iPad Journal: To-do or not to-do

Last week the Apple nerdery got very excited with the release of Things 3. I took a look and realized that I’m not as interested in to-do apps as I used to be. Mostly I just do the things I need to do as they come my way. Making lists generally doesn’t help me. Perhaps it’s a limitation of my imagination or an indicator of a less active life. I’m just not so busy that I really need an app to keep track of tasks and projects. I’ve tried many of them over the years and none of them ever really stuck. The closest I got was using Wunderlist but that faded as well. Am I doing it wrong?

With the introduction of “Hey Siri” I found that Apple’s Reminders app was sufficient for my fairly limited needs. In fact, I actually found that do to the convenience of Siri I actually used Reminders consistently for very quick, location-based tasks. For example unusual things such as returning a bucket I borrowed from a friend when I know I’ll be driving by their place the next day prompts me to say: “Hey Siri, remind me to return Karen’s bucket tomorrow morning at 9am” or perhaps I need to make a phone call but only at a certain time, that also would get a request to Siri. But those kinds of things don’t need complicated to-do apps, just something basic that will allow me to ask Siri to create a reminder which will pop-up a notification at a specific time or location.

Here’s how I tend to do around-the-house chores. Some repeating weekly or monthly tasks are set-up as repeating reminders. Most notably I have monthly reminders for flea/tick/heartworm meds for my cat and dog. I’ve also got a reminder to change the cat litter. I don’t need such reminders for most other tasks. When the grass gets high I cut it. I’m outside everyday so I can see when I need to water the garden. When my recycling pile starts to overflow I drop it off.

I do my shopping list via Hey Siri and Reminders and the AnyList app that imports anything it finds in my Shopping List.

If I have a larger project such as painting or staining a structure I will just add the things I need to get to my shopping list. Then I get them and then I do the job. I don’t need to list out the steps because they are usually self evident.

When it comes to client projects, again, these are generally straight forward. I get hired to to a brochure or a business card or an annual report and I just do the job. The steps involved are not so many that I cannot easily just do them. With a new website or brochure: Create project folder. Collect text, images and graphics which are placed in project folder. Open or create html file or InDesign document, etc. I rarely have more than one or two projects at a time and have no problem dealing with that kind of activity level. I recently did an annual report. The tasks were largely the same as the last time I did such a document and they flowed from my email exchanges with the client which evolved from instructions then questions then gathering of text, images, graphics. I did a first draft then a back and forth with suggestions and edits then a second and a third. At no point did I need a task list. The same might be said for a recent presentation design and a website re-design. My projects evolve along with email, text messaging with a client and at most a few notes that I might take in the Notes app.

I can’t quite sort out where a to-do app fits in to such projects. It would be like creating a to-do list for my day. Get up. Go to the bathroom. Make coffee. Eat breakfast. Feed the dog. Walk the dog. Refill coffee. On and on. I don’t need a list for such obvious things.

What about a larger non-normal project? Perhaps something large enough with many steps might need a project to-do list. When we were building our cabins a few years back we made weekend shopping lists for the needed materials. But again, this was more about knowing what we needed for the next phase of the construction. I suppose some might do a series of to-dos in this case. At the time (2008) I probably scribbled the list on paper as I didn’t have an iPhone. Were I to do be doing it again today I’d likely just do a shopping list as I do for groceries. But I wouldn’t do a list of to-dos for the actual construction process.

Special tasks seem rare in my life. Often such things are events that go on the calendar. I often take my granny to her doctor so those those appointments go in the calendar for a day and time. Events for family or friends also go to the calendar. If I need to check in with someone about a detail for such an event more often than not I just send a text when I think of the question. No need to remind myself to send a text. A few days ago my brother-in-law called to ask if I could design an invite and a slide show for my niece’s upcoming graduation party. I was out for a walk when he called so I opened up the Notes app to take down the details I needed. I suppose it could have gone into a to-do app under a task “Create Emma’s Party Invite”. Instead I made a note titled Emma and scribbled in the details of the event and a few things that I needed to include in the invite and in the slideshow. Perhaps that’s the key. More often than not anything that comes up that I don’t do immediately get’s put into Notes because of details that I need to do a task or project. Perhaps I’m using Notes in cases where many would use a to-do app?

