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Posts tagged with "macOS"

Apple Announces Find My Network and Three Initial Accessory Maker Partners

Today, Apple updated the Find My app to allow third-party products to take advantage of its network of devices to locate lost and stolen belongings from the app’s new Items tab. According to Apple’s press release:

“For more than a decade, our customers have relied on Find My to locate their missing or stolen Apple devices, all while protecting their privacy,” said Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Now we’re bringing the powerful finding capabilities of Find My, one of our most popular services, to more people with the Find My network accessory program. We’re thrilled to see how Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof are utilizing this technology, and can’t wait to see what other partners create.”

The Find My network program, which is part of Apple’s Made For iPhone program, allows accessory makers to hook into Apple’s Find My network to locate belongings securely and privately. Apple also said it is publishing a draft specification for chipset makers later this spring, so they can take advantage of the precise, directional capabilities of Apple’s short-range U1 chip.

Apple announced three initial partners who are incorporating Find My into their products. VanMoof is integrating the feature into its S3 and X3 e-bikes, Belkin is including it in its SOUNDFORM Freedom True Wireless Earbuds, and Chipolo is using Find My in its ONE Spot item finder. Find My’s integrations with these third-party products will work just like it does with Apple devices allowing users to do things like play a sound, locate items on a map, and put them in Lost Mode to lock them. Apple says all three partners’ products will be available next week, with more partnerships to rolling out soon.


The Case for Shortcuts on the Mac

Jason Snell writing on Six Colors:

The more I use Shortcuts, the more I realize that in many ways, user automation on iOS has outpaced automation on the Mac. Let me give you an example: On iOS I built a shortcut to grab the contents of selected text in Safari and open the results in a text editor—converted to Markdown, with the title of the page set as the title and its URL set as a link. It’s not remotely the most complicated shortcut I’ve built, but it’s great—and has saved me a lot of time while improving the quality of my link posts…

I love it so much, I decided to build the same automation on the Mac. The results were ugly. My Keyboard Maestro macro forces Safari to copy the selected text to the clipboard, moves to BBEdit, opens a new window, pastes in the HTML, runs an HTML to Markdown Service on the selection, then runs an AppleScript script that cleans up the results. It’s ridiculous.

This is a fantastic example of something that I’ve experienced over and over to the point where I hesitate before trying to automate anything on the Mac. As Jason points out, Shortcuts isn’t exactly easy, but I find that I usually spend the most time figuring out the best approach to a problem rather than how to implement it in Shortcuts, which is automation at its best. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle that encourages me to experiment more with Shortcuts and use Mac automation less.

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Coppice: Visual Note-Taking and Research for the Mac

Apps that help you organize and connect ideas aren’t new, but it’s a hot category right now. There are note-taking apps, many of which offer wiki-style back-linking, outliners, diagramming apps, mind mapping apps, and more. The approaches vary as widely as the ways people process and organize their thoughts, which is what makes these apps so interesting. The category has become a playground of creativity, allowing developers to experiment with new ways to help users explore ideas free from the more constrained, structured environment of a text editor.

It’s into this app frontier that M Cubed Software launched Coppice, a Mac-only app that combines elements of mind mapping and note-taking to deliver a unique, note card-like experience. There are ways that I think Coppice could enhance its approach to extend the app’s power. However, despite some limitations, Coppice is an excellent addition to the genre that succeeds in offering a novel perspective on note-taking and research in a crowded field.

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macOS Big Sur: Widget Roundup

Developer adoption of new macOS features is often a little slower than it is on iOS and iPadOS. However, that hasn’t been the case with Big Sur widgets. Apple wisely took the same SwiftUI-based system used for creating widgets on the iPhone and iPad and implemented it on the Mac, providing a relatively simple approach for developers to bring their existing widgets to the Mac. The result has been an immediate explosion of widget options for Mac users.

Over the course of the summer and fall, I tried several different widgets as I ran the Big Sur betas. A few of those widgets — which have been in development the longest and were highlighted in my Big Sur review — remain some of my favorites and are recapped below. However, many more terrific widgets have been released since and deserve consideration as well, so let’s dig in.

