This week's MPU episode features Katie and I spilling our guts on how we manage contacts in OS X and iOS. In it, I got to talk at some length about how I use the often-forgotten Notes Field and how I've been using Cobook to help me get past some of the Contacts app's shortcomings.
Over the weekend I was searching for a diversion and discovered a new iPad/iPhone game, Tengami. (iOS App Store) (website) Tengami is an adventure game that takes place in a digitally-built papercraft world. I’ve really enjoyed it so far. It is beautiful on a retina iPad and I love the animations as I turn pages and watch them unfold. The puzzles are challenging but not maddening and I like the Japanese aesthetic. If you are looking for a little escape, this one is a winner. Below is some gameplay from YouTube.
I’d like to thank The Omni Group for sponsoring MacSparky.com this week. The Omni Group is one of the premier software developers for the Mac, iPad, and iPhone. With their emphasis on gorgeous and functional productivity software, they’ve made me look brilliant for years now.
The product I’d like to feature this week is 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 the app 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. This is so useful for students.
The Omni Group just released OmniOutliner 4 for the Mac and it is a really nice upgrade. They also have OmniOutliner 2 for the iPad and the two applications sync data seamlessly with 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.
Aleh Cherp at the Macademic has a post on how he uses tags and folders with file management. I'm still figuring this out myself but Aleh's idea of tags for reference files and folders for project files is very similar to the way I've been using Mavericks tags. As an aside, the Macademic is a great site and completely worth your RSS subscription.
As part of my little Automator screencast I did earlier this week, I used a special symbol in the file name. The character viewer opened during the screencast and I received several emails/tweets asking about how I did that.
A lot of people don’t even realize the character viewer is a thing. You can activate it in the Keyboard Preferences by ticking the “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in menu bar” box and the character viewer icons shows up.
Clicking Show Character Viewer opens a screen we've had for some time in OS X that lets you pick among the various symbols not otherwise easily accessible.
Starting with Mavericks, Apple made this even easier. You can open a slightly friendlier (more iOS-y) character viewer with the key combination Control-Command-Space.
I recently guested on the Technical Difficulties podcast where we talked about important things, like iBooks Author and Star Wars. If you haven't yet, you should really check out the show notes. Outstanding.
On the heels of yesterday’s post about alternative text selection, how about alternative keyboards? Where this type of utility was verboten on iOS for so long, Apple appears to no longer have a problem. The early leader for alternative keyboards is Fleksy (App Store)(website). I downloaded it and found it interesting but not so mind-blowing that I’d put all my text in their app exclusively.
Now Fleksy has opened up their SDK for anyone on iOS. The mechanic lets you start using the Fleksy keyboard once you activate the copy and paste pop-up selections. I’m curious how long the selection of that keyboard will “stick” after the users decides to start using it. If it reverts to the standard keyboard when you close the app, I think they are in trouble. If Apple really wanted to embrace alternative keyboards, they’d need to make it a preference. Don’t hold your breath on that one.
Regardless, I’m curious to see how much traction this gets. If forced to handicap it, I think this will be one of those edgy nerd-things. However the ability to use colors and themes may be enough to draw in the muggles.
The Thoughts 2 developer had an interesting idea for text selection. Specifically, he put right and left arrows on the text selection points that allow more fine-tuned selection. They've got a clever little video showing off the feature. I bet there are some pretty big fights inside Apple when they decide how fiddly to get with these controls.
I do a lot of writing in text editors and dictation. As a result, I often have little bits of text that I want to send as an email. One day I got tired of the process of blocking, copying, opening Mail, creating a message, pasting text, adding a subject line, and sending. This was especially the case with the people that I found myself doing this for all the time. So I made some services to solve the problem for me. With this service I simply need to highlight the text and select the service. Automator does the rest in the background. Here is a short video showing how.
Chris Brogan bought a Dell tablet and things went downhill from there. I've been out of the PC market for years now. Hasn't anyone on the Windows side tried the Apple model of customer service? They should.
