Sponsor: Dropzone

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This week MacSparky is again sponsored by Dropzone, the Mac menubar app that makes opening and sorting files wicked easy. Simply drag a file onto the Dropzone menubar icon and a menu slides down with several landing targets. For example, I've got a folder I use as a clearing house for work related documents. Using Dropzone, I just drag the file up to the icon and drop them on the folder's link. Drop zone, then moves the file to that location lickity-split. I've also set up an application opening action so when I drag a PDF on PDFpen, it opens the file in the application. If you just need to hold a file temporarily, use the Drop Bar.

Dropzone is a great little utility that you'll find yourself using all day. You can get it now in the App Store and learn more at the website. Thanks Dropzone for supporting MacSparky.com.

Removing Photo Metadata with Metapho

With the holidays coming up you may be taking photos for posting to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. If you want to make certain those photos don't contain location data before putting them on the Internet, you'll need an app to scrub the metadata out. I've been using Metapho for this purpose. The app is easy enough to use. Select an existing photo and push the big red button to remove the metadata. The app is free but the metadata removal tool is currently a $2 in-app purchase.

Pixelmator and InShort Updates

Two Mac apps that I like got gesture-based updates.

First, InShort for Mac received a Yosemite-friendly update with several interface tweaks, including the ability to scale diagrams on a touchpad. The app also has the ability to keep a catalog of locations and mark in which of them the process will be executed or the resource is located, is introduced.

Similarly, Pixelmator also now supports pinch to zoom gestures and the ability to scale objects. Pixelmator is, by the way, an excellent resource for fiddling with holiday photos. Here is a Pixelmator-modified image of some holiday decorations my kids and I made this year. Don't look in Blitzen's eyes too long.


Home Screens: Geoff Barrall

This week’s home screen features Geoff Barrall (Twitter). Geoff is the guy that came up with the Drobo and then followed that up with the Transporter. Geoff's a geek, like us, and love’s his iPhone. Despite Geoff’s serious job (and picture), I’ve honestly never seen him without a smile on his face. So Geoff, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Apps I use all the time that aren’t on my home screen are - OpenTable (lot’s of business dinners), ETradeStarbucks (to pay for coffee), Plex to sync video for trips from my Drobo 5N and ComiXology.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

On the iPad it’s Castle Panic for sure. I’ve spent a lot of time on that one.

What is the app you are still missing?

The original version of Siri (before the acquisition) was really interesting. It could plan a whole trip for you. I know the founder a little and he had big dreams for the way it’d connect many many services. I’m hoping Apple get it back to that position long term so it really becomes a mobile personal assistant.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

All the time. I use it for notes in meetings and to hold my agenda. Even when sitting at my PC I use both depending on which is easier.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

Everything in sync, contacts, calendar etc. This has really been working well for me in recent years.

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

Sandboxing & The App Approval process. It’s at a point where the best OS X Apps aren’t in the App Store anymore. The App Store could be really awesome. I think it’d just take Apple to trust the companies making Mac software a little more (not everything needs to be Sandboxed). The new extensions for iOS was a great step in the right direction so I’m hopeful Apple is on a better track now.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I think it’s still the default. Busy.

Anything else you’d like to share?

If there was I’d use Transporter to do it! :D

Thanks Geoff.

Jazz Friday: Christmas Time is Here

With this last Jazz Friday post before Christmas, I'm going to feature one more holiday song. You can't think of the Peanuts without hearing Vince Guaraldi's amazing music. Vince (Wikipedia) was an accomplished jazz musician with a career entirely outside of the Peanuts. By far, my favorite Guaraldi album is the Charlie Brown Christmas album and on that album, my favorite track is Christmas Time is Here (Instrumental)I love the melody, the pacing, and the chord changes. This song represents the whole package. A lot of people have covered this song in past years. My current favorite is this one by Diana Krall. However, in my mind nothing beats Vince Guaraldi's original.

Ulysses for iPad

Ulysses now has a public teaser site for the upcoming iPad version. Ulysses for Mac, that has really matured into something special over the past few years, has always been able to sync to the iPad with Daedalous Touch but I've never found that experience very satisfying. Giving Ulysses a home on the iPad for us mobile writers makes a lot more sense and it looks like that is exactly what we'll get. Between this and Scrivener for iPad, 2015 should be a great year for iPad writers. I look at both of these apps as something beyond a simple text editor and I can't wait to get this kind of power on my iPad.

