Initial Impressions of Mac OS 10.11 El Capitan

Today was the first time I've ever watched an Apple WWDC keynote in a room full of developers. I did not get a press pass to the actual event itself but instead attended a remote viewing down the street. There's definitely a different dynamic when watching with developers than back at home.

Updates to the Mac and iOS operating systems look good. They are not as dramatic as they were last year but that was expected. Last year Apple turned the Mac and iOS operating systems upside down and shook them vigorously. It was a big, painful (but necessary change). This year's updates feel more like course corrections after a big maneuver. That's not to say there aren't some interesting things to see.

Performance is a Feature

The discussion about improved performance felt like a direct response to the challenges faced with the big changes brought by Yosemite. Except for Metal (discussed below), there wasn’t a lot of detail but if they truly can add an hour of battery life to my Mac with these performance adjustments, count me in.

Smarter Spotlight

One of the running themes throughout the Mac, iOS, and Watch talks today was this idea that our devices can get smarter using the data they already have on board. While I’ve never been particularly eager to turn all my data over to Google, I’ve always liked the way they try to have your devices do some thinking for you. Multiple times today Apple presenters explained that they are aiming for the same target but instead of relying on cloud data, they are relying on the data you keep on your device. This approach is less creepy, but harder. I don’t think the machine-thinking will be as advanced in iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 as Google is pulling off but Apple is moving that direction and that, in my opinion, is a good thing.

The fact that this appears to be a directive across all platforms is great. I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Split View and Mission Control

Split view is a new window management system that automates a lot of the same tricks I’ve been doing with Moom for years. To me, the most interesting part of Split View on the Mac was the possibility of Split View on the iPad. More on that later.

Mission Control also got further tweaks. I need to get hands on to fully understand exactly what changes. It feels to me that Mission Control has been in a constant state of evolution since it first appeared. Since I’m using a 12" laptop, it would make sense for me to sort that out.

Full Screen Mail

Composing messages in full screen Mail on your Mac has been pretty rough for a few years now. The compose window is modal, which means once you start composing a message, you can’t go back to look at other mail. That’s fixed now. They even showed tabbed compose windows, which seems kind of nuts but I may just love it.

Metal

The announcement that Mac is getting Metal support makes perfect sense and shouldn’t come as a surprise. To me, the shocker was that it came on the Mac second since, presumably, it was more difficult to put the graphics improvements on iOS. Either way, this is going to benefit both gamers and professional graphics apps users.

New Notes

I was pretty surprised that the Notes app got as much attention as it did. There are a lot of third party Notes apps out there and I still can’t look at Apple’s Notes app icon without thinking of how it used to use the marker felt font. Nonetheless, the improvements are substantial, particularly with the use of importing different data types. I’m looking forward to trying this one out but after going through multiple trials of other apps over the past several months, I’m pretty happy with nvALT on my Mac. Notes would have to really impress me to change my mind. (It looks like there is no tagging support in the new Notes.)

Safari User Interface

The upcoming changes to Safari feel very incremental but at least look like improvements. 

Photos Improvements

They didn’t go into this at great length in this morning’s presentation but Photos for Mac appears to be full steam ahead. References on the Apple website indicate Photos for Mac will get third party editing application support and location support, which were my two biggest gripes with version 1.0. 

Overall, I think we got what we expected today–and what Mac OS needed–a solid update with some new shiny things and a lot of spit and polish. You can learn more on Apple's website here. I’ll wait a month before trying the beta but I’m genuinely looking forward to trying it out. I’ll also  write more about iOS, watchOS 2, and Apple Music later this week after I get to talk to some developers about the changes.

 

Sponsor: OmniOutliner

I’d like to thank The Omni Group for sponsoring MacSparky.com this week. The Omni Group is a remarkable company. It is a group of extremely talented people all working hard at the goal of making the best possible Mac and iOS software. With their emphasis on gorgeous and functional productivity software, they’ve succeeded.

This week I'm featuring OmniOutliner. Often people will throw information at me in a jumbled mess. When that happens, there simply is no better tool than OmniOutliner for bringing order to chaos. Using OmniOutliner, I can quickly sort and organize information. OmniOutliner doesn’t just reference words but attachments too including links, images, sound files, and movies. The app even has the ability to record audio while you outline. I wish I'd had this when I was back in school. I love that I have it now.

