Federico Viticci

9383 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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GoodTask 6.4 Brings Kanban-Style Board View for Reminders Lists and Smart Lists

GoodTask's new board view.

GoodTask’s new board view.

In our Workflows Revisited: Task Management episode of AppStories from December, I explained my decision to keep using GoodTask – the powerful third-party Reminders client – as my primary task manager. We’ve mentioned GoodTask several times on both MacStories and AppStories before; for those not familiar with it, GoodTask uses Reminders as its “database” for tasks, but it enhances the experience with power-user features such as smart lists, customizable quick actions for task templates, and a variety of view options that can be personalized and applied on a per-list basis. Essentially, if you like the convenience and system integrations of Reminders but find yourself wanting more flexibility from Apple’s Reminders app, you need to give GoodTask a try.

In that episode of AppStories, I mentioned how, in my experiments with other task managers, I came across a feature I would have liked to see in GoodTask: Todoist’s board view. Introduced last year, board view lets you visualize tasks in a Todoist project with a Kanban board reminiscent of Trello, and it comes with support for sections and multiple sorting options. You can read more about it here. I used Todoist for a couple months to keep track of tasks related to my iOS and iPadOS 14 review last year, and I found its board view a terrific way to visualize different groups of tasks within a project; Trello is also one of the services we use to manage Club MacStories, so the Kanban methodology resonates with me and I like the idea of dragging and dropping tasks across columns. For those reasons, as I detailed on AppStories, I believe that a board view is the kind of functionality that more task managers should implement in addition to standard list views.

Fortunately, GoodTask developer Hanbum Kim listened to my request (which was also followed by other helpful comments by AppStories listeners on Twitter) and brought board views to GoodTask 6.4, released today for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. GoodTask’s new board view is exactly what I was hoping Kim would be able to ship in their powerful Reminders client, and it’s giving me the additional flexibility for visualizing tasks and due dates I’ve long sought in GoodTask.

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How Matt Birchler Is Using Hey Email, Almost One Year Later

Great overview by Matt Birchler on how he’s using Hey for email, almost one year into switching to the service exclusively.

When I was using Gmail and Outlook as the back end for all of my email, I had my pick of the litter when it came to email apps. Apple Mail, Spark, Outlook, Gmail, Airmail, Edison, Blue, Newton, Spike, Polymail…the world was my oyster, and I took part in that game of switching email apps every few months. Spark would release an update and I’d go to it. Then Outlook would do something new and I’d be back there. Then Outlook would have a bug and I’d run to Apple Mail, which would inevitably grow bland and then I’d move back to Spark and the whole cycle would start again.

Was that choice? Absolutely, but was it good for my email? No way.

I switched to Hey for my personal and work email a few months ago (we talked about it in this episode of AppStories), and I haven’t looked back since. The system provided by Hey for managing and organizing incoming email is what sets it apart from the competition, and it’s so good I don’t mind being locked into a proprietary service. Unlike Birchler, I use The Paper Trail a lot and open The Feed less frequently, but I plan on following his suggestion regarding Hey’s widgets by adding a large one to the second page of my Home Screen.

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WallCreator 2.0 Adds Ability to Set Wallpapers, Save and Restore Favorites, Plus Automation Support

WallCreator 2.0.

WallCreator 2.0.

In September, I shared WallCreator, a shortcut to generate wallpapers for iPhone and iPad using gradients or solid colors. The first version of WallCreator allowed you to generate randomized wallpapers with just a couple taps from either the Shortcuts app or Home Screen widget. Because it was built entirely with native HTML and CSS actions, the shortcut had no external dependencies and didn’t require any third-party apps or connections to web servers. Here’s what I wrote:

Here’s the gist of what WallCreator can do: with just a few taps, you can either generate a wallpaper with a solid color or gradient. You can choose to enter your own colors (using their English names or Hex codes) or, even better, let WallCreator generate random solid colors or gradients for you.

You don’t need to worry about anything else: WallCreator will create the right version of a wallpaper for different iPhone and iPad models automatically, without having to specify any option; at the end of the shortcut, you can preview the newly-generated wallpaper and, if you like it, save it as an image to the Photos app. Otherwise, you can tell WallCreator you want to generate another image and start over.

Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of WallCreator 2.0, which has been updated for iOS and iPadOS 14.3 and Shortcuts’ new ‘Set Wallpaper’ action. Among other additions (which I’m going to detail below), WallCreator can now both save and install wallpapers on your device for you. Furthermore, thanks to the comeback of the ‘Set Wallpaper’ action, I’ve been able to create a WallCreator “spin-off” that runs as a headless automation and can change either your Home Screen or Lock Screen wallpaper (or both) on your behalf, with no manual interactions required. This is a pretty big update to WallCreator, so let’s dive in.

