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Posts tagged with "utility"

Reflector 4 Updated with Modern UI and M1 Mac Support

Reflector 4, an app for mirroring iPhones, iPads, and other devices to the Mac, has been updated with a new design, M1 Mac support, and new onscreen device frames. Whether you’re making screencasts, demoing apps for a group, or in a classroom environment, Reflector lets you wirelessly transmit your device’s UI to your Mac and record it too. In addition to mirroring iPhones and iPads, which is what I did in my testing, you can also mirror Android, Windows, and Chromebook devices. Think of it as Apple TV and Chromecast’s mirroring and streaming features all on a Mac, thanks to this one simple menu bar app.

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Nova Review: Panic’s Code Editor Demonstrates Why Mac-like Design Matters

I’ve been writing code for nearly a decade, and throughout all of that time, I’ve never quite been satisfied with a code editor. Each one I’ve tried has annoyed me in various ways, and eventually, I find myself looking elsewhere.

My code editor is the app I use more than any other. I spend hours in it nearly every day and often keep going deep into the night. The code editor is the main tool of my trade, and I want to be using the best one that I can.

One of my main frustrations with pretty much all of the popular code editors out there (and I’ve tried most of them, including Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, Atom, IntelliJ, and Eclipse) is that none of them are Mac-assed Mac apps. They’re all clearly cross-platform apps with design senses that differ significantly from those of Mac-first developers.

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DarkModeBuddy: Automatic Light and Dark Mode Switching Based on Ambient Light

Gui Rambo, the maker or AirBuddy, the Bluetooth headphone and peripheral menu bar utility that I’ve covered before, has released a new app called DarkModeBuddy that can automatically switch between light and dark mode on Mac laptops based on ambient light levels. DarkModeBuddy runs in the background monitoring the ambient light readings from the same sensor that automatically adjusts your screen’s brightness. When the ambient light drops below a threshold you pick for an amount of time that you also choose, DarkModeBuddy automatically switches Big Sur from light to dark mode.

The app is a terrific example of the sort of single-purpose, useful utility available on the Mac. The app’s settings helpfully display the current light reading, which will assist you in deciding what light threshold to pick. The easiest way to dial in a comfortable setting is to choose something you think might work and then adjust it as you work in different lighting environments based on the readings reported by DarkModeBuddy.

If you watch the ambient light readings in DarkModeBuddy, you’ll see they jump around a bit as the lighting of your surroundings changes. That’s why the app has a Delay Time setting, which only switches between light and dark modes if the lighting conditions cross the threshold you set for a certain amount of time. The timer prevents flickering back and forth between light and dark modes based on small, temporary changes in lighting.

I generally run my Macs in dark mode full time, so I’m not planning to run DarkModeBuddy all the time. However, I like Gui’s approach to light and dark mode switching better than Apple’s. If I’m in a dark environment, light mode, especially with Big Sur’s emphasis on bright white UI elements, can feel like having someone point a spotlight at your face. You may find yourself in those conditions because it’s nighttime, but the time of day doesn’t account for when you’re working in a poorly lit room, which is where DarkModeBuddy really shines.1

DarkModeBuddy, which is an open-source project, is available with a ‘name your price’ model via Gumroad.


  1. Sorry (not sorry) for the bad pun. ↩︎

Nudget Review: Budgeting Made Simple

Nudget1 is a budgeting app designed to streamline the daily input of expenses. Developer Sawyer Blatz created a gorgeous and extremely efficient interface to make budgeting feel light and fun. With my beloved bank Simple closing this year, I’ve been looking for new solutions for keeping track of my finances. Over the last couple weeks I’ve worked with Nudget full-time, and the experience has been rewarding.

Getting Started

As is the case with any budgeting app, you’ll need to put in a bit of work up front to get started with Nudget. When you first open the app it will prompt you to input your after-tax income and recurring expenses. Nudget uses this data to craft a simplified budget for you. Budget-wise, the app isn’t doing anything too fancy. Each budget consists of three categories: recurring expenses, spending money, and savings. These categories are shown as large cards in Nudget’s ‘Budget’ tab, and you can tap each one to edit it.

