home screens

Home Screens: Lon Seidman

This week’s home screen features You-Tuber Lon Seidman (YouTube) (Twitter) (Facebook). Lon does video reviews of technology products and he loves his iPhone. So Lon, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

I spend most of my time using the Inbox app for managing my Gmail accounts, OmniFocus (of course!) for managing my life, the YouTube creator app for my channel’s analytics and engagement, Downcast for listening to Mac Power Users and many other podcasts, and a bunch of social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

These days it’s Pac-Man 256 - a Pac-Man endless runner that’s probably the best retro inspired game I’ve played in a long time. And I will admit I look at Facebook quite a bit too. But it’s smart enough to know I am only interested in seeing pictures of dogs and babies.

What app makes you most productive?

Google’s Inbox app. It’s similar in some ways to Mailbox from Dropbox, but it does some things better like bulk categorization of mail for easy sortation. So unlike the lousy Gmail tabs, the Inbox method is to display those bulk categories into inline groupings that expand within the inbox stream. Really slick and very easy to quickly review messages.

The app works great across all of the many platforms I use (including the web) and has really helped bring some sanity to how I go through my email box. The workflow is so efficient that I can pop in quickly and keep things neat and tidy throughout the day. It also lets me create custom groupings based on specific tags.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I am sure I am not alone in saying Workflow is tremendously underutilized on my iPhone. I am starting to find more and more uses for it which is great but I know it can do a lot more than what I’m currently tasking it with.

What is the app you are still missing?

That’s a good question. I wish I was smart enough to think of the app that I’m missing so I can invent it and have a very profitable exit!

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

My iPhone constantly - especially because I can “tend the garden” of my three email accounts very quickly and efficiently while waiting on a line, etc. The funny thing is that since I bought my iPhone 6 I am using the iPad less. The larger screen on the 6 vs. the 5s it replaced was just enough to take some tasks away from the iPad.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I have never been much of a widget guy so my today view isn’t something I look at often. I do find the Plugshare app’s view of nearby electric car charging stations really useful. That’s primarily what I use the today screen for if I’m traveling and looking for some free juice for my ride.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The first thing that came to mind with this question was Touch ID. It has probably saved me hours over the course of the year by not having to type in my passcode over and over again. Every time I test phones and tablets on competing platforms it’s the first thing I miss having.

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

I would be less restrictive with the things users can do on the platform. A great example is comparing something like the Android-based Nvidia Shield TV to the Apple TV. Google is much more flexible in allowing apps like game and computer emulators, and other apps that do things to help third party apps work better together or with the underlying OS.

It would be nice for Apple to treat iOS like the Mac and give users the option to install apps from sources other than the app-store eco system. I know they are mindful of security but there are a lot of fun things I can do on Android that I can’t do on Apple without jailbreaking.

Do you have an Apple Watch?

I do! It’s funny I didn’t think I was going to use the Apple Watch much but now it’s part of my routine. I like the small conveniences it provides as well as the fitness tracking. Apple Pay on the watch is amazing and I use it all the time.

I recently switched to a traditional watch face after using the modular one for awhile. My daughter always requests the butterfly version so that’s in rotation too.

I should have opted for the sapphire face vs. the glass as I already have a gash in mine :-(.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

My wallpaper is a picture of my daughter I took the day she was born. It’s the best photo I’ve ever taken which also happens to be of my favorite subject :).

Anything else you’d like to share?

I am continually in awe of my 2012 Macbook Pro Retina. It is in use helping me work probably 12–16 hours a day. It’s my primary desktop computer for my day job (plugged into a Thunderbolt dock) and is what I use for editing all of my YouTube videos. I have never owned a computer that’s been this useful for so long since my Apple II from the 80’s. I will likely replace it when the Skylake version comes out as I am starting to do more with 4k video.

My Home Screen: iOS 9 Edition

While I'm usually featuring someone else's home screen, with the release of iOS 9 and a few other developments, I thought I'd share my own home screen today. So, here goes.

My home screen is always in motion. For example, the Notes app is currently in my dock because I'm still testing it as a potential full-time notes solution. Camera is likewise in the dock because the 3D touch buttons on the Photos application icon make keeping the app on my home screen suddenly relevant again. Audible is another example. I don't usually keep it on the home screen but I've been listening to James Corey's Expanse Series so I want quick access.

Drafts is still a thing for me. Even with iOS 9, I like the ability to start dictating text with one press. I also admire the way Drafts keeps evolving to take advantage of new iOS features. It's now 3D touch-friendly.

Unread is under new management but still manages to hold onto the whimsey that makes it my RSS tool of choice.

About two months ago, I got tired of looking at Tweetbot on the iPad and switched over to the native Twitter app. About the time I started figuring out the official app, Tweetbot released its new version with much better iPad support and I went back without thinking twice.

1Password is another application that I like to keep on my home screen. I've got so much data in there and want easy access. Secure notes are a great feature in 1Password if you want to keep something important behind a separate security wall.

I haven't decided if the App Store deserves to be on home screen but with all the post-iOS 9 app updates, it's going to stay there for at least the next month.

The strangest development is that my home screen is now my only screen. Katie Floyd made the suggestion in a recent episode of Mac Power Users. She split all her additional apps into just 4 folders. I tried it and was skeptical at first but I think I'm sold. The folders are Productivity, Reference, Utility, and Fun, I've put the most frequently used apps in each category in that first page and I can now get to my favorite apps without swiping away from the home screen.

My wallpaper is another thing constantly in motion. The current one is a picture of a gray brick wall that I like (for now).

If I were in charge at Apple, I'd continue to give iOS more power-user features. I understand how they want to keep things simple but as iOS evolves, the operating system needs more power tools. 3D Touch is a great start. It's easy to use and easily ignorable. More of that please.

Home Screens: Brian Sutich

Brian Sutich (Twitter) is a huge Apple guy who writes over at TheAppFactor.com and Sutich.org. Brian’s a man of many hats as a dad, musician, and audio engineer. So Brian, show us your home screen.

My homescreen is a little crazy, but it has a method to its madness. I try to put my most used apps where I can reach them, and I use Spotlight search so much, that it almost doesn’t matter where the icons are at this point.

What are some of your favorite apps?

I’ve installed 1Password on every device I own, and that coupled with TextExpander are auto-installs I couldn’t live without because of how much time they save me.

Speaking of time-savers, Slack came out of nowhere and now I’m subscribed to multiple channels. I enjoy it a heck of a lot more than email, and I’ve met some great folks through using it. 

I left Spotify this year for Apple Music, and I haven’t had any of the problems yet (fingers crossed) that people have complained about. I love Apple Music because of their catalog, Beats 1, and the curation. I have big hopes for the app as it gets updated. 

For photography I use a combination of Obscura to take photos, and Pixelmator to edit them. Those apps are so powerful at this point, that they truly feel desktop-class. 

For journaling and trying to figure life out, I’m using Day One. I love the design on both iOS and OS X. I try to journal as much as possible and I’ve found it has had a huge positive impact on my life. 

I’m also using Paprika for collecting recipes I’m looking to try and cook. I haven’t burned anything yet!

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

It has to be a tie between Tweetbot and Overcast. I check Twitter more than I’d like to admit and Tweetbot has been my favorite client on iOS and OS X. I’m subscribed to tons of podcasts in Overcast (so I can listen to alllll the great shows), and some months I listen to more podcasts than I do music. I can’t wait for the update to Overcast, but I also have my eye on what’ll happen with the new version of Castro.

What app makes you most productive?

For getting stuff done, it’s a combination of FantasticalTodoist and Due. Each app gives me something different for long term, medium, and short term tasks I have to get done. 

On the writing side, I’d say it’s a combination of EditorialBlink, and Clips. All great apps that help me put together an article right on my iPhone.

Finally, Nike +Pedometer ++ and Get Moving have all helped me in my quest to get in shape. I just finished my first 10K this month! 

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Definitely Pythonista. I know it’s a powerhouse, and I’m trying to learn the language a bit every day. Slowly but surely I’m using it more and more. I need to read more Dr. Drang!

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

Quite a bit. I love my 128 GB iPhone, and I guess you could call me an app hoarder. At the time of this post, my installed app count was nearing 700 apps. I’m always looking to try something new to see what sticks.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I’m using a bunch. Some of my favorites are Launcher, which I use to launch directions to home, Shazam a song, open Apple Music and more. I also use Carrot Weather, which has a detailed and good looking forecast. I use Clips and Drafts to manipulate text. I use Shipments to track anything headed to my house, and I use Today Steps to see my step count info.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

My favorite feature is that it truly has become a mini computer that allows me to do just about anything. While the iPhone and iPad haven’t replaced my Mac yet, they’re not far off from being able to handle anything you throw at them.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

It’s an amazing Empire Strikes Back movie poster zoomed in. It combines both my love of Star Wars and the color orange. (Two gold stars to Brian! -David)

Anything else you’d like to share?