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Apple Frames, Now with Support for the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max

John Voorhees' iPhone 12 Pro Max Home Screen, framed with Apple Frames.

John Voorhees’ iPhone 12 Pro Max Home Screen, framed with Apple Frames.

When I released the updated version of Apple Frames, my shortcut to quickly put screenshots inside physical frames of Apple devices, in late October, I was only able to add support for the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. Unlike other shortcuts you may find on the Internet, Apple Frames is based on Apple’s official device images, which are available on the company’s Marketing page here. At the time, the .zip file labeled ‘iPhone 12’ only contained assets for the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, and I promised I’d add support for the smallest and biggest iPhone models as soon as possible.

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ShortSwitch: A Shortcut to Quickly Import Screenshots and Videos from a Nintendo Switch on Your iPhone and iPad

ShortSwitch for iOS 14.

ShortSwitch for iOS 14.

Last week, Nintendo rolled out a new feature that simplifies importing screenshots and videos taken on a Nintendo Switch on any smart device. As part of the console’s 11.0 firmware, you can now share up to 10 screenshots or a single video capture from the Nintendo Switch media gallery and, by scanning a series of QR codes with your phone or tablet, wirelessly connect your device to the console and save them via a web browser. Although Nintendo’s approach may not be as intuitive or modern as, say, Microsoft automatically saving all screenshots you take on an Xbox console and uploading them to your Xbox account, it is a clever, platform-agnostic solution that will keep working with any device that can scan a QR code and connect to the console’s Wi-Fi network.1

As someone who plays a lot of Nintendo Switch games2 and has always disliked having to share screenshots via Nintendo’s Twitter integration on the Switch, I’ve long wanted an easier way to send images and videos from the console to my iPhone and iPad. As soon as I tested Nintendo’s new feature, I had a feeling I could further speed up the process with Shortcuts and remove the (little) friction left in Nintendo’s system for sharing media between the console and smart devices.

The result is ShortSwitch, a shortcut that automatically recognizes media being shared by a Nintendo Switch over Wi-Fi and which gives you the option to save all items at once in Photos or Files, share them via the share sheet, or copy them to the clipboard. ShortSwitch does this by directly accessing the local web server created by the Nintendo Switch to share media; because it doesn’t need to connect to the Internet or use third-party apps, ShortSwitch runs instantly and allows you to save multiple items at once in just a couple seconds. Even better, you can configure ShortSwitch to run as a Personal Automation on your iPhone and iPad, which means the shortcut will run automatically as soon as you connect your iPhone or iPad to a Nintendo Switch.

You can download ShortSwitch at the end of this article and find it (alongside 220+ other free shortcuts) in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive. Now, allow me to explain how ShortSwitch works and how I put it together.

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Amazon Rolling Out ‘Type with Alexa’ Feature in iOS App

Paul Lamkin, writing at The Ambient:

Amazon is rolling out a new feature within its smart home app. Type with Alexa allows you to send messages to your digital assistant using a keyboard and text messages, rather than using your voice.

The new feature, which is rolling out as part of a public preview - _The Ambient _contributor Jennifer Pattison Tuohy noticed it pop up on her phone - means you can send discreet messages to Alexa for occasions when your voice might not be the best option; think cinemas, on the train, at a funeral and so on.

Sure, you could already search within the app for Alexa Routines and smart home device controls, but the new keyboard based input also allows you to ask queries such as diary updates, calculations, news headlines and the like - as well as acting as a pretty nifty search tool for smart home routines and devices with your Alexa ecosystem.

I also noticed the public preview of this feature in the Alexa app on my iPhone, and I’ve been playing around with it since last night. My first impression is that ‘Type with Alexa’ is what I’ve long wanted from Siri: having a silent conversation with a smart assistant that can control smart home accessories, interact with web services, and play music or podcasts is terrific. Anything you can ask Alexa with normal voice commands can also be typed now, so sending a message such as “play 305 by Shawn Mendes in the kitchen” from your iPhone will result in Alexa playing that song via an Echo speaker in the kitchen. (I’m aware that Google Assistant has offered a typing mode for a long time; however, I don’t use Google’s smart home products.)

Type with Alexa.

Type with Alexa.

I could achieve something similar with Siri by enabling iOS’ ‘Type to Siri’ Accessibility setting. The problem with that option, as I mentioned several times before, is that it replaces Siri’s voice interactions: if you enable ‘Type to Siri’, you’ll no longer be able to issue voice commands and the keyboard will always be displayed instead. I’m not the first one to ask this, but I’d love the ability to have a separate conversation with Siri in iMessage in a future version of iOS.

