macOS

Integrating Luna Display Into the Classroom

My wife gave me a Luna Display for my birthday and I have been really impressed with it so far. Luna is a USB-C dongle that plugs into a Mac. Using the companion app on iPad, you can access the entirety of macOS, wirelessly. 

public.jpeg

I cannot wait to use this device this coming school year. I teach in about five different classrooms which makes transporting my Mac cumbersome. It is heavy, always running out of battery, and is missing some of my iOS music apps like forScore and Tonal Energy. The light form factor of my iPad Pro is perfect for toting around the building in one hand.

There are a few problems with this. I am still faster on macOS for one. And more importantly, there is software on the Mac that I cannot take full advantage of on the iPad. I depend heavily on FileMaker for a tracking student data, assessments, and assignments. I have discussed that workflow on two episodes of The Class Nerd podcast. This episode on tracking student data and this episode, which is a bit miscellaneous. For whatever reason, keyboard input on certain parts of the user interface is slow on FileMaker Go, the iOS version of the app. Even though I can do 90 percent of the things I need to with my database on iOS, the typing speed slows me down.

Luna Display puts macOS right on the screen of my iPad.

Luna Display puts macOS right on the screen of my iPad.

It is for reasons like this that I am thrilled to use Luna Display in school next year. The experience of using the app is so smooth that at times I forget I am not using my Mac. Are there issues? Tons. But I stop to wonder every now and then why it is again that macOS can’t work with touch.

I also use a score editing app called Dorico on my Mac. Not as often as FileMaker, but enough that it is sorely missed on iOS. I have not tried to operate this application on the Luna Display but in full screen mode I suspect it isn’t so bad. Once I give it a shot I will report back.

iOS apps I would love to see come to the Mac, a musician’s perspective

There has been a lot of buzz lately around ‘Marzipan,’ a set of developer tools that Apple is making to help third party developers more easily port their iOS apps to macOS. It is heavily rumored that Apple will detail this initiative at their developer conference, WWDC, this June (during the keynote on June 3rd).

Last year at WWDC, Apple unveiled four Mac apps that use this new set of tools to bring iPad-like versions of iOS apps to the Mac. The apps launched were Home, Stocks, Voice Memos, and News. The apps have been met with much criticism for their lack of Mac-likeness. For example, when you double click a news article in the News app, you can't see an article in a separate window, a behavior you would expect from the Mail app or Notes app on Mac. Likewise, the Home app, when setting up a time based automation displays they iOS style date picker, with scrollable numbers, rather than the calendar like interface that you would see when selecting a date in traditional Mac apps.

I agree that these four Mac apps are garbage, but I would much rather have the utility of them than not. Even if all these Mac apps do are act like iPad apps that accept input from a cursor instead of a finger, I would still kill to have any of the following on macOS:

-Tonal Energy Tuner. There are no tuning drone based apps, even on the web, that do 1/100th of what this iOS app does. My Mac is my primary device for sharing audio and visuals with my students during class. This would get used every single day.

-forScore. I have a weird way of managing my digital sheet music using the file system of my Mac, but then importing duplicate copies into my iPad’s forScore library. It would be really nice to have one place where this is all managed across all devices. Of course, this would require forScore to sync a library across devices, which the team has told me is too difficult a task to prioritize currently.

-Twitter. Twitter killed their Mac app recently and as someone who recently started using their app on iOS (Tweetbot is still far better but Twitter no longer provides the proper APIs for them to stay up to date on modern features), I would really prefer to not use the web browser on the Mac.

-Apollo. To my knowledge, there has never been a good Reddit client on any non-mobile device. Apollo is great.

-Facebook Messenger. I hate Facebook but it is a necessary communication tool. I would love to use it for that without going to their stupid website ever again.

-Overcast. My favorite podcast player. Would love to have it on Mac.

-Health. An app that excels in showing me data on graphs and charts sure would be useful on the big screen of a Mac.

-Due. My favorite reminder app is already on Mac but it looks gross.

-Instapaper. I use ReadKit on the Mac as an Instapaper client on Mac now, but would not mind something more minimal. Instapaper is the perfect candidate for a Marzipan app for its simplicity.

