Posts in news

Studio Neat Reveals Canopy, a Magic Keyboard Case and Stand

Studio Neat has opened pre-orders for a new combination Magic Keyboard case and iOS device stand called Canopy. I used an Origami stand by Incase Designs with my early iPads, but they are designed for Apple’s previous generation Bluetooth keyboards, which were a little bulky and heavy for my taste. Canopy is a case for Apple’s latest Magic Keyboard that folds open to create a stand that can be used with any iOS device, which should make it more practical to carry regularly.

Federico spent time with a prototype of the Canopy over the Summer as he wrote his iOS 10 review. We haven’t had a chance to try the final design yet, but when we do, we’ll post a review.

For a preview of the Canopy, head on over to Studio Neat's website and check out the video preview of their upcoming product.

Daylite: A Business Productivity App for Mac and iOS [Sponsor]

Daylite is a business productivity app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Organize you and your team’s contacts, calendars, projects, tasks, emails, notes, and new business opportunities all in one app.

Track sales and set reminders for follow-ups. See a full history of all emails, calls, and notes for each customer. Customize your own pipelines to track sales and projects. View your whole team’s calendar to make scheduling meetings simple. Daylite even integrates with Apple Mail so you can update customer info, set tasks and reminders, and add appointments to your calendar – all without leaving Mail.

Automate lead generation from online web forms with Daylite & Zapier integration. When someone fills out a form on your website through Google Forms or Wufoo, a new contact and business opportunity are creating in Daylite. You can then segment leads for specific email campaigns and track all of your communication with them in Daylite.

Always have your business info no matter where you go. Daylite is a native app so you can access your information on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad even when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Read how businesses all over the world are becoming more efficient with Daylite.

Our thanks to Daylite for sponsoring MacStories this week.

Six Months with CarPlay

One hallmark of most Apple products is the tight integration between hardware and software. By controlling everything from the device to the apps running on it, Apple can design unique experiences that competitors have a hard time matching. Nothing highlights the advantage of that hardware/software interplay better than one of the few products where it's missing – CarPlay. It’s the exception that proves the rule.

Don’t get me wrong – I prefer CarPlay to any auto manufacturer’s entertainment system that I’ve used, but the projection of a custom iOS interface onto my Honda’s laggy touchscreen reminds me every time I poke at it that I’m seeing a mirage. It looks like an Apple product on the surface, but the resemblance is only skin deep. As soon as you interact with CarPlay on Honda’s hardware, the spell is broken. Siri goes a long way to help maintain the illusion, but it's a bridge too far that makes me long for an integrated solution that isn’t hamstrung by the Honda's hardware.

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Earn a Special Workout Achievement with a 5K on Thanksgiving Day

If you woke up and put on your Apple Watch this morning, you may have received a notification about a new Activity Challenge. The notification explains that you will be awarded a special achievement if you complete a run, walk, or wheelchair workout of at least 5k on November 24th, Thanksgiving Day in the US. The workout can be recorded using the Apple Watch’s Workout app or any third-party app that records workouts to the Health app. According to, the new Activity Challenge appears to be US-only.

In addition to receiving a special 3D achievement badge, the Activity app on iOS adds that if you complete the challenge, you will get an iMessage sticker that you can share with others. This is the first time that Apple has created a special activity challenge around a holiday or other event. I’m excited to see Apple introduce new workout challenges and try new perks like iMessage stickers for completing challenges. By mixing it up and keeping the achievements fresh, it should encourage Apple Watch users to use the Workout app more frequently.

Workflow 1.6 Brings Revamped Gallery, Better Tools to Share and Import Workflows

Since version 1.0 launched nearly two years ago, Workflow has always offered the ability to share workflows with others. While somewhat simplistic, Workflow's 'Copy Link' button has allowed the proliferation of sites and communities aimed at sharing workflows with the app's users – here at MacStories, workflows are one of the key aspects of our MacStories Weekly newsletter, for instance.

With version 1.6, launching today on the App Store, the Workflow team is revising some of the features that have been in the app since the beginning, starting with the Workflow Gallery and major updates to how workflows are shared, installed, and explained to other users.

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Reddit Adds iPad Support

Reddit purchased third-party client Alien Blue in 2014. This past Spring, Reddit launched its first official client. Many of Alien Blue's features found their way into the official client. However, one notable exception was iPad support. As a result, Alien Blue for iPad remained on the App Store and, in fact, is still there.

Reddit's iPad version (right) adds wide margins to the content.

Reddit's iPad version (right) adds wide margins to the content.

Today, Reddit updated its official client to support the iPad. The UI of the iPad version is the same as the iPhone version, but with margins added to the left and right sides of the screen to avoid it looking like the content is stretched out. As a result there is a lot of white space if you use the app in landscape mode. I would have preferred to see a more creative use of the iPad’s added screen real estate, but the update is still better than using the scaled-up version of the iPhone app.

Todoist Launches Smart Schedule, an AI-Based Feature to Reschedule Overdue Tasks

When Todoist's data scientist Oleg Shidlowsky and his team started looking at aggregate task data earlier this year, they discovered an interesting pattern: despite tools to assign due dates and good intentions, most people tend to accumulate incomplete tasks and defer them indefinitely.

