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TidBITS: Apple News for the Rest of Us: Media Creation



The oldest continuously published technology publication on the Internet, TidBITS brings you the Apple Macintosh, iPhone, iPad, and iPod news, reviews, tips, and commentary that matters. Join us each week for audio versions of award-winning coverage from



Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:17:18 EST

Last Build Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:17:18 EST

Copyright: Copyright 2018 TidBITS Publishing Inc.
 



GraphicConverter 10.5.5

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 15:35:51 EST

Lemkesoft has released GraphicConverter 10.5.5, adding a GPS menu item for finding other images shot near a selected image and an Edit menu item for finding and replacing duplicates of a selected file. The graphic conversion and editing utility also adds a batch action for removing metadata, updates texts and routines for writing HEIC files with macOS 10.13.4 High Sierra, improves export of DirectDraw Surface (DDS) files, and updates localizations. ($39.95 new from Lemkesoft or the Mac App Store, free update, 181 MB, release notes, 10.9+)

 

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Rescue Blurry Photos with Live Photos in iOS 11

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 12:11:31 EST

I love the idea behind the Live Photos feature baked into new iOS devices because it lets me capture short videos of my son doing something cute. But when it comes to snapping a photo of an expense receipt or a particularly attractive pot of butter chicken I’ve cooked, it’s hard to justify the extra storage space a Live Photo consumes for the few seconds of extra video. Thankfully, iOS 11 introduced new features to help make it worthwhile to leave Live Photos on. Apple advertised one such feature heavily in the WWDC keynote. Swipe up on a Live Photo and you see different effects you can apply to it: Live (the default), Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure. Jeff Carlson wrote about the last one in “Using Long Exposure in iOS 11’s Photos App” (12 October 2017). Long Exposure and the others are neat, but Apple didn’t do much to tell people about what may be the most useful Live Photo feature of iOS 11: choosing a new key photo, which is the still image you see of a Live Photo in the Photos app. If you tend to take pictures of fast-moving subjects, you have undoubtedly run into this problem: you line up a perfect shot, but before you can press the shutter button, your subject moves. That may result in a blurry photo, or one that misses the moment you wanted. But here’s the thing! In iOS 11, with Live Photos enabled, the Camera app actually captures 1.5 seconds of video before you press the shutter button. So when you choose a new key photo, it’s like editing your photo with a highly precise time machine that can show you every moment of the second and a half before the photo was taken. Here’s how you do it in Photos for iOS, but it works exactly the same in Photos for Mac: Choose a Live Photo in the Photos app and tap Edit in the upper-right corner. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a strip of images that Apple calls the frame viewer. On the frame viewer, you’ll see a white square that indicates the current key photo. Drag that square to move through the frames of the Live Photo until you find a better one. It’s best to do this slowly. When you let go of the square, a Make Key Photo popover appears. Tap that to change the key photo to the frame that you’ve selected. Photos marks both the original key photo and the selected frame with a dot. If you have a 3D Touch-capable device, you’ll feel a tap when you select one of those dotted images. If you tap Done to finish editing and decide you don’t like the key photo you’ve chosen, you can always go back in and pick another one or tap Revert to undo all edits to that image. Don’t set your expectations too high. The alternative key photos may not be perfectly sharp either, but you can often make a dramatic improvement and rescue an otherwise terrible photo! For more helpful iOS tips, check out my book, “Take Control of iOS 11.” Thanks for making it my best-selling book yet!  Read and post comments about this article | Tweet this article PDFpen and PDFpenPro 9 add 100+ enhancements to improve your PDF editing experience, with annotations, Tables of Contents, and more export options. For PDF reviewing, editing, signing, redacting and exporting, PDFpen has you covered.   Copyright © 2018 Josh Centers. TidBITS is copyright © 2018 TidBITS Publishing Inc.[...]



Farrago: A Fun and Useful Soundboard for the Mac

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 09:15:56 EST

Rogue Amoeba’s new Farrago is a powerful soundboard application for the Mac. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a soundboard, it’s a tool that lets you assign various sound files to buttons in a grid, after which you can play them with the press of a key or a click of the mouse. The idea is that you can trigger one or more sounds at any time, in any order, as needed while recording a podcast, performing live, or just for fun. Farrago is a fresh new take, adding greater control and more options for each sound than previous soundboard tools for the Mac, such as Ambrosia’s seemingly moribund Soundboard, Podcast Soundboard, and Black Cat Systems’ Sound Byte. Farrago requires OS X 10.10 Yosemite or later and costs $39. A fully featured free trial version lets you trigger 20 sounds per application launch. To get started with Farrago, you create a new sound set, which can contain up to 80 individual tiles. Each tile consists of an individual audio file, as well as related controls for playback. Then you import sounds by dragging their files into Farrago’s main window, which adds them to whichever set you have selected at the moment. Farrago supports the expected formats like MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, and WAV, as well as less-common ones like Ogg Vorbis and Real Audio. In short, it should handle whatever sound files you throw at it. Farrago stores its own copy of your sound files, so you won’t lose your sounds if you move the original file to another Mac or share it with a friend. You can color-code sounds for organization and assign each sound 1 of 80 possible trigger keys on your keyboard (40 keys by themselves and those same 40 with the Option key). That lets you trigger all your sounds simply by typing letters, numbers, or punctuation. Since Farrago can hold as many sets as you like, if you were using Farrago to manage audio effects for a play, you could create a different set for each scene. Each sound has its own settings, including two different volume levels you can toggle between, fade in and fade out times, and a start and stop point in the sound in case you want only a small portion of a larger clip. You can configure whether a sound should loop until you stop it, whether a paused sound should resume from the paused point or start over from the beginning, and whether the sound should be played solo, stopping all other playing sounds when triggered. Finally, you can configure a sound to play only while the trigger key is held down. In addition to the grid layout, Farrago provides a list view that’s handy when you need to play your audio clips in order. It doesn’t change how the application performs but it makes it easy to play each sound in turn, as you might need to do as a play progresses. Farrago comes with a small set of fun sample sounds. You can record your own or add sounds from public online libraries such as FreeSound.org or ZapSplat. Just be sure that you either have or do not need a license for any sounds you use in any audio you publish or perform. Rogue Amoeba says Farrago is designed for podcasters and those managing live performances, and I can see the utility to both audiences. I participate in a community theater, and when I am not on stage, I like to work in various technical capacities including running sound for shows. I immediately saw how I could put Farrago to use when triggering sound effects. It responds instantly to key presses, which is essential if you need to match, say, a gunshot sound with an actor’s movements on stage. As for podcasts, Farrago enables a freeform style of podcasting where you insert intro/outro music, sound effects, and even interview clips on the fly while you record yourself speaking live. That might require some practice, but it would likely be faster and easier than arranging everything carefully in an audio editor like GarageBand. I can imagine other uses for Farrago too. You could use it to play ambient sounds and music to add mood and tension to role-playin[...]



