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#1689: Vision Pro ship date, evaluating new Apple device features, minor OS updates, iPhone passcode thief, Time Machine and iCloud Drive

Apple’s big news dropped today—the Apple Vision Pro “spatial computer” will ship on 2 February 2024. Before the holiday break, Apple released macOS, iOS, and iPadOS updates to fix minor bugs. Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal interviewed an iPhone passcode thief. Adam Engst upgraded one of his Macs to macOS 14 Sonoma, only to find Time Machine blocked by iCloud Drive—the solution was easy but not obvious. Julio Ojeda-Zapata used a trip late last year with Apple’s September 2023 crop of devices as an excuse to evaluate the main new features. Finally, we have brief coverage of Apple adding The Athletic to Apple News+ and researchers who devised a fascinating technique to determine how many videos are on YouTube. Notable Mac app releases this week include Coherence X 4.6, Default Folder X 6.0.4, Mellel 6.0, Nisus Writer Pro 3.4 and Nisus Writer Express 4.4, OmniFocus 4.0.3, Pixelmator Pro 3.5.2, SpamSieve 3.0.3, and Zoom 5.17.

Adam Engst 52 comments

Apple Vision Pro Arrives 2 February 2024

Apple promised that its Vision Pro “spatial computer” would be available in early 2024, and the company is making good on that with today’s announcement that pre-orders in the US will start on 19 January 2024 at 5 AM PST, with availability on 2 February 2024. Although Apple has said that the Vision Pro would become available in other countries later in 2024, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Canada, the UK, and China were expected to be the first markets to get it.

The Vision Pro will cost $3499. If you use reading glasses or prescription lenses, you’ll be able to get Zeiss reading glass lens inserts for $99 or prescription Zeiss optical inserts for $149. It’s unclear how you’ll specify your prescription during the online ordering process or if Apple stores will have sufficient optical inserts for every possible prescription.

Along with the Vision Pro headset, the box will contain a Solo Knit Band and a Dual Loop Band so you can pick which best fits your head. Also included are a Light Seal, two Light Seal Cushions, an Apple Vision Pro Cover for the front of the device, a USB-C charging cable, a USB-C power adapter, and the all-important polishing cloth so you can clean fingerprints off your virtual face.

I admit to some unease about the Vision Pro. On the one hand, it’s a technological marvel, and having spent my life evaluating technology, I very much want to try it. It’s easy to imagine a few specific use cases where it promises to be appealing, such as providing a large virtual workspace when traveling with a laptop, watching movies alone, and playing immersive games. There may also be compelling accessibility stories, given that Apple says users can interact with the Vision Pro using their eyes, hands, or voice, or any combination they want. And I never discount the incredible creativity and innovation of the Apple development community—perhaps we’ll see a killer app shortly after launch.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine spending $4000 (prescription inserts plus sales tax) on what may end up as a glorified display for my Mac. I’m comfortable and highly productive with my current software and hardware toolset, I don’t play video games, and Tonya and I watch all TV and movies together. Even as technologically interested and tolerant as she is, wearing one in her presence would not be conducive to marital harmony. I’m already uncomfortable on the few occasions I have reason to wear AirPods around her, and like many people, neither of us likes it when the other gets drawn into their iPhone. That’s also true of our extended families, but perhaps we’re unusual, and more families are accepting of each member focusing on their own digital world, like the people below. (If you’re going to have a conversation, why wouldn’t you take the Vision Pro off?)

Vision Pro conversation

In the end, as far as I can tell, the Vision Pro doesn’t do anything I want enough better than the devices and peripherals I currently have to be worth $4000. The cost is, of course, contextual—some people won’t blink at that kind of money, and I wouldn’t turn down a review unit from Apple. But from a practical business perspective, I can’t currently justify the expense for the amount of coverage I expect you’ll want to read. Perhaps that will change with the Vision Pro’s capabilities being augmented by third-party apps or increased interest from TidBITS readers.

