Drafts App Sale Plus Screencasts

Over the last month I've been busy creating screencasts on how to use Drafts on my iPhone and iPad. There is a whole slew of them. This is, essentially, a full MacSparky Video Field Guide and if you've ever wondered about Drafts, here's your chance to master it. Drafts is going to release the screencasts over time and you can read all about it right here.

There is also a 30% off sale on the app from now through May 2 so if you've been on the fence, you've really got no excuse now. Below is the Overview screencast that gives you a good idea what you can do with this essential app.

Apple Music Recommendations. Not "For Me"

Apple Music has been great for our family. We all love music and we all listen to different kinds of music. Thanks to Apple Music we are listening to more music than ever and spending less money doing so. I know this shouldn’t be news for anybody that’s been in the subscription music game for any amount of time, but with the $15 a month family price point, it’s really been great for us.

All of that said, I really hate Apple Music recommendations. Below is my “for you” recommendations earlier today.

With the exception of a single Miles Davis album none of those are “for me”. I suspect the reason I get so many pop recommendations is because my family shared a single iTunes account for many years. However, we are now all on separate family sharing accounts and I can assure you that I’ve never favorited a Beyoncé album. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

My favorite music largely includes obscure living jazz artists and less obscure dead jazz artists. I’ve wasted hours favoriting albums and marking other “recommended” playlists as ones I don’t like. Nevertheless, I open iTunes nearly every day as I work at my iMac and get the same Selina Gomez album thrown at me in place of Thelonkous Monk.

Maybe if I started a new iTunes account from scratch I would be in better shape. But that would require me to walk away from thousands of dollars of music, movies, and apps I purchased from iTunes in the past. I’m in a cage of Apple's creation and I believe they should figure a way out of it. At the very least, if I tell Apple Music I don’t like the One Direction playlist (again, not that there is anything wrong with that), Apple Music should not throw it at me again … every day … for the rest of my life. How does the algorithm not take into account when the user specifically says, "please don't show me this again"?

The net result of all of this is that I am unable to use Apple Music recommendations. I guess that’s okay because I know other ways to find new and interesting music but it also just kind of sucks.

The MacSparky Mailing List

For years I've been getting emails from readers asking me to put together a regular newsletter. I've decided to commit and start making a monthly newsletter. The newsletter will have some original content and point at other content that I hope is interesting. I'll be publishing the first such newsletter this week so if that's your thing, go sign up.

Sponsor: SaneBox and SaneReminders

I’d like to thank SaneBox for sponsoring MacSparky.com this week. SaneBox is a kick in the pants for your email. It adds a host of additional features to any email account and works with exchange, Google mail, or IMAP accounts.

There is a lot you can do with SaneBox to tame your email. One feature that a lot of users aren’t aware of is SaneReminders. Often you will send an email to someone and have some sort of expectation about a reply. That creates a pesky problem for you. Do you try and just remember to follow up on it in a week or two? Do you tie a string around your finger? Do you create a task in your task list application to remind you to check on whether or not there’s a reply? There really isn’t a simple, efficient way to handle that problem.

With SaneReminders, when you send an email to someone, you can blind copy it to SaneBox with some designated amount of time like, “1week@sanebox.com”. SaneBox then quietly watches out for a reply to that email. If you don’t get a reply within one week, you get a note from SaneBox reminding you. If you deal with a lot of people, this is a completely friction-free way to track email replies. I use this feature every day.

Learn more about all of the features of SaneBox over at SaneBox.com. If you sign up using the links in this post, you even get a nice discount. Who doesn’t want a nice discount? Thank you SaneBox for supporting MacSparky.com.

MPU 317: Myke Hurley: Collector of iPads

This week's episode of Mac Power Users features Myke Hurley, who talks about how he is using his iPad Pro and some of his favorite workflows for the business side of running a podcast network.