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Genius Scan 6.0: A Sophisticated iPhone and iPad Scanning App for All Kinds of Users

My scanning needs are modest. I occasionally need to scan a receipt or document for personal or work reasons, but the frequency with which I do that has steadily declined over the years. I have a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, which is excellent, but if it broke, I wouldn’t replace it. That’s because iPhone and iPad scanning apps have improved just as steadily as my scanning needs have declined.

These days, the ScanSnap sits in a drawer, demoted from taking up valuable desktop space that I need for the tools I use every day. I still set it up from time to time when I’m working at my desk, but more and more often, I’ve found it to be more trouble than it’s worth to set up.

Instead, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of iPhone and iPad scanning apps, including Genius Scan 6, which was released today. The app has a long list of features, but at its core, what I like most about Genius Scan is its fast, flexible scanning workflow and business model that fits with a wide range of user needs from someone like me who doesn’t scan documents very often to people for whom scanning is essential to their daily tasks.

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Text Case Adds Customizable Flows: User-Created, Multi-Step Text Transformation

Text Case is a text transformation app that includes 37 text transformations. The app can capitalize titles according to multiple style manuals, trim whitespace, URL encode and decode text, change text to all uppercase or lowercase lettering, generate Markdown, and more.

You can type or paste text into Text Case to transform it, but with the introduction of Shortcuts support in 2018, Text Case became an app that could be used exclusively as a series of Shortcuts actions too. The hasn’t changed, but now, you can also create multi-step text transformations for use in the app itself or from Shortcuts or the share sheet, adding a new level of convenience. The update marks an interesting shift of focus from a tool that applied individual transformations to text one at a time to a text workflow creation tool that uses a UI that is reminiscent of Shortcuts.

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Puppr Review: Teach Your Dog New Tricks

I came across Puppr during its recent feature as Apple’s App of the Day and decided to give it a try. The app is a simple and fun instructional tool for teaching your dog new behaviors and tricks. Since I’ve been staying with my parents for the last couple of months, I decided to take it for a spin doing some training with the family dog.

Puppr’s Home view consists of a scrolling list of categories for dog lessons. You can start simple with the ‘New Dog’ or ‘Basics’ categories, but it quickly ramps up from there. Each category consists of a series of behaviors or tricks, and tapping one opens its details view. Within this view you can see a brief video of the trick in action with a real dog. There’s also a difficultly rating, a description, and a badge for whether it’s safe to teach this trick to puppies. Each trick includes a status dropdown which you can use to note that you’re in progress of teaching it to your dog, or that your dog has mastered it.

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Dato Review: Calendar Events and Time Zones From Your Mac’s Menu Bar

My calendar needs are pretty simple. I have a shared family calendar to keep tabs on personal obligations and a personal MacStories calendar for work-related events. I also share a calendar with Federico for scheduling podcast recording times and other events, but that’s about it.

If you spend lots of time in a calendar app because you have lots of meetings, having calendar sets, tasks, scheduling, video call support, weather, and other pro features inside your calendar app makes sense. My work is far more task-focused than event-focused, though. I don’t want to lose track of important events, but most days, Apple’s calendar widget on my iPhone is all I need.

The Calendar widget doesn’t quite cut it for me on the Mac, though. Widgets are out of sight in Big Sur, and there’s no way to trigger the widget panel with a keyboard shortcut. So, instead, I’ve been using a Mac menu bar app called Dato for quick glances at my calendar. The app isn’t new, but the recent addition of time zone support caught my eye, and it has played an important role in my daily workflow ever since I began using Apple’s Calendar app again.

