Great apps, reads, and more, curated by the MacStories team and delivered every Friday.
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Issue 13 - Friday, November 14
This week: HandBrake, OS X Menu Bar Utilities, Home Screens with Casey Liss and David Smith, plus the usual Interesting Links, Ticci Tip, and MacStories articles.

MacStories Favorite  

Every week we highlight one app that is truly great and deserves to be on everyone's iPhone, iPad, or Mac.


Free – Download

HandBrake is an open source video converter, and while it may not be an app that you use every day or even every month, you'll be glad you have it installed when you do run into a video you need to convert. HandBrake supports all the video formats you're likely to use and has presets for common output formats and qualities. 

Thanks to those built-in presets, converting a video is as easy as dropping the file into HandBrake, selecting a preset, and pressing the start button. Of course if you are looking for more advanced options such as adding subtitles, cropping the video or adjusting the bitrate, HandBrake has got all that and more. 

Best used for:

  • Converting a video (such as an .avi) into an iTunes/iOS compatible, MP4 file. 
  • Creating lower quality and thus smaller file sizes for videos to share online. 

MacStories Collections

OS X Menu Bar Utilities



$34.99 – Purchase

AgileBits’ must-have password manager comes with a fantastic menu bar app on OS X called 1Password Mini, which is as close as you can get to having the full 1Password experience always there in the menu bar. You can browse all your favorites and categories in 1Password Mini, check out folders and tags, and even search for any item in your 1Password vault. 1Password Mini can be navigated entirely with the keyboard and it’s one of our most used menu bar utilities.  


Free – Download

Todoist is a powerful todo management system with cross-platform support and integration with several web services (including IFTTT). On OS X, Todoist offers a Quick Add menu bar utility that you can invoke with a keyboard shortcut to start typing a new task; you can enter natural language dates, assign priorities, and even enter labels and notes – all from the menu bar.


$4.99 – Purchase

This simple menu bar utility by Mizage provides the easiest and most effective way to silence your Mac’s microphone temporarily. Give Shush a hotkey (like the Fn key), choose whether you want the push-to-silence or push-to-talk behavior, then hold the hotkey and Shush will let you have a cough button for your Mac. What’s great about Shush is the attention to detail in its simplicity: the menu bar icon animates when the microphone is silenced, and you can choose to play audio cues for mute and unmute as well.  


Free – Download

Evernote offers a quick note menu bar utility that lets you type text in a permanent scratchpad that you can later turn into a note in your account. There are a few hidden details: you can drag & drop URLs from Safari or text from any app into the panel and they’ll be appended at the bottom; you can also drop images – handy if you want to put together quick notes that go beyond plain text.


Free – Download

Shazam needs no introduction on mobile devices, but they took an interesting approach with their debut on OS X. Shazam for Mac lives in the menu bar, listening to music in the background; when it tags a song, it displays a native notification and archives a list of tagged songs in a popover you can open from the menu bar. We often use Shazam for Mac to identify songs from movies and TV shows.

iStat Menus

$16 – Purchase

Bjango’s iStat Menus is one our favorite Mac apps: through animated icons and charts, iStat Menus displays all sorts of hardware information about your Mac. You can monitor the status of your CPU and GPU, memory consumption, internal temperature, and even network usage. iStat Menus is a must-have Mac app and a great example of what can be done in the OS X status bar.


$15 – Purchase

A MacStories Favorite in Issue 9, Bartender lets you organize all your menu bar apps by creating an additional menu bar that is only revealed upon clicking the Bartender icon. Think of Bartender as a folder for all your menu bar icons: it’s a terrific addition to the standard Mac menu bar if you want to keep many apps running but don’t always need to see their icons.

Also Great


$19.99 - Purchase

Flexibits’ popular calendar app hasn’t been updated with a new interface for Yosemite, but we still love its natural language input and clever design.


Free - Download

The best way to never put your Mac to sleep, with a handy icon in the menu bar.


Free - Download

Perfect for quick file sharing - drag a file onto the menu bar icon and it will upload to CloudApp and copy the link to your clipboard.


$3.99 - Purchase

This simple menu bar utility lets you generate affiliate links for Amazon and iTunes products, and we use it every day at MacStories.

Home Screens  

This week we speak to Casey Liss (developer, host of Accidental Tech Podcast & Analog(ue)), and David Smith (developer of Feed Wrangler, Check the Weather, Emoji++ and more) about their Home Screens. 

Casey Liss

My home screen changed quite a bit once I got an iPhone 6 (Space Grey, 64) and with the release of iOS 8 and its new extensions API. Some long-time stalwarts, such as Check the Weather, are now on my last page, and instead I’m relying on the Today widget.

