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.
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.
The vast majority of the time I’m using it, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is a much better laptop with Turbo Boost disabled.
It’s still fast enough to do everything I need (including significant development with Xcode), while remaining silent and cool, with incredible battery life.
But soon, I bet I won’t be able to do this anymore.
Turbo Boost Switcher Pro relies on a kernel extension that’s grandfathered into Apple’s latest security requirements, but it can never be updated — and when macOS Catalina loads it for the first time, it warns that it’ll be “incompatible with a future version of macOS.” I suspect that this is the last year I’ll get to run the latest OS and be able to turn off Turbo Boost at will, making all of my future laptop usage significantly worse.
Low Power Mode is one of many useful features that iOS has had for years but that Mac users have been forced to live without. The feature’s popularity on iOS makes it a no-brainer addition for portable Macs, where battery life is already worse than what’s found in the iPhone and iPad.
Update: Former MacStories contributor TJ Luoma helpfully pointed out something that genuinely surprised me: Low Power Mode isn’t on the iPad either. Here’s hoping Apple brings it not only to the Mac, but the iPad as well.
John Siracusa writes on Hypercritical about the new Mac utility he just released in partnership with Lee Fyock. Following the release of macOS Catalina and its lack of support for 32-bit apps, such as DragThing, Siracusa needed a new solution for restoring a classic Mac OS behavior that he didn’t want to lose.
In classic, when you click on a window that belongs to an application that’s not currently active, all the windows that belong to that application come to the front. In Mac OS X (and macOS), only the window that you clicked comes to the front.
I tried to get used to it, but I could not.
Front and Center is the name of Siracusa and Fyock’s creation. It’s a tiny app that re-enables the classic behavior mentioned above, while also providing the option of using shift-click to engage the modern default of selecting the clicked window only. With Front and Center, long-time Mac users can have both the classic Mac OS behavior they enjoy, and the benefits of macOS’ modern approach, all at once.
Triode is a new Internet radio app from The Iconfactory for iOS and iPadOS, the Mac, and Apple TV that fills a niche all but abandoned by Apple. Internet radio stations used to claim a more prominent place in iTunes, but in Apple’s new Music app, they have been mostly abandoned in favor of Apple’s own radio stations. A handful of third-party broadcast stations are available in Music, the HomePod can play many more stations, and you can open any station’s stream on a Mac if you know the URL, but that’s it. Triode fills the gap with support for iOS, iPadOS, the Mac, and tvOS, plus CarPlay via the app’s iOS app.
As someone who hasn’t listened to the radio in years, I was a little skeptical of the utility of an Internet radio app at first, but Triode immediately won me over. The app is beautifully-designed, as you’d expect from The Iconfactory, and easy to use. Coupled with Apple’s latest technologies and a set of 31 hand-picked stations, the combination makes for a compelling way to discover new music.
I wish I didn’t feel like I needed an ad blocker, but so much of the Internet is junked up with intrusive, distracting advertising, that it’s virtually impossible to use some websites. I don’t have an issue with most advertising, but there’s a line that is crossed too often and ruins the reading experience of many sites. Where that line is varies subjectively by person, but that’s precisely why having a flexible ad blocker like 1Blocker is crucial.
The other reason to use 1Blocker is that content blockers like it manage more than just ads. Comments, share buttons, and social media badges are only a few of the many annoyances found on sites these days. Add to those, things like trackers and bitcoin mining code, and even if you don’t block a single ad, there is still plenty to block.
1Blocker has been one of my favorite utilities since it was introduced with iOS 9 and content blockers were new to iOS. The iOS version was followed by a Mac version the next year. 2018 saw the release of 1Blocker X on iOS, which split blocking rules into multiple categories to get around rule limits imposed by the OS. With the latest update to 1Blocker’s Mac app, that same functionality has been brought to the Mac along with a redesign of the app’s UI and a new subscription-based business model.
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.
Yesterday at Apple’s biggest developer event of the year, the company shared details on a project that was teased last WWDC, and has been the subject of endless speculation ever since. Codenamed Marzipan, but announced as Catalyst, the project promises a new, easier way for developers to bring iPad apps to the Mac.
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.
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.