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First Impressions: Final Cut Pro for iPad

Today, Apple released Final Cut Pro for iPad alongside Logic Pro. I’ve been testing the app for about a week with sample projects from Apple and some drone footage I shot with one of my kids during the winter holidays. Like Logic Pro for iPad, Apple has packed a lot of sophisticated features into Final Cut Pro for iPad, but with one crucial difference. Whereas Logic Pro projects can be sent back and forth between the iPad and Mac versions of the app, Final Cut Pro projects cannot.

Managing Final Cut Pro for iPad projects.

Managing Final Cut Pro for iPad projects.

Final Cut for iPad projects can be opened in Final Cut for Mac, but once they’re on the Mac, they can no longer be opened on the iPad. Nor can projects started in Final Cut Pro for Mac be opened on the iPad. That will be a significant downside for people who already work in Final Cut Pro for Mac, but for creators with a mobile-first workflow or who want to try Final Cut Pro for the first time without paying the Mac version’s steep price, compatibility will be a non-issue.

My early experiments with Final Cut Pro for iPad with some drone footage I took in December.

My early experiments with Final Cut Pro for iPad with some drone footage I took in December.

That’s the camp I fall into. I don’t edit a lot of video, and except for testing Final Cut Pro for iPad, I would probably have dropped my drone clips into iMovie, added a few transitions, and called it a day. That sort of editing is absolutely possible in Final Cut Pro, too. However, the app allows you to do far more, as the two sample projects I’ve been studying make clear.

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MacStories Hands-On: Podcast Editing with Logic Pro for iPad

I was as surprised as anyone when Apple announced that Logic Pro was coming to the iPad. I was excited too. Logic Pro is an app I use every week to produce MacStories’ podcasts, and I’d wanted the freedom to do that work on the iPad for a very long time.

However, my excitement was tempered by skepticism about whether the kind of work I do would be supported. Logic Pro for the Mac is designed for music production. It’s a very capable podcast production tool, too, but editing podcasts uses only a tiny fraction of Logic Pro’s tools. With the focus on music production in Apple’s press release announcing the iPad version, I wondered whether the subset of production tools I use would find their way onto the iPad or not.

Music production projects are typically much more complex than podcast edits.

Music production projects are typically much more complex than podcast edits.

So, when Apple offered to send me a 12.9” M2 iPad Pro with a Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil last week to test Logic Pro for iPad, I jumped at the chance to see what it could do. Since last week, I’ve played with Logic Pro’s music-making tools, which I’ll cover below. They’re impressive, but I’ve spent most of my time putting the app through a more personal, real-world test: podcast editing. After some initial exploration of Logic Pro’s UI to get my bearings, I created a project, dropped in the audio tracks from last week’s episode of MacStories Unwind, and started editing.

Logic Pro for iPad includes a collection of lessons to help you learn the app, along with a catalog of sound packs and loops.

Logic Pro for iPad includes a collection of lessons to help you learn the app, along with a catalog of sound packs and loops.

What I found is that Logic Pro for iPad is a remarkably capable alternative to the Mac version. The app comes with limitations and frustrations, like any first version of a complex new app, but it’s also the real deal. Logic Pro for iPad isn’t a companion app to the Mac version. The iPad version doesn’t match the Mac app feature-for-feature, but it’s not a watered-down version of the desktop version either. Instead, Logic Pro for iPad delivers on the promise of the iPad’s hardware in a reimagined way that we haven’t seen enough of with so-called ‘pro’ apps.

There’s a lot of ground to cover between my podcasting experiments and the music production features of Logic, so let’s dive in.

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A Conversation with David Niemeijer of AssistiveWare About Personal Voice, Assistive Access, and Developing Apps for Accessibility

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Earlier this week, Apple announced a series of new accessibility features coming to its OSes later this year. There was a lot announced, and it can sometimes be hard to understand how features translate into real-world benefits to users.

To get a better sense of what some of this week’s announcements mean, I spoke to David Niemeijer, the founder and CEO of AssistiveWare, an Amsterdam-based company that makes augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps for the iPhone and iPad, including Proloquo, Proloquo2Go, and Proloquo4Text. Each app addresses different needs, but what they all have in common is helping people who have difficulty expressing themselves verbally.

What follows is a lightly edited version of our conversation.

Let me start by asking you a little bit about AAC apps as a category because I’m sure we have readers who don’t know what they do and what augmented and alternative communication apps are.

David Niemeijer: So, AAC is really about all ways of communication that do not involve speech. It includes body gestures, it includes things like signing, it includes texting, but in the context of apps, we typically think more about the high-tech kind of solutions that use the technology, but all those other things are also what’s considered AAC because they augment or they are an alternative for speech. These technologies and these practices are used by people who either physically can’t speak or can’t speak in a way that people understand them or that have other reasons why speech is difficult for them.

