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Posts tagged with "iOS 17"

Hue Widgets’ Interactive Widgets Are the Easiest Way to Control Complex Hue Lighting Scenes

I’ve never been a big fan of the Philips Hue app. It has improved over time, and I appreciate its fine-grained control over my lights and its Shortcuts support, but the app has always felt a little clunky. That’s why I was happy when I discovered Hue Widgets over a year ago now. It’s a simple widget creation tool that lets you activate your Hue lights and scenes from your iPhone’s Home Screen, which is a much easier and nicer experience than using the Hue app. Better yet, with iOS 17, the app’s widgets are interactive, so lights and scenes can be triggered without ever opening the app.

Many Hue lights support features you can’t control from Apple’s Home app. For instance, many Hue lights can create animated and multi-color gradient lighting scenes that aren’t supported by HomeKit. These extended features can be accessed in the official Hue app, but it doesn’t have widgets, which is a faster and easier way to control your lighting and where Hue Widgets comes in.

Controlling lights and scenes from Home Widgets.

Controlling lights and scenes from Home Widgets.

The Hue Widgets app has two main tabs: a list of the rooms in your home, and an interface for creating widgets. The Home tab allows you to turn on an entire room or zone’s lights or control them individually, turning lights and scenes on and off and adjusting brightness levels, light temperatures, and colors. The official Hue app works similarly, but Hue Widgets’ interface is simpler and faster.

Building a widget.

Building a widget.

However, I’ve spent most of my time in the Widgets tab. Here, you can set up small, medium, or large widgets to control your Hue lights. The small version of the widget controls one light or scene, while the medium and large sizes control four and eight, respectively. After you pick the widget size you want, it appears in the Widget tab’s main interface. Then, tapping on each widget’s tiles walks you through picking a room and light or scene to control. Hue Widgets also lets you assign a color for each tile in your widget. It’s a quick and simple process but requires you to set up your lights and scenes in the Hue app first because Hue Widgets acts as a controller for the Hue app, not a replacement. When you’re satisfied with the widgets you’ve designed, return to your iPhone’s Home Screen to add one of the widgets you built, choosing the size you created in the app.

One thing I wish I could change in Hue Widgets is how it names widgets. Each is named automatically along the lines of ‘Small Widget #1’ and ‘Small Widget #2.’ If you create a lot of widgets, this isn’t ideal because it makes it hard to remember which widget is which. I’d prefer to assign more memorable names myself. I’d also love to see Hue Widgets on the iPad, where it could offer an extra-large widget.

Hue Widgets pairs nicely with Home Widget, which [I recently reviewed](https://www.macstories.net/reviews/home-widget-unlocks-homekit-device-control-that-apples-home-app-doesnt-offer/).

Hue Widgets pairs nicely with Home Widget, which I recently reviewed.

I was a fan of Hue Widgets before iOS 17, but having tried the interactive versions of its widgets, I can already tell I will be using them a lot more than before. Paired with the recent addition of Matter support for Hue hubs, which seems to have improved the responsiveness of my lighting, Hue Widgets has become a core part of my growing home automation setup.

Hue Widgets is available on the App Store for $1.99.


Widgle’s Four Photo-Based Widget Games Deliver Simple, Fun Interactive Diversions

Widgle is a collection of four simple puzzle games for the iPhone and iPad that integrate with your photos. As I mentioned in connection with Widgetsmith’s Tile game, interactive widgets’ system-imposed button and toggle limitation severely constrains the kinds of games that can be built as a widget, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be fun. Widgle’s four games, a tile sliding puzzle, a maze, a lights out-style game, and a matching game each come in small and large sizes.

Tile Slide (left) and Lights On (right).

Tile Slide (left) and Lights On (right).

The Tile Slide game uses a photo of your choosing, scrambles the tiles, and overlays numbers, which can optionally be turned off in the widget’s settings. There’s one free space, and by tapping tiles, you can try to put them back in the correct order, reassembling your image. There are four grid options, too, a couple of which are only available in the large version of the widget.

Lights On begins with one of your photos divided into a grid with some of the squares missing. Tapping on a square inverts the others around it, and with some careful poking, you can reassemble your entire photo so it includes no blanks. Like Tile Slide, there are four grid size options, with two exclusive to the large-sized widget.

Maze Master (left) and Match Up (right).

Maze Master (left) and Match Up (right).

Maze Master overlays directional arrows around the edges of the widget, so you can guide your character through a maze backed by one of your photos. There are three difficulty levels to choose from and six different emoji characters available.

Finally, Match Up starts with a grid of squares with question marks in their centers. Tap squares to reveal the hidden emoji underneath. Find a matching pair of emoji, and the squares reveal part of one of your photos.

As I mentioned at the top. Widgle’s games are very simple classics, but I’ve still enjoyed idly playing with them when I need a break. The inclusion of photos, which can be picked in the main Widgle app, makes each game feel more personal.

Widgle is available on the App Store as a free download with an In-App Purchase of $1.99 to customize the puzzle with your photos.


