Steve Jobs Screening on October 15

I'm not particularly excited about the new Aaron Sorkin movie on Steve Jobs. I don't think the book that the movie is based on is very good and while I'm sure the movie will be full of drama, I can't help but think the movie will make a lot of the same mistakes as the book. Nevertheless, I still want to see it. This Thursday, October 15, I'm going to go see the movie along with Adam Christianson from The MacCast and Victor Cajiao from the TerraTech podcast in Irvine California. If you're in the neighborhood and want to watch it with some fellow nerds, join us. Afterwards, we'll probably find a local bar to discuss the movie. You can get tickets at Fandango here.

Sponsor: OmniPlan 3 for the Mac

This week MacSparky is sponsored by OmniPlan 3 for the Mac

It has been four years since the last major update to OmniPlan and the recent release of version 3 is a doozy. OmniPlan brings the usual level of Omni-style attention to detail to a project planning application. 

Like versions before, you can easily set up an outline and turn it into a Gantt chart. I use this with project planning in my day job and share the charts with clients. It lets everyone know when to expect things to start happening. As with every other Omni Group productivity application, everything looks gorgeous.

The new version includes a substantial number of brand new power features starting with network diagrams, which do a fine job of pushing my nerd buttons. With the network diagram, you can see the visual flow of your project and make connections and adjustments.

With the Pro version you get a multi-project dashboard that lets you track now only one but many projects going on in your company at the same time. The Pro version also has a reports feature that lets you see where things are working and not working. They've also added Monte Carlo simulation, which lets you run your project through different scenarios to see how it impacts the project outcome. It's powerful stuff and it's now in OmniPlan 3 for the Mac.

I've been using OmniPlan for some time and am going to start covering it in more detail here to explain where I can make it work for me. Learn more at the OmniPlan website

MPU 282: Making it up as we go along

We just published this week's MPU live. Mark Metzger joined us to chat about File Maker. We also talked about cleaning up iOS, follow-up on Office 365 accounts and Google Docs, discuss Mac/PC hybrid setups, hear from a virtual assistant, share listener tips and tricks and Katie shares her experiences with the iPad Air 2.


Jazz Friday: Phil Woods at the Village Vanguard

Alto Saxophonist Phil Woods was an animal. I saw him for the first time in the late 70’s and it changed the way I thought about the saxophone forever. Phil played so fast and hard that it reminded me of a running out of control and always about to fall on my face. But Phil never fell down. 

Some called him the “New Bird” because of the way he played so intensely like Charlie Parker. (He also was married to Bird’s widow.) I always thought of him as the jazz-hippie because I was introduced to him during his long-hair phase. For awhile, Phil lived in France and recorded avant-garde jazz with a group called the European Rhythm Machine. (A nice example of this music is their song, Chromatic Banana.) By the 70’s, Phil moved back to the United States, returned to more straight ahead jazz, and got a haircut.

Phil also played sax for many popular artists including Billy Joel and Paul Simon. Whether playing upbeat or a ballad, Phil Woods always played intensely. My pick, his Live at the Village Vanguard is on iTunes and features him powering through Webb City and equally nailing a ballad as only Phil could in Prelude to a Kiss. Like a lot of jazz artists, the best Phil Woods recordings are those made before a live audience.

Phil passed away last week at the age of 83. The below video is of Phil playing in Lincoln Center a few years ago. Even in his 80’s Phil Woods still could swing his ass off.

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.

Fantastical for iOS 2.5

This week the other penny dropped for Fantastical. On the heals of their Mac update comes Fantastical for iOS 2.5. There's a long list of updates and new features including things like 3D Touch on the new iPhones and multitasking. 

For me, the big story here is the Apple Watch app. It's always looked better than the native Calendar app but also been hampered by the fact it's not a native application. It is now. The native app is much faster, now includes a Fantastical complication, and retains that clean Fantastical design. I've switched all my calendar complications over to the new Fantastical.

