six colors

by Jason Snell & friends


Many Tricks — Save 20% on any of Many Tricks' fine utilities with the discount code SIXCOLORS20 this week.


The Incomparable #266: It’s Impossible Being Green

The Incomparable

This week on The Incomparable, we’re looking at the Muppets, from TV to movies to viral videos. We also ponder what’s wrong with the new ABC series, posit some theories about how Kermit went from “Sesame Street” to “The Muppet Show,” and participate in an impromptu Muppet draft. Don’t felt, don’t tell…

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Dan Moren for Macworld

Are Apple’s productivity apps nearing their expiration dates? ↦

I miss Bento.

You remember Bento? It was that little database program made by Apple-subsidiary FileMaker aimed at the consumer market, to Microsoft Access what Pages is to Word. But FileMaker’s attention languished over time, and Bento was discontinued back in 2013, much to the dismay of its fans and anybody looking for a simple database program.

And now I’m a little worried that Pages, Numbers, and Keynote might follow suit.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

MacPhun's Tonality extension running within Photos 1.1.

By Jason Snell

Photo Extensions come to Photos 1.1

One of the banner new features in Photos for Mac 1.1, part of the El Capitan update, is support for editing extensions. Now that El Capitan is in the wild, so are some editing extensions. I loaded up five: MacPhun’s $15 Noiseless, $15 Snapheal, and $18 Tonality; the free BeFunky Express; and a beta version of a forthcoming update to Pixelmator.

Photo extensions in System Preferences.

To activate an extension, you need to enter editing mode in Photos and click on the new Extensions item, which sits below the six existing menu items at the right side of the screen. The first time you click, you’ll see no Extensions—to add them, you need to choose More, which launches the System Preferences app and opens the Photos pane. Check the boxes next to the extensions you want to display in the Extensions menu in Photos, then quit. At this point, all of the checked items will be available in the Extensions drop-down menu in Photos’ editing mode. Once you select one, that extension’s interface appears inside of the Photos editing window until you click Cancel or Save Changes.

Choose from all extensions from within the Photos editing window.

Like the built-in editing tools, you can actually stack multiple extensions while editing a photo, so you can combine third-party editing extensions with Apple’s own tools to get exactly the image that you want to see. However, each extension edits a “burned-in” version of your photo, so you can’t edit a photo with three extensions and then go back and turn off the first of the extensions. Instead, you’d need to revert back to the original photo (which is always retained by Photos) and start again from the beginning. You can also use the editing tools built in to Photos on images that have already been edited by an Extension, so you can really mix and match. You just don’t get the always-undoable, always-editable flexibility you get when you stick entirely to the native editing tools in Photos.

The three MacPhun extensions come along with their existing standalone apps, which all strike me as one-trick ponies: You launch the app, open an image, edit it, and save the image back out. This strikes me as being the perfect use for a Photos extension, since these aren’t so much apps as filters stuck into app wrappers because they don’t have anywhere else to go. I was able to remove noise from a dark image with Noiseless and then convert it into a striking black-and-white image with Tonality, all without leaving Photos. That was quite convenient.

The BeFunky extension.

This isn’t a review of these apps, but it felt like BeFunky was a bit of a poorer fit. It’s got its own six-item menu on the side, very much like the editing mode inside Photos itself, including its own Auto Fix setting. It felt weirder entering a general-purpose editing tool (from inside Photos’ own general-purpose editing mode) than when I used one of the MacPhun extensions to make a specific sort of edit.

Pixelmator’s forthcoming Distort extension.

Pixelmator’s extension, Distort, is almost whimsical. It adds six different distortion brushes and lets you twirl, bubble, and otherwise mess up your images. It’s a good example of an extension that’s targeted at a specific set of features—in this case, distortions—and that feels like the right approach.

It will be interesting to see just how many Photos-compatible extensions will be released over the next few months. While the new functionality doesn’t transform Photos into a high-end professional tool, it does make it possible for third-party developers to extend the app with features that Apple is unlikely to add.

By Dan Moren

Wish List: Multiple credit cards in iTunes

Okay, this one’s a bit niche, but hey, it’s my wish list, right?

As I’ve documented in the last year, I’ve been slowly adjusting to my life as a self-employed writer, and a large part of that is finances. I’ve already documented how I track my income, but the far trickier part is keeping track of expenses. Most recently, I finally got around to getting a second credit card to be used purely for business expenses, and so I’m in the process of switching many services to new cards.