For example, what we see is that a lot of autistic people is they find speech extremely exhausting. So in many cases, they can speak, but there are many situations where they’d rather not speak because it drains their energy or where, because of, let’s say, anxiety or stress, speech is one of the first functions that drops, and then they can use AAC.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

We also see it used by people with cerebral palsy, where it’s actually the muscles that create a challenge. [AAC apps] are used by people who have had a stroke where the brain system that finds the right words and then sends the signals to the muscles is not functioning correctly. So there are many, many reasons. Roughly about 2% of the world population cannot make themselves understood with their own voice.

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Introducing the 2023 Automation April Shortcuts Contest Winners

John: One of the things I love about judging Automation April is seeing the wide variety of problems people use Shortcuts to solve and their creativity in solving them. This year’s Automation April Shortcuts Contest was no exception. We judged well over 100 shortcuts in the following categories.

  • Best Everyday Shortcut
  • Best Productivity Shortcut
  • Best Health Shortcut
  • Best Media Shortcut
  • Best Mac Shortcut
  • Best Overall Shortcut

The shortcuts we reviewed ran the gamut from simple shortcuts with a few actions to complex systems for automating elaborate workflows. What all of the shortcuts we judged had in common is a dedication to problem-solving. That’s reflected not just in the ingenuity of the shortcuts created by participants but also in their willingness to work with others in the Club MacStories+ Discord community and elsewhere to work together and learn. The Shortcuts community is a vibrant and generous group of which we’re fortunate to be a part.

Like last year, the quality of submissions to the contest made it exceptionally hard to pick the top shortcuts, but with the help of Simon Støvring, Jack Wellborn, Christopher Lawley, Matthew Cassinelli, Jason Snell, and Rosemary Orchard, we have come up with winners in each category. We’ve also included a handful of honorable mentions to showcase some of our favorite shortcuts that didn’t win a category. There are some real gems among the honorable mentions, so don’t forget to check them out too.

With that, we give you the 2023 Automation April Shortcuts Contest winners and the shortcuts they’ve created.

Table of Contents

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TestFlight’s Inability to Handle Large Beta Collections Needs to Be Fixed

I’ve been thinking about app scalability a lot lately – most recently in the context of TestFlight, which I find is incredibly frustrating to use, at best, and, on the Mac, often unusable. This isn’t a new problem for me, but I haven’t mentioned it much in the past because I’ve suspected that my experience is colored by the fact that I’m an outlier. But, outlier or not, the app deserves more attention than it’s been given.

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Automation April: Thinking About Linking

Links are the currency of information overload and distraction. There’s more media available than we could ever get to in a lifetime, and more things we might want to buy, places may want to visit, and other things to explore online than can be fit into a day.

The same problem exists in our work lives. That’s especially true for the kind of work I do. Links are part of everything. Whether I’m researching, writing, or preparing to record a podcast, I’m collecting, managing, and sharing links. I could follow all those trails as they cross my path, but I’d never get anything done.

Instead of flitting from one online discovery to the next with no plan, wasting precious time, I save links for later, putting them aside until I have time for them. I’ve been doing this forever, but I’ve also never been happy with my system. So, it was inevitable that I’d begin tinkering with my setup again, both with the apps I use and the shortcuts that support them.

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Enter Your Shortcuts in the 2023 Automation April Shortcuts Contest

We’re very excited to announce the second annual Automation April Shortcuts Contest, which, along with all of Automation April is dedicated to the memory of Alex Hay, the developer of Toolbox Pro and other apps.

As we had hoped when we introduced Automation April last year, the Automation April Shortcuts Contest became the centerpiece of Automation April. Last year, we had over 200 contest submissions across six categories of shortcuts. We received some remarkable shortcuts that showed just how creative and clever this community can be. But best of all, we saw the automation community come together to help each other when they got stuck and share the shortcuts they made.

Like last year, we encourage to you build a shortcut and submit it to the contest whether you’re a Shortcuts expert or just starting out. Shortcuts do not need to be complex to win in one of contest’s categories. That’s true for all the categories, but especially true for the Best Everyday Shortcut category, which we created because we know from experience that some of our most valuable and frequently-used shortcuts are among the simplest.

Our panel of judges will be evaluating submissions based on originality, performance, design, user experience, and usefulness. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible with Shortcuts is certainly a factor that will be considered in originality, but, at the same time, usefulness doesn’t require complexity, which is something we’ve emphasized often in our writing about Shortcuts. So, no matter your level of experience, we’d love to see what you build.

Entries must be submitted by 5:00 PM Eastern US time on April 17, 2023, so let’s dig into the details.

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Remembering Alex Hay, the Maker of Toolbox Pro, During Automation April

I have some sad news to share with the MacStories community. Recently, Alex Hay, the developer of Toolbox Pro and other apps, passed away after a battle with cancer.

I can’t tell you how hard it is to write those words, and I can only imagine what those closest to Alex are going through. However, it’s also important to us here at MacStories to take a moment to reflect on Alex’s impact on our community and honor his memory.

