This week's sponsor

Setapp

The first subscription service for Mac apps


Swift Playgrounds Gains Support for New Languages

Today Apple added support for five new languages to its Swift Playgrounds app for iPad: Simplified Chinese, Japanese, French, German and Latin American Spanish.

In its announcement, Apple quoted Xiaoming Bao of Hangzhou Foreign Languages School:

"Swift Playgrounds is the perfect app to help our students learn to code, and I’m very excited students in China are now are able to use it with Simplified Chinese support...Last year, we created an optional coding class for my students to learn fundamental coding concepts using Swift Playgrounds. I had no previous experience with coding, but the engaging and easy-to-learn app, along with the comprehensive teacher guide developed by Apple, made me confident that I could inspire and facilitate my students to learn to code, and understand coding as a way of thinking that can be applied to other subjects and everyday life. Chinese language support will make the learning experience with Swift Playgrounds even easier for students.”

Swift Playgrounds is available on the App Store.

Permalink


Apple Introduces New ‘iPad’ Model with 9.7″ Display and A9 Chip Starting at $329

Following a 5-hour downtime of its online store this morning, Apple announced a new base model of the 9.7" iPad.

Starting at $329 for the 32 GB Wi-Fi version and simply called 'iPad', the new device appears to be a lower-cost replacement for the iPad Air line as the company's iPad lineup now includes iPad mini 4, the new 'iPad', and the iPad Pro in existing 9.7" and 12.9" configurations. Neither iPad Pro model received any update this morning. The iPad mini 4, on the other hand, now offers more capacity for the same price: the 128 GB Wi-Fi model is now priced at $399, while the 128 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular is available at $529.

Read more


John Gruber on the 2017 iPad Lineup

John Gruber on what may be coming next in terms of iPad refreshes:

What doesn’t make sense to me is a new 10.5-inch model. The idea makes sense — keeping the physical footprint of the current 9.7-inch models but reducing the bezels and putting in a bigger display. The ideal form factor for iPads and iPhones is just a screen, like the phones in Rian Johnson’s Looper — reducing the size of bezels and moving toward edge-to-edge displays is inevitable. Even the pixel density math works out for a 10.5-inch display.

What doesn’t make sense to me is the timing. I don’t see how an iPad with an exciting new design could debut alongside updated versions of the existing 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPads. Who would buy the updated 9.7-inch iPad Pro with the traditional bezels if there’s a 10.5-inch model without bezels? No one.

If Apple is going to position both the second-gen 12.9" and 9.7" iPad Pros as the high-end models, I don't see where a simultaneous release of a drastically different 10.5" iPad Pro would fit. But if the second-gen iPad Pros (with the current form factors) move to the low end of the lineup, that means the 10.5" iPad Pro could introduce an edge-to-edge design with no Home button before the iPhone gets such treatment (supposedly) later this year.

That idea always seemed odd to me. Traditionally, the iPad doesn't get major hardware changes before the iPhone. The iPad hardware tends to follow the iPhone. True Tone and the four-speaker system were iPad Pro-first features, but they weren't fundamental platform changes such as Touch ID or Retina. Both of those came to the iPhone first. (I won't even count the Smart Connector here.) An edge-to-edge design with no Home button is a major platform shift – particularly if it includes new developer APIs, which would have to launch in the Spring before iOS 11 if the rumor of an imminent iPad Pro 10.5" is to be believed. At this point, I find that somewhat hard to believe.

Instead, I think spec-bumps across the entire iPad lineup would make more sense in the short term. I can see Apple bringing consistency to the product line (True Tone, USB 3 speeds, and fast charging for every iPad Pro model) and adding faster CPUs/more RAM for powerful iPad-only features coming with iOS 11. I'm curious to see if Apple will revive the iPad mini by making a 7.9" iPad Pro and if iPad accessories will receive substantial improvements at all (it'd be nice to get an upgraded Smart Cover or a Pencil with superior battery life).

Permalink

Workflow’s New File and Ulysses Actions

In a seemingly minor 1.7.2 update released over the weekend, the Workflow team brought a few notable file-based changes to the app.

