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Posts tagged with "utility"

Rogue Amoeba’s Loopback Was the Key to Creating a Budget 12-Channel Dolby Atmos Surround Sound System

If you’ve ever dug into setting up a surround sound audio system, it gets complicated and expensive fast. But, DMS, a YouTuber who covers headphones and other audio gear, managed to pull off something extraordinary: a 12-speaker Dolby Atmos surround sound speaker setup for under $2,000. The secret sauce? Loopback by Rogue Amoeba.

DMS bought 12 speakers and a bunch of DACs, but immediately had trouble getting the system to decode a Dolby Atmos signal without buying an expensive decoder. Ultimately, the solution was to use Loopback to combine the DACs into one virtual multichannel DAC, a far cheaper solution than trying to handle 12 channels at once.

DMS’s setup has been documented for anyone who wants to try it themselves. What struck me about it is how well Loopback handled an incredibly complex setup and saved DMS thousands of dollars by creating a software version of what otherwise would have required expensive hardware. This is a terrific example of why so many people turn to Rogue Amoeba’s apps when they need to do something with audio on the Mac, whether it’s as simple as recording a live track of their favorite band streaming in Safari, or as complex as a 12-channel Dolby Atomos surround sound system.

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Timery 1.5 Update Released with Lock Screen Widgets, Live Activities, New Shortcuts Actions, and More

Timery has been updated with a long list of new features and improvements that fans of the app are going to love.

Lock Screen Widgets and Live Activities

Timery's new Lock Screen widgets.

Timery’s new Lock Screen widgets.

First off, Timery has added iOS 16 Lock Screen Widgets and Live Activities. The Lock Screen widgets can display your current time entry, the total amount of time tracked today, or start a new timer. Each widget type includes circular and rectangular variants when added beneath the Lock Screen’s time, as well as a narrow in-line version that can be added to the top of the screen. The widgets can be configured to start a specific saved timer or show a list of timers and optionally show the app’s edit view for tweaking the details of the timer you start. It’s worth noting that Timery’s editing view now supports ‘@’ as a way to quickly search and add projects and ‘#’ for adding tags.

Timery's Live Activities.

Timery’s Live Activities.

Live Activities display the current time entry on the iPhone 14 Pro line’s Dynamic Island and the Lock Screen. Long-pressing either reveals additional information about the current project, task, and total time tracked for the day.

I’m a big fan of Timery’s new widgets and Live Activities because they offer the sort of glanceable details that weren’t possible before unless you were using the Mac version of the app and enabled its menu bar app. Now, I don’t have to unlock my iPhone or iPad to check on a timer, which allows me to get the information I want without getting distracted by other things on either device.

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GoodLinks 1.7: New iOS 16 Shortcuts Actions, Focus Filter Support, Lock Screen Widgets, and More

I’m really excited about the latest update to GoodLinks for iPhone. The app has always had some of the best automation support of any link management or read-later app I’ve used. However, with version 1.7, which was released last week, GoodLinks has taken its automation tools to a new level, opening up more ways to customize how you save, manage, and use links than ever before.

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Sticker Drop Lets You Use iOS 16’s Subject Isolation Feature to Make iMessage Stickers

Years ago, when the iMessage Store first debuted, I covered the best sticker packs every week in MacStories Weekly, our Club MacStories newsletter. It wasn’t long before I had more sticker packs than Messages could manage. Finding individual sticker packs became a chore, so I gradually stopped using them, except on rare occasions.

One of my favorite categories of sticker apps from those early days was apps that allowed me to make my own stickers from photos. However, the process was too laborious and fiddly to justify making more than a handful of my own stickers.

That’s changed with the release of Sticker Drop, a DIY sticker creation utility for the iPhone that leverages iOS 16’s new subject isolation technology for images. What sets Sticker Drop apart is how easy it is to make and manage your own stickers.