I don’t know. As I said, maybe I just don’t quite get what to-do apps are for. Maybe my activity level is just very low. I’d like to try out Things 3 but chances are I’d buy it and it would mostly sit in a folder unused. Again, I ask, am I doing it wrong?

iPad Journal: A long overdue link round-up

Ha! Well, I’ve been busy with client work and have fallen a bit behind in posting weekly links. A couple of these are a bit outdated but I think still worth posting.

Just last week Federico posted his iOS 11 iPad Wishes story and video. Fantastic work, even better than last year’s. I’ll likely do a separate post on this but in summary, I like every idea he has suggested.

I don’t live near an Apple Store but I’m still very excited to see what they are doing with Apple Today. It’s a bummer that folks in rural areas largely miss out on this sort of thing. I suspect I’ll be posting more about this soon.

I very much agreed with Ryan Christoffel at MacStories that Apple’s services have greatly improved in recent years. Yes it’s true that, historically, Apple has struggled in this area. But with each year they have gotten much better. As far as I’m concerned they’ve gotten past that rough patch and now offer services that I do not hesitate to recommend. I trust them. Even better is the fact that their services are truly green and sustainable. They stand virtually alone on that.

Dispelling the Apple Services Myth – MacStories

The Apple of today has made services a core part of its business. Not only from a financial standpoint, but also in the area of user experience. The experience Apple sells is not merely one of hardware, or software – it includes services. And it’s that Apple experience that helped make the iPhone one of the most successful products in the history of the world.

You can draw your own conclusions from this story, but mine is that Apple’s services get a bad rap they generally don’t deserve; the company’s reputation for not doing services well is outdated. Are things perfect? Of course not. But they’re a lot better than the common narrative says.

Federico introduced a new website and podcast to cover the world of iOS apps. I’ve added it but I doubt I’ll listen to every show.

AppStories – A weekly exploration of the world of apps

Today, after many months of work, we are introducing AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps. Each week, Federico and I will discuss our favorite new apps and noteworthy updates, dive into the stories behind the apps we love, and explore the cultural and social impact of the App Store.

Another excellent iPad post by Federico:

iPad Diaries: Numbers, Accounting, and Currency Conversions – MacStories

Apple and the environment

I have, since around 1990, oriented the way I live my life around the question, “Is this good for the health of the Earth?” Those that know me would probably agree with the suggestion that I’m a bit extreme in that regard. The way I look at it is that it is, fundamentally, a question lived ethics and survival. What we do everyday impacts not only our future survival but the survival of countless other species with which we share the planet. Our choices thus far have been leading us to the extinction of other species and quite possibly our own. Our time on this planet does have an expiration date. One day humans will no longer exist on this planet. That’s a given. But will we end our time here prematurely due to poor behavior? Increasingly it looks as though we will.

I have long argued (as many have) that capitalism is incompatible with the longterm health of the planet. As an economic system it is focused on profit and specifically short-term profit. Corporations have demonstrated time and time again that they don’t do well when it concerns the environment and questions of human social justice. In the past ten years Apple has begun to demonstrate that it is possible continue making a profit even as it undergoes a dramatic shift in it’s social and environmental impact from a negative to a positive. Apple isn’t just minimizing its negative impact but is attempting and succeeding at creating a significant positive impact.

In recent years as it makes these changes it has made an effort to communicate to the public what it is doing. On the face of it it’s pretty easy to dismiss as the usual greenwashing that many companies engage in when they care about that aspect of how they appear to the public. In other words, marketing. But here’s the thing, Apple has gone so far in changing the way it operates that it no longer appears to be trying to convince the public that it is a good corporate “citizen”. They have seemingly made it a part of their mission to set the bar of conduct at a new level. This is a sustained effort to shift the fundamentals of the company from one that prioritizes profit to one which puts environmental impact on an equal footing.