Logic Pro X 10.4

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 10:51:05 EST

Apple has released Logic Pro X 10.4, adding new features and instruments to the professional audio app. The update adds the Smart Tempo feature, which enables you to combine music at the same tempo (regardless of each piece’s original tempo), and lets you add any audio file and have it automatically conform to a project’s tempo. It also brings a number of new plug-ins, including ChromaVerb (for creating rich acoustic spaces), Vintage EQ Collection (with three analog EQs originally from the 1950s to the 1970s), and Retro Synth (with 18 filter models).

Logic Pro X 10.4 also adds two Drummers (roots and jazz-influenced brush styles), two vintage brush kits for Drum Kit Designer, and more than 800 new loops in a variety of instruments and genres. Among the hundreds of other enhancements and improvements, Logic Pro X also now enables you to undo mixer and plug-in actions, adds support for bookmarking locations in favorite Files Browser folders, adds a preference to toggle user interface animations on or off, brings four new options for the behavior of Replace mode when recording MIDI, and smooths out zooming with the Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad in the Audio File Editor. ($199.99 new in the Mac App Store, free update, 1.4 GB, release notes, 10.12+)

 

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GraphicConverter 10.5.4

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 21:12:43 EST

Lemkesoft has issued GraphicConverter 10.5.4, a maintenance release for the graphic conversion and editing utility. The update adds HEIC export capabilities via an external helper tool (requires macOS 10.13 High Sierra), a separate text antialias option, support for Mailplane 3 as an email application, and a new Copy XMP Face Names to XMP Persons contextual menu item. It also improves the speed of thumbnail and preview creation/display in the browser, improves the manual sort option, and provides a two-image advance option for slideshows on dual-display setups. ($39.95 new from Lemkesoft or the Mac App Store, free update, 181 MB, release notes, 10.9+)

 

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Piezo 1.5.6

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 10:09:26 EST

Rogue Amoeba has released Piezo 1.5.6, updating the Instant On component to version 8.4.5 to provide better compatibility with Skype 8. The “charmingly simple” audio recording app also adds support for full VoIP capture when using the Scopia Desktop video conferencing app, ensures Piezo’s popover behaves as expected in macOS 10.13 High Sierra, works as expected when using a device with very high sample rates, and corrects an issue with audio playback from single-channel devices to properly provide both channels. ($19 new with a 20 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update, 8.3 MB, release notes, 10.10+)

 

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Let There Be (Inexpensive, Configurable, Diffuse, Portable) Light

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 11:02:46 EST

Being a journalist today requires being able to do much more than just write well and quickly. You also need to be an adequate photographer and be comfortable with live audio and video. Standard Apple gear — Macs and iOS devices — provides sufficient hardware for getting started, but some accoutrements can improve your output. In particular, lighting can be troublesome, since many offices aren’t well lit, which can result in dim video, overly exposed flash photos, or glaring reflections from nearby light bulbs. Polaroid has a new product to help anyone trying to improve lighting for photography or video work: the Polaroid Flexi LED Light Panel. It’s an 11.8-inch (30 cm) flexible nylon panel with 256 bi-color LEDs wired into it in a 16-by-16 grid pattern. Its wire edges are covered with Velcro so you can stick it to an easy-to-assemble metal frame. It comes with a similarly sized square of thin nylon cloth, also edged in Velcro, that you attach to the other side of the metal frame to act as a diffusion filter. One edge of the metal frame has a ¼-inch threaded screw hole designed for use with standard tripod mounts, or you can attach an included hand grip. A corner of the light panel has a plastic piece that features a small round AC adapter port. The provided power adapter has one cable that plugs into the wall and another that plugs into the light panel; the latter has a power switch in the middle of it. For more control, however, you’ll use the 2.4 GHz wireless remote control, and if you set up multiple light panels, the remote can control up to four at once. You get quite a bit of control with the remote. You can increase and decrease the brightness, with a maximum output of 4500 lumens. That’s a lot — a standard 100-watt incandescent bulb puts out about 1600 lumens. Polaroid doesn’t say what the output is on the low end, but it’s worth noting that the light doesn’t flicker when it’s dimmed all the way down. The remote also lets you change the color temperature from 3200 K to 5500 K (that’s degrees Kelvin). 3200 K is in the relatively warm “soft white” range and provides more orange/red light, whereas 5500 K has more blue in it and is the average noon daylight color — in light bulbs, it would be referred to as “cool white” or “daylight.” The utility of being able to change the color temperature is that you can adjust for other light in the room so skin tones look the way you want. If you’re a serious photography geek, the light panel has a CRI — color rendition index — that’s equal to or greater than 90. CRI measures a light source’s ability to render colors the same way sunlight does, and a number over 80 is considered acceptable for most indoor residential applications. A photographer friend who works in Digital Preservation at Cornell University said that he has to buy lights that have a CRI of 98 or higher for professional work. But the lights he works with cost over $1000 and require bulky cases. In contrast to that high-end gear, the Polaroid Flexi LED Light Panel costs about $125 and, because it’s flexible, can be broken down, rolled up, and stored in a flexible carrying case similar in shape to a family-size loaf of bread. Just don’t fold it in half. So far, I’ve used the light panel on a tripod behind my monitors to improve the lighting when I was a guest on the MacBreak Weekly podcast and to help with some of the photography we need to do for TidBITS Content Network articles. I particularly appreciated being able to put diffuse light — adjusted to compensate for the other lights on in the room — right on my face for MacBreak Weekly, since regular bulbs are too glaring to look at. And with the photography, the big win was being able to turn off other room lights that tend to reflect badly off shiny iPhone and iPad screens. The only downside I’ve noted is that P[...]



