This app is just so great. And though there are some Mr. Reader-level power-user features that it lacks, it makes up for them with its elegant and easy design and its world-class gesture navigation.

So here’s my RSS etc. setup: Feed Wrangler as the backbone; Unread on iPhone and iPad; Reeder 2 on my Mac; Instapaper for reading later; Pinboard for bookmarks.

Matt, clever and articulate as always:

Apple caught up with itself this year. As with the first iPhone OS and SDK, the consumer experience (iOS 7) took priority, and developers had their day a year later. Apple has decided that moving iOS forward is as much in developers’ hands as it is in Apple’s. Consider that all this is happening at a time when Apple has more money and is hiring more engineers than ever. If anything, Apple is more suited to shut the doors and go it alone. But that’s not what’s happening.

Susie Ochs writing for TechHive:

Now the company that invented the Round thermostat back in 1953 is back with a new line of smart home devices called Lyric. And first up is, you guessed it, a smart thermostat. It looks familiar—which is to say, beautiful—but it takes a different approach to saving you money than the Nest. Instead of trying to learn your patterns over time, the Lyric thermostat doesn’t worry about patterns. Instead, it uses your phone’s geolocation features to start conserving energy as soon as you leave your house.

The Lyric’s reliance on geofencing to manage my home’s temperature doesn’t do much for us. I work from home and my wife is a stay-at-home mom. There is almost always someone at our house. So I’m not super interested in a thermostat that uses my iPhone’s geofencing to adjust the temperature.

However, the Lyric has another smart feature as well:

The Fine Tune feature is pretty smart too. You know how sometimes the weather forecast has two temperatures: the real air temperature, and whatever it actually “feels” like, adjusted for the wind chill or the heat index? The Lyric is programmed to make those same adjustments inside your house. Fine Tune factors not just the indoor temperature, but also what it’s like outside, and the humidity (the Lyric houses its own humidity sensor), so it can make adjustments like running your system’s fans more or bumping the temperature up or down a degree.

Here in Kansas City we like to joke that if you don’t like the current weather, just wait 10 minutes. Having a thermostat that takes humidity and outside temperature into consideration for making auto-adjustments to the internal temperature could prove to be really convenient for our Kansas City home.

Also, the Lyric has a curious change of roles in that its display shows you the current weather and the short-term forecast, and then you have to use the accompanying iPhone app to actually program the thermostat.

All this to say, after reading TechHive’s review and The Verge’s, the Lyric sounds pretty great. It’ll be interesting to see how some of the real-world reviews rate it over the coming months.

Monday, June 9

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My thanks to Marketcircle for sponsoring the RSS feed this week.

Here are some shots of places and people during my time at WWDC last week.

You may see that about half of these photos I edited and uploaded using my iPhone while I was in San Francisco. Back in February I traded in my E-PL5 for the new E-M10, and I love it. The E-M10 has built-in Wi-Fi and so I can connect my iPhone or iPad to it, launch the Olympus iOS app, and save any images I want directly to my device. Then, I’ll open those images in VSCO Cam, edit them, save them back to the Camera Roll, and then upload to Flickr using the Flickr app.

It sounds more cumbersome than it is (it’s actually much faster than the SD Card → Lightroom → Flickr workflow I have on my Mac), and it’s a great way to quickly share photos I take with my best camera.

When I bought the E-M10 I mostly did so because it had the viewfinder and the manual control dials. The built-in Wi-Fi seemed like a novelty feature to me, but over the past 5 months I’ve found that I use the Wi-Fi very often.

Chris Bowler on OS X Yosemite:

The little touches, the delight that comes when you notice them, abound in OS X. Once you’ve been using this system for some time, it’s easy to take those touches for granted.

Watching the details of OS X Yosemite emerge, I was reminded afresh of what a great foundation we have as Mac users. If it weren’t for OS X (and the language(s) it runs on), all the wonderful software from our favourite developers would not be available or quite as good. With the new features in mind, here are a few things I love about this operating system.

