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Posts tagged with "mac"

Apple Marks Global Accessibility Awareness Day by Announcing Upcoming Accessibility Features

Thursday is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. To mark the occasion, Apple has announced a long list of accessibility features coming to its products later this year and shared other ways it is celebrating the day through its apps and services.

Apple’s press release sums up the features coming to the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch as follows:

Using advancements across hardware, software, and machine learning, people who are blind or low vision can use their iPhone and iPad to navigate the last few feet to their destination with Door Detection; users with physical and motor disabilities who may rely on assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control can fully control Apple Watch from their iPhone with Apple Watch Mirroring; and the Deaf and hard of hearing community can follow Live Captions on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple is also expanding support for its industry-leading screen reader VoiceOver with over 20 new languages and locales. These features will be available later this year with software updates across Apple platforms.

Door Detection will be part of the Magnifier app later this year. The feature helps blind and low vision users find and navigate doors when they arrive somewhere. The feature will judge the distance to the door using LiDAR, describe the door’s attributes, like whether it opens by pushing or using a doorknob, and read signs and symbols next to doors.

Apple Watch Mirroring.

Apple Watch Mirroring.

The Apple Watch will add several Physical and Motor accessibility features too. Apple Watch Mirroring, which is built on AirPlay in part, will allow users with physical and motor disabilities to control their Watches from an iPhone using Voice Control, Switch Control, voice commands, sound actions, head tracking, and Made for iPhone switches. The Apple Watch will also add a new double pinch gesture for controlling, like answering and ending phone calls and taking photos.

Apple Watch will add a new double pinch gesture.

Apple Watch will add a new double pinch gesture.

For Deaf and hard of hearing users, Apple will add Live Captions on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple says captioning will work with video calling apps like FaceTime, streaming video services, video conferencing apps, and in-person conversations. Live Captions occur on-device to preserve privacy, and on the Mac, users will be able to type a response that will be spoken aloud.

VoiceOver will get an update, too, adding the following languages:

  • Arabic (World)
  • Basque
  • Bengali (India)
  • Bhojpuri (India)
  • Bulgarian
  • Catalan
  • Croatian
  • Farsi
  • French (Belgium)
  • Galician
  • Kannada
  • Malay
  • Mandarin (Liaoning, Shaanxi, Sichuan)
  • Marathi
  • Shanghainese (China)
  • Spanish (Chile)
  • Slovenian
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Ukrainian
  • Valencian
  • Vietnamese

VoiceOver on the Mac will also gain Text Checker that will discover formatting issues.

Additional upcoming accessibility features.

Additional upcoming accessibility features.

Apple previewed several other upcoming accessibility features across its products, including:

  • Buddy Controller, the ability for someone to use a second game controller to assist with playing a game as though the two controllers were one
  • Siri Pause Time, which will allow users to customize the period Siri waits before responding to a user
  • Voice Control Spelling Mode, for dictating words letter-by-letter
  • Customizable sound recognition of the sounds in your environment
  • New themes and text adjustments in the Books app for a more accessible reading experience
Apple apps and services are celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day, too.

Apple apps and services are celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day, too.

Also, Apple has announced that Global Accessibility Awareness Day is being celebrated with Apple Store sessions, an Accessibility Assistant shortcut in the Shortcuts app, special Fitness+ sessions and Time to Walk or Push episodes, an accessibility-oriented Maps guide, and highlighted content on the App Store and in Apple Books Apple Podcasts, Apple Music and Apple TV.

We’ve seen Apple announce accessibility features coming to future versions of its OSes before, but today’s announcement is unique given the number of features revealed. I’m eager to try these features out. Based on what Apple has said, there seems to be a lot here that will make meaningful impacts on a lot of users’ everyday lives.


