Evernote Changes

Evernote is making some changes. Basic users are going to be limited to two devices and pricing for a Premium subscription just went from $45 to $70 per year.

Katie Floyd sums it up nicely. “… as a long-time Premium user the problem for me, and for Evernote, is I’m just not sure I get $70 worth of value out of Evernote anymore.”

I’m not sure where things went wrong but Evernote is no longer the darling of nerds that it used to be. My pet theory is that they went into way too many lateral markets.

Hopefully these adjustments will let them get back to focussing on what made the product great to begin with. The trouble is there are a lot more viable options now than there were when Evernote first arrived.

Sponsor: Interact

This week MacSparky is sponsored by Interact from Agile Tortoise. Interact is a replacement for the iOS contacts application and it is so much better. The native iPad and iPhone contacts application is feature limited and, as a result, difficult to use for any serious work.

That is not the case with Interact. This app gives you the full suite of contact management tools including the ability to manage groups, communicate with friends and family, and use your contacts with third-party applications.

Everything connects to the native contacts database so any work you do in Interact shows up everywhere else.

One of my favorite features is the Scratchpad. You can paste someone's contact information in the Interact Scratchpad in just about any format and Interact will figure out what is what and automatically put the appropriate information in the appropriate fields for you. There's even an extension so you can use this from other applications. The below video shows off the Interact Scratchpad.

Interact is the result of a very clever programmer asking the question, "What if we made an iOS contacts application right?" I've been using Interact since the product first launched and it has absolutely replaced Contacts on my iPhone and iPad. 

Best of all, for this week, you can get Interact for 20% off.

MPU 328: iOS Email

I've spent the last several months running six different email clients on my iPad and iPhone. This week's MPU episode is my full debrief on what works (and doesn't work) in the most popular iOS email applications.

Sponsors include:

  • Casper: Because everyone deserves a great night sleep. Get $50 off with the code ‘MPU’
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. 
  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap ScanSnap Helps You Live a More Productive, Efficient, Paperless Life.

Sponsor: SaneBox - Tame Your Email

This week MacSparky.com is sponsored by SaneBox. I’ve been using SaneBox for years and at this point I can’t imagine email without it. There are so many great benefits to Sanebox. It filters my mail so I don’t wake up to an inbox bursting with irrelevant email. It allows me to defer email messages so they get out of the way while I am doing other things. It also lets me set reminders for outgoing emails. One of the nice things about SaneBox is that it lets me manage less important email without having to incorporate the email into my task management system. This makes my system tighter and saves me a lot of time. 

I've been using a lot of different iOS email applications the last few months and I really appreciate the way SaneBox does its magic from the server-side, so I can use it with any email application and jump between them at will without losing any email in proprietary single-app systems. 

I love using SaneBox. I’ve talked to the team at SaneBox and they are getting ridiculously high conversion rates from MacSparky readers and Mac Power Users listeners. If you haven't tried it yet, you should. Use this link to get $10 off. It's a win-win. Also, below is a cool video SaneBox recently made showing you how it all works.

 

Home Screen: Matt Teresi

This week’s home screen feature Matt Teresi (Twitter), the entrepreneur behind The Easel iPad stand. I had the privilege of meeting Matt recently and he’s a stand up guy. So Matt, show us your home screen.

HOW MANY TIMES A DAY DO YOU USE YOUR IPHONE/IPAD?

Over the past couple months, I have converted almost all of my workflow to iOS. However, the fact that these devices can be anything at anytime can be dangerous. Those who are familiar with CGP Grey and Cortex will recognize a lot of my workflow. Like him, I try to be very intentional about how I work and how I am using technology.

I have three iOS devices that serve separate primary purposes: Capture (iPhone), Consumption (9.7“ iPad Pro), Creation (12.9” iPad Pro). The home screens shown have apps on the desktop that point me in the direction of what I should be using the device for.

The iPhone has apps that allow for quick capture of ideas, encourage focused work, and remind me to improve health. The 3D Touch actions on Launch Center Pro are great for capture as well, and I have made actions New Fantastical Event, New Scanbot, New PCalc, and Snapchat.