P.S. This is from one of Chris’s email journals he sends out every Saturday to the members of his site. I’m a member, and I’ve read all 9 newsletters and they are excellent. Definitely worth $2/month.

I’m still catching up from WWDC, and our Sweet Setup interview from last week was a great one. I especially liked Nik’s answer to how his ideal setup would look and function:

I’m sorted for now, I think. I tend to try and avoid too much chopping and changing to the apps I use. I could probably change text editors every week, but there’s always something that bothers the me in most, and I’d rather have a toolset that works consistently. Building up muscle memories (keyboard shortcuts, etc.) takes time, but rewards loyalty. If you’re changing tools too frequently, whatever you gain in new features is nearly always lost in learning and adapting.

Friday, June 6

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, I share some thoughts on the WWDC Keynote and what it says about Apple, plus a behind-the-scenes look at what my life is generally like when I’m in town for the conference.

Sponsored by:

Awesome

This is a great year to be an Apple software nerd.

For one, there have been, and are coming, some awesome updates to many great 3rd-party apps, such as Reeder 2, OmniFocus 2, LaunchBar 6, and Things 3 to name a few.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What Apple announced yesterday is nothing short of an epic leap forward for Mac and iOS software. And it’s manifested in the new visual identity of OS X, Continuity between Macs and iOS devices, extensibility within iOS, iCloud Drive and Photo storage, and a hundred other improvements to Mail, Safari, Spotlight, Messages, and more… these things are the foundation of iOS and OS X for the next 5 years.

Moreover, Apple released a brand new programming language, Swift, that will make writing native Mac and iOS apps even easier. When I asked yesterday on Twitter what everyone’s favorite thing announced at WWDC was, the overwhelming response was Swift.

Now, I love to geek out over new hardware much as anybody. But without an operating system and without apps, an iPhone is just a beautiful piece of glass and aluminum — a shell. It’s the software that gives our gadgets their life and personality.

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Yesterday’s keynote was just fantastic. If you haven’t watched it yet, you must. Download the HD version, make some popcorn, and enjoy. This was Apple at its best. The show was fast-paced, enjoyable, and downright funny. And Craig Federighi? The dude was on fire.

All day yesterday, the prevailing question amongst the friends and people I was hanging out with was: “So, what did you think of the keynote?”

Everyone’s answer was pretty much the same: Excitement.

For those of us who use our Macs and iOS devices day in and day out for both work and for play, we have a lot to look forward to. The new features and designs announced yesterday promise to make our digital tools and workflows more fun, more efficient, and, more delightful.

Here are my thoughts and observations (so far) about just a few of the things announced at yesterday’s WWDC 2014 keynote.

OS X Yosemite

Yosemite strikes me as an update to OS X that’s done, in part, at least, as a labor of love. An update to the Mac OS that’s shipping not because Apple has to, but because they want to. It’s not an update to keep up with the times and to have some features checked off the checklist. But rather an update that’s driven by a company that sweats the details and takes great delight in shipping beautiful, delightful software.

The Design

The design is, of course, the most significant change to OS X. We all saw the writing on the wall last year when Apple introduced iOS 7, and now it’s here: OS X is going “flat”.

If you want to get a taste of how the new UI will look on your Mac, here’s a couple of high-res images from Apple’s site. Just save these to your Mac, open one in Preview, and then go Full Screen: The Calendar; Multiple Windows Open; Safari Tabs View; Spotlight.

Aside from the change of window chrome, you can also see there are all sorts of new design changes throughout the entire operating system. Such as new glyphs, new Finder folder icons, a new system font (Helvetica Neue), new system icons, a return to the 2D dock (yay!), and a “consolidating” of the in app title bar so app buttons now sit on the same top row as the stoplight.

The other big system changes include the implementation of a Today view in Notification Center with customizable widgets, and the massive overhaul of Spotlight.