Some other recent changes to my home screen include the addition of BabyConnect, to help keep track of activity with our new baby, Declan. When we found out we were having a baby, I never thought I’d be getting push notifications when he pooped. Yay technology!

Additionally, I communicate with Federico and the other Relay FM hosts using Slack. I also have come to love Day One even more with each new day and new entry. Finally, GIFwrapped keeps my animated GIF game strong.

Wallpaper is an old version of this by the awesome designer Marc Edwards.

David Smith

My home screen starts with a row of blank invisible icons to make it more comfortable to reach my most used apps on the iPhone 6 screen. Below that are four folders of all my rarely used apps. Things I use for either highly specialized purposes or occasional amusements.

Most of the apps on my home screen are the built in apps by Apple. This is perhaps slightly surprising since I make my living by making 3rd-party apps but I’ve just grown used to them over the years. Every now and then I’ll try out a replacement but unless it quickly enamors me I’ll typically revert back to the basic ones.

I am currently using a Microsoft Band to help me understand wearables better in anticipation of the Apple Watch next year. So I use its app for data analysis.

I have two mapping apps that I use on a regular basis. Google Maps for when I’m actually looking at the map and Waze when I’m navigating in a car.

My todo/task management of choice is OmniFocus. I use it mostly because it syncs wonderfully with its Mac counterpart and lets you paste blocks of text as separate tasks.

I try hard to make sure that I dog-food my own products whenever I can to make sure that I feel any pain points within them personally. So I use Check the Weather for my weather app, Feed Wrangler for RSS, and Pod Wrangler for podcasts.

Interesting Links  

Great reads and links from around the web.  
Evernote launched Penultimate 6 yesterday, bringing a new interface, better scroll and zoom features, and additional tools to its popular handwriting app for iPad.

Speaking of Evernote, Phillip Gruneich has posted an in-depth look at the Evernote URL scheme for iOS.

Dan Counsell published some interesting details about the launch of RapidWeaver 6 for Mac.

Why Studio Neat made their iPhone app Slow Fast Slow a free download on the App Store.

You can now deregister a phone number from iMessage.

A great collection of iOS design guidelines and resources by Ivo Mynttinen.

VSCO Cam released version 4.0 of their popular photo editing app, which includes a native iPad version with sync. Shawn Blanc has posted his first impressions here.

Vigil, a website monitoring app for iPhone, has been updated to version 2.0 with a complete redesign. You can find our original review here.

Type Nine is a custom keyboard for iOS 8 that brings T9 to modern devices.

How Yoshiki Okamoto (former Capcom executive who worked on Street Fighter 2) found success again with Monster Strike, a mobile game that’s been downloaded over 15 million times in Japan and recently launched in the US.

Tips with Ticci  

Tips and tricks to master your apps, by Federico.

iOS 8 action and share extensions can only be activated from native share sheets in apps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own share sheet shortcut and customize it. For that, you need Launch Center Pro.

Contrast’s app lets you create iOS Share Sheet actions that show the system share sheet when you tap them. With iOS 8, however, these actions have received support for extensions and you can now use them as “universal” share sheets for photos, text, or URLs. Go to Launch Center Pro’s Action Composer > System Actions > iOS Share Sheet, and choose one of the three supported versions. Let’s say you want to be able to use an action extension every time you copy a URL: create a URL share sheet, and use a [clipboard] tag in the URL field of the Options screen.

This way, when you’ll copy a URL from apps that don’t support Share Sheets (like Mail or Twitter), you can quickly show extensions in Launch Center Pro with the tap of a button without opening Safari. You can create share sheet actions for any Launch Center Pro tag – whether it’s a photo, a keyboard prompt, or text returned from a list.

You can download my example action here.

Previously, on MacStories  

Our top stories from the past week.

Space Age Review
Years in the making, Space Age is an exciting and ambitious new adventure game from Big Bucket, the creators of another game you’ve probably played, The Incident.

Overcast 1.1 Brings iPad App, New Landscape Mode
Overcast has rapidly become one of the most popular podcast clients, and this week it saw its biggest update yet, arriving on the iPad and adding a new landscape mode for the iPhone.

iOS 8, Email, and Extensions
Federico takes a deep dive into the issue of iOS 8 Extensions when dealing with email, exploring the lack of support in Apple’s Mail app and some third-party alternatives which do support them.

Flashlight Extends OS X Yosemite’s Spotlight with Plugins
It may be a ‘horrendous hack’ as the developer himself admits, but Flashlight is a really neat utility that extends the capabilities of Spotlight on OS X to support things like weather and WolframAlpha results.

Sunrise 3.0 Brings Google Tasks and Eventbrite Integration, New iOS 8 Widget
Sunrise was featured in a previous issue of MacStories Weekly and this update brings full support for the iPhone 6, a new widget, and integrations with Google Tasks and Eventbrite.


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