Apple Maps in 2015

Poor Apple Maps. It has been the whipping boy of the Internet for several years. Here is my favorite shot at Apple Maps from last season’s Silicon Valley.

For the first year after Apple Maps released, I kept Google maps on my home screen. However, after that Apple Maps improved enough to work for me. Moreover, the killer feature with Apple Maps is the Siri integration. I can be driving down the road, press the button for Siri and say “get directions home” or “get directions to Hippieland Granola Factory” and Siri does the rest of the work for me. It looks it up, opens the location in Apple Maps, and then initiates directions. This has saved my bacon plenty.

I still think this is a function of where you live. With me being in California, I suspect the Apple Maps problems got fixed a lot sooner than it would for someone who lives somewhere more remote. Nevertheless, if you gave up hope in Apple Maps, you should go look at it again. How-to Geek just did a comparison of the two services and found Apple and Google maps were a lot closer than they expected.

Sponsor: Automatic

This week I'm pleased to welcome back Automatic to MacSparky. Automatic is a device  that plugs into your car's OBD-II port. (Just about every car made since 1996 has one.) The Automatic then has access to your vehicle's data and connects via BlueTooth to your iPhone.

In a lot of ways, the Automatic makes your dumb car a smart car. Last week I spent several days driving around for the day job and needed to keep track of my mileage. That is no problem with the Automatic. It knows where I start and where I finish and gives me extremely accurate data on my iPhone and on their website. 

There is a lot more you can do with the Automatic including:

  • Get extremely accurate data about fuel efficiency, trip distance, gas used, and other performance metrics.
  • Get notifications when your car's fuel level is getting low.
  • Get explanations of any alarms or other events your car reports. No longer do you need to visit a mechanic when you get a cryptic light on your dashboard.
  • Detect when the vehicle has been in a significant accident and call you, your loved ones, and emergency support.
  • Get driving feedback when you are accelerating too fast, braking too hard, and otherwise doing silly things behind the wheel.

Automatic truly lets you geek out your ride. I purchased Automatic not only for my own car, but my wife and daughter's cars as well so if they are in an accident, I know about it immediately.

There is no subscription fee. Once you buy your Automatic, you're good to go. Moreover, they are giving 20% off to MacSparky readers. Use this link and the usual price of $100 drops to $80. I use my Automatic every time I step in my car. I bet you would too.

Self Driving Cars

Matt Honan, who's at Buzzfeed these days, got to go for a ride in a Google car.

A future without human drivers is a long, long way off. But we’ll get there. No matter what you think. No matter what you hope. No matter how you feel about it. Because the efficient, unemotional, necessary logic of cars that operate without human error and instability is unquestionable.

Matt further explains how the Google cars, now with a combined 3 million driving miles under their belts, are sharing the same brain and, in essence, learn from each other's mistakes. While that sounds creepy, I am all for self-driving cars. In the past week alone, I've seen a driver do her makeup on the freeway and another driver shaving while blowing through an intersection. Setting aside the legions of bad drivers, wouldn't it be nice if you could spend your commute time getting some work done or (even better) taking a nap? Once all this sorts out, sign me up.

(Thanks Daring Fireball for pointing me at the linked article.)

Home Screens: Brian Sutich

Brian Sutich (Twitter) is a huge Apple guy who writes over at and 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!

Carrot: Weather with Attitude

Growing up in southern California, I never thought much about weather. It's always kind of nice and occasionally too hot but never too humid. But these days things are getting weird here and it has stopped raining. Not only do I care more about weather these days, I am carrying this underlying animosity towards it. 

With this in mind, I've found my perfect weather app, CARROT weather (iOS App Store) (Mac App Store). Carrot has timely and accurate weather data. It has more data than I certainly can use including things like humidity, pressure, dew point, and other things I don't particularly care about (or even understand). It also has solid weather predictions including temperature, how cloudy it will be, and wind speeds. If you pay an extra $1.99, it will predict and tell you when it's going to rain. (Snort.)

Best of all though is that the app has a sense of humor. It's kind of malicious but since that matches my own attitudes toward weather, it's perfect. When you open it up, it's voice will say something snarky about the current weather.


