There is, understandably, a lot of concern about that full access warning dialog in iOS 8 when you enable a new keyboard. The biggest fear is that apps will log your keystrokes in hopes of delivering better service but at the same time collecting every word you type. Add a database of all your keystrokes to a company searching to be acquired and suddenly things get really uncomfortable. Getting full disclosure from app developers of how much data they collect and what they do with it is going to be essential for me in determining which third party keyboards make the cut.
I published a screencast last week of the TextExpander keyboard. Smile, its developer, has already explained how they use data and it is, thankfully, very responsible. No keystroke data is transmitted to any servers. They keep a small cache of keystrokes only long enough to determine if you've triggered a snippet and then they dump it. You can learn more from Smile's blogpost on the subject. I hope other keyboard developers follow Smile's example.
In the latest installment of the Mac Power Users, Katie and I cover our favorite features in the latest version of iOS. There is a lot to cover here and I think we did a pretty good job of it. As an aside, I've got several posts going up this week about iOS 8. I'm really digging it and it is already changing my game.
This week I’m pleased to welcome back Middle Davids Artisan Candles. Dan Catlin and his team at Middle Davids understand the use of rituals to help with productivity. We all like our good coffee (or tea!), our clicky keyboards, and our clean work surfaces, but what about scent?
I burn candles while I write and I always feel that the ritual of lighting the candle is a way to tell myself “it is on” and get to work. After I’ve worked a few hours, I blow out the candle and take a break. You’ll be surprised how well this works. My favorite this month is Carribean Teakwood.
Dan, the proprietor, is a candle geek and obsesses on candles like I do productivity apps. The candles are 100% botanical soy wax, not paraffin (which is a petrochemical) and the wicks are cotton woven (no metals).
MacSparky readers are already loving their Middle Davids Candles including graphic designer Cody Jones, who explained, “Making Light helps me to define a time to lock into my creative and productive zone. Lighting that candle is one of the best parts of my workday.”
Middle Davids has a subscription plan that gets you two candles a month with 40 hours of burn time. That’s two hours of focus a day. You also get a box of wooden matches, and a sample of the next month’s scent. Give it a try. You’ll surprise yourself. Use the code “MacSparky9” (or “macsparky9”) for 20% off.
Recently, I joined Mike Vardy on his https://productivityist.simplecast.fm/4. During the show we chatted about task management and habit tracking. Mike has that unique combination of smarts and humor that make this worth listening.
Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite fantasy/science fiction writers. A few years ago, he started a new series, The Stormlight Archive. He's now published two books in the series and I've read them both. The first one, The Way of Kings, is currently free through an iTunes promotion. If you've got any interest in this sort of thing, go get it now.
Sometimes sponsor of the site, Rocket Matter, just released an iPad app for their cloud-based law practice management solution. A few years ago there was a raging debate as to whether cloud-based services needed to be browser-based or app-based. Rocket Matter has taken the position that its service should be both in the browser and in an app. I think they nailed it and other cloud-based service providers could take a lesson.
No longer part of IDG, Jason Snell is now an indie writer and podcaster from his new home at sixcolors.com. I think having Jason spend less time being an administrator and more time writing is a huge win for all of us. I subscribed immediately. Good luck Jason!
This week’s home screen features Bradley Chambers (Twitter)(Website). In addition to his guest appearances on the Mac Power Users, Bradley also co-hosts the Out of School podcast with Fraser Speirs (Home screen). Bradley is a wicked smart geek. Bradley is also the first person (of many) to share a six row iPhone 6 home screen. So Bradley, show us your home screen.
What are some of your favorite apps?
My favorite app is probably Evernote. It’s my external brain. I struggled for years on what to use Evernote for, but Fraser Speirs finally showed me the light. A perfect example of something I store in Evernote are photos of crafts that my oldest son makes at school. I don’t really want to store the hard copy of everything that he makes forever, but I would like to have a record of it.
Omnifocus is really well done on the iPhone. I tried to move away from the ecosystem last year (for simplicity), but when Omnifocus 2 was released on the Mac, I came back. Where Evernote is my “hard drive”, Omnifocus is my “RAM”. It allows me to only focus on what I need to focus on at any given time. If it’s not in Omnifocus, it won’t get done.
1Password is also one of those apps that I couldn’t live without. Everything from password logins, secure notes, and credit card information is stored in it. With iOS 8 extensions, 1Password on iOS will become much more powerful.
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
It’s definitely Overcast. I’ve been a podcast fan since the first Revenge of the Screen Savers episode was released. I’ve used just about every podcast app on the market, and Overcast is fantastic. I also really like Castro, but the audio smart speed and voice boost features keep me using Overcast.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?