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Widgetsmith Is Coming for Your iOS 16 Lock Screen Too

It’s been two years since Widgetsmith took the App Store by storm. The app, which was created by long-time indie developer David Smith, lets users create custom Home Screen widgets. Then, shortly after the app’s release, it went viral when TikTokers discovered it and dropped Dave and his app squarely in the center of the Home Screen aesthetic phenomenon.

Two years later, it’s fair to say that few people know widgets like Dave knows widgets. He’s spent the past two years refining Widgetsmith. Also, Widgetsmith is just one of many apps Dave has released over the years, many of which included some of the best Apple Watch apps available. That unique combination of experience uniquely positioned Dave to take advantage of iOS 16’s Lock Screen widgets.

If you’ve used Widgetsmith to create Home Screen widgets, you’ll hit the ground running with Lock Screen widgets. There’s a new segmented control near the top of the iPhone app’s Widgets tab that toggles between Home Screen and Lock Screen widget creation. The Lock Screen view is divided between the inline text widgets that fit above the time on the Lock Screen and circular and rectangular widgets that sit below the time.

It's true, read the Messages section of his iOS 16 review.

It’s true, read the Messages section of his iOS 16 review.

When you tap to add an inline text widget, Widgetsmith opens its editor, which offers 11 categories of widgets, each which has its own set of options. The inline text widget can be used display whatever text you want that fits. Other options include multiple time, date, weather, calendar, fitness, and reminder widgets.

Setting up a circular widget.

Setting up a circular widget.

The circular widget offers six categories: photo, time, weather, step counting, reminders, and astronomy, each with multiple styles and available themes. Photos, which is also available to use with rectangular widgets, is interesting. It allows you to add a photo to the widget itself. Of course, the photo is rendered as a monochrome image when added to a widget, which can make images that aren’t high-contrast hard to see, but there’s also an option to isolate people from their backgrounds, which can help. The photo widget isn’t for me, but I can imagine situations where someone might want to add one. The rectangular widget category includes even more categories from which to choose. Between the overlap with other widget types, plus the Battery and Tides widgets, there are a total of 13 widget types that can be added to a rectangular widget and themed.

One of the best parts of Widgetsmith is browsing through its extensive catalog of widget types and then tweaking your favorites to make them fit with your own style. There are so many possibilities that I’d wager that the app has something to offer for everyone. If you want to dive deep in iOS 16 Lock Screen customization, Widgetsmith is a great place to start.

Widgetsmith is a free update on the App Store. The app offers a time-limited free trial after which it requires a $1.99/month or $19.99/year subscription.


LockFlow: A Simple Way to Add Shortcuts to the iOS 16 Lock Screen

A shortcut isn’t worth building if invoking it is more trouble than doing the same thing another way. Fortunately, that’s rarely the case because shortcuts can be triggered in so many ways. Still, you can never have too many options because more options mean more contexts where running the shortcut saves time. That’s why I was glad to see a brand new app called LockFlow released alongside the iOS 16 release. The app makes it incredibly simple to add shortcut widgets to your iPhone Lock Screen.

There are a couple of ways to set up your shortcuts to work with LockFlow. The first option is to use a special helper shortcut that’s bundled with the app. When you run it, the shortcut prompts you to pick the shortcuts for which you’d like to make Lock Screen widgets. The shortcuts you pick will then be listed in the LockFlow app for turning into widgets.

One word of warning, though. If you have hundreds of shortcuts, the scrolling performance of the helper shortcut isn’t great. However, because Lock Screen widget space is limited, I expect that most people won’t need to use the helper shortcut often. You also have the option of adding shortcuts by hand inside LockFlow, but you need to be careful to enter the exact name of the shortcut for the widget to work.

Adding a shortcut to LockFlow can be accomplished in the app or with a helper shortcut.

Adding a shortcut to LockFlow can be accomplished in the app or with a helper shortcut.

