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Apple news, app reviews, and stories by Federico Viticci and friends.


A Photo Tour of Apple’s New Flagship Chicago Store

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-21 15:06, modified at 15:16

For 14 years, Apple’s flagship retail store was a fixture at the north end of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, the shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile. Built in 2003, Apple’s Michigan Avenue location was the company’s first flagship store, featuring a glass staircase that seemed to float to the second floor just beyond the store’s entrance. Yesterday though, after many months of construction, Apple opened a new flagship store to the public along the Chicago River that reflects the new direction in which Apple began taking its retail locations last year.

The move is part of the ongoing evolution of Apple’s retail strategy:

“When Apple opened on North Michigan Avenue in 2003, it was our first flagship store, and now we are back in Chicago opening the first in a new generation of Apple’s most significant worldwide retail locations,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail. “Apple Michigan Avenue exemplifies our new vision where everyone is welcome to experience all of our incredible products, services and inspiring educational programs in the heart of their city.”

The store has moved south along Michigan Avenue to just north of the river at Pioneer Court, an open plaza between the historic Chicago Tribune Tower and the Chicago River. It’s a space where the city’s hustle and bustle comes alive with a mix of Chicagoans and tourists, and you can take in some of Chicago’s finest architectural treasures like the Wrigley Building, the Tribune Tower, the DuSable Bridge, the 333 North Michigan Avenue building, and the London House hotel. Nestled in the center of it all is Apple’s new location, which was designed by Foster + Partners, the architects that designed Apple Park.

Apple's new store sits among some of Chicago's best-known architectural landmarks.

Apple's new store sits among some of Chicago's best-known architectural landmarks.

The structure, which reportedly cost $27 million to build, incorporates many of the design cues seen at Apple Park and recently constructed stores like the one in San Francisco’s Union Square. The walls are glass and curve at the corners in a way that reminds me of the entrance to the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park. The roof, which is constructed from carbon fiber to make it as thin as possible, resembles the top case of a MacBook.

Designed by Foster + Partners, the new Chicago Apple store features glass walls and a MacBook-like carbon fiber roof lined with wood.

Designed by Foster + Partners, the new Chicago Apple store features glass walls and a MacBook-like carbon fiber roof lined with wood.

Outside, the store is flanked on both sides by granite staircases that are a continuation of the indoor stairways making the Chicago River more accessible from Pioneer Court than ever before:

“Apple Michigan Avenue is about removing boundaries between inside and outside, reviving important urban connections within the city,” said Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “It unites a historic city plaza that had been cut off from the water, giving Chicago a dynamic new arena that flows effortlessly down to the river.”

Glass walls provide an unobstructed view of boats moving down the Chicago River.

Glass walls provide an unobstructed view of boats moving down the Chicago River.

The overall effect is that the building nearly disappears into its environment, accentuating the river and its surroundings. Except for the roof overhead, Apple Michigan Avenue provides an almost entirely uninterrupted view of the city as you walk around it inside or out.

It's not always easy to tell where the store ends and the city begins.

It's not always easy to tell where the store ends and the city begins.

It’s hard to appreciate just how completely the store disappears into its surroundings unless you see it for yourself. The illusion is enhanced by even the smallest touches like the grooves in the staircases that continue from the interior of the store to its exterior.

The alignment of the grooves in the stairs inside and outside the store help make the store disappear into its surroundings.

The alignment of the grooves in the stairs inside and outside the store help make the store disappear into its surroundings.

When you enter, there is a tier of seating, but the Genius Grove and main retail space are on the lower level, which is accessible from the stairs or an elevator. The center of the lower level is dominated by a huge high-resolution screen that was showing black and white scenes of Chicago during the grand opening.

The giant high-resolution screen on the lower level of the store commands your attention.

The giant high-resolution screen on the lower level of the store commands your attention.

The back of the giant screen is polished metal with an Apple logo in the center that reflects the city back into the store.

The city reflected on the back of the store's enormous display.

The city reflected on the back of the store's enormous display.

Tucked underneath the upper level are the familiar tables of iPhones, iPads, Macs, and other items for sale, which are so well hidden that you might not realize they are there until you get to the lower level and turn around.

Familiar tables of iOS devices and Macs extend under the stairs and top level of the store.

Familiar tables of iOS devices and Macs extend under the stairs and top level of the store.

On Monday, Apple will continue the celebration of the store’s opening with ‘The Chicago Series,’ a month-long series of activities and events with a focus on Chicago entrepreneurs and creatives that is part of the Today at Apple program.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit several of Apple’s flagship stores and what I like most about each is that they incorporate their surroundings and the unique culture of each city. Chicago’s new location is no exception, succeeding in bringing the outdoors inside and showcasing the Chicago River, one of the city’s most important landmarks.

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Ulysses 12: Writing on iOS Has Never Been Better

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-19 15:07, modified on 2017-10-21 12:52

This summer Ulysses announced a major business model shift, with its iOS and macOS apps moving from up front purchases to subscription supported. As tends to happen, the move stirred up some controversy. In my mind at least, the company’s reasoning was sound – as the app’s co-founder stated, “Writers want to rely on a professional tool that is constantly evolving, and we want to keep delivering just that.”

Today brings the first major update to Ulysses following its switch to subscriptions. Bolstered by Apple’s recent focus on evolving the iPad platform, Ulysses 12 is primarily an iOS release; while the Mac version gains some improvements, it clearly isn’t the centerpiece here. Ulysses on iOS gains drag and drop support, multi-pane editing, streamlined library navigation, and image previews – all of which make an already powerful writing tool even better.

Drag and Drop

Drag and drop support is found in two main places in Ulysses: the sheet list and editor. The former enables quick, easy reorganization of existing sheets. You can pick up one or more sheets from the sheet list and drop them into a separate group. As you’re navigating the app to find the destination group, holding your drag contents over a group will spring-load it open. Drag and drop also makes it easy to reorder sheets within their current group when manual sorting is selected – this only works with one sheet at a time, however. And the nice bonus with all these sheet list tricks is that they work both on iPad and iPhone.

The iPhone also benefits from some of the editor’s drag and drop powers. On both iPhone and iPad, you can pick up text or images from a sheet and do one of three things with that lifted content: you can drop it inside its source sheet to move it within the sheet, drop it into a separate sheet to copy it there, or drop it into a sheet list to create a new sheet containing a copy of that content.

These in-app drag and drop features are thoughtful and thorough. As has been demonstrated by the iPhone-only Castro, drag and drop can be transformative even when limited to a single app. OmniFocus is another great example – even though it supports cross-app drag and drop, its in-app execution improves the task management experience in significant ways. The best thing about Ulysses treading a similar path is that the drag and drop actions you’d take on iPad work exactly the same on iPhone. No, you can’t take content out of the app like on iPad, but while working in the Ulysses app itself, your experience will be the same regardless of iOS device – a key benefit that shouldn’t be undervalued.

Aside from everything I’ve mentioned, Ulysses on iPad of course takes full advantage of the platform’s drag and drop privileges. Text and images can be dragged out of Ulysses or dropped into it. You can even drop text or images directly into the editor’s sidebar as attachments. My favorite application of cross-app drag and drop is dragging a portion of text from Safari into Ulysses – the selected text is seamlessly imported, and in most cases it’s converted automatically to the appropriate Markdown formatting, leaving no cleanup work for me to do.

Ulysses has promised that future updates will bring drag and drop to more areas of the app, such as export, but this doesn’t feel at all like a mere first take on drag and drop – if nothing more ever arrived, I’d still be content.