Apple Releases Behind the Mac: Skywalker Sound

To mark Star Wars Day, Apple released a special Behind the Mac video featuring the sound designers of Skywalker Sound, who rely heavily on Apple devices. The film, which runs just under 17 minutes, is a fascinating look at how the Skywalker Sound team captures and mixes real-world sounds that they transform into otherworldly sound effects for the Star Wars movies and other films.

The Behind the Mac video, which is currently featured on Apple’s homepage, focuses on Skywalker Sound’s production process from start to finish. Behind the scenes, the group’s mixing and editing are backed by a lot of Apple hardware. Sound editor Ryan Frias is featured in the video touring Skywalker Sound’s central machine room, which is filled with racks of Mac Pros. According to Apple’s press release:

With the power of approximately 130 Mac Pro racks, as well as 50 iMac, 50 MacBook Pro, and 50 Mac mini computers running Pro Tools as their main audio application, along with a fleet of iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV devices, Skywalker is advancing sound artistry and reshaping the industry.

That’s a lot of gear, but the video’s primary focus is on the creative process of the professionals at Skywalker Sound, who have been pushing the boundaries of sound design for many years. If you enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes look at creative people doing cutting-edge work, I recommend checking out Behind the Mac: Skywalker Sound.


UI Browser for macOS to Be Retired in October 2022

Longtime MacStories readers may be familiar with UI Browser, an incredible scripting tool for macOS created by Bill Cheeseman. UI Browser lets you discover the AppleScript structure of an app’s menu system, taking advantage of Apple’s Accessibility APIs to make it easier to script UI, which is not – how do I put this – normally “fun”, per se. UI Browser developer Bill Cheeseman, having turned 79 years old, has decided it is now time to “bring this good work to a conclusion”, and the app will be retired in October.

Here’s what John Gruber wrote about UI Browser last week:

Long story as short as possible: “Regular” AppleScript scripting is accomplished using the programming syntax terms defined in scriptable apps’ scripting dictionaries. If you ever merely tinkered with writing or tweaking AppleScript scripts, this is almost certainly what you know. But as an expansion of accessibility features under Mac OS X, Apple added UI scripting — a way to automate apps that either don’t support AppleScript properly at all, or to accomplish something unscriptable in an otherwise scriptable app. UI scripting is, basically, a way to expose everything accessible to the Accessibility APIs to anyone writing an AppleScript script. They’re not APIs per se but just ways to automate the things you — a human — can do on screen.

A great idea. The only downside: scripting the user interface this way is tedious (very verbose) at best, and inscrutable at worst. Cheeseman’s UI Browser makes it easy. Arguably — but I’ll argue this side — “regular” AppleScript scripting is easier than “UI” AppleScript scripting, but “UI” AppleScript scripting with UI Browser is easier than anything else. UI Browser is both incredibly well-designed and well-named: it lets you browse the user interface of an app and copy the scripting syntax to automate elements of it.

I first covered UI Browser in 2019, when I published a story on how I could control my Mac mini from the iPad Pro using Luna Display and some AppleScript, which I was able to learn thanks to UI Browser. I then mentioned UI Browser twice last month for Automation April: it was thanks to the app that I managed to create shortcuts to toggle the Lyrics and Up Next sidebars in the Music app for Monterey. Maybe it’s silly, but I think there’s something beautiful in the fact that the last thing I did with UI Browser was bridging the old world of AppleScript with the modern reality of Shortcuts.

Gruber argued that Apple should acquire UI Browser and make it part of their built-in scripting tools for macOS; while I don’t disagree, I think it’s more realistic to hope another indie developer or studio picks up UI Browser and continues developing for as long as possible. There’s nothing else like it on the market, and I’d like to thank Bill Cheeseman for his amazing work on this application over the years. It’ll be missed.

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Automating Podcast Sessions in Audio Hijack 4 with Shortcuts and Timery

Audio Hijack 4 and Timery.

Audio Hijack 4 and Timery.

