THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

MacStadium

The Developer Cloud for Mac


Posts tagged with "Catalyst"

Timery Comes to the Mac and Makes Time Tracking With Toggl Easier Than Ever

I don’t track my time because I enjoy starting and stopping timers; I do it because, over the long haul, it provides valuable insight into how I’m spending my time. As useful as it is to have data on how much a project or task takes or how much time a task consumes relative to other things I do, the act of tracking itself can be tedious, which is why it can be so easy to fall out of the habit of doing it.

The reason I’ve used Timery, the time tracking app for Toggl, on my iPhone and iPad since it was released, is because of developer Joe Hribar’s attention to making it as easy as possible to track your time without a lot of fuss. Features like saved timers, widgets, keyboard shortcuts, and Shortcuts actions for automating timers have made the app a delight to use since version 1.0.

In fact, the Timery experience has been so good that I used it even though it had no Mac app, which is something I rarely do with apps I use every day. However, with the release of version 1.2 of Timery today, I no longer need to use a different time tracking app on my Mac because Timery has been released as a Mac Catalyst app, complete with all the features Timery users already know and love from iPhone and iPad versions. Today’s update to Timery isn’t just a treat for Mac users, though. Version 1.2 also packs in a long list of new keyboard shortcuts and settings for all users, making this one of the biggest updates since the app was launched.

Read more


Mac Catalyst 2.0: Doubling Down on the Alignment of the Mac and iPad

WWDC 2020 brought Mac Catalyst into sharper focus than ever before. Introduced as an unnamed ‘sneak peek’ in 2018, Mac Catalyst offered the promise of a simple and efficient way for iPad developers to bring their apps to 100 million Mac users. The reality was that it can be hard to transition an app from an iPad to a Mac, and the results weren’t always great.

The trouble was the result of a confluence of multiple factors, including:

  • The first iteration of Mac Catalyst used iPad design conventions in places that felt out of place on the Mac
  • There was too little documentation
  • Excitement surrounding SwiftUI left developers wondering whether Apple was committed to Mac Catalyst

WWDC 2020 was different. Apple introduced what was effectively Mac Catalyst 2.0 with its Optimized for Mac initiative, a separate Mac Catalyst path that follows Mac conventions more closely but requires more work. The company also built Messages and Maps, two of its flagship apps, using Mac Catalyst, demonstrating a deeper commitment to the technology than ever before. The result is a brighter future for Mac Catalyst that clearly has a role to play alongside SwiftUI and Apple’s other frameworks.

To understand where Mac Catalyst is heading, though, we first need to understand where it has been over the past two years.

Read more


Developer Crunchy Bagel Releases a Mac Catalyst Version of Streaks

I’ve used Streaks on and off since its introduction. The app is a fantastic way to track and establish new habits. When it was launched, Streaks was iPhone-only. Since then, however, the app has added iPad support, an Apple Watch companion, Health app and Shortcuts integrations, new customizations, and other features, all while maintaining its distinctive, brightly-colored UI and fantastic iconography.

Today’s update adds Mac support to the mix via a brand new Catalyst app. There are a few differences between the Mac app and its iOS and iPadOS counterparts, but if you already use Streaks on an existing platform, the nearly-identical Mac version will feel familiar immediately.

iPhone screenshot scaled down for easier comparison with the Mac app.

iPhone screenshot scaled down for easier comparison with the Mac app.

By the same token, newcomers who discover Streaks on the Mac may have a hard time adapting to the app’s approach. Modal views that slide into place from the bottom of the screen like an iOS app, ‘Done’ buttons and custom controls to close views, and fixed window dimensions aren’t design elements typically found on the Mac.

Coming from using the iOS app, though, the only place I found things hard to get used to was the ‘long click’ that replaces a long press on iOS and iPadOS for completing a task or entering editing mode, for example. On balance, though, I think Streaks’ long history and large audience on iOS largely negate the downsides of its atypical interactions.

All the core features of Streaks on iOS and iPadOS are available on the Mac too.

All the core features of Streaks on iOS and iPadOS are available on the Mac too.