I haven’t yet installed the developer beta onto a USB drive, so I don’t know what Yosemite is like in actual use. But my initial reaction is a good one. Not only am I excited about all the new features and functionality, but the new design looks mostly great to me. I am genuinely looking forward to using this new UI for all the work and play I do from my Mac.

Spotlight

App launchers such as Alfred and LaunchBar are just so great. Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve been using an application launcher for nearly as long as I’ve been using my Mac. I used Quicksilver for years and when it stopped working on Snow Leopard, I switched to LaunchBar.

I don’t think the new Spotlight is going to sherlock Alfred or LaunchBar. There is so much you can do with Alfred or LaunchBar that you can’t do with the new Spotlight, such as access to clipboard history, building custom workflows, assigning global hotkeys, and more. For many people, myself included, a more powerful application launcher will still be their preference.

But for many others, this new, more powerful version of Spotlight will be their first step into the awesome world of intelligent and awesome application launchers. And that’s great.

Also, the new Spotlight shows Apple’s step towards capturing more of the search market. Meaning, when you are looking for something, Apple wants you to start with Spotlight no matter what you’re looking for.

It used to be that Spotlight only searched the indexed contents of your computer’s hard drive. And if you wanted to search for a movie or app you’d open up iTunes. If you wanted to search for information, you’d open up Safari and go to Google. If you wanted to search for a location, you’d open up Maps. But now, all those sources (and more?) have a single starting point: Spotlight.

iCloud Storage

  1. For one, it’s cheaper. The free tier is still at 5GB, but you can get 20GB for $12 / year and 200GB for $48 / year. While I would have loved to see the free tier bumped up to something more substantial, the pricing for the paid tiers is incredibly competitive. I currently pay $40 / year for the 25GB tier. a few more bucks and I can get 8x the storage.

  2. Secondly, it looks like Apple’s answer to Dropbox. Which means the new iCloud Storage and Finder integration could be massive. But it’s too early to tell. iCloud, Mobile Me, and .Mac all have a reputation for not being the most reliable services. If, however, iCloud Finder storage could prove itself to be as useful and reliable as Dropbox, I’d go all-in with it in a heartbeat. Time will tell on this one.

iOS 8

On the iOS 8 website, Apple has outlined many of the hallmark features of the new OS. Here are a few thoughts and observations of my own, regarding some of the things that stand out to me the most and are the most exciting to me.

Messages App

At a keynote like Apple’s, there are three types of reactions to the individual product and feature demos:

  1. Feeling impartial and/or ambivalent to what’s being announced.
  2. Feeling impressed about how cool such-and-such product is.
  3. Feeling legitimately excited because you immediately can see yourself using the new product and it making your life better / easier / etc.

Watching Craig Federighi demo the new features of the iOS Messages, I was not only impressed about how cool it was, but I could instantly see myself using it in real life every day. I communicate with my close friends and family every day almost exclusively through the Messages app. The improvements to group threads, the audio message sharing, and more are all awesome additions that I can’t wait for all my iPhone using friends and family to have access to.

I love that Apple put so much work and improvements into an app that we all use more than any other on our phones. I keep the Messages app in my Dock, but the phone app is literally on another Home screen.

Additional thoughts / notes about Messages:

  • The voice chatting stuff could be a huge win for CarPlay and even just for “messaging” while driving. While using Siri in the car is a pretty good alternative to texting (which is flat out something you should never be doing, period), it’s still awkward and not always accurate. The way the voice messaging works (with auto play and respond available right from the Lock screen) could be significantly safer and easier to use.
  • I love that the videos and photos and audio self-destruct after time to save room on the phone.
  • Looks like the audio files are in the AMR codec.

QuickType + Actionable Notifications

From time to time I have used Android phones and tablets. There are many things about Android that I like, and by far and away the two things I most wish for on iOS are Android’s predictive text keyboard and a better Notification Center. Well, with iOS 8 we’re getting both of those.

