field guides

MacSparky Fields Guides Now Available on iPhone

With the release of iOS 8.4, iBooks on the iPhone can now display iBooks Author rich media books like the MacSparky Field Guides. Hooray!

Often I receive emails from readers asking to read my books on the iPhone. Now you can. The books look great on the iPhone. Paperless, Email, Markdown, and 60 Tips all display in the alternative format (pictured). This allows you to also change the type size. Presentations displays in its original format, which looks great but doesn't allow you to change type size.

Either way, I'm thrilled to have millions of potential new customers. If you've already purchased the books, they'll load just fine on your iPhone today. If you've been waiting for them to become iPhone compatible, today is your lucky day. I'm already making changes to the next MacSparky Field Guide to make it even more iPhone friendly.

The Photos Video Field Guide

Late last year I started outlining a new MacSparky Field Guide on photo management. It was one sweet outline and I'd even started writing words. Then I got my hands on the Photos beta and realized that Photos did something pretty remarkable. Photos manages large photo libraries loads better than iPhoto ever did and the iCloud Photo Library works far better than I ever expected. I started revising the "photo management" outline until I realized this was no longer a comparison of competing photo management services and instead an in-depth manual for Photos.

At that point I scrapped the outline and instead produced a Video Field Guide explaining how to get the most from Photos. After a few months of work, here it is.

The Photos Video Field Guide is a 2.5 hour screencast that teaches you how to install and use Apple's Photos Application and sync all of your photos between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone using iCloud Photo Storage. Managing your photos with multiple devices has, over the years, come to feel like chasing a mythical white whale. Not anymore. Photos delivers the goods and this screencast teaches you how.

Topics Include:


While Photos attempts to make your initial setup simple and easy, there can be complications. What if you have more than one existing photo libraries? What if you've got folders of photographs sprinkled all over your hard drive? All of these can be imported into Photos but you've got to know the ropes. This video screencast shows you all tricks to run Photos on your Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

Photos also can use iCloud Photo Library to make sharing photos between your Mac, iPad, and iPhone easier than anyone ever thought possible. The Video Field Guide walks you through the initial iCloud setup, including advice on which cloud storage to use and how to get the initial upload of your photo library done with as little pain and suffering as possible.


Photos uses an intuitive organizational structure that lets you see your pictures grouped by years, collections, moments, and individual photos. This Video Field Guide shows you exactly how it works and sprinkles in several power tricks to make managing your library even easier. Once you've sorted that out, Photos also has options to create custom and smart albums, where the program seeks out photos for you pursuant to your instruction.

Photos also has specialized libraries that can identify the faces of your family and friends. You can even search you library so if someone says, "Hey! Quick! Find me that picture of Uncle Ralph from April 2007 wearing that ballerina tutu!", you can deliver the goods. This stuff sounds complicated. It's not. By the time you get to the end of this video, you'll be able to embarrass Uncle Ralph in no time flat.


Photos also has a surprisingly large toolset to make your photos better. You can do simple edits, like cropping and rotating, but you can also make complex adjustments to color and light. On the Mac there are even more tools including a histogram, sharpening, definition, noise reduction, vignette and level adjustments. If all of this sounds like greek to you now, that's okay. After watching the video it won't.

The video also explains Photos built in filters and how they can be an excellent jumping off point for making your photos look great. It also covers has the semi-magical "enhance" button. If that's not enough, there are workflows to get your photos out of the Photos app and into an external editor for further work on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone.


With the new Photos app, there are many ways to share your images with friends and family from something as simple as an email to full-blown shared iCloud albums. This section of the video covers all of the sharing options from the Mac and iOS. The Photos Video Field Guide also demonstrates how to make books, calendars, and cards from the Photos application on the Mac.


Believe it or not, Photos can manage your video files too. This section covers the best practices for managing video files in Photos and its limited editing capabilities.


No photo management system is complete without a thorough backup system. The Photos Video Field Guide concludes explaining backup strategies and techniques. This section also demonstrates how to export images from Photos for additional backup.

The screencast is two and a half hours and fully bookmarked. You can buy it now for $9.99.

Did you ask for a sample video? I thought so. Here you go.