By and large, the functionality of the Mac version of Streaks is the same as the iOS and iPadOS versions. However, as you would expect, platform-specific settings that don’t make sense on a Mac, like Face ID and management of the Apple Watch app, are missing.

iCloud sync works well overall, too, syncing habit data, but not settings, running timers, and themes, which is also the case on the iPhone and iPad. However, I’ve noticed in my testing that the Mac version of Streaks is occasionally slow to update with changes from iOS. Even so, the two versions didn’t stay out of sync long since the apps coordinate their data every time the Catalyst app is reopened.

Streaks is a fantastic addition to the Mac by virtue of its nature as an activity tracker. It’s an app that fills a gap. If I don’t have my iPhone nearby, there’s a very good chance I’m working on my Mac or iPad. The inclusion of a Mac version of Streaks, like the iPad support that came before it, reduces the friction of tracking a new habit I’m trying to form, giving me even fewer excuses not to keep on top of my goals. As a result, even though I don’t expect to use the Mac app as often as Streaks on my iPhone, I’m glad I have that option now.

For more on Streaks, check out my reviews of the original app, as well as versions 3 and 4. Streaks for the Mac is available on the Mac App Store for $4.99.


macOS Will Soon Support Universal Apps, Enabling a Single Purchase for Mac, iPhone, and iPad Apps

As first spotted by Steve Troughton-Smith, release notes for the latest beta build of Xcode include a major development: Mac apps can soon be included as universal purchases with their iPhone and iPad companions.

Universal apps currently enable you to make a single purchase to gain access to both iPhone and iPad versions of an app. Nearly all cross-platform developers default to this option, though some still sell separate iPhone and iPad apps. macOS has never been included as part of universal apps though, even after Mac Catalyst launched last year. That sounds like it’s going to change when the latest OS updates – iOS and iPadOS 13.4 and macOS 10.15.4 – arrive this spring.

With universal app support, developers will be able to charge users a single time to grant access to Mac, iPhone, and iPad versions of their app. As Apple’s release notes state, this option in Xcode will be on by default for apps built with Catalyst, but it will also be available to non-Catalyst apps that are offered on the Mac App Store. While this change won’t be the best option for all developers, especially considering the different business dynamics of Mac and iOS apps, it makes sense for iPad developers who bring their apps to the Mac with Catalyst and don’t want to deal with the complication of a separate purchase system.


Mac Power Users, Episode 513 – Catalyst Apps on the Mac, with John Voorhees

It was a pleasure to spend time with David Sparks and Stephen Hackett talking about Catalyst apps on the Mac for episode 513 of Mac Power Users. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and covering Catalyst for the past 18 months since Apple gave developers a sneak peek at it during WWDC in 2018, so it was a lot of fun to join Sparks and Hackett to take stock of where Catalyst stands today and where it’s heading. Of course, we also covered a long list of our favorite Catalyst apps.

To listen, you can subscribe in your favorite podcast player or head over to Relay FM.

Permalink

Mac Catalyst Isn’t Only for Bringing iPad Apps to the Mac for the First Time

So far, the most common path to releasing a Mac Catalyst app on the Mac App Store has been to adapt and release an existing iPadOS app as a first-time Mac app. However, that’s not the only route to the Mac App Store. Apple allows developers to use Mac Catalyst in a variety of ways, as Steve Troughton-Smith has demonstrated with HCC Solitaire, a Mac-only game built using Mac Catalyst. He and Brian Mueller, the creator of CARROT Weather, have also used Mac Catalyst to release new versions of Mac apps that were previously built with AppKit.

As Troughton-Smith’s HCC Solitaire confirms, developers are not required to have an iPad app on the App Store to release an app on the Mac App Store using Mac Catalyst.

The game is an implementation of classic solitaire that’s just $0.99 and displays no ads. Perhaps most interesting from a developer standpoint, though, is that you won’t find HCC Solitaire if you search for an iOS or iPadOS version on the App Store. Troughton-Smith built the game using UIKit and the tools provided as part of Mac Catalyst without also creating an iPadOS version.

Brian Mueller's CARROT Weather.

Brian Mueller’s CARROT Weather.

