six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Dan Moren for Macworld

How Apple can build a better video streaming service ↦

So, you want to build a streaming service.

At this point, the evidence that Apple is jumping into streaming is incontrovertible. You don’t pony up a boatload of cash for the likes of Steven Spielberg and not build a streaming service. Nor do you just shove that into Apple Music, a platform which has proved to be only half-baked when it comes to streaming video.

No, this kind of $1 billion investment seems to call for a major revision to infrastructure as well. This is a serious investment, and so of course Apple’s going to want to be serious about how it builds a service. So, let’s take a look at what’s critical in such an endeavor.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Jason Snell for Macworld

How to set up your iPhone for disaster alerts ↦

This week I’ve been in Chicago for a conference, and people keep coming up to me to ask if I’ve been impacted by the horrible fires ravaging the Bay Area this month. Fortunately, beyond all the smoke in the air making it hard to breathe outside, my family has been unscathed. But just a couple dozen miles to the north, whole neighborhoods have burned and people have lost their lives.

One story that stuck with me last week was about the president of Sonoma State University and her husband, who narrowly escaped the fire when they were awakened by their home smoke alarm and discovered that their entire neighborhood was on fire.

As everyone gets smartphones and drops their land lines, it’s become increasingly complicated to get the word out when an emergency strikes. Emergency authorities have the ability to make mass calls to land lines in a geographic area, but it’s harder to collect information about cellphones.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound 158: Are You Saying My Paper Bag is No Good?

The Rebound

Once again, Dan and John are left to fumble their own way while Lex is off doing something or other. So they discuss the new Movies Anywhere service, the news that Wi-Fi encryption was compromised, and of course, kids today and their smartphones. Plus, John has a pro tip for anybody looking to get rid of an old CRT display: lift from the knees.


Podcast

Clockwise #211: Don’t Want People to See All My Trees

Clockwise

This week, on the 30-minute show where we’re bound to accidentally activate a voice assistant at least once, emoji maestro Jeremy Burge and CNN’s Heather Kelly join Dan and Mikah to discuss securing your most intimate photos with machine learning, our dalliances with other desktop platforms, whether we even really need real cameras anymore, and how we deal with the walled garden of voice assistants.


By Jason Snell

Cardhop: It’s like Fantastical for your contacts

Entirely new Mac apps don’t arrive that often. But today marks the arrival of Cardhop from Flexibits, the maker of Fantastical. Cardhop is the answer to the question, “What if there was a Fantastical for managing contacts?” Cardhop is now available direct from Flexibits or in the Mac App Store for an introductory price of $15, and will regularly sell for $20.

I love Fantastical on my Mac and iPhone, and have come to use its hotkey-driven drop-down interface as my primary way to view and update my personal calendars. Cardhop uses the same idea: There’s a drop-down menu, activated by a customizable keyboard shortcut, into which you can type information to find a contact, add a contact, or kick off an action (send an email, send a tweet). By default the drop-down interface shows you recent contacts and upcoming birthdays, rather than the top of a long alphabetized list.

This is an app that’s probably overkill for most casual Mac users, but it’s tailor made for anyone who wants quick access to data in their Mac address book. (I often use LaunchBar for this, but the advantage of CardHop is that its interface is focused on actions you can do with contact entries, as opposed to LaunchBar’s more one-size-fits-all approach.)

Of course, if you’re someone who’s looking for a heavy-duty contacts manager with lots of additional features, it’s worth considering the $50 BusyContacts.


Linked by Jason Snell

‘There’s no i in keyboard’

Stephen Hackett’s MacBook Pro keyboard is busted:

A couple of weeks ago, its i key started feeling a little sticky. This keyboard does not boast large amount of travel, but this key was barely moving at all when pressed…. One of the tiny arms that the key cap clips onto is broken. My nearly $2,000 laptop that I bought less than a year ago is now missing a key.

I’m here in Chicago at the Release Notes conference with Stephen1. His MacBook Pro keyboard has a huge shiny square where the i key once was.

