Sponsor - Setapp, An app for every job

I’d like to welcome my sponsor for this week, Setapp from MacPaw. Setapp is the first subscription service for Mac apps, for a small monthly subscription you can have access to over 100 applications on your Mac.

The apps that Setapp offers are developed by over 85 of the top Mac developers and cover categories such as Mac Maintenance, Creativity, Writing & Blogging, Developer Tools and Task Management.

With Setapp there’s no need to dig through the App Store, search for reviews, and compare prices, the tools you need are always there for you for a fixed price each month no matter how much or how many you use. You can even use your Setapp subscription on two separate Macs.

Setapp gives you new software without charging for upgrades, so you always have the latest version of every app. 

Top Setapp applications Include:

  • CleanMyMac X (New Updated Version)

  • iStat Menus

  • Bartender

  • Flume

  • Boom 3D

  • Capto

  • iThoughtsX

  • RapidWeaver

  • Screens

  • Timing

Please click here for the full Setapp Collection.

MacPaw is one of the most respected companies in the Mac community, their CleanMyMac App has been installed on my systems for several years and works flawlessly. They only have great, reliable software in their Setapp subscription service.

Please head over to Setapp to enjoy a 7 day free trial and discover an app for every job.

Text Shortcuts on macOS

I have written on the website about TextExpander, a utility that looks for pre-defined text abbreviations and automatically inserts a block of text assigned to the abbreviation. However, if you feel an application such as this is either overkill for your needs or you are unable to cover the cost of another subscription there is a solution, use the one that is built into macOS.

How To

Access System Preferences by clicking the grey cog (img.1) icon then choose the keyboard icon (img.2).

(img.1)

(img.1)

(img.2)

(img.2)

Once in the keyboard system preferences pane click on the text tab along the top of the window (img.3).

(img.3)

(img.3)

You will probably see an entry already in 'Replace' and 'With' columns which will be omw and On my way! This means that while in applications on your Mac if the characters omw are typed they will be replaced with the phrase On my way!

To enter your own text replacement click the '+' (img.4) enter the abbreviation you wish to use in the left column and then tab and enter what you want the abbreviation to be replaced with in the right column and then press return. In my example I have used the abbreviation mqem to be replaced with darren@themacquad.com (the mac quad email address) (img.5).

(img.4)

(img.4)

(img.5)

(img.5)

Now whenever mqem is typed it will be replaced with darren@themacquad.com saving lots of time when I need to type the email address.

This does not have the advanced features of TextExpander but is sufficient for basic text replacement.

Controlling a Mac Via Head Movement and Sip/Puff

In this videocast I show how I am able to have complete control over a Mac via head movement and sip/puff. The equipment used is a Tracker Pro and a Sip/Puff Switch which connects to the Mac via USB.

I hope you find this videocast interesting and informative as to how I produce my content despite being paralysed from the neck down and on a life support machine.

Interview on Chit Chat Across the Pond

This week I had the tables turned on me by Allison Sheridon who interviewed me for her podcast Chit Chat Across the Pond.

Firstly we discuss how I access my Mac using accessibility devices and then Allison uses my format on me asking about top Apple hardware, top iPhone, entries into the Mac Quad Digital Archive, etc.

It was a really enjoyable chat, so please have a listen.

Fantastical 2 Giveaway Winners

A blind draw was made on Friday (23rd November) with all of the entries that I received for the Fantastical 2 Giveaway entered, the three winners were:

Claus W

Sandy F

Dan M

Congratulations to the three winners, hope you enjoy the software and find it as useful as I do.

Thank you to everyone at Flexibits for generously providing the three licenses and also, thank you to everyone who took the time to enter.

iPhone X Series Basic Interaction

This screencast shows how to interact with the iPhone X series of devices now the home button has been removed. Covering the iPhone X, XS, XR, XS Max, and the new iPad Pros. Gestures shown include returning to home screen, accessing the notification center, accessing the command center and getting to the app switcher.

Fantastical 2 for Mac Giveaway

I have a great chance for you to get your hands on one of three licences for the macOS version of Fantastical 2, The calendar app you won’t be able to live without.

Fantastical 2 is possibly the best Calendar application for the Mac, a full Mac application with the benefit and and convenience of a menu bar window. You can easily add events and reminders using natural language, Fantastical 2 automatically recognises the location of your event and can even invite people from Contacts to your event. Fantastical 2 also lets you quickly toggle multiple calendars on or off with a single click, so you can focus on what’s more important in that moment. The days of going back and forth, clicking multiple times, just to hide and show your calendars are over. These calendar sets can also be shown atomically by your location eg different sets for work and home.

Other Features Include

* Full time zone support, including floating time zones

* The ability to set time and geofence alerts for your reminders

* View maps of the locations where your events occur

* Travel time and time to leave notifications

* Day, week, month, and year views

* Use multiple calendar accounts at once

Fantastical 2 for Mac is £48.99 and the team at Flexibits (the makers of Fantastical 2) have given me 3 licences, to give to my podcast listeners and blog readers.

