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ExtraBITS for 16 January 2017

In ExtraBITS this week, Jason Snell and a panel of Apple experts judge the company’s performance in 2016, developer Greg Raiz offers a better take on the iOS Activity sheet, former Apple automation guru Sal Soghoian explains why app extensions can’t replace existing Mac automation tools, collaboration tool Trello gets a new owner, and Apple veteran Chuq Von Rospach reviews Apple’s 2016.

Apple in 2016: The Six Colors Report Card -- Jason Snell of Six Colors has issued his report card on Apple’s 2016 efforts, relying once again on a panel of 37 industry watchers, including many TidBITS and Take Control staffers and authors (Adam Engst, Tonya Engst, Josh Centers, Jeff Carlson, Kirk McElhearn, and Rich Mogull). The consensus was that Apple had a rough year compared to 2015, with lower scores for the Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and hardware reliability categories. On the positive side, the panel felt that Apple improved in a few areas, including the Apple Watch, cloud services, home automation, and developer relations. See if you agree with the panel’s ratings!

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How to Fix the iOS Activity Sheet -- In a post on Medium, Greg Raiz, CEO of app development agency Raizlabs, explains how Apple could improve the Activity sheet in iOS (it’s commonly called the Share sheet, but that’s misleading because it frequently contains actions unrelated to sharing). He points out that the seldom-used AirDrop takes up far too much space, the app with which you want to share is often buried, and there are too many customization options. Raiz presents a cleaner and simpler Actions sheet that distinguishes between actions within the current app and sharing data with other apps. It also prioritizes app actions and orders share apps by frequency of use. We hope Apple redesigns the Activity sheet along these lines for iOS 11.

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Is Apple Planning to Replace Automation with App Extensions? -- Sal Soghoian, the automation guru recently released by Apple, has penned a compelling editorial for MacStories explaining why app extensions are not a replacement for automation tools like AppleScript and Automator. He does an excellent job of explaining what app extensions are and how they compare to existing automation tools. The real story here is the concern that Apple could even be considering such a move. Soghoian hints that Apple might see it as a way to further merge iOS and macOS app development, but the reality is that dropping user automation tools in favor of app extensions would likely be the last straw for many professional Mac users. That in turn could lead to a “reverse halo effect” as former Mac users switch away from iOS and take their influencer networks with them.

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Atlassian Buys Trello for $425 Million -- We’re tremendously fond of collaboration tool Trello, which just announced that it’s being purchased by enterprise software company Atlassian for $425 million. Trello claims that it will be able to take advantage of Atlassian’s research and development to improve its service, but some users are concerned that Trello will become as complex as other Atlassian products. Regardless, since Atlassian paid so much, we suspect that the company has big plans for Trello, so we’re not too worried about one of our favorite tools going downhill.

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Chuq Von Rospach’s Review of Apple in 2016 -- Apple veteran Chuq Von Rospach has reviewed Apple’s performance in 2016, and he has some tough words for the company, saying that it “simply isn’t firing on all cylinders” and is “out of sync with itself.” He points out how Apple has missed its ship dates and left products to languish. More specifically, Von Rospach accuses Apple of being out of touch with its customers, relying too heavily on data, and getting sloppy in its execution, with numerous bugs and quirks in its offerings. However, he takes pains to note that his criticisms are not revealing fundamental problems; Apple just needs to recalibrate a few things to get back on track.

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