Archive for August 7, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

Creating New Snippets

Dr. Drang:

I returned to TextExpander for two reasons. First, I have an iPad and want to do more writing on it. I didn’t realize how much I relied on expansions—even those that don’t run scripts—until I didn’t have them. TextExpander is the only solution that works on both the Mac and iOS.

TypeIt4Me does work on iOS, but its keyboard extension is much less convenient than the TextExpander SDK, which many apps have integrated.

I noticed in the past year that I haven’t been making the sort of throwaway snippets I used to make regularly in TextExpander to help me write reports that require the repeated use of technical phrases or product names. This meant more typing and more editing, because misspelled product names and inconsistent terminology kept creeping into my writing. This isn’t a knock on Keyboard Maestro—it’s a more general tool that just doesn’t have streamlined methods for creating new text substitution macros.

I have been using LaunchBar, and here’s how you can easily create new snippets with it:

iPhone and Android Cameras

Vic Gundotra:

It’s because when Samsung innovates with the underlying hardware (like a better camera) they have to convince Google to allow that innovation to be surfaced to other applications via the appropriate API. That can take YEARS.


Apple doesn’t have all these constraints. They innovate in the underlying hardware, and just simply update the software with their latest innovations (like portrait mode) and ship it.

Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don’t mind being a few years behind, buy an Android.

Via Kirk McElhearn (and John Gruber):

But this brings up a broader question: is the iPhone camera good enough for most people? Yes, certainly. Will it replace the DSLR? Certainly not. The use cases are very different. I think Gundotra has peers who used DSLRs for family photos, which is something they’re not very good at (well, they are, but they’re overkill). What is more correct is that the iPhone camera has killed the point and shoot camera, the compact, fixed lens camera.


But for those interested in photography, the DSLR with larger sensors, more megapixels, better high-ISO shooting, and interchangeable lenses, will remain popular. They just won’t be any more popular than SLRs were back in the days of film. Those of us who remember those days remember that most people had Instamatics or Polaroid cameras; it was very rare to see someone take family or vacation photos with an SLR.

Most of Gundotra’s remarks are in comment #51 to his Facebook post, but Facebook doesn’t seem to respect it own permalink or even expand the comments when following the link.

Gundotra is impressed with Portrait Mode, and I’ve seen good results from it, but I’ve also seen it really mess up images in ways that are not detectible from the thumbnail. So I definitely recommend using the Keep Normal Photo option. Otherwise you can end up with only the messed up Portrait version of a photo. (It’s too bad that HDR doesn’t work like Portrait in this respect. It’s no longer possible to automatically take both regular and HDR versions.)

Bringing Back Visual Basic IDE to Office for Mac

Erik Schwiebert (tweet):

Many of you have noticed the limited Visual Basic development environment that shipped with Office 2016 for Mac, and have asked for the full environment to make its way back to the Mac. Later this fall we will indeed be releasing an update that includes the full editor, including multiple code windows, breakpoints, watches, the Object Browser, and more!

Previously: Hasta La Vista, Visual Basic.

What’s Wrong With the Touch Bar

Josh Centers:

On a Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro, you have three main (there are others, but they’re even slower) ways to do this:

  • Press Command-B on the keyboard, which lets you keep your hands on the keyboard and eyes on the screen.

  • Click the Bold button in Word’s toolbar, which takes your hands off the keyboard but keeps your eyes on the screen.

  • Tap the Bold button on the Touch Bar, which takes your eyes off the screen and your hands off the keyboard.

In most cases, the Touch Bar is the slowest way to perform an action! It’s a cool-looking racing stripe that slows you down in many cases, and even worse, eliminates useful physical keys that you probably reach for reflexively, like Esc.


If background apps could present Touch Bar icons, automation utilities like Keyboard Maestro could allow users to trigger custom macros from the Touch Bar without requiring a potentially obscure key combination. Was it Command-Shift-Option-M or Control-Shift-Option-M?

The next time I buy a notebook, I’ll likely get a less capable one since that’s the only way to get a full keyboard instead of a Touch Bar.

The most loved part of the Touch Bar seems to be Touch ID, but there’s no reason the two need to be bundled together.

Update (2017-08-14): Mark Bessey:

I hated the Touchbar pretty much right away, and I generally haven’t warmed up to it at all over the last 6 months. Even though I’ve been living with it for a while, I have only recently really figured out why I don’t like it.


With a very few exceptions [maybe worth exploring those more?], the Touchbar is designed to launch actions on finger-down. This is inconsistent with the rest of the user experience, and it puts a very high price on having your finger slip off of a key at the top of the keyboard. This is exacerbated by bad decisions made by third-party developers like Microsoft, who ridiculously put the “send” function in Outlook on the Touchbar, because if there was ever anything I wanted to make easier, it’s sending an email before I’m quite finished with it.


