macOS


Some More Thoughts on the State of Safari

27th July 2021

I wrote a tweet a few hours ago, explaining what I think Apple should do with Safari:

With the amount of tampering that Apple have done with the new Safari design in the betas, I think it would be wise for the whole redesign to be postponed for a later point release.
That way they can spend more time getting feedback instead of rushing small tweaks.

Tweet

However, since Twitter isn’t exactly the best place for anything except quick opinions and hot takes, I thought I’d go into a bit more detail here on my blog.


My thinking is that because the changes to Safari on all platforms have received such widespread criticism (with varying degrees) and that Apple has been constantly tweaking (mildly) Safari during the beta process, then it should be clear that it is not going to be widely appreciated when released to the public.

Sure, enthusiasts will always care that bit more than the average user, but the complaints that I have and that I have seen, aren’t about insignificant details, but about the fundamental usability. And you’d expect with the number of users that will eventually be using the next version of iPadOS, and iOS, and macOS, then that has the potential to cause a lot of negativity and frustration simply because Apple wanted to redesign the built-in browser.

I’m somewhat of the opinion that Apple should take a tad more risk in their designs and try some new things now and then. But then again, making the built-in web browser less usable for potentially hundreds of millions of users isn’t a good move. No matter how much “courage” you have.

I think it’s only fair to include here that at the start of the beta, I was open to a new Safari design. I think the tab groups are a good idea, the tab bar looked a bit fresher on iPadOS and macOS, and the address bar was moved to the bottom of the screen on the iPhone, making it easier to reach.

But as I used it more on all platforms, I started to spot the weaknesses. The (initial) tab design on macOS and iPadOS didn’t work well with more than 5/6 tabs (although this has been slightly improved), the address bar on the iPhone regularly got in the way of content, and there’s been the apparent massacre of buttons within Safari on all platforms. In the latest round of betas, a few buttons have returned, but overall I believe that this version of Safari is not fit for purpose.

So in my opinion, I believe the wisest thing for Apple to do would be to either revert the major design changes or at least have it as an opt-in setting for people to choose. That way, they can receive more constructive feedback, spend some real time rethinking the design, and delivering a better version of Safari in a point release.

My ideal solution would be for Safari to keep some of the new features, like the tab groups, Quick Notes, the tab overview, and possibly even the new address bar on macOS. But the new floating address bar in iOS, the tab bar in iPadOS and macOS, and the sparseness of buttons should be at most an alternative and not the default option for all users.

I’m not saying that Safari should never be changed, but it shouldn’t be changed for the sake of it. This design has been proved to already be a bad move, and I don’t believe that mailing small tweaks here and there are going to fix the major flaws.

Notification Centre in Big Sur

13th March 2021

Notification Centre on macOS is a feature that's confused me for a while and one that I think wastes a lot of it's potential primarily because I don't think its anywhere as convenient as its counterpart on iOS.

I would guess that it's down to the interaction needed to use it. On an iOS device, you can see your notifications on the Lock Screen and can swipe up to reveal the full Notification Centre. But on macOS, it's hidden behind the date and time in the menu bar. So it's certainly not as visible or accessible.

This hidden nature leads me to hardly ever use it. So when I do open it up, it's full of old notifications that I need to clear out.

There's also the fact that notifications in Big Sur are plain dumb. If you've used Big Sur, then I'm sure you understand. I don't think I need to go any deeper.

But in general, I think that notifications on macOS could be a super helpful feature. It just needs to be brought out of the shadows. It needs to be accessible, and actions should be able to be accomplished with a single click or swipe.

Ecosia Added to the List of Default Search Engines on Apple Devices

23rd December 2020

Apple has now added a fifth default Search engine option to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. And that new addition is Ecosia.

Ecosia is a search engine that has been produced to plant trees. Not literally, but the profit from the search ads are used to plant trees, and therefore to help the environment.

I heard about Ecosia quite a few years ago, but it didn't seem to work that well for me. I've tried it again recently, and it seems to have improved a lot. So I'm going to be setting it as default on all of my devices to really try it out. For the simple reason that if I can get reasonable search results, then there really isn't a negative, only a positive effect of trees being planted.

To be honest, although Apple added DuckDuckGo to the list of default search engines, I didn't really expect them to add any more. DuckDuckGo just seemed like a privacy-focussed alternative to Google.

I wonder how many people will switch to Ecosia, and if Apple will add even more options in the future? Maybe they will make their own?

Apple Responds to Gatekeeper Issue With Upcoming Fixes →

16th November 2020

Romain Dillet, writing for TechCrunch:

Apple  has updated a documentation page detailing the company’s next steps to prevent last week’s Gatekeeper bug from happening again, as Rene Ritchie spotted. The company plans to implement the fixes over the next year.

Apple had a difficult launch day last week. The company released macOS Big Sur, a major update for macOS. Apple then suffered from server-side issues.

Third-party apps failed to launch as your Mac couldn't check the developer certificate of the app. That feature, called Gatekeeper, makes sure that you didn't download a malware app that disguises itself as a legit app. If the certificate doesn’t match, macOS prevents the app launch.

A pretty embarrassing bug for such a big day.

Text Case 2.5

24th December 2019

There’s yet another update to Text Case, and it brings with it three new formats, theme syncing, and an action extension for the macOS version!

New Formats

New Formats

Smart Quotes – This changes any straight single of double quotation marks, into their curly equivalents, all based on your localisation.

