This week's sponsor

Igloo an Intranet you'll actually like.


Posts in news

Igloo: An Intranet You’ll Actually Like [Sponsor]

In this day and age, there’s no shortage of ways to collaborate. You can use shared FTP drives, company-wide chat apps, or maybe you can use the one that thing that’s been neglected for a while: your corporate communications portal. While each app might serve a purpose, the sheer volume (and fragmentation) can be overwhelming for people at work these days.

That's why you should try Igloo. It combines department spaces, team calendars, corporate file sharing, internal communications capabilities, social features, and plenty more—easily.

At Igloo, they think your way is the best way, they just want to support you, and make your way better.

Work has evolved and your tools should too. Never email yourself a file again. Bring your company into the 21st century - send your IT guy to try Igloo Software for free.

Igloo is an intranet you’ll actually like.

Our thanks to Igloo for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Twitter Gives Tweets More Room to Breathe

Twitter announced some big changes today that are designed to encourage conversations and media sharing. The 140 character limit of a tweet becomes a more significant constraint as you add more ‘@names’ to a conversation or attach media to a tweet. The changes announced by Twitter, which go a long way toward addressing those constraints, will be rolled out over the coming months in Twitter’s own app and will be available to third-party Twitter clients.

Replies

Large group conversations on Twitter are hard. The more people you add to a thread, the fewer characters you have left to communicate with the group. With the upcoming change to replies, ’@names’ of up to 50 people will no longer count toward the 140-character limit of a tweet. The tweet will still be seen only in the timelines of the people @replied, but eliminating ‘@names’ from the character count should facilitate conversations among more people. I am happy to see this change overall, but I wonder whether Twitter has gone too far by allowing up to 50 ‘@names’ in a single tweet.

The change to ‘@names’ will also eliminate the quandary about what to do when you want to start a tweet with someone’s ‘@name’ that is not a reply. With the changes announced, these tweets will be treated like any other tweet and be visible to all of your followers, eliminating the need to use the convention of a period before an ‘@name’ to ensure that everyone who follows you sees the tweet.

Media

When Twitter rolls out the changes announced, photos, videos, and GIFs will not count against the 140 character limit of a tweet, which should encourage the use of more media in tweets. The existing limits of four photos, or one video or GIF per tweet still apply. Links that are pasted into a tweet and not generated by attaching media will also still count against the 140-character limit.

Retweets

Finally, Twitter announced that you will be able to retweet your own tweets. Though this struck me as strange at first, it eliminates the need for things like the ubiquitous ‘ICYM’ tweets and will allow you to share an @reply, which would normally only be visible to its recipients, with all your followers.


VSCO to Lead iOS Photography Sessions at Apple’s New Union Square Store

As we highlighted yesterday, among the components of Apple’s new Union Square store are Creative Sessions that will be held in what Apple has dubbed ‘The Forum.’ Today, VSCO announced a partnership with Apple highlighting iOS photography:

From May 26th until July 7th, Apple Union Square will host four Creative Sessions, each led by an established photographer from the VSCO community. Each photographer will share their story, inspiration, and creative process, and will lead a hands-on lesson based on their unique style and techniques.

VSCO is the maker of a popular iOS photo editor of the same name.

Permalink

Apple Promotes Alternate Conferences and Events Surrounding WWDC

Apple’s history with events scheduled around WWDC has been stormy. In 2013, CocoaConf scheduled an alternative conference for developers who were unable to get a ticket to WWDC called CocoaConf Alt. The conference was set to coincide with WWDC until CocoaConf organizers received an email from the Intercontinental Hotel that they could not hold the conference due to a contractual conflict with Apple. More recently, AltConf (originally AltWWDC and changed) planned to stream the 2015 WWDC keynote and State of the Union presentations at the Metreon Theater across the street from Moscone West. Initially, Apple threatened legal action, but ultimately, agreed to allow AltConf to stream the sessions that Apple streamed itself.