It’s the camera. The very fact that I can capture almost anything that happens with a device that fits in my pocket is just incredible. I’ll be able to go back and look at so many more memories of my kids lives than any other generation before.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m really looking forward to seeing how developers take advantage of extensions to give me less of a reason to use my Mac. I’m a big “iOS first” proponent and want to continue to see the platform develop into a first class productivity machine.
In addition to the release of iOS 8 today (and a LOT of app updates), the Omni Group has released OmniFocus for iPad, version 2. I've been using the beta for awhile and have some thoughts about the update.
Look and Feel
OmniFocus 2 for the iPad is very similar to that of OmniFocus 2 on the iPhone. It has that sparse iOS 7 look sprinkled with the Omni Group’s own particular aesthetic. It is not just a coat of paint though. Controls have been moved and working in the application is more fluid than with version 1. The Omni Group has years of experience with the iPad now and it shows. As an example, I can now look at my forecast for three days from now with one tap. This tap efficiency appears everywhere in the new application. Another example is the project review view. OmniFocus on the iPad has always excelled as for project review but the new version has a ground-up redesign that lets me review projects faster than before.
In both portrait and landscape mode, the left pane displays buttons to access perspectives and the forecasts. (With the pro version, explained below, you can add your custom perspectives and also re-arrange their display order. In portrait view, when you select a perspective, the left pane slides out of you and dedicates the entire screen to the selected view.
Pulling down on this perspective sidebar, exposes the synchronization and settings buttons. Synchronize button forces the synchronization with your syncing mechanism of choice, which can include a private server or OmniFocus`s own OmniPresence service.
The Settings include options for due dates, notifications, and the synchronization methodology. There’s also the ability to enable TextExpander snippets which can be really handy when creating new tasks and OmniFocus.
Heavy Lifting Now an Option
One problem I’ve always had with the iPad and iPhone versions of OmniFocus is the ability to easily move the defer date of a project. The way I organize my task projects, sometimes I will hit one that has multiple associated tasks on a day when I have no time to deal with it. Indeed, I may conclude that I don’t have any time to deal with it until a week from next Tuesday. With the prior version I then had to go drill down in the Projects perspective and adjust the project defer date there or tediously move the start date on every associated task. Neither of these options was very palatable and quite often I ended up doing this on the Mac instead.
With the new OmniFocus 2 for iPad, I can now adjust a project defer date right in the standard view. When viewing a project in a perspective that will display the project name (this is entirely up to the user and customizable), you can tap on the project and the task list and make adjustments to its defer date right there.
If on Monday morning you wake up to find you have a 20 item project that you simply are not going to get to, you can move it to some future date with just a few taps on the iPad. This simplified interface makes those large review sessions possible on the iPad now where they were not before.
The Omni Group didn’t waste any time getting in on iOS 8 extensions. The Today View widget display tasks with upcoming due dates. You can check the task off right in the Today view without even opening OmniFocus.
They also have an extension that lets me save a webpage right to the OmniFocus inbox. You can also add project and context information at the time of capture. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve emailed web pages off in the past for purpose of capturing into OmniFocus. This is much more efficient.
Search out tasks was alway a bit of a mystery in OmniFocus. With the new version, it is much easier with a tap-able button to search the current perspective, remaining tasks, or the whole enchilada.
The Big Sync
One feature that doesn’t get much attention is the synchronization engine. My database has a lot of projects and tasks in it and I’m jumping between devices all day long. OmniFocus has got so adept at synchronizing this data that I find myself taking it for granted. Nevertheless, I know the OmniGroup is always working on finding ways to speed it up, including building their own data storage and synchronization mechanism with OmniPresence.
The new version of OmniFocus for the iPad adds background syncing, which allows the application to update its data in the background. This is all subject to the magic sauce of iOS to determine which applications are worthy of getting these background processes. With the amount of time I spent in OmniFocus, I find that it does a pretty good job of keeping my task list up-to-date in The background and allowing me to spend even less time pushing the synchronize button when I want to be getting my tasks done.
Standard and Pro
The application is priced with an entry-level price of $29.99 and an in-app purchase of $19.99 for the pro version. If you have the prior version of OmniFocus for iPad installed on your iPad, the new version will sense that and give you the pro upgrade for free. This is about as close to upgrade pricing as I’ve ever seen on iOS. I hope Apple allows this to continue and other application developers follow suit.
The pro version unlocks several new features not seen and prior versions of OmniFocus on the iPad. Chief among those is the ability to edit perspectives. One of the most common questions I received about OmniFocus is from users that don’t have a portable Mac and want the ability to get by with OmniFocus just on the iPad and iPhone. I’ve always written back that the big stumbling block is perspectives. Perspectives give OmniFocus the power to become whatever you need it to become. User-defined perspectives (like mine) allow you to make this task system work for you, no matter how your brain is wired. Previously, you can only set of those custom perspectives on a Mac. (They would previously synchronize to an iPad but you could not edit them on an iPad.)