Apple devices have literally changed my life. It’s so great we can share what makes us productive and happy. Thanks so much for having me, it’s an honor!

Thanks Brian!

Home Screen: Jazz Pianist Bob Karty

This week’s home screen features geek and jazz pianist Bob Karty (Website). I’ve been corresponding with Bob via email for some time. For years, Bob has been a sideman, playing with some of the best jazz acts in the San Francisco Bay area. Bob is now running this Kickstarter project to fund his own album and I thought it would be a great opportunity to look at Bob’s favorite music apps. So Bob, let’s see it.

I’m a professional jazz pianist and a music teacher, and I use my iPad a lot every day.

I use play-along tracks both for my own practicing and with my students. The tracks are in my iTunes library, which is stored on a Synology DS212j network drive. I play the tracks via Synology’s DS File app on my iPad, and the audio streams to a Marantz AV7005 pre-pro with built-in Air Play. It’s wonderful to have instant access to not only the play-alongs but my entire music library.

For casual listening, I use Synology’s DS Audio app.

If a play-along track is at a tempo that’s too fast for a student, or if they’re playing a song for which there’s no commercially-available play-along, I use an app called iReal Pro. iReal Pro consists of chord charts and a MIDI playback engine which reads the charts and plays them back using drums, bass, and piano or guitar sounds. You can instantly change a song’s key and tempo. The playback engine includes a mixer, so pianists turn off the piano track and practice along with bass and drums.

Most of the bands I work with have their own printed music charts of original songs. But if someone sits in and wants to sing a jazz standard I don’t know, the charts in iReal Pro come in handy.

In teaching Afro-Cuban/salsa/Latin jazz piano, I have students play along with rhythm accompaniment from an app called Salsa Rhythm. Originally designed for dancers, it’s very useful for musicians too. Pianists need to learn how to fit into the complex grooves in a very specific way, and this app is a great aid to that process.

Another app I use frequently is the Yamaha Metronome. There are many metronome apps, but this is my favorite - simple, straightforward, and accurate. You’d think a metronome would be accurate by definition, but I found one that wasn’t true, despite claims by the developer that it was “the most accurate” in the app store.

For students of music theory, I often recommend the Interval Ear Trainer module in an app called Tenuto. Tenuto contains drills and exercises for learning theory, while its companion app, Theory Lessons, covers the lessons. The Ear Trainer plays a musical interval, and you tap on the screen to identify it. It’s customizable to adapt to different skill levels, and students have a lot of fun with it.

A couple of brief mentions of clever and useful apps for audio engineers: Speaker Angle helps you set the toe-in angle of your monitor speakers, which helps improve the sound. Stereo Mic Tools uses the iPhone or iPad’s camera to help you position microphones in stereo recording configurations, which require precision positioning in order to capture the sound accurately.

Home Screen Post: Chelsea Cook

This week’s home screen features Chelsea Cook. Chelsea is an impressive young woman. She has a physics degree from Virginia Tech, has given her very own TED talk, and happens to be blind. Chelsea enjoys astronomy, reading, and creative writing. Her ultimate goal is to become an astronaut who writes poetry in space. Chelsea also loves her iPhone. So Chelsea, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Wow, that’s hard, as I’m always downloading and trying out new ones. I like Downcast and ooTunes for audio, FlightView for tracking flights and gates at the airport (sometimes faster than the airlines and mitigates having to ask gate agents if you know the airport), and Check the Weather because it tells you the weather forecast so precisely without having to swipe through a bunch of information. It also includes “feels like” temperatures, which is important in the high humidity-environment of the east Coast.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Definitely iAssociate 2. The developer has made a great effort at making the game both VoiceOver-friendly and fun to play. I bounce back and forth between different games to help me get to sleep, (another one is 2048) but I always come back to this one. When I’m in the mood for something humorous, I’ll pop open the Cracked Reader

What app makes you most productive?

Sometimes it’s more the general features of the iPhone. When I got Siri, my productivity went way up, as it was just easier to add something to my calendar or make a reminder by voice than by typing. Siri helps in my homework as well by looking up astronomical conversions for me that I just put into a calculator as she reads them back. If I had to choose an app, though, I’d say… Mail. Before the iPhone, I was chained to my computer for email, and that was not very convenient for picking up things on the other side of campus. Now, I plan my day around my inbox in real time. Mail helps me manage the deluge, but also is a quick way for professors to communicate with me if they’ve gone out for coffee and I can’t read the note on the office door. I always hated carrying cash until I got the LookTel Money Reader; I didn’t want to carry around another device just to read bills, and this app is quick and accurate. My iPhone is with me all the time, so my currency reader is with me all the time, too. (I LOVE ApplePay for so many reasons, but the convenience and privacy can’t be beat anywhere else.)

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

For sure: Workflow1Password, and blindSquare. Touch ID would probably make 1Password a whole lot easier to use. I like Workflow a lot, but have to be creative and spend some time actually thinking up things to do. And blindSquare is a multi-featured GPS solution that, combined with AppleMaps, has a lot of power and a lot of layers.

What is the app you are still missing?

The iPhone has opened up the world of apps so that as the device gets better, the apps get better; most of the specialized devices I used to carry around in a backpack now fit in my pocket. I still think the touch screen has huge potential to display mathematical content like matrices or graphs in a way that can be spatially understood by someone who is blind, similar to how you know where the icons on the home screen are. I know this is not an easy thing to code, but a VoiceOver-friendly graphing calculator or matrix manipulator would be awesome!

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

Almost all the time. iOS is so powerful and has so much potential. I use my iPhone when I’m out and the iPad when I’m home or traveling, because of that long battery life. I love having a charged phone to get me to my destination after a long drive or flight. My poor MacBook air is usually relegated to the tasks of “heavy duty”, “long session”, or “needs hardware keyboard”. 

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

Today view is one of those underutilized features for me, because I don’t want it to get too cluttered. I mainly use Calendar and Dropbox, to see if events and assignments have appeared yet. I find the interface to be a bit clunky for some apps, and spend more time in there than I would like.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

Easily the versatility of these devices. I’ve always hated carrying around many devices (worrying about charging them, losing them, not having the right one for the job), so have been firmly entrenched in that “one device to rule them all” camp. Need a GPS? iPhone. Book reader? all different books in one place on the 128 GB iPad. So for me, it’s not one feature, but all of them, nicely wrapped up in a single, shiny package.

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

Another loaded question. I’d demolish and rework iTunes on the Mac—but that’s for another post. I wouldn’t sacrifice performance or features for thinness, particularly in some of their machines. An iPad or a laptop makes perfect sense to be thin and light; a desktop Mac does not. (Can you tell I miss the SuperDrive in the old iMacs?) I would also want desperately to fix the television interfaces, or at least unleash the content from cable providers, especially their audio-described content. I know there has been a general trend (in both blind and sighted communities) griping about apple’s software lacking in quality, and I am glad to see that they are addressing it, so hopefully my small software pain points and bugs will go away.

Do you have an Apple Watch? Show us your watch face tell us about it.

My AppleWatch is growing on me, as I figured it would. When I’m having fun or feeling geeky, I love showing off the astronomy face and entertaining questions about our universe. When I want to be practical the rest of the time, I find the Modular face for me to be a good balance of information, provided you choose your complications carefully. I can’t wait to really take the appleWatch for a walk in a big city and release the power of maps. Oh, and add “tactile way of telling the time!!!” to the Apple changes above. I love having access to Siri on my wrist for things like quick texts and cooking timers. This device has been a long time coming, and it can only get better.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I changed it when iOS 8 dropped, so don’t exactly remember which is my home screen and which is my lock screen anymore, but I always put in the space or astronomy-themed wallpapers. Something to do with galaxies this time around.

Anything else you’d like to share?

When I say iOS devices have been life changing, I’m not understating that. I can go to a new city and navigate independently. I can take pictures of money and documents without having to ask someone to read them to me. I can use the Internet and apps to collect all kinds of information that was previously unavailable or very hard to find and I can connect to a community who really cares about interfaces and experiences. I believe all those things, and more about the iPhone. Thanks, David, for giving me this opportunity.

Oh, and if people want to find more about my work, they can watch a TEDX video of me playing with 3D math shapes.

