Software Category

5 Ways Apple Could Improve iOS 9

Next week is WWDC, where Apple will likely unveil a new version of iOS. Here’s what we’d like to see.

Improved text selection

I deliberately avoid using iOS devices in situations where I need to frequently copy and paste text because it’s extremely tedious.

Here’s an exercise to try: take a paragraph of text and try to select only one or two sentences inside it. After you select a certain quantity of text, iOS tries to help you by automatically selecting the entire paragraph. Selecting exactly the desired amount of text then becomes a battle between you and the operating system. A lot of times I just select the entire paragraph, paste it and then cut it down to what I need because it’s easier and quicker, but it’s still a step I wouldn’t have to do on the desktop.

It is also especially difficult to select the text of a link because if you tap on it, iOS assumes you either want to visit the link or copy its URL.

Proper multitasking

One big problem with iOS is that it does not have true multitasking. Some functions, such as audio playback, can take place in the background but most of the time when you switch to another app the previous app will either pause or terminate.

What this means in practice is that if an app takes a long time to do something, you cannot check email or do something else while it is processing or it will probably pause and then restart when you switch back. Consequently I spend a lot more time staring at progress bars on iOS than I do on OS X.

Dark mode

Dark mode would show system UI elements with a darker skin to stop the display appearing too bright or lighting up a dark room.

This could cause complications for third-party apps so I think it should be possible for apps to see which mode the user has selected and decide in what circumstances to honor it.

Don’t autocorrect proper grammar

I have no problem with iOS autocorrecting misspelled words but it sometimes corrects valid grammar and spelling into something that is incorrect, such as automatically correcting “were” to “we’re”.

Polish

There are rumors that iOS 9 will not have significant new features and will instead be a Snow Leopard-style polish and bug fix release. I’m less in favor of this for iOS than OS X because I find iOS 8 significantly more stable than iOS 7 and the aforementioned feature requests are problems that genuinely slow me down and turn me off the platform.

However, anything Apple can do to improve the speed of the OS is appreciated, especially on older devices.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Thursday June 4 2015 10:59 AM to Apple, Software, Analysis
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Rewrapping MP4 to MOV with CinePlay

I recently had a need to rewrap an MP4 to MOV without transcoding the existing H.264 video when it occurred to me that CinePlay for Mac makes an excellent rewrapping tool, despite this purpose not actually occurring to us during development.

Here's how to do it:

1. Open up the MP4 you wish to convert in CinePlay.

2. Go to File > Export.

3. Under both Video and Audio, select Don't Transcode (pass-through) and click Save.

The movie will be rewrapped to a separate MOV extremely quickly. Depending on how much video data needs to be copied over to the new file, it could be as short as a few seconds.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Tuesday May 26 2015 11:24 PM to Software, Tutorials
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Apple adds MXF support to QuickTime applications

Yesterday Apple released Pro Video Formats 2.0 (an apparently renamed version of Pro Apps Codecs), which is a set of professional codecs to coincide with the FCPX 10.1.4 update with MXF integration.

The release notes imply this only adds MXF support to FCPX, Motion and Compressor, however it is actually much broader than this. It adds MXF reading to any application on the system that uses the QuickTime APIs.

You can test this by taking an MXF file on your system (such as from an Avid_MediaFiles folder), right-clicking and choosing to open in QuickTime Player 7. This will work in any app that uses the QuickTime 7 APIs and does not require the latest version of OS X.

There are however some limitations:

  • You cannot QuickLook MXFs
  • You cannot encode to an MXF container
  • The files do not open in QuickTime Player X or any app that uses AV Foundation (this includes CinePlay)
  • You cannot edit metadata (QT Player forces you to save to a .MOV)
  • Some metadata was appearing garbled for me

We would also recommend users do not use MXFs with any of our apps that make changes to movie files. So Edit Detector will work fine but QT Edit will not.

This update will appear for anyone with Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5 or Compressor 4 installed on your system. If you don't have these apps and still want the MXF functionality, I recommend buying Compressor from the App Store for $50.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Wednesday December 3 2014 9:19 AM to Apple, Software, QuickTime
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Managing frame sequences in Batch Renamer

There are many tools for batch renaming, including Finder in OS X 10.10 Yosemite, however most of these tools are not built with film and TV workflows in mind and therefore don't understand or operate well with image sequences.

Batch Renamer in Pro Media Tools has several features that make it invaluable for image sequence workflows.

Detect frame gaps

Did you render the correct portion of the clip? Did you copy every file you intended to? Batch Renamer allows you to check for missing frame numbers to help spot such issues.

Edit sequences

If you need to remove a shot, delete its frames and then use the Close Number Gaps option to renumber the other frames to fill in the gap.

Offset / reorder frame numbers

Did you render out with the wrong start frame? Choose Offset Frame Numbers to add or subtract a number of frames from each file. Alternatively, drag the files in the window to get them in the desired order manually then choose Reorder Frames.

Pad frame numbers

If you rendered out with the wrong frame padding (leading zeroes) it's easy to change this in Batch Renamer.

