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Mac

Apple’s Mac Catalyst is becoming very, very serious

Apple appears to be setting the table for some interesting moves with the introduction of Swift Playgrounds for Mac and recent news that it’s now possible to offer both Mac and iOS apps as the same app.

What could this mean? Soe thoughts….

The news in a nutshell

These are the two key items in a little more depth:

1. Swift Playgrounds is now available for Mac

Swift Playgrounds is designed to help people learn now to code through lessons that teach coding concepts and introduce people to how to write applications using Swift. This has only been available on iPad, but is now also for Mac.

What’s particularly interesting is that you can begin projects on a Mac and end them on an iPad, or start on an iPad and finish on a Mac, thanks to iCloud integration.

What’s also interesting is that Swift Playgrounds for Mac was built using Mac Catalyst. That means you get many of the iPad features, but with useful Mac version enhancements including Touch Bar shortcuts.

You can download Swift Playgrounds for Mac here.

2. Universal Mac/iOS purchases

Here’s another piece of exciting news:

“Starting in March 2020, you’ll be able to distribute iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS versions of your app as a universal purchase, allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across platforms by purchasing only once,” Apple explains.

This will make it possible for developers to offer apps across all the platforms for one fee. This will also enable software to be sold across all Apple’s platforms (including the Apple TV) on a subscription basis.

People who make powerful video and imaging apps for iPads may see immediate benefit, as Catalyst could let them quickly create Mac versions of their iPad apps.

It’s an important step that should also benefit customers who may resent paying twice for the same software – and should encourage more developers to think about moving their apps to the Mac. It’s set to become a reality starting in March.

What else happens in March?

Bridging the gap

Apple’s moves to close the gap between its iOS and macOS platforms have been predicted for years, and this new sequence of events means it may even be able to combine its App Stores in one place, as predicted early in 2019.

The effort isn’t trivial.

The company has put lots of weight behind it, and while it says its intention isn’t to replace Macs with iOS devices, it also says it does look to leverage logical synergies where it can.

Todd Benjamin, Apple’s macOS product marketing director in 2019, explained:

“Our vision for Mac Catalyst was always to make it easier for any iPad app developer, big or small, to bring their app to the Mac…. Not only is this great for developers, but it’s also great for Mac users, who benefit with access to a whole new selection of great app experiences from iPad’s vibrant ecosystem.”

There’s a significant benefit to enterprise developers, of course, in that it’s now more likely they will build software first for iPad and port this to iPhone and Mac. 

project catalyst mac iphone Apple

Apple’s Project Catalyst will make it easier for developers

What about ARM Macs?

We continue to hear speculation Apple may migrate Macs to ARM processors, particularly as the company begins manufacturing 5nm A14 processors this year. Macworld has even speculated that the next iPhone chip will deliver as much processing power as you get in a 15-in. MacBook Pro.

Way back in 2012, we learned: “Apple engineers have grown confident that the chip designs used for its mobile devices will one day be powerful enough to run its desktops and laptops.”

Is this likely?

Apple has already said it has no plans to replace Macs with iPads and consistently says it sees both platforms as different things.

That doesn’t necessarily sound like never, as with iPads now offering (limited) support for external mice, keyboard and external storage and with Catalyst enabling easier export of iPad apps to Macs, at least some of the differences between the platforms are less stark.  

There is the matter of who would gains the most.

There are some immediate benefits:

  • Apple makes its own A-series processors in vast quantities. Migrating Macs to them may help reduce the cost of hardware by lowering chip costs – though it is unlikely to be able to migrate all Macs, particularly at the high-end.
  • For an idea of the consequences of migrating from Intel chips to iOS processors, look at what happened when Apple dumped the Intel chip from Apple TV and began using A-series chips instead: The price of the streaming TV box fell from $300 to $99.
  • Apple’s silicon teams are storming ahead of the whole industry in terms of processor power – the current A13 chips deliver vastly better performance than the A10 chips inside an iPhone 7.
  • These processors could be even faster when optimized for large-form-factor Macs, with bigger batteries and better airflow systems.
  • Apple likes to own the primary technology. What could be more important to control than the chips that power its machines?
  • Of course, it’s important to consider the consequences of alienating a key supplier, confusing users with new limitations in terms of app support and possibly alienating developers who may suddenly find it necessary to introduce new versions of their apps. (Catalyst makes that last one a little easier.)
  • However, is this something Mac or iPad users really need? What is the benefit to them? While it might be good to find some kind of hybrid device that works as a touch-based system when required and a traditional Mac UI the rest of the time, the benefits don’t seem especially obvious.

