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Posts tagged with "iOS 14"

Apollo Brings the Best of Reddit to iOS 14’s Widgets

Christian Selig, developer of the excellent Reddit client Apollo, has always been deeply connected with his users and Reddit culture on the whole. Many of Apollo’s updates focus on the kind of nit-picky features and tweaks that heavy users of the app and platform care about. So it should come as no surprise that in building iOS 14 widgets for Apollo, Selig took inspiration from some of the things people love most about Reddit.

Apollo offers a whopping seven different types of widgets, roughly half of which are the sort of widgets you would expect – displaying posts from your favorite subreddit or providing launchers into different subreddits – while the other half specialize in bringing the best of Reddit to your Home Screen.

Let’s start with the fun ones: Wallpaper, Showerthoughts, and Jokes.

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Lire Brings Its Highly-Customizable RSS Reading Style to an All-New iPad Design and Widgets

I love that there are so many excellent choices of RSS readers on iPhone and iPad. Currently, my favorite in terms of iOS and iPadOS 14 feature adoption is lire, an RSS client that is packed with power user features. With the latest update, the app has been relaunched on the App Store, which means it’s a new purchase, with excellent support for the iPad’s new three-column design and widgets.

RSS readers are perfect for the iPad’s new three-column design. Lire’s left pane includes numerous ways to navigate your feeds, the center pane lists your articles, and the right pane displays each article. The first two columns can be hidden so you can focus on what you’re reading.

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Computer Personalization Is a Good Thing, and It’s Nothing New

Jason Snell at Six Colors, providing some historical context for the current wave of iOS 14 Home Screen customization:

The Mac has a long history of customization. When I became a Mac user in the early 90s, it was de rigueur to give your Mac hard drive a name and a custom icon. Ideally, you had a custom wallpaper pattern or image, too. Apps like SoundMaster let you set custom sounds for various actions. The list went on and on. Your Mac felt like home—and like no one else’s.

What’s more surprising is that Apple was so slow in bringing real customization to the iPhone home screen. If adding widgets to iOS 14 has caused enormous burst of creativity, it’s only because all that desire had built up over years and years with very little outlet.

This is not a surprise. This is not the effect of young whippersnappers raised on social media wanting to do goofy things with their phones. Users of computer platforms have wanted to customize and personalize for decades.

Lots of people are having lots of fun making all kinds of personalized Home Screens and even themed ones. This is made possible by a combination of iOS 14, app launchers configured through Shortcuts with custom icons, and a new crop of widget creation apps.

These Home Screen designs may not be for everyone, but that’s kind of the point: they’re not for everyone, they’re built by and for individual users. Let’s celebrate that creativity, and hope Apple provides better tools for this kind of customization in the future.

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Grocery Brings Lists, Recipe Steps, and Timers to Your Home Screen and Is Right at Home on the iPad with a Three-Column Layout

Grocery has come a long way from its origins as a simple list-building app for the iPhone. The app has evolved to include a terrific Watch app, an iPad app, and support for meal planning, recipes, and inventory tracking. Whether you only use Grocery’s core list-based features or its more advanced features, today’s addition of widgets and a new iPad design enhance the experience of using the app for everyone.

I’ve covered Grocery in depth before, so I won’t retread that ground here, except to encourage readers who haven’t looked at Grocery in a while to try it out. At its core, the app is all about building intelligent grocery lists. No other grocery app I’ve used makes it as easy to add and manage lists as Grocery, through a combination of smart design and dynamic sorting which is based on the order you check items off as you shop. On top of that, the app includes meal planning, recipes, inventory management, and list sharing, extending its usefulness well beyond the grocery store.

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Fantastical Debuts Powerful, Versatile Widgets Alongside Scribble for iPad

Time itself has been under attack in this year of infamy. In some ways 2020 has felt like an eternity, but somehow, simultaneously, it’s shocking that we’re nearing the end of it. Our days have lost so much of the structure and the rhythms we’re used to, resulting for some people in days that are long and void of much activity, while others are overwhelmed in a different way as they juggle work with caring for their children, facilitating virtual school, and of course hopping on too many Zoom calls per day. Whatever your situation may be, your concept of time has likely been thrown off-kilter this year.

Yet time marches on. And for many of us, the assaults on our normal patterns of life have required building new patterns, new structures for our weeks and days so we can find a new sense of normal. Rather than abandon our calendars, we perhaps need to be more judicious with them than ever. Which is where Fantastical with its new iOS 14 widgets and Scribble support comes in.

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Weather Line Offers Personalization through Beautiful Themed Weather Widgets

One thing has proven clear since iOS 14 released last week: every app has its own unique take on widgets. Among all the new widgets we’ve covered, there really isn’t a common theme that can be drawn. Perhaps over time certain best practices will emerge, but right now apps are all doing their own thing, including weather apps. Last week we reviewed a weather app that offered fine-grained control of all the different data types contained in its widgets; today I want to cover an app that takes an entirely different approach to personalization.

Weather Line doesn’t provide any options to choose which data a widget will display. You get the data it gives you: nothing more, nothing less. However, the app has gone all-out with personalization in an entirely different way: widget themes.

