In a recent article by Mark Gurman over at Bloomberg, he wrote over 600 words on the supposed plan that Apple have, which would converge apps from iOS and macOS. Meaning that developers would be able to design just one app, and have it work on both platforms.
I personally dont think this is going to happen.
And if you read the whole piece, you’ll find that only 48 words out of the total 672 are relevant:
Apple currently plans to begin rolling out the change as part of next fall’s major iOS and macOS updates, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter. The secret project, codenamed “Marzipan,” is one of the tentpole additions for next year’s Apple software road map.
I’ve been hearing Mark’s name for a few years, and people always seem to make him sound like a very top Apple reporter, which I guess is why he now writes for Bloomberg. But his latest rumours, have been a bit lower in quality in my opinion.
Here’s something interesting – The guys over at iA (devleopers of the iA Writer app), have made their own font. Prevously the apps used a font called Nitti, which kind of became part of the iA brand, but they took it upon themselves to develop a more writing focussed option.
Hell just froze over. After seven years of offering no font options to write, iA Writer now comes with a choice. Next to the monospace Nitti you will now find a brand new duospace font. Duospace?
For an app that was designed as the digital equivalent of a typewriter, a monospace font is not a far fetch. But, if font choice were just a matter of style, there are better and less expensive ways to impress than leasing a high end monospaced typeface that many take for a silly Courier.
There was clearly a lot of investigastion that went into it, and I’m a fan of the results!
I finally got around to checking out the code for one of my apps, Qwiki.
Qwiki is a menu bar application, that lets you search and read Wikipedia articles. It can also open them in the browser, share differently formatted links, etc. But this isn’t an advertisement.
After updating it to 1.3 last year, I had other projects, university, and finding a job to do. So it got pushed right to the side. But I decided recently I wanted to modernise it, and maybe even look at adding new features.
That time hasn’t come yet, but I have spent the past few days going over the code, cleaning a few things up, migrating it to Swift 4, etc.
So in the mean time I fixed a couple of bugs, like when keyboard and mouse input get mixed up, escape key not always working, some design tweaks, and also added a preference to keep Qwiki open unless manually dismissed.
Now it’s been sent to Apple, I’ll have a few days off, and probably work updating another one of my apps. But in the very near future I plan on going back to Qwiki, and seeing what real features I can add!
If you have any ideas at all about Qwiki, then i’d be really happy to heat them. Even if it’s pure criticism, it all helps.
Jannis Hermanns took on a rather interesting challenge recently, and it was all about working from an iPad Pro.
But unlike most people that make the switch, he’s not a writer, manager, or a designer. Jannis is a backend engineer, that uses some terminal in some hardcore ways!
In the summer of 2017, I wanted to know what it would be like to use an iPad Pro as my main computer. I found out that it can actually work, thanks to an iOS app called Blink, an SSH replacement called Mosh, iOS 11 and running stuff on a server.
His perspective/experience I find, is different than most other macOS to iOS switching articles, as there was a lot more technical issues that had to be solved.
But nonetheless, he managed it in the end.
Sadly for myself though, this switch isn’t something that I could do myself any time soon, as I develop 99% of the time using Xcode. Sure, I could probably run that on a Mac, and use a iPad to operate it. But what’s the point in that.
I’ve been wanting (not exactly looking for) a better way to quickly deal with screenshots on macOS for a while, and while looking over Product Hunt today, there was an app called ShotBox climbing the ranks.
It was free, and it looked interesting, so I gave it a shot. I was very pleased with what I found, and it’s such a simple utility, but it’s exactly what I need.
It’s similar to the new screenshot feature in iOS, in that when it detects a new screenshot, it opens up a small window in the bottom-left corner, so you can quickly edit and share.
There are actually only two things you can do in that window, and they are preview and edit. And of course when you close the window, you get the option to quickly delete the screenshot, or to save it.
I initially didn’t think it would work properly on my Mac, as I have Hazel move my screenshots into a separate folder, which I then have rules on archiving. So therefore they don’t just sit on my desktop. However, ShotBox lets you select a folder to watch, so this wasn’t an issue!
