Federico Viticci

9095 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.


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Serenity Caldwell’s 2018 iPad Review

Serenity Caldwell, writing on iMore:

To me, the 2018 base-model 9.7-inch iPad is a special beast: It hits a line drive right through the company's fabled intersection of technology and liberal arts — and at the right price point. The iPad Pro did it first, but at a cost unattainable for all but the tinkerers and serious artists, and without iOS 11's crucial multitasking features. At $329, the iPad offers a low-end tablet experience unlike any other on the market. Add an extra $99 for Apple Pencil, and Apple has created the best device for all-purpose education, period.

But it's easy to make that claim, and a whole other thing to explain why I believe it so whole-heartedly. As a result, I decided to try and prove it: Starting with a blank page in Procreate, I created an entire iPad review video by just using my 2018 iPad, Apple Pencil, and third-party apps. My Mac came into play only once — when I uploaded my video to YouTube.

I know what you're thinking – the new iPad is "boring" compared to the iPad Pro and you don't need to watch another video about it. But trust me, you'll want to watch Serenity's review because it's unlike anything you've seen for a new iPad. Only Serenity could put this together – including the music, which she composed in GarageBand; everything was drawn, assembled, and edited on a "boring" 2018 iPad. You can watch the video below and read Serenity's technical notes here.


Connected, Episode 188: A Better Thing Than a No Thing

Apple has launched a (kinda) new iPhone, discussed the Mac Pro and saved the world. Big week!

A variety of topics on this week’s episode of Connected, including a discussion on what “pro” means on different platforms. You can listen here.

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Eventail 2.2: A Compact and Customizable Calendar Widget

Eventail, developed by Jozef Legeny, is a handy utility for visualizing upcoming calendar events in a widget. Instead of building an alternative client to compete with Apple's Calendar app, Fantastical, or Week Calendar, Legeny created just a widget that you can use as a companion app alongside the calendar client of your choice.

Eventail has been updated to version 2.2 today, which brings a new vivid color scheme for events, a true black theme for the iPhone X, and other visual tweaks. I've been testing the updated app for a couple of weeks and I liked it so much, it's now got a spot at the top of my widget list on both the iPhone and iPad. In a compact and customizable widget, Eventail tells me everything I need to know from my calendar at a glance: which days are going to be busy and the time of my first appointment. There's a fair amount of personalization that you can apply in the app's settings (the app itself – pictured above – is a list of preferences): you can choose the number of days to display, whether you want to highlight weekends or not, and even if you want to display reminders alongside calendar events. Then, once you're looking at the widget, you can tap individual days to expand them and tap again to go back to the main column view. It couldn't be simpler.

Eventail's widget will not scale for busy individuals who have dozens of events going on each day. However, as someone with only a couple of appointments on a daily basis, I find Eventail's approach to be good enough for my needs and pretty to look at. I'm still using Week Calendar as my primary iPhone calendar client, but I now frequently open the Eventail widget when I need to know what my week looks like in a couple of seconds.

Eventail 2.2 is available on the App Store.

11 Tips for Working on the iPad

In a recent episode of Connected, we rounded up some of our favorite "iOS little wonders" and Myke was surprised by one of my picks: the ability to launch individual notes on iOS through shared links. The ensuing discussion inspired me to assemble a list of tips and tricks to improve how you can work on an iPad with iOS 11.

Even though I covered or mentioned some of these suggestions in my iOS 11 review or podcast segments before, I realized that it would useful to explain them in detail again for those who missed them. From keyboard recommendations and shortcuts to gestures and Siri, I've tried to remember all the little tricks I use to get work done on my iPad Pro on a daily basis.

After several years of being iPad-only for the majority of my work, I often take some of these features for granted. And admittedly, Apple doesn't always do a great job at teaching users about these lesser known details, which have become especially important after the productivity-focused iPad update in iOS 11. I hope this collection can be useful for those who haven't yet explored the fascinating world of iPad productivity.

Let's dig in.

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If iPads Were Meant for Kids

Speaking of Apple and iOS parental controls, this is a must-read article by Dave DeLong that explains all the problems he ran into after giving iPads to his kids:

If iPads were meant for kids, then there would be a way to limit how long they can use an iPad. They’d get reminders when they have 15 … 10 … 5 … 1 minute left of usage time, and then the device would lock and they wouldn’t be able to get back in without the parental passcode.

If iPads were meant for kids, then there would be a way to make the iPad turn off when it’s bed time and not turn on again until morning. Because my son likes to sneak in to our room and take his iPad back from wherever we’ve stashed it, and then stay up until nearly midnight playing Angry Birds.

If iPads were meant for kids, then there would be a way to turn off/hide all their games when they’re supposed to be doing their homework. But you can’t “hide” apps without straight-up deleting them. And all of the remote management systems out there that allow this require device supervision (and not just MDM) and are a complete pain to set up and administer.

There are several other examples in DeLong's post. I hope someone at Apple reads DeLong's story and asks their team whether they're doing enough for parents.