Less Wibbly-Wobbly

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the App review process has made Apple look bi-polar as of late. I'm pleased to see they have reversed course (in the right direction) on two of the more notable apps. Last week, Apple permitted Transmit to get its extremely useful iCloud upload back. Today, word is getting out that Drafts gets back its widget. I'm encouraged by these developments. On behalf of all of us boundary-pushing nerds, I hope this is an indication that Apple understands we're okay with our apps being awesome.

The Perils of Electronic Communications

I've been reading the reports of the massive data loss at Sony over the last few weeks. In some ways, the most jarring reports are not leaked finances but instead all the email. As much of a geek as I am (or perhaps because I'm a geek), I just don't share private thoughts via email or text message. This came up on a recent episode of Mac Power Users and I truly believe people don't understand how easy it is for governments, or subpoena-wielding attorneys, or … now … motivated hackers to get access to digital communications and records.

I think it runs even deeper than the typical big brother paranoia. Digital communications is permanent and hurtful things said to friends and loved ones via email is equally permanent. If you are pissed at a friend, go confront him. Yell. Scream. Exercise your demons. Bloody noses heal and a shared beer a few hours later heals even better. A rage-filled email however drives a deep, and often permanent, wedge.

So saying hurtful things is, generally, a bad idea and doing so electronically is an even worse idea. Hackers are only going to get smarter and your private communications are more likely … not less … as we move into the future to be compromised.

So here are a few tips the next time you start writing something in an email or text message you don't feel comfortable projecting on the side of your house:

1. Don't

2. Do

3. It.

There it is. Three easy tips. 

No Suits For Me

Jason Snell's editorial voice is one of the best in the Mac community and I'm really enjoying his Six Colors website. Today he published a piece on why removing the "suits" from the recording industry is a good thing. I'd add that to the publishing industry as well. I've written books for big publishers and I've written books for myself. For future reference, I'll be continuing to write for myself. 

Bluetooth Battery Revisited

A few weeks ago I wrote about my quest for a menubar app to give me the status of my Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad. Turns out I already had the app I needed. I use iStat Menus for several items but never bothered with it for the replacement battery menubar item. I do now. If you haven't tried iStat Menus yet, you should. If you already have it, take a look at the menubar replacements you ignored before. You may find you like them better than you thought.

The Song

I love Apple's holiday ads. When is the rest of the industry going to figure it out? Talking about gigabytes and clock-cycles doesn't mean anything to 99% of the world. Showing how you can take a few pieces of technology and rock your grandmother, however, is an entirely different story.

Home Screens: Mark Pouley

One of the first friends I ever made at Macworld Expo many years ago was Mark Pouley (Twitter). Mark is a photographer that lives and works in the Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite parts of the United States. Mark is a wonderful guy and has a great eye for photography. Mark’s complete portfolio is available to view at twinlakesimages.com. You really should click on that link and check out some of Mark’s shots. I’m thinking about hanging this one in my office. Alright Mark, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

On the phone I use Downcast daily to listen to podcasts on my commute.

Tweetbot is always running and is the app used most on the phone.

I love The Photographer’s Ephemeris (to determine where and when the moon and sun will line up in my location) and I use it very often when I’m out shooting landscapes with my DSLR to line up shots and know when to be in a location.

I shoot with the phone, but edit on my iPad with my favorite photo processing app is Snapseed.

I’m slowly integrating Lightroom Mobile on the iPad into my work flow, but that has been a slow process. I’d like to see a few more upgrades to the app before I think it will be really useful.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Intellectually I know the app shouldn’t be on my phone. I know I shouldn’t even have an account. I agree with all the reasons people hate it, but Facebook is my guilty pleasure. It’s how I keep in touch with family and friends and I’ve reconnected with high school friends I haven’t seen or talked to in years. 

