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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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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 ↦

WWDC prep and VR ambitions

We’re packing our bags for Cupertino. Will the long-foreshadowed stories of the MacBook Air, Mac Pro, and VR headset finally come to fruition? And the advantages of putting on an event on your own campus.

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by Jason Snell

The Iconfactory releases WorldWideWeb

Oh how I love the mad geniuses at The Iconfactory. On Thursday Iconfactory developer extraordinaire Craig Hockenberry announced a new app today, and it’s… unexpected? It’s called WorldWideWeb, and it’s a simple, Bonjour-driven web server. It doesn’t do anything but serve static files, but it does that with nearly zero configuration. It’s clearly scratching an itch for Craig and his colleagues, and I can think of plenty of times I’ve wanted to experiment with a simple web page and some CSS before jumping into a more complex development environment.

But my favorite part of this whole story is… that it also runs on iOS:

Once I had all this running on macOS, I stumbled upon something unexpected. All of the Swift code I had written for macOS worked perfectly on iOS. With multi-tasking and a great text editor, iPadOS was suddenly a viable environment for standalone web development.

The app is free on macOS and iOS.

—Linked by Jason Snell

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 His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]

By Jason Snell

My WWDC 2022 wishlist

Wishing doesn’t make it so.

When Apple makes its announcements at the WWDC keynote on Monday—Dan and I will both be there, in person, to cover it!—it will be revealing stuff that’s been in the works for months. In fact, for the better part of the year.

So I realize that wishing real hard in the direction of Apple Park isn’t going to change a single thing that will be announced Monday. That won’t stop me from hoping that at least some of my dreams might come true, though.

Here’s what I want to see:

iPad Pro momentum. Fans of the iPad Pro (and I am one) have been complaining for years that its software hasn’t been able to take advantage of the power of its hardware. Once again, we’re hoping for a sign from Apple that it knows what the future of the iPad looks like.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has reported that Apple may unveil a “professional mode” for iPad, which could be a very clever way to add features that iPad power users want without cuttering and confusing the base iPad interface, which is (let’s be honest) what most users prefer.

Now that Apple’s shipping the Studio Display, now would be the perfect time for the addition of support for non-mirrored external display on iPadOS. But you can’t really do that without revamping multitasking, including either a sophisticated tiling system or a Mac-like set of overlapping windows.

After the introduction of the globe key in iPadOS 15 last fall, I’d also like to see Apple embrace systemwide keyboard shortcuts on the iPad. Productivity would get a big boost if I could run shortcuts and control other apps from my Magic Keyboard—or from any keyboard when I’m docked to a big external display.

But really, I just want Apple to do something resembling anything.

The next generation of Mac. Wishing for new hardware at a WWDC is a fool’s game, but I’m willing to be foolish when it comes to the MacBook Air. Based on numerous reports, Apple has been trying to ship a redesigned MacBook Air since last year. At some point, it’ll happen. Maybe now’s the time. Colorful laptops would be great for the back-to-school crowd, and Apple could ramp up production by the holiday season.

Even better, the MacBook Air is the perfect vehicle to kick off the next cycle of Apple silicon with the M2 processor. It’s been 18 months since Apple introduced the M1. Seems like it’s time for the next generation.

And would I turn down a sneak preview of the Apple silicon version of the Mac Pro? No, I would not. But I don’t expect it to ship anytime soon… and that’s fine.

A way forward for app development. In 2018, Apple introduced Mac Catalyst as the future of Mac-iPad app development. Then in 2019, it introduced SwiftUI, the future of all Apple platform app development. But developers I talk to say that SwiftUI is still quite limited and is in desperate need of improvement. It’s great that Apple is building new ways of building apps across its platforms, but it needs to show its commitment with major improvements to what’s there.

There might be some reason for hope in this regard: Last fall, Apple shipped a new version of its own Shortcuts app, which relied on SwiftUI. It had a lot of growing pains… and perhaps those pains, experienced by Apple’s own developers, helped inform the development of SwiftUI. For the sake of the many app developers out there, I sure hope so.

Keep up the Shortcuts progress. I love Shortcuts, and last year’s announcement that it was going to be part of the future of Mac automation was a delightful surprise. Shortcuts is one of the best new features to come to the Mac in years—and while I was a big proponent of bringing it to the Mac, not even I expected it to be this useful this quickly.

But there’s more work to be done on Shortcuts across all of Apple’s platforms. Better automation, better actions from Apple apps, improved stability, better documentation… there’s so much room for Shortcuts to grow and flourish. What I don’t want to see is Apple deciding that Shortcuts has grown enough for now, and so it’s turning its attention elsewhere. No. The job is started, but it’s not done. Keep your foot on the gas, Apple. Shortcuts is going places—if you don’t get in its way.

A sign of a proper home strategy. The HomePod flopped, and the Home app has never been good. The release of the HomePod mini showed that perhaps Apple’s turning around its smart-home strategy, but I’d like to see more. Better home automations? Better home interfaces across all of Apple’s operating systems? Yes, please. (I’d start by throwing out the Home app and making a new one, re-thought from the ground up.)

A development path for its VR/AR hardware. All signs point to Apple not announcing its much-rumored VR/AR headset at WWDC. Okay, I’ll accept that. And yet… this is the perfect time for Apple to get developers working on its next major software platform if that’s what “realityOS” turns out to be.

So could Apple thread the needle here? It would be a very different strategy, but I think it could announce realityOS, announce support for a development environment that involves tethering available third-party headsets to Macs, and essentially start the clock on VR app development well in advance of announcing what its actual product is.

