Automate HomeKit, Notifications and Widgets

Apple Announces Time to Run, Fitness+ Collections, Season 3 of Time to Walk, and an Artist Spotlight Workout Series

Apple has announced several new expansions of its Fitness+ content available starting Monday, January 10th.

The first is the addition of Time to Run, which Apple describes as:

a new audio running experience designed to help users become more consistent and better runners, with each episode focused on a popular running route in some of the most notable and iconic locations.

Time to Run joins the Time to Walk, which will debut its third season on Monday too. Time to Run sessions will be led by Fitness+ trainers and feature coaching tips and high-energy music. Three episodes will be available at launch featuring runs in London, Brooklyn, and Miami Beach.

The Fitness app is adding Collections on Monday, too, with six available initially:

  • 30-Day Core Challenge
  • Improve Your Posture with Pilates
  • Perfect Your Yoga Balance Poses
  • Run Your First 5K
  • Strengthen Your Back, Stretch Your Hips
  • Wind Down for a Better Bedtime

Collections are designed as a new entry point into Apple’s catalog of over 2,000 workout sessions, which the company says ‘will include a suggested plan to help users make intentional training choices over the next several days or weeks.’

Finally, Apple is introducing Artist Spotlight, a series of workouts featuring music from Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams, Shakira, and the Beatles. A variety of workout types will be available as part of each series that focuses on the work of just that artist.

As someone who enjoys running, I’m glad to see Time to Run. The temperatures are in the single digits in Chicago this weekend, so it may be a while before I get out to try Time to Run, but I’m eager to give it a go when it gets a little warmer. I like the idea of Collections too. I’ve been dipping into the Fitness+ catalog more often since moving my workouts indoors for the winter, and themed collections of workouts with specific goals should add variety to the service.

CES 2022 Roundup: TVs, Home Automation, Health and Fitness Devices, and More

The Consumer Electronics Show was back this week as an in-person event in Las Vegas for 2022 despite the current COVID surge, which caused many large companies to pull out of the show or scale back their plans. Still, that hasn’t stopped companies from announcing a wide variety of products planned for the next year and beyond. New TV technology and home automation are big again this year, as are new takes on existing tech.

After sifting through the headlines and press releases, I’ve compiled a roundup of some of this week’s most intriguing announcements. Feel free to skip around to the categories that you find most interesting using the table of contents after the break.

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Shortcuts By SENTINELITE: A Fantastic New Stream Deck Plugin

If you own a Stream Deck and want a better way for adding your shortcuts to it, give Shortcuts by SENTINELITE a try. I’ve only been playing with the plugin for a short time, but this is hands down the best way I’ve found for adding push-button convenience to Shortcuts on the Mac.

I covered the Stream Deck and how I’ve been using it late last year. I’ve also built a variety of utility shortcuts for packaging shortcuts as scripts and applets that make it easier to add multiple shortcuts to your Stream Deck setup. Shortcuts by SENTINELITE significantly improves the process by making it as simple to add a shortcut to the device as it is to add an app.

One of the things that I appreciate about Shortcuts by SENTINELITE is that the plugin preserves the folder structure you use in Shortcuts and sorts shortcuts alphabetically. It’s a small thing, but one that makes the experience of wading through large collections of shortcuts much better, giving the plugin a leg up on many other Shortcuts utilities I’ve tried.

Here's a simple shortcut for grabbing the icons for the shortcuts you want to add to your Stream Deck.

Here’s a simple shortcut for grabbing the icons for the shortcuts you want to add to your Stream Deck.

Just like adding an app to a Stream Deck button, you can add a custom icon and title to the button you create. There’s also a toggle for turning on an Accessibility mode that adds audible cues to the plugin’s interactions for the visually impaired.

If you’ve put off adding shortcuts to your Stream Deck, your procrastination has paid off because Shortcuts by SENTINELITE is the easiest solution that I’ve found so far. That said, I have run into a known bug that occasionally requires the Stream Deck Mac app to be restarted, which is annoying, but on balance, it’s a small price to pay compared to the plugin’s utility.

You can download the Shortcuts for Stream Deck plugin, which also happens to be open-source and free from Stream Deck’s Mac app or on Elgato’s website.

