This week's sponsor

Airmail Zero

Blazingly-Fast Gmail Triage for the Mac and iPhone

Airmail Zero: Blazingly-Fast Gmail Triage for the Mac and iPhone [Sponsor]

The makers of the Apple Design Award-winning app Airmail are back with Airmail Zero, a brand-new take on Gmail for the Mac and iPhone.

Speed is critical to getting through a mountain of email messages, and you don’t want your email client slowing you down. That’s why Bloop, designed Airmail Zero, the successor to Airmail, from the ground up with speed and efficiency as a top priority.

Airmail Zero is built on an all-new Swift codebase for lightning-fast app launches, and instantaneous message handling. The app has been architected to use virtually zero storage, memory, and CPU to keep everything working smoothly throughout. Sync is speedy, the app works exceptionally well with virtual private networks, and it communicates over HTTPS connections too.

The emphasis on speed extends to Airmail Zero's design, which is brought to life with custom animations. Email messages are presented in a clean, easy-to-read card interface with simple, intuitive controls for rapidly triaging an overflowing inbox. Add to that a rich set of keyboard shortcuts on the Mac and you’ll find yourself with an empty inbox in no time.

The Mac and iPhone versions of Airmail Zero are free to use with one Gmail account. Subscribe for $0.99/month or $9.99/year and you add multiple Gmail accounts organized in a unified inbox, plus live help from the Airmail Zero support team.

Spend your time answering email instead of managing your email client by giving Airmail Zero a try today on the Mac and iPhone.

Our thanks to Airmail Zero for supporting MacStories this week.

Connected, Episode 250: Tonight Will Be in the Future

On this week's episode of Connected:

Federico reminds everyone that it's okay to not have strong feelings about Jony Ive leaving Apple, while Stephen feels tempted by iOS 13. Meanwhile, Eddy Cue talks about rumors of Tim Cook meddling with Apple TV+ scripts and Project Catalyst continues to make news.

You can listen below (and find the show notes here).

0:00 01:25:39

Connected, Episode 250

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GoodNotes Transitioning Mac App to Catalyst

Today on its blog GoodNotes shared that the upcoming macOS version of GoodNotes 5 would be based on the iPad app using Catalyst:

Earlier this year, we launched our all-new iOS app GoodNotes 5. It has been rewritten from scratch with a much more stable and flexible internal architecture, paving the way for the future of GoodNotes. Rewriting the iOS app also meant that we had to rewrite the MacOS companion because the new GoodNotes 5 was no longer compatible with the outdated existing Mac app. A lot of people were disappointed that we didn’t launch a Mac app together with the iOS version because they still had to stick with GoodNotes 4 if a Mac version was crucial to their workflow. Thanks to the hard work of our Mac team, we released an early-access version shortly after the iOS launch. This beta version is available for everyone who signs up for access. We shipped updates with new features and improvements on a regular basis and were almost ready to launch it publicly when Apple officially announced the start of “Project Catalyst” during their annual developer’s conference in June. It’s a framework that allows developers to bring their iPad apps to the Mac, with a relatively low effort. It still requires a lot of work to create a great Mac app but at least developers don’t have to rewrite significant portions of the code, as it was the case previously.

We believe that it is a great opportunity for us to unify the GoodNotes experience between iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS and will launch the new GoodNotes for Mac using Apple’s new framework.

GoodNotes is a noteworthy Catalyst app not just because it’s a very popular iPad app, but because it already has an existing Mac app. Catalyst makes the most sense for iPad apps that don’t currently have Mac counterparts, but GoodNotes’ plans demonstrate the advantages offered to other apps too. By adopting Catalyst and moving toward a more unified codebase, GoodNotes ensure that users on the Mac will never be left behind again, because new features can be developed and shipped on both iOS and macOS with little added effort.

Our John Voorhees, in his recent Catalyst story, listed GoodNotes as an example of a Mac app that’s fallen behind its iOS version feature-wise, so it’s great to find out that will change in the near future. The only real drawback, as noted in GoodNotes’ post, is that Catalyst apps will require macOS Catalina to run, so users on older versions of macOS won’t be able to download the new GoodNotes 5 for Mac.


