Posts in news

iTunes U Collections Are Moving to Apple Podcasts

Apple has announced that in September, when iTunes 12.7 is released, it will migrate iTunes U collections to Apple Podcasts. iTunes U courses will be available only through the iTunes U app on iOS.

iTunes U was launched in 2007 to offer downloadable collections of free educational content through the iTunes Store. In 2012, Apple introduced the iTunes U iOS app, which allowed educators to create iTunes U courses that go beyond audio and video by incorporating handouts, homework, quizzes, ebooks, and other content. Although courses are currently listed alongside collections in iTunes on macOS, courses are designed to work best in the iTunes U app, which is iOS-only.

According to Apple’s announcement and support pages, it will automatically convert iTunes U Collections to podcasts in September and eliminate the iTunes U section of iTunes on macOS. That means there will no longer be a way to download iTunes U course materials on a Mac. The change also means that the iTunes U catalog will only include courses and will only be accessible from an iOS device.

The transition of iTunes U collections to podcasts will occur automatically but carries a couple of caveats. First, iTunes U and podcast categories are different. Collections will be assigned podcast categories automatically, but they may differ from the ones assigned in iTunes U. However, collection creators can use their new iTunes Podcast Site Manager sites to change the category at any time.

Second, collections that include ePub files may want to substitute them with PDF files. According to Apple’s iTunes U Public Site Manager support page:

Apple Podcasts supports all media types currently supported by iTunes U collections, with the exception of ePub files. If your collections contain ePub files, you might want to replace the ePub files with another file type (for example, a PDF file).

This advice seems at odds with the Apple Podcasts Connect support page that says ePub files are supported by podcasts. However, unless Apple provides clarification, it is probably best to switch to PDFs as suggested.

As podcasts grow in popularity, converting iTunes U collections to podcasts should expose them to a broader audience. The transition also simplifies iTunes on macOS and limits the iTunes U app to the content that is designed to work best with it. Each of those reasons makes sense in isolation, but there is a gap that hasn’t been addressed. What’s missing is a way to access iTunes U courses on the Mac. It’s possible that Apple has decided that iTunes U courses should be iOS-only, but I can’t help but think we’ll see a new approach to iTunes U on the Mac this fall and that this transition may be part of a broader plan to dismantle iTunes.


Apple Releases iOS 11 and iPad How-To Videos

Apple has published a series of six short videos to YouTube highlighting the marquee features of iOS 11 on the iPad. Each of the how-to videos is about one minute long and shows how to use a new feature:

  • 'How to harness the power of the amazing new dock’ demonstrates how to add items to the dock, access recent files, and drag files into apps like Messages.
  • ‘How to mark stuff up with Apple Pencil’ shows how to mark up notes from the lock screen, Mail attachments, photos, and screenshots.
  • ‘How to manage and fly through your files with iOS 11’ is a quick tour of the new Files app, including how to use recents, favorites, and various cloud services.
  • ‘How to effortlessly scan, sign, and send a document with iOS 11’ shows someone scanning, signing, and sending a lease using the the Notes app.
  • ‘How to get more things done more quickly with multitasking with iOS 11’ explains how to share images in a Keynote presentation in Messages using Slide Over.
  • ‘How to get the most out of your hands with iOS 11’ demonstrates how to use two hands to drag and drop multiple images.

The videos do an excellent job of describing and demonstrating each new feature quickly and simply. With iOS 11 just weeks away, a little pre-launch education about its new capabilities on the iPad is a smart move by Apple.

You can view each of the videos after the break.

Read more


Tim Cook Responds to Events in Charlottesville in a Message to Employees

BuzzFeed reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email message to employees yesterday responding to recent violence between hate groups and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, and to subsequent statements by US President Donald Trump. Calling hate a cancer that ‘left unchecked … destroys everything in its path,’ Cook wrote that:

I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans

The message goes on to call on all employees, regardless of their political views, to stand together for equality:

As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.

