I like the feeling of being prepared, and having devices along with me is my hi-tech version of a security blanket. I always have my phone, and most of the time, I’ll want to have a device with a larger screen for writing or longer browsing sessions. For the past year, that device has been the 12.9-inch iPad Pro because it was the lightest possible companion at the time.
One of the things I was eagerly awaiting were the new MacBook Pros that Apple announced last week. My current 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is about 3 years old at this point, and I was considering an upgrade to a newer, faster, and lighter model. For reasons of comfort, I was also thinking that, if the new MacBook Pros were light enough, a Mac may once again replace my iPad Pro as an everyday carry item. Macs support mice and trackpads and more keyboard shortcuts, so I can work on them for longer periods without feeling as much fatigue. I’d then leave the iPad at home for more home entertainment, drawing, and cooking-related tasks.
It’s been a while since I talked about Screens, the VNC app that helps me remotely control my Mac from my iOS devices.Screens 4.2 came out this past week and introduced an interesting set of in-app purchases.
You can now use a Dark Mode for a very reasonable $0.99, and for $2.99, you can enable an accompanying iOS device to act as a trackpad for your remote connection. I have no need for a dark mode in Screens because I spend most of my time controlling my Mac from the iPad, so I barely ever see the Screens UI. However, the idea of the trackpad was interesting, so I cleared some space on my desk this evening to try the iPad and iPhone side by side.
I use my iPad Pro a lot when I’m home. It’s a fantastic media player for the house and it makes it a breeze to edit photos in Lightroom on a gigantic screen. But after having given it some thought, the number of times I actually use my iPad Pro and keyboard at work can be counted on one hand. It’s my go-to device for creating diagrams and I like writing on it because it has Ulysses, but these are conveniences afforded by the iPad — not tasks that require the tablet specifically.
In the meantime, the iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard add an extra 2.3 pounds of weight to my daily carry. This isn’t an issue when I carry a backpack around, but I can definitely feel the difference when I carry a messenger bag (which I prefer to do).
I’ve tried leaving the iPad Pro at home for a few days this past week, and frankly, I can get along just fine without it. My iPhone 6S Plus is big enough that I can pump out a 700-word article on it without too much discomfort. But I also feel that not bringing the iPad Pro around flies in the face of what I bought it for. It’s supposed to be a larger take-everywhere device that trades weight for a lot more comfort during longer work sessions.
Every once in a while I like to take stock of the number of cross-platform apps I’m using. On the one hand, this overview helps me look at how ready I’d be to move platforms, but it’s also a very pragmatic peek at how much I really rely on Apple’s ecosystem of apps and services. I’ve split this list into two parts, the cross platforms apps, and the apps that are still iOS / macOS only.
Cross Platform Apps
Evernote (iOS, Mac, Windows, Android)
For the umpteenth time, I’m back on Evernote, and I find I’ve been able to think more clearly because of this. I don’t like how they keep trying to up-sell me on Premium when I’m already a Plus member, but having my notes accessible on most any smart device or computer is really amazing. This is a huge selling point for Evernote, and their apps across each platform are improving.
Last week’s post about the 12.9-inch vs. 9.7-inch form factor got me thinking about the what would make the iPad more comfortable for long term work. I came back to the idea of a mouse and how it enables me to use more complex sets of on-screen controls, without all the overhead of remembering a ton of keyboard shortcuts. I do love my keyboard shortcuts, but they’re not a do-all replacement for controlling apps.
It struck me the other day that one (seemingly) simple change to the iPad, especially the larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro, could be the addition of a pointer. Mouse or trackpad support would be fine.
Every once in a while, I’ll read a post about the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and wonder what could have been. I’ll look at my gargantuan 12.9-inch tablet and wonder if I’ve made the right choice (it would be 10 months too late, if so). Ben Brooks, who works exclusively off of iOS devices, just penned one of these kinds of posts about how the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is the ideal size for most activities. I’d tend to agree with him.
I was really excited about the larger iPad Pro last year because I was curious to see — just as with the 6S Plus — what iOS could be if it had more room to play with. The answer, as it turns out, is simply more comfortable. Not necessarily more powerful.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.