OmniOutliner also can output its file to PDF so once you get your outline sorted out and make it look beautiful, send it to your clients and co-workers in a format anyone can read. Some of my best collaboration projects start out in OmniOutliner. 

OmniOutliner isn't just on the Mac. It's also on iOS and the mobile version brings all this same goodness to the iPhone and iPad. You can share your outline across all your Apple devices using the Omni Group's very own OmniPresence syncing service. A good outliner can make your work product better and this is the best outliner available on the Mac and iPad. Go check it out.

WWDC Bound

One of the advantages of being self-employed is having more control over my schedule. This week I'll be in San Francisco partaking in the World Wide Developer Conference. While there I'll be meeting with some of my developer and IT focussed legal clients (I represent a surprising number of them) and talking to developers and other friends in the Apple community about WWDC and what it means for the future. I'll also be posting some thoughts, pictures, and insight here. Stay tuned gang.

Tweetbot for Mac 2.0

Yesterday saw the release of Tweetbot for Mac 2.0. (App Store)(Website) Hallelujah. This new version features a Yosem-ified interface that was sorely needed. Like its iPad sibling, Tweetbot on the Mac was looking very old. Things are now bit flatter, a bit cleaner, and fit in better on the OS X 10.10. 

The icons in this new version are cleaner and, in my opinion, better. There aren’t a lot of new features. The new tweet window now floats and doesn’t require you to tear it off the application.

I’m not entirely sold on the new icon but, overall, the new design is very much welcome. I hope the iPad isn’t far behind.

I have been poking fun at Tweetbot for a while with its antiquated versions on the Mac and iPad. I jest because I love. Tweetbot has been my twitter application of choice for years. Multiple times I’ve gone on a quest to find a replacement and every time I end up back in Tweetbot. It has always been a very stable application for me and has just the right combination of features and whimsy I’m looking for in a Twitter application.

Tweetbot for Mac version 2.0 is a free update for owners of version 1. Also, the price has been permanently lowered from $20 to $13.

Home Screens: Rogier Willems

This week’s home screen post features Rogier Williams (Website)(Twitter). I first met Rogier years ago at Macworld. Rogier is a Mac IT expert that started in the bay area and has recently moved to to Southern California. So Rogier, show us your home screen.

The iPhone is my most important tool for work and communication. The Apple watch is a great companion that has helped me move a few often used apps to the last screen. And allows me to leave my phone in my bag or pocket. As a right handed person I mostly handle the iPhone with my left hand and I have placed the apps that I can reach my most used apps easily with my left thumb.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Mail, Safari, Overcast (radio is dead, I follow 26 podcast), Camera, Amazon

What would you like to see improved on the iPhone?

I speak a various languages and wish that the keyboard language would change automatically to the language for the person who’s email I have selected when writing an email.

The other thing is that the WiFi would drop off faster and connect to the nearest network it knows. Currently the iPhone stays connected far too long to a network that you have moved away from while a stronger Access Point is available in the area that you have entered. This is the main reason why I have the settings app on the front page so I can quickly turn the WiFi On/Off in order to make it connect to the nearest station.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Pinterest. We are designing a new house and I use Pinterest to find all sorts of ideas. I often get lost in other categories that are inspire me to create or build something. One day I want to build a Steampunk Mac.

What app makes you most productive?

Besides Mail, 1Password:

Not only for passwords, credit cards and other important personal information. I also store data from my clients in there like their passwords, gate codes and credit card info.

What are these strange apps?

Register

I love how easy it is go get paid with Square. Recently they also added the option to send invoices via the website witch is great when I do remote support. I haven’t had a single problem in the past 2 years.

CBW Mobile

This is the iOS interface for “Controlled By Web” relays ad sensors. These are professional grade network relays and sensors that can be programmed and managed via a web interface. This App lets me open and close gates, sense moisture and temperature. I can even power cycle routers and servers remotely.

WiPry

This app works with an external receiver as a 2.4Ghz WiFi spectrum analyzer witch comes in handy while solving mysterious WiFi network issues.

