A VooDoo fix for Macintosh Text Replacement Sync


I’ve recently won a small victory in the battle against the Black Box that is iCloud Sync and currently have a complete and correct set of Text Replacement shortcuts synchronizing across all my Macintosh computers and iOS devices. 


Warning: Voo Doo follows. I’m not a true expert on the deep inner-workings of Mac OS. I don’t believe my fix will do any harm, but proceed with caution and always make a backup! (Then make another for good measure. Remember the 3–2–1 rule!)

Executive Summary 

After removing the folder com.apple.InputMethodKit.TextReplacementService from the depths of the ~/Library heirarchy and restarting the computers my current list of Text Replacement shortcuts is available on two Macs that previously refused to synchronize. Both of these Macs legitimately run Sierra, but didn’t start life that way. The folder com.apple.InputMethodKit.TextReplacementService is buried somewhere inside ~/Library. Sorry, I didn’t make note of the full path — I found it using a Finder Search.

Update: A friend in the Ars Technica: Macintoshian Achaia forum reports that the path is ~/Library/Group Containers/com.apple.InputMethodKit.TextReplacementService


The Whole, Sordid Tale

For a very long time (I want to say going back to at least iOS 8?) Keyboard Text Replacement shortcuts weren’t syncing consistently across my Macs and iOS devices. I had varying combinations of shortcuts available depending on which device I was using and no way to get the same set to propogate across all devices At times shortcuts would disappear completely, and reappear as duplicates after I’d taken time to recreate them. This was an annoyance because I make heavy use of a handful of shortcuts and because I want access from all of my iOS apps, Text Expander isn’t an option for me. 

I tried numerous proposed fixes without success and refused to try a few that I deemed too extreme, complex and time consuming — particularly given the mixed results reported from the killing of these various rubber chickens. I have an open (for months) support ticket with Apple for months — The engineers were aware of the problem, but no fix was forthcoming. 

With the recent purchase of a new MacBook Pro, I found that the shortcuts weren’t syncing over to it at all. I was temporarily ignoring the problem but in the end I knew this would not stand

Seemingly coincident with the latest round of behind the curtain iCloud adjustments, the system magically started working and after a restart of each device I had a complete set of shortcuts on my iDevices. (So complete that there were multiple entries I’d long ago abandoned and thought I’d purged!) I checked the shortcuts on the new MacBook Pro and was disappointed to find them missing — until I restarted the Mac after which the shortcut list appeared. 

Thus encouraged, I removed the extraneous entries from the Mac. This didn’t take long with multiple selection. Next I made a few adjustments to the shortcuts I wanted to keep. I was really pleased when, in very short order, this corrected master list of Text Replacement Shortcuts propogated to both my iPhone and iPad Pro.  

Next stop was my iMac. Opening the appropriate preferences pane revealed its own special selection of keyboard shortcuts that (previously) weren’t at all in sync with any other devices. Okay, I got this. Restarted. No joy. Grrrr.

I spent a few minutes re-searching the internet for anything new on the topic. Still a lot of noise and no definitive solutions, but I came across an article that through a chain of “logical leap what ifs” on my part led me to doing a finder search that in the end led me to discover a folder buried deep in my user library: com.apple.InputMethodKit.TextReplacementService. This folder may be a legacy preference/cache because a searching for it on my new MacBook Pro (Sierra native) returns null.

I moved the folder to the Desktop and restarted. I immediately opened the Text Replacement preference pane and found the list was empty. However, within a few seconds it was populated with my complete and correct master list of shortcuts. I repeated the this procedure for my account on the MacBook Air I administer for my mother and had the same experience. 

There was one more device in the mix. I keep a 4th gen. iPad at work for reading and light browsing during breaks. The restart trick wasn’t working on that device — most likely because the guest network is accessed through a captive portal. (I speculate that after the device restart, the iCloud Sync Check takes place before the network connection is made.) Last night I brought the 4gen home to do the iOS system update. After the update/restart the shortcuts are present and good to go.

At least for now I have a consisent set of shortcuts across all of my Apple devices and changes made to those shortcuts propogate to the other devices promptly. 