Home Screens: Maury Hill

This week's home screen features Maury Hill (Twitter). Maury spends most of his time developing CRM tools for Windows at MetaStock but also happens to be a big Mac nerd. As Maury explained to me, he does Windows development from his retina MacBook and iOS devices via Jump Desktop. Go Maury! So, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

OmniFocusDrafts, and iThoughts. My brain could not relax without the ability to get things off my mind, view them when necessary, and just plain lay things out before my eyes. I also love using Overcast to discover all things Apple from MPU

I have to mention Due and the harassment it delivers, helping me to get the easy to ignore, day to day things done. What would I do if I forgot my pills or laundry?

I also have to confess I’m having an affair with Siri. I talk to it all day long on all of my devices, including the Watch. 

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

TweetBot and Reeder. I spend far too much time in these apps. Reeder is essential to stay up to date, but Tweetbot lets me peer into the lives of other geeks like me. I can also complain to app developers. 

Honestly, I wish there were Desert Golf scholarships when I went to school. I just need to delete that app. 

What app makes you most productive?

This is on the verge of becoming an OmniFocus review. I have to get things off my mind to stop thinking about them. Along with Siri, this app makes it easy. OmniFocus shows me tasks when I need to see them and thanks to Review mode, which I have never found in similar apps, I can prioritize projects and focus on what’s important now. 

Continuing to regurgitate others’ posts, Drafts is also wonderful. I love it’s widget, which allows me to dump the clipboard into a new draft and use it in searches or even for processing queries in DropBox files by one of my SQL Servers, returning query results, opened via its widget. I use Hygia to accomplish that. It is “Hazel” for Windows. 

The Apple Watch helps me stay off my phone and focus on what I should be doing, which is writing more bugs. 

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

WorkflowHazel, and Editorial. I read so much about these from MacSparky, MacDrifter, and Viticci, but I just never find the time to explore them. I think the fault rests on the shoulders of the awesome newborn boy my wife and I adopted last year. :) [That’s a pretty good reasy Maury. -Sparky]

What is the app you are still missing?

Not an app, but more Siri integration. I would like VoiceOver to be more reliable for reading out notifications, and I would love to tell Overcast to play specific podcasts, or have Workflow run specific tasks with my voice. 

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

My wife could give you an exact count. I don’t think the phone leaves my hand. I’m definitely an addict in need of a disconnect.

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

I heard somewhere that only 20% of the features you release are used by 80% of your users. It certainly is true of the fruits of my code, so I cannot blame Apple for not adding “power user” features. But I wouldn’t mind if the track pad feature for the iPad came back for the iPhone and if Hey Siri were accessible even when not on power. 

I’m a grown up Apple. Let me drain my battery at light speed and fumble the cursor around. Just have a setting to disable it for everyone else!

Thanks Maury.

Home Screens: Jaco Muller

This week’s home screen post features Jaco Muller (Twitter). Jaco is a MacSparky reader and Mac Power Users listener. Jaco is also the guy that wrote this script to use my TextExpander script in Outlook. So Jaco, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Overcast must be one of my current favorites. I subscribe to 9 podcasts, most of which have episodes longer than 80 minutes. Before Overcast I couldn’t get through all the podcasts in a week’s commute time, but now it’s a breeze. I also use Mail, OmnifocusEvernote1Password and Whatsapp many times during the day.

I also think Wunderlist is absolutely fantastic. It does one thing only - managing list(s) - but does it very well. My wife and I use it for a shared shopping list and it does the job much better than Evernote. The key is that each entry on a list is being synced as a separate item, as opposed to an entire list being synced. The result is that individual entries made from different devices are updated immediately without sync errors.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

TwitterReddit and Facebook, but they’re not on my home screen because they are distracting and time consuming. I also check into Meerkat and Periscope from time to time, because I believe they can possibly evolve into apps that can change how breaking news spreads in future.

What app makes you most productive?

I use Omnifocus mainly to view the current list of tasks and to tick them off once completed. However, the simple process of adding a task into Omnifocus means that I can ‘forget’ about it and focus on the task at hand. This simple ability to add something ‘on the go’ and trust the system behind it is probably the single item that adds most to my productivity. I rarely use it for more complex purposes like reviews, adding context or details etc. to tasks.

Drafts is a close second. The ability to open it and start typing immediately works well in real life situations where one’s focus is supposed to be on something else, i.e. during a conversation or on a phone call etc.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Workflow. I know it has the potential to eliminate a lot of mundane tasks, but I haven’t sat down and spent time with it to understand it well enough. Perhaps some basic documentation or an FAQ would help - i.e. I have some unanswered questions about how variables are passed on during a workflow.

What is the app you are still missing?

Not an app, but a feature that I think may make iOS more user friendly to me, is the ability to ‘auto arrange’ apps, based on usage, time of day, etc. Of course one should be able to pin a few apps to remain static, but at the same time leave a few spaces available for dynamic auto arranging of apps. I’d just like apps that are being used more, to gravitate towards the home screen by themselves.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

I work in an office on a mac, but whenever I get up to walk somewhere, I grab the phone and catch up on social media etc.

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

It would be great if Apple could somehow use their purchase power to loosen the grip that content owners have on the distribution and licensing of content outside of the US. For those of us living outside of the US, it makes less and less sense that a movie or series is being released in the US while we only get to see it (legally) much later. In many cases it’s not even available to purchase online at all. For example, a proper online music streaming service like Spotify wasn’t available in South Africa where I live until Apple Music became available with the release of iOS8.4. I’d like to see the same happening with movies and series.

Thanks Jaco

Home Screens: Matt Alexander

Matt Alexander (Twitter) was one of the most impressive guys I met at WWDC this year. In addition to the fact Matt is a geek, he's also an entrepreneur. Most recently Matt started a few companies: Need, that specializes in curating collections of men's clothing, accessories, and lifestyle products; and Foremost, that sells limited-run, American made clothing. Lots of people have big dreams. Matt just keeps making them happen. So Matt, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

I tend to live in Fantastical, Tweetbot, Reeder, Mailbox, and Slack.

(All of which feel very obvious and dull in retrospect.)

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Snapchat or Facebook.

On the former, I feel like I'm perpetually ten years too old to be using it so frequently. I do love it, though. (And, as a side note, it's a really great tool to use as a brand.)

On the latter, it's gross and everyone hates it, but I just can't quit. I've been a member since 2005 or so and, as such, have cultivated a great deal of connections — in England (where I grew up) and the US (where I live and went to university) — whilst it has also captured a huge amount of my formative moments.

I also have the Dominos app. Which is an app for ordering Dominos pizza.

Which is bad.

What app makes you most productive? 

Well, that's rather difficult.

In many respects, I suppose, I could say Mailbox. After all, that's where I deal with the vast majority of my correspondence.

Truly, though, I think Slack is my most productive app.

We run all of Need and Foremost in Slack — and we rarely email within the company any more — so it's become my go-to mechanism to check in with the team and ensure we're on the right track.

I've got a number of our tools (e.g., Braintree, GoSquared, and ZenDesk) setup to report directly into Slack, too. So, when I'm out and about, I can quickly glance at a private channel or two and get an immediate understanding of what's happening with the company.

Fantastical also ranks highly, but I just don't rely on it as much as I do the unique characteristics of Mailbox and Slack. It's more of a much better solution than it is something entirely different.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

OmniFocus and Things are always installed. And I know I ought to be using one of the two a lot more. (I'm aware that many are yelling in favor of OmniFocus right now, too.)

Nonetheless, I struggle with staying on top of my to-do apps.

I tend to keep most of my day-to-day tasks on track without much of a system. I know people are probably shuddering, but my mind is always with me and up-to-date. My apps, on the other hand, are not.

Which is, admittedly, my fault. I'd be lying to myself, though, if I thought I'd suddenly change my habits drastically in that regard.

What is the app you are still missing?

Apps for Need and Foremost, of course.

I'm kidding. I'm not that terrible. (Although we are working on both. Hint.)

Seriously, I'd love an app that allows me to manage both of my companies a little more seamlessly. Where Slack has obviated email and brought my team much closer together, I'd love to see someone take on the broader workplace.

All of our documents and services live online, but I'd love a quick glance dashboard to gauge our traffic, sales, tasks, and so on.

Many such services exist on the desktop — Grow is a good one — where all your disparate metrics and points of interest are collated.

On my phone, though, I move between a wide selection of apps, many of which I simply ignore.

Equally, I'd settle for an app for GoSquared.

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

I live on my iPhone throughout the day. It'd be impossible to count.