Multi-Pane Editing

For as long as I’ve used Ulysses on iPad, there has always been one annoying limitation I’ve wished would change: the inability to edit sheets while viewing your sheet list or library. Particularly because I work on a 12.9” iPad Pro, seeing the app’s various panes shift back and forth as I worked in each one, even though there was plenty of screen real estate to have everything stay on-screen at once, grew taxing. Ulysses 12 fixes this issue in a big way: now you can simultaneously view and work in as many panes as will comfortably fit on your screen. For me and my giant iPad, this means I can view the library, sheet list, and body of a sheet all at once – even while typing away.

Navigating different views in Ulysses is done with the simple swipe gesture found in prior versions of the app. This is a marked improvement over methods employed in Apple’s Notes and Mail, which require you to hit certain buttons to change views. It all works fluidly in Ulysses.

Image Previews

Historically, one of my favorite Ulysses features has been the way I can add Markdown links without needing to see the full syntax. That philosophy has always extended to inline images as well, but not in the way most users would want – image syntax has been hidden, but the image itself has been hidden too, behind a tag labeled ‘IMG’. This approach has made it impossible to view your images while doing the work of writing. I’ve grown used to regularly hitting the export button to see a WordPress publishing preview of my full post, images and all. But now, for many use cases at least, Ulysses provides image previews inline.

Image previews are meant to provide proper context without serving as a distraction while you’re writing, so they’re tailored to fit in best with the current theme you’re using – in the body of your sheet, colors in images are muted in a way that complements your theme’s accent colors. If you want to view the original image, you can do that by viewing the full image details; additionally, the size of image previews can be set from the Layout screen in Ulysses’ Settings menu.

If you add images to Ulysses using drag and drop or by adding from another app like Photos or Files, image previews will work great for you. Unfortunately, the way we handle images at MacStories prevents me from getting this benefit. We upload all images for the site to our CDN, then enter links to uploaded images in the body of our stories. Because the images aren’t actually stored directly in Ulysses, but are mere links, images for me continue to bear the ‘IMG’ tag inline with no actual preview.


Library: Like on the Mac, Ulysses’ library now contains all possible sources in one place, including iCloud, On My iPad/iPhone, and Dropbox. You can easily collapse and expand these, or disable the ones you don’t use in settings.

Design: Ulysses has implemented iOS 11’s trademark large titles, and also includes revised icons in several places throughout the app; I’m especially fond of the new icons, which provide greater clarity as to what actions they represent. Also, a sheet’s word count is now constantly visible, located at the bottom of the screen in a small, subtle grey font.

Mac Improvements: The Mac version of Ulysses gains image previews like its iOS companion, but besides that any new user-facing features are limited. The Ulysses team says the Mac version has received substantial performance improvements, but I never write on a Mac anymore, so I can’t adequately comment on those.

In early 2016 Ulysses proved that professional-level writing could be as great on iOS as it is on the Mac. Particularly on the iPad this rang true, but even the then-new iPhone edition of Ulysses was surprisingly good. Since that time the app has continued to evolve, making an already top-class writing experience even better.

I use Ulysses every day. Aside from a brief stint with Bear, it’s been my writing app of choice for over eighteen months now, during which time it’s proven itself the most capable, reliable, elegant tool to aid my work.

With its first major release after the switch to subscriptions, Ulysses proves that it’s still the best solution for me, and that it likely will be for a long while still. Drag and drop is a welcome addition, but it’s all the other changes and refinements that make this release truly special – my few small nitpicks with the app have almost all been taken care of in version 12.

Every user will have their own needs and preferences, but for my writing, I wouldn’t want to be without Ulysses.

Ulysses is available on both iOS and macOS.

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AppStories, Episode 27 – Music Services and Apps

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-18 16:29, modified on 2017-10-21 00:59

On this week's episode of AppStories, we compare the apps and services we use to listen to, discover, and share music.

Sponsored by:

  • Balance - A wallet for all the worlds currencies and tokens.
  • Mutable - Specializing in iOS development from idea to App Store.

→ Source: appstories.net

Cardhop by Flexibits Takes on Contacts

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-18 14:33, modified at 21:26

Flexibits took much of the frustration out of calendars when it introduced Fantastical for macOS in 2011 by leveraging natural language input of events. It followed up with iPhone and iPad versions. Now, Flexibits wants to do the same for contacts with a brand new app called Cardhop by integrating contact creation, management, and interaction into a single text field of a macOS menu bar app. The app is beautifully-designed and powerful but solves a problem that I’m not sure many people have today.

Many contacts apps are notoriously clunky, hard to get information into, and prone to creating duplicates, which limits their utility. However, contacts apps are less necessary today than ever before. Email clients and messaging apps automatically fill in contact information based on past messages you’ve sent. Other apps and services make it easy to bypass contacts apps altogether with favorites and recent contacts lists. In a communications app-centric world, I expect Cardhop will be a tough sell.

Cardhop is based on a single text field that sometimes acts as a search field and other times is a text input field. Clicking on Cardhop’s icon in your menu bar opens a detachable drop-down window with a cursor blinking in an empty field. Below that is a column of contact groups on the left, which are the same ones you’d find if you open Apple’s Contacts app, and a list of recently contacted people and upcoming birthdays on the right. If you want to see all your contacts though, they are just one button click away. You can also hide the groups panel with a button at the bottom of the Cardhop window, which reduces Cardhop to its most minimal UI, which is how I prefer to use it because I don’t usually organize contacts into groups.

Creating a new contact.

Creating a new contact.

Most of the time, your interaction with Cardhop will start from its text field regardless of whether you’re looking for contact information you saved months ago or are adding a new contact. Cardhop has the smarts built in to deal with both. If you enter information that it doesn’t recognize, it offers to add a new contact. If the app recognizes the information you enter, it pulls up the matching card and offers to edit it if it includes any new information. There is also a service available that will add highlighted text to your contacts.

Clicking on a contact opens a popover contact card with a row of customizable action buttons at the top. By default, there are options to send a text or email message, make a call, or start a video chat. Each of those can be replaced with several other options from the preferences pane including getting directions, opening a webpage, starting a Skype call or video chat, copying a contact, sending messages via Twitter or Telegram, and more. Cardhop also has a quick-entry notes field at the bottom of each contact card.

Cardhop includes built-in actions.

Cardhop includes built-in actions.

Initiating an action with a contact isn’t limited to the buttons in a contact card. You can use the same text field at the top of Cardhop’s window to initiate an action. For example, typing ‘Call Federico’ or ‘Tweet Federico’ and hitting the return key initiates a call or tweet. However, I wish the Twitter action included an option to send a direct message to someone instead of creating a public reply. Other built-in actions include options like ‘directions John’ to open Apple Maps or Google Maps directions to an address associated with a contact and ‘website John’ to open a URL associated with a contact. Remembering specific syntax is not required. ‘Text Federico,’ ‘iMessage Federico,’ and ‘Message Federico’ all work equally well.

Cardhop's action buttons are customizable.

Cardhop's action buttons are customizable.

Another interesting feature is how Cardhop handles calls. If you have Continuity or WiFi calling enabled on your iPhone, you can initiate calls from your Mac. Pair your iPhone to your Mac via Bluetooth, and you can also send the calls directly to your phone, which is useful if you want to start a call as you’re leaving home.

Cardhop is also highly customizable. In addition to picking the action buttons that appear on each contact card, you can use the default dark theme or a light one, pick a default Twitter client and mapping app, and choose how names are displayed and sorted.

A unique design decision that sets Cardhop apart from other contacts apps is that it does not display all of your contacts by default. Having a contacts app open to the top of an alphabetical list of contacts is not particularly useful. Instead, Cardhop lists upcoming birthdays and recently contacted people, both of which are likely to be more relevant to users than the beginning of an alphabetical list. Like Fantastical, Cardhop is full of delightful little animations that provide affordances like confirming for users that a new contact has been saved.