The Fantastical 2 Giveaway Has Now Closed

Entries should be in by 12 midday GMT on Friday 23rd November and winners will be announced in the following episode of the Mac Quadcast and also posted on the Mac Quad website.

Thanks to all at Flexibits (makers of Fantastical 2) for this generous giveaway.

Bear Subscription Giveaway Winners

A blind draw was made on Thursday (8th November) with all of the entries that I received for the Bear Subscription Giveaway entered, the five winners were:

Neil T

Mieszko Ś

David S

Nash P

Karen A

Congratulations to the five winners, hope you enjoy the software and find it as useful as I do.

Thank you to everyone at Bear for generously providing the five subscriptions each for a year and also, thank you to everyone who took the time to enter.

Bear Subscription Giveaway

I have a great chance for you to get your hands on one of five subscriptions each valid for a year for Bear, one of the top note and writing apps on Mac and iOS.

Bear is perfect for everything from quick notes to in-depth essays. A focus mode helps you concentrate and advanced markup options are an online writer's best friend. Bear is also packed with beautiful themes and typography which makes your writing look great before and after publishing. The applications simple tools take the effort out of writing, whether you need to hit specific word counts and reading times, or you need to convert your writing into PDF and Word docs and with Bear's custom markup shortcuts, you can add style and links with just a tap or keystroke.

Features Include

* Advanced Markup Editor that supports and highlights over 20 programming languages.

* In-line support for images and photos.

* Cross-Note Links to build a body of work and quickly reference other notes.

* Hashtags to quickly find and organise notes.

* All your notes are stored in plain text for the ultimate in portability.

Bear Pro is $14.99 for a year and gives advanced features, including syncing between all your devices, application themes and exporting and the team at Bear have given me 5 subscriptions, each for a year to give to my podcast listeners and blog readers.

The Bear Subscription Giveaway Has Now Closed

Entries should be in by 12 midday GMT on Friday 2nd November and winners will be announced in the next episode of the Mac Quadcast and then posted on the Mac Quad website.

Thanks to all at Bear for this generous giveaway.

Apple Gather Round Event - iPhone Xr

Apple announced the iPhone Xr at the Gather Round Event yesterday (12th September 2018).

iPhone Xr

iPhone Xr

Here’s briefly what you need to know:

Available in White, Black, Blue Yellow, Coral, Product Red

Aluminium Body

Edge to Edge Screen

LCD Display (Liquid Retina) 6.1" (1792 x 828 Pixels)

True Tone Display

Haptic Touch

Face ID via True Depth Camera

True Depth Camera front facing Camera

Single Lens rear Camera, 12MP Wide Angle Camera, Improved True Tone Flash, Portrait Mode Photos, New Smart HDR feature

Same Front True Depth Camera as iPhone Xs

Battery Life - iPhone Xr 90 mins more use that iPhone 8Plus

Capacity 64GB, 128GB, 256GB

Orders from 19th October & Available 26th October

Apple Gather Round Event - iPhone Xs & iPhone Xs Max

Apple announced the iPhone Xs & iPhone Xs Max at the Gather Round Event yesterday (12th September 2018).

iPhone Xs & iPhone Xs Max

iPhone Xs & iPhone Xs Max

Here’s briefly what you need to know:

iPhone Xs

Available in Gold, Silver, Space Grey, Increased Water Resistance, Super Retina Display OLED 5.8" (2436 x 1125 Pixels), 60% Greater Dynamic Range than iPhone X, True Tone Display, Wider Stereo Field, Capacity 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, Order from September 14th & Available September 21st

iPhone Xs Max

Available in Gold, Silver, Space Grey, Increased Water Resistance, Super Retina Display OLED 6.5" (2688 x 1242 Pixels), 60% Greater Dynamic Range than iPhone X, True Tone Display, Wider Stereo Field, Capacity 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, Order from September 14th & Available September 21st

Both Models

Face ID - Improved True Depth Camera and A12 Bionic Chip increases Face ID response time

A12 Bionic Chip - 7 Nanometer Chip, 6 Core CPU, 4 Core GPU, Neural Engine - 8 Core, Apps Launch 30% Faster, Real Time Machine Learning, Core ML 9x Faster

Camera - 12MP Wide-Angle Camera, Improved True Tone Flash, 12 MP Telephoto Camera, Front True Depth Camera 7MP, ISP & Neural Engine now work together to enhance photos, New Smart HDR feature, New Depth Editing feature, Record Stereo Sound on Videos

Battery Life - iPhone Xs 30 mins more use that iPhone X, iPhone Xs Max 90 mins more use that iPhone X

Dual Sim Capability via eSim Technology

Apple Gather Round Event - Apple Watch Series 4

Apple announced the AppleWatch Series 4 at the Gather Round Event yesterday (12th September 2018).

