How to perform a currency lookup in a Numbers spreadsheet

Apple recently introduced in the Numbers spreadsheet the ability to pull live stock prices from the internet, making it now possible to track portfolio performance.

To access this feature, you use the STOCK function:

Since the feature pulls data from the Yahoo finance service, the symbols you should use for reference are those used at Yahoo. For most stocks that I’ve come across, the symbols are the same as those used at Google, but they do seem to vary slightly for non-US stocks and currencies.

To track the Euro/USD exchange rate, the symbol used at Yahoo is “EURUSD=X”, but using this symbol in the Numbers STOCK function returns an error. The solution, as I found in this discussion at Apple is to use the CURRENCY function:

Disappointing interaction design at Apple

Long-time Apple customers became accustomed over the years to thoughtful and delightful interaction design. As Apple has grown—and perhaps as Steve Jobs has passed, and Jony Ive’s involvement seems to be sunsetting—cracks have begun to appear.

Here’s two examples I ran into just this morning.

Enabling Do-not-disturb in Notification Center

Trying to enable “Do-not-disturb” in Notification center, I ran into to problems:

  • First, it’s not clear to me which of these tabs are active.
  • Second, it took me a while to figure out that the Do-not-disturb control is only exposed when scrolling down in the notification. There’s no UI cues at all to help with discoverability here.

Assigning a photo to a contact

In the Contacts.app, when trying to assign a photo to person, you’d think the picker would default to the contents of your People album, and provide a usable UI for finding and selecting someone (with sensible fallbacks in the case you never configured any Faces.) Instead, we’re dropped into the root level of the photos hierarchy, and by the time we navigate to the People album, are left with a list that’s only capable of showing the first few letters of first names.

Isn’t there someone at Apple whose job is just looking around for these kinds of details, that are such an integral part of the brand we’ve come to perceive?

iCloud Photo Sharing

Having an extended family spread geographically far and wide, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that a Mac/iOS feature I’d previously rarely used has ended up connecting us far better than any social network, and that is iCloud Photo Sharing. My parents, brother, our kids, their kids, etc. love seeing photos appearing in the streams, and being able to comment on them.

Deteriorating user experience design at Apple

In a recent Philip Greenspan post questioning Apple’s competitive edge going forward, I found myself sympathizing with this anecdote:

What about Apple’s supposed leadership in user experience? Plainly the Apple Health programmers didn’t get the memo, but surely the core iOS has a better/cleaner user interface than any Android or (gasp!) Windows phone? I might have thought so until I visited a neighbor. She is intelligent and well-educated, but not passionate about technology. She said that she had hardly gotten any phone calls for weeks. I discovered that her phone was in “Do Not Disturb” mode. She had entered this inadvertently by mistakenly swiping up from the bottom of the screen then touching the moon symbol (a nice icon but there is no explanation of what it means). No programmer at Apple had thought to have the phone display a confirmation dialog box after a few days in DnD mode.

Face management in Photos.app version 1.0

Mac OS X 10.10.3 introduced version 1.0 of Photos.app, Apple’s iCloud Photo Library enabled replacement for iPhoto and Aperture. Over the past couple of weeks, having finally uploaded my 120GB of photos and videos into iCloud Photo Library, I’ve had the opportunity to begin exploring the new application, and much of that time has been spent in “Faces”—the area of the application that allows you to associate photos to people. I previously documented some sync issues related to faces, and in today’s article I’ll highlight some face management issues.

The Faces section of the Photos app is separated into two regions:

  • The tall region at the top displays the named faces of people you’ve already tagged. Double-clicking one of these faces drops you into a chronological listing of all the instances of photos you’ve tagged of that person. Control-clicking on any instance of the face in that area allows you to set that particular instance as the key face for that person (used in the main Faces screen) or remove the image altogether (in case you accidentally mis-assigned someone to this face.)

  • The short region at the bottom displays a row of “Suggested Faces” that Photos has auto-detected. Double-clicking any of these faces triggers a search/input field to assign a name to that particular face. Control-clicking on any of these faces allows you to instruct Photos to “ignore” the face, removing it from the Suggested Face row.

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p>In terms of face management in this first release of Photos, I’ve observed two major shortcomings:

  • In my Photos app, “Suggested Faces” currently contains far more images I want to ignore, than images I want to tag. Unfortunately, Photos does not allow you to “ignore” multiple faces at once, hence requiring you to control-click-ignore faces one by one by one.
  • Since ignoring faces has become unworkable, my next approach was to scroll along horizontally, finding and adding those faces I do want to tag. But what’s equally frustrating, is that when I do tag a face, the Suggested Faces scroll snaps back to the start of the row—thereby losing my scroll position! The inability to ignore multiple faces at once, combined with the loss of my scroll position when looking for faces I do want to tag have become show-stoppers in my use of “Suggested Faces”.

Apart from those major issues, I’ve noticed a couple of lesser issues:

  • There’s no way to filter the upper region of faces. If you want to change the key photo for a particular face, or correct a face assignment mistake, you have to either visually hunt for the face in question or use the app’s general search mechanism to find the person, and then make the edit in an environment different than that optimized for face management.
  • When viewing an album of photos, I haven’t found a way to enter the Faces management mode, scoped to just those photos. This was possible in Aperture. So within the context of an album, you have to manually identify and name each face.
  • When associating a Suggested Face to a known existing person, Photos will often display several other photos it believes contains the same face, allowing you to add (or exclude) those in batch. I expected to find this feature available in the screen you’re shown when double-clicking on an existing person in the upper region of the Faces area, but alas, it isn’t. Currently, Photos knows of several photos containing my son, but I can’t confirm those until I find him being proposed for management in the Suggested Faces list.
  • I had hoped that setting the key-image of a person associated with one of my Contacts, to update the image used for that person in Contacts, but that doesn’t seem to happen.
  • If I work in the Faces management area for an extended period of time, I begin notice the program slowing down. For example, I begin to experience noticeable delays when typing into the search/input field, having double-clicked a face. So it appears there’s some room for performance improvement in the app as well.
  • One of the photos the app identified in Suggested Faces was the cover of the Steve Jobs biography. For a moment, I found myself surprised that Photos didn’t auto-recognize that particular face!

As someone currently building a version 1.0 of a new product, I can deeply sympathize with the need to prioritize features, and release something closer to an MVP. In this respect, I think Apple has done an astounding job with the initial release of Photos. That said, at least in the area of Faces management, there are some important deficiencies that need addressing, and I look forward to those receiving some attention from Apple in future updates.