With the upgraded pro version you can now edit perspectives on your iPad to your heart’s content. As seen in the attached screenshot, you have a lot of parameters you can set in his custom perspectives ranging from a custom icon to searching for particular text. Perspectives you create on the iPad will sync over to your Mac and iPhone without difficulty. In a sense, this new feature liberates OmniFocus from the Mac and I think people who want to try and get by with just an iOS installation, have a real fighting chance now where they simply did not before.
The first version of OmniFocus for the iPad was truly revolutionary. It gave me the power to manage my tasks on my iPad in a way that I didn’t think was possible. Building on the shoulders of its predecessor, this version doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel, but instead make the wheel spin a lot faster and more efficiently. In that regard, OmniFocus 2 for the iPad absolutely delivers. Working through my admittedly complicated life with this application happens faster now and, frankly, the redesign makes the process more delightful. I have personal knowledge of exactly how hard the team at The Omni Group worked on this new version and I’m loving it. I bought the app as soon as it appeared in the App Store earlier today. You can learn more at the OmniGroup website and from their OmniFocus 2 for iPad iBook.
There are a lot of comprehensive reviews of iOS 8 hitting the wire in the next 24 hours. I’m going to keep this to six things.
1. Look Under the Hood
Last year iOS 7 felt like they turned everything upside down. This year, when iOS 8 boots up for the first time, you’ll wonder if the update actually took. Things look very similar to iOS 7.
iOS 8 is different in the ways that us nerds love the most. Under the hood automation and other geeky power tools. In some respects, this reminds me of the Snow Leopard update to the Mac OS. I liked that too.
2. The New Keyboard
Mysterious shift key aside, the keyboard got some serious love. The predictive text is spooky good and it has really upped my typing speed. Likewise Siri dictation is better and now renders text as you speak. This is huge if you want to enter text by speaking. No longer do we have to dictate multiple sentences all the while wondering if Siri dictation will do its job or thumb it nose at us and return nil.
Also, iOS now can now add third party keyboards. Huzzah. I posted earlier about the TextExpander keyboard. I expect there will be a lot more.
3. “Read All”
Messages also got better. Now you can tap a “Read All” button to mark all as read and you can selectively disconnect from group chats. The next time your family chat takes a disturbing turn toward uncle Sal’s Lumbago, punch eject.
4. Apple Mail Improvements
Third party Mail apps have done some real clever things with swipes. Apple Mail doesn’t go as deep as some of these apps but they are following to a certain extent. In addition to setting a specific action for full right and left swipes, a partial swipe from right to left gives you additional options.
Another Apple Mail feature is the ability to pull a message down to the bottom of the screen, exposing the inbox and giving you the ability to look through email messages. No longer do you need to save a message as a draft while you go and get a phone number from a previous email. You can also now set a thread (as opposed to a person) as a VIP. Nice.
5. Spotlight Shines
Spotlight is significantly more useful. You can still search apps, mail and contacts but it now also searches Wikipedia, news, Yelp, the web, and iTunes without any extra work. I’ve been running the iOS 8 beta about a month and find myself using Spotlight more than ever.
6. A Lot More Things…
The most exciting feature of iOS 8 is the extensibility it is offering third party developers. This is going to change the way we use our phones and, in my opinion, make iOS 8 the most significant update since iOS 2 (that added the App Store). When I make that statement, I’m not forgetting about iOS 7. I just think this is a bigger deal. In the days, weeks, and months following release of iOS 8, us users are in for some real treats from the iOS development community.
A Few Caveats
Backup before install. Gabe Weatherhead covers this nicely.
If the final version of iOS 8 asks you to upgrade to iCloud drive, don’t. That one needs some more cooking (and Yosemite).
The new TextExpander Touch for iOS is pretty great. You know that problem where apps like Apple Mail and Pages didn't recognize TextExpander? Not anymore. Here's a little video I made showing off the new keyboard.
I’ve been a buying ScanSnap scanners for several years now. I’ve recommended them to friends, family, and professional colleagues and everyone of them has come back to say how much they like their ScanSnaps.
There are two bits of technology involved with scanning: the hardware device and the software interface. The thing that makes ScanSnap stand out is the way it delivers on both fronts. Fujitsu continues to push the envelope with its hardware and at the same time, continues to iterate its software to give Mac and iOS users plenty of options for their scanned documents.
This is most recently demonstrated with Fujitsu’s brand new ScanSnap iX100. The iX100 takes is an ultra-portable scanner, about the size of a three-hole punch. It is similar to the ScanSnap S1100 but adds several useful features.