One thing that is true is that even if Apple has no such plans, the work it has done on Catalyst and A-series processors mean it’s more possible than before.

Otheriwse, what would be its motivation?

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Apple’s Mac Catalyst seems to be becoming very, very serious

Apple appears to be setting the table for some interesting moves with the introduction of Swift Playgrounds for Mac and recent news that it’s now possible to offer both Mac and iOS apps as the same app. What could this mean?

News in a nutshell

These are the two key news items in a little more depth:

1. Swift Playgrounds is now available for Mac

Swift Playgrounds is designed to help people learn now to code through lessons that teach coding concepts and introduce people to how to write applications using Swift. Until now, this has only been available on iPad, but is now also for Mac.

What’s particularly interesting is that you can begin projects on a Mac and end them on an iPad, or start on an iPad and finish on a Mac, thanks to iCloud integration.

What’s also interesting is that Swift Playgrounds for Mac was built using Mac Catalyst. That means you get many of the iPad features, but with useful Mac version enhancements including Touch Bar shortcuts. You can download Swift Playgrounds for Mac here.

2. Universal Mac/iOS purchases

Another piece of exciting recent news:

“Starting in March 2020, you’ll be able to distribute iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS versions of your app as a universal purchase, allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across platforms by purchasing only once,” Apple explains.

This will make it possible for developers to offer apps across all the platforms for one fee. This will also enable software to be sold across all Apple’s platforms (including the Apple TV) on a subscription basis.

People who make powerful video and imaging apps for iPads may see immediate benefit, as Catalyst may enable them to quickly create Mac versions of their iPad apps.

It’s an important step which should also benefit customers who may resent paying twice for the same software – and should encourage more developers to think about moving their apps to the Mac. And is set to become a reality starting in March.

What else happens in March?

Bridging the gap

Apple’s moves to bridge the gap between its iOS and macOS platforms have been predicted for years, and this new sequence of events means it may even be able to combine its App Stores in one place, eventually, as predicted early 2019.

The effort isn’t trivial.

The company has put lots of weight behind it, and while it says its intention isn’t to replace Macs with iOS devices, it also says it does look to leverage logical synergies where it can.

Todd Benjamin, Apple’s macOS product marketing director in 2019 said:

“Our vision for Mac Catalyst was always to make it easier for any iPad app developer, big or small, to bring their app to the Mac… Not only is this great for developers, but it’s also great for Mac users, who benefit with access to a whole new selection of great app experiences from iPad’s vibrant ecosystem.”

There’s a significant benefit to enterprise developers, of course, in that it’s now more likely they will build software first for iPad and port this to iPhone and Mac. 

project catalyst mac iphone Apple

Apple’s Project Catalyst will make it easier for developers

What about ARM Macs?

We continue to hear speculation Apple may migrate Macs to ARM processors, particularly as the company begins manufacturing 5nm A14 processors this year. Macworld has even speculated that the next iPhone chip will deliver as much processing power as you get in a 15-inch MacBook.

Way back in 2012, we learned: “Apple engineers have grown confident that the chip designs used for its mobile devices will one day be powerful enough to run its desktops and laptops.”

Is this likely?

Apple has already said it has no plans to replace Macs with iPads and consistently says it sees both platforms as different things.

That doesn’t necessarily sound like never, as with iPads now offering (limited) support for external mice, keyboard and external storage and with Catalyst enabling easier export of iPad apps to Macs, at least some of the differences between the platforms are less stark.  

There is the matter of who would benefit.

There are some immediate benefits:

  • Apple makes its own A-series processors in vast quantities. Migrating Macs to using them may help reduce the cost of its machines by lowering chip costs – though it is unlikely to be able to migrate all its Macs, particularly at the high-end.
  • For some idea of the cost consequences of migrating from Intel chips to iOS processors, take a look at what happened when Apple dumped the Intel chip from Apple TV and began using A-series chips instead: The price of the streaming TV box fell from $300 to $99.
  • Apple’s silicon teams are storming ahead of the whole industry in terms of processor power – the current A13 chips are deliver vastly better performance than the A10 chips inside iPhone 7.
  • How much faster could these processors be if optimized for large form factor Macs, with bigger batteries and better airflow systems?
  • It is worth noting the extent Apple likes to own the primary technology. What could be more important to control than the chips that power its machines?
  • But it is also important to consider the consequences of alienating a key supplier, confusing users with new limitations in terms of app support and possibly alienating developers who may suddenly find it necessary to introduce new versions of their apps. Which Catalyst makes a little easier.
  • However, is this something Apple’s Mac or iPad users really need? What is the benefit to them? While it might be good to find some kind of hybrid device that worked as a touch-based system when required, and a traditional Mac UI the rest of the time, the benefits don’t seem especially obvious.

