Sunday, October 13, 2019

Podcasts in Catalina


The new Podcasts app deleted years of downloaded podcasts when I updated, including a lot that are no longer hosted on the web. For some reason the “sensible default” in the new app is to delete anything beyond the most recent ten episodes. Now I need to remember to restore from backup before it gets overwritten, heh.

Beware. But, for me, it did not do this. Instead, it left my iTunes library in place, not migrating it at all, and showed me the list of podcasts from years ago, before I had turned off the Sync podcast subscriptions and settings option in iTunes.

So, naturally I wanted to delete all those old podcasts and import my new ones. I found that:

Overall, the Mac version of Podcasts seems like a huge regression from what we had with iTunes. There’s no standard table view of all the episodes. There’s no list of shows, just a grid of icons. The interface is very modal. You can tell it’s a Catalyst app because instead of sheets you get these little popovers with narrow, rounded text fields and flat buttons like in no other Mac app.

So I’m looking for a replacement app for archiving podcasts. (I mostly listen on my phone using Overcast.) I checked out a bunch of RSS readers—NetNewsWire 5, Reeder, Vienna, Leaf, News Explorer—but none seem to support auto-downloading attachments.

I have previously had success with Downcast, but several times it got totally messed up and could no longer read its own files. This seems to have been caused by a sandbox bug, so maybe that’s fixed in Catalina. I’ll probably give it another try.

I’ve also heard that Newsboat can handle RSS attachments. I’d prefer an actual Mac app. But I’ll use something text-based and cross-platform if it works well. Isn’t this what Catalyst was supposed to prevent?


Update (2019-10-14): Colin Cornaby:

It’s a weird app and I quickly get frustrated with it in a way I never was with iTunes.

The blurry text and images on a non-Retina display doesn’t help either.

Andrew Pontious:

Still amazes me that the kinda shitty, nonstandard cross-platform apps that Apple was always so disdainful of are now being shipped by Apple.

Update (2019-10-23): Dr. Drang:

Thought I’d give Apple’s Podcasts app (iOS) a chance. It’s been quite a while since the last time I tried it, and it’s supposed to be much improved.

So, um, where’s the Import Subscriptions command?

Update (2019-10-31): Colin Cornaby:

Launch images/nibs on Catalyst apps are super weird. Especially when the launch image is the iPad interface, and not the actual Mac interface.

Looking at you Mac Podcasts.

Brad Vrolijk:

Even some of Apple’s Catalyst apps have some sloppy oversights in Catalina. In Podcasts, you get different remove dialogs (one macOS-like, one clearly iOS) depending where you decide to remove an episode (show view vs. a station)

See also: The Talk Show.

Update (2020-02-06): Colin Cornaby:

Mac Podcasts still has a lot of bugs. But it seems like the font rendering got better at some point. It no longer hurts my eyes to look at. Physically at least.

I'm not sure if everything is fixed though. The font below looks good. But the header font still looks super blurry for reasons that I think are deeper than the smaller size and color. I wonder if Catalyst has changed how default fonts are rendered, but not custom ones.

27 Comments RSS · Twitter

I use Downcast and have dozens of podcasts with settings from last 2 to all of hundreds of eps (Night Vale), never lost anything, but I don't really use the Mac app, it lives on the phone.

I have a ton of downloaded podcasts that aren't showing up in the Finder or even via spotlight search. Of course, this lousy Catalyst app has no "Show in Finder" command so who knows where they are. This Catalyst technology is truly terrible. I won't be touching any app, much less paying for one, that uses this crappy layer to come to the Mac.

From my tests, I recall that I was able to press shift+arrows in order to select multiple podcasts. That way I could delete multiple of them.

But I'll be fair, the app didn't stick for me either. I went back to PocketCasts very shortly afterwards.

Another +1 For Downcast, it lives on all my Apple kit. I use OCCASIONALLY the Mac version on the living room Mini, and since it works okay on Mojave I’m still not upgrading what works and has worked.

I don’t archive podcasts and don’t listen to any more than 5 channels tho’.

@Andrei Shift-Arrow definitely doesn’t work in the grid of shows. It doesn’t even have the notion of a selection. Pressing an arrow key navigates you down one level into either the first or last show. (And pressing the opposite arrow key doesn’t get you back out.)

Here's another weird thing: In the past, I could take a podcast's mp3 file and drag it into iTunes, classify it as a podcast and play it. Now, not only can I obviously not do that with the podcasts app (which seems to have no drag and drop awareness beyond its window), but I when I drag that file into Music, it doesn't show up there either. Just completely rejects the mp3 file and offers no feedback as to why. Bizarre.

How about the Overcast web interface? It’s functional while waiting for a catalyst version of the program.

Literally the only good thing with the new Podcasts app is that the sync now works a bit better, that is, when I delete episodes from the library on the Mac they also disappear from the library on iOS. — Manually synced episodes though still result as duplicates in the iOS app (“Synced from iTunes”).

@Matyas I’m looking for an app that downloads the MP3 files into per-podcast folders. The Overcast web interface only does streaming.

For a long time, I've been hearing people talk about how iTunes was bloated and needed to be scrapped, and I've been thinking, "iTunes will be missed once it's gone."