If you’re among the people who plan to pre-order the Vision Pro in a few weeks, let us know in the comments what you’re planning to do with it.

Adam Engst 7 comments

Apple Releases macOS 14.2.1, iOS 17.2.1, iOS 16.74, and iPadOS 16.7.4

Apple has released minor updates to macOS, iOS, and iPadOS. With iOS 17.2.1 (iPadOS isn’t included this time, unusually), iOS 16.74, and iPadOS 16.7.4, the onscreen release notes admit only to unspecified “important bug fixes” and don’t mention security updates.

With macOS 14.2.1 Sonoma, however, there are security notes, which say the release fixes a bug where “a user who shares their screen may unintentionally share the incorrect content.” That’s credited to well-known developer Craig Hockenberry of The Iconfactory, and indeed, he posted about the problem on Mastodon recently.

If you use Screen Sharing in macOS 14.2 Sonoma, I recommend installing that update immediately. If not, and for all the other updates, given that Apple hasn’t provided any details that suggest urgency, you can delay installing until it’s convenient.

Adam Engst 11 comments

Joanna Stern Interviews iPhone Passcode Thief in Prison

Before Apple announced its upcoming option for increasing iPhone security (see “Apple to Introduce Stolen Device Protection in the Upcoming iOS 17.3,” 14 December 2023), Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal was recording this interview with Aaron Johnson, an iPhone passcode thief serving 94 months in the Minnesota Correctional Facility. Powerful stuff.

Once iOS 17.3 ships, I’ll be turning Stolen Device Protection on, and I encourage you to do so as well unless Touch ID or Face ID don’t work reliably for you.

That said, although Johnson often used video to steal passcodes, the technical trickery level in many of these thefts wasn’t high—some inebriated bar patrons shared their passcodes with Johnson just because he asked as part of a story. The moral is still, “Never give your iPhone passcode to anyone you wouldn’t trust with your bank account.”

Adam Engst 8 comments

Solving Time Machine’s iCloud Drive Blockage

Over the break, I upgraded my 2020 27-inch iMac to macOS 14 Sonoma, which I’ve been running on my M1 MacBook Air for months. The process was simple and easy, and everything continued to work with no hiccups. With one exception: Time Machine.

Shortly after I booted into Sonoma for the first time, Time Machine threw an error, claiming that it couldn’t back up.

Time Machine backup error

Clicking the Details button revealed the reason why: iCloud Drive hadn’t finished syncing.

Time Machine error with iCloud Drive syncing

Although there wasn’t any apparent reason why iCloud Drive’s sync status should have changed from when I started the upgrade, it was clearly working away, as evidenced by the progress indicator when I clicked iCloud Drive in the sidebar.

iCloud Drive sync status

“No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just wait for it to finish, and then all will be fine.” Unfortunately, even after iCloud Drive finished syncing, Time Machine continued to complain at me repeatedly, as backup after backup failed. Restarting didn’t resolve the problem, so I dug a little deeper.

I remembered that Howard Oakley had been writing quite a bit on his Eclectic Light Company blog about iCloud Drive recently, including articles about how Sonoma:

However, the critical article focused on how Sonoma’s iCloud Drive changes could prevent Time Machine backups from completing. In it, he merely noted that Time Machine couldn’t back up until iCloud Drive had finished syncing, which I already knew wasn’t the entire story. In the comments, however, user whidbeythedog provided the answer: iCloud Drive must finish syncing on all the accounts on the Mac.

I always have a second troubleshooting account on all my Macs called “Ghost in the Machine.” The ghost account has full administrative permissions, but I keep it as pristine as possible beyond connecting it to my iCloud account. It’s handy when I need to eliminate an account-level preference file as a reason for some undesirable behavior and for making screenshots that lack most customizations I’ve made. (When I need to be sure I’m using a completely stock account, I log into a new guest account that I delete once I’m done.) Because I use the ghost account infrequently and don’t think of it as using iCloud Drive, it didn’t even occur to me as a variable until I read that blog comment.