Small Caps – ᴛᴜʀɴ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴛᴇxᴛ ɪɴᴛᴏ sᴏᴍᴇᴛʜɪɴɢ ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴛʜɪs!

Upside Down – Just another fun one, this attempts to flip the characters upside down.

These new formats are available on all versions of Text Case, iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Automatic Theme Syncing

Theme Options

Text Case has support for themes, but previously you would have to manually switch between them. With this version, you can select “Automatic” to have the Text Case theme sync with the light/dark mode of your system. This works on both iOS, iPadOS, and macOS!

Format Text Action Extension for macOS

Convert Text Action

On the iOS/iPadOS version of Text Case, there’s an Action Extension that lets you select text anywhere, and then get direct access to the different formats in Text Case. This is now coming to the macOS version, with essentially the same behaviour.

Now you can select a portion of text anywhere in macOS, right-click, and under “Share”, there should be a “Convert Text” action. (If it doesn’t appear, you will have to go to System Preferences, Extensions, Actions, etc enable it.)

That will bring up the Text Case UI, and selecting a format will result in the formatted text being copied to your clipboard!

Links

Text Case on the App Store

Text Case on the Mac App Store

Text Case Website

Text Case for Mac

19th December 2019

I’ve been slowly working on this for quite a few months now, but I think it’s finally time to release Text Case for Mac.

With it comes all 32 formats that are currently supported in the iOS app, and the same customisation options (except custom app icons).

To recap all of those:

  • Title Case (AP, APA, CMOS, MLA)
  • URL Encoded/Decoded
  • Uppercase
  • Lowercase
  • Capitalise
  • Capitalise Words
  • Sentence Case
  • Reversed
  • Strip HTML
  • Strip/Trim Whitespace
  • Markdown Blockquote
  • Markdown Code Block
  • Markdown Ordered/Unordered List
  • Markdown to HTML
  • Camel Case
  • Snake Case
  • Pascal Case
  • Kebab Case
  • Hashtags
  • Mocking Spongebob
  • Emoji
  • Base64 Encoded/Decoded
  • Rot13
  • Clap Case
  • Shuffled

In fact the macOS version is 2.4.4, and the iOS version is sitting at just 2.4.3. The only differences being some improvements to the Emoji format, where some localisations could cause the format to not work at all (it now defaults to English if it doesn’t support the language). And also some macOS specific changes, which are mainly to remove parts of the app that won’t work such as Siri Shortcuts support, and also fine tuning the macOS experience.

There are things that I’m already planning on adding the Mac version, such as an Extension so you can format text from outside the app, similar to how the Action Extension works in IOS, and also other automation support such as URL schemes. However, I feel that it’s much more beneficial for people to have Text Case for Mac now, rather than waiting even longer to get it into peoples hands. Because just like the iOS app, I really like to adapt the app to users feedback, and I already have a few extra formats (such as small caps) that I plan on adding soon. I also want to see what I can do with the Touch Bar!

Have a look at the Mac version:

Text Case for Mac

Text Case for Mac

Text Case for Mac

Find Text Case on the Mac App Store.

Previewing JSON Files with Quick Look

24th January 2019

Quick Look, the infinitely valuable tool on the Mac that lets you near-enough instantly preview a file. It’s really impressive the number of file formats it supports, but there are always going to be a few things it doesn’t. And that’s where plugins come into it.

One great one that I discovered via twitter today is QuickLookJSON. I’m sure you’ve already guessed what it does. But anyway, I may as well show you as well.

It not only displays JSON files though, it indents them properly, applies a colour scheme, and also lets you expand and collapse any of the data. That last one alone makes it super easy to navigate through a big JSON file.

To install QuickLookJSON, you can either install it manually or do it via Homebrew. The only command you’ll need to run is:

brew cask install quicklook-json

There’s a bunch of other plugins that add further support to Quick Look, like adding syntax highlighting to code, rendering Markdown, and even allowing navigation through a .zip archive in the preview. You can find all of these on one page on GitHub, thanks to Sindre Sorhus.

Introducing the Aqua Screenshot Library →

24th August 2018

Stephen Hackett on his latest project:

I’m really glad to be announcing a project that started at the end of last year. I have worked my way through every major release of macOS since the Mac OS X Public Beta and catalogued them in an extensive collection of screenshots.

Currently, the library includes 1,502 images. That’s 1.6 GB worth of screenshots.

This is something really only he could do. I’ve had a look through some of them, and it’s fun to see how the OS has evolved, and to see the iterations between big changes.

New Dynamic Wallpaper in macOS Mojave Beta 4

18th July 2018

I’ve just upgraded my Mac to the latest Mojave beta, and I’ve discovered a new wallpaper!

In a previous update the Desktop Pictures folder was split into two sections – Dynamic Desktop and Desktop Pictures. The first section containing the photo of the Mojave desert, which contained a dynamic, and two still (night and day) versions.

This new one is called “Solar gradients” and comes in just a dynamic format. Of course it’s a rather simple wallpaper, and the majority of the time it’s a two-colour gradient, but it will show you the sun rising, the sky getting brighter, followed by the sun fading away, and a darker blue and black combination for the night sky.

A quick tip – If you want to preview a dynamic desktop, when you navigate to the Desktop & Screen Saver pane in System Preferences, just select the wallpaper, and the preview image will cycle through the different segments.