  • QuickType: If you haven’t used predictive text typing, it looks like it’d be awkward and slow. But in my experience using it, it’s actually much faster and easier. I am very much looking forward to the new keyboard options and features.

    Moreover, I’m interested to see how the “artificial intelligence” will pan out in day-to-day use. There are some instances where QuickType doesn’t just suggest the word it thinks you’re trying to type, it will literally suggest a word or phrase before you’ve even tapped the first keystroke.

  • And the actionable notifications will be great for saving time. No longer will we have to act like animals, unlocking our phones and launching the messages app to reply to a single text message.

Family Sharing

In some respects, the new Family Sharing features are just a bundled up version of what’s alway been available. But it’s easier to set up and there are some new features.

The feature that I’m most excited about is the automatic shared photo stream album. This was something I loved about using Everpix (before it bit the dust) — I put my phone and my wife’s phone onto the same account and we automatically had shared access to all the photos we each were taking. It was great! Well, now that’s set up in iOS 8:

Family Sharing makes collecting and sharing family memories easier and more fun. It automatically sets up a family photo stream where you can share photos, videos, and comments. And everything stays up to date on everyone’s devices. So you’re all a tap away from the latest vacation shots, birthday highlights, and family pranks.

Extensions

This is huge. But that’s all I know to say about it.

I don’t currently have any long-winded thoughts and opinions about the nitty-gritty implications of precisely how Extensions will change the way we use iOS, and I think that’s the point. We don’t know what sort of awesomeness and convenience and functionality this new inter-app communication will make available. But I know it’s huge because I think Extensions are the foundation for the next 5 years of iOS growth and maturity. Apple themselves can only expand and mature the OS so much; and eventually it will require the contributions and ideas of 3rd-party developers to take it to the next level. Extensions finally opens the door for that.

It will no doubt take a year or two for extensions to become prevalent and mainstream. And then in another year or two years we’ll wonder how we ever lived without them.

Continuity

Continuity looks awesome. It’s a way for the user to start a task on one device and move to another device and pick up right where they left off.

In some ways, “Continuity” already exists. In that, many of our documents and media usage are already in sync between our devices. For example: iCloud Mail drafts are synced; iCloud syncs Safari tabs; Pages documents stored in iCloud are available on any device with Pages; Rdio lets you take over the currently-playing song from one device to another; Pocket Casts syncs play location for your podcast episodes; you can send a location or directions from Maps on the Mac to your iOS device; and more.

However, with Continuity, the point is to make it easier to pick up right where you left off in the very moment you are doing the work. Such as when you want to switch from reading a website on your Mac to your iPad right this moment. In that scenario, there is no more need to unlock your iPad, open Safari, wait a minute or two for iCloud to sync, navigate to your list of iCloud tabs that are open on your Mac, and then open the webpage on your iPad. However, with Continuity you just swipe up on the bottom-left icon and boom.

So in some respects, Continuity is not necessarily a new feature. Rather, it just removes a layer of work. Getting to your same iCloud tab is one swipe away instead of many swipes and taps.

But I think Continuity is more than just a better implementation of a cool feature. I see it as a “philosophical” feature as well — it’s a statement that we use our devices for many of the same tasks, and that “work” is device agnostic. Continuity is a way of telling the Apple user it’s okay to expect their devices to always be in sync down to the very mid-sentence of an email in progress.

In Closing

Everything from yesterday’s event comes together to give us a glimpse into the current Apple culture:

  • There was the overall confident and playful sentiment we saw from Tim Cook, Craig Federighi, and the other presenters.
  • There is the gorgeous, ground-up redesign of OS X.
  • There is the plethora of amazing new features in the apps we use every day.
  • And there is Swift, the new programming language that practically has Mac and iOS developers dancing in the streets.

A cynical onlooker would see these things and say it’s what Apple has to do lest it be doomed. They would say the fun and joyful announcements on stage were an act, and the new features are just a desperate attempt to cover the fact Apple hasn’t yet shipped any brand-new revolutionary hardware gadgets in 2014.

