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Drafts 5.2

Tim Nahumck:

When writing my review, I needed a way to navigate between the different sections, and all of the subheadings I had created. I had developed an action to navigate to each of the markdown headers, which I was happy with at the time. It was nice to have that functionality to switch around where I was in my review.

Well, I’m happy to say that I have been Sherlocked.

In the upper right corner of the editor, there is a small triangle icon; when you tap the icon, you are presented with a navigation menu. Not only does this navigate headers in Markdown, but it also navigates projects in TaskPaper, and code blocks in JavaScript. It also include a top and bottom button, as well as a select all button.

Drafts 5.2 came out while I was in San Jose for WWDC, and I've been meaning to check out the new features since I started getting back into a normal routine. Tim Nahumck, of course, has a great overview of the changes in this version of Drafts, along with some useful examples you can download.

As Tim points out, the ability to navigate headers of a Markdown document through a dedicated "section popup" is a terrific addition to Drafts. Few text editors designed for people who write in Markdown get this right; one of the reasons I still keep Editorial on my iOS devices is because it lets me navigate longer pieces with a header navigation tool. However, the implementation in Drafts 5 is more powerful, modern, and can be controlled with the keyboard (you can invoke the switcher with ⌘\ and, just like Things, dismiss it with ⌘. without ever leaving the keyboard).

Speaking of Editorial, every update to Drafts 5 is pushing me toward converting all my old Markdown workflows to Drafts actions powered by JavaScript. Automation in Drafts involves a lot more scripting than Editorial's visual actions, but I feel like Drafts 5 is a safer bet for the future. I've been putting this off for a long time; maybe I should spend a few days finalizing the process before I start working on a certain annual review.

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Connected, Episode 197: Retire Hate for Negative Love

Recovered from WWDC, Myke previews his summer's work, Federico shares what he knows about Shortcuts and Stephen gets super nerdy about Dark Mode in macOS Mojave.

On the latest episode of Connected, I go into more detail on Shortcuts and discuss my initial plans and goals for this year's iOS review. You can listen here.

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Fixing 3D Touch

Eliz Kılıç:

I should start with the obvious. 3D Touch is broken! The user experience is far from great. Apple introduced 3D Touch and its new related interactions Peek and Pop in 2014. It’s been almost 4 years since its first introduction, yet people don’t know/use 3D Touch. Why would they? Even tech-savvy users don’t know which buttons offer 3D touch. Let alone regular users.

What would happen if we decide to make all links same color and style as the regular text? People would not know what to click on right? Why is 3D Touch be any different? We rely on our vision to decide actionability before anything else. If you can’t distinguish 3D Touchable buttons from those that are not, how are you supposed to know you can press on them? Look at this screenshot and see if you can tell which of the buttons can be 3D Touched.

I couldn't agree more with the idea of "decorating" buttons with 3D Touch visual cues.

Here's the thing: I use 3D Touch a lot, and I love the fact that it's the modern equivalent of a contextual click, but, anecdotally speaking, I've never seen any of my friends or relatives use it. Not the quick actions on the Home screen, not peek and pop. It's like 3D Touch just isn't there for them. It's hard to say whether the very concept of 3D Touch is flawed or if iOS' design prevents discovery of this unique interaction. However, the argument that an interface with little depth doesn't lend itself well to a gesture built around pressing into UI elements is a compelling one. It'll be interesting to see what happens with future iPads and iPhones, too.

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Connected, Episode 196: Live from WWDC 2018

In this very special live episode, Stephen is joined by Jason Snell and Serenity Caldwell to talk about macOS Mojave and Screen Time before going over the Happy-o-meter results and talking about Shortcuts with Myke and Federico.

Recording this episode of Connected last week was one of my highlights from WWDC. If you still don't know the results of our Happy-o-meter, now's a great time to catch up. You can listen here.

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Apple Music Gains ‘Coming Soon’ Section and Album Launch Dates, Plus Lyrics Search in iOS 12

In an update rolled out last week, Apple fixed two of my longstanding annoyances with Apple Music: there is a new screen that lists popular albums coming soon, and every upcoming album now features an actual release date.

Here's Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:

Apple appears to be rolling out a series of updates for Apple Music today, including a small but useful new section called "Coming Soon," which allows subscribers to check out new albums about to be released over the next few weeks.
[...]
In another addition, Apple is now making it possible to easily see album launch dates on their respective pages on iOS and macOS. In the Editors' Notes section, following the traditional encouragement to add the pre-release album to your library, there's a new line that begins "Album expected..." followed by the album's specific release date. Some albums not listed in Coming Soon still have a release date specified on their pages, so this update appears to be a bit more wide-ranging.

As someone who likes to keep up with new music, I'm glad to see Apple pushing these small but needed improvements to the service.

Furthermore, as noted by AppleInsider, the iOS 12 version of Apple Music features the ability to search for songs by lyrics. I've been using the beta on my iPhone and iPad for the past week, and lyrics search has already saved me a few minutes I would have otherwise spent looking for songs on Google. Built-in lyrics differentiate Apple Music from Spotify, so it's good to see Apple expanding support throughout the app.