So you could have knocked me over with a feather when I realized that Apple doesn’t support multiple credit cards in the iTunes Store—which is also what Apple uses to charge for iCloud storage and other digital goods. Now, I could certainly switch to my business card, but the problem is that I make both personal and business purchases from iTunes. So obviously, it would be useful to be able to switch back and forth as, say, Amazon and most other retailers allow you to. But perhaps Apple doesn’t see it that way.

Thus far, the best workaround I’ve come up with is to, say, leave my business card on file, then buy iTunes Gift cards with my personal card and use those when I want to buy things for myself. Another alternative is to use a totally different iTunes account for one set of purchases, but that leads down a terrifying path of managing multiple accounts.

My gut tells me that this is Apple’s “simplicity” ethos at work here: you never have to think about which credit card you’re using, which streamlines the checkout process of buying apps. But for those of us who do need to bounce back and forth between multiple cards, it would certainly be a boon.

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]

Linked by Dan Moren

Amazon to stop selling Chromecasts, Apple TVs

As per this article in BloombergBusiness, Amazon’s not going to sell streaming devices made by Google or Apple anymore:

“Over the last three years, Prime Video has become an important part of Prime,” Amazon said in the e-mail. “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.”

First off, as a retailer, Amazon absolutely has the right to carry or not carry whatever products it wants to. And yes, right now playing back videos from Amazon on your Apple TV means using AirPlay to get them from an iOS device to the set-top box.

But it seems strange to make this move just a few weeks ahead of the appearance of the new Apple TV for which Amazon could, presumably, develop an app for watching video—just as they have with iOS.

Understandably, the in-app purchase rules that require Amazon to fork over a percentage of sales to Apple aren’t going to fly if you just want to rent or buy a movie or TV show from Amazon. It’s the same reason that the Kindle and Comixology apps on iOS don’t support purchasing through the app—just viewing content that’s previously been bought.

I can appreciate that Amazon would like to push people towards a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick rather than an Apple TV, but at its heart, Amazon is still a retailer, not a hardware developer. So why not take some money out of the iTunes Store’s pocket, at least as far as Prime Video is concerned?

By Dan Moren

Tweetbot 4 adds new Activity and Stats views, better iPad support

Tweetbot 4

I think we can all agree that there is perhaps no more personal choice than one’s Twitter client. I’ve been a user of Tapbots’s Tweetbot for many a moon now, and though I was tempted to stray from time to time, I’m glad that I did not succumb, for Tweetbot 4 is, at long last, here.

Longtime users will probably be happiest the new version’s complete revamp of the iPad client, which not only gets support for the multitasking features in iOS 9, including Split View, but also gets a much-needed facelift. For one thing, when in landscape orientation there’s now a new side column which you can dedicate to viewing mentions or lists or saved searches. There does not, however, appear to be any way to turn off the side column if you don’t like it.

My favorite new Tweetbot features—vainglorious fellow that I am—are the Activity and Stats views. The former mimics Twitter’s own Notifications feature, showing you replies, favorites, retweets, and new followers. The latter, though, takes things up a notch by breaking out retweets and favorites by tweet, and giving you information about the number of favorites, retweets, and new followers you’ve gotten today. (Tapping each tweet listed there will also show you who favorited or retweeted it.) There’s also a graph of your overall activity, if you feel the need to quantify yourself.1

Other useful additions include the ability to enter replies in notifications (hurray!), a more granular Mute function, and automatic day/night themes (plus a two-finger gesture to quickly switch between them).

Tweetbot 4 is the update that I’ve been waiting for, and I’m pretty psyched. However, just so you know what you’re getting into, Tweetbot 4 is a brand new app in the App Store, and it’ll currently cost you $5 to grab it (which Tapbots says is 50% off the official price). For a client as good as Tweetbot, that’s a great deal, and I’m personally happy to continue to support the development of quality apps.

  1. The shortcut to double-tap on your profile icon to open Favstar is gone, though probably because the new Activity & Stats views kind of replace that. Favstar is still accessible from profiles and on a tweet-by-tweet basis via the gear menu, though.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]

By Dan Moren

Tip: Change swipe behavior in El Capitan Mail (partially)

Mail takes a page from its iOS counterpart in OS X El Capitan by adding swipe gestures using the trackpad. You can swipe left on a Mail message to trash it, or right to mark it as read. Some folks might find that handy, especially if they’ve built up muscle memory using Mail on iOS.

If you’re an archiver rather than a trasher, Mail’s got you covered. Open up Mail > Preferences > Viewing and change the Swipe Left behavior to Archive instead of Trash.