However, the optimistic onlooker would see the Keynote for what it actually is: a glimpse into the culture of Apple in 2014. And that culture is one of excitement, ambition, generosity, confidence, and momentum. We are seeing what the post Steve Jobs Apple is like, and my friends, it is awesome.

Tuesday, June 3

Craig Hockenberry on yesterday’s WWDC Keynote:

Apple has a newfound confidence in itself. It’s at the top of its game, and it knows it.

Some amazing apps and well-deserved awards. I’m especially glad to see Day One for Mac, Monument Valley, and Threes all on the list.

Monday, June 2

If you need to take screenshots, or capture entire webpages straight from Safari & Chrome, you should check out Ember for Mac. Ember is the app that lets you take, organize and share screenshots, entire webpages and more — and now syncs via Dropbox so you can access your screenshots anywhere with Ember iOS or on another Mac.

MacFormat magazine proclaimed that, “[Ember] has the look and feel of an app Apple might make. Surely there’s no higher accolade.” And we think you’ll love Ember too — which is why we’re offering you a special 10% discount.

Pick up your copy of Ember today, save 10%, and organize your screenshots, webpages and creative projects in style.

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My thanks to Ember for Mac for sponsoring the RSS feed this week.

Jim Dalrymple’s thoughts on the WWDC Keynote:

iOS has taken center stage at most WWDC’s since its introduction, but this is the first time I’ve really felt that both operating systems were on a level footing. It feels to me that OS X and iOS were developed in conjunction with one another, and not independently. This matters, of course, when you consider how people use the operating systems to share information between devices. [...]

Apple showed that it’s not just the data that is following the user through iCloud to a variety of devices, but it’s bigger than that—it’s a uniform experience that is following the user.

Ted Landau:

No other company besides Apple has such complete control over both the hardware and software ends of the market. This is what allows Apple’s devices to work so well together. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the product integration we saw on the WWDC stage today

(Via Dan Frakes.)

Andrew and Vero:

What you have to remember is that Spotlight’s primary objective is to search your files and a small handful of pre-determined web sources. Meanwhile, Alfred’s primary objective is to make you more productive on your Mac with exceptional and powerful features like Clipboard History, System commands, iTunes Mini Player, 1Password bookmarks, Terminal integration, fully bespoke and customisable user-created workflows and much, much more.

The new design looks great.

If you want to get a taste of how the new UI will look on your Mac, here’s a couple of high-res images from Apple’s site. Just open these in Preview and then go Full Screen: Safari with Messages; Finder; Spotlight.

And, I love the massive update they’ve given to Spotlight. I’ve been using an application launcher for years (Quicksilver for years and now LaunchBar), and I think they are just so great. There is much you can do with Alfred or LaunchBar that you can’t do with the new Spotlight (clipboard history just to name one thing). And so I think that for many people (myself included), a more powerful application launcher will still be their preference. But for many people, this new, more powerful version of Spotlight will be their first step into the awesome world of intelligent and awesome application launchers. And that’s great.

John Gruber’s classic overview of what he thinks we will and won’t see later today. I too am excited to see the potentially massive overhaul to OS X. And, of course, I’d love to see some significant improvements to iCloud and Photo Stream storage.

Starts in just a couple hours, and Apple will be streaming it live for everyone to watch.

Saturday, May 31

Matt Gemmell added some excellent thoughts of his own in response to my article a few weeks ago, “Fighting to stay Creative“:

I write every day: seven days a week. I’m working on a novel, and I also write for this blog and various magazines. It’s my full-time job now, and I don’t have another one. Staying creative is thus absolutely critical for me.

I’ve learned a lot about the obstacles to continued creative output, and I’ve found a few techniques that can help. Many of these are just common sense, but it’s useful to have them all in one place.

