Half-assed Mac Apps

This week, Riccardo Mori published a piece about the recent perceived decline in Mac software titled “A brief reflection on Mac software stagnation”.

I was going to reply with a quick tweet-sized comment. But those 280 characters turned into a few tweets, then a full-on Twitter thread, and then – ah, shit – I really should write about this properly.

So here we are this evening. I want to present my short thesis answering Riccardo’s question of why so many Mac Catalyst apps are, at best, Half-assed Mac Apps.

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Roar Notifications

As much as it is a job and source of income, for me, building software is also a way to relax, a form of self-expression, play, and in the best moments – joy.

Today, I want to show off a project so far along the joy side of that spectrum that it blows past being silly and borders on pure ridiculousness.

Let’s reskin Notification Center on macOS.

And make it look like Winamp.

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Capture Thing

I’ve been big into journaling for close to a decade now – at least in my personal life. But I’ve never been able to build up the same habit in my work / professional life – even though I know I would reap benefits there, too.

I’ve tried all sorts of workflows to make journaling my workday a regular and frictionless routine — everything from a Day One hotkey to some convoluted Keyboard Meastro macros and Drafts.app actions.

None of them stuck.

But what finally did work for me (at least for the last six months or so) is a tiny little Mac app called Capture Thing.

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MeetingBuddy

A few weeks ago I built a niche little app idea dubbed MeetingBuddy. You choose a target app from a pre-defined list (or pick any app on your Mac) and a time interval and MeetingBuddy starts screenshotting that app’s windows.

Each recording session goes into its own folder where all of the screenshots are organized by date. But! while this is all going on, MeetingBuddy is also OCR-ing any text found in the screenshots and storing that alongside each image in a sidecar file.

You end up with a folder of recordings for each session. Images and their corresponding text contents.

Why is this useful? Honestly, I’m not exactly sure that it is just yet. But here’s what I’ve been using it for.

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Sample Code to Make your Mac App Open at Launch and How to Handle Global Keyboard Shortcuts

After my post last week about the updates I made to my audio app Ears, longtime internet buddy @macrael asked:

@tylerhall Do you use libraries for the hotkey-setting UI or the start-on-launch stuff? I’m putting together my first Mac app and am looking into those parts rn.

I do, actually. In addition to replying to MacRae on the nightmare birdsite, I thought I’d post the two helper projects here for anyone else searching.

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Shelley

I’ve written previously about using Hazel on macOS to react to a new file appearing in a synced iCloud Drive folder and running commands. But I wanted a faster solution that I could trigger from almost anywhere – including an iOS Shortcut. A way to send a command directly from my phone (or maybe any other device?) to my Mac.

What I came up with is a tiny, macOS menu bar app I call Shelley – because as a friend told me, it’s a Frankenstein of a hack.

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Download Jigsaw for macOS

Jigsaw is one of those ridiculously fun (dumb?) ideas that come along and smack you upside the head one day and you can’t help but take an afternoon to build.

Apple already lets you sync the contents of your Desktop using iCloud. But, if you’re a visual person like me who often arranges their Desktop icons in meaningful ways, not having the positions of your files on screen also stay in sync is frustrating as I move between my laptop and desktop throughout the day.

Jigsaw solves that by syncing the positions of your Desktop icons over iCloud. Move a folder on your iMac, and a few seconds later it mirrors itself on your laptop.

Jigsaw is free to download.

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