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UI Browser for macOS to Be Retired in October 2022

Longtime MacStories readers may be familiar with UI Browser, an incredible scripting tool for macOS created by Bill Cheeseman. UI Browser lets you discover the AppleScript structure of an app’s menu system, taking advantage of Apple’s Accessibility APIs to make it easier to script UI, which is not – how do I put this – normally “fun”, per se. UI Browser developer Bill Cheeseman, having turned 79 years old, has decided it is now time to “bring this good work to a conclusion”, and the app will be retired in October.

Here’s what John Gruber wrote about UI Browser last week:

Long story as short as possible: “Regular” AppleScript scripting is accomplished using the programming syntax terms defined in scriptable apps’ scripting dictionaries. If you ever merely tinkered with writing or tweaking AppleScript scripts, this is almost certainly what you know. But as an expansion of accessibility features under Mac OS X, Apple added UI scripting — a way to automate apps that either don’t support AppleScript properly at all, or to accomplish something unscriptable in an otherwise scriptable app. UI scripting is, basically, a way to expose everything accessible to the Accessibility APIs to anyone writing an AppleScript script. They’re not APIs per se but just ways to automate the things you — a human — can do on screen.

A great idea. The only downside: scripting the user interface this way is tedious (very verbose) at best, and inscrutable at worst. Cheeseman’s UI Browser makes it easy. Arguably — but I’ll argue this side — “regular” AppleScript scripting is easier than “UI” AppleScript scripting, but “UI” AppleScript scripting with UI Browser is easier than anything else. UI Browser is both incredibly well-designed and well-named: it lets you browse the user interface of an app and copy the scripting syntax to automate elements of it.

I first covered UI Browser in 2019, when I published a story on how I could control my Mac mini from the iPad Pro using Luna Display and some AppleScript, which I was able to learn thanks to UI Browser. I then mentioned UI Browser twice last month for Automation April: it was thanks to the app that I managed to create shortcuts to toggle the Lyrics and Up Next sidebars in the Music app for Monterey. Maybe it’s silly, but I think there’s something beautiful in the fact that the last thing I did with UI Browser was bridging the old world of AppleScript with the modern reality of Shortcuts.

Gruber argued that Apple should acquire UI Browser and make it part of their built-in scripting tools for macOS; while I don’t disagree, I think it’s more realistic to hope another indie developer or studio picks up UI Browser and continues developing for as long as possible. There’s nothing else like it on the market, and I’d like to thank Bill Cheeseman for his amazing work on this application over the years. It’ll be missed.


AppStories, Episode 271 – Apps with Great Shortcuts Support

This week on AppStories, we share our favorite third-party apps with deep Shortcuts integration.

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On AppStories+, we conclude the episode with a bonus round of apps with great Shortcuts support.

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Paper’s 10th Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since the drawing app Paper was released on the iPad. Andy Allen, a co-founder of FiftyThree, the company that released the app in 2012, marked the anniversary with a post on Andy Works that recounts the app’s origin story during the early days of the iPad.

According to Allen, Paper was born from the ashes of Microsoft’s prototype device called the Courier, which was never released:

While Paper was born in 2012, its roots go back a few years prior when we co-founders first met at Microsoft working on the idea for a new device called Courier. Before the iPad, this was a two-screen digital journal + pen with an entirely new OS and apps designed for a very un-Microsoft customer—creative types. Despite internal excitement for the product, Ballmer shut down Courier in 2010, and if it wasn’t for a leaked prototype video that caused a stir online, things might’ve ended there.

Allen’s post also describes the unconventional design decisions that drove Paper’s unique look and interaction model, which anyone interested in the history and process of app design will love. What really struck me, though, was Allen’s observations about the Paper’s resilience, which is more an exception than a rule:

Most apps from the early App Store-era that were hailed for their design are no longer with us (Path). Yet Paper is still here. And in much the same form as when it was first released having weathered the many tides of changing UI trends (flat design) and iOS updates. The same principles continued guiding it through new features, experiments, and even full rewrites. Every part replaced, yet its soul intact.

Yet, despite Paper’s longevity, even it isn’t immune from the impermanence of modern apps:

In writing this article, I wanted to get the original version of Paper 1.0 running on an old iPad. I tried for a full day but failed. A reminder that our work is transient—here for its moment and then gone.

I’m glad Allen shared these stories about Paper. Too many of the tales of the early App Store have already been lost, and Paper is an important milestone in that history that illustrates the kind of creativity and innovation that the iPad made possible.