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iOS 12 Brings Improved Support for Camera Import, RAW Photos

Speaking of smaller features I wouldn't have expected to see at last week's WWDC, Bryan Gaz, writing for Digital Photography Review, has noticed some welcome improvements to camera import and RAW files in iOS 12:

Now, when you plug in Apple’s SD card to Lightning adapter (or camera connection kit), the Photos app will show up as an overlay on whatever app you’re using. This comes as a much less invasive method than previously used in iOS 11, wherein whatever app you were in would be switched over to the full-screen Photos app for importing. It also means you can multitask more efficiently, importing photos while getting other stuff done.
[...]
Now, when photos are detected on a card, iOS 12 will automatically sort through the content and determine if any of the photos have already been imported. If they have, they will be put in a separate area so you don’t accidentally import duplicates. Another new feature is a counter on the top of the screen that lasts you know how many photos are being displayed and how much space they take up on the memory card. This should help alleviate the guesswork involved when trying to determine whether or not you have enough storage on your iOS device.

I've never imported photos on my iPad using the Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader because I don't have a camera, but I know that the import process is one of the pain points for photographers who want to use an iPad in their workflows. The idea of having Photos show up automatically in Slide Over upon connecting an external device is interesting; it perfectly ties into the iPad's focus on drag and drop for multitasking and file transfers. It seems like this approach would work nicely for importing files from external USB devices if only Apple decided to add support for those too.

Update: After looking into this more closely, it appears that Photos only appears automatically upon connecting an SD card if it's already in Slide Over mode. This isn't as convenient as DP Review's original report, but at least all the other improvements mentioned in the story are indeed part of iOS 12.

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A Close-Up Look at macOS Mojave’s Dark Mode

One of the marquee features that Apple showed off for macOS Mojave at WWDC is Dark Mode. As the company demonstrated during the WWDC keynote, Dark Mode is a far more ambitious feature than the dark theme added to macOS Yosemite in 2014. The new look extends much deeper into the system affecting everything from app chrome to window shadows and Desktop Tinting.

There is a lot more to Dark Mode than you might assume. To help developers navigate when and how to implement Dark Mode, Apple has provided developers with guidelines, which Stephen Hackett covers on 512 Pixels:

The biggest is that not all apps should always follow the Appearance that has been set by the user. As before, Apple believes that media-focused tools should be dark at all times. I don’t foresee something like Final Cut Pro X gaining a light theme anytime soon.

Apple has also given developers the ability to use the Light Appearance in sections of their applications. One example is Mail, which can use the Light Appearance for messages, but the Dark Appearance for its window chrome, matching the system[.] This lets text and attachments be viewed more easily for some users. I think it’s a nice nod to accessibility for text-heavy apps, and I hope third-party developers take advantage of this ability.

Hackett also covers Accents, an adaptation and expansion of what is currently called Appearances that affect the look of things like drop-down menus, and how Accessibility features affect Dark Mode.

I like the look of Dark Mode a lot and hope third-party developers adopt it quickly. I expect the pressure to add Dark Mode to existing apps will rapidly increase as more and more third parties begin to use it and hold-out apps become bright, glaring reminders among a sea of muted windows.

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AirPlay 2 Is Coming to Sonos Speakers Next Month

Dieter Bohn of The Verge reports:

Sonos just announced that AirPlay 2 is coming to “newer” Sonos speakers in July. Unlike using Apple Music on the HomePod, it will stream music from your phone instead of directly over the internet. However, unlike the HomePod you will be able to control some of the AirPlay 2 music with Alexa. You can launch music on your iOS device in all the normal ways, including with Siri.

Essentially, Sonos’ software system is able to be aware of what is playing on your speakers, no matter the source, It’s a clever way to make AirPlay 2 a little more useful. Once the music is playing via AirPlay 2, you can use Alexa to pause, go to the next track, and even ask what’s playing.

For the platform-agnostic user – the exact user Sonos has focused on pitching its products to lately – this kind of blending together of different assistants and ecosystems may carry a lot of appeal. Since Alexa is the sole voice service currently available on Sonos speakers, the ability to control AirPlay 2 playback Amazon's assistant is key. I do wonder, though, if mixing and matching different services might be overly confusing for the average user. With AirPlay 2 support, you'll be able to use Siri on your iPhone to start streaming audio to a Sonos speaker, but you can't start that playback with Alexa. Once audio's already playing, though, that's when Alexa steps in. I appreciate the variety of options, but it sounds like those options bring with them a lot of restrictions to remember.

As for hardware compatibility of AirPlay 2, it will be available on a limited number of Sonos devices:

AirPlay 2 will work with the Sonos One, (second generation) Play 5, and Playbase (and, ahem, “future products”). But if you have older speakers, owning any of those newer ones will make AirPlay 2 work with all of them.

That last line is intriguing, though unclear. Older devices can't actually become AirPlay 2 speakers, otherwise they would appear in the Home app as HomeKit devices – however, it makes sense that an existing HomeKit device that talks to older Sonos devices could serve as a translator of sorts, relaying AirPlay 2 commands over Sonos-native protocols.

We'll see how it all works when AirPlay 2 support arrives next month.

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