Next April, CocoaConf is hosting an Apple conference called, "Yosemite" held in ... you guessed it ... Yosemite National Park. I'm not going to be able to make it but if you've never been to Yosemite, this is an excellent excuse to go. Next to a few reefs in Hawaii, Yosemite is my favorite place in the entire world. April is an ideal time to go. The snow will have melted and the falls will be in full bloom. In addition to seeing Yosemite, there is also an outstanding slate of speakers, several of which are former MPU guests like Michael Lopp, Jim Dalrymple, and Serenity Caldwell. Learn more here.
For awhile now I’ve been splitting email duties on my iPhone between the native Apple Mail application and Dispatch (App Store). I covered Dispatch in the Email book and there is a lot to like about it. Dispatch gives you the ability to attach actions to emails and easily ship emails off to Evernote, OmniFocus, or whatever other app you use to handle tasks out of emails.
The developer recently issued the 2.1 update that now lets you navigate between folders, meaning Dispatch is useful in all your mailboxes, not just the inbox. That really helps people like me, that use services like Sanebox to make sure the Inbox isn’t very large to begin with. They also added the ability to send and archive with one tap, which is pretty special.
All of this is swell but the reason I’m writing about this update is the addition of a feature I’d nearly given up on in iOS, Print to PDF. I’ve long pined away for a simple way to save documents, files, and emails to PDF from my iPhone and iPad. This problem is particularly difficult when you want to save an email, which is ridiculously simple on the Mac. Dispatch now includes its own service that will save the selected email as PDF and even let you share it to cloud storage or a PDF application. There are a lot of reasons to save an email as a PDF and now, thankfully, you can pull that off in iOS too. Now if we can just talk them into releasing an iPad native version of Dispatch …
I really enjoyed Clay Shirky's recent piece on requiring his students to put technology away in class. While I'm not sure his decision was correct, the essay nicely describes the sins of multitasking. This is a thing for me. I believe that nobody multitasks effectively. Splitting your attention between various masters just means you will serve none of them very well. The elephant metaphor explains it far better than I could. Save this one and read it over a nice beverage, while not doing four other things.
The most recent MacUpdate promo is worth checking out. It includes my precious Scrivener, Notbook 4, iStat Menu, NetShade, SimCIty, and five more apps for just $49.99. If you've been waiting on these apps, now is the time to jump.
In this week's Mac Power Users episode we interview Ken Case (Omni Group), Greg Scown (Smile), and Dave Teare (1Password) about the wild ride they've been on since WWDC and the big changes they've been able to make in their applications with iOS 8. This is the first time we've done a developer roundtable and it came out great. We'll be doing more of these in the future.
This week MacSparky is sponsored by inShort (website) (Mac App Store) (iOS App Store). inShort is is an iPhone/iPad/Mac application that lets you plan projects and processes graphically. One of the more clever features is the way it allows you to embed processes and drill down to the level of detail you need at the moment. This app was built around the Theory of Constraints and is worth checking out. Want to learn more, read the developer's PDF.
While I'll admit I have a particular affection for jazz artists from the bebop and cool jazz movements, there are also some contemporary artists I really enjoy. This week is the first time I'm featuring someone (slightly) younger than me. Joshua Redman (Wikipedia) is one of the best contemporary jazz saxophonists playing today. He is smart (Harvard educated!) and plays the sax with a technical expertise that makes my head spin. However, what makes him Jazz Friday-worthy is his artistry. Joshua puts himself out there when he plays and I find it almost impossible to play his music in the background because I always fall into it. There are several great albums. Two of my favorites are his Timeless Tales (for Changing Times) album, which features his take on several jazz standards and the more recent Trios Live album. The live recording shows off his talent. If you are going to just pick one track, I'd recommend Never Let Me Go from the Trios Live album.
This week’s home screen features my pal Stephen Hackett (website)(podcast)(Twitter). Did you know that this month Stephen is dedicating his site to raising money for St. Jude? Did you know that as I post this, he has already raised over $11,400!? I contributed and ask you to consider doing so as well.
What are Some of Your Favorite Apps?
Overcast and Tweetbot are my most-used apps by far. In addition to helping make some great shows, podcasts are my favorite form of entertainment. I listen to very little music in my car or while working around the house, and Overcast is just great to use.
Tweetbot is the best Twitter client on the iPhone. While the iPad version needs some love, I still use it for all the filtering and power-user options.
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
Currently, it’s a Risk-like game called Blood and Honor. My brother and some friends of ours are playing against each other online a few too many times a week currently.
What does your “Today” screen look like? What widgets are helping you out?
I’ve taken it slow when adding widgets. Currently, I’ve only enabled OmniFocus’ and Evernote’s. Notification Center now shows me tasks due today and gives me a quick way to create a note, image or more in Evernote.
Any favorite iOS 8 extensions?
I love the Day One extension. I can send a photo or URL right to a new diary post without ever entering the app. However, photo metadata isn’t passed in, so I’m having to add location data later, which is a bummer.
What is the app you are still missing?
A couple of years ago, my needs outgrew what I could do with plain text files, but I only use about 25% of what Evernote can do. I’d love a light-weight cross-platform app that could do text notes with the ability to attach images and files to them easily.
How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?
Many days, my iPhone is my primary computer. My iPad is basically used for reading in the evenings and watching videos. It’s pure luxury at this point.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?
The camera on my iPhone, while not the best shooter I own, is the most used. With the iPhone 6, it’s better than ever, and iOS 8 offers a lot of power when it comes to capturing and editing images.
