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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Dan Moren

Making 3D Touch more discoverable

Great post by user experience engineer Eliz Kılıç on the discoverability problem with 3D Touch on iOS, and a suggestion on how to fix it:

What would happen if we decide to make all links same color and style as the regular text? People would not know what to click on right? Why is 3D Touch be any different? We rely on our vision to decide actionability before anything else. If you can’t distinguish 3D Touchable buttons from those that are not, how are you supposed to know you can press on them?

3D Touch is an interesting idea, and it does help add a dimension to some aspects of iOS, but it remains problematic four years after its introduction. Not only, as Kılıç points out, is it hard to discover, but it’s hard to demo to less tech savvy folks (“No, don’t tap, press. Press harder. Harder. But then hold it!”).

It’s also still not distributed across iOS devices: the iPad line still lacks it, which means that it hasn’t become ingrained in people’s use. 1

Furthermore, I think that some of the uses of 3D Touch are poorly executed. In particular, peeking and popping used as a way to preview content rarely saves you time over actually tapping into content—particularly when the content you are previewing is a URL that then has to load, leaving you holding your finger pressed on the device, trapped, while it continues to load. Because if you let go while it’s still loading, then you need to tap on it again, so you’ve ended up losing time instead of saving time. This is a bad interaction.

Where I do think 3D Touch works is in making certain actions more convenient. For me, the gold standard is in the Music app—yes, I know! Surprising!—where you can press on a song to bring up a contextual menu that lets you do things like add it to your Up Next queue. It saves time and it makes sense, especially to anybody who’s used a contextual menu on the Mac.

But none of that matters if people can’t figure out where 3D Touch is usable without having to rely on trial and error, and that’s where Kılıç’s suggestion of having a visual cue for the feature makes a lot of sense.


  1. Imagine if only Mac laptops let you right-click on things and on desktop Macs you had to control-click. That’d be weird, right? ↩


Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple WWDC 2018: The best announcements you may have missed ↦

It’s easy to emerge from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference with your head spinning. There were so many announcements last week that it can be hard to sort through all of them—and even more of them are now coming to light as the beta versions of Apple’s next updates are installed by developers and aficionados around the world.

But I thought I’d take a moment to note my favorite small enhancements in each of the company’s four major upcoming platforms. Oftentimes, we focus on the big ticket items: macOS Mojave’s Dark Mode, or iOS 12’s Siri Shortcuts, for example. But it’s in these small features where Apple’s attention to detail is apparent, especially in how they help users save time and use their devices more efficiently.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 191: Memoji Emergency!

This week, on the irreverent tech podcast that features between two and three panelists a week, we’re still discussing WWDC announcement fallouts, but we discuss macOS’s Dark Mode, the possibility of USB-C on the next iPhone, and then—after we get rid of Lex—a weird security vulnerability recently patched in macOS. Also, what to expect from a possible fall event?

Episode linkMP3 (45 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

‘Shortcuts: A New Vision for Siri and iOS Automation’

Everything that is known about Siri Shortcuts is covered in this article by Federico Viticci today on MacStories:

On the surface, Shortcuts the app looks like the full-blown Workflow replacement heavy users of the app have been wishfully imagining for the past year. But there is more going on with Shortcuts than the app alone. Shortcuts the feature, in fact, reveals a fascinating twofold strategy: on one hand, Apple hopes to accelerate third-party Siri integrations by leveraging existing APIs as well as enabling the creation of custom SiriKit Intents; on the other, the company is advancing a new vision of automation through the lens of Siri and proactive assistance from which everyone - not just power users - can reap the benefits.

The article is in-depth, comes from one of the people most knowledgeable about Workflow (the source of Siri Shortcuts) outside of Apple, and has details that suggest that Federico spent some quality time last week in San Jose discussing these topics with people in the know.

If you want to know about Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12, this is a must-read.


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #245: Guinea Pig Hate Mail

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that features its fair share of betrayals, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Jeremy Burge and Jean MacDonald to discuss our favorite delightful WWDC announcements, whether Memoji are here to stay, the Apple news we didn’t get last week, and whether everyone should go a conference like WWDC. Finally, we propose our own solutions to IHOP’s rebranding nightmare.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

Would Apple ever make a convertible MacBook? ↦

We’ve heard it straight from Apple: macOS and iOS aren’t merging together. Instead, Apple is going to bring the iOS app platform to the Mac in 2019. The result will likely be a macOS platform that’s still the Mac, but with a much heavier influence from iOS. Last week I suggested that this makes me question the long-term viability of the Mac, but it’s also possible that Apple’s moves will lead to a world where I stop dreaming about a laptop that runs iOS because it just won’t be necessary. It all depends on how much all that iOS-originated software will change the Mac in the next few years.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Dan Moren

macOS Mojave’s dark side of the mode

Our pal and regular Six Colors Magazine contributor Stephen Hackett delves into the most prominent feature of macOS Mojave, dark mode:

The last point, “Dark Mode is content-focused” should sound familiar to anyone who was around during the iOS 7 transition, or who was paying attention when OS X Yosemite was introduced. Apple’s modern design language, the company is fond of saying, is made to get out of the way, allowing users’ content to shine through.

