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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Scripting a save location within Default Folder X

Default Folder opening

I’ve been using St. Clair Software’s Default Folder since the days of System 7. It’s a utility that lets you set a different default location for the Open/Save dialogs in every app you use, and provides some other clever features like clicking on an open Finder window to change the Open/Save dialog to that window’s location.

For the first time in years, a few weeks ago I had a feature request for Jon Gotow, the developer of Default Folder. I realized that in at least one app I use, there’s a very common location I want to save all my files—but the location is not persistent. When I’m recording ads and other audio for podcasts, I invariably end up saving it all in the Audio Files folder in the project folder for my current Logic project, which is invariably sitting on the Desktop.

So I asked Jon, is there any way to programmatically define where Default Folder opens? His response was to send me a development build of Default Folder that would allow the default location to be overridden with an AppleScript, a “hidden” feature now available in version 5.3.7 of Default Folder X. Now that is customer service.

In any event, I now needed to write the script, which means I needed to figure out the specific rules that would define the right destination folder. In the end I realized that what I needed to do was find the most recently modified folder on my Desktop that contained a Logic X project file. AppleScript, while perhaps not the best tool for this job, is the tool that I know how to use.

 on getDefaultFolder(appName)

tell application "Finder"
    set folder_list to folders of (path to desktop folder as alias)
end tell
set theNewestDate to date "Tuesday, October 6, 1970 at 7:00:00 AM"

This first part gets a list of folders on the Desktop, and then sets a variable to a very old date for reasons that will make sense in a little while.

repeat with theFolder in folder_list

    tell application "Finder"
        set folder_contents to entire contents of theFolder
    end tell

    repeat with the_item in folder_contents
        if kind of the_item is "Logic X Project" then
            set theDate to (get modification date of theFolder)             
            if theDate is greater than theNewestDate then
                set theNewestDate to theDate
            end if

        end if

    end repeat

The next part loops through those folders, getting their contents. The script then loops through those contents to see if there’s a Logic project file inside. If so, the script compares that folder’s modification time to the contents of the variable theNewestDate, and if it’s more recent, that variable is updated to the modification time of the newer folder.

(In writing this script I discovered that AppleScript does let you compare dates, using the fantastic construction “if [a date] is greater than [another date].” Greater in this case means newer.)

    if theNewestDate is date "Tuesday, October 6, 1970 at 7:00:00 AM" then          
        set theResult to (path to desktop folder as alias)
    else
        tell application "Finder"
            set theDestinationFolder to (every item of (path to desktop folder as alias) whose modification date is theNewestDate)
        end tell
        set theResult to POSIX path of (item 1 of theDestinationFolder as alias) & "Audio Files"
    end if      
end repeat
return theResult
end getDefaultFolder

The final step (after making sure that there is a folder on the Desktop containing a Logic project, because if theNewestDate is still 1970, there isn’t one) is to find that newest folder, append the name of the Audio Files subfolder to it, and pass that result back to Default Folder.

The result is somewhat magical: Now when I record audio in Sound Studio and press save, the save dialog box bounces to the Audio Files folder within the newest Logic project folder on the Desktop. Nine times out of ten, it’s exactly where I want to be.


Dan Moren for Macworld

What we won’t see at WWDC 2019 ↦

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is still more than a week away, and as usual the internet is rife with posts predicting what we’ll see—or what people would like to see (including this one)—during the next big Apple keynote.

But even with a two-hour song and dance, Apple can’t show off everything that it’s working on. Not only because there’s simply not time, but also because not everything the company’s actively developing is ready for prime time. Some things just won’t make the cut, inevitably spawning a deluge of posts about “I can’t believe Apple didn’t show off [X]” or “No [Y]? Lame!” or the ever-popular “Apple is doooooomed.”

Let’s nip some of those in the bud by running down a quick list of things that Apple probably won’t devote stage time to in San Jose. Next week, circle back for the predictions about what Apple will talk about.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Dan Moren

Panic cranks out Playdate, a new handheld game console

Playdate

After dropping some hints in the past day or so, Panic—maker of fine Mac and iOS software like Transmit, Coda, and Prompt—has announced that it’s getting into the games hardware business with a new handheld console called Playdate.

Panic, of course, is no stranger to the games market, having served as publisher for the popular game Firewatch in addition to the upcoming Untitled Goose Game1 But hardware’s a new gig for the company, so it enlisted Sweden-based Teenage Engineering, who also came up with the innovative hand-crank control that will apparently be used in most if not all of the games.

Playdate will feature a dozen titles, released weekly after launch, from popular developers like Zach Gage, Shaun Inman, and Keita Takahashi.

