Federico Viticci

8258 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 mobile software. He can also be found on his two podcasts – Connected and Virtual.


This week's sponsor

Automatic A smart driving assistant on your smartphone

Apple Posts ‘Someday at Christmas’ Ad Featuring Andra Day and Stevie Wonder

Apple uploaded a new holiday commercial today (just ahead of Thanksgiving in the United States) featuring soul singer Andra Day and Stevie Wonder playing Wonder's 1967 classic 'Someday at Christmas'.

The ad is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it's not focused on any particular Apple product, although MacBooks and Apple Watches make a brief appearance. The theme of the ad is Day and Wonder playing and singing together – the ad immediately highlights VoiceOver integration in GarageBand for Mac, one of the Accessibility features that Wonder uses to interact with OS X and manage recorded tracks in the app.

Earlier this year, Apple was honored as a recipient of the Helen Keller Achievement Awards for its implementation of accessible technologies, with a particular mention of VoiceOver by the American Foundation for the Blind.

In a subtle note, the ad closes to a "Love, Apple" message. You can watch the video below.

iPad Pro in the Classroom

Karan Varindani has a great story about the role of the iPad Pro in his college studies, and how he's been consolidating his textbooks, notes, and more into a portable, digital workflow:

I saved writing about my experience doing Linear Algebra homework for last because it is, by far, my favorite anecdote about the iPad Pro. I usually have the assignment sheet open on my Mac in front of me, the textbook open on my iPad to my left, and sheets of A4 paper scattered everywhere else on my desk. I first go through the assignment, making lots of mistakes along the way, then rewrite everything again neatly on the second run. Next, I scan the 10–15 pages to my Mac, merge them into a single PDF document, and upload them to the course server. The entire process takes about 3–4 hours depending on the number of questions assigned and leaves me with a pulsing wrist every time. Last week, I did the entire assignment on the iPad Pro. I had both Notability and PDF Expert open in Split View; the former was a blank canvas where I wrote down my answers and the latter had both the assignment and textbook open in tabs. I was able to erase mistakes as I made them and I didn’t have to scan anything afterwards, both of which saved me a tremendous amount of time. I uploaded the document in Safari using iCloud Drive when I was done.

Almost immediately after I got the confirmation email, I decided that I wasn’t going to be returning the iPad Pro.

A good primer for those who argue that the iPad is only being used by tech bloggers – with a fair assessment of the Pro's portability trade-offs.


Automatic: A Smart Driving Assistant on Your iPhone [Sponsor]

There’s a mountain of data inside your car waiting to be unleashed, and all you have to do is plug in a quick little connector and download a mobile application.

Automatic is a smart driving assistant that plugs into your car's data port and lets you connect your smartphone (either iPhone or Android) with your car. By  talking to your car’s onboard computer and using your smartphone’s GPS and data plan to upgrade your car's capabilities, Automatic will allow you to easily diagnose your engine light, never forget where you parked your car, and save hundreds of dollars on gas.

Automatic learns your driving habits and gives you suggestions through subtle audio cues to drive smarter and stop wasting gas. Thanks to a map view available on your phone, Automatic can display a trip timeline after every driving session, showing you how you're doing with a Drive Score; the app can even track local gas prices and tell you how much you're spending.

In case of engine problems, Automatic can decipher what the "check engine" light means and show you a description of the issue with a possible solution. And thanks to a feature called Crash Alert, Automatic can detect many types of serious crashes and automatically alert local authorities as well as your loved ones when you can't.

Automatic is currently available in the US for iPhone and Android devices, with a 45-day return policy and free shipping in 2 business days.

MacStories readers can go to automatic.com/macstories to get $16 off and buy Automatic at just $63.99. For more information, check out Automatic's website.

Our thanks to Automatic for sponsoring MacStories this week.

The Worst App

An odd App Store story by Allen Pike:

One of the various things I do at Steamclock is provide support for our apps. Our music apps don’t require much support, and much of the email we get is positive, so tending to support is generally pleasant.

Or at least it was pleasant, until recently. On September 30 I received a very concerning support email.

I don't know what the solution to these App Store problems is, but it doesn't seem right to me that developers have to spend time dealing with them over the course of several weeks.


Connected: Being in Charge of a Space Rocket

This week, Federico talks about how he is changing his automation workflows with 1Writer and Workflow, and Myke talks about his Apple Pencil review.

This week's episode of Connected is all about changes in my workflow (including posting articles to WordPress) and Myke's thoughts on the Apple Pencil from his unique perspective. You can listen here.