New MacSparky Video Field Guide: Workflow

I've been spending a lot of time with the Workflow app (website) (App Store) as of late. Workflow is one of the most powerful apps available for the iPhone and iPad. Using Workflow, you can combine functions from different applications to make things happen on your iPhone and iPad wicked fast. Because it's so flexible, Workflow is difficult to get started with. That's where this new video field guide comes in.

The Workflow Video Field Guide starts with a few, easy workflows and builds upon them over the course of an hour to turn you into a Workflow pro. By the time you get to the end, you'll be able to roll your own workflows and change the way you work on your iPhone and iPad. 

Some of the workflows in the video include:

  • Build your own animated GIF and share it.
  • Automate notifications to family and friends when you're running late.
  • Send a message to your family so they know when to expect you home.
  • Get a Google Street View picture of the address of your next appointment.
  • Have your phone automatically give you the travel time and directions to your next appointment.
  • Share your location with friends and family with one tap.
  • Easily send screenshots to your Mac via AirDrop.
  • Automatically send photos from your phone to your Mac.
  • Have your iPhone show the location of your photos on a map.
  • Upload images to Dropbox.
  • Convert images to different file formats automatically.
  • Resize and send photos.
  • Blast photos out to multiple sharing services with one workflow.
  • Share your most played music.
  • Get walking directions to the nearest coffee or tea shop.
  • Have your iPhone or iPad look at your calendar for a given day and prepare a message displaying your availability.
  • Create custom iOS extensions
  • Save documents, websites, and other data directly to PDF
  • Create a custom workflow to take a picture of a receipt, give it a custom name, and save it to Dropbox.
  • Build your own tip calculator app. (Yup. Tip calculator.)
  • Set up a workflow to check your battery level, adjust your screen brightness, and send you a message.

Workflow has over 200 available actions that you can mix and match to make your iPhone and iPad dance for you. Don't you want to see that? This screencast is fully bookmarked, an hour long, and engineered to make you a Workflow master. You can download it for $9.99.

Did you say you'd like to see a sample? Then here you go.

The OmniFocus Video Field Guide

I'm pleased to announce the release of the OmniFocus Video Field Guide. This is a screencast, not a book. A lot of people have asked me to write a book about OmniFocus but instead I made this 2.5 hour video that takes you, soup to nuts, through the Omni Group's supremely bad-ass task manager. The screencast can turn an absolute OmniFocus novice into a task-managing ninja.

The screencast is fully bookmarked, nearly two and a half hours, and full of awesome. I've been working on this screencast for months now and I'm quite proud of it. You can learn more and buy it for $10 from here. Below is a sample video.


The Presentations Field Guide is Now Shipping

I'm pleased to announce the Presentations Field Guide on is now shipping. The initial response has been fantastic and the book is currently at the top of the charts in the iBooks Store.

I spent a lot of time on the design and this book looks fantastic. Readers already are reporting they love the new design and layout. The content also came out great walking you through planning and giving a presentation in addition to all the parts you'll be doing on your Mac and iPad.

The book is available in the iBooks and PDF formats. If you've been waiting, now is the time to go get it. I've got screenshots, the promo video, and a full description right here. 

New MacSparky Field Guide: Presentations

I'm pleased to announce the newest MacSparky Field Guide, Presentations.

Most presentations are terrible. That, however, does not need to be the case for your presentations. This book explains how to create your own exceptional presentation. This Presentations Field Guide explains how to plan a presentation that will connect with your audience, the technical wizardry to create a stunning presentation, and walks you through presentation day to make sure it goes off without a hitch. The book was built entirely in iBooks Author. There are more than 30 screencasts, audio interviews, and other rich media assets to help you make your next presentation riveting. The material is accessible to beginners and power users alike with a thoughtful, fun, and systematic approach to planning, creating, and delivering a stellar presentation.

This is the first book to reflect the new MacSparky Field Guide design and it's gorgeous. Here are a few screenshots. 

The book is now available for Pre-Order and shipping on July 21, 2014. Also, here's the first ever video trailer for one of my books.

Email Version 1.1 Ships

Back when I was doing traditional print books, it made me nuts that something would change a week after my book shipped and there was nothing I could do about it. One of the things I love about publishing my books through the iBookstore is the ability to update them. This lets me fix mistakes and add new content.