With regard to the iPad, I have an iPad mini 2, but its usage is limited to reading and playing embarrassing games on the sofa.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

In order, I have Launcher at the top as a quick launch directory for Weather, Google Maps, OmniFocus (which is fittingly embarrassing), and Uber. 

I have ESPN for football scores. (The football with feet, rather than the American one with hands.)

Stocks. Because I have two companies and need to make myself feel like I know what I'm doing.

I then have Swarm, Fantastical, and MailChimp. The former two are obvious. The latter I use very simply to watch our subscriber growth each day.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

It's been said before, but I'm genuinely able to run my businesses from my iPhone.

Regardless of where I am in the world, I can rely upon my phone (for the most part) to enable me to run the day-to-day components of the company.

And that's really an amazing thing.

A massive runner-up is iMessage. As someone who moved away from home in 2006, it was always difficult for me to stay in touch with my friends for years. And then iMessage came along and it became free, easy, and built-in. It was an enormous moment for me.

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

I'd love longer battery life.

Whenever I'm traveling, I don't have all-day access to charging cables at my desk. So, I often find myself with battery anxiety.

And I refuse to use a battery case. Or a case in general. Because I'm not an animal.

I'd also love to be able to set default apps for particular tasks. I always get a little sad when I inadvertently wind up in Mail or Calendar.

I realize that'd open a can of worms for many people — and I understand that extensions help — but I'd genuinely appreciate the flexibility.

Do you have an Apple Watch?

I do, indeed. I have a 42mm Stainless Steel Apple Watch with Black Sport Band.

I use the Utility face — sans numbers — with a red seconds hand.

It's extremely minimalistic — perhaps to the point of pointlessness — but I love it.

I've always worn minimal watches — which I miss everyday when wearing the Apple Watch — and the pared down Utility face is the closest consolation I can find.

What's your wallpaper and why?

Hoyoung Lee took a photo of three Need tie bars sitting on top of a stack of Need pocket squares during our launch party in November 2013.

It's the background on every device I own.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Thanks for having me! I promise to try to improve on the productivity front.


Home Screens: Joe Buhlig

Recently I stumbled into Joe Buhlig’s Blog and got lost for an hour. Joe (Twitter) likes to write about appropriate uses of technology and I think he’s great. So Joe, show us your home screen.

Notes about my home screen

I keep it simple. My home screen is designed around the apps that make me productive. Apps that don’t (like analytics apps or social media) are buried in folders. I try to keep everything on one page - the outcome is a slim home screen and iPhone.

What are some of your favorite apps?


I’m using Drafts more and more. Every ad-hoc idea or task gets captured here. I carry note cards around but the power of Drafts has me entering my note card data into it. It can do so much auto-parsing that it’s easier to put it here as opposed to entering the metadata in other apps.


David and Katie have had a number of conversations about this app on MPU and I’m always finding new uses for it. Our youngest daughter was born a few months ago and I used Workflow to send out the announcement texts. 

Group text messages for announcements always drive me crazy. Your puppy is cute, but I really don’t need your great uncle Hank’s phone number. In an effort to be nice to my friends and relatives, I created a workflow to send the same text to every person individually. 

I added blanks to a text message for the expected details - time, height, weight, and length. When our daughter was born, I filled in the details of the message and ran the workflow. It took that base text (and picture), looped through a group of assigned people, and sent the same text message to each person separately. No group message and uncle Hank’s phone number is safe.

Launch Center Pro

At first glance, you could say that Launch Center Pro and Workflow are similar apps, but I would say that’s a miss. LCP is extremely fast at starting a task and Workflow is great at creating new functionality. I like to add my workflows as actions in LCP in order to get new functionality started extremely fast.


I don’t see TheBrain talked about much, but it helps me make interesting connections. Think of it as mind-mapping that allows you to have a different mindmap for each node you create. And you can pull nodes from other places in your Brain to create deep links within the map. 

For example, I have a map inside TheBrain for people that I’ve met. I also have a map of places in the world in the same Brain (it’s nice that computers now allow us to have more than one brain). I can connect each person to a location. But I can also connect them to mindsets that we have in common or favorite drinks. The next time I go to New York, TheBrain helps me remember that John is out there. I dig deeper and see that he prefers a macchiato at Starbucks. So I set up a side meeting with John for coffee and talk about his recent trip to Utah.


You know it’s a great app when you use it constantly and yet forget about it. 1Password is that way for me. I use it on all of my devices every day. I’m lost if I have to type in a password somewhere. Even copy/pasting a password is weird anymore. If a new app doesn’t allow me to log in with 1Password, I’m prone to dropping it and finding one that does.


Once you use TextExpander you’ll wonder why you didn’t pick it up sooner. From typing my email address to writing long-form email responses to lipsums, it’s integral to my use of Apple devices.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Editorial is one of the more recent additions to my home screen. Just like Workflow and Launch Center Pro, Editorial can be a time suck. There are so many ways to alter text from my phone now. Editorial has single-handedly led me to consider a keyboard case for my iPad. 

What app makes you most productive?

Drafts. It helps me stay on task by making it easy to get things out of my head. Naturally, OmniFocus would be a close second, but keeping me on task is a lot harder than deciding which task.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Drafts, Workflow, and Launch Center Pro. I use them all the time, but I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what they can do. If I would spend more time with these apps instead of goofing on Twitter I might create something unique with them.

What is the app you are still missing?

I would like to know how much time I spend in each app. Maybe iOS 9 will open the door to this, but I’d like to have some way for it to alert me after a designated amount of time in a given app. Something that helps me control my iPhone habit. 

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

Too many. I catch myself checking it any time I have a few seconds.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

Touch ID. It’s so easy to keep your phone (and many apps) locked and yet really easy to get into. This feature makes apps like 1Password magical. 

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

I’d like to see Apple spend some time perfecting the interplay mechanisms. AirPlay, AirDrop, and Handoff are great concepts. I just don’t find myself using them very often because they’re unreliable.

Deeper connectivity between apps. It sounds like we’re getting some of this with the Universal Links in iOS 9, but allowing developers deeper access to the system could open things up. It could allow Workflow and Launch Center Pro to gain power, make my app tracker possible, and start to make “iOS only” people more common.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

It’s one of the stock Apple wallpapers. I like using a dark background on any app I can. It keeps my phone from being a light bulb and makes it easier on my eyes.

Anything else you’d like to share?

As I was writing this, I realized that my iPhone is all about getting work done. That’s not necessarily bad, but breaks are important. My home screen proves I’m not the best at slowing down. Maybe I need an app for that.

Thanks Joe.

Home Screens: Joe Darnell

This week’s home screen features Joe Darnell (Twitter) (Blog). Joe produces the TechTonic podcast where he and Josua Peiffer talk about technology. Joe also harnesses all of his geeky superpowers to talk about coffee at Top Brew. You may know of Joe from his creation of the popular “Focus” wallpapers, that I still use. So Joe, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Well, my home screen is a great representation of all my favorites. I start the day with Unread, use Overcast throughout, and after dark I’ll be deep within my Instapaper queue. At some point, all the other home screen apps are utilized for their intended purposes almost every day. 

Everyone I know likes to talk about their favorite Twitter or photo apps. They are important, for sure, but I’d rather highlight others that don’t get the attention that they deserve. Of note…


My favorite music genre is movie soundtracks. They’re far more entertaining than classical music, and they’re easy to listen to while you’re at work — rarely are there lyrics that demand my attention. 

It’s not the most popular genre, let me tell you, so music services don’t especially serve my tastes. As I write this, I’m listening to the Tron: Legacy original motion picture soundtrack by Daft Punk. Then I’ll probably segway into The Bourne Supremacy’s by John Powell. In general, I’ve found that Rdio meets my interests: a readable interface and a wide range of albums.

Rdio’s is the most visually attractive of popular music services, in my opinion. Their design was reminiscent of OS X Yosemite’s and iOS 7’s flat design before they were introduced in 2013. Rdio seamlessly works the way I want my music, even though it’s missing a few albums I would love, like the Cloud Atlas soundtrack.

I was turned on to Rdio by this video by Sandwich Video. 


This is another app that I discovered thanks to a great videoThunderspace features immersive thunderstorm and rain sounds that improve the quality of momentary relaxation and meditation. If I have a few minutes to spare on my schedule and it’s been a stressful day, I’ll find a dimly lit room, kick back, and listen to a thunderstorm for ten minutes. Very quickly I’ll unwind and clear my head.

