Archive for July 18, 2017

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Your Favorite Mac Word Processors

Josh Centers and Adam C. Engst:

Over 800 TidBITS readers responded to our survey of 21 apps, submitting close to 4000 votes. We found that Microsoft Word still dominates the landscape for word processors, but our readers wholeheartedly recommend several alternatives.


Although they received far fewer votes than Microsoft Word and Pages, Nisus Writer Pro and Scrivener earned the top ratings from TidBITS readers, likely due to their focus on niche audiences with serious word processing needs. Nevertheless, even though Microsoft Word, the 800-pound gorilla of the word processing world, is often reviled, it didn’t fare too badly in user ratings, outpacing alternatives such as Nisus Writer Express, LibreOffice Writer, and Apache OpenOffice Writer.

How Paywalled Sites Permit Access to Visitors From Social Media Sites and Apps

Isoroku Yamamoto (via Hacker News):

However, subscription-based publications face a problem when users click on a link through Twitter or Facebook on a mobile device. Social media apps implement their own in-app browser, which generally do not retain cookies. Websites that require a user login must request the login every time the app is reopened.

This makes for a cumbersome user experience. Thus, publications like the Wall Street Journal disable login checks when a page request appears to come from Twitter.

It does this by inspecting HTTP request headers. The important headers are Referer and User-Agent.

Previously: Publishers and the Pursuit of the Past.

Bait and Switch: How Apple Created Nintendo’s Best Console

Dan Masters:

Apple has always had a rocky relationship with gaming. They have historically paid little attention to gaming — most notably on the Mac. However, post-iPhone they demonstrated an apparent newfound commitment to games by seemingly devoting significant resources and attention to it each year.


Rather than improve Game Center to match services like Xbox Live or to enhance Apple Watch, Apple gave it a paint job and called it a day for three years… until they decided to simply kill it. Meanwhile, they launch ReplayKit — a feature that would suit Game Center perfectly — and the only destination is the vanilla Share Sheet. As usual, they skate to where the puck will be, but fail to hit it[…]


Apple created the MFi Controller standard because they recognised that console-calibre games required controllers to match. However, this was only one piece of the puzzle and, per usual, it remains an unfinished thought[…]


You may question why Apple should concern themselves with focusing on games; after all, they take a decent cut from the fraction of users known as “whales” while doing practically nothing, and they have over one billion iPhone users, many of whom play at least one game occasionally. I would agree, if not for the fact that Apple set themselves up for success with all the right pieces, but they simply did not execute. Indeed, this is merely part of a concerning pattern of Apple’s content fumbles — see: podcasts, TV, movies, iBooks (and, arguably, even audiobooks).

Furthermore, Nintendo’s success — so close to Apple’s home in every respect — highlights the significant market they ceded. Apple’s foresight became their demise, much like Microsoft has often experienced[…]

Zac Cichy:

My argument: Apple should want to be the best in any market they operate in. Games are over 70% of App Store revenue.

Does that mean Apple should do more here? Well I don’t know. What does 70% of App Store revenue justify? I think it justifies a lot.

In some ways it seems like Apple was so close and just didn’t follow through. Maybe gaming could have been a home run if Apple gave it more resources and focus. One could argue that it’s more strategic—and less costly—than what they’re doing with TV content.

The are also tradeoffs. Bundling a controller with the Apple TV would likely have really helped but made it even more expensive than its competition. It would be a mistake to limit the Apple TV’s appeal to the general market. But Apple could have accepted lower margins or sold Apple TVs at a loss, as Microsoft did with Xbox, in order to seed the platform. Evidently, they do not see it as strategic enough.

OmniGraffle 3 for iOS

John Voorhees:

The first thing you’ll probably notice about OmniGraffle 3 is the paneled design. Navigation and object inspection are handled by the new panels. On an iPad or in landscape mode on a Plus-size iPhone, the panels slide in from the sides of the screen. On smaller iPhones or portrait mode on a Plus-sized iPhone, the panels slide up from the bottom of the screen.


The advantage of the panels is that, unlike popovers, they can remain onscreen as long as you need them, reducing the number of taps necessary to edit your document. The downside is that they take up space and when both panels are open things start to get a little crowded, even on a 12.9-inch iPad.


A console and fully-documented API reference describing the dozens of classes available for manipulating OmniGraffle documents [via JavaScript] is built right into the Pro version of the app.

Sounds like it’s about as Pro as it could possibly be on iPad. I’ll be interested to hear how well this works in practice on a small screen, and how well it sells at $49/$99 in the App Store.

The Problem With Abandoned Apps

Marc Zeedar:

But we’ve now reached a point where I believe the App Store will either morph into something genuinely useful or fade away as a fad. […] I don’t mean that the App Store itself will go away — it won’t — but it could disappear as a business opportunity for most developers.


[Starting] with iOS 9, performing a backup with iTunes no longer copies apps to your computer. To restore an app, you must redownload it from the App Store. But if Apple has removed the app for being too old or not 64-bit, the app is gone — there’s no way to download it again! […] Because Apple exercises total control over which apps are allowed to run and how you get and install them, there is no way to get abandoned apps to work (short of jailbreaking, which introduces its own set of non-trivial problems).


And because iOS doesn’t give users access to the file system, and apps themselves are sandboxed (meaning that one app can’t access another app’s data), if you have data in an abandoned app, that data is most likely inaccessible.


While I think iOS is highly capable and could be a person’s only computer, I’ve already been hit so many times by abandoned apps that I’ve become wary. I no longer think of iOS as a “professional” environment.

Previously: iOS to Drop Support for 32-bit Apps.

Update (2017-08-28): Nick Heer:

No, I haven’t used Birdhouse in a long time. Yes, I was warned upon trying to open it in iOS 10 that it was a 32-bit app and would be unsupported at some point in the future. No, I did not take action because it wasn’t a priority for me at the time. Yes, I understand that’s pretty short-sighted.

If this was MacOS, I could simply root around in the file system or find another app to open the same files. But that obviously isn’t always the case on iOS. Because it’s a sandboxed, tightly-controlled system, there aren’t shared data stores for apps. That’s great for security, privacy, and every other advantage that has ever been brought up during any debate about it — if I were in charge of iOS, I’m not sure I’d change that model. However, it is a model that exacerbates the effects of an abandoned app.