Last year, Agile Tortoise introduced Interact for iOS, a powerful app for managing contacts. One of the most popular features of that app is the scratchpad that parses contact information, making quick work of turning a block of text into a new contact. Agile Tortoise has ported that functionality to the Mac in the form of a menu bar app called Interact Scratchpad.
Adding information to contacts is tedious. Too often I find myself switching back and forth between a webpage and the Contacts app typing information into field after field or copying little bits of text and pasting them into those fields. Scratchpad does the monotonous part for you by automatically recognizing all kinds of contact information.
Close your eyes and picture a Mac laptop. It has a small screen in a case unique among a sea of PC notebooks. It runs without a fan, and has impressive battery life. The trackpad is smooth and the keyboard is responsive.
Now open your eyes. Is this what you had in mind?
Let's talk about the original "Clamshell" iBook.
GAget is a Google Analytics app for macOS that started life as a Dashboard widget. These days, GAget resides in macOS’s Today widget panel of Notification Center. If you’ve ever used Google Analytics, you know that its web interface is complex. There’s a place for digging through Google’s many tabs of data, but when all you want are the highlights, GAget is better. It takes Google Analytics’ data and boils it down into cleanly-designed dashboard widgets and alerts that make it easy to understand what is going on with your website at a glance.
RAW Power is a powerful image editor reminiscent of Aperture that takes Apple’s discontinued pro photo editing tool a step further than Apple ever did. Whether you use RAW Power as a standalone image editor or as a Photos extension, what strikes me most about it is that with a little experimentation and patience, it’s accessible regardless of whether you consider yourself a pro user.
Before Photos, Apple had two photography apps: iPhotos for average consumers and Aperture for pros. In 2014, Apple discontinued Aperture. Around the same time, Apple evolved iPhoto into Photos, bringing the macOS and iOS apps that go by that name closer together from a feature set standpoint. That left pros and ‘prosumers’ who relied on Aperture in a bind. There are alternatives like Adobe’s Lightroom, but if you preferred Aperture, you were out of luck, until now.
RAW Power, by Gentlemen Coders, has a stellar pedigree. Its lead developer, Nik Bhatt, was Senior Director of Engineering for Aperture and iPhoto, so it’s safe to assume he understands Apple’s RAW engine. What sets RAW Power apart from something like Aperture, though, is its flexibility. Images can be edited non-destructively either in the standalone RAW Power app or from within Photos because RAW Power’s full functionality is also a Photos extension.
Like many people, my photo library is a mixture of thousands of images taken over many years that were shot with a variety of hardware, including old point-and-shoot digital cameras, a variety of iPhones, and a Sony NEX-5N I got in 2011 for a trip to Patagonia. I enjoy photography and have improved beyond taking simple snapshots, but I’ve never gone too deep into the technical side of it. Nonetheless, for special occasions I still shoot RAW images on my Sony camera to give myself maximum editing flexibility when I process my photos. RAW Power’s Photos extension fits my mix of photos and approach to editing perfectly by offering pro tools that are available on my command as an extension from within Photos when I need them, but stay out of the way when I don’t.
Data detectors are a feature of Apple’s OSes that recognize information like phone numbers, addresses, and airline flight information and make them interactive. For instance, clicking on a flight in Mail or Notes on a Mac opens a pop-up window with a map of the flight path, whether the flight is on time, departure and arrival times, and other information.
Developer Josh Parnham reverse-engineered the private APIs Apple uses for its flight status data detectors and built a macOS Today widget called TodayFlights. The widget displays the same interface and information as Apple’s data detector but in macOS’s Notification Center. To enter an airline name and flight number, all you do is click the info button at the top of the widget and enter both. Like Apple’s data detector, you can click on one of the cities to zoom in on that portion of the map. In addition, clicking on the bottom section of the widget cycles through departure and arrival times, remaining flight time, and flight duration.
It’s surprising that Apple hasn’t implemented flight tracking as a Today widget. As TodayFlights demonstrates, it’s the perfect sort of glanceable information for which Notification Center was created. Because TodayFlights is built on private APIs, the widget could break if Apple changes those APIs without notice, but until that happens, TodayFlights is a handy addition to Notification Center.
TodayFlights is a free download on Josh Parnham’s website.
Balance is a macOS menu bar app that tracks the balances and transactions in your bank, investment, and online financial accounts. The app supports thousands of financial institutions and takes advantage of some of Apple’s latest innovations on the Mac like the Touch Bar and Touch ID. If you want immediate access to balance and transaction data across multiple accounts at your fingertips, Balance is worth a look.
MacPaw, makers of CleanMyMac, Gemini, and other apps, launched a public beta subscription service of hand-picked Mac apps last December called Setapp. Today the service, which aims to become the ‘Netflix of apps,’ was officially launched with a stable of 61 Mac apps.
For a flat subscription fee of $9.99 per month, customers can download any of the 61 apps and use them as long as they continue to make monthly payments. After MacPaw receives a 30% cut of customers’ subscription fees, developers who participate in Setapp are paid based on a formula that accounts for the price their apps are sold for outside the service and whether customers use the apps each month, which MacPaw tracks.
"The Mac mini is BYODKM," Steve Jobs said, in front of a crowded and slightly confused audience at Macworld 2005.
"Bring your own display, keyboard and mouse," he continued. "We supply the computer, you supply the rest."
The Mac mini was designed to lure switchers to the platform. A new customer could simply unplug their desktop PC and hook a new Mac mini up to their existing peripherals.1
The original machine started at just $499, making the Mac mini the lowest-cost Mac Apple has ever sold.
Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that Apple decided to combine their engineering resources to form app teams that delivered both iOS and macOS versions of applications.
In such a scenario it may seem logical to retain application features common to both platforms and to remove those that were perceived to require extra resources. Certainly Automation would be something examined in that regard, and the idea might be posited that: “App Extensions are equivalent to, or could be a replacement for, User Automation in macOS.” And by User Automation, I’m referring to Apple Event scripting, Automator, Services, the UNIX command line utilities, etc.
Let’s examine the validity of that conjecture, beginning with overviews of App Extensions and User Automation.