One of the greatest privileges of running MacStories has been getting to know the developers behind the apps we love. Over the years, Federico and I have gotten to know hundreds of developers. They are the artists of our time, and their imagination, creativity, and passion are what inspire us.

In any creative field, though, there are always some people who stand apart from the pack. You don’t notice them because they’re especially good at self-promotion. No, they stand out because their raw talent is simply impossible to ignore. That was Alex Hay.

I don’t recall how Alex first appeared on my radar, but it was undoubtedly a text from Federico along the lines of “Hey, you gotta check out the crazy stuff this guy in the UK is doing with Shortcuts. You’re going to love this.” Nobody has an instinct for up-and-coming developers and apps like Ticci, but honestly, anyone could see Alex’s immense talent after just a few minutes with his apps. They are that good.

Toolbox Pro.

Toolbox Pro.

No app exemplifies Alex’s talent as much as Toolbox Pro, an app that simplifies complex APIs by making them accessible through Shortcuts. Toolbox Pro provides access to features of apps like Apple Music that even Apple hasn’t built by translating MusicKit APIs into Shortcuts actions. For Shortcuts power users, Toolbox Pro became the bridge between the worlds of iOS development and Shortcuts creation, allowing Shortcuts to be extended further than ever before.

Toolbox Pro was just one of Alex’s apps. He built a logger for Shortcuts that made debugging complex shortcuts infinitely easier. He also released Nauromate, an app that translated Notion’s APIs into Shortcuts actions making that app immensely more accessible to Shortcuts users.

What all of Alex’s apps have in common is that they opened new doors for Shortcuts users to take control of their iPhones, iPads, and Macs in new and exciting ways. Instead of building apps that fulfilled a specific need, Alex’s talent was building apps that let users tap into their own creativity to make what they wanted for themselves with Shortcuts.

The news of Alex’s passing reached us just as Federico and I were finalizing our plans for Automation April, leaving us shaken. Our reactions were the same: to use Automation April, an event that brings all corners of the Apple automation community together to remember and honor Alex’s memory.

So, with his family’s blessing, we’re dedicating Automation April 2023 in memory of Alex Hay, a brilliant and beloved member of the automation community who was taken from us far too early at the age of 36. MacStories is also making donations to the American Cancer Society and Cancer Research UK in Alex’s name, and we’d love it if you would join us in making a donation using the links above too.

The Apple automation community is a close-knit group of talented, creative people, and no one exemplified that more than Alex Hay. We’re grateful for the chance we had to get to know Alex and the apps he built that opened up so many new possibilities for Shortcuts users around the world. Our hearts go out to his family and friends, and we hope you’ll join us in thinking of him and his loved ones throughout Automation April.

Microsoft and Netflix Aim to Challenge Apple in Mobile Gaming

Two pieces of mobile gaming news caught my eye this morning.

The first was an interview that Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, gave to the Financial Times. The annual Game Developer Conference began today, and Spencer wants developers to know that Microsoft intends to publish games on mobile devices:

We want to be in a position to offer Xbox and content from both us and our third-party partners across any screen where somebody would want to play.

He continued:

Today, we can’t do that on mobile devices but we want to build towards a world that we think will be coming where those devices are opened up.

Spencer is banking that the EU’s Digital Markets Act will force Apple and Google to open up their devices early next year. Microsoft is having troubles of its own with US, UK, and EU regulators over its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Part of Spencer’s strategy to win regulators over appears to be the prospect of bringing competition to mobile gaming with its own store and a native Game Pass app that isn’t relegated to streaming via a browser, which is the case for it and services like NVIDIA’s GeForce Now under current App Store rules.

The second piece of news comes from Netflix, which says it has 40 mobile games coming to iOS in 2023, which will join the 55 already available. Working within the constraints of the App Store’s guidelines, Netflix’s games are released as separate App Store downloads that Netflix subscribers can download and play at no additional cost. I’ve been impressed with the quality of the games released by Netflix, which include titles like TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, Kentucky Route Zero,Reigns: Three Kingdoms, Oxenfree, and Lucky Luna.

However, perhaps even bigger than the news of Netflix’s growing catalog is that the first two Monument Valley games are coming to the company’s mobile game catalog in 2024. That’s a big deal because both games are currently part of an Apple Arcade subscription, as well as being available as separate App Store purchases. It’s not clear whether the games will remain part of Arcade after they’re published by Netflix, but even if they are, it will provide another avenue to play the games at no additional cost, which will dilute the value of an Arcade subscription.

Microsoft and Netflix are already competing with Apple in mobile gaming to a degree, but their hands are tied by App Store guidelines. Microsoft has settled on streaming games, which is clunky and constrained, while Netflix has launched dozens of individual games without a good way to organize and market them under their brand.

What Microsoft and Netflix have done so far demonstrates that a little competition is a good thing. Developers have more avenues for publishing their games, and consumers have more choices. The Digital Markets Act has the potential to be the catalyst that opens the door to competition even wider, which I expect will create all sorts of new opportunities for developers and consumers alike.