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AirBuddy 2 Review: Fine-Grained, Customizable Control of the Wireless Headphones and Devices Connected to Your Mac

AirBuddy is one of those handy Mac utilities that you don’t know how you’ve lived without until after you’ve tried it. The initial release that I reviewed in early 2019 was primarily designed to manage Bluetooth headphones connected to your Mac and report the status of your headphones’ batteries; something iOS and iPadOS does better than macOS. With AirBuddy 2, developer Guilherme Rambo has added a bunch of new features, including new ways to customize the app and interact with Bluetooth devices other than headphones.

AirBuddy 2 can manage a variety of wireless headphones.

AirBuddy 2 can manage a variety of wireless headphones.

As with the original version of AirBuddy, when you open your AirPods or Beats headphone case near your Mac, a window opens, showing you the status of their batteries and connection. The app also works with Bluetooth headphones that rely on an on/off switch like the Beats Solo line. From AirBuddy’s status window, you can click to connect the headphones to your Mac or swipe to connect and set their listening mode in one gesture.

AirBuddy 2’s listening modes allow you to adjust multiple headphone settings all at once when the app connects your headphones to your Mac. For example, you can turn your headphones’ microphone on for meetings or off for listening to music and set the volume and whether AirPods Pro play audio in Normal, Transparency, or Noise Cancelling modes. The combinations you pick for your listening modes are saved as profiles in the app’s settings.

AirBuddy 2's menu bar app.

AirBuddy 2’s menu bar app.

AirBuddy 2 is also a menu bar app. Clicking its menu bar icon opens a window that shows all your connected devices and their battery status, including Macs, iPhones, and iPads. The devices are grouped, so, for example, your Apple Watch shows up as connected to your iPhone as would any AirPods you’re currently using with your iPhone. If you run AirBuddy 2 on a second Mac, that Mac will show up here, too, along with any Bluetooth peripherals connected to it.

Transferring a connected Magic Trackpad from my Mac mini to my MacBook Pro.

Transferring a connected Magic Trackpad from my Mac mini to my MacBook Pro.

My favorite part of having AirBuddy 2 running on multiple Macs is the ability to transfer Bluetooth connections from one Mac to the other using the app’s Magic Handoff feature. I spent a lot of the summer with separate trackpads connected to two Macs as I switched back and forth, testing Big Sur. AirBuddy 2 provides an alternate desk-clearing option by letting you right-click the AirBuddy entry for a trackpad, mouse, or keyboard connected to the Mac you’re currently using and switch it to the other Mac. For anyone who runs multiple Macs, especially connected to the same display, this is a terrific feature.

AirBuddy 2 includes extensive settings to customize its behavior to suit your tastes.

AirBuddy 2 includes extensive settings to customize its behavior to suit your tastes.

AirBuddy 2 is highly customizable too. In addition to setting up custom listening modes, which I covered above, you can open the app’s settings from the menu bar and assign keyboard shortcuts to display the headphone status window and to quickly connect to a favorite device, switch listening modes, toggle your microphone on or off, and take other actions. Settings also lets you specify the devices that are shown in the menu bar app, your favorite headphones for quick connection purposes, the status window’s size, and where it appears onscreen, among other things. You can even view historical battery and usage data from the Devices section of the app’s settings.

AirBuddy 2's Catalina widget (left) and Big Sur three sizes of widgets (right).

AirBuddy 2’s Catalina widget (left) and Big Sur three sizes of widgets (right).

It’s also worth noting that AirBuddy 2 also includes a widget that works with both Catalina and Big Sur to display the battery status of each of the devices it tracks.

AirBuddy started as an app that brought an iOS feature for headphones to the Mac. With AirBuddy 2, the app’s functionality has been greatly expanded beyond anything Apple offers, making it indispensable for anyone who connects multiple wireless devices to their Macs. Not only can you quickly connect headphones, so they’re immediately ready for a meeting or for listening to music, but the app helps keep you on top of the battery status of every connected device.

AirBuddy has been available for pre-order since last month, but today is its official release date. You can purchase the app directly from the AirBuddy website for $9.99 for new users, $4.99 as an upgrade from the first version of AirBuddy if you bought it in 2019, and for free if you purchased the app in 2020.