Router Utility

I manage a number of Peplink routers this app allows me to keep an eye on things and make quick adjustments when needed.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Siri, it just doesn’t work for me with my Dutch accent.

What is the app you are still missing?

An app that helps me search and filter the App store.

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

Countless times. I am using it all day.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The camera!

I am an avid photographer. I shoot film with a pinhole camera and various Holga’s. Have a “big boy” full frame DSL. But the iPhone camera is the one I use all the time! I have great pleasure creating images with it and the results are amazing.

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

I would love to see an iCloud Pro where you could use your own domain name with the iCloud services and better collaboration features. It would certainly keep clients away from Office 365.

Do you have an Apple Watch?

I bought one because I have to have one in order to learn it inside out. Now I have had it for a few weeks I really like it! I have set strong filters so only the most important messages get trough. I am not much of a fitness person. But the activity monitor does help me to be more aware of my activity and gently motivated me to be more active.

I have set the watch face in 24hr time with timer and stopwatch. I use the timer a lot for keeping track of a parking meter and when I am cooking dinner. The stopwatch helps me to keep track of time while working. For sure the watch has already earned its money back as I was often forgot to track time properly.

I cant wait to see the Apple Watch work with HomeKit!

What’s your wallpaper and why?

Nothing special. The wall paper is rather plane to keep the icons and labels visible.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Thank you for the Mac Power Users and your Fieldguides.

Thanks Rogier.

Fantastical on My Wrist

Today was meeting day. I drove all over southern California meeting with clients. As it turns out, today was also Fantastical for Apple Watch day. 

Flexibits just recently updated Fantastical (App Store)(Website) for iPhone including Apple Watch support and in my travels today I got to use the new Fantastical for Watch App under fire. I like it.

Better Glance

The Apple Calendar glance view feels odd on the Apple Watch. It displays your next event as a block calendar entry with a lot of pixels devoted to drawing the “card” around the text, making the text smaller and the view less attractive.

Fantastical removes the card paradigm and instead gives you a count-down to your next appointment in large text with the event name underneath in slightly smaller text. There is also a view across the top showing your events for the day graphically. Fantastical’s glance view seems more native on the Apple Watch than Apple’s Calendar app.

Apple Calendar on left. Fantastical on right.

Apple Calendar on left. Fantastical on right.

Better Appointment List

Moving in to the Fantastical App, it follows a lot of the same principles as Fantastical’s iPhone App’s with a list of all upcoming events scrollable with your finger or the digital crown. Fantastical does a bang-up job of displaying event lists on all platforms. The Apple Watch is no different.

The Apple Calendar app does something similar but instead of a list view, it draws your events on a long scrolling view that includes all the blank areas where there are no events. Using Apple Calendar, if you have a meeting in the morning and nothing else until the next day, you’ll have a whole ‘lotta scrollin’ to see what’s up the following day. 

In my mind there is no question between these two implementations. Fantastical’s is better by a long shot.

Update: @JeffCarlson points out Apple Calendar will do a list view following a force touch. I'd still argue that should be default behavior.

Apple Calendar on left. Fantastical on right.

Apple Calendar on left. Fantastical on right.

Reminders

I’m still scratching my head on how the Apple Watch shipped without an app to view reminders. We use the Apple Reminders app in our house for several shared lists. Looking at these on my list while I’m in the grocery store makes perfect sense. Now I can see (and check off) reminders on my Apple Watch with the Reminders support in Fantastical.

Force Touch For Event Creation

While in Fantastical you can create new events by tapping on the screen and dictating the event. You can even use the Fanstical syntax. For instance, saying “Write Blog Post about Fantastical at 6pm alarm 15 Slash MS” created an event at 6pm with an alarm 15 minutes earlier and put it in my MacSparky calendar. (If that last bit sounds like sorcery, watch these videos.) One issue with this is that the Apple Watch likes to turn itself off and sometimes does it right in the middle of event creation, which is a drag.

Overall, I prefer the Fantastical interface and design on the Apple Watch over the built-in Apple Calendar application. It does a better job of giving me the calendar and reminder information I need. 

