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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Mail Merge returns to Pages after nine years

Mail Merge on macOS
Pages’s reimplented Mail Merge feature on macOS.

After almost a decade, I guess it’s time to pack in my posters, stickers, and Tim Cook and Craig Federighi phone call scripts for the “Bring Mail Merge back to Pages!” campaign1 and declare victory. Because, yes, Mail Merge has returned to Pages.

Mail Merge on iOS
Mail Merge in Pages for the first time on iOS.

The feature was originally included in Apple’s word processing software, but got the axe in 2013’s version 5.0, when Apple redesigned its iWork suite to give even footing across the iOS, iPadOS, and macOS platforms. In the interim, Mail Merge remained possible only via workarounds like Sal Soghoian’s Pages Data Merge app.

Version 12.1, released today, brings a brand new implementation, however, which lets you populate a template document either from your contacts or a spreadsheet. On the Mac, just create a template with the File > New command or open an existing one, and then choose File > Mail Merge to step through the process. (The feature’s also available for the first time in the iOS and iPadOS versions of Pages, under the three dots menu: tap Mail Merge to start the process.)

This is hugely useful for anybody who not only needs to print and send out large amounts of mail (such as envelopes or even holiday cards), but also anybody creating large numbers of customized documents. It’s been one of the missing features most often pointed out when comparing to other word processors, like Microsoft Word.

Sure, not everybody needs Mail Merge, but for those who do, having it built in and no longer requiring you jump through a series of hoops is a huge relief. Next time I have to send out my personalized bookplates, I’ll be glad to be able to let Pages do the heavy lifting.


[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]


By Dan Moren

Solving a file sharing mystery: Why one Mac can’t see another

We all have those tech problems that we kind of give up on. Like an annoying rattle in the car where you can’t track down the source, you just eventually acclimate to it until it feels like that’s just the way it’s always been. (Even then, you’ll find that every once in a while it will just bug you.)

But there’s nothing more satisfying than eventually discovering the cause of one of those issues and vanquishing it for good.

In recent months, I’d run into a weird situation. My M1 MacBook Air could access my iMac just fine via file sharing in the Finder: the iMac showed up in the sidebar, I could copy files back and forth, no problems. However, doing the opposite—accessing the MacBook Air’s files from the iMac—simply didn’t work at all.

It was quite the perplexing conundrum: I checked the file sharing setup in the MacBook Air’s System Preferences and everything looked fine. I attempted the tried-and-true troubleshooting step of turning sharing off and then turning it on again (even tried it with a reboot in between, just to make sure). No dice.

It seemed like the problem was further down, at the networking level. Attempts to use the Finder’s Connect to Server option simply timed out, eventually reporting that the server wasn’t available. So I decided to check the port using the handy nc command line tool—to wit: nc -vz [IP address] [port number], which tells you whether or not a port is accepting connections. In this case, I was trying to connect to port 445, which is where the SMB file sharing server is listening.

Therein seemed to lie the problem. When accessed from my iMac, the connection to the Air’s port 445 timed out, even though other services, like SSH, were working fine. I eventually double-checked from my iPhone using nc from within the iSH app and found that the connection timed out there as well, which let me conclude that it was definitely an issue with the MacBook Air—probably, I concluded, the firewall.

However, as I previously mentioned, the firewall pane in System Preferences reported that everything was hunky-dory with my file sharing connection. So clearly something had gotten screwed up, meaning it was time to delve under the hood to the command line.1

I’ve worked with firewalls via the command line on Linux systems, but I’d never attempted to interact with macOS’s built-in firewall. It took a bit of research to figure out, but eventually I located the tool I needed, the clearly named and easy to remember /usr/libexec/ApplicationFirewall/socketfilterfw. Accept no substitutes.

Accessing the command line for the firewall.

From there, I added the --listapps switch and was able to get a very well formatted and easy to read list of all the apps registering with the firewall. Wherein I found my problem: despite what System Preferences had reported, /usr/sbin/smbd—the daemon for the SMB server—was set to block all incoming connections.

A little more poking around discovered that correcting the problem was pretty easy: /usr/libexec/ApplicationFirewall/socketfilterfw --unblockapp /user/sbin/smbd. And voilà, I could once again connect to my MacBook Air and share files.

Now, how the firewall ended up in such a state is much more of a head-scratcher, but unfortunately one that will probably, not unlike how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, have to be filed under the heading of “the world may never know.”


  1. Also, it’s possible that I may in the interim have installed a piece of pre-release software in which there wasn’t a way to access the firewall via the GUI, but I’ll never tell. 🫢 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]


By Dan Moren for Macworld

When will Apple bring the M2 to its other Macs? It could be a while

After months–if not years–of fevered theorizing over Apple’s chip roadmap for the Mac, this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, at last, gave us a tantalizing peek at the successor to the blockbuster M1, released a little over a year and a half ago.

Until it gets into the hands of reviewers and users, we don’t have a lot of solid information about the M2’s performance. What we do know is that the processor at the heart of the new MacBook Air and the new (not really) 13-inch MacBook Pro comes in two options: an 8-core CPU/8-core GPU model on the base-level MacBook Air and an 8-core CPU/10-core GPU in every other configuration. We also know that Apple’s added a higher memory capacity, faster memory throughput, and built-in dedicated video encoding and decoding hardware from the M1 Pro and higher.

But, far more excitingly, now that we’ve got a second data point to work with, we can start to extrapolate a little more about the future of the M2 and when we might expect to see it make its way into the rest of the Mac lineup. (Like any professional writer, I can turn two dots into a line. Don’t try this at home, kids.)

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


How do you recover passkeys if you lose all your devices?

As a followup to my piece on passkeys, reader Andrew pointed me to a blog post by Terence Eden, which contains a bit of a thought experiment on what happens if you have a catastrophic accident (say, a house fire) and lose access to all your devices:

In order to recover my digital life, I need to be able to log in to things. This means I need to know my usernames (easy) and my passwords (hard). All my passwords are stored in a Password Manager. I can remember the password to that. But logging in to the manager also requires a 2FA code. Which is generated by my phone.

The situation as described is really a worst case scenario in which everything goes wrong, but it does raise questions about Apple’s new passkeys. If you have any device, sync should ensure that they’re all stored there. But what does happen in a terrible case like this where you lose all your devices?

Well, there are recovery methods in place, as you might suspect. Apple talks broadly about them in a support article:

To recover a keychain, a user must authenticate with their iCloud account and password and respond to an SMS sent to their registered phone number. After they authenticate and respond, the user must enter their device passcode. iOS, iPadOS, and macOS allow only 10 attempts to authenticate. After several failed attempts, the record is locked and the user must call Apple Support to be granted more attempts. After the tenth failed attempt, the escrow record is destroyed.

This seems to suggest that you’ll need to recover your phone number first, presumably by dealing with your wireless carrier. In a truly worst case scenario as detailed in Eden’s post, that may prove to be challenging, depending on what information you need to recover the account from the iCloud Keychain escrow. (Alternatively, Apple also points you can set up a recovery contact which is a good idea—and, as per Eden’s post, it may be a good idea to make it somebody who doesn’t reside with you, just in case of said catastrophic occurrence.)

That said, this is also a possible vector for social engineering, so extra levels of security are probably a good thing here. Requiring iCloud password, SMS code, and device passcode altogether seems like a reasonable set of steps to take before giving access back to a keychain.

There’s always going to be the possibility of a scenario where the security is so good that you can’t recover it, but in many of these cases, if you’re encountering a situation so severe that all of your failsafes have also failed, well, there’s probably something really dire going on that means you have even bigger problems.

—Linked by Dan Moren

By Dan Moren for Macworld

How your different Apple devices are becoming more alike than ever

There’s this somewhat odd sentiment among some parts of the Mac community that the best release of the platform’s software ever was Snow Leopard. Yes, that’s right: 2009’s Mac OS X 10.6, a release that was famously marketed as having “zero new features” and focusing on bug fixes and enhancements.

That appraisal is, of course, open for debate, but the idea has persisted enough that some people still regularly call for “Snow Leopard” style releases of Apple’s current operating systems—even though I’m sure there would be a general cry of bloody murder if the company tried to release updates that really didn’t have a single new feature.

Such an update is decidedly not what we got at this past week’s Worldwide Developers Conference: the platform updates that Apple showed off are fairly brimming with new features. But running down the list it also becomes clear that this was a bit of a search-and-destroy exercise for Apple’s engineers, as they crossed off a whole metric ton of requests and “missing” features that have, in some cases, been lingering for years.

Perhaps these updates are more like “filling gaps” releases, but in any case, there’s a lot here that suggests Apple isn’t simply trying to look to what’s next but to fix what’s come before and level the playing field across all its platforms.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

WWDC 2022: Passkeys hit primetime

Last year, Apple started tolling the death knell for passwords with the first round of passkey support on its platforms. At the time, I wrote:

…the writing is on the wall for the good old password, and the first step to its demise is being rolled out in macOS Monterey and iOS 15—though it will probably take at least a couple years before it comes to fruition.

