As we start a new year that could bring significant change to macOS, Glenn Fleishman, writing for Macworld, spoke to the creators of four Mac apps – BBEdit, PCalc, Fetch, and GraphicConverter – that have been around for at least 25 years and weathered a variety of past macOS and hardware transitions.
Rich Siegel of Bare Bones Software, which can trace BBEdit's lineage back to 1989 when the app was built for System 7, told Macworld that over the years:
We’ve extensively rewritten, upgraded, and optimized [BBEdit’s] internal architecture.… Even though it has evolved a great deal, BBEdit has stayed very close to its fundamental mission: empowering its users to accomplish tasks which would challenge or defeat other tools.
My passion since I first discovered the Mac nearly 30 years ago has always been making interesting and fun user interfaces. And look forward to keep doing it for a long time to come.
Fleishman also spoke to Jim Matthews, for whom FTP client Fetch has gone from full-time job to side project over the years, and Thorsten Lemke, whose GraphicConverter app has evolved from converting a handful of image formats to over 200.
Twenty-five or more years on one app is a remarkable accomplishment. The story of each app is different, but their developers share a common commitment to maintaining their apps for their customers notwithstanding the changes to the Mac and its OS over the years. Later this year, we should hear more about Apple's plans to help iOS developers bring their apps to the Mac App Store. Whatever impact those changes end up having on the Mac app ecosystem, I hope the sort of developer dedication that has kept BBEdit, PCalc, Fetch, and GraphicConverter around for over a quarter century perseveres.
Last year when I wrote about my must-have Mac apps, I was coming off a tumultuous year that started with a daily commute into Chicago for my old job and ended with me working from home. As the year came to a close, I was exploring what that meant for the way I work on the Mac.
That process continued into 2018. With the number of new things I took on in 2017 and the transition to indie life, I made the conscious decision to step back and settle into my new life. That wasn’t easy. There’s a natural tendency to take on everything that crosses your path when you go out on your own, but I’ve seen too many people fall into that trap in the past. Instead, I concluded that 2018 would be the year to improve the way I already work by refining existing workflows and reevaluating how I get things done, including on the Mac.
Three events led me to work on my Mac more in 2018. The first was the 27-inch LG 4K display I bought in January. It was a big step up from the 23-inch 1080p one I had before and, combined with a VESA arm, improved working at my Mac substantially.
Third, just after WWDC, I destroyed the screen of my iPad Pro thanks to the trunk hinges that invade the interior of the 2016 Honda Accord.1 I decided to hold out for the new iPad Pros, but that meant writing for four of the busiest months at MacStories without a good iOS work solution. I used a current-generation 9.7-inch iPad some, but it couldn’t compete with my LG display.
As 2018 comes to a close, the changes I’ve made haven’t been dramatic despite the extra time I’ve spent in front of my Mac. Instead, I’ve fine-tuned existing workflows and added new apps for specific tasks.
Below, I’ve broken down the 49 apps I use roughly by activity and function. I’ll mention where Apple’s apps fit into my workflow as I go because without them there would be a few big holes in the landscape of apps I use, but the focus of this roundup is on third-party apps, not Apple’s.
So you could buy an LG UltraFine 5K Display, but you might not want to. That’s because the availability of that monitor seems to be in decline, with AppleInsider reporting that Apple Stores say it hasn’t been restocked in a while and that it’s not available for in-store pickup when ordered online. With luck, its availability is dropping because LG is replacing it with a new model, but LG could just be running down stock before discontinuing it.
The Wikipedia page for 5K resolution lists a small number of other 5K displays, including screens from Dell, Philips, and HP, but as far as I can tell, none are currently for sale, apart from a handful of ultra-wide monitors with unusual aspect ratios like 64:27 and 32:9. Also on that list is the Iiyama ProLite XB2779QQS, but its page on Amazon says it ships directly from Japan and has absolutely no ratings or reviews, which is suspicious.
Good overview of the current state of 5K displays for Macs, which seemingly haven't taken off because the industry has settled on 4K for now and 8K for the next generation.
Toward the end of his post, Engst assumes that the Apple-branded display coming next year with the Mac Pro will likely rely on Thunderbolt 3. My hope, however, is that Apple can figure out a way to offer a 4K or 5K display that works via Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C with support for ProMotion refresh rates at 120Hz. The 2018 iPad Pros can only connect to USB-C displays (not Thunderbolt 3), which is why I ended up buying a 4K UltraFine display that works with both macOS and iOS via a single USB-C cable. I want to believe that Apple's external display comeback will support both pro Macs and pro iPads; as the owner of a new Mac mini and iPad Pro used with the same LG display, an integrated Apple solution would be the dream setup.