We can feel free to disagree about whether Apple’s new laptop keyboard design with drastically reduced key travel is pleasant to type on or not—I don’t like the feel of the keyboard at all, but I recognize that reasonable people will differ.

But like them or not, these keyboards seem to be easily broken. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have reported some problem with the keyboard that has required a visit to the Apple Store. Casey Johnston has a similar horror story at The Outline, involving a spacebar that may have been screwed up by a piece of dust.

I think Apple made a mistake in creating an ultra-low-travel keyboard and sticking it on every laptop it makes. But it would be easier to accept that decision if the design hadn’t also proved to be unreliable.


  1. I wrote his headline! ↩


By Dan Moren

Get ready to go…Solo

The Untitled Han Solo Movie is no longer untitled. Ron Howard announced the film’s name in a short Twitter video today.

Hey, works for me.

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


By Dan Moren

Wi-Fi encryption has been compromised

You’re going to be seeing a lot of news today about a vulnerability reported in Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), the encryption scheme used to protect wireless networks. Ars Technica has a good technical breakdown of the flaw, dubbed KRACK, which affects pretty much all major platforms including, potentially, iOS and macOS.

I say “potentially” only because Apple hasn’t yet officially confirmed that the most current versions of its OSes are at risk. Other vendors, like Microsoft and Google, have acknowledged the vulnerability and are moving to release updates—Microsoft today for Windows and Google next month for Pixel devices, though other Android devices are potentially still at risk.

Protecting clients is only part of the solution, however; many wireless routers and access points will likely also need firmware updates to fully protect against the flaw. That said, it’s probably a bigger immediate security concern to protect mobile devices that are likely to be out in public and connecting to a variety of Wi-Fi networks. In order to exploit your home network, somebody would still need to use a device in physical proximity to your home—by no means impossible, but also not particularly probable.

This isn’t the first time that Wi-Fi security has been breached. The previous standard, WEP, was officially deprecated back in 2004 after significant vulnerabilities were detailed (though it does remain available on many products even today). The seriousness of the KRACK flaw is even more significant given how much more prevalent Wi-Fi devices and networks are today than in 2004.

The long and short of it is that this is a critical vulnerability: as soon as updates are available for your devices, you should absolutely apply them.

Updated at 12:51pm Eastern with a more reasonable headline.

Update at 3:05pm Eastern: iMore’s Rene Ritchie says Apple told him the KRACK vulnerabilities are patched in the current betas of iOS, tvOS, watchOS, and macOS.

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]



Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple HomePod: 3 lingering questions ↦

Smart speakers are here, and they’re not going away anytime soon. In the last month or so alone, Amazon has rolled out an entirely new lineup of its Echo devices while Google has supplemented its standard Google Home with both a smaller and larger version. Even Microsoft has gotten into the game, with a Cortana-based smart speaker from Harman Kardon, and multiroom audio purveyor Sonos has announced an Alexa-based model of one of its speakers shipping later this month.

And in all that time, Apple has sat quietly, saying nothing more about its upcoming HomePod than was announced at this summer’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The company didn’t so much as mention its smart speaker during its event last month, though to be fair it had little time with the occasion packed full of iPhones as it was.

That means that with only a couple months left before the HomePod is out on the market, there are still more than a few questions about Apple’s smart speaker play.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

BBEdit 12: Here’s to a million more

No longer do I need to go to Excel just to format tab-delimited text.

Have I written more than a million words in Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit? I probably passed that mark a while ago, but who’s counting? It’s been my primary writing tool for the last 20-plus years, and it’s still going strong. Today marks the arrival of version 12, with a bunch of new features and changes—Bare Bones Software says more than a hundred of them. “Almost every line of code has been touched,” according to BBEdit author Rich Siegel.

In keeping with the style of the times, BBEdit now uses a dark theme—light text on a dark background—by default. These kids today, with their dark themes! Fortunately, old complainers like me can switch back to the light theme or build a custom theme of their own. (I’ve been using a slightly modified set of text colors in BBEdit for ages now.)

