Sofa 3.0, an app that I last reviewed in March, is out with loads of new ways to track, organize, and browse the media lists you create. The app also has a new subscription business model for its pro features.
Media recommendations come at us all from every angle, whether it’s friends and family or sources like reviews. You can save lists of books, movies, videogames, and other media you want to try in lots of ways. You could use an app like Apple’s Notes or Reminders, but they’re general-purpose apps that don’t address the specific needs related to media consumption. Plus, trying to track media in something like a task manager gets out of control and messy fast.
Another option is to turn to an app designed for a specific type of media, and there are many good options available on the App Store. The advantage Sofa has, is that it makes it just as easy to pick a book as a movie or something else when you’re deciding what media to try next. It’s a subtle but important distinction. With single-purpose apps, you need to decide what kind of media you want to consume and then turn to an app to pick something. Sofa dispenses with the first step allowing you to answer a broader question: “How do I want to spend my free time?” That a one-stop approach is one of Sofa’s greatest strengths and one that the app leans into hard with the latest excellent update.
Matthias Gansrigler of Eternal Storms Software recently released Transloader 3, an app for remotely controlling Mac file downloads from an iPhone or iPad. Although the app has been around for a long time, version 3 might as well be a completely new app because it’s packed with new features, making it worth revisiting if you haven’t tried it in a while.
Transloader is one of those utilities that reduces the friction of working on multiple devices by solving a common problem that Apple’s OSes could handle better: cross-device downloads. There are a couple of scenarios where I run into this all the time. The first is with email. With no TestFlight for Mac yet, developers often send me links to a ZIP or DMG file of their apps to try. Going through email messages is one of those tasks that I often leave until late in the day when I’m away from my desk, using my iPad or iPhone. The second scenario is when I’m researching apps and find one or a related press kit I want to download to check out later.
In both cases, I could save the app or other files to iCloud Drive’s Downloads folder and revisit the materials the next time I’m at my Mac. However, with Transloader, I’ve got many more options thanks to its built-in automation tools as well as other features that make managing downloaded files easier.
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors about one of the new keyboard-related additions to iPadOS 15:
In iPadOS 14, if you hold down the Command key, you can see a list of app-specific features and their key equivalents. It’s like a quick-reference card for keyboard shortcuts. In iPadOS 15, it’s been expanded to become more like the iPad equivalent of the Mac menu bar—not only does it list keyboard shortcuts, but it can list every command in the app, and you can click any of them to execute them. iPad apps that build out the Mac menu bar for their Catalyst version can pick this feature up for free. It’s another way that the Mac and iPad are trading features and complementing one another.
Then there’s the Globe key. Hold it down in any app in iPadOS 15, and you’ll see a different set of commands, all of which can be applied globally. (Get it?) These menus are full of shortcuts to switch to the home screen (Globe-H), open a Quick Note (Globe-Q), activate Control Center (Globe-C), and pretty much any other system-level area.
I particularly like Snell’s suggestion regarding these new global keyboard shortcuts and the Shortcuts app in the future. As I explained on Connected this week, I’ve been using iPadOS 15 since the first beta came out at WWDC, and I’m still learning all kinds of new keyboard shortcuts that are now supported by the system. Impressively, the new Globe modifier has been associated with all sorts of system functions, including Siri and Control Center.
If you use a third-party hardware keyboard that doesn’t have a Globe key, you can always remap another one in Settings ⇾ General ⇾ Keyboard ⇾ Hardware Keyboard ⇾ Modifier Keys. And while the keyboard shortcuts menu can be dismissed by holding the Globe key (or ⌘, for app-specific commands) again or clicking outside of it, you can also press the ⌘. shortcut (which is the equivalent of an Escape button on iPadOS) to instantly close it. Lastly, you can start typing while the menu is shown to quickly filter commands by name.
This morning at Apple’s second fully-remote WWDC keynote address, Craig Federighi introduced iOS and iPadOS 15. This year’s updates include significant improvements to core first-party apps, new controls for maintaining focus, system-wide text and object recognition in images, and much more.
On the iPad-only side of things, Apple has announced a variety of new multitasking interface elements, feature parity with the iPhone’s Home Screen, quick note capturing available at any time in any app, and an overhauled Swift Playgrounds which supports building and shipping complete SwiftUI apps to the App Store.
As usual, developer betas are available today, with final versions scheduled to ship to all users this fall. Let’s take a look at all the details that Apple has in store for us this year.
Vidit Bhargava, the developer behind the excellent dictionary app LookUp, has published a compelling design concept on Pixel Posts for bringing a menu bar to the iPad and modifying how its multitasking works.
Complex apps like Adobe Illustrator hide functionality behind multiple layers of obscure icons using floating palettes that can be hard to learn. As Bhargava explains:
They are powerful utility apps that some how [sic] struggle with providing a simple, easy to use and understand navigation for their actions. Actions are often hidden behind modes, strips of complicated icons or simply not available for the lack of space.
As a result, there’s no single location you can go to find all of the functionality an iPad app offers.
Bhargava makes a good case for a menu system on the iPad, using what he calls an Extended Status Bar that includes an app’s menu and a customizable control tray to access OS actions like Spotlight search and shortcuts. In addition to the Extended Status Bar, Bhargava imagines the App Library coming to the dock and the addition of floating windows for apps like Calculator.