There is a lot more whimsy throughout Carrot weather. For instance, there is a circle, dubbed the "ocular sensor", that serves no purpose. If you tap it, the application takes offense for you poking it in the eye and then says something appropriately rude to you.

The app also has weather for your current location or any other place you ask it to track weather. Some of the locations are pretty exotic, like Mount Doom and the Skywalker moisture farm. 

There are notifications, a today view widget, and all the other bells and whistles you'd expect. They have an app for iOS and also the Mac. While all this attitude is not necessary, I smile at least once a day when checking weather and in the middle of the California drought, that's pretty special.

A Few Notes about OS X El Capitan

It’s update day! Hooray! My usual sickness for installing beta operating systems long before any sane person would carried over to this year’s OS X update, 10.11 El Capitan. After several months, here is my collected list of notes, tips, and observations:

  • The new San Francisco font = win. I suspect this will be the Mac’s system font for a long time into the future.

  • Find friends in the today view sidebar is great. While working at my Mac I can get location data for my wife and kids immediately. I use it way more now that it is on my Mac than when this was an iOS-only thing.

  • Split view on the Mac is a great idea but the implementation feels wonky. Setting it up requires some precise clicking and dragging on the green minimize button. Swapping windows is harder than it should be. I like the idea but am not sold.

  • OS X Dictation got a performance bump. It is more accurate than the Yosemite version but also still makes some dumb mistakes and not as good as Dragon Dictate. (I’ll be writing more on that soon.)

  • That problem where some random-yet-unknown Safari tab is playing music is now solved. Safari puts a small speaker icon in the tab and never again will you be required to quit Safari because you can’t figure out which tab is playing the whack-a-mole song.

  • Swiping email to delete, trash, or archive is nice. It is not as useful as it is on iOS since we have keyboards on Macs but is a nice alternative. The only curious part is that aren’t as many swipe options on the Mac as there are on iOS, where you can also flag and move messages. It’s just weird that they didn’t didn’t include the same options.

  • Speaking of mail, data detectors are way better now. Apple Mail even gives you a little bar across the top of any message that includes usable data.

  • I’m going to write more about Notes but if you’ve been waiting, now is the time to push the button on updating your Notes database to the new Notes. Go ahead. Kick the tires.

  • Some of my nerd-friends aren’t impressed with the way Safari pins tabs. I like it. There are a few key sites that I like quick access to and pinning them does the job nicely.

  • Spotlight is getting Siri-like, by letting you type in natural language queries. (No Siri-type voice recognition this year.) Like all natural language interfaces, it works so long as you use the expected syntax. I like that the operating system is going this direction but consider it more a first step than anything else. Also, you can now move the Spotlight window.

  • There is system preference (in the General settings) to hide the menu bar. It may make sense if you’ve got a small screen. I tried it for a few days and it made me nuts. Apparently I still use the menu bar lots.

  • Metal means better graphics performance. While that is great for gamers, it also helps speed up slower Macs. Win-win. 

  • Two factor authentication is now part of the operating system. That’s a good thing.

  • Disk Utility got a new user interface. I never saw that coming.

  • One of my big complaints about Photos was the lack of third party extensions. That’s fixed now. Expect several Mac apps to get friendly with Photos now.

To learn more about El Capitan, we did an entire show on it with this week on the Mac Power Users.

Billings Pro 2 for iOS

Marketcircle has updated Billings Pro for iOS (Website) (App Store). The new version adds iPad multitasking. When I saw the screenshot, I was immediately taken with the update. This is exactly the kind of implementation I was hoping for with iPad multitasking. Adding billing entries while working in a browser or calendar makes so much sense to me. We are on the verge of significantly improved iPad productivity. I can feel it in my bones.

