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.
Posts tagged with "macOS"
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.
- It was funny because everybody thought the Mac mini line was done. ↩︎
- 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. ↩︎
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Having just gone through the exercise of trying to find screenshots and other information about apps from the dawn of the App Store, I have a greater appreciation for how difficult that can be and the need to preserve the historically significant aspects of our digital world. Today, Stephen Hackett revealed a project he’s been working on for nearly a year: a collection of screenshots highlighting macOS from its debut in the Public Beta 17 years ago through today.
Hackett’s Aqua Screenshot Library, which you can find on 512 Pixels, was an enormous undertaking that currently includes 1,502 images that take up 1.6 GB of storage. I particularly like that all of these images were captured from Macs in Hackett’s collection. As Hackett explains:
These images came from the OS, running on actual hardware; I didn’t use virtual machines at any point. I ran up to 10.2 on an original Power Mac G4, while a Mirror Drive Doors G4 took care of 10.3, 10.4 and 10.5. I used a 2010 Mac mini for Snow Leopard and Lion, then a couple different 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros to round out the rest.
When you have a moment, browse the collection. It’s fascinating to see the evolution of macOS from its origins through today.
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.
As tweeted by Mike Stern, Apple’s Platform Experience and Design Evangelism Manager, Apple has updated its AppKit design resources with a comprehensive set of UI elements for making Mac apps. The UI elements come in both Aqua and the Dark Aqua variants for designing Dark Mode Mac apps.
Super excited about this... We now have Apple Design Resources for #macOS in Aqua💙 and Dark Aqua🖤. Available for @sketchapp and @Photoshop. https://t.co/l8KkJpJGbU Read more here: https://t.co/K8ipm0aVgV pic.twitter.com/828dWX5ily
— Mike Stern (@themikestern) July 26, 2018
The update, also announced on Apple’s developer news website, includes new watchOS UI elements too, including ‘dozens of new UI elements for watchOS apps, watch face templates for designing complications, a color guide, and new text styles.’
The design assets are available to download in both Photoshop and Sketch formats from the Resources section of Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines website. A full list of all the changes is available here.
One of the marquee features that Apple showed off for macOS Mojave at WWDC is Dark Mode. As the company demonstrated during the WWDC keynote, Dark Mode is a far more ambitious feature than the dark theme added to macOS Yosemite in 2014. The new look extends much deeper into the system affecting everything from app chrome to window shadows and Desktop Tinting.
There is a lot more to Dark Mode than you might assume. To help developers navigate when and how to implement Dark Mode, Apple has provided developers with guidelines, which Stephen Hackett covers on 512 Pixels:
The biggest is that not all apps should always follow the Appearance that has been set by the user. As before, Apple believes that media-focused tools should be dark at all times. I don’t foresee something like Final Cut Pro X gaining a light theme anytime soon.
Apple has also given developers the ability to use the Light Appearance in sections of their applications. One example is Mail, which can use the Light Appearance for messages, but the Dark Appearance for its window chrome, matching the system[.] This lets text and attachments be viewed more easily for some users. I think it’s a nice nod to accessibility for text-heavy apps, and I hope third-party developers take advantage of this ability.
Hackett also covers Accents, an adaptation and expansion of what is currently called Appearances that affect the look of things like drop-down menus, and how Accessibility features affect Dark Mode.
I like the look of Dark Mode a lot and hope third-party developers adopt it quickly. I expect the pressure to add Dark Mode to existing apps will rapidly increase as more and more third parties begin to use it and hold-out apps become bright, glaring reminders among a sea of muted windows.