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Peter McKinnon on Apple’s MagSafe Wallet

I received my MagSafe wallet a few days ago, and it didn’t take me long to observe how I was in complete disagreement with the general consensus from most reviews: the majority of reviewers I follow didn’t like it and criticized its flimsiness; I loved it, couldn’t figure out what issues other people had with putting it in their pockets, and generally found it everything I hoped it would be.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in thinking the MagSafe wallet is great. I wish I could quote a single part from Peter McKinnon’s video about it, but I found myself nodding in agreement with every word, so just go watch the whole thing below. (My thanks to MacStories reader Chuck for sharing this.)

Not only does McKinnon know a lot about leather-based products and wallets, but he also perfectly encapsulates the qualities that make the MagSafe wallet an ideal accessory for people like me: its build quality is terrific; it’s thin and feels good to hold in the hand when paired with an iPhone; thanks to MagSafe, the connection between the iPhone and wallet is strong but it’s still easy enough to remove when you need to access one of your cards. I’ve been using a Bellroy wallet case for over a year; I prefer the MagSafe wallet since it’s less bulky and doesn’t require me to swap cases when I’m back at home. When I’m driving, I can leave the wallet in my pocket and put the iPhone 12 Pro on Belkin’s new MagSafe car vent mount (which I also like a lot), and everything comes together beautifully thanks to the new MagSafe standard.

Based on my usage over the past few days, I think I’m going to be a MagSafe wallet person for the foreseeable future. Imagine if it turns out I’m also going to like the much-criticized MagSafe Duo charger?

Oh.

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Downloading YouTube Videos on iPad with youtube-dl and a-Shell

Greg Godwin, writing at NonProfit Workflows:

There are various apps for the Mac that’ll download YouTube videos, but there’s nothing comparable for the iPad. I discovered that it’s possible to download these videos using the iCab browser if you change the user agent, but I could never get this to work consistently. There is a command-line program you can run called youtube-dl that will download videos from YouTube (and other sites). The problem is, the iPad doesn’t ship with a Terminal app like the Mac does, so while I could do this on my Mac, I struggled to find a way to use this command on my iPad.

Greg has written an excellent tutorial on how to install the (recently reinstated) youtube-dl utility (which I’ve been using to download YouTube videos on my Mac mini for years) and use it on iPad via a-Shell. I followed their tutorial and was able to get youtube-dl up and running on my iPad Pro – with support for encoding files via ffmpeg – in literally two minutes. There’s probably less of a need for downloading YouTube videos on iPhone and iPad now that the YouTube app supports native 4K playback on Apple platforms, but I think it’s great to be able to download videos offline for research and archival purposes regardless. I always like to download the best possible version of a video in the WebM format, which plays beautifully at crisp 4K in the free VLC app for iPad.

One crisp Tyler.

One crisp Tyler.

Side note: I’ve been trying to use this shortcut to pass the URL of the current video from Safari/YouTube to a-Shell via the share sheet. Unless I’m missing something obvious, the a-Shell app launches but doesn’t run my command, which is passed as a ‘Text’ parameter to its Shortcuts action.

Update: Thanks to MacStories reader Jay, I was able to make a-Shell’s Shortcuts action work by switching from single- to double-quotes. I’ve made a shortcut that lets you pass a YouTube URL from either Safari or the YouTube app to a-Shell – which will start downloading it – so you don’t have to type the command (and related options) manually each time. You can find it below and in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive. Also, don’t miss this tip by Greg on navigating a-Shell’s local folder structure.

youtube-dl

Download a video from YouTube using youtube-dl and the a-Shell app for iPhone or iPad. The shortcut accepts any YouTube URLs passed from Safari or the YouTube app via the share sheet. Detailed instructions on how to set up youtube-dl and a-Shell can be found here.

Get the shortcut here.

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MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons: 40% Off from Black Friday to Cyber Monday

MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons are 40% off for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons are 40% off for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are upon us, and we’ve prepared something truly special to celebrate the occasion at MacStories: starting today through Monday, November 30, MacStories Shortcuts Icons and Perspective Icons are available at 40% off their regular price.

To purchase MacStories Shortcuts Icons at $17.99 rather than the usual $29.99, click the ‘Buy’ button below:

Similarly, to purchase our Perspective Icons at $14.99 rather than the usual $24.99, click the ‘Buy’ button below:

All sales are final. You can read our license and terms of use here and here.

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