Categories
Apple

New Developer Resources

Just in time for Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference Apple has released a couple of updates for developers. These are the Developer app and the developer forums.

Developer App

The Apple Developer app has been updated to support the Mac. This uses MacCatalyst to be able to provide the functionality on the Mac. If you open the app you are presented with a three-column layout. The sidebar on the left, a list of items in the middle, and the detail information on the right.

The sidebar allows you to select from different groupings, including Library, Browse, Platforms, and Events. These will provide you with various items under each heading. As an example, if you click on an item under the “Platforms” heading, you will get a list of videos related to that platform. If you select one of the videos, you will get the details on the right side. This is very similar to what you would get on the Apple Developer website. This applies to each of the sections under the headings.

Issues

While the app contains a lot, and is a very welcome addition to the Mac, the app is not without issues. The first of these is that there is no way to adjust the font size. This mans that if you have a large screen, or are using a large screen resolution, it may be hard to read the text. Considering how much Apple puts into accessibility, this is definitely not accessible.

The second issue is one that I find strange. If you expand the right most pane out, the content is always centered. It does not flow like it should. instead the content stays centered.

Both of these issues should be fixed, particularly the in-ability to adjust the font-size. The font size issue may be a limitation of Catalyst on macOS Catalina and maybe the functionality will work with the next version of macOS. Next, let us look at a refresh to a resource that developers may overlook, the developer forums.

Developer Forums

Today Apple unveiled a refreshed Apple developer forums. The Apple developer forums are designed to allow developers to connect with each other, as well as Apple developers, to help discover and work out issues with Apple’s platforms. The old developer forums did look as though they were from the mid-2000s, which they were.

Here are a couple of screenshots from the old developer forums.

New Forums

Given the age of the Apple developer forums a refresh has been needed. Today Apple released the new developer forums. The new forums bring a new overall look. When you open up the developer forums you are presented with two column view. The columns are Top Posts on the left, and Top Tags and Top Users on the right. Similar to the image below.

Asking and Replying to Questions

Besides searching, one of the most common tasks for the developer forums is to ask a question. When you do this, you will see a page with two areas, the question and a Live Preview. The question box uses Markdown to be able to format the questions. You are able to use quite a bit of formatting. Here is a full example below.

Once you are done writing your question, you can add tags. This is done with a search to allow you to add a tag to your post. When you begin typing, a list of matching tags. If you do not have any text in the tags, a list of all of the available tags will be shown. Below is what the tags look like

If you do not have any questions but want to help others, you can reply to a question. When you do this, you can use the same Markdown formats for replying to a question.

Viewing a Question

One thing you may do when you are using the developer forums is to view a question. When you view a question you will see the question text, a thumbs up/down button on the left, the tags, how old the question is, and when it was asked.

Below the asked question, you will see any replies. The replies should be in oldest to newest. If there are more than 15 replies, the additional replies will be on subsequent pages.

Next to the name of the person who asked the question, you will see a “Share Button”. The share button will display a standard Share Sheet, for the platform.

Overall, the new look works well and is an improvement over the previous developer forums. Despite all of the good, there are some issues with the new developer forums.

Problems with the new Developer Forums

The new developer forums leave a bit to be desired. In terms of layout, typography, and overall aesthetic for the developer forums, they are absolutely fantastic. Viewing an actual issue now offers a larger view and a larger amount of white space. The buttons are big, and in some respects too big. The overview is nice, as are the top tags. However, everything now comes down to search, or clicking on an existing tag within a question.

The number of results is still limited to 600 with no way to add more filters or even sort. Furthermore, the search results are usually not relevant. For instance, I did a search for “beta iOS”, thinking it would show some recent beta posts, but here are the first five results with when they were asked:

  • Beta iOS 9 – Asked 4 years ago
  • How do I install the beta iOS 9? – Asked 5 years ago
  • How How install/download beta iOS 13/watchOS 6 profile? – Asked 11 months ago
  • Proactive search not displaying on Public Beta iOS 9 – Asked 4 years ago
  • beta iOS 10.3 battery drain – Asked 3 years ago.