ScreenFlow 7.2

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 06:30:42 EST

Telestream has released ScreenFlow 7.2, which improves how the screencast recording and video editing app maintains aspect ratio when resizing a partial screen capture. The update also adds a shortcut to play a caption track, improves display of the Google Drive directory, adds Clear In and Out Points to the contextual menu when clicking a selected region, displays length in milliseconds in a selected range of a clip, fixes a bug with Automatic Export type not supporting small resolutions, ensures that Publish to YouTube categories are localized, and upgrades the APIs for Facebook and Vimeo. ($129 new from the Telestream Web site or from the Mac App Store, free update from version 7, $39 upgrade, 56 MB, release notes, 10.11+)

 

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Final Cut Pro X 10.4, Compressor 4.4, and Motion 5.4

Sun, 17 Dec 2017 14:46:06 EST

Updating in sync with the release of the new iMac Pro (see “Apple Releases the iMac Pro,” 15 December 2017), Apple has released Final Cut Pro X 10.4, Compressor 4.4, and Motion 5.4 with a focus on 360-degree VR video support. You can now import and edit equirectangular video from a wide range of formats and frame sizes (including monoscopic and stereoscopic formats) into Final Cut Pro and Compressor, plus send 360-degree video output to a connected VR headset from Final Cut Pro and Motion. From Final Cut Pro, you’ll be able to monitor headset and equirectangular views simultaneously while editing from the 360-degree viewer, use the Horizon overlay to change a video’s orientation, and utilize a patch to remove cameras and rigs from the scene. Both Final Cut Pro and Motion enable you to place, reposition, and resize any graphic, still, or video in a 360-degree video project; apply effects such as blurs and glows to 360-degree video; and share videos directly to YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo. Compressor adds support for exporting 360-degree video files with embedded industry-standard spherical metadata. Apple’s professional video editing apps also boast a long list of new features and improvements, plus important bug fixes. Final Cut Pro X 10.4 adds new tools for color grading, with a dedicated color tab in the inspector that collects all color controls. New color wheels improve upon traditional wheels with integrated sliders to adjust hue, saturation, and brightness, while color curves provide ultra-fine adjustments and hue/saturation curves let you make brightness adjustments while leaving other parts of the image unchanged. Beyond color grading, here are some highlights from Final Cut Pro’s other improvements and fixes: Adds support for importing, editing, and playing of High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) video clips and High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) photos Directly import an iMovie for iOS project for advanced editing, audio work, and finishing Import, grade, and deliver High Dynamic Range (HDR) video as Rec. 2020 HLG or Rec. 2020 PQ for HDR10 Import and export WAV files greater than 4 GB as RF64 when using macOS 10.13 High Sierra Fixes a stability issue that occurred when using Final Cut Pro on High Sierra with a laptop in closed-display mode and attached to an external monitor In version 4.4, the video conversion and output tool Compressor also adds support for HEVC files, compacting file sizes up to 40 percent smaller than H.264 with the same video quality. It also provides controls for color space conversions and metadata for HDR video, and enables you to convert HDR to Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) video. Other highlights include: Adds support for encoding MXF files with compatibility for a wide range of codecs and parameters Correctly identifies frame rates for iPhone movies Addresses an issue with Panasonic GH5 MP4 files exported to ProRes that produced three green frames at the beginning of a file Finally, the motion graphics tool Motion 5.4 now enables you to convert between a Motion project, Final Cut Pro generator, Final Cut Pro title, Final Cut Pro effect, or Final Cut Pro transition at any time. In addition to adding support for HEVC videos and HEIF photos, the update also brings these changes: Send to Compressor to export motion graphics projects in the HEVC format Improves speed and quality of Optical Flow analysis using Metal New Overshoot behavior creates realistic spring-loaded animations without the need for keyframes Resolves issues with the Time Date Text Generator 24-hour clock Trailing punctuation in a text sequence now animates correctly All three video apps now require a minimum of OS X 10.12.4 Sierra. (Free updates. Otherwise, Final Cut Pro X, $299.99 new, 3.02 GB, release notes, 10.11.4+; Compressor, $49.99 ne[...]



