Posts in news

Hardbound 3.0 Introduces Short, Visual Stories Based on Bestselling Books

Today Hardbound 3.0 launched for iPhone, bringing a change of direction to the reading service. Hardbound co-creator Nathan Bashaw writes: "We're creating 5-minute, illustrated stories based on the most fascinating books in business, history, and science."

Hardbound has always been about bringing visual storytelling to a mobile-first world. But since its initial launch last year, the focus of that storytelling has fluctuated. Hardbound started out focusing on crafting original stories centered on educational topics. Hardbound 2.0 added to that a new focus: daily news digests. But mere months after 2.0's launch, the news section of the app was shut down.

When the team behind Hardbound decided to move away from daily news digests, as a fan of their work I was disappointed, but I understood their reasoning. The amount of effort that goes into making a Hardbound story is ill-suited for the news market, where news grows quickly irrelevant.

The new focus for Hardbound 3.0 keeps the same mobile-first visual format and applies it to existing, thought-provoking books. Rather than crafting stories that are entirely original, Hardbound's new stories each begin with a well-known book. The goal is not to provide a full summary of the book's contents, but rather to communicate the big ideas behind the book in a quickly digestible, visually attractive way.

Based on the short time I've been able to spend reading some of the new stories in Hardbound, this seems like a solid new direction for the service. Book reading is on the decline in society at large, and the short bursts of reading we do engage in each day – on places like Twitter and Facebook – don't tend to be the most educational or thought-inspiring. While one answer could be to spend less time on social media and more time reading books, Hardbound offers a pleasant middle ground. In short bursts of time, and in a touch-first, visually engaging way, Hardbound's stories can provoke thought and provide new perspectives on the world in the way books often do.

Hardbound is available on the App Store.


Google Calendar Arrives on iPad

Google today released an update to its Google Calendar iOS app that brings full iPad support. The app has been optimized for all iPad sizes, including the 12.9" iPad Pro, and it launches with Split View support.

The app is very simple, but attractive. Beautiful illustrations line the background of the calendar, with a different illustration for each month of the year. Hitting the red plus button to add a calendar event provides the option of creating a Goal or Reminder rather than a traditional event. The navigation menu includes a settings button, several different calendar view options, a search function, and a list of all available calendars that you can turn on or off. That's it. There's not much to explore, but then again, maybe that's okay for a calendar app.

On its blog Google states that more improvements to the app will be coming soon, specifically mentioning an upcoming widget that will enable quick viewing of future events.


Details on App Store Developer Responses

Following yesterday's release of iOS 10.3, which introduced the ability for developers to respond to App Store reviews, Apple has released official guidelines for how developer's can best craft responses.

The ideal response is concise and clearly addresses your customer's feedback. Communicate in the tone of your brand, and use terminology your target audience will appreciate and understand. If multiple people in your company can reply to reviews for your app, they should use a similar voice and style. Make sure your replies follow Apple’s Terms and Conditions, which prohibits using profanity, posting users’ personal information, and spamming.

The guidelines also recommend:

  • Always providing individualized responses, even if only by pairing a personalized introduction with a more generic response.
  • Soliciting feedback from users regarding what they'd like to see in future updates.
  • Replying to reviews in a timely, consistent manner.
  • Prioritizing responses based on a review's apparent level of importance.
  • Writing release notes for app updates that specifically address issues mentioned in past reviews, and letting those past reviewers know of the update.
  • Staying on topic with the issue raised by a review; no using replies as a means of advertisement.

Besides these guidelines from Apple, as App Store responses have gone live for the first time, more details have come out concerning how those reviews will work.

It appears that every reply submitted by a developer goes through some sort of review process before it is posted to the App Store. In the following tweet's screenshot, you can see a 'Pending' tag on the developer's review.

It was previously unknown how users would be notified when a developer responds to their App Store review. Although a notification from the App Store app seemed a possibility, Apple has instead chosen to go the route of email notifications. Those emails include a link with the option for reviewers to update their original review.


Apple TV Remote App Updated with iPad Support and Now Playing Controls

In an update to version 1.1, the Apple TV Remote app for iOS has received full iPad support. Now an iPad can be used in place of a Siri Remote to control the fourth-generation Apple TV. The iPad app includes full support for Split View, a welcome touch. And thanks to the additional screen real estate, you can move the button panel left and right along the bottom of the screen to keep it in your preferred spot.

