Yesterday the Free Agents released its first guest interview show. Our guest was Relay.fm co-founder Myke Hurley. During the show we discussed Myke's journey and his big surprises after going independent.
This week on Mac Power Users, Katie and I cover the workflows and apps we use to get work done on our iPhones. There’s some great little tips in this one.
- Casper: Because everyone deserves a great night sleep. Get $50 off with the code ‘MPU’
- Eero: Blanket your home in fast, reliable WiFi. Get free overnight shipping with this link.
- 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 your digital life. Enter code MACPOWER to get 20% off your purchase.
A few years ago John Gruber, Brent Simmons, and Dave Wiskus joined forces to create a notes app called Vesper. If I was setting up a developer shop, these three guys would be on my dream team. They made a great app with a lot of taste and it never really took off. John wrote a post explaining why Vesper is shutting down.
If the dream team couldn’t make it work, who can? John goes on to speculate about other ways they could have rolled the app out in order to make it more profitable including developing for the Mac first, where productivity apps still sell for more than the price of a cup of coffee. In the case of Vesper, the lack of a Mac app certainly kept me from fully adopting it. The resurrection of Apple Notes didn’t help either.
I think John’s post should be required reading for anyone thinking about getting into the productivity app business. For years now I’ve been talking to app developer friends and they are nearly universally wondering how long they will be able to survive in a business where consumers expect to pay less than $5 for an app and expect that app to be maintained for years at a time with no further revenue to the developer.
This problem is holding back productivity software on the iPhone and–even more dramatically–on iPad. The iPad Pro hardware is, performance-wise, competitive with a laptop. The difference, however, is that people are simply not willing to pay the same for iPad productivity software as they are willing to pay for Mac productivity software. Developers understand this and, as a result, are not putting the time and effort in on iPad and iPhone. I realize I'm stating the obvious but if developers could earn more from quality iOS development, we’d have a lot more quality iOS productivity software.
Towards the end of his post John gets to the subject of subscription pricing.
Subscription pricing feels like a third rail to me. Every time I write anything remotely positive about it, I get tweets and emails telling me how terrible an idea it is. Nonetheless, I'm not sure how we continue to get quality productivity software without it.
This week MacSparky is sponsored by SaneBox, the email service that brings order to my email chaos every day. Recently SaneBox announced the SaneFwd service. SaneFwd is an easy way to automate email forwarding to your favorite third-party apps and team members.
With SaneFwd, you can:
• Automatically turning emails into tasks with Any.do and Todoist
• Automatically saving emails and attachments to your Evernote
• Automatically forwarding receipts to Expensify
• Automatically forwarding trip itineraries to Kayak
• Automatically forwarding certain emails to certain friends or colleagues
As an example, let’s say you have a newsletter that you want to automatically save to Evernote. With SaneFwd, you can train SaneBox to keep on the lookout for future newsletters and automatically forward them to your Evernote account.
Another great example is email-based bills. If you get an invoice sent to you via email every month, why not have SaneBox automatically route it to your Todoist account (or OmniFocus mail drop address)?
SaneFwd is just one more example of how SaneBox can help manage your email so you can get on with your life. I’ve heard from so many readers that tried and fell in love with SaneBox. You should give it a shot. Use this link to get a nice discount off your subscription and let them know you heard about it here. Thanks again SaneBox for helping me in the battle against email every day.
A few days ago, iFeng leaked some images of a blue iPhone. The images look real but these days who really knows. I'd argue that this year, more than any before, it makes sense for the iPhone to get some more interesting colors. This will be the third year with the iPhone at basically the same design. People who buy the new phone will want bragging rights about having the latest and greatest. If you can’t show it’s new by the new design, then it needs to be a different color. I know people that bought a rose gold iPhone last year simply because it was a new color. If Apple doesn't provide any way to distinguish the new iPhone, there are some people who simply won’t buy it. I fully expect Apple to have at least one new iPhone color this year.
This week Nuance announced the imminent release of Dragon for Mac, Version 6. I spoke with Nuance and this new version takes advantage of several improved dictation technologies.
Nuance has always been able to server-based algorithms to improve dictation accuracy but this new version will be the first time they can embed learning on a user's computer, allowing them to improve their own language and acoustic model. This, and other improvements, adds up to less required training and a reported 24% improvement in accuracy. (I'm looking forward to putting that to the test.)