For the past week, I’ve been rethinking my approach to time tracking with the Timery app with a focus on simplicity and automation. I appreciate the insights into my habits and patterns afforded by time tracking and Timery’s excellent Reports view, but lately I’ve felt like my setup with projects, tags, and sub-tasks was too convoluted since it was based on a structure I designed years ago.

My daily routine is different now – and it’ll continue to change in 2022 – and I wanted to get rid of the overhead caused by a time tracking system that was too granular. For time tracking to be effective, you need to remember to start a timer whenever you’re working on something; too much friction in the process – such as having to carefully pick from a list of similar projects – defeats the whole purpose of it. There’s also the opposite problem – forgetting to stop a long-running timer – which John explained and fixed in a separate story for Automation April.

So I went back to the drawing board of my Timery projects and reorganized everything with simplicity and ease of activation in mind. I cleaned up my saved timers and shortcut that activates those timers, which I can now trigger system-wide via Raycast on the Mac and the Shortcuts widgets on iPad. I split my work projects into three main areas – MacStories, Club, and podcasts – removed redundant sub-tasks, and grouped related activities under the same tags for more reliable filtering.

How I access my saved timers from the Home Screen.

How I access my saved timers from the Home Screen.

The approach worked well for MacStories and the Club, but podcast timers turned out to be a different beast. You see, when I sit down to record a show like Connected or AppStories, I need to take care of key tasks such as making sure my audio inputs are correct, checking out notes for the show’s outline and intro, and keeping an eye on the Connected audience in Relay’s Discord server. These tasks distract me from time tracking and, as a result, I often forget to start a timer for when I begin recording and, conversely, stop the timer when I’m done. I could automatically start a timer when a calendar event for a show is due in my calendar, but that also doesn’t work for me since it doesn’t account for the time before we actually record the show when I may be chatting privately with Myke and Stephen. Wouldn’t it be great if there was One True Way to automatically start tracking my real recording time when I start talking into the microphone for a show?

As it turns out, thanks to the latest update to Audio Hijack – the new version 4.0 that recently launched on macOS – there is. So for this week’s Automation April story, I’m sharing the custom system I created to trigger a single shortcut that starts time tracking in Timery based on the show I’m recording in that specific moment. Let’s take a look.

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Automation April: 10 Shortcuts for Mac Multitasking, Markdown, Reminders, Music Lyrics, Twitter, and More

10 shortcuts for Automation April.

10 shortcuts for Automation April.

Automation April is well underway: we’ve entered the second week of our month-long special event about automation on Apple platforms, and – in case you haven’t noticed – things are happening everywhere. We’ve published Shortcuts-focused articles on MacStories; interviewed developers of Shortcuts-compatible apps on AppStories; we’ve hosted a Town Hall Workshop on our Discord along with giveaways. And, of course, our panel of judges is now busy testing and evaluating shortcuts submitted by people for the Automation April Shortcuts Contest. If you haven’t yet, now would be a great time to start following @AutomationApril on Twitter to keep up with everything we’re doing.

Last week, I shared an initial batch of 10 shortcuts I prepared for Automation April here on MacStories. I’m back this week with another set of 10 shortcuts that encompass a variety of platforms, app integrations, and functionalities. In this week’s collection, you’ll find even more shortcuts to speed up macOS multitasking; a shortcut that makes it easy to create a calendar event starting from a date; there will be a couple of shortcuts for Markdown and Obsidian users too.

I’m having a lot of fun sharing these sets of shortcuts for Automation April. So once again, let’s dive in.

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ComicTrack: A Beautifully-Designed, Flexible Way to Organize Your Comic Book Reading

ComicTrack is a new app from Joe Kimberlin for tracking and organizing the comic books you’ve read, are currently reading, and want to read. The idea is similar to his excellent videogame tracking app, GameTrack, but applied to comics. I’ve been using ComicTrack for a couple of weeks now, and it’s excellent. Of course, you’ll also need a separate app to read your comics, but having a dedicated app to organize what I’m reading and plan to read has single-handedly gotten me back into reading comics more regularly.