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macOS Big Sur: The MacStories Review

Big Sur is a big deal. The OS picks up where Catalina left off, further rationalizing Apple’s product lineup through design, new ways to bring apps to the Mac, and updates to existing system apps. The approach realigns functionality across Apple’s platforms after years of divergence from their common foundation: Mac OS X. The result is an OS that walks a perilous line between breaking with the past and honoring it, acknowledging the ways computing has changed while aiming for a bold future.

macOS, which OS X has been called since 2016, is a mature operating system, so more often than not its annual updates are incremental affairs that don’t turn many heads. Big Sur is different. It’s an update that promises a future that’s connected to its past yet acknowledges today’s mobile-first computing landscape and harmonizing user experiences across devices.

Big Sur also clarifies Apple’s Mac strategy, the contours of which began to emerge with Catalina. It’s a vision of a continuum of computing devices that offer a consistent, familiar environment no matter which you choose while remaining true to what makes them unique. In practical terms, that means a carefully coordinated design language and a greater emphasis on feature parity across OSes. Conceptually, it’s also an opportunity for macOS to shed the perception that it’s a legacy OS overshadowed by iOS and reclaim a meaningful place in Apple’s lineup for years to come.

Together, the changes to macOS set the table for Apple’s M1 Macs, the next big step in the Mac’s modernization, and easily earn Big Sur its designation of version 11.0.

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Craft Review: A Powerful, Native Notes and Collaboration App

Note-taking apps on Apple platforms have never been in a better place. Apple Notes is a fantastic built-in option with deep system integrations. Bear offers an elegant Markdown experience and powerful note linking features. Agenda takes a unique date-based approach to note-taking. Evernote just launched its long-in-the-works redesign, and Noto provides a great mix of style and substance. There are quality Pencil-based note-takers like Notability and GoodNotes. And certain web-based tools like Notion are starting to put a higher priority on their app experience.

But for all the excellent options already out there, it can never hurt to have another. Especially when that new option is as well done as Craft.

Craft is launching today across iPhone, iPad, and Mac as a new note-taker that blends the block-based approach of Notion with a thoroughly native experience, taking advantage of all the OS technologies you would hope for and throwing in valuable features like real-time collaboration. It’s the most exciting note-taking debut I’ve seen in years.

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Mac Catalyst 2.0: Doubling Down on the Alignment of the Mac and iPad

WWDC 2020 brought Mac Catalyst into sharper focus than ever before. Introduced as an unnamed ‘sneak peek’ in 2018, Mac Catalyst offered the promise of a simple and efficient way for iPad developers to bring their apps to 100 million Mac users. The reality was that it can be hard to transition an app from an iPad to a Mac, and the results weren’t always great.

The trouble was the result of a confluence of multiple factors, including:

  • The first iteration of Mac Catalyst used iPad design conventions in places that felt out of place on the Mac
  • There was too little documentation
  • Excitement surrounding SwiftUI left developers wondering whether Apple was committed to Mac Catalyst

WWDC 2020 was different. Apple introduced what was effectively Mac Catalyst 2.0 with its Optimized for Mac initiative, a separate Mac Catalyst path that follows Mac conventions more closely but requires more work. The company also built Messages and Maps, two of its flagship apps, using Mac Catalyst, demonstrating a deeper commitment to the technology than ever before. The result is a brighter future for Mac Catalyst that clearly has a role to play alongside SwiftUI and Apple’s other frameworks.

To understand where Mac Catalyst is heading, though, we first need to understand where it has been over the past two years.

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Podcasting on iPad Pro and Mac: A Streamlined Approach with the Sound Devices MixPre-3 II

Anyone new to a job has probably thought or even asked:

“Why do you do it that way?”

and gotten the age-old answer:

“Because that’s how we’ve always done it.”

It’s human nature to stick with a solution that works and is familiar. When a workflow is so ingrained that it’s a habit, that’s good because it allows the task to become less about the tools and more about what you’re creating.

Paradoxically, though, familiarity can also lead to inflexibility, a resistance to change that undermines the very productivity that the solution enabled in the first place. It’s an inertial force that’s hard to resist, but I think it’s important to push back against it. Not solely for the sake of efficiency, but also to improve the results of your efforts.

The trick is knowing when experimentation with new workflows is unproductive fiddling and when it’s meaningful exploration. I’ve seen too many people fall into the trap where improving the process becomes the goal itself.