-Instagram. Who wouldn’t want this on Mac?

-Tempo. There is only one good metronome app on the Mac (Dr. Betotte). Opening up UIKit to Mac developers would bring a whole lot of competition in this space. Frozen Ape’s Tempo would be my first choice to get ported over.

-AnyList. Their Mac app is already just a gross port of their iOS app. Using Apple’s tools would surely make it prettier and more responsive.

-Ferrite Recording Studio. My podcast audio editor of choice is only on iPad. It sure would be cool to use these tools on a bigger screen with keyboard and mouse.

Road Trip!!! Off to the Tennessee Music Educators Association Conference!

 

I am pumped to be spending the next four days in Nashville to present at the Tennessee Music Educators Association Conference. I am presenting three sessions tomorrow, Friday, April 13th. One of these sessions is brand new and focused entirely on teaching intonation to student musicians with the support of the Tonal Energy tuning app. Scroll down for links to all of my session notes.

Road Trip!!!

My wife and I are making a road trip out of this event. In addition to eating and drinking our way through the city over the next few days, I am excited to be seeing old friends and new. Tomorrow night we will be seeing the Nashville Symphony Orchestra performing a program of Elgar, Mozart, and Bach. I will get to watch a friend of mine from grad school, Joshua Hickman (Principal Timpanist), performing with the ensemble.

I will also get to meet friend, Craig McClellan, in person for the first time. Craig has an awesome education/technology blog called The Class Nerd and has been a recent regular on my podcast. (Listen here and here).

Craig and I may or may not have a very special project we are cooking up for teachers later this year...

Session Notes

Here are the session notes for my three sessions. Check them out!!!

Going Paperless with iPad (April 13, 9 am)

Working with Digital Scores (April 13, 10 am)

Teaching Intonation with Tonal Energy (April 13, 3 pm)

Microsoft Office for iPad now supports opening files from the Files app more directly

Microsoft Office and the Files App Finally Play Nice Together:

Today Microsoft updated its Office suite for iOS, with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all reaching version 2.12. Office updates rarely receive detailed release notes, and today was no exception, but user Teddy Svoronos discovered that the updates brought 'Open In' capabilities to the share sheet, which previously only enabled making a copy of an Office document. The 'Copy to' option has now been removed, replaced by the more convenient 'Open in.'

After seeing Teddy's tweet, I did a little playing around in the Files app and discovered that, while Excel and PowerPoint documents accessed in Files will load Quick Look previews and require tapping 'Open in' from the share sheet, the experience is even better with .docx files. Those Word-associated documents open directly in the Word app with just a single tap from the Files interface – no need to open the share sheet first.

It is really nice to see proper use of the Files app user interface being adopted into apps by third party developers. The more time passes, hopefully we will see this adoption so wide that opening documents using the native file browser will feel no different on an iPad than it does on a Mac. It always feels jarring on Mac when the “Open” option doesn’t show the Finder. On iPad, custom “open” UIs have been standard since its beginning. Hopefully the Files app introduced this past fall with iOS 11 will continue to change that. 

What I really thought was interesting about this article was something I have been wondering about the Files app since the summer. 

Update: One of the developers working on Office has confirmed my suspicions: the reason Word files open for me with a single tap while Excel and PowerPoint files do not is that I haven't opened those files enough for iOS to know that I would prefer to bypass the share sheet.

I had noticed that tapping on files in the Files app could open them within third party apps but I never understood how iOS knew which apps to use. (For example, standard text files were opening in Byword on my iPhone and 1Writed on my iPad for a time.) It seems that the user can to some extent control these apps by using the “Open In…” option from the Files app and choosing the desired app frequently. Still though, I would love the option to set default apps on iOS. I can tell my Mac which app I want to open PDFs. Why not on my iPad Pro?

Looking for a cheap, powerful alternative (or replacement) for Photoshop on Mac. Pixelmator Pro might be for you.

Pixelmator Pro:

Pixelmator Pro is an image editor packed full of innovations. From a reimagined editing workflow and simplified editing tools to machine learning powering all-new, intelligent image editing features. So the tools at your fingertips are smarter and more powerful, yet more intuitive and easier to use than ever before.