Swipe Left

Sadly, however, for those of us who prefer using the Swipe Right behavior for flagging rather than marking read status—which is possible in iOS—there is not equivalent preference option in El Capitan’s Mail, which means we’ll still be using keyboard shortcuts or menu bar icons like animals.

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]

Linked by Dan Moren

Eddy Cue talks music, the iPhone, and…data roaming?

Jimi Famurewa of the Evening Standard interviews Apple’s Eddy Cue, ostensibly about the Apple Music festival, but this’ll be the money quote:

Our time comes to an end but Cue isn’t about to let me leave. He wants to show me footage of soulful warm-up act, Andra Day’s Apple Music Festival set and, in defiance of that publicist, walk me through how they’ve retooled Siri on the new iPhone (“I know I’m not allowed to talk about the phone but what the hell — he can’t fire me”).

Cue also makes an offhand comment that Apple is trying to “fix” the high cost of phone data while traveling overseas, which would be a welcome move, but I’m curious about how Apple plans to do that—might we see the Apple SIM make its way to the iPhone at some point?

More generally, there’s been a lot of visibility of Apple execs in the recent past, but much of the outward facing attention still falls on Tim Cook and Jony Ive. Cue has always been an interesting member of Apple’s upper echelons, and I think your traditional nerds often dismiss him 1) because his area of expertise seems to be less about technology and more about deal-making1 and 2) because his stage presence is, frankly, on the cheesy side. But his importance shouldn’t be underestimated: remember that press picture that went along with the Beats acquisition? There’s no reason it couldn’t have been just Tim Cook with Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, and that says something about Cue’s position.

  1. To be fair, his Apple bio says that he holds bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Economics. ↩

Photos 1.1 features editable geolocation data.

By Jason Snell

What’s new in Photos for Mac 1.1

Available now as a part of El Capitan is Photos 1.1, the first major update to Photos for Mac, the replacement for iPhoto and Aperture that Apple launched earlier this year.

Here are the major additions in Photos 1.1:

You can geotag using the location database used by Apple Maps.

Geotagging. In Photos 1.1 you can add a location to an image or batch of images that weren’t geotagged, as well as edit the location of data of already-geotagged images. To do this, you open the Inspector window by pressing Command-I. In a not-yet-geotagged image, the Inspector will display a line labeled Assign a Location. Clicking in this area will let you enter a street address or a name of a point of interest, and Photos will search Apple’s Maps database. If that location isn’t good enough for you, you can always click on the pin and drag it around the map, placing it wherever you like.

For photos that have already been geotagged, you can click on the location label above the map in order to search for a new location, or just click on the pin and drag it to a new location. This behavior works whether you’ve got one item selected, or many. There’s also a new menu item that lets you remove location data or revert to the location data of the original photo.

If you’re using iCloud Photo Library, you should know that changing the geodata on the photos will sync, so you’ll be able to see the new locations on iOS devices and other Macs. In fact, Macs running Yosemite will still see the geotagging data, because although Photos 1.0 doesn’t let you edit geotagging data, it does let you view it.

Add descriptions, titles, and keywords as a batch.

Batch titling/describing/keywording. If you want to name a whole bunch of images in one go, or add a description, or add keywords, you can do all of those things, too. Just select a bunch of images and, again from the Inspector window, click in the Add a Title, Add a Description, and Add a Keyword fields and add what you need to do. (Sadly, there isn’t a way to apply something like a unique serial number (i.e., Photo 1 followed by Photo 2) in a batch.)

Album sorting. In the first release of Photos, albums could be sorted in one way: by date, with the oldest on top. In Photos 1.1, you can now sort photo albums by date with either the oldest or newest on top, or alternatively you can sort the photos by title. You can also still keep freestyling it, and drag the images into any order you want. You can also sort your list of photo albums by name, or by date (newest or oldest first), if you feel your albums themselves need some organizing.

Editing extensions. Photos now supports image-editing extensions written by third-party developers. Like the built-in editing tools, you can actually stack multiple extensions while editing a photo, so you can combine third-party editing extensions with Apple’s own tools to get exactly the image that you want to see. However, each extension edits a “burned-in” version of your photo, so you can’t edit a photo with three extensions and then go back and turn off the first of the extensions. Instead, you’d need to revert back to the original photo (which is always retained by Photos) and start again.

Editing extensions will be available from the Mac App store, either bundled with an existing app or distributed as standalone extensions. I’ve tried a few beta versions of photo-editing extensions, and they definitely add a new dimension to what you can do without leaving Photos.