Friday, May 30

Jason Snell:

I have no idea if Apple and Beats will end up being a good match—I’m interested to see if Apple truly embraces music subscriptions, or keeps Beats Music at arm’s length from iTunes. What I’m excited by is the fact that the Beats acquisition is not a move that Apple would have made a few years ago.

Thursday, May 29

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly — published a day early this week, for both your and my traveling convenience — I talk about what every other Mac nerd is talking about this week: The upcoming WWDC keynote.

Sponsored by:

I think Casey Liss speaks for most of us:

The one tip I recommend most to attendees is to say “hi” and make friends.

The thing is, those going to WWDC who don’t want to be spoken to have figured out their way of avoiding the lines and the places where people are. The rest of us are there in order to meet up and hang out.

Federico Viticci:

Reeder 2 for Mac is not terribly surprising in any way – it’s a sequel, but its “more of the same” approach might just be what Mac users who fell in love with the original Reeder were looking for.

The app is fast. Even with thousands of RSS items, scrolling is smooth and responsive; when you navigate across articles, text flies by and images load quickly; clicking through sections in the sidebar or the Unread/Starred/All filters of the top toolbar reveals animations that are not too fast and not too slow, but just right. Reeder 2 feels good in motion, which can’t be said about many Mac apps these days.

Hooray! I’m telling you, this is the best RSS reader for the Mac.

Over at MacStories, Graham Spencer pulled together some of the highlight quotes from last night’s Code Conference session. And gotta love those photos.

Brian X. Chen, for The New York Times:

For Apple, the acquisition of Beats, expected for weeks, largely follows a familiar pattern. Apple has historically bought technology outfits that have resources and talent that it can blend into future devices and online services. Beats fits that criterion.

But the Beats deal is also different. Until now, Apple, the richest tech company in the world, has avoided billion-dollar takeovers in favor of smaller deals. The Beats deal is its largest ever.

What I think is even more different than the amount of this deal with Beats compared to others is the that Beats is a huge brand. They have celebrity endorsers, their headphones are insanely popular, and they have two very high-profile co-founders. Money aside, this is a rare acquisition indeed.

In terms of significance, the 1996 deal with NeXT was Apple’s largest ever. In terms of money, this Beats deal is the largest ever.

I think the Beats deal will prove to be Apple’s 2nd most significant acquisition. I’m curious to find out how “Jimmy and Dre” will help shape the internal culture of Apple, and how the Beats brand will impact the Apple brand (and vice versa). Will Apple eventually start putting their logo on Beats headphones or leave them as they are? How long will Jimmy and/or Dre stick around at Apple?

Tuesday, May 27

Matthew Panzarino:

Consistently, when I speak to users about their iOS device woes, it comes down to running out of space for photos and video. And photos differ significantly from other data in that there is an intense emotional and mnemonic attachment to them. These are fragments of life, not just packets of data.

That’s why I think that this year would be a really fine time for Apple to start ignoring the ROI of iCloud storage.

Couldn’t agree more. iCloud’s free tier of storage and photo stream backup restrictions are the same today as when when Steve Jobs himself first introduced them at WWDC 2011.

When iCloud was announced in June 2011, the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 were the most-recent iOS devices. Since that announcement, there have been significant advancements to the Apple hardware scene related to mobile photography, and yet the iCloud services that backup and support our photography are now 3 years old.

Monday, May 26

Lost Photos is the first app that securely scans your email account for every photo you’ve ever sent or received! All photos are downloaded to your computer, making it ultra easy to view them, archive them to permanent storage, or even share them again.

In our busy digital lives, photos can represent our most precious moments, and yet are often forgotten as they flow by in an endless digital stream.

Lost Photos works with all popular email domains, such as iCloud, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, and many more. Once you’ve recovered your images, import them into iPhoto or your favorite photo manager for even more sorting, editing, and printing options.

Install Lost Photos for FREE to access the first 100 photos from your email accounts, then upgrade for a couple of bucks to get unlimited number of photos.

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My thanks to MacPhun for sponsoring the RSS feed this week.

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