Podcasts in Big Sur

After some trepidation, I updated to Big Sur with 11.1, which may have been too early after all.

All other things notwithstanding, revisiting Podcasts is informative. Nearly all of it seems to still hold true. Someone is awake at the switch somewhere since Cmd+L now does jump to the "show" of the current episode, but it doesn't select the episode and scroll it into view to let you pick neighboring episodes. Indeed, it first loads an empty list and then visibly populates it with data, leaving you at the top.

Furthermore, I am now thrilled to discover that hitting Space in Podcasts no longer play/pauses. The Controls menu lists this as option+Space, and is not remappable via the System Preferences Keyboard Shortcuts functionality, since such shortcuts require modifier keys (for good reason). This breaks with convention for basically any media playback application of any form where a keyboard is available – even the full-screen media player on iPadOS reacts the right way to Space. The Music app definitely still does.

There have been changes made to Catalyst to make it a less horrible choice for building Mac applications (like opting into native or at least native-seeming controls like buttons and checkboxes), and certainly the cavalcade of odd UI choices all across the OS make the particular ones in Catalyst or Podcasts seem less weird. But it still looks, feels and behaves more like a poorly written web app, a mélange of UI goo scraped out of a foreign metaphor and allowed to set without much customization or supervision.

And regardless of UI framework, it doesn't seem like the Podcasts team has any interest in going further than making it the weak not-quite-anything port that it is. The iOS Podcasts app is redesigned more years than not, with custom interactions, animations and flows. That the macOS version can't even get to a coherent, serviceable, purpose-appropriate app is bewildering.

Oh, and the aforementioned Controls menu, when opened, beachballs for a handful of seconds – significantly more time than to launch the entire application – and then presents the menu, because when a company has only been doing pull-down menus for 36 years there's only so much you can expect.

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