Cardhop also features a detailed app icon that’s a sandwich with a bite taken out of it and a contact card branded into the bread. It looks fantastic, but I’m not sure how the icon relates to the app’s name or functionality.

Whether Cardhop is the right choice for you will depend on how you approach communications. Over the past week, I’ve asked friends and family whether they use contacts apps and none do. Instead, they start email and text messages, phone calls, tweets, and the like through a combination of autocomplete, recents, and other features that are built into the communications apps themselves. For people like this, Cardhop’s utility is limited.

Although Cardhop may entice some users to shift to a model where communications start in Cardhop instead of individual apps, I suspect that the app’s appeal will be limited to users who already think of the macOS Contacts app as the place where communications start and are looking for a more powerful, intuitive version of that app. To appeal to a broader audience, the app would benefit from adding an iOS version and integrating with a customer relationship management system or web service like FullContact, which automates the collection of contact information.

Cardhop is available on the Mac App Store and directly from Flexibits. For a limited time, the $19.99 app is available for $14.99.

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Balance Is a Wallet For the World’s Currencies [Sponsor]

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-16 16:33, modified at 16:40

We are on the cusp of a financial revolution fueled by crypto-currencies and Balance makes it easy for everyone to get involved. You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin, one of the earliest crypto-currencies, but there are others including Ethereum. Balance connects to the most popular crypto-currency exchanges like Coinbase along with traditional financial institutions bridging the gap between the old financial world and the new one.

Balance connects with crypto-currency exchanges as well as traditional bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, and online services like PayPal using Plaid, a super-secure platform that works with financial institutions around the world.

When you set up accounts in Balance, the app automatically updates them periodically with new transactions, so you’re always up to date. You can view balances, transactions, notifications and gain insights about your spending. Soon, Balance will release an iOS version of their app too.

Balance is ready for the future. The current financial system is based on outdated, legacy software. Blockchains are the bedrock of a more secure and open system based on cryptocurrencies, but not many people are using them yet. Balance is poised to change that by becoming a single destination for traditional financial accounts and crypto-currency exchanges.

Balance has a great offer for MacStories readers who want to see what crypto-currencies are all about. Just go to bal.money/macstories this week and submit your email address to join the Balance iOS beta when it's released along with $2 worth of Ether in a Coinbase account that you can track with Balance. It’s a great way to see for yourself what the financial world’s future looks like.

Our thanks to Balance for sponsoring MacStories this week.

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Connected, Episode 164: My Mother Has a Bunch of Keyboards

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-16 15:14

Live in Chicago, the boys discuss the Google Home Mini's rough launch, the future of AR at Apple and Federico's baker.

We had so much fun recording this episode of Connected live in Chicago last night. We rarely get to record Connected in person, so this episode is extremely special to me. You can listen here.

Sponsored by:

  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code WORLD at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
  • Timing: The automatic time tracking app for macOS. Use this link to get 10% off your purchase of Timing.
  • Incapsula: Secure and accelerate your website. Connected listeners get one month free.

→ Source: relay.fm

Microsoft Outlook for Mac Undergoing Major Redesign

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-16 15:02

Tom Warren of The Verge reports on Outlook for Mac details shared at the Microsoft Ignite conference last month:

A lot of the changes look very similar to the Outlook for iOS app, with a single-line ribbon and a smaller set of default commands. Reducing complexity is one of the key aims of the redesign, to make it easier for new and existing Outlook users to navigate the email app.

A new customizable ribbon will let Outlook for Mac and Windows users control which buttons are available, so you can tailor the email interface to your own common tasks. The left navigation panel will include quicker access to folders across multiple accounts, and looks like the switcher in Outlook for iOS.

Outlook for iOS has long been among the top email clients on the mobile platform. It pairs a clean, beautiful interface reminiscent of iOS’ Mail.app with the power user features Apple appears content to ignore. Moving Outlook for Mac away from its traditional desktop roots and further into the modern era looks to be a clear win.

The full Ignite session detailing future Outlook changes is available on YouTube.

→ Source: theverge.com

Canvas, Episode 46: Versions

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-14 18:06

Making, accessing and using versions of files is something that has been built into some iOS apps for a while now but few know how to access the feature.

On this week’s Canvas, Fraser and I take a look at our favorite options for dealing with file revisions on iOS, including my workflow for collaborating with the MacStories team. You can listen here.

Sponsored by:

  • SaneBox: Clean up your inbox in minutes. Sign up for a two-week free trial and a $20 credit.

→ Source: relay.fm

More Great Shelf Apps to Boost iPad Productivity

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-12 18:45, modified on 2017-10-21 12:54

Left to right: Yoink, Gladys, Copied

Left to right: Yoink, Gladys, Copied

Last month after iOS 11’s launch I pulled together a roundup of iPad apps belonging to a whole new category of apps. Dropped, Workshelf, The Shelf, and Scrawl Pouch all launched as manifestations of Federico’s dream for a drag and drop-powered temporary holding place for content on the iPad. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, here’s how I described it in my last shelf roundup:

The need for a shelf springs from the addition of drag and drop to iOS 11. It’s not always practical to drag content directly from one app to another; sometimes you know you’ll need that content soon, but you’re not ready to drop it elsewhere yet. Additionally, in some situations you may wish to drop the same data into multiple places over a short period of time, and it can be cumbersome to re-open the data’s source app to pull it out multiple times. A shelf can solve these problems: it serves as a temporary resting place for anything you know you’ll need quick access to soon. In this way it can serve a role similar to the macOS desktop, which is commonly used as a temporary holding zone.

While all the apps I originally highlighted continue to fill this role well, several additional quality apps have launched that bring new things to the table in this young category of apps.


Yoink has a proven reputation that long precedes its iOS debut – it’s also available on the Mac, and even received a recent review by John. While its iPad version differs in many ways due to the distinct features of the iPad platform, with both versions of the app the core concept remains the same: Yoink lets you drop content into it for quick access later.

Due to their limited utility, shelf apps don’t need to have particularly interesting or complex interfaces, as they primarily serve to simply store and access content using drag and drop. Exploring Yoink’s interface, however, reveals several noteworthy touches that demonstrate a deep level of polish and thoughtfulness. First, there’s a plus button in the upper left corner of the app to manually add content from elsewhere in the system, including options to Add from Clipboard, Browse Files, and Add from Photos. There’s also a lock button in the bottom-left corner that determines the app’s behavior when dragging items out of it: if the padlock is closed, content dragged out of Yoink will be copied elsewhere while remaining in Yoink; if the padlock is open, content dragged out will be removed from Yoink. There are also two other ways to remove items from Yoink: hitting the Edit button exposes the option to remove items individually, while the trash can button lets you perform a clean wipe of all stored content at once, or simply remove all currently selected items.

The Edit button exposes a few other features I’m particularly fond of. One is the option to rename a saved item by hitting the pencil icon. As I shared in my last roundup, I really appreciated this feature in Scrawl Pouch, so it’s great to see it here. Another feature is that you can use drag and drop to rearrange stored items while editing. The final hidden feature in the editing interface is a simple, yet powerful method of shelf organization. While in edit mode, after selecting multiple items, you can hit the button in the lower left corner of the app to combine them all into a single stack. This stack acts as a sort of folder containing the separate items. You can tap the stack to view and choose from each individual item, or you can simply pick up the stack with one lift gesture and drag all items away at once. Stacks are also automatically created when you drop multiple stacked items into Yoink at once; if this isn’t the behavior you prefer, it’s very easy to break up a stack – in editing mode, just hit the orange icon embedded in the stack with two opposite-facing arrows. Stacks are a powerful tool made simple in Yoink; my only wish for future improvement is that I could use drag and drop to combine items into a stack, the way iOS apps combine together in a folder when you hold one app icon over another.