In the lead-up to Earth Day 2017 we’ve seen a push by Apple to share what it’s been doing in these areas. In past years they have done the same but with each passing year as the scope of their commitment deepens it seems to be a shift from corporate marketing to one in which Apple sees a “teachable moment” and is educating the public not for it’s own benefit but for the public good. They are setting an example not just for corporations but even for citizens and governments. They aren’t just meeting the too-low requirements and goals set out by governments. They are exceeding them and raising the bar and not just by a little. And then they are saying to the world, do better. Do much better.

A day or so ago John Gruber of Daring Fireball and The Talk Show published an interview with Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of Environmental Policy. I remember when Lisa Jackson moved over to Apple having served 4 years as head of the EPA under Obama. At the time I just figured, oh, the usual high-level corporate/government revolving door. I didn’t pay much attention to her. But listening to that interview I can only say that I am really impressed. She’s a fantastic asset to Apple as well as an excellent STEM role model who also addresses the connection between STEM and our social and ecological problems and needs. I’ve listened to it twice and might give it a third go. She offers some fascinating details about how Apple operates in relation to resources.

As an activist who protested Nike in the late 90s for it’s overseas labor policies I was keenly aware that Apple was having it’s own labor issues in the early 2000s (and probably before). I began paying attention then to both the labor and environmental practices of my favorite technology company with some hope that they would “Think Different” in their dealings with the world around them. They have not disappointed. While progress was made when Jobs was at the helm their move towards greater social and environmental responsibility really increased when Tim Cook took over. The focus on the social and environmental responsibility has intensified greatly over the past 5 years. This interview is an excellent summary of those changes. But what is truly breathtaking is the scope and depth to which they have gone.

It’s easy these days to become mired in a mix of hopelessness, despair, frustration and disgust. Our political system seems equal parts corrupt, inept, and circus. On the issue of climate change the U.S. has proven largely ineffectual and confused. From the public to government to business, we’ve made little progress at far too slow a rate. It seems very likely that we are past the point of no return and that all there is to do now is adapt and attempt to minimize what now seems to be inevitable. But I listen to this interview and not only am I inspired but I’m embarrassed that it is a company… a capitalist enterprise that is actually leading the way, that is setting the best possible example not only for other companies but for citizens. As someone who has long considered himself an activist (of sorts) I suddenly feel a bit ashamed of my despair. That might not be exactly it or quite the best way to put it but it’s close.

Also, Apple has put together four videos for Earth Day 2017. Good stuff.

And yet another bit of Apple and the environment bit of news, Macworld reports that Apple will return heat generated by data center to warm up homes:

Apple is building a new data center in Denmark, and it has some interesting ideas on how to power the data center with renewable energy, while also giving back to the community.

Excess heat generated by the data center will be captured and returned to the local district’s heating system, which will warm up homes in the community.

This is just one example of many that illustrates the scope of commitment that Apple is making to this effort. This is exactly the sort of project that Lisa Jackson is describing in the above linked interview with John Gruber.

Last but not least, Apple is set to move into it’s new headquarters, Apple Park. Much work is still being done but April was to be the month that employees started moving over. To say that I’m impressed with Apple Park would be a huge understatement. From native and edible landscaping to the heating and cooling to the local energy production, it is, by all accounts, the standard for large scale green architecture and landscaping.

iPad Journal: External Keyboards

One interesting side-effect of using the iPad as a primary device is that I find myself accumulating keyboards. I consider it of great benefit that the iPad isn’t fixed to a keyboard. I can pick it up and use it all by itself which is largely the point of an iPad. For that reason I will not buy a case that requires the iPad be clipped into it in anyway that is not very easy to remove. The most I want for protection is Apple’s Smart Cover which can easily be pulled off. I want the iPad as light and thin as possible. For the first six years that I owned an iPad I almost always used it in a case with a cover. Once I started using it without covers I started using it more as it just feels better that way. All that said I also use an external keyboard with the iPad for 50% of the time and I’m finding that having multiple keyboards handy. At the moment all three of those are Logitech Keyboards.