Failing that, at least some way to bail out of hitting the Touchbar icons would be worth pursuing - possibly making them less senstive to grazing contact, though that would increase the cases where you didn’t activate a button while actually trying to.

Update (2017-08-21): Katie Floyd:

I’ve been using the MacBook Pro for nine months now and the truth is, I haven’t found much of a use for the Touch Bar.

Update (2017-08-28): Chuq Von Rospach (tweet, MacRumors, Hacker News):

It seems to me Apple fell in love with the technology of the Touch Bar system, which if you dig into it a bit is a stunning piece of engineering, and expected all of us to fall in love with it as well. The problem is: Apple rarely sells things to us based on neat technology, it sells us based on the stories of how that technology will solve problems for us, and right now, the problems a Touch Bar solves for us that we care about being solved are few and far between.


The current laptop line forces users to pay for the Touch Bar on the higher end devices whether they want it or not, and that’s a cost users shouldn’t need to pay for a niche technology without a future. So Apple needs to either roll the Touch Bar out to the entire line and convince us we want it, or roll it back and offer more laptop options without it.

Hoà V. DINH:

If you go with a new MacBook Pro, I wouldn’t recommend the touch bar. It has lots of usability/distraction issues.

Jonathan LaCour:

I agree, and the sad part is that the Touch Bar isn’t even the worst aspect of these new MacBook Pros.

Chuq Von Rospach:

If we assume that Apple is committed to using the Secure Enclave in Macs to enable user authentication and to secure Apple Pay, I think it’s okay to assume Apple will be including it in most, if not all, future Macs. If that’s true, then the economics of the Touch Bar are minimal.


If I’m right, future Macs will use the infrared facial recognition, and they can embed those sensors in the bezel of the monitor on both the iMac and the laptops. This simplifies the problem of needing to secure the communication between the sensor and the Secure Enclave; by moving those sensors into the device and off the keyboard, everything gets a lot cleaner. And they can build a much less expensive keyboard with a Touch Bar on it that doesn’t require the level of communication security that would be required if it also had the TouchID sensor.

Update (2017-08-29): Nick Heer:

But I also wonder if the very concept of the Touch Bar is far better suited towards some industries than others. I can see film and audio editors potentially using it to navigate long timelines efficiently, but it’s probably not solving any problems for programmers. I’m almost certainly writing more based on what I want rather than what is logical, but I’d love to the Touch Bar become a simple configuration option for any MacBook Pro. Users who don’t need or want it don’t have to equip it, and could have all the performance they need with a traditional keyboard.

Benjamin Mayo:

Apple probably needs to re-think some of the dynamic interfaces — even a year later, I can’t train myself to use it when I’m flitting between so many different states and applications.


Pushing Touch Bar into lower-end MacBooks will be a big win for Apple. I strongly believe that the Touch Bar is better suited for novices than professionals; it is far more useful to people that have to stare down at the keyboard to type.

Wojtek Pietrusiewicz:

Either way, the Touch Bar is neither the future of keyboards, nor is it a sensible stop-gap to on-screen keyboards. In my use case, where I can’t even see it without moving my hands off the keyboard, it’s just an annoyance and I consider it to be bad design.

See also: The Loop.

Update (2017-09-01): John Martellaro:

I think the reason for this inattention by Apple may be related to the dark years of the Mac: 2015-2016. That’s when Apple got distracted and stopped updating its Macs on a timely basis. But one technology seemed to be dwelled on, and that’s the Touch Bar. Because a lot of engineering effort was put into the Touch Bar (and its follow-on technologies) my guess is that some executives believed that the Mac was being properly attended to.


Perhaps the lesson in all this is that any company must be mindful of the technical needs of users and not dismiss them because it thinks it has something really cool up its sleeve, ready to come to fruition in a few years. Keeping us excited in the here-and-now while the future pieces are being put into place is a job for clever engineering and marketing.

Update (2017-09-04): Greg Hurrell:

If Apple goes with an all Touch Bar laptop lineup, my next machine will either be an iMac or bloody PC laptop running Linux.

Update (2018-10-26): Ben Lovejoy:

That brings me to the second thing: there are times when it the Touch Bar is actively counterproductive.

There are a number of ways it can slow me down. For example, if I want to use the music controls, and the Touch Bar isn’t expanded, it’s two touches in two places rather than one keypress. Or if the bar is expanded and I instead want to mute the machine, it’s again two touches in two places.

Then there are the mistakes. I can’t count the number of times I’ve reached for the backspace key and either hit the Siri button instead, or caught it with the edge of my finger so I get both the backspace and Siri popping up. I then have to touch it again to close the window.

Update (2019-01-23): Dave Nanian:

A Full and Complete Accounting of the Benefits of the TouchBar