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.

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.
Continue reading

Share This:

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.
Continue reading

Share This:

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?

Continue reading

Share This:

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:

Continue reading

Share This:

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.

Continue reading

Share This:

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. 

Continue reading

Share This:

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.

Continue reading

Share This:

Quick Look: Apple’s USB 3 SD Card Reader for iPad

The last time I bought Apple’s SD Card Camera Reader, I ended up feeling disappointed and returning it within a day. However, I thought I’d revisit this particular accessory now that I’ve switched cameras. Instead of using a Sony A6000, I’m now using a Fuji X-Pro 2. The JPEG files on this new camera are larger, and the movies are actually transferable to iOS, so I now have a much better use case for this little adapter.

I shoot files large enough files (12-15 MB JPEGs) in a large enough capacity (around 50 shots on a given day) that Wi-Fi transfers aren’t really a great solution for me any more. I can still pull the camera out to transfer 5-10 shots with ease, but transferring 20 shots at 24 MP per shot takes upwards of four or five minutes to complete. That’s four minutes of my iPad Pro and camera being completely useless while the transfer happens. In contrast, the transfer of 19 shots via the SD Card Reader takes less than a minute, and still allows me to do other things while the transfer is happening.

Continue reading

Share This:

Quick Look: iFontMaker for iPad


I forget how I heard about iFontMaker, but now that I have an iPad Pro and Pencil, this seemed like a great opportunity to try something completely different. I really don’t know much about fonts or typography, but I am intrigued by all of the different factors that come into play with modern typefaces and fonts. As a quick primer: typefaces describe a family tree of fonts (like Avenir) and fonts are specific blocks and weights of text within that tree (like Avenir Light).

I have only spent a few hours with iFontMaker but its interface is so straightforward that it was very easy to pick up. Once I’ve chosen to create new font, I can see the entire alphabet at the top of the screen. The bottom half is dedicated solely to the creation of the typeface, with markers for x-height, ascenders, and descenders. These guidelines help to make sure your letters and glyphs are all about the same size.

Another guide that iFontMaker provides by default is the outline of that particular letter or glyph as it pertains to a specific font (which I can change in settings). This was extremely helpful in providing a baseline for me to see how high my letters should actually go, or how much space in the margin I really had to play with.

Actually drawing the different letters in my custom font was a lot like using a vector app like Graphic. I used a calligraphy type of stroke to generate the capitalized letters, and it was a pretty smooth process. However, I did find that certain strokes — especially curved ones — could often be interpreted as separated, overlapping strokes.

Continue reading

Share This:

Has iCloud Photo Library’s “Optimize Storage” Option Gotten Better?

 

iCloud photo library_optimize storage_4

While testing Lightroom, I’ve decided to set my iCloud Photo Library to Optimize Storage. That way, it won’t take up very much space on my devices because it will dynamically decide which photos to keep at full resolution, while still retaining the benefits of automatically syncing photos between my iPhone and iPad in the background.

Optimize Storage, if done right, is actually what I’d like most from a cloud photo service. I want the benefit of having my pictures within easy reach, but I don’t want to necessarily store everything at full resolution locally. What would make the most sense to me would be to have thumbnails of my images that are sized exactly to the device screen, which means 2732×2048 for the 12.9” iPad Pro and 1920×1080 for my iPhone 6S Plus.

This is the way I understand Photos on OS X and Lightroom to work. They don’t just display a small thumbnail and a medium thumbnail, they generate these extra files in advance to speed up the experience of browsing through a large library of photos. I know that iOS generates the tiny thumbnails that are seen in the Years, Collections, and Moments views, but I’d love to see Optimize Storage also generate fullscreen previews for every single photo in my library. This would let me view any photo in my library regardless of online status, but it wouldn’t take nearly the same amount of space as an actual 6000×4000 (24 Megapixel) shot.

Continue reading

Share This: