Federico Viticci

9439 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 |

THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

Kolide

The fleet visibility solution for Mac, Windows, and Linux that can help you securely scale your business


Nick Heer on Apple Music and Last.fm

Nick Heer perfectly encapsulates what I also think about Apple Music’s lackluster recommendation engine as opposed to the old-school simplicity and pleasure of Last.fm:

Apple Music is a remarkable deal for me: spending ten bucks a month gives me access to almost any record I can think of, often in CD quality or better. There are radio features I do not use and music videos I rarely watch, but the main attraction is its vast library of music. Yet, with all that selection, I still find new music the old-fashioned way: I follow reviewers with similar tastes, read music blogs, and ask people I know. Even though Apple Music knows nearly everything I listen to, it does a poor job of helping me find something new.

Here is what I mean: there are five playlists generated for me by Apple Music every week. Some of these mixes are built mostly or entirely from songs it knows I already like, and that is fine. But the “New Music Mix” is pitched as a way to “discover new music from artists we think you’ll like”. That implies to me that it should be surfacing things I have not listened to before. It does not do a very good job of that. Every week, one-third to one-half of this playlist is comprised of songs from new albums I have already heard in full. Often, it will also surface newly-issued singles and reissued records — again, things that I have listened to.

And on Last.fm, Nick adds:

So: Last.fm. There are a few things I like about it. First, it seems to take into account my entire listening history, though it does give greater weight to recency and frequency. Second, it shows me why it is recommending a particular artist or album. Something as simple as that helps me contextualize a recommendation. Third, its suggestions are a blend of artists I am familiar with in passing and those that I have never heard of.

Go read the whole piece – I was nodding in agreement the whole time.

As Club MacStories members know, after years of inactivity, I re-activated my Last.fm account a few months back and started scrobbling everything I listen to again thanks to the excellent Apple Music client for iPhone and iPad, Marvis. Not only is the Last.fm website more fun to explore than Apple Music, but the reports they generate (on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis) are actually interesting in a way that Apple Music’s barebones ‘Replay’ summary just isn’t.

It feels somewhat odd to type this in 2021 2022, but if music still is in Apple’s DNA, there’s a few things Apple Music could learn from the simplicity and care that permeate Last.fm.

Permalink

Remind Me Faster 4.0

Remind Me Faster 4.0.

Remind Me Faster 4.0.

Remind Me Faster, my favorite app to create new reminders with support for natural language input and quick access to priorities and lists, received a major 4.0 update earlier this week. The app has become a staple of my iPhone and iPad dock in this final part of 2021, and it only felt right to mention its latest update now as many of us are (likely) reassessing our task managers over the holiday break.

I previously covered Nick Leith’s excellent Reminders utility in this issue of MacStories Weekly, so I won’t rehash the details again here. There are two key additions in version 4.0 worth your attention: like Apple’s Reminders app, Remind Me Faster can now create tasks with a due date, but without a due time. These reminders show up in the ‘Today’ view of the Reminders app and will match the default notification settings for all-day reminders you configured in Settings ⇾ Reminders, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a third-party Reminders client do this. You can cycle between due dates with and without times in Remind Me Faster by tapping the date button above the keyboard, and I especially like the animation Leith designed for this interaction.

The second addition is one I’m going to be using a lot: you can now create presets for locations you want to attach to reminders. Specifically, Remind Me Faster now lets you create custom presets for specific locations with an associated radius and leaving/arriving trigger; when you want to attach a location to a reminder, you just need to press a button and pick a preset without fiddling with additional buttons. This is the kind of feature that makes you wonder why Apple didn’t think of it in the first place for their Reminders app: it’s much faster to create location-based reminders this way, which is something I’ve never done on a regular basis because of all the taps required to add location alerts in Reminders.

Remind Me Faster continues to be a fantastic addition to Apple’s Reminders app when it comes to quick entry. I highly recommend checking it out if you use Reminders as a task management system but have always wished typing new tasks with dates, locations, priorities, and lists was quicker.

Permalink

Early Experiments with BetterTouchTool’s ‘Notch Bar’ as a Visual Shortcuts Launcher for macOS

The notch bar in BetterTouchTool.

The notch bar in BetterTouchTool.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been playing around with (and thoroughly enjoying) BetterTouchTool’s latest major feature: the notch bar. This feature is currently available as an optional alpha update in BetterTouchTool, and it’s still rough around the edges, so don’t consider this short post a full review of it; I’m sure we will revisit this functionality more in depth over the course of 2022. However, since I believe the notch bar is one of the most exciting developments in the Shortcuts for Mac ecosystem lately, and since I’m having so much fun with it, I figured it’d be worth an early hands-on preview before the end of the year.