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How Readdle Launched Their First Mac App

Readdle's Denys Zhadanov has put together a good article detailing how Readdle launched PDF Expert for Mac (which Graham likes) and got to #1 in the Mac App Store. I particularly liked this bit on how they positioned the app in the research stage:

Many people told me that it doesn’t make sense to build a product that already has some decent alternatives. But honestly, I like competition. Healthy competition indicates that there is a good addressable market out there. Having a superior product that does things better and is differentiated enough can lead to a successful and sustainable business.

Thanks to our research and preparation, we were able to position PDF Expert for Mac really well. It steps in where Apple Preview is too basic and Adobe Acrobat is too cumbersome. With PDF Expert, people can actually do their PDF work much faster and easier, including reading, annotating, form filling, and signing documents.

As I argued on Connected last week, too many developers think that making a good app is all it takes to achieve "success". Preparation, research, and understanding the position of an app beforehand are just as essential. Denys has some other practical tips and fascinating stats, so make sure to check out his post.


Publishing Articles to WordPress with Workflow on iOS

Posting to MacStories with Workflow.

Posting to MacStories with Workflow.

For the past two years, I've been publishing articles and linked posts on MacStories via Python. This inelegant solution was my only option to automate the process of publishing directly from Editorial (most recently, 1Writer): when it comes to writing on iOS, I'm too fussy to accept primitive copy & paste into WordPress' official client. Despite its minimal GUI, crude Python code, and lack of advanced features, my 'Publish to WordPress' script served me well for two years.1 99% of my MacStories articles since late 2013 have been published with it.

Still, I knew that something better would come along eventually. When the Workflow team pinged me about a new action they were developing to enable WordPress publishing from the app, I couldn't believe they were considering it. Workflow, an app that I employ on a daily basis to speed up core parts of my job, combined with the single task that powers my entire business – posting new content. It was almost too good to be true.

Fortunately, great things do happen in the third-party iOS ecosystem. Today's update to Workflow (version 1.4.2) adds, among more actions, a brand new WordPress action to publish posts and pages to configured WordPress blogs (both wordpress.com and self-hosted ones) and which can be combined with any other existing action or workflow for deeper automaton. After using a beta of this action for the past few weeks, I can say that it's, by far, the best automated publishing workflow I've ever had, and I don't want to go back to anything else.

Read more

Tokens Adds Support for Apple TV Apps

From the Tokens blog:

Today, we’re proud to launch Tokens 1.5. This update brings support for Apple TV apps and marks an interesting point in the development of the app.

iTunes Connect (iTC) has changed a lot in the years since we first launched Tokens. The first version interacted with iTC entirely by scraping HTML. This technique was inherently slow and fragile. A chain of page requests were required for every query and minor text changes on iTC could break our scraping code. Over the last two years, iTC has improved dramatically in this respect; it is now almost entirely a modern front end web application backed by a JSON API.

If you're a Mac or iOS developer, Tokens is a must-have. With the latest iTunes Connect changes, the app can even work for users limited to Marketing roles. Tokens is only $29 – a steal considering the time it'll save you for generating and saving promo codes.


Email to 2Do

2Do is the task manager I've been using since August. I'm planning to write about it – the app is just so feature-rich, I'm still exploring all its possibilities. In the meantime, 2Do's developer has announced today an optional $2.99 add-on that will soon enable 2Do users to capture emails directly from the app.

Email to 2Do is an optional one-time-only purchasable add-on that you’ll be able to buy ($2.99) and configure in zero time, starting v3.8. For those unconvinced, we’re so sure you’ll love it that it’ll come with a free trial period of 14 days (which other iOS app does that?). The possibilities are endless. You could create a special email address for 2Do and remotely forward or send emails to this address for 2Do to pick up behind the scenes and convert to tasks. You could even use this with IFTTT! Currently we plan on supporting all major IMAP service providers, including but not limited to: iCloud, Google, Outlook, Yahoo! and of course your very own custom IMAP server.

2Do has always remained true to its core goals – which has been to provide you with tools that work with services you choose for yourself, not the other way round. 2Do syncs with the service you’re comfortable with, and will now integrate seamlessly with an email address from your service provider of choice.

No todo app has ever really perfected the email capturing experience – the disconnect between email clients and apps on iOS is too big to overcome it with URL schemes or IFTTT workarounds. 2Do's email feature sounds like an integrated approach – an actual email plugin into the app that checks for messages saved in a certain way, transforming them to tasks.

I'm curious to check this out. In the meantime, you can request access to the beta here.