I have not updated to macOS High Sierra yet so I cannot download this, though I will say that I have had tremendously positive success with the standard Pixelmator on Mac and iOS.

This all leads to the inevitable moment that I cancel my Photoshop subscription.

Download here.

macOS High Sierra is out! Make sure you know which notation software is compatible!

The Scoring Notes blog is keeping track of High Sierra compatibility updates for all the major notation editors…

Music notation software and macOS High Sierra:

Today Apple is releasing macOS High Sierra (10.13), the newest iteration of its Mac operating system. High Sierra’s most significant change is its use of a new file system, Apple File System (APFS), for computers with all-flash storage. High Sierra brings a number of other new features, too, but on this blog we’ll focus on its compatibility with desktop music notation software: Sibelius, Finale, Dorico, and MuseScore.

 

What did Apple check off on my WWDC wishlist?

A few weeks ago, I detailed my wishlist for WWDC. Below, I have reposted it with what Apple actually announced. My assessment over whether or not a feature was announced is based on whether or not the feature was announced verbally during the keynote, not on a slide or later discovered within the OS.

MACOS

-News app to mirror the one on iOS NOPE

-improvements to pro apps (Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X) and additions to the Photos app NOPE

-splitting iTunes up into separate apps like what is on iOS: separate app for Music, TV, Podcasts, and iTunes Store NOPE

IOS

-default apps (won't happen) NOPE

-serious overhaul of iPad productivity (better file system, better home screen, drag and drop, better multitasking, more control over audio ins and outs) YESX100

TVOS

-PiP NOPE

-Ability to watch TV content from two apps at once NOPE

-ability to command with Siri without the Remote app (for example, I want to say to my phone, “hey Siri watch Game of Thrones,” and have it turn on the TV, launch the HBO app and start the most recent episode) NOPE

-ability to sync all Apple TVs in the house so that they show the same video at once (for parties...also, this won't happen) NOPE

WATCHOS

-smart contexts: ability to change Watch face, complications, and notifications based on sensitivity to time and location CHECK, Siri watchface

-better audio controls (easier to access Now Playing screen, complications to play and pause audio, ability to scroll the crown for volume and use hardware buttons for control whenever audio has recently been playing) CHECK, sort of with swipe to audio controls within Workout app

GENERAL

-Siri improvements (more reliable, faster, more open to third party apps, better integration with tvOS, local dictation and basic commands CHECK

-AirPods with always listening Siri NOPE

-improvements to iCloud Drive (shared folders, files, and URLs) CHECK definitely to shared files, but not sure about others

Here are some of my favorite features that reddit users replied with:

-Multiple iOS user logins NOPE

-Hey Siri on Mac NOPE

-custom watch faces NOPE

-open CarPlay up to more developers (pasrticular third party maps apps and messenging apps) NOPE

-iOS dark mode NOPE

-Workflow integration NOPE

-Open up NFC to third party apps CHECK

-Apple Pay your friends and family over iMessage CHECK

-Apple Music continuity NOPE

Apple Power Users Rejoice!

Another topic I intended to blog about months ago and have been sitting on throughout the spring.

The Mac Pro Lives!!!

John Gruber wrote a great post at Daring Fireball recently outlining Apple’s plans for the future of their desktop computers.

The Mac Pro Lives:

Apple is currently hard at work on a “completely rethought” Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They’re also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them.

This is fantastic news. No matter how late Apple is releasing this machine, or how late they are in realizing that they need to release this machine, it is good for everyone that they are releasing it. I own the 2008 Mac Pro. I love it, but I don't think I will buy another desktop Mac in the near future just because my needs have changed so much since 2008. But Apple making a modular pro level machine gives me hope for the platform. It means that creative professionals will be able to rely on Macs as their primary workstations for years to come. It also means that Apple is committed to macOS, an operating system that I have a lot of affection for and rely on to perform high level tasks and operate professional music software. This really is good news for anybody who loves the Mac, whether you need something like a Mac Pro or if the MacBook Air is enough for you.

This, in combination with Apple's recent acquisition of Workflow, lead me to believe that Apple really cares about putting powerful tools in the hands of their users, both traditional professionals who use Mac Pros, and edge case iOS power users.