My least used of the bunch is the Logitech Keys-To-Go which is great for taking on the road. If I’m going to spend an hour working at the library or coffeeshop all I take is the Keys-To-Go, and iPad in the Smart Cover, that’s it. No bags or cases. Super light and thin but my least favorite to type on as there’s no backlight and very little key travel. It really takes some getting used to. Also, it shows more wear than I think it should for the amount it has been used. In particular the fabric covering, what seems like a kind of rubber, has come a bit loose and bubbly which you can see in the image.

When working at home or outside on the deck I’ve been using the K811 as my primary keyboard. It’s a great keyboard to type on and has backlighting. When I’m using the K811 I’m also using a stand of some kind for the iPad. It’s a two piece arrangement with the iPad in the folded Smart Cover (or one of the other stands I’ve got) and the keyboard on a desk or on a lap board of some kind. The benefit of this arrangement is that the iPad can sit off to the side or up on a stack of books closer to eye level. Basically, anything goes and it changes based on my comfort.

But last week I decided to pick up the Logitech K480 which has a greater front-to-back depth and includes a slot/stand for an iPad or iPhone or both. It’s fairly heavy compared to the other two because it also serves as a stand. This is not a keyboard that I’d take to a coffeeshop for light typing. But for working at or around the home it is my new favorite. That said, at 1.8 lbs, it is still light enough that I would take it on the road if I were expecting to do more than a couple of hours of steady typing. It’s not so heavy that I can’t easily put it into my travel bag with the iPad.

Like the K811 the K480 allows for pairing with multiple Bluetooth devices and easy switching between 3 of them. In the case of the K480 there is a handy dial for switching and it works nearly instantly. I currently have it paired to the iPad and iPhone. When the 12.9″ iPad is updated I’ll be getting that and will pair it as well. It won’t fit into the slot in landscape mode with this keyboard but it will work in the portrait orientation. Not sure how stable it will be. If it doesn’t work well with the larger iPad I can pair it to the Mac or AppleTV. Regardless, I expect that it will primarily be used with my current Air 2.

The K480 is a great keyboard for the iPad. The typing experience is excellent and the iPad is very stable when sitting in the keyboard slot. I can have it in my lap at any number of angles based on lighting and my comfort. Over the past three days I’ve used it to type a 20+ page podcast transcript. During that time I’ve used it in my lap on my futon, on the arm of an adirondack chair, in a camping chair in my lap, and in the front seat of a mini-van. In all situations it has allowed for excellent viewing and typing angles while remaining very stable. Due to the weight of the keyboard, the depth and angle of the slot, I can lean it backward or forward and the iPad stays put. It balances with the same stability of a laptop. Carrying from location to location while leaving it in the slot feels very safe.

The only downside is that because it sits so deeply in the slot I cannot activate the swipe-from-bottom Control Center without first lifting the iPad out of the slot a bit. Or, I find that I can swipe up from the bottom left or bottom right corner which will bring up the centered arrow that allows for swiping up Control Center. Not terribly inconvenient but not as easy as a single action swipe up. Yeah, first world problems.

One last negative, minor but worth noting: while the K480 feels like a solid, well made keyboard, it does have a very loud creak to it when picked up or moved around. It’s the sound of plastic flexing and the two pieces of the keyboard rubbing against one another. It’s certainly not a deal breaker but it is loud enough that the people in the room with me noticed it when I adjusted the keyboard on my lap. It’s also a bit loud to type on but I expect a certain amount of sound from a keyboard.

Until Apple releases a 2017 update for the larger iPad Pro I suspect that the majority of my typing will be with the Air 2 and K480 though it’s nice to have the option of pulling the iPad out to use freehanded or with any other keyboard in any arrangement that best fits the situation.

iPad Journal: Just a small thing: AirDrop

I had a meeting/tutoring session with a client a couple days ago. She needed two things. A bit of work done to trace/vectorize a painting that she did which was to be put on t-shirts and other items as well as tutoring on how to go about doing that. She is retired but has a history in art, a mix of sculpting and some painting. But nothing digital. So, no experience with Adobe or any other. I suggested she start with Affinity’s Designer and Photo apps. After a bit of discussion she agreed and we purchased both for her. Then we spent the next 2.5 hours turning her scanned artwork into a primarily vector-based file using Affinity Designer. At the three hour mark she was ready to end the session and seemed very happy with the work we’d done. She wasn’t confident enough with the app to finish the job but we’d been doing the work on her laptop. In the past this would have just been an email with an attachment. But that seemed silly as I was right there with my iPad. An iMessage would have worked pretty well in this scenario too.