Logic Pro X 10.3.3

Sat, 16 Dec 2017 12:19:35 EST

Apple has released Logic Pro X 10.3.3 with support for up to 36 cores and optimizing Sculpture and Amp Designer for the newly released iMac Pro (see “Apple Releases the iMac Pro,” 15 December 2017). These changes boost performance up to 12 times compared to previous versions. The professional audio app makes Loops, Channel Strip settings, and other content available again on Macs using APFS volumes; adds a new high-definition mode to Sculpture; fixes latency compensation with plug-ins inserted as Dual Mono or Multichannel; ensures the VoiceOver cursor remains functional when shortening a region at all zoom levels; and fixes a lengthy list of crashes. ($199.99 new in the Mac App Store, free update, 1.35 GB, release notes, 10.11+)

 

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Why Lightroom CC Is a Big Step Up from Apple’s Photos

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 15:32:17 EST

Whenever new photo software appears, it triggers a round of evaluation for photographers. Should you investigate the new app, or is what you’re using now working well enough for your needs? I suspect many Mac users are using the Photos app in macOS and iOS, along with iCloud Photo Library for syncing among multiple devices. (I’m sure there are plenty of people still using Aperture and iPhoto too, but if that’s you, think seriously about switching to something that’s supported before it gets too hard.) Adobe recently made a significant shift in its Lightroom ecosystem that’s worth considering. “Lightroom” now exists as two separate applications: Lightroom CC is an entirely new app that Adobe built around cloud synchronization, whereas Lightroom Classic CC is the new name of the photo editor and organizer that recently marked its 10th year on the market. (If you’re confused, it’s not you: Lightroom Classic was previously named Lightroom CC.) This move has implications for both existing Lightroom users and those looking to step up their photography without jumping into the pro end of editing and organizing images. Especially for the latter group, Lightroom CC deserves a look. In fact, I believe Adobe’s change is so significant that I just wrote an entire book about the new app. The 133-page “Take Control of Lightroom CC” goes into detail about how to import, edit, and synchronize your photo library in Lightroom CC. It also includes a chapter devoted to making Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic work together, for folks who currently use Lightroom Classic and want to give Lightroom CC a try. A Modern Approach -- We’ve seen this before. Apple developed Photos for Mac because it needed an application that put iCloud Photo Library at its center and made it possible to access one’s entire photo library on any Apple device. iPhoto wasn’t designed for that, so the company chose to start over rather than bolt on its iCloud vision. The difference in Adobe’s approach is that Lightroom users aren’t faced with an all-or-nothing choice going forward. Apple not only stopped work on iPhoto, it also abandoned its pro-level tool, Aperture. Since many Aperture users switched over to Lightroom, Adobe learned from Apple’s unpopular move. Lightroom Classic remains the full-featured, pro version of Lightroom, and Adobe is still actively developing it. Lightroom CC includes most of Lightroom Classic’s core features and is designed to be able to access your entire library from any device. I’ve used Lightroom Classic for years, but I have to admit that Lightroom CC is less intimidating. For example, one of the features I love about Lightroom Classic is its capability to apply metadata during import, because it can save a lot of time later. You can also rename files, make backup copies, and apply edits (and save all of those options in dedicated presets) during the same operation. But cramming all of that into the Import window makes some photographers wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into. Lightroom CC focuses just on selecting which photos to import, with the option to put them into an album at import. It’s less capable than Lightroom Classic but much more friendly to people who aren’t looking for power features. Or consider some of the modules in Lightroom Classic, which enable you to create sophisticated slideshows, Web sites, and book layouts. Those are great features, but how many people really take advantage of them? Lightroom CC is a streamlined appeal to the sort of people who use Apple’s Photos (and Google Photos): those who want to store and edit their photos with a minimum amount of friction. Of course, the term “streamlined” is often used to mask shortcomings. “This car isn’t missin[...]



DealBITS Discount: Save 50% on Swift Publisher 5

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 15:41:35 EST

Congratulations to Frank Carroll at pobox.com, Glenn Gray at yahoo.com, Per F. Christensen at gmail.com, Scribner Messenger at messengerconnection.com, and Warren Bumpus at gmail.com, whose entries were chosen randomly in the last DealBITS drawing and who each received a copy of BeLight Software’s print design app Swift Publisher 5. We presume they will all soon have flyers, brochures, and postcards for everyone to see.

Don’t fret if you didn’t win, since BeLight Software is offering a whopping 50 percent discount off Swift Publisher 5 through 25 December 2017, dropping the price from $19.99 to $9.99. To take advantage of this exclusive discount for TidBITS readers, use this link.

Thanks to the 244 people who entered this DealBITS drawing!

 

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Practical Ways to Use QR Codes

