PDFpen Version 7 and Videos

Today Smile released version 7 of PDFpen for the Mac. I've been using the beta and particularly like some of the new features:

Signatures Tool

You can now add a signature field and then later sign a document using your track pad.

OCR Layer Support

I've always known of the mythical OCR layer in PDF files. Now PDFpen can display it. With PDFpenPro, you can even proofread and make changes to the underlying text layer. Boom.

Context Sensitive Editing Tools

Select some text, right click, apply.

Retaining Object Properties

I like my circles orange and my boxes red. Now PDFpen remembers that.

Export to Excel, PowerPoint, PDF/A

PDFpenPro added the ability to export to Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF/A. This is in addition to the export to Word feature that already exists.

I liked the beta so much that I agreed to make some videos for Smile that you can find right here. Below is my "What's New" video.

Flic for Camera Roll Sorting

I've never been happy with the built-in camera roll sorting tools. When I take photos with my phone I usually squeeze off three or four of any shot in hopes that I'll get that one where nobody has their eyes closed or the baby is particularly cute or whatever. The trouble is that sorting through those images in the Photos app is difficult. The thumbnail images are too small and it is difficult figuring out ones to keep. This has resulted, more than once, in my deleting the wrong image. This past weekend I decided I'd deleted the wrong picture for the last time and I went looking in the App Store and discovered Flic.

Flick displays the images from your camera roll one at a time. You flick the keepers to the right and the trash to the left. The images are about 3/4 their full size but if you tap them, they blow up even bigger. Using this app, I was able to make quick work of the images in my camera roll over the past month. The app also keeps a running tab of how much space you are recovering with your deletions. Now that I have an easy way to sort camera roll photos, I expect I'll be taking even more pictures on my iPhone.

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.

The application 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.

Jazz Friday: The Girl from Ipanema

In 1963, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto started a bossa nova sensation in jazz with their Getz/Gilberto album (iTunes)(Wikipedia). People went crazy for this album and particularly its first track, The Girl from Ipanema.

This is a rare jazz song that entered the pop charts, peaking at number 5. While the song is not nearly as edgy as some of my other Jazz Friday recommendations, The Girl From Ipanema (and most of the rest of this album) is still great music. Stan Getz, who had some serious jazz chops, seemed to just get the type of throaty, understated solo required by bossa nova. Moreover, I think Astrud Gilberto’s vocals are perfect for bossa nova. From the too-much-information department, I fell in love with Astrud Gilberto the first time I heard her voice. To this day I have never seen her picture because there is no way she could live up to the image in my my mind. Happy Friday everybody.

Be Careful What You Wish For

This week, Marco Arment kicked off some fascinating dialog about Apple's software development. Put simply, a lot of people are concerned Apple is running too fast with yearly release cycles and appears to be stumbling as a result. I think there is a lot of merit to these arguments. I've experienced some of these stumbles myself as of late.

There is one point, however, I've not seen stated about these challenges that I think is worth mention. Over the years, I've done a lot of home screen posts and one of the standard questions I ask is what my contributor would do different if they were running Apple. I don't have exact numbers but can attest that by far, before iOS 8 the biggest request was better app sharing and communication between devices. Indeed, some people were arguing Apple was doomed because they weren't moving forward on these issues.

With iOS 8 and Yosemite, Apple delivered on these requests in a big way. We got extensions, keyboards, handoff, and a host of other new features. I love (and use) these features daily. Because a lot of these features involve communications between my Mac and iOS devices, these features require updates to both the Mac and iOS operating systems. Put simply, the only way this could all work is if Apple stuck its neck out with significant changes to both systems.

While it's easy to say, "I wish they'd taken a year off on the Mac", that comes at a cost of functionality. We wouldn't have these cool features if they hadn't done the update. Maybe, in hindsight, that was a mistake by Apple adding so much but don't forget how many people were talking about how stale and "closed" iOS was before iOS 8 arrived. I sympathize for the Apple engineers sitting somewhere right now, thinking they're damned if they do and damned if they don't. I, personally, think they did the right thing pushing forward with iOS 8 and Yosemite. I'm willing to deal with a few hiccups in exchange for these new features. 

While Marco may indeed be right and perhaps Apple should slow down the Mac OS release cycles, I don't see how Apple had any choice in 2014 once they decided to give us the inter-operatability we've all been banging on about for years.

MPU 234: Controls-Space is ...

In our monthly feedback show, Katie and I talk about auditing your accounts with guest Bradley Chambers, quitting Family Sharing, follow-up on PDFs, discuss applications for money management, and share tips for managing RSS feeds on the go, sharing an iTunes library, managing photos and videos, preserving two-factor authentication codes, discuss the Evernote Stylus, family journaling options and more.


