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Posts tagged with "mac"

Getting Behind the Mac as a Productivity-First Platform


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.

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Black Pixel Transfers NetNewsWire to Brent Simmons

Today, Brent Simmons and Black Pixel announced that NetNewsWire will be returning to Simmons, the original developer of the app.

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.


Apple Announces September 12 Event

As first reported by Tim Bradshaw Apple has announced a media event for September 12, 2018 at 10:00 am. The event will be held at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino.

Based on widespread speculation, Apple is expected to introduce new iPhones based on the iPhone X design. Rumors also point to the introduction of new iPad Pros with smaller bezels, no home button, and Face ID, a revised Apple Watch with a larger display, and perhaps a new Mac mini and MacBook Air replacement.

In addition to hardware, Apple is expected to announce release dates for updates to its operating systems, including iOS 12, macOS Movjave, and watchOS 5. As in the past, Apple should release a Gold Master of iOS 12 and Mojave shortly after the event with a public release date within approximately 10 days.

Update: Apple has announced that the September 12th event at the Steve Jobs Theater will be live-streamed.


Affinity Publisher Beta for Mac Available

Serif, the maker of Affinity Photo and Designer, announced the launch of a public beta for Affinity Publisher, a desktop publishing app that it is developing for the Mac and Windows. In a press release today, Serif says that the feature set will include:

  • Advanced typography
  • Linked text frames
  • Master pages
  • Facing page spreads
  • Dynamic photo frames
  • Tables
  • Baseline grids
  • Linked resources
  • End-to-end CMYK

Of course, Serif cautions that it is not ready to use in production work, but you can download the app from Affinity’s website and take it for a spin to get a sense for what is coming and provide input to Serif. The final product is expected to ship in ‘a few months’ according to the Publisher preview webpage.

In addition to the signup page, Serif has published a series of 16 short video tutorials explaining the basic functionality of the app. There is also a sample brochure you can download to use as a playground for experimenting with the app’s features.

From my initial look at the beta and tutorials, Publisher is an ambitious effort to build an integrated suite of creative apps by leveraging Affinity Photo and Designer, which will be accessible directly from within Publisher. Those integrations are not yet available in the beta but will be activated in a later build.

It’s been interesting to watch Serif invade an app category, in which Adobe has been the dominant player for so long, with sophisticated but cost-effective alternatives that suit the needs of many users. Publisher looks like an app that could round out the Affinity suite of apps nicely, making the trio of apps appealing to an even greater audience.


Game Day: Donut County

Tomorrow, Donut County by developer Ben Esposito will be published by Annapurna Interactive, which also backed the critically-acclaimed Florence. The game, which was announced in 2014, but has been in development since 2012, tells the story of a raccoon named BK, his friend Mira and an assortment of other characters from Donut County who are trapped 999 feet beneath the surface of the Earth. You play by manipulating a hole that grows as you move it across the landscape swallowing objects. If the premise sounds strange, that’s because it is, but it also works through a combination of a clever game mechanic, funny writing, and engaging sound design and artwork.

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RapidWeaver 8 Debuts Redesign, New Responsive Themes, Unsplash Support, and Improved Plug-In Management

RapidWeaver by Realmac Software got a significant update today. Starting from scratch or with one of over 50 Themes, RapidWeaver allows users to create highly-customized websites by offering a wide array of tools and properties that can be tweaked. The app also supports third-party plug-ins and Themes that can be used to extend the app even further.

RapidWeaver may remind you a little of iWeb, but the similarities end with the drag and drop, template-driven approach. The depth of RapidWeaver goes well beyond what iWeb could do before Apple discontinued it.

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The Case for Low Power Mode on MacBooks

Marco Arment has revisited MacBook Pro battery life tests that he first ran in 2015 to see how his new 2018 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.7 GHz i7 processor and his 2015 2.2 GHz 15-inch MacBook Pro would fare under similar conditions. In 2015, Arment used an app called Turbo Boost Switcher to disable Turbo Boost on his laptop. This time around, he replicated disabling Turbo Boost on his 2015 MacBook, but on his 2018 model, he also limited the laptop’s power consumption using Volta.

Based on the results Arment concludes that:

the gain in battery life is about as large as the loss in heavy-workload performance. That’s a trade-off I’d gladly make when I need to maximize runtime.

