Clockwise 144

This week I had the pleasure of joining Jason Snell, Dan Moren, and Georgia Dow on the Clockwise podcast. In 30 minutes we solved the world's problems relating to email, virtual reality, two-factor authentication, and the privacy vs. services debate. Easy. Right?

ScanSnap Cloud

Fujitsu recently released the ScanSnap Cloud, a cloud-based service for ScanSnap users. The idea behind ScanSnap cloud is pretty clever. Your scanner connects to the Internet and sends all scans up to ScanSnap Cloud where they are then distributed to your cloud service of choice, like Dropbox, Box, One Drive, Evernote, and others. ScanSnap Cloud can figure out if your scan is a document, receipt, business card, or photo and then can follow your specific instructions based on the category of document. ScanSnap Cloud will also do some rudimentary OCR and, where it finds a date in the document, set the file name to match.

The net effect of this service is that it allows you to remove your scanner from your computer. You can put it anywhere in your house or office where it has access to Wi-Fi and your scanning works just fine. I've been using my ScanSnap iX500 in my laundry room with ScanSnap Cloud. Now I just scan the mail as it comes in the door. I can trash and recycle as appropriate right there and the paper never even makes it up the stairs to my home office. Getting the scanner off my desk frees up more space and having the scanner next to the recycle bin means I scan things immediately now, as opposed to the old system where I let it pile up until the weekend. Win-win.

They made a clever video, below.

Full disclosure: Fujitsu has been a long time sponsor of the Mac Power Users and I've been a long-time customer of their products.

Sponsor – Hoban Cards

This week MacSparky is sponsored by Hoban Cards and Stationery, where you can get quality letterpress calling cards and stationery that stand so far above the competition. There’s something special about the paper goods that roll off Hoban’s 1902 letterpress machine.

Recently, Hoban added several calligraphy calling card styles that look great. If you want to share the Hoban Letterpress love with your friends, they also now have an affiliate system.

Since Hoban Press first started advertising here at MacSparky, I've heard from many readers that love their Hoban Press cards and stationery. Every time I give one of my Hoban-pressed cards to a new client, they comment upon how nice they are. You too can set a great first example. Head over to Hoban Cards with this link to learn more.

Home Screens – Christopher Hannah

This week’s home screen features Christopher Hannah (Website) (Twitter). Christopher developed my favorite Wikipedia app for the Mac, Qwiki. Qwiki puts Wikipedia in my search bar and I use it all the time. You should check it out. So Christopher, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

I would have to say Overcast , Infuse , Tweetbot , and 2Do .

Overcast because I listen to loads of podcasts, I prefer this to listening to music, and they’re especially useful when traveling to university. My favourites at the minute have to be Connected , Cortex , and also Canvas which is helping me learn loads of new things about my iPad. I also listen to Mac Power Users and Under the Radar occasionally. I am of course an Overcast patron, as I just /love/ dark themes.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

At the minute I can’t see any guilty pleasure on my home screen but Engage. I know it’s an app designed for people with a big number of followers, and want to see interactions from other influencers, but I like to see stats about everything, so that’s why I downloaded it! But the bottom row of my iPhone home screen is very volatile, and it’s where I put apps that I’m currently trying out, or I can see myself deleting soon.

What app makes you most productive?

Definitely 2Do, it was only recently that I started using this properly, but I can already feel it helping me organise what tasks I need to do. I used it to plan out the features and also the release of Qwiki, and also to schedule things like paying rent, and to reminding me to send invoices on a certain day of the month. I haven’t got a good memory, so I usually forget due dates for coursework, and what tasks I have to do. But luckily 2Do also helped me with scheduling my university coursework, which made it easier to see the scale of work I had to do at a simple glance.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

This would have to be Workflow, just because I know it can do so much, and I use it for quite basic tasks. The most used Workflows of mine would have to be joining multiple images together for writing reviews, sending the last photo to a WhatsApp contact, and a few different quick tweet actions.

I can see myself using Workflow more in the future, especially as I’m slowly using my iPad more and more for work purposes.

What is the app you are still missing?

This is a hard question, because if there was a app I desperately wanted, then I would try and develop it myself. I can honestly say that at the minute, I can’t think of anything else I would want my iPhone or iPad to do, if anything I’m more surprised what my devices can actually do when I listen to podcasts like Canvas.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

I use my iPhone way too much to measure, there’s rarely an hour gone by before I’m on it again, whether I’m catching up with Twitter, or actually doing something productive.

With my iPad, it’s a bit different. When I go out to friends houses, or just traveling, then I’m now taking my iPad over my MacBook Pro, so it would be used a few times a day. But if I’m at home, then I’m normally at my desk, which means I’ll just use my Mac for everything. So on average I use it 3/4 days a week.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I don’t have any at the minute, because I’ve done the risky thing and installed iOS 10 on both of my iOS devices. But before this I just used Fantastical, 2Do, and Workflow with a few quick actions. It’s never been a part of iOS that I’ve used that much.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

Picture in Picture, it’s amazing. The other day I was on my iPad reading twitter, and also watching the Euros at the same time. It shocked me again at the time that iOS has actually come pretty far from when the iPad as first introduced. I sure Federico would also agree!

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

I wouldn’t add anything special, but I would stop or at least slow down the invention of new products. I know the Car is being worked on, and that’s fine for a long term project, but I can see the current devices being updated constantly, and sometimes it’s too much in my opinion. I think they need a good few years of refinements, and slimming down product categories.

Regarding the Macs, I want the MacBook Air to die. Then there’s just the MacBook and it’s Pro counterpart for the laptops, and the the iMac and Mac Pro to represent desktop computing. Each Mac should have 2 screen sizes as a maximum, and I think the non-retina pros should be discontinued.

For iOS devices, I think the iPhone lineup should be thinned down drastically. There’s too many old products, simply for the price range. I think it’s already going that way with the iPhone SE providing current hardware to users who want a smaller screen size. So preferably I would only have 3 different iPhones on sale at any point, but maybe that’s a step too far. I would also do the same thing to the iPads, I think there should simply be an iPad, and an iPad Pro. Then the iPad in all three sizes, and the Pro in the current two.

So yeah, I would try and stabilise Apple off was in charge, there’s a lot going on at the moment, and I sort of want that to change.

Do you have an Apple Watch?

I do, and it’s become one of my favourite devices. I gave two different watch faces, one for casual use, and the other for when I want access to emails, next calendar events, etc.

Before watchOS 3 was announced, my watch was simply a way for me to receive notifications on my wrist, and also to tell the time. But like just my iOS devices, I’ve installed the beta on my watch as well. So I know use it more for reading texts, and also replying got them now with the new Scribble feature. It’s also proven useful for keeping up to date with the football scores. Apps and that are stored in my dock really do open up instantly, and I can see watchOS 3 really changing the watch for everyone.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

For my iPhone and iPad I just have a plain blue graph paper image as my wallpaper, I like it to be as simple as possible. So it’s always something like that, or occasionally a nice wood texture.

Anything else you’d like to share?

The only other thing I want to share about my iPhone is typing, I hate typing on it. I think it’s down to the physical size of the phone, as I’ve got the 5S at the moment. But hopefully it’s fixed when the new one comes out!

Thanks Christopher. And thanks for making Qwiki.

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