This week's sponsor


An app for every job, already on your Mac

Apple Announces That WWDC 2018 Will Return to San Jose June 4 – 8, 2018

Apple today announced that WWDC will return to the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California from June 4 - 8, 2018. Last year, the annual developer conference switched venues from the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco to San Jose. The change came as quite a surprise, as did the timing of the announcement, which in past years came closer to the event. By and large though, the move was well-received by developers and easier for Apple engineers due to the venue’s proximity to Cupertino, so it’s not surprising to see WWDC return to San Jose for 2018.

According to Apple's press release:

Every year, WWDC provides an opportunity for millions of developers to learn more about how to create new experiences across Apple's platforms for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Mac and HomePod.

Tickets are available now through March 22nd at 10 a.m. PDT. According to Apple's press release:

Tickets are issued through a random selection process, and developers will be notified of application status by March 23 at 5 p.m. PDT.

Philips Hue Outdoor Lights Arrive This Summer

Philips has announced the launch of a major expansion in Hue lighting products into the great outdoors. Just in time for the season of neighborhood BBQs, the assortment of outdoor Hue products includes standard lighting units for mounting on your home's exterior, along with a couple products uniquely suited for occupying the grounds surrounding your house.

The new Lily product is a spotlight for highlighting different areas of your landscaping; it will be available in a 3-pack for $279. The Calla bollard is ideal for placement along a pathway, or at central gathering places in your yard; it will retail for $129. Both of these products feature the full range of color options available with many other Hue lights, while the wall-mounted lights will be limited to a white range and start at $49.

Hue's outdoor products will work similarly to its existing lineup of indoor lights, with the Hue bridge acting as a hub for them all, and full HomeKit support. They are scheduled to release in the U.S. and Europe in July.

Philips has established a strong reputation for its Hue products as the go-to smart lighting option, and for those invested in that ecosystem already, it's great to see new and diverse products continue to be made available.

It’s Time for a Complete Home App Makeover

I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with home automation gear since late last year: lightbulbs, light strips, electrical plugs, and door sensors, among other things. Most of the devices I’ve tested support Apple’s HomeKit APIs and those that don’t, I plan to integrate with Homebridge. That means I’ve also spent a lot of time in Apple’s Home app, and despite poking around in every corner of the app, I still find it frustrating and hard to use.

Last week, I tried to configure something new in my studio that illustrates several of the Home app’s problems. I have several Hue lights: there’s one over the steps leading to my workspace, four recessed ceiling lights, a floor lamp, and a desk lamp. It’s a lot of lights, but my studio is in the basement, and the lights help keep it from feeling like a cave.

I set the lights up as a group in Home and trigger them with a motion sensor. As soon as I open the door to the basement, the lights come on. I added a Hue switch on the wall as a shortcut for turning the lights on and off too.

I recently got an Elgato Eve door sensor for my back door. I figured it would be nice to know when my wife and son got home in the afternoon if I'm working away with the door closed, listening to music, and don't hear the back door open. I can get alerts from the sensor on my Apple Watch and iPhone, but I thought it might be fun to also turn the Hue light on my desk red when the door opens as a visual cue. That turned out to be harder than I anticipated.

Read more

AppStories, Episode 46 – App Culture: Health, Fitness, and Quantified Self Apps

On this week's episode of AppStories, we look back at where health, fitness, and quantified self apps have been, where they’re going, and how hardware and software advancements are changing the way we track and gain insights about our health and fitness.

Sponsored by:


Apple Adds USB-C Connectors and Lightning to 3.5mm Output Cables to MFi Specification

Apple’s MFi licensing program, which allows accessory makers to manufacture Apple-certified products that are compatible with iPhones, iPads, and iPods, has been updated to allow accessory makers to create licensed devices that feature USB-C connectors. According to a report by 9to5Mac, the connectors cannot be used for passthrough charging or syncing of iOS devices, but will allow battery packs, speakers, and other accessories to be charged using the USB-C cables included with compatible Macs and from third parties. The specification does not include USB-C to Lightning cables, which are only available from Apple and are necessary to fast-charge iPhones and iPads.

The Lightning to 3.5mm output cable specification allows accessory makers to make cables to route the output of a Lightning port to a 3.5mm headphone jack input. This was only possible previously by chaining Apple’s Lightning to 3.5mm input adapter with a male-to-male 3.5mm cable. With the new specification, accessory makers will be able to reduce that setup to a single cable that will work with devices like speakers that include a 3.5mm input.