The result is a task manager overflowing with rescheduled tasks that not only defeat the entire purpose of GTD (or any other system) – they're never going to be taken care of because their snowball effect lacks an action plan. You've probably done this with your tasks and emails, too: you keep snoozing and deferring some of them because you feel like you don't have the time or patience to deal with them now. But is there ever a good time?

Instead of reinventing the way due dates and scheduling options should be presented – something that, admittedly, Todoist already does quite well thanks to its natural language support – the company is launching Smart Schedule, a feature powered by AI that wants to help users catch up on their todo list and regain control of overdue tasks.

The goal is simple, yet promising: Todoist is betting on algorithms to understand what's most important to us and where we can find the time to get everything done without overcommitting to unrealistic deadlines.

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Google Introduces PhotoScan and Updates Google Photos

Earlier today, Google announced a new app called PhotoScan and updates to Google Photos. PhotoScan is a simple scanner app for capturing prints. On launch it opens to a camera view with the instruction to frame your photo within the rectangle on the screen. When you tap the shutter, instead of taking a picture of your print, PhotoScan displays a circle in the middle of the view finder with four other circles near the corners of your print. There is a little arrow that prompts you to move your phone to line up the middle circle with each of the four other circles one at a time. When you’re finished, PhotoScan processes the data it’s collected and presents you with your scanned print, which can be further adjusted in-app.

PhotoScan, which is a free download on the App Store, doesn’t require you to sign into a Google account, unless you want to save your scans to Google Photos. If you prefer, you can save your scans to Apple’s Photos.

Google made a video demoing how PhotoScan works:

I tried PhotoScan on a handful of family photos to see how it would fare. In my tests, I found that there are a couple of simple things you can do to greatly improve your scans. First, find a spot where the lighting is good, but indirect which will help avoid glare on glossy photos. Second, don’t use the flash. Here’s an example of a scan with and without the flash that I took in the same spot, from the same distance, and with the same lighting:

The scan with flash turned on (left) has a nasty white glare spot in the middle of the photo and did a poor job cropping the image.

The scan with flash turned on (left) has a nasty white glare spot in the middle of the photo and did a poor job cropping the image.

Not every photo taken with the flash on had this much glare, but most had a bright white spot in the middle of the photos. Here are three scans that came out much better that were taken under normal lighting conditions in my kitchen with the flash turned off:

Each of these photos was scanned with the flash turned off  and turned out reasonably well.

Each of these photos was scanned with the flash turned off and turned out reasonably well.

PhotoScan does have some bugs. It crashed a couple times while I was using it. The second crash happened after I scanned fourteen photos. I went to the preview page to save them and when I tapped ‘Save All,’ PhotoScan crashed. When I reopened the app, all of my scans were gone. I thought I had lost data, but it turns out they were saved to Photos before the app crashed, so what could have been a scary moment if I had scanned dozens of photos turned out fine.

Overall, PhotoScan did a good job detecting the corners of prints and properly cropping most of them. PhotoScan also did a good job capturing the colors and detail of each shot as long as the flash was disabled. None of the snapshots I scanned were in perfect focus, but the scans of each were noticeably fuzzier and the colors off a little in some. Despite the bugs and limitations though, PhotoScan is an app I’ll keep close by when I visit relatives over the holidays for when they pull out family albums of photos because it’s so convenient and easy to use.

Google also added three new features to Google Photos today. The first is an improved auto-enhance tool. Second, Google added twelve new filters, which it calls ‘Looks.’ The feature first edits the photo to enhance it and then applies a filter that complements your photo. How does Google Photos know how to adjust its filters complement your photos? Machine learning of course. The third feature is fine-grained light and color editing tools. The Verge reports that Google is also introducing three new automatically created videos to Google Photos, for newborns, formal occasions like weddings, and a ‘through the years’ a slideshow for annual events like holiday gatherings.

More from Jony Ive on Designed by Apple in California

Jony Ive was interviewed by design website Wallpaper about Designed by Apple in California, an Apple-published book of photography that documents twenty years of product design and manufacturing. Apple is known for its singular focus on the future and, during Steve Jobs’ tenure, its disdain for dwelling on the past. That has begun to change in recent years with things like its 40 Years in 40 Seconds video and its tribute to past laptops at the MacBook Pro event last month. Even so, Apple’s announcement of an expensive book about its own products caught some off guard. In response to Wallpaper, Ive addressed why Apple created Designed by Apple in California:

Sometimes if we are struggling with a particular issue then that gives us reason to go back and look at the way we have solved problems in the past. But because we've been so consumed by our current and future work we came to realise we didn't have a catalogue of the physical products. So about eight years ago we felt an obligation to address this and build an objective archive.

Beyond chronicling the design of Apple’s past products, Ive explains that Apple wants to illuminate the connection between designing and making a product and provide a resource for design students:

One of the things we wanted to do was try and explain as clearly as we can – through photography – how you transform a raw material into a product that you recognise and hopefully use as a daily tool…. We feel that more than ever there has been a disconnect between designing and making and really, you can't disconnect them. In the 90s, as manufacturing was outsourced, this chasm developed between where something was made and where it was designed. But designing and making are inseparable if you want the ultimate product to have integrity. Another key point is that the book is being sent to all the major design colleges in the world. We are keen to get it into the hands of young people who are studying design disciplines. It's very important that it’s an educational resource as well.