Apple has returned to that well with Dark Mode, and I think it works.

I recently realized that I use the current Dark Mode on my iMac, and the normal light appearance on my MacBook Air, in large part because it matches the respective bezels on the devices’ screens.

Stephen also runs down the addition of the new Accents feature, which finally brings different selection colors to menus and other UI elements.


Jason Snell for Tom's Guide

5 Reasons Why iOS 12 Is the Biggest Upgrade in Years ↦

All the rumors said that Apple was going to take it easy this year, scaling back on the ambition of its software updates in order to focus on improved performance, stability and security. Those three items are definitely at the top of the feature list for iOS 12, due this fall, but this is anything but a snooze of an update for iPhone users.

In fact, iOS 12 may change the way we interact with our iPhones more than any previous iOS release since the App Store arrived ten years ago.

Continue reading on Tom's Guide ↦


Podcast

Upgrade

Upgrade #197: Banana Royale

It’s time to reflect on WWDC week, so Jason and Myke are joined by special guest developer James Thomson. We discuss our first impressions of the iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas, the future of Mac apps in and out of the Mac App Store, and what new features are now at the top of James’s priority list as a developer.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 38 minutes)


Linked by Dan Moren

App Store’s “free trials” are in name only

MarsEdit developer (and my pal) Daniel Jalkut has some thoughts on Apple’s addition of “free trials” to the App Store guidelines:

In summary: none of the mechanics of supporting ersatz free trials are substantially supported by the App Store. Every aspect of the solution is bolted on to a system which was not designed for, yet is somewhat admirably being used to simulate real support for free trials.

Free trials have long been a top request of app developers; they’re something that’s existed in the Mac software world for decades, and Apple has yet to really embrace them. Whether that’s because it believes it’s too complicated, or simply doesn’t think people use them is unclear, but Daniel’s post adroitly lays out why the change to App Store guidelines is a step in the right direction, but far from enough.


Dan Moren for Macworld

WWDC 2018: Apple’s counterintuitive business moves ↦

There’s a great scene in my favorite Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street, where a Macy’s sales manager is shocked to overhear the department store Santa Claus send a distraught mother to a competitor to buy a toy. But what starts as a fireable offense ends up becoming a marketing strategy, as Macy himself realizes that, counterintuitively, there’s a benefit to being seen as a store that cares more about its customers than its profits.

Apple, it seems, has taken this philosophy to heart. The company has always put forth the image that it cares more about surprising and delighting its customers than about cold hard cash, and on occasion it seems to make decisions that would otherwise seem counterintuitive to the capitalistic idea of simply raking in as much money as it can.

This year’s WWDC announcements were no exception: the company showed off more than a few features that seem as though they go against the grain of the company’s business model. But, as with Apple, there’s always a method to the madness.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

The Rebound

The Rebound 190: I Don’t Have Thirty Friends!

This week, on the irreverent tech show which features only one panelist in San Jose, we discuss the WWDC announcements of 2018. Moltz is happy about getting a walkie talkie on the Apple Watch, Lex isn’t thrilled about Control Center on the iPad moving, and Dan is very worried that he doesn’t know enough people for FaceTime.

Episode linkMP3 (52 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

What will the Mac be like in 2020? ↦

It was as absolute an answer as you could possibly get. Is Apple merging iOS and macOS? “No,” said Apple software chief Craig Federighi, with an animated accompaniment smashing down on the screen behind him.

And yet… Federighi made that comment just moments before he unveiled a new system, being worked on by Apple over multiple years, that will allow the developers of iOS apps to bring those apps to the Mac more easily. And first up will be Apple itself, which is using this approach to translate the iOS Stocks, Voice Memos, News, and Home apps for macOS Mojave, coming this fall.

While the Mac and iOS might not be merging, major changes are in store for the Mac and the apps it runs. It’s hard to imagine how the Mac of a couple of years hence isn’t populated with apps sourced from iOS. And yet, Apple says, the Mac will remain the Mac.