You can find out more information on ShotBox, and also download it for free using these links:
Michael Rockwell, over at Initial Charge write a piece about a really interesting way to give web apps a more native feel on iOS.
Firstly, he mentions Fluid, which is an application for macOS which lets you “convert” web apps into containers that run as normal apps:
On macOS, there’s an application available called Fluid, which lets you create site-specific web browsers. Many of us use web apps everyday and Fluid allows you to run them side-by-side with your native applications without being sequestered inside of a web browser. Fluid is a handy little tool that every Mac user should have in their arsenal.
I hadn’t heard of Fluid before, so I’m going to try this myself, but it’s not as good as his next suggestion for iOS:
To build these site-specific browsers, it just takes two simple actions — a URL action with the web app’s address and the Show Web Page action. When run, Workflow will open up the URL in a Safari View Controller, which gives you access to your action extensions alongside forward, back, and refresh buttons. From there you can give the workflow a name, set an icon color, and a glyph to fit the website or web application’s functionality.
So, he uses Workflow! It’s something I haven’t thought at all about before, but it makes sense. You can use the standard Safari View Controller inside Workflow, or you make partner it with apps like Sidefari, or maybe even add another layer to it with Opener.
I’ve actually just set one up myself to handle my the interface for this blog, which runs on Ghost.
Whether you use macOS or iOS, there’s a solution for you in this post!
David Sparks on the need to use tags to manage files:
Lately I’ve been thinking about making another run at file tagging. It’s kind of funny how these tech issues percolate up. It all started with some receipts that I wanted to save to both client folders and tax folders. I found myself creating duplicates to have them in two places at once, which rubs me, someone who used to save computer data onto a cassette tape, as fundamentally wrong.
So I’m looking at a hybrid tagging system that will still work with folders at some level but also rely on tags to help sort, store, and find files. There still are a lot of downsides to tagging. It takes extra time and it has very shaky support on iOS. I’m making a list of problems as I go.
I have moments like this where I think using file tagging would make my life so much easier, especially when I first found the feature to be quite interesting when first announced. However, when I decided to try out the feature, it never seems to stick with me. It was always a bigger task to set up, then to just deal with the problems one by one.
Nevertheless, I am very interested to see what results David has, and it may spark myself again to try them out.
A few days ago Setapp was released to the public, but I was fortunate enough to be in the beta, so I’ve had a lot of experience with it. If you don’t know about Setapp already, it’s a subscription-based service that gives users access to a huge bunch of great macOS apps.
If I calculate correctly, this is my second month using Setapp, and it’s been great. I’ve had access to so many great applications, that before I wouldn’t of even thought about, or even heard of.
But after all of this time, there’s only a few applications that I have actually launched:
- iStat Menus
CleanMyMac is something I’ve ran a few times, just so I could get an idea on the state of my new MacBook.
CodeRunner is actually quite a nifty application, it’s basically a text editor for programmers, that can actually compile and execute code itself. I played around with this a few times when doing Java at university, but it wasn’t something I stuck with.
iStat Menus is probably the only consistent app I use from Setapp, and that’s really just providing me with a few useful stats, that I could realistically live without. Because my Mac isn’t at any stage where I need to worry about resources.
I think I’ve opened MoneyWiz about three times, once to set it up, and then twice to check out my transactions. It’s a nice idea, but not something I need.
Ulysses, maybe my favourite application out of the lot. But I’ve been doing a bit less writing recently, so I haven’t used it as much. I do have iA Writer, and then there’s Bear, so it’s not a necessity, although Ulysses is a well made app.
From a usability point of view, Setapp has worked perfectly. And it does provide a great deal of applications for a little amount of money a month.
However, my problem is that I simply don’t need these applications. And although a few of them are nice to have, it doesn’t warrant any kind of subscription fee.
Check out Setapp for yourself and see if it’s right for you.
I’ve seen a few people have issues regarding opening applications that they have downloaded from the internet, that they get the error below, about it being from an unidentified developer.