Yoink adds to its value in several key ways. Most notably, it has an iPhone counterpart. Now obviously, due to multi-app drag and drop being limited to iPad, Yoink on iPhone can’t work in exactly the same way as its iPad version. But there are two main reasons why I’m glad Yoink is available on iPhone: the app’s action extension and keyboard extension.

While these extensions are great additions to the iPad version of Yoink, they are especially useful when working on the iPhone. Each one serves as a replacement for the drag and drop functions that aren’t available on iPhone: the action extension is used as a way to get content into Yoink, while the keyboard extension lets you then get it out. On iPad you can actually drag content directly out from the keyboard, while on iPhone tapping an item copies it to your clipboard.

The biggest drawback to Yoink on iPhone, which I strongly hope is remedied in the future, is that there’s no syncing mechanism to populate data across multiple platforms. This means the data you save in Yoink for iPad stays on iPad, and anything saved to Yoink on iPhone stays on iPhone.

One other quick note about Yoink: it has the best rich content previews I’ve seen in a shelf app. Previews are large, which may be a negative for those wanting to see more content on-screen at once, but I think they work well. Each preview also includes both the title and content type of each file. And if you have a content stack, Yoink automatically adjusts previews so you can see all stacked items at once in a single preview.


Gladys is another excellent option in the space of shelf apps. It does much of what you would expect from a shelf app, and does it well. Some standout specialties include the ability to inspect multiple RAW components of a particular file; this is done simply by tapping a saved item to enter its detail view. You can also easily access metadata like the date and time an item was added to Gladys, and its file size. Files can be renamed, and there’s even a space for adding unique notes to each file. Like Yoink, there’s an action extension for adding content to Gladys the old fashioned way. And lastly, Gladys is a great tool for working with zip archives. You can easily export all saved Gladys contents as a new zip archive, and you can drop an archive into the app’s dedicated extraction space to have all of its contained items added to Gladys.

These are all noteworthy features, and paired with the basic drag and drop mechanics, they make Gladys well worth checking out. The reason I didn’t spend more time on each feature, though, is that there’s one distinguishing feature in Gladys that particularly excites me: its file provider extension.

Gladys integrates with Apple’s new Files app as a files provider, meaning you can access data stored in Gladys from Files. Being able to view and manage your content from the full Files app is a helpful addition, and the power of Gladys’ file provider extension is even more fully realized when you consider other applications: for example, now if you’re using Files’ standard file picker to upload content, anything stored in Gladys will be right at your fingertips too.

The main reason I’m glad to see a shelf app like Gladys serve as a file provider is that it makes it much easier to treat the shelf app like a desktop-style junk drawer for files. I don’t know if it’s just me, but often when I’m saving something into Files, I don’t know quite where I want to put it yet. Usually I just throw it into my top-level iCloud Drive folder, but that adds unnecessary clutter that makes it harder to find other files when I need them. Throwing those files into Gladys is a much better solution for me, as whenever I need them, I can grab them from the standard file picker, and then if I decide I’m going to save them somewhere more permanent, I can do that from right within the full Files app using drag and drop.

There is one oddity regarding Gladys’ file provider extension: Each file in Gladys is stored in a separate folder within the Files app. In cases where a file can be extracted using several different data types, this structure can be beneficial as each of those different types are available from within Files. But in most cases, where there’s just a single file with a single type available, the folder structure is an unnecessary barrier separating you from your content. Hopefully this oddity can be fixed in the future with a solution that creates folders only when multiple file types are available, and otherwise bypasses the need for a folder.


Copied isn’t a new app, nor is it technically a shelf app – it’s a clipboard manager that, thanks to the advent of drag and drop on iPad, now has an extended purpose. I won’t write much about the app, as we’ve done that plenty in the past; however, it certainly belongs in this category of shelf apps, even with its limitations.

Since Copied is primarily designed for clipboard management, it won’t accept as many types of content as the other shelf apps I’ve featured – text and photos are its forte, so trying to throw anything else at it will leave you disappointed. However, its strength is that it’s a well-established, well-designed, and highly refined app that’s the recipient of regular updates and exists on both iPad and iPhone, aided by iCloud sync. What other shelf app can claim that kind of resume? Again, it may not technically be a shelf app, but most of the needed tools are already here. Depending on your needs, it might just be the shelf app you’re looking for – and a top-notch clipboard manager to boot.

It’s still early days for shelf apps, because it’s still early days for iPad productivity and drag and drop. But the creativity and usefulness seen already, just from the handful of shelf apps featured here, gives me great hope for the future of this app category and the future of iPad productivity. If you’re an iPad power user, or if you’re a casual user who’s new to the iPad and misses the old, familiar desktop, I recommend checking out one of these shelf apps.

Yoink, Gladys, and Copied are available on the App Store.

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Motion Stills Adds In-App Motion Still and Live Photo Capture, GIF Export, and More

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-12 15:41

Google introduced Motion Stills on iOS in 2016. The app enables users to convert Live Photos into movies or GIFs applying stabilization to the video in the process. Live Photos can also be combined into moving collages.

Google has released version 2.0, which dispenses with the need to access your photo library to add Live Photos to a Motion Still. Instead, the app can now capture Live Photos and Motions Stills from within the app itself. The option to import from your photo library is still there, but having the option to shoot from within the Motion Stills app is a convenient addition. The new version also lets you delete Live Photos from your photo library with a swipe gesture and export collages you create as GIFs.

Motion Stills is available on the App Store.

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Movie Studios Launch Movies Anywhere Service

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-12 13:55, modified at 14:02

Services that promise to consolidate your digital movie collection in one place have come and gone over the years, so I was initially skeptical when I heard about Movies Anywhere, a new US-only service launched by Disney and other movie studios. However, after some preliminary testing of the service, I’m optimistic that Movies Anywhere stands a chance to become the first such service to catch on.

As reported by The Verge:

The big difference here is selection. Warner Bros., Universal, Sony Pictures, and Twentieth Century Fox have all signed on to Movies Anywhere. Along with Disney’s films, that gives the service a launch library of more than 7,300 titles.

Another differentiator with Movies Anywhere is platform support:

The promise of “buy once, watch anywhere” only works if a customer’s preferred device supports the service in question. The Movies Anywhere app will be available for iOS, Apple TV, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire devices, and as part of Roku’s offerings. It will also support Chromecast, and titles will also [be] watchable through the service’s standalone website. And while apps for competing services have usually been clunky or awkward, the brief demo we saw of the Movies Anywhere app looked sleek and well-designed.

Movies Anywhere also gives customers the choice of where to buy their movies, though not without caveats on iOS.

Movies Anywhere will let customers browse for titles they’re interested in within the app itself, then allowing them to complete the purchase with their retailer of choice at the very end. (Android users will have the ability to purchase from Google Play, Amazon, or Vudu; those with Apple devices will only be able to purchase from iTunes, unless they head to a browser to purchase from a competitor directly.)

I tried to purchase a movie from the Movies Anywhere iOS app and sure enough, the only option was to buy it from iTunes. The workaround is to log into the Movies Anywhere service in Safari or another web browser, which will present you with the full menu of purchasing options. One other limitation that affects all platforms is that Movies Anywhere does not tell you how much a movie costs on each service. If you’re looking for a bargain, you’ll have to follow the link to each service to see how much they charge.