What does that mean? What will define the Mac in 2020?

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Six Colors podcast from WWDC

Every week (ish) Six Colors members can hear a podcast where Dan and I discuss the issues of the week in a fun, casual format. This week we recorded outside in San Jose for WWDC and I’m making the mp3 available to everyone. If you enjoy it, consider subscribing to Six Colors! You’ll get access to the podcast feed and also a monthly email newsletter with exclusive content.


By Jason Snell

With Mojave, Apple makes changes inside and outside Mac App Store

The introduction of macOS Mojave will see Apple make some important changes to how Mac software is secured and analyzed—both inside and outside of the Mac App Store.

If you view software on the Mac as a simple binary—it’s either approved and scanned by Apple or it’s a free-for-all—you’re missing some important nuances. By default, macOS launches apps from the Mac App Store or apps that are cryptographically signed by a developer with its Apple-generated certificate. If an app from outside the Mac App Store isn’t signed, it won’t open (unless you change the security settings or override the check).

But in Mojave, the Mac App Store is getting more expansive. For example, Apps are able to ask for permission to creep out of the restrictive “sandbox” and access files more broadly across your Mac’s hard drive. The severe restrictions of the Mac App Store’s security policies were one of the reasons most frequently cited by developers who decided to bail out on the store and just go back to selling apps directly. It’s no coincidence that two notable developers who abandoned the Mac App Store, Bare Bones and Panic, were highlighted in a slide at the WWDC Keynote: That’s Apple sending a message to developers that the Mac App Store is changing and that they might want to give it a second look. I’d expect Apple to continue in this direction with the Mac App Store in the future.

Mojave also introduces a new set of security measures for apps outside the Mac App Store. The new concept is called “notarizing” apps, which is a way for Apple to digitally mark an app release that’s been signed by a registered Apple developer. To release an app (outside the Mac App Store), developers will upload their app to an Apple server, where it’s automatically scanned for malware. This isn’t anything formal like an App Store review, but it’s meant to catch obvious malware. When an app passes the scan, Apple generates a file that’s provided back to the developer. Developers don’t need to use this approach in Mojave, but down the road it seems like it will replace the current app-signing option for non-App Store apps.

The notarized-apps approach has some notable benefits, like the fact that a single rogue version of an app can be stopped without disabling every single app signed by that developer—a harsh side effect of the current approach to signing apps. But it also adds a delay in the software release, and brings Apple directly into the app release workflow. Any technical breakdown on Apple’s end could get in the way of app updates going out the door.

Still, it’s an interesting contrast: Apple is making it easier for more apps to get into the Mac App Store, while also instituting somewhat tighter security controls on apps that are released outside the store. Anyone who wants to see a slippery slope that ends up in the Mac software experience being entirely locked down will undoubtedly see it here; it’s more likely that this is Apple’s way of balancing the freedom of Mac software distribution with the need to protect Mac users from malware infestations.

As for the Mac App Store, this is great news. While the keynote showed off a fancy new App Store interface, complete with editorial content akin to what’s been on the iOS App Store since the release of iOS 11 last fall, you can’t write engaging marketing material about apps that aren’t allowed in the store. Altering policies and providing new tools for apps to ask permission, thereby returning developers like Panic and Bare Bones to the store, is what it will take to refresh the Mac App Store. And it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening.


Podcast

Clockwise

Clockwise #244: The Smooshing of Everything

Live from WWDC in San Jose, California, it’s the 30-minute tech show that occasionally gets hijacked. This week, Dan is joined by special guest co-host Jason Snell, as well as Myke Hurley and Alex Cox to discuss Apple’s AR ambitions, iOS’s new Screen Time feature, getting iOS in your macOS, and Siri’s new Shortcuts app.

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


By Dan Moren

Report: Multiple faces for Face ID, and Face ID for iPad

A few quick tidbits about Face ID have come out over the past day: First up, a report from 9to5Mac that says Face ID in the iOS 12 beta includes an option to “Set Up An Alternative Appearance.”

While the phrasing of that feature is a little bit odd, the supposition is that it will allow two separate people to access a single device via Face ID. That would fix one of the most annoying issues with Face ID, which is that if you want somebody else to have access to your phone (a partner, for example, or a child) you need to tell them your passcode. 1

This leads directly into another tidbit: developer Guilherme Rambo uncovered the UI for Face ID in the iPad build of iOS 12, lending credence that a tablet with the feature might appear later this year.

And, to bring it all together, people are far more likely to share an iPad than an iPhone, so allowing multiple people to use Face ID on the tablet would be a must.