Because the ghost account is logged into my iCloud account and has iCloud Drive turned on, it too needed to finish syncing before Time Machine could complete a backup. As soon as it did that—in the background, while I was logged into my primary account—Time Machine promptly started backing up again. Problem solved.

For a few others, the simple fix of logging into additional accounts and letting them finish syncing hasn’t been enough. In an Apple Support Communities discussion, a couple of people found that signing out of iCloud, rebooting, triggering a Time Machine backup, and then signing back in resolved the problem. I’d save that for a last resort because signing out of and back into iCloud is a recipe for confusion.

I’ve filed a bug report with Apple about this situation. Time Machine isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong here, but Apple could reduce confusion with better messaging that alerted users to the possibility of iCloud Drive needing to finish syncing on additional accounts. In an ideal world, of course, Time Machine would skip over iCloud Drive files that hadn’t yet synced and copy them on a subsequent run, but perhaps we’re running into a one-time conversion to the new File Provider approach that’s best handled all at once after iCloud Drive has caught up with itself.

Julio Ojeda-Zapata 2 comments

Evaluating New Features in the iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple Watch Series 9, and AirPods Pro

Apple’s late-September iPhone 15 release (see “Incremental iPhone 15 Improvements Focus on Photography and Connectivity,” 12 September 2023) was, for me, exquisitely timed—occurring just before I hopped on a plane to rendezvous with my Parisian sister at our parents’ place in rural New Hampshire.

The trip presented a tech opportunity. What if I took along loaners of all of Apple’s new iPhone-ecosystem devices, including the Apple Watch Series 9 (see “2023 Apple Watch Models Add Double Tap Gesture,” 13 September 2023) and the recently tweaked second-generation AirPods Pro (see “Apple Updates AirPods Pro with USB-C Case and Improved Dust Resistance,” 15 September 2023) to see how they fared in a real-world travel scenario?

Unlike the typical vacationer, I’d focus only on brand-new features and ignore everything else about the devices (at least for this piece). My idea was to treat the trip as a tech-testing lab with a touristy spin. Would the products be helpful sidekicks as I spent time with loved ones and went on lengthy hikes in New Hampshire’s gorgeous Monadnock region?

What follows is structured a bit like a scorecard. I will go feature by feature and describe how I fared with it, for better or for worse, before rendering a verdict.

Such features include the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s upgraded photography controls—such as its 5x optical zoom, a customizable main camera with multiple native focal lengths, and greater flexibility in how portrait shots are recorded and subsequently modified. The iPhone 15 Pro Max also offers a physical Action button and USB-C connectivity. On the Apple Watch, I tested Precision Finding and the double-tap gesture, and on the AirPods Pro, I tried the new Conversation Awareness option and Adaptive mode.

iPhone 15 Pro Max

Before I dive into the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s features, let’s get its physical attributes out of the way. I will confess a bias: I hate big, heavy phones.

Apple offers some relief this year. The iPhone 15 Pro Max, which uses exterior titanium instead of aluminum, weighs 221 grams compared to its precursor’s 240 grams. The phone is more of a pleasure to hold in the hand with contoured edges that make those on the iPhone 14 lineup feel a bit sharp. You can notice the weight difference when holding an iPhone 15 Pro Max and an iPhone 14 Pro Max simultaneously, but the lighter weight almost instantly becomes the new normal.

I disagree with other tech reviewers who have declared that the iPhone 15 Pro Max “actually feels like a regular phone and not an oversized paperweight” (in the words of a writer at The Verge). I spent my vacation wistfully gazing at the so-manageable, so-pocketable iPhone 13 mini models that my mom and dad use. My wife and daughter (who stayed behind in St. Paul) are similarly outfitted.

I dreaded lugging around the iPhone 15 Pro Max but had no choice because it is the only iPhone 15 model that has the 5x telephoto lens I was excited to test. To avoid an awkward pocket bulge, I ended up transporting the phone in a small messenger bag—“Is that your purse?” my sister joked—or in running shorts with a holster-like side pocket.