The only down side is that Fantastical is not a native app on the Apple Watch. It has to connect with my iPhone to get its data and sometimes you’ve got to watch the spinning animation while it does so. Hopefully we get news of that changing next week at WWDC.

Clockwise 90

Yesterday I participated in the Clockwise podcast where we talked about WWDC, privacy, and the future of television. All tied up in a 30 minute package.


 

MindNode for Mac 2.0

The gang over at MindNode has been busy re-writing MindNode for Mac and today we get to see the final product with the release of MindNode 2.0 (App Store) (Website).

Having used the beta for a month, I heartily recommend the new version (which is on sale for a short time). For me, MindNode has sat in that sweet spot with just enough features to satisfy me but not so many as to make the application overly complex. 

This application has always had a nice clean design and been very easy-to-use. With the new update, they continue with that same design philosophy but adds several new powerful features:

Outline Mode

I have this left brain/right brain thing constantly going on where I want to see my data visually as a mind map but also in outline format. For some time MindNode has had the ability to display your mind map as an outline on iOS. Now it has that feature on the Mac too.

Notes

You can now add notes to any node in your mind map. It’s a great way to remove clutter but also add more information at the same time.

Stickers

The new version includes its own built in library of clipart that you can use throughout your mind map. The artwork is superb and fits the aesthetic of MindNode perfectly. I never used clipart before in mind maps because I always thought it looked silly. I’ve started using it with this new version and I’m quite happy with it.

Web Access

Stuck on a computer without MindNode installed? No problem. You can now access your documents on the web. It supports folding and unfolding of nodes and displaying attached notes.

MindNode is currently on sale for $19.99 which is 33% off its normal retail price.

Automating Subject Line and Message Body with TextExpander

The below screencast is one of nine that I did for the new version of TextExpander for the Mac. At the end, I added a bit about automating email subject lines and message bodies with one snippet and I seem to have touched a nerve. I've received a ton of email about this. A lot of people didn't realize this is possible. 

The trick is the Tab key. In most mail applications, the tab key moves you from the subject line to the message body. Setting the curser in the subject line, you can have a TextExpander snippet type the subject line, the tab key, then the message body. For instance:

Subject: How about some waffles?
%key:tab%%
Dear Jason,
I'm really hungry for some waffles. How about you?

Your pal,
David

If you are automating email that includes a standard subject line this can be a huge time saver. Don't forget you can also include variables and fill-in snippets in the subject line as well. For instance, if you are standardizing the email for your monthly invoice, the subject line snippet could be:

ACME %b Invoice

which would render as:

ACME June Invoice

Anyway, if this stuff interests you, it wouldn't hurt to watch the below screencast. If you'd like to see more in this screencast series, click on the "Playlist" button. I'm proud of all of them.

Techtonic Podcast

This week I joined the gang at the TechTonic podcast to talk about Photos, the "digital hub", and what to do when your friends ask you about Android.

Pixelmator for iOS Arrives on iPhone

One of the reasons I've not got too bent out of shape about no localized editing on Photos for Mac is because for years now I've been doing all of my heavy-duty photo editing in Pixelmator for Mac. Last year Pixelmator arrived on the iPad and it's great. In some ways it's better than the Mac version. I especially like using the iPad version on my couch while fiddling with pictures. Also, iOS Photos does an even better job of integrating third party photo apps than its Mac counterpart does. 

Today Pixelmator released an iPhone version of Pixelmator. The new iOS version of Pixelmator takes advantage of Apple's Metal technology to add new Distort tools. I've been using the beta and it was killing me not to include this in my Photos Video Field Guide. In addition to bringing a very robust set of photo editing tools, there are also filters accessible straight from Pixelmator in the Photos application.

Best of all, it's universal. If you've already bought Pixelmator for your iPad, you'll get it for free on your phone.

Have you noticed how many iOS iPad-only apps are going universal and finding their way to the iPhone? I think there are several reasons for this trend including the bigger iPhone screens, better processors, and better development tools. Pixelmator is great in my pocket. The below video provides an overview.