I do a lot of text and data formatting in BBEdit, and one of the great additions in this version is a Columns editing command, that enables quick processing of comma- and tab-delimited text ranges—you can cut, copy, delete, and rearrange columns. You might think that sounds like an esoteric feature, but I’ve probably pasted a tab-delimited text block from BBEdit into Microsoft Excel purely for column management hundreds of times at this point. Now I don’t have to. (Though I’d love it if BBEdit would add support for even more functions on columnar data, like sorting and maybe even styling.)

Back at IDG, I built an AppleScript script that I’d pass around inside a BBEdit package that would take a Markdown file and format in some very particular ways for the quirks of our content-management system and site design. Embedded in that script, as well, were a bunch of text replacements based on our house style—replacing “web site” with “website”, for example. BBEdit 12 includes a feature like that, too—it’s a tool called Canonize that batch searches-and-replaces text strings.

With this version I’ve also embraced the concept of auto-insertion of delimiters, such as parentheses and brackets, that are used in both programming and text-markup languages. It took some time, but I’m gradually getting used to having my pairs of characters auto-complete, and I can also select some text and type one character to have the entire selection surrounded by the paired characters.

Basically, it’s the BBEdit upgrade I’d expect—one that adds a raft of new features, bug fixes, and under-the-hood changes to lay the groundwork for future features and compatibility with future versions of macOS. Existing users can upgrade from BBEdit 11 for $30, or from an earlier version for $40. If you’ve never bought BBEdit, it’s $50—cheap! I remember when BBEdit cost more than a hundred bucks. But then, I’ve been using it for two decades and millions of words.


Podcast

The Rebound 157: Have You Considered Leeching?

The Rebound

With Lex away, Dan and John get the opportunity to talk about the new trailer for The Last Jedi. We also dissect Twitter’s choice to go to 280 characters (suffice it to say, we’re not fans), fake news about Google and Apple, and iOS phishing schemes. Plus, a topical discussion of John’s healthcare choices.


By Dan Moren

Movies Anywhere now goes beyond Disney

In the confusing world of digital film purchases, Disney Movies Anywhere has long been the gold standard. With the ability to link your DMA account to retailers like iTunes and Amazon, it meant that you only had to buy a movie once and get access to it on a number of popular services.

Movies Anywhere

Well, the good news is that some sense appears to have finally taken hold in Hollywood. The new Movies Anywhere service is cut from DMA’s cloth but also has the backing of other major studios, including Warner Bros., Universal, Fox, and Sony. But the idea remains the same: buy your digital movie once, and watch it on any of the partners’ services. You can stream it, download it, watch it on your computer, watch it on your tablet, watch it on your set-top box—pretty much anything you’d want to do with a movie.

Look, I don’t buy a whole lot of films these days. I prefer to stream or rent—and as far as studios are concerned, I’m part of the problem. The industry’s previous attempt at a unified digital locker system, the justly maligned Ultraviolet, was a morass of confusion and user hostility. But, as it happens, the last two movies I purchased both happened to be Blu-ray Disney movies1 and DMA made it easy for me to get and watch digital copies the way I wanted to watch them.

I’m no friend to DRM, but if you’re going to protect your content, at least do it in a way that doesn’t impede legitimate users. As a creator, I don’t ever want technology to stop someone who has paid for my work.

Movies Anywhere promises a pretty sizable library, though there are still holdouts—Paramount being the largest, along with other significant players like Lionsgate. But the service is sweetening the pot by offering users a handful of free movies when you link an account.2 (It can also pull in movies you’ve bought on those services, as well as let you migrate your existing DMA account.)

Dare I say, this seems like an indication that Hollywood is finally “getting it” where digital film purchases are concerned. Then again, with the continued encroachment of streaming, digital rentals, and peak TV, maybe they just got desperate.


