Federico Viticci

8577 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.

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WhatsApp Launches Mac App

WhatsApp has announced today they're launching desktop apps for Windows and OS X. From the WhatsApp blog:

Today we're introducing a desktop app so you have a new way to stay in touch anytime and anywhere - whether on your phone or computer at home or work. Like WhatsApp Web, our desktop app is simply an extension of your phone: the app mirrors conversations and messages from your mobile device.

The new desktop app is available for Windows 8+ and Mac OS 10.9+ and is synced with WhatsApp on your mobile device. Because the app runs natively on your desktop, you'll have support for native desktop notifications, better keyboard shortcuts, and more.

Note how WhatsApp continues to use apps for other platforms as extensions of the phone app – the Mac app is, effectively, an interactive display for the WhatsApp database stored on your mobile device.

Side note: I've used WhatsApp Web on my iPad, and it works okay if you request a desktop site in Safari or use something like iCab to permanently change the browser's user agent.

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Quip Launches Slack Integration Featuring ‘Sign in with Slack’

Since Google ended up offering one of the worst productivity suites on the iPad, we've moved several of our Relay FM show documents and MacStories research material to Quip.

Quip is a powerful alternative to Google Docs and Sheets with proper support for iOS 9 and multitasking on the iPad Pro. Despite some minor issues (the Apple Pencil can't scroll or select text in the app; there's no search in spreadsheets on iOS), I work better with Quip on iOS because they respect the platform and they take advantage of the latest iOS tech.

It's unsurprising, then, that I'm excited about Quip's integration with another service I use on a daily basis – Slack. Starting today, you'll be able to create Quip documents in Slack and mirror notifications from Quip to Slack conversations.

Spark ideas in Slack conversations and give them structure in Quip docs where you can organize, discuss, and evolve your team’s most important work. Use the Slack slash-command to create a new Quip doc where things can really take off.

And:

You won’t lose track of those groundbreaking, killer, disruptive ideas even if they’re happening in both the Slack channel and a Quip docu- ment at the same time. Any @mentions, messages, and edits to your Quip docs will in- stantly post to Slack so you can easily follow along and jump in on the action.

I haven't been able to test these features prior to today's launch, but I'm interested. I'm already mirroring notifications from a bunch of services (such as RSS and GitHub) into Slack channels, and adding Quip document status to the mix could be useful.

Also new today: Slack is rolling out a new 'Sign In with Slack' feature to quickly start using a service/app with your Slack identity and automatically get people from your Slack team on it.

Here's the Slack blog with an example for Quip:

When a user signs up for your app using Sign in with Slack, they’ll be instantly connected to their teammates within your product. For customers, this is an invisible but delightful feature. It exemplifies our mission in action — making people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive — by keeping teams effortlessly in sync.
[...]
Upon signing in with Slack you are automatically connected to your Slack team within Quip. No extra team creation required — your team already exists within Quip in one fell swoop. From there, you can use Slack and Quip to supercharge the way that you brainstorm and create documents with your team.

As the owner of a Slack team, I'm also eager to take this for a spin.


Earnest: Take Control of Your Student Loans [Sponsor]

Did you know you can refinance your student loans, save thousands, and make your new loan incredibly easy to manage? Our sponsor this week, Earnest, has created the most flexible refinancing experience to help financially responsible grads take control of their student loans, at earnest.com.

Their product helps clients save an average of almost $18,000, with variable rates starting as low as 2.13% APR. Earnest never charges any fees — so no fees for origination, and no penalties for paying off your loan quickly or changing your terms down the line. They let you customize your payment to match your budget and timeline, and their simple dashboard makes it easy to manage your loan – even from your phone.

Earnest can do this because they’re a new kind of lender — one that looks at things traditional banks don’t, like your savings habits and earnings potential — to give you the lowest possible rates. And even better, their expert in-house customer service team is available via phone, email, and chat for the life of your loan.

It takes less than two minutes to find out how much you could save, and they even have a special offer for our readers: get a $150 bonus when you refinance through earnest.com/macstories.

Don’t get stuck paying more than you have to — check out earnest.com/macstories and take two minutes to see your personalized rate estimate today.

Our thanks to Earnest for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Jobs, Healthcare, and the Apple Watch

Tim Bajarin, writing for TIME:

I recently spent time with Apple executives involved with the Watch. I asked them to explain the real motivation for creating the device. Although Apple has made fashion and design a key cornerstone of its existence, it turns out that this was not at the heart of why they created this product.

