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Halide Review: Instantly Better Photography

Photography isn’t my specialty, and more often than not, my lack of knowledge stops me from getting the shot I have set up in my mind. They say the best camera is the one you have with you at all times, but the stock iPhone 7 camera can only do so much with my limited skill set.

So when a tool comes along that makes taking great photos so much easier, it’s hard to pass it up. That’s Halide, which offers real-time, user-driven changes in your camera’s viewfinder to help you get the picture you want.

As you line up your shot in Halide, you’ll have the opportunity to make adjustments – focus, ISO, white balance, and exposure – that will change the way your picture will look. These aren’t pre-packaged filters, but rather manual options that can give your photo a unique look and feel. For different occasions, environments, and lighting, you’ll appreciate the control.

What I love so much about Halide is that I don’t have to have the deepest understanding of these tools to take advantage of them. Instead of focusing on numbers, I can see my changes as they are made. Halide offers the benefits of a complex photo app without the learning curve.

Much of how you edit in Halide is by sliding your finger, either arbitrarily up and down or along a scale, left to right. For white balance, you can select from presets, which drastically alter the mood of the photo without making it look unrealistic. Aside from focus, all of these options work on the front camera, too, so your selfies can be even more artistic.

Halide can capture your photos in either RAW or JPEG, but it’s up to you to select the latter in the “Quick Bar”, an extra set of buttons that appears by pulling down at the top of the screen. Also in the Quick Bar is an on/off switch for flash, a grid tool, and location management.

Conclusion

When I’m inexperienced in a certain field, I want apps to enable and teach me, not leave me confused and incapable. Halide undoubtedly accomplishes the former, putting the control back in my hands instead of in the camera.

And that’s what I can’t seem to shake about Halide – it’s empowering, a $4.99 investment into better photos without much work. For quick, simple shots, I’m probably still going to choose Camera for its convenience; for everything else, I’m choosing Halide.

If you’d like to give Halide a try, you can pick it up in the App Store for $4.99 (iPhone only).


Clean Up Your Inbox Today (and Keep It That Way Forever) with SaneBox [Sponsor]

What if you had someone who would sort through your email and find only the important messages? That is exactly what SaneBox does. After you set it up, SaneBox leaves your important messages in your inbox and moves the rest to a SaneLater folder for reviewing later. That initial inbox purge is powerful because it reduces your inbox to a manageable number of messages. With additional training to tell SaneBox what's important to you, it only gets better at dealing with the daily deluge of messages.

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Sign up today for a free 14-day SaneBox trial to take back control of your email. MacStories readers can receive a special $25 credit automatically by using this link to sign up.

Our thanks to SaneBox for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Apple Previews Emoji Coming to iOS 11, macOS High Sierra, and watchOS

Today marks the 4th annual World Emoji Day, which was started by Emojipedia to celebrate emoji. To mark the occasion, Apple has previewed its designs of the emoji approved as part of the Unicode 10 Standard that will be added to iOS, macOS, and watchOS later this year.

In addition, the Apple Podcasts Twitter account is tweeting emojified versions of the names of popular podcasts and iTunes Movies is featuring emojified movie titles.

For more on World Emoji Day and how it's being celebrated, check out its official website.


Remaster, Episode 39: Selfish Follow-Up

Some upcoming games for the Switch, thoughts on the Zelda DLC, and a discussion about PlayStation PlayLink.

On Remaster this week, we discuss the experience of playing with the first DLC for Breath of the Wild; Shahid also explains why Sony’s PlayLink is an interesting approach to bridging the gap between the PS4 and smartphones. You can listen here.

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Connected, Episode 150: The Turtle Anniversary

This week, faces are authenticating phones, iOS 11 is shaming apps for using location data and Federico is hard at work on his review.

On the 150th episode of Connected, I go over the current state of my iOS 11 review and we take a look at other changes coming to iOS later this year.

You can listen here.

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Game Day: Resynth

Resynth creates a novel experience by fusing synthesizer tunes with a puzzle game. Stripped of the musical components, Resynth would be a fairly standard puzzle game that requires you to push blocks into positions and flip switches on a map to move to the next level. What makes Resynth unique though, is its music.