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 14:04:18 EST

Let me come clean: For way too long now, I’ve been excited about the 2D optical code format called QR Code. I even convinced TidBITS to put one on every article page for a while. There’s just something wonderful about using a digital device to access hidden information in an “analog” form, whether it’s printed on a poster, in a magazine, or on a billboard — or shown on someone else’s mobile device. QR codes encode data as a set of error-resistant areas of black and white. The format is designed to work with poor printing, low light, and fuzzy scanning. It’s resilient! As a result, its information density is relatively low, but most of the time QR codes contain just a URL, a calendar appointment, a Wi-Fi network connection’s details, or the like, so they don’t need to take up much space. You couldn’t use a QR code to encode the text of “Moby-Dick,” though you might create a QR code that has the URL to reach Project Gutenberg’s download page for the tome. I like to think of QR codes as “analog-to-digital glue,” because they’re useful in situations in which it would be hard to get some data into your mobile device. Google has long taken advantage of this with Google Play, enabling developers to generate a download link as a QR code for the Play app to scan. (Oddly, Android only integrated QR code recognition two years ago. Motorola had built it into their smartphones’ camera app previous to that.) You can imagine how excited I was when Apple announced that iOS 11 would include automatic QR code recognition in its Camera app — primarily because of the need for it in China. If you haven’t visited Japan in the last 15 years or China in the last 3, or read about how people in those countries use technology, you might be unaware of just how widely QR codes are embraced in those countries. Will that happen elsewhere in the world now? I hope so, but for practical reasons, as I’ll explain. The Current Heavy Use of QR Codes -- Japan is where QR codes were developed and promoted by handset makers, cellular carriers, advertisers, and publishers, leading to early high adoption back in the early 2000s. The QR Code format was developed by Denso Wave, which agreed not to enforce its patent. More recently, Chinese merchants started using QR codes as a cheap form of touchless payment. Instead of expensive NFC (near-field communications) terminals and a need for smartphones with that tech built in, two giant Chinese Internet and e-commerce companies — WeChat and Alibaba — added QR codes as the payment glue in physical stores. A customer either scans a QR code at the retailer’s register and authorizes payment, or they can present a QR code on the phone that the retailer scans to accept payment. In the United States, Walmart has caught on to that concept — see “Walmart Pay Is Better Than You Might Expect” (18 July 2016). But most uses of QR codes in America and Europe hide their full potential, resorting to simple apps that merely display a QR code for a boarding pass or a rewards club card — Apple’s built-in Wallet app does this. Plus, requiring users to download and launch a special app to scan QR codes hurt adoption by being too high of a barrier to widespread use. But this obstacle falls away with automatic recognition. As of iOS 11, if a QR code appears anywhere in the Camera app’s field of vision, you’ll get a notification describing the kind of thing encoded. Tap the notification, and the iPhone performs the correct related action, opening a Web page or prompting to add a calendar entry. For a preview, pull down on the notification. (You can disable Scan QR Codes in Settings > Camera if you don’t like this automatic scanning, b[...]



iBooks Author Conference Highlights Worries about iBooks Ecosystem

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 10:57:15 EDT

There has been a lot of talk lately about how dedicated Apple is to its professional users, the ones who use Apple hardware and software to make their livings. Apple has recently pushed back against allegations that it doesn’t care about pro users with new iPad Pros, apologies for how it has handled the 2013 Mac Pro alongside the promise of a more modular model (see “Maca Culpa: Apple Admits Mac Pro Missteps and Promises More Transparency,” 4 April 2017), and the announcement of the iMac Pro, due later this year. However, outside of the ever-demanding world of video production and a few other industries, most Apple professionals have been satisfied with hardware performance for years. It’s software that makes the real difference. In a conference room tucked away in a library on the campus of Vanderbilt University, I spent a morning surrounded by professional Apple users who earn their living with one piece of Apple software: iBooks Author. The iBooks Author Conference, now in its third year, is a small gathering of dedicated iBooks Author users, brought together by Bradley Metrock of Score Publishing. (Full disclosure: TidBITS was a media sponsor of the iBooks Author Conference this year.) This turned out to be the final iBooks Author Conference, but that’s not bad news, as I’ll explain later. Authors who choose iBooks Author do so because it’s free and it’s flexible, but the other reason I heard repeatedly was that it’s the “best in class.” iBooks Author can do things that no other publishing tool can do, making it easy to create multi-touch, multimedia-intensive experiences. Metrock said he is asked once a week about a Windows equivalent of iBooks Author. “It doesn’t exist,” he says. Jason LaMar, an Apple Distinguished Educator and author of “Ohio: Pathway to the Presidency” mentioned that Apple hates the name iBooks Author because it undersells what the app can do. It’s the closest thing Apple makes to a modern-day reincarnation of HyperCard, and it even has a built-in publishing conduit to the iBooks Store and a reading app, iBooks, that’s bundled with hundreds of millions of devices running iOS and macOS. That might sound like a ticket to publishing fortune, but it’s sadly not the case. Denise Clifton of Tandemvines Publishing, who worked on the investigative reporting book “An Air That Still Kills,” said that the iBooks Author version was the best and most advanced, but sold fewer copies than any other. Even giving an iBooks Author book away for free isn’t enough to guarantee extensive exposure. Despite the fact that Jason LaMar’s book was promoted by Ohio’s Secretary of State, was recommended to every school superintendent in the state, and is the top education book in the iBooks Store, only 3000 copies have been downloaded from the iBooks Store. It’s no secret that Apple doesn’t pay much attention to iBooks Author. All you have to do is look at Apple’s own page for it, which brags that it “has been beautifully redesigned for OS X Yosemite.” Welcome to 2014! iBooks and the iBooks Store haven’t fared much better. So iBooks Author falls into a strange hole where it’s a powerful, unique tool, but its creator seems to have no interest in its survival. How did we get here, and why hasn’t Apple just pulled the plug? The State of iBooks Author -- iBooks Author was one of Steve Jobs’s final initiatives, and he had ambitions to conquer the textbook market, as detailed in Walter Isaacson’s biography, “Steve Jobs.” “The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt. But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be [...]