>For a long time, I've been hearing people talk about how iTunes was
>bloated and needed to be scrapped, and I've been thinking,
>"iTunes will be missed once it's gone."

When people say "Apple should do X", there's always an implied "...but with at least a basic level of competence." I guess in the future, we should assume that this can no longer be implied, and adjust what we ask for accordingly.

Simona Cardenas

Have you looked at GPodder? It's a GUI podcatcher popular on Linux that also has a decent OS X port, and it's actively updated. I started using GPodder to archive podcasts a couple years ago when iTunes was inexplicably deleting played episodes of a couple of my podcasts even though I had clearly selected the do not delete option. I have GPodder running in the background of my media server as a running archive of everything, and just use iTunes for downloading current episodes and syncing them to my old iPod Touch.

@Simona I was not aware of GPodder. Thanks. It seems like it may not work with Catalina, though.

Simona Cardenas

That's unfortunate (perhaps it's related to notarization?). There's also a new-ish native Swift podcatcher called "Doughnut" you might not have heard of but could be worth a try. I've never tried it personally -- I'm leery of projects with one or two developers getting abandoned.

@MichaelTsai, Downcast loads podcast files locally to your Mac (or iPhone). I just finished switching completely from Apple Podcasts to Downcast (Mac & iOS).

I already used Downcast for a while some years ago but had to abandon it because of crazy sync problems (this was before CloudKit). Sync seems fine now.

@Tom Are you sure that Downcast has switched to CloudKit? It looks to me like it’s still using the old document-based syncing (which I also found problematic).

@MichaelTsai: No, definitely not sure! I was just assuming he has switched to CloudKit because 1) Sync works now, and 2) Back then he announced that he will switch to CloudKit (see final paragraph of this blog entry from 2016).

How can I definitely tell if it uses CloudKit or not?

@Tom Maybe the support info and release notes just haven’t been updated to mention that. I can see that the app has the CloudKit entitlement, but I don’t know what it uses it for. I guess you would need to ask the developer.

I’ve mailed him…

@Tom @MichaelTsai

I'm the developer behind Downcast. Unfortunately, it does not yet use CloudKit for syncing and still uses the iCloud Documents & Data (effectively iCloud Drive now) method. The CloudKit entitlement is there b/c I had included some CloudKit related code at one point to test something out and once I disabled that functionality, forgot to remove the entitlement.

The problems with the iCloud Documents & Data service have gradually improved over time, but Apple hasn't eradicated them. I've said this many times, and failed to deliver for various reasons, but the transition to CloudKit is coming.

Adrian Warren

IMHO Apple took a crappy app, iTunes and sp[lit it in to two crappier apps (music + Podcasts) haven't had the misfortune to use the new iMovie yet

I have an iPod nano that I like to load up with 50+ podcasts and listen at work or wherever. I recently upgraded to Catalina and now I'm unable to figure out how to get podcasts onto my iPod. Used to just load them thru iTunes but when I plug my iPod into my Macbook it just shows up on the desktop, not in Podcasts. Not super tech savvy, so I'm hoping I'm missing something?

Catalina/Podcasts is a disaster to manage. No bulk delete. Same podcast subscription showing up 2x in ipod. No amount of manually deleting has fixed this. Wish there was another app for Mac that will download to ipod. Can't believe the time I have spent the past week trying to troubleshoot Podcast app issues. It is unbelieveable they let this version out the door

VLC for iOS will be my replacement now that I have upgraded to macOS Catalina. Podcasts doesn't let you import files from your local machine, however you can drag media files into the Files tab in Finder when you have your device selected.

Was disappointed to see this too. I still use my iPod Classic in my car to listen to podcasts. It keeps me off my phone while driving if there's only play/pause as an option. I may just build Mojave virtual machine to manage podcasts. There's the option to sync my ipod using the new finder sync approach, but it gives the scary "we'll delete everything" when I start to enable the sync option. I don't want the hassle of reloading onto my ipod, but as a last resort it may be the only forward facing option.

In preparing for possibly upgrading to Catalina soon, I tried various applications for downloading archival episodes from some podcasts that I like to keep around, because I would no longer be able to use iTunes for this task after the upgrade.

I'm now using gPodder, and I'm overall quite satisfied with it. In contrast to other apps I tried (e.g., Doghnut, Swinsian), you can set it up to automatically embed both the description text and the cover art into the actual mp3 file, which is something that iTunes does and I didn't want to lose.

It's definitely not the most intuitive application, but if you dig into it a little, it has a ton of useful settings and customization options. For instance, the Planet Money podcast recently abandoned episode numbers, so that the resulting mp3 files are no longer be neatly ordered (i.e., "J. Screwed.mp3" instead of "#970 Raw Milk Deal.mp3"). With gPodder, I can prepend the release date in ISO format, so that the episodes are neatly ordered without having to rely on something potentially unreliable such as the modification dates of the files.

Anyway, since I spent half a Sunday on researching and testing various podcatching alternatives (after reading the above comments for ideas), I figured I should share my results, in case someone else comes across this thread in search for guidance.

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