This is due to the latest security settings in macOS, and these are accessible in the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences.
There are two options to choose from:
- App Store
- App Store and identified developers
Of course the top option means you can only open applications distributed from the Mac App Store. But the other one means it allows all apps from the Mac App Store, and also any developers that have signed their application with Apple’s “Developer ID” certificate. This allows developers to distribute their apps outside of the store, but also maintain the same security features, and trust level as the former option.
You can read more about Developer ID on the Apple Developer website.
There is also a temporary solution, which lets you override the security settings on a case by case basis. Just press “Open Anyway” at the bottom of the preferences pane, and it will then open like normal!
Edit (14th January 2017):
My friend Cesare let me know that you can also unlock a third option, this let’s you choose “Anywhere” in the preferences, and will let you download and open any application without restriction.
To unlock it, just open Terminal (Applications/Utilities/Terminal) and enter the following line exactly:
sudo spctl --master-disable
If you want to return it back to normal, just enter the following:
sudo spctl --master-enable
Of course as I’m currently writing this, it is only v0.0.1 build 1, so there’s going to be some bugs, and maybe a few missing features. But this is one hell of a first build.
Here are the features from the GitHub page:
- Based on mpv, a powerful media player
- Designed for modern macOS (10.10+)
- User-friendly interface
- All the features you need for videos, audios and subtitles
- Supported basic playlist and chapters
- MPV config files and script system are available for advanced users
- Written in Swift, followed up on new technologies like Touch Bar
- Still in active development
The best bit in my opinion, is the video, audio, and subtitle controls you get. It’s such a simple aesthetic, but it certainly packs in some power!
Here are some screenshots:
So I made another video!
It shows a few of the many Touch Bar apps that have been released, but these ones are clearly the best 😉.
I just set up a nice little automation on my Mac that I just had to share with everyone, it’s quite small, but it’s a big help to me when writing my project report for university.
I’m writing it in iA Writer at the minute, and I’m certainly making full use of the content blocks for things like images, and referencing separate bits of text. But I wanted a way to take a screenshot, and then have it available to me to embed into the document. It meant I had to google a few things about AppleScript, but that seemed pretty simple.
To keep my project folder nice and tidy, I created a new folder inside it called “Resources”. At the minute it’s just for images, but who knows!
Then I created a new rule in Hazel, to detect any file in my Inbox folder that has the tag “KeepTrack”, which then moves it into the appropriate Resources folder that I just created. It then runs a small bit of AppleScript to copy the correct text to my clipboard, that I can then paste into iA Writer.
set the clipboard to "/Resources/" & item 1 of inputAttributes
The inputAttributes is the variable Hazel provides, and I have only set one item to pass through, the full name of the file that was matched, so “Image.png” could be one.
Then I’ll get something like
/Resources/Image.png in my clipboard, that iA Writer will accept as a content block and show the image!
So it’s not a grand automation workflow, but it’s something that I worked out due to the fantastic capabilities of Hazel!
I’m starting to really love the app, and it’s allowing me to automate my work on my Mac even more.
If you want to get Hazel yourself, you can find it on the Noodlesoft Store.
The developers of RapidWeaver, Realmac, have just launched Squash 2 for Mac! As they put it, it is “The Easiest Way to Compress and Optimise Images for the Web.”, I completely agree with that statement.
It has a really simplistic and clean UI, which I’m a big fan of. And also it has a few very smart features.
How To Use Squash
You can either drag and drop images (or even whole folders), onto the application window or icon to compress the files. Or you can of course navigate to File, Open.
Then you get to see the animation, which has a nice sound effect to it, while it’s compressing the images. And after that it tells you how much space it saved, and then completes the specific output option you have set in your preferences. It’s as simple as that.
What Can It Do?
Squash can compress JPG, PNG, and GIF images without losing any image quality. So there’s really no drawbacks!
It can also convert PSD, RAW, and TIFF files into compressed JPG files as well. Which can be a huge lifesaver if you don’t fancy opening up Photoshop or Lightroom for example to simply export an image.