AirScrobble Greatly Expands Its Utility with Headphone Compatibility, Live Activity Support, and App Shortcuts

It’s time to take a brief break from widgets to bring you scrobbles. Scrobbling is Last.fm’s name for matching and logging the music to which you listen. The payoff of scrobbling is the in-depth statistics that Last.fm delivers monthly and annually to users. It’s also a great way to relive musical moments in your life and find music that you may not have in your library but that you may have heard while you’re out and about.

One of the best ways to scrobble on the iPhone and iPad is with AirScrobble, which has grown into a terrific all-around Last.fm utility. One of the app’s previous limitations, though, was that it only worked with music playing over a speaker. If you were using AirPods or other headphones, so the music couldn’t be matched via an iPhone or iPad’s microphone, you were out of luck. However, with the app’s latest release, you can now scrobble even while listening with headphones.

Scrobbling from Broadcasts.

Scrobbling from Broadcasts.

That alone is pretty great, but AirScrobble now works with any app that produces audio, too. Say you’re using Steve Troughton-Smith’s excellent Internet radio app Broadcasts to listen to your favorite college radio station. Now, AirScrobble can match the songs as you listen. The same goes for Reels you watch on Instagram, YouTube videos, and a lot more.

AirScrobble also includes Live Activity support. If you’ve started automatically scrobbling as you listen, the Live Activity expands when a song is recognized, offering an interactive button for manually scrobbling the song immediately.

AirScrobble's App Shortcuts, Manual Scrobble App Shortcut, and Live Activity on my Lock Screen.

AirScrobble’s App Shortcuts, Manual Scrobble App Shortcut, and Live Activity on my Lock Screen.

The app has added support for App Shortcuts, too. If you’re out at a restaurant and hear a song you don’t know and want to capture it, do a quick Spotlight search for ‘AirScrobble’ and pick the Match App Shortcut. There’s also a Manual Scrobble App Shortcut, which lets you search for the name of a song using the search field. Plus, there’s a Love Track App Shortcut for marking a track as one of your favorites.

I love this update to AirScrobble. It works in so many more situations now that headphones are supported, as well as other audio sources. The Live Activity makes it easy to scrobble while doing something else on your iPhone or iPad, too. If you’re a music lover and use Last.fm, check be sure to check out AirScrobble.

AirScrobble is available on the App Store as a free download. Some of the app’s features require a subscription.


Home Widget Unlocks HomeKit Device Control That Apple’s Home App Doesn’t Offer

You might have wondered what would become of widget-focused apps like Home Widget when Apple announced at WWDC that a Home widget was coming to iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma. I did too. But, even though the Home widget works well, it’s limited, leaving room for developers like Clément Marty to take their widgets to an entirely different level.

If you’re a home automation nerd, you’ll quickly run into the Home widget’s limitations. For instance, it’s great for toggling lights on and off, but it can’t dim your lights or change their color. Home Widget goes beyond the binary choice of on or off across a spectrum of features, making it indispensable for home automation fans.

Let’s see what it can do.

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Timery’s Updated Widgets Enable Starting and Stopping Timers, Pagination, and More

It’s interesting to compare Timery 1.6, Joe Hribar’s time tracking app for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch, with Widgetsmith. David Smith’s app uses interactivity across a wide range of different types of widgets, allowing for a highly personalized approach to your Home Screen. Timery is a little different. It’s just as customizable, if not more so, but in a deep, focused way that makes it hands-down the most customizable and useful way to track time from a widget.

If you had asked me how I used Timery in the spring, I would have said I primarily use the Mac app. That’s changed drastically over the summer. My answer now is that I’m primarily a Timery widget user.

What I love about the app’s widgets is that they allow you to create a set of widgets that work how you use the app and nothing more. One of Timery’s strengths has always been its rich set of features that make it valuable to a broad cross-section of users. However, that means there is more to Timery than most people need. But with the app’s widgets, it’s possible to pare the app down to just the components that are essential to you, which is the ultimate in customization.

That doesn’t mean you won’t use the main app ever again. Some people may, but I certainly haven’t. Instead, it’s been more of a focus shift that allows me to continue whatever I’m working on, switching timers as needed on the fly from whichever device I have handy at the moment without opening the app most of the time. Timery’s update is a stellar release, which also comes with a new watchOS app that fans of the app are going to love.

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Widgetsmith Pushes the Boundaries of Widget Interactivity

It’s clear from David Smith’s iOS 17 update to Widgetsmith that he intends for the app to hold its position among the most customizable widget creation tools available. That’s exactly what he’s done with a long list of new widgets, customization options, and features that push interactivity to the limit of the technologies Apple provides.

The new widgets focus on weather, calendar events, photos, and a game. The number of permutations available is vast because there’s so much to customize. The image at the beginning of this story is just a small sample of what is possible, but with adjustable colors, fonts, and other elements, the combinations that can be created are nearly endless. So, let’s dig into the highlights.