There was a problem with the feed (my fault) where some listeners got last week's episode (MPU 316) instead of the new one. If that's you, just re-download the episode and you're fine

Sponsors include:

  • Clean My Mac 3: A simple and powerful application for keeping your Mac clean, maintained, and healthy. For a limited time, Mac Power Users listeners can save 30%.
  • Drobo Created by you. Protected by Drobo. Save $100 off select models using code MPU100.
  • 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.

Stanford's Latest iOS Course

Every year Stanford releases a course on iOS application development to iTunes U. It's always good and this year the materials are updated for iOS 9 and Swift. These courses aren't beginner level but they certainly aren't expert level either. If you're curious about these things, this is a pretty good place to start.

Speaking at the Release Notes Conference

I’m excited to be named as a speaker at this year’s Release Notes Conference in Indianapolis on September 27–29. The Release Notes Conference is all about independent developers and the challenges they face. Indie developers are some of my favorite people. They are entrepreneurs, geeks, and fearless trailblazers all at once. I can’t wait to talk to them about the perils and thrills of working for yourself.

FotoMagico 5

For years I've had the reputation in my friend and family groups as being the "slide show wizard". If somebody's getting married, or having an anniversary party, or whatever, they always come to me and ask me to put on their slide show.

I always hedge a bit, explaining that it is very time consuming and that if I'm going to do it, they should at least make sure I get extra cake and ice cream. They always agree to my terms.

What they don't know is that all this time I've simply been taking their pictures and dumping them in FotoMagico with some good music. The app does all the work.

Recently Boinx released version 5 of FotoMagico and now I'll look even better. They've now got features like:

* Resolution independence. Your slide show will play on any projector up to 4K

* Adding video

* New slide transitions and better text animation

One of my tricks for weddings is to always get a shot of the bride and groom's first kiss and then add it to the end of the slide show for the reception. Everybody loves that. Now FotoMagico makes that job easier with a pre-built snippet for just that purpose.

There's more, like export functions, synchronization with music beats, and other fancy tricks but to me the real value in this app is how easily it makes a great slideshow. Learn more over at Boinx Software.

Drawing on iPad Word

I don't know what they're feeding the Microsoft iOS development team but I wish they'd give some of it to the Mac team too. I've been using Word's latest new feature that lets you annotate Microsoft Word documents on the iPad with the Apple Pencil. It feels super natural and makes a great deal of sense once you get the workflow down. I was going to write it up but Jeff Richardson covered it thoroughly today so I'm just going to point you over there.

At this point I'm beginning to wonder if it's inevitable that I'll be moving my Apple Pages template documents over to Word and just go all-in for Word. There's a sentence I never thought I'd write.

Five Weeks

Today Apple announced an update to the MacBook. Overall, the new machine looks pretty solid. Faster SSD. Better processor. More battery life. The shocking thing to me is how little I care. Last week I had to get my laptop out and found a letter open on it that I had started writing … five weeks ago. I knew it had been awhile since I used the laptop. I didn't realize it was five weeks.

Don't get me wrong. I spend hours a day using my iMac. But for mobile work, the iPad Pro has largely been getting the job done for me. As iOS further matures, I'm just not so sure I'll have much need for a laptop. Trust me. I'm as surprised by this realization as anybody else.

Typing on Glass

I've made no secret over the years about the fact that I'm not particularly good at typing on glass. Part of the reason is ham-hands and my preference for dictation. Those, however, are just excusees. The real reason is that after a lifetime of touch typing, I've never felt particularly good at typing on glass. It felt like productivity molasses.

A few things, however, have swayed me. It started with the iPad Air. On that machine I got quite good at thumb typing in portrait mode. It's nothing like touch typing but still pretty great to sit on an airplane and thumb my way through an outline or a pile of email.

Speaking of airplanes, I recently took a flight where I was seated right between the window and a big guy that made pulling down the tray and using my iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard cover impossible. I had four hours on that plane and was determined not to thrown in the towel. So I placed the iPad on my lap and started typing. I then went into one of those hypnotic work-states that I often feel on airplanes and before I knew it the pilot announced we were about to land.