To me, this is just incredible. Hardware always seems like such a different world from software, but Panic has passion and attention to detail that ought to serve them well here.

Playdate will cost $149 when it arrives next year; launch supplies are expected to be limited, so sign up to be notified.


  1. One of Panic’s designers—and a friend—Neven Mrgan has also created several games, including puzzlers Blackbar and Grayout, as well as The Incident, Space Age, and Stagehand. ↩


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 239: Lady Gaga is on My Side

This week, on the irreverent tech show that spends way too much time on keyboards, we discuss Apple’s latest keyboard—drink!—announcements, the distribution of Teslas amongst our podcast hosts, what we really think of Elon Musk, and the latest pulse-pounding update on Dan’s Mac mini.

Episode linkMP3 (36 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

iOS 13 wish list ↦

WWDC, Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, is less than two weeks away. In a dozen days we’ll know the broad outlines of where Apple is taking its software in the next year. It’s an exciting time, when you hope against hope that the features you dream about will come true and make it into a new release.

It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s pretty great. Here’s what I’m hoping to see in iOS 13 when Apple unveils it on Monday, June 3.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #295: Pixie Dust

This week, on the 30-minute show that never has too much time on its hands, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Anže Tomić and Allison Sheridan to discuss Apple’s latest MacBook keyboard update, what other companies might run afoul of US-China relations, a new plan to stop tracking on the web, and whether we’ve considered buying an electric vehicle. Plus, a special food-themed bonus topic.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

Federico Viticci goes ‘Beyond the Tablet’

In a book-length post, Federico Viticci of MacStories details how he uses his iPad as his main computer, featuring all sorts of great behind-the-scenes details of the apps he uses, the automation he’s built, and where he thinks Apple should go from here.

However, the iPad is not perfect. And so in the spirit of offering one final update before WWDC and the massive release for iPad that iOS 13 will likely be, I thought I’d summarize seven years of daily iPad usage in one article that details how I work from the device and how I’d like the iPad platform to improve in the future.

I read this last week on an airplane and enjoyed every minute of it. Highly recommended.


By Jason Snell

Apple updates MacBook Pro processors and keyboard, extends Keyboard Service Program

Continuing its renewed commitment to update pro Mac laptops on a regular basis, Apple on Tuesday announced an update to its 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro Touch Bar models ten months after the previous announcement. These updates don’t bring any changes to the exterior of the MacBook Pro—it’s the same base design introduced in late 2016—but they do bring 9th-generation Intel processors with up to eight cores to the MacBook Pro for the first time. There’s also been yet another tweak to the controversial butterfly keyboard Apple first introduced in 2015.

Processor updates

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is the model most affected by these updates. It gains 14nm “Coffee Lake Refresh” 9th-generation Intel processors with six and eight cores. This is the first time Apple’s had an eight-core MacBook Pro. Here are the specs:

  • $2399: 2.6 GHz 6-core i7 (4.5 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • $2799: 2.3 GHz 8-core i9 (4.8 GHz Turbo Boost)
  • Configure-to-order option: 2.4 GHz 8-core i9 (5 GHz Turbo Boost)

Apple says that the fastest model is up to 40 percent faster than the previous-generation six-core laptop, and that users looking to upgrade from the previous generation of quad-core-equipped MacBook Pros could see up to double the performance of those models.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is getting less of an update. It’s still using 8th-generation Intel quad core processors, but slightly faster ones with improved Turbo Boost speeds to help in tasks that primarily use a single processor core.

Keyboard update

The controversial keyboard.

Apple says these new models also feature a fourth version of the butterfly keyboard design, in response to customer complaints that the keyboard would end up in a sad state where key presses were ignored or doubled 1. While Apple is quick to say that the vast majority of MacBook Pro customers haven’t experienced any keyboard issues, the company still keeps tweaking this design. It claims that the change made in these new MacBook Pro models will substantially reduce the incidence of ignored or doubled characters.

Beyond that, Apple is also seeking to reassure its customers that they shouldn’t avoid buying a Mac laptop out of fear of having keyboard problems. As was reported last month, Apple is working to shorten the time it takes to repair keyboards in Apple Store. And today it’s extending its Keyboard Service Program to cover all laptops with butterfly keyboards, including not just these new MacBook Pros, but also all of its laptops released in 2018, including the new MacBook Air. That program is separate from the standard Apple warranty and covers keyboard repairs for four years after the first retail sale of the laptop.

What’s next?

It’s telling that Apple has chosen to make this announcement in advance of its developer conference, which will take place two weeks from now in San Jose, California. MacBook Pros are popular with Apple developers and there’s always speculation that new ones will be announced during the event’s keynote, though that rarely happens. This announcement reduces the expectations for that announcement, at least somewhat.