Other than the third result, the rest are not very useful. Maybe it was the search, so let us look at another example. This time I just searched “iOS”. Here are the results:

  • iOS 10beta to final ios 10 – Asked 3 years ago
  • iOS 11 recovery to iOS 10 – Asked 2 years ago
  • iOS 11 GM to iOS 11 – Asked 2 years ago
  • iOS 10 restore to iOS 10 – Asked 3 years ago
  • iOS 10.0.2 (iOS 10.1) Betas – Asked 3 years ago

Again, these results are not very helpful. I figured I would try something a bit newer, like ARKit. Here are those results:

  • ARKit – Asked 3 years ago
  • SwiftUI and ARKit – Asked 11 months ago
  • ARKit on iPad? – Asked 3 years ago
  • Geolocation and ARKit – Asked 3 years ago
  • ARKit question – Asked 2 years ago

Even the results for ARKit are not super relevant, excluding the second result. Therefore, I am not sure if they will be useful.

Ways to Improve

I do not want to just highlight the about the new developer forums. Instead I have some ideas for improvement.

List All Tags

Provide a page that shows all of the tags, and the number of posts with that tag. I can understand not showing all tags and even limiting it to the top 50 or 100 tags with the option of displaying all tags would help developers find what they are looking for.

Filters

Add the ability to filter results. This could be with an additional keyword search that would match the current results. This even could be with some Boolean logic, for instance the phrase “swiftui and Xcode NOT beta” would show items that have both SwiftUI and Xcode, but not beta. After all these are developers and they are able to use logic.

An additional filter that Apple could add would be for time frame. Even if these are a static list, it could go a long way to being more useful.

Closing Thoughts

I will be the first to admit that I often forget about the forums except right after WWDC when I go and look to see if others are having similar issues. Even though the developer forums have been updated, I am not sure how useful they will be given their current state. I do want to reiterate that the new look is much better and much cleaner and is definitely welcome. It is the overall functionality that needs some improvement.

I am guessing that Apple wanted to get something out in time for WWDC, and they did just that. As is the case with many of the products that get re-written, it appears as though the developer forums have been done with a minimum viable product. With a minimum viable product, not every feature with the previous version is re-implemented at first, just due to time and cost. Hopefully, many of the missing features will come to the developer forums in the coming months.

Categories
Apple iOS iPadOS macOS tvOS watchOS

Hopes for Improvements for Apple’s Platforms

There are some things that I would like to see changed with Apple’s platforms. These are mostly “paper cuts”, in that none of them show-stoppers in themselves but combined they make it a lot tougher to deal with the platforms. These are not my predictions for WWDC, those will be in a separate post.

Apple TV

  • A way to save specific screensavers while still downloading new ones.
  • Have the ability to have Siri limit to the media I already own.
  • Have Siri have the ability to add more categories. For example “Show me movies that are action comedies.”

macOS

  • Specifically for Catalyst, more refined controls for macOS Catalyst apps that match macOS even better.
  • Fix Bluetooth, for keyboard, mice, and trackpads. I have issues with bluetooth disconnecting randomly and in the middle of using it.
  • Within the Mail app, keep order of accounts. The order will randomly reset when showing the app window even if the mail app was not closed, but the window was.

iCloud

  • More default iCloud storage. 5GB really is paltry and just embarrassing at this point. I do not expect 100GB, but even 10GB or 25GB free would be better than the 5GB we get now.

iOS

  • Improvements to Mail, like actually indicating messages have been read.
  • Quick method to enable or disable “Block Unknown callers” from Control Center.
  • Set default for Noise Cancelling headphones other than “Active Noise Cancelling”.
  • I love that iOS 13.4 added keyboard and trackpad support for iOS, but system-wide support for navigating alerts with the keyboard would be very helpful.
  • Fix Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a mess on iOS, particularly for audio. For instance, my Beats Solo Pros will have distortion when using any other app, but not all the time. It is consistent enough to notice that it is a problem. For instance, if I am typing in messages while listening to something, the audio will stutter and its not the key taps making noise. The same goes for many other apps.
  • Within the Files app, provide option to always show file extensions. I say an option because some will not want it, but power users, like myself, can really need it.

iPadOS

  • True multiple user support, not limited to schools or businesses.
  • Have a calculator, specifically license PCalc, for use on the iPad.

Screen Time

  • Have actually accurate synchronization and reports. Here is a great example. April 12th, I got the following reports: iPhone: 15 hours, 59 minutes, iPadOS stated, up 51% for an average of 16 hours and 15 minutes per day, and macOS stated “You averaged 13 hours, 33 minutes of screen time per day last week.” So obviously something is amiss between the synchronization of the devices and the reported screen time. Synchronization should be forced before sending the notification.

watchOS

  • Qi Charging on the Apple Watch. Right now the Apple Watch uses proprietary charging, but having standard charging would be nice.

