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.

A Second Round with OneNote for iPad

I’ve given OneNote another shot over the past few months, using it both at work and at home for tracking receipts and personal thoughts. I’ve written about OneNote before, but I don’t think I really gave it a fair shake, so I moved 2000 notes over to the service to really determine whether or not I could adapt to the service. Unfortunately, the answer is still no, but I have a more detailed idea of why.

In OneNote We Trust

OneNote has been around for years, but it was only in the past few that it became a free product. You don’t have to pay for any monthly plans because the app just uses space in your Microsoft OneDrive, and there’s more than enough space with a free OneDrive account that it’s indistinguishable from unlimited for most users. Microsoft is so large, and OneNote such a core product, that I really do feel like I can trust in the service to stick around for the foreseeable future. That factor is a big deal when thinking about which note app to invest in: with platforms coming and going, where will your cache of notes still be accessible in four or five years? With OneNote, Microsoft has built up enough trust with me that the answer feels like a pretty safe “Yes”.

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My Favourite iOS 10 Features

iOS 10 was released this past Tuesday, and although it was a rough start for the earliest of downloaders, the update seems to be going very smoothly now. Many other sites are going to have one of these lists on iOS 10, but there are actually so many little features and changes, that I’m finding most articles worth reading. So I figure that sharing a few of my favourite iOS 10 changes my help some readers re-consider or discover features in this latest major update.

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Choosing Lightroom Over iCloud Photo Library in iOS 10

Lightroom and iCloud Photo Library

Yesterday was the first time I finally felt confident enough in Lightroom to turn off iCloud Photo Library. I had been jumping between the two services for a while, using Lightroom as my main photo library, but still keeping a few backups in iCloud.

I still love how iCloud Photo Library syncs so beautifully in the background. I liked the ability to just open up my iPad and have all the shots from my iPhone already there, as if by magic. But the major caveat to iCloud Photo Library is that it just doesn’t do a very good job of optimizing a photo library for easy, consistent access.

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Using Web Apps Instead of Unoptimized iPad Apps

I understand that not all apps make it a priority to update for the iPad Pro; it’s not necessarily profitable for them to do so, and pumping an update out within a few months of the device’s announcement is tough. However, it’s now been nearly ten months since the release of the iPad Pro, and some of my most-used apps still aren’t on the ball.

TD and Facebook still aren’t updated to display properly on the iPad’s larger screen. Facebook Messenger works beautifully on the iPad Pro, but the main Facebook app does not. It’s ridiculous when you think about how large their budget must be.

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Publishing to WordPress with Ulysses 2.6

Publishing on iOS has never been a terribly smooth process for me. The closest I got was the Blogsy app, which had a WYSYWIG editor and support for multiple blogs. Unfortunately it had an interface made for iOS 6 and just couldn’t afford to keep up with subsequent iOS updates.

The next best thing has been the official WordPress app, which can handle the three self-hosted WordPress sites that I post to. I write in Markdown in another app like iA Writer or Ulysses, and then post the draft as HTML into the WordPress app, and then add extras like categories, tags, and pictures. It doesn’t take very long, and it mimics what I’d do on the desktop, but the WordPress app feels pretty uninspired to me. It works, but lacks the polish of the web app. It’s not fun to use.

My latest workflow has been using Ulysses 2.6 and its new publishing features, which can take my Markdown-formatted post, and then add images, categories, tags, and even featured images and excerpts. All before I ever even see the WordPress interface.

This doesn’t sound like a huge deal but for the fact that Ulysses doesn’t seem like a full-fledged online writing app. I expect it to handle text well, but I’m surprised at how smooth they’ve managed to make the publishing and previewing processes.

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My Main Concern With Apple Notes: No Good Export

Feeling Trapped with Apple Notes_1

The last time I wrote about Apple Notes was in early July. I wrote that post to try and balance out all of the very strongly-worded posts about dumping Evernote and jumping to Apple Notes, the newest free note-taking solution that synced across all Apple devices.

I can see why most people don’t want to have to pay for a Notes solution, so moving from Evernote to Apple Notes seems like a very easy switch. However, I was wary of fully committing to Apple’s service because there doesn’t seem to be any easy way of getting your data out of the service in a meaningful way. You can get plain text notes to export from Apple Notes…but that’s about it. All the pictures, rich URLs, media, and any files you’ve attached to your notes…those can’t be exported en masse or imported into any other service at this time.

Despite all of that, I decided to give Apple Notes another solid try for the past month and a half.

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Ulysses 2.6 for iPad

I can’t believe they’re calling Ulysses 2.6 a dot update. Adding WordPress publishing, Dropbox sync, and universal search feel like much more than that. And, they even had the nerve to add Typewriter scrolling, which was my #1 feature request ever since Ulysses made it to the iPad. Am I happy with this Ulysses update? No. I’m ecstatic.

Here, let’s talk about why.

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Typing In Portrait Mode On The iPad Pro


It actually never felt completely natural for me to hold an iPad up in bed to read because it felt too heavy to hold. Only the iPad mini 2 (around 0.75 lbs.) ever reached that weight threshold that felt forgettably light. But one way I’ve worked around that with the heavier iPad Pro (1.5 lbs.) has been to rest the entire device on my chest in portrait mode, for comfortable evening reading. I scroll so that text is always on the top third of the page, and there’s very little fatigue because I’m just angling the iPad, not holding it.

However, because I now use the iPad Pro in bed so often, I’ve run into another issue: it’s downright difficult to type on when you’re using the iPad in portrait mode. You definitely won’t write long messages (fair), but it’s not even suited for quick messages or URL in Safari.
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Can No One Topple the Smart Keyboard?


It’s struck me recently that I haven’t really heard of any other iPad Pro keyboards that might the dominance of the Smart Keyboard. I’m still pretty happy with my Smart Keyboard, but it would also be nice to have a viable third party alternative by this point in time.

Logitech’s Create Pro is still around and offers a more stable platform for lap typing, but at 2.5 lbs. for the keyboard alone, it’s just too darn heavy to be an everyday carry option for me. The same goes for the newly announced Razer Mechanical Keyboard Case, which promises tactile and clicky keys and a hinge to prop the iPad up at different angles. Typing with a mechanical keyboard would be loud, but it also sounds like it could be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the Razer is also out of the question for my daily carry becuase it brings the total weight to 4 lbs.

The only other iPad Pro keyboard I know of is the ZAGG Slim Book, which mimics a MacBook’s clamshell design. Unfortunately it still doubles the weight of the device to a total of 3 lbs.

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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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