I’ve been working the last few months on an update to the OmniFocus Video Field Guide. I’ve updated it for several new features and gone deep on the iOS Automation and URL linking. I'm making final edits and additions over the next few days and intend to publish it sometime Sunday (probably late). The update will be free for people that have already purchased the field guide. However, please note that for new buyers the price is going up to $19.99. So if you want to get in on the current $9.99 price, do so between now and Sunday afternoon when it goes up.
I was at a professional gathering recently when the subject of email security came up. I was surrounded by a group of lawyers that knew next-to-nothing about technology and it made me curious about their thoughts on email servers. Going around the room, I found that just about everyone was maintaining their own email servers because they felt it was “safer”. There is this bias when it comes to data that somehow privately owned servers are safer despite the fact they are connected to the same Internet populated with the same bad guys everybody else is facing.
While I think there may be some private servers out there that are as well protected as the more reputable email providers, I think that is the exception, not the rule. My impression is that most of these private servers are instead on aging Dell box in a closet connected to the Internet that may (or may not) have the most recent security patches installed and may (or may not) have an IT person baby-sitting it once in awhile. I think there is this impression that despite this lackluster security, they are somehow safer than email services that have full time professional staff holding the barbarians at the gate 24/7. As the Democratic party found out, they’re not.
If you’re running your company’s email on a private server and haven’t been compromised (or at least not aware of being compromised), there’s a good chance that the reason for your good fortune is not because of your security but instead the fact that you are not as juicy of a target as the DNC. Maybe it’s time to reconsider.
Bastille Networks ran an experiment where they tried to intercept transmissions of some wireless keyboards. This would let the bad guys capture a user’s keystrokes from a remote computer and even inject their own keystrokes on your device. It all comes down to poor encryption. They’ve got a list of keyboards they were able to intercept and it’s pretty spooky. Apple’s not on the list but there are several recognizable vendors.
Speaking of Jason Snell, his Six Colors website did a bang up job on coverage of Apple's quarterly earnings call today. Not only does Six Colors make pretty charts, Jason's knowledge and vast experience covering Apple make his commentary some of the best there is. It's nice to see iPad results improving. I hope this translates into Apple putting more muscle into iPad productivity.
Today I'm launching a new podcast with my friend Jason Snell called the Free Agents. As the show description explains:
David Sparks and Jason Snell spent their careers working for the establishment. Then one day, they’d had enough. Now they are independent workers, learning what it takes to succeed in the 21st century. They are… free agents.
This show is all about how to pull off being an independent worker in the modern world. Since going out on my own, I discovered I like it … a lot. It is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying and I love every minute of it.
I enjoy being indie so much so that I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make this work over the long haul and continue supporting myself and my family as an independent worker.
One of my best friends on this journey has been Jason Snell. For years Jason and I would get together for meals while I was working in the law firm and Jason was the editor of Macworld magazine. We shared our experiences and eventually came around to the idea that maybe we’d be better off on our own. For a long time, we would prop each other up give each other a shove in the right direction and then get back to work. Eventually both Jason and I managed to successfully get launched as independent workers. So when the idea started percolating about making a podcast about being an independent worker, it seemed only natural that I would do it with Jason.
So today we launch the Free Agents podcast on the Relay Network. Free Agents is a podcast for people who work independently or are thinking about working independently. The show will be a mixture of topics and guest interviews dealing with the challenges and joys of working independently.
The first show, The Temptation of Yes, deals with the issue of scope. One of the challenges you'll have working independently is deciding when to say "yes" and when to say "no". It's hard. Jason and I share our experiences and advice on how to limit scope while still keeping the lights on. We have a whole list of topics like this and this show will have a lot of useful content. We are also going to do occasional interviews seeking insight from people who have gone independent or are thinking about going independent.
Our goal is to keep the content shows to about 30 minutes and the interview shows to about 45 minutes and we’ll be releasing new episodes every two weeks. It’s been a long time since I launched a new podcast and I hope you’ll subscribe and enjoy the Free Agents.