About that Rumored 12 inch Mac

The rumors surrounding the fabled 12 inch retina Mac have been swirling for about a year now. While you never know if a rumored product from Apple is real or not, this one has had so many leaks and mentions that I have to believe they are at least considering it. Moreover, as nice as the MacBook Airs are, it has been several years since they received a new design and you just have to know the design team is at least feeling a little itchy about it. Moreover, competitors are now perfecting their copies of the existing design.

So with all this in mind, Mark Gurman, one of the most reliable Apple-scoopers, just published an article at 9to5Mac about the new MacBook Air. Much has been written about this since the rumor first hit a few days ago. I think a higher resolution MacBook Air is a swell idea but if Mark Gurman is right and the new machine has just one USB port to cover power, external display, and external devices, I’m going to go on record as saying that is a little bit crazy. Can you image having to unplug your external drive so you can print or unplugging your power so you can connect a scanner? The very first MacBook Air had just one USB port. It was located on a clever little drop down hinge that reminded me of the docking bay on a particularly sleek spaceship. Everyone hated having just one USB port but at least that Mac had a separate MagSafe port. Speaking of MagSafe, if the 12" Mac gets power via the USB port, what happens to MagSafe? That would be something I really miss.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Gurman is generally right about the new Mac specs but wrong about just one USB port. At least, I sure hope he is.

"Dear Monster Lawyers ..."

We received news today of a lawsuit by Monster against Beats. While I have no idea of the merits of these claims, this event has finally given me an excuse to link the second most entertaining letter I've ever read between two lawyers. A few years ago Monster issued a cease and desist letter to Blue Jeans Cables, a company founded by a recovering IP attorney. The response starts, "Dear Monster Lawyers" and just gets better from there.

In case you are wondering, James Bailey's letter on behalf of the Cleveland Browns is the best attorney letter I've ever read.

Star Trek TNG in 40 Hours

I talk and write about Star Wars frequently but I don't say as often how fond I am of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was in law school on a merit scholarship, which meant if my grades weren't at a certain level, I was going to have to borrow boat loads of money. I studied a lot but it just so happened that Star Trek: TNG was running in syndication every day at 6pm. So every day I ate something out of the freezer and dined with Captain Picard. It was the one part of the day I didn't have to think about school and it was delightful.

Just a few weeks ago, I felt nostalgic for an episode of ST:TNG and when fishing on Netflix. I found Familywhere Captain Picard goes back home to France in attempt to pick up the pieces after being co-opted by the Borg. The episode was just as good as I remembered and got me thinking that I should go back and watch more. So you can appreciate my joy at finding out Max Temkin did a bang-up job summarizing some of the best Star Trek: TNG episodes. (I found out about this through Six Colors.)



I have to admit when I first heard about this Kickstarter project, I thought it was a joke. It's not. If you want a physical keyboard and a small screen to just write words on, check this out. While I thought something like this was a great idea in 1990, I cannot imagine myself carrying around a clunky Hemingwrite in 2015. I'm just fine with my amazing iPad, thank you. 

While I find a certain amount of nostalgia in this product to my old Tandy WP-2, that isn't what they are driving for. The key selling point is the "you can't stay out of Facebook so you need hardware limitations" argument we've seen with some of the Mac software products that cut you off from the Internet. Maybe this is my old-man-yelling-at-kits-on-lawn moment but why can't people just turn off Facebook or Twitter or whatever when they need to dig in. If I had to buy intentionally crippled hardware to get work done, I think my problems would be much bigger. The project has been funded though so I presume we'll see a few of them in the wild at some point. 

Sponsor: SaneBox

This week MacSparky.com is sponsored by SaneBox. SaneBox saves my bacon every day. There are so many great benefits to Sanebox. First and foremost is filtering. Sanebox looks at all of my incoming email and filters it for me to appropriate mailboxes. That way, the first thing in the morning I see are only those emails that are most important. However, SaneBox can do so much more with its Black Hole service that makes unwanted email go away, forever. There is also an ingenious reminder system where you can blind copy an email to 1week@sanebox.com and the service will remind you if you don't get a response to the email within one week.

There are some great new features to SaneBox including:

There is a lot more to SaneBox. If you get a lot of email, the service can really help. You can learn more at SaneBox.com. Note the links in this post will get you $5 off your subscription.


Quitting Family Sharing

Family Sharing is a great idea. Families, like mine, have growing children that will one day leave the nest and need iTunes accounts of their own. Moreover, Apple now has multiple device categories resulting in families hitting their head against the 10-device limit as the kids start growing up and iPhones, iPads, and Macs multiply. For a few years now, we’ve had to decide which of our devices get iTunes Match and which don’t. It’s quite frustrating that we can’t share music we’ve paid for across all our devices.

The promise behind Family Sharing was that it would get us away from that problem. In theory, we’d all be able to have our own accounts but still share purchases as long as all the accounts are on the same credit card. If at some point, one my children moves out or pays with her own credit card, she retains her library and we stop sharing. I am okay with that particularly if it lets me have my 2 Macs, iPad, and iPhone all work without running into above-mentioned DRM walls.