One thing that is true is that even if Apple has no such plans, the work it has done on Catalyst and A-series processors mean it’s more possible than before.

But what would be its motivation?

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Apple’s ‘Pro Mode’ is made for Mac professionals

Apple’s focus on the needs of professional computer users for its Macs and iPads ‘for the rest of us’ continues on news the company is developing a new ‘Pro Mode’ that pushes more performance for some apps.

The PC market will become a high-end market

Apple is focused on pro users because it recognizes that this section of the PC market will be the bulwark against wholesale replacement of computers with mobile devices.

Year by year, mobile systems are becoming increasingly viable alternatives for a growing quantity of the tasks PCs and Macs have traditionally handled.

An iPhone or iPad is all the computer required by many users, as the billion or so iOS devices currently in use prove.

This leaves a shrinking space for low-cost budget PCs and suggests the most robust part of the market is to be found in high-end systems.

That appears to be what Apple is betting on as it prioritizes Mac revenue growth – and this is also why the number of Mac units sold is less relevant than before, given so many PCs are replaced by mobile devices, or even low cost, low profit PCs.

It’s about how many Macs are sold into the more robust and less subject to mobile device replacement professional markets.

Apple’s pro Mac offerings are designed for those markets that are most resistant to replacement by mobile devices: music and movie/video production; games and interactive experience development; professional photography; architecture and design; scientific research and so on.

Such users will benefit from Apple’s purported Pro Mode, as they will be able to accelerate application performance for the tasks that most matter to them.

What is Pro Mode?

Pro Mode sounds a little like an on-demand overclocking technology.

As reported by 9to5Mac, a reference to it is included in the latest macOS Catalina 10.15.3 beta and it is described as something that can be turned on or off on demand by users.

The beta tells us that when in ProMode:

“Apps may run faster, but battery life may decrease and fan noise may increase.”

The beta seems to suggest that fan speed (and Pro Mode) will remain active overnight if not manually switched off.

The latter makes sense in some instances, such as when leaving your Mac to handle challenging rendering tasks overnight.

The report suggests the mode is aimed particularly at MacBook Pro users, citing improvements in the thermal design in the latest devices.

Effectively, the description seems to show systems that can optimize system performance in order to rouse more power and performance from specific apps, but does so on an ad hoc basis, enabling users to pick when to fully exploit the potential. (ie. When the system is connected to power).

Apple’s pro app teams

There has long been demand among Mac users for ways to safely optimize the power and performance of Macs beyond the box spec. At one time, the Mac market included companies (such as the still active Sonnet)whose sole focus was to make components that could boost Mac performance – effectively upgrading existing Macs.

Many Mac users may also have made use of software overclock tools designed to push system performance beyond official specifications.

The problem with such tools being that in some cases this made systems unstable or may even have caused damage, as the heat generated by overclocked systems exceeded the ability of the Mac’s thermal systems to maintain safe temperatures.

(A long time ago, I witnessed people point desk fans at overclocked Macs in an attempt to prevent them automatically shutting down when they get too hot).

Apple has teams of Mac users it works with in order to understand what its professional users need, and this on the ground knowledge now informs decisions it takes when designing new Macs.

This is particularly evident in the new (modular) Mac Pro.

With this in mind it seems quite possible that Apple is developing Pro Mode in answer to requests from those high-end users it works with, who sought some way in which to safely maximize Mac performance for specific high-end tasks.

It will be interesting to see how Apple positions this new software feature (if it ever ships), particularly in light of the new MacBook Pro models it is expected to introduce this year.

It will also be interesting to see if the company includes this capacity within the Mac mini, which is seeing use in pro markets for some demanding tasks.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Apple’s ‘Pro Mode’ is made for Mac professionals

Apple’s focus on the needs of professional computer users for its Macs and iPads ‘for the rest of us’ continues on news the company is developing a new ‘Pro Mode’ that pushes more performance for some apps.

The PC market will become a high-end market

Apple is focused on pro users because it recognizes that this section of the PC market will be the bulwark against wholesale replacement of computers with mobile devices.

Year by year, mobile systems are becoming increasingly viable alternatives for a growing quantity of the tasks PCs and Macs have traditionally handled.

An iPhone or iPad is all the computer required by many users, as the billion or so iOS devices currently in use prove.

This leaves a shrinking space for low-cost budget PCs and suggests the most robust part of the market is to be found in high-end systems.