That bit of recent history makes today’s news that Apple is affirmatively promoting alternative conferences all the more welcome. Not only is Apple promoting AltConf, but also Layers, a fantastic design-centric conference that I attended last year and highly recommend.

In addition to alternative conferences, Apple is promoting a couple of high-profile community events – the Beard Bash, hosted by The Loop and iMore, and The Talk Show Live, hosted by Daring Fireball.

Apple’s acknowledgement of some of the best events surrounding WWDC is welcome and the sort of thing that gets me excited for WWDC.



Allo and Duo Are Google’s 2016 Plan for Messaging and Video Calling

At its I/O keynote earlier today, Google announced that it would venture further into messaging and video calling with two new apps: Allo and Duo. A familiar combination of text messaging and video chat, the two will provide a new way to chat with friends and obtain useful information within Google's ecoystem.

The apps, which will be released this summer, will come to both Android and iOS, directly challenging the latter's own iMessage and FaceTime services. Although Google did not put a strict release date on Duo or Allo, it did offer a sneak peak of what's next.

Allo

Drawing inspiration from iMessage, Slack, and Google's own Inbox, Allo looks to enrich the messaging experience by providing contextual information in a typical conversational format.

Based on your phone number, Allo will use your contacts to create a conversation. In many ways, Allo is a familiar messaging app, promoting back-and-forth conversation and displaying the responding status of the other party. However, Google has added a few features to make conversing easier and smarter.

Smart Reply

Mirroring Inbox, Allo supports Google's Smart Reply system, a feature that scans the conversation and presents pre-written responses for your choosing. This can be anything from a simple "Hello!" to a response to a dinner request and, more impressively, a comment on a photo. Google claims that Smart Reply can identify the context of the action in a picture and suggest responses based on what it's seen. As with much of Google's software, the service will learn how you interact and adjust its replies based on your language patterns.

Google's Assistant

Within a conversation, Google will present relevant search results based on the information you type. If, for example, you wanted to suggest to your friend that you should get coffee, the assistant would display an option to perform a search for coffee shops nearby.

After selecting the search, the assistant will insert options in a carousel with rating and distance. Choosing one of the shops would provide the opportunity to call, make a reservation, and so on. This isn't limited to restaurants, of course, and Google said that it will be working with developers to bring tailored results straight into your conversation.

The assistant also works by itself, using natural language processing to perform actions like searching the web or getting the day's schedule. One example from the keynote involved asking the assistant in a private conversation the result of the user's favorite team, returning the latest result for Real Madrid.

Miscellaneous

Allo provides a simple way to send and draw on pictures – when sending an image, a pencil icon can be selected to write on the image. This was only demoed for a few seconds, so it'll be interesting to see the customization options this features.

Also included is "WhisperShout," a method for adjusting the text size to fit the desired message. By tapping and holding on the send button, users can slide a finger up or down to change the size of the message.

Incognito mode also makes an appearance in Allo, providing "end-to-end encryption and discreet notifications" for conversations. According to Open Whisper Systems, the company is partnering with Google to use their Signal Protocol technology, a "modern, open source, strong encyrption protocol for asynchronous messaging systems." Incognito mode is not on by default, it seems, but it's a welcome feature for those desiring more privacy.

Duo

Along with text messaging, Google also showed Duo, a video messaging service akin to Skype or FaceTime. Essentially, it's much of the same story: a video call between two people through their phone numbers. Google claims Duo will show video in "crisp HD video" (up to 720p) and will switch between cellular and WiFi when it deems necessary. It also claims that video quality will adjust based on connection, ensuring that it's still possible to continue the call.

The biggest differentiator between Duo and its competitors is what Google calls Knock Knock. With Knock Knock, the caller's video stream will start before the video is accepted, meaning that the receiver is able to see the other party before picking up. Once the call is accepted, the video call will start between the two.


