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Podcasting on iPad Pro and Mac: A Streamlined Approach with the Sound Devices MixPre-3 II

Anyone new to a job has probably thought or even asked:

“Why do you do it that way?”

and gotten the age-old answer:

“Because that’s how we’ve always done it.”

It’s human nature to stick with a solution that works and is familiar. When a workflow is so ingrained that it’s a habit, that’s good because it allows the task to become less about the tools and more about what you’re creating.

Paradoxically, though, familiarity can also lead to inflexibility, a resistance to change that undermines the very productivity that the solution enabled in the first place. It’s an inertial force that’s hard to resist, but I think it’s important to push back against it. Not solely for the sake of efficiency, but also to improve the results of your efforts.

The trick is knowing when experimentation with new workflows is unproductive fiddling and when it’s meaningful exploration. I’ve seen too many people fall into the trap where improving the process becomes the goal itself.

Early last year, I decided I was finished with letting tasks dictate how I work. I work across the Mac, an iPad Pro, and an iPhone all day long. Some jobs are more suited to one device than another, and some I just prefer to do on a particular device. The point is, though, that it’s something I want to be my choice, instead of something foisted on me by the nature of the work itself.

I’m fortunate that most of what I do migrates effortlessly from one device to another. Still, I’ve historically had two weekly responsibilities where I’ve felt tied to a Mac.

The first was producing the Club MacStories newsletters using Mailchimp’s web app. As I wrote last January, Safari’s updates in iOS and iPadOS 13, which made web apps work roughly the same on my iPad Pro as on my Mac, solved that problem for me.

The second Mac-bound task was podcast recording and production. I recognize that there have been ways to accomplish podcasting on an iPad for a while. However, when it comes to recording in particular, I didn’t want to change the way I record episodes to work around the iPad’s limitations for the same reasons Federico articulated in Beyond the Tablet.

What made these two tasks frustrating is that they’re both tied to schedules that have limited flexibility. When I was traveling more, that left me with little choice but to take a Mac. I prefer to travel with my iPad Pro, but regardless, I’d rather pick how I work myself, even when I’m at home.

I’m not doing as much traveling now, but a recent road trip to Michigan led me to start thinking about my podcasting setup again. As with many trips in the past, I wound up taking my MacBook Pro along, in this case so I could record interviews for an episode of AppStories. The setup was perfectly fine, but it felt like too much equipment for recording a few short interviews. Plus, I took my iPad Pro because I prefer it for writing and wanted to stay connected to mobile data as I wrote a story in the car.

Ever since Jason Snell wrote about his iPad Pro podcasting setup on Six Colors early last year, and Federico adapted it for his setup when he can’t use his Mac mini, I’ve wanted to try something similar. What held me back, though, was a combination of the complexity, cost, and infrequency with which I assumed I’d use the setup.

I also held out hope that iPadOS 13 or 14 would include improved audio routing that would make it possible to talk on Skype and record a local audio track. That hasn’t happened. Although I expect Apple will add that functionality eventually, it’s been 18 months since Safari solved my Mailchimp problem. With only podcasting standing in the way of my goal of device independence, and no software solution from Apple in the early iPadOS 14 betas, I figured it was time to revisit my hardware options.

I wanted a solution that worked equally well when I’m sitting at my Mac or iPad, allowing me to talk over Skype and record myself locally. What I discovered was an incredibly versatile solution that accomplishes in a single device what Snell and Federico cleverly constructed from a field recorder and USB audio interface: the Sound Devices MixPre-3 II.

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The Developer Debrief on WWDC 2020

Weeks removed from Apple wrapping up its first all-virtual WWDC, many of us are still digesting what the conference’s announcements mean for the future of our favorite products.

Federico, John, and I have all shared various takeaways from the conference, and I’m sure we’ll have a lot more to report as we continue using the betas this summer and review Apple’s OS updates this fall. But our perspective is limited to our profession as journalists, so we also wanted to hear from the people this conference was really built for: developers.

WWDC has grown into an exciting conference for Apple users all around the globe, but its core identity is still ultimately an event for app developers. As a result, I wanted to speak with a variety of developers to get their reactions to the conference. These included:

My sincere thanks to these developers for taking the time to share their thoughts, and for their years of valuable contributions toward making Apple’s app ecosystem as strong and robust as it is today.

Interview questions for each developer ranged from the things that most excited them at the conference to surprises and disappointments, their read on how in-touch Apple is with the developer community, the current evolution of software development, and each developer was also generous enough to share a sneak peek at new technologies they’re working to implement in their apps.

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Widgets and the App Library: A First Look at Bringing Personality and Customization to Your Home Screens

No single feature of the iOS 14 betas has had as immediate an impact on my daily iPhone use as Home screen widgets. Together with the App Library, the features can radically change the way apps are organized and accessed by everyone. Users don’t have to use widgets or the App Library, but they’ve been designed to feel familiar and inviting, echoing the iPhone’s grid layout, folders, and search systems. The result is a deft balancing act that gently introduces the iPhone Home screen’s most significant makeover since it was launched, which I think will be a big hit with users and developers alike.

Widgets’ impact is less pronounced on the iPad, where their placement is less flexible, and there is no App Library. Widgets can’t do quite as much in iOS and iPadOS 14 betas as they can under iOS 13 either. Those are fairly significant caveats depending on how you currently use widgets and should be kept in mind, but it’s also worth remembering that this is the first public beta release. There are still many weeks before iOS and iPadOS 14 will be released, and users’ feedback could influence what the final implementation of widgets looks like.

