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.

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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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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