  1. Thanks to Disney buying up all of our favorite franchises.  ↩

  2. Also, some of those movies are pretty good: The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, and the recent Ghostbusters remake, among them.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


By Jason Snell

Ten burning questions about Apple’s forthcoming video service

Apple’s made its first major TV acquisition, as the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that it’s got a deal with Steven Spielberg and Universal to make a new “Amazing Stories.” This wasn’t an unexpected development, and I wrote a story about the deal yesterday that you should check out.

But even with all that (virtual) ink spilled, there’s still a whole lot more to ponder here. So let me present my current list of unanswered questions about Apple’s foray into video programming.

Is this just another Planet of the Apps or Carpool Karaoke?

It’s an easy joke to make—Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke were examples of Apple dipping its toe in the water, paying for programming they could provide to Apple Music subscribers while getting to know how the TV business works.

But that approach ended on June 16, when Apple hired respected TV industry execs Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to run its video efforts. Jokes about Planet of the Apps are four months out of date. Apple hiring Van Amburg and Erlicht was the moment everything changed, because you don’t hire those guys (and they’ve since brought even more talent into Apple’s L.A. branch) unless you are absolutely serious about programming your own streaming service.

The training wheels are off. The Wall Street Journal says that Apple’s TV efforts have a $1 billion annual budget to start. That’s a fraction of the $7 billion Netflix expects to spend in the next year, but… baby steps.

Is this all going to be in Apple Music?

Apple’s already got a subscription-based digital media service up and running, and it’s Apple Music. That’s where its premium video content has gone so far, so it’s fair to ask if Apple’s TV efforts will simply be added to the existing Apple Music subscription. It would certainly be cleaner and easier if Apple kept adding things to Apple Music and continued trying to grow the Apple Music subscriber base.

But I’m skeptical about this, because Apple’s got a stated goal of growing services revenue, and most of its competitors in the video and music spaces offer individual services, not a single combined one. (Google is reportedly rolling Google Play Music and YouTube Red together into a single service, which would be a combined subscription service. Amazon offers Prime members a limited catalog of streaming music, but you have to pay an additional monthly fee to get access to the whole catalog.)

Throwing original TV series and movies into Apple Music also confuses the brand. Is Apple ready to blow up the Apple Music name and replace it with something new? How would Apple sell a TV-and-music streaming service combo to people who already have a music service they like? Could Apple price a two-for-one service competitively, given all the media costs?

If it’s not Apple Music, would there be a bundle?

If Apple doesn’t roll its video content into Apple Music, it might do well to offer users a discount if they subscribe to both of them. That might be a way to encourage people to go all-in on the Apple ecosystem without forcing everyone to subscribe to a single service.

Even more intriguing is the idea that Apple might create an uber-bundle, something more like Amazon Prime. I have a hard time envisioning exactly what would go in that service: video and music, okay, but what else would Apple have to offer to club members? Free shipping on store orders? Genius Bar priority? Discounts on AppleCare? The ability to jump to the head of the line for pre-orders?

This seems like a wild idea that’s unlikely to happen, but I’d be shocked if Apple executives hadn’t at least debated the merits of going all-in on a membership and loyalty program rather than just offering individual subscription plans.

What would Apple’s video service cost?

Going rate for most video services is $10 per month, so I’d expect Apple to offer something in that ballpark. Apple Music shows that Apple understands what the going rate for streaming services is, and is inclined to follow it.

What would be on Apple’s video service?

If Apple’s video team does indeed have a $1 billion budget, they can buy a lot. That’s 20 original series at a cost of roughly $50 million per season, or 10 original series with half a billion left over to buy a catalog of other content—old TV shows and movies—to fill in the service and provide better value.

My gut feeling is that Apple will be taking the HBO approach with this service, offering a dozen original series and a curated collection of films and classic TV shows. If Apple wants to be Netflix it will need to ramp up its content budget way beyond $1 billion. Like I said, baby steps. A billion dollars of baby steps.

Would Apple buy a streaming service?