Last week Dr. Drang lamented the inability to share a Numbers template between Mac and iOS. He then very cleverly showed where the Mac iWork template files are buried and how to get them onto iOS. This is a problem I’ve struggled with for years. Not only does iWork not sync templates between iOS and the Mac, it also doesn’t sync templates between two Macs. If you create a template on Pages on your MacBook, you’re not going to find it on Pages on your iMac.
When I first heard about Apple’s re-invention of the iWork suite, I hoped that this would be one of those itches that Apple could scratch with a unified code base for the iWork apps on all platforms. It was one of the first things I tested. Unfortunately, no luck.
Apple isn’t alone in this problem. I have the same issue with just about every other productivity app I use among my various Macs and iThingies. A few years ago I had a catastrophic drive failure. With all my various backups schemes I recovered all of my data. I thought I was a real Grade-A super-nerd. I was so impressed with this data recovery that a few months later I nuked my final SuperDuper clone of the wrecked hard drive and moved on. The very next day (Next Day!) I had call for a Numbers template that I created on that machine and never managed to migrate anywhere else. I opened Numbers, looked at the blank template list and thought to myself, "whoops".
So this pesky template problem led to the first data loss I’ve experienced in a long time. Because this problem persists, I’ve come up with a much less clever solution than the good Doctor’s. I added a Templates folder to Dropbox. In there I’ve got a series of subfolders related to the various productivity apps I use and every time I create a document that I want to keep as a template, I save a copy there. Over the past few years, these folders have grown and I’ve got a nice little bank of templates I can access from any device.
You may be thinking that a similar solution could be accomplished (with the iWork suite at least) by creating a document folder called Templates and saving a documents to this impostor. That’s true but I prefer keeping them on Dropbox to save iCloud space and not junk up iCloud directories that are already not very friendly to high numbers of documents.
I still save templates to the iWork suite and certain of my other productivity apps but I also always make a copy into the Dropbox bank. If you are concerned about security, you could also save the directory to a Transporter. (I'm actually planning to make that move myself.) Because the iWork suite is now so closely related on each of the platforms, I suspect Apple does have template syncing on a white board somewhere in Cupertino and it will eventually show up. Even though, I still plan on keeping this folder. The iWork apps aren’t the only ones I’m saving templates from and there is something comforting about having your own set of backups. Just in case.
I keep threatening to stop writing about this story but some part of me can’t resist. Last week Microsoft’s chief of marketing explained how there were a lot of reasons to keep Office off the iPad. Then days later, Mary Jo Foley reported we could see Office on the iPad by July.
How many times must this carousel go around? Clearly there are warring factions at Microsoft. Putting Office on the iPad means a lot of money (or more likely Office 365 subscriptions) but Office ubiquity also makes their own platform (like the Surface) less special.
For years now, we’ve all been wondering if Microsoft will put Office on the iPad. While there is a version of Office for the iPhone, it still is missing on iPad. If Office does find its way to the iPad, I don’t expect it to have all the bells and whistles that Office has on Windows or the Mac (or even the Surface). In fact, I’d expect it to be feature limited. That is the compromise that would let the anti-iPad wing Microsoft finally capitulate. “Make it for the iPad, but don’t make it as good.” This isn’t without precedent. That appears to be the tack they used with Office Mobile for iPhone. I suspect that if/when Office does make it to the iPad, it won’t be that impressive and we’ll all wonder why we spent so much time on this merry-go-round to begin with.
In this week's episode, Gabe Weatherhead joins us to talk about being a Mac geek in a PC office, DEVONThink, and automation. It's a great episode. As an aside, there was a limited problem with the feed where some people didn't get this show. (This was particularly a problem for DownCast users.) Please make certain 177 is in your feed.
I noticed last night that the camera roll on my iPhone was using 6GB. Between iCloud and other mechanisms, my photos are backed up but I've been sloppy about cleaning out my camera roll. I could do this on the phone but it isn't very fast. So I fired up my favorite Mac app for managing/copying/deleting lots of images at once, Image Capture. I'm often surprised by how many Mac owners don't even know this application exists. It is part of the operating system and ships on every Mac. Rather than trying to manage large numbers of images from iPhoto or Aperture, Image Capture lets me triage my iOS photos first. I can select multiple images for management, export to my Mac, and, ultimately, deletion. There are even a few Automator hooks. There really isn't anything magical about this little utility but once you know it's there, you'll probably find use for it.
