Save Settings in Safari for Websites You Visit Often

You most likely have a number of websites you visit regularly: sites you use to shop, bank, get the news, and more. If you use Safari on the Mac, you may know that you can change the way you view these websites, changing the font size, using Reader mode, and more. But what you may not know is that you can apply these changes permanently for any site that you visit, so when you view a website, you can see it and interact with it comfortably. Here’s how.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

macOS 11 and iOS 14 – New Security and Privacy Features

In a socially-distanced keynote address to open Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference yesterday, the company presented new features for the next versions of all of its operating systems. Apple announced new features for macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS, and security and privacy features were prominent across the various operating systems. In this article, I’ll give you an overview of what’s coming in these new operating systems to help ensure your security and privacy on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

How to Clear Your Safari Browser Cache on Mac

To make your browsing experience more efficient, web browsers cache data, which means they store files on your computer. They do this so when you return to a website, you don’t need to download all if its elements. For example, if you regularly view a web page that contains a number of graphics, not downloading those graphics will save time, and save bandwidth, both for you and for the web host.

Sometimes, however, you may want or need to delete that cache. This is a first-line troubleshooting technique when you are having difficulty displaying web pages. Different browsers have different methods for doing this, and Apple’s Safari makes this complicated, for some reason. Here’s how you can delete your Safari browser cache.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

A Better Way to View macOS’s System Preferences

The System Preferences app in macOS organizes hundreds of discrete settings behind a couple dozen preferences panes. Navigating the app is a bit confusing, because of the way the icons are organized. By default, the icons are sorted by “category,” but I really don’t understand what the categories are.

Pref category

The top section is clear: it’s about me and my Apple ID. And the bottom section, where third-party preferences go, that’s clear too. But what about the other two? I don’t see anything in common across the different preferences. What could make sense would be if there were, say, user preferences in one section and administrator preferences in the other, but some preference panes – such as Sceurity & Privacy – have options available to users, and others that are locked and require administrator access.

(Update: A reader commented with an explanation for the different sections. The second section is “personal” settings, and the third is “hardware” settings. See this article.)

But there’s a better way to view them: choose View > Organize Alphabetically.

Prefs alphabetically

Not only are the preferences easier to find, because you can scan according to the name of the preferences you’re looking for, but the entire window is more compact.

Workaround – Voice Memos on macOS Catalina Doesn’t Record for Some Users when Signed into iCloud

Update: As a commenter writes below, if you press the Mute key on your keyboard – the F10 key – you can record a voice memo. That this works suggests that there is some sort of bug in the macOS coreaudio framework that needs to be fixed.

Another commenter has pointed out that if you enable Play user interface sound effects in the Sound pane of System Preferences, that this resolves the problem.

Voice Memos is one of the Catalyst apps that Apple has brought to macOS with the release of Catalina. Catalyst is a framework that allows iPad apps, with some small tweaks, to run on Macs. However, seems that Voice Memos doesn’t work on the Mac, at least to record voice memos. You can listen to voice memos you’ve recorded on iOS devices, but when you press the Record button, nothing happens in the app. Not only does it not record anything, but the timeline doesn’t move.

Voice memos is broken

I had thought that the app might need to be added to the Security & Privacy preferences, in the Privacy tab under Microphone – this is where apps are listed that have requested permission to use a Mac’s microphone – but there’s no way to add it.

Some people have suggested that it works only if you’re not logged into your iCloud account; the app does sync voice memos across your devices via iCloud, if you told it to do so on first launch. I tried it with a test account on one of my Macs, which is not signed into an iCloud account, and it works fine.

Interestingly, if I attempt to make a voice memo on my Mac, with my account that is signed into iCloud, the app creates a file (in ~/Library/Application Support/, but that file remains at 0 bytes until I quit the app. That suggests that something is happening to prevent the file from being written correctly (perhaps), due to a problem in the cloud (conjecture).


When I try to record a voice memo, I see the following error message in Console:

-[RCMainControllerHelper _recordingFailed:error:] -- failed to start recording error = Error Domain=VMAudioServiceErrorDomain Code=6

And when I click Done or the Pause button, this message displays in Console:

-[RCMainControllerHelper exitEditMode] -- finishError = (null)

Turning off iCloud sync for voice memos (in System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud Drive) doesn’t resolve the issue. And if I delete the Recordings folder at the path mentioned above, the app hangs, then quits.