Well, the future is here, somewhat sooner than I thought. With Apple’s forthcoming updates, passkeys are a reality, ready for developers to start offing the password with extreme prejudice. In its WWDC keynote, Apple gave passkeys some time in the spotlight, explaining just how much more secure of an option they are when it comes to authentication. The message is clear: passwords just aren’t sufficient for the connected world we now live in and the sooner they go into the dustbin, the better for everyone.

As usual, Apple’s WWDC sessions spend a little more time detailing how developers can add passkey support to their apps, as well as discussing how to deal with some additional cases that might crop up.

Passkeys
Apple’s newest updates will allow you to login with passcodes, as well as other authentication methods if necessary.

The best part of this transition is that it should be pretty straightforward for users once apps and web services start offering passkey as an option. Generating a passkey is as simple as enabling it in the app or service and then authenticating with biometrics. Subsequent logins are handled with biometrics, like Face ID or Touch ID, and can generally be accomplished with a single tap. And because passkeys are stored in iCloud, they’re synced between all your devices. You can even have multiple passkeys for a site or service stored on your device, if you have multiple accounts, and choose the appropriate one if needed.

The addition of passkeys should also remove the need for multifactor authentication—no more entering codes from an app or via SMS. That was always an additional feature provided because of passwords’ inherent insecurity, but the way in which passkeys work makes it unnecessary.

For those who already use iCloud Keychain for passwords, all of this should be pretty much second nature and, in retrospect, it’s clear that iCloud Keychain has been Apple training its users for this passwordless future. For example, just as you can currently share passwords from iCloud Keychain with AirDrop, that same feature will be available for passkeys as well—that way, if you have an account shared with someone, like a friend or another member of your family, you can easily give them access to those credentials.

It’s worth noting that while AirDrop is the only Share option in iCloud Keychain, you’ve also been able to copy and paste passwords listed in the Passwords section, letting you send those credentials via an email or iMessage (which you probably shouldn’t do, for security’s sake). However, given the nature of passkeys (which are very lengthy strings of random characters), it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to copy and paste them—probably for the best, again, for reasons of security, though it may frustrate some users trying to cram the passkey into a password-shaped hole.

There’s also no solution for bulk sharing of credentials, as via a shared vault in a password manager like 1Password; the only sharing option is on a per-passkey basis. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple thinks this needs to be updated in the future to something more like iCloud Shared Keychains, but that’s not a road that it’s taken so far with passwords.

Login with another device
Logging in to another device with passkeys involves creating a Bluetooth connection between the two, for extra security.

One additional question that has now been answered for passkeys is what happens when you’re logging in on another device, either from Apple or another manufacturer. The FIDO Alliance that backs the passkey standard (of which companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon are all members) has an approved solution: a QR code that you scan with your phone, providing a secure way to log in.

The methodology behind this process is fascinating: among other things, the authenticating device (likely your iPhone) creates a Bluetooth-based relay server which, by the very nature of Bluetooth’s limited range, helps ensure that you are in fact in proximity to the device into which you’re logging in. That makes it much more difficult for phishers to trick you into giving up your passkey: sending you a QR code in an email or text message won’t work because it won’t be able to get access to the Bluetooth connection.

Of course, this does still put into relief one potential issue with the passwordless future: it depends on having a device to serve as an authenticator. Widespread as smartphones are, not everybody has one, and those who don’t will probably still have to rely on memorized passwords (or, say, a security key with biometric authentication built in).

Making passwords better

Passwords won’t go away tomorrow, of course, or even in the fall when the new platforms ship. And so Apple’s not neglecting improving the password experience in the interim. There are a couple additional password-related features coming in the fall releases that are worth detailing:

Wi-Fi Passwords in Settings: Apple devices’ ability to share Wi-Fi passwords with people in your contacts has been a lifesaver, but sometimes that feature doesn’t work, or you have a non-Apple device you want to get online, or you just want to look up the darn password. On the Mac you’ve always been able to look up your Wi-Fi network passwords in the Keychain Access app and now with iOS/iPadOS 16, those Wi-Fi passwords will be available in the Passwords section of Settings; on the Mac, you’ll be able to find them in Network Preferences as well.

Strong password editing: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: you’re creating a new password for an account on a website and iCloud Keychain suggests a good, strong option. Only problem is it’s one of those sites that insists you follow its rules for creating passwords: this many numbers, that many letters, only these prescribed special characters, and so on. In the past, adapting the strong password suggested by Keychain to meet these requirements has involved an awkward dance of copying and pasting—or falling back to another password manager, or, worst of all, a weaker password. But in the latest Apple platform updates, you’ll also be able to edit those suggested passwords inline to make them comply with the rules on a given site.

