Category Archives: Apple

Claris!

As a longtime user of FileMaker Pro and an Apple user since 1993, I’ve got fond memories of Claris. I loved those apps and used them often. The news that FileMaker is transitioning back to its original name Claris is bringing back some warm fuzzy nostalgia.

Finally deleted Ulysses

Finally got around to copying over all my Ulysses documents to iA Writer. It’s been two or so years since Ulysses was transitioned to a subscription model and I immediately made the switch to iA Writer. I’m still very glad I did. Moving all my remaining documents over today reminded me of one of the other good reasons: Ulysses kept it’s documents in an iCloud database as opposed to actual files. Rather than selecting them all and moving them at once I had to go into each one and export it or copy paste. Yuck.

By contrast, all my iA Writer documents are actually .txt files. So much better!

iPadOs

Wowza. It’s been well over a month since WWDC and all of the fun summer Apple news! I obviously feel no pressure to offer my opinion on these things. There are more than enough hot takes out there. I’m not sure if it’s my getting older or what exactly but I’m happy to just sit back and take it in. I mostly regard my opinion as I regard all the others out there: not that important. I’m happy with the iPad and iOS 12 and as expected, I’ll be happier with the iPad running iPadOS 13.

It’s not that I don’t care or that I’m lacking enthusiasm. On the contrary, I’m super excited for what’s coming and have been happily playing with the iPadOS public beta since it’s release. I initially installed on my iPad Air 2 and after a month I also took the plunge and with the release of the third public beta installed on my iPad Pro. I normally would not do that on my work iPad but I have everything backed up and verified that my essential work apps are working fairly well on the beta.

Even in it’s rough around the edges beta form it’s great and an improvement over iOS 12. But I’m not all that interested in rehashing what everyone already now knows (assuming they have an interest in the topic) and what’s available to read on Apple’s iPadOS website.

What I will say is simply that iPadOS makes a lot of sense as the next step for this device. I think Apple’s done a great job of adding features for power users while maintaining a surface level simplicity for the users that are fine with the basic iPad feature set. Users like my parents can happily go on using the iPad as they have in the past and will probably not notice much of a difference. To them it will be the same iPad they are comfortable with. Before the iPad my elderly aunt and uncle did not use a computer and had never used email or the web. Now they, like my mom and grandmother, are daily computer users. They’re happy and comfortable sending email, messages, photos, and so on. All thanks to the iPad.

For those of us looking for “power user” features, well, now we have more of those. My three favorites: Widgets on the home screen, improved Safari, and the more fully featured Files app. I’ve tried the mouse support and suspect that will come in very handy too for those of us that would like to put our iPads up to eye level or hook up to mirror our iPads to a second display.

The iPad was released in 2010, intended to be a friendly, easy to approach and use device. In 2019, we can look back and see a slow but very steady evolution of the hardware, iOS, and the available apps. I think in retrospect, this has been about as much as anyone could ask for. In 2010 I was a happy Mac user and the iPad entered my home as a fun, pleasant to use browsing device. Today, nine years later, the iPad has become my favorite Apple device and is now my daily computer.

The fact that this same device can serve a user such as myself and at the same time be used so easily by non-technical users says a lot about what Apple has accomplished.

iPad Journal: Pages Summer 2019 Status Update

It seems I’ve gotten in the habit of writing about my use of Pages once or twice a year and it would seem now is time to update. Past posts:

I’ve been using Pages since it was first released way back in 2005. In that time it’s been one of my favorite apps and one of my most used both on Mac and now on iPad. I know the app pretty well and as time goes on I only grow fonder of it. I’ve used it to create countless flyers, brochures, reports, newsletters and even used it to help a friend publish her first book. It seems inevitable that logging that many hours with an application is likely to lead to strong feelings and I’m happy that in this case they are positive feelings. I wouldn’t want to be in a position to have to spend a lot of time with an application (or operating system) that I didn’t enjoy using.