I’d like to thank SaneBox for sponsoring MacSparky.com this week. Connecting SaneBox to your email account is like giving it super-powers. SaneBox adds a host of additional features to any email account and works with exchange, Google mail, or IMAP accounts. Because it’s all server-based, you can get the benefits of SaneBox no matter which email clients you use.
There is a lot you can do with SaneBox to tame your email. One of my favorite features is SaneVacation. The SaneBox vacation filter is something you can turn on when you go on vacation. Then SaneBox snoozes your emails until you return. When you turn it off, SaneBox does its usual bang-up job of putting your email where it belongs
Learn more about all of the features of SaneBox over at SaneBox.com. If you sign up using the links in this post, you get $10 off. If email is giving you trouble, give SaneBox a try. You won’t regret it.
Neil Tyra does an interesting podcast where interviews entrepreneurial attorneys called, appropriately, The Law Entrepreneur. Neil has a great interview style and makes it easy to talk. I was please to be asked to guest on episode 26, which is now live. In it I talk about getting started as a solo attorney. There's a lot of inside-baseball stuff in here about the practice of law but also a bit about my lawyer origin story if you're interested.
It's remarkable to me how I do nearly all of my photo processing these days on iPad. Along that theme, the Pixelmator team just released a nice update with a focus on selecting objects.
Quick Selection Tool
Just swipe over an area to select it. This works better than you'd think. There's a video below.
Got an hour this weekend? Why don't you master the Drafts app? I did an entire series of screencasts on Drafts and it is a really handy app. Drafts let's you quickly capture text on your iPhone and iPad and then perform actions on that text with just a tap. There is nothing else like it and Drafts replaced the paper and pencil I used to always carry in my pocket. Anyway, below is the introductory video and you'll find the rest of the series (15 videos!) at the Drafts website. It's like getting a MacSparky Video Field Guide for free.
It's been nine years since I launched MacSparky and I figured it was about time to have an official shirt. So here it is for a limited time. Studies indicate that wearing this shirt will make you more attractive and smarter. You can get it either as a T-shirt or baseball shirt. It's a short campaign so get in there if you want one.
What About That Potty-Word on the Back?
There's a bad word on the back of this shirt, "Badass". I know that some readers have children or just don't want to wear a shirt with that word on it. If that's you, I understand and don't mind. The reason I'm including it is because when I self-published my first book, the Paperless Field Guide, I explained that the purpose of the book was to turn readers into "Badass Wielders of Technology." It was fun putting that in a book after having been at the yoke of traditional publishing and it still makes me smile. So this shirt gets a "Badass".
In searching the archive, I found my first review of Scrivener on MacSparky in 2007. That's right. … 2007. Scrivener was my original “White Whale” app for the iPad. Within an hour of using my first iPad, I remember thinking, “Now I need Scrivener.” How badly did I want Scrivener? So much so that I acted as errand-boy for the Scrivener developer and bought an iPad (with his money) and mailed it to him. (At the time, the iPad wasn’t available in the UK.) I was hoping he’d get addicted to the iPad and immediately put all effort into developing an iPad application. So I guess you could say I’ve been looking forward to seeing Scrivener on iOS for awhile now.
To be honest, that’s not entirely true. Initially, I had all sorts of bizarre workarounds where I could edit and work on my Scrivener files on iPad ranging from weird partial text syncing to VNC but none of them were really that good and as the years went by and Scrivener did not show up for iPad, I moved on. I’ll call those my wild years.
During the wild years, I started using several alternative apps that are iPad friendly. Most notably is Ulysses, which is similar to Scrivener but also different. While Scrivener is once again my weapon of choice for big writing projects (particularly those including research), there are still some projects for which Ulysses is the right choice. I'm currently outlining an episode of Mac Power Users on big writing projects and we’ll be comparing and contrasting these two apps so stay tuned for more on that.
The story behind getting Scrivner on iPad could probably be the subject of its own interesting novel but this week, after so many years, my beloved Scrivener found its way to the iPad and iPhone. I’ve been using it and syncing my book files between the two platforms and it sure is nice to be home again.
