inessential by Brent Simmons

Questions about Marzipan Apps on the Mac

I’m thinking in advance about the things I’d like to know about Marzipan.

My questions, in no particular order:

  • Will we be able to ship Marzipan apps that run only on the Mac?
  • Will we be able to ship Marzipan Mac apps outside of the App Store?
  • Will there be a universal app format that includes iOS and Mac versions?
  • Will Marzipan Mac apps appear in the Mac App Store?
  • Will AppKit be deprecated?
  • If AppKit is not deprecated formally, will it get much in the way of new features?
  • Will apps have access to AppKit? Can they mix-and-match UIKit and AppKit?
  • Will apps be able to support AppleScript?
  • Will apps be able to send Apple events to other apps?
  • Will we be able to edit the main menu in Interface Builder?
  • Will apps support standard Mac customizable toolbars? If so, can these be edited in Interface Builder?
  • Will apps have resizable splitviews (without having to write this ourselves)?
  • Will apps support fullscreen with collapsible/slide-out-y sidebars?
  • Will apps support three-paned splitviews (a la Mail) without having to write the whole thing yourself?
  • Will document-based apps be able to open a separate window per document?
  • Will apps support additional windows? (In Apple News, choose File > Discover Channels & Topics… — what you really want is for that to come up in a separate window, I would think.)
  • Will apps support floating windows (such as for an inspector or a social media compose-message window)?
  • Will the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines be updated to account for the differences in Marzipan apps?
  • Will table views support drag-and-drop to reorganize without doing the iOS modal thing with the grabbers in the cells?
  • Will there be some kind of way to use NSOutlineView (or equivalent)?
  • Will table views support standard Mac highlighting? And multiple selection?
  • Will sandboxing be required for Mac Marzipan apps?
  • Will the tab key work to move focus from view to view?
  • Will apps be able to use Mac-only frameworks such as SearchKit?
  • Is Apple working on a cross-platform, pure Swift app framework that would make Marzipan, UIKit, and AppKit obsolete?

We have hints at some of the answers — see Steven Troughton-Smith’s blog. (Subscribe to his feed.) He’s doing excellent work.

But it’s worth remembering that we don’t really know much yet, because even what we’ve learned so far may not reflect the actual shipping reality.

* * *

I care about the answers as a developer. Though I’m not going to rewrite NetNewsWire as a Marzipan app, I do have a bunch of other app ideas I’d like to do, and many of those should be iOS apps as well as Mac apps.

If Marzipan means I can get those apps made more easily and in less time — and that the Mac versions will be as good as an AppKit app, without compromises — then I’ll be happy to adopt it.

But that part is critical. It has to be as good a Mac app as the AppKit version that I would have written. Otherwise it’s not worth my time. Other people may make other calculations, and I respect that.

(Note to those who think of me as a Mac-only programmer: I’ve written several iOS apps, including Vesper, Glassboard, and early versions of NetNewsWire, AllThingsD, and Variety.)