Tuesday, September 25, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

The Mojave Marzipan Apps

Benjamin Mayo (tweet):

Marzipan apps are ugly ducklings. As soon as you use them, you can just know these are not at one with the system. You detect that there’s a translation layer of some kind at work here, just like when you use Slack on the Mac you instinctively feel that it’s a web app in a thin wrapper. The underlying implementation is exposed to the user with a bevy of performance sluggishness, UI quirks and non-standard behaviours. That’s bad.


I debated calling this post ‘Home, News, Stocks and Voice Memos for Mac’ because it’s not really a comment on the Marzipan project initiative. After all, I don’t expect the solution Apple ships next year to have the same laundry list of drawbacks that these Mojave apps do. It’s a critique of the apps that are shipping now to customers of macOS. These apps are preinstalled with the OS. News was even unceremoniously placed into the middle of my Dock upon upgrading. And they are not good, simple as that. I would have been mildly happier if Apple had offered these apps as optional App Store downloads affixed with a beta label.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Everybody’s looking at Marzipan and going ‘wow, these apps will never fit in on macOS’ and I’m here going ‘wow, this is what Mac apps are going to all be like in a few years…’


Logically, I expect:

1) Marzipan to get better on the desktop — visually, and functionally

2) iOS-based apps to dominate and subsume macOS-based apps

3) Many of iOS’ paradigms to ‘win’ in this transition, enabling new classes of touchscreen computers that otherwise wouldn’t exist

Kuba Suder:

It makes zero sense to bring Mac to the lowest common denominator to support iOS apps, it’s what Microsoft did and what Apple always criticized. I believe they’ll improve the APIs and VM layer to make such apps feel much more Mac-like, let them easily launch multiple windows etc.


But it will take a long time until Marzipan can compete with AppKit for building Mac apps that feel truly at home on macOS, and probably both AppKit and UIKit will be replaced by something new by then.

Charlie Melbye:

- marzipan is going to quickly improve and eventually power most new Mac apps

- marzipan v1 apps in Mojave are some of the poorest quality first party Mac apps in recent memory

Both of these things are true.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

The existing Mac apps are not good apps! Messages is a web view! iBooks is a travesty! Apple’s history of bringing features to both platforms strongly favors iOS

Eli Schiff:

Consider @stroughtonsmith’s rhetoric—he’s in an uncanny valley wherein one is not sure if he’s running interference for Apple to assuage fears, or if he’s the only one providing sober analysis. The truth is a drop of idealism turns latter into the former.

Bob Burrough:

His analysis is sober. The moment I realized it was when he said iPhone needed mouse support. His vision for the platform is authentic. He’s not running interference for Apple any more than you’re arbitrarily bashing them. You’re both being genuine.

John Gruber:

These Marzipan apps are not good apps.

Jason Snell:

MacOS is on the way to being a superset of iOS with legacy app compatibility and slightly relaxed security? But I do think the marzipan apps will get better than they are now. One would hope.

Bob Burrough:

I’m a bit astonished by the unanimity of opinion that Mojave’s Marzipan apps are not good. There’s usually always a holdout.

The new Mac App Store app, which does not use Marzipan, also has issues:

I’m not a huge fan of this hiding title bar in the new App Store. It’s clever, but confusing to new users (I didn’t even know it was there.) It makes the app look a little cleaner but non uniform. And it seems like a haphazard experiment around iOS navigation controllers on Mac.

Just to add to the confusion, it’s not even present/showable when you actually pop another view onto the stack, meaning it doesn’t even really reliably bridge the navigation controller concept from iOS.

And there remains a lot of interest in third-party developers using Marzipan today.

Previously: Apple Announces Marzipan for 2019, macOS Mojave: Back to the Mac, Tim Cook Says Users Don’t Want iOS to Merge With macOS.

Update (2018-09-27): Nick Heer:

I didn’t want to complain about the state of these apps prior to release because I didn’t think that was fair — plenty of bugs were fixed as the release date drew nearer. Unfortunately, they didn’t become any more Mac-like. That would be fine if these were one-offs, but Apple is planning on releasing this framework to developers just next year, and the initial results are not promising. They remind me of the janky apps you’ll find at the top of the free chart in the Games section of the Mac App Store. I worry that this will be increasingly common now that directly porting an app from iOS is something that is seemingly officially sanctioned, and I’m not the only one. These apps are not ready.