The 9.7" iPad Pro is a multi purpose consumption device for me. It’s blank because I launch everything with spotlight, and honestly, couldn’t settle on a series of apps that made sense. What I use here the most are: Tweetbot (The only place I use this), Unread, Instapaper, and Paprika to name a few.

The 12.9" iPad Pro has only apps I use for focused work. There is no potential for distraction here from social apps and this is almost always on do not disturb, with no badges turned on. I use Goodnotes, Excel, Soulver, Spark, and Word the most. This iPad lives on my Easel, and I do 95% of my work here using the software keyboard and Apple Pencil.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE APPS?

Notes Like most people, I could count the number of notes I had in Apple Notes on the fingers on my two hands before iOS 9. Now, even though I have weekly review set up to purge and act on notes from the week, I find myself above the Macsparky note count. A couple features I had hoped would be included at WWDC: Support for editing two notes simultaneously in split screen and better organization capabilities on iPad.

Goodnotes I have drawers full of Field Notes notebooks. They are great and one of my favorite products, but I could never find a way to quickly reference information recorded. Every project lived in these notebooks, with brainstorming, outlining, notes, thoughts, and planning all done here. Then the Apple Pencil and iPad Pro happened. I tested all kinds of apps to replicate and improve this workflow using this new technology, and I settled on Goodnotes. It is not perfect, and there are some definite UI problems that drive me nuts, but my single favorite work task to do now is planning my day/week/month/year and projects using this app, the 12.9" iPad Pro, and Easel. This is illustrated in the photo below.

Overcast Playlists are huge for me, but Smart Speed is a feature that makes listening to podcasts elsewhere a form of torture. Marco the developer is a great guy as well, so start listening to MPU here.

Drafts Emails, thoughts, tasks, reminders, journals. As time goes on, more and more starts here. David’s tutorial introduced me to this great app.

Paper by Fifty Three My design concepts for Easel were all done here using Apple Pencil.

WHAT TODAY VIEW WIDGETS ARE YOU USING AND WHY?

Notification Center I use the Fantastical calendar widget in today view, but what I love about this pull down screen overlay is Notification Center. It took me along time to figure this out, and a commitment to use it this way, but once I began using this as my inbox, instead of opening app after app to see what was new, I felt this realization that this has to be what the guys and gals in Cupertino had in mind when designing iOS. I put all the apps where stuff from the world comes in into one folder on my iPhone home screen called Inbox. This is the only place where I will find a red circle on my home screen, and when I see it, I swipe down Notification Center to see what’s going on. I know this is not groundbreaking, but it has been so effective in how I handle stuff on iPhone.

WHAT APP MAKES YOU MOST PRODUCTIVE?

Omnifocus I live in here and David’s tutorial increased my efficiency here exponentially.

WHAT APP DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE UNDERUTILIZING?

Workflow I have a couple dozen set up, but I know there is so much more out there. I have never done any scripting on Mac, but I love building these and am constantly looking where I can automate tasks.

IF YOU WERE IN CHARGE OF APPLE, WHAT WOULD YOU ADD OR CHANGE?

I was disappointed by the lack of iPad specific iOS features at WWDC. I understand here has been a lot of innovation here I the past year, but the heavy iOS usage for the past couple months has led to some noticeable gaps where improvements would be great. These are:

More gesture based support. Drag and drop. Select multiple files/photos and act on them. Multiple window support for Notes, other apps (Use both sides of multitasking screen). Improved multi tasking selection.

WHAT APPS ARE YOU MISSING?

More than whole Apps, there are features within the apps I love that would improve the experience. More iPad actions for Launch Center Pro, and more robust professional Apps especially CAD and Adobe programs.

DO YOU HAVE AN APPLE WATCH?

I use the modular face. Interesting parts here:

In the bottom right is timers, which I use to track a lot, but most important is units worked, like David does with his candles. I then enter units worked into a custom workflow I created in the Workflow app, in the bottom left of the watch face. The center is Waterminder, where I keep track of oz of water drank through the day. Only other stuff I use is an app called Reminders Nano and Now Playing glance. I have high hopes that this experience will improve dramatically with the newly announced watchOS 3.