In the limited time I’ve had to try Movies Anywhere, I’ve been impressed. Logging into iTunes and Amazon Prime Video was quick and easy, and the movies I own on both providers showed up almost instantly in the iOS app and on the Movies Anywhere website. Playback happens in the Movies Anywhere app in a player that supports subtitles, closed-captioning, AirPlay, chapters, 15-second skipping ahead and back, and the option to pick up where you left off or start over if you exit the player. If Movies Anywhere can continue to grow its library of titles, the promise of all your movies anywhere you want them may finally become a reality.

Movies Anywhere is available on the App Store (US only).

→ Source: theverge.com

CARROT Weather Adds New CARROT Voices, Weather Underground Improvements, and More

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-12 13:12, modified at 13:14

Within a matter of a few months, CARROT Weather has launched a major new version, then followed up with a fun AR mode, and now with version 4.2, it’s adding several key refinements to improve the overall experience.

CARROT’s snarky personality is the defining characteristic of the app, yet recent updates have seen that personality gain customization options – both for users wanting more snark, and those begging for less. With today’s update, CARROT goes through perhaps an even more drastic transformation. From the Personality screen in Settings, there are now a variety of new voices that can be set for CARROT, including both female and male options. Among these is FRED, the voice used for the original Mac. My personal favorite is JEEVES, whose smug butler tone makes me feel inferior in a way I thought only the original CARROT could.

Users of CARROT Weather’s alternative data source, Weather Underground, get a couple nice updates in this release. Now, available weather stations can be seen and selected from a map view, making it much easier to get the absolute most accurate data for your current location. Also, severe weather alerts are now available for all of Europe so you’ll be kept in the know regarding official hazards.

If you prefer your weather app to provide a little more business, a little less party, CARROT’s Professional mode has been enhanced in a couple ways. Not only will the maniacal A.I. be de-snarked when set to Professional, but now the little characters and animals in illustrations will be hidden by default as well, AR mode will present a more civilized CARROT, and secret locations can now be turned on.

Premium subscribers have a new vertical view option for daily weather info, which can be accessed from Settings ⇾ iPhone/iPad ⇾ Daily ⇾ Details. I’ve found that I prefer the vertical view over the default horizontal, and I enjoy how it still fits right in with the setting of a landscape – when details slide up from the bottom, it feels like you’re simply delving deeper below the surface.

CARROT Weather keeps getting better. The additions in version 4.2 aren’t blockbuster features, but they make for an overall more complete package. Now users with all kinds of weather and personality preferences can benefit from this top-notch app and customize it to their liking. Without losing its distinct sense of flare, CARROT Weather is quickly becoming a weather app for everyone.

CARROT Weather is available on the App Store.

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Connected, Episode 163: U2 Red

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-11 21:49

Stephen’s keyboard is disintegrating as Federico explains AirPlay 2, and Sonos and Google have new products out for the holiday season.

On this week’s Connected, we also consider some of the potential problems for Sonos’ third-party integrations and take a look at the Pixel 2. You can listen here.

Sponsored by:

  • Blue Apron: A better way to cook. Get 3 meals free with your first purchase, and free shipping!
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  • Mack Weldon: Smart underwear for smart guys. Get 20% off with the code CONNECTED.

→ Source: relay.fm

Spark Adds Key Email Productivity Features: Send Later and Follow-Up Reminders

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-11 16:46

In updates to Readdle’s Spark app for iOS and macOS released today, the email client gained two key power user features: send later and follow-up reminders.

Send later works exactly as you would expect. When composing an email, hitting the send later button in the compose bar will present several default options for when you’d like the message sent: Later Today, This Evening, and Tomorrow. Perhaps the most common use case will be responding to emails late at night and wanting them to send as soon as the next work day kicks off, which the Tomorrow option is perfect for. Thankfully, you can also set a custom date and time. Once you schedule the delivery time, Spark will take care of the rest.

With follow-up reminders, there are five default options joining the custom date picker: Later Today, This Evening, Tomorrow, Weekend, and Next Week. This feature serves to stifle a key pain point I’ve regularly encountered in email management: reminding me to follow up on an email when I don’t receive a response.

In the past I’ve tackled this problem by pairing my email client with a task manager, such that after sending an important, time-sensitive message, I would assign myself a task to follow up with a second email on a certain date in the future. The problem with this approach is that it requires two apps, and that my task manager has no way of communicating with my email inbox – it doesn’t know if I received a response to the message or not, meaning I may end up with an unnecessary task on my list. Integrating this function within an email client is exactly the right move, and Spark does it well. When your set follow-up point arrives, if you haven’t received a response yet, the sent message reappears at the top of your inbox with an icon denoting it’s a reminder. It’s easy from there to open the original email and send a quick follow-up.

The team at Readdle continues adding functionality into Spark that sets it apart as a true productivity-focused email client. With third-party integrations, snoozing, deep customization options, and now the ability to send later and receive follow-up cues, Spark is growing into an email powerhouse that every power user should give a serious look.

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AppStories, Episode 26 – Tips for Travelers

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-11 15:50, modified on 2017-10-14 15:14

On this week's episode of AppStories, with Federico’s trip to the United States for the Release Notes conference just around the corner, we talk about the travel apps we use, from planning a trip, to getting around an unfamiliar city.

Sponsored by:

  • Bear - A beautiful app for crafting notes and prose.
  • 1Blocker – Make Safari browsing fast, safe, and productive.

→ Source: appstories.net

Pixelmator for iOS Adds Drag and Drop Support and HEIF Compatibility

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-10 16:23

Following just a few days behind Pixelmator for Mac, which recently received support for HEIF and editing files stored in Apple Photos, Pixelmator for iOS was updated today with the aforementioned HEIF support – Apple’s new file format for images in iOS 11 – as well as drag and drop support on iPad.

Drag and drop enables, as you might expect, moving images and graphics out of or into Pixelmator. Dropping images into a work in progress will import them all as new layers. Depending on the size and number of images you’re dropping, there may be a brief delay before they appear in your working document, but overall this action works well. When it comes to dragging content out of Pixelmator, you’ll need to do it with a single layer at a time – once you’ve lifted a layer, you can’t use drag and drop to pick up any additional layers. In a document containing many different layers, this can be fairly limiting, but there is a type of workaround: you can merge layers together in the sidebar to then drag the newly merged layer out of the app as a single image. Unfortunately, this only solves the problem if you want both layers permanently combined into one when dropping them elsewhere.

This layer merge technique is the only way I’ve discovered to drag a final image, containing multiple layers, out of Pixelmator and into another app – if you don’t want to first merge all layers together, you’ll have to use a more traditional data transfer technique like the share sheet. I would have liked to see drag and drop enabled within Pixelmator’s main image browser for moving a completed image out of the app, or for importing photos into the app to edit later. Currently, long-pressing an item from the image browser simply engages rearrange mode.

One nice side effect of drag and drop support is that when dealing with layers that don’t fit inside your canvas – such as an image you’ve dragged in that’s larger than the canvas itself – previously it was difficult to easily determine how large the full layer was. But now, grabbing the layer and watching it lift from the screen will provide a view of the full image, regardless of canvas size. Once you start dragging the layer away, it will shrink into a smaller drag preview, but until that move is engaged, the lifted image will be shown in full.

Despite its limitations, drag and drop support in Pixelmator is definitely great to have; before today I have tried several times to drag images into the app only to remember I couldn’t do that yet. Perhaps when the upcoming Pixelmator Pro arrives on the iPad, it will include a richer implementation of drag and drop. Until then, I’m grateful to have one less app limiting my iPad drag and drop experience.