Voice memos are clearly working for most people, but there are also a number of people reporting that it isn’t working. (Here’s a search on Apple’s forum; there are a number of posts in the list from people with the same issue.) I’ve tried adjusting the settings in Audio-MIDI Setup, and they don’t make a difference, and I’ve tried using different inputs, such as my AirPods, or the mixer I use for podcasts. It seems that iCloud is the variable here, though some people who are signed into iCloud can record using the app. This wouldn’t be the first case of iCloud corruption I’ve seen, especially since iOS 13 was released.

macOS Catalina, Apple Mail, and Time Machine Don’t Work Together

One of the most useful features in macOS is Time Machine, the built-in backup software. If you have an external or network drive, Time Machine backs up your Mac every hour, and retains hourly backups for 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups beyond that. It’s simple to set up, and requires no user intervention. And it’s great, when it works.

Since the release of macOS Catalina, Time Machine doesn’t work with Apple Mail. If you enter Time Machine from Apple Mail, you are supposed to be able to see your email in all your backups. But if you try to do this is Catalina, Mail crashes.

Looking at a crash log, I see this:

Error Domain=NSCocoaErrorDomain Code=256 "The file “Accounts.73319.db.timemachine” couldn’t be opened." UserInfo={NSFilePath=/var/folders/9r/009mv58n4x172dtpkp5nrctc0000gn/T/, NSSQLiteErrorDomain=14}

This looks like it might be a permissions error, or something to do with the way users access system files in Catalina.

This has been a problem for months, and users have reported it and filed bugs about it. It only hit me the other day, when I needed to find an email I had accidentally deleted (or that Mail had deleted without my intervention; that’s another story…)

“Legacy Software” in macOS Catalina

If you’ve been using a Mac for a while, and upgraded to macOS Catalina, you’ve probably seen some mention of 32-bit software. Catalina is a 64-bit operating system, and cannot run 32-bit apps. If you want to know more, here is an article I wrote about this.

In the article I link to above, I explained how to find 32-bit apps on macOS Mojave, using the System Information app. Since there is no 32-bit app support in Catalina, System Information no longer shows the bitness of apps. However, it does have a “legacy software” section.

Legacy software

But I have deleted or upgraded all the software listed here. I’m guessing that this list was made when I upgraded to Catalina, and hasn’t been updated. But what’s the point of having such a list? Even if I hadn’t acted on all this software, the list doesn’t make it that easy to find where it is located. One item has a path of:

/Volumes/Steinberg Download Assistant/Steinberg Download Assistant Download Assistant

This suggests that the software is, perhaps, in a disk image that was mounted on my Mac at some point, which is likely, as I did install some Steinberg software a while back. But how can that path be listed? When was this snapshot of software made?

This list is quite unhelpful.

Apple’s Use of the Term “Accessibility” on the Mac and on iOS Is Confusing

Apple has long been one of the leaders in accessibility on its computers and mobile devices. Accessibility, in computing, according to Wikipedia:

refers to the accessibility of a computer system to all people, regardless of disability type or severity of impairment. The term accessibility is most often used in reference to specialized hardware or software, or a combination of both, designed to enable use of a computer by a person with a disability or impairment. Specific technologies may be referred to as assistive technology.

Both on the Mac and on iOS, there are a number of accessibility settings, to help users see, hear, and work with their devices.

Accessibility pane

But Apple is also using this term, and the same “human” icon in another location on macOS Catalina. It is found in the Security & Privacy pane of System Preferences.

Accessibility security

This section is where you allow apps to control your Mac; you give explicit authorization, through a number of alerts and dialogs, to apps to allow them to interact with other apps.

This latter use of the term accessibility is simply wrong. Yes, it is about accessing your Mac, but this is a term with a very clear meaning in computing. And using the same icon for accessibility in these settings makes it look as though these settings somehow affect how a user interacts with the Mac.

In a chat today, my colleague Craig Grannell, who has written a lot about accessibility, said this:

Accessibility is too often where things go that Apple doesn’t really want you to trigger. On macOS, there is no good reason why the transparency settings aren’t in General.

There are a lot of settings on the Mac that are wedged into the Accessibility preferences that should be more obvious, and Reduce transparency is certainly one of them. (And I’d argue that the term should be “translucency,” not transparency…) Voice control is another. While it is designed for people with physical limitations, the dictation feature can be used by anyone to convert speech to text, especially now that Nuance has discontinued its Dragon software on macOS.

Pointer control should be in the Trackpad and Mouse preferences. This is where you set a double-click speed, and where you adjust the spring-loaded folder delay.

On iOS, there are even more essential settings filed under accessibility, but some of these settings are also found elsewhere. For example, to change the system font size, you can go to Display & Brightness, or to Accessibility. In Accessibility, you can activate auto-brightness, which you cannot access where you would expect (I’d expect that setting to be in Display & Brightness).

Settings for the Magnifier are in Accessibility, whereas this is a feature that is not just for visually impaired people. Reachability, a feature designed for one-handed access to the larger displays of iPhones, is also hidden in Accessibility, as are Tap to Wake and Shake to Undo.

