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.
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.
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.
It’s been a little less than a year since I last wrote about Screens. The purpose of the app hasn’t changed: it’s still a VNC app for remotely connecting to a Mac or PC from an iOS device. But there are a few specific features released in Screens 4, which is a free update to all existing users, that are so tasty that I just have to talk about them.
Curtains for you (well, for anyone really)
One of the coolest new features is Curtain mode. I really like this idea for providing a little bit of extra privacy when I’m remotely connecting to my own machine. I haven’t had the need for this feature very often, but I’m really impressed with the implementation. Sometimes you want to connect remotely to a machine, but have that session remain private. If you want to grab some files from your machine quickly without providing access to anyone who might be near the actual computer, Curtain mode is a great way to go about this. When activated, this pulls a curtain over the screen of the machine you’re connecting to, disabling all of the local controls and also blocking view of the monitor with a gigantic padlock. You can set specific remote sessions to always launch right into Curtain mode, so if you frequently need to VNC into a computer that’s in a very public location, this is a great way to go about it.
Ulysses 2.5 really is a very, very impressive writing environment. This latest version does enough new stuff, and fixed one of the most irritating bugs I was experiencing, that I think it warrants a fresh look since my last review of Ulysses in June 2015.
Ulysses isn’t a notes app, it’s a writing app. As such, it’s meant for longer form writing and has special features to help you structure larger bodies of text, as well as keep your eyes on the prize as you write.
Each of my documents is called a Sheet, and all of these Sheets sync up over iCloud. The Sheets are in plain text but do support in-line Markdown formatting, which is great if you write for the web like I do. Ulysses also supports the addition of extra metadata, like pictures, notes, and goals in the sidebar.
What’s fun about Ulysses is that it embraces choice. There are choices of themes, fonts, layouts, and multiple export options (including some solid DOCX support). There are a lot of different ways you can use Ulysses, and it’s not one of those apps that tries to shoehorn you into a specific way of thinking.
I’m not a huge PDF reader, but I am always into trying out great new iPad apps; so I’m surprised that LiquidText has flown under my radar for this long.
It really feels like one of those apps that was waiting for the age of tablets to be born. Like Paper by FiftyThree, LiquidText is an app that really comes alive on a large tablet screen. It takes the rote routine of PDF reading and makes the process feel a lot more dynamic. I would have absolutely loved this app while I was in university, and I’ve been sending it to all of my PhD candidate friends, since they spend hours every week trying to tie ideas together across pages.
The idea behind LiquidText is to make longer text documents feel more fluid, so that it ultimately becomes easier to tie major themes together, or build your perspective on a piece. The age-old way of doing things is to dog-ear a page to bookmark it, or write into the margins beside a particular section. It adds a sense of history to the reading, and also provides a great sense of placement. You may not remember what page you read a passage on, but knowing that you had a bookmark or note there can ease the process of recall.
The proclaimed demise of email has seemed to been imminent for years. Love it or hate it, most people refer to their interaction with email as not voluntary, but more of a necessary evil. I prefer to take the high road. Although there have been countless attempts to replace the typical email client interaction, I really don’t mind the basic format that we have all come to know. That’s not to say I don’t think email can be improved–because it definitely needs some help. There have been many attempts to do just that with dedicated apps that support the iPad’s larger screen. However, few have stuck around and from the ones that have, even fewer continue to refine and update their app to improve the user experience. That was until Spark email was introduced for the iPhone, and subsequently updated last week to a universal app.
I can’t believe I haven’t written about Money Pro before now. Next used to be my monthly spending tracker of choice. I loved it because of its clean design, excellent shortcuts, and support for both iOS and OS X. However, one thing that always the tugged at me was the lack of any features related to income tracking. Next was purely about tracking what you spent, and not the money you had made in a given month.
Money Pro does a lot of what Next could do, and more. It’s not quite as clean and fast as Next, but it does feature:
- budgets for specific accounts
- quick categories for expenses
- a great Apple Watch app
- great iCloud sync across devices
- iOS and OS X support
I bought Money Pro on a lark last Fall and was surprised by its power. I’ve really only used personal expense trackers, but Money Pro is more of a money manager.
Evernote has had a firm foothold on the productivity app market-especially when you consider their deep integration across multiple mobile platforms, in addition to the web. I myself have tried several times to find new, more appealing alternatives to fit my basic needs without all the clutter. However, in the end, I always seem to come back to what I know best, and where I have the biggest investment. That’s not to say there aren’t new productivity apps, and improvements to existing apps that continue to challenge Evernote for the crown. Even a simple option like the Notes app in iOS, is enough for many users.
Centrallo has been around since August of 2014, providing users with a clean and easy way to prioritize, organize and create lists to make their lives more productive. I liked their app well enough to give it a look when it first came out. It was a cross platform app that was also available in a web version–a must for me. It was good, but not great for my needs, and so I haven’e been back in a while.
Day One 2.0 hit the App Store this past Thursday for $10, but if you’re fast, you can currently grab it for $5 during its initial launch week sale.
For those not familiar with it, Day One it’s is a great journaling app on iOS and OS X. I’ve used the app for years now to help record how I’ve felt during major milestones in my life, as well as simply recording my day to day. I’m the kind of person who usually issues a blank stare when someone asked how my weekend was, and Day One has helped me drastically increase my recall of recent activities.
Day One 2.0 has expanded on a lot of what was great in the first version. You can now have multiple journals within the app, add up to 10 photos to a single entry, and multi-select entries for batch processing right on the iPad.
As a big fan of Google Maps, it took me a while to warm to Apple’s own maps app. The service took a few years before I could really trust its directions or see a good representation of nearby points of interest in Toronto. Thankfully, Maps got a whole lot better in iOS 9 because Apple is listening. I’ve pointed a few Toronto locations out that weren’t showing up properly (unless you searched for them by name), and two weeks later, they were fixed. You don’t get the same email replies that you would if you report something on Google, but as long as the issues are fixed, I’m happy.
The iPad Pro has also had an influence on which maps app I want to use. I defaulted to Google Maps on the iPad Air 2, but iPad Pro support is still lacking. Apple Maps has the advantage here because it’s a system level app. It already looks great on the iPad Pro, and I can keep it open in Split View while I research parks and museums in Safari.
I’d ideally be able to use Apple Maps full time, but there are a few factors to consider.