Then with the output of images, you can choose to either have it replace the original images with the compressed versions, or you can save separate copies. This is managed in the Preferences window, and it also let’s you choose a specific folder to save them into.
Another little extra is the ability to add a custom suffix to the image name, so for example you could be compressing a bunch of images, and you want to clearly know which ones have compressed versions. Just add something like “-compressed”, and then “Photo_0123.png” would get compressed, and saved as “Photo_0123-compressed.png”.
If you want to refine the compression even more, you can select the JPEG quality you want to compress to. And there is also an option to have a slightly more compressed PNG format, but this will take a longer time to complete.
Why Should I Compress?
There are a bunch of reasons why you should compress your images, but here are a few:
- It saves space on your drive, or even cloud storage where space may not be hugely available.
- You can upload your files to places like Facebook and Twitter much faster.
- If your app uses a lot of images, then having all of these compressed, it will be faster to download, which means less bandwidth is being used.
- Your email attachments will be smaller, so they will load and send faster, and who wants huge emails anyway?
- Websites will load much faster with smaller images!
I had to do a few benchmarks on some images, to see what sort of compression I could get. So here is what I got:
- Andromeda Galaxy 5.3MB JPEG -> 2.2MB
- Qwiki Icon 857KB PNG -> 375KB / 327KB (Slower PNG Compression)
- Black Wallpaper 2.2MB JPEG -> 537Kb
- Outside Landscape 1.8MB JPEG -> 1.7MB
- Screenshot of Squash (Above) 105KB JPEG -> 57KB
And if you get there before the 28th November, you’ll benefit from their whopping 60% Off Launch deal.
Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Qwiki will be a whopping 50% off!
So if you’re unsure whether you want to try it out, or maybe you like a bit of a discount. Then this is your chance to get Qwiki, and bring Wikipedia to your Menu Bar! (and Touch Bar soon).
My new MacBook Pro has arrived! So this is a sort of preliminary post, before my actual write up on what I think of it.
For starters, this is the configuration of my new Mac:
- 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
- 3.1GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5
- 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 SDRAM
- Intel Iris Graphics 550
- 256GB PCIe-based SSD
The name you may of guessed already, is “Wrathion”. I started this very recently, in which all of my devices are named after Dragons in WoW. For a bit of back story, the Black Dragonflight were my favourite, until they became corrupted, until one little egg was rescued and is now the only uncorrupted Black Dragon. He is still a whelp (like my 13″ Mac), and is Black (sort of like my Space Grey Mac), so it sort of fitted!
Yes, I’ve already put stickers on my Mac. Eight to be exact. I do plan on covering it even more, but I didn’t want to rush into anything!
Anyway, here’s a little GIF I made of my sticker situation:
Thoughts So Far
This MacBook is amazing, and actually a lot better than I thought. Also, something which may be unique, I love the new keyboard.
I’ll get on using my Mac, and pretty soon I’ll be writing a better piece on what I think about it.
iA Writer has just become version 4! It coms with some really impressive features, that definitely makes it more than just a basic text editor.
There’s better way to add images (with support for better captions), stress free tables with .csv file embeds, embedded text files, and all of these "content blocks" can be chained together! Which means you can have a book outline document, with references to the title page, individual chapters, etc. But within those chapters you could have references to images, or maybe even more text! The possibilities are endless, and I’m really impressed.
I was going to write a big article about this update, but I saw on the iA blog they have a super helpful video that explains everything!
Read the full article about iA Writer 4 on the iA Blog.
My app Qwiki received it’s second update the other day, and I’m really happy with the progress it’s making!
Here are the release notes for 1.2:
In the latest update there are things that make Qwiki a bit more of a polished product.
Including things like being able to set Qwiki to launch on startup (Which was a lot harder than expected), a slightly more "lit" icon (Brighter colours, bigger stroke, and a gradient), some extra accessibility support, and also some behind the scenes efficiency work (But we all know you don’t care about that).
One More Thing
Qwiki now supports every language Wikipedia does! Just select it in the Preferences window, and you’ll be reading articles in whatever language you select. I recommend trying out "Scots", that’s pretty funny!
