All posts by 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.

Lightroom 2.4 for iPad: RAW Editing, Keyboard Shortcuts, and More!

 

Lightroom 2.4 for iOS came out last week, and I’ve been using it quite a lot over the past few days. The big breakout features are RAW edits and local adjustments, so let’s dive right into those.

RAW!!!

RAW files are big and harder to process than JPEGs, but they provide a lot more room to edit colours, highlights, and shadows. Until this update, there really hasn’t been any elegant way to manage and edit them on the iPad. So the simple fact that Lightroom can now handle RAW files — on iOS 9 no less — is awesome. I would have really enjoyed having this capability during my Japan trip (although it probably would have meant staying up later processing photos).

My 128 GB iPad still lacks the storage space to keep everything on board, but it definitely has enough room to download my shots after a few days of shooting. This matches the way I approch RAWs very well, since I tend to keep just the JPEGs, and only bring a RAW file out when I’ve messed up exposure and need more leeway for editing.
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Yes, You Do Need Apple’s USB-C to Lightning Cable to Fast Charge an iPad Pro


It was my birthday recently and I asked for one of the most exciting presents that an iPad geek could request: a $49 29-Watt charger. Riveting, I know! When I work with the iPad Pro at my desk for extended sessions, the 12W charger can barely keep up with the iPad as I use it, which means that when I’m low on battery, I just stay low on battery. Laptop and smartphone chargers usually outpace me and provide energy faster than I can use it up, but that hasn’t been the case with the iPad Pro.

This $49 charger was actually designed for the 12-inch MacBook, but Apple also released a USB-C to Lightning cable earlier this year, which allows the 29W charger to work its magic on the larger iPad Pro. Based on Federico Viticci’s intensive fast-charge testing of the iPad Pro, this combo of 29W charger and USB-C to Lightning cable are supposed to cut charging times in half.

However, in an attempt to save a bit of money, I first tried using Apple’s USB-C to USB adapter, which is meant for making the USB-C port on the MacBook available to standard USB accessories. I was hoping that this charger would be smart enough to let an attached Lightning cable send more electricity to my iPad Pro, while still allowing me the flexibility of using my existing set of Lightning cables.

I took two days to test the USB-C to USB adapter and found that it made no difference to charging speed, despite being used with the 29W charger. The staff at the Apple Store weren’t sure about this, but now I am. There might be an inhibitor in the adapter itself that keeps too much electricity from flowing through, or there might be something special about the actual USB-C to Lightning cable that Apple released earlier this year. Either way, in order to take full advantage of fast charging, you really will need to buy the 29W charger and Apple’s 1 m USB-C to Lightning cable, or the more expensive 2 metre version.

I opted for the 2 m version just because I’ll want this able for scenarios where I’m using the iPad Pro just like I would a laptop. I’m sitting and working for a long period of time, and I want the battery to be at 100% when I’m done.

In my tests thus far, it’s taken me about 2 hours to go from 14% to 93%; and that’s while writing on this iPad, uploading 400 pics to Lightroom in Split View, and watching a video in PiP mode for about 20 minutes. I would barely have charged at all if this were the standard 12W charger, and that’s pretty sad.

So on the one hand, I’m pretty happy to have finally bitten the bullet and gotten this 29W + cable combo for fast charging. However, I’ll also admit that Apple has once again suckered me into paying *far* too much for such a basic accessory. Luckily, I’ve been having a really good time working, reading, and surfing on the iPad Pro over the past few months, and so this does feel like a worthwhile investment for my own enjoyment.

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A Word Of Caution Before Moving To Apple Notes

Apple Notes

Evernote announced a price increase last week, and also told the free tier of users that they’d be limited to syncing a maximum of two devices. Plus subscriptions are $35 USD per year, and Premium subscriptions are $70 USD per year. This isn’t a ton of money per month, but it’s enough to make you think about what you could spend that money on instead.

These Evernote pricing changes also come at a time when people are thinking more about subscriptions in general. We don’t know how many apps will adopt it, but the way we pay for software could change a lot starting with iOS 10 and the expansion of subscriptions to a great number of app categories. The Pay-Once-And-Update-Forever model obviously isn’t working well for a lot of developers (surprise!), and I might have to start paying monthly or annual subscriptions for the apps I really love using.