GraphicConverter 10.5.1

Sun, 22 Oct 2017 17:46:46 EDT

Lemkesoft has released GraphicConverter 10.5.1, adding a new Show Depth Data contextual menu command (if the data is available in HEIC files), a depth blur filter and a depth black & white filter, and an inverse fisheye effect. The graphic conversion and editing utility will also now check preferences upon launch and offer a rebuild/restore option if they are invalid. ($39.95 new from Lemkesoft or the Mac App Store, free update, 177 MB, release notes, 10.9+)

 

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Modernized BBEdit 12 Manipulates Columnar Data and More

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 05:49:38 EDT

The longer an app has been around, the harder it is to update because there are only so many changes that make sense. That’s especially true for productivity apps that diehard users rely on all day, every day — it’s vital that changes avoid causing confusion. A major interface overhaul might be fun or seem necessary, but if it prevents users from getting their work done, even temporarily, it’s problematic. Few apps have been around as long as Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit, which has been the best-known text editor on the Mac since it was first released in 1992. That history means that a great deal of thought went into the changes for last week’s release of BBEdit 12, the most significant update since BBEdit 11 came out in 2014. As with any product that has been around for 25 years, there was a lot of old code in BBEdit, and one of the primary goals for BBEdit 12 was to modernize its code base. That’s work that users seldom see, but there are a few improvements that you might notice. For instance, BBEdit can now take advantage of intrinsic macOS features like Split View, and some controls now rely on system versions rather than custom implementations. Contextual menus now even include services! Although BBEdit 12 looks and works as it always has for the most part, Bare Bones modernized and improved specific parts of the interface. Dark color schemes now color the sidebar and other chrome to match, rather than just the editing window. And because it’s apparently what new users expect, the BBEdit Dark color scheme is now the factory default for those getting started with BBEdit, although anyone can change that in the Text Colors preference pane. (When I jokingly suggested to Rich Siegel of Bare Bones that the default should be green text on black to match monochrome monitors of the early 1980s, he wryly demurred, noting that he wasn’t a pre-teen anymore.) Several non-editing windows also gain improved interfaces and capabilities. BBEdit 12’s FTP/SFTP browsers now offer a Finder-like outline mode, so you can flip triangles to drill into directories, rather than being stuck in a flat list view. Text factories now sport activation checkboxes next to each command so you can disable individual steps, something I’ve long wanted. Most impressive is the rewrite to BBEdit’s Preview window, which renders Markdown and HTML — it now includes the full WebKit inspector from Safari’s Develop mode. Speaking of the Preview window, it now relies by default on the CommonMark spec that attempts to provide a standardization of the main Markdown variants. By far my favorite new feature, however, is BBEdit 12’s capability to work with columnar data. Many people open delimited text files (like CSV or TSV files) in BBEdit to manipulate the data, but selecting or moving columns via grep-based searches is tricky. BBEdit now sports a collection of commands in Edit > Columns that let you cut, copy, clear, and rearrange columns, and Rich Siegel said that he hopes to add additional capabilities in this area in the future. Because of my work timing races and directing track meets, I deal with CSV (comma-separated value) results files all the time. Although I’m pretty good with grep, I often end up opening those files in Excel or Numbers, manipulating the data to get the right columns in the right order, and then exporting back to CSV. Most of what I need can now be done right in BBEdit, which is where I’m already editing the files. Typing those parenthetical phrases above reminded me of another new feature — improved autocompletion. BBEdit has long had text completion features, but new in version 1[...]



Using Long Exposure in iOS 11’s Photos App

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:58:49 EDT

Take a look at this photo: I captured this image under bright, mid-afternoon light at Snoqualmie Falls, a popular tourist spot outside Seattle. The silky-smooth waterfall catches the eye because it’s different: we know waterfalls are more textured and violent than this. And it’s a pretty effect. The usual way to get this shot is to mount your camera on a tripod and set a slow shutter speed (perhaps half a second or longer) so the image sensor records the light reflecting from the water over a period of time, not just a fraction of a second’s worth. The tripod is necessary because you don’t want the camera to move during that time, which would introduce blur. The other challenge with long-exposure photography like this is that the sensor records all the light in the scene, not just the waterfall, so you can end up with an overexposed image, particularly in the middle of the day. There are ways to compensate. You can set the aperture to a high value (f/16 or f/22) to restrict the amount of light coming through the lens. The preview on your camera will be dark, but the buildup of light during the exposure makes the final image more balanced. However, very high apertures can cause distortion or softness on some lenses. Another way to compensate would be to add a neutral density filter in front of the lens, which also restricts the amount of light hitting the sensor and makes longer exposure times possible. But you may not have a filter that’s dark enough — again, especially in bright daylight conditions. Here’s a photo I took using my Fujifilm X-T1 camera at 1/4 second using an aperture of f/8.0 and with a 0.9 neutral density filter (which lets in about 12 percent of light): If I really wanted to get the shot using the X-T1, I could have doubled up two or three filters (I also have 0.6 and 1.2 filters in my standard kit), but that introduces severe vignetting and some softness. So how did I get that first image? I pulled my iPhone 8 Plus out of my pocket and took one exposure, handheld, with the Live Photos feature turned on. And then I applied Apple’s new Long Exposure effect in the Photos app. That’s it. Here’s the original image I captured, before I applied Long Exposure: What’s Going On? -- When you’re using the Camera app on an iPhone or iPad, it continuously analyzes the scene and even records it, but does not save the footage. As soon as you tap the shutter button, the app evaluates the scene in milliseconds and delivers what it thinks is the best exposure for that moment. With Live Photos enabled, it also saves a video file containing 3 seconds of frames around that still image. Pressing and holding the image when viewing it in the Photos app plays back that video, giving you that Harry Potter-esque moving picture. In iOS 11, Apple added three new effects that take advantage of the Live Photos video footage. Loop replays the video endlessly from beginning to end. Bounce plays the video start-to-finish and then reverses it to play finish-to-start, and back again as a loop. The third effect is Long Exposure, which blends all the frames from the video into one image. It’s the same principle as making a “real” long exposure by leaving the camera’s shutter open for a relatively long period of time, but instead of just absorbing more light, it’s combining the light in each of the frames. This happens algorithmically, which enables the app to keep the tones and detail in the sky and surrounding areas balanced. The Long Exposure effect is dirt-simple to use. When viewing a Live Photo in the Photos app, swipe up to reveal mor[...]