Email version 1.1 is now available for download. If you bought it in the iBookstore, you should see the update icon in your iBooks app. It’s a big download so make sure you’re on WiFi and have some time on your hands.

I’m still finishing up the custom PDF version of Email 1.1. That will be going up this weekend.

A partial list of the updates include the following:

  • Better controls on the audio interviews
  • Fixed misguided confusion between carbon paper and mimeograph
  • Fixed Screencast 4.20
  • Changed the recommended write order
  • Converted Email Port list into a Table
  • Added Apple Mail archive keyboard combination
  • Rewrote the description of MailMate based on recent developments
  • Added additional screenshots to the Outlook Gallery
  • Added explanation of yearly archives

Speaking of udpates, version 1.4 of Paperless and version 1.2 of Markdown are both nearly done and will ship in January. These updates will include new screencasts, content, and other bits of love and affection.

Apple and Indie Publishers

Today the Wall Street Journal did a piece about how the government has been screwing with Apple over the iBooks store. Even though I'm a lawyer, I've never practiced anti-trust law and I'm baffled by what is going on. However, I do have some observations from my vantage point as a publisher.

Apple Made it Possible for Me to Make Awesome Books

When I first started writing Paperless, the iBooks store did not exist. There were no snazzy tools for me to incorporate rich-media with text and I was facing up to the fact that I was going to have to Frankenstein ePub and PDF to get what a wanted, a book that not only told you how but also showed you how. I spent weeks researching and testing and still didn't have it nailed down. Then Apple announced iBooks Author and the iBooks store and I immediately abandoned all prior efforts and jumped to the new platform. iBooks Author gives me exactly what I need to publish the books I want to make. 

Apple Treats Indie Authors With Respect

Apple didn't only give me the authoring tools, they also provided me the ability to distribute the books. Getting hooked into the iBooks store system was not an insurmountable task, even for a small indie publisher like me. I've sold a lot more books through the iBooks store than I ever would have going it on my own. Moreover, Apple supports indie authors. Don't believe me? Here is a screenshot from the iBooks Store home page taken earlier today.

Screenshot 2013-12-06 14.46.57.png

Amazon's initial author royalty was just 35%. To make $7, I'd need to sell my books for $20. It wasn't until Apple's looming arrival that Amazon upped that to 70%, matching the App Store. Amazon's 70% royalty, however, comes with a catch. Amazon also charges authors a "download fee". The fee is currently $ 0.15 per MB. With my 1GB sized media-rich books, my download fee would be $150 per book.

That's right. $150.

So to earn my $7, I would need to sell the book for $160 with $150 in delivery costs payable to Amazon and an additional $3 to Amazon for its cut of the royalty. Looking at this page, it looks as if Amazon has an option where they will waive the delivery cost if I agree to give them 65% of the sale. Both of these options are a raw deal for us authors.

Apple serves up my 1GB book and takes 30% of my sale. There is no wonky accounting and I get my $7 for every $10 book. Moreover, Apple earns that $3 by developing my publishing tool, keeping the lights on at the iBooks Store, and covering the cost of serving 1GB sized books to every customer.

How the United States Government can figure this is anti-competitive is still lost on me. Without Apple entering the market, I simply would not be able to publish the MacSparky Field Guides.

MacCast and MacVoices Appearances

Two of my favorite podcasts are Adam Christianson's MacCast and Chuck Joiner's MacVoices.

The MacCast was the first legitimate Mac podcast. Adam has been producing his show with his pleasant mix of news and tips for years. I joined Adam to talk about the Email Field Guide and my experiences with iBooks and self publishing.

Chuck Joiner is the James Lipton of the Mac community with his regular interviews of Mac and Apple luminaries. Chuck lowered his standards to let me on the show this week to also talk about Email. I feel privileged to be on both of these shows. 

More on the Email Field Guide

Screenshot 2013-11-14 11.17.30.png

The initial reception for the new Email Field Guide has been fantastic. I’ve already received some great emails from readers explaining how the book has changed their game and feedback like that pushes every single one of my buttons.