Each level begins with a looping synthesizer track. As you move blocks into the correct positions and toggle switches, notes are added to the loop, evolving the music. The changes to the music provide an added sense of accomplishment as you play. Pack 1 includes 36 puzzles. Pack 2 has another 36 puzzles that can be unlocked by earning stars or with an In-App Purchase.

Throughout each level, a white line loops across the screen in time with the synth loop, adding a sense of motion to the music. Also, once a block is pushed into position, it pulses to the beat. The approach reminds me of Sound Shapes, a musical platformer available on the Sony PS4 and Vita that combines music and motion in a similar way. Although Resynth is a very different game, the effect is similar, adding a sense of progress and motion to each level.

The mechanics are straightforward. You push blocks around the map by swiping. Moving around faster can be accomplished by swiping and holding. The levels get progressively harder requiring more complex maneuvers like moving two blocks in tandem. The maps become more complex too, limiting the space available for moving blocks into position. If you get a block stuck in a place where you can’t complete a puzzle, there are undo and restart buttons, which I appreciate with this type of game.

The challenge is mostly in the puzzles themselves, with one qualifier. There is a star system tied to each level. Stars are earned based on time to complete the puzzle and the number of moves it takes you to do so. Fortunately, it’s easy to ignore this, which I’ve been doing because I prefer the low-stress approach to this sort of puzzle game. The one downside to ignoring the star system is that unless you earn enough stars, you won't be able to unlock the Pack 2 puzzles unless you buy the In-App Purchase. Still, challenging puzzles combined with an excellent soundtrack make Resynth an excellent way to unwind over the weekend.

Resynth is available on the App Store.


How App Store Gift Cards Work

Equinux, maker of VPN Tracker, Mail Designer Pro, and other products has a fascinating look at the tech behind App Store gift and promo code cards that can be scanned and redeemed with an iPhone or Mac's camera. The company wanted to make scannable cards of its own to hand out at events, so they began investigating how the alphanumeric codes found on the back of the cards work. It turns out there’s quite a bit to it.

After poking around under the hood of iTunes, Equinux discovered that Apple uses a special font, a certain size rectangle surrounding the redemption code, and private framework to scan the codes:

When you look at some of the other folders inside iTunes, we found a tantalizing plugin called “CodeRedeemer.” It showed promise. But alas, no font files there either. The app binary does give a hint of where the heavy lifting is being done: “CoreRecognition.framework.”

Inside the CoreRecognition framework were two fonts, Scancardium and Spendcardium, which, along with the surrounding rectangle, are the keys to creating custom cards.

The entire story is an impressive bit of sleuthing and well worth a read. If you’re a developer and would like to make scannable codes of your own, Equinux’s post includes instructions for doing so, along with Sketch, Photoshop, FileMaker, and Mail Designer Pro templates.

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Yoink is the macOS Shelf Utility I Want on iOS Too

At WWDC, I was disappointed that the iOS 11 announcements didn't include a shelf where content can be temporarily parked. When Federico and Sam Beckett made an iOS 11 concept video earlier this year they included a shelf, which felt like a natural way to make touch-based drag and drop simpler. I found the omission in the iOS 11 beta somewhat surprising. On the Mac, people use the Desktop as a temporary place to stash items all the time, and without a Desktop on iOS, a shelf that slides in from the edge of the screen seemed like a natural solution. In fact, it’s a solution that has an even more direct analog than the Desktop on macOS that makes a solid case for implementing something similar on iOS: Yoink, from Eternal Storms Software.

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Three Tiny Laptops

The 12-inch MacBook with Retina display is a marvel of engineering. It packs the power of macOS into a tiny chassis that weighs just two pounds. You can carry it and an iPad before you reach the weight of the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

There are, of course, trade-offs when it comes to such a small machine. The single USB-C port is a show-stopper for many, as is the under-powered — but fanless — Intel CPU.

The fact that compromises are needed to make notebooks thin and light is nothing new. Over the years, Apple has made several bold moves in this direction. Three really stand out.

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