About Thomas

My name is probably Thomas (yes, it is). I'll be able to help you figure out why Evernote isn't syncing, or recommend your favourite new RSS reader to you. That's partly because I am enamoured with the iOS ecosystem and hardware, but mostly because I'm Canadian.

Trying Out Byword For My iPad Blogging

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I recently bought the In-app purchase within Byword to try and blog straight from the app. Up until now, my workflow has been to write in Byword or Writer Pro, copy the html into the WordPress app, and then add screenshots processed by the Screenshot app before publishing.

Byword’s most recent update claims it can cut out one of the middle men by allowing me to publish to WordPress and add pictures straight from the app. I tried it out quickly today with this post and am quite impressed with how simple and easy it turned out to be. It’s definitely buggy on the iOS 8 beta, but this seems like a great workable solution for blogging from the iPad, without feeling like I’m using all sorts of workarounds.

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Evernote As My iPad Task Manager

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I use Evernote quite a lot for my own notes, but I also use it at work. I’ve got two notebooks for each of the positions I’ve held at work, and I’ve got a few tags associated with notes depending on which coworkers I need to consult for a given project. However, as of three weeks ago, I’ve taken it one step further: I’m trying to use Evernote as my main task manager as well.

That means all of the work tasks and personal items on my to-do lists also reside in Evernote, alongside my notes about bags and cool iPad apps. It’s been a pretty big change, and Evernote’s UI isn’t exactly fun or efficient for task management, but it works and provides a very unique advantage.

First up, the basics. You don’t create Evernote reminders like you do in other task management apps, but rather reminders are attached to existing notes. Evernote notes consist of a plain text title and a main body (which can contain rich text, links, and files). Turning a note into a reminder gives you the option to add a notification at a given time, and it also keeps the note in a special reminders section of the Evernote app.

Simple task lists

Each note in Evernote is assigned to a specific notebook, which ends up acting like the category for that set of notes. So if I set up a “groceries” notebook and fill it with notes that had titles like “buy milk” or “buy eggs”, that could work as a basic to-do list.

Sub tasks

Evernote also supports sub-tasks, in a manner of speaking. Each note can support a set of checkboxes, so you can break down larger tasks into smaller chunks. For example, making bacon pancakes is a more complicated endeavour than simply buying eggs, so it can help to create a set of sub-tasks that I can cross off.

These sub-tasks are really helpful for tracking my progress through more involved projects. The only weakness of this system is that sub-tasks cannot be assigned any notifications — you can only set a single notification for any given Evernote note.

Context right beside your tasks

The main reason I decided to try Evernote out as a task manager is its ability to show a lot of context for a given task. When I have to “finish my expense report” it’s really helpful to be able to keep all of my PDF receipts and the expense report Excel sheet right inside of that note. That way, once the notification pops up to remind me, all I have to do is tap on the note, and all the files I need are gathered in one place for me to get right to work.

I was finding a disconnect while using other task managers because, although they would remind me and help me triage tasks, it was too easy to lose my place as I juggled all of the open windows on my work PC. It was also hard to find a task manager other than Evernote that was natively cross platform across the Mac, PC, and iOS.

Evernote isn’t the most fun program to use for task management. It lacks satisfying animations or sound effects, and it doesn’t have the clever natural language parsing of Due or Fantastical, but it’s hands-down the most efficient task management system I’ve used at work.

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Dropbox Simplifies Pro Pricing: $10 Per Month for 1TB

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Dropbox announced a few pretty major changes to their Dropbox Pro accounts today, but the change I found most interesting was the simplification of the pricing and storage options. There’s now just one $10/month Dropbox Pro account that offers 1TB of storage, which is 10x more storage than was previously offered at that price point.

This is great for iOS users who want an alternative to Photo Stream for photo backups, since Dropbox can handle uploads of the photos and videos on your iPad’s Camera Roll (and do so in the background!). The new 1TB of storage for Dropbox Pro also pairs very nicely with Dropbox’s Carousel service for viewing and sharing your Dropbox photos…although we still need a dedicated iPad app to take full advantage of that on tablets.

I think this is great news, since I prefer Dropbox to competing services like Google Drive. However, I will likely be saving my money for iCloud Drive when it rolls out later this year, since that will natively back up my photos and videos from all of my devices at full resolution.

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Quick Look: Belkin BOOST UP Home and Car Chargers for iPad

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I was sent a Belkin BOOST UP Charger and BOOST UP Car charger, both of which feature 12-watt charging for the iPad.

Belkin’s website copy claims that these BOOST UP chargers are 40% faster than a 5-watt charger at fully recharging an iPad Air, which is true, but not really a fair comparison because neither an iPad Air nor an iPad mini with Retina Display ship with a 5W charger. In fact, the newest generation of iPads both ship with Apple’s own 12W chargers out of the box, so they’re exactly as fast as this offering from Belkin. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t some slight differences here.

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That Darn iOS 8 QuickType Keyboard Has Completely Spoiled Me

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[I forgot to keep a QuickType screenshot, so I used this QuickType image from Macworld UK]

I tried the iOS 8 beta earlier this summer — right around beta 3 — and loved the experience. Texting from the iPad was great, the new full-screen Safari was great, but the absolute best feature to me was the new QuickType keyboard. I loved being able to blast through words with two or three taps, and glancing just above the keys to see what auto-correct was going to recommend. These modifications to the software keyboard made such a huge difference to how I approached text entry on the iPad. QuickType made typing feel more efficient, and it made auto-correct feel like it was there to actually help, instead of acting like a passive-aggressive jerk (“I know you didn’t mean to type duck, Thomas, but I don’t care”).

I’ve since downgraded to iOS 7 because there are some crucial apps (cough *Evernote* cough) that just don’t work on iOS 8 yet. However, the damage has already been done. I’ve noticed that I type a lot less on the iPad, unless I have a Bluetooth keyboard paired. The experience just isn’t the same. I’ll game, surf, and read on my iPad, but I leave most of the messaging and emailing to my iPhone or Mac. My taste of the beta has totally spoiled me.

This just makes me even more excited for the pending release of iOS 8. The new QuickType keyboard, alongside the slew of other third-party keyboards, are going to be game changers for productivity and messaging on my tablet. I’ve always wanted to be able to carry around just my iPad and Smart Cover, and I truly believe the new software keyboards we’ll see this Fall will allow me to do just that.

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Quick Look: Belkin Travel Power Pack 9000 for iPad

This beast of a battery is the Belkin Travel Power Pack 9000. It’s a 9000 mAh battery, translates to about three or four charges for my iPhone 5S, or 60–70% of my iPad Air’s battery in real life charging situations. The Power Pack isn’t one of those tiny batteries that you use in an emergency […]

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