Early last year, I decided I was finished with letting tasks dictate how I work. I work across the Mac, an iPad Pro, and an iPhone all day long. Some jobs are more suited to one device than another, and some I just prefer to do on a particular device. The point is, though, that it’s something I want to be my choice, instead of something foisted on me by the nature of the work itself.

I’m fortunate that most of what I do migrates effortlessly from one device to another. Still, I’ve historically had two weekly responsibilities where I’ve felt tied to a Mac.

The first was producing the Club MacStories newsletters using Mailchimp’s web app. As I wrote last January, Safari’s updates in iOS and iPadOS 13, which made web apps work roughly the same on my iPad Pro as on my Mac, solved that problem for me.

The second Mac-bound task was podcast recording and production. I recognize that there have been ways to accomplish podcasting on an iPad for a while. However, when it comes to recording in particular, I didn’t want to change the way I record episodes to work around the iPad’s limitations for the same reasons Federico articulated in Beyond the Tablet.

What made these two tasks frustrating is that they’re both tied to schedules that have limited flexibility. When I was traveling more, that left me with little choice but to take a Mac. I prefer to travel with my iPad Pro, but regardless, I’d rather pick how I work myself, even when I’m at home.

I’m not doing as much traveling now, but a recent road trip to Michigan led me to start thinking about my podcasting setup again. As with many trips in the past, I wound up taking my MacBook Pro along, in this case so I could record interviews for an episode of AppStories. The setup was perfectly fine, but it felt like too much equipment for recording a few short interviews. Plus, I took my iPad Pro because I prefer it for writing and wanted to stay connected to mobile data as I wrote a story in the car.

Ever since Jason Snell wrote about his iPad Pro podcasting setup on Six Colors early last year, and Federico adapted it for his setup when he can’t use his Mac mini, I’ve wanted to try something similar. What held me back, though, was a combination of the complexity, cost, and infrequency with which I assumed I’d use the setup.

I also held out hope that iPadOS 13 or 14 would include improved audio routing that would make it possible to talk on Skype and record a local audio track. That hasn’t happened. Although I expect Apple will add that functionality eventually, it’s been 18 months since Safari solved my Mailchimp problem. With only podcasting standing in the way of my goal of device independence, and no software solution from Apple in the early iPadOS 14 betas, I figured it was time to revisit my hardware options.

I wanted a solution that worked equally well when I’m sitting at my Mac or iPad, allowing me to talk over Skype and record myself locally. What I discovered was an incredibly versatile solution that accomplishes in a single device what Snell and Federico cleverly constructed from a field recorder and USB audio interface: the Sound Devices MixPre-3 II.

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Michael Flarup on Big Sur’s New Design

In the years since iOS 7 ushered in flat, minimalistic design, Michael Flarup has consistently pushed back, insisting that the trend had gone too far and there was still room for fun and expression in design. With the redesign of macOS 11 Big Sur, Apple surprised the design world by introducing a design that harmonizes macOS with the company’s other OSes, while providing room for expressiveness.

As Flarup explains:

Materials and dimensionality has made its way back into the interface —and every single app icon for every application and utility that Apple ships with macOS has been redesigned with depth, textures and lighting. This is a big deal. Probably bigger than what most people realise.

The post is a fantastic overview of where design stands on Apple’s platforms today and the influence that the company’s choices have on the design community. Whether intended or not, the unexpected design shift on macOS is one that Flarup expects to see radiate out to affect the design of iOS and iPadOS too:

With this approach Apple is legalising a visual design expressiveness that we haven’t seen from them in almost a decade. It’s like a ban has been lifted on fun. This will severely loosen the grip of minimalistic visual design and raise the bar for pixel pushers everywhere. Your glyph on a colored background is about to get some serious visual competition.

It’s interesting to consider where this new direction will lead. Big Sur’s iconography is part of a broad redesign on macOS that runs far deeper than the design changes made to iOS or iPadOS this year. Whether those platforms will follow the Mac’s lead in the future or take their own paths is something I expect to see debated a lot in the months to come. However it plays out, though, I’m glad to see the Mac retain character in its design as it heads into what promises to be a new era for the Mac.

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