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iOS and iPadOS 17 Review Extras: eBook, Special Editions of MacStories Weekly and AppStories+, and Two New Obsidian Plugins

Today, Federico published his iOS and iPadOS 17 review. As in past years, we’re releasing a wide variety of perks exclusively for Club MacStories members throughout the week, including an eBook version of the review, a special ‘making of’ edition of MacStories Weekly, a behind-the-scenes AppStories+ segment, and two new Club-exclusive Obsidian plugins.

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iOS and iPadOS 17: The MacStories Review

In the year when the vision is elsewhere, what do you get the OS that has everything?

Well, last year was weird.

For the first time since I started writing annual reviews of Apple’s two mobile operating systems – iOS and iPadOS – I published a review without the iPad part. Or rather: I had to publish it a month later given the mess Apple found itself in with Stage Manager for iPadOS 16 and its half-baked, embarrassing debut.

I don’t want to go over the specifics of that entire saga again and how we got to a shipping version of Stage Manager for iPadOS 16 that didn’t meet my expectations. Spoiler alert: as we’ll see later in this review, Apple listened to feedback and fixed the most glaring issues of Stage Manager in iPadOS 17, striking the balance between “guided multitasking” and freeform window placement that was missing from last year’s debut. Stage Manager for iPadOS 16 will remain another blip in the iPad’s long and storied history of ill-fated multitasking features. There’s no need to talk about it again.

I want to explain, however, why the past 12 months have been different than usual in iOS and iPadOS land beyond the fact that I couldn’t work on my iPad Pro for the first half of 2023.1

Following the launch of iOS 16 with its Lock Screen widgets and after Apple wrapped up work on the last big-ticket item on the iOS 16 roadmap (Live Activities for the Lock Screen and Dynamic Island, which launched in late October), it felt like the entire Apple community only started thinking about one product for the next six months: the headset. What would later be known as the Vision Pro and visionOS platform became the topic of conversation in Apple-related publications, podcasts, and YouTube channels. Leading up to WWDC 2023, anticipation surrounding the upcoming headset eclipsed anything related to other platforms.

And rightfully so. As I explained in the story that I wrote after I was able to try a Vision Pro at Apple Park, the excitement was justified. It’s always a rare occurrence for Apple to introduce a new hardware product with associated software platform; but to do so with a mind-blowing experience unlike anything I ever tried before in my life is truly something special. Apple had been working on visionOS and Vision Pro for years, and we were all thinking about it and waiting for it at WWDC. And the company delivered.

This context is necessary because the visionOS/Vision Pro development timeline explains what’s going on with iOS and iPadOS 17 this year. Both OSes are grab-bag style updates with a collection of welcome enhancements to different areas of experience. I quipped years ago that modern iOS updates need to have a little bit of everything for everyone; that has never been more true than with iOS 17, albeit for a different reason this time: most likely, because Apple didn’t have time to also deliver big, vision-altering upgrades on the iPhone this year.

iOS and iPadOS take a bit of a secondary role in 2023, happily conceding the spotlight to a new software platform that hasn’t launched yet, but which developers around the world are already testing in person.

To be clear, I am not complaining. iOS and iPadOS 17 may not have an industry-defining, obvious tentpole feature, but in their approach to offering miscellaneous improvements, they’re fun and interesting to cover. Of the two, iPadOS is the one that suffered from lack of development resources the most and whose strategy could be easily summed up as “it’s iPadOS 16, but we fixed Stage Manager”. Which, again, given the circumstances, is absolutely fine with me.

While Apple was busy with visionOS this summer, I was having fun exploring iOS 17’s collection of app updates and, as we’ll see in this review, extensive upgrades to one system feature: widgets.

As always every year: let’s dive in.

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  1. Did I ever tell you the story of how I used a Microsoft Surface in secret as my main computer from January to June 2023 until Apple unveiled the new Stage Manager for iPadOS 17 and everything was good with the world again? How I spent six months in computing wilderness and questioned every single one of my tech decisions? And how I ultimately accepted that I prefer Apple platforms because, at the end of the day, they're made by people who care about great design and user experience? I did, and you can listen to the story here↩︎

The Weather App Adds More Detailed Data in iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma

Apple’s Weather app is packing more data than ever before on iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma. The thing about weather is that beyond the basics, everyone cares about different things, and some people care about it all. With Apple’s latest version of Weather, there’s more weather to nerd out on than ever before.

Hourly precipitation predictions for a full 10 days.

Hourly precipitation predictions for a full 10 days.

The Weather app includes hourly precipitation predictions in its 10-day forecast detail view. Is there really a 45% chance of rain in Nashville a week from Monday? Probably not, but if that sort of precision is what you’re looking for in a weather app, Weather has it.

The wind animates on the new radar map overlay.

The wind animates on the new radar map overlay.

Wind map overlays have been added to Weather, too. The overlay looks excellent and animates to show you which way the wind will blow over the next 24 hours. It’s a great addition if you’re going out to fly a kite or a drone, sail a boat, and more.

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