Verdict: 👎 Where’s the iPhone 15 Pro Mini?

5X Zoom

The tiny village of Marlow, where my folks are spending their well-earned retirement, has one of New England’s most photographed scenes. Its white church, town hall, and Odd Fellows Hall are clustered together amidst foliage that turns spectacular in the autumn.

The problem for iPhone photographers? The buildings, which are on one side of a large pond, must be shot from the other side for proper vantage points. Close-ups of the buildings inevitably involve digital cropping, which yields less-than-ideal picture quality. (The photo below was shot with a drone, not the iPhone 15 Pro Max.)

Marlow, pond shot

From the photography angle, bringing the iPhone 15 Pro Max was a dream come true. I could at last properly capture downtown Marlow with group and solo shots that all looked fabulous—for smartphone pictures, anyway.

Marlow, NH foliage

My parents were amazed when I told them about the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s tetraprism camera that ping-pongs light four times internally to create the required separation between the telephoto lens and the camera’s sensor. They remember when I was a 1980s teen lugging around a Canon AT-1 with a long lens.

I recall how tricky it was to keep the subject in the frame with the old Canon AT-1. Apple has largely eliminated that problem with fast-reacting autofocus and improved optical image stabilization that provides 10,000 micro-adjustments per second. It works great.

All of this made for one of my life’s most memorable smartphone photo shoots. When will the tetraprism design come to a smaller iPhone?

Verdict: 👍 I can see clearly now, to quote Johnny Nash.

More Focal Lengths

My friends mock me when I “zoom with my feet.” In keeping with my vow never to zoom digitally, I often frame shots via little sprints forward and backward until I have nailed the composition.

Marlow’s Elizabeth Burns McIntire Forest, with hiking trails originally cut and still maintained by Boy Scout Troop 530, presented a big challenge. Its boulder-strewn paths are more vertical clamber than leisurely stroll—no place to attempt my cute photo jogs if I valued life and limb.

Fortunately, the iPhone 15 Pro Max has no fewer than seven lenses—three physical ones (the telephoto with 5x zoom among them) and four additional focal lengths achieved through the magic of computational photography. On the main camera, for instance, tapping the 1x button switches between the usual 24 mm and the new 28 mm and 35 mm settings. So, capturing shots of my sister Maria and my pal Jim on uneven and potentially perilous terrain was, well, a snap.

Marlow, NH hiking spot

Photos are native and full quality, not digital crops. Regardless of the focal length, the 24-megapixel standard resolution (up from 12 megapixels on the iPhone 14 Pro series) applies.

When I got home, I was able to stay in place more often while taking pictures. It’s all a relief to my wife, who has feared I’d trip and break something (or get hit by a car) with all that foot zooming.

Verdict: 👍 Seven lenses with nothing more to carry.

Portraits in Photo Mode

I have long captured lots of portraits when gathering with my loved ones. When it became available, I would manually activate the iPhone’s Portrait mode for gorgeous soft-focus backgrounds. Later on, when fooling around in Photos, I could tap different parts of the pictures to change the focal point and depth intensity.

The iPhone 15 models introduce cool twists. Fumbling to enable Portrait mode is no longer required, for one thing. The regular Photo mode now registers depth information. Then, as before, I can make background-blur adjustments in the Photos app at my leisure.

This automatic Portrait mode kicks in only when the iPhone detects a person, dog, or cat prominently in the frame. In the photos below, the left shot is a normal photo; the right shows the picture adjusted for background blur.

Portrait mode before and after

Although it was great when it worked, I found the automatic Portrait mode finicky. It sometimes ignored people but triggered for an abstract metal sculpture of a cat at a Marlow café. That I can understand—but a rusty old bicycle at the village’s waste facility also triggered it.

Portrait mode fail

Verdict: 👍 You look nice, Mom.