I got a lot of work done typing on glass that day and it really opened my eyes. There's a lot to like about typing on the 12.9" iPad glass. You can switch keyboards easily. If you're paying attention, the recommended word selections are pretty good and can speed things up. That eye-opening flight was a month ago and now I find myself typing on glass a lot more than I've ever done before. This post was typed on glass (more out of convenience than to prove a point). When you get right down to it I really don't think there is much a speed loss typing on glass with the big iPad Pro.

Jason Snell's brought math to this party. He recently ran his own typing tests where he found he only had a 17% loss in speed typing on the 12.9" iPad pro glass over a keyboard. While I don't think it is quite that close for me, I don't think Jason is far off. Moreover, if I spent a little bit more time getting better at this glass keyboard, I'm certain I could close the gap further.

All of that said, there are still definite pain points. Text selection is still far easier for me using a keyboard. Also, typing on glass at least once a day my finger accidentally hits the keyboard switch button which brings my work to a screeching halt. On that note if I were in charge, I'd make the keyboard selection button something where you had to press and hold to switch between keyboards.

I'm not ready to give up my Apple Smart Keyboard cover anytime soon but I can tell you I'm much more receptive to typing on glass now than I've ever been before. 

MPU 316: Locking Down Your Technology

There seem to be a lot of shenanigans lately with other people trying to get at your personal information. In this week's episode Katie and I explain how to lock up your Apple technology. My thanks to this weeks Mac Power Users sponsors.

  • Igloo: An intranet you’ll actually like, free for up to 10 people.
  • 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. 
  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad.

Home Screens: James Coleman

This week’s home screen features James Coleman (Twitter). James was a recent guest on the Mac Power Users and runs the Switcher Genius website that helps show PC users the light and bring them to the Mac. So James, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

My favorite apps aren’t necessarily the ones on my home screen, which is interesting. In fact, my favorite apps are just the interface to an entire platform that solves some problem in an incredible way previously not possible.  More and more I’m reminded that the iPhone is just the box we carry around to interface with platforms that could span hundreds or thousands of servers, and hundreds of thousands or millions of people worldwide.

As of the time of this writing, I really, really like Withings. I have two Withings scales and a bluetooth blood pressure cuff, and I use the scales daily, and the cuff every few days and no less than once per week.  I just discovered and applied a fitness recovery protocol for myself and lost >15lbs in the prior month, and I’m on track for losing another 10 this month. Withings is an important tool that’s part of my plan.  It’s groovy because it gives me data points I can look at, which is like reviewing financials if you’re a business type. A really critical 20% of my fitness regimen is a psyche game, and having those data points to look at constructively helps me analyze and stay focused. So if Withings helps me get back my sexy, I’m a fan.   Shazam and SoundHound are two of my favorite apps for telling me what the song is that I’m hearing, wherever I’m at. I dig this, especially in yoga sculpt (I’m addicted to yoga), and it can even tells me specific mixes, which is more awesome. And Shazam lets me put listening on continuous mode so I don’t have to tap the big listen button. I used SoundHound at my 5 year old’s sports festival recently to figure out what the songs were they were dancing to. My son was super stoked when he found out that I had added them to his playlist on iTunes.

I love Periscope. Tech has so much potential to open up TV, like Podcasting has done for audio broadcast.  I worked in West Hollywood for a few years, and during that time I met so much talent that had a snowball’s chance in hell of being discovered because media is largely controlled a few big companies. With a platform like Periscope, a student, screenwriter, actor - virtually anyone - can be heard, followed and discovered worldwide.  It’s unbelievable. I’m planning on putting Periscope to good use by answering tech questions my readers and listeners ask on the Switcher Genius blog and in a Q&A format online, live, unscripted. How cool is it that this is possible?

