, it's hard to disagree. Not having to install a dedicated ARKit app for every single online store we use and actually having the ability to share and preview models from Safari or Messages is going to remove a ton of friction from the current ARKit experience (as far as shopping is concerned). I can imagine that producing 3D objects at scale will be merchants' biggest hurdle in the short term, though.

I wasn't aware of this until I did some research, but Apple also launched an interactive AR Quick Look Gallery as part of their ARKit 2 mini-site. You can also test Shopify's improved shopping flow featuring ARKit and Apple Pay here.

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Connected, Episode 200: An Occupational Hazard

Stephen is joined by Casey Liss and John Voorhees to discuss the 10th anniversary of the App Store, MobileMe's reputation and rumors of a busy fall for Apple's hardware teams.

I wasn't able to join Stephen on Connected this week, but I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion about the App Store, iCloud, and Apple rumors for the second half of 2018 with Casey and John. You can listen here.

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App Preservation: Saving the App Store’s History

The App Store had just turned one when, sometime in the summer of 2009, concept artist and game developer Zach Gage published a preview video for an iPhone game he had been working on. The game was based on a simple premise: Gage's girlfriend liked playing Tetris for iPhone, which he thought was a rushed adaptation of the console game that didn't take advantage of the iPhone's unique hardware. "I just looked at it", Gage told me in an interview on our podcast AppStories, "and I thought – I can make a better game than this". So, in his spare time between different projects, he got to work.

The game, which launched in fall 2009, was called Unify. On his website, Gage described it as "Touch-Tetris for both sides of the brain". In Unify you can see traits that would define Gage's later work on the App Store: the game takes a well-known concept and adds a twist to it – blocks come in from both sides of the screen rather than falling from the top as in classic Tetris. Graphics are minimal, but instantly recognizable and somewhat cute in their simplicity. Unify is entirely controlled via touch, eschewing any kind of console-like onscreen controls. "I was trying to imagine what Tetris would look like as a game designed for multitouch", Gage added. "And that kind of got me hooked. After that, I just kept making games".

Unify has all the elements for an ideal App Store origin story: a basic preview video uploaded to Vimeo 9 years ago, before YouTube became the de-facto standard for videogame trailers; an independent artist and game developer who, years later, would win awards for innovation in mobile gaming; a funny backstory that stems from big publishers' inability to adapt console games to touchscreens a decade ago.

You'd think that Unify would make for the perfect case study in app development and mobile creativity, if only for historic purposes. Except that Unify is gone from the App Store, as if it never existed in the first place.

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Celebrating the App Store’s 10th Anniversary with a Week of Special Coverage

When the App Store opened for business on July 10, 2008, I was working at a physical eBay store after dropping out of university. I'm pretty sure I don't even actually remember the exact day the App Store launched; I do remember that, at some point during the summer after finally buying my first iPhone, the App Store opened my eyes to a world that captured my interest like nothing had ever done before. I had no idea that, just a few months later, I would start writing a blog about Apple and apps that, nearly a decade later, is my full-time job. Something was immediately clear though: I wanted to learn everything I could about apps and the people who made them, and I wanted to try all the best ones I could find. I was hooked.

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Fantastically Good Event Parser for Drafts 5

Peter Davison-Reiber created something pretty amazing in Drafts 5 – a natural language parser to create events in the system calendar natively, without launching other apps:

The way apps like Fantastical actually integrate with the system calendar in iOS is via an API which allows direct manipulation of calendar events. You may have seen the Allow app to access the Calendar? prompt when first launching apps which use this. Drafts integrates this API into its scripting capabilities, and so it occurred to me recently that perhaps I could build a similar functionality within Drafts using JavaScript. This would allow me to use the system calendar app, which I prefer aesthetically over Fantastical, while retaining the ability to enter events in natural language.

What I’ve ended up creating has almost all of the same functionality as Fantastical, but since it does not rely on launching an external URL scheme, is considerably faster. You can enter multiple events, each on a different line, and have them all instantly added to your calendar without even launching another app.

He used chrono.js, which is a natural language date parser written in JavaScript that he adapted to Drafts 5. This allows you to write something like "Monday at 2 PM" and the Drafts action will correctly interpret it as a date and time. This is not the first time Davison-Reiber created a Drafts 5 action based on chrono.js either – you should check out his natural language Things parser too, which takes my original idea and makes it even better and easier to use in Drafts.

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Connected, Episode 199: Make Half of a Change

Myke and Stephen hold an intervention. Federico doesn’t have much to say about MacBook Pro keyboards. All three have hopes and dreams for future Apple audio products.

On last week's episode of Connected, we had an interesting conversation about the future of AirPods and other audio products by Apple. You can listen here.

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iOS 12 Beta: Our Favorite Tidbits and Hidden Features (So Far)

Apple released the first public beta of iOS 12 today, allowing non-developer testers to check out the new features and improvements in the next major version of iOS, set to be released sometime in the fall. While it's always good practice to avoid installing a beta OS on your primary devices, the public beta seed typically ensures a minimum level of stability and functionality that isn't always guaranteed with the first developer builds seeded at WWDC. If you're interested in installing the public beta of iOS 12, you can find more details here.

We covered the big themes of iOS 12 and its most important functionalities in our original overview earlier this month. In this article, I want to focus on something different: showcasing my favorite small features and tidbits that I've come across in iOS 12 since installing the beta on both my iPhone X and iPad Pro a few weeks ago. While these features may change (or be removed altogether) between today and iOS 12's final public release, they should give you an idea of the nice and hidden details you can expect from the latest iOS 12 beta. Let's take a look.

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