Accessibility is essential, and it’s not just for people with handicaps or disabilities. Apple really needs to make all this more coherent, providing more logic in how settings are organized, and especially changing the way they describe the security setting that allows apps to control your Mac, which has nothing at all to do with accessibility.

Bug or Feature? Screen Time on macOS Catalina Isn’t Reporting Actual App Usage

Screen Time is a feature that Apple added to iOS 12, which allows you to keep track of how much time you spend on each app you use, how many times you wake up your iOS device, and how many notifications you receive. This data can help you cut down on your device usage, and you can use Screen Time to set limits for your kids.

Screen Time was also added to macOS Catalina, with the same features. However, it doesn’t seem to work correctly. Rather than showing which apps are frontmost when you work, it shows how long apps are open:

Screen time 1

I keep a number of apps open all the time: Mail, Messages, Fantastical, Omni Focus, Music, and a few others. So counting them as actual “screen time” makes no sense.

In the above example, all these apps were open all day – obviously, the Finder is always “open” – so the data is essentially useless. Is this a bug or a feature? I would think that Screen Time should only record that time when apps are frontmost.

Screen Time also records “Pickups.” While this makes sense for an iOS device – how many times you picked up your iPhone and woke it up – it really makes little sense on the Mac. A pickup on the Mac is the number of times you woke the device from sleep, or restarted it.

Screen time 2

And the apps listed in the lower pane are supposed to be the first app that you used when you awakened the Mac, but seem to be just the frontmost apps when the Mac is awakened. So if I put my Mac to sleep with Safari frontmost, when I wake it up, it will be counted as a pickup. On iOS this makes sense, because when you wake up your iOS device, you are on the home screen, so you have to actively choose which app you are going to use. Also, it doesn’t seem to be reliably updating on the Mac; right now, I’ve put my Mac to sleep a couple of times yet when I awaken it, it doesn’t add to the number of pickups. And it’s not counting the System Preferences app, which I’ve used several times after waking up my Mac to view Screen Time.

Finally, it records notifications, as does iOS. While iOS notifications can be a disturbance, since they appear on the device when it’s not in use, this isn’t the case on the Mac. If the Mac is asleep, notifications won’t display; they will, however, if your screen is dimmed, or if a screen saver is active. In any case, is there any value to counting these notifications, especially here where I have Music set to notify me of track changes?

Screen time 3

While Screen Time is a useful feature, notably for setting limits for kids, its information isn’t very reliable. Say you have a child who has a game open in a window, or hidden, but isn’t playing; in the meantime, they’re working on their homework. All the time the app is running counts as usage time. There’s really no way to get any reliable information about which apps are really used.

And, for example, I might want to track my time using certain apps to bill clients, but with Screen Time, I’d have to remember to quit the apps when I switch to another app, and that is somewhat futile, because I certainly won’t remember.

It’s worth pointing out that Many Tricks’ Time Sink does this quite efficiently: by app, but also by window, so you can easily record exactly what you’re doing, especially if you are billing clients by the time you spent working for them.

New Book Now Available: Take Control of macOS Media Apps

Take Control of macOS Media Apps cover 768x994Are you bewildered with the new Catalina apps that replace iTunes? Befuddled by Apple Music? Do you want to customize the Music app sidebar? Wish you could organize your podcasts? Wondering what the difference is between loves and stars? In this book, I explain not only how Apple’s new media apps work, but how normal people can make the Music, TV, Podcasts, and Books apps do what they want.

In macOS 10.15 Catalina, Apple finally did away with iTunes. In its place are three new apps – Music, TV, and Podcasts – with audiobooks now handled by the Books app and syncing of mobile devices handled by the Finder. Where once iTunes was an all-purpose media hub, now you may use up to five apps to accomplish the same things. The new apps also add more features (while, sadly, removing a few things too).

Take Control of macOS Media Apps is your guide to this new, post-iTunes world. Kirk McElhearn, whose earlier books on iTunes 10, 11, and 12 collectively sold nearly 14,000 copies, is back with a new book that shows you how to manage your music, videos, podcasts, and audiobooks in Catalina.

Whether you just want to play your media, or you want to go deeper with special features like Genius, Shuffle, Up Next, Apple Music, and iTunes Match, this comprehensive guide has the answers you need.

Kirk also looks at various ways of bringing audio and video into Apple’s media apps, tagging songs and videos so you can find them more easily later, creating playlists, sharing your library over a home network, and syncing media with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

Get Take Control of macOS Media Apps from the Take Control Books website.

Note: This book covers Apple’s media apps in macOS Catalina exclusively. It does not cover iTunes for Windows; the Music/TV/Podcasts/Books apps for iOS and iPadOS, or iTunes running in earlier versions of macOS.