If you’re having this problem and  this fix works for you please drop a note in the comments. 

iDevice Screens: These go to -11


Do you use your iPhone or iPad after lights out? Are you, or your partner, disturbed by the light emitting from the screen—even on the lowest brightness setting? Justin Searles, writing at Medium, has the solution:

How-to make your iPhone Dimmer than Dim

I followed the steps in Justin's simple tutorial and now my iPad is ready for bedtime with a simple triple tap on the home button. Come sunrise (or Jeff-rise—whichever comes last) another triple tap restores the screen to all its bright glory.

Now if I could just get the morons misguided folks using their phablets in movie theaters to dim down…

↬ Dave Mark at The Loop, How to make your iPhone dimmer than its dimmest setting


Not so big after all: Sizing up the Apple Watch


Critics of the unreleased Apple Watch, many and legion, seem quick to call it big and clunky. I had a little time on my hands, and decided to so some investigative research.

Apple has released some sizing information and various Apple Watch sizing templates are available online. I downloaded one from Ryan P. Mack. Next I went hunting for my digital caliper (a device for making precise measurements) and failed to find it—must be in my toolchest at the Hack Factory. No worries, the analog caliper in my rigging bag sufficed. Finally, I pulled the (average sized) Bertucci field watch, my EDC (every day carry) timepiece, from my wrist. The Bertucci isn’t the smallest, thinnest watch I’ve owned, but it isn’t the bulkiest either. (Obviously) I find it to be an acceptable size for everyday wear.

Image comparing actual Bertucci watch to PDF print of Apple Watch Dimensions

Here’s my watch compared to the Apple Watch PDF. The caliper is set to the relevant dimension of the Bertucci watch

The larger Apple Watch case is 42mm tall. Using press images and videos, Ryan estimates that the width of the watch is 37.65mm and the thickness is 10.44mm + a 1mm “bump” for the heartrate sensor. My current watch case is 48mm tall, 39mm wide and 11-12mm thick in round, analog numbers.

Criticizing the styling of the Apple Watch is valid, that’s after all a matter of taste, but calling it “big” or “clunky” seems inaccurate. For all practical purposes, I’m wearing an Apple Watch sized timepiece today and (most) everyday.

I’m planning on ordering a 42mm model in Black Stainless Steel, watch band TBD—ultimately I’ll be tying my own. What’s your choice? Let us know in the comments.

Affinity Designer targets Illustrator CC

Affinity Illustrator Logo
Serif, a European software developer, has fired another shot across Adobe’s bow with the release of Affinity Designer. Affinity Designer is professional grade illustration software created for Macintosh. The feature rich application has been out in the World as a free beta for several months and has been well received as an competitor to Adobe Illustrator CC. Affinity Designer will be of particular interest to those put off by Adobe’s price structure and subscription model. The application sells for $49.99 (special introductory price of $39.99 until October 8) through the Mac App Store. Serif promises free updates.
Affinity Designer screenshot

Filter effects are amongst the many tools.

A full review of this software package is beyond my abilities—I am Bézier Curve challenged—but the introductory video is impressive, the early reviews look promising and, if nothing else, the interface looks prettier more accessible than that of Inkscape. At forty bucks, the cost of subscribing to Illustrator CC for two months, I’m in.

iPhone Buyer beware: Check the Activation Lock status


Buyers of used equipment are often concerned about purchasing hot goods. Moral questions aside, when it comes to iPhones you want to be certain that the device isn’t Activation Locked—this prevents it from being used until it’s unlocked with the rightful owner’s Apple ID credentials. Apple now provides an iCloud portal where you can you enter a device’s serial number or IMEI to check its lock status.

I entered my iPhone’s Serial Number here…

…and confirmed that my phone is locked.

You’ll have to use a desktop browser, Mobile Safari won’t work. At this time the tool is targeted at desktop browsers. If you want to access the site using Mobile Safari (iOS 8) you’ll need to jump through extra hoops:

Go to icloud.com and use the Request Desktop Site feature:

To access this, give a gentle pull down on the menubar to see two new choices: Add to Favorites and Request Desktop Site. Tap the latter and the page will reformat, usually presenting itself in desktop glory.

ᔥ Macworld | Get to know iOS 8: Five convenient new tricks in Safari

Once you’re viewing the desktop version, type icloud.com/activationlock into the URL bar.