Apple Watch and Bold Text

A few weeks ago I guested on The Talk Show and John Gruber and I talked about everyone's favorite new gadget. John made the comment that he turned on Bold Text in the Brightness and Text Size setting. This is a strange setting and requires you to reboot the watch to take effect. During the show, I went ahead and switched it on and have kept it that way since. I don't have much to add to what John said during the show except an endorsement. With Bold Text turned on, complications are easier to read and look better and in most other views text is also easier to read but doesn't usually look better. 

TextExpander for Mac Version 5

Today Smile Released TextExpander for Mac, Version 5. The new version has some great new features including the ability to recognize frequently typed phrases and offer to create new snippets for you, remind you when you type a phrase for which you already have a snippet, improvements to fill-in snippets, iCloud sync, and Java Script support. I did a whole series of videos on the new version and they came out great. There are 10 videos in total and they really give you the soup-to-nuts training in TextExpander. If you are already a pro, just watch the "What's New" video below.


App Camp For Girls Funding Campaign and Matching Funds Offer

I am so proud of my friend Jean MacDonald (Twitter). She left her business and took an enormous risk to start App Camp for Girls. Jean is truly making a dent in the universe.

I am also particularly proud of the role Mac Power Users listeners and MacSparky readers have played thus far in App Camp for Girls’ success. Not only have you provided financial support, several of you have also donated your time and expertise. It actually makes my heart swell.

Today App Camp for Girls has started a new public funding campaign. The funding goal is $100,000. These funds will be used to bring the program to more girls and more locations. Just as important, success there will convince corporate sponsors that App Camp is for real and help win even more corporate sponsorships.

Matching Funds!

Katie and I feel strongly about this. So much so that we’ve agreed to personally match funds contributed to App Camp for Girls by Mac Power Users listeners up to the first $1,000. Nothing would make me happier than writing a big check. So why don’t you help me out with that?

To participate:

1. Donate to the App Camp Indiegogo campaign as you normally would, including choosing from one of the available perks.

2. Email a copy of your donation receipt (feel free to redact any personal information but leave the amount) to feedback@macpowerusers.com with the words “AppCamp 3.0” (no quotes) in the subject line.

3. Katie and I will jointly match MPU listener donations up to $1,000.

Jean MacDonald will be our guest on Mac Power Users in early June to give us an update on her progress and talk about how she used technology to get a non-profit up and running. I’m hopeful we’ll also be able to announce we’ve raised enough money to sponsor a Mac Power Users team at App Camp for Girls this summer.

Setting the OmniFocus Default Start Time

One nice benefit of no longer working for the man is that I have a lot more control over my schedule. It has been a surprise to me that I find myself often working late into the night. In my former life, I had always been an early riser but in this new iteration of me, it sometimes makes more sense to do my work later in the day.

One consequence of this is that every day at midnight my OmniFocus database fills up with tasks previously set for the next day. I don’t want to see all those tasks. If I’m looking at OmniFocus at midnight it’s because I’m still working on stuff from the prior day. Fortunately, OmniFocus has a setting for that on the Mac app in the preferences pane.

Interestingly, there is no similar setting on the iPhone and iPad but if you change a setting on the Mac, when you synchronize the database the iPhone and iPad will also start setting start times consistent with the new Mac default.

Sponsor: Hoban Cards

I'm pleased to welcome back Hoban Press as this week's MacSparky.com sponsor. I’ve heard from many readers that love their new Hoban Cards pressed out of Hoban’s 1902 letterpress machine. I sure love mine. When I went out on my own and opened my own law practice, I contacted Hoban Cards and asked them to make me something beautiful that doesn't look like most crappy lawyer business cards. They delivered with the best looking attorney business card I've ever seen, fully letterpressed.

Hoban has two lines of products. Hoban Press specializes in custom letterpress printed items like Business Cards and Stationery. This is the best choice if you need to use your own logo or artwork. They also provide design and layout services. Hoban Cards specializes in in minimal calling cards. This is a less expensive way to get into letterpress printing. Pick from among several beautiful, typographic calling card templates. These are perfect for individuals or businesses looking for a unique and classy alternative to conventional, mass produced, soulless business cards.

Use ‘MacSparky’ during checkout to receive free shipping.