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.
The last time I wrote about Apple Notes was in early July. I wrote that post to try and balance out all of the very strongly-worded posts about dumping Evernote and jumping to Apple Notes, the newest free note-taking solution that synced across all Apple devices.
I can see why most people don’t want to have to pay for a Notes solution, so moving from Evernote to Apple Notes seems like a very easy switch. However, I was wary of fully committing to Apple’s service because there doesn’t seem to be any easy way of getting your data out of the service in a meaningful way. You can get plain text notes to export from Apple Notes…but that’s about it. All the pictures, rich URLs, media, and any files you’ve attached to your notes…those can’t be exported en masse or imported into any other service at this time.
Despite all of that, I decided to give Apple Notes another solid try for the past month and a half.
I can’t believe they’re calling Ulysses 2.6 a dot update. Adding WordPress publishing, Dropbox sync, and universal search feel like much more than that. And, they even had the nerve to add Typewriter scrolling, which was my #1 feature request ever since Ulysses made it to the iPad. Am I happy with this Ulysses update? No. I’m ecstatic.
Here, let’s talk about why.
Tell me if this sounds familiar to you–you’re working on your laptop and you wish you had just a little more real-estate on your screen. Having another window open can go a long way unmaking you more productive. Maybe it’s your email–maybe you are a heavy Twitter user, and you like to keep the app open and active, or perhaps you want the extra screen for a FaceTime or Skype call. Whatever the reason, there aren’t too many functional and affordable options out there to choose from.
While searching for options, I came accross the Mountie from the folks at Ten 1 design. Not only was it pretty much exactly what I was looking for, but the minimalistic design and affordable price tag were icing on the cake. Available in both green and blue, the Mountie offers a convenient and easy way to add an additional monitor to your MacBook or PC without adding unwanted bulk to your set-up.
Email clients come and go with great regularity these days. There’s always someone working hard to come up with the next big thing. In an already crowded category, it’s increasingly hard to stand out. We all use email–it’s a necessary task that we all partake in until someone comes up with a better system. Unfortunately, the biggest sticking point for many new email clients is that, to get the best experience out of them you have to fully invest in the platform. This “all in” mentality can become frustrating when even some of the most popular email clients haven’t stood the test of time. I’m looking at you Sparrow & Mailbox.
My newest favorite email client is non-specifically called Email–which seems a little weird. It’s already hard to stand out in this crowded category. A strong name could go a long way in setting it apart form other apps. Having said that, it’s also referenced as EasilyDo Mail, incorporating the developer’s name that also designed EasilyDo Assistant.
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.
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.
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.