Wallet

  • We need a website with the ability to see all transactions, make payments, etc.
  • Additional user on the same card including adding children, and even possibly giving them a budget.

Notes

  • Add the ability to not have urls automatically be created for links, preferably on a note-by-note basis.

Numbers

  • Copy a table as HTML, even without any formatting, with the header rows as thead rows.

Pages

  • Have it remember your place when you switch between Pages and another app, when using it on iOS.
  • Provide ability to edit styles when a file is in a shared folder on iCloud. Currently, you cannot edit any styles if the file is in a folder that is shared on iCloud. You can select them, but not edit

iTunes Connect

  • Create an API, similar to the App Store Connect API, for users to be able to manage their iTunes Connect items in a similar manner as App Store Connect. This would be a tremendous improvement.

These are just some of the things that I have managed to come across that would be helpful for improving the functioning of Apple’s platforms. Some of these are easier to accomplish than others, and some are just bugs that should have already been fixed, but for some reason are still present within Apple’s software.

Categories
Apple Mac

A Couple of Mac Updates

The week before a World Wide Developer Conference can sometimes have new items become known. The release for these is because the items will not be discussed at the WWDC keynote. This year there are two hardware updates and a service update.

16-inch MacBook Pro Graphics

The first update is for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. There is a new graphics option available. You can now configure a 16-inch MacBook Pro with an AMD Radeon 5600M with 8GB of HBM2 memory. The other options available are all GDDR6 memory. The difference with the HBM2 memory is that it has more bandwidth available and ideally suited for Artificial Intelligence and advanced computing, like Machine Learning. Typically, HBM2 is more expensive than GDDR6 and this new option will cost you $800 to add to a 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Mac Pro SSD Kit

If you are using the high-end of the high-end, the Mac Pro, there is a new kit for you, the SSD Kit. The SSD Kit for the Mac Pro will allow you to swap out the internal storage on your Mac Pro. The SSD Kit comes in 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB kits. Once you have purchased your SSD Kit you can see how to install the new SSD with Apple’s support article.

Apple Card Payments

When you want to go and purchase that new 16-inch MacBook Pro, you may want to be able to use your Apple Card and finance it. Previously you could finance an iPhone over 24 months, but now you can finance other products as well. You can finance a HomePod, AirPods, and the Apple TV for six months, or an iPad or Mac for 12 months. When you do this, you get the Apple Pay Cash right up front.

Closing Thoughts

The inclusion of the new hardware options will be great for pro users who can benefit from the options and can significantly enhance their productivity. For those who may not be able to utilize the hardware, you can use the monthly payments option on your purchase of a Mac, iPad, HomePod, or AirPods, in addition to an iPhone.

Source: TechCrunch

Categories
Apple WWDC

Apple Unveils Details for WWDC 2020

Today Apple unveiled the some details about their annual World Wide Developer Conference, or WWDC. Previously, Apple announced that the conference would be all digital. At the time, the did not provide many details except that there would be a Keynote and a State of the Union. Today we received some more details. Let us look at a few different areas, including Keynote, Videos, Labs, and Developer Forums.

Keynote

As expected there will be a keynote streaming at 10:00 am Pacific Time on Monday, June 22nd. This will be streaming from Apple Park, instead of the San Jose convention center. You will be able to stream it via the Apple Developer app, the Apple Developer website, the Apple TV app, and YouTube. If you are within China, you will be able to stream it via China, the keynote will also stream on Tencent, iQIYI, Bilibili, and Youku.

Platforms State of the Union

While the main WWDC Keynote is done at a developer-focused conference, it is also designed to be a main-stream announcement. The main keynote does not go in-depth. That is reserved for the Platforms State of the Union. If you have not watched or attended the Platforms State of the Union keynote, you can think of it as the developer-focused keynote. This will be available on-demand at 2pm pacific time on June 22nd. This keynote will be streamed via the Apple Developer app and the Apple Developer website. For those within China, you can get the video from encent, iQIYI, Bilibili, and YouKu.

Session Videos

Because WWDC 2020 is virtual conference, you may be wondering how the sessions will be handled. When WWDC is held in-person, these are presented throughout each day of the conference. These sessions are recorded and typically available the next day. Because of the virtual nature of this year’s WWDC, all of the day’s videos will be available starting at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. There will be over 100 session videos, and these will be available using the Apple Developer app on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, as well as on the Apple Developer website.