What I didn’t realize was the fine print. There are a few bits that are potential deal breakers:

  1. App Developers Must Opt In
    If an app developer doesn’t agree to make their app available via Family Sharing, it doesn’t work. Each family member will have to buy the app separately. We’ve been running family sharing for about 3 months and this hasn’t been a problem.

  2. In-App Purchases Are Not Included
    Even though we are sharing apps, we are not sharing in-app purchases. This hasn’t been a problem for my family either since few of us make in-app purchases in the same apps. I can see how it would be a problem for some that have expensive in-app purchases like, for instance, GPS apps. Moreover, as the App store increasingly becomes freemium, this may be a bigger problem in the future. Again, however, I don’t see his as a deal breaker. Creating great apps is time consuming and expensive. I’m okay if App developers make a little bit more if multiple members of my family rely on their work.

  3. iTunes Match Multiplied
    My entire family embraced iTunes Match. We like being able to wirelessly pull down playlists and make things happen. iTunes Match is not part of Family Sharing so if I, my wife, and my two daughters all want iTunes Match on our accounts, I’ll have to pay for it four times. This was very nearly a deal breaker for me. So far, I’ve paid for a second iTunes Match account for my wife but nobody else.

Taking the above three factors together, moving to Family Sharing is going to cost us a little. Three months ago I turned Family Sharing on for my wife and one of my daughters to see if this additional expense would be worth it. The transition has not been easy. Indeed, my family, that is normally game for just about any new nerdy thing I bring in, has rebelled. They’ve all told me how much they don’t like Family Sharing but not because of the above limitations, the problems are in execution. We’ve faced several challenges:

Losing Track of Tracks

My family has a large music library. We’ve been ripping CDs and buying iTunes music for a long time and we’ve all got diverse musical interests. Getting my wife and daughter’s iTunes accounts up to speed required me to copy our entire music library on to an external drive so they could selectively import artists they like on their individual Macs. Nobody really wants to do that and having got used to the convenience of using iTunes Match for a few years this exercise just made them surly. This new order also requires a lot more file management on their part, increased storage space, and increased management from me as family IT geek to make sure everything is working. Even given all that, they still inevitably find tracks they know are in my library that didn’t make it into their new library. Because many of these are not purchased through iTunes, they can’t access them short of me again physically moving them to their computers. Lots of time was sunk into this problem and after three months, it’s still an issue.

Playlist Issues

I’ve heard before of people having iTunes playlists dissapear but never experienced it myself. Since making this switch, everyone in my family (including me) have experienced playlists spontaneously poofing. It hasn’t happened now for several weeks but I fully expect this to continue.

App Update Hell

There is a bug with Family Sharing that prevents some users from updating apps. David Chartier explains this at length. My wife has been experiencing this problem since we started the experiment. Now she just gives me a look and hands me her phone with 38 updates to install. I go through and manually apply them only to find seven or eight that refuse to update for reasons that aren't entirely clear but definitely related to Family Sharing. It’s maddening.

As we turn the corner on a new year, I’ve decided Family Sharing is not ready for my family. I have to admit it is not entirely my decision. There is, generally, an uprising in my house over Family Sharing and I'm half-expecting my wife and kids to come at me with pitchforks over these challenges.

Family Sharing is not ready for the Sparks family. I’ve spent way too much time trying to make this all work and this weekend I’m officially throwing in the towel on Family Sharing until it gets better. Now I am about to sit down at the dinner table to figure out which 10 of our devices get the full benefit of our shared account. Let the negotiations begin.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone!

This year, MacSparky.com enters its ninth year of publication and, honestly, without this blog, I'd be a sad, sad little man. Here's to a great 2015 for us all.

Chevron to Bring Apple Pay to the Pump

MacRumors reports Chevron is in the process of moving its Apple Pay terminals to the pumps so consumers can pay with their iPhone 6 (and in the not-so-distant future their Apple Watch) at the pump. For me, 2014, was the year of credit card fraud. I ended up with four replacement cards this years as a result of my card getting compromised (including Target and Home Depot). I'm tired of people mishandling my credit card information and while I'll acknowledge I'm an edge case, I am now actively choosing vendors that will use Apple Pay and its one-time numbers. In short, it looks like I'll be buying gas at Chevron.

Sponsor: JustSend

This week MacSparky is sponsored by JustSend. It is easy open your iOS email client only to get sucked into the vortex of your inbox. JustSend gives you a simple way to send off email messages without ever seeing your inbox. The app is free through the month of January, starting today. There is zero setup. It works immediately with the built-in email accounts on your phone. A lot of people look at the new year as an opportunity to get rid of distractions and JustSend can help you along that path.