There is an error in the book with respect to Screencast 4.20. I’ve posted the missing screencast on Vimeo and I’ve got it at the bottom of this post. I’ll fix this problem with the 1.1 update that will ship in December. If you haven’t bought the book, watch the screencast anyway so you can get an idea of its content. There are 36 separate screencasts in the book showing how to use different email technologies.

Over the weekend, the Mac Power Users published a new episode about email. I promise it’s not a one hour commercial for the book but instead some real practical tips for making email easier.

I honestly believe the MacSparky Field Guides are some of the best work I’ve done in my life. Thank you again everyone for supporting me in this.

The Email Field Guide

I just published the fourth MacSparky Field Guide. This one is all about email. I've spent most of the past year looking very closely at email and how it works. This new book explains the best methods, technologies, services, apps, and workflows to make email work for you.

There are over 300 pages and nearly 1.5 hours of video screencasts and 200 screenshots as I walk you through. I've also included several audio interviews with friends including Serenity Caldwell, Rob Corddry, Merlin Mann, Fraser Speirs, Jeff Taekman, Aisha Tyler, David Wain, and Gabe Weatherhead, that provide even more perspective on the best ways to tackle email.

The book features a new craftsman-style design and is illustrated by Mike Rohde. In a lot of ways, this book feels like the culmination of everything I've learned along the way. I'm really proud of this book and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it. It is available in the iBooks Store and PDF for $9.99.


Buy the iBooks Store Version of the Email Field Guide


Buy the PDF Version of the Email Field Guide


Visit the Website


Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 7.34.24 AM.png

Yesterday was a great day for the MacSparky Field Guides. Markdown launched with a lot of success. I really enjoyed the twitter stream and feedback about the book. I particularly liked the tweets and email from people who always wanted to try Markdown and found this book the way to get them over the hump.

When Eddie and I first decided to do a book on Markdown, several nerd-friends told us we were nuts and that Markdown was such a niche topic that nobody would care. I think just the opposite. I think Markdown is a technology that needs to find its way to non-geeks and that's why we wrote the book.

At a deeper level, I enjoy writing and distributing these books so very much. In a lot of ways, it feels like the best work I've done of my lifetime. Thank you everyone for supporting me in this.

What's up next?

I am going to issue an update to Paperless. Several technologies and workflows have changed since the last update last September. You can expect that pretty soon.

As for the next big Field Guide, I've already got a big pile of words towards it and I'm looking forward to really digging in. The subject is another one of my personal crusades and I can't wait to share it with you. You'll probably see it sometime in the summer (hopefully early summer).

Thanks again everyone for supporting me on the MacSparky Field Guides.

New Field Guide: Markdown

Hey everybody, I just pushed the button on my newest MacSparky Field Guide.


I co-wrote this book with Eddie Smith and I'm really proud of it.

Markdown started as a clever way to write for the web but has become so much more. This book demystifies Markdown, making it easy for anybody to learn. This book includes 130 pages and 27 screencasts totaling more than one and a half hours of video. There is also an additional hour of audio interviews. This book will take you from zero knowledge of Markdown to being a Markdown pro and change the way you write for the better.

I've learned a great deal writing these Field Guides and I'm really happy with this book. Chapters include an explanation of why Markdown is important and why you should learn to write with it; full text and screencast walkthroughs of all the major components of Markdown (including cheat sheets), app and workflow recommendations for the Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, and the web; advanced markdown techniques and tricks (including automation); and audio interviews with some of my favorite Markdown writers including Merlin Mann, Fletcher Penney, Brett Terpstra, Federico Viticci, and Gabe Weatherhead.

The book is built with iBooks Author and has all of the rich media you've come to expect from the MacSparky Field Guides. The book costs $10 and is available now in 51 countries and PDF. Get it while it's hot.

Learn more at the Markdown webpage.

Japan? Check.

Starting today Paperless and 60 Mountain Lion Tips are on sale in 51 countries, including Japan. I love that a little guy like me can publish in 51 countries.

New MacSparky Field Guide Markets

Yesterday I was able to publish Paperless and 60 Mountain Lion Tips in 18 additional countries including Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Panama, Peru, and Venuzuela. The book is now available in 50 countries. I love that a nerdy guy like me can do this. Thanks everyone.