Thanks Matt.

watchOS 3 Brings Apple Watch 2

Last week while at WWDC, I loaded the iOS 10 beta onto one of my iPads. It's been a lot more stable than I expected it to be and this experience led me to do something a little crazy. I loaded the iOS beta on my iPhone. Usually (well …maybe always) it's a bad idea to load the first iteration of a beta operating system on that thing that you use every day to make money and pay your bills. However buoyed by the success on the iPad, I threw caution to the wind and did it anyway. This reckless act wasn't so much a result of any particular new feature I wanted on the phone so much as my desire to find out if the improvements to the Apple Watch are for real. So I did and they are.

For almost a week now, I've had my watch running watch OS 3.0. It's faster, more responsive, and I suddenly find myself using third-party applications again. I can attest that the improvements are not merely hypothetical but, if you give it a chance, can drastically change the way you use your Apple Watch.

I've now set up several watch faces that are task oriented. I have one for work, one for fitness, and one for home. The complications on each face are different and switching between them is a simple matter of swiping left or right on the current watch face. From these three watch faces I can get easy access to just about anything I need.

Likewise the watchOS Dock works swimmingly. I've pressed the physical button for the Dock more times in the last week than I did in the prior year when it was the Friends button. The background refresh of Dock-based apps is the killer feature here. I can actually now consider some third party apps that hold time sensitive data without worrying whether or not they'll be up-to-date.

I'm quite impressed with Apple's ability to go back to the drawing board and improve the user interface of the Apple Watch. I'm even more impressed, however, that they are squeezing this much better performance out of the exact same pokey hardware I had a week ago. I simply didn't think it was possible.

I've still got the occasional crash to deal with (it is, after all, beta software) but, once the bugs are ironed out and the software ships in the fall, a lot of people are going to be surprised at how perky their Apple Watch becomes.

Hitting the Ground Running

I spent the morning going through my notes following meetings with software developers last week at WWDC. Of note, I did this on an iPad with iOS 10 installed with relatively no problem. Usually, when I install an early beta of an Apple operating system it's more of a point of entertainment to see just how much everything is broken. This year, however, that is not the case. There are a few problems (the iCloud document picker is currently a mess for instance) but it does not feel at all like the whole thing is held together by chewing gum and duct tape. This earliest beta is remarkably stable.

Maybe this shouldn't come as a surprise. iOS is 10 years old now and the yearly iterations feel a lot more like refinements and improvements than boil-the-earth rethinks like they did in years past. I think this is all good.

Getting back to my developer notes, I got this same impression of steady progrres from them. Usually WWDC is where developers learn how the new OS breaks their apps. Often developers leave WWDC with months of work ahead of them just to make sure their apps can still work in when the new OS ships. That didn't seem to be the case this year. I spoke to many developers last week and they were all generally happy with macOS Sierra and iOS 10. They all were shocked to learn they no longer had to cancel vacation plans or re-write their apps. Instead they were looking forward to spending time polishing their apps and maybe even (dare-I-say) adding a feature or two.

Over the last few years Apple has taken a lot of grief for biting off more than they could chew. Getting macOS and iOS to play nice together certainly wasn't a walk in the park but I can't help but feel with this next cycle of Operating System upgrades, we'll start seeing the benefits of this transition. App developers do not  need to adjust to a new platform or start from scratch with their apps. This year developers get to hit the ground running and I can't wait to see the results of that.

watchOS 3: Reality is Matching Hype

On Monday's Keynote Apple showed off a much improved watchOS 3 operating system. When I saw the increased speed on the stage, I had my doubts.  As you may recall, when Apple originally announced the watch, we saw a lot of similar demos about how amazing and fast the watch was and we later discovered that most apps were simply too slow to use on the watch.

According to legend, when Apple first announced the original Macintosh, they had a souped-up version with extra RAM. Part of me wondered if there was some sort of similar magic trick at work on Monday. Then I got to take a look at the new software running on some developer friends' watches here at WWDC the last few days and I'm relieved to report that the watch improvements are for real. Apps do launch fast and the watch is significantly snappier.

Apple is pulling this off by using some for the watch's extra memory to keep apps in memory and allow background refreshes. Another reason for this significant improvement is that Apple has loosened up the watch's battery usage. With the initial launch of the Apple Watch, Apple was very conservative about battery life. They did not want the story to be that their watch ran out of juice at 5pm. As a result, the watch is very stingy about power usage and I often end up with my watch battery only about half-used at the end of the day. With watchOS 3, they've loosened up the battery restrictions and push the processor in the watch a little harder.

