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ActiveTab Safari Extension Launched on iPad

Last week, I wrote about ActiveTab, a Safari extension that draws a colorful line beneath the active tab in Safari for Mac, which makes it far easier to identify the tab you’re viewing. However, the Mac isn’t the only platform where Safari’s tabs are problematic. As Federico explained in his iOS and iPadOS 15 review, it’s every bit as difficult to decypher which tab is active on the iPad.

Fortunately, ActiveTab is now available on the iPad too. The extension has the exact same features as the Mac version, making the active tab stand out by drawing a line across the top of the content view underneath the tab. If you haven’t installed a Safari extension on the iPhone or iPad yet, be sure to check out my story on iOS and iPadOS 15 Safari extensions for details on how to set them up.

ActiveTab has added new Blend Modes and custom colors to the app too.

ActiveTab has added new Blend Modes and custom colors to the app too.

Since I first wrote about ActiveTab, the app has been updated to allow you to add a custom color using RGBA values, in addition to the set of pre-defined options. The extension has added a Blend Mode option on both platforms too, which can help set the extension’s colored bar apart from its background in some circumstances.

If you haven’t checked out ActiveTab yet, it’s available on the App Store for $1.99.


Halide 2.5 Adds New Macro Mode

Halide 2.5 is out, and it includes a brand new Macro Mode. Macro photography is an exclusive feature of the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. Still, Halide has managed to make its Macro Mode available on the iPhone 8 and newer models thanks to some cool machine learning tricks.

Switching to Macro Mode and dialing in precise focus is simple with Halide 2.5.

Switching to Macro Mode and dialing in precise focus is simple with Halide 2.5.

Macro Mode is easy to use. When you open the app, auto-focus (AF) is selected by default. Tap it, and the focus controls slide into place with the auto-focus at one end of the app’s focus dial and Macro Mode (the button with the flower) at the other end. Select Macro Mode, and you’ll see a new focus dial with smaller increments appear. The Halide team says this enables sub-millimeter focusing for extra-precise close-up focusing.

Halide takes its close-ups by first switching to the camera on your iPhone that can take the closest shots. Focusing is handled by its precision focus dial, and the final step is to enhance the image’s details using an AI-based enhancement process. That last super-resolution step is what allows Halide’s Macro Mode to be used on cameras on older models of iPhones and to enhance Apple’s own macro system too.

In my testing over the past day, the results have been impressive. I’m especially fond of the precise focus dial that allows for minute adjustments that make a difference at such close range.

If you’re a Club MacStories+ and Club Premier member, head over to the new Photography channel in our Club Discord to see even more of my experiments with Halide’s Macro Mode and share your own macro shots.

Halide is available as on the App Store as a subscription for $2.99/month or $11.99/year or for a one-time payment of $49.99. The app also offers a 7-day free trial.


Hands On with AirPods’ New Find My Support

Yesterday, an AirPods firmware update was released, enabling new Find My features for Apple’s wireless headphones. Before the update, you could use Find My to see the last spot they were used, but that wasn’t always helpful if you carried them around for a while without opening the case before losing them.

With the firmware update, it’s easier to find misplaced AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. From Find My, choose your AirPods, and tap on the Find button. The app will begin searching for a signal and will suggest moving to a different location if it can’t find anything. In my tests, the time it took to locate the signal of my AirPods Pro varied from around 30-60 seconds when they were nearby.

Once Find My detects a signal, it will tell you whether your AirPods are nearby or far away, allowing you to move around to pinpoint the location. There’s also an option to play a sound through your AirPods to help locate them, which is handy once you’re close to them. However, with my AirPods Pro in their case, the sound playing from my AirPods Pro was understandably a little hard to hear. Also, you don’t have the benefit of the directional arrows you get when searching for an AirTag.

The feature worked well sitting at my desk with my iPhone and AirPods Pro sitting within sight of each other, but that’s not a realistic scenario. To get a better sense of the process, I put my AirPods under a pillow and blanket on our couch in another room on the same floor of our house. I went back to my office, opened Find My, and waited to see if it could pick up the signal roughly 10 meters away in a different room.

After about 30 seconds, Find My picked up a weak signal reporting that my AirPods Pro were far away. I began slowly walking through the house, watching Find My as it updated the distance to my AirPods from far to near and eventually ‘here.’ As I walked around and Find My updated, it provided haptic feedback with increasing frequency as I got closer to my AirPods Pro. I tried playing a sound on the AirPods Pro, but the pillow and blanket made the sound impossible to hear. However, the sound wasn’t really necessary because by the time Find My reported my AirPods as ‘here,’ I was right on top of them anyway, and they were easy to locate.

Found outside. Fortunately, my neighbors are used to my 5 AM experiments.

Found outside. Fortunately, my neighbors are used to my 5 AM experiments.