Nick Heer on Apple Music and

Nick Heer perfectly encapsulates what I also think about Apple Music’s lackluster recommendation engine as opposed to the old-school simplicity and pleasure of

Apple Music is a remarkable deal for me: spending ten bucks a month gives me access to almost any record I can think of, often in CD quality or better. There are radio features I do not use and music videos I rarely watch, but the main attraction is its vast library of music. Yet, with all that selection, I still find new music the old-fashioned way: I follow reviewers with similar tastes, read music blogs, and ask people I know. Even though Apple Music knows nearly everything I listen to, it does a poor job of helping me find something new.

Here is what I mean: there are five playlists generated for me by Apple Music every week. Some of these mixes are built mostly or entirely from songs it knows I already like, and that is fine. But the “New Music Mix” is pitched as a way to “discover new music from artists we think you’ll like”. That implies to me that it should be surfacing things I have not listened to before. It does not do a very good job of that. Every week, one-third to one-half of this playlist is comprised of songs from new albums I have already heard in full. Often, it will also surface newly-issued singles and reissued records — again, things that I have listened to.

And on, Nick adds:

So: There are a few things I like about it. First, it seems to take into account my entire listening history, though it does give greater weight to recency and frequency. Second, it shows me why it is recommending a particular artist or album. Something as simple as that helps me contextualize a recommendation. Third, its suggestions are a blend of artists I am familiar with in passing and those that I have never heard of.

Go read the whole piece – I was nodding in agreement the whole time.

As Club MacStories members know, after years of inactivity, I re-activated my account a few months back and started scrobbling everything I listen to again thanks to the excellent Apple Music client for iPhone and iPad, Marvis. Not only is the website more fun to explore than Apple Music, but the reports they generate (on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis) are actually interesting in a way that Apple Music’s barebones ‘Replay’ summary just isn’t.

It feels somewhat odd to type this in 2021 2022, but if music still is in Apple’s DNA, there’s a few things Apple Music could learn from the simplicity and care that permeate


Managing Music From Your Mac’s Menu Bar

As Club MacStories members know, I use my Mac’s menu bar sparingly. With Bartender, our MacStories Selects Mac app of the year, I limit my menu bar to a handful of frequently-used apps and system controls that take up as little space as possible. That cuts down on clutter and means everything will fit when I’m using my MacBook Air in laptop mode.

However, every rule is meant to be broken, and for me, I break my menu bar rule by tracking and controlling my music from the menu bar, which takes up a lot of space but is worth it. You see, I listen to a lot of playlists as a way to discover new music, but that also means I find myself flipping to the Music app frequently to see artist and album information and perform simple tasks like adding a song to my music library or liking it. The constant context switching was a distraction I didn’t need, which led me to look for a better way.

Apple's Control Center widget takes up limited space, but also doesn't do much.

Apple’s Control Center widget takes up limited space, but also doesn’t do much.

Fortunately, there are a lot of options depending on your needs. The simplest solution is to drag the Now Playing widget out of Control Center on your Mac and use it as a standalone menu bar item. That works well if you want simple playback controls and song information, but the functionality of Apple’s control is limited and requires a click to do anything.

The two third-party solutions I prefer are NepTunes and the recently-released Looking Glass music remote. Both apps live in your menu bar and offer different sets of features that will play a big part in which app will suit your needs best.

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Remind Me Faster 4.0

Remind Me Faster 4.0.

Remind Me Faster 4.0.

Remind Me Faster, my favorite app to create new reminders with support for natural language input and quick access to priorities and lists, received a major 4.0 update earlier this week. The app has become a staple of my iPhone and iPad dock in this final part of 2021, and it only felt right to mention its latest update now as many of us are (likely) reassessing our task managers over the holiday break.

I previously covered Nick Leith’s excellent Reminders utility in this issue of MacStories Weekly, so I won’t rehash the details again here. There are two key additions in version 4.0 worth your attention: like Apple’s Reminders app, Remind Me Faster can now create tasks with a due date, but without a due time. These reminders show up in the ‘Today’ view of the Reminders app and will match the default notification settings for all-day reminders you configured in Settings ⇾ Reminders, and it’s the first time I’ve seen a third-party Reminders client do this. You can cycle between due dates with and without times in Remind Me Faster by tapping the date button above the keyboard, and I especially like the animation Leith designed for this interaction.

The second addition is one I’m going to be using a lot: you can now create presets for locations you want to attach to reminders. Specifically, Remind Me Faster now lets you create custom presets for specific locations with an associated radius and leaving/arriving trigger; when you want to attach a location to a reminder, you just need to press a button and pick a preset without fiddling with additional buttons. This is the kind of feature that makes you wonder why Apple didn’t think of it in the first place for their Reminders app: it’s much faster to create location-based reminders this way, which is something I’ve never done on a regular basis because of all the taps required to add location alerts in Reminders.