So the “in thing” to do in tech spheres has been to warn users to jump ship to Apple Notes or OneNote, because they’re the closest options in terms of features…and they’re free.

I won’t try to dissuade anyone from moving to OneNote. I have been using the service for my work notes. However, the service just doesn’t jive with me because I dislike how OneNote organizes notebooks only by Date Created, and not by Date Modified. But OneNote is beloved by a lot of people, and really is a very solid contender in the note-taking space.

It’s actually Apple Notes that I think can be be a bit of a fly trap here. The service improved a lot in iOS 9 and improved a little more in iOS 10 with a three-panel interface on the iPad Pro and note collaboration. However, there is one aspect of Notes I am a little concerned about: export capability.

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Review: Pad & Quill Contega Thin

Pad & Quill Contega Thin_2

The $90 Pad & Quill Contega Thin is similar to the Contega Linen, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. It shares the same Moleskine-style elastic band for closing the cover, and the exterior is still wrapped in durable linen. It’s still a great case for adding scratch and drop protection, without sacrificing on class. Adding a Contega to your iPad Pro is like dressing it up in a sports jacket with cleverly hidden elbow pads beneath.

But the Contega Thin makes a different set of concessions in its design than the thicker Contega Linen. Instead of housing the iPad Pro in a gorgeous wooden frame, the Contega Thin uses a removable 3M adhesive to bind the iPad to the case. This makes the install a little tougher initially because you need to be more careful about how you line the iPad with the adhesive. Thankfully, the 3M sticker is both strong and forgiving — meaning that it can stand repeated installs. Once the iPad is set, you’ll completely forget your gigantic tablet is tethered to the case by a thin layer of adhesive. Your iPad Pro will not be falling out.

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Thoughts On The iPad & iOS 10 


It’s been over a week since the announcement of iOS 10, and I remember feeling a little disappointed in the lack of iPad-specific features they announced. The only obvious iPad-specific features we know of so far are:

  • Three-panel views in Mail and Notes (not bad…)
  • Side by side windows in Safari (yes!)
  • Music now works in Split View (about darn time)

Given that this is Apple’s major release for the year, that just doesn’t seem like a lot of iPad love when you compare it to last year’s iOS 9 announcement, where “iPad Experience” was one of the highlights of the release. This is especially true if iOS 9 encouraged you to invest in an iPad Pro, in the hopes that the specialized hardware was a sign that Apple would be taking the tablet even more seriously as a computing platform going forward.

When you think and write about this stuff on a weekly basis, it’s easy to set yourself up for disappointment. “If Apple doesn’t release X, I’m going to be disappointed” is an easy trap to fall into…and there are only so many times that you can use “there’s always next year” as a conclusion.

But after spending the last week on the beta and also reading a MacRumors forum posts about iOS 10-specific features, I find myself surprised at how capable the iPad Pro has become as a day-to-day computer. I’m still not totally happy with how it manages and edits photos, but iOS 10 has addressed so many small things that were bugging me about the iPad experience.
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Photos on iOS 10


Photos on iOS 10 has taken a few big leaps in terms of the viewing experience. The big takeaway from the keynote is that we all take a lot of pictures, and now iOS 10 is doing more to help you automatically organize them into meaningful Memories and related events. As someone who has spent days organizing albums and tagging faces on my Mac, this is a pretty exciting prospect.

I previously used a number of workarounds to get Faces to be recognized on my iPad Pro. Photos on macOS has always been able to recognize faces and tag photos with keywords, and although it wasn’t made very obvious, those keywords do sync to iOS. So I spent a good long while making sure I had key people tagged on Photos so that I could search for them on iOS.

But with iOS 10, that extra tagging is no longer required. I left my iPad Pro on overnight so that it could search my 13,000 photos for faces, and they’re all organized in a special Faces album. iOS did a pretty good job of putting all the right faces together, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way of rejecting a photo that isn’t that person. Syncing Faces between iPad and iPhone doesn’t seem to work quite yet. I know that Apple made a big deal about privacy and showing that the calculations are done on-device, but I’m assuming that these Faces will eventually sync over.
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Thoughts on Budgeting for App Store Subscriptions


Wow. Some really big news about App Store changes dropped today. The best write ups are actually on The Verge and Daring Fireball. They’re great reads, but the super summarized news is this:

  • Subscriptions are opening up for all classes of apps
  • The App Store is getting paid search: only on the search page, and only for apps relevant to the search
  • App Store review times are down to two days or less 

All of these things are worth talking about, but it’s the subscription news that I’d like to focus on most. I’m of two minds about this: on the one hand, I’m really glad to see this move towards long-term sustainability on the App Store, but I’m also concerned about how I’ll account for these expenditures. I use and test a lot of apps: so in this new vision of the App Store, how many things will I end up subscribing to?