The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs developed pancreatic cancer in 2004. He then spent a great deal of time with doctors and the healthcare system until his death in 2011. While that personal health journey had a great impact on Jobs personally, it turns out that it affected Apple’s top management, too. During this time, Jobs discovered how disjointed the healthcare system can be. He took on the task of trying to bring some digital order to various aspects of the healthcare system, especially the connection between patients, their data, and their healthcare providers.

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Linky 5.3 Adds ‘Markup’ Feature for Image Annotations

Linky's new Markup mode.

Linky's new Markup mode.

I've been using Linky for a few years now to share images, links, and app deals to Twitter. The app has a powerful share sheet with support for multiple Twitter accounts, and its developer introduced clever additions such as textshots and suggested images when sharing from the web. It's a solid app that comes in handy every day.

Today, Linky has reached version 5.3, which brings compatibility with Twitter's accessible image captions (useful for textshots) and a new Markup option to edit and annotate images before sharing them.

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Building a Photography Workflow with the iPad Pro

Perhaps it should have been obvious to me — and maybe it’s always been obvious to you — but I’m just now realizing that the more and more I embrace each creative process, the less time I want to give to anything but the act of creating. Over time I begin to build negative associations with each creative act, mentally, but it’s not because of the ‘art’ itself; it’s because of all the work I put into a thing after the component I love most is over and done with.

These realizations have led me to try and create ‘less workflow’ in my life, not just in writing, but across the board. For photography, that means if I innately desire more than anything else to just shoot, then I need to learn more about composing and ‘editing’ in camera, and being happy with the result.

So, I’ve begun building a new way of processing photos using only the device I love — the iPad Pro — but it’s been a challenge.

Drew Coffman has been trying to rebuild his established photography workflow on an iPad Pro. His post has a good rundown of photo editing apps (with a final pick I didn't know), but, more importantly, it highlights how iOS still needs improvements for basic tasks such as bulk editing and exporting.

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Tweetbot 4.3 Introduces ‘Topics’ for Easier Tweetstorm Creation

A topic in the new Tweetbot 4.3.

A topic in the new Tweetbot 4.3.

Picture this: it's WWDC keynote day and you're following the event. You want to live tweet as the event unfolds. What do you do?

The answer is that, so far, Twitter the company has mostly failed to provide users with ways to rapidly tweet commentary and have tweets intelligently grouped together once an event is over. Sure, you could append the same hashtag to every tweet, "tagging it" for context, but that wouldn't fix the underlying problem of a bunch of messages related to the same event and yet treated as atomic units with no relationship between them.

Thus Twitter the community came up with the idea of the tweetstorm, a clever workaround based on how Twitter threads work. If you want to post multiple tweets in a row and establish a thread between them from start to finish, reply to your own tweet, removing your username at the beginning of the message, and you'll "fake" a series of topical tweets which Twitter sees as part of a conversation...with yourself. It's not the most elegant solution, and it doesn't work well for rapid fire live tweeting, but it sort of works and a lot of people use it by now.

Tweetbot, the excellent Twitter client developed by Tapbots which relaunched with version 4.0 in October, is introducing an update today that fully embraces the concept of tweetstorms with a feature called "topics".

Topics simplify the process of chaining tweets together with an intuitive interface that makes it look like Twitter rolled out support for topics. Under the hood, Tapbots is still leveraging the aforementioned @reply workaround, but they've been clever enough to completely abstract that from the UI, building what is, quite possibly, one of the most ingenious Tweetbot features to date.

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Annotable Is the Most Versatile Image Annotation Tool for iOS Yet

Over the years of writing at MacStories, I've covered a fair share of image annotation apps. As reviewing apps is part of what I do for a living, I end up taking a lot of screenshots of software on a daily basis, and, often, those screenshots need to be annotated.

I've tried them all – Skitch (let's pour one out), Pinpoint (née Bugshot), PointOut, image annotations in Workflow, and others. A problem persisted: I couldn't find an image annotation tool that would pack the simplicity of Pinpoint and Skitch and the variety of tools I'd expect from a Mac app. Every app ended up missing one or two functionalities I needed, which resulted – and if you work on iOS, you've likely been in this situation, too – in having to keep a folder of multiple annotation apps, each serving a different purpose.

This changes today with Annotable, a new app for the iPhone and iPad created by developer Ling Wang. Annotable builds on the foundation of Skitch – with a layout heavily reminiscent of Evernote's product – and adds annotation features seen in Pinpoint, PointOut, and various Mac apps to provide a powerful annotation environment with support for screenshots and photos.

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