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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Six Colors Staff

WWDC 2020 Friday: Session Impressions

Note: This story has not been updated since 2020.

And so WWDC comes to a close for another year. We have to admit: We’ve probably watched more session videos this year than all of the prior years put together. The virtual format has been a real change, but a lot of the way the event has adapted is to the positive, including the ability to make all of this information easily accessible to anybody who’s interested. So, with that said, let’s wrap up a few last videos.

AutoFill Everywhere

AutoFill can be faster and more secure in many places.

I love AutoFill—it’s one of my favorite features. On the Mac, I don’t mind typing things, but on the iPhone, having forms automatically filled out for you can be a huge time saver.

But, as it turns out, there are other benefits too. For example, privacy. As keyboard engineer Zeheng Chen points out, when you have an app where you want to send something to one of your contacts, you might choose to use a contact picker UI instead of granting access to your contacts, in order to minimize the amount of information that the app can see. But a contact picker UI might be slower than autofilling a contact address as you start to type it, and the autofill option still prevents the app from getting any data but what you type into the field. Plus, developers don’t have to create a user interface, since it’s already built-in.

Starting in macOS Big Sur, AppKit—the native APIs for building Mac apps—will now have access to AutoFill. And third-party password management apps will be available as sources for AutoFill, as they have been on iOS and iPadOS, making those programs even more useful.

Me, I’m all for less typing! —Dan Moren

Create quick interactions with Shortcuts on watchOS

Shortcuts complications
You can launch specific Shortcuts actions right from a complication.

Apple’s Shortcuts utility started its life as a third-party app called Workflow that offered an Apple Watch app. It’s taken awhile, but Apple Watch support has now arrived in Shortcuts. Not only is there a Shortcuts app on the watch, but you can launch specific shortcuts directly from watch-face complication slots. (To designate a specific shortcut for sync with the Apple Watch, you mark it as such within the Shortcuts app on your iPhone.)

Depending on how developers implement their Shortcuts support, shortcuts may run specifically on the Apple Watch without ever going back to the iPhone. But to do this, the parent app must have its associated Apple Watch app installed, too. While this is the ideal experience, there’s also the capability for a shortcut on Apple Watch to phone home to the iPhone and run the necessary automation there. It’ll just be a lot slower. —Jason Snell

Capture and stream apps on the Mac with ReplayKit

I like a presenter with good taste in microphones.

Also starting in Big Sur, Mac apps will for the first time get access to ReplayKit, Apple’s API for recording, capturing, and broadcasting content from within your app. So if you’ve got, say, a Mac game, you can automatically build in features to not only do screen recordings, but also to broadcast your gameplay—and even provide an in-app editor or add overlays and other effects.

ReplayKit has been available on iOS and iPadOS for a couple years, but it’s a great addition to the Mac. Game streaming has become more and more common, and in our current world environment, there are lots of other instances in which being able to record and broadcast your app may be useful, such as during meetings.

In terms of gaming, Apple has also added support for triggering a screen recording via a button on an external PlayStation or Xbox controller, which is handy for when you want to record something that just happened without having to switch to a different input device. (On their respective game consoles, this functionality is generally accessed via controllers.)

I’m curious to see what the limits of ReplayKit are on the Mac. I’ve started spending more time streaming video for various types of entertainment, such as the shows we do at Total Party Kill and our occasional Jackbox games at The Incomparable. I’m not sure how applicable these features will be, but it certainly seems like it could simplify matters. —DM

Design great widgets

Weather widget
The weather widget can change based on context. In this example, it’s switched to a precipitation forecast.

Widgets are the big story in iOS 14, and this session details the tools developers can use to design great widgets for their apps. It focuses primarily on the decisions Apple made in creating its own widgets for iOS 14.

Widgets can adjust their display based on context. For example, the Weather widget might normally show an extended forecast, but if there’s precipitation in the area it can shift to a precipitation forecast, showing you when the rain’s expected to start or stop. The Maps widget has spatial awareness, noticing when you’re not home and offering up the travel time to get back there.

Editing widgets is adorable, and takes a page out of the old Mac Dashboard manual: You tap and hold on a widget while in jiggle mode, choose Edit, and then the whole thing flips over to present a settings interface that’s stored on the reverse side of the widget.

Users can also add multiple copies of a single widget, too—for example, you can create Weather widgets for different locations, and display them side by side—or create a Widget Stack and then flip between them. —JS

SF Symbols 2

SF Symbols
SF Symbols offers multicolor variants.

Last year Apple introduced SF Symbols, a library of more than 1500 icons meant to be used to unify the iconography of apps running on iOS and iPadOS. Developers can use SF Symbols to ensure that their toolbars and menus feel very much like they’re part of a unified system design.

This year, Apple has added more than 750 new symbols to the library, and the entire SF Symbols collection is also available on macOS Big Sur, bringing the visual design of all of Apple’s platforms closer together. There are also more localized symbols, so the iconography an app uses can shift based on what country or language preferences a user has.

SF Symbols also has support for multicolor variants of its symbols, for cases where a monochrome appearance isn’t ideal. For example, weather-related symbols showing a shining sun could be displayed in a weather app with the sun colored yellow. —JS


Apple TV Search
The Apple TV’s search field can now support suggestions.

Apple TV has a refined search interface and will start to offer suggestions as you type.

You’ll be able to use the Health app to assign shortcuts to the new Wind Down feature that gets you ready to go sleep. Apps can register certain types of behavior to allow suggestions of their shortcuts—so, for example, a meditation app could suggest a shortcut, or a journaling app. There will be a smart Sleep Mode collection in the Shortcuts app.

While you can now share watchfaces via your Apple Watch, iPhone, or website, Nike and Hermes faces won’t work except on those specific types of hardware. —DM

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