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Microsoft Office and the Files App Finally Play Nice Together

Today Microsoft updated its Office suite for iOS, with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all reaching version 2.12. Office updates rarely receive detailed release notes, and today was no exception, but user Teddy Svoronos discovered that the updates brought 'Open In' capabilities to the share sheet, which previously only enabled making a copy of an Office document. The 'Copy to' option has now been removed, replaced by the more convenient 'Open in.'

After seeing Teddy's tweet, I did a little playing around in the Files app and discovered that, while Excel and PowerPoint documents accessed in Files will load Quick Look previews and require tapping 'Open in' from the share sheet, the experience is even better with .docx files. Those Word-associated documents open directly in the Word app with just a single tap from the Files interface – no need to open the share sheet first.

It's possible this disparity in behaviors between file types only exists because I view Word documents far more regularly than Excel or PowerPoint files. Perhaps heavy Excel or PowerPoint users will see a different behavior because the Files app has enough data to know which app you want to open certain file types in. It's also possible, though, that the behavior I've seen is true for everyone, and Microsoft simply made a somewhat perplexing design decision.

In any case though, whether a Files document opens in its correct app with a single tap, or you use the share sheet and 'Open in' first, this is still a huge improvement for Office users. Previously any documents stored in Files would need to be accessed by going to either Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, tapping the 'More' button in the 'Open' menu, then locating the file from there. Now, iOS users can go straight to the Files app, locate the appropriate document, and open it directly with only a tap or two.

Update: One of the developers working on Office has confirmed my suspicions: the reason Word files open for me with a single tap while Excel and PowerPoint files do not is that I haven't opened those files enough for iOS to know that I would prefer to bypass the share sheet.

In theory, a system where iOS knows what you want every time could be great, but in reality, I sure would like having the option to set default apps per document type.


Inko: A Collaborative Whiteboard for iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV [Sponsor]

Inko is a collaborative whiteboard that lets several people draw together using multiple iPads or iPhones, and even interact on Apple TV. Ideal for teams of coworkers in a brainstorming session, for a creative classroom project, or for an interactive meeting between a graphic designer and their client.

Creating a group and starting to drawing together is easy. There's no complex network setup, or even any network at all, thanks to nearby connectivity. With peer-to-peer connections, you can work wherever you are, be it in a bar or on the beach. Your drawings can also be displayed on the big screen, thanks to the free companion app for Apple TV. The app instantly connects and interacts with all devices in the room, making it a great alternative to those bulky and expensive interactive boards.

Even though Inko is both simple and intuitive, it's also backed with sophisticated, advanced features like vibrant colors and beautiful pixel-free drawing display that stays sharp when zooming in. Inko also offers precise Apple Pencil support for an amazing lag-free, undo-capable, real-time drawing experience, as well as hi-res PDF exports to share with your group when you’re finished.

Inko’s Collaboration Pack is 20% OFF ($15.99 instead of $19.99) this week only. Hint: the discounted Collaboration Pack also entitles you to the introductory subscription price.

Our thanks to Inko for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Apple Announces iPhone 8 and 8 Plus (PRODUCT)RED Models

Today, Apple introduced a (PRODUCT)RED version of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Following in the footsteps of last year’s (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple has introduced a special edition of its latest iPhone 8 to benefit the charity (RED). A portion of the profits generated by the new iPhone will be donated to (RED) to help fight AIDS.

The new iPhones, which were leaked via an internal Virgin Mobile memorandum, have a red back like the iPhone 7 did, but this year, the bezel of the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone is black instead of white. The new phone comes in 64GB and 256GB storage configurations and goes on sale online tomorrow, April 10, 2018 starting at $699 and will be available in stores Friday. In addition, Apple will release a new PRODUCT(RED) Leather Folio tomorrow for $99.


Twitter Delays Transition to New API That Threatens Third-Party Clients

Last April, Twitter announced that it would deprecate parts of its API that third-party Twitter clients rely on for their apps. Originally, Twitter planned to replace the functionality with a new Account Activity API on June 19, 2018. The trouble is, Twitter hasn’t provided third-party developers with access to the new API, which jeopardizes core functionality of those apps.