ComicTrack on the iPhone.

ComicTrack on the iPhone.

For context, I’ve always been a very casual comic book fan. I have Comixology and Shonen Jump installed on my iPad mini, but I often go weeks or months without touching either. It’s not a lack of interest, so much as a combination of not knowing where to start and having limited free time. ComicTrack hasn’t magically granted me more free time, but it has made getting started much easier by reducing the friction of picking something to read.

ComicTrack on the 12.9" iPad Pro in dark mode

ComicTrack on the 12.9” iPad Pro in dark mode

I’m going to focus on the iPad version of ComicTrack because that’s where I read most of my comics, but the app also works and looks great on the iPhone and Mac, as you’ll see in the screenshots below. Everything syncs over iCloud too. Also, although I spend most of my time using the iPad version of ComicTrack, I find the iPhone and Mac apps indispensable for collecting new ideas of things to read. I run across comic books all the time via RSS, Twitter, podcasts, and friends’ recommendations. That doesn’t just happen when I’m using my iPad, but with ComicTrack on all the platforms I use, it’s easy to add something that catches my eye.

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macOS 12.3: The Magic of Universal Control and More

macOS 12.3 Monterey has arrived, delivering Universal Control, the long-awaited feature that allows users to transition between Macs and iPads with a single set of input devices. Federico is covering the feature from the perspective of iPadOS 15.4, so I’ll focus on the Mac. In addition to Universal Control, macOS 12.3 includes other smaller features, which I’ll cover at the end of this story.

I’ve been using macOS 12.3 as my daily OS throughout the current beta cycle for a couple of reasons. First, Shortcuts has been steadily improving ever since Monterey’s fall introduction, so I wanted to stay on top of those improvements in real-time. Second, I’ve been fascinated by the possibilities created by Universal Control since it was announced at WWDC last year. I’m pleased to report that the feature hasn’t disappointed me and has quickly found a place as part of my core computing setup.

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The Shift in Apple’s Hardware Strategy

John Porter writing for The Verge puts a finger on a strategic shift that has slowly been emerging at Apple for a while.

Summoning the era of butterfly keyboards and the Mac Pro’s infamous thermal corner, Porter says:

There was a time not long ago when it seemed like Apple spent more time telling its customers what they wanted rather than just giving it to them.

In contrast,

with yesterday’s announcements, which include the powerful and port-rich Mac Studio and a new monitor that costs a fraction of the price of Apple’s previous attempt, Apple is now consistently doling out consumer-friendly features its fans have been calling for.

Porter traces the roots of Apple’s shift in approach back to 2017 when the company gathered a small group of writers to announce that it was hitting reset on the Mac Pro. Two years later, Apple introduced a new Mac Pro, and ever since then, there’s been a steady stream of devices released that underscore the company’s new hardware approach.

Reading the tea leaves to discern strategic shifts like this is always fraught with peril, but I think Porter is onto something. As he lays out, there are plenty of signs of the shift stretching back five years, and no better evidence than the Mac Studio, which is bristling with utilitarian conveniences like ports and an SD card slot on the front of the computer and plenty of other I/O options tucked away on the rear of the machine.

Apple’s shift has left users with an abundance of excellent computing options. Next, I hope we see a similar shift in the company’s approach to its software, concentrating on taking better advantage of the devices now available to users.

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Mac Studio, M1 Ultra, and Apple Studio Display: The MacStories Overview

Yesterday during their Peek Performance keynote event, Apple unveiled the Mac Studio and Apple Studio Display. The former is an all-new computer joining the Mac lineup, with specs that are blowing away Apple’s previous offerings due to the introduction of a new top-of-the-line M-series chip: the M1 Ultra. The Apple Studio Display marks Apple’s true return to the consumer display market after a near decade-long hiatus.

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