The end result of all of this is that the existing hardware is much faster and more useful. Amen.

Another promising development is the watch user interface. There are only two buttons on the watch. One of them (the big one) was dedicated to the friends screen, which hardly anybody uses. I can sympathize with why Apple gave this feature such prominence in initial development. In Cupertino, all Apple employees have Apple Watches and this feature makes a lot more sense in those circumstances. That, however, isn't true for everyone. So instead of doubling down on the friend button they've repurposed it as a dock button that lets you flip between apps.

So I've played with a few watches now using watchOS 3 (although I haven't installed the beta on my watch ... yet), I'm happy to report from WWDC that your Apple Watch is about to get a lot better.

Cashing the Check

I wrote yesterday about how Apple is responding to the question of how they provide interesting and useful services while preserving user privacy. My conclusion was that I like their explanation but in order to make this work, Apple has to not only write the check. They have to cash it too.

It’s still early days but yesterday I installed the iOS 10 beta on my iPad and spent time using iOS 10 on friends’ iPhones. I also tested macOS Sierra on my MacBook. This is just the first beta of a new operating system but I am initially impressed. I’ve been searching indexed photo libraries for pictures of dogs, beaches, buildings, and other objects and the device is finding them. (No luck on zip lines, however.) Overall, this local photo indexing solution is working better than I expected for the first iteration.

The Services Versus Privacy Question

For some time now there has been an open question about Apple’s future. Specifically, with Apple’s interest in protecting user privacy, can they compete with companies like Google and its cloud-based user data whiz-bang features made possible by their storage of and access to user data? In other words, will protecting privacy cripple future Apple services?

Apple responded to this in yesterday’s WWDC Keynote. Multiple times speakers explained how they intend to bring great services and protect user privacy. There are two ways they intend to do this.

On the Silicon

If you had a drinking game where you took a shot every time someone said “on the silicon” yesterday, you’d have probably passed out by the end of the presentation. The best example of this was in the discussion of Photos. Apple Photos will now do face detection and search out other objects in your photos to create an index of images and their contents. In theory, I could search for any pictures of john that also has a cantaloupe in it and my iPad, iPhone, or Mac would find it for me. This is what Google is already doing on their servers. 

Will this work? I’m not sure yet. My guess is that my iPhone will pull this off but not as fast or as accurately as you'd get with the combined power of Google’s fully operational server farms. I’m not sure it has to work as good though.

Differential Privacy

The second component of Apple’s answer is “Differential Privacy”. This is a technology that allows Apple to anonymize user data as it passes through the Apple servers. Differential privacy parses a large data-set, using statistical science to learn about the sum total of the data without learning anything about an individual user. It sounds a little bit like voodoo but I spent an hour this morning reading articles about it and it seems like a real thing. Using differential privacy, Apple can learn from the sum total of our data but still not have any details on anyone. Because Apple doesn’t have user specific data, hackers and intelligence agencies also wouldn’t be able to access it. It inherently has limitations and I’m sure if they skipped all the differential privacy, they’d have better data, but this solution gives Apple something to work with while respecting user privacy.

Making Choices

After spending some time researching and thinking about all of this, I like Apple’s answer to the question of how they’ll continue to respect user privacy and move the ball forward. I don’t think their solution will match what Google is doing right now but as microprocessors continue to march forward, I think doing these tasks “on the silicon” is a real option. Right now all we have is words and we’ll need to see if Apple can actually cash the check they wrote yesterday morning but if they do, I’d be satisfied. For me, I think it comes down to a choice. I’d rather have 80% of Google’s features along with 100% of Apple’s interest in protecting my privacy than 100% of Google’s features with 0% of that privacy protection.

Sponsor: OmniGraffle

This week MacSparky is sponsored by OmniGraffle, the best tool for creating precise, beautiful graphics. I use this application to create diagrams, logos, flowcharts, and everything in between. OmniGraffle is both powerful and easy to use. Using OmniGraffle's built-in stencils, you can build diagrams without a lick of artistic talent. If you don't find the stencil you want, you can download more in Stenciltown. Stenciltown is a curated collection of OmniGraffle assets made by people much more talented than me. Whenever I'm making a cute little image or diagram for a presentation or video, Stenciltown always bails me out.

OmniGraffle is designed by the OmniGroup's crack team of programmers and UI designers so you don't get lost in menubars. When you are done, you can export your graphic to numerous formats. Check out OmniGraffle for Mac and iPad today.

image.jpg

Things to Look Out For in the WWDC Keynote

The Internet is full of conjecture and predictions for the WWDC Keynote. Instead, I'd like to point out a few things I'll be looking out for:

  • Siri Commitment: There's lots of rumors about Siri getting some improvements. However there are improvements and there are Improvements. It's been years since Siri was first announced and we have yet to see anything more than incremental steps. If/when they announce new Siri improvements, look to see if they are the kinds of things that took three months or three years to create.
  • That Pesky Apple Watch: Lots of people don't like their Apple Watch. (I still like mine.) The processor speed still feels like the bottleneck to me. If they announce watchOS with new features and improvements, how do they address that the current hardware has lots of trouble with the existing OS. I'm sure this will get fixed/improved with new watch hardware but I don't expect that to get announced at WWDC and they still have that issue on the table.
  • Dark Mode(s): It seems like apple is thinking a lot about how our screens look at different hours of the day. Looking at the signs on Moscone, I expect a dark mode is going to be seen most likely on iOS and (hopefully) Mac too. Will this be made out to be a big deal or just a passing point?
  • Loose Lips Sink Ships: One thing just about everyone in San Francisco agrees upon is that this year there aren't nearly so many leaks and everyone is expecting a surprise or two at the Keynote. That's a good thing. Christmas morning is no fun if you've already peaked.
  • Stagecraft: Apple now has four separate platforms (Mac, iOS, watch, and tv) to address. Last year's WWDC keynote felt pretty self-indulgent at times. It will be interesting to see if they tighten up the presentation this year.
  • As always, enjoy the show.

Sparky's Excellent WWDC Adventure

I'm in San Francisco this week for Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference. I'm not actually attending the conference but instead will be splitting my time between meeting with my geek-related clients in town and attending the extra-curricular WWDC festivities. I'll keep a a photo diary this week and here are the first few entries. I'll be updating this gallery throughout the week so keep checking back. I'll keep a link in the right margin for the rest of the week.

Home Screens – Peter Vincent

This week’s home screen features reader and listener Peter Vincent. Peter is a smart guy and a chemist. He’s such a geek that he’s created a custom set of chemistry TextExpander snippets found over at Chem Expander (Twitter). So Peter, show us your home screen.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE APPS?

  • Sleep Cycle is the only way to get up in the morning. I don’t know how accurate its sleep tracking is, but its alarm function is amazing.
  • Plex is how I watch just about anything now, I have emptied both my MacBook and iPhone of all video content, and just stream it with plex.
  • Near Lock is a new app for me, but it is a great way of using Touch ID to unlock my MacBook, which I think is very cool.

WHICH APP IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

Overcast isn’t your typical guilty pleasure app. Except that in just over a year, I have saved 47 hours using the smart speed function. Do you know how many podcasts you need to listen to to save 47 hours with smart speed? you need to listen to a lot of podcasts to save 47 hours with smart speed.

WHAT APP MAKES YOU MOST PRODUCTIVE?

  • Wolfram Alpha is the reason I was able to pass calculus. When working and studying as an engineer, being able to instantly solve complicated functions with all sorts of units involved is an absolute life saver.
  • Scanbot is a little app that lets you take a photo of a document with your iPhone, and it returns a cropped OCR’ed and recoloured PDF in seconds.
  • Due is a very nice reminder app for anything that is time sensitive. Due will continue to nudge me after a task is due. This is something I do need if i want to do anything.

WHAT APP DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE UNDERUTILIZING?

  • Soulver is so cool, and the first ‘calculator’ app I have seen that does more than a pocket calculator can. I use it as a pocket calculator.
  • My Apple Notes only has 20 notes in it. Which I would have thought was fine, until I heard David Sparks has about 800 notes. So clearly I am under using Notes.

WHAT IS THE APP YOU ARE STILL MISSING?

There are so many clever people out there, that anything I could possibly think of seems to already exist. I don’t think I am even smart enough to come up with an idea for an app that I cant already buy for a few dollars. What a time to be alive!