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Twitterrific for macOS Review

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-10 10:33, modified at 16:32

For years, Twitterrific for iOS and macOS were developed side-by-side, each matching the other feature for feature. But around 2013, development of the macOS version of Twitterrific slowed, while the iOS version continued to push forward with innovative features like Center Stage, the app’s media browser. Sticking with Twitterrific for macOS meant forgoing features supported by competing Twitter clients and Twitterrific’s iOS version.

With the relaunch of Twitterrific for macOS today, The Iconfactory has begun to change that. Funded by Kickstarter and codenamed Project Phoenix, the relaunched app is a solid 1.0 release that brings Twitterrific as close to parity with its iOS sibling as the two apps have been in years. There are still features that the iOS version of Twitterrific has that the macOS version doesn’t and that I’d like to see added, but for many people who move between Mac and iOS devices each day, today’s release makes Twitterrific a viable option for the first time in a while.

All the basics you’d expect to find in a Twitter client are here. You can tweet, reply, send direct messages, read your timeline, mark tweets as favorites, search, and view lists. That’s all core functionality that works well, but it isn’t what sets Twitterrific apart.

One of the cornerstones of Twitterrific on iOS is its user interface. As with the iOS version, The Iconfactory has given users a high degree of control over how Twitterrific looks within a clean, easy-to-read design. You can pick between light and dark themes and tweak the typography, text size, and the way media is displayed. Tweets are subtly color-coded too, distinguishing your tweets and mentions at a glance.

Twitterrific's UI is highly customizable.

Twitterrific's UI is highly customizable.

There are several other UI touches I like in Twitterrific. For example, you can also open multiple windows to monitor your timeline and replies side-by-side or view multiple accounts at once, for example. I also appreciate that details about a tweet, like the number of times it’s been marked as a favorite and the number of retweets, are all at my fingertips, along with the ability to view media and threads, quote a tweet, reply, or share it.

As someone who spends my day jumping between iOS and macOS though, timeline syncing is one of Twitterrific’s most important features. In Preferences, you can set Twitterrific to sync via iCloud or Tweet Marker and ‘Show and Scroll to Marker,’ ‘Show Marker,’ or ‘Scroll to Marker.’ In my tests, syncing was rock solid, keeping all my devices at the same point in my timeline so I can pick up where I left off regardless of the device I’m using.

Twitterrific has also embraced system-level features like the share sheet. Behind the three dot button in the top righthand corner of each tweet, you’ll find ‘Copy Link,’ ‘Copy Text,’ ‘Open in Browser,’ and ‘Translate,’ plus access to the system share sheet, which makes it easy to send tweets to Notes, other social media services, and other apps you have installed. Notification Center, Retina displays, and Voice Over are all supported too.

Twitterrific's media browser.

Twitterrific's media browser.

Still, not every feature of the iOS version of Twitterrific or other Twitter clients is here. In fairness to The Iconfactory, it’s worth keeping in mind that this version of Twitterrific for macOS is a ground-up rewrite of its macOS client. As a version 1.0 product, Twitterrific is a solid foundation, on which I expect The Iconfactory will continue to build. However, depending on how you use Twitter, you may be disappointed by some of what it doesn’t do. For example, you cannot save draft tweets, the muffles (Twitterrific's version of mute filters) you create on iOS are synced to the macOS version, but you can’t create new muffles on your Mac, you can view lists, but there’s no way to manage them, you cannot edit your profile, and there are no location services. To be fair, some of the omissions I’ve listed are things that The Iconfactory clearly communicated they would not be doing if the Kickstarter campaign didn’t reach $125,000, which it didn’t, but they are worth noting because they may be dealbreakers for some users.

Personally, I can live without most of the features listed above, except perhaps the inability to create Twitterrific’s version of mute filters called muffles. Muffles help me keep the fire-hose of information that Twitter throws at me under control so I can keep up. The absence of muffles on macOS is mitigated by the fact that filters created on iOS are synced to macOS, but as someone who moves between both platforms all day, I want the ability to create and manage muffles in both places.

The importance of muffles is specific to how I use Twitter and won’t apply to everyone, but it highlights the difficulties The Iconfactory faces relaunching a Twitter client in 2017. There isn’t one correct way to use Twitter. Two users can have very different sets of features that they view as critical to how they use the service. You may not care about muffles at all but can’t live without the ability to manage lists for example. It’s hard to serve all of those users with one product.

Where Twitterrific for macOS succeeds, however, is by offering a solid set of core functionality on which The Iconfactory can build additional features. The launch-day feature set is sufficient for most users and, I expect more power-user features will come over time. I’ve used the app throughout the Kickstarter beta period and expect to continue using it, though I’m not ready to commit to it full time without the ability to create muffles on my Mac. Still, in a category that hasn’t seen much action on the Mac in recent years, it’s great to see Twitterrific back in the mix.

Twitterrific for macOS is available on the Mac App Store.

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Supertop Seeks to Start a Conversation About Drag and Drop Best Practices

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-09 22:12, modified on 2017-10-10 16:26

With the goal of encouraging a dialogue among developers, Supertop, the maker of Castro, has published a series of suggested best practices for implementing drag and drop on iOS. As Oisin Prendiville explains:

Ideally, experiences that users have in one app should stand to benefit them in others. As a community of developers and designers we should be looking to agree upon shared best practices to provide a consistent user experience. There’s an opportunity here to help users understand and embrace drag and drop as a powerful way to interact with touch devices, just as they have on the desktop for years.

The post considers five implementation aspects of drag and drop complete with animated GIF examples of ‘dos and don’ts.’

As we’ve discussed on AppStories, Castro’s execution of drag and drop is one of the best we’ve seen since iOS 11’s introduction. That makes the app an excellent jumping off point to frame the conversation among the broader iOS development community. I hope others take Supertop up on its offer to discuss these topics further because users could stand to benefit a lot from a set of canonical approaches to drag and drop.

→ Source: blog.supertop.co

Bobby: Subscription Tracking Made Easy

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-09 18:20

We live in a world where media and apps are increasingly available only through recurring subscriptions. Besides the common Netflix or Spotify subscriptions, we may have subscriptions for our favorite apps, for iCloud Drive storage, for news publications, and more.

Last year Bobby launched on the App Store as an easy way to keep track of this growing mess of subscriptions, but in version 1.0 the lack of a few key features – such as iCloud sync – hindered the app’s overall value. The recently released Bobby 2 remedies those few initial drawbacks, and presents one of the best App Store options for keeping on top of where your money goes each month.

Bobby’s goal is to provide easy insight into the fixed costs in your life. Once you get the app up and running, opening it provides a quick overview of all current subscriptions, sorted by the dates those payments are due. After you plug in your subscriptions, Bobby is a simple, attractive point of reference for seeing exactly where your money’s going. But the task of inputting subscriptions is still important, and Bobby excels at streamlining the process.

Bobby includes a huge list of common subscription services built right in. You can browse the Popular list, scroll through all available options, or use the search option. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, there’s an option to create a custom subscription. In adding my own subscriptions, there were very few I couldn’t find in the app – even popular iOS and Mac apps like Ulysses and Bear are included in Bobby. Once you’ve selected a subscription, all you have to do is enter the price and date of billing, then you’re done. Optionally though, you can include additional notes about the subscription, change frequency from the default of monthly, and more. One of the most helpful options is the ability to set a reminder date so Bobby can notify you a set number of days or weeks before the subscription’s payment date.