Read more


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 29, 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:

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.

Read more


Exporting Links from Safari Reading List via Shortcuts for Mac

Reading List Exporter.

Reading List Exporter.

A few weeks ago in the second lesson of the Automation Academy for Club MacStories+ and Club Premier members, I wrote about how I’ve been using Reminders as a read-later app in addition to traditional task management. The full details are in the story, but to sum up: using a combination of shortcuts based on Apple’s native actions, I can use Reminders to choose between long and short stories whenever I’m in the mood to read something. I love this setup, and I’ve been using it for nearly three months now.

Earlier this week, however, I realized I still hadn’t re-imported old articles from Safari Reading List – my previous read-later tool – into Reminders. That immediately posed an interesting challenge. Sure, I could manually re-save each article from Safari Reading List to Reminders, but that sounded like a chore. Other read-later apps such as Reeder and GoodLinks have long offered Shortcuts actions to fetch links from their databases and process them in Shortcuts however you see fit; Reading List, like other Apple apps, doesn’t support any actions to get the URLs you previously saved. And that’s when I had an idea.

Now that it’s available on macOS, Shortcuts can get access to application support files that are kept private and hidden from users on iOS and iPadOS. More specifically, I remembered that Safari for Mac has long stored its bookmarks and Reading List items in a file called Bookmarks.plist, which folks have been able to read via AppleScript for years. Under the hood, a .plist file is nothing but a fancy dictionary, and we know that Shortcuts has excellent support for parsing dictionaries and extracting data from them.

The plan was simple, and I knew what to do.

Read more


The Curious Case of Apple’s Missing App Integrations for Shortcuts

Shortcuts for Mac.

Shortcuts for Mac.

In researching topics for the Automation Academy over the past few months, I’ve been digging into all the details of Apple’s built-in actions and comparing them against older versions of the Shortcuts app as well as third-party options offered by developers. In doing this, I’ve realized something that has been bothering me for a while: there is a clear inconsistency between modern features in Apple apps and their associated Shortcuts actions. The gap between functionalities in apps and matching Shortcuts actions has expanded over the years, and I think it’s time Apple takes a serious look at its app actions to reverse this trend.

Read more


Tweetbot 6.6 Gets Support for Creating Polls, Limiting Who Can Reply to Tweets

Tweetbot 6.6 supports creating polls and limiting replies to your tweets.

Tweetbot 6.6 supports creating polls and limiting replies to your tweets.

For the past two months, I’ve been using Tweetbot as my primary Twitter client again. This started off as an experiment to see whether switching to a third-party client with timeline sync would improve my daily use of Twitter, allowing me to miss fewer tweets and catch up on my timeline (I’ve always been a completionist) at my own pace. The experiment has been successful, but, curiously enough, it also made me appreciate the design and power-user features of Tweetbot all over again.

Read more


Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 15.1 with SharePlay, Safari for iPad Fixes, Shortcuts Improvements, and More

Screen sharing in FaceTime with SharePlay (left) and the updated Safari for iPad.

Screen sharing in FaceTime with SharePlay (left) and the updated Safari for iPad.

Alongside macOS Monterey, Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 15.1 – the first major updates to the operating systems introduced last month. Don’t expect a large collection of changes from this release, though: 15.1 mostly focuses on enabling SharePlay (which was announced at WWDC, then postponed to a later release a few months ago), rolling Safari back to a reasonable design, and bringing a few tweaks for the Camera app and spatial audio. Let’s take a look.

Read more


Mapper Safari Extension Automatically Redirects Google Maps Links to Apple Maps

All of these place links get redirected to Apple Maps with Mapper.

All of these place links get redirected to Apple Maps with Mapper.

Ever since Apple rolled out the redesigned and improved Apple Maps in Italy last month, I’ve been increasingly switching my usage of maps for exploration and turn-by-turn directions from Google to Apple Maps. I prefer Apple’s overall design sensibilities, I find Look Around drastically superior to Google Street View, and the integration with Apple Maps and the Lock Screen for turn-by-turn navigation is excellent.

However, I still have to keep Google Maps installed on my iPhone for all those times when a particular point of interest (usually a shop or restaurant) isn’t showing up in Apple Maps’ search results. And because the Google Maps app is still installed on my iPhone, every time I tap a search result with an address from Google search, it automatically redirects to Google Maps. I’ve always found this annoying, but now even more so since I consider Apple Maps my primary navigation app here in Rome.1 Now, thanks to a Safari extension, that Google Maps redirect nightmare is finally over.

Read more