I have to admit that I was blown away with the experience using Postmates.  Seriously, if anyone hasn’t ordered delivery (usually food, but other things like groceries too, etc.) via Postmates, do it. When a business really thinks through the customer experience, and not just on-screen, but also off-screen, like how well the information flows between the person holding the phone and the company they want something from, they’re winning the game. 

A related note for business/tech nerds like me, about why I think an apps like Postmates are cool: The future of products and services is really about who can deliver the most efficiency from an asset. And not necessarily their own assets. Think about Apple: When you think Apple, the first products that come to mind are Macs and iOS devices. Those are just the medium.  Where Apple’s winning super hardcore is on making money on everyone else’s assets.  What is it now that they make off of iTunes and Apps that are other people’s assets?  Like $20 billion in profit?  Uber and AirBnB are two other great examples of this.  Any App that makes my experience with a company better by making it more efficient is cool.

Other than that, the apps most important to me are closest to my right-hand thumb.  I actually organized my phone specifically so the apps that I use most each day are easily in reach. No folders. No stretching. They’re right there. I call this area my iPhone’s “golden triangle” (see picture).

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

It’s nutty and nerdy, but it would have to be the app called Japanese.  I have a degree in Japanese Language and Literature, and during my undergrad studies I carried around a character lookup dictionary by Nelson that looks like a law school tome: Hardback, and it probably weighs 4 lbs and has some 1100 pages.  To look up any Kanji (Kanji = the adopted Chinese characters that are a core part of the Japanese written language) I would have to dissect a character based on its core components mentally then look it up. It’s actually really similar in some ways to translating hieroglyphics.  The whole process always struck me as crazy inefficient when we have English and can look up anything from A-Z, and most of the time phonetically instead of graphically.

Japanese is awesome because I can look up almost any word any number of ways.  Like by the way it sounds, just typing roman letters. Or via the “alphabet” of Japanese.  I can even draw the Kanji (which is useful if you’ve memorized 2000+ Kanji in college and still remember some, or can write what you see on a sign/book/newspaper, etc.)  I recently started blogging about Japan and Japanese (on Japanophile.jp), and I’ve using this app probably 15–20 times per day as I find new things to translate and share with people interesting in cool Japanese stuff.

What app makes you most productive? 

When I think productivity, three appsimmediately come to mind. Omnifocus, Evernote, 1Password.

The clear winner would be Evernote. I wrote most of this in Evernote in my car using Siri. But Evernote goes so much further than I could possibly have imagined. It’s text recognition capability is amazing, and paired with all of the capability of the iPhone it makes for the perfect external brain, which is basically their tagline. I take photos and menus at restaurants. I log almost all my calls of any consequence, and can look them up on any device instantly and by content, tags, or even the notebooks that I organize my notes into.  It’s so ridiculously easy to keep track of notes with tags, and organize them into notebooks or projects and endeavors.  And Evernote’s hooks into web browsers make it’s superbly easy to capture clips of anything.  

I signed up for Evernote for Business, and I keep discovering new ways to use it. It’s already replaced my company’s wiki and it’s replacing a large part of what Box.com used to do for me, and now I’m using it to collaborate on projects at work and at home, including planning vacations, school activities, etc. I estimate that actually utilizing Evernote gives me back at least 5 hours per week.  I used to think that Box.com was hot and servers were ancient.  I’m starting to realize that a platform like Evernote is much, much more than notes and can radically change the way a business - or even a household - runs.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

You know, when it comes to under-utilizing an app, I can’t really think of one off the top of my head.  I think it’s because I’m so obsessive-compulsive about how I select apps, how I organize them, and more important, what I get rid of. I do an 80–20 analysis on everything. My iPhone is a great example.  I use the stuff on the home screen 95%+ of the time. I used to have the calculator app on the home screen before Siri and before the Calculator was moved to the control center.  If I had to pick one by features it would be OmniFocus.  There’s just so much more I could do with it, but I don’t need to because the 20% I use it for gives me the 95% of what I want. 

What is the app you are still missing?

