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Reading Newsletters with Feedbin and Reeder

As I’ve mentioned in previous Club MacStories newsletters as well as my Must-Have Apps story, I used the holiday break as an opportunity to do some cleanup of various kinds of digital cruft on my devices. I reorganized apps on my Home screen; I deleted old shortcuts with LaunchCuts and installed custom icons for my frequently used ones; I fixed metadata for certain albums on my Sony Walkman (a process I want to write about on the site) and moved all my Pokémon links to Raindrop.io. When I was done with apps and links, I turned my attention to email – specifically, newsletters.

It should come as no surprise that I love newsletters. I (partially) make a living out of sending two of them on a regular basis! Obviously, I believe in the strength, convenience, and personal approach of the medium, especially because my favorite writers – whether Jason Tate from Chorus.fm or Jason Snell from Six Colors or Dieter Bohn from The Verge – all tend to have a casual, looser writing style in their newsletters that feels like they’re writing directly to me.

The problem: despite automatic filing of newsletters performed by SaneBox into a folder called ‘SaneNews’ in my Gmail account, I realized that I don’t really like reading newsletters in an email client. I don’t like spending time in an email client these days, period. For professional reasons, I receive a lot of email on a daily basis, so I find it hard to concentrate and read a longform newsletter in an app that is filled to the brim with messages and not exactly built around focused reading.

As I was thinking about ways to improve this (I considered using a second email app just for newsletters, for instance), I remembered that Feedbin, my RSS service of choice, offers the ability to give you a unique email address you can send newsletters to. Emails sent to your personal Feedbin email address will end up in the service’s queue alongside your other regular RSS subscriptions, and you can then choose to file the “source” behind a newsletter however you see fit – for example, by creating a folder in Feedbin called ‘Newsletters’. Feedbin has more details on this functionality here. Given how I’ve been trying to consolidate all my reading into Reeder by way of the app’s support for RSS and a read-later account, I thought it’d be interesting to try throwing newsletters at it as well.

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Shortcuts Rewind: Linking Tricks Using Markdown and Rich Text

Editor’s Note

Over the past several years, Federico has built hundreds of shortcuts that are sprinkled throughout the stories he’s written. Last spring we debuted the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, a one-stop destination that collects all of those shortcuts organized by topic, so readers can find them easily.

There’s no better way to learn how to build your own shortcuts than by downloading someone else’s, which is what makes the Archive such a valuable resource to readers and one of MacStories’ most popular features. Still, it can be hard to pick up best practices and patterns or other tips and tricks from experimentation and tinkering.

That’s why today we are introducing a new series on MacStories called Shortcuts Rewind to add context to the shortcuts in the Archive. Periodically throughout the year, we will pick a few shortcuts from the Archive that we think would benefit from a further explanation, whether that’s to help new Shortcuts users learn the basics, to illustrate a particular technique that can be used across multiple shortcuts, or to automate a task that you might not have thought was possible.

Tying Shortcuts Rewind together is a new graphical approach to explaining shortcuts. As you’ll see, we’ve created a system that dispenses with distracting UI elements and breaks shortcuts into logical sets of actions. The approach allows us to simultaneously provide step-by-step instructions alongside commentary that we hope will help readers achieve a deeper understanding of Shortcuts and assist them in building their own automations.

Let’s get started.


For this first installment of Rewind, I wanted to start with a trio of relatively simple shortcuts that illustrate the power of Shortcuts’ ability to streamline the transformation of one type of content into another. All three shortcuts can be found in the Text section of the Shortcuts Archive, but there are also links to them below. The foundation of this process is the Content Graph, a core part of Shortcuts dating back to its origins as Workflow. The idea is a simple but powerful one that eliminates complexity for the user, handling much of the data compatibility and conversion chores behind the scenes with little or no effort on the part of the user.

At the heart of the three shortcuts discussed below are transformations between plain text, rich text, and URLs. Thanks to the Content Graph, Shortcuts has the flexibility to create powerful text and link handling functionality.