The best bang-for-the-buck option is still to just disable Turbo Boost. Single-threaded performance hurts more than with wattage-limiting, but it’s able to maintain better multi-threaded performance and more consistent thermals, and gets a larger battery gain relative to its performance loss.

Running an app like Turbo Boost Switcher is worth considering when you have work to get done because it can mean the difference between your MacBook’s battery making it through a long flight or not. However, I’m with Arment – I’d prefer to run an iOS-like Low Power Mode for Macs that is implemented at the OS level and makes intelligent choices about what activities to stop or slow down. To get an idea of the sorts of things that might be throttled in a macOS Low Power Mode, check out the long list compiled by Arment.

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Spect: Simple Image Management on the Mac

Spect from Steven Frank is based on a single, straightforward idea: separating image navigation from the Mac’s folder hierarchy. Point the app at a folder and tell it how deep to peer into subfolders and the app quickly generates thumbnails of the images to that depth of the folder structure. If you’ve ever found yourself drilling down into folders and subfolders only to have to back out and follow another path, you’ll understand the power of Spect immediately. The app saves users from a tremendous amount of clicking around.

Just like the Finder, your image thumbnails can be resized with a slider in the lower righthand corner of the window. In the bottom lefthand corner is where you specify how deep Spect should look into your folders.

Highlight an image and hit the space bar to toggle preview mode, which fills the window with the selected image. In preview mode, there are navigation arrows in the lower lefthand corner of the window so you can advance through your images one at a time.

Previewing an image in Spect.

Previewing an image in Spect.

Spect can display a wide variety of image formats including JPG, PNG, HEIC, RAW, GIF, and PDF. It’s worth noting, however, that Spect is not a replacement for a PDF document viewer. The app is designed for images and can only display the first page of a document-based PDF.

The toolbar at the top of the window has buttons for moving images to the Trash and revealing them in the Finder that are excellent for basic organization. There are also Slideshow and Shuffle buttons in the toolbar, which are a handy way to create a quick slideshow of images from several folders at once. By default, images change every four seconds, but that can be adjusted in the app’s Preferences.

One preference I’d like to see added to Spect is a way to limit which types of image files are displayed in the app. For example, I’d like the option to exclude PDF files, which in my case, are usually documents that I don’t want to see when I’m browsing photos and screenshots. Spect includes drag and drop support for moving images from Spect to different Finder folders, but it would also be handy to be able to create new folders from inside Spect and move photos into them without switching to the Finder at all.

Spect isn’t designed to replace a photo management tool like Adobe Lightroom. Instead, its power lies in its simplicity and the speed with which you can triage a collection of images without getting lost in a complex folder structure. In the two days I’ve been using it, Spect has already helped me understand what images I have and organize them better. For example, I located Apple press photos scattered throughout multiple folders and consolidated them into one folder. I also quickly scanned and retrieved images I wanted to save from my Downloads folder and deleted the rest. If you work with images on a Mac, Spect is a utility you should definitely check out.

Spect is available on the Mac App Store for $4.99.


Kano Announces Harry Potter Magic Wand Coding Kit

With three children, I’ve looked at many products over the years that are designed to make learning to code fun and engaging for kids. Of all the things I’ve tried, one of my favorites is a build-your-own computer kit from Kano. The kit is a kid-friendly Raspberry Pi with tiny, bright orange wireless keyboard.

The Pi runs a Kano-skinned version of Linux with a bunch of activities for kids ranging from Minecraft mods to simple building block-style JavaScript programs that abstract away the language’s syntax but makes it available just under the surface as kids become more comfortable with coding. It’s an excellent kit that strikes a good balance between learning and fun.

This week, Kano announced a new Harry Potter-themed magic wand. Kids build the wand, which contains an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer, and then use an iPad, Mac, PC, or Android tablet to program magic spells straight from the Harry Potter book series using JavaScript. Kano says the wand, which can be pre-ordered for $99 and will be delivered on October 1st, comes with a book of over 70 projects and can be ordered from Kano directly, Amazon, and other retailers.

My kids are a little old for the Kano wand now, but I know that if it were available back when they were tearing through the Harry Potter series, the wand would have probably turned up at my house over the holidays.