Cook also announced $1 million donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League and that it will match employee donations to those organizations and others two-for-one through September 30th, and offer a way for customers to donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center via iTunes in the coming days.

The full text of Tim Cook’s email message to employees is available on BuzzFeed.

BuzzFeed separately reports that Apple has also disabled Apple Pay support for a handful of websites that sell Nazi paraphernalia.


Twitter for iOS Adds Topic Feeds to Explore Tab

Alex Kantrowitz of BuzzFeed shares news on a feature Twitter recently rolled out in its iOS app:

Now you can view tweets sorted by topic, without having to follow anyone, right in Twitter's Explore tab...Twitter's algorithms will show you these topics based on what they know about your interests. Eventually, the platform will give users more control over what they see, the spokesperson said. The company will roll out controls that allow people to tell it they don't like a topic, which will inform Twitter's decisions on what to show them.

These featured topics are the first major addition to Twitter’s app since it launched a refreshed design earlier this summer; combined with those previous changes, topics make the Explore tab a more attractive place than ever to visit. As the home to search, Moments, trending hashtags, and now tweets organized by topic, Twitter has created an information hub worthy of one of its four primary tabs.

My favorite tidbit from the Buzzfeed piece is that Twitter plans to give users more control over which topics they see. Hopefully this isn’t limited to simply disliking certain topics, but instead will extend to offering full control of topics you want to see. There are certain topics I’d love to keep up with, but that I don’t necessarily want to follow specific accounts for, so a full-fledged list of topics to choose from – whether those topics relate to accounts I’m currently following or not – would be great.



Welcome to Macintosh Season 3 Announced

In 2015, Mark Bramhill, burst onto the Apple podcast scene seemingly out of nowhere with a new tightly-edited podcast called Welcome to Macintosh. Besides the high production values that Bramhill brought to that first season, the show succeeded by offering concise, compelling storytelling about interesting and sometimes obscure moments in Apple’s history.

Today, Bramhill announced Season 3 of Welcome to Macintosh, which will be published every other Friday beginning August 18th. Season 3 is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $17,000 to cover travel and other production costs. Backers of the project will receive behind-the-scenes videos and a special podcast feed available alongside the new Season 3 episodes, all of which are accessible from a special Members page on Macintosh.fm.

Season 3 features 10 all-new episodes and kicks off with a multi-episode series on how emoji are created and Bramhill’s efforts to convince the Unicode Consortium to approve a new emoji he created himself. I won’t spoil the episodes, but I had the opportunity to listen to two of them, including the first called ‘Will You Be My Emoji?,’ and they didn’t disappoint. As with earlier seasons, Bramhill’s skillful storytelling left me eager for more.

In connection with today’s announcement, Bramhill released a short promotional teaser episode. ‘Will You Be My Emoji?’ will be released on August 18th and subsequent episodes every other Friday thereafter.

You can listen to Season 3 on Macintosh.fm or subscribe to Welcome to Macintosh from iTunes, Apple’s Podcasts app, or any other podcast player using the show’s RSS feed.


Ulysses Announces Move to Subscription Pricing

Ulysses, the popular text editor and 2016 Apple Design Award winner, announced today that it has adopted a new subscription pricing model. A post on the Ulysses blog by Ulysses co-founder, Marcus Fehn, covers the details:

  • Users can try Ulysses for free for 14 days before deciding whether to subscribe. After 14 days, Ulysses works in a read-only mode, but documents can still be exported.
  • Ulysses subscriptions are $4.99/month or $39.99/year.1
  • Subscribing unlocks both the iOS and macOS versions of Ulysses.
  • Students can subscribe for $10.99 for six-month periods.
  • Existing users can take advantage of a limited-time lifetime discount equal to 50% off the monthly subscription price.
  • Users who recently purchased Ulysses on macOS will be given a free-use period of up to 12 months depending on when they purchased the app. Users who bought Ulysses on iOS can receive up to an additional 6 months of free use.