Despite the current limitations, widgets have profoundly changed the way I use my iPhone and have the potential to do the same on the iPad. The impact surprised me because, after two and half weeks on the developer betas, the only widgets I’ve tried so far are based on Apple’s system apps. As a result, I wanted to share my first impressions and thoughts on widgets, the App Library, and how I’m using both on the iPhone and iPad. I also thought it would be fun to show off some of the ideas being explored by third-party developers, which I’m excited to try soon.

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Two Weeks with iPadOS 14: Redefining the Modern iPad Experience

My iPadOS 14 Home Screen.

My iPadOS 14 Home Screen.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been using the developer beta of iPadOS 14 on my 2018 12.9” iPad Pro – my main computer and production machine. Although I feel like it’s too early for me to offer a definitive assessment of iPadOS 14, I figured it’d be interesting to share some initial thoughts on the evolution of the iPad platform now that iPadOS 14 is available as a public beta as well. These are just some of the key takeaways and “core themes” I’ve been mulling over since WWDC; I plan to dig deeper into every aspect of iPadOS 14 in my annual iOS and iPadOS review in the fall.

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Everything Changing in Apple Notes and Reminders in iOS and iPadOS 14

Notes and Reminders in iOS 14.

Notes and Reminders in iOS 14.

Apple Notes and Reminders are two of my most-used apps, and each has received significant updates in iOS and iPadOS 14. Though neither app’s improvements have been held up as tentpole features of this fall’s releases, Apple has nonetheless given noteworthy attention to making the user experience for each app better in a variety of key ways. You won’t find fundamental evolutions in how either app works, but these updates prove the power of iteration. From visual tweaks that make everything look and feel more modern, to quality of life enhancements, and more substantive new features, the list of total changes is surprisingly rich.

After a few days of use, here’s everything new I’ve discovered in Notes and Reminders.

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The Mac’s Transition to Apple Silicon

Echoes of the past were woven throughout Apple’s announcement that it is transitioning the Mac from Intel-based chips to its own architecture. During the keynote yesterday, Senior Vice President of Hardware Technologies Johny Srouji kicked things off by explaining the balance between performance and power consumption, something that drove the transition to Intel chips nearly 15 years go. Then, Craig Federighi introduced Universal 2 and Rosetta 2, software solutions that originated with the transition to Intel Macs.

It would be a mistake to conclude that the transition to Apple Silicon will be just like the last switch, though. The computing world is very different from 2006, and so is Apple’s lineup of products. The transition carries the promise of powerful, low-power Macs, but it also foreshadows a fundamental change in the relationship among Apple’s platforms that began with the introduction of Mac Catalyst, SwiftUI, and related initiatives. Where precisely these changes lead is not entirely clear yet, but one thing is for certain: the Mac is changing dramatically.

Yesterday, I covered macOS 11.0, known as Big Sur, which is as much a part of this transition as the Mac’s new system-on-a-chip (SoC) will be. Today, however, it’s worth taking a closer look at the hardware that was announced. It won’t be available to consumers until later this year, and the transition is expected to take two years. However, within a week or so, developers will begin receiving test kits that will allow them to start working on supporting the new hardware when the new Macs start shipping.

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macOS Big Sur: The MacStories Overview

It was a big day for the Mac. At WWDC’s opening keynote, Apple announced that the platform will transition to Apple-designed chips dubbed Apple Silicon. That switch was highly anticipated, and I’ll cover it in a separate story tomorrow. What was a bigger surprise, though, was the complete makeover of macOS that was revealed.

The latest version of macOS, which has been incremented to version 11.0 and is known as Big Sur, ushers in a new design language that reduces chrome and takes cues from aspects of iPadOS. The design changes to macOS weren’t the only big change announced today, though. Safari got what Apple describes as its biggest update ever, which includes under-the-hood performance enhancements, design tweaks, and all-new features. Big Sur will gain many of the features coming to iOS and iPadOS, too, bringing feature parity across platforms to more apps than ever.

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Apple TV Channels: A Great TV Experience That’s Failing

Apple’s TV strategy has produced a mix of both winning and losing. While I think the company is largely on the right track with its efforts to produce original TV+ content, and it’s also poised to take a cut of many popular streaming services’ revenue via In-App Purchases, I nonetheless think it’s clear that the company’s attempts to offer a great TV experience are failing.

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Shortcuts Rewind: Working with Apple Notes, Part 1

Whether you have hundreds of notes and are looking for a way to sift through them, or you want a quick way to create a note or add to an existing one, Shortcuts is a terrific solution. I have about 300 notes. That’s a lot, but I know people with many more. Between pinning and sorting by date modified, my notes are manageable, but often I find myself searching for a bit of information I stored away months ago. That’s why I want to kick off a pair of Shortcuts Rewind installments with two shortcuts to help you locate existing notes. In a future installment, I’ll tackle note creation.

Apple’s Notes app has built-in search, and its sorting is powerful, but with Find Notes (with Menu) and View Recent Notes, you can create a customized system that takes you to your most-used notes faster, regardless of whether you are working in the Notes app.

Aside from the utility of the shortcuts themselves, these two shortcuts are also an excellent way to dig into Shortcuts’ scripting actions. As I walk through each shortcut, you’ll see how picking from lists works and use a counting script action to tie a shortcut’s behavior to the number of items found. I’ll also briefly revisit If and Otherwise actions, a staple of many shortcuts.

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