Action Button

The iPhone 15 Pro models have traded the traditional ring/silent switch for an Action button similar to the one that debuted on the Apple Watch Ultra last year.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max’s Action button functions as a ring silencer by default, and other prepackaged actions are available in Settings. They include using the button to enable a Focus, take a picture, turn on the flashlight, record a voice memo, help with translation during a live conversation, launch the Magnifier app, and tap Accessibility functions. The Action button also has Shortcuts support, as with the Apple Watch Ultra, which opens a world of additional possibilities.

I intended to use the Action button as a camera launcher and shutter button, but I spent my entire trip forgetting to do so—the old way of accessing the camera from the iPhone screen was too ingrained.

Regardless of function, the Action button requires the right kind of case. Early on, case vendors that didn’t anticipate this feature built standard ringer-switch cutouts, often to disastrous effect: the Action button was semi-buried and hard to depress. Other companies executed perfectly. For instance, the metal Action button overlay on a leather Nomad case I took on my trip provides just the right amount of clickiness. I recently tried an equivalent Mujjo case that performs similarly.

Verdict: 👎 Dang that muscle memory.

USB-C Support

This change garnered a lot of attention. Apple has finally abandoned the Lightning connector on its iPhones and switched to USB-C, as it had done on iPads and Macs.

With non-Apple devices supporting USB-C for years, I had already transformed my house into a USB-C haven. There are one or more charging spots with cables and power adapters in every main room, along with a multi-device charging station in my home office. It was becoming ever more annoying to keep Lightning cords in the mix.

On my trip, though, going USB-C-only was a challenge. It’s an indication of how long it might take people to migrate completely over to devices with USB-C ports.

One of my standard travel power banks, Belkin’s BoostCharge Power Bank 10K with Lightning Connector, charges devices via two USB-A ports and charges itself via Lightning. My other venerable go-to power bank, Belkin’s Valet Charger Power Pack, incorporates a USB-A port and an Apple Watch puck, and it charges via a Micro-USB port. New power banks will support USB-C, but replacing the ones I have would be frustrating.

Wireless charging also figured into my journey via Apple’s terrific and sadly discontinued MagSafe Duo, a wafer-like gadget that unfolds to reveal a MagSafe charging disk and a flip-up Apple Watch puck. The MagSafe Duo plugs into a power adapter via Lightning, not USB-C.

In one respect, I leaned heavily on USB-C during my vacation: when transferring pictures and videos from the iPhone 15 Pro Max to my MacBook Air. Nomad’s nifty little USB-C-to-USB-C ChargeKey accessory made this possible. Nomad has a Lightning-to-USB-C version, as well.

Verdict: 👎 USB-C is the answer, but not today for everyone.

Apple Watch Series 9

On the surface, the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 are little different from their predecessors. But both have a few new, useful tricks.

Double-Tap Gesture

When I heard about the new Apple Watch feature that allows users to engage certain functions by rapidly double-tapping their thumbs and index fingers, two words popped into my head: “NPR One!”

Double tap, which became available with watchOS 10.1 on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra, lets users do such things as answer and end phone calls; pause, resume, and end a timer; stop and resume a stopwatch; or play and pause music, podcasts, and audiobooks.

To detect a double tap, the Apple Watch processes data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and optical heart sensor, thereby detecting the unique signature of tiny wrist movements and changes in blood flow when the index finger and thumb perform a double tap.

Certain double-tap functions are optional. Instead of playing or pausing media, it can instead skip to the next track. That’s why I got excited. NPR One is a feature in National Public Radio’s NPR app that lets users play a mix of NPR news, stories from the user’s local public radio affiliate, and the user’s favorite public radio podcasts. They can flip through story after story until they find something they like.

Double tap seemed like it would be a great way to skip to the next segment in NPR One, which would be a boon when dashing through airport terminals with luggage in my hands.

But I didn’t find it better than a Siri command or the double-press of an AirPod stalk. Besides, you have to raise your wrist and have the Now Playing screen visible for the NPR One skipping via double tap to work; otherwise, it defaults to opening the Smart Stack and scrolling through widgets.

Verdict: 👎 “Hey, Siri, remind me to use double tap more.”