Miximum Review: Smart Apple Music Playlists on iOS

Leading up to WWDC last month, rumors indicated that iTunes on the Mac was being split into multiple apps, including standalone Music, TV, and Podcasts apps. It was expected that Apple might use its Catalyst technology (formerly known as Marzipan) to base the new Music app on Music for iPad, or vice versa. The hope among many iPad users was that the iPad might benefit from a more robust Apple Music client featuring power user features already available on the Mac, such as Smart Playlists.

WWDC came and went, and that wish was left unfulfilled. While macOS Catalina does introduce a new Music app, it wasn’t built using Catalyst, and as a result the iPad version of Music is light on meaningful improvements this year.

Filling the void left by Apple, however, is a new third-party app called Miximum, which is an Apple Music-integrated utility dedicated to smart playlist creation on iOS.

Read more

AppStories, Episode 118 – Reminders in iOS 13

On this week's episode of AppStories, we continue our series of episodes on the new and updated apps coming from Apple in the fall with Reminders.

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Screenwriting, Novels, Apps, and More with John August (Part 1)

Today on Dialog, we published the latest interview of Season 1 featuring screenwriter and author John August.

John August is a screenwriter whose credits include films like Go, Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels, Titan A.E., Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, and Frankenweenie. He also wrote and directed The Nines and is the author of the Arlo Finch series of middle-grade fiction books. John is the co-host of the podcast Scriptnotes, the maker of the Highland text editor for the Mac and Weekend Read for iOS, and commissioned the Courier Prime typeface too.

A common thread across the wide variety of projects August has been involved in is dissatisfaction with the status quo. That's led him beyond writing to projects like app development and commissioning a font. First and foremost though, August is a writer, which is where our conversation begins.

In this week's episode of Dialog, we talk to August all about screenwriting: how he got started, how screenwriting differs from other forms of writing, his process for getting started, dealing with getting stuck, his writing environment, and more. We also talk about Arlo Finch, his middle-grade fiction trilogy and the role of luck, hard work, and privilege in his success.

Next week, we'll cover more about August's podcast, Scriptnotes, his apps, Highland and Weekend Read, as well as Courier Prime, the font he commissioned because he wasn't satisfied with other Courier variants.

You can find the episode here or listen through the Dialog web player below.

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Agenda 6.0 Adds Full Integration with Apple’s Reminders

Apple has a big update coming to Reminders in iOS 13, and despite all that’s changing in the app, one important thing is not: developers will still be able to integrate with Reminders so you can create, check off, and manage your tasks from a third-party app. The latest app to take advantage of this is Agenda, the date-based note-taking app which launches full Reminders integration in version 6.0 today on both iOS and the Mac.

While some apps aim to be a complete Reminders replacement, such as GoodTask, Agenda’s approach is to use Apple’s built-in task system for two main purposes: creating to-dos linked to Agenda notes, and complementing the existing calendar integrations.

Read more

Ars Technica Interviews Apple Representatives and Developers about Catalyst

Samuel Axon spoke to developers and marketing, developer relations, and engineering representatives from Apple in a story for Ars Technica about Catalyst, Apple's project for bringing iPad apps to the Mac.

Prior to WWDC, Apple gave a handful of companies access to Catalyst. Axon spoke to three of them about their experiences so far. Nolan O'Brian of Twitter, which discontinued its Mac app in 2016, had this to say about the experience:

"What Project Catalyst specifically offers is the ability to use our existing codebase, meaning that we don't have to maintain separate code or a separate team to support Twitter for Mac," he went on to say.

O'Brien said it was relatively easy to get going with the new app: "The surprising thing that got us excited about Project Catalyst was how much of our existing iOS codebase was able to just work."

TripIt and Gameloft had similar experiences bringing their apps to the Mac.