The demonstration I saw showed significant improvement in transcription of existing audio. Not only is the transcription better, it's also much easier to train and operate. I particularly like the new batch mode, that lets you transcribe batches of audio files in one go.
Improved Text Control
Mixing typing and transcription has always been rough going on the Mac. With Dragon 6 for Mac, you'll be able to dictate in supporting apps and type at the same time without the wheels falling off. They are still working on the list of supporting apps for launch but Scrivener is already one of them.
The new version ships (digitally) on September 1 and there will be physical product shipments by mid-September.
I enjoyed reading the Washington Post Tim Cook interview. The interview was wide in scope and really gives you a window into the mind of Apple's CEO. I recommend it. One section that raised my eyebrows was the discussion of security and privacy. This issue is a fascinating one to me because Apple has taken such a leading role in advocating privacy rights for consumers. As Tim explaned in the interview, "Customers should have an expectation that they shouldn’t need a PhD in computer science to protect themselves."
Elsewhere in the interview, Tim talks about Apple's mission.
I absolutely believe the folks at Apple get out of bed in the morning to make great products. However, it really isn't that simple. If you don't believe me, perhaps I could interest you in a 16GB iPhone. Making insanely great products has always required compromises. Apple has to make a profit if they want to stay in business and every Apple product (just like any other company's product) that comes to market requires thousands of small compromises. That's always come with the territory but until recently, I've never really thought of Apple having a competing North Star. Now I wonder.
Privacy is a big deal to Apple. Tim explained:
I think this is more than CEO puffing. I think Tim, and the rest of Apple leadership, feels this in their bones and they are absolutely willing to go to bat for consumers on the issue of privacy. They took a drubbing over the San Bernardino case and I suspect they'd do it all over again. The question, however, becomes what happens when protecting consumer privacy gets in the way of making insanely great products? If Apple's unstoppable force hits its own immovable object, who wins?
There are plenty of consumers already getting off the Apple services bandwagon in favor of Google precisely because the way Google does everything on its servers results in some insanely great user experiences. Apple is responding by trying to get those types of services on-device as opposed to the less private cloud storage as Google does. We're early days on this but it seems, at least for the immediate future, that the cloud service solution is better, faster, and more adaptable than on-device.
If Tim Cook were sitting here right now, I suspect he'd argue that the 2016 version of an insanely great product is one that (in addition to many other features) protects user privacy and going back to the issue of compromises, it's probably better that you not let somebody else index all of your photos, even if that would make it easier to search out pictures of canteloupes. I agree with that particular compromise but as we move into the next few years, I think the goals of great products and protecting user privacy aren't always going to align.
Twitter took some positive steps today to help get the jackasses out of your Twitter feed. The Twitter for iOS app now has a some new filters and notification settings.
You can now tell Twitter to only show you notifications from people you follow. The problem with this is that it treats everyone you don't follow as a jackass. That's no fun.
I've heard about this rumored quality filter for some time. This is promissing. The idea is that Twitter can look at their own data and sort the good from the bad and then only show you the good stuff. (It doesn't filter content from people you follow or have recently interacted with.) Now anyone can turn this filter on. This could be awesome or a mess, depending on how the filter is tuned. I sure hope it's good.
Why I'm in Favor of Verified Accounts
I personally believe that this problem gets a lot more solvable with verified accounts. Anonymity brings out the worst in some people. If users could press a button that mutes people not willing to verify their identity with Twitter, things would get better. However, Twitter is, for the time being, treated verified accounts as precious. I tried to verify my Twitter account (that I started in 2007 and has ~18,000 followers) and was turned down. (Of course, writing this at the same time I applied probably wasn't my smartest move.)
For years now, Apple nerds have pined away at the idea of Intel building ARM chips for Apple. Intel has always been at the front end of technology in terms of die shrinks and chip manufacturing. Unfortunately Intel has also always insisted on only building its own designs. That makes sense. I suspect being a chip designer/manufacturer is much more lucrative than being just a chip manufacturer.
Yesterday we received news that Intel has changed its mind and is now planning on building chips based on the ARM design. This seems like good news for Apple. It allows Apple to distance itself from Samsung (that same company that Apple sued for design theft) currently produces a lot of the chips found in iPhones and iPads. I'd also speculate that an Intel manufactured Apple ARM chip is smaller and more power efficient.
Without any inside knowledge, I’m guessing that Intel did not want to get into the chip-manufacturing-for-others business. Nonetheless, here we are. Let’s hope the iPhone and iPad can benefit.