Our journey towards our more secure feature continues apace and here’s hoping that by the time WWDC 2023 rolls around, we’re all using more passkeys in our lives.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]


By Dan Moren

WWDC 2022: WeatherKit brings hyperlocal forecasts to apps

In 2020, Apple acquired the popular hyperlocal weather forecasting app Dark Sky and while some elements of that app have made their way into the company’s own revamped Weather app over the last few years, there remained one last holdout: the Dark Sky API, which, it was announced concurrent with last year’s WWDC, would continue running until the end of 2022.

This year, we’ve met the successor to that technology: WeatherKit.

WeatherKit data
WeatherKit has a lot of data available to developers.

WeatherKit is backed by the new Apple Weather Service, which picks up where Dark Sky left off, offering hyperlocal forecasts that take advantage of machine learning to predict weather and provide a slew of information to apps and services.

This is a big endeavor, but its existence shouldn’t come as a surprise—and not just because of the timeline for sunsetting the Dark Sky API. Apple loves having key technologies under its control and if you’ve scrolled down in the company’s Weather app pre-iOS 16 (or requested weather information via Siri), you’ve surely seen (or heard) that the weather data on Apple’s platform has historically been provided by The Weather Channel.1 It’s not hard to imagine that that reliance on a third party (much less have to display their logo in one of Apple’s prominent apps) for this critical data may have rankled the folks in Cupertino.2 (Not to mention that Apple was certainly paying for the right to use that data, the cost of which may have grown significantly as more and more users were on the platform.)

But while the Apple Weather Service powers the new iOS 16/iPadOS/macOS Ventura, developers on those platforms can now use Apple’s weather data in their own apps too, via WeatherKit. Adding the information into an app via Swift looks pretty straightforward, using API calls based on location—the data’s also accessible via a REST API for other languages or use cases.

WeatherKit provides a ton of data, including minute forecasts (specifically for precipitation), hourly forecasts, daily forecasts (up to 10 days), weather alerts, and a veritable tsunami of historical weather data for those who want to crunch the information to extrapolate trends. That means a lot of opportunity for apps to use weather data without having to go to a third-party source, which generally charge not insubstantial fees for access to their APIs.

Another interesting note about the Apple Weather Service that didn’t get mentioned in the company’s session on WeatherKit, but did come up in the Platform State of the Union is that developers will get 500,000 free queries per month from the Apple Weather Service. Given that works out to, on average, 16,666 calls per day, one has to imagine that popular apps may quickly exceed that.

WeatherKit query prices
Apple will charge for additional queries to WeatherKit.

So, of course, the company is charging for extra queries, starting at $49.99/month for 1 million calls and going all the way up to 20 million for $999.99/month. Certainly, these queries have cost for Apple itself, so the company isn’t likely to provide unlimited queries for free. But this pricing also may discourage developers from using the data to simply build straight-up weather forecast apps that compete with Apple’s own, instead pushing them towards integrating more specific weather data into other apps (for example, an allergy diary app that easily lets you grab the current weather conditions when you log your symptoms).

And, of course, any use of WeatherKit’s data requires that your app prominently display the Weather logo and legal attribution of the data source. Which I suppose makes Apple the new Weather Channel…just for other apps on its platform.

Nothing, of course, prevents developers from using access to other APIs, but the built-in nature of WeatherKit certainly will make it tempting. Access to this kind of far-reaching data is a big deal for those building apps for Apple’s devices and potentially provides a significant competitive advantage with other platforms. Expect to see more apps with built-in weather features when Apple’s software updates ship in the fall.


  1. The Weather app previously relied on Yahoo Weather, but the company broke switched it up back in 2014
  2. Apple, of course, famously did the same thing for Maps, breaking ties with Google and building out its own extensive map service. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]


By Dan Moren

Five big app updates Apple didn’t discuss on stage

As always, Apple has only a limited amount of time during its WWDC keynote to discuss all the new features that it’s bringing to its software updates. Here are a few of the big announcements that didn’t make their way into the presentation but still got my attention.

Setting up the system

If you were doing a little macOS archaeology, you’d probably notice that the System Preferences app has been largely unchanged since the first version of Mac OS X back in 2001.

In macOS Ventura, it’s getting a major redesign, to bring it into parity with the Settings app on iOS and iPadOS. Part of that is a new name—System Settings—but the bigger part is an entirely new user interface that looks like its iOS/iPadOS counterpart: a scrolling sidebar of various sections, such as Wi-Fi or Appearance, which should make it easier to find what you’re looking for—especially if you’re coming from another Apple device.