I also tried putting my AirPods Pro just outside my back door. Find My took a little longer to find a signal, and I had to be a little closer to the AirPods, but even though more walls, Find My picked up a signal.

I’ve only tested the new Find My feature in contrived scenarios so far, but I was impressed with the process. The feature isn’t going to pick up a signal if your AirPods are far away, but more often than not, I’ve simply misplaced my AirPods somewhere at home, and Find My should be perfect for that.


ActiveTab: A Simple Extension to Tell Which Safari 15 Tab is Active

Safari 15, which is already available for macOS Catalina and Big Sur, will be part of macOS Monterey too. One of the design changes to the updated browser is the separation of tab indicators from its web content. Apple has inexplicably interposed the Favorites bar in between the two, and even if you hide the bar, figuring out which tab is the active one can be difficult.

ActiveTab is a new Safari extension inspired by The Tragedy of Safari 15 for Mac’s ‘Tabs’ a story John Gruber wrote on Daring Fireball recently that you should read if you haven’t already. To make it easier to distinguish the active tab, ActiveTab draws a line underneath it along the top of the tab’s web content. There are eight colors to choose from, and the line can be anywhere from 1 to 7 pixels wide. Note that a page needs to be open for the line to appear because it’s being drawn on top of the content. As a result, you won’t see the line if a tab is empty.

I wish ActiveTab offered different colors for light and dark mode browsing.

I wish ActiveTab offered different colors for light and dark mode browsing.

The extension, which Stephen Hackett shared with me earlier today, undeniably makes it easier to spot the active tab in Safari. However, I found myself wishing almost immediately for light and dark mode versions of the color options that could switch between light and dark mode in sync with my system settings because the colors don’t all work equally well in both modes. The colors of the site you visit can affect the visibility of ActiveTab’s indicator too.

Of course, I’d prefer if Apple fixed the design of its tabs, but if you find yourself being tripped up by the new design, ActiveTab is worth considering.

ActiveTab is available on the Mac App Store for $1.99.


CARROT Weather 5.4: XL Widgets, Time Sensitive Notifications, Complication Customization, Themes, Icons, and More

Last week, Brian Mueller released CARROT Weather 5.4 alongside the iOS and iPadOS update. The update takes advantage of new iOS and iPadOS 15 features and continues to put more control in the hands of users with new customization options, themes, and icons.

CARROT Weather’s new XL widgets.

CARROT Weather’s new XL widgets.

CARROT Weather 5.4 takes advantage of the new XL widgets in iPadOS 15 and the time sensitive notifications on both platforms. On the iPad, CARROT Weather now offers XL Maps and Forecast widgets. The added space allows the XL Maps widget to show weather maps for a wide geographic area. For me here in the Chicago area, that means I can see weather conditions for a big chunk of Illinois as well as parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, an area covering about 500 miles from east to west and 200 miles north and south.

The XL Forecast widget is big enough to include the:

  • Current conditions
  • High and low temperatures for the day
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Chance of precipitation
  • Sunrise or sunset times
  • Moon phase
  • An hourly forecast for the next 10 hours
  • A 7-day forecast

With just one widget, you’ve got all the information that most people want in one place without even opening CARROT Weather.

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Mela: An Elegant and Innovative Recipe and Cooking App for iPhone, iPad, and Mac

Silvio Rizzi, the developer of RSS client Reeder, has released a brand new recipe and cooking app called Mela for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, which has immediately become my favorite apps for planning and preparing meals. For me, the two essential aspects of an app like this are how it handles adding new recipes and whether it is easy to use while you’re cooking. Mela excels at both.

I’m going to focus primarily on the iPad experience for this review because the iPad strikes the best balance of portability combined with a large screen that works well when you’re in the kitchen cooking, but the app is also available on the iPhone and Mac. Although my overwhelming preference is to use Mela on an iPad, an equal amount of attention has gone into the design of the iPhone and Mac apps, accounting for the different screen sizes and making the most of each. That’s true on the iPad, too, where the experience differs depending on the size of the iPad you’re using.

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Things Adds Extensive Markdown Support and Search for Extended Notes Attached to Tasks

The intersection of tasks and notes poses an interesting problem. Often, a task requires notes for context and details that can’t be captured with a single line of text. Likewise, notes very often spawn tasks of their own. The difficulty is how to harmonize the two coherently.

If you’re a Club MacStories member, you know this is something that has bedeviled Federico’s annual iOS and iPadOS review for years. He solved the problem by combining Obsidian with Todoist’s web API linking the two apps together in a way that complements the way he writes.

Federico’s approach takes advantage of the web technologies underlying those apps. It’s a powerful solution, but it’s not a fully native approach technically or from a design standpoint. The technique is also less suited for someone who isn’t writing thousands of words most days, and instead, just needs to flesh out their tasks with context than the single line of text many apps offer. Fortunately, there are many alternative approaches to the task and note-taking conundrum, including a new one out today from Cultured Code, the maker of Things that I like a lot.