  1. As someone who’s had less than consistent results with Face ID, I also wonder if this might provide some better way to train it? I’ll be interested to see how Apple describes it.  ↩

[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

Siri Shortcuts: third-party integration by another name?

siri-shortcuts

More or less since Apple first introduced Siri, users have been clamoring for a way to use third-party apps with Apple’s voice assistant. Apple, though, has been slow to move in that direction: while the company has blessed certain apps with the ability to hook into Siri, they’ve largely left it as a first-party affair.

But, with the advent of Siri Shortcuts, iOS 12 changes that.

Shortcuts are essentially workflows. (And to anybody who used the iOS app Workflow, which Apple bought up last year, I mean that literally: the Shortcuts interface in many places looks like it’s been lifted directly from that app.)

But what Shortcuts empowers could in some cases be even more useful than letting third-party developers have access to a Siri API. Because Shortcuts puts Siri customization into the hands of users, with both positive and negative impacts.

The good

The power and flexibility of Shortcuts is definitely its biggest selling point. Users being able to define not only their own series of actions to be triggered but also how those actions are triggered is the rare concession from Apple that one size does not fit all.

The “how” is particularly important, because it means users don’t have to learn an arcane way to have Siri carry out an action in a third-party app. (Amazon, for example, first implemented a “Alexa, ask third-party-app to do this thing” syntax for its voice assistant, and is now trying to eliminate what’s proved to be a cumbersome construction.)

Much of the Shortcuts feature also brings to mind Automator, Apple’s attempt to deliver powerful automation features to all Mac users. But Automator never quite took off with the average user, since it was still somewhat complicated, and oftentimes devolved into the user needing to know more about scripting than most wanted to learn. Hopefully Shortcuts will prove easy enough that even non-technical iOS users will be able to reap the benefits.

To that end, I’ll call out another plus to Shortcuts: Siri’s proactive, predictive nature. Because Siri can figure out where you might benefit from automation, it can suggest creating shortcuts and expose the option to add actions to Siri from within apps (with developer support). That means that it’ll actually be able to surface this feature in such a way that people might use it.

The bad

But Siri Shortcuts isn’t without its downsides. Most significantly, from what we can tell, the interactions are shallow: these are, after all, shortcuts, not truly third-party app integration. So if you want to interact in any way that exceeds the purview of your predefined shortcut, you’re out of luck.

Along those lines, it’s unclear how much functionality third-party apps will offer (or be able to offer) for use in Shortcuts. You may want to, for example, use a Shortcut to post a tweet in Tweetbot, when only reading a tweet is supported.

To a larger point: you’re beholden to what third-party developers decide to implement in their app—and, moreover, what Apple lets them implement. (Of course, much the same could be said of any third-party with Siri too.)

Finally, Shortcuts still requires some degree of do-it-yourself in order to put into practice. You can’t just start speaking to Siri out of the box and have it know what you mean. We’re still at the dog-training stage here: Siri can understand when you issue a certain command like, “travel plans” or “heading home”, just as your dog knows how to sit and fetch. But it doesn’t really know the meaning behind those commands, nor will it pick them up without some sort of explicit action on your part.

The long and shortcut of it

Overall, I think there’s more upside than downside to Shortcuts. For many users who just want to be able to use Siri for more than they can today, Shortcuts might very well be enough to satisfy them.

Even for those of us who still hold out hope for deeper third-party app integration, Shortcuts is a move in the right direction, and may help with some of the frustration over Siri’s slow embrace of other apps. Or it may very well just stoke the fires and make us ever more eager for the real deal to finally appear.

[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

The small details of iOS 12, macOS Mojave, and more

While it may have seemed like Apple went deep into its upcoming platform updates, there’s only so much time the company can spend onstage, so by necessity, not everything makes the cut.

So I always like to comb through Apple’s product web pages to turn up interesting tidbits and features that the company didn’t talk about during its keynote presentation. So here’s my pretty thorough list of features Apple mentions on its website for these platform updates. Did I miss anything? Let me know!

iOS 12

Automatic strong passwords. Apple says that Safari will now automatically create and save strong passwords in apps and websites, as well as flagging passwords that are reused. I’m curious how this differs from the current situation, where you can specifically tell iOS to generate a password. I’m also wondering if the company has changed its password-generation algorithms, based on the latest data about creating strong passwords. But frankly, I welcome any opportunity to encourage people to use better passwords.

Security code AutoFill. A feature I was just thinking about the other day, when my mother complained that sometimes those one-time security codes go by too fast. Now those codes will pop up as an AutoFill option, making filling them in that much faster.