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
While my request from 2011 is still unanswered, I think Apple really needs to clarify what it’s cloud services can actually do. iCloud is pretty great most of the time, but it’s really hard to explain.
What’s your wallpaper and why?
I’m using the iOS 8 moon photo because space is awesome.
Burgers and iPhones Summit
Today my iPhone 6 Plus arrives. You’d think I’m the most excited person in the Sparks house about this but I’m not. My kids are even more eager. I’ve talked about this on the podcast but one of the privileges of paying for four phones in our household is that we always have an upgrade available.
Every year I get the new phone and then my 1 year old phone goes down to my 17 year old and her 2 year old phone goes to my 12 year old. (The 12 year-old’s phone goes to Gazelle and my wife abstains from the entire process.) As a result, my kids are more eager for me to get the new phone than I am. A side effect of this process is that my 17 year old is very interested in which new phone that I pick, knowing it will be hers soon enough. (Last year she successfully lobbied me to buy a white one.)
Making this switch isn’t difficult. You could probably pull it off with switching the SIM cards yourself but over the years (when the iPhone was using different sized cards in different devices) we got in the habit of going out for burgers and a visit to the cellular store when it all happens. When doing this, make sure you have the cellular rep only handle one transfer at a time and confirm the right number is working on the right device before you leave. When I told my kids the phone would arrive today, they immediately put in their demand for the annual Burgers and iPhones Summit.
6 vs. 6 Plus
I spent some time a few days ago with the new iPhones and it was fun getting my first hands-on impressions of the new devices. I even took notes.
iPhone 6 Plus
Ginormous. Everyone knows its big. Using an iPad Air every day, I figured it wouldn’t feel that big. I was wrong. This is definitely a two-hander. You will not be flipping through apps while holding a drink in your other hand. I think there are two elements to consider with its size. First, you’ve got to carry it around. Will it fit in your pants? Second you’ve got to use it. It doesn’t fit in your hand like prior iPhones and will require new habits.
If you can handle those two things, you are going to have a pretty amazing screen to work with. Things like mind mapping and other more creative endeavors will be much easier with this phone. Also, I think it will be great when displaying maps in the car. The big question is whether or not the size can work for you.
After spending 30 minutes with the 6 Plus, I picked up an iPhone 6. It immediately felt better in my hand. It is a marked improvement and much easier to manage one-handed. The screen is just as good, but there isn’t as much of it.
The whole process left me wondering which device is right for me. I’ve got the 6 Plus coming today. I’m going to use it for some time but also be mindful of the 14 day return policy. The jury is out for me.
There is, understandably, a lot of concern about that full access warning dialog in iOS 8 when you enable a new keyboard. The biggest fear is that apps will log your keystrokes in hopes of delivering better service but at the same time collecting every word you type. Add a database of all your keystrokes to a company searching to be acquired and suddenly things get really uncomfortable. Getting full disclosure from app developers of how much data they collect and what they do with it is going to be essential for me in determining which third party keyboards make the cut.
I published a screencast last week of the TextExpander keyboard. Smile, its developer, has already explained how they use data and it is, thankfully, very responsible. No keystroke data is transmitted to any servers. They keep a small cache of keystrokes only long enough to determine if you've triggered a snippet and then they dump it. You can learn more from Smile's blogpost on the subject. I hope other keyboard developers follow Smile's example.
In the latest installment of the Mac Power Users, Katie and I cover our favorite features in the latest version of iOS. There is a lot to cover here and I think we did a pretty good job of it. As an aside, I've got several posts going up this week about iOS 8. I'm really digging it and it is already changing my game.
This week I’m pleased to welcome back Middle Davids Artisan Candles. Dan Catlin and his team at Middle Davids understand the use of rituals to help with productivity. We all like our good coffee (or tea!), our clicky keyboards, and our clean work surfaces, but what about scent?
I burn candles while I write and I always feel that the ritual of lighting the candle is a way to tell myself “it is on” and get to work. After I’ve worked a few hours, I blow out the candle and take a break. You’ll be surprised how well this works. My favorite this month is Carribean Teakwood.
Dan, the proprietor, is a candle geek and obsesses on candles like I do productivity apps. The candles are 100% botanical soy wax, not paraffin (which is a petrochemical) and the wicks are cotton woven (no metals).
MacSparky readers are already loving their Middle Davids Candles including graphic designer Cody Jones, who explained, “Making Light helps me to define a time to lock into my creative and productive zone. Lighting that candle is one of the best parts of my workday.”
Middle Davids has a subscription plan that gets you two candles a month with 40 hours of burn time. That’s two hours of focus a day. You also get a box of wooden matches, and a sample of the next month’s scent. Give it a try. You’ll surprise yourself. Use the code “MacSparky9” (or “macsparky9”) for 20% off.
Recently, I joined Mike Vardy on his https://productivityist.simplecast.fm/4. During the show we chatted about task management and habit tracking. Mike has that unique combination of smarts and humor that make this worth listening.
Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite fantasy/science fiction writers. A few years ago, he started a new series, The Stormlight Archive. He's now published two books in the series and I've read them both. The first one, The Way of Kings, is currently free through an iTunes promotion. If you've got any interest in this sort of thing, go get it now.
Sometimes sponsor of the site, Rocket Matter, just released an iPad app for their cloud-based law practice management solution. A few years ago there was a raging debate as to whether cloud-based services needed to be browser-based or app-based. Rocket Matter has taken the position that its service should be both in the browser and in an app. I think they nailed it and other cloud-based service providers could take a lesson.