Reverse sequences

Need a VFX shot to play backwards without re-rendering it? Choose the Reverse Frame Numbers option.


Batch Renamer is just one tool in the Pro Media Tools suite. Other popular tools include QT Edit, for batch-editing the properties of QuickTime movies (changing metadata, timecode, managing tracks) and Video Check, for locating faults in a video (flash frames, long frames, audio peaks).

To find out more about Pro Media Tools, check out the features page, watch the overview video, read the user manual or download the free 15-day trial.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Wednesday November 12 2014 9:57 AM to Software, Visual Effects, Tutorials
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6 Things Apple Should Improve in OS X 10.10

WWDC is tomorrow, where Apple is likely to announce a new version of OS X. Here's what we'd like to see.

1. AV Foundation improvements

There are so many improvements needed for AV Foundation that it merits an article of its own, but a few would be expanded codec support, easier extensibility, LOTS of bug fixes and the ability to stream Airplay video without ugly hacks.

2. Mac App Store improvements

Apple should allow app developers to request exemptions from sandboxing rules. We feel that the strict rules hurt the user experience and even removed one of our apps as a result of this.

Other areas for improvement would be the ability to hide third-party updates and not requiring a password for free updates (this can get tedious if you have multiple accounts).

3. Files in use

OS X frequently marks files in use when they aren't, which can cause issues copying or deleting files and also when emptying the Trash.

I have a theory that this may be caused by QuickLook trying to generate icon previews for these files but it's difficult to pinpoint.

This bug is especially frustrating when using network drives as OS X frequently creates temp files that can only be deleted after unmounting and remounting the drive.

4. Make full screen work on the current display only - don't let it blank out every other monitor

Full screen functionality was improved significantly in Mavericks with the "Displays have separate Spaces" option in the Mission Control section of System Preferences, but many people had to switch it off and revert to the old system due to compatibility issues (mine were with FCP 7).

When switching back to the old way of doing things on a shared Space, OS X blanks out all monitors even if there is nothing displaying on them.

I think the solution to this problem is a blacklist where users can specify apps that should only use the current Space on another monitor without disabling it for compatible apps.

5. Network drive / VPN improvements

It is clear that Apple is assuming most users are saving files to HFS+ formatted SSDs. This is apparent when mounting a drive over a VPN connection because Finder and many other Apple apps experience very poor performance.

In fact, I completely eschew Apple apps over a VPN and use Path Finder as a Finder replacement and AppCode as an Xcode substitute because those apps do not read or write to disk unnecessarily and handle these issues much better.

6. Bug fixes

Apple is announcing a new OS when arguably Mavericks still needs a lot of bug fixes. Some of the issues I am still experiencing in 10.9.3 are:

  • Hang when copying certain files to a network volume
  • Audio output randomly disappearing (speaker icon becomes greyed out), requiring a restart
  • Exposé sometimes fails, meaning it's difficult to exit it and switch back to an application, requiring a restart
  • Plugging in a monitor and closing the laptop lid sometimes makes it sleep randomly in the middle of me working. It also sleeps if I disconnect the charger.
  • Periodic freezes where the mouse moves but everything else is frozen.
  • Occasional apps that cannot be closed, which requires a hard reset because they stop OS X from shutting down
  • Other people have also reported issues in OpenCL apps with 10.9.3

With these issues in mind, I would be very happy if Apple institutes a Snow Leopard-style overhaul. Snow Leopard was so stable it took me a long time to upgrade and many of our customers are still using it.

I'm also hoping that Apple recently opening up the beta program to non-developers helps to address this, but if it doesn't I feel that Apple should not commit to a yearly upgrade schedule if they cannot guarantee quality.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Sunday June 1 2014 2:10 PM to Apple, Software, Analysis
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5 Features Apple Should Add in iOS 8

With WWDC and iOS 8 around the corner, we thought we'd offer up our wish list for future iOS features and bug fixes.

1. Documents app

The biggest problem with iOS is the limited file system, which can make working on files in different apps difficult.

Currently you can store movies and photos in a central place that is accessible by all apps with permission to access it. While this implementation has its flaws (e.g. apps can't delete files they've created), creating a similar storage area for documents would go some way toward improving the limitations when sharing files.

Much like Photos and Videos, these documents could be accessed and managed in a Documents (or Files) app.

2. Utility apps

Another problem with iOS is that it can be difficult to know what to do when someone emails you an unusual file format.

For example, customers often email me .log files when I'm on the move. These are exactly the same as text files, however iOS refuses to open them because they do not have a .txt extension.

Unlike OS X, you cannot force a file to open in another app, nor can you rename files, so I was stuck scouring the App Store for an app that would open them. The only app I found that would open them was a hex editor app but this was not a perfect solution because it was not designed for formatting and displaying large portions of text.

OS X has a lot of utility apps like TextEdit, Preview, Font Book, etc, but Apple seems to have delegated Mail as the only (limited) general-purpose file viewer. If Apple hopes to one day replace OS X with iOS they will need to address issues like this.