Without a firm launch date, Google is left with the task of providing information along the way to keep potential users interested. So far, it seems that both Allo and Duo are contenders in their respective categories; unfortunately, all we have of the apps today are the few screenshots, GIFs, and a blog post. In the coming months, it'd be nice to see a beta release from Google to get a better understanding how Allo and Duo work.


Quip Spreadsheets Redesigned and Updated

With a redesign and update on the Mac, iOS and the web today, Quip has made the spreadsheet component of its document collaboration tool significantly more powerful. However, most of the changes today are only to the Mac version of Quip.

Quip redesigned its spreadsheet menu and formula bars on the Mac to make existing features more discoverable. Number crunching is one of Quip’s strengths. The formula bar supports over 400 different functions and over a dozen data formats.

Quip for Mac also adds several new features to spreadsheets including:

  • Column filters
  • Cell merging
  • Checkboxes, which great for creating task lists
  • Better text formatting options
  • Additional currency options

One feature that sets Quip apart from many other spreadsheet apps is the ability to combine text and spreadsheets in one document, adding context to the numbers in a spreadsheet. This leads to another handy advantage. The formulas you are familiar with using in a spreadsheet can be dropped directly into the text surrounding the spreadsheet so the results of those formulas are automatically updated when the spreadsheet data changes. This, combined with the ability to add comments down to the individual cell level and chat in the sidebar with colleagues, makes an excellent choice for teams.

The improvements to Quip on the Mac and web are welcome, and bring Quip spreadsheets closer in functionality to dedicated spreadsheet apps like Numbers or Excel, but Quip for iOS’s functionality remains behind its Mac counterpart in significant ways. For instance, on iOS there does not appear to be a way to search for data in a spreadsheet or undo actions like sorts performed on columns, which is problematic if you make a mistake. Notwithstanding the limitations on iOS, today’s update of Quip make it a strong alternative to things like Google Docs.

Full details and a video preview on the Quip update are available on Quip's blog.


Apple Announces New iOS App Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru, India

Apple press release:

Apple today announced a new initiative to support engineering talent and accelerate growth in India’s iOS developer community.

The company will establish a Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru, the home of India’s startup scene. Tens of thousands of developers in India make apps for iOS, the world’s most powerful mobile operating system and the foundation for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. This initiative will provide additional, specialized support for them.

This new Design and Development Accelerator (which will open in early 2017) is similar to the announcement from January this year where Apple committed to opening an iOS App Development Center in Naples, Italy.

“India is home to one of the most vibrant and entrepreneurial iOS development communities in the world,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With the opening of this new facility in Bengaluru, we’re giving developers access to tools which will help them create innovative apps for customers around the world.”

Today's India-specific press release comes after another Apple press release yesterday which announced that GarageBand added Chinese instruments and sounds. Tim Cook was in China, but arrived in India last night for his first official visit to India as Apple CEO. Cook is expected to visit Gurgaon, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai, as well as meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Permalink

Putting Recent App Review Time Improvements in Visual Context

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

As many have noted this month, including Bloomberg, App Review has been processing app updates at a much quicker rate than usual. In the past week the average time for an iOS app to be approved by App Review has fallen to just 1.5 days. Apple itself doesn't publish times, but there is unofficial crowd-sourced data at AppReviewTimes.com.

Dave Verwer of AppReviewTimes.com was kind enough to share the raw data with MacStories, and we produced the above and below charts which provide some visual context and demonstrate just how out of the ordinary the recent improvement in App Review time is. It is too early to say conclusively, but given the extent of the reduction (and the sudden nature of it), I think it is fairly safe to guess that Apple has made some internal changes in order to improve the speed of App Review.

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Earlier this year we published an extensive survey which detailed a number of frustrations that developers had with App Review, and suggestions for how Apple could improve App Review. At the top of that list of developer frustrations was the slow speed of App Review, with 78% saying it was bad or terrible.