It’s okay Mark. No. Really. -David

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

Even though I have a post graduate degree I don’t believe I can count that high. It is a very, very big number.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The best feature of the iPhone is the portable power. It is remarkable to me that I can do so much computing and real photography with a small device that fits in my pocket. I take it for granted, but I can’t imagine what life would be like now without it. The iPad has to be its convenience. Whether I’m viewing photos, reading, checking mail, playing games, it is so easy to carry around and flip open to get to work quickly and easily. The phone and pad have changed the way I work and spend my leisure time.

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

I think it is coming, but not soon enough. I would integrate the Beats music streaming service with iTunes match and offer the service at a killer subscription price. I can’t wait to have my entire music collection combined with on-demand streaming on my phone. I was slow to join the subscription streaming band wagon, but I now use Spotify daily, and love it, but I also own a huge library of music. I want seamless integration of all of my music at a great price. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

My switch to using Macs in 2007 is what kicked off my journey into photography. The computer was so easy to use it really kick-started my creativity. I feel like the iPhone and iPad are instrumental now in the work I do, but I also think it is still the early days of what we are going to be able to do with portable computing and I’m excited to see what is coming around next corner.

Thanks Mark.

Workflow: iOS Automation

I’ve been teasing the Workflow app on Mac Power Users for too long. Now you can buy it (iTunes). Given the way Apple’s been so wibbly-wobbly about iOS lately, I’d recommend buying it right now.

Imagine OS X’s Automator on your iPhone and iPad and you are pretty close to Workflow. It has a series of actions it can perform that can be stacked (yes, like LEGO) that allows you to create some pretty powerful workflows. There are a lot of available actions. In fact, there are too many to list here. As an example. Here are the text based actions.

In addition to building these workflows, you can activate them through the Workflow extension or Launch Center Pro. For awhile I’ve been wondering, what is the next Drafts? What is the next app that will completely change the way I use my iOS devices. Workflow is a contender for this title. If you've got any interest in automating iOS, this app will solve a lot of problems for you. 

If you’re not an automation geek, the app ships with a nice collection of prebuilt workflows that can do things like share your availability, make a GIF image, upload your last photo to Dropbox or AirDrop a screenshot. It can also give you your ETA to home or walking directions to the nearest coffee shop, read a QR code or calculate a tip. There is also a mechanism to share workflows so I suspect we’re going to have even more interesting user workflows in the not so distant future. The app is 40% off for a limited time so go get it.

Wibbly-Wobbly Apple

There has been a lot of news lately about Apple reversing course with various apps using  extensions and widgets in iOS 8. At WWDC a few months ago Apple (or more precisely the engineering branch of Apple) announced a lot of new toys they'd thrown in iOS 8 to make it easier for developers to extend the experience of their apps to notification center, other applications, and cloud based storage. To me, and a lot of other people, it felt like exactly what iOS needed. 

Then a group of smart developers started building things with these new tools We got Today View widgets that could open apps, calculate a tip, and otherwise increase the functionality of our iThingies. More developers dug in on the cloud accessibility with, perhaps one of the best new apps being Panic's Transmit which gave us the ability to move files between different cloud services at will.

Apple approved these apps, put them up for sale, and, in some cases, even featured them. We paid money for the apps and now a bunch of them are being required to remove the innovative features we bought them for at risk of being pulled from the App Store.

So how did Apple get so bi-polar on extensibility in iOS? I'd argue they've always had warring factions over this issue but the battles have always been behind closed doors in Cupertino. Now it's public. Now we actually see some really great functionality only to have the carpet yanked from under us. If Microsoft or Google were changing its mind publicly like this, all of us Apple geeks would be giggling about it.

There is no doubt in my mind who should win. I think the extensions mentioned above only make iOS better. They are all in applications that users must download and extensions that users must enable. I can't see how the "this will confuse users" argument holds any weight since these all require action by the user to enable. If I found myself sitting at Tim Cook's desk, I'd say let them through. I'm sure developers are taking the iOS 8 tools to places the iOS development team didn't anticipate. However, I think this is something to celebrate, not restrict.

There is a separate, equally troubling question arising from all of this. How is this all happening in public? Regardless of whether or not Apple agrees with me about what developers can and can't do, somebody needs to decide, predictable standards should be identified, and we should move on. Let's hope the days of wibbly-wobbly changes like this are nearly over.