When you’re finished adding shortcuts to LockFlow, tap on one to give it an icon and test it if you’d like. That’s it. There’s nothing else to do other than head to your Lock Screen and add one of your new widgets.

When you add a LockFlow widget to your Lock Screen, it will be a generic circle with the word Edit in the middle. Tap it and pick the shortcut you want the widget to launch, which will replace the generic graphic with the icon you picked in LockFlow. Now, whenever you tap that widget, it will run your shortcut. My only quibble with this part of the app is that I think the widget’s iconography should be a little bigger than it is.

There are a lot of interesting use cases for LockFlow. You can use the widget as an app launcher with a single-action shortcut using the Open App action. Other options include controlling HomeKit scenes, switching Focus modes, starting a favorite playlist, and a lot more.

Personally, I’ve been using LockFlow with a shortcut that I adapted from one Federico made for Club MacStories members that appends text to a dedicated section of a Markdown note in Obsidian. I’ve also used it to shuffle a playlist of every song I’ve ever marked as ‘Loved’ in Apple Music. Both are the kind of actions I want to get to as quickly as possible with little effort, which is precisely where LockFlow excels.

LockFlow is available on the App Store as a free download.


Captionista: Simple, Flexible Video Subtitling for the iPhone and iPad

One of the tradeoffs I see a lot in the apps we cover is between simplicity and flexibility. Simplicity has its virtues, but often apps designed to make things as easy as possible for users end up being inflexible, resulting in cookie-cutter output. The flip side is that maximum flexibility can get out of hand fast, leading to a steep learning curve. Striking the right balance is hard, but the apps that do are always among my favorites because they work so well for a wide audience. That’s exactly how I feel about Captionista, an iPhone and iPad app for adding text to video. It’s simple to understand but includes the kind of depth that epitomizes what it means to do one thing well.

I don’t work with video a lot, and when I do, my needs are pretty simple. Often, I want to demonstrate something with a screen recording, which isn’t always easy to follow without some sort of explanation. That’s where Captionista comes in.

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Safari Extension Noir Adds Theming and Deeper Keyboard Shortcut Support

Last year, we awarded Noir Best New App of 2021 as part of the MacStories Selects Awards. Jeffrey Kuiken’s Safari extension for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, which can apply a custom dark mode to websites that don’t offer their own, is a fantastic example of an app that implements a new technology – the native Safari extensions introduced with iOS and iPadOS 15 and earlier on the Mac – in a way that is simple to use but also provides advanced customization for users who want that. Noir immediately became a MacStories favorite on launch, and it remains an app that I rely on every day.

The latest update to Noir takes the app’s original concept a step further with new theming options, theme sharing, and extensive keyboard shortcut support. It’s an excellent update that anyone who likes to tweak the colors used in their apps will appreciate. Let’s take a closer look.

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Warp: A Simple, Keyboard-Driven Mac Utility for Saving Window Setups

One of the cornerstone features coming to macOS Ventura this fall is Stage Manager, which lets you create sets of multiple apps, decluttering your desktop without a lot of fiddling. In my limited use so far, I’m optimistic about Stage Manager’s future as a way to manage apps, but it’s not for everyone, which is fine because there are so many other ways to manage windows on a Mac.

There are other utilities available for arranging windows on your desktop and saving those configurations. For window placement, I use Magnet. I love that the app can be driven entirely by keyboard shortcuts but is also always available in my Mac’s menu bar.

However, for some reason, utilities for saving the window configurations I create with Magnet have never stuck as part of my workflow. With Stage Manager on my mind recently, though, I thought I’d give a new app called Warp a try.

I like the way Warp previews layouts in its preferences.

I like the way Warp previews layouts in its preferences.

Warp is the creation of Mike Choi, who released Juice, a macOS Bluetooth device manager that I covered in 2019. I’ve only been using Warp for a few days, but it has already fit neatly into my Mac workflow because it’s a simple, keyboard-driven utility that scratches the same sort of itch as Magnet.

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