Time for the Weather

In another big step for parity, Apple has brought a few long-running iOS and iPadOS apps to the Mac: Clock and Weather. The former will offer world time functionality, timers, and alarms, including letting you set them via Siri.

The Weather app, which was announced to be coming to iPad at long last as well, brings all the features of that app to the Mac, including maps, animations, and notifications for incoming weather. These are places that the Mac has often felt like a second-class citizen, so it’s great to see that they’ll get the same functionality that we’ve long had on other platforms (though it’d be nice if they also offered some more Mac-specific features, like, say, showing the temperature or other metrics in the menu bar).

Remind me again…

Both Reminders and Notes got big updates at WWDC last year, but the engineers aren’t resting on their laurels; there are a couple of significant improvements to Reminders this year as well.

The one I’m personally looking forward to is Templates. If you find yourself repeatedly creating a list for a specific purpose—say, a packing list for when you go out of town—you can now create and share templates of those lists, which let you reuse them without having to re-make them over and over again.

You can also pin your most important lists to the top of the app, which is a helpful way to keep those at the forefront, and view a smart list that shows you all your completed tasks. As someone who uses Reminders a lot, these are big potential quality of life improvements.

Note to self

Notes isn’t getting left out of the fun either. It’s got new Smart Folders options that let you collect notes by criteria like date, attachments, and more. There’s now end-to-end encryption of notes with your password or passcode. And you can filter notes based on certain qualities as well.

The iPad also gets a Handwriting Straightening feature in the Notes app, which will probably be a huge boon to people like me who have terrible handwriting.

Photo finish

While iCloud Shared Photo Library might be the big Photos-related news in the keynote, the app also got a number of additional improvements. It can now find duplicate photos in your library and gather them together for suggested deletion, letting you clean up your library and potentially save space.

Both the Hidden and Recently Deleted albums are now locked by default, accessible only with an account password, Touch ID, or Face ID. And there’s a new systemwide Photo Picker.

The Memories feature has also gotten some upgrades, with new types (This Day in History), the ability for Apple Music subscribers to add any track to the videos, and the ability to turn both Memories and Featured Photos in the Photos app and related widgets.

A lot more

There’s way more in all of these operating system releases, including security updates that don’t require restarts, emoji support for dictation, and Hide My Email options within apps. Of course, we’ll be combing through all of this and taking a closer look at these and other announcements throughout WWDC, so stay tuned.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]


By Dan Moren for Macworld

One must-have feature for every big OS update coming at WWDC

At long last, the biggest event on the Apple calendar is imminent. (Some people will argue that the biggest event is the fall iPhone event. Those people are wrong!) Apple executives are soon to come on stage—in a live or pre-taped fashion, we don’t know yet—and take the wraps off the latest updates to the company’s major software platforms. Perhaps, if we count ourselves lucky, even some new hardware as well.

As we prepare ourselves for the annual Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, there’s just enough time left to get some predictions (and, let’s be clear, some wishes) in under the wire.

Of course, forecasting specific features, well, that’s just an invitation to accountability, so instead, I’m going to talk a little more generally. I’ve organized my thoughts for each platform around a theme, so here’s what I’m hoping to see out of each of Apple’s big releases.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

A tale of two @-signs: How to get alternate versions of font characters

In the wake of my article about typing diacritical marks the other week, reader Andrew wrote in with a very niche question:

…lots of typefaces/fonts come with extended character sets and alternative glyphs that – as far as I can see – can’t be accessed via a keyboard combination like the diacritics you mention in the article.

A case in point is a typeface called Cabin I downloaded from Google Fonts. For some reason the designers decided to make the ‘@‘ symbol a white-on-black character, instead of black-on-white. There is an alternative, traditional black-on-white glyph in the extended characters, but I can’t work out how to produce it, let alone set it to be the default.

I can’t say I’ve ever run into this particular problem, but it was an intriguing one, so I did some research and came across a couple articles pointing towards a solution to just this problem: Alternative Stylistic Sets.

Amazingly, this is a macOS feature that I’d never encountered in all my years of using the operating system, but in short it’s a way for typefaces to offer alternate version of some glyphs—for example, Andrew’s @-sign issue.

But how to type those symbols? You can’t simply drag and drop glyphs onto a keyboard layout—cool as that would be—and there’s no Option-key shortcut that lets you pluck them out of thin air. But there must be some way to produce them, else why include them in the font in the first place?

macOS font palette
The font palette’s More menu contains a lot of additional options, including a Typography section.

