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Posts tagged with "iOS"

The Curious Case of Apple’s Missing App Integrations for Shortcuts

Shortcuts for Mac.

Shortcuts for Mac.

In researching topics for the Automation Academy over the past few months, I’ve been digging into all the details of Apple’s built-in actions and comparing them against older versions of the Shortcuts app as well as third-party options offered by developers. In doing this, I’ve realized something that has been bothering me for a while: there is a clear inconsistency between modern features in Apple apps and their associated Shortcuts actions. The gap between functionalities in apps and matching Shortcuts actions has expanded over the years, and I think it’s time Apple takes a serious look at its app actions to reverse this trend.

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Michael Flarup Announces The iOS App Icon Book

Source: Michael Flarup.

Source: Michael Flarup.

Four years in the making, designer Michael Flarup has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finalize, print, and ship The iOS App Icon Book.

Source: Michael Flarup.

Source: Michael Flarup.

As Flarup explains, the iPhone sparked a golden era of icon design. The iOS App Icon Book is a 150-page art book that traces the history of iconography on iOS, with full-color, detailed reproductions of some of the best icon work from the past decade. In addition to the artwork, the book also includes a primer on Flarup’s approach to icon design and profiles of leading icon designers. The book traces the evolution of notable icons too.

Source: Michael Flarup.

Source: Michael Flarup.

The book is also meant to preserve the history of iOS iconography. As Flarup explains, the history of iOS icons is:

A history that is quickly fading. Many apps featured in this book aren’t around anymore or have evolved — which means the work we’ve been doing to capture this artwork have borded on internet archaeology. If we don’t preserve these things now, while we still have the opportunity to, they will be gone forever.

Flarup says the book is about 90% complete and should be finished by late January 2022, with the final product shipping in April 2022.

I’ve been following Michael Flarup’s progress on The iOS App Icon Book since its earliest stages, and I’m excited that it’s nearly finished. Icons are an important piece of iOS history, and I can think of no better person to chronicle its evolution.

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Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 15.1 with SharePlay, Safari for iPad Fixes, Shortcuts Improvements, and More

Screen sharing in FaceTime with SharePlay (left) and the updated Safari for iPad.

Screen sharing in FaceTime with SharePlay (left) and the updated Safari for iPad.

Alongside macOS Monterey, Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 15.1 – the first major updates to the operating systems introduced last month. Don’t expect a large collection of changes from this release, though: 15.1 mostly focuses on enabling SharePlay (which was announced at WWDC, then postponed to a later release a few months ago), rolling Safari back to a reasonable design, and bringing a few tweaks for the Camera app and spatial audio. Let’s take a look.

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Apple Frames 2.0: Faster, Lighter, and Featuring Support for iPhone 13, iPad mini, iPad 10.2”, iMac 24”, MacBook Air, and Multiple Languages

Apple Frames 2.0.

Apple Frames 2.0.

Today, I’m pleased to introduce Apple Frames 2.0, an all-new version of my popular shortcut to put screenshots inside physical device frames of Apple products. The new Apple Frames, which you can download at the end of this post or on the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, has been completely rewritten so it’s faster and lighter, comes with support for the latest iPhone 13 lineup and iPad mini, brings support for framing iMac and MacBook Air screenshots, and, at long last, is available internationally in seven different languages.

This is a massive update to Apple Frames, so let’s dive in.

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CARROT Weather 5.4: XL Widgets, Time Sensitive Notifications, Complication Customization, Themes, Icons, and More

Last week, Brian Mueller released CARROT Weather 5.4 alongside the iOS and iPadOS update. The update takes advantage of new iOS and iPadOS 15 features and continues to put more control in the hands of users with new customization options, themes, and icons.

CARROT Weather’s new XL widgets.

CARROT Weather’s new XL widgets.

CARROT Weather 5.4 takes advantage of the new XL widgets in iPadOS 15 and the time sensitive notifications on both platforms. On the iPad, CARROT Weather now offers XL Maps and Forecast widgets. The added space allows the XL Maps widget to show weather maps for a wide geographic area. For me here in the Chicago area, that means I can see weather conditions for a big chunk of Illinois as well as parts of Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, an area covering about 500 miles from east to west and 200 miles north and south.

The XL Forecast widget is big enough to include the:

  • Current conditions
  • High and low temperatures for the day
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Chance of precipitation
  • Sunrise or sunset times
  • Moon phase
  • An hourly forecast for the next 10 hours
  • A 7-day forecast

With just one widget, you’ve got all the information that most people want in one place without even opening CARROT Weather.

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Safari Extensions for iOS and iPadOS 15: A Roundup of Our Favorites

With the introduction of iOS and iPadOS 15, Apple has created an entirely new class of utility app on the App Store: Safari web extensions. Mac users have enjoyed extensions for years. However, for iPhone and iPad users, they’re brand new and promise to make Safari more useful than ever by opening up new power-user functionality that extends Safari in ways that Apple hasn’t. Judging from the initial crop of extensions available, I think Safari users are going to be very happy.

Managing extensions from Settings (left) and Safari (right).

Managing extensions from Settings (left) and Safari (right).

There are a couple of ways to install Safari extensions for iOS and iPadOS 15. First, you can go to the Settings app, select Safari, and inside the Extensions section, turn on any extensions you’ve installed and give them permission to interact with webpages. Second, you can enable or disable extensions by tapping on the puzzle piece icon in the address bar and then choosing ‘Manage Extensions.’ The same popover that appears when you tap the puzzle piece icon also lets you ‘Edit Actions,’ picking favorite extensions that will appear at the top of your extensions list in whatever order you drag them into, similar to the way picking favorite share and action extensions and rearranging them works.