Precision Finding

I’ve endlessly irked my wife by tapping Find My iPhone on my Apple Watch to make my misplaced iPhone ding. I lose my phone a lot, and it often takes me multiple tries to find it, annoying my wife with the repeated dings. Precision Finding is for you, dear.

You might remember Precision Finding as an AirTag feature. When you are tracking down a missing AirTag, Precision Finding gives you directional guidance on your phone screen in the form of distance readings and a rotating directional indicator (the curved white bar in the left-hand screenshot below).

Apple has now transplanted the feature to the new iPhone 15 and Apple Watch models, and it’s exclusive to those models. Finding my iPhone now involves tapping my watch screen once and walking in the direction of the curved indicator in the left-hand screenshot below. The phone beeps a second and final time when I’ve gotten within a few feet of it, eliminating the need to make it sound off repeatedly (though, if I’m feeling naughty, that’s an option via the phone-shaped button in the lower right).

While on the trip, I spared my parents and my sister from the tap-tap-tap/ding-ding-ding ordeal, and once I got home, my wife was happy with the reduced noise pollution the first time I misplaced my iPhone.

Precision Finding also enables one iPhone 15-series phone to find another, but none of my relatives had one, so we couldn’t test it.

Verdict: 👍 Seek and ye shall find, more quickly and quietly.

Second-Generation AirPods with USB-C Case

There is scant difference between the second-generation AirPods released in September 2022 and the tweaked versions released a year later. The port on the battery case is the only visible change; the 2022 models have a Lightning port, while this year’s variations have a USB-C port. With iOS 17, however, all models of the second-generation AirPods Pro have acquired nifty new functionality.

Conversation Awareness

My wife has a bad habit of engaging me in conversation when I am washing the dishes. I’ve told her this is my holy podcast-listening time, my evening mindfulness exercise, when I have my AirPods in my ears and don’t want to be disturbed.

But how can I resist her when she breaks this rule? When she approaches me with a smile, I have to raise my finger to her for a second while I instruct Siri to pause what I’m listening to or frantically dry my hands so I can squeeze an AirPod stalk.

Now there’s a better way, which I tested for the first time on my trip.

With a new feature called Conversation Awareness, my AirPods Pro register when I start to talk while simultaneously enhancing the voice or voices of whomever I am engaging in conversation—with my parents or my sister, for instance, or when responding to a flight attendant’s offer of refreshment. It makes engaging with other people while wearing earbuds far more fluid than before.

And, yes, since getting home from the trip, I’ve used Conversation Awareness with my wife—it works like a charm.

Verdict: 👍 Interacting with others while wearing AirPods Pro just got a lot easier.

Adaptive Mode

Another AirPods Pro improvement in iOS 17 is Adaptive mode, which blends the Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes together to tailor the level of noise control based on the changing environmental noise conditions. I didn’t use this much on my trip because Marlow is quiet. I did test it in airports and on airplanes, though, and found it only moderately helpful there. Full Active Noise Cancellation was more effective. Subsequently, Adam Engst mentioned that he found Adaptive mode’s lower level of noise cancellation more helpful in airplanes when interacting with people around him.

Adaptive mode and Conversation Awareness

Verdict: 👎 Silence is golden, and Adaptive mode didn’t provide as much of it as I wanted.

Watchlist

Coherence X 4.6 Agen Schmitz No comments

Coherence X 4.6

BZG has released Coherence X 4.6, a site-specific browser that lets you turn websites into Chromium-based native apps (see “The Best Mac Site-Specific Browser for Google Docs,” 18 June 2021). Coherence X allows the use of the engines from Google Chrome, Brave, Opera, Microsoft Edge, and Google Canary. The update introduces a completely rewritten Coherence Extension that dramatically enhances performance and reliability, improves stability to reduce crashes, and squashes unspecified bugs. ($29.99 new, free update, in Setapp, 10.5 MB, release notes, macOS 10.15+)