I viewed it as an opportunity to show the client AirDrop because I correctly guessed that she’d never used it and was unaware that it existed. I used the Finder on her Mac to select the file on the desktop then clicked the share icon and pointed out the AirDrop option. She asked what that was for and I quickly explained as I carried out the action. I was prompted on the iPad to select iCloud as a save location which I did. The whole action was just a couple clicks and even easier than email. Of course I could have also accepted and saved the file via my iPhone. Really, this is a post about AirDrop and the benefits of a tightly integrated ecosystem. I’ve used AirDrop enough to know that it will always just work. There may have been a time in the early days when the process wasn’t so smooth but these days, at least in my experience, it always just works.

Many folks still insist that the iPad needs more convenient ways to attach external storage. I’ve never needed it. Between iCloud, DropBox, and AirDrop I have everything covered with cloud storage and ease of transferring files. If I’m working with someone that uses Windows or Android we can use other methods. But, really, it’s not been an issue. This is the sort of thing that is easy to take for granted. As someone who has long worked with multiple devices, flawless peer-to-peer sharing is amazing and so convenient. I have no interest in USB ports for attaching external drives.

A bit of an aside regarding this specific project that is worth mentioning. Ideally I would have liked to continue working on the file on the iPad and hopefully in the not too distant future that will be possible because the makers of Affinity Designer do have an iPad version in the works. When or if it will be available for purchase is unknown but I think this falls into the category of “Pro” apps that we really need more of for iPads. That said when I returned to my Mac I opened Astropad and had a go of using the iPad with a generic stylus in conjunction with AD on the Mac. It worked very well as a see where you are drawing style tablet, much better than the Mac with a mouse or trackpad. Going forward, I suspect I’ll make good use of iPad as a graphic tablet compliment to Mac-based work that involves drawing or painting.

iPad Journal: The iPad as Cash Register

A new coffee and gift shop opened up in our small rural town and someone needs to inform them that the iPad is only for browsing the web and FB or maybe email. They’re making a huge mistake using it for actual work as a Point of Sale system. Yikes.

All kidding aside, there aren’t many places in rural Missouri that offer Apple Pay but thanks to the Square POS, Revival Trade and Coffee does accept it. That said, I don’t think many people around here are aware of Apple Pay or that they may have access to it if they want to try it out. That will change eventually.

iPad Journal: Setting up a new website

I keep forgetting that the iPad is only meant for watching movies and reading websites! While I did use the Mac today to do a bit of revision on an annual report with InDesign most of my time was spent on the iPad:

  1. Set-up a new website for Revival Trade and Coffee Company. This entailed purchasing domain, configuring account, setting up files on server, creating and editing raw code on html and CSS files using Coda. Image optimization via Workflow. Various file transfers to and from local Mac with Transmit.
  2. Used Transmit to retrieve a pdf from a server then marked it up for review by a client.
  3. Updated a website with new pdf content which was converted to jpg and web optimized.
  4. Converted another pdf to web optimized jpg for client use on social media.

Panic and the price of “pro” apps for iOS

Panic posted it’s The 2016 Panic Report and offered this very glaring and blunt statement about developing and selling iOS apps:

  • iOS continues to haunt us. If you remember, 2016 was the year we killed Status Board, our very nice data visualization app. Now, a lot of it was our fault. But it was another blow to our heavy investment in pro-level iOS apps a couple years ago, a decision we’re still feeling the ramifications of today as we revert back to a deep focus on macOS. Trying to do macOS quality work on iOS cost us a lot of time for sadly not much payoff. We love iOS, we love our iPhones, and we love our iPads. But we remain convinced that it’s not — yet? — possible to make a living selling pro software on those platforms. Which is a real bummer!