5 Quick Tips to Make Sure Your Presentation Doesn’t Suck

I recently was asked to give a presentation on how to make a presentation. I tried to keep it simple and came down to these five points:

1. Never Turn Your Back to the Audience

It can be scary standing up in front of a group of people. Turning your back gives you a way to hide and read your slides instead of engaging. That’s really bad. Audiences hate it and you’re better than that. No matter how tempting, when you first stand up in front of a room full of people, don’t turn around.

2. Use Fewer Words

It is easy to just transcribe your anticipated speech onto your slides. That doesn’t help you out. It just tells the audience that you don’t really care and they can ignore you. Don’t do that. You are a unique and special snowflake. Make the presentation support you, not the opposite. Also, if you’re going to use bullets, animate them so they just reveal one point at a time. That way people aren't reading ahead when you’re speaking.

3. Turn Down the Sexy

 Fancy animations and transitions can serve a purpose if used sparingly. If used often, they just become distracting noise.

4. Use Visuals

Humans are visual creatures and learn a great deal from what they see. A good presentation can pour understanding into the brains of your audience. Use images and visuals to enhance your words. Pooping a bunch of words on your slides while you are still speaking makes it impossible for the audience to both read the slide words and listen to your words simultaneously. Visuals, on the other hand, reinforce your words and can make all of the difference.

5. Tell a Story

The best presentations and speeches tell a story. They relate to the audience and bring your point (whatever it may be) into a context that the audience can share with you. When planning an important presentation think about that in advance. Plan the high points and low points to create a yarn that will pull your audience right along with you. At the end, they will love you for it.

Want to learn more? I know of a pretty good book.

Bartender 2

There once was a dark time for all Mac users where the menubar threatened to take over our computers. The march of applications with handy menubar icons seemed unstoppable while at the same time Apple started making laptop screens smaller and smaller. I remember having menubar icons that disappeared under application menus never to be heard from again.

Then came Bartender. Bartender seemed to bend the laws of physics, letting you move and adjust your menubar icons. Just hold down the Command key and start re-organizing your menubar to your preference. This even works on those sacrosanct Apple menubar icons like Airport and Battery Life. 

Moreover, Bartender gives you the ability to add a second list of less important icons that you can access with a single mouse click. It’s like putting menubar icons in a drawer that you can open at any time. Bartender even has a preference that allows you to elevate certain menubar icons out of its drawer and into the primary menubar whenever they are active.

I don’t know a single nerd that does not love Bartender. It gives you the freedom to add menubar icons to your Mac with reckless abandon while at the same time keeping your menubar clear and clean.

Today sees the release of Bartender 2. Like its predecessor, Bartender 2 adds a secondary menubar to your Mac where you can pile on the menu bar icons to be shown or hidden upon your request. I’ve been running the new version on my El Capitan test machine for a few weeks and it has some really nice improvements over the prior version:

Keyboard Navigation

You can now navigate your menubar via keyboard navigation. Bartender 2 lets you set a custom keyboard shortcut (I use Control-Option-Command-B) that opens up the Bartender menubar and highlights an icon. You can then use the arrow keys to navigate around the menubar icons both in the Bartender menubar and the primary menubar above. Once you find the one you want, hit the return key and you’re in business. This takes a lot longer to describe than to actually perform. If you like to keep your fingers on the keyboard, being able to get into the menubar with the keyboard combination is worth the price of admission alone.


If your fixation with menubar icons is truly unhealthy, you may have so many that it is difficult to find the one you are looking for. Sadly, that’s been me. Bartender 2 fixes this problem by letting you search your menubar icons. To do so, start typing your search phrase when you’re in the Bartender menubar and the application does the rest for you.

New Paint and New Engine

With the imminent release of El Capitan, Bartender 2 also got many improvements to match the user interface direction that started with Yosemite and a lot of work went under the hood to add these new features while still working within Apple’s System Integrity Protection in El Capitan.

If you have ever faced any friction with managing your menubar icons, Bartender is the solution you’re looking for. With my 12 inch MacBook, I simply could not live without it. Bartender 2 is a paid upgrade. If you bought the original version, the upgrade is $7.50. If you’re buying a new, it is $15. You can learn more at the developer’s website.