The iPad version is not the only interesting change in today's update. On both iPhone and iPad, the app contains a Now Playing menu that can be used during playback of movies, TV shows, or music. This menu resembles the Now Playing screen inside of Apple Music's iOS app, and can be used to navigate playback controls, to view additional details about content that's playing, and more. One of the more useful features is that with video content, you can view chapters and also use a scrubber to jump straight to the place you want to view. Now Playing is a nice addition to the app, providing a new reason to give it a try over the standard Siri Remote.


Apple Releases iWork 3.1 with Touch ID Support, Greater Customization Options, and More

Apple has updated its iWork suite of productivity apps – Pages, Keynote, and Numbers – to version 3.1 today. Each app contains a number of varied improvements across iOS and macOS.

All three apps contain new options for formatting text. You can use superscript and subscript options to add text slightly below or above the usual typed line. Backgrounds can be added to text using a variety of color options. Ligatures are now supported as well. Additionally, if there are missing fonts in a given document, you can now easily replace them.

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Apple Releases watchOS 3.2 and macOS 10.12.4

Today, Apple released updates to watchOS and macOS Sierra. The two updates are predominantly maintenance releases, but there are a handful of user-facing highlights between the two.

watchOS 3.2 adds Theater Mode. According to the beta release notes published on Apple’s developer site, Theater Mode lets users mute their Watch and disable raise-to-wake. Theater Mode is accessible by swiping up from the bottom of the Apple Watch’s screen. While the feature is engaged, notifications are silent, but you still receive haptic feedback when a notification is received and can view a notification by pressing the Digital Crown.

The watchOS update also adds SiriKit support for the following types of activities:

  • Messaging
  • Payments
  • Ride booking
  • Workouts
  • Calling
  • Searching photos

SiriKit was originally rolled out as part of iOS 10 last fall.

The primary user-facing change to macOS Sierra 10.12.4 is the addition of Night Shift. As with iOS, Night Shift on the Mac changes the color of your display to reduce blue light, giving your screen a warmer, slightly orange cast.

There are a couple ways to turn on Night Shift on a Mac. One way is to use Siri to toggle the feature on and off. If you want more control over Night Shift though, the feature is available in System Preferences under Displays. Night Shift occupies its own tab in the Displays preference pane, from which you can turn it on and off manually or set a schedule to activate Night Shift automatically. Schedules include the ability to create a custom schedule or turn it on at sunset and off at sunrise. You can also dial in the exact color temperature that Night Shift uses with a slider.

Sierra 10.12.4 includes Touch Bar support for the Mac App Store.

Sierra 10.12.4 includes Touch Bar support for the Mac App Store.

In addition to Night Shift, Siri on the Mac now knows about cricket, including data from the Indian Premier League and International Cricket Council. macOS 10.12.4 also adds supports dictation for Shanghainese, updated PDFKit, which was a source of bugs for third-party PDF apps, and added Touch Bar support to the Mac App Store.



Shapego – Beautiful Word Clouds for iPad and iPhone [Sponsor]

Shapego is a full-featured word cloud generator that gives you everything you need to create amazing word clouds for your presentations, marketing, and communication materials.

Whether you are a marketing professional, a teacher, a community manager, or somebody that wants to communicate a message in a visual manner, Shapego is the app you need.

Shapego features a streamlined user interface that was built to fine-tune the appearance, shape, and position of the words that compose your word cloud. Once you are satisfied with your creations, Shapego lets you export to PDF vector documents or layered Photoshop files.

Still have doubts? Here are some real-world use cases:

  • Need to brainstorm on a document and need a quick way to highlight the words that matter most? Shapego can help you by making a word cloud with only the most recurrent words thanks to iOS state-of-the-art Natural Language Processing technologies.
  • Need to express your ideas in a different way? Tired of the old PowerPoint thing? Just create a word cloud with Shapego and accurately position the key words of your message.
  • Need to engage your students? Let them write a description of an object or an animal and use Shapego to have their words laid out in a word cloud that has the shape of what they are describing.

Check out the video teaser and find more information at shapegoapp.com. Shapego is available exclusively on the App Store as a free download with In-App-Purchases.

Our thanks to Shapego for sponsoring MacStories this week.


1Blocker Adds Easy Page Element Hiding

1Blocker is one of our favorite content blockers on iOS and macOS. The app has been continuously updated and refined on both platforms, syncs between the two, and has an extensive list of blocking rules.

On iOS, 1Blocker made Federico’s list of ‘Must Have’ apps for 2015 in part because he could create custom rules with CSS overrides to hide individual elements on a webpage. That’s a powerful feature, but the developer of 1Blocker found that too many people didn’t want to be bothered inspecting webpages on a Mac and typing in a blocking rule manually. Other users simply weren’t comfortable with using Safari’s inspector.

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