The Nintendo Switch’s Parental Controls

Kotaku's Luke Plunkett, in a story about the usefulness and elegant design of Nintendo's Parental Controls app for the Switch (which is available on iOS here):

But the Switch comes from a very Nintendo place, where it feels like they don’t just want to tick a few legal/ethical boxes, but genuinely help parents (and, by extension, the kids who are being affected by these limitations). Like the Xbox and PlayStation, the Switch lets adults restrict a child’s ability to play games with certain ratings, or stop them from using a specific type of program. But it’s the extra stuff the Switch does, and the ease with which you can do it, that makes all the difference.

First up: I appreciate the fact that the Switch’s parental controls are housed in a standalone app, rather than something I need to burrow down into system menus for. There’s a practical benefit to that, as it’s faster and easier to get to these settings, but it also sends a message: by breaking the parental control suite out into its own app, rather than house everything alongside the rest of the system’s settings, it shows Nintendo are treating them as a separate and more important matter than what my resolution or surround sound settings are.

I don't have kids, but I've long heard from MacStories readers that this kind of model – a 'Family' app on the Home screen with lots of stats and easy-to-access controls for parents – would be fantastic to have on iOS. Given Apple's commitment to families, I'm surprised iOS' parental controls seem so lackluster when compared to what Nintendo has done with a game console.


An iPad Gesture Dilemma

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge, poses an interesting question: if Apple is going to release a Home button-free iPad, are they going to implement the same Home gesture as the iPhone X?

At its launch back in 2010, the iPad was heavily criticized for being a big iPhone. iOS 11 and the iPad Pro proved that wasn’t the case. Things further diverged with the introduction of the iPhone X, which has led to some confusion for anyone who regularly uses an iPad. I’ve been using an iPhone X and iPad Pro together for nearly six months now, and I often feel lost when moving back and forth between the devices — one with a physical home button, the other with webOS-like gestures. The result is a vastly different user experience, even though they run the same version of iOS on large rectangles of glass.

Now, Apple is rumored to be ditching the home button on the iPad Pro in favor of Face ID. It’s a move that makes sense, and it will present Apple with an opportunity to more closely align its tablet with the iPhone X gestures or to further differentiate the iPad as an entirely different computing platform (one that’s wholly separate from the iPhone, in the same way that the iPhone is distinct from the Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch). Either way, Apple is facing an iPad gesture dilemma.

I'm not sure if Apple should strive for gesture consistency between the iPad and iPhone at all costs (personally, I don't find switching between my iPhone X and iPad Pro confusing), but this becomes a fascinating design discussion if the iPad is indeed abandoning the physical Home button.

Assuming Apple uses the same Home button indicator at the bottom of the screen (you can't use the side on an iPad, as that's dedicated to Slide Over), how is the dock going to coexist with a vertical swipe gesture to go back Home? Should you perhaps be able to swipe on the indicator to exit apps, and around it to quickly reveal the dock? Alternatively, what if the half-step swipe gesture to open multitasking on the iPhone X becomes the new way to show the dock on both the iPhone and iPad? If the rumor is true, I'm extremely curious to see what Apple does with gestures on the new iPad.


Scotty Allen: “How I Upgraded My iPhone Memory 800%”

You may remember Scotty Allen and his excellent YouTube channel Strange Parts (one of the best recent additions to my subscription list) for a video he shared in September about adding a headphone jack to the iPhone 7. After modding his iPhone with a custom case and backlit logo, Allen is back with the "ultimate" upgrade: after many failed attempts, he was able to replace his iPhone's built-in storage, expanding it to 128 GB (up from 16 GB).

As with his headphone jack video, this is not a process that most people can try: it involves soldering, obtaining a compatible iPhone flash storage unit, and a device to manipulate data directly on the chip. However, this is a fascinating look into the world of spare iPhone parts available in Shenzhen, and I highly recommend watching the video below.


Finances for iOS Adds Invoice Scanning Powered by iOS 11’s Vision Framework

Matthias Hochgatterer, in a blog post detailing the invoice scanning feature he brought to Finances for iOS with an update released today:

I’ve just recently worked on invoice scanning for Finances. It lets you scan invoices on iPhone or iPad and add them as a PDF document to transactions. In this post I will show you how I’ve implemented that feature using the frameworks available on iOS.

Let's start by looking at the final result. You can see the invoice scanning in the Finances trailer. The user interface looks very similar to the document scanning UI in Apple’s Notes app on iOS 11. That’s not a coincident. I’ve reimplemented the exact same user interface, because most iOS users are already familiar with it. Also I found it an interesting challenge to implement it myself.

I've been considering Finances (which is available both on Mac and iOS and is on sale for both platforms today) as a replacement for the system I built in Numbers last year, which isn't scaling anymore (my accountant now wants me to upload PDF receipts to a Trello board, and traditional spreadsheets do not support inline file attachments). I'm intrigued by the cross-platform nature of Finances, its double-entry bookkeeping system, and this new Notes-like scanning mode built using Vision technologies in iOS 11. I haven't seen other apps publicly advertise scanning functionalities built using Vision and the implementation in Finances looks extremely well done.

I will be playing around with Finances over the weekend (I know; usually, this isn't what I do with my weekends but I also need to keep my accountant happy). You can take a look at Finances' new trailer below.