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A Fix for iPad Multitasking

Concept by Silvia Gatta.

Concept by Silvia Gatta.

The iPad’s primary appeal the last 10 years has been its resemblance to the iPhone. If you can use an iPhone, you can use an iPad – at least in most respects. Where that’s no longer true is multitasking.

I love the functionality enabled by iPad multitasking, but the current system is unnecessarily complex. I don’t believe the iPad should revert to its origins as a one-app-at-a-time device, but I know there’s a better way forward for multitasking.

My proposal for a new multitasking system employs a UI mechanic that already exists across both iPhone and iPad. Without losing any of iPadOS 13’s current functionality, it brings the iPad closer to its iPhone roots again and makes multitasking accessible for the masses.

Context menus are the key to a better multitasking system.

When you long-press an app icon in iOS and iPadOS 13, a context menu appears and provides various options. These menus, I believe, are the perfect home for multitasking controls.

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The iPad at 10: A New Product Category Defined by Apps

When Steve Jobs strode onto the stage at the Yerba Buena Center on January 27, 2010, he carried with him the answers to years of speculation and rumors about an Apple tablet. Everyone at the event that day knew why they were there and what would be announced. Jobs acknowledged as much up front, saying that he had a ‘truly magical and revolutionary product’ to announce.

Thanks to the iPhone, everyone at the Yerba Buena Center also had a vague notion of what Apple’s tablet would probably look like. Mockups and phony leaks were all over the web, and tablets weren’t new. Everyone expected a big slab of glass. Beyond that, though, few rumors were in agreement about what the tablet’s hardware specs would be.

Source: The Verge.

Source: The Verge.

It was correctly assumed that Apple’s tablet would fit somewhere in between an iPhone and a Mac both physically and functionally, but where exactly was a mystery. That made the OS and the apps the stars of the keynote and critical to the way Apple’s tablet would be used and how it would be perceived for years to come.

Before Steve Jobs revealed Apple’s new tablet to the world, though, he paused – as is still customary during most Apple keynotes – to set the stage and provide context, which is where I will start too. Ten years ago, the tech world was a very different place, and Apple was a very different company. Not only is it fun to remember what those days were like, but it helps explain the trajectory of the iPad in the decade that followed.

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My Must-Have Apps, 2019 Edition

My Home screens.

My Home screens.

Every year in late October, I start putting together a rough list of candidates for my annual ‘Must-Have Apps’ story, which I’ve historically published in late December, right before the holiday break. As you can tell by the date on this article, the 2019 edition of this story is different: not only did I spend the last months of the year testing a variety of new apps and betas, but I also kept tweaking my Home screen to accomodate MusicBot and new Home screen shortcuts. As a result, it took me a bit longer to finalize the 2019 collection of my must-have apps; in the process, however, I’ve come up with a slightly updated format that I believe will scale better over the next few years.

In terms of app usage, 2019 was a year of stabilization for me. Having settled on a specific writing workflow revolving around iA Writer and Working Copy, and having figured out a solution to record podcasts from my iPad Pro, I spent the year fine-tuning my usage of those apps, refining my file management habits thanks to iPadOS’ improved Files app, and cutting down on the number of apps I kept tucked away in folders on my iPhone and iPad.

Two themes emerged over the second half of 2019, though. First, thanks to various improvements in iOS and iPadOS 13, I increased my reliance on “first-party” Apple apps: I embraced the new Reminders app and its exclusive features, stopped using third-party note-taking apps and moved everything to Notes, and switched back to Apple Mail as my default email client. I’ve written about the idea of comfort in the Apple ecosystem before, and I’ve seen that concept work its way into my app preferences more and more over the course of 2019.

The second theme, unsurprisingly, is my adoption of a hybrid Home screen that combines apps and shortcuts powered by our custom MacStories Shortcuts Icons. Following changes to running shortcuts from the Home screen in iOS 13, I realized how much I was going to benefit from the ability to execute commands with the tap of an icon, so I decided to mix and match apps and shortcuts on my Home screens to maximize efficiency. Thanks to the different flavors of MacStories Shortcuts Icons (we just launched a Color set), I’ve been able to assemble a truly personalized Home screen layout that puts the best of both worlds – my favorite apps and custom shortcuts – right at my fingertips.