Thunderspace isn’t essential to how I use my iPhone, but I have to say it has been one of the more effective apps. The sounds are rich, the interface demonstrates the developers’ thoughtful creativity, and I’m very happy to pay for each of the audio tracks — some of the best in-app purchases I’ve ever made.


This app is well known, but it’s impact shouldn’t be overlooked. I purchased my first iPhone with Instapaper in mind. Before Instapaper, I wasn’t convinced that I would get enough value from an iPhone. But for many years, I’ve juggled articles ‘saved for later’. On average, I read ten articles and watch three videos a day with Instapaper’s help.

With my Apple Watch, I’m using Instapaper and Overcast similarly. While exercising or doing the dishes, I’ll listen to Instapaper articles read aloud by Siri and control playback via the Watch. There’s a world of difference between how I mentally process articles I’ve heard versus articles I’ve read. When I’m listening to more sophisticated articles, I’m convinced I retain information better.

What app is your guilty pleasure?

At present, I’m subscribed to 47 podcasts using Overcast, so that has to be my guilty pleasure. But it’s more like my guiltless pleasure since my shoulder angel seems to like podcasts almost as much as I do.

Most of the time, I listen to all of my subscriptions’ new episodes from week to week. Just occasionally, I’ll skim some of the lengthier episodes. Overcast works exceptionally well for this, thanks to Smart Speed and regular playback Speed controls that maintain the quality of audio while accelerating the overall content. This way, podcasts don’t sound rushed even when they technically are. Since I downloaded Overcast in July 2014, I’ve saved ‘an extra 97 hours beyond speed adjustments alone’.

What app makes you most productive?

That’s got to be Fantastical. On my Mac, the no-brainer answer would be OmniFocus, but in the way I work and flow through the day with my iPhone, I get more done with Fantastical’s help.

But it wasn’t always this way. It took me a long time to warm up to Fantastical. I thought it was good on the Mac, but just okay on the iPhone. Once I had customized the app to my liking — hidden Reminders items, etc. — Fantastical made good sense. I plan each day using Calendar, OmniFocus, and Fantastical, then keep up with my schedule with Fantastical.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

That’s got to be iBooks (and the Kindle) app. I love reading and believe that books are rich resources. I keep iBooks or the Kindle on my home screen while I’m reading through a book that’s downloaded in the respective e-reader. 

Even so, I don’t read half as much as I would like. I’m a slow reader and it takes me forever to complete a book. Many people are concerned that they cannot focus on a good read with their smartphone, but I haven’t found this to be my problem. Once I’m reading, I’m likely to stay in a book for as long as I like. Making the time to read in the first place is the real challenge. 

Whether I successfully read or not, I prefer to read books using my iPhone and iPad. You know how Apple used to boast of the iPod’s “1,000 songs in your pocket.” I like the idea of 1,000 books in my pocket, too.

What is the app you’re still missing?

I’d like a professional level digital audio recording solution. The built-in mic and Voice Memos app don’t cut it. They work in a pinch for temporary files, but considering the level of quality I’ve come to expect from other features and apps, I want the iPhone to be a handy audio recorder that I would use for podcasts and presentations.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone, iPad, and by extension your Watch?

My ballpark figure would is forty times a day. Now that I use an Apple Watch, It’s not as often as it used to be. My iPad eats away at my time on my Mac, the iPhone eats away at my time on the iPad, and the Watch eats away at my time on my iPhone. And if I had to pick just one of them for all uses and I couldn’t have the others, I would pick the iPhone. Then I would use it about a thousand times a day. It’s incredibly versatile.

What Today View widgets are helping you out?

Originally, I thought that the Today View would be empowering, but it’s overshadowed by the usefulness of the Apple Watch’s Glances. I use several of those in the place of iPhone Widgets. In my Watch’s Glances, I use Settings, Now Playing, Overcast, Dark Sky, Fantastical, OmniFocus, Pedometer++, Activity, and Heartbeat.

If only Apple would liberate third party apps a little more, I think that Widgets would become very compelling. Presently they’re handicapped, so I will usually opt to use the app itself rather than its Widget.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

The iPod within. Honestly, playing podcasts is the feature I use the iPhone for all day long, so I don’t know what I’d do without it. Apple said it’s an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. I still see it as the best iPod I’ve ever owned, more so than I’ve ever regarded it as a phone for phone’s sake.

Can we see your Apple Watch face?

Sure! I’m still growing accustom to this smartwatch idea, but there’s no greater accessory in my life. I’ve always been a watch wearer. I recommend other watch wearers use a smartwatch if for no other reason than they handle much more than the time and date.

Analog versus digital? Because I’m a designer that enjoys the charm of classic interfaces. The purple accent color? Because purple is my favorite, though red and orange on the watch face look great, too. 3, 6, 9 and 12? Because I can’t tell the time quickly without them.

The Watch Complications aren’t completely satisfying, yet they’re still useful. The temperature of my current location is in the top left. My not-so active Activity complication is in the top right. At the bottom is the current event in my iCloud calendar. 

What’s your wallpaper and why?

Here’s where it gets really nerdy, so I wouldn’t blame you if you stop reading at this point. Consider the rest of this article in podcasting lingo the ‘after dark’. 

I think that not enough thought goes into background pictures. They can be artistic, and most people think the background is there to be art for art’s sake. I strongly disagree, because the home screen is your tool box. Think of the background as the base of the toolbox. It can be visually interesting, but it shouldn’t ever be noisy and call attention away from your apps (the tools in the box).

Some backgrounds that come with iOS 8 are attention-getting in a mediocre way. They do well for marketing promotional shots of iPhones on bill boards, but they’re not user friendly on a person’s actual home screen. I prefer for my iPhone’s background to stay in the background yet look very pleasing.

I design my own background wallpapers. I created the Focus Collection: a series of simple wallpapers that are gradiated, out of focus, inspired by Yosemite’s design characteristics, and draw attention away from themselves. Presently, I’m using Mountains 1 in Focus Collection II.

Anything else you would like to share?

Well, since you asked, I’m one of those people that thinks about color groups, related services, categorical order, and an overall aesthetically readable app icon layout. my home screen organization is forever a work in progress, because a new app will be released, like say, Spark or Activity, and I have to move everything to give the newcomers a sensible placement. App layout is part art and part law-abiding science, so the two are never completely satisfied. It can be frustrating to waste time reordering icons to find the right mix of ideals, but once I’ve found what I want, I enjoy visiting my home screen that much more. And I can find stuff without using Spotlight as an app launcher.…

Thanks Joe.

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?


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.


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.

Home Screens: MacSparky in 2015

This week I thought I'd feature my own home screen. So here you go.

Some Apps of Note

Apple Maps

I know Apple Maps is the whipping boy but it's got a lot better over the last few years. It's no longer "Apple Maps Bad". Also, I like using Siri with Maps. ("Hey Siri, Get directions home.")


My love of Tweetbot on iPhone just barely exceeds my disdain for the iPad version. I've been using it for years and occasionally look for something new and I always come back.


I've just recently started participating in some Slack channels and I'm hooked. The Slack app keeps evolving and that's a good thing.


This app on my home screen is aspirational. I've never been much of an Instagram user but am trying again. (I'm "MacSparky" on Instagram if you're interested.)

The Audio Row

Music, Overcast, Beats, and Sonos for my audio needs. I'm hooked on Overcast for podcasts. Before Apple bought Beats, they had a promotional price through AT&T. I tried it and it stuck. I have a lot of great playlists and like the way it works so easily with the Sonos at home.

The Productivity Row

I've written about MindNode, OmniOutliner, Editorial, and Soulver at length. I'd just add that I find it surprising how often I work on mind maps and outlines on my iPhone.


RSS feeds are my guilty pleasure. I read through feeds every day and for awhile now, I've been doing it in Unread.


I've been using Pocket as my read-it-later service for a few years and am getting ready to embark on an Instapaper experiment but for now Pocket is still on my home screen.


1Password is a great password management tool but it also has the ability to store secure notes behind a separate wall on my phone. I use those all the time.


I guess there's no secret that I really like the new Photos. Now it's on my home screen.


Fantastical really pushes all my buttons as an iOS calendar application. The list view of data connects with my brain and new event entry is also a breeze.


My precious.


I also really like having Workflow on my iPhone. Are you keeping up with the updates to Workflow? You should.


There is no faster way to get words from my brain to my phone than Drafts.

After all these years, I still love my iPhone. It is probably my most important piece of technology. 

Want to See my Apple Watch Face?

Here you go. I'm definitely a "Utility" man. I keep turning the numbers on the face on and off. (Currently off.) I've tried several other faces and none of them have stuck. For complications I'm using fitness, weather, and next event.

