How to Change the Status Bar Style in iOS 12

For some iOS apps, it may be helpful to change the color of the status bar at the top of the screen. For example, if I have a dark background, the default status bar style is hard to read:

Dark iPhone app

To change the appearance of the status bar within a view controller, first add “View controller-based status bar appearance” as an item to your Info.plist with a value of YES:


Then in any view controller, you override the preferredStatusBarStyle property:

override var preferredStatusBarStyle: UIStatusBarStyle {
    return .lightContent

And if you ever need to update the status bar color, call setNeedsStatusBarAppearanceUpdate(). Now the full view controller looks like this:

import UIKit

class ViewController: UIViewController {
    override func viewDidLoad() {
        // Do any additional setup after loading the view,
        // typically from a nib.

    override var preferredStatusBarStyle: UIStatusBarStyle {
        return .lightContent

Running this view controller, we get a light status bar!

Dark iPhone app with light status bar

Compiling Cub for Shortcuts

Earlier this week I heard about Shortcuts JS, which uses JavaScript to generate Shortcuts. Here’s an example from their homepage:

// We'll use this later to reference the output of a calculation
let calcVar = actionOutput();

// Define a list of actions
const actions = [
    text: 'Hello, world!',
    number: 42,
    operand: 3,
    operation: '/',
  }, calcVar),
    // Use the Magic Variable
    text: withVariables`Total is ${calcVar}!`,

While this is a good first step to writing “real code” to make Shortcuts, specifying the operands and others in this fashion is clunky. I wondered how easy it would be to use the syntax tree instead to create the Shortcut, and Will Richardson has done that exact thing for Cub in a blog post:

All I have to do was traverse the syntax tree and generate a Shortcuts file. In terms of code this is fairly straightforward - just add an extension to each AST node that generates the corresponding code.

I’m not familiar enough with iOS app development or Swift to do it myself, but it would be really interesting to write an app that can use something like swift-ast to generate Shortcuts. Who knows what power iOS users could get if they could program advanced Shortcuts using Swift?

State of the Apps 2018

Inspired by Cortex’s annual State of the Apps discussion, I thought it would be fun to start documenting what I’m using the most on my phone every year. Below are the my most-used 3rd party apps of the year.


1Password 1Password
I moved from LastPass to 1Password earlier this year and I couldn’t be happier. With the Password AutoFill API, 1Password integrates with the iOS keyboard to fill in logins with only one tap, and then app even copies one-time authentication codes to the clipboard. 1Password’s integration with iOS 12 has even stellar and I can’t recommend it more.

Todoist Todoist
A cross-platform task management system, Todoist is how I keep track of all of my projects, from TA grading deadlines to senior design final deliverables. While Todoist’s UI doesn’t have a native app feel, it’s clean and consistent.

Slack Slack
Aptly categorized by Federico Viticci as a barely passable iOS client designed to access a web app, Slack was the app I used almost every day to communicate with several groups at my university. Slack supports some newer iOS features such as grouped notifications, but the UI mostly resembles its desktop Electron client and often hides away features in non-obvious places, such as touching and holding a message to add a reaction.

Social & Entertainment

Instagram Instagram
While I’m not a fan of the company behind Instagram for many many many reasons, Instagram is a place where I can keep up with my friends via Stories and posts, and I’ve found it to be much more positive overall than other social networks this year.

Apollo Apollo
Reddit is one of my primary social networks I use every day, and Apollo is hands down my favorite way to experience Reddit on any platform. The design is intuitive and easy to personalize, and it has a fantastic night mode. I can’t stop recommending the app to my friends that use the first party client.

lire lire
A few months ago I was using IFTTT applets to monitor RSS feeds and push them to a specific project in Todoist, but it because untenable after adding too many feeds. I moved to Inoreader as my RSS service and lire as my RSS reader. The app has a clean, native-looking design, and it uses its own extractor to display a story’s full text. I wish the per-feed options were more straightforward and easy to access, but overall I’m very happy using it as my primary RSS reader.

Overcast Overcast
Overcast has been my podcast player go-to app since I started using it over 3 years ago. Smart Speed and Voice Boost are still industry-leading features that I can’t live without, and new features are being continuously added, such as full text search in version 5.0.

GroupMe GroupMe
Another app in the “barely passable” category, I use GroupMe every day at my university for group chats ranging from friend groups to club event announcements. The app is missing many basic features I expect from a communication app, including read-message syncing across devices and platforms, and I cannot wait until I can delete this app from my phone.

Health & Finance

AutoSleep AutoSleep
While the Apple Health app tracks basic sleep information, AutoSleep provides in-depth detail for sleep trends and day-to-day stats. I check it often to look at my readiness for the day, cumulative sleep debt, and overall sleep time consistency. It was especially interesting to compare one particularly-gruesome senior design week of little sleep with the rest of the semester averages.

While I had toyed with budgeting on Mint in the past, YNAB (or You Need a Budget) is a great way to manage your savings and expenses. The service requires a subscription, but its features such as Bank Syncing and Goal Tracking as well as it’s straightforward usage make it an excellent deal. YNAB has given me a clear way to know exactly what I’m spending every month.

Venmo Venmo
A digital wallet app owned by PayPal, Venmo allows me to send and receive payments from other people. Similar apps like Apple Pay and Cash App are available, but Venmo is what nearly all of the people in my social circle have centralized on. Further, with the addition of a Venmo card option released in the summer, Venmo has made it to handle group events and easily split payments.


Deliveries Deliveries
This app has allowed me to neurotically check my packages from every online retailer. All I need to do is copy the tracking number from USPS, FedEx, or UPS and paste it into Deliveries, and then I can push updates whenever the package status has changed. Deliveries is so good it encourages me to buy more things from Amazon, if that’s even possible.

CARROT Weather CARROT Weather
I switched from Dark Sky to CARROT Weather in February, and that was mostly because of the fun sadistic messages that managed to be both funny and relevant. At the same time, the app has seen numerous updates this year to support multiple weather locations, highly customizable Apple Watch complications, and more.

1Blocker X 1Blocker X
For any website that doesn’t respect its users and decides to use popups, newsletter signup prompts, and auto-playing video ads, 1Blocker X is great at preventing them in the background. The app does what a utility should do: work without me even remembering I have a content blocker turned on.

Google Maps Google Maps
Whenever I need to travel more than 10 minutes, I turn on Google Maps for live traffic updates and possible shorter route recommendations. In addition to retailer busy times and reviews, Google Maps is a great way to gather details about locations around me.

Due Due
For smaller tasks that I want to be reminded of over and over, I put them in Due, which is great at spamming me with notifications until I mark the task complete. Plus, the app recently added custom snooze times from a notification in a recent update.

Google Photos Google Photos
I use Google Photos both as a secondary back up to iCloud Photos and for more power photo analytics than what Apple provides. For now, I’ll gladly trade Google using my aggregated photo data to have an easy way to search photos by person, place, or thing across platforms. I also share albums and pictures through Google Photos to groups that have a mix of Android an iOS devices.

Tailor Tailor
A nifty utility app that stitches multiple screenshots into one vertical image, Tailor provides an easy way to send more readable conversations to other people, whether they’re from Messages, Slack, or other apps.

Home Screen

Finally, here’s a picture of my home screen at the end of 2018:

My home screen