AppStories, Episode 266 – iOS, iPadOS, and macOS Updates In-Depth

This week on AppStories, we dig into the details of the iOS and iPadOS 15.4 and macOS 12.3 updates that were released by Apple last week.

On AppStories+, a look at the first Mac Studio and Studio Display reviews.

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AppStories, Episode 264 – Apple Event Impressions: The New iPad Air, Mac Studio, and Studio Display

This week on AppStories, we cover our first impressions of the iPad Air, Mac Studio, and Studio Display, including Federico’s thoughts on where the Air fits into the iPad lineup and John’s take on what to keep in mind when customizing a Mac Studio.

On AppStories+, a little behind-the-scenes look to planning event coverage, a thank you and mini Chipolo One review from John, and Federico on the three Indiegogo campaign perks he’s waiting to receive.

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The Shift in Apple’s Hardware Strategy

John Porter writing for The Verge puts a finger on a strategic shift that has slowly been emerging at Apple for a while.

Summoning the era of butterfly keyboards and the Mac Pro’s infamous thermal corner, Porter says:

There was a time not long ago when it seemed like Apple spent more time telling its customers what they wanted rather than just giving it to them.

In contrast,

with yesterday’s announcements, which include the powerful and port-rich Mac Studio and a new monitor that costs a fraction of the price of Apple’s previous attempt, Apple is now consistently doling out consumer-friendly features its fans have been calling for.

Porter traces the roots of Apple’s shift in approach back to 2017 when the company gathered a small group of writers to announce that it was hitting reset on the Mac Pro. Two years later, Apple introduced a new Mac Pro, and ever since then, there’s been a steady stream of devices released that underscore the company’s new hardware approach.

Reading the tea leaves to discern strategic shifts like this is always fraught with peril, but I think Porter is onto something. As he lays out, there are plenty of signs of the shift stretching back five years, and no better evidence than the Mac Studio, which is bristling with utilitarian conveniences like ports and an SD card slot on the front of the computer and plenty of other I/O options tucked away on the rear of the machine.

Apple’s shift has left users with an abundance of excellent computing options. Next, I hope we see a similar shift in the company’s approach to its software, concentrating on taking better advantage of the devices now available to users.


Jason Snell on the Implications of Apple’s Major League Baseball Deal

If you came away from yesterday’s Apple event with the impression that TV+ will be airing two Major League Baseball games every Friday, you wouldn’t be wrong. However, there’s a lot more to the story than meets the eye, as Jason Snell explains at Six Colors.

In addition to a two-games per week exclusive, TV+ will be adding a show called MLB Big Inning, which Apple says will feature “highlights and look-ins.” As Jason explains:

If you’re familiar with the NFL Red Zone product, in which a studio host zips the viewer around to different live games when interesting things are happening, it’s a little like that—but for baseball.

TV+ will also offer what’s known as linear programming, airing a 24/7 feed of “MLB game replays, news and analysis, highlights, classic games, and more.” The difference with linear programming is that instead of streaming individual shows on-demand, a steady stream of MLB content will be available allowing viewers to drop in and watch whatever happens to be playing.

This is not unprecedented for Apple. In 2020, the company debuted Apple Music TV, a TV+ channel that streams music videos 24/7. Like the music videos before it, 24/7 baseball content will help fill the gaps in TV+’s lineup for those times when subscribers don’t feel like picking something specific to watch.

The big picture implications of Apple’s deal with MLB provide an insight into where televised sports is heading. In the case of baseball, Jason says:

Right now, baseball is propped up by revenue from regional sports networks (RSNs) that have paid enormous amounts of money to sequester their product on cable so that it’s impossible for fans to cut the cord. The problem is, fans are like everyone else, and they are cutting the cord. At some point, the guaranteed revenue from RSNs will collapse, and leagues that rely on that revenue will be in deep trouble.

This isn’t the sort of transition that will happen overnight, but given the rise of streaming services, which has accelerated in recent years, I expect we’ll see even more deals like the one struck by Apple and MLB in the future.


AppStories, Episode 263 – Beyond Doom Scrolling: Getting More Out of Twitter

This week on AppStories, Federico and John talk about how to get more out of Twitter while avoiding doom scrolling, through a combination of advanced Twitter features, third-party apps, and Shortcuts.

On AppStories+, Federico and John talk about the upcoming Apple ‘Peek Performance’ event, a curious bug John ran into in Shortcuts for the Mac, and Federico’s experiments with car-based shortcuts for dictation input.