Mac Catalyst apps can also be swapped in for existing Mac apps. That’s what Brian Mueller did with CARROT Weather, which was launched the day macOS Catalina was released as version 4.13 of his existing AppKit app. Troughton-Smith took the same approach with SameGame, a color-matching game in which you earn points by eliminating contiguous blocks that are the same color, releasing version 2.2 shortly after Catalina’s release.

Steve Troughton-Smith's SameGame.

Steve Troughton-Smith’s SameGame.

I don’t expect either of these approaches to become the main way that Mac Catalyst apps are released, but I’m glad to see that it’s possible. Most developers will be bringing an iPadOS app to the Mac for the first time, but business models, developer backgrounds, the APIs used in an app, and many other variables play a role in the decision of whether to use Mac Catalyst. It’s encouraging to see Apple take a flexible approach and allow developers to experiment because that makes Mac Catalyst useful to more of them. However, as I noted in my Catalina review and elsewhere, that flexibility needs to be coupled with bug fixes, documentation, and rapid evolution of Mac Catalyst for it to become a viable option for a wider audience of developers.


MakePass: Create Your Own Apple Wallet Passes on the Mac

I often find myself reaching for my iPhone or iPad to do something that can’t be done at all or as quickly on my Mac. If I’m already working at my desk in front of my Mac, though, that requires a context switch that slows me down and often leads to being distracted by something else. One of the areas where this happens most frequently is with specialized, single-purpose utilities that are plentiful on iOS and iPadOS, but often unavailable on the Mac.

A terrific example that just debuted on the Mac as a Mac Catalyst app is MakePass, an app for generating Apple Wallet passes. Whether it’s a health club membership card, bus pass, grocery store loyalty card, or concert ticket, MakePass can turn them all into digital passes stored inside Apple’s Wallet app where they are organized and out of the way.

Several apps offer functionality similar to MakePass’ on the iOS and iPadOS App Store. However, my searches turned up none on the Mac App Store. That may be because Apple’s Wallet app is an iPhone-only app, but it’s handy to be able to make passes on your Mac too because that’s one of the places where codes come into your life.

Read more


The Important Role Design Plays in Building a Mac Catalyst App

There’s more to migrating an iPad app to the Mac than simply checking a box in Xcode. Although developers need to resort to AppKit APIs used to build Mac apps for some functionality, thoughtful design that respects the interaction model of the Mac is a significant part of the process too.

Vidit Bhargava is the designer behind the dictionary app LookUp and the cofounder of Squircle Apps. Bhargava, who we interviewed in the most recent issue of MacStories Weekly for Club MacStories, has written an in-depth look at how much of the process of bringing LookUp’s iPad app to the Mac was about design. As he explains:

I’m sharing this design document to highlight some of the design considerations I made for bringing LookUp’s iOS App to macOS. And while I did use fall backs to AppKit in certain situations (Even though I had no prior knowledge to AppKit, the APIs were relatively easy to get to), I still feel that a lot of apps can design a good experience without having to use them.

We’ve covered the iOS and iPadOS version of LookUp before and love it. On the Mac, there are dozens of little touches implemented throughout the app that make LookUp one of the best examples of an excellent Mac Catalyst app. What I find most fascinating is how familiar but also unmistakably Mac-like LookUp’s Mac design is, which is why it was one of a handful of apps that I spotlighted in my macOS Catalina review.

Bhargava’s full post is worth a read because it’s fully-illustrated with examples of the differences between the iPad and Mac designs, early prototypes, and the evolution of the app’s design.

Permalink

Despite Some Rough Edges, Twitter’s Mac Catalyst App Provides an iPad-like Experience That’s Better Than the Company’s Web App

Twitter is back on the Mac with an all-new Catalyst app. Twitter abandoned its Mac app early last year with a late Friday tweet:

Given the lack of support for the app leading up to that point, Twitter’s actions weren’t surprising. However, that left Mac users with only Twitter’s web app or third-party apps until yesterday, when the company released a Mac Catalyst version of their iPad app.

Twitter’s iPad app isn’t known for a strong design:

Four years have passed since Federico tweeted that and Twitter’s iPad client hasn’t gotten much better, which left me skeptical about what a Mac Catalyst version of Twitter’s app would look like. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well the port works on the Mac despite some rough edges.

Read more