It also calls into question the validity of a report earlier this year that a new 16-inch MacBook Pro design was on the way, at least this summer. There was a lot of speculation that the new MacBook Pro would replace the current 15-inch model, but that model just received an update. It doesn’t mean a new-style MacBook Pro couldn’t be in the offing next month or later this year, but it definitely makes that report a bit more of a head-scratcher.

Where Apple’s laptop keyboard designs go from here is also a question. By extending its repair program and seeking to improve the turnaround of keyboard repairs in Apple Stores, the company is seeking to reassure customers that they won’t get stuck with a laptop with a bad keyboard. But the company also keeps tweaking the design in order to try and make it more reliable—an admirable attempt, but the sheer number of tweaks also send the message that Apple hasn’t really had a handle on the fundamental weaknesses of the design. Whether this new tweak is the one that finally solves the problem, or if it won’t be truly solved until this design is discontinued and fades into memory, remains to be seen.

But as the owner of two 2018 MacBook Airs, I’m happy that the keyboard service program has been extended to that model as well. We haven’t had any problems with either keyboard yet, but this program extension provides a little reassurance that it’s not going to be an issue if we do.


  1. The Verge says that Apple told them the keyswitches are made of a “new material”. ↩


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #246: You Can’t Fight the Magnets

With the WWDC draft a week away, Jason and Myke engage in a flight of fancy, discussing all their wishes for iOS and macOS developments that probably won’t happen. Also, Jason has to retrieve his iPad.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 19 minutes)


By Jason Snell

The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind

I’m happy that Apple added lyrics listings to iTunes on the Mac and Music on iOS. Sometimes I hear (or mishear) something in a song I’m listening to, and I want to consult the written lyrics. Internet lyrics databases like Genius, largely built by fans, can be incredibly helpful—but they can also be full of misheard lyrics on a “girl with colitis goes by” scale.

Unfortunately, Apple’s built-in lyrics listings aren’t better. Over the last few months I’ve noticed some remarkably terrible lyrics transcriptions in iTunes and Music. I can’t quite figure out where Apple’s getting its lyrics—I’ve seen some song lyric errors that were mirrored in Genius, and others in Musixmatch, and still others don’t seem to show up on the web at all.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to track these errors down. Because lyrics databases on the web are editable by users, they can change from day to day. So far as I can tell, either Apple is caching lyrics on its own servers, or they’re being cached on my local devices, so they’re out of sync with what I can find on the web. (My devices are definitely out of sync with one another, as lyrics are often different on iTunes than on Music.)

Most frustrating is the fact that, somehow, there’s no official, legitimate, licensed song lyric database. Presumably such a database would not be crowdsourced, but actually use the official lyrics (where available) from musical artists. I realize that this might not be practical in all cases, and that using fans can often be the best way to fill in the gaps of an enormous catalog of content.

But fans can also really lack context, and that can lead to some whoppers when it comes to misheard lyrics. “Bad Vibes” by K. Flay is about a character who is completely terrible, right down to a new tattoo of the words “Dead on Arrival” typed out plainly.

Except in my iTunes version, where the lyric is, “You’ve got a new tattoo / Dead on arrival types outplay me.” Yes, it’s a shame when you’re outplayed by DOA types.

Or consider “Die Happy” by Dreamers, in which the behavior of an object of desire is referred to: “She’s smoking palm oils.” Now, palm oil is not great for you—it’s very high in saturated fat. But the fans of Dreamers apparently don’t have enough historical context to realize that the character is actually “chain smoking Pall Malls.” A lot less healthier than palm oil!

I’d rather have bad fan-generated lyrics than no lyrics at all, I suppose, but this feels like a place where Apple is providing an imprimatur to content that’s way beneath its standards—not to mention the standards of the music companies whose content Apple is licensing for Apple Music.

Anyway, if you see inaccurate lyrics, Apple says you should send Apple Music feedback. I’ll get right on that, but first, ‘scuse me while I kiss this guy


Dan Moren for Macworld

Three keyboard changes Apple should make—to iOS ↦

As a writer, the vast majority of my time is spent inputting text, which means that the most crucial of the tools of my trade is, of course, the keyboard.

Now, you probably think you know where this is going. Apple’s certainly taken a lot of flak for its laptop keyboards over the last couple years, and frankly I’m of the opinion that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But I’m not here to talk about the keyboards on the company’s laptops.

I’m here to talk about iOS. Apple popularized the onscreen keyboard with the launch of the first iPhone, deciding to eschew the hardware keyboards that were de rigueur on smartphones at the time. The virtual keyboard was more space efficient, more versatile, and contained no moving parts. To ease the transition, Apple added a variety of features to make typing smarter than it was on a traditional keyboard.