Pixelmator 3.7

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 11:41:05 EDT

The Pixelmator Team has released Pixelmator 3.6 (aka Mount Whitney), bringing full support for macOS 10.13 High Sierra and adding the capability to launch Pixelmator directly from Apple’s Photos app for image editing (after selecting an image, go to Image > Edit With > Pixelmator). Edits made in Pixelmator are automatically saved to your original image in the Photos library. The update also adds support for importing HEIF images (see “HEVC and HEIF Will Make Video and Photos More Efficient,” 30 June 2017), improves the speed and accuracy of the Repair Tool, improves support for Photoshop images, resolves an issue with converting files to PSD format, fixes a bug that caused Pixelmator extensions for the Photos app to quit on certain newer Macs, and can once again accept images dragged in from Safari and Photos. ($29.99 new from the Mac App Store, free update, 78.3 MB, release notes, 10.11+)

 

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iFlicks 2.6.1

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 20:00:13 EDT

In late September, Jendrik Bertram issued iFlicks 2.6 to add support for new video and audio formats to the video encoding and metadata management app, as well as to improve the reliability of internal metadata handling. That release was followed up by version 2.6.1 with unspecified bug fixes. A beta of version 3.0 is available for download, adding new features and support for HEVC video in macOS 10.13 High Sierra (see “HEVC and HEIF Will Make Video and Photos More Efficient,” 30 June 2017). ($34.99 new from the Mac App Store, free update, 17.3 MB, release notes, 10.10+)

 

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Piezo 1.5.5

Sun, 01 Oct 2017 17:52:01 EDT

Rogue Amoeba has released Piezo 1.5.5, adding full compatibility with macOS 10.13 High Sierra and ensuring that Piezo’s popover now behaves as expected in High Sierra. The “charmingly simple” audio recording app also updates its audio capture engine to fully support single-site browser (SSB) apps such as those made by Epichrome. Piezo requires 10.10 Yosemite or later (a requirement added in version 1.5.3, released in July 2017). ($19 new with a 20 percent discount for TidBITS members, free update, 8.3 MB, release notes, 10.10+)

 

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Rogue Amoeba Marks Its 15th Anniversary

Fri, 29 Sep 2017 11:06:56 EDT

It’s an atypical amoeba that survives for 15 years without even undergoing binary fission, but Apple software firm Rogue Amoeba has long stood out on the microscope slide.

(image)

Since its founding in 2002, Rogue Amoeba has been producing audio software of unusual depth, power, and utility. We rely on Audio Hijack to record audio versions of TidBITS articles each week, and we employ Fission to edit those recordings. (We even published “Take Control of Audio Hijack” back when Tonya and I were running Take Control Books.)

Although I don’t need the app often, I particularly appreciate the software artistry that has gone into Airfoil, which lets you broadcast audio from your Mac to other devices around your house. Rogue Amoeba also makes Loopback, which enables you to route audio between apps on your Mac; Nicecast, which lets you create your own Internet radio station; Piezo, for those who want a recording app that’s simpler than Audio Hijack; and SoundSource, which gives you vastly more control over sound on your Mac.

Congratulations then to Paul Kafasis and our other friends at Rogue Amoeba for outfitting the Mac community with extraordinary audio tools for so many years! To celebrate, they held a Fifteenth Anniversary Sale on all their apps through 30 September 2017. If you missed the sale, since it was active only between TidBITS email issues, note that TidBITS members can always save 20 percent on all purchases from Rogue Amoeba.

 

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iBooks Author 2.6

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 08:01:51 EDT

Apple has updated iBooks Author to version 2.6 with the capability to add images and videos from the Photos app using the Media Browser or via drag and drop. The ebook production and publishing app also gains support for wide color gamut images and Apple’s standard unspecified performance and stability improvements. (Free from the Mac App Store, 409 MB, 10.11+)

 

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ScreenFlow 7.1

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 22:54:59 EDT

Telestream has released ScreenFlow 7.1, the first maintenance release since the popular screencast recording and video editing app’s recent major upgrade (see “ScreenFlow 7.0,” 6 August 2017). The update adds support for exporting HEVC files (H.265) when running macOS 10.13 High Sierra, updates the canvas to show a color change when using the color picker, resolves a crash that occurred after importing Apple ProRes format files (.apcn, .apch, and .apcs), fixes an issue with iOS recordings having incorrect durations when recorded in High Sierra, and corrects text cursor flashing when recorded by ScreenFlow in High Sierra. ($129 new from the Telestream Web site or from the Mac App Store, free update from version 7, $39 upgrade, 55 MB, release notes, 10.11+)

 

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iMovie 10.1.7

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:59:33 EDT

Apple has released iMovie 10.1.7, adding support for the new High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) format used by macOS 10.13 High Sierra and iOS 11 (see “HEVC and HEIF Will Make Video and Photos More Efficient,” 30 June 2017). The update also improves compatibility when sharing videos to YouTube. iMovie now requires macOS 10.12.2 Sierra or higher. (Free from the Mac App Store, 2.14 GB, 10.12.2+)

 

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GraphicConverter 10.5

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 05:29:13 EDT

Lemkesoft has released GraphicConverter 10.5 with support for new features in macOS 10.13 High Sierra, including analysis and assigning of keywords with deep learning in the browser and for open images, extraction of image objects for open images and in batch, and HEIC import and export (with the latter available after Apple enables the export feature). The graphic conversion and editing utility also adds a new rename feature with user-customizable order to the browser’s contextual menu, improves raw import, and adds a batch function for resampling PDFs to 1-bit. ($39.95 new from Lemkesoft or the Mac App Store, free update, 175 MB, release notes, 10.9+)

 