Home Screen: Michael Simmons

This week’s home screen features Michael Simmons (Twitter) from Flexibits (Website), developer of Fantastical. Michael also co-founded HockeyApp. So Michael, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Fantastical 2

More than anything else, I made Fantastical for myself and still use it every day.

Apple Mail

The way I do email, Apple Mail works for me. I like the more recent feature additions, like swipe to mark as read.


I’m a calorie counter and this app makes it painless. I’ve had a running streak of counting calories every day for three years now. 


This is my favorite Twitter client. I use it for both my personal account and my Flexibits account and I’m using it all the time.


I’m strangely addicted to Periscope. I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll broadcast but I really enjoy watching the broadcasts. As a communications major, I find the idea of anyone being able to stream from anywhere really interesting, a new intimate form of communication.


This is my favorite app for listening to music and I love being able to (pretty much) listen to whatever song I want, when I want it.


I most often take Instagram pictures when I travel but I check it every day.

What app makes you most productive?

Fantastical. Of course.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I’m not very good at writing things down on my iPhone. I want to get better at taking notes on my phone.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

A lot! (laughs)

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I use the Fantastical widget and also like Dark Sky in the Today view, which shows the forecast for the next hour very quickly. I also keep my stock information there.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

That it all just works. Of course things can be improved but I like the ecosystem and how it all works.

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

I would like to add the ability to see and use two apps side-by-side which could add the potential to do things like drag and drop.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I’ve used the same dark perforated leather wallpaper for a long time. It was created by Adam Betts. (I originally had it on my Mac.) It looks great and doesn’t draw my attention away.

Can we see your Apple Watch watchface?


Thanks Michael.

Home Screens: Mike Williams

This week’s home screen features Mike Williams (Twitter). Mike is the President and CEO of the David Allen Company and a geek just like the rest of us. Okay Mike, show us your home screen.

Notes about my home screen

My home screen is intentionally very simple. I do this to minimize distractions. The distractions are all tucked several screen swipes away. It is a simple reminder to me to keep things simple. The act of intentionally finding an app helps me become conscious to what I am doing and why. I also turn off 98% of all the alerts. I have a very quite iPhone. 

What are some of your favorite apps?

Fantastical (thanks to Mac Power Users!) - Love the ease of calendar entry. The UI is beautiful and whimsical. 

Omnifocus - This is the part of my GTD trusted system for all things that are Actionable = Yes (Projects, Next Actions, Waiting For). 

Evernote and Dropbox - This is the part of my GTD trusted system for a majority of the things that are Actionable = No (Reference, Checklists, Lists) 

Focus@Will - My Bose over the ears headsets (which I’ve had since 2006) and Focus@Will put my brain in a wonderful state for work. 

Timer+ - I like working in sprints. A timer helps keep me honest and I love the sense of completion. I’ve had way to many situations when productive time has become unproductive time simply because I drifted off. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy drifting off time too. There is nothing like a good day dream. I create some space for that to happen too (e.g. Walking time, Coffee shop time). 

Podcasts - I rarely listen to radio any more. I enjoy a wide range of podcasts. This is my go to app for commuting and walking. 

FlightAware - This is my go to travel app for getting information to help me understand the status of my flight, the status of my specific plane and more. 

Which apps are your guilty pleasures?

USAToday - It is news candy. Business Insider - Ditto. Medium - For the coffee shop or airport reading… a little deeper and longer form reading. 

What app makes you most productive?

It is actually three apps in tandem: Calendar + Omnifocus + Timer. The calendar helps me see my calendared actions and reference information (e.g. appointments, meetings, day specific actions, day specific reminders). When I have “white space” or open time on my calendar I shift to work sprint mode. Omnifocus serves up the list of possibilities for me to choose from based on my context, time available and my energy level. I use the timer and time blocking to identify the number and types of sprints I am going to do within a given amount of time (e.g. process emails for X minutes, brainstorm on a topic for X minutes, clean up ___ area for X minutes, and many more). 

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I am working to discover the power of Workflow. I love the ETA (estimated time of arrival) workflow. I use this to help my wife know when I will be home. There is a heck of a lot of territory to explore here. This is another app that Mac Power Users brought into my life - thank you! 

What is the app you are still missing?

An app that, with minimal clicks and super fast speed, can capture an audio idea, turn it into text and send it to my Omnifocus Inbox. 

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

For me, when I am optimally productive, very little. 

When I am less productive, a lot. 

For me, when I am most present, very little. When I am most distracted, a lot. 

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The whole iOS ecosystem and how it works together. Siri is great for getting information very easily. 

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

Time Machine and all iOS devices backup to iCloud automatically.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

Picture of a latte from Blue Bottle Cafe in San Francisco. Why? I love the serenity of a coffee shop and a journal. It is a reminder of the power of cool funky places. I love the vibe. It is a reminder to build in some unstructured mind wandering time into my day which helps me be more engaged, creative and productive. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, I really enjoy Mac Power Users. Many thanks to you and Katie for all the work you do there! If anybody would like to learn more about me, David Allen or Getting Things Done® (a.k.a. GTD®) you can find information at www.gettingthingsdone.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at @GTDmw. Cheers to all! Keep rockin’ the Mac and iOS world!

Home Screen: Liana Lehua

This week’s home screen post features my pal Liana Lehua (Twitter)(Website). Liana just keeps doing amazing work and never ceases to amaze me. Most recently she was a co-producer and Assistant Unit Production Manager on the motion picture, BOKEH. She also is the co-founder of SignalWorx, one of the best streaming companies out there. So Liana, show us your home screen.

What Are Some of Your Favorite Apps?

Much of my time is spent planning for video or photography shoots, or on set where I have to be able to take notes, track requests, document events, and organize all of it for summary, action, and or distribution in multiple mediums, for various people and purposes. 

I use Notability on my iPad most, because it allows me to easily write and record audio to a document for thoughts and ideas which may be fleeting or that I am afraid I might lose if I don’t capture them quickly. I write extensively in Notability using the Wacom Bamboo pen when I need to mind map ideas quickly. Being able to round trip between my iOS devices and the Notability for Mac app is key to my workflow. 

The Drafts app helps me collect and prepare bits and pieces of information inside of one app that I can quickly capture and distributed in whatever tool I need (text, email, Twitter, etc.).

I am constantly working through concepts or story ideas when I’m on the go. I will take quick notes by topic or in acts using Index Card for iPhone where I can keep a working structure and order to some of my more coherent ideas.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Superhero Workout. Hands down. I use the app as a supplement to my regular training. The moves are simple, no equipment is required, and to the movements takes minimal space. The reason I use it is that it frees my mind from having to think about what to do and for how long. It’s perfect for when I’m heads down in a project, need a break, to get up from my laptop, and don’t have time to get outside.

What app makes you most productive?

Coffitivity + Spotify. I find cafes to be distracting, but I like the ambient noise of being in a public place. Coffitivity has various tracks of background noise I play under Spotify’s own “Coffee Table Jazz” playlist. It creates an ideal environment for me to stay focused, get organize, create, and get things done.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Workflow. Between Drafts and Hazel, I have most of my routine actions covered. I’m using Workflow for quick communications on the go, but I know its capable of so much more. 

What is the app you are still missing?

A location scouting app. Reconnaissance is only as good as what can be accurately communicated to my director, cinematographer, line producers, and all my crew. There used to be an app, Pocket Scout, which allowed me to take pictures, writes descriptors, and store information about locations, including geotagging each entry. Then, I was able to search on keywords or phrases, “red brick wall”, or “graffiti tunnel”, for example, and get directions back to that location. 

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

I don’t use any electronic device 2 hours before bed, 2 hours after I wake up, or during meals.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

(Phillips) Hue: I’m always changing my lights in my house depending on what I’m doing.

Pocket Informant: I like the quick view of the days weather and events. I’ve been a Pocket Informant users since somewhere around 2000 (on a Compaq iPaq 3635, and it still does everything I need and want it to do.

ESPN: Because, sports. 

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The ecosystem. It’s because of how my devices work together that the hardware is valuable. I stop short of using the word necessary, because I come from a time before having the technology to “Think Different” in my work, play, and life. 

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

I would change the pricing of the Apple Watch Edition collection.

$What’s your wallpaper and why?

Photographer Clark Little’s “Heart”. It reminds me of the things which bring me the most joy. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’d love to connect with you on Twitter @lianalehua if you’re interested in film/tv production, live streaming, or photography. You can see my most current work at www.signalworx.com.