HOW MANY TIMES A DAY DO YOU USE YOUR IPHONE/IPAD?

Almost constantly. I heard recently that the average iPhone user unlocks their phone 80 times a day. That just seems way to low… I wasn’t too bad when I owned the iPhone 5. Now I have a iPhone 6s Plus, I just can’t not use it. That huge screen is perfect for doing everything.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FEATURE OF THE IPHONE?

Live Photos are so much fun, I love: - Taking a perfectly timed photo and getting that little bit of footage either side. - Catching someone saying something funny just as you take the photo. - Seeing a band live and getting a snap shot of their sound as well.

The vast majority of my photos I will remove the live function after the fact, but on the ones I keep are great. I feel like this is the future of photography.

IF YOU WERE IN CHARGE AT APPLE, WHAT WOULD YOU ADD OR CHANGE?

There are rumours that Apple will make MacOS to be a lot more similar to iOS. I think this is a mistake. I would embrace the differences between the two systems. Make mac better at what Mac can be good at, and make iOS better at what iOS can be good at. I would even break iOS up into iPhoneOS and iPadOS for the same reason.

WHAT’S YOUR WALLPAPER AND WHY?

My wallpaper is a live photo of my wonderful girlfriend. I love that you can set a live photo as a background. It’s just such a fun feature.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE?

I hate the camera on the 6s Plus. That’s not true at all, I love it and use it all the time. I love it so much that now I hardly use my DSLR (Canon 550D with a 24–105mm L Lens). My DSLR is obviously so much better than my iPhone, but the iPhone 6s Plus is finally good enough to make a DSLR not worth carrying around. I went to Banff in the Canadian Rockies in March to visit my brother. I only used my phone’s camera for the whole trip. If I had a lesser phone I would have used my DSLR and had even better photos.

On Subscription Fatigue

Yesterday Apple announced that there will be new pricing options in the App Store. The biggest change involves the addition of subscription plans for apps. We've been hearing for years how software as a service and subscription plans are the future. From the developer's perspective, this gives them a steady stream of income and a basis from which to continue application development. I understand why developers want to move in this direction. However, in order for this to work there has to be participation from consumers. Frankly, I'm not so convinced that will happen.

I think, in general, it's easier to pay $12 once then the thought of paying one dollar every month going forward. Now multiply that times the 20 or 30 apps that you really love and things just get crazy. I've already received several emails from readers and Mac Power Users listeners complaining about the idea of subscriptions for all of their favorite apps. Put simply, I'm not sure consumers will cooperate with this new model. I would like to be proven wrong but developers may find that subscribers are a lot harder to come by than they think.

The 800-hundred-pound gorilla on the sofa for me in all of this is the upgrade pricing model. Is Apple ever going to publicly explain why they refuse to implement upgrade pricing in the App Store? While that model has its problems, it has been a good solution for productivity software for many years and consumers are clearly comfortable with it. You buy an app and after a year or so, the developer updates it with additional features and, as an existing customer, you get a discount on the new version. Apple has never explained their resistance to allowing upgrade pricing in the App Store.

It is a tough time to be in the App business. While Microsoft can get away with a subscription plan, I suspect a lot of smaller applications will not. Perhaps because Apple makes all of its money off hardware sales, they don't seem very sympathetic to app developers. Finally, this race to the bottom in pricing has led to a market where it's difficult to make quality, sustainable productivity applications. I honestly don't know what the solution is, but I have a lot of doubts about subscription pricing being the panacea that people seem to think it is.

MPU 324: iPhone Photography

Last year I decided to start taking pictures exclusively with my iPhone. It's worked out remarkably well. This week Jeff Carlson joined us on the Mac Power Users to discuss iPhone photography including how to take the best shots with your iPhone and third party apps and gear to enhance your photos.

Sponsors include:

  • PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
  • Marketcircle We help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.
  • Squarespace: Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

Liquid Text 2: A Different Take on PDFs for iPad

There are a lot of PDF applications but none of them are quite like LiquidText. This app doesn't follow the usual PDF workflow playbook but instead is engineered around the idea of reviewing long PDF documents better. Using LiquidText you can highlight portions of text and then drag them to a workspace on the right side of the screen. LiquidText collects these excerpts which you can group or comment upon. I like the way I can drag the blurbs of collected text around in the workspace as I try to make sense of them. While it's true there are plenty of applications that let you highlight and comment on a PDF file, LiquidText does it differently.