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A Few Thoughts On The Upcoming Paper 3.6 Update (and Beyond)

The sidebar in Paper 3.6
The sidebar in Paper 3.6

FiftyThree announced that Paper 3.6 is coming out soon, and I’m excited to see the upcoming changes. I use Paper on a weekly basis at my job for sketching quick diagrams and throwing charts together for presentation. The biggest new feature is a re-imagining of the way that content is organized within Paper. We did see an overhaul of the Space metaphor when Paper 3.0 was launched, but Paper 3.6’s sidebar feels more in line with how I want to use the app.

The strength of Paper is in its editing UI. It’s great at making content creation feel very natural. I can mix paints together, cut and move objects quickly, and zoom in with a pinch when I want to do more fine details on a diagram.

However, there is a lot of wasted space in the current UI when it comes to managing different books. It just feels like FiftyThree was a little bit too in love with the metaphor of paper in the digital realm, and the new sidebar looks to be a much more efficient way of navigating my own content. I’m also hoping that the sidebar search will also work to highlight any text I may have attached to a sheet, but since the teaser post doesn’t mention that, I’m not holding my breath.

Organizing Spaces in Paper 3.5.4
Organizing Spaces in Paper 3.5.4

With that in mind, I do have a few other thoughts on what I’d like to see from Paper moving forward:

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More Notes on OneNote for iPad


I’m back on the OneNote boat. Again. I’m still not in love, but I am trying to give it a real go and shake off all of the Evernote-specific habits I’ve made over the last six years.

OneNote is quite powerful, but I still think Evernote is leagues ahead in terms of how notes are displayed, sorted, and searched for on the iPad and iPhone. The good news is that I had a peek at OneNote’s release notes from the last six months or so, and it looks like the Microsoft team aims to release new features or improvements at least once a month.

That’s a pretty amazing pace of development, and I like that they seem to really listen to their users.

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Review: Pad & Quill Contega Linen for iPad Pro

Pad & Quill have a pretty long history of making premium cases for iOS devices. Their signature style has been a wooden frame paired with leather that drips with sophistication. I admit I am sucker for wrapping new tech in tanned skins, but previous Pad & Quill iPad cases just didn’t appeal to me.

My approach to everything before the 12.9″ iPad Pro was that tablets should be as light as possible, because I was supposed to just be able to pick them up and read them like pieces of paper. As gorgeous as Pad & Quill cases are, the wooden frames inevitably added weight and girth to the device, which made the tablet too heavy to easily hold in one hand.

However, now that I’m an iPad Pro user, I almost always tend to lean or rest the tablet against something, so the increased size and weight from this case matter a lot less. In fact, I think this is the device size that these Pad & Quill designs have been waiting for. The Contega Linen feels right at home on my extra large tablet. 

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Quick Thoughts on Evernote and the Competition

evernote plans

My Evernote Premium subscription just ran out, so it has come time for me to reconsider whether or not to continue using the service. Evernote hasn’t made any mis-steps recently, and I’ve actually found it quite useful at work.

Evernote Plus costs $30 USD per year, and would give me the offline access to my notes that I require. It has 1 GB of upload capacity per month, which is quite a lot for my needs. What it doesn’t do, however, is have the PDF annotation features, which can be handy in a pinch.

If I want everything that Evernote has to offer, I’m looking at Evernote Premium, which is about $60 USD per year. It’s double the price of Plus, but it does let me search all the attachments inside of Evernote, and provides a whopping 10 GB of uploads per month.

These really aren’t crazy prices as far as I’m concerned, but given the increasing number of subscription services I’m using, I thought I’d at least examine whether or not I could live without Evernote. $10 for Lightroom, $10 for Dropbox Pro, $10 for Apple Music, and $5 for 200 GB of iCloud Storage is quickly adding up. So I’ve decided to think a little bit about what makes Evernote so valuable to me.

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