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Posts tagged with "mac"

Bringing iOS Apps to the Mac Will Entail More Than Flipping a Switch

Craig Hockenberry of The Iconfactory has an in-depth look at the challenges developers, designers, and marketers will face bringing their iOS apps to the Mac. Although Marzipan may make it possible to simply flip a switch in Xcode to build Mac and iOS versions of an app simultaneously, it’s unlikely to be that simple in practice. As Hockenberry notes:

that build setting is just the first step on a long and complicated road. Good interaction doesn’t come for free.

That’s because user interactions are different between iOS devices and Macs and driven by multiple factors including differing input devices, screen sizes, and individual UI elements.

One of the many examples of design challenges that Hockenberry covers is moving from iOS device screen sizes to Mac screens:

The most obvious design element that will change as you move from iOS to macOS is the screen. If you’ve designed for the iPad, you already understand the challenges of a larger display surface and adapting your views as that size changes. It’s not easy work, but an alternative design that’s just “a big iPhone” is highly unsatisfying for a customer.

The Mac alters this scenario slightly because your app is presented in a window that’s resizable: you might be running with the constraints of an iPhone SE one moment and the expansiveness of an iPad Pro the next.

Hockenberry also raises concerns about how developers will make money from Marzipan apps if they are universal apps as is the case with the iPhone and iPad versions of many iOS apps:

It’s my opinion that Universal apps were the worst thing to ever happen for the iPad ecosystem. There’s no way for a developer to recoup the costs for new interactions and the extra work needed for more sophisticated apps. Apple makes it easier for a customer up front by offering a single download, but at the same time they make things worse because a Universal version of the user’s favorite app isn’t financially viable.

One thing's for sure, change is coming to the Mac. For some, it will be exciting, and for others, it will be fraught with peril. Mistakes will be made, and adjustments will be necessary, but for iOS developers, designers, and marketers new to this sort of transition, Hockenberry's post is a great place to start thinking about bringing their apps to the Mac. He's been through similar changes in the past, and with the magnitude of what Apple likely has in store at WWDC, there's no time like the present to start considering these issues.

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A Mac Automation Schism

Thoughtful take by Jason Snell on the recent discussion around the idea that Shortcuts may be coming to the Mac and what that could mean for macOS automation. Snell imagines a scenario where Quick Actions, introduced last year with Mojave, could act as a bridge between old-school Mac apps and a new breed of Marzipan apps compatible (in theory) with Shortcuts only:

Something funny happened in macOS Mojave. Apple actually brushed off some very old Mac OS X technology, Services, and gave it a rebrand as Quick Actions. Quick Actions are commands you can find in Quick Look previews, the Finder’s new Gallery view, and on the Touch Bar. Some are pre-built by Apple, but users can add their own by saving Automator actions as Quick Actions.

I have no idea what prompted Apple to bubble up Automator actions into more places in the macOS interface with Mojave, but Quick Actions strikes me as a pretty good companion to Siri Shortcuts. Imagine a scenario where apps originating on iOS can support Siri Shortcuts via the same methods they use on iOS. Now imagine that Siri Shortcuts can also use Quick Actions as a source for potential commands. Quick Actions are contextual, those old-school Mac apps can bring their own Quick Actions to the party, and users can build their own Quick Actions to do whatever they want. It would be a simple way to bridge the gap between the two different app types that Mac users will be using together, at least for a while.

As I argued on Connected a couple of weeks ago, I'm intrigued by the idea that a Mac version of Shortcuts could have built-in bridges for old automation tools (shell, AppleScript, Automator, etc.) to at least trigger those scripts from the new app. Quick Actions would be a great fit for this; in fact, I find the whole idea of Quick Actions is well suited the Files app on iOS as well.

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Using a Mac from iOS, Part 2 – Luna Display and macOS as an App

iPad Diaries is a regular series about using the iPad as a primary computer. You can find more installments here and subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.

In the first part of my ongoing experiment with controlling and accessing a Mac from the iPad Pro, I covered FileExplorer – the app I use to open Finder locations from iOS' Files app – and shared a collection of shortcuts to control certain macOS features via Siri and the Shortcuts app. I also described my podcasting setup and how I've been taking advantage of Keyboard Maestro to automate window resizing across my two displays connected to the Mac mini. Today, I'm going to cover one of those two external displays – the iPad Pro running the Luna Display app – and how I've been using it to have "macOS as an app" on my iPad Pro. If you find this idea of reducing macOS to an app that runs on the iPad upsetting, the rest of this article likely isn't going to make you happy. If you're intrigued, however, strap in because I have a lot to share.

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    Drafts for Mac: The MacStories Review


    The quest for the perfect text application – for some of us it has been a lifelong goal, or at least it feels like it. I realised very early on in my computing life that I did not enjoy playing with formatting in Word or Pages, and when I discovered that Markdown provides the ability to make items **bold** or _italic_ with just a few simple characters, I felt like I had finally found my text formatting holy grail.

    Many years ago I discovered Drafts for iOS, and the idea appealed: you open the application and type. No creating a new file, or trying to decide what to do with the text before the thought is fully formed, just open, type, then decide. I frequently need to jot down notes, save links, and have found being able to write without thinking too much about where the words need to go, and how they're going to get there, is extremely helpful in today's world of constant interruptions.

    Last year saw Drafts 5 released for iOS with even more capability than before, allowing you to truly customise it to be the text editor you've always dreamed of having. There was only one small but important snag – no Mac version.

    Today there is a Mac app. It is what many of us have been waiting for, albeit with a few missing features at the moment. Drafts for Mac has landed.

    Let's get one thing out of the way: you've probably heard of Marzipan, the Apple project to enable iOS developers to bring their applications to the Mac. This is not one of those apps. It is an app written from the ground up for macOS, which works as expected with the system features.

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    The New 21.5 and 27-inch iMacs: The MacStories Overview

    Today, Apple has updated its online store with improved iMacs. Although the iMac Pro models were updated in December 2017, the non-Pro version hadn’t seen an update since June 2017, the longest time ever between iMac revisions according to MacRumors. The new iMacs, which were announced via a press release, include new base models and custom-build options for the 21.5 and 27-inch models that will allow customers to configure an iMac that rivals the specs of the lower-end iMac Pro models.

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    Macworld Profiles Mac Apps Developed for Over 25 Years

    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.

    Not long after BBEdit came on the scene, James Thomson released the first version of PCalc on the Mac, which was also built for System 7. For Thomson, PCalc's evolving UI has kept working on the app fresh:

    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.

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    My Must-Have Mac Apps, 2018 Edition

    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.

    The second factor was our MacStories coverage of the App Store’s tenth anniversary. For it, we produced seven extra episodes of AppStories that were released in the span of one week, which kept me in front of my Mac recording and editing for long periods of late May through June.

    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.

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    1. I’m right there with you on this one John. ↩︎

    What Happened to 5K Displays?

    Adam Engst, writing for TidBITS:

    Although the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display and iMac Pro both have 5K displays built in, Apple doesn’t currently make a standalone 5K display, or, in fact, an external display of any sort. When Apple dropped its 27-inch Thunderbolt Display (see “Apple Discontinues Thunderbolt Display with No Replacement in Sight,” 27 June 2016), the company worked with LG on a replacement: the $1299 LG UltraFine 5K Display.

    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.

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