Yikes. Very disappointing. But I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about Panic. I’ve used Coda and Transmit on the Mac for years. Now I use them on my iPad and they are two of my most used apps. They’re great apps. But here’s the thing, as much as I enjoy and use Panic apps there is this other thing that kind of bothers me. Take the statement above. Who the hell was using Status Board? My (admittedly vague) understanding is they started that app for themselves and used it in house. I may be mis-remembering that. But regardless, I looked at it and while neat I had absolutely no use for it. I don’t see how Status Board was a pro level app. Or, if it was, I don’t see why the failure of that one app should impact 3 other iOS apps that are most definitely “pro” apps and which I suspect have a much larger, more committed user base.

Panic’s public face often seems silly to me. A year or so ago a big deal was made about their clever sign. They seem kind of squirrely in that they seem to get distracted by fun and otherwise cute projects. On a certain level, that’s great. Fun is good, whimsy too. But it just seems odd that they put that much time and effort into a sign with an iPhone app that people can use to change the colors of the sign and yet, a year later they are complaining about the time and energy investment in iOS apps not paying off. It seems odd.

Meanwhile, Coda, introduced on the Mac in 2007, currently sits at version 2 which was released in 2012. That’s 5 years per version. Which seems a little long but not too bad. But based on Panic’s 2016 review and 2017 projection we should not expect Coda 3 anytime soon. I’m fine with that as I’m not using the Mac version much at all. But in the comments to their post was a link to a twitter thread involving a bug/missing feature in Transmit 4 (the current version). It was brought to their attention in late 2014 and while Panic replied steadily as time progressed the issue has yet to be addressed even though Panic first suggested they had a fix as far back as early 2015 and yet, two years later, that thread is still going and that issue is unresolved. That is poor form. And I’m sure it’s not the only example.

Panic is one of those companies that has a sterling reputation in the Apple Nerd Herd and I’m conflicted as to whether it is deserved. It’s important to be realistic in our expectation. I often think folks are not very realistic in their expectations of Apple. Perhaps I’m being too harsh in my assessment of Panic. They’ve got a nice chart demonstrating how active they were in updating their apps over the course of 2016 and they were. A few new features but mostly lots of bug fixes. Looking at the release notes it was lots of bug fixes. That’s not to trivialize the updates because removing bugs is important (hence my comment in the previous paragraph).

To reiterate, these are fantastic apps and they seem to be solidly supported. I suppose I just don’t understand their complaint about selling apps for iOS. It is they who set the prices. As of now it looks like Coda sells for $24.99 and Transmit is $9.99. In 2015 Coda was only $9.99 and was a free upgrade to those that had purchased the first version. That seems far too low to me and is certainly lower than the Mac versions. Why not bump up the price? I paid a good bit more for the Mac version of Coda and would happily pay more for the iOS version if it was asked and if it meant that Panic would be more committed to development on the iOS side of things.

I’m not an app developer. I’ve not done a comprehensive review of the costs of iOS apps that are being built for and sold to professionals. I do think that the developers of professional grade apps such as Coda and Transmit should sell their apps at a price they think is fair for the product. If it’s the same price as that being asked for the Mac version then so be it. I know that a version of Affinty Designer is in being worked on and if it sells for the same price as the Mac version I’ll pay it. Again, I’ll pay it enthusiastically because it’s an app I want and need to make my iPad more valuable as a tool for my graphic design projects.

This post seems a bit unfocused to me. It was Panic’s recent statement about selling “pro” iOS apps that set me off. Panic goes out of it’s way to share the many ways in which it is whimsical and it’s apps delightful to use. It’s evident in the design and presentation of the blog, the website, the apps. Whimsy is everywhere and it’s wonderful. But when it comes to pricing their apps, valuable tools that do indeed help professionals get real work done, maybe Panic needs to take itself and it’s user base more seriously.

iPad Journal: Workflow improvements!