If you write in Markdown, Things is fully capable for a drafting a story like this one.

If you write in Markdown, Things is fully capable for a drafting a story like this one.

Instead of injecting tasks into notes, Things brings a full-featured note-taking solution into version 3.14 of Things. Adding a note to a task isn’t new to Things, but the latest update expands the feature significantly. Using Markdown syntax, you can now create headings, make text bold or italic, and add bulleted and numbered lists, links, code blocks, and highlight text. The formatting is rendered inline, providing a sense of structure and style to notes. For anyone unfamiliar with Markdown syntax, Cultured Code has also created a handy guide.

Things’ bulleted lists support multiple levels of indentation based on the number of spaces that precede the bullet. Everything is neatly lined up and orderly, although I do have one quibble. I’m used to using the tab key to indent and Shift + Tab to outdent bulleted lists, which is common to most text editors and note-taking apps. Unfortunately, because the tab key is used to move the focus between UI elements in Things, to increase the level of indentation, creating a nested list, you’ll need to back up, add a space, and then move back to where the text of your note goes. I do appreciate, however, how you can cut and paste a bulleted item from one spot to another in a list without winding up with a duplicated bullet at the beginning of the item that you have to delete.

Bulleted lists are easy to reorganize in Things.

Bulleted lists are easy to reorganize in Things.

Because notes attached to tasks can be full-blown documents now, Things has also added the ability to search inside a note. On the iPhone and iPad, tap the More button and select Find in Text. On the Mac, you’ll find the option in the Edit menu, or you can use the keyboard shortcut ⌘⇧F, which also works on iOS and iPadOS. Things offers the option to Find and Replace text too. Finally, Cultured Code has improved its sync engine, making the syncing of notes more efficient and faster, which should benefit anyone who uses it to take extended notes.


I wish every developer that offered notes functionality in their app would put as much care and attention into them as Cultured Code. Few apps provide formatting, let alone what is effectively a mini Markdown text editor just for notes. It’s the sort of flexibility that sets Things apart from other task managers. I expect the new notes functionality will be perfect for anyone who has felt constrained by the typical one-liner plain text notes found in most alternatives.

Things is is sold separately for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac for $9.99, $19.99, and $49.99 respectively.


Doppler for Mac Offers an Excellent Album and Artist-Focused Listening Experience for Your Owned Music Collection

I haven’t purchased much music in the past six years or so, but there was a time when it was a big part of my entertainment spending. I still have a huge collection of albums ripped from CDs I bought and later purchased online from the iTunes Store. That changed with the advent of streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, Beats Music, and later Apple Music. I still have those files frozen in time on the 2015 Mac mini I use as a Plex server. So, when Ed Wellbrook told me he was bringing Doppler, his excellent iPhone music player to the Mac, I figured it was time to dust of my old music collection and give it a try.

Doppler, which we’ve covered before here and in MacStories Weekly, including, most recently, Issues 252, 261, and 275, is a music player for people who buy their music. Apple’s Music app continues to maintain backward compatibility for users who own their music libraries, but Apple’s focus these days is squarely on streaming, not purchasing. That’s left apps like Doppler to fill the void offering features like the ability to add new music to your library from an iPhone, something that isn’t possible with Apple Music.

The minute you try Doppler, you can tell it’s made by someone who cares deeply about music and the experience of listening to it. The interface puts albums and artists front and center, focusing on album art and simple, intuitive controls to make listening to music on-the-go a pleasure.

Wellbrook has brought the same sensibility to a native Mac version of the app, which was released today. Doppler for Mac is a lot like what I’d imagine Apple’s Music app would be like if Music were split into separate apps for streaming and owned music. That’s not likely to ever happen, but fortunately, Doppler has you covered if you own your music.

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Sofa 3.0 Adds New Ways to Manage Your Media Lists Along With a New Business Model

Sofa 3.0, an app that I last reviewed in March, is out with loads of new ways to track, organize, and browse the media lists you create. The app also has a new subscription business model for its pro features.

Media recommendations come at us all from every angle, whether it’s friends and family or sources like reviews. You can save lists of books, movies, videogames, and other media you want to try in lots of ways. You could use an app like Apple’s Notes or Reminders, but they’re general-purpose apps that don’t address the specific needs related to media consumption. Plus, trying to track media in something like a task manager gets out of control and messy fast.

Another option is to turn to an app designed for a specific type of media, and there are many good options available on the App Store. The advantage Sofa has, is that it makes it just as easy to pick a book as a movie or something else when you’re deciding what media to try next. It’s a subtle but important distinction. With single-purpose apps, you need to decide what kind of media you want to consume and then turn to an app to pick something. Sofa dispenses with the first step allowing you to answer a broader question: “How do I want to spend my free time?” That a one-stop approach is one of Sofa’s greatest strengths and one that the app leans into hard with the latest excellent update.

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