Weather Line’s widgets display the same beautiful visuals found inside the full app, with charts mapping either an hourly forecast spanning the next 10 hours or a daily forecast covering the next 10 days. The hourly widget is available in small, medium, and large sizes, while the daily flavor is limited to medium and large, making a total of five widget options.

Once you’ve selected the widget(s) you’d like on your Home Screen or in your Today view, it’s time to personalize them with one of Weather Line’s themes. By tapping on an installed widget while in jiggle mode, or by long-pressing a widget and choosing ‘Edit Widget’ from the menu, you can open the widget configuration screen. There are only two options to configure: location for the widget’s weather data, and your preference of widget theme.

There are a total of 20 theme options to choose from, offering a diverse array of looks for matching your Home Screen setup. These include 18 different color themes ranging from Milennial Pink to Neon, Dracula, or Emoji, plus there are two additional options you can choose instead of specifying one of these 18 themes: Dynamic Background and Match System Appearance.

Widgets that offer extensive settings to fiddle with are great, especially for power users. But there’s something special and perhaps even more broadly appealing about being able to personalize a hyper-aesthetic Home Screen, and for that, Weather Line is an excellent choice.


Drafts 22 Review: Widgets, Scribble, and More

One of my favorite times every year is right around the beginning of August. Not because of the weather – summer where I live – but rather it’s when beta season is in full swing. Apps are putting polish on features, the full update scope is set, and everything starts to feel stable. And there’s nothing better to me than a new Drafts update to coincide with new OS features, bringing new uses of the app to my répertoire.

With the release of iOS and iPadOS 14 this year, it might seem on the surface that the updates to most apps are minimal. Widgets are the hot new feature of the operating systems, along with the visual changes of macOS Big Sur. While most apps will benefit from these changes, the productivity category will be greatly helped. And like Shortcuts, Scriptable, and others, Drafts benefits greatly from these new changes. It might take you a bit of time to see how this will fit your use cases, but once you give that some thought, it will open up new opportunities for you to use the app.

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Introducing WallCreator: A Shortcut to Create iPhone and iPad Wallpapers with Solid Colors and Gradients

WallCreator for iOS 14.

WallCreator for iOS 14.

Two years ago in our MacStories Weekly newsletter for Club MacStories members, I shared a shortcut that enabled creating wallpapers for iPhone and iPad featuring solid colors or gradients of your choice. Given the newfound popularity of the Shortcuts app and the amazing custom Home screens people are putting together with widgets in iOS 14, I thought I’d play my part and revisit the shortcut by simplifying it and adding new features. The shortcut is now called WallCreator and you can download it for free (alongside 220 other shortcuts) from the MacStories Shortcuts Archive.

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One Week After Launch, Users Already Have Several Options for Alternative Browsers and Email Clients on iOS and iPadOS 14

iOS and iPadOS’s 14’s customization options don’t end at widgets. The OS updates also let users change their default email and browser apps for the first time. The feature is a little buggy in iOS and iPadOS 14.0, but I wanted to share how to set it up and explain what your current options are for anyone looking to switch away from the default Safari and Mail apps from Apple.

Switching is simple. The first step is to download a browser or email client that has been approved to serve as an alternative to Apple’s defaults. Developers must request permission to offer their apps as an alternative browser or email app, meeting certain requirements for each type of app. It’s an extra step in the app submission process, so not all browsers and email apps can be swapped in for Safari and Mail from the get-go. Still, less than a week after the public release of iOS and iPadOS 14, users have several options.

Microsoft Edge, Outlook, and Google Chrome are all default browser and email client options now.

Microsoft Edge, Outlook, and Google Chrome are all default browser and email client options now.

New alternatives are being released all the time, but so far, it’s possible to swap out Safari for:

Probably the most popular browser that hasn’t been approved as a Safari alternative yet is Brave, the privacy-focused browser, although The Verge reports that the feature is coming.

Email apps available include:

Between the two quartets of alternatives, a significant portion of the browser and email markets have been covered already.

Picking a new default browser or email client from the Settings app.

Picking a new default browser or email client from the Settings app.

Getting back to the process of switching apps, once you’ve installed one of the approved alternatives, go to the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad. Scroll down to the entry for the app you’ve just downloaded, and tap it. There you’ll find a new entry for ‘Default Mail App’ or ‘Default Browser App,’ depending on which you’re changing. Tap it and pick the alternative you want to use, and that’s it.

As easy as the process of switching is, though, the feature is not bug-free. I have been unable to get iOS or iPadOS to recognize my new default email client after I switch it. I’ve tried several apps and email links in multiple apps and on the web, but every time I tap one, the system Apple Mail-based compose sheet opens. Federico has had the same issue. I read somewhere that switching email apps only works if you change your browser first, but that didn’t work for me either. Perhaps MacStories readers will have better luck than I’ve had, but at the moment, I cannot change email clients.

9to5Mac also reported last week that if you restart your iPhone or iPad, any default browser or email changes you’ve made are lost. It’s not hard to reset your defaults, but it’s an annoying bug that I expect will be fixed in a later update to iOS and iPadOS 14.

Personally, I use both Safari and Mail and am happy with them, though I wish Mail would adopt some of the modern features of apps like Spark. Still, I’m glad users have been given greater choice when it comes to the default app experience.