Other stuff. The Recently Deleted folder is now visible all the time, not just when you enable it from a menu item. There’s a new Reduce Motion checkbox in the Preferences window that claims it reduces the motion of the user interface, though I haven’t picked up on quite what it’s reducing.

There’s support for the Live Photo feature introduced with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Hovering your cursor over a live photo for a fraction of a second will start the photo playing; you can turn this off with the Turn Off Live Photo command under the Image menu. In the larger photo view, there’s a Live Photo sticker you can click on to start playing the Live Photo.

[Want to learn more about Photos for Mac? Buy my book, “Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course”. And yes, it will be updated in the next month or so to reflect all the changes in Photos 1.1.]

[Don't miss all our Photos for Mac coverage.]


Clockwise #106: Don’t Go to the Tree


This week on everyone’s favorite half-hour podcast, we discuss faster in-flight Wi-Fi, Apple’s loss of focus on iWork, Google’s new stuff, and Elon Musk’s mission to Mars, all with special guests Georgia Dow and Jeff Carlson.

By Jason Snell

Find My Friends comes to El Capitan

Earlier today I posted my review of OS X El Capitan, which I encourage you to read. But while I have never aspired to write about OS X at Siracusean lengths—and congratulations to Andrew Cunningham, Lee Hutchinson, and Iljitsch van Beijnum for following up that act—this year my review’s a little under 5,000 words, which does mean that a lot of stuff got left on the cutting-room floor.

Finding friends and family from Notification Center. I see you, Lex!

Over the course of the next few days, I imagine that Dan and I will be dropping all sorts of new iOS 9 and El Capitan knowledge. With El Capitan rolling out Wednesday, a lot of people will be experiencing OS X 10.11 for the first time, and there are so many new features that it’s easy to miss some if you don’t know where to look.

Case in point: the new Find My Friends widget for the Today view of Notification center. It brings the convenience of the Find my Friends iOS app to the Mac, right there in your Notification Center sidebar, displaying everyone whose location you’re tracking. With a click, you can reveal a map showing their exact location.

To add the widget, click the Edit button at the bottom of the column. A new Items column will slide out, and you can click the green plus icon next to Find My Friends.

By default the widget displays up to five people, but if you’re tracking even more people, they’ll appear if you click the Show More link at the bottom of the widget.

I actually find myself using this widget all the time in the afternoons, when my son rides his bike home from school, so I know where he is—and when I need to open the garage door to let him park.

There’s no reason Mac users should be limited to accessing Find My Friends on the Web (or by starting a Messages conversation and diving into the Details view), and now they don’t have to. As long as you’re logged in to iCloud, the feature works exactly as you’d expect.

By Dan Moren

Apple Music: To renew or not to renew?

Apple Music

Time’s up, pencils down. Apple Music’s free three-month trial comes to an end tomorrow, which means it’s decision time: are you going to sign up for the $10/month streaming service, or is that hard-earned money going elsewhere—to another music service, or perhaps back into your bank account?

Like most of you, I’ve been trying out Apple Music since it launched back on June 30, and considering from time to time whether or not it’s proved its worth as part of my life. I’ve found elements of the service that I like, but also plenty of places where it could be improved.

So here I am, with a day left to go, weighing my options. Granted, what I want out of a streaming service is, of course, not the same as what everybody might want, so consider this merely me thinking through my own decision process.

Continue Reading "Apple Music: To renew or not to renew?"

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]

Linked by Jason Snell

Ars Technica’s El Capitan review

It took two people to replace John Siracusa1.

(Update: Three people.)

(Update Update: Andrew Cunningham also dropped 18,000 words about iOS 9 a couple of weeks ago. Whatever is in the water at Ars, they should bottle it.)

  1. As you’d expect, it’s an excellent review, up to Ars’ high editorial standards. ↩

Jason Snell for Macworld

El Capitan Review: Solid as a Rock ↦

El Capitan, OS X 10.11, arrives for everyone September 30, but I’ve been using it all summer. In these days of free operating-system updates, major OS X updates feel a whole lot more routine than they used to be. Apple has chosen not to roll out major OS X features piecemeal throughout the year, though, which still makes this the biggest change your Mac will experience this year.

