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Posts tagged with "macOS"

macOS Accessibility Keyboard

Lovely deep dive by Mattt Thompson on one of macOS’ most powerful Accessibility features – the Accessibility Keyboard:

Today, what’s the difference between a MacBook and an iPad? Practically speaking, you might point to the presence or absence of a physical keyboard, a SIM card, or an ARM processor (and if the rumors about next year’s MacBook models are to believed, those latter two may soon cease to be a distinction).

For many of us, a physical keyboard is the defining trait that makes a computer a “desktop” computer in the traditional sense; when you purchase an external keyboard for your iPad, you do so to make it “desktop”-like. But for many others — including those of us with a physical disability — a typewriter-like keyboard is but one of many input methods available to desktop users.

This week on NSHipster, we’re taking a look at the macOS Accessibility Keyboard. Beyond its immediate usefulness as an assistive technology, the Accessibility Keyboard challenges us to think differently about the nature of input methods and any remaining distinction between mobile and desktop computers.

Combined with the Panel Editor app, macOS allows you to design any kind of “keyboard” that goes beyond text input. I’ve written about this topic before when I shared my custom Accessibility Keyboard setup to launch AppleScripts, which you can find here.

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(Don’t Fear) The Reaper

Apple needed to show developers that Carbon was going to be a real and valid way forward, not just a temporary stopgap, so they committed to using Carbon for the Mac OS X Finder. The Carbon version of Finder was introduced in Mac OS X Developer Preview 2, before Aqua was revealed; it acted a bit more like NeXT’s, in that it had a single root window (File Viewer) that had a toolbar and the column view, but secondary windows did not. At this stage, Apple didn’t quite know what to do with the systemwide toolbars it had inherited from NEXTSTEP.

[…]

It had taken Apple four years to find the new ‘Mac-like’, and this is the template Mac OS X has followed ever since. Here we are, eighteen years later, and all of the elements of the Mac OS X UI are still recognizable today. So much of what we think of the Mac experience today came from NEXTSTEP, not Mac OS at all. AppKit, toolbars, Services, tooltips, multi-column table views, font & color pickers, the idea of the Dock, application bundles, installer packages, a Home folder, multiple users; you might even be hard-pressed to find a Carbon app in your Applications folder today (and Apple has announced that they won’t even run in the next version of macOS).

Fascinating read by Steve Troughton-Smith on how Apple transitioned from NeXTSTEP to Mac OS X between 1997 and 2001. The purpose of this analysis, of course, isn’t to simply reminisce about the NeXT acquisition but to provide historical context around the meaning of “Mac-like” by remembering what Apple did when the concept of “Mac-like” had to be (re)created from scratch.

Apple is going to be facing a similar transition soon with the launch of UIKit on the Mac; unlike others, I do not believe it means a complete repudiation of whatever “Mac-like” stands for today. The way I see it, it means the idea of “Mac-like” will gradually evolve until it reaches a state that feels comfortable and obvious. I’m excited to see the first steps of this new phase in a couple of weeks.

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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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    iPad Diaries: Using a Mac from iOS, Part 1 – Finder Folders, Siri Shortcuts, and App Windows with Keyboard Maestro

    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.

    After several years without updates to a product that, somewhat oddly, “remained in Apple’s lineup”, the Mac mini was revived by the company last November with a major redesign geared toward pro users and designed for flexibility. As listeners of Connected know, one of the show’s long-running jokes was that I would buy my last Mac ever as soon as Apple released a new Mac mini1; when it happened, I took the opportunity to completely rethink my home office with a new desk, well-specced Mac mini, and 4K display that supported both modern Macs and iPad Pros via USB-C.

    Effectively, I had never owned a desktop Mac until2 this Mac mini arrived. I always preferred portable Macs to workstations, and over the years I moved from a late 2008 MacBook Pro to a 2011 MacBook Air and, in 2015, back to the (now Retina) MacBook Pro again. Over the past couple of years, however, and particularly since the introduction of iOS 11, my penchant for Mac laptops started clashing with the realization that the iPad Pro had become my de-facto laptop. I was using a MacBook Pro because I thought I needed a portable Mac machine just like when I started MacStories in 2009; in reality, the iPad had been chipping away at the MacBook’s core tasks for a while. Eventually, I saw how my MacBook Pro had become a computer I’d open twice a week to record podcasts, and nothing more.