As I write this Apple’s current website for the Pages App has as it’s second section headline: “A canvas for creativity.” I think that’s an apt description for the app. I’ll go further and say that one aspect of what Apple has accomplished with Pages is gradually build an app that not only works the same (mostly) across all devices, but one which will empower a broad group of users in creative endeavors. Of course, like any deeply featured app, the more you learn the more you can do, but Apple has done a great job of making this app one which is easy to approach for novice users. I’d say the interface is very well designed to appear simple at a glance. But with a few taps or clicks the powerful features are easily revealed.

I might go so far as to say that, to some degree, the design philosophy of Pages parallels that of the iPad. And by that I simply mean that on a surface level it is simple and friendly. It is approachable. Apple has done the same with the iPad. With iPadOS 13 we have something that will continue to be easy for novice users or users that just want easy, basic computing. Most of my family will never use the advanced features of the iPad (or, for that matter, Pages). But those features are there for those of us that take the deep dive, those of us that want the advanced features, have them there waiting for us.

My last update was October 29, 2018 and there have been updates! The march towards feature parity with the Mac continues though we’re not there yet!

What’s still missing?

  • Line spacing is still limited to pre-set increments. I can have 1 or .75 or .5 but not .9 or .8 and sometimes I need .9 or .8. This seems like something they should be able to fix.
  • Spacing between characters.
  • More keyboard shortcuts.
  • Shapes are now partially editable but not fully. It’s possible to combine shapes using different modes but it’s still not possible to make the various individual shape “nodes” editable as is possible on a Mac.
  • Multipart lines are still not possible. With the Mac I can create a line with the pen tool that has many different points which can then be curves or straight and the positions moved around. With the iOS version I can create a line with just one adjustable point.
  • Advanced gradient fills are not possible. Included in this would be a gradient with transparency.
  • It’s not possible to edit the color, angle, distance or spread of drop shadows.
  • When exporting to pdf it would be nice to have the ability to choose the quality of the images.

What’s fixed or new?

  • Yay!! We can now change a document type to “Page Layout”.
  • Formatting table borders is fixed! We can adjust style, color and width!
  • A new and welcome feature: new styling features for text! Namely, it’s now possible to have text with a gradient fill and with new stroke options. Also possible is using a texture or image for text fill. This will come in handy!

Something I wrote last time which still stands:

“One last bit. Apple has positioned the iPad Pro as a pro device. Not only should they finally fill in the above mentioned gaps between the Mac and iOS versions, but it might be nice to see a few advanced features added that would bring it more on par with apps like InDesign. For example, drop caps! Sure, I can create those with text boxes but I shouldn’t have to work around this. One feature that might be considered more advanced would be the option to have an art board around documents. A place off the document that allows for storing bits of text, shapes, images, etc. I don’t expect it but it sure would be helpful. More advanced PDF export would also be nice.”

And, just to be clear, in the past 10 months other features HAVE been added that I’ve not covered here as I don’t use them. Most recently new Pencil features such as animating a drawing which might be very useful for some. New and powerful ebook creation features which again, are probably great for those that have a use for them. I have not, as of yet, had need.

Big day today for Apple Nerds.

WWDC 2019. Looking forward to it. As happy as I am using the iPad everyday I’m sure I’ll find it more enjoyable with iOS 13 installed in the fall. We’re one hour before keynote so lots of surprises to come.

Appreciating the Mac

It’s been on my mind to get my MacMini which was running Sierra backed up to a bootable SSD so that I could finally update to Mojave. I’m running an older version of InDesign and didn’t want to take the chance of screwing it up. Previous attempts using SuperDuper had produced back-ups that would not boot. Not due to any problem with SuperDuper but a hardware incompatibility in the chipset of my back-up drive. I found an external Samsung SSD which would reportedly boot and after backing up found that yes, it does indeed serve well as a bootable