So why do writers get so excited about Scrivener? I’ve written about it before but Scrivener is the first application that I used as a writing tool, as opposed to word processor. With Scrivener, I can take on big writing projects in a way that I simply couldn’t before. It lets me organize blocks of text and it keeps track of my progress. One of its killer features for me is the ability to hold my research data in the same file as my scrivenings.
Scrivener can take just about any file type you throw at it (including PDFs, images, and Word documents) and make those available for review while working inside the application. So when you are working on a big project, using Scrivener you can have all of your research in the same file as your words. This is really handy as it saves you the trouble of digging in the Finder, Evernote, or wherever else you use to keep support documents for big projects. This convenience is even more notable on iOS where getting documents out of cloud storage isn’t alway easy.
Now that Scrivener is on the iPad, I can show up at a coffee shop and work on my latest legal brief or book and know confidently that I have access to all the resource documents I need for the project. That’s the magic of Scrivener. It not only allows you to write and organize your words for your big writing project, it also holds your research as well. And now Scrivener is on the iPad and iPhone.
You can get Scrivener in the iOS App Store for $20 (App Store)(Website). The application is universal and works on both iPad and iPhone. One of my big concerns about creating a version of Scrivener for iPad was striking the right feature balance. There are a lot of features in Scrivener for Mac. The question was how many of those features need to get over to the iPad to make the application useful while at the same time not making it overwhelming. Scrivener for iPad and iPhone does nicely in striking this balance. Indeed, I was a little surprised at how many features did make it over for the first version.
Research, which is one of my most important features in Scrivener, syncs over just fine. That, for me was going to be the make-it-or-break-it feature in bringing Scrivener back into my life. I will acknowledge, however, that's a relatively low bar but the developer got it right. You can put both research and text on the screen at once and I've been writing legal briefs and working on a new book in this new version of Scrivener with no problems.
Scrivener for iPad and iPhone isn't a simple port. A lot of effort went into determining what features work best on iOS and where accommodations need to be made. The iOS keyboard adds additional rows with Scrivener-specific features and the interface is much cleaner than Scrivener on the Mac. Indeed, I prefer the interface on the iPad over that of the Mac even though it doesn't have every bell and whistle you find on the Mac.
While there were some features cut, Scrivener on iPad is fully functional for the hard work of moving the cursor on big writing projects. The text editor is absolutely up to the task and you can organize your buckets of text on Scrivener on the iPad and iPhone just as you would on the Mac. I was particularly impressed with the keyboard shortcut support, which makes sense because a lot of people will use this tool with an iPad and external keyboard.
One feature that made it over from the Mac is color coding document sections. This is easy to implement for a writer and super-useful. Color coding makes it easy for going back later and making edits or re-writes.
When you're done, you can synchronize your data back to your Mac using Dropbox. Synchronization with Scrivener for iOS, however, deserves some further discussion. Scrivener documents are, in essence, package files that hold the research and various bits of text that you're preparing. Scrivener does not use iCloud but instead Dropbox. (I don’t know for certain but am guessing this has something to do with the synchronization of the research files.) Either way, you save your Scrivener file to the Dropbox destination of choice and then you can access it from Mac, iPad, or iPhone.
When you first boot up Scrivener on your iPad or iPhone, you are asked to synchronize data with your Dropbox folder. Then digital wheels grind and synchronization takes place. When you're done editing your document on your iPad or iPhone, Scrivener again prompts you to synchronize back up to Dropbox. (You can also manually trigger synchronization.)
This system works. The only time I was able to break it in testing was when I was deliberately trying to by opening files too soon (before Dropbox caught up with me). Nevertheless, the whole process feels a bit fragile. I'm not sure if there is a better way given the different types of data Scrivener synchronizes but I will warn you to be deliberate about syncing when using Scrivener on iPad and Mac at (or around) the same time.
After hacking my way into Scrivener from iOS for so long, it sure is nice to see the Scrivener icon on my iPad home screen. This is exactly what I was looking for so long ago when I started using my original iPad.