    With the iPad Pro as my primary computer, the Mac’s role in my life evolved into a fixed environment that was necessary for multi-track audio recording and Plex Media Server. And as I shared on Connected on several occasions, I realized that my workflow in 2018 wasn’t the same as 2009 anymore: it no longer made sense for me to have a Mac laptop when what I really needed was a small, but powerful and extensible Mac desktop. That’s why I started waiting for a new Mac mini, and my wishes were granted with the 2018 relaunch of the mighty desktop machine.

    For the past three months, I’ve been busy setting up the Mac mini and optimizing it for the tasks that inspired its purchase. I bought external SSD drives (these two) to use for Plex and Time Machine backups; I set up a homebridge server to add unsupported accessories to HomeKit (such as our 2017 LG TV) and turn iTunes playlists into HomeKit scenes; I rethought my podcasting setup (I now have a Zoom H6 recorder and a taller microphone stand) and arranged my desk to make it easier to use the same UltraFine 4K display with the Mac mini and iPad Pro (I just need to plug in a different USB-C cable). Because this Mac mini is fast enough to handle 4K transcoding for Plex without breaking a sweat, I started using youtube-dl to enjoy 4K YouTube videos on iOS devices with the Infuse or Plex apps. I’m trying to take advantage of a powerful, always-on Mac server in any way I can, and I’m having lots of fun doing it.

    This doesn’t change the fact that the iPad Pro is my main computer, and that I want to interact with macOS as little as possible. Aside from recording podcasts using Mac apps, I rely on the Mac mini as a server that performs tasks or provides media in the background. Any server requires a front-end interface to access and manage it; in my case, that meant finding apps, creating shortcuts, and setting up workflows on my iPad Pro to access, manage, and use the Mac mini from iOS without having to physically sit down in front of it.

    In this multi-part series, I’m going to cover how I’m using the 2018 iPad Pro to access my Mac mini both locally and remotely, the apps I employ for file management, the custom shortcuts I set up to execute macOS commands from iOS and the HomePod, various automations I created via AppleScript and Keyboard Maestro, and more. Let’s dive in.

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    1. It was funny because everybody thought the Mac mini line was done. ↩︎
    2. Many years ago, I did use an iMac for a few months. However, I never considered that machine truly mine – it was set up at my parents’ house (where it now sits unused) and I worked on it for a while until I moved in with my girlfriend a few months later. ↩︎

    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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    Pixelmator Pro Updated with Machine Learning Auto Enhancement, Light and Dark Modes, and Automator Actions

    Pixelmator Pro for the Mac was updated to version 1.2 today with a handful of enhancements centered around macOS Mojave.

    The update includes light and dark modes, which can be set in Preferences to follow the mode picked in System Preferences or full-time light or dark mode. Dark mode closely resembles Pixelmator Pro’s existing UI, but its light mode is brand-new.

    Pixelmator Pro's new light mode.

    Pixelmator Pro’s new light mode.

    Pixelmator Pro 1.2 has also added a new auto-enhance feature for images that applies machine learning to automatically adjust white balance, exposure, hue and saturation, lightness, color balance, and selective color. Previously auto-enhancement was available individually for some of the categories in Pixelmator’s Adjust Colors tab. The new ML Enhance feature, which the Pixelmator team says was trained with millions of professional photos, adjusts all of the categories listed above at once. If you don’t like the results, the adjustments can be turned off on a per category basis or adjusted manually.

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    App Bundles Are Coming to the Mac App Store

    In a brief post on Apple’s Developer news site, the company announced that it is adding support for app bundles to the Mac App Store. According to the post:

    …now, you can create app bundles for Mac apps or free apps that offer an auto-renewable subscription to access all apps in the bundle.

    The post points to developer documentation on creating app bundles that that has been revised to mention Mac apps. The process for setting up a bundle, which will allow developers to offer up to 10 Mac apps as a single purchase, appears to be the same as it is for iOS developers. Unfortunately for those developers with iOS and macOS apps, it does not appear possible to create a mixed bundle of iOS and Mac apps.

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