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iFlicks 2.4.8

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 20:40:51 EDT

Jendrik Bertram has issued iFlicks 2.4.8, a maintenance release that brings fixes and improvements to the video encoding and metadata management app. The update adds a rule action to remove all chapters, enables you to use “Where from” metadata in rules, improves handling of iTunes errors, fixes a bug in handling some special characters when used with rule actions, resolves a potential overflow in aspect ratio calculations, and improves support for some 3D videos. ($34.99 new from the Mac App Store, free update, 17.1 MB, release notes, 10.10+)

 

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Fission 2.4.1

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 14:40:39 EDT

Rogue Amoeba has released Fission 2.4 with a major update to address changes to how iTunes 12.7 deals with ringtones (see “iTunes 12.7 Giveth, but Mostly It Taketh Apps and Ringtones Away,” 15 September 2017). Because the Save as iPhone Ringtone option in previous versions of Fission can no longer pass custom tones to iTunes 12.7, Rogue Amoeba updated Fission’s ringtone saving capabilities (see this Rogue Amoeba blog post and step-by-step guide for details). The app also improves compatibility with APFS and makes several fixes to avoid crashes when resampling audio.

Shortly after this release, Rogue Amoeba issued version 2.4.1 to fix a critical bug that could cause attempts to save split clips to fail. ($29 new from Rogue Amoeba with a 20 percent discount for TidBITS members, also available from Mac App Store, free update, 10.6 MB, release notes, 10.10+)

 

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External Link: Pixelmator Plans to Go Pro

Tue, 05 Sep 2017 12:32:40 EDT

The developers of the popular Pixelmator image-editing app have announced a follow-up app, due later this year. Pixelmator Pro will be sold in the Mac App Store alongside the original Pixelmator, and it will feature a streamlined single-window interface, advanced layout tools, an overhauled painting system, machine learning, and more. Many of us at TidBITS have long been fans of Pixelmator because it offers most of what we need from Photoshop at a fraction of the price, so we’re looking forward to trying Pixelmator Pro’s new features.

 

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CZUR M3000 Is an Inexpensive, Reliable Book Scanner

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:14:05 EDT

I was a bookworm when I was a kid, reading almost a book a day. I lived overseas, and English books were hard to come by, so I devoured any I could find. Though this was long before I knew anything about computers, I remember having a fantasy of somehow having every book in existence available to me via some device. Today that dream is approaching reality. We have the tech, but we’re bogged down by intellectual property rights. Millions of books are not available in digital form and might never be, if lawyers have their way. I find this frustrating, as I vastly prefer reading my books digitally. Digital books are lighter and easier to read, have flat pages instead of curved, can have consistent lighting, are adjustable, can be marked up and highlighted without interfering with readability, and can have extensive notes added. Plus, I can carry thousands of them on my iPad. In fact, I prefer digital books so much that, a few years ago, I took the radical step of donating 90 percent of my printed books to local libraries. I freed up ten 72-inch bookcases — basically a whole room of new space! I realized I hadn’t read any of my printed books in five years, since the iPad appeared. I knew I wouldn’t, either. When I wanted to reread a book I owned (such as “The Hobbit,” prior to the first movie coming out), I just rebought it in digital form. I saved a few of my favorite printed books, and I still have roughly a thousand books left. But my long-term goal was to figure out how to digitize them. First Attempts -- The first thing I tried a few years ago was scanning books with a flatbed scanner. This actually worked well, especially with some software I wrote to split the two-page scans apart. I brought all the images into Adobe Acrobat Pro which merged them into a single PDF and did OCR on the text so everything was searchable. The problem was that the scanning process was slow — about 30 seconds per page, plus time for me to flip to the next page, position the book correctly, and start the next scan. It typically took me close to 2 hours to do a book, and it was tedious and left me physically sore from staying in the same position for so long. And that was before all the additional processing I had to do. Searching the Internet for other solutions, I learned that book scanners were insanely expensive. At the high end were professional machines used by libraries that cost $100,000 or more. At the low end were hacked-together devices of questionable reliability that would still cost me thousands of dollars. The optimal solution may have been a simple sheetfed scanner that apparently does a great job — if you’re willing to chop the spine off your book to turn it into individual sheets, which I was not. Later, I experimented with my own hacks, trying to rig up a way to use a digital camera to take snapshots of books. The problem wasn’t the camera, however. It was the books themselves. Perfect-bound books aren’t designed to stay flat, and the nature of them is that as you flip through the book, the numbers of pages on the right and left sides change, resulting in an uneven height. Without some way to press the pages flat, you end up with all sorts of distortion from the curved and uneven pages. I gave up. Enter CZUR -- Recently,[...]



ScreenFlow 7.0

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 13:19:46 EDT

Telestream has released ScreenFlow 7.0, a major update to the popular screencast recording and video editing app that adds new features that boost options for creativity and reduce repetitive tasks. The update improves editing and exporting performance for MP4 files, adds a Global Library for storing frequently used files and assets, brings support for the 2016 MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, supports higher timeline frame rates (enabling you to toggle between 30 or 60 fps modes), gains the capability to export files directly to Imgur and Box, and adds text animation effects. ScreenFlow 7.0 also turns off the macOS AutoSave feature because it conflicted with ScreenFlow’s own document recovery system, corrupting files that were saved to remote locations such as network drives or cloud-based storage.

ScreenFlow costs $129 (a $30 increase over the previous version), and upgrades are priced at $39 for those who previously purchased versions 4, 5, or 6. A free trial is available, though you’re required to provide your email address in exchange for a download link. ($129 new from the Telestream Web site or from the Mac App Store, $39 upgrade, 48.9 MB, release notes, 10.11+)

 

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