Workflow's existing support for cloud storage services has been expanded and all file actions have been unified under a single 'Files' category. You can now choose files from iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or Box within the same action UI, and there are also updated actions to create folders, delete files, and get links to files. Now you don't have to switch between different actions for iCloud Drive and Dropbox – there's only one type of File action, and you simply pick a service.

Interestingly, this means that Workflow can now generate shareable links for iCloud Drive files too; here's an example of a workflow to choose a file from the iCloud Drive document provider and copy its public link to the clipboard. (Under the hood, Workflow appears to be using the Mail Drop APIs for uploads. These links aren't pretty, but they work.)

There's also a noteworthy change for Ulysses users. Workflow now allows you to easily extract details from Ulysses sheets using their ID. After giving Workflow permission to access your Ulysses library (which, unfortunately, still has to be done using a glorified x-callback-url method), you'll be able to chain Workflow and Ulysses to, say, get the Markdown contents of a document, extract its notes, or copy its title to the clipboard. The new 'Get Ulysses Sheet-Get Details of Ulysses Sheet' combo makes Ulysses automation much easier and faster.

If you work with files in Workflow on a daily basis, and especially if you're an iCloud Drive user, you'll want to check out the new actions and rethink some of your existing workflows. You can get the latest version of Workflow here.


Starting a Website With Setapp [Sponsor]

This week, MacStories is sponsored by MacPaw, makers of Setapp.

Setapp is a subscription service for Mac apps that is a great place to start if you’re launching a blog. There’s more to starting a website than having a good text editor, though Setapp has one of the very best of those in Ulysses. Tools to organize your thoughts, focus your efforts, publish your articles, and manage your business are just as critical. Setapp has some of the very best apps in each category for just $9.99 per month.

Writers will appreciate the inclusion of iThoughtsX in Setapp for developing story ideas. When it’s time to start writing, utilities like HazeOver, which obscures windows other than the one in which you are working, and Be Focused, for Pomodoro-style timed writing sprints, are great options to keep you focused. When you’re finished writing, Markdown users will appreciate having Marked to preview how posts will look before they are published.

Setapp also includes apps to help you create and maintain your site, like Rapid Weaver for site design and Blogo for publishing your posts. To keep your business and productivity on track, Setapp offers Taskpaper, a plain-text task manager that packs lots of power under the hood and Timing to automatically track your work.

Finding the tools that fit with your work style is time consuming and expensive. Setapp reduces the friction with a highly-curated library of excellent apps at an affordable monthly price.

Our thanks to MacPaw and Setapp for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Game Day: Mushroom 11

Chicago-based Untame released Mushroom 11 on iOS this week as part of Apple's Celebrating Indie Games promotion. Mushroom 11 started as a PC game, but its unique gameplay works especially well in a touch environment. You play as a green blob of goo in a post-apocalyptic world populated by mushrooms, glowing jellyfish-like creatures, and the ruins of the present world. To get around you erase behind the blob, which regenerates on the opposite side. It's a novel mechanic that forces you to approach the game's challenges in a different way. The result is perplexing and fun.

Read more


Organizing Windows with Magnet

When I switched back to the Mac for most of my work a couple of months ago, one of the biggest selling points of macOS was window management. The differences between macOS and iOS make comparing them difficult, but I've learned to prefer the way the Mac presents information to the iPad's split screen functionality.

That’s not to say, however, that managing windows in macOS is perfect. While macOS's Split View makes for a better multitasking experience, it can fall flat when working in three, four, or five apps at once.

Magnet, a Mac app by developer CrowdCafé, is what built-in window management should be like on the Mac. It’s a smart, robust tool that will make your desktop look better than ever.

Read more


Canvas, Episode 31: Note-Taking with Apple Pencil

This week Fraser and Federico take their Apple Pencils in hand and share some notes on taking notes with the iPad Pro.

We've covered some excellent Pencil-based note-taking apps for iPad on this week's Canvas, and also explained why the Pencil is a must-have accessory for iPad Pro owners. You can listen here.

Sponsored by:

  • SaneBox: Clean up your inbox in minutes. Sign up for a two-week free trial and a $20 credit.
Permalink