I’m not convinced that Apple would adopt a system so similar to macOS, but I think Bhargava’s on the right track. As more complex apps are brought to the iPad, the lack of a universal way to organize their features means users have to learn a new system for every app, which hinders pro app adoption. If Apple brought Final Cut Pro or Xcode to the iPad, I think its engineers would quickly feel the same pain points with which other developers of pro apps are already grappling.
Apple has released iOS and iPadOS 14.6 today with a handful of new features, including Apple Card Family and Podcasts Subscriptions, along with Updates to AirTags and the Find My app.
Announced during Apple’s spring event, Apple Card Family is now available in iOS 14.6. Up to five people over the age of 13 can share an Apple Card, allowing them to track expenses and manage spending. All family members on an Apple Card will build credit histories, and parents can set spending limits for their children too.
iOS and iPadOS 14.6 also includes Podcasts Subscriptions, which allows podcasters to offer paid versions of their shows. Shows can be offered as paid-only subscriptions or enhanced versions of free shows that add a combination of bonus features like extended, ad-free, and early-release episodes. The new subscription service is baked directly into the Podcasts app, allowing users to access paid subscriptions alongside free shows.
One of the features of AirTags at launch was the ability to add a phone number to call if a tagged item was lost somewhere. With iOS and iPadOS 14.6, users can add an email address. Also, Apple release notes say that when an AirTag is tapped with an NFC-compatible device, it will show a partially masked phone number.
Apple has also added the ability to unlock an iPhone for the first time after a restart using their voice, which is a Voice Control feature.
Not released with the update today is anything related to Spatial Audio or Lossless streaming of Apple Music content, which is not unexpected since Apple previously said the feature is coming in June.
I’ve used 1Blocker to block ads from cluttered websites for years. No ad blocker is perfect. Some ads still get through, and blockers can sometimes interfere with the functionality of a website, but of all the ones I’ve tried, 1Blocker strikes the best balance. The app is also available on all of Apple’s platforms, making it easy to block intrusive ads but allow them on sites where they don’t wreck the reading experience.
1Blocker, which I have covered many times in the past on MacStories, was the first iOS app I know that bundled multiple sets of content blocking rules to offer more filters than the iOS would otherwise allow. The system also allows 1Blocker to filter more than just advertising, such as social media widgets, comments, and adult sites.
Today, 1Blocker has expanded its coverage even further with a feature called Firewall. If you’ve read Federico’s in-depth story about iOS and iPadOS 14.5, you’re familiar with App Tracking Transparency. That’s the OS feature that requires apps to request permission before tracking your activity across multiple apps and websites. Firewall takes that a step further by automatically blocking trackers and doing so even if the trackers are what are known as first-party trackers because they don’t correlate your data with data collected by other companies. It’s an extra layer of protection between you and data brokers.
Apple today released version 14.5 of iOS and iPadOS, a substantial update to the operating system for iPhone and iPad that debuted in September and introduced features such as Home Screen widgets, multi-column app layouts on iPad, compact UI, a redesigned Music app, and more.
Version 14.5 is the biggest – or, at the very least, most interesting – update to iOS and iPadOS we’ve seen in the 14.0 release cycle to date. That’s not to say previous iterations of iOS and iPadOS 14 were low on new features and refinements – it’s quite the opposite, in fact. Perhaps the pandemic and Apple’s work-from-home setup played a role in the company spreading new iOS functionalities across multiple releases throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, but, regardless of the underlying reason, iOS and iPadOS 14 have evolved considerably since their public launch six months ago.
With iOS 14.2, Apple shipped the traditional “emoji update”, but was also able to include a redesigned AirPlay interface, face detection in AR, and a brand new Shazam integration in Control Center; with iOS 14.3, the company rolled out its new ProRAW photography API alongside support for the Fitness+ service, App Clip codes, and the ability to launch apps directly from Home Screen shortcuts; version 14.4, released earlier this year, saw the arrival of proximity-based music handoff for iPhone and HomePod mini alongside new options for Bluetooth settings and other performance improvements.
It’s difficult to tell whether some of these features were originally planned for a September release and got delayed because of the pandemic, or how many of these are Apple’s response to user feedback following the release of iOS and iPadOS 14, but one thing’s for sure: Apple hasn’t stood still over the past few months, and today’s iOS and iPadOS 14.5 are continuing the trend of major iOS and iPadOS updates released ahead of WWDC.
Let’s dive in.
Jason Snell, writing for Macworld about the new iPad Pro’s software limitations compared to its powerful hardware:
With the announcement of USB 4/Thunderbolt support on these new iPad Pro models, I’m thrown back to the past. In 2018, when Apple released the first iPad Pro with a USB-C port on the bottom, it didn’t update the software to read the entire contents of a thumb drive when you plugged it in. The hardware was willing, but the software was weak.
And here we are again. Thunderbolt adds even speedier connectivity, but for what? Faster photo and video imports? Okay, though once again, I’m reminded that Apple’s bread-and-butter pro media apps won’t run on these iPads.
Thunderbolt is great, but it’s difficult to take full advantage of it.
How about external display support? The new iPad Pros can drive even larger external displays, including Apple’s Pro Display XDR. Third-party video apps can take advantage of this to display high-resolution video and even some analytical displays. Which is great, but if you want to display the iPad interface itself, it’ll just be a pillarboxed mirror of what’s on the iPad’s own screen.
The last time a new iPad Pro’s hardware was so obviously more capable than its software demanded, we saw the debut of iPadOS seven months later. The 2021 iPad Pro’s hardware has created new low-hanging fruit for its software; I’d be really surprised if the second half of this story isn’t dropping in six weeks.