El Capitan, named after the large granite rock formation inside Yosemite National Park, is very much a refined version of OS X Yosemite, a recognizable progression from its predecessor. (In iPhone terms, it would be Yosemite S.) Apple says this update is all about a refined experience and improved performance. But it’s traditional for Apple to take its no-big-deal updates and pour in a bunch of new features anyway, and El Capitan is no exception. This is a packed release, but one that makes sense as a follow-up to Yosemite.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

Linked by Dan Moren

Apple updates its privacy information

Apple’s revamped its privacy site, as Tim Cook promised last fall that it would do yearly. It includes information about Apple’s approach to privacy, managing your privacy on Apple products, and detailed data on government information requests, along with Apple’s actual privacy policy. That’s written in plain English and also provides information on how to opt out of certain things, like location-specific ads.

Of course, Apple likes to play itself in opposition to Google, which spends a lot of time collecting information related to its customers in order to build its products. So it’s hardly entirely altruistic—it never truly is in business, though.

By Dan Moren

Small Siri improvements from iPhone 6s and iOS 9


Everybody looks for all the new things that they can ask Siri, but I’m far more interested in the smaller touches and flourishes related to Apple’s virtual assistant. I’ve run into a few in iOS 9 and on the iPhone 6s in the last few days, all of which go to making Siri more fun, friendly, and easier to use.

  • Change the accent: One of my favorites features of iOS 9. Previously language and location were linked concepts for Siri. You could get a British voice, but it also meant that not only would Siri assume you were in the UK, but it would also have trouble understanding you—unless you also spoke in a British accent.1 However, in iOS 9, if you choose English (United States) for the language, you can go to Settings > General > Siri > Siri Voice and choose either American, Australian, or British accents, from either male or female voices. So now my directions, search results, and weather forecasts are provided by a very nice English gentleman. If only Apple would let me call him “Jarvis”…

  • Train Hey Siri: You’ve been able to trigger Siri by voice alone since iOS 8, which has led to plenty of hilarious false positives, especially for those of us who’d like to talk about the feature on our tech podcasts. Not to mention owners of multiple iOS devices, who often end up triggering an iPad and iPhone, or their partners’ iPhones, at the same time. Fortunately in iOS 9, activating Hey Siri in Settings > General> Siri will also prompt you to train Siri to recognize your voice—and your voice only. It’s not really a Sneakers-style security feature but it will cut down on false positives.2

  • Don’t listen, Siri: The new iPhone 6s finally lets you trigger Hey Siri at any time, not just when the phone is plugged in. On the one hand, that’s super convenient. On the other hand, it’s understandable that there are times where you don’t want Siri listening in, such as when you’re watching a movie. Good news: just flip your phone screen down on the table and Hey Siri won’t trigger, no matter how much you yell at your phone.3

  • Quicker app opening: Another feature I stumbled across. Previously, when you triggered Siri via the Home button and asked it to open an app, the virtual assistant would patiently remind you that you’d have to unlock your iPhone first. But thanks to the sheer speed of the new Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 6s4, it can actually authenticate you while you’re pressing the Home button down for Siri. So you’re instead launched straight into the app, without any waiting.

  • Speedy, silent Siri: As Federico Viticci and Daniel Jalkut both noted, the haptic feedback is gone from Siri, as is the bleep-bleep tone that used to trigger once Siri was paying attention. (The audio tone still plays when you trigger Hey Siri, so you can tell it’s listening even when you can’t see it.) The reason? Siri is so much faster than it used to be that you can just start talking without waiting and it’ll pick up what you’re saying.

These are all pretty subtle improvements, but they point to the same thing: improving the experience of using Siri. The more transparent it becomes, the less likely it is to simply be treated like a novelty instead of part of our lives.

  1. And no matter how good I like to think my British accent is, I’m sure it’s terrible.  ↩

  2. I tried fruitlessly to trigger Hey Siri on my girlfriend’s phone to no avail. She was able to activate it on mine after a handful of attempts at imitating me. So much for my career as an impressionist.  ↩

  3. Which I can vouch for because that is exactly how I discovered this feature. ↩

  4. Several reviewers have claimed they never see their lock screen anymore because the phone unlocks so quickly when they press the Home button.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]

By Jason Snell

iPhone camera: Then and now

Inspired by the previous link, I hauled out my original iPhone and took a photo with it, as well as my iPhone 6S. Just as a reminder of eight years of smartphone evolution.

Image Sample
iPhone 6S (left) and original iPhone.

Linked by Jason Snell

The ultimate iPhone camera comparison

Lisa Bettany has done an amazing comparison of every iPhone camera ever, with image samples. The samples are beautiful and the reminder of just how far we’ve come since 2007 is pretty remarkable.


Upgrade #56: The Migration Experience


This week on the Upgrade podcast, Myke Hurley and I share our iPhone 6S/6S Plus upgrade experiences, and give our first impressions of the new iPhone 6S features.