That appears to be what Apple is betting on as it prioritizes Mac revenue growth – and this is also why the number of Mac units sold is less relevant than before, given so many PCs are replaced by mobile devices, or even low cost, low profit PCs.

It’s about how many Macs are sold into the more robust and less subject to mobile device replacement professional markets.

Apple’s pro Mac offerings are designed for those markets that are most resistant to replacement by mobile devices: music and movie/video production; games and interactive experience development; professional photography; architecture and design; scientific research and so on.

Such users will benefit from Apple’s purported Pro Mode, as they will be able to accelerate application performance for the tasks that most matter to them.

What is Pro Mode?

Pro Mode sounds a little like an on-demand overclocking technology.

As reported by 9to5Mac, a reference to it is included in the latest macOS Catalina 10.15.3 beta and it is described as something that can be turned on or off on demand by users.

The beta tells us that when in ProMode:

“Apps may run faster, but battery life may decrease and fan noise may increase.”

The beta seems to suggest that fan speed (and Pro Mode) will remain active overnight if not manually switched off.

The latter makes sense in some instances, such as when leaving your Mac to handle challenging rendering tasks overnight.

The report suggests the mode is aimed particularly at MacBook Pro users, citing improvements in the thermal design in the latest devices.

Effectively, the description seems to show systems that can optimize system performance in order to rouse more power and performance from specific apps, but does so on an ad hoc basis, enabling users to pick when to fully exploit the potential. (ie. When the system is connected to power).

Apple’s pro app teams

There has long been demand among Mac users for ways to safely optimize the power and performance of Macs beyond the box spec. At one time, the Mac market included companies (such as the still active Sonnet)whose sole focus was to make components that could boost Mac performance – effectively upgrading existing Macs.

Many Mac users may also have made use of software overclock tools designed to push system performance beyond official specifications.

The problem with such tools being that in some cases this made systems unstable or may even have caused damage, as the heat generated by overclocked systems exceeded the ability of the Mac’s thermal systems to maintain safe temperatures.

(A long time ago, I witnessed people point desk fans at overclocked Macs in an attempt to prevent them automatically shutting down when they get too hot).

Apple has teams of Mac users it works with in order to understand what its professional users need, and this on the ground knowledge now informs decisions it takes when designing new Macs.

This is particularly evident in the new (modular) Mac Pro.

With this in mind it seems quite possible that Apple is developing Pro Mode in answer to requests from those high-end users it works with, who sought some way in which to safely maximize Mac performance for specific high-end tasks.

It will be interesting to see how Apple positions this new software feature (if it ever ships), particularly in light of the new MacBook Pro models it is expected to introduce this year.

It will also be interesting to see if the company includes this capacity within the Mac mini, which is seeing use in pro markets for some demanding tasks.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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28 keyboard shortcuts Mac users need to know

I’m sure most Mac users know Command-C means copy and Command-V means paste, but there’s a host of other useful shortcuts that make a Mac user’s life much easier. I’ve assembled this short collection to illustrate this truth:

Esc

Never underestimate the power of the Esc key to get you out of trouble. Say you’re taking a screen shot and managed to select part of your screen for that shot, only to discover it’s the wrong part – tap Esc and you won’t need to worry about it. That’s basically the principle of Esc. Use it to cancel a previous command. Another example: Web page won’t load and is sucking up your system resources?

Tap Esc….

Command-W

Closes the active window you are currently in. Use Option-Command-W to close all currently active app windows.

Command-Y

A lot of people use QuickLook to preview items they’re looking for. To use QuickLook, select an item in Finder, press the Space bar and a preview will appear. There’s also a keyboard shortcut — select an item (you can even use the Up and Down arrows to navigate to it in Finder view) and then press Command-Y.

Command – Comma (,)

This is one of the least-known keyboard commands on a Mac, but it’s super useful. It works like this: You are working in an app, and you want to open the application’s Preferences. You can navigate to the Menu bar if you like and scroll through to access the Preferences. Or you can simply press Command-, (comma) to get to them in the fastest possible time.

Command-G

I’m sure you use Command-F to find items, such as words in a document or on a webpage. Command-G is its lesser-known relative. Use it to navigate through each instance of the item you want to find. This means that if you use Command-F to find all the mentions of ‘Command’ on this page, and then tap Command-G, you’ll be able to navigate through each one. Oh, and you can also press Shift-Command-G to move back to the previous mention.

Command-M

Press this combination to minimize the front app window to Dock, or press Command-Option-M to minimize all the windows belonging to the front app.

Command and Option

If you can’t see your desktop for all the open applications, just hold Command and Option down and click anywhere on your desktop. You may just want to get to all the open windows for a specific app, in which case hold down the same keys and click on any available window for that app.