Bobby 2 improves on the debut app’s core experience with features like flexible payment cycles, but it also includes a handful of miscellaneous goodies that add up to a more full-featured service. Touch ID and passcode protection ensures that your subscription list remains private to you and trusted loved ones. iCloud sync prevents the possibility of data loss in the future – while the app is iPhone-only, scenarios like switching devices are no longer an issue. There are also some fun app customizations available, such as custom app icons, a new dark mode that can be triggered manually or set on a schedule, and several new font options to make the app your own.

There isn’t a lot to write about with Bobby, but in this case I think that’s a good thing. A subscription tracking app doesn’t need to be particularly complex or have lots of power user features. I believe Bobby strikes the right balance of providing all the options and features most users will want, but not more than most users need. It’s an elegant solution to a simple problem: staying on top of your bills in an increasingly subscription-heavy world.

Bobby is available on the App Store as a free download that allows adding up to five subscriptions. A $1.99 In-App Purchase unlocks the full app with unlimited subscriptions, iCloud sync, dark mode, and more.

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The Limitations of watchOS Development

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-09 17:15

Benjamin Mayo recently built his first watchOS app, a companion to his iOS app for scanning and creating QR codes, Visual Codes. On his blog he outlines his experiences developing for the Apple Watch, focusing particularly on how limited third-party developers are with their apps.

Apple engineers are using a completely different technology stack to create the system apps. They get to real write real iOS apps with a watchOS appearance theme, essentially. Third-party developers have to use WatchKit — a completely separate abstracted framework that exposes only high-level interface objects (whilst creating UIKit components under the covers).

The current WatchKit API leaves no room for invention. iOS innovations like pull-to-refresh came about because the iPhone OS UI frameworks were flexible enough to let developers and designers run wild with their own ideas, if they wanted to. Some of these custom controls worked so well Apple later incorporated them as standard components in UIKit. That free reign creativity simply can’t happen on the watch at the moment. Apple defines what is possible.

Apple has clearly invested a lot into advancing the Apple Watch from a hardware perspective, and even in the native OS experience – both key areas to grow. But Mayo puts the spotlight on an area that’s clearly lagging behind.

In past years the lack of tools available to make third-party watchOS apps was less important, as the Watch itself still bore several key limitations – slow hardware, a confused OS, and being tethered to the iPhone. Few developers cared about being creative with Watch apps because everyone knew the Watch could barely handle the vanilla apps of the time anyways. It’s a testament to the recent evolution of the Watch as a product that WatchKit’s shortcomings now appear so disappointing.

→ Source: benjaminmayo.co.uk

GoodNotes Adds Drag and Drop Flexibility

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-09 16:14, modified at 16:16

Drag and drop is a natural fit for a note taking app like GoodNotes. The app excels as a way to capture handwritten or typed notes, but one of its greatest strengths is the ability to combine notes with other media, which drag and drop makes easier than ever.

GoodNotes has one of the best ink engines of any note taking app I’ve used. You can choose from a preset selection of ink colors and line widths or customize them to suit your taste. There’s a highlighter tool for marking up your notes or other documents too. The lasso tool lets you select notes and other on-screen elements to move them on the page or, in the case of handwritten notes, convert them to text.

I use GoodNotes in a few scenarios. First, I often plan the upcoming week in GoodNotes on Sunday evening. It helps to get everything off my mind and visualize which days are going to be busiest. There is something about doing this sort of planning by hand as a hybrid outline and mind map that helps me focus on the big picture and avoid getting caught up in the details.

Second, I use GoodNotes to markup articles. I don’t do this with every article, but especially if I’m stuck, the change of pace of marking up a document in GoodNotes with my Apple Pencil helps me get unstuck.

Finally, GoodNotes is where I do some of my research, which is where the app’s new drag and drop features come in handy. When I’m researching a story and taking notes, I often have Safari open in Split View on my iPad. With GoodNotes’ new drag and drop support, the process of collecting images, text, and links is greatly improved. I simply drag what I need out of Safari and drop it into my notes.

Another nice trick is the ability to take screenshots and drag them into GoodNotes. Screenshots work the same way any other image does. When the thumbnail preview appears in the corner of my iPad’s screen, I can pick it up and drag it into GoodNotes just like any other image.

Drag and drop works in both directions too. I can just as easily drag an image out of GoodNotes or lasso a link or snippet of my notes and drag those out to another app. Selecting and dragging out handwritten notes is one of the most clever aspects of GoodNotes’ drag and drop implementation. If you drag the note into a text editor that has drag and drop support like iA Writer or Byword, your handwritten note is automatically converted to text, which makes transitioning from note taking to writing faster. However, in some apps like Apple Notes, your notes are imported as an image instead of text.

Lassoing handwritten notes and dragging them into a text editor like iA Writer, converts the notes to text.

Lassoing handwritten notes and dragging them into a text editor like iA Writer, converts the notes to text.

Drag and drop is also available to organize your notebooks by dragging one or more at a time between categories. You cannot, however, drag individual notebook pages between notebooks.

If you take notes that incorporate a variety of media types, the new drag and drop functionality of GoodNotes will save you time by eliminating the repetitive copy and paste dance between apps. Better still, the flexibility of using drag and drop to get media out of your notes and convert handwritten notes to text makes the latest version of GoodNotes an excellent writing companion.

GoodNotes is available on the App Store.

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Bear: A Beautiful App for Crafting Notes and Prose [Sponsor]

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-09 15:36, modified at 17:48

Bear is a beautiful, award-winning app for crafting notes and prose. It’s simple yet powerful, and flexible enough to be a personal journal, scratchpad, and webpage clippper. You can write a book with Bear, or just keep all those little snippets and files that don’t fit elsewhere. Bear works on iPad, iPhone, Mac and, soon, Apple Watch.

There are a lot of great perks and smart polish in Bear. It fully supports Markdown, uses #tags and nested tags for organization, stores all notes in plain text, has incredibly powerful search operators, and it can handle anything—text, photos, links, tasks, and even files. Bear syntax highlights over 20 coding languages, and exports notes to a variety of formats including PDF, HTML, RTF, and even JPG for sharing on social media.

Bear is free to use. To enable sync across all devices, pick from a wide variety of themes, use all export options, and support future awesomeness coming to Bear, subscribe to Bear Pro. It’s just $1.49 a month, or $14.99 a year (about 15 percent off), and all existing and future Bear Pro features will be unlocked.

Check out the Bear Blog and FAQs with tips and guides on how to get the most out of Bear.

Our thanks to Bear for sponsoring MacStories this week.

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Design Like the Notch Isn’t There

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-07 16:28, modified on 2017-10-09 14:29

After revealing the iPhone X to the world on September 12th, Apple updated its Human Interface Guidelines and introduced a series of developer videos to address, among other topics, designing iOS apps with the iPhone X’s notch in mind. Designer Max Rudberg provides a comprehensive overview of Apple’s treatment of the notch. As Rudberg explains:

Apple is choosing to highlight the fact that the screen reaches the top left and right corner of the device. So the recommendation is clear. As a good platform citizen, one should follow their lead. By doing so, you likely have better chances to be highlighted by Apple in the App Store, or even win an Apple Design Award.

Eventually, they will get rid of the notch. It could be 2, 5, or even 10 years, but it’s a stop gap, not a permanent design solution. In the meantime, treat it like the elephant in the room. We all know it’s there, but for the most part, you should design as if it’s not.

Rudberg illustrates his article with screenshots of each point he covers and the dimensions of each screen elements adjacent to the notch. It’s not a substitute for reading the Human Interface Guidelines and watching Apple’s videos, but Rudberg’s article is a great place for developers to start when considering how to design for the iPhone X.

→ Source: blog.maxrudberg.com

Game Day: Fowlst

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-07 14:08

Sometimes the best distraction from a frantic and chaotic day is an even more frantic and chaotic game. Fowlst, which developer CatCup Games, describes as ‘an action game about an owl that is trapped in Hell for some reason’ is perfect for just such an occasion.