The answer lies in macOS’s font palette. In an app that uses the standard font palette (generally accessed via Command-t), you’ll see the usual columns for picking font face, size, style, and so on. But if you venture into that three-dotted “More” menu in the top left, you’ll also find an entry for “Typography.”

Select that and you’ll get a whole separate palette containing several sections, including Ligatures, Vertical Spacing, Case-Sensitive Layout, and more. The options and contents depend on what’s included in the font itself, but the palette offers you a wide variety of ways to customize a specific typeface.

Typography Palette

The key here is the entry for those aforementioned Alternative Stylistic Sets. Again, the options in this section will vary depending on the font, but in the case of Google’s Cabin typeface, there’s a drop down menu that lets you click a checkbox for Stylistic Set 1—which, as far as I can tell, is actually the same exact set of glyphs except typing shift-2 now produces the typical black-on-white @-sign that Andrew was looking for.

This feature is also available in some other apps that don’t use Apple’s built-in font palette, though you might have to dig around to find it. In Microsoft Word, for example, it’s in Format > Font and then click on the Advanced tab and choose the option from the Stylistic Set dropdown menu.

One downside: as far as I can tell, these settings are per-app rather than global, so there isn’t necessarily a way to set the alternate glyph as the default throughout the OS.

This is just scratching the surface of what macOS’s typography features have to offer, but hopefully it’ll provide an answer to those who just need to tweak a font slightly.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]


By Dan Moren

The Back Page WWDC preview: The Rainbow Stage hungers

Apple Park
Everything is just fine here at Apple Park. Yep.

As we here at Apple prepare for the first in-person gathering on our campus in the last three years we wanted to share some ground rules we’re putting in place to make sure that all of our attendees have a pleasant, smooth, and above all safe visit to Apple Park for our annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

We are, of course, excited to welcome developers and a small selection of media and VIPs back to Cupertino for this event, but we do ask that that certain boundaries be respected. Once you have been welcomed onto campus, please ensure that you secure your belongings about your person. Keep all arms and legs inside sleeves and trousers at all times. Be sure and check the color of your badge before attempting to access any restricted areas: blue is for VIPs, green is for media, and red is for the Chosen, long shall they be remembered.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


By Dan Moren for Macworld

Three hardware features Apple needs to trash forever

Apple’s no stranger to killing off old technology. The original iMac famously did away with not only legacy ports but also shuffled the floppy disk right off this mortal coil. Elsewhere, the company has been aggressive about transitioning to solid-state storage and Retina-quality displays, with little to no compunction for the old hardware they replace (and with good reason).

All of this is to say that the company typically doesn’t count nostalgia as an asset. Recently, rumors have pointed to another feature that may find itself on the chopping block: the Lightning connector that debuted on the iPhone 5 in 2012. Speculation would have it replaced by USB-C, which has already replaced the proprietary port on several iPad models, as well as being the de facto connector on modern Macs.

While such a transition would no doubt cause some degree of consternation among many users, I’m all for it. In the words of one of the better Star Wars movies of recent years: let the past die. Kill it if you have to.

With that in mind, here are a few more features that can still be found on today’s Apple products, but whose time in the sun should probably come to an end sooner rather than later.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Typing characters with diacritics on the Mac

There I was, trying to type a Croatian phrase into Google Translate when I found myself wondering “Wait, there must be an easier way to enter characters with diacritic marks than by trying to guess the right combination of Option and letter key.”

Friends, there is. File this one under one of those tips that I’d either forgotten or never really realized, in large part because my history steeped in the classic Mac OS meant I always thought of looking these things up via Key Caps.1

Typing special characters on macOS

A quick search turned up this macOS support article, which points out that—in a move borrowed from iOS—all you have to do is press and hold a key to see every available character associated with that key. More to the point, each character has a number associated with it—hit the corresponding key, and it’ll pop it right in there for you.

Certain letters with diacritics I’ll always have hardcoded in my memory (Option-e plus a letter for accent aigu, for example, or Option-c for ç—thanks years of French homework!) but for characters I more rarely need to type, this definitely speeds up the process.


  1. Which does still exist as Keyboard Viewer, though you have to jump through the hoops of enabling the Input menu in System Preferences Keyboard or as part of the Accessibility options before you can bring it up). 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]


By Dan Moren for Macworld

Six Apple apps in desperate need of a makeover

The lead-up to Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference is always rife with rumor and speculation. But so far this year leaks have been few and far between and most of what has trickled out into the public eye has been on the vague side. Take, for example, Bloomberg’s usually very well-sourced Mark Gurman, who said last week–with nothing more in the way of explanation–that iOS 16 would contain some “fresh Apple apps.”