A really, really, really good translation app. There are some cool ones out there, but there’s no real rosetta stone of apps yet. I will seriously geek out when the day comes that I can tap ’translate’ and have it do real-time translation of everything happening in my conversation and transfer it to my Moto Hint that’s usually embedded in my ear. Then again, I remember holding the original 5GB iPod in my hand and saying “wouldn’t it be cool if this thing had a camera and you could make calls on it.” Maybe Siri will become my personal translator not too far off.

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

I use my iPhone a lot. In order of use:

1.  Phone. I’m only using one phone number nowadays.

2.  Messages.

3.  Evernote. Using with #1 and #2 constantly.

4.  Music and Apple Remote. Music is sooooo important to me.  I’m playing music constantly, in the car, at the office, at home.  

5.  Twitter. I’m @jamescoleman on Twitter. Twitter is the ultimate ability to say “hello” to anyone out there, and I love responding to anyone that says hi to me.   

On the other hand, I’m getting more and more used to leaving the ring volume on and cranked up somewhere in the house when I’m home so I don’t have the tendency of looking at it all the time.  When it’s in my pocket or in my hand, I noticed I’m more likely to look at it when I don’t need to.  Same for work production time.  When I’m writing the phone is a massive distraction, so it good to my right on the bookshelf and waits there.

I own two iPads and use them all the time teaching people Photos and business and personal productivity, but I use my iPhone for everything.  The only time I really use my iPad is as a parent-saving-device (PSD) on 12-hour flight to Japan, fully loaded with Ultraman and Youkai Watch videos for my kiddos.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The camera. Without a doubt. The ability to take a photo anywhere, anytime, geo-tagged, is just so wonderful. I’ve spent 10 years learning everything there is about digital photography, and I’ve helped everyone from moms and dads to some of the best photographers in the world get their photos and videos in order. I fill up my iPhone (I have the largest size and storage possible) at least once every 3 months.  I just love it.

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

My wife’s phone was just stolen during a trip to San Francisco, and within minutes we pushed the destroy-all-data button. About an hour later we had confirmation that the iPhone was zeroed out. The problem is, the jerk who stole it still has some incentive, despite the IMEI being reported stolen. There are too many parts that get taken and make their way into the black market. I want an option to not only wipe data, but fry all the circuitry simultaneously so every single part of the device is worthless to the crook who took it. I would find a way to not just remote wipe the phone, but also to safely remote destroy it.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

My lock screen rotates a lot. Usually pictures of my two boys or my gorgeous wife. Right now it’s a good luck charm I saw in Kyoto, Japan when I was traveling in the Yunohana area with my brother last April. I had just started a new blog so the maneki neko - a good luck cat - is beckoning for new readers :-)

Thanks James.

Catching up with MPU

We’ve posted a few Mac Power Users episodes since I last checked in on the subject:

MPU 315: Best of the Menu Bar

Over the years we’ve received lots of email asking about what are those applications in our menubars. This episode goes over something like 20 of them and why we love them. This episode will probably cost you a few bucks.

Sponsors are:

  • Audible: With over 180,000 audiobooks, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Get a free 30-day trial.
  • Gazelle Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle!
  • SaneboxStop drowning in email!
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.

MPU 314: The Trials and Tribulations of Katie’s iPad

This is our monthly live episode filled with feedback and an interview with Joe Buhlig about the importance of task review.

Sponsors are:

  • Linode: High performance SSD Linux servers for all of your infrastructure needs. Get a $20 credit with promo code ‘mpu20’
  • Casper: Because everyone deserves a great night sleep. Get $50 off with the code ‘MPU’
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. 
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap ScanSnap Helps You Live a More Productive, Efficient, Paperless Life.



Drobo Access

Drobo has released a new app for the network attached Drobos, like my Drobo 5N, that gives you access to your files from just about anywhere including mobile and the web. The data is encrypted end-to-end and each Drobo carries a unique SSL certificate. As I find myself turning into a remote iOS worker, this is great. I can now get access to my deep storage files on the iPad Pro.