More Siri features. Siri Shortcuts dominated the attention at the keynote, but it looks like the virtual assistant has learned a few new tricks, including food-related questions like how many calories or how much fat something has, and even the ability to look up a password. (Hopefully only when you’ve authenticated yourself.) Translation now supports more than 40 language pairs.

Battery info. Apple says you can now get battery info for the last 10 days in addition to the last 24 hours, which should help people get a better handle on what might be eating up their battery life.

Device support. Since the company specifically planted a flag about improving performance on older devices, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that iOS 12 will run on the same devices as iOS 11, all the way back to the iPhone 5s, iPad mini 2, and sixth-generation iPod touch.

Wink detection. In addition to being able to detect when you stick out your tongue, Animoji can now tell when you wink. (Before it generally just registered them as a blink.)

Animoji length. Recording clips with Animoji now has a 30-second limit, as opposed to the current 10 second limit.

App strip redesigned. The company’s tweaked the design on the App Strip in Messages, to take up less space.

AR linked to a location. Not only can you create an AR object that can be viewed by multiple people, but you can anchor it to a location, so it can be seen by anybody who goes to that place. Augmented reality geocaching anybody?

Photo places search. Anybody who’s tried to find photos from a specific location have probably run into issues with it not being quite granular enough. Now Apple says you can search generic terms, like “Japanese restaurant” as well as specific location names and events, like WWDC 2018.

RAW photo editing. The iPad Pro can edit RAW photos; iPads and iPhones can import and manage them.

Better portrait mode. Apple says it’s tweaked portrait mode’s algorithm to help better differentiate between the subject and the background.

Password sharing. Apple says it’s made it easier to share passwords between nearby devices. I imagine this works much like the current iOS feature that lets you share Wi-Fi passwords with known devices, but hopefully this will save a lot of time inputting passwords on Apple TVs.

Password management API. Fascinating: Third-party password management apps (think 1Password) can now let you access their vaults for filling in passwords in Safari, right from the QuickType bar.

iPad gestures. Apple says you can now swipe up on the Dock to get to the home screen, and swipe down from the top right corner to summon Control Center.

New dictionaries & thesaurus. New dictionaries for Arabic and English, Hindi and English, and Hebrew, plus—at long last!—an English language thesaurus.

watchOS 5

Hiking support. Just doing a walk is a little bit different from a hike, so good to see Workouts now supports the later, including tracking your elevation in real time.

Cadence tracking. Your running work can now track steps per minute, to help you figure out your optimal cadence.

Device compatibility. Sorry, Series 0 Apple Watch owners: no watchOS 5 for you—you’ll need at least a Series 1 or better. *looks mournfully at his original Apple Watch*

macOS Mojave

Time-shifting desktop. You can set your desktop to change throughout the day, shifting to Dark Mode at night, and even changing your desktop picture to match.

Customizable metadata. In addition to exposing way more of the metadata for a file, you can also choose which info you want to see, customizing the view for your needs.

QuickLook supports audio/video trimming. The new Quick Actions are for more than just photos and PDFs.

Custom save location for screenshots. Screenshots is one of those features that’s gotten almost no attention in the history of macOS/OS X/Mac OS X, so it’s nice to see it get some love here. Among the other improvements to Apple’s screenshots is the ability to set a custom save location.

Strong passwords/auditing. The same password-related features as iOS 12.

Favicons in tabs. Several eagle-eyed folks picked this up during the presentation, but yes, it’s official: favicons have arrived for tabs in Safari!

Mail improvements. Mail now has better support for entering emoji, including an emoji button. And Mail also suggests what folder you might want to file a selected message in.

Siri support for HomeKit. In addition to the Home app coming to the Mac, you can now control your HomeKit accessories via Siri on your Mac.

New language options. Including UK English, Australian English, Canadian French, and Traditional Chinese for Hong Kong. There are also better maps for China, a romanized keyboard input for Japanese, and an Indian English voice for Siri.

tvOS 12

Automatic TV remote in Control Center. As soon as you connect an iPhone or iPad to your Apple TV, the Apple TV Remote icon shows up in Control Center. (Instead of you having to manually turn it on.)

Shared passwords. As mentioned, you can autofill your passwords from your iOS devices.

Annnnd that’s about it for the Apple TV, which definitely got the short end of the stick this time around.

[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

Live from WWDC 2018

Welcome to our coverage of WWDC week! Jason is at the event and Dan is nearby. We’ll be here covering the show all week, starting with the keynote. We’ll post observations on our sixcolorsevent Twitter account, embedded below.