Remind Me Faster continues to be a fantastic addition to Apple’s Reminders app when it comes to quick entry. I highly recommend checking it out if you use Reminders as a task management system but have always wished typing new tasks with dates, locations, priorities, and lists was quicker.


WinterFest 2020: The Winter Festival Of Artisanal Software [Sponsor]

The 2021 Artisanal Software Festival is a fantastic collection of carefully-crafted software for writing, research, thinking, and more at tremendous prices. As in past years, software artisans from around the globe come together to offer fair discounts direct to you.

The 21 carefully-crafted apps and book span a wide spectrum that will assist you with everyday knowledge work. There are apps to plan your next big project, conduct research, organize your research, edit images, manage email, write, and more:

  • Aeon Timeline: The timeline tool for creative thinking
  • Bookends: The reference manager you’ve been looking for
  • DEVONagent Pro: Your smart (re)search assistant
  • DEVONthink: Your powerful information and knowledge manager
  • Easy Data Transform: Merge, clean, reformat data without coding
  • Hook: Supplies the missing links
  • HoudahGeo: Photo geocoding and geotagging for Mac
  • HoudahSpot: Powerful file search
  • Hyperplan: Flexible visual planner
  • ImageFramer Pro: Add creative borders and frames to photos
  • Marked: Smarter tools for smarter writers
  • Mellel: A real word processor
  • Nisus Writer Pro: The powerful word processor for Mac
  • Panorama X: Collect, organize, and understand your data
  • Scapple: Quickly capture and connect ideas
  • Scrivener: Your complete writing studio
  • SmallCubed Mail Suite: Manage mail like a maven
  • TextExpander: Recall your best words, instantly, repeatedly
  • The Tinderbox Way: The definitive ebook on artisanal software
  • Timing: Automatic time tracking for Mac
  • Tinderbox: Visualize and organize your notes, plans, and ideas
  • Trickster: Your recently used files, at your fingertips

There are no gimmicks, no bundles, no gotchas – just saving of hundreds of dollars on serious software from thoughtful software makers who care about their users’ experiences, including the interoperability of applications through linkingVisit the WinterFest website now for links to amazing deals each of these fantastic apps and to learn more or use the coupon code Winterfest2021 at checkout.

Our thanks to WinterFest 2021 for its support of MacStories this week.

CNN Interviews Apple Maps’ Product and Design Leads

Jacob Krol, writing for CNN, interviewed Apple Maps’ David Dorn, its product lead, and Meg Frost, its design lead, about the app’s steady improvements since its introduction in 2012. The story covers many of the features added in the fall with the release of Apple’s latest OS updates, which we’ve covered before, but adds the context of what Dorn and Frost’s teams were trying to accomplish with the changes. For example, with respect to complex roadways the updates have meant that:

“At a glance, drivers can understand a complex intersection more quickly than ever before,” said Frost. “And that detail helps with that split-second decision of which turn they’re going to make. So we want it to be both safer and visually satisfying to navigate.”

It was also interesting to learn that each of the 3D elements added to a handful of cities, and have begun to expand to new locales, are handmade by Apple’s designers:

“We pick the amount of detail we find appropriate and create a 3D mesh of the building landmark itself. And we apply it to the base map,” explained Frost.

In the past couple of years, Apple Maps has really hit its stride, at least in the places that I’ve used it. Maps are more detailed, I’ve encountered far fewer errors than in the past, and the experience of using the app with CarPlay is excellent. Although it’s nearly 10 years old now, Apple Maps still feels new to me because of the relentless iteration on the original app. By its nature, Maps demands constant attention, but it also shows how a competitive app category goes a long way toward keeping an app fresh and innovative.


AppStories, Episode 254 – App Trends for 2022

This week on AppStories, we look at the app trends we expect to see in 2022, including trends that will continue from 2021 and new trends we think will emerge in the new year.

Sponsored by:

  • Memberful – Monetize your passion with membership
  • Linode – Simplify your cloud infrastructure

On AppStories+, we chat about our holiday plans, John waits by the window for his Analogue Pocket to arrive, and Federico cracks Matter’s read later API.

We deliver AppStories+ to subscribers with bonus content, ad-free, and at a high bitrate early every week.

To learn more about the benefits included with an AppStories+ subscription, visit our Plans page, or read the AppStories+ FAQ.