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.

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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Quick Look: Adobe Photoshop Fix

Adobe’s Photoshop Fix is a great, specialized app for quick touch-ups and spot healing. These tools are built right into Lightroom on the desktop, but they’re absent from Lightroom Mobile, so for now we require separate apps like Photoshop Fix and Photoshop Mix to achieve what would normally be possible in one app on the desktop. However, thanks to the sharing capabilities of apps in iOS 9, it’s pretty easy to send a picture from Lightroom into Photoshop Fix for touch-ups, and then send it right back.

The problem, until very recently, was that Photoshop Fix (and Mix) had some major issues with resolution. The app could import files at full resolution, but it would only save them at a maximum of 2000×2000 pixels. That’s far less than the 6000×4000 resolution that I was importing that. However, as of version 1.3, Photoshop Fix and Mix are able to export in full resolution. I took a little time earlier today to test this new functionality out.

While you can import files from Lightroom or the Camera Roll right into Photoshop Fix, the best workflow I’ve found so far is to start in Lightroom Mobile. I like to go through pictures in my catalog there and then use the Share Menu -> Edit In -> Healing in Photoshop Fix. I don’t do that much selective brightening (I usually use a tone curve for that), but I do like the Healing Tool in Photoshop Fix. This workflow works out especially nicely if I have Split View open. With Lightroom open on the left side of the screen, I can start to make selective edits to my shots in Photoshop Fix.

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Quick Look: Apple Pencil Pocket from GearCase

GearCase Pencil Pocket review_1

GearCase reached out after my previous post about my storage option for the Apple Pencil, and I’m really glad that they did. As accessible as my co-opted Pencil clip was for usage at a desk, it did feel a little precarious for storage in a full bag. The Pencil usually stayed in place, but it could easily get caught on other objects in my bag during transit because it was only secured to the iPad at one point.

The Pencil Pocket from GearCase is secure and keeps the Pencil snug against the iPad Pro during transit. I don’t have any concerns about the stylus falling out or getting scratched by other items in my bag.

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Taking It Easy With The iPad Pro


Considering the price of an iPad Pro, there can be an internal pressure to maximize the usage of the device. There’s a compulsion in me to try to do as much as I can on the iPad Pro: to edit more videos, manage photos, watch movies, and browse on the Pro. In order to do all of that, I need to bring the Pro everywhere. Well, I felt I needed to, anyway.

Everywhere was the de facto location of my last iPad, the iPad Air 2. That tablet had a 10–inch screen and weighed just a pound on its own. It was light enough that it was still a viable companion if I was bringing my laptop around for the day. In fact, the iPad Air 2 could really complement my 13–inch MacBook Pro as a great secondary screen for tasks or chats. The iPad Pro is different in this regard because it’s actually as wide as most laptops, which means that it will fill the width of a laptop bag, even though it isn’t very thick. The sheer size does make a discernible difference in how easy it is to carry the iPad Pro alongside my other daily carry items (canvas pouch with cables, camera).
However, a few weeks ago I decided to just relax more when it comes to my iPad usage, and I’ve been enjoying the device more ever since. Relaxing means that I don’t bring the iPad Pro with me everywhere that the Air 2 would have come, and that’s okay. Aside from having a stupendously large iPad, I also own a stupendously large iPhone 6S Plus. That’s more than enough for reading and browsing while I’m on transit, and it’s also great for editing photos on-the-go.

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Update on Apple Music vs. Spotify


I’ve been an Apple Music subscriber ever since it was introduced last June. I really like the idea of an all-you-can-eat music subscription for checking out new artists and songs, but I’m not totally happy with Apple Music as it is right now. I did spend some time with Spotify last year and quite enjoyed using it, but I stuck with Apple Music because it was a first-party solution. 

I’m reviewing that decision again now.

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iOS 10 Wishlist: More Keyboard Shortcuts and Improved Photos Support

  ‘Tis the season: it’s getting closer and closer to June so people are unwrapping their biggest wishlist items. The funny thing is that we’re really close enough to the beta of iOS 10 (usually released just after WWDC in June) that our wishlist items couldn’t actually have any effect on development at this point. They’re either in development now, or they won’t be in iOS 10. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to write up a wishlist anyway.

Better Photos Support

I’ve already talked about the lack of decent RAW support, so I won’t re-hash that. However, as I test Lightroom 2.2 on my iPad, I arm starting to realize what else is missing from the Photos app.

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Reconsidering Lightroom Mobile 2.2

I spent a month last Fall trialling Lightroom Mobile as a suitable alternative to Apple’s iCloud Photo Library. Lightroom drew me in because of its advanced editing controls, options to quickly reject pictures I didn’t want to keep, and the synchronization of edits across all of my devices (which is a surprisingly rare feature even in 2016). However, there were two aspects that put a full stop to the whole Lightroom trial: the export resolution and the resolution of synced images.

It was disappointing to find out that, although I could edit my photos to a far great extent than with Apple’s Photos app, Lightroom would export those photos at a far lower resolution.

I thought that the resolution limit was probably caused by the size of the photos that Adobe allowed to sync to Lightroom Mobile. Even if I uploaded photos straight from my camera to the iPad, Lightroom would compress everything into their proprietary Smart Preview format, which has a maximum resolution of 2048 pixels on the long end. When I compared that to iCloud Photo Library, which can sync full resolution photos to all of my iOS devices (provided there’s enough storage), it quickly became clear which solution I should stick with. I killed my Lightroom install and moved everything back to iCloud Photo Library.

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