The banner feature is wireless scanning. The iX100 will connect with your Mac. The device has its own processor that not only creates the PDF and JPEG files, but also creates the wireless bridge to your device. Pop it open, feed a page, push the blue button. No cables required. Wireless scanning with a portable scanner makes a lot of sense.
The iX100 can also connect to iOS and Android devices using that same built-in processor. If you are not on a shared Wi-Fi network, you can connect directly to the ScanSnap with your devices Wi-Fi radio and you are good to go.
Another clever feature is automatic image stitching. If you pull two pages out of a magazine with an image stretched across the fold, the iX100 will automatically stitch them back together.
The iX100 comes with that great ScanSnap software as well. I’ve been carrying my test model around in my briefcase (it’s only 14 ounces) and it is holding up well. There is an integrated battery that requires an occasional recharge (via USB).
I’ve got two good uses for this scanner. The first is when I’m in trial or deposition and someone hands me a new document. That isn’t supposed to happen but often does. I need documents scanned as soon as possible so I can incorporate them into exhibits, presentations, and other digital bits. Having the iX100 I can now handle this anywhere.
When not carrying it around, I’ve been keeping it in a utility drawer in our kitchen. This way, I can take a quick scan to my Mac or iPad for things that come in the mail or the kid’s school packets. The iX100 has quickly found a place in my life.
If you are looking for an ultra-portable, wireless scanning solution, check out the ScanSnap iX100, available now.
For an even more in-depth review, check out Brooks Duncan’s review at DocumentSnap. He’s got some excellent photos and videos to show off the iX100 in greater detail.
One question that still looms over the Apple Watch is battery life. Apple has explained several times that you'll need to charge it every night. However, the question that hasn't been asked (or answered) is if I charge it overnight and strap it on at 7AM, will it still work at 9PM, or even 11pm? Is there some point during the day that my Apple Watch, starting with a full tank, runs out of gas?
This is a big deal. While poor battery life seems the way of things with most smart watches, the early adopters of those devices are a small group of nerds and understand the underlying physics. That isn't the case with the Apple Watch. There will be a lot of people buying the watch that never think about batteries and processors, and shiny screens. They just want their $500 Apple Watch to work and if it craps out at dinner time, there will be an uproar.
I don't think Apple can afford to get this wrong and I think they know it. I bet that this requirement for an all-day battery has been at the front of their mind throughout this product's development. There has been a lot of criticism that the Apple Watch is too thick. However, longer battery life requires a bigger battery and Apple is entirely willing to take the heat on the watch being too thick to keep the all-day battery. It's not just the watch's thickness though. I think nearly every component of that watch, from the processor clock speed to multi-tasking to the number of your heartbeats it records, are all set to preserve battery life. Apple nailed the Apple Watch in so many ways. Now they just need to make sure it will stay alive on our wrists all day.
Katie is going back to school and I'm sending my daughter off to college. As a result, we've been both thinking a lot about student workflows. In our most recent show we cover some excellent Mac and iPad based solutions and share several ideas from listeners.
Hoban Press is sponsoring MacSparky.com this week. I’ve heard from many readers that love their new Hoban Cards pressed out of Hoban’s 1902 letterpress machine. I sure love mine. Evan and the gang are expanding.
Hoban Press specializes in custom letterpress printed items like Business Cards and Stationery. This is the best choice if you need to use your own logo or artwork. They also provide design and layout services.
Hoban Cards specializes in in minimal calling cards. This is a less expensive way to get into letterpress printing. Pick from among 12 beautiful, typographic calling card templates. These are perfect for individuals or businesses looking for a unique and classy alternative to conventional, mass produced, soulless business cards.
There is no doubt I’m a geek but I have to admit I really love handing out letterpress cards … like a gentleman. Use ‘MacSparky’ during checkout to receive free shipping.
If you have a unique product or service you'd like to advertise at MacSparky, let me know.
MPU 213 is up and available for download. This month's feedback show includes a short workflow interview with K-8 principal Mike Rogers from TechEdvance. Mike shares some really cool Drafts workflows for classroom evaluations that could be adapted to a lot of uses. We also had plenty of feedback on task management and other topics from the the last month. These live shows are a lot of fun and information dense. We're getting lots of positive feedback about them. Check it out.
Just this morning I was admiring the depth of coverage Macworld put up in relation to yesterday's announcement. Some of the smartest tech writers in the business worked at Macworld. I say worked because today, the day after their outstanding work yesterday, most of my friends at Macworld were laid off. The magazine will cease publication. The website will continue. I'm sure this was a difficult decision for whoever had to make it. Today I'm just sad for some talented friends that find themselves out of work.