Okay, let’s dig into some of the best extensions already available.

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iOS and iPadOS 15 Review Extras: eBooks, Shortcuts, Making Of, Obsidian Plugins, Safari Extension Beta, and AppStories Live

Today, Federico published his iOS and iPadOS 15 review. The review has become the centerpiece of what is always a busy fall season at MacStories. It has also become a tradition that we release a wide variety of perks exclusively for Club MacStories members alongside Federico’s review.

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iOS and iPadOS 15: The MacStories Review

A quieter release for even stranger times.

In my career as an iOS reviewer, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a response as universally positive and enthusiastic as the general public’s reception of iOS 14 last year. From the “Home Screen aesthetic” popularized by TikTokers to the incredible success of widgets and the resurgence of custom icons, few iOS updates managed to capture the cultural zeitgeist as globally and rapidly as iOS 14 did. The update broke out of the tech community and, perhaps for the first time in decades, made UI personalization a mainstream, easily attainable hobby. For once, we didn’t have to convince our friends and family to update to a major new version of the iPhone’s operating system. They just did it themselves.

The numbers don’t lie: five weeks after its release, iOS 14 was already set to surpass iOS 13’s adoption rate; in April 2021, seven months after launch, over 90% of compatible devices were running iOS 14. Which begs the obvious question: if you’re Apple, you’re planning to follow up on what made iOS 14 successful with even more of it, right?

Well, not quite.

With the world coming to a halt due to the pandemic in early 2020, Apple could have easily seized the opportunity to slow down its pace of software updates, regroup, and reassess the state of its platforms without any major changes in functionality. But, as we found out last year, that’s not how the company operates or draws its product roadmaps in advance. In the last year alone, Apple introduced a substantial macOS redesign, pointer support on iPad, and drastic changes to the iOS Home Screen despite the pandemic, executing on decisions that were likely made a year prior.

Surprisingly, iOS 15 doesn’t introduce any notable improvements to what made its predecessor wildly popular last year. In fact, as I’ll explore in this review, iOS 15 doesn’t have that single, all-encompassing feature that commands everyone’s attention such as widgets in iOS 14 or dark mode in iOS 13.

As we’ll see later in the story, new functionalities such as Focus and Live Text in the Camera are the additions that will likely push people to update their iPhones this year. And even then, I don’t think either of them sports the same intrinsic appeal as widgets, custom Home Screens, or the App Library in iOS 14.


It’s a slightly different story for iPadOS 15, which comes at a fascinating time for the platform.

As I wrote in my review of the M1 iPad Pro earlier this year, Apple needed to re-align the iPad’s hardware and software on two fronts. For pro users, the company had to prove that the new iPad Pro’s hardware could be useful for something beyond basic Split View multitasking, either in the form of more complex windowing, pro apps, or desktop-like background processes; at the same time, Apple also had to modernize iPadOS’ multitasking capabilities for all kinds of users, turning an inscrutable gesture-based multitasking environment into a more intuitive system that could also be operated from a keyboard. It’s a tall order; it’s why I’ve long believed that the iPad’s unique multiplicity of inputs makes iPadOS the toughest platform to design for.

Apple’s work in iPadOS 15 succeeds in laying a new foundation for multitasking but only partially satisfies the desires of power users. Apple managed to bring simplicity and consistency to multitasking via a new menu to manage the iPad’s windowing states that is easier to use than drag and drop. Perhaps more importantly, Apple revisited iPad multitasking so it can be equally operated using touch and keyboard. If you, the person reading these annual reviews, have ever found yourself having to explain to a family member how to create a Split View on iPad, tell them to update to iPadOS 15, and they’ll have a much easier time using their iPads to their full extent.

But after three months of running iPadOS 15 on my M1 iPad Pro, I can’t help but feel like power users will still be left wishing for more. Yes, iPadOS 15 brings extensive keyboard integration for multitasking with a plethora of new keyboard shortcuts and yes, the new multitasking menu and improvements to the app switcher benefit everyone, including power users, but iPadOS 15 is a foundational update that focuses on fixing the basics rather than letting the iPad soar to new heights.


While Apple is probably preparing bigger and bolder updates for next year, there are still plenty of features to discover and enjoy in iOS and iPadOS 15 – some that could still use some refinement, others that already feel like staples of the modern iPhone and iPad experience.

Let’s dive in.

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    Mela: An Elegant and Innovative Recipe and Cooking App for iPhone, iPad, and Mac

    Silvio Rizzi, the developer of RSS client Reeder, has released a brand new recipe and cooking app called Mela for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, which has immediately become my favorite apps for planning and preparing meals. For me, the two essential aspects of an app like this are how it handles adding new recipes and whether it is easy to use while you’re cooking. Mela excels at both.

    I’m going to focus primarily on the iPad experience for this review because the iPad strikes the best balance of portability combined with a large screen that works well when you’re in the kitchen cooking, but the app is also available on the iPhone and Mac. Although my overwhelming preference is to use Mela on an iPad, an equal amount of attention has gone into the design of the iPhone and Mac apps, accounting for the different screen sizes and making the most of each. That’s true on the iPad, too, where the experience differs depending on the size of the iPad you’re using.

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