Default Folder X 6.0.4 Agen Schmitz 1 comment

Default Folder X 6.0.4

St. Clair Software has issued Default Folder X 6.0.4, eliminating a delay that could occur when Save dialogs appear. The Open/Save dialog utility now enables you to specify the app you want Default Folder X to use when opening folders; adds Finder-click support for the QSpace and QSpace Pro Finder replacements; shows an icon alongside Quick Search results for hits in your favorites, recent items, or apps; adds a keyboard shortcut to display the menu in the Quick Search window; adds a command in the Quick Search contextual menu to copy a file or folder to the clipboard; and fixes a bug that prevented comments or tags from being entered in a Save dialog in macOS 12 Monterey or earlier. ($39.95 new, free update, TidBITS members save $10 on new copies and $5 on upgrades, in Setapp, 17.3 MB, release notes, macOS 10.13+)

Mellel 6.0 Agen Schmitz 2 comments

Mellel 6.0

Mellel the company has issued version 6.0 of Mellel the word processor, a major upgrade that brings welcome new features and improvements. The release introduces a split view feature for editing two parts of your document at once (great for translating, writing commentary, or comparing texts); adds support for Dark mode; enhances Mellel’s find-and-replace with the capability to convert text into an Auto-title, Citation, Note (footnote or endnote) or Hyperlink; improves indexing with the option to import and export index records; adds support for exporting an outline to a Mellel document; and enables you to expand and collapse Outline items using arrow keys.

The update also unifies menu labels and adds dividers for numbering types in pop-up menus, fixes a bug that caused only one index record to be deleted when attempting to delete multiple index records, resolves an issue that cut off the format menu of the insert date sheet, ensures image and text boxes are shown in the track changes bubble, and requires a minimum of macOS 10.13 High Sierra. Mellel 6 is now priced at $69.99, and owners of any previous version can upgrade for $44.99. Mellel is also available for the iPad for $19.99. ($69.99 new, $44.99 upgrade, 94 MB, release notes, macOS 10.13+)

Nisus Writer Pro 3.4 and Nisus Writer Express 4.4 Agen Schmitz 1 comment

Nisus Writer Pro 3.4 and Nisus Writer Express 4.4

Nisus Software has released Nisus Writer Pro 3.4 and Nisus Writer Express 4.4 with small but helpful updates for macOS 14 Sonoma users. Both editions of the word processor resolve an issue that caused crashes and compatibility issues when using Sonoma and fix a bug that caused text glyphs that draw outside the text area to be clipped in Sonoma. Nisus Writer Pro 3.4 also ensures the Compare Documents macro works properly on newer versions of macOS. Both editions now require a minimum of macOS 10.13 High Sierra. (Nisus Writer Pro: $65 new with a 25% discount for TidBITS members, free update, 290.8 MB, release notes. Nisus Writer Express: $26 new with a 25% discount for TidBITS members, free update, 73.4 MB, release notes. Both require macOS 10.13+)

OmniFocus 4.0.3 Agen Schmitz No comments

OmniFocus 4.0.3

The Omni Group has released OmniFocus 4.0.3, a maintenance update with a smattering of improvements and bug fixes. The task management app now prompts to import an existing archive file on the initial archive attempt, ensures that canceling archive location selection doesn’t trigger an error, correctly triggers an appropriate error when no archive file is available when selecting Open Archive, fixes a bug that could cause a previously typed note to become selected in the Inspector while typing, avoids applying note edits made in the Inspector to the incorrect item, and ensures that the Trust Always certificate setting persists across app launches. ($74.99 new for Standard, $149.99 for Pro, or $9.99 monthly subscription, 50% discount on upgrades, free update from version 4, 29.6 MB, release notes, macOS 13+)

Pixelmator Pro 3.5.2 Agen Schmitz No comments

Pixelmator Pro 3.5.2

The Pixelmator Team was busy before its festive break. After version 3.5 came out with added HDR support, Pixelmator Pro 3.5.1 was released to add a new collection of App Store templates. The 30-plus customizable templates are designed to showcase screenshots of your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and cross-platform apps and fully meet all the App Store requirements. It also added new device mockups for the Apple Watch Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max (as well as iPad Pro mockups in landscape orientation) and improved Pixelmator Pro stability when working with HDR videos and images.