Fowlst is an arcade-style action, dodging game. You play as the owl, pursued by demons that shoot lasers at you while you try to avoid buzzsaws, fire, and other obstacles. The game gets crazy fast.

The mechanics remind me of Don’t Grind, one of my favorite arcade-style games released last year. You control your owl by tapping on the left and right-hand sides of the screen, which makes your owl fly in a bouncy kind of way in the direction of your taps. The controls purposefully require a careful coordination of left and right taps to navigate your owl. Power-ups are activated by swiping up on the screen. It’s a simple control scheme that makes Fowlst easy to pick up and start playing, but difficult to master.

Demons are defeated by colliding with them before you run out of hearts from being hit by lasers or other obstacles. Unlike Don’t Grind, you don’t have to keep your owl aloft constantly. You can rest on the bottom of any stage or a perch, but constantly moving helps make it harder for the demons to get you. There are also periodic bosses theoughout the game to mix up the pace of the action.

When you defeat a demon, it’s replaced with a floating sack of money and occasionally a heart or power-up that disappears after a few seconds. To collect items, you need to steer your owl into them while simultaneously dealing with other demons and obstacles. The cash you collect can be spent to upgrade your owl with health and weapons.

The game ends when you run out of hearts. Fowlst then tallies the money you collected, the number of levels cleared and shows how you did compared to your high score, which has the effect of making the game wonderfully-compulsive to play. Fowlst keeps things interesting by randomizing the levels you are presented each time you play through. It’s a carefully struck balance that keeps the gameplay familiar enough to avoid frustration but also avoids becoming monotonous.

Fowlst combines its arcade action with pixelated art, a complementary chiptune soundtrack, and lots of ‘pew-pew’ laser sound effects. The result is an addictive arcade game that has almost no learning curve and is easy to pick up and play for short periods of time but is difficult to master and hard to put down. It’s a perfect combination for a mobile game, making Fowlst a title I’m going to be returning to often.

Fowlst is available on the App Store.

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Apple Music Bot Joins Facebook Messenger

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-06 20:03

Apple Music has released a bot on Facebook Messenger, joining over 200,000 other active bots. According to Facebook’s announcement:

The Apple Music experience on Messenger is unique in that it allows Apple Music subscribers on iOS to play complete songs, right in the app. Of course it will enable listening and sharing of 30-second sound bites cross-platform (Android and iOS) to non-subscribers. You can even send an emoji to the bot and it will suggest a playlist – try sending 🔥 or even ✨❓🚌 to see what Apple Music bot suggests – and know what’s playing live on Beats 1 and see which shows are coming up next. And if you’re interested in becoming an Apple Music subscriber, you can also easily start your 3 month free trial via a native, seamless flow.

With a potential audience of over 1.3 billion people and competitors like Spotify on Facebook Messenger with a bot of its own, it makes a lot of strategic sense for Apple to be involved too. Signing up for a free trial is only a couple taps away in the bot interface, which I imagine should help Apple Music grow its subscriber base too.

→ Source: messenger.fb.com

Pixelmator for macOS Updated with HEIF and Apple Photos Support

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-06 15:33

Pixelmator, which announced Pixelmator Pro is coming later this year, has released an interim update to the current version of its image editor that adds full compatibility with macOS High Sierra.

In addition to bug fixes, Pixelmator 3.7 supports importing HEIF image files. Pixelmator can be opened directly from Apple Photos now too. The feature, which was added to Apple Photos as part of High Sierra, allows users to choose an image in Apple Photos, but edit it in Pixelmator. All edits made in Pixelmator will be saved back to the original file in Apple Photos. Pixelmator posted a video that explains how the feature works:

Pixelmator is available on the Mac App Store.

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Remaster, Episode 45: Water Is So Much Better When It’s Blue

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-06 14:34

Federico has (mostly) completed Breath of the Wild, and Shahid gives a personal history of the SNES.

On this week’s Remaster, Shahid and I also talk about the SNES mini and why the original console was a big deal for the industry when it came out. You can listen here.

Sponsored by:

  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code INSERTCOIN at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
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→ Source: relay.fm

Apple Previews Emoji Coming in iOS 11.1

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-06 13:21

On World Emoji Day, Apple provided a sneak peek at some of the emoji it was working on for iOS 11. Today, Apple revealed that the new emoji will debut in iOS 11.1:

Hundreds of new emoji, including more emotive smiley faces, gender-neutral characters, clothing options, food types, animals, mythical creatures and more, are coming to iPhone and iPad with iOS 11.1.

The first chance to try the new emoji will come in the second beta of iOS 11.1, which BuzzFeed News reports will be released on Monday, October 9th.

→ Source: apple.com

Apple’s Reminders App Reimagined

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-05 17:25

Source: Tim Nahumck

Source: Tim Nahumck

Tim Nahumck has outlined his vision for a new and improved Reminders app, inspired by the iOS 11 design language and existing concepts found in apps like Files. I’ve long hoped for a full Reminders revamp to make the app look and feel more modern, and Nahumck has some good ideas for what Apple could do. The words that resonated most with me, however, are where Nahumck explains why Apple should do this:

I think a lot of people’s lives can be improved by task management. For years, I’ve tried to get family and friends to see the benefits; sometimes they do, most times they don’t. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.

What I have often found is that the idea of downloading a separate app bothers people. Sure, they’ll have a few dozen free apps – camera and photo editing apps, several social media apps, a bunch of couponing apps – but heaven forbid they get a paid productivity app involved in the mix. The mental friction of having a separate app to manage their lives can be difficult to get over. This is usually the point where I suggest simply using Reminders: it’s basic enough to get the job done, it’s a part of the OS, and they don’t have to pay to try it out. But the app isn’t where it needs to be.

These words highlight the inspiration that I believe Apple should take in approaching a full Reminders rebuild. I know tons of people whose lives would be improved by a bit of task management help; the number of people in this category among all iOS users has to be enormous. As such there’s great potential for a new Reminders – rethought from the ground up – to add true benefit to the lives of millions of users. Like Nahumck’s concept shows, I think this could be done in a way that still offers significant utility to power users, while keeping it simple for those who want it so.

For the last several years I’ve had a refreshed Reminders on my WWDC wish list, only to be disappointed. Maybe with the important groundwork of drag and drop and the new iOS design language now taken care of, 2018 will be the year my wish comes true.

→ Source: nahumck.me

Comic Protanopia Comes to Life with Game-Like Tilt Controls

Permalink - Posted on 2017-10-05 17:10

Protanopia is a reimagination of what a comic book can be on an iOS device. The short comic is a stand-alone Universal app, that tells the story of soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy during World War II.

The free comic is the work of artist Andre Bergs who describes the book as follows:

Created as an experiment into the possibilities of digital comics. Using elements from 3D and 2D animation in a realtime game engine, it creates an unique visual style, whilst still having a familiar feeling.

As the landing craft bobs on the waves, the soldiers inside it move too. By layering the 2D art and animating each layer independently, a 3D effect is created. By itself, it’s a cool effect that brings the comic to life, but there’s more to it than that. The comic also responds to tilting your iOS device. You can tilt your iPhone or iPad to get a different perspective on the scene and peek at details that can’t be viewed from certain angles.

Protanopia is unlike any other comic I’ve read. While tilt control may not suit the storyline of every comic, it adds a dynamism to this story that makes it come alive in a way that static art doesn’t. It’s fascinating to see game engine technology deployed in a different medium and something with which I’d love to see more artist experiment.

Protanopia is available on the App Store.

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