Click to expand.

That, however, is not all. With LiquidText, you can can actually pinch and scrunch pieces of text together in the PDF document. If you have, for instance, bits of text on page one and page four of a PDF that you want to compare, you can just pinch and pull them together. I'd never considered using a gesture to navigate PDFs like this before but it makes so much sense when working on an iPad. As we move to digital workflows, I like that the LiquidText developers are questioning assumption and have a bit of a chip on their shoulder about the superiority of reviewing documents on an iPad over paper.

Click to expand.

LiquidText just released version 2. The new version includes an update (accessed through an in-app purchase) that lets you compare multiple PDF documents at once. It's called "Multi-Document" and does a nice job of letting you work with multiple documents at once. You can create a comment in one document that refers to another document at the same time. You can also display documents next to each other and search all of the documents at once.

LiquidText also now supports iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Box, and the other expected cloud document services. You can also import webpages from Safari or LiquidText's own browser.

You can export and share documents from LiquidText with the workspace displayed or not. I've started using some of these features to share reviewed documents with clients and it is working well.

I think LIquidText is on to something. If you spend any amount of time working PDF documents, give it a try. Learn more at the LiquidText website or in the App Store.

Menu Bar Monday - Tim Stringer

Recently I wrote about my menu bar and a lot of people wrote in about enjoying that post. So I’ve decided to share the menu bars of some of my friends too, starting with Tim Stringer (Website) (Twitter). Tim helps people conquer technology. He most recently celebrated the second anniversary of his Learn OmniFocus website, where Tim's helped thousands of people to learn OmniFocus. So Tim, show us your Mac’s menu bar.

Click to expand.

I’ve long been a fan of the Mac menu bar. I appreciate how it provides me with quick access to so much functionality and status information on my Mac, while also serving as a portal to cloud services and, in some cases, even connecting me to complementary apps on my iOS devices and Apple Watch.

In this post I’ll share some favourite menu bars apps that I use regularly on my Retina iMac. My setup is pretty much identically on my MacBook Air, except for a few additions, including FruitJuice (App Store), a handy app that helps to extend my battery’s life, and TripMode, a clever app that I use to monitor and control my Internet usage while using my iPhone as a mobile hotspot.

Keyboard Shortcuts

To get to this information and functionality as quickly and easily as possible (and to impress my friends), I use keyboard shortcuts to trigger menu bar items, where possible. To make these easy to remember, I consistently use the ⌥⇧⌘ modifiers keys for menu bar apps. For example, ⌥⇧⌘F to open FastScripts, ⌥⇧⌘T to access TextExpander and ⌥⇧⌘/ to toggle Fantastical’s very useful mini calendar.

Airfoil

Airfoil allows me to stream audio from any app on my Mac to a wide range of devices, including AirPlay devices and paired Bluetooth speakers. Using the companion iOS app, Airfoil Satellite (App Store), I can even transform any of my iOS devices into audio receiver that doubles as a remote control. Airfoil Satellite apps are also available for Windows and Android. And you can even turn a Linux machine into an audio receiver if you’re so inclined.

(Website)

Amphetamine

Amphetamine is a free app that can be used to override your Energy Saver settings and keep your Mac awake. I used Caffeine for years before switching to this app and appreciate the extra functionality that Amphetamine provides. For example, I can turn it on and off using a keyboard shortcut (I use ⌥⇧⌘=) and can specify different default durations based on whether my MacBook Air is plugged in or running off its internal battery. There are even triggers that I can use to keep my Mac awake when I’m connected to specific WiFi networks and when specific apps are running. And using the “Drive Alive” feature I can configure Amphetamine to keep specific drives awake all the time, or only when running specific apps.

(App Store)

Bartender

I like to keep my Mac and my menu bar uncluttered while also having access to a wide array of menu bar apps. Bartender gives me the best of both worlds. My most frequently used menu bar apps live in the menu bar and the others are just a click away on the Bartender Bar. For convenience, I’ve created a keyboard shortcut (⌥⇧⌘B) that gives me easy access to the Bartender Bar. I can then use the arrow keys to navigate the Bartender Bar or even start typing the name of a menu item to quickly locate it. Once I’ve selected the one I want, I just press the Return key, which has the same effect as clicking.

