The most wonderful new hidden feature in iOS 17 and macOS 14

By admin
The most wonderful new hidden feature in

iOS 17
LAW

and macOS 14


September 12 2023
DATE

Today

Apple
ORG

published lists of new features available with

iOS 17
LAW

(to be released

September 18
DATE

) and

macOS 14
LAW

(to be released

September 26
DATE

).

One
CARDINAL

of those features caught my eye. Indeed it made my eyes bulge.

Automatically pause animated images. Pause animated images by default, such as GIFs in Messages and

Safari
PERSON

for your visual comfort.

This is astounding news! In my opinion, the feature should have been highlighted in the

WWDC
ORG

keynote. It’s that huge. And I’m going to take a little personal credit for it (whether that’s justified or not, heh). Over

the years
DATE

, a number of my customers have requested such a feature for my web browser extension StopTheMadness. Unfortunately, however, there’s no direct

JavaScript
PRODUCT

access to image decoders or formats for HTML <img> elements, which makes it extremely difficult for me to implement

GIF
ORG

blocking in my extension. That’s why I filed a bug with

Apple
ORG

‘s

WebKit
PRODUCT

project, the open source web browser engine underlying

Safari
PERSON

. My bug was titled Animated images ignore user’s prefers-reduced-motion and Auto-Play preferences. So there you have it. You’re welcome! đŸ˜‰

Let’s look at where the new feature can be found and how it works.

First
ORDINAL

, in macOS 14

Sonoma
GPE

. For some reason,

Apple
ORG

buried the feature in the "Accessibility" section of System Settings. If it were me, I would put it in a section called "Annoyances". On the other hand, all of

System Settings
ORG

is annoying, so maybe that’s not specific enough. In the Display subsection of the Accessibility section, there’s a toggle titled "Auto-play animated images".

You want to disable that setting.

Now let’s look at an animated

GIF
PERSON

in

Safari
GPE

. Here’s an article about the

30th
ORDINAL

anniversary of the

GIF
ORG

. With the new system setting disabled, the

GIF
ORG

does not animate. Hooray! You can still manually make it animate by selecting the "

Play Animation
WORK_OF_ART

" menu item from the contextual menu.

And then you can stop the animation again by selecting "

Pause Animation
WORK_OF_ART

".

It would be better if you could just click the image to play and pause the animation, but the contextual menu is certainly way better than nothing!

More than 30 years
DATE

of nothing… until now.

The feature works similarly in

iOS 17 and iPadOS 17
DATE

. It’s again in the Accessibility section of Settings, although here it’s in the Motion subsection rather than the Display & Text Size subsection.

For some reason, on iOS the same

Vox
ORG

page uses an HTML <video> for the

first
ORDINAL

animated "image" rather than an animated

GIF
ORG

, so we’ll look at an <img> element further down the page.

Again, there are "

Play Animation
WORK_OF_ART

" and "

Pause Animation
WORK_OF_ART

" items in the contextual menu.

I would say that by itself, this new "Accessibility" feature is reason enough to update to iOS

17
CARDINAL

and macOS 14. I’m very excited! It’s one of the best new features in ages (and sorely overdue).

Addendum

It turns out that disabling "

Auto-Play Animated Images
WORK_OF_ART

" also fixes a problem I blogged about

last year
DATE

: an HTML <video> element can be used as the src attribute of an <img> element or even as the poster attribute of another <video> in

Safari
GPE

, and that src or poster video will autoplay even if the user has video autoplay disabled!

As I wrote to

Apple
ORG

engineers in my WebKit bug report, "Seriously, if

Safari
PERSON

shipped click-to-play animated gifs, you might get more public praise than you’ve ever heard in your life." Let me be the

first
ORDINAL

to praise you! Thank you very much for shipping this feature. (It’s not precisely click-to-play, but close enough.)

By the way, I seem to have found a bug in

Sonoma System Settings
FAC

where the "Auto-play animated images" toggle button appears to be enabled after it has been disabled. This happens when you quit and relaunch the System Settings app. The bug does not occur in the iOS

17
CARDINAL

Settings app.