Thanks Liana.

Home Screen: Kevin Wild

This week’s home screen post features Kevin Wild (Twitter)(website). Kevin writes about technology at the Hungry and the Foolish. Kevin was nice enough to share his home screen. So Kevin, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

It’s hard to narrow it down! 

I love Day One for keeping my journal. VSCOcam is the best camera app I’ve found. I’ve downloaded virtually every podcast app available, but nothing beats the thoughtful UI of OvercastReeder stores all my RSS feeds and lets me keep up with our ever-changing world. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to be more organized; Scanbot lets me turn all of those pesky paper receipts into a digital library. Slack is quickly becoming invaluable for keeping up with my work colleagues.

Oh yeah, I can’t forget Tweetbot!

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I’d have to say it’s Plex. I have my entire media library stored on an external HDD which runs the Plex software. I love being able to access it remotely when I have some downtime. It’s almost like Netflix, but with better content.

Also, Catan.

What is the app you are still missing?

I’m writing my book, Turnover, in Ulysses and would love to edit it using an iPhone app. I noticed they recently announced an iPad app, so hopefully an iPhone version is on the way.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

I have purposely avoided keeping track, but I’d have to say I use it more than I should. iPhone separation anxiety is a real. One thing I’ve done recently to reduce my iPhone usage is deactivate all my push notifications (save for the Messages and Phone app). It’s helped me reduce distractions and stay focused on the task at hand.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I don’t use the app itself, but I love the Fantastical widget and how it lets me quickly check into my schedule for the day. Yahoo! Sports is key for keeping up with my favorite teams. I also love the Clear widget although (ironically) I don’t use the app itself either. I simply enjoy the random quotes it pulls up every time I check Notification Center.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

The camera by far. I purchased a DLSR a while back, but still end up using my iPhone as my main camera. It’s hard to beat the combination of quality, ease of use and portability. Add in a amazing app like VSCOcam and I can’t think of a better all-around camera to have in your hand.

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

I’d improve the App Store by offering a better search function, free trials of paid apps, and optional paid updates.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I know it’s dull, but I prefer to have simple pattern-based wallpapers for my home screen. I’m obsessed over how my wallpaper contrasts the app icons. 

On my lock screen, where there are no app icons to contrast, I have a picture of my wife from our honeymoon in California.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’d love to connect with anyone interested in discussing Apple or technology in general. You can keep up with me on The Hungry and Foolish (my blog) and contact me on Twitter (@Kevuhnn).

Thanks Kevin.

Home Screens: Sam Montooth

This week’s home screen features Sam Montooth (website)(Twitter) In addition to being an extraordinarily talented bassist and photographer, Sam has, quite possibly, the coolest picture in the history of the home screen posts. I got to spend some time with Sam this year at NAMM and you should definitely check out Sam’s music and photography. So Sam, show us your home screen.

What are some of favorite apps?

I really like DowncastCamera+iReal ProGoogle MapsTweetbotInstagram.

Downcast I use on a daily, almost hourly basis. I’ve tried all of the other podcatchers out there and it holds up and works perfectly for me. 

I use Camera+ in conjunction with Instagram. If there’s something I’ve taken a shot of quickly with the Camera app that I need to fix and share, then I edit in Camera+ and share via Instagram. 

Tweetbot is the only way to use Twitter. Like Downcast, I’ve tried all of the Twitter clients for iOS and I’ve spent a lot of money looking for some new way to manage my Twitter life, but I always come back to Tweetbot, it’s just great!

Being a musician, iReal Pro is invaluable. It’s a chord sheet manager. Fully editable and you can use it as a practice tool as well. For those familiar with the term Music Minus One, it is exactly capable of that, except you can change keys, tempos, styles, etc. I mostly use it on my iPad, but the iPhone version is just as good (but small).

Google Maps is important for my work as well. Getting to gigs on time is what your reputation is built on and Google Maps makes that happen.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Touch of Modern. I’ve bought so much there it’s embarrassing.

What app makes you most productive?

I haven’t found an app that’s made me more productive yet, but I am trying out the revamped Coach.me an so far I like it.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Triage. It’s great! I just don’t use it enough as you can see by my Inbox count. (sorry inbox zero people, I don’t want to give you a panic attack.)

What is the app you are still missing?

The original Siri app was great and I was using it to it’s full potential. Still not the same since Apple bought it.

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

More than I can count. More than I should. But, in my defense, many of my friends are not local and are in other countries, so the only way to chat with them is via chat clients, twitter, etc.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I don’t use any of them. I barely check the notification screen as I’ve disabled almost all notifications because my phone has to be silent about 90% of the time. (including no vibration)

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The Camera hands down. Being able to take a decent shot nearly instantaneously of my daughter is the killer feature for the iPhone. The fact that I can get a decent quality shot so quickly is still amazing to me on a phone.

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

I would first license (not buy and absorb) Dropbox and make it a part of iCloud so it would actually work correctly. Apple’s ecosystem is great, but it shouldn’t be an all or nothing proposition. They should allow their iCloud integration to natively live on other devices because sometimes people have to have Windows in certain situations and why be locked out of your stuff for that? I would also start production on a Mac Pro mini tower. 

Somewhere between the old Mac Pro and the current design that would allow for an internal RAID. Lastly, I would fund the Pro app development to continue to have actual Pro apps and allow them to be developed. My biggest disappointment was the news of Aperture being let go. The PR says it’s because Photos is enough, and it may well be, but they killed Aperture over a year ago and just didn’t let us know. The Pro user is still important to Apple and if I was in charge I would establish an entire department just for Pro development, consultation, and service.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

My current wallpaper is a Stop sign from Seal Beach, CA. I took the photo with my DSLR and imported it specifically for my iPhone and iPad. It’s significant to me as I was there at the beach making a big decision for my life and I saw this sign and it simplified everything I was trying to resolve within myself. So, every time I notice that image behind my icons, I’m reminded of all the things that led up to that decision. It’s an empowering image to me and it’s great to be reminded daily of my resolve.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I have the Star Trek Communicator app in my dock on my phone because I’m a huge Star Trek fan, and I love using it to call people. It would be great if Apple would allow skins to be installed over the Phone app natively so I could actually use that app the whole way through a phone call. It’s a fun app with great sound clips from the original series.

Also, I have to mention that on my iPad, I’m a huge user of the Unrealbook app. It’s a PDF aggregator for musicians and it allows me to carry 20 fake books in my bag and has allowed me to save my back. :)

Thanks Sam.

Home Screens: Kourosh Dini

In addition to other super powers, Kourosh rocks a fedora.

In addition to other super powers, Kourosh rocks a fedora.

This week’s home screen features Kourosh Dini (website)(Twitter). Kourosh is the classic triple threat: psychiatrist, musician, geek. Most recently Kourosh released a second edition of his fantastic book, Creating Flow with OmniFocus. To me, a trip to Chicago is not complete until I’ve broken bread with my pal Kourosh. So Kourosh, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

OmniFocus remains my main application and has the easiest reach at the bottom right corner. 

The Phone and Drafts apps are also on the lower bar. Other communications apps are embedded in a folder on the lower bar. The default Mail app and Tweetbot are actually on the second page of that folder to minimize my propensity to check either reflexively.


Across the top are Settings and three timers.

Wind-up is useful for simple timing. I use it for meditation and making tea. I like the windup action.

Due is good for setting up a time to begin closing a session of work. I love how it can ding every minute. 

When an alert or reminder just rings once, it can be disruptive as I must either: 

  • Stop present work abruptly and move on to the next thing,
  • Turn off the ringer and hope I remember to move on soon, or
  • Leave the ringer on and irritate me while work.

Each of these options leaves something to be desired.

Due’s minute reminder is not so intrusive that I can’t work but is present just enough to tell me it’s time to wrap up my present work. If I would like to continue with present work, then I can purposely make that decision and deliberately reset the clock.

Alarm Clock is useful as a regular alarm and as a time display. Combined with a kickstand (using an Aduro case), I might set it near my computer while I work with some OS X application in full screen mode. (The kickstand is also nice for Face Time sessions or watching a show on the fly.)


For music, I use the default Music app as well as Spotify

Instacast is great for podcasts as I do not need to store the sound files on the phone and can, instead, stream them. 

I still have the Shazam and SoundHound apps, even though I know Siri can do this automatically. Siri, unfortunately, does not understand me. I believe she is too polite to tell me that I mumble.


Google Maps is great for getting around town on public transportation. Most of my travel is by foot, train, and bus.

Transit stop is useful for knowing when the next bus is arriving. 