This week MacSparky.com is sponsored by The Omni Group. I’ve frequently thought that The Omni Group is the most Apple-like application group outside of Apple. They are obsessive about making great products. I use all of their applications on a daily basis and they make my life better (and easier).
My favorite Omni Group app is OmniFocus. I’ve got many responsibilities in my life as a father, husband, lawyer, and geek. The only way I’m able to wake up in the morning and not feel completely paralyzed by the amount of work on my plate is through the powerful task management tools OmniFocus affords me. If you are feeling overwhelmed, OmniFocus might just solve your problem too.
I’ve got a whole page of screencasts I produced on OmniFocus if you’d like to learn more. You can lead a complicated life and not be a flake with a little help and OmniFocus will go a long way toward getting you there. Learn more at the Omni Group.
Google Adsense makes my brain hurt. The best (and only) way to promote your company, product, app, or service to the MacSparky readers is through a week-long sponsorship. What do you get? An exclusive ad in the right margin and a post in the RSS feed. I only take one advertiser a week. I've got just a few weeks open between now and July and much more availability in the second half of the year. If you're interested, send me a note.
The Omni Group has recently started distributing manuals and books about their software through the iBooks Store. I think it is a great idea. Frankly, I don't know why more people aren't using this method to connect with customers, especially in the Mac/iOS market.
I was disappointed to see the online document management service, Doo, shutting down. It seemed like they were onto something but perhaps they were too early. I have no doubt that at some point in the future online, organized document storage will be the rule, not the exception. The question is whether it will be our own private, controlled "online" (like The Transporter provides) or someone else's.
What are some of your favorite apps?
OmniFocus and 1Password are apps I really love and couldn’t do without. Dispatch is a great email app. Drafts and Launch (Center Pro) are quite handy as well, hence the well earned placements in my dock. Due is great used in conjunction with the OSX app, especially for items which don’t belong in OmniFocus. The newFileMaker Go is a nice update as well.
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
The NYT Crossword app (it’s on page 2) which I play daily, then download older puzzles to play even more often. It has even become part of my bedtime routine. If I had to pick an app from my home screen then the winner is Twitter. I have found Twitter to be quite useful and have even found work that way.
What is the app you are still missing?
A good quality photo management app, something pragmatic.
How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?
An almost inordinate amount, surely. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?
I love the easy access to the Do Not Disturb control, I’ll quickly put it in DND mode when I’m with the girlfriend or having dinner. Also useful when I have to record or just need my phone to shut up and stop yelling at me.
A close second is the mutli-page folders. I don’t remember who wrote about having empty space on the bottom of the screen but I love it; I have only one app in the bottom of each page which is mostly possible due to the new mutli-paged folders feature.
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
I’d spend some of our billions on the rights to Sierra Quest Games then create a new Space Quest; Roger Wilco deserves another chance.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Go Steelers! 2014 is our year. (And yes, I do have the Steelers app on page 2.)
Today my most recent update to the Paperless Field Guide went live in the iBooks Store. Updates include:
- Added new section on hybrid-cloud storage
- Added discussion of using the Transporter for personal cloud storage
- Added a new section and gallery for PDFpen Scan+ and added a PDFpen Scan+ screencast
- Added new section for Doo.net and gallery.
- Updated section on Hazel with Auto file naming and created a new Screencast 4.5 showing off the new features.
- Re-Wrote the section on tagging in light of OS X Mavericks new tagging support and added new screencasts 4.6, 4.7, and 4.8.
- Updated for PDF Expert 5.
- Added explanation of the PDF/A Format.
- Tweaked discussion of scanning with the iPad. (The iPad camera is a lot better than it used to be.)
- Removed the BlackBerry picture just because.
- A ninja now runs free through the pages of this book.
All of the Field Guides include free updates for at least two years following initial publication. Have I said lately how much I love that I can update these books and keep them relevant?