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Posts tagged with "safari"

Desktop-Class Safari for iPad: A Hands-On Look at the Difference the iPadOS Update Makes to Apple’s Browser

For about four years, I’ve sat down at my Mac to produce Club MacStories’ two newsletters using Mailchimp. There’s a lot I like about Mailchimp, but that has never included the company’s web app. Mailchimp relies heavily on dragging and dropping content blocks in a browser window to build an email newsletter, which abstracts away the raw HTML and CSS nicely, but didn’t work well or reliably on iOS.

That finally changed with iPadOS 13, which brought one of the most extensive updates to Safari ever. The result has been that roughly half of the issues of the Club’s newsletters have been produced on my iPad Pro since October. Before iPadOS, that simply wasn’t possible. Whenever I tried to assemble a newsletter on my iPad, I ran into a show-stopping roadblock at some point.

If you’re wondering why this matters, the answer is flexibility and choice. Whether I’m traveling to another city for several days or just sitting in a local coffee shop for a few hours, I know I can rely on a stable mobile data connection on my iPad. I don’t have to worry about whether WiFi will be available for my Mac or fiddle with tethering. I just open my iPad and start working. As a result, I prefer my iPad to my MacBook Pro when I’m away from my desktop Mac.

I also enjoy the freedom of picking the platform I use for a task. Some days that’s my Mac, but just as often it’s my iPad. Sometimes that’s driven by the platform I’m working on at the time, and other days it’s nothing more than the device I feel like using that day. Until iPadOS 13, though, if that day was a Friday and I had a newsletter to produce, nothing else mattered. I had to have a Mac, and if I was traveling for more than a couple of days, that often meant I brought both devices along.

This isn’t a tutorial on how to use Mailchimp on an iPad. Few people need that, and if you’ve built a newsletter in Mailchimp on a Mac, you already know how to do it on the iPad. That’s the whole point. Safari in iPadOS has become a desktop-class browser. There remain differences between it and its desktop sibling, but the gap has been dramatically narrowed and the differences that remain purposefully leverage the distinctions between the Mac and iPad. The result has transformed frustrating experiences with web apps that simply didn’t work before on the iPad into a productive environment for accomplishing tasks that once required a Mac.

I don’t know that I’ve ever used a web app that I prefer to something native to the Mac or iOS, but the reality of contemporary computing is that many people rely on a collection of web apps in their work and personal lives. The changes to Safari in iPadOS are an acknowledgement of that reality. The experience isn’t perfect, but the latest iteration of Safari is a major step forward that eliminates hurdles that make the difference between getting work done and not.

If you’ve run into roadblocks with web apps in the past, it’s worth revisiting them in the wake of iPadOS 13. For me, the updates to Safari in iPadOS have been a tipping point in the way I work that has opened up new options I didn’t have before. I suspect the same is true for others who are looking for the same sort of workflow flexibility, which is why I want to share my experience and thoughts on producing the Club MacStories newsletters using Mailchimp on my iPad Pro.

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Apple Launches Web-Based Music App as Public Beta

As first reported by TechCrunch and The Verge, Apple has launched a web-based version of its Music app as a public beta at beta.music.apple.com. The app looks and feels a lot like the Music app coming to Catalina later this fall. The two are so close in fact that it’s easy to confuse the two if they’re open at the same time, which I did almost immediately.

Music running in desktop Safari (left) and in the Music app on Catalina (right).

Music running in desktop Safari (left) and in the Music app on Catalina (right).

The app features a left sidebar that’s divided into Apple Music’s For You, Browse, and Radio sections followed by your music library which contains Recently Added, Artists, Albums, and Songs. The final section includes playlists you’ve added from Apple Music as well as ones you’ve created yourself.

Playback controls are arrayed across the top of the window. In addition to play/pause and skip forward and back buttons, there are buttons to shuffle and repeat tracks, albums, and playlists, a volume slider, and a button that reveals an Up Next drop-down of songs you’ve queued for playback. When you visit an album or playlist page, there’s a ellipses button the reveals options to Add to Library, Play Next, Play Later, Like, and Suggest Less of This.

The experience is impressively close to the Mac Music app, though there are differences. The artwork for algorithmically generated playlists like the Favorites Mix doesn’t include album artwork. Also, I didn’t see a ‘Friends Are Listening To’ section in the beta, and my Recently Played albums and playlists were in a different order than in the Mac app.

The web app works on both desktop and mobile Safari where it can be saved to your Home screen as a progressive web app. On the iPad, Safari-based Music supports dark mode and Split View too.

Music running in mobile Safari in dark mode.

Music running in mobile Safari in dark mode.


Music in mobile Safari in Split View with Reminders.

Music in mobile Safari in Split View with Reminders.

I’ve only had a short time to play with Music in Safari, but I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far. With very few exceptions, the beta is already the full Music experience providing access not only to Apple Music streaming content but also your entire music library. This is an excellent option for anyone who doesn’t have access to a Mac or iTunes on Windows at work or elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if this solution eventually replaces iTunes on Windows, which does not appear to be getting an update alongside Catalina.


StopTheNews Forces Apple News Links to Open in Safari

Developer Jeff Johnson, the maker of StopTheMadness, has released a free Mac utility called StopTheNews that forces Apple News links to open in Safari instead of the News app.

The app works with Safari and Safari Technology Preview by registering itself as the default handler for the Apple News URL scheme. As Johnson explains on his website:

When StopTheNews gets an Apple News URL from Safari, it loads the page invisibly, finds the URL of the original article, and then opens the original article URL in Safari.