Let’s assume for a moment that this isn’t merely a resurgence of 1990s slang and that the apps in question aren’t “funky fresh,” but rather that the company is intending to roll out new and/or updated versions of some of its built-in apps on iOS. That certainly sounds promising and, as you might imagine, I have some ideas of exactly what that could (or should) entail.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Apple details Live Captions, other accessibility features coming later this year

Apple Newsroom:

Using advancements across hardware, software, and machine learning, people who are blind or low vision can use their iPhone and iPad to navigate the last few feet to their destination with Door Detection; users with physical and motor disabilities who may rely on assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control can fully control Apple Watch from their iPhone with Apple Watch Mirroring; and the Deaf and hard of hearing community can follow Live Captions on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple is also expanding support for its industry-leading screen reader VoiceOver with over 20 new languages and locales. These features will be available later this year with software updates across Apple platforms.

The announcement is in honor of Global Accessibility Day—last year, the company made a similar announcement, previewing forthcoming features like Assistive Touch feature for Apple Watch and Background Sounds for iOS 15.

These new features really open up a lot of possibilities, but the one I’m most excited about is Live Captions. Apple’s had a version of this technology in its Clips app for some years (and clearly makes use of similar functionality with Siri’s language processing and dictation). But on Apple’s platform you previously needed to turn to a third-party app for something like captioning a FaceTime call for deaf or hard of hearing users.

As someone who has two parents who both have difficulty hearing, this stands to be a big help. I am curious to see how well the feature actually works, and how it handles a big FaceTime call with a lot of participants; Apple says it will attribute dialog to specific speakers. Live Captions is also supposedly available to any audio content, which means other video conferencing apps may be able to take advantage of it as well—though it’s unclear whether that means through an opt-in API or just by default.

In addition to these major feature announcements, Apple’s press release mentions a number of other improvements, such as new Apple Books themes to make it easier to read text, Siri Pause Time to allow users to specify how long Siri will wait before responding to a request, and an improvement to Sound Recognition that lets you train it to listen for a specific version of a sound (i.e. your particular doorbell), and more.

—Linked by Dan Moren

By Dan Moren for Macworld

Three features Apple should borrow from Google

The larger technology companies get, the more and more commonalities there seem to be between their products. That’s probably not surprising: after all, if only a couple of huge companies are developing smartphone operating systems, chances are they’ll get closer and closer over time as companies borrow from each other, playing leapfrog as they continually innovate.

Like any giant company, Apple’s no stranger to having features similar to those in its products rolled out by competitors. But it’s also hardly one to ignore a good idea, even when it’s created by a rival (for example, the graphical user interface on desktop computers).

This past week, Google held its annual I/O developers conference, at which it showed off a ton of new devices and features for its products. And, as always, there were those who noted that many looked like they’d been pulled directly from Apple products. So, turnabout being fair play, here are a few places where Apple might be able to take a cue from one of its biggest competitors.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

Bring on the USB-C future

USB-C ports

Up until recently, USB-C was more of a fluke in my household—a strange visitor from a possible future, in which we all used small, reversible plugs. Sure, my iMac had a couple of Thunderbolt ports that use the USB-C ports and every once in a while a random cable might have a plug on it, but by and large we remained a good old USB-A household.

Even by late 2020, when I bought a new M1 MacBook Air that had only USB-C ports, the connector was still more of a curiosity than something in daily use. Truth be told, I didn’t plug many things into my laptop, so I wasn’t even really living the Dongletown lifestyle. I did have to buy a USB-C-to-USA-mini cables in order to use my ATR-2100 travel mic while I was on the road, but as the Air arrived during the pandemic, I wasn’t even really traveling.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


By Dan Moren

Watch and learn: The Apple Watch needs a better upgrade experience

Apple Watch Series 7

Though I greatly enjoyed my vacation last week, it ended with a bit of a mishap. On Sunday morning, the last full day of my travels, I knocked my beloved Series 4 Apple Watch off the nightstand where it had been charging and it tumbled three feet to land—screen down, naturally—on a tile floor.

What at first I thought was merely a chipped edge revealed itself upon closer inspection to also encompass cracks along the edge and across the watch’s face. Alas, my Apple Watch had passed on. It had shuffled off this mortal coil. It was no more. It was…an ex-watch.

So I did what any self-respecting Apple aficionado would do and took advantage of the fact that our flight home had been delayed to order a new Apple Watch for pick up at the nearest Apple Store.