Or, here’s an even worse situation: maybe Apple does consider these apps ready. Surely they figured they were good enough to bundle preinstalled in the latest public update to MacOS. Are these the model apps for third-party developers to aspire to when they get to start porting their apps next year? I certainly hope not.

Colin Cornaby:

The Mac Home app is a direct refutation to the idea that iOS developers won’t just use Marzipan to ship thoughtless iOS shovelware on the Mac. From Apple themselves.

Update (2018-09-28): Jason Snell:

Some of Apple’s built-in Mac apps lag behind their iOS equivalents. The best example might be Messages, which lacks all sorts of iOS features, including stickers and message effects. It’s hard not to imagine a world where most of Apple’s cross-platform apps are developed using this system, allowing them to be feature-compatible across iOS and Mac. Which is worse, knowing that the app you’re using originated on iOS, or getting up to find your iPhone because the Mac version of the app you’re using doesn’t support a feature that Apple rolled out on iOS last year?


Imagine a world where Apple has to add features to iOS apps so that they’re palatable to Mac users. That solves a lot of problems for iOS users too, doesn’t it?

See also: Connected, Hacker News, MacRumors.

Update (2018-10-10): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2018-10-19): John Gruber:

In Apple News on iOS you can open any article in Safari via the share sheet. Am I getting this right that there’s no way to do that in Apple News on Mojave? I don’t even see a way to copy the original URL.

Did anyone at Apple even try using these Marzipan apps?

Sam Byford:

when you pause a recording in voice memos (say, an interview for transcription) and then press play again, it starts from the beginning. and you can’t even open the file in quicktime or anything else! they’re just staggeringly bad pieces of software

Nick Lockwood:

It’s difficult for me to advocate for a technology that produces bad apps without feeling like a hypocrite wrt native app experience.

Not for the first time, Apple has put me in a position of not being willing to stake my own reputation on them not fucking something up.

I want UIKit on Mac and I think it could be done well, but the belief that it will be done well is predicated on the assumption that Apple wouldn’t deliberately lower the quality ceiling for Mac apps, and yet Apple has just shipped a bunch of apps that disprove that assumption.

Will Cosgrove:

Have you noticed the text selection color if you put News in the background. What is even happening.

Peter Steinberger :

I will show the hacks currently needed to try Marzipan, and walk through what I needed to do to get PDF Viewer to run on macOS Mojave.

Update (2018-12-10): Wojtek Pietrusiewicz:

Personally I’m horrified at what these apps look like and how they function. They appear to be foreign entities among all the software designed for MacOS. Despite understanding Apple’s reasoning behind shipping them now and not when their backbone is ready, I cannot quite fathom who said: ‘Yes, this is good enough.’ Not at Apple in any case.


Really glad Windows and Linux have improved over the years. I don't trust Apple with anything regarding macOS and its hardware. This Marzipan stuff just helps to confirm that distrust.

This is fundamentally different than the Microsoft UWP app debacle how? Oh well.

ChromeOS is looking better and better. Who would have thought such a limited OS would prove the most interesting? Chrome stuff, Android apps, and Linux apps all on one platform is pretty compelling, for me anyway. I don't use very many Windows only apps and zero Mac only apps so I'm good with the transition.


To be scrupulously fair to UWP I found that most of its issues were in the UI layer.

It's a touch-friendly tablet / laptop UI framework shoe-horned down onto phone and up onto large-screen desktops & above. That's ultimately why W10 Mobile's UX is poorer than Windows Phone. I think most of the issues I found developing for W10 Mobile could have been resolved with a bit of care and attention. However, Microsoft suffers from an over abundance of software engineers and their "group think" favours trying to iron-out the differences between UX paradigms by abstracting them away rather than respecting them.

If the guys at Apple were paying attention to what Microsoft did with UWP then there'd be reasons for optimism vis a vis Marzipan. However, I suspect that Apple's self-belief and "exceptionalism" tends to blind them to pre-existing work. So I fear that things will probably be quite bumpy for a while.

I work on iOS & macOS apps for my employer and Marzipan seems like over-kill for the problems I encounter on a daily basis. I suspect it is more about Apple now viewing the Mac as an adjunct to iOS and desiring to minimise their own internal efforts on the platform.

[…] now that directly porting an app from iOS is something that is seemingly officially sanctioned, and I’m not the only one. These apps are not […]

> Who would have thought such a limited OS would prove the most interesting?

As more and more of the stuff we used to do locally also (or exclusively) exists in the cloud, these complex operating systems start to look more and more out of sync with what we actually need.

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