Textor: The iOS Equivalent of TextEdit, Integrated with Files

Over the weekend, developer Louis D'hauwe released a new plain text editor to the iOS App Store. Textor is about as simple an app as you could get: while it does offer support for modern iOS technologies, like Split View on iPad, and modern iOS screen dimensions, like the iPhone X and iPad Pro sizes, it doesn't offer any kind of innovative features to pull you in. In fact, it doesn't really contain much in the way of features at all.

D'hauwe created Textor as a result of exploring what new iOS tools he would need before making the iPad his primary computer. His recently launched terminal app, OpenTerm, birthed from the same roots.

Textor is unique in how utterly stripped down it is, and it's that simplicity that makes it so appealing. Launch the app – which is free and open-source – and you'll see iOS 11's new Files document browser. This enables opening existing plain text files stored in any app that serves as an iOS file provider. You can open directly from iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Working Copy, and more. You can also create a new document in any of these places by hitting the + button in the top-right corner.

Outside of the Files document browser, the only interface is found in the editor itself: a plain canvas with a purple blinking cursor. It's just you and the text.

Textor's lack of noteworthy features makes it a fitting TextEdit-equivalent for iOS. It also makes it unlikely to be the best text editor for you, unless your needs are extremely minimal.

Despite its bare-bones nature, I was excited to hear about Textor's launch because it happens to fit exactly the tiny niche I was looking for. My everyday writing is done in Ulysses, an app I absolutely love. But when it comes to editing other people's work, Ulysses isn't a great solution because its custom formatting engine doesn't play nice with existing Markdown drafts.

Every week as part of preparing the latest Club MacStories newsletter, I edit about ten different Markdown files stored in a GitHub repo and accessed through Working Copy. I've tried several quality apps for this job, including iA Writer, 1Writer, and Textastic – all can open files directly from Working Copy, but a variety of issues big and small make none of them the ideal solution. Textor does exactly what I need: opens documents via Files, allows me to edit them free from cumbersome frills, then saves them in place when I'm done editing.

There are a couple changes that would make Textor a better tool for me: auto-saving drafts so I don't have to hit the app's 'Done' button to save changes, and support for Markdown styling so I get a preview of what my document will look like when published. Those features aren't necessities though, and I don't expect to see Textor add them. Everyone will have their own list of two or three features they'd like, but Textor doesn't need to be feature-complete. The app exists to offer a no-nonsense writing experience with Files support, and it succeeds at exactly that.

Textor is available as a free download on the App Store.

Apple and Ito World Strike Bike Sharing Data Deal

Bike sharing data in Apple Maps got a big boost today in a deal struck with Ito World, a real-time transit data company. Apple Maps already included some bike sharing data, but according to TechCrunch, the partnership means Apple Maps now has bike sharing data in more than 175 cities in 36 countries.

If you type ‘bike sharing’ into Apple Maps, it will scroll to the bike sharing station closest to you. The app also supports searches near other locations, using queries like ‘bike sharing near Chicago Union Station.’ Each entry in Apple Maps provides the address of the bike sharing station and a link to the website of the company that operates it, but there are no details about the number of available bikes or parking spots.

Apple has struck several deals with third parties over the past couple of years to add data like electric vehicle charging stations and parking lot data to Apple Maps. I expect we will continue to see third-party arrangements like the one with Ito World because it’s a faster way for Apple to try to close Google Maps’ local data lead over Apple Maps than collecting the data itself.

FlightLogger: Real-Time Flight Tracking for Worry-Free Travels [Sponsor]

Air travel can be stressful. FlightLogger, which is available on iOS and Android, reduces the stress of travel by making it simple to search and save your flights, get up-to-date notifications on any changes to gates and terminals, share your travel plans with friends and family, and much more.

Too many flight tracking apps are a cluttered mess. FlightLogger’s design reduces the number of taps and information you have to input. Combined with a clear, glanceable timeline of your itinerary, FlightLogger is the perfect companion for the modern traveler.

FlightLogger is packed with innovative features:

  • Track the flights of over 1500 airlines and 30,000 airports worldwide for worry-free travel.
  • Add flights in-app or by forwarding flight confirmation emails to FlightLogger.
  • Track departure and arrival times, delays, cancellations, and gate and baggage claim information.
  • Receive flight status notifications on your iOS devices and Apple Watch.
  • Track flights on your Apple Watch and other iOS devices with iCloud sync.
  • View the approximate location of aircraft during flights.
  • Keep family and friends up-to-date by sharing your travel details.
  • Organize flights by trips, so you only see the information you need, when you need it.

The spring and summer travel seasons are just around the corner. Make your life easier by heading over to FlightLogger’s website to learn more and download the app today.

Our thanks to FlightLogger for sponsoring MacStories this week.