Apple Watch Series 4

Apple Watch Series 4

Here’s briefly what you need to know:

Edge to edge screen

Larger screens (40mm & 44mm)

New 8 Complication Watch Face

New Digital Crown includes haptic feedback

50% Louder Speaker

Dual Core 64-bit

Fall Detection - If immobile for 1 minute Apple Watch calls emergency services

Low heart rate alert

Irregular heart rhythm alert

ECG feature

All health & fitness data encrypted on device and in the cloud

18 hour all day battery life

Watch straps fit any generation of Apple Watch


Orders from 14th September & Available from 21st September


Watch OS 5 Available 17th September

Why I Ditched The HomePod

From my earlier review you will see I was quite impressed with the HomePod but the more I used it the less it seemed like a viable option for my use case of a smart speaker.

HomePod No.jpg

The primary issues I found was that audiobooks were not available, not even those purchased through the iTunes store and the only radio station available was Beats1 which while ok to listen to for a little while does not really cover my music tastes. I have a wide range of tastes including Jazz (1940s - Present), Rock (1950s - Present), Metal (1970s - Present), Classical and Folk, very little of this is included on Beats1 and it seems orientated to R&B, Rap and Pop which would be acceptable if the option of other radio stations were available such as Jazz FM, Planet Rock, BBC Stations and Classic FM. I use a smart speaker in my bedroom (being paralysed I use it as a voice controlled entertainment centre) and the lack of these options made made entertainment very limited.

The ability to play podcasts was extremely hit and miss, the HomePod very rarely was able to access the All Unplayed playlist I had set up in the native podcasts application and in order to play a specific podcast the pronunciation and name asked for had to be extremely precise in order for the desired podcast to play.

The inability to adjust the bass/treble proved to be an insurmountable problem. Why do Apple think they have the right to dictate how every piece of audio is delivered? There are several reasons why the ability to adjust the bass/treble (beyond that of pure audio taste) is required. If like myself you want to listen to something at a low level during the night reducing the bass level is a necessity in order to avoid disturbing others in the house, if you live in an apartment heavy bass tends to travel through walls and floors neighbours above and below will probably not appreciate this, many people with hearing problems find bass levels need to be reduced otherwise the audio just seems a muddy mess or even worse becomes very painful and listening to voice requires a totally different level to music. I found the active adjustment that was supposed to be on the HomePod just didn’t work, thus, over time the bass became more and more prominent while no matter how low the volume was Siri’s voice level was extremely loud.

The reviews all stated that the sound quality was outstanding but in my opinion I much prefer the audio produced by Sonos, a system which gives the user the ability to adjust bass/treble levels.  All of the above (plus the fact there is no sleep timer on the HomePod) made my decision to sell the HomePod (losing quite a bit of cash) and going back to an Amazon Echo which I can tell to play on my Sonos in my bedroom and therefore have the bast of both worlds, Audiobooks, Kindle Reading, Many Radio Stations etc. and the Sonos sound Quality and adjustability. I also now have a Sonos One in the office which I find much more responsive that the HomePod ever was.

My new setup give the entertainment system that I require, that audio adjustment I require and the other features (sleep timers etc.) that I require. In my view Apple really need to up the game on the HomePod to make it a rival to other smart speakers.

Major New Ulysses Release

As you probably know if you follow this blog, I am a massive fan of the writing application Ulysses (yes they are a sponsor but I was using it for several years before that). I think every post that has appeared on The Mac Quad has started in Ulysses.

Well, the best has just got better. A major new release hit the usual outlets on 28th May with some great new features. These new features include:

Daily Goals and Deadlines (img.1), users can now specify the number of characters or words they aim to write on a daily basis. A circular symbol visualises the progress in relation to this goal and is reset every morning. Daily goals are not the only upgrade to Ulysses’ existing goal feature. While users were always able to set the desired length or reading time of a text and track their progress towards its achievement, they can now also set a deadline. Ulysses will then calculate the number of words that need to be written per day in order to finish the project in time. I think the deadline feature will be a welcome addition for myself, being the only member of The Mac Quad and The Mac Quadcast team I could occasionally do with somebody else giving me a prod in the right direction.

(img.1)

(img.1)

Coloured Keywords (img.2), keywords can be used to classify and filter texts stored in the Ulysses library — for example, I could assign the keyword “Homepod” to text I've written about Apple’s new device. In the new version, keywords can be assigned a dedicated colour, making them easier to spot and distinguish in the library. The available colour selection covers the seven colours of the spectrum and a light grey. 

(img.2)

(img.2)

Revamped Code Blocks With Syntax Highlighting (img.3), for the coders out there. When writing manuals or documentation, technical writers often need to add code examples, and Ulysses has always featured a dedicated code block markup tag. In the new version, the addition and handling of code blocks are greatly improved, and they’re now easier to distinguish in the editor. Also, if a programming language is indicated, code blocks can now display syntax highlighting in the editor and when exported. These can import from, and export to GitHub style fenced code blocks. This is the feature that I possibly may not make use of, my coding attempts floundered back in the days when Basic was modern!

(img.3)

(img.3)

There’s more which you can find out about in the New Features section of the Ulysses website. As I previously said I think the best just got better.