That was great in 2007. But 12 years later, we’ve all largely adapted to touchscreen keyboards, and some of those smart technologies are starting to look and feel, well, not so smart. It’s time for an A-to-Z overhaul of text entry on iOS.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

‘The night the lights went out’

Drew Magary of Deadspin was hosting his site’s awards show, and moments later he woke up in a hospital after being in a coma for two weeks:

Because I had suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), I got severely lightheaded and nauseous while standing, even after reclaiming my wits. Thus, I was considered a fall risk. That meant I was not medically cleared to walk, piss, or shower unattended. I was also forbidden from working, even though I started writing this post in my head right away. Brain surgery or not, writing has always helped me piece my mind together.

This story is terrifying and also hilarious, sometimes simultaneously.


Jason Snell for Macworld

6 powerful utilities that make the Mac feel like home ↦

I love using my Mac. And yet when I am confronted with a fresh new device running macOS, I am taken aback by the barren expanse that is the default Mac experience. That’s not on the Mac, that’s on me—I have become incredibly reliant on some fantastic utilities that enhance the Mac experience in countless ways.

Every now and then I mention these utilities to friends who are Mac users, or they see me using them, and they are often completely baffled. This reminds me that, quite shockingly, there are lots of Mac users who never take advantage of utilities to make the Mac far more powerful than it comes out of the box.

Here, then, are some of the utilities that make the Mac feel like home for me.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #294: More Twists Than a Bag of Pretzels

This week, on the 30-minute show that’s always got time for you, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Kathy Campbell and James Thomson to discuss the new Alexa Guard, our swag collection habits, banning facial recognition, and where we’ll come down when mega corporations rule the Earth! Plus, an animation-themed bonus topic.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 238: This Math Works

This week on the irreverent tech show that your body rejects, we board the topic train to discuss Apple’s latest iOS update and its new Channels options, the impact of the Supreme Court’s latest decision, and a whole host of payment-related announcements, complaints, and stories.

Episode linkMP3 (44 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

The origins of the spreadsheet

An amazing story by Steven Levy from 1984(!) about the creation of VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet and possibly the first PC “killer app”:

It occurred to him: why not create the spreadsheets on a microcomputer? Why not design a program that would produce on a computer screen a green, glowing ledger, so that the calculations, as well as the final tabulations, would be visible to the person “crunching” the numbers? Why not make an electronic spreadsheet, a word processor for figures?

An amazing bit of history. As Levy points out, “This was so long ago that I had to define what a cursor was!”


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #245: Get Ready for the Sensor Square

It’s a busy week for Myke as Jason as they discuss hanging on to old software, how third-party apps react to Apple’s app updates, the Supreme Court’s ruling on an App Store antitrust case, the struggles of Apple Retail, and new reports about this fall’s iPhone models. After all that, it’s time to discuss the Brydge Pro and Logitech Slim Folio Pro and whether either of them can replace Apple’s own Smart Keyboard Folio as our iPad Pro keyboard of choice.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 35 minutes)


Dan Moren for Macworld

Three features Apple should borrow from Google’s I/O announcements ↦

Spring has sprung, and with it comes the onslaught of tech companies announcing the latest updates to their products. This week, it was Google’s I/O keynote that took the main stage, as the Mountain View company catalogued all of the new devices, features, and promises it had targeted for 2019.

Many of the features that Google talked about were a clear attempt to catch up in areas where Apple already excels: privacy, for example, or distribution of security updates. I’m not about to suggest that Apple needs to crib from anybody, but the whole purpose of competition is to drive innovation.

With that in mind, I’ve laid out three areas that Google touched on during its keynote where Apple might benefit from following the lead of one of its most prominent frenemies.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Jason Snell for Tom's Guide

Why the Pixel 3a is no threat to the iPhone ↦

Google this week announced the Pixel 3a, a $399 phone with most (but not all) of the features of last year’s flagship Google smartphone, the $799 Pixel 3. While this move definitely puts some pressure on Samsung and Apple, who continue to reap most of the profits in the smartphone market, it’s not likely to end the era of the premium smartphone.

Continue reading on Tom's Guide ↦


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #293: An Electric Scooter Is the New Horse

This week, on the 30 minute tech show where we come and go as we please, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Shahid Kamal Ahmad and Jean MacDonald to talk about Google’s I/O announcements, scooters as part of transportation solutions (and problems), ways in which tech delights us, and how we’re cutting back on the digital. Plus a cuisine-themed bonus topic.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)