Now, you’re saying to yourself: Jason, that’s not how Apple does it. And you’re right. But everyone knows Apple is making this product! If Apple kept the details under wraps and just shipped a development environment, would it really shake the foundations of what we know Apple to be? Apple’s shown an openness to change its strategy when the time is right, and it invited developers and press to come in person to Cupertino next week for a reason. The best reason would have something to do with that VR/AR headset. If the hardware’s not ready, a developer message and technology preview would be the next best thing. And it leaves the drama of the real product unveiling for another event later this year.

Apple software improvements we want to see at WWDC, the technology-themed art that graces our walls, which browsers we use, and why printers are the worst.

By Jason Snell for Macworld

Apple Music has betrayed its most loyal listeners

My wife is a saint. She has to put up with me complaining every time we’re in our car listening to satellite radio and a DJ comes on. “You just don’t want to hear people talking,” she says, and she’s absolutely right. I accept that other people like listening to the prattling DJs, but I hate it and I will keep changing the channel until there’s a song I want to listen to again. I don’t want to hear about who is touring where, or who said something interesting at a show, or even the behind-the-scenes detail about how a song came to be written. Not when I’m just trying to listen to music.

That’s the great thing about streaming music services like Apple Music: whether you’re listening to a curated playlist or even a “radio station,” you can skip songs you don’t like and there’s no intrusion from voices. It’s all about the music.

Or at least, it was. But recently, Apple Music has made some changes, and they’re disastrous. A new tastemaker has apparently rolled into Apple Music HQ and decided that aggressive marketing to paying customers is the solution to a problem that literally nobody had. The result is a degraded Apple Music experience.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

What do “Stranger Things” and “Obi Wan Kenobi” tell us about the present and future of Netflix and Disney+? Also, Netflix’s “The Gray Man,” a revived “Daredevil,” and we answer your letters!

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 ↦

It’s time for our seventh annual competition regarding what will happen at Apple’s WWDC keynote! In a surprise development, Jason and Myke are attending in person—but beyond that, they’re totally in the dark. Will it be inside or outside? Will it be live, or recorded? Will there be new hardware announced? It’s time to let our imaginations run wild.

by Jason Snell

Why Apple’s Friday Night Baseball probabilities don’t add up

Ben Clemens of FanGraphs built a very simple statistical model to see if those detailed Apple TV+ Friday Night Baseball odds, which are generated via machine-learning algorithm by a company named nVenue, are as predictive as they seem.

His results suggest that they aren’t. In fact, they didn’t come close to beating Clemens’ simple model:

…the predictions shown on these broadcasts every Friday would lose money if they gambled against my objectively bad predictions. They’re flawed, perhaps past the point of usability.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing cool in them. In that same Rangers-Astros game, Kole Calhoun stepped to the plate in a 1-1 tie in the top of the fourth. The broadcast displayed an 8% chance that he would hit a home run, more than triple the rate at which the league hits home runs on a per-PA basis. He promptly bopped the first pitch out. Power hitter, homer-prone Cristian Javier on the mound, Minute Maid Park; the odds truly should have been higher, and I think that insights like that are undeniably interesting.

At present, though, these odds are worse than not seeing odds on screen, at least as far as I’m concerned. I wish more people thought about baseball probabilistically, but having clearly inaccurate odds – Marcus Semien isn’t more likely to reach base on 0-2 than he is on 0-0, no matter what the screen says – could result in people trusting odds less, not more. Perhaps there are some more cool insights to be mined from this complex model, but for now, I think that showing these odds during broadcasts is doing viewers a disservice.

There are a lot of advanced stats Apple could choose to show on these telecasts that could inform and entertain viewers. But publishing raw probabilities from a machine-learning algorithm… isn’t it.

—Linked by Jason Snell

WWDC prep, pressing buttons, and HomePods

As we compose ourself for WWDC, Dan reports in from an Undisclosed New York Location. Jason finally figures out what he’s learned about the Stream Deck. And, again: HomePod all the things!

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By Jason Snell

A year with the Elgato Stream Deck

Stream Deck and surprise guest

I’ve been using an Elgato Stream Deck for more than a year now. It’s a USB peripheral that offers a grid of buttons with a display underneath, so each button can be labeled with an icon and/or text that you specify. The goal of the Stream Deck is to make esoteric actions on your computer easier by letting you place them on dedicated keys with custom artwork, so you’ll always know to press the blue button instead of typing Command-Shift-Option-3.

I was initially quite skeptical about the Stream Deck. I’ve got a perfectly nice keyboard, full of keys on which to map commands. Why not just memorize those keyboard shortcuts?

And yet, after using a Stream Deck Mini that I bought at Target on a whim for a few months, I decided to upgrade to the full-sized Stream Deck. It turns out that, yes, the concept of wiring up commands I could never recall from the keyboard shortcuts, of placing front and center all the macros and shortcuts and scripts I spent hours building and then promptly forgot existed, made it all worthwhile. I had gone from a skeptic to a convert, and it only took a few months—and a bunch of lessons learned.

Continue reading “A year with the Elgato Stream Deck”…

How we discover new apps, how we force ourselves to take breaks during the workday, our methods for managing our Mac’s menu bar, and the most impressive and useful tech in our kitchens.

By Jason Snell for Macworld

HomePod all the things!

The original HomePod flopped. But Apple wasn’t discouraged. It reconceived the product and released the HomePod mini, a less high-tech-and more affordable-iteration that seems to have been more successful in the market and suggested Apple had larger home ambitions.

Now come rumors that Apple’s planning on building a new HomePod. In fact, there are rumors that as many as three new HomePods could be headed our way. Could it be, in the same year that the iPod finally faded away, that the HomePod will transform itself from a failure into a key Apple product line?

It’s time. Not just for a HomePod comeback, but for HomePod domination. Two HomePods? I want more. I want four. It’s time for Apple to rush back into the smart home game and the HomePod can lead the way.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

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