Over a year ago I was talking to my pal Victor Cajiao and he told me he was making an album. From a lot of people I'd hear something like that and smile and wonder if he truly knew what he was getting himself in for. With Victor, I immediately knew that not only would he finish the album, he'd make it great. Victor delivered with Surrender. It's a fusion jazz album extremely well done. You can get the album at CD Baby. I really enjoyed reading Victor's description of the tracks as I listened. Of course you can download the album in MP3, but you can also download in FLAC if you like because Victor's a nerd just like the rest of us.
This week MacSparky is sponsored this week by inShort. inShort is a project planning and diagramming tool like you’ve never seen before. The application has a unique interface that lets you see a project from the 20,000 foot view and then, with just a few taps, drill down into the details. For example, in the below project plan, you can click on the individual boxes to get further details on any specific component.
I like the way this application handles Gantt charts to include schedules for the work and material resources, as well as places.
inShort is a serious project planning and diagramming application but it could be used for so much more, like planning out a dissertation, creating a lesson plan, or even your own personal goals. It's always under active development with new features in the pipeline.
inShort is easier to use than ever with a clever tutorial that show’s off the power of the application and teaches you how it works at the same time. There are versions for both the Mac and iOS. To learn more visit the inShort website and check out the User Guide. My thanks again to inShort for sponsoring MacSparky.com.
I've used every iteration of the Glif iPhone tripod mount and the new one looks to be the best yet. They just launched the newest version with a Kickstarter campaign and it's already fully funded but not too late to get in on the early pricing.
Mac user, collector, and … yes … YouTuber Stephen Hackett joins this week's episode to explain essential cloud-based services used to run the Relay Network, his growing collection of Macs, and his photo and video workflows.
- Hover: Simplified domain management. Use code AUTOMATION to get 10% off your first purchase.
- The Omni Group They're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad.
- Automatic The connected car company that improves your driving and integrates your car into yoru digital life. Enter code MACPOWER to get 20% off your purchase.
- Fracture Bring your photos to life.
I've been getting most of my photo editing done these days on iPad with Apple Photos, Pixelmator, and Snapseed. Camera+ just released version 2 for iPad and it is now firmly in the rotation for me. As the name implies, Camera+ gives you lots of control over the iPad camera but what I really like about the new version for iPad are the photo editing tools.
I've always been a fan of Camera+'s "Clarity" filter which, as "push one button to make it better" filters go, a lot better than most. I also like the way you can use the brushes (via finger or Apple Pencil) to apply localized changes.
One gripe with this app though is its lack of Apple Photos extension support. Maybe there's a good reason but the app doesn't tie into the native Photos app so you have to make a copy of a photo into the app and then manually save the edited copy back to Apple Photos. That part feels stone-age to me. That aside, I like the Camera+ for iPad update. (Website)(App Store)
I realized what a square I've become when I kept mispronouncing Pokémon to my kids. So I decided to bone up and did so over at iMore. Serenity Caldwell has been killing it over there with Pokémon Go tutorials for several days. Next I'll be giving my kids Pokémon tips and go from being a square to a weirdo (which is my usual role in their lives).
This week's Mac Power Users is up. It's our monthly feedback show and we have lots of great content on subjects like MPU workflows on a PC, merging Apple IDs, cleaning up after being scammed, more iOS photography, and family tech support.
This week MacSparky is sponsored by OmniPlan. OmniPlan combines the simplicity and beauty that comes with all Omni Group apps with some serious planning power including features like Microsoft Project compatibility, Monte Carlo simulations, network diagrams, and earned value analysis. OmniPlan takes advantage of the Omni Group's OmniPresence syncing service to make everything sync across to your Mac, iPad, and iPhone.
A lot of people are interested in OmniPlan but not sure how to get started. The Omni Group just released a series of videos called the "Project Planning 101" series. In it, they explain, in the context of world domination, how to easily set up your own project planning workflows. I’ve embedded the first in the series below. Thanks again OmniPlan for supporting MacSparky.