With the API transition looming, the makers of Twitterrific, Tweetbot, Talon, and Tweetings created a website to alert their users about the impact the changes to third-party Twitter clients:

After June 19th, 2018, “streaming services” at Twitter will be removed. This means two things for third-party apps:

  1. Push notifications will no longer arrive
  2. Timelines won’t refresh automatically

If you use an app like Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, or Twitterrific, there is no way for its developer to fix these issues.

We are incredibly eager to update our apps. However, despite many requests for clarification and guidance, Twitter has not provided a way for us to recreate the lost functionality. We've been waiting for more than a year.

The site encourages users to express their feelings about the situation to Twitter’s developer account with the hashtag #BreakingMyTwitter.

The response from unhappy Twitter users was swift. By the end of the day, Twitter announced that it would delay the API transition to an unspecified date in the future and provide at least 90 days notice to third parties before shutting down the old APIs.

Although it is good news that Twitter’s transition to the Accounts API has been put off, it doesn’t solve the issues that it raises for third-party developers.

Tension between Twitter and third-party developers isn’t new. Still, when Jack Dorsey returned to Twitter as CEO in 2015, he said he wanted to repair relationships with developers. It’s impossible to know if this latest episode represents a strategic shift for Twitter or mere indifference toward third-party developers. Either way, it’s a shame to see third-party Twitter clients, which pioneered many features that users love, under threat yet again.


Downie: Elegant and Efficient Video Downloads for Your Mac [Sponsor]

Downie for Mac makes downloading video from the web as simple as dragging and dropping a URL. From your browser, drag a URL to Downie’s menu bar icon or onto its Dock icon from sites like YouTube, Youku, Bilibili, Vimeo, and many more to immediately download a video. The app supports video downloads for over 1,000 different sites, and the list keeps growing.

Downie is efficient and organized. Instead of downloading now, queue up downloads for later. It’s a great way to process dozens of videos while you sleep and aren’t using your Internet connection for something else. Downloads can be organized autmatically into folders too based on source and playlist, saving you the hassle of organizing them yourself.

When you use Downie, you also know you’re getting the best version of a video that’s available. For example, unlike many other download apps, Downie can grab the 4K version from YouTube if one is available. It’s that sort of attention to detail, combined with attentive support, frequent updates, and localization that makes Downie a great choice for video downloads.

Downie has a special 25% discount just for MacStories readers. All you need to do is use this link to purchase the app. The same great deal applies to the Downie and Permute bundle if you use this link. Permute is a great companion to Downie that lets you convert video between a wide variety of formats. You can use the coupon code 905E0C5D at checkout to get either discount too.

Expand your video collection the easy way, with Downie.

Our thanks to Downie for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Apple Releases watchOS 4.3 with iPhone Music Controls, Portrait Nightstand Mode, and More

Following iOS 11.3, Apple also released watchOS 4.3 to the public today. The updated Apple Watch software, first released as a developer beta in January, brings a variety of improvements for music playback, a smarter Siri watch face, and bug fixes.

In watchOS 4.3, Apple has restored the ability to browse the entire iPhone music library and control iPhone music playback from the Watch. The lack of full iPhone playback control was one of the most criticized aspects of the Music app refresh on watchOS 4, and it's nice to see Apple rectify this feature with today's update.

Also on the music front, watchOS 4.3 allows HomePod owners to control playback and adjust volume of the speaker directly from the Watch. In the Now Playing screen, you can tap on the AirPlay icon (in the bottom left corner) to instantly connect to a HomePod on the same WiFi network, after which you'll be able to spin the Digital Crown to adjust its volume – all without having to connect to the HomePod through the iPhone first. As someone who routinely listens to Music via the kitchen HomePod while doing something else around the house, I've greatly enjoyed the ability to connect and change volume from my wrist.