Command-Shift-A

Select this combination when in Finder/Desktop view to get to your Applications folder, or replace the A with U to open your Utilities folder in a new Finder window (or D for Desktop, H for Home or I to access iCloud Drive).

Command-Space

The combination that can change your life, Command-Space invokes Spotlight, just depress these keys and start typing your query. (I guess you know about Command-tab already?)

Command-L

The fastest way to make a search or navigate to a Website in Safari, Command-L instantly selects the address bar: start typing your query, and select the appropriate choice using the up/down arrows on the keyboard.

Command-Tab

Open application switcher, keeping Command pressed, use Tab to navigate to the app you hope to use.

Command-Option-D

Show or hide the Dock from within most apps.

Fn-left arrow (or right arrow)

Jump directly to the top or bottom of a web page using the Function key and the right (to the bottom of the page) or left (to the top of the page) arrows on the keyboard. You can achieve a similar result using Command-Up or Command-Down. A third way is to use Control-Tab and Control-Shift-Tab.

Command-left/right arrows

Hit Command and the left arrow to go back a page in the browser window. Hit Command right to go forward again.

Tab nav

Navigate between multiple tabs using the Command-Shift-] or Command-Shift-[ characters.

Command-Shift-

The easiest way to see all your open tabs in one Safari window.

Option-Shift-Volume

Press Option-Shift and volume up/down to increase or decrease the volume on your Mac in small increments. You can also use Option-Shift to change display brightness in small amounts. Read even more Option secrets here.

Fn twice

Press the function (fn) key twice to launch Dictation on your Mac, start speaking, and press fn once you’ve finished. Here are some other ideas on controlling your Mac with your voice. NB: macOS Catalina now offers the far more powerful Voice Control, which lets you manage everything on your Mac using only your voice. Find out more about this here.

Option-File

In Safari, pressing the Option key while selecting the File menu lets you access the ‘Close Other Tabs’ command. Try the other Safari menu items with Option depressed to find other commands you probably weren’t aware of.

Option-Brightness Up (or down)

Use this command to quickly launch Displays preferences. Or press Option with the Mission Control or Volume (up/down) buttons to access preferences for Mission Control and Sounds.

Command – Backtick `

This is one of the least well-known keyboard commands on a Mac, but it’s super useful. Use this combination to move between open windows in your currently active app. It’s so useful you’ll wonder why you hadn’t used it before.

Control – Command – Space

Want to insert emoji or other symbols into what you write? Use Control-Command-Space to open the Character Viewer where you can select and use such symbols.

Touch Bar tip No. 1

If you use a MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, you can press Shift-Command-6 to grab an image of what is on your Touch Bar. Want to grab an image to place into the document you’re typing in? Just tap Control-Shift-Command-6 and the picture will be saved to your Clipboard for pasting it in.

Touch Bar tip No. 2

This MacBook Pro Touch Bar tip is particularly useful if you find that you often  accidentally tap the Siri button: You can change where that button is located so you’re less likely to tap it by accident. Open Keyboard Preferences and choose Customize Control Strip. Look at the Touch Bar, and you’ll see the icons are slightly agitated. Move your cursor to the bottom of your screen and keep moving (as if you’re moving it off the screen); you should see one of the items in your Touch bar highlighted. Now move your cursor to highlight the Siri button and then drag and drop that button a space or two to the left.

(This is also an excellent way to become familiar with how you can edit other items in your Touch Bar.)

Touch Bar tip No. 3

Do you use the function keys regularly in some apps? You can get to them, of course,  by pressing the ‘fn’ character. But it’s also possible to set up the Touch Bar so it always shows the function keys in those apps. To do this, open Keyboard System Preferences, select Function Keys, and tap +. You can then select the app(s). Don’t worry if you want to use a regular Control Strip command when you’re using one of the apps — just press Fn to get back to that view.

Safari tips

There are lots of keyboard tips for the Safari browser:

  • Command + I: Open new email message with content of a page.
  • Command + Shift + I: Open new email message containing only the URL of a page.
  • Spacebar: To move your window down one screen.
  • Shift+Spacebar: To move your window up one screen.
  • Command + Y: Open/close the History window.

Command + Shift + T

This web browser tip can sometimes be a lifesaver. Command + Shift + T will open your last closed tab, which helps a lot if you are researching something and close a window without saving the URL.

Command + Control + Q

Walking away from your Mac? Tap this shortcut to immediately lock your machine.

You can also take a look at Apple’s own extensive collection of keyboard shortcuts for more great ideas.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic’s Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I’d like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.





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