Pixelmator Pro 3.5.2 quickly followed with added support for Adobe Illustrator and Illustrator EPS file formats, enabling you to open Illustrator documents with original layers, shapes, text, and layer groups. The release also enables batch‑converting Illustrator and Illustrator EPS to other file formats using the Convert Image action in Shortcuts; adds 14 holiday-themed templates for social media posts, stories, posters, and more; improves performance when switching between tools or opening documents; and fixes a bug that caused exporting or sharing to JPEG files to use the .jpeg file extension instead of .jpg. ($49.99 new from Pixelmator and the Mac App Store, free update, 613.5 MB, release notes, macOS 12+)

SpamSieve 3.0.3 Agen Schmitz No comments

SpamSieve 3.0.3

C-Command Software has published SpamSieve 3.0.3 with bug fixes and improvements for the spam-filtering utility. The release addresses a problem where certain unusual account configurations prevented SpamSieve from seeing new messages that needed to be filtered, works around a macOS bug that could cause Mail to hang, improves the “Filter spam messages in other mailboxes” feature, works around a macOS bug that could cause a crash when updating the Dock icon, fixes a bug that prevented hotkeys from working with certain keyboard layouts, and resolves an issue with reporting errors during Outlook filtering. ($39.99 new with a 20% discount for TidBITS members, $19.99 upgrade, free update, 49.5 MB, release notes, macOS 10.13+)

Zoom 5.17 Agen Schmitz No comments

Zoom 5.17

As previously announced, the release of Zoom 5.17 now requires a minimum of macOS 10.13 High Sierra. The video conferencing app now enables meeting participants to request that the host begin a cloud recording of the current meeting, enables copying of text with formatting from external sources for pasting into Zoom Team Chat, automatically populates chats with the most recent group chat featuring the same membership, improves the prominence and accessibility of feedback and help options in the Help menu, adds support for sharing just a portion of your screen, resolves an issue regarding an unexpected ringing when sending an SMS during an active call, and fixes a bug that prevented Zoom Scheduler options from being visible. (Free, 122.4 MB, release notes, macOS 10.13+)

ExtraBITS

Adam Engst 7 comments

Apple Adds The Athletic to Apple News+

Apple writes:

Apple and The Athletic today announced that Apple News+ subscribers now have access to The Athletic’s unrivaled sports journalism. The Athletic provides best-in-class team coverage, as well as coverage of the biggest and most compelling stories in sports daily, across the major sports leagues.

The addition of the subscriber-only sports coverage from The Athletic might make Apple News+ a bit more compelling—less than 20% of TidBITS readers use it (see “Do You Use It? Apple Services See Widely Varying Popularity,” 4 December 2023). It won’t move the needle for me, however, given that The Athletic doesn’t seem to include track & field coverage of the Diamond League meets, world cross-country competitions, or much of anything related to running beyond the occasional major marathon.

The Athletic in Apple News+

Perhaps more interesting was the additional announcement that content from Wirecutter, also published by The New York Times Company, will be included for all Apple News users starting early next year.

Adam Engst 7 comments

How Big Is YouTube?

This is fascinating. In an attempt to determine how many videos there are on YouTube, researchers Ethan Zuckerman and Jason Baumgartner came up with a clever approach they call “drunk dialing.” Because YouTube URLs have an 11-character string that follows specific rules, there are 18.4 quintillion possible YouTube addresses. The researchers tried a few million random guesses and used the number of hits to calculate a percentage. Multiplying that percentage against the possible total provided an estimated number of actual videos available: currently 13.325 billion. Since their crawler gathers metadata about each hit, they can also estimate things like YouTube’s growth rate (4 billion videos posted in 2023). Check their TubeStats site for additional insights about language, views, length, number of subscribers, likes, comments, and more.

YouTube estimated size by year