Existing versions of Ulysses for iOS and macOS have been removed from the App Store and Mac App Store, but have been updated for iOS 11 and High Sierra, so they will continue to work for now if you decide to not subscribe. However, new features will be limited to the new versions of Ulysses that were released on the app stores today. I downloaded both versions and was impressed by the seamless transition, which explained the move to subscription pricing, the limited-time discount offer, and automatically gave me two free months of use even though I bought the apps nearly two years ago.

My personalized onboarding for the macOS version of Ulysses.

My personalized onboarding for the macOS version of Ulysses.

In addition to the announcement on the Ulysses blog, Max Seelemann, one of Ulysses’ founders, wrote a post on Medium explaining the company’s thinking behind moving to a subscription model that is worth reading. It’s a backstory that has become familiar. Pay-once pricing is not sufficient to sustain ongoing development of professional productivity apps like Ulysses. While Ulysses has enjoyed success, funding the kind of development that pro users expect through growing the app’s user base is not sustainable in the long-term. As Seelemann explains, several options were considered over a long period, but ultimately it’s subscription pricing that gives Ulysses the security and flexibility needed to maintain the app.

I’m glad to see Ulysses adopt subscription pricing. I can’t say that would be the case for every app I use, but I use Ulysses every day. I want it to be actively developed and available for a long time. The tricky part about subscriptions, as we’ve discussed in the past on AppStories, is that the value proposition for each person is different. One person’s mission-critical app might be another’s nice-to-have app and the success of a subscription model depends on picking price points that appeal to a sustainable segment of users. However, the flexibility that Ulysses has adopted with different monthly, yearly, and student pricing tiers in comparison to its pre-subscription pricing strikes me as an approach that is well-positioned to succeed.

Ulysses is available as a free download with a 14-day free trial on the App Store and the Mac App Store.


  1. A full rundown of pricing for each country where Ulysses is sold is available on its pricing page↩︎

OneDrive for iOS Adds Offline Folders, Improved Document Scanning, and New Sharing Options

Microsoft has released a big update to OneDrive for iOS, bringing several significant user-facing features as well as a full rewrite of the app under the hood to improve performance. According to the release notes for the update, all the new features are being progressively rolled out over the next couple days, so you may not see them right away. They are also all, at least for now, exclusive to Office 365 subscribers, and it is unclear if that will change in the future or not.

The first new feature of note is offline folders. OneDrive has offered offline files for a while now, but the ability to save entire folders offline has been painfully absent. I expect this feature will make a lot of users very happy.

Earlier this year OneDrive added a scanning tool, but it was very basic and rudimentary, requiring scanned documents to be a single page only; there were also no editing options whatsoever for scanned pages. The latest version of the app remedies these issues by introducing multi-page scanning along with tools to crop, rotate, or delete scanned pages.

The final two changes to OneDrive center around improving file sharing. One of those improvements is that you can now give someone temporary access to a file by creating a shared link with an expiration date of your choosing. The other improvement is found in the app’s ‘Shared’ tab, where users with a work or school account will see a new ‘Discover’ section. This section features an assortment of documents personalized for you based on who you work with and what projects you’re working on together.


Carpool Karaoke: The Series Now Available on Apple Music

Last night Apple launched the premiere of its second original television series, Carpool Karaoke. Like Planet of the Apps before it, Carpool Karaoke will release new episodes every Tuesday for Apple Music subscribers. It can be accessed from the ‘TV & Movies’ section of the Apple Music app’s ‘Browse’ tab. Alternately, you can also find it in Apple’s standalone TV app, which Apple Music has a direct integration with.

The premiere episode of Carpool Karaoke is twenty minutes and features James Corden and Will Smith. The concept for the series comes from the popular segment on “The Late Late Show” where Corden rides around with a celebrity singing songs and exploring the city. Based on previews for the series, Corden will only appear in one other episode of Apple’s spinoff this season, while other episodes will contain a host of other celebrity groupings.

You can see a six-minute clip of the series’ first episode below, followed by an extended preview of the upcoming season.