3. Better Copy & Paste

I have a lot of difficulty with copying and pasting. The primary issue I experience is that iOS tries to second-guess what I'm doing and it always gets it wrong.

For example, after you have selected a certain amount of text iOS assumes you want to select the entire paragraph, which may not be exactly what you want, but there's no way to select less.

So I find it easier to select more text than I need, paste it and then delete the parts I don't want.

4. Improved multitasking

While switching between apps is simple, the apps don't always retain their status when you switch back to them.

For example, an app that requires a network connection may have disconnected or you may have to wait for a web browser to reload the page again.

This doesn't happen every time but it occurs when iOS comes under pressure to free up memory. Now that iDevice CPUs are pretty fast I hope Apple can implement an OS X-style memory compression system to reduce occurrences.

I also hope the rumors of split-screen multitasking are true because it will help significantly with this issue.

5. Better Gmail support in Mail

I use the stock Mail app with Gmail because I have not found a third-party mail app that I like (suggestions are appreciated).

However, the Mail app seems to be frequently confused by conversations, with some messages correctly joined together and others shown as distinct messages. This can be annoying if I've deleted a conversation, only for all the deleted messages to reappear in my inbox when someone else replies. In some cases this requires me to re-delete 15 or so messages.

Another issue is that it seems to be impossible to actually delete messages. Deleted messages are archived with a special tag rather than actually being deleted. Additionally, sent messages don't show up in other apps or the Gmail web interface.

It's for reasons like the five listed above that I prefer to delegate particular tasks until I get back to a desktop computer. If the rumors are correct and Apple is creating an iPad Pro, simply adding a bigger screen won't be enough. In my opinion the changes most likely to endear it to professional usage would come from iOS itself.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Saturday May 31 2014 12:53 PM to Apple, Software, Analysis
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OS X 10.9 network hanging bug

When copying certain files to a network volume on OS X 10.9, Finder (or indeed Path Finder) will copy the first 12 KB and then beachball for minutes before eventually completing the transfer.

Our testing has indicated that this seems to occur when overwriting files from a local disk to the network volume and seems to only occur with .app application bundles. We believe this may be something to do with resource forks because it is rare for files other than applications to have them and network volumes do not support them. It does not occur on file transfers between the same network drive or from one network drive to another.

It's a nasty bug because it not only causes Finder to hang for minutes but can also affect all other applications using files on that volume. It has even a couple of times completely prevented any network or internet access at all for the duration of the file transfer.

We've reported this to Apple and are waiting on a fix. In the meantime, the easiest way is to either delete the destination file and then copy it or compress the .app bundle, copy it and then decompress.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Wednesday May 28 2014 1:39 PM to Apple, Software, Bugs of the Week
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7 reasons to upgrade from Snow Leopard

Today Adobe announced it's dropping support for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. While Adobe says it only affects a small number of customers, there is still a sizable number of users running the older OS, with some surveys suggesting as much as 19% usage.

Here are 7 reasons why you should upgrade from Snow Leopard to a newer version of OS X.

It's less secure

Apple is no longer fixing OS X bugs and some browser manufacturers no longer offer 10.6 support, leaving your system vulnerable.

Many new applications won't work with it

Not just Adobe, many other apps no longer support 10.6, including all Apple and Avid applications and many hardware products and cameras. Some upcoming new products from us will require newer OS versions to take advantage of more recent technologies.

It's slower

With every new OS release there is normally a speed boost from more efficient code execution, as well as new performance-enhancing technologies like AV Foundation, timer coalescing and compressed memory.

You're missing out on new features / technologies

Useful new technologies for pro users since 10.6 include AV Foundation, compressed memory, tabbed Finder windows, file tags, Airdrop, Notification Center and Airplay Mirroring. This is in addition to the aforementioned performance-enhancing technologies.

Developers are making sacrifices for older OSes

While we don't shy away from embracing features from newer OSes if they have a clear benefit to users, maintaining two codebases for a small subset of users is complex and takes time away from feature development.

Upgrades are cheap

10.9 is free and 10.8 is $20 on the Apple Store.

You can make it look and behave exactly like Snow Leopard

Lion introduced several controversial features like reverse scrolling and an inability to Save As. Luckily some of those decisions were reversed in later versions and others are completely customizable. We have a guide to making newer versions behave more like Snow Leopard here.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Thursday March 6 2014 1:03 PM to Apple, Software, Analysis
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Using Preference Manager with Final Cut Pro 10.1

Final Cut Pro 10.1 includes some major changes to the inner workings of the app, including the addition of libraries for managing projects and events.

The locations of your libraries are stored in the preference files, so after trashing preferences with Preference Manager you may not see any projects or events after relaunching FCPX. This will also occur after using other tools that rely on Preference Manager such as QuickFix.

To get them back, go to File > Open Library > Other > Locate in FCPX and browse for the library files on disk.

Our recommended workflow for all applications is not to trash preferences, but to instead preemptively backup the preferences when they are stable and then restore the backup when things go wrong.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Wednesday January 8 2014 11:14 AM to Software, Utilities, Tutorials
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