Apple has released its annual holiday ad titled ‘Share Your Gifts.’ The video tells the story of Sophia, a creative young woman who uses a MacBook to write but puts her finished work in a box where no one can see it. Set to ‘come out and play’ by Billie Eilish, the story follows Sophia over time as she continues to write and pursue other creative avenues always hiding them from others.
In the heart-warming conclusion of the video, Sophia’s dog pushes her window open causing the pages of her printed writing to blow out the window into the streets. Sophia races outside after the sheets of paper, but can’t retrieve them before townspeople pick them up and start reading with smiles on their faces as they enjoy her writing.
The video was released with an accompanying ‘making of’ video that shows how much went into the piece, which combines hand-built miniature sets and CG graphics. It’s a fascinating look at how much care and work went into making the nearly three-minute video.
I’ve always enjoyed Apple’s holiday ads and this year’s is no exception. The message of sharing your creativity as a way of connecting with others is a great message for the holiday season that also fits well with the company’s products.
If you’ve been around the Apple community a while, you’ve probably heard of MacStadium, but you may not understand the scale at which it operates. Snazzy Labs paid a visit to MacStadium’s data center in Las Vegas to check out some of the company’s roughly 8,000 Mac minis humming away powering websites like MacStories and performing all sorts of other tasks. During the segment, Snazzy Labs interviews MacStadium’s Brian Stucki about the Mac minis, hundreds of Mac Pros, iMac Pros, and even some Xserves that the company uses. Besides the huge number of Macs in operation, the customizations made to the Macs for things like data storage, redundant power, and networking are fascinating.
Tim Cook introduced the new Mac mini at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House by gesturing to the sky. What followed was a video titled ‘The Arrival’ depicting a Mac mini descending like a UFO from the nighttime sky into the desert, which turned out to be a nighttime wallpaper from Mojave, Apple’s latest macOS update. It was a fun introduction to a computer that was last updated in 2014, and many Mac users had predicted would be discontinued.
Yoink is the app I use on my Mac every day as a temporary spot to park files, snippets of text, images, and URLs. By itself, Yoink for Mac has been a fantastic time-saver. The latest updates to Yoink for iOS and the Mac, however, have been transformative. There's more that can be done to support the cross-platform use of Yoink, but Handoff support, which makes it simple to move data between my Mac and iOS devices, and several other new features have already added a new dimension to the way I use the app and embedded it deeper into my day-to-day workflow than ever before.
Apple's recent Behind the Mac series is one of my favorite marketing campaigns of late. I find the visual of people sitting behind their Macs so romantic and nostalgic. It's a sight that's ever-present whenever I spend time in a coffee shop, and the series' tagline, "Make something wonderful behind the Mac," causes me to now wonder in public: what are these people making as they sit behind the iconic Apple logo's glow?
Following WWDC earlier this year, I shared that one of the things I least expected from the conference was that it would get me excited about the Mac. I've been iOS-first for three years now, with no regrets whatsoever. During that time, while the Mac has received incremental improvements, its growth has lagged significantly behind iOS and the iPad. While I never expected the same level of innovation on macOS that iOS received – since the Mac didn't need as much work, frankly – it was frustrating to constantly see iOS score new apps and technologies before the Mac.
It has long seemed to me like the Mac was on its way to an eventual death. But WWDC breathed new life into the platform, with Apple doubling down on the Mac's strengths as a productivity tool, and the prospect of ported iOS apps starting next year. Each of these changes will bring, I believe, genuine excitement back to the platform.
NetNewsWire is a Mac RSS reader created by Simmons in 2002. Simmons sold the app to NewsGator in 2005, which subsequently sold it to Black Pixel, where it’s been developed for the past 7 years. During that time, Black Pixel released version 4 for Mac and iOS and created an Apple TV version. Black Pixel also implemented a sync system to keep users’ feeds up to date on each platform.
Separately, Simmons has been working on a free, open source RSS reader for the Mac called Evergreen. According to Simmons’ post on inessential.com, Evergreen will be renamed NetNewsWire 5.0. The project is available on GitHub, and a beta version for testing will be released soon. Black Pixel has removed NetNewsWire from sale and will shut down its sync server in 60 days. Simmons plans to support a variety of third-party RSS sync solutions in NetNewsWire 5.0 starting with Feedbin.
As I’ve noted on AppStories before, RSS readers have stagnated on the Mac in comparison to iOS in recent years, which is why I’m glad to see that Simmons is rebooting NetNewsWire based the work on Evergreen that he’s already done. RSS is still my first stop for most of the news I read every day. Although reading on iOS devices may be the most natural platform for RSS, I’m optimistic that we’ll see a revitalization of RSS on the Mac between projects like Simmons’ and the prospect of Marzipan versions of iOS RSS readers coming to the Mac in the future.