Which is how I found myself sitting outside in the surprisingly pleasant Seattle weather in front of the University Village Apple Store, in possession of a brand new Series 7 Apple Watch.1

But my troubles had only begun. Because despite the fact that I had the previous evening unpaired my old Watch in preparation for migration, when I connected the brand new Apple Watch—after spending a half an hour charging its low battery, connected to my MacBook Air in my backpack—I found that the only backups it offered to restore from were several years old.

After a moment of stomach-churning worry, I also realized something else critical: all those backups were on very old versions of watchOS. Like watchOS 5 old. At which point it clicked: of course, I’d kept my Apple Watch up to date with the latest watchOS, and the new one I’d just picked up had been sitting on a shelf for probably at least a few weeks, if not longer, and was thus out of date.

Surely, I thought, there would be a way to easily update the watch as part of the migration process. After all, Apple has run into this problem with iPhones over the past few years, in cases when iOS updates were issued before brand new phones were shipped. As a result the company improved its migration feature to update software as part of a restore from iCloud Backup.

Unfortunately, it seems that no similar feature exists for the Apple Watch. Instead I had to go through the following process: unpair the new Apple Watch from my iPhone, re-pair and set it up as a new watch, download and install the watchOS update (which it will only do when the Watch is connected to a charger and your phone is on Wi-Fi), unpair the Watch, re-pair the Watch, and then finally restore from my most recent backup, which this time did show up.

Woof.

All of this was complicated by the fact that I was without a stable Wi-Fi connection all day, meaning it took quite a while to get the update, and Apple Watches aren’t exactly fast at installing software even at the best of the times. Roughly ten hours after I picked up the new Apple Watch, as I was waiting for my plane at the airport gate, I finally had an up-and-running Apple Watch.

This process should be a whole lot smoother. Even if Apple can’t find a way to update the software as part of the migration process—and come on, it should be able to do that—it should at the very least make it more transparent.

When the iPhone first showed me the available backups to restore from, it didn’t even show the backup I’d made the previous night. I totally get that Apple thinks it’s being helpful here: why show backups you can’t restore from? But, on the flip side, why not display all the backups and, say, gray out the ones that are currently ineligible, to at least avoid the concern that a backup has been lost? Heck, go a step further and put a little note that says you need to update the software before you can restore this backup, perhaps even with a link to explain the process. It seems like the very least that could be done.

Perhaps customers aren’t replacing their Apple Watches as regularly as their iPhones—certainly, there are fewer of them out there, so I can see why the company may not have invested as much time in streamlining the update process. But even I, a person who writes about Apple professionally, had to spend a while on Google to figure out what the best way to do this was. That hardly seems like a good experience for a company that prides itself on ease of use.


  1. 45mm in blue, my first non-space-gray Watch. (I just couldn’t bring myself to get the Midnight.) The blue is very sharp. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]


RIP the iPod

A surprisingly lengthy post on the Apple Newsroom which goes on for several paragraphs about the joy of consuming digital music eventually reaches its raison d’être in the final line:

Customers can purchase iPod touch through apple.com, Apple Store locations, and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last.

Yes, that’s right: the iPod touch, the last remaining survivor of that ancient product line (due to turn 21 this October), has reached the end of its life.

It shouldn’t be a real surprise: the iPod touch was last updated almost three years ago, though even then it was to bump the internals, not to make any significant design changes.

As useful as the iPod touch has been to provide an iOS device without the need for an iPhone’s cellular plan, the iPad seems to certainly have supplanted it in that department.

And that’s all she wrote for the venerable iPod, which is survived only by its distant relative, the HomePod mini. Well, at least until Apple decides to resurrect the name for some new product…

—Linked by Dan Moren

By Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple’s latest moves show how much–and how little–it is willing to change

Apple seems, in general, to have weaponized the idea of institutional stubbornness. This is the company that refused to license its operating system to PC makers back in the 1980s and 1990s, insisted on making a smartphone, and launched yet another streaming service. There’s something in the company’s DNA—probably handed down in part from late co-founder Steve Jobs—that promulgates the idea that there are two ways to do things: an Apple way and a wrong way. It’s one of the traits that often makes it most infuriating to its biggest detractors.

But that doesn’t mean that Apple won’t change course when needs suit. Despite its insistence on doing things its own way, the company has over the past several years made more than a few changes that even its closest observers might have judged unlikely at best. There are always reasons behind these decisions, of course, and they’re hardly devoid of self-interest, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t, somewhere deep down, an acknowledgment that maybe, just maybe, the Apple way can evolve.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦



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