Art Institute Membership - I love having membership cards in my phone. It’s one less thing to carry. 


Square register for credit card transactions. It used to be a magical thing to be able to process a credit card transaction, an action left to the major retailers. That we can do this as small business entities highlights a neat societal shift. 

Epocrates is useful for medication information. 

I also have a Date Wheel date calculator, which is useful for calculating something like when 90 days from now lands on the calendar.

PDFPen Scan + and JotNot Pro are useful as scanners. I haven’t settled with one or the other yet. Combining either with an online faxing service, I can scan a piece of paper and fax it quickly. (Yes, I still fax.)


Kindle and iBooks for books.

Newsify for RSS feeds.

Pocket for individual articles.

Dark Horse Comics for awesomeness.


Mindnode is an elegant mind mapping application that strikes a nice compromise of mapping features and simplicity. I use this more on OS X than on iOS due to the screen real estate, but it’s nice to have on iOS, too.

inShort stays at the front page beckoning to me to learn it. It seems to have a complexity that requires a certain threshold of knowledge to work through before finding a stride. However, I have yet to make that effort. Maybe if I get the OS X version, I’ll get into it. 

Duolingo is a neat language learning experience. While it does not replace actual practiced conversation, it is always nice to have around for a quick lesson.


Remote and Roku remotes are useful for my Apple TV and Roku devices, respectively.

I’ve also been experimenting with the new Alfred remote. I like being able to quickly jump around the system settings using the app. I’m not sure how else I’ll use it yet, but it looks like there are some interesting possibilities.


Clear tune for tuning the guitar and Tabs to taunt the kids with poorly practiced renditions of “Let it Go”. 

Multi-Measures is a nice measuring kit. Though for me it is more for silly fun. I like to use it to measure the ambient noise level when walking around town. Watching the ambient noise level shift and change as I move from one environment to another gives the whole walk a story-like feel. Visiting the L train , I’ve seen it range into the 90 dBs. Quieter places are in the low 30s. 

Apps like this also just go to show how much the smart phone has become a present day swiss army knife.


Byword is connected to a single folder in Dropbox where I store the majority of my text files.

Drafts is very useful, too, to just get some thoughts down, especially if I don’t know what I’m doing with them yet. 

DayOne is good for journaling. 

Which apps is your guilty pleasure?

Alien Blue is an application that interfaces with Reddit. The community there is at once endearing and enraging. It also helps me keep up to date with what is interesting in the community at large.

Dark Horse comics is another guilty pleasure. I’ve been reading the Leaf Upon the Wind Firefly comics. 

What is the app you are still missing?

OmniOutliner for iPhone. I like to use OmniOutliner for templates of tasks - morning routines and the like. While I don’t always consult them, they are nice to have handy. I store these in an OmniPresence linked folder so I can get to them from iPad or OSX. However, I have the iPhone handy much more frequently. (Stay tuned on this one Kourosh. -D)

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

Still too many, but I am better. I read of someone deliberately hobbling their phone, turning it into a “distraction free” phone. I’ve yet to take that plunge, but I am considering it.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I’ve got the weather up top. 

OmniFocus is listed next. I do hope that The Omni Group allows for customizing which perspective appears up top. Presently, it is only for Due tasks. I would love to be able to use one of my Dashboard settings (a combination of “Filter by Status: Due or Flagged” with “Filter by Availability: Available” and “Sort actions by: Due”). That way I could see all the tasks I’ve set for today.

Next up is the Calendar. As much of my work is based on sessions with individual clients, my calendar is extremely important. 

Then I’ve got the Kindle. I really like how I can open directly to any of the last three read books from this view. 

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

Its portability. For instance, I use OmniFocus on the iPhone much more than with the iPad despite the greater feature count of the iPad version. Its direct accessibility and ease of typing both contribute to its use.

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

I can’t wait for internal links to work when exporting from Pages again. With my last book, I had to manually create all the internal links using Adobe Acrobat for the PDF. 

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I like the default watery wallpaper. Setting the icons above the water line makes me happy for unknown reasons. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m learning Android: Netrunner. Board and card games are awesome.

Home Screens: John Siracusa

This week’s home screen post features John Siracusa. (Podcast)(Website)(Twitter) John, who writes those amazing OS X reviews for Ars Technica, famously stuck with his flip phone until a few months ago when he got a shiny new iPhone 6. (John is also our workflow guest on the Mac Power Users episode dropping this weekend.) So John, show us your home screen.

Q: What are some of your favorite apps?

The apps I use most are my favorites: Twitterrific, Overcast, and Instapaper. Those three cover most of my iPhone usage. I listen to podcasts while commuting (using my car’s Bluetooth iPhone integration). I read Twitter when I have a spare moment. While reading Twitter, I file interesting links away in Instapaper and read them when I have a longer stretch of free time.

Q: Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I feel the most guilty when I’m sinking time into Desert Golfing. It’s just one hole after another, with very little reward for making progress. It’s the aloof cat of iOS gaming.

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

Maybe ten times per day on weekdays, more on weekends.

Q: What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I never look at the Today View. I’m not sure why, but it’s never found a place in my iPhone or iPad usage.

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

I’d get serious about network services, applying all the same philosophies Apple already applies to its other products. Apple should own and control the primary technologies that make its network services possible. Look at how much Google and Amazon have invested in creating their own server-side infrastructure over the years: MapReduceBigTableSpannerS3EC2DynamoDB, and so much more, and that’s even before considering the (more secretive) data center management and server hardware. Apple is behind here, and it shows in the performance and reliability of its network services—and in Apple’s ability to create new network services.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

My wallpaper is black because I don’t want anything to distract from the app icons. (I also have the parallax animation disabled for the same reason.)

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m not happy with my home screen as shown in this screenshot. The iPhone 6’s larger screen has made the icons at the top a lot harder to reach, and this has forced me to reevaluate the layout I’ve had since the 5th generation iPod touch was released in 2012. Also, I’d really like it if Instagram would change its icon to fit in better with the others on my home screen. 

Thanks John.

Home Screens: J. Walter Hawkes

One of the best parts about running MacSparky.com is its eclectic group of listeners. I recently heard from J. Walter Hawkes, a professional musician (Website)(Blog)(Twitter). Walter is a composer. He does lots of children's television, like Blue's Clues, Wonder Pets, Third and Bird, and he is the current music director for Peg + Cat on PBS. To this day, I still catch myself singing some of the Blues Clues songs. (Team Steve!) Walter also plays a mad trombone solo. Don't believe me? Listen to him back up Norah Jones on Sinkin Soon. Enough gushing. Walter, show us your home screen.

What are some of favorite apps?  

iPhone: Getting around NYC can be...interesting.  I like KickMap (for quick looks at the map and train line status) and HopStop (transit directions) to help me get around the city.   I have a love/hate relationship with OmniFocus.  I love how the app has helped me keep my act together.  I hate being told what to do.  

Which app is your guilty pleasure?  

I have a few: Firstly, Instagram and Facebook for purely voyeuristic reasons.   When I want something mindless when I'm on the subway, I play 8bit Ninja....SpellTower if I only have one hand. Though it's not an app... Hue Lights.   I have a few Hue bulbs in my studio.  They're kinda new... so I'm still experimenting with apps.  Now I'm using the official Hue app and OnSwitch.  I'm not so sure about the apps, but I love the lights!

What is the app you are still missing?  

At the moment, I'm satisfied on my iOS devices... we'll see how long that lasts.  I'm waiting for those killer HomeKit and Health apps. (Me too. -D)

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

All the time.  Too much, probably.  I  use my iPad very heavily at work and play, too.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?  

I have a new iPad Air that has TouchID.  That's a real winner for me.  I'm tempted to upgrade my iPhone 5 just for it... that's crazy talk though!  

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

iTunes.  Oy.

What's your wallpaper and why?  

I have a random space shot I just picked off the internets.  I was embarrassed that I still had the stock wallpaper on my phone.  Ha! 

Anything else you'd like to share?  

I use my iPad a LOT. On the iPad, when dealing with musical scores or reading instrumental parts for the cartoons, I use FourScore. I use the bluetooth pedals for turning pages when I have a trombone or a ukulele in my hands. I use Noteability for scribbling notes on pdf scripts in meetings. I use GoodReader for my pdfs, which I have a LOT of.  I dabble in electronics and I keep data sheets and schematics... I've digitized most my old computer programming paperbacks going back to 1992 or so... I'll be totally freakin' SET when I get that great idea for an application using VRML!  (Check, please!)

Thanks Walter.