This week MacSparky is sponsored by HoudahGeo. HoudahGeo is a Mac app that makes attaching locations to your photos ridiculously simple. The case for adding geo-location data to your photos is easy. Looking at your photos on a map gives you all sorts of options for sorting, viewing, and sharing your pictures. Want to see all the pictures from that beach trip? With HoudahGeo it's a snap. Because of the way our human brains work, years in the future we may not remember when we took a certain trip but we will remember where we went and with HoudahGeo on your side that's all you need.
The trouble is that a lot of cameras have no ability to geocode your photos for you. That's where HoudahGeo comes in. HoudahGeo actually geocodes photos. It writes industry standard EXIF/XMP tags to the original image files, which makes the geocode information permanent. (Not all geocode apps do that.)
HoudahGeo also works with multiple geocode workflows. You can automatically geocode photos form a GPS track log. You can also manually geocode photos using the map in HoudahGeo. It's easier than you think. You can even drag-and-drop geocoding data. HoudahGeo also allows for viewing (and showing) photos in Google Earth.
If your camera doesn't save geo-location data to your photos, you can solve that problem today with HoudahGeo. For a limited time, get 20% off with discount code “MACSPARKY”.
This week app developer, writer, and attorney John Voorhees joins us to share some of his geekiest workflows.
This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:
- PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
- 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore.
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- Squarespace: Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
I enjoyed reading Joanna Stern’s Wall Street Journal piece comparing chip-on-card versus mobile payment technologies (like Apple Pay). She timed over 50 transactions and figured out that on average, an Apple pay transaction takes six seconds and a chip on card transaction takes 13. If you do two transactions a day, that adds up to 85 extra minutes a year at the register. I already hate chip-on-card transactions. They take too long and when the transaction completes, the terminal rings an alarm klaxon that always makes me feel like I’ve just been caught shoplifting. Moreover, Apple Pay transactions require a separate PIN and are more secure.
It seems to me we’re moving in the right direction but not fast enough. I, for one, cannot wait for the day that I can get rid of all these bits of plastic I am carrying around.
Ben Lovejoy at 9to5 Mac explains how Microsoft accidentally released its golden key "and it appears impossible for Microsoft to fully patch it."
While talk of a government-mandated magic back-door into the iPhone has subsided, I'm sure we'll hear about it more after the elections. Tim Cook was right. Such a tool is dangerous by its mere existence and, as Microsoft discovered, such a thing will inevitably land in the hands of hackers, criminals, foreign governments, and other bad actors.
While an iPhone back-door would help law enforcement with criminals not smart-enough to use alternative encryption, the massive privacy intrusion combined with its inevitable release make it a terrible idea.
There has been a lot of rumbling lately about Twitter. While there’s a lot to like about the service (it remains my favorite and nearly exclusive social media outlet), Twitter has also become a playground for some pretty abusive and vile people. Charlie Warzel at BuzzFeed did a an impressive bit of reporting tracking the history of abuse of Twitter users and the company’s general failure to address the problem since the beginning. While I had known about some of the recent problems, I didn’t realize that this stems back to 2008. I recommend reading the entire article. It’s quite informative but also a bit disheartening.
Twitter responded that portions of the story are untrue but they don’t explain what those portion are or provide any further clarification. Having watched friends (primarily female) go through the Twitter meat grinder, I think the BuzzFeed story gets things generally right.
My one bit of feedback is that I don’t buy Twitter’s claim that they’re worried about lawsuits. Most people on the Internet have the ability to kick somebody off their website or service if they feel like they are behaving badly. If you don’t believe me, read the terms of service of every website on the Internet.
I think the reason why Twitter has been ignoring this problem is because they want everyone to use Twitter, even the jackasses. Maybe it’s time they grew up and started cracking down on this. If not, the rest of us will start voting with our feet.
I wanted a little escape tonight so I went in the App store and purchased the Dr. Who colouring book. It took about 30 seconds to realize that purchase was a mistake. It isn't a coloring book at all. Instead, you get a picture and a series of colors. You then tap in a white space and it fills in with the selected color … perfectly … every time. Without the actual act of drawing, I don't get the expected therapy.
If you're looking for a coloring book app (and if you have an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil I recommend you at least try), give Pigment a try. It gets iPad coloring right.