A new and very helpful feature of Workflow: Convert PDF to Image

A new and very helpful feature of Workflow: Convert PDF to Image

Every Apple nerd knows by now that Apple purchased Workflow a few days ago. The app was updated and within hours an image was all over Twitter. While most people were jumping to the conclusion that Apple was up to no good I was trying to read what was under the bottom red line of the bottom box: "Added support for converting PDFs to images". Here's the image:

I'm not a power user of Workflow but there are a couple of things I'm doing with it. Most important for me is being able to resize an image for sharing on the web and then sending it via email or saving it do DropBox and my iPad file store for my Coda website projects. I wrote a few months ago about creating a nifty Workflow that does all of this and no doubt it saves me time.

Often times though I'm starting with Pages documents or PDF files using the Share Sheet to send to the Graphic app as a go between from PDF to my Workflow for images. Not a big deal but it is an extra step and a couple of extra touches to share from Graphic as an image to my Workflow. But now? Well, now I can send a pdf from an email straight to Workflow. I touch the screen a couple times to set the size and the save location. Done. What was already easy is even easier now. It took me a whopping two minutes to open Workflow and create the new workflow to convert a pdf to image with an option to crop. Thanks to recent additions to Workflow I can then just call up my "Resize and act on image" which is a workflow that calls up other workflows to continue the process offering to work from a file or clipboard then, resizing and then presenting options to email or send via Transmit and/or DropBox.

Lately I've been doing some volunteer work for our local rural library which has entailed a series of posters which I design in Pages and then send out as pdfs for printing and as images for the web. Here again, I can skip the step of sending the pdf to Graphic and just go straight to Workflow.

I don't know what Workflow does to convert from pdf to jpg or what it's doing in the resizing process but I can say that I end up with an image that is on par in quality and file size to what I would get with Photoshop via Save to web. The difference is that with iPad and Workflow I simply tap to guide the process. There is practically no time involved, very little mental effort.

By comparison, on the Mac I'm jumping from Apple Mail to Photoshop to Finder to Transmit or Coda. It's not difficult but it does require more mental effort and more clicking. It's not a huge difference but there is more friction on the Mac largely because the Finder and multiple apps and thus more windows are more complicated to navigate. In short, the "power user" features of the Mac are also what can get in the way.

I suspect that most people that are Mac-based would tell you that it would be easier to do this on a Mac, that using an iPad requires hoops and extra work, extra effort. I've written about this before, I think it's simply a matter of taking the time to become comfortable and familiar with iOS something most long-time Mac users never do.

But wait, am I cheating? I'm comparing one process which is automated in iPad to one which is manual on the Mac. Why not write a script on the Mac? I tried Automator back in the day. It never stuck. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Maybe this is all very easy to do via Automator? No doubt if I worked through the process manually using the Share Sheet from Mail or Pages to send files to Graphic to then send to Transmit it would be a more comparable process and number of clicks and mental friction. Maybe. But I can say that because I've gotten comfortable with the iOS way of doing things I find the Share Sheet process incredibly easy and one which feels easier than the Mac.

I don't know what the future holds for Workflow but I do know that even if I never use it for anything but this one series of tasks it will have been worth it for me. Now that I have made good use of this one Workflow I'll be paying more attention to other possibilities based on the tasks I need to do.

iPad Journal: Weekly Links

Lots of interesting iPad related news this week. Well, actually, two very notable things.

  1. Apple purchased the Workflow app and the 3 developers of the app will be joining Apple. The app itself will (for now) remain in the App Store but is now free.
  2. Apple released new iPads. Not the updated iPads Pro everyone was expecting. Nope. Even better. They did something no one was expecting: they released a new budget priced iPad simply called iPad.

The news on the Workflow first came via Matthew Panzarino:

Apple has acquired Workflow, a powerful automation tool for iPad and iPhone

Of course, Federico had something to say about it (along with every other Apple nerd I follow on Twitter):

At this stage, it’s not clear what Apple’s plans for Workflow in the long term might be. I have a few theories, but this isn’t the time to speculate. I’ll say this, though: Workflow has been the driving force behind my decision to embrace the iPad as my primary computer. Workflow is a shining example of the power of automation combined with user creativity and its underlying mission has always been clear: to allow anyone to improve how iOS can get things done for them in a better, faster, more flexible way. Workflow is the modern bicycle for the mind. There’s nothing else like it.