Addressing the concern that Catalyst means the end of powerful AppKit-based apps on the Mac, Shaan Pruden, Apple's senior director of partner management and developer relations, explained that there's a place for ground-up AppKit apps as well as Catalyst apps:

"Good developers will know their audience and their users and what they're going to want," she said. "This just opens the door for lots of people to consider coming that wouldn't have even thought about it before. And I think that's more the target for this particular technology as opposed to someone who has a very complicated, big, heavy-lifting kind of creative app."

Todd Benjamin, Apple's senior director of marketing for macOS, elaborated saying that he:

...believes there are fundamentally multiple types of apps, and they're not mutually exclusive with one another on a platform. And this is key to understanding Apple's approach, here. He said:

I think apps on the Mac have always been these large and complex and highly capable apps that are very broad. And I think apps on iOS by nature are a little bit more focused. They're highly designed. They're very much considered in what they do and how they do it. And I think that's changed how people look at apps, right?

The full story, which is full of detailed developer and Apple insights about Catalyst, is worth a read especially since it demonstrates just how nuanced the issues surrounding Catalyst are.


Game Day: Worse Than Death

Worse Than Death is a narrative-driven horror game from Toronto-based Benjamin Rivers, the developer of Home. The two games share some similarities. Both games feature creepy, small-town mysteries where you play as a pixelated protagonist in a chunky-pixel world. What’s different about Worse Than Death is that it interweaves comic book-style, hand-drawn art throughout the story including cut scenes, when examining objects, and for dialogue. It’s a unique style that helps bring the characters and their surroundings to life in a way that pixel art alone can’t.

In Worse Than Death you play as Holly, who has returned home from the city to attend her high school reunion. When she arrives in town, she stops by the local bar where she meets with Flynn, an old friend who we learn was engaged to a woman named Grace before she died in an accident.

I don’t want to spoil the story, but what seems like a typical reunion when Holly and Flynn arrive turns out to be anything but ‘typical.’ Soon you’re racing around town faced with a growing number of gruesome deaths and chased by unseen monsters from whom you need to hide to survive.

The game does an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension as it progresses. I found myself jumping more than once as unexpected things happened during the game. As you make your way through the town trying to solve the mystery of what has happened, you face a series of puzzles that get progressively harder to solve, but clues are everywhere, so be sure to examine everything.

The gameplay is simple. Tap the left and right sides of the screen to walk that direction and double tap to run. Examining objects and interacting with other elements of the game is as simple as tapping icons that appear around Holly.

Worse than Death also supports MFi controllers. The onscreen controls aren’t difficult to use, but with a narrative game like Worse Than Death, I like to lean back with a controller with my iPad Pro in the Brydge Pro Keyboard so I can get the angle just right and relax. The SteelSeries Nimbus’ thumbstick and buttons were perfect for exploring the game.

I also highly recommend playing while listening with headphones. The sound design is fantastic and an integral part of the tension built by the story. Sounds come at you from every direction thanks to a 3D audio track that’s a perfect match to the game.

I also love the hand-drawn art and the way it contrasts with the pixelated gameplay. It’s a combination that makes Worse Than Death stand out from other action adventure games and succeeds in conveying strong character emotions, which adds to the tension that builds through the game. What’s more, the many hand-drawn images used in the game were drawn entirely on an iPad Pro using the app Procreate. Here’s a time-lapse that developer Benjamin Rivers posted on Twitter of the art being created:

It’s a testament to the iPad Pro and Procreate that such a large part of this game’s artwork could be done using the combination.

The hand-drawn artwork in Worse Than Death was created on an iPad Pro using Procreate.

The hand-drawn artwork in Worse Than Death was created on an iPad Pro using Procreate. (View full size)

I’m not usually a fan of horror games, but I love a good mystery and puzzles, which Worse Than Death delivers on. With simple gameplay and story-driven action, Worse Than Death is like a creepy mystery you take with you on summer vacation. Wrapped in terrific artwork and absorbing sound design, Worse Than Death is a game that shouldn’t be missed.

Worse Than Death is available on the App Store for $3.99.