Because I can't help myself, I was early to the game with the iOS 10 betas this year. As a nerd, I find it generally fun to be at the bleeding edge technology. When something goes wrong, I don't blame Apple because it is, after all, a beta. Most things that break in beta get fixed before the final product ships.
As such, I usually don't worry too much about problems in beta. I am, however, concerned about the "Save to iCloud" dialog box in iOS 10. Here is a screenshot.
In iOS 9, the Save to iCloud dialog box was a little buggy but generally worked. It had a search bar and a way to navigate through your folders. Starting with iOS 10 beta 1 we got the above Save to iCloud dialog box. They've removed the search function and instead made it a very long scrolling list of folders. There's no way to collapse the folders and no way to jump to a specific destination. Instead, every time you want to save something to iCloud, you need to scroll through a seemingly endless list until you find the folder you want. In that process, you need to be very careful. If you scroll too fast and the iPad mistakes your swipe for a touch, iOS 10 saves the file to whatever folder you happen to touch. As I discovered, it's not always easy to figure out exactly where things end up. With every new iOS 10 beta I go back to this thinking it will have improved. So far it hasn't.
This new Save to iCloud dialog box is unusable for someone that has more than a few iCloud-based folders. When this arrived, I was in the midst of a two-month experiment running most of my cloud-based files off of iCloud. There were good parts and bad parts but it was workable. This dialog box put the brakes on the whole experiment. At first, I thought it was simply a placeholder until they made something better. But now they are up to the fifth beta and there still has been no change with this dialog box. I'm starting to get worried that this is what they intend to ship.
Does anyone at Apple use more than 100 folders on their iCloud drive? If they do, this has to be a pain point for them. I know we still have a month or so before iOS 10 ships and I really hope that I end up looking like Chicken Little with this post but if Apple does not improve the Save to iCloud dialog box before iOS 10 ships, it's going to be difficult to use iCloud with any significant number of folders.
This week the Omni Group released a public preview of OmniGraffle version 7. There are several nice improvements with this new version including:
You no longer have to choose an arbitrary canvas size when setting up a new OmniGraffle document. Instead, just click the infinite canvas and it will shrink and expand to fit whatever you're creating.
The Omni Group has been moving toward these unified sidebars in many of its applications. I think they make a lot of sense if they’re done right. OmniGraffle 7’s unified sidebar places relevant tools next to each other and it all made immediate logical sense to me.
There are several new conversion tools. You can now convert a line to a shape. Just add a few points to the middle of your line and start pulling it apart. You can also add points to shapes and, for the truly adventurous, you can convert text to a shape. Turning text, like an ampersand, into a Bézier-handled object is going to be useful.
There is a lot more in the new version that I'm still experimenting with. They added SVG import and export and a new export panel that looks interesting. There's also a new feature called Artboards for managing specific elements in your OmniGraffle document.
I’ve been trying the beta and you can too. If you’ve been wondering about OmniGraffle, this is a great chance to kick the tires for an extended period of time. No matter how you pay for your shoes, the ability to make professional looking quick drawings and graphics comes in handy and nothing does that better than OmniGraffle.
Today I received a pleasant surprise when Google issued an update to Google Docs and Google Sheets finally enabling split screen.
In this case the "finally" term is merited. Apple first announced split screen in June 2015. It took Google 14 months to update these apps for split screen. I'd love to hear the story behind why it took so long but suspect we never will. During those 14 months, Microsoft Office for iOS got a lot better and I began to seriously question Google's commitment to iOS.
While it's nice that these apps support split screen on the iPad Pro, I'm not holding my breath that they'll be getting lots of attention going forward.
As a writing tool, there isn't a lot to love about Google Docs. However it does have one advantage … and it's a big one. Google Documents has is the rock-solid ability for multiple people to access and edit a document simultaneously. While they've tried, neither Apple's Pages nor Microsoft Word come close to matching Google Docs on this feature. Quip was interesting, but they've been acquired and Dropbox Paper looks promising, but it is still early days.
If anything, the examples set by Quip and Dropbox Paper is that it is possible for other companies to compete in this collaboration space but Google remains king of this hill. I'm hoping that doesn't remain the case forever because Google's been pretty lukewarm about the iPad for the past 14 months or so.
On this month’s live episode of Mac Power Users, Victor Cajiao joins us to discuss all the steps of producing a modern music album. We also help troubleshoot an accidentally reformatted hard drive, discuss password schemes, using a ScanSnap for photos, share listener feedback on our Special Event and Keynote shows, and discuss options for Evernote.