Apple Blog

WWDC wish list – 4 years later

Time flies, eh? WWDC 2021 is just about upon us, and so much has changed. For one, this will be the second consecutive remote WWDC, a format that I have found refreshing, especially for the keynotes. I don’t miss waiting in line and scrambling to find a seat, and WWDC sessions haven’t been especially good for live questions anyway. About the only part of the WWDC conference that I miss is the developer lab program.

But it isn’t just the format of WWDC that is different, WWDC is less and less the hardware announcement venue now, though I predict we’ll see an M1 iMac Pro or at least a larger format more powerful iMac, and maybe even the new Mac Pro with the M1 chip. Apple has gotten so good at rolling out its hardware announcements on its own schedule, that it didn’t even wait for WWDC to debut the latest iPads, and it rolled out the new M1 MacBooks without waiting as well. Building their own silicon is really going to allow them to release new products without worrying about the timing of Intel generations, conferences, etc. If this first wave of products is any indication, there will be some very powerful hardware coming out soon.

MacOS and iOS as platforms have gone through their own changes. Swift is prime-time now — few people starting a new app would choose Objective-C at this point, and the new ecosystem has SwiftUI as well as Combine. Apple also has a solution for cross-platform app development. We now have Face ID, crazy amounts of support for AR and Machine Learning, more security features, and more powerful and open cameras. There is increasingly a gap between the power of the newest hardware and the ability of the software development community to harness it in new ways. The engine underneath has gotten better and better, but where are the roads?

As I write this, final arguments are finishing in the Epic Games lawsuit against Apple. Epic thinks that the terms that it accepts on Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo app stores shouldn’t apply to mobile devices, for some reason. Any decision here is likely going to have impact on consumers, and I can’t imagine it will be positive. Apple’s ecosystem is no worse than others, and a lot better about customer privacy and security, at least in theory. They still need to get better at policing bad actors in the App Store, however. Third party App Stores won’t necessarily improve the customer experience. Most will be branded to narrow content for their owners, like an Epic store, or a Disney store. A broad app store on the platform has to have a substantial critical mass of content to make it.

I’ve been fairly out of the loop on what is likely to be announced at WWDC for iOS or Mac OS. We’ve seen machine learning creep its way more and more into iOS and Apple’s applications — the iPad text recognition is really good, and the Camera app is getting weirdly smart. But what access to these new technologies will really birth a new generation of apps and get them to capture the imagination of consumers?

Taking a look back at my wish list from 4 years ago, many of the things I wanted have not happened, though Apple has had to evolve its Developer Program somewhat even before the pandemic. That week of sending 1000 Apple engineers to SF for a week to talk with 5000 developers was always exclusive of many devs, even before the ticket lottery. I’m hearing that Apple is starting to host Developer labs in other cities, and has some specific outreach to some groups of developers in their local offices. It’s good to see that they are taking it seriously.

Apple TV and TVos have improved, but still lack automation or a screensaver app mode. There’s still not a super-affordable Apple TV option. But look at how many apps are available now that weren’t 4 years ago, and Apple TV+ has had some pretty good programming.

I don’t have really any wish list for this year, except perhaps a cheaper Apple TV, which isn’t likely to be in the cards given the most recent announcements. I’m hoping there’s a power-user version of the M1 iMac, or an M2 iMac, but it doesn’t have to be a iMac Pro. I’m hoping they announce big improvements to their Pro tools to really show off the new hardware, and demo at least one app on desktop or mobile which actually *needs* the hardware improvements they’ve been rolling out.


Adding signatures to PDF documents in Mac OS X

Learned something new today.      If you’ve ever gotten a PDF form via email that requires a signature, it turns out that you can easily add that signature in OS X Lion or Mountain Lion using features in the built-in Preview program.

First off,  open the PDF file in Preview.   If you are running Lion, look for a toolbar icon called Annotate, if you are running Mountain Lion, it’s called Edit.  Clicking on either exposes a tool bar of commands for editing your document.   Look for the icon with the line and an S.

Signature Icon
Signature Icon is highlighted in blue. The icon which gets you this toolbar is slightly different in Lion (Annotate) and Mountain Lion (Edit), but they do the same things.

The Signature pulldown gives you the option to import a signature using the iSight camera.   If you’ve already scanned in your signature before, it will also allow you to select it.

The signature icon and pulldown -- icon is same on Lion and Mountain Lion, but the toolbar name to get there is slightly different.
The signature pulldown.

All you need to do is write your signature on a blank piece of paper and hold it up.  No matter what color ink you use, Preview’s image processing will turn it into a crisp black signature. You can save the signature for reuse later as well.

Note that Preview also made a crisp outline of my thumb, so watch the signature box carefully.
Note that Preview also made a crisp outline of my thumb, so watch the signature box carefully.

Once you’ve accepted the signature,  you will see a crosshair cursor and a text box with your signature in it, you can move this as needed to any line in the form.

You can resize and move this to any line in the document.  Clicking off the signature and clicking again will let you sign in multiple places, if needed.
You can resize and move this signature image any line in the document. Clicking off the signature and clicking again will let you sign in multiple places, if needed.

Voila!  Much easier than printing, signing and scanning,  or printing, signing and taking photo, or even digging out one’s stylus.  Just be careful about saving your signature for later if you share the computer with others and aren’t using separate login accounts.

Note also that this Annotate/Edit tool lets you fill in text fields on the document as well, so it’s a good way to fill out documents that might not be set up as forms.