For example, this Apple News URL – https://apple.news/APIpuWVOoQQCi6gCg7H8zQg – opens a link on National Geographic’s website instead of in the News app. In my limited testing, StopTheNews works as advertised, opening Apple News links in Safari quickly. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I’d love to see StopTheNews also prevent Safari from asking if you want to open an RSS feed in Apple News when its URL is clicked.

Instead of opening Apple News (left), StopTheNews forces Apple News URLs to open in Safari (right).

Instead of opening Apple News (left), StopTheNews forces Apple News URLs to open in Safari (right).

I understand Apple’s motivations to drive users to its News app, but if I’m already working with links in Safari, having another app open can be annoying. Johnson’s solution is simple but clever, and it’s free, so if you’d prefer using Safari instead of Apple News for News links, check out his utility, which is available on GitHub.



How iOS Makes Good Password Practices Easier for Users

We’ve all been there. You’re signing up for a new service or creating an account for a new app, and you’re asked to pick a password. You know you should use a strong, random password, but in a rush to get started, you take the easy path and choose a weak, memorable password instead because it’s the path of least resistance.

Apple has been pushing back against those bad habits with new iOS features designed to combat password reuse by flipping the calculus on its head. In an excellent presentation given at PasswordsCon 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden last week, Apple engineer Ricky Mondello explains the iCloud Keychain features implemented in iOS since iOS 11 and the thinking behind them. He also provides tips and resources for web and app developers who want to integrate better with those features.

What I especially like about Mondello’s talk is the insight into the thought and effort that’s gone into making good passwords easy to create. It’s not something I’ve thought about much before, which I take as a sign that Apple’s Safari and iCloud Keychain engineers are succeeding.

The presentation is also fascinating from a design and user experience standpoint. As Mondello explains, people are ill-suited to create and remember random passwords. It’s a problem that’s right in a computer’s wheelhouse, but one that also requires users’ trust and an understanding of their habits to solve.

I recommend watching Mondello’s talk. There are a lot of interesting implementation details throughout the talk and insights into the thinking behind them, which are approachable whether you have a background in the topics covered or not.

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Safari Technology Preview Allows Websites to Switch Themes Based on Mojave’s Dark Mode

With Mojave, Apple introduced a user-selectable Dark Mode. Although Dark Mode is implemented throughout Mojave and Apple’s system apps, it’s not automatic. Third-party developers have to update their apps to adopt the feature. Many developers have already added Dark Mode support, but when you run across one that hasn’t, it can be jarring.

Safari has a similar problem. Although the browser incorporates Mojave’s Dark Mode, which makes the app’s chrome dark, websites have no way to detect if a Mac is running in Light or Dark Mode. As a result, even if a site has light and dark themes like MacStories does, the theme has to be switched manually.

Safari Technology Preview 68 changes this by adding support for the prefers-color-scheme media query. Websites that implement the feature will be able to detect if a user’s system is set to Light or Dark Mode and apply a light or dark theme to match the user’s preference. Similar to apps, website owners still need to implement a dark theme for their sites, but if they do, the new feature will switch themes automatically.

Safari has a relatively small piece of the overall browser market, so broad adoption of dark themes is by no means an inevitability. However, I’m glad to see the feature coming to Safari soon because if you use Dark Mode on a Mac, bright white webpages clash with the rest of the UI.


Creative Selection Delves into Apple Software Design with Stories about Safari, the iPhone, and the iPad

Today, former Apple engineer Ken Kocienda’s book Creative Selection, which covers his career at Apple and insights about the company’s software design process, was released. As an engineer at Apple, Kocienda worked on several high-profile projects including Safari on the Mac and the touch keyboards on the iPhone and iPad. Much of the publicity surrounding the book focuses on Kocienda’s work on the iPhone. However, there is a treasure trove of interesting anecdotes about other products and people that make Creative Selection an absorbing read for anyone interested in the creative process and Apple.

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Progressive Web Apps on iOS 11.3

Great overview by Maximiliano Firtman on progressive web apps, which are now supported on iOS 11.3 thanks to new web technologies Apple adopted in Safari 11.1.

I wouldn’t call progressive web apps a “replacement” for native software from the App Store (just read the list of technical limitations from Firtman’s article), but they are indeed a remarkable improvement over how Safari used to save web apps to the Home screen. I recommend checking out these two lists to try some progressive web apps and see how they work on iOS. I spent way too much time playing around with Web Flap, a Flappy Bird clone that runs as a progressive web app and even supports offline mode on iOS 11.3.

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Changes Coming to Safari 11.1 in iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4

Apple’s Ricky Mondello has a great thread on some of the improvements for users and web developers coming to the next version of Safari, which is available in today’s betas of iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4.

Among the highlights: animated GIFs can be replaced with silent videos; Intelligent Tracking Prevention is getting even smarter; Safari Reader has an improved parser and support for link blogs; Password AutoFill for Apps, which debuted with iOS 11, now works in web views inside apps. If you’re on the iOS 11.3 beta, you can try the improved Reader on this very post. As for GIFs, here at MacStories we already replaced them with silent .mp4 files loaded via native auto-play (see one in action here), but we’re considering adding support for video content in <img> tags as well. I’m also glad to see Apple expanding support for modern web app technologies including Service Workers and Web App Manifest.

You can find the full documentation for Safari 11.1 on Apple’s website here.

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