Ben Brooks has a few interesting points regarding Wednesday’s acquisition: Apple’s New Workflow.

Like many, Ben speculates about the different ways Apple could go with the app. It’s an unknown at this point and for many like Federico who have made the iPad a primary device the app has become central to their working day. I don’t use the app much but would like to use it more. I have a couple of Workflows that I do use on a semi regular basis and in those cases I really appreciate the app. I’d like to use it more and I can see the potential. Time will tell.

Regarding that second bit of news, a new, cheaper iPad to take the place of the Air 2 in the line-up. I love that the rumors had it all wrong. Not that I doubt that eventually we’ll see updates to the Pro line. In fact, I’m really looking forward to that as I’m planning to add a 12.9″ Pro to my device roster. We’re too far into the cycle to purchase the current 12.9 so I’m waiting. But here’s the thing, I’m not in a hurry. Yes, I’m excited and will buy the first day they are available. But really, this iPad Air 2 is fantastic and is plenty fast for my daily work. I’m looking forward to a bigger screen for multi-tasking. That’s my main driver. But, back to the point of the new iPad. I think it’s fantastic.

I like the new, easier to understand, cleaner naming: iPad Mini, iPad, iPad Pro. And that lower price is an excellent move. It will entice people like my parents who have been holding onto their iPad 4. Just a week ago my mom was here on a visit and pointed out that she was out of storage and asked what she could do. I didn’t realize but her iPad 4 only has 16GB of storage. If it weren’t for that she could go on for another couple of years. She has no complaints about the performance. But now she can no longer save images and videos of her grandkids. Same goes for my dad. I told them last week they could get refurb iPad Air 2s or new ones but that they might want to wait a week. They waited and now they can get the new iPad, with a faster processor, for less. It’s a great upgrade for them. No doubt these iPads will be great for many who are still clinging to older iPads as well as for schools. Jason Snell, waiting for Macworld: Lower the price, expand the market:

But this isn’t a product Apple made to excite people on features. It’s made to compete on price, and Apple competed on price by building a new iPad on the base of the iPad Air, with its cheaper screen, cameras, and other components.

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about how Apple has stood by as Chromebooks have become incredibly successful in the education market. It’s hard not to see the new iPad as Apple’s direct reaction to those challenges. At $329 (actually less than that, due to education discounts), the iPad is at least in the ballpark with Chromebooks, especially nicer touchscreen models.

Over at ASYMCO, Horace has a great post on iPad Opitcs. It’s not about the cameras in the iPad, it’s about the visuals of graphs that seem to depict an iPad in decline which has, of course, been a topic of concern the past couple of years. He argues, as many have, that use of the iPad is not in decline at all but that purchasing reflects a durable product with reported high customer satisfaction and longer replacement cycles:

Taking into account that the iPad has a large, stable, engaged and loyal user base that continues to expand and find new uses the optically bad sales data needs an explanation. The simplest explanation is probably the best: iPads remain in use far longer than phones, and perhaps even longer than some computers.

Anecdotally we can see evidence for this. Few iPads are replaced every two years the way phones are. They are not tied to service contracts or subsidized. They are also less likely to be damaged during usage as phones are dropped and banged-up. iPads are more stationary or carried in protected containers. Phones are in pockets, iPads are in bags.

So iPads are longer-lived products and it’s perfectly reasonable that people who have them keep using them and more people are joining them but slowly. Note also that the decline in sales seems to be flattening out and perhaps might show stabilization.

I completely agree as I see this very thing happening in my own family as evidenced by parents using iPad 4s with 16GB of storage!

Unrelated to new iPads or Workflow, Federico continued his excellent IPad Diaries series this week with: Working with Zip Archives. It’s a very useful post if you’re someone that uses zip files. I don’t very often and when I do it’s usually at the end of an InDesign project when I’m at my Mac preparing to deliver a folder of files so it’s something I take care of via Mac. But it’s nice to know that if the need ever arises I can open a zip archive.