There are a couple of noteworthy additions to the Siri watch face in watchOS 4.3. First, a new Activity card provides you with a handy summary of the progress you're making toward closing your rings. The card is updated in real-time during the day, so you can glance at it without opening the main Activity app. Furthermore, on days when one of your Apple Music mixes gets an update, the Siri watch face will bring up a card with a thumbnail preview of the playlist and a message that tells you an updated version of the mix is available.

Lastly, in addition to various bug fixes, watchOS 4.3 brings support for portrait orientation in Nightstand mode (likely in preparation for the company's AirPower charging mat) along with a refreshed charging animation. I've long charged my Watch using a portrait-oriented Belkin Valet charger that sits on my desk, and I like how Nightstand mode is now an option for me.

As I wrote earlier this month, the changes introduced in watchOS 4.3 have helped me enjoy the benefits of Apple's ecosystem as they integrate the Watch more deeply with my iPhone and HomePods. The update is available now, and you can read our original review of watchOS 4 here.



AgileBits Announces 1Password 7 Beta for the Mac

AgileBits has announced a public beta for the next Mac version of 1Password. The company says there are more features to come during the beta, but what was released today already includes many new features and a refreshed design. I particularly like the new dark-themed sidebar, which is reminiscent of Slack’s default theme. It has a more modern look and serves the purpose of focusing users’ attention on the selected items.

The newly-collapsible sidebar comes with enhanced utility too. You can drag items between vaults or onto the ‘New Vault’ button to create a vault containing the item you drag onto it. That should reduce a lot of friction if you use multiple vaults. You can also edit a vault’s name, description, and avatar from the sidebar.

I’m a fan of the Courier Prime font, which is one of a few fonts I switch between to write. AgileBits has added a custom version to 1Password called Courier Prime Bits that should make passwords more readable, so it’s easy to distinguish between characters like the number one, a lowercase l, and a pipe character.

In addition, the beta adds:

  • Rich text formatting to secure notes
  • Easy access to multiple pop-out ‘sticky windows’ for stored items
  • A new under-the-hood architecture that should make everything faster
  • Several other smaller improvements

Even without the additional features that AgileBits expects to add during the beta, 1Password 7 for Mac is shaping up to be a big release. I haven’t had a chance to try the beta yet, and betas come with the usual caveats about bugs, but so far I like what I've seen a lot.


Twitterrific for Mac and iOS Adds New Muting and Muffling Features, Plus Video

Twitterrific, for iOS and the Mac, has a unique, fine-grained approach to what you see in your Twitter timeline using a combination of muffles and mutes. Muffles are rules that partially hide tweets from your timeline, while mutes hide tweets entirely.

With the update to Twitterrific for Mac and iOS today, The Iconfactory has migrated muffles of users that were set up as mutes to Twitter’s mute system. Mutes can be created from the action menu that’s accessible from any tweet or a user’s profile. With the new system, a mute created in Twitterrific will sync cross-platform to all copies of Twitterrific you use and also register as a mute with Twitter, so muted users’ tweets won’t show up on Twitter.com either. Muting prevents push notifications of a muted user's tweets too.

All other muffle rules are unaffected by the change to mutes, but The Iconfactory has also extended the way muffles work. Any muffle can be applied to everyone in your timeline or just a specific person. For example, you can muffle all retweets, all retweets by a specific person, all retweets of a specific person’s tweets, or all retweets by a specific person of another person’s tweets. You can also muffle quoted tweets, quotes of particular tweets, or mentions of someone. There is a knowledge base article on The Iconfactory’s website that covers all the possibilities.

The Twitterrific update also adds support for video attachments to tweets. Videos must be less than 140 seconds long, but that’s the only limitation. On iOS, videos can be added from your photo library, if you long-press the camera icon, from any file provider, or with the app’s share extension.

The rate of updates to Twitterrific for the Mac and iOS continues to impress me and I love the addition of even more granular controls over my timeline that sync across iOS and macOS. If you haven’t tried Twitterrific in a while, it’s worth a look.

Twitterrific is available on the App Store for iOS and on the Mac App Store.