P.S. TouchBar support coming in the next update!
As I said above, I’m working on adding some form of functionality for the TouchBar in the new MacBook Pro’s. Mine should arrive soon, so I can fully test that out and ship it to everyone! I also redesigned the website, which you can check out.
For now, you can buy Qwiki on the Mac App Store for £2.99.
I’ve actually been using Bear for a while, ever since it entered beta. And it’s been a remarkable tool for me, whether it’s writing blog posts or even just jotting down small notes.
Bear actually differentiates from other apps quite a lot, but mainly in the way it looks. It has its own version of Markdown that it uses, but you can always change that to support the original Gruber version. Then you have the 9 really cool themes to choose from, and there’s more variety then other apps. I personally use Panic Mode.
As it’s available for both macOS and iOS, there are slight differences in the design, but these are just platform differences, not how the app functions.
It’s split into three different views, the tags view which is on the left, the list of posts in the middle, and then the actual post on the right. On the Mac you can choose which views you want visible, and on iOS it appears differently based on what orientation/device you are on.
The editor is clean, and it lets you focus on the content. It’s a style used by most of the modern apps, and I really love it. There’s an Information panel you can bring up, by just tapping the (i) button in the top right corner (iOS and macOS). It brings up some some handy information like read time, last editing device, and also gives you the option to export to different file types.
You can do the standard markdown formatting like bold, italics, underline, and strike through text. Of course it supports links, but it displays them slightly different with a link icon and the title. You don’t see the underlying Markdown code or URL, but with a tap/click on the link, you can change the
title or url easily.
Another benefit over other apps is the ability to insert inline images in a post, which isn’t especially useful for me when I’m writing these types of posts that require screenshots.
There’s also support for embedding lines or blocks of code, and you can actually specify a language to get better formatting.
When you’re typing on iOS, a custom shortcut bar makes it even easier, with quick access to different formatting, links, photos, and code blocks.
The way you organise your notes in Bear is by adding tags, you can add these anywhere in a note. It allows you to see them clearly separated in the Tags view, or even search or them.
It’s a format I quite like, as it allows to be more flexible when writing. I for one lose track of notes when I have to place them in certain folders, so being able to just add a “RadThinker” tag, I can quickly find all the posts I’ve written for my blog.
Something else I don’t really see on other apps, is a trash folder. In Bear you can view any document you’ve deleted, and then restore it if you’ve done it by mistake.
Most people already use a note taking app, so you’ll want to move it all to Bear. Well you can import text files straight in to Bear, and it also features an import feature for Vesper users.
Exporting is even better, with the ability to export a note into .MD, .PDF, .HTML, .DOCX, .JPG, and .RTF. It also supports the standard share sheet, which is very useful.
What makes exporting even better, is when you combine it with an automation app like Workflow. For example you could export to Markdown (MD), and then share that to a workflow which posts it to your blog.
Bear is free to use on macOS and iOS, but there is a Pro subscription which will unlock loads of awesome features. Of course I signed up straight away.
With Pro you get access to things like syncing between your devices, access to all the themes, and exporting to every good file type.
You can choose to subscribe monthly, or yearly. With the prices being $1.49 per month, or $14.99 per year.
Overall I think Bear is great. It’s my note taking app, and also the app I use to write for this blog. Now I have syncing across macOS and iOS (Wasn’t available in beta), it’s even better.
The few things I think could improve Bear would be the ability to have some form of sub tags? to further organise notes, the option to have a link preview, and maybe even shared notes, but I know that’s a lot harder than it seems.
One big feature that I would love is Ghost integration, as that’s what RadicalThinker is run on. So being able to post directly from a text editor, would save uploading images, entering tags, and more importantly even opening my browser to access a (quite annoying) web interface.
I can see a bright future for Bear, and it’s started out with such a high standard, it can really become everyones default notes app right now. Of course there’s so much more Bear can do than I’ve written here, so the best place to find out more is on their website , or by checking it out yourself.