Category Archives: Productivity

Quick Look: Zenkit, an alternative Product Management tool to Trello

Zenkit_Web

The idea of productivity can best be described as a tug of war for me.  What I mean by that is that I strive to be a productive person, but often get caught up in finding the most productive way to be productive–which in turn, isn’t very productive at all.  I’m an early adopter by nature, and love to try new apps, among other things.  So when I read about Zenkit, and the similarities it had with Trello, I immediately became curious.

Self described as a product management tool that grows with you, Zenkit is beautifully designed and easy to use.  So this begs the question–why switch from Trello if it has been working perfectly fine for you?  Just like with any other platform that experiences  great success, and is then purchased and made part of a larger collective–there is real concern that Trello will have one of two eventual outcomes.  Either the application will fall off the radar by its new owners and be left to gather dust–or it will evolve or morph into something very different than what it was originally designed to be.

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My Take On Evernote in 2017

Evernote has had a rockier time in the public eye in the past year. Last June they increased their pricing and put some harder limits on the free accounts. This opened the service up to a lot of criticism from free users, who were actually getting a very good deal from the service. Previous to that price change, you could use Evernote across as many devices as you wanted, as long as you stayed within the monthly upload limit. That was pretty generous for a company whose income comes from a subset of paying users.

However, I do also understand the backlash to Evernote’s pricing change: it wasn’t announced alongside any significant new features, so it just looked like a price increase on both paid plans, and a sudden limitation of the free plan that so many people were enjoying. I think this move challenged Evernote’s user base, many of whom were suddenly looking at other note apps that they could use for free. Apple Notes had made some big changes to its feature set with iOS 9, and OneNote introduced an Evernote to OneNote importerto make it easier to move large note libraries to Microsoft’s free note-taking service. Late in 2016 also saw the launch of Bear, which featured its own Evernote import (in the Mac app) and its own set of tagging, attachment, and in-line picture support.

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Cloud Storage on iOS: iCloud, OneDrive, and Dropbox

Cloud storage services have been an incredibly useful way of working around 128 and 266 GB storage limits on modern iPads, but I’m still feeling torn about which solution is best for me. I know of Google Drive, but I’ve spent most of my testing period jumping between iCloud, Dropbox, and OneDrive. I haven’t come to a solid conclusion about which solution is perfect for me, but I now have enough to talk about the pros and cons of each service.

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Duet Display now adds Touch Bar Functionality to Your iPad

Duet Display

The excellent iPad app, Duet Display has always been one of my favorite apps for adding an extra display to my MacBook at home and PC while at the office.  Screen real estate comes at a premium these days, and to be able to add another interactive display to my workflow is always welcome.  Originally developed by a couple of ex-Apple engineers, so you know the attention to detail is going to be there, never mind their the instant credibility by association.  Luckily for them, Duet Display stands firmly on its own as a multi-tasking go-to for professionals in a variety of fields and careers.

If you haven’t already given Duet Display a try, now is the perfect opportunity to add an extra screen to improve your performance and efficiency.  The app was updated last week and is now on sale at 1/2 off the regular price of $19.99.  That alone is a great opportunity to buy Duet.  However, they have also added an unanticipated caveat–Touch Bar support!

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Evaluating 1Password for Families

I’ve been a 1Password user for a few years now, but it was only recently that I decided to look into their subscription service. 1Password for Families is a $60/year subscription service that provides access for five users on a single Family account. The perks of this plan include:

  • 1 GB of storage for each family member
  • Access to iPhone, iPad, Android, and Mac apps (Windows doesn’t seem to be Family compatible yet)
  • Access to a 1Password web app
  • Shared vaults with the ability to restrict editing rights for specific members (“look, don’t touch!”)

Previous to signing up for the Family subscription, I had kept all of my personal information in the Primary vault (the default vault that comes with any 1Password installation). It took me a while to realize that there was no way to sync this vault with my 1Password for Families account; I had to actually copy or move my data from the Primary vault (which was synced via Dropbox) to the Personal vault in 1Password for Families (which syncs via Agilebits’ custom sync engine).

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Quick Look: Gmail for iPad

I really like the default Mail app on the iPad. I think it’s a great example of what a good iPad Pro app should be. It supports a lot of different keyboard shortcuts, has a cool three-pane panel for extra context in landscape mode, but also still respects the concepts of margins for easy reading on a large screen. One thing it really sucks at, however, is searching for email. Unless I’ve flagged something, searching for email in the Mail app is just a crappy experience.

Luckily, Gmail (which I use for my primary personal email account) has seen a number of solid updates in the past year. It’s not something I’d recommend for everyday use necessarily, but it’s a great app to load up in those moments where you need to find that one email from your boss from two years ago.

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Quick Look: Bear for iPad

The screenshot above should also make it obvious, but if you were wondering if iOS has just received another really good-looking notes app that also sync with the Mac, then the answer is yes. Bear uses simple plain text for all of its formatting, so the notes you type out are easily transferrable — at any time — to any other platform or service. However, just because you’re using plain text, it doesn’t mean your notes have to look plain: Bear also handles rich text formatting with Markdown, and it displays pictures right alongside body text.

The Simple Bear Necessities

Whereas other plain text tools like iA Writer 4 focus more on being plain text writing machines, Bear feels like it focuses specifically on taking great notes in a flexible format. There are extra writing elements like word counts and read times in the right sidebar, but I’ve definitely become a bit of a snob when it comes to writing apps: without some sort of focus mode to keep text centered, I don’t consider Bear a full-fledged writing app for my purposes. That’s fine though, because in my brief testing period, it feels like a fantastic app for notes.

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Quick Look: Screens 4.2 for iPad

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.

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A Second Round with OneNote for iPad

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”.

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Popular Email Client Cloud Magic is now Newton, and it’s Packed with Power Features

Newton Email

One of my favorite email clients, Cloud Magic is now Newton.  Cloud Magic was already a clean, fast reliable way to navigate and triage your email.  With a reliable push notification system, and versions for both iOS and Mac, Newton had developed into a mature ecosystem.  Now that they have built their app into a huge success, the creators of Newton felt that it was time for the next stage of development.  They intend to take this awesome email client/platform, and add even more power features and improvements.  Furthermore, they plan to add support for additional platforms and evolve Newton into a email client that boosts your productivity by making email fun and easy.

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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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