For this reason, starting this year you’ll find a new Home Screens section at the beginning of this roundup that covers the first tier of my must-have apps – the “ultimate favorites” I tend to keep on the Home screens of both devices. Because I like to keep my iPhone and iPad Home screens consistent, it made sense to start grouping these apps together in their own special section. These are the apps I use most on a daily basis; I’m pretty sure you’ll find at least a couple surprises this year.

This entire story features a collection of the 50 apps I consider my must-haves on the iPhone and iPad, organized in seven categories; whenever possible, I included links to original reviews and past coverage on MacStories. As for the traditional list of awards for best new app and best app update: those are now part of our annual MacStories Selects awards, which we published last December and you can find here.

Let’s dig in.

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Sensei: A Beautifully-Designed Dashboard and Set of Utilities for Your Mac

Sensei is a brand new Mac app that monitors the status of various components of your Mac’s hardware and provides a set of utilities to optimize its performance. The app is certainly not the first to offer these features – there are tools built into macOS and third-party apps that can accomplish many of the same functions, and in some cases more. However, what sets Sensei apart, and what has quickly won me over, is its ability to translate the data it collects and implement its utilities in a beautifully-designed, standalone app.

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Desktop-Class Safari for iPad: A Hands-On Look at the Difference the iPadOS Update Makes to Apple’s Browser

For about four years, I’ve sat down at my Mac to produce Club MacStories’ two newsletters using Mailchimp. There’s a lot I like about Mailchimp, but that has never included the company’s web app. Mailchimp relies heavily on dragging and dropping content blocks in a browser window to build an email newsletter, which abstracts away the raw HTML and CSS nicely, but didn’t work well or reliably on iOS.

That finally changed with iPadOS 13, which brought one of the most extensive updates to Safari ever. The result has been that roughly half of the issues of the Club’s newsletters have been produced on my iPad Pro since October. Before iPadOS, that simply wasn’t possible. Whenever I tried to assemble a newsletter on my iPad, I ran into a show-stopping roadblock at some point.

If you’re wondering why this matters, the answer is flexibility and choice. Whether I’m traveling to another city for several days or just sitting in a local coffee shop for a few hours, I know I can rely on a stable mobile data connection on my iPad. I don’t have to worry about whether WiFi will be available for my Mac or fiddle with tethering. I just open my iPad and start working. As a result, I prefer my iPad to my MacBook Pro when I’m away from my desktop Mac.

I also enjoy the freedom of picking the platform I use for a task. Some days that’s my Mac, but just as often it’s my iPad. Sometimes that’s driven by the platform I’m working on at the time, and other days it’s nothing more than the device I feel like using that day. Until iPadOS 13, though, if that day was a Friday and I had a newsletter to produce, nothing else mattered. I had to have a Mac, and if I was traveling for more than a couple of days, that often meant I brought both devices along.

This isn’t a tutorial on how to use Mailchimp on an iPad. Few people need that, and if you’ve built a newsletter in Mailchimp on a Mac, you already know how to do it on the iPad. That’s the whole point. Safari in iPadOS has become a desktop-class browser. There remain differences between it and its desktop sibling, but the gap has been dramatically narrowed and the differences that remain purposefully leverage the distinctions between the Mac and iPad. The result has transformed frustrating experiences with web apps that simply didn’t work before on the iPad into a productive environment for accomplishing tasks that once required a Mac.

I don’t know that I’ve ever used a web app that I prefer to something native to the Mac or iOS, but the reality of contemporary computing is that many people rely on a collection of web apps in their work and personal lives. The changes to Safari in iPadOS are an acknowledgement of that reality. The experience isn’t perfect, but the latest iteration of Safari is a major step forward that eliminates hurdles that make the difference between getting work done and not.

If you’ve run into roadblocks with web apps in the past, it’s worth revisiting them in the wake of iPadOS 13. For me, the updates to Safari in iPadOS have been a tipping point in the way I work that has opened up new options I didn’t have before. I suspect the same is true for others who are looking for the same sort of workflow flexibility, which is why I want to share my experience and thoughts on producing the Club MacStories newsletters using Mailchimp on my iPad Pro.

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Using Sofa to Track TV Shows and Movies Watched in 2019

As December comes to a close, now is the perfect time to reflect on how the year was spent, both with deep existential questions but also lighter, fun matters – such as surveying your TV and movie consumption over the year. Until recently I didn’t have a system I was satisfied with for tracking my viewing history, but now I’ve settled on Sofa.

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How I Modded the Silicone Tips of AirPods Pro with a Memory Foam Layer

My modded AirPods Pro.

My modded AirPods Pro.

I love my AirPods Pro and, ever since I bought them last October, I’ve been taking advantage of their noise cancellation technology to use them in more contexts than the original AirPods.1 They sound better than any other wireless earbuds I’ve tested (obviously, they sound much worse than my Sony IER-Z1R, but that’s to be expected) and they cancel almost as much noise as my Sony WH-1000XM3, which is pretty remarkable for such tiny earbuds. AirPods Pro retain all the magic of the non-Pro line, but they bring the additional freedom granted by noise cancellation and transparency mode. There’s one thing I don’t particularly like about them, though: the default silicone tips.

Unlike others (e.g. my girlfriend), I can use in-ear silicone tips without getting a headache after 20 minutes. It’s not my favorite method of listening to music, however, because I know that memory foam tips are a better fit for my ears since they can better adapt to the shape of my ear canal and, as a result, provide better isolation and a more bass-y response. Over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for Comply’s popular foam tips (right now, I’m testing their Audio Pro and Comfort tips with my IER-Z1R) and was hoping they’d release AirPods Pro-compatible tip replacements made of memory foam.

Much to my disappointment, the only foam tips designed for AirPods Pro I’ve found so far are these no-brand tips from Amazon US that I can’t purchase from Italy (and which do not inspire a lot of confidence). I’m assuming that since AirPods Pro require tips to have a special clip attachment that secures them onto the earbuds themselves, it’s taking a while for third-party manufacturers to come up with a compatible design. I really wanted to figure out a way to use foam tips with my AirPods Pro though, so I kept looking for ideas or recommendations on how to make it happen.

The solution I’ve adopted isn’t ideal since I still haven’t found complete foam replacements made specifically for AirPods Pro, but, at least for me, what I’m using today is better than using Apple’s default silicone tips. As I shared on Twitter a few days ago, I’ve modded the AirPods Pro’s silicone tips with an extra memory foam layer, which helps the tips fit better in my ears, resulting in a warmer sound and overall more comfortable feel. The best part: I didn’t have to cut the memory foam layer myself – I simply took the foam layer from a pair of Symbio W eartips and fitted it inside the AirPods Pro’s tips. The final result looks like this:

An additional memory foam layer for my AirPods Pro.

An additional memory foam layer for my AirPods Pro.

I love the orange accent.

I love the orange accent.

Allow me to offer some context around how I discovered this method and how you can perform this mod yourself with relative ease. I was looking around for discussions related to AirPods Pro and memory foam tips a few weeks back, and I came across this discussion thread on the MacRumors forums where a few users reached the following consensus: until third-party manufacturers come up with a compatible clip that attaches to AirPods Pro and lets you use alternative tips, for now the best DIY mod involves taking a memory foam insert and sliding Apple’s silicone tips inside it so that the foam layer ends up sitting between the central plastic “stem” of the tip and its outer layer. This is what I mean:

The foam layer sits between the plastic clip and silicone exterior of the tip.

The foam layer sits between the plastic clip and silicone exterior of the tip.