Developer Labs

One of the big reasons to attend WWDC is to be able to talk one-on-one with Apple’s developers in one of the labs. This is important for some because they are able to talk directly to the engineers who build the frameworks and they can help you figure out a knotty problem and you can help them find bugs in the frameworks. These will be available by appointment only and will be open to Apple Developer Program members as space is available.

Developer Forums

One of the resources that developers have, but may not utilize as much are the developer forums. These forums are vital during a beta period because developers can work with other developers to try and figure out problems, or get clarifications, with Apple’s software. From the announcement:

The all-new Apple Developer Forums will connect the developer community with more than 1,000 Apple engineers to answer questions and engage in technical discussions. Starting the first day of WWDC, anyone can search and view the forum discussions to follow along, and Apple Developer Program members will be able to post their own questions and learn directly from Apple experts.

The new developers forms will be coming on June 18th.

Closing Thoughts

For a vast majority of developers the only difference between this year’s WWDC and previous years is that the videos will be dropping all at once. I do feel bad for those who were really looking forward to attending WWDC in person, as it is a time for people to get together, and create relationships with other Apple developers.

It has been said quite often as of late, but we live in interesting times and I think Apple is doing the best it can with the present situation. You can keep up with announcements via the Apple Developer App and the Apple Developer Website. I will try to do a predictions/hopes post before the Keynote. I will also have a recap about what Apple announces at WWDC 2020.

Source: Apple

Categories
Apple

Apple Deprecates iBooks Author

Apple has been a presence in Education for a majority of its existence. Over the years they have provided educational discounts for Macs, iPads, and other Apple hardware. They give discounts on software, and even allow third-parties to office bulk discounts in the iOS and Mac App Store. One of the things that they wanted to do was be able to provide a simple tool for creating rich interactive books. These could be any type of books, but textbooks were the primary market. And who uses textbooks the most, education.

The tool that Apple introduced was called iBooks Author. iBooks Author is a tool that allowed you to create these rich books, but they were in a proprietary format that was exclusive to Apple’s platforms. iBooks Author allows you to include video, images, table of contents, and more.

iBooks Author is now officially deprecated. Per an email to iBooks Author users:

Thank you for being a member of the iBooks Author community. We have some news to share with you about the future of book creation.

Two years ago we brought book creation into Pages. With key features such as the ability to work on iPad, collaborate with others on a shared book, draw with Apple Pencil, and more, Pages is a great platform for making books.

As we focus our efforts on Pages, iBooks Author will no longer be updated and will soon be removed from the Mac App Store. You can continue to use iBooks Author on macOS 10.15 and earlier, and books previously published to Apple Books will remain available. If you have iBooks Author books you’d like to import into Pages for further editing, we have a book import feature coming to Pages soon.

Important Phrases

There are two important phrases that I want to highlight. First “You can continue to use iBooks Author on macOS 10.15 and earlier”. This phrase indicates, at least to me, that iBooks Author will not work on macOS 10.16. It is possible that it will work, but may stop working and if that happens, there will be no support.

The second phrase to highlight is “If you have iBooks Author books you’d like to import into Pages for further editing, we have a book import feature coming to Pages soon”. This is a good move. Once available, it will help users be able to keep updating their existing iBooks Author books, albeit in a new editor. As far as we know now, when you import an iBooks Author book into Pages, it will become a Pages document and you will not be able to publish them as iBooks Author books.

Closing Thoughts

This is not a real surprise. Apple’s iBooks format did not take off as a way of publishing. While the tool was easy enough to use, it was proprietary to Apple’s platforms and no other vendors were going to try and read the books. Furthermore, there was never an iBooks Author app on iOS, so you could not create books on the device you were going to read them on. You could preview them on device, but not create or edit them. Additionally, there was no way that Apple would move iBooks Author to iCloud for collaboration and sharing. That would be too much work for not much result.

I did not mind using the app to create books, however, even I stopped using it to publish my books in 2017. Instead, like so many others, I moved to the ePub format for my books. This is a standard and if the file is DRM free, it can be used on other devices and services. It is much easier, particularly for independent authors, to be able to create a book once and use that file to upload to various stores.

Apple has created a page that will help you transition from iBooks Author to Pages for creating books. There are some limitations that I have found with Pages, but they are minor.

Overall, I think it makes senses to focus on a single application that can work across all of Apple’s platforms, and that app is Pages. One things that is not clear though, is how long the Apple iBooks will be supported by the Books app on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.