(Website)

Copied (Mac and iOS)

Don McAllister recently covered the amazing Copied clipboard manager on ScreenCastsOnline (alongside another favourite menu bar app, PopClip) This innovative app quickly earned a spot in my menu bar. Copied is highly configurable, without being daunting, and its clipboard can be synced between Mac and iOS devices using iCloud in combination with Copied for iOS (App Store). Copied also supports some impressive power user features. Among them is “Templates”, a feature that makes it possible to, for example, easily generate a markdown link using information stored in the clipboard.

(Website) (App Store)

Display Menu

When working on my treasured 27” Retina iMac I often switch between screen resolutions. For example, I typically opt for a lower resolution when sharing my screen with someone during an online meeting or when recording a screencast. Display Menu exposes resolutions that are supported by my displays. The menu displays the aspect ratio (e.g. 16:9) and dimensions (e.g. 2560x1440) for all attached displays and makes it easy to identify retina-quality resolutions. Conveniently, I can bookmark the resolutions that I use most frequently by ⌥-clicking.

(Website) (App Store)

Dropzone

Dropzone is a clever menu bar utility that makes it convenient to move and copy files between apps. I find it especially useful on my MacBook Air when I’m running apps in full screen mode and need to, for example, drop a JPEG into a Pages document. Additionally, Dropzone can be used to launch apps and to conveniently upload files to a wide ranges of cloud services, including Amazon S3, FTP, Google Drive and YouTube.

(Website) (App Store)

FastScripts

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of OmniFocus (I even have an entire site dedicated to this app). While this app is very capable “out of the box”, it’s even more spectacular when extended using AppleScripts. For example, one of my favourite scripts is Curt Clifton’s “Complete and Await Reply”, which automatically marks an action complete then creates a “Waiting” action. I use a menu bar app called FastScripts to access my installed scripts. Conveniently, I can even assign a keyboard shortcut to specific scripts. So, I can trigger Curt’s script simply by selecting an action and pressing ^<spacebar>. There’s a free version of FastScripts that’s fully featured, except that it limits the number of keyboard shortcuts that can be defined. Purchasing FastScripts, either from the App Store or directly from Red Sweater Software, removes this limitation.

(Website) (App Store)

Focus

I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique . In a nutshell it involves performing work in intervals (typically 25 minutes) separated by breaks. Focus is my app of choice for applying this technique. In the morning I drag and drop key projects from OmniFocus to Focus’ own task list and then use the Focus app to help ensure that each of these tasks gets some attention during the day. Focus is also available on iOS and Apple Watch (App Store) and tasks and timers can be synced between devices using iCloud. There’s even a Focus complication for the Apple Watch that’s convenient for monitoring how much time I have left in my breaks and for applying the Pomodoro Technique during activities that don’t involve sitting at a computer (e.g. reading a book or cleaning my home).

(Website) (App Store)

Living Earth

I’ve evaluated many menu bar weather apps in my day and Living Earth is currently the reigning champion. It displays a wealth of weather information sourced from Weather Underground and sports a gorgeous user interface. I like that I can activate and navigate Living Earth without taking my hands off my keyboard. I use ⌥⇧⌘L to trigger this menu bar app and then use the arrow keys to dig in and out of detailed weather forecasts. There’s also a Living Earth app for iOS (App Store). The configured list of cities can be synced between Mac and iOS devices via iCloud and Living Earth displays local times for all of the places I’ve added on both Mac and iOS. I regularly work with people all over the world and appreciate having convenient access to this information.

(Website) (App Store)

Quitter

Over the course of the day I typically make use of many different apps. Sometimes I’ll launch them briefly (e.g. I may open Chrome to view a webpage containing Flash content) and don’t get around to quitting them when I’m done. This is where Quitter comes in. This free app was recently unveiled by Marco Arment, who is probably best known for the popular Overcast podcast player for iOS. Quitter runs in the background and can easily be configured to quit or hide specific apps after a specified period of inactivity.

(Website)

Thanks Tim.