Based on the aforementioned MacRumors thread, I purchased a set of Symbio W eartips from Amazon Japan2 (Symbio also has an official website with worldwide shipping, but I haven’t tried it myself). Symbio’s in-ear tips are well suited for this kind of mod for a couple reasons. First, they’re hybrid tips that feature a silicone membrane with an inner memory foam layer; if you pull out the silicone part, you can access the memory foam “ring” contained inside it and remove it so you can use it elsewhere. And second, the Symbio W’s foam layer is thin and short enough that it can fit in the gap between the plastic stem and silicone layer in Apple’s tips, while matching their height in all three sizes as well (just like AirPods Pro, the Symbio W eartips come in small, medium, and large sizes). This means that, unlike other mods, applying the Symbio W’s foam parts to AirPods Pro’s silicone tips will let the AirPods Pro case close just fine.

Now, if you want to replicate this setup yourself, here’s how you can do it in less than a minute for each AirPod. Grab one of the Symbio eartips (if you’re using the medium tips for your AirPods Pro, use the medium Symbio tip too) and pull out the silicone exterior so that the memory foam portion is clearly visible:

Pull out the silicone part of the Symbio tips to reveal the inner memory foam layer.

Pull out the silicone part of the Symbio tips to reveal the inner memory foam layer.

Next, gently remove the memory foam ring from the eartip:

Remove the foam layer from the silicone tip by sliding it out.

Remove the foam layer from the silicone tip by sliding it out.

Grab the tip of your AirPods Pro and pull out the soft silicone part – again, don’t apply too much pressure because you don’t want to break it – so that it looks like this:

Pull out the silicone part of the AirPods Pro's tips.

Pull out the silicone part of the AirPods Pro’s tips.

Slide the plastic base of the AirPods’ tip into the foam ring, then carefully adjust it so that it doesn’t cover the vents (which help relieve pressure in your inner ear), as pictured below:

Fit the foam layer around the plastic stem of the AirPods Pro tip.

Fit the foam layer around the plastic stem of the AirPods Pro tip.

Lastly, pull down the outer silicone layer of the AirPods’ tip so it covers the newly inserted foam part, adjust the foam again so it doesn’t cover the vents, and voila:

The final product.

The final product.

Now, obviously this is a DIY modification and it’s by no means an absolutely perfect match for Apple’s design – but it’s a close approximation that has helped me enjoy some of the benefits of memory foam tips despite the fact that I still have to use Apple’s official tips.

Another look at the final result.

Another look at the final result.

I’ve been rocking this setup for the past week, and not only do I find my AirPods Pro more comfortable to wear for prolonged listening sessions because the tips fit better in my ears and don’t wobble as much as before, but sound isolation is also better (as confirmed by Apple’s fit test in Settings). Thanks to the extra foam layer, the modded tips “fill” my ears, creating a better seal and ensuring the AirPods stay in place. As a result of the superior fit, I’ve also noticed a slightly warmer sound with a bit more bass than before, which I believe is a pleasant addition. Best of all, my right AirPod always stays in place now (which wasn’t the case before the mod) and the additional foam layer hasn’t been an issue for the case, which still closes perfectly.

I recognize that after spending $249 on AirPods Pro, I shouldn’t have to invest roughly $18 (plus shipping) on a mod that only sort-of lets me use foam tips with them. Apple should provide users with more choice in terms of the materials used in the default tips: ideally, for $249 the company should offer a selection of silicone and memory foam tips in the box. But I also like my AirPods Pro a lot, and I use them for several hours every day, and I wanted to make them fit my ears better today. I’m pretty happy with this temporary mod; until a better solution comes along3, Symbio’s W eartips have proven to be good companions to Apple’s silicone tips, and I recommend them.


  1. Train trips, riding the subway in Rome, or writing without hearing surrounding noises. ↩︎
  2. A tip I picked up from Cabel Sasser years ago: you can register for an Amazon Japan account even if you don’t live in Japan, use the website in English, and take advantage of fast worldwide shipping. I’ve spent more money on Japanese videogame and manga imports than I’m willing to admit. ↩︎
  3. For real, Comply: please make memory foam replacement tips for AirPods Pro that match the size and plastic attachment of Apple’s default ones. Thank you. ↩︎