Apple bought Beats and turned Beats Music into Apple Music. Could it do the same with an existing streaming service, as a way to quickly acquire a streaming infrastructure and a collection of content deals? Tim Goodman, my TV Talk Machine podcast partner and chief TV critic at the Hollywood Reporter, seems to think so.

There are numerous video streaming services out there—more, it seems, with every day—and so there are certainly companies that could be bought if Apple wanted to take a quick leap. Goodman thinks Hulu, which is currently owned by major media companies including three TV networks, might be a good target. It’s popular, with a large subscriber base and a big catalog, and it’s an open question about whether its owners really love it.

I think it’s unlikely that Apple would spend $25 billion to buy Hulu. (If Apple had wanted to buy an existing service with its own programming, it wouldn’t have needed to hire Van Amburg and Erlicht.) But it’s not impossible.

Would anyone subscribe to an Apple streaming service?

People are already getting streaming-service fatigue. Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Hulu, Acorn, BritBox, and CBS All Access are already here, and many more new subscription services have been announced. Apple would be another one. How many $10 services do we need?

The truth is, we are about to enter an era where there are perhaps dozens of these $10/month streaming services. And no, there’s almost no way that the market will be able to support them all. Some will fail, some will consolidate… and some will end up profitable by serving a massive audience (Netflix) or a profitable niche (like Shudder, which specializes in horror).

The ultimate goal is to be left standing as one of the successful video services. You can’t win if you don’t play—so Apple is going to play, and play to win. In the end, it seems like it has the cash to invest to make it to the end of the game.

What would this service be called?

Wow, I have no idea on this one. Two really good names — Apple TV and Apple Watch — are already taken. (Apple could get away with calling it Apple TV if it wanted, but it would be confusing.) Apple Play? Apple Stream? Apple Broadcast? Apple Live? Apple Direct? Apple Screen?

Your guess is as good as mine. Better, probably.

Where will this service be available?

A big question is, will Apple try to maximize the subscription revenue of a TV service by making it available on devices not made by Apple? iTunes is accessible on Windows PCs, and Apple Music is on Android. Would an Apple video service appear on Amazon Fire TV or Roku?

It’s hard to imagine that, isn’t it? I have to believe that while Apple wants to maximize its subscription revenue, it wants to do so by increasing the average revenue it generates from its existing hardware customers. That means you’d need to buy an Apple TV to see, er, “Apple TV.” (Of course they’ll offer a free trial when you activate the box.)

That approach would limit the potential audience for Apple’s TV efforts, but I’m not sure that would matter to Apple. It would trade some level of subscription sales for sales of Apple TV boxes. Not everyone will rush out and buy an Apple TV once Apple launches this service, but if there’s a buzzworthy show from a major writer, director, or star, you know that Apple will sell a bunch of Apple TV boxes. And if you’d rather watch on your iPad or iPhone, sure, that will work too.

When will this service launch?

TV takes a long time to make. A very, very long time, from concept to writing to casting to set design to production to post-production. Van Amburg and Erlicht will undoubtedly be active in buying projects this fall and winter, but unless Apple goes out and buys an existing streaming service, it’s hard to imagine that there will be enough programming to populate a paid service before the second half of 2018.

Apple could launch the service with a smaller amount of content and an extended free trial, as it did with Apple Music. That would allow the service to launch before the entire catalog is populated. In the next few months we’re going to hear about all sorts of deals like the one with Spielberg—but the service itself will take a bit longer to come together.


Podcast

Clockwise #210: Sweet, Sweet Caffeine

Clockwise

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that packs an hour’s worth of content, Dan and Mikah are joined by Kelly Guimont and Phil Nickinson to discuss Tim Cook’s mention of AR glasses, our thoughts on diversity and inclusion in tech, how we approach ergonomics, and what we do to cope with overwhelming social media.


By Dan Moren

Now you can take your waterproof Kindle Oasis to an oasis

Kindle Oasis

Amazon’s updated its high-end Kindle Oasis with a larger screen, bigger battery, and—perhaps most significantly—a waterproof design.

Rated at IPX8, the new Kindle Oasis will survive immersed in up to two meters of fresh water for up to 60 minutes. So if you really need to read underwater while you’re in the tub, I guess you’re in luck?

Unlike the previous Oasis, which used an external cover to boost its battery life, the new model boasts a battery that lasts for “weeks.” But it’s also larger than the previous model, with a 7-inch, 300 ppi display, instead of the 6-inch display from last year’s. It’s still got that wedge-shaped design, with a thin edge of 3.4 mm, but it’s a bit heavier than its predecessor: 6.8 oz versus 4.6 oz.1

Amazon’s also added Audible support to the Oasis, though it doesn’t sport any internal speakers. Instead you can use Bluetooth to stream Audible books to connected headphones or speakers—or, at least, you’ll be able to when Amazon releases a software update after the Oasis ships. Owners of 8th-generation Kindles and the original Oasis will also get Audible support with a free over-the-air update “in the coming months.”

The new Oasis starts a bit cheaper—just $250 for its base Wi-Fi-only model with 8GB of storage “special offers” (read: ads). Amazon’s also offering a 32GB storage tier for another $30 and without special offers for $20 on top of that. If you want cellular, you’ll need to get the top of the line 32GB model without special offers for $350. All models are available for pre-order now and ship on October 31.2


  1. However, adding the battery cover to the previous model brought it up to 8.4 oz, so it’s still lighter than that.  ↩

  2. And, hey, if you’re looking for a book to go along with your new Kindle, might I humbly suggest one for you?  ↩

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Linked by Dan Moren

Tim Cook talks AR, social issues

Andrew Griffin at The Independent has an interview with Tim Cook, in which the Apple CEO makes some interesting comments about future AR hardware:

“There are rumours and stuff about companies working on those – we obviously don’t talk about what we’re working on,” Cook says. (Patents have shown that Apple is at least looking into such wearables, and reports have suggested that the ARKit introduction on the iPhone is partly a way to help build that interest and ecosystem.)

“But today I can tell you the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way. The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face – there’s huge challenges with that.

“The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it’s not there yet,” he says. And as with all of its products, Apple will only ship something if it feels it can do it “in a quality way”.

This is essentially exactly what I’d expect Cook to say were Apple working on such a device. It doesn’t mean that device will ever show up—and it certainly means that it wouldn’t show up anytime soon—but I believe pretty strongly that with all this investment into augmented reality, Apple knows that the smartphone isn’t ultimately the most friendly platform for it.


Jason Snell for Macworld

Spielberg’s ‘Amazing Stories’ is just the first of Apple’s major TV deals ↦

It was inevitable that Apple would begin signing big-name talent and major franchises to its forthcoming push into original video. Inevitable from the moment it hired two respected television industry executives, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht.

Under Eddy Cue, Apple was able to experiment with shows like “Planet of the Apps” and “Carpool Karaoke”. But Van Amburg and Erlicht spent years at Sony developing prestige, big-budget scripted programming—and they were not hired at Apple to do anything else. The only question was which big name would be the first to sign a big-money deal to develop programming specifically for Apple.

Now we have our answer: it’s Steven Spielberg, who (as reported by the Wall Street Journal) is reviving his ’80s anthology series “Amazing Stories” for Apple. Spielberg is expected to be an executive producer (and American Gods and Star Trek Discovery creator Bryan Fuller is attached as showrunner), and the show will be produced for Apple by his Amblin Television and Comcast’s NBCUniversal. The Journal reports that the deal is for 10 episodes at a budget of more than $5 million per episode.

This is just the first of what’s sure to be a hail of announcements this fall and winter. This $50 million investment is a drop in the bucket. The Journal earlier reported that Apple’s expected to have $1 billion to spend on original content this year. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $7 billion Netflix is expected to spend next year, but a billion dollars buys an awful lot of programming.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

Review: Twitterrific returns to the Mac, via iOS

I started using Twitter because of Twitterrific for Mac. When the Iconfactory first released the app, I signed up for a Twitter account and started chatting with my friends. That was ten years ago. Twitter has changed, mobile devices reign supreme, and Twitterrific for Mac stopped being updated many years ago. But as of Tuesday, it’s back, with a new version 5.0 funded by a successful Kickstarter.

This new Twitterrific for Mac is basically a 1.0 product, based on the code base of Twitterrific for iOS, an app that’s been continually updated during the span when the old Mac version had fallen entirely by the wayside. Using the iOS code base is what allows the new Mac version to exist at all, but it does lead to the occasional interface oddity.

On iOS, I use Twitterrific exclusively—don’t email me, Tweetbotists—but on the Mac I switched to the official Twitter app a few years ago. It’s not a great app, but it’s better since it stopped being abandonware. For the past few weeks, I’ve been using Twitterrific for Mac extensively, and I’ve found that it can mostly replace Twitter for Mac for me—but there are a few places where it definitely falls short. (Most of this can be placed at the feet of Twitter, which limits the access third-party apps have to Twitter’s rich data soup, while giving its own app full access.)

As an iOS user, there are features of Twitterrific for Mac that I take for granted, because they exist on iOS: The interface is colorful, with different colors for different sorts of Tweets. It’s customizable, with several different fonts and font sizes available. And there are some nice Mac-only developments, like the ability to open multiple windows with different accounts or aspects of your timeline. (It sort of makes me want the ability to view a couple of timelines when using Twitterrific on my iPad Pro in landscape view, I have to admit…)

This is essentially a 1.0 product, and there are several features of the iOS version of Twitterrific that are just absent here: You can’t manage lists, or set up muffles or mutes on people or keywords or hashtags. (The good news is, Twitterrific for Mac will sync muffles and mutes from iOS and honor them… you just can’t edit them on the Mac side.) The Today view, Twitterrific’s attempt to emulate the secret weapon of Twitter’s native app (the Notifications tab, which shows you who is retweeting and favoriting your posts) is also absent.

There are also several places where the app just doesn’t seem quite properly adapted to the Mac. Text sizes seem a little too large, even when I scale them down, especially when it comes to window headers. I frequently get frustrated that I can’t bring up a reply list by double clicking anywhere in a tweet—if you get too close to the text of the tweet, it thinks I’m selecting a single word of that tweet. (I’m never doing that.)

Because iOS relies on touch interaction, it has no real concept of hovering over something with your cursor—something that happens on the Mac all the time. Since Twitterrific hides the interaction icons on each tweet until you select a tweet, I have to click to select the Tweet, then click to reply. I’m okay with Twitterrific hiding the icons, but maybe when I move my cursor over the tweet, they should appear? It would save me a click every single time.

Back in the old days, I used to customize the color scheme of Twitterrific for Mac, which was a huge pain—you had to open the application bundle and edit a text file. Fortunately, Iconfactory has built theme editing right into the Twitterrific for Mac app, including support for importing and exporting settings. The Theme tab is a hidden feature you can activate by holding down the Option key while opening the app’s Preferences window. It’s not a friendly interface by any means, but that’s just fine—it let me tweak my settings and create a set of colors that was much more pleasing to me.

Overall, I’m happy with how Twitterrific for Mac is progressing. Right now I suspect its target audience is people who use Twitterrific on iOS and want their familiarity to cross over to their Macs. (I’m in that group!) I’m not sure it is quite ready to appeal to users of the official Twitter app or most other Mac Twitter apps, but with continued polish and addition of a few missing features, it could be in short order. But even today, it’s a more complete app than I expected when I backed the Kickstarter, and I’m happy to have it back on my Mac.


Podcast

Upgrade #162: The Spider Is a Metaphor

Upgrade

This week on Upgrade, Jason’s iMac gets a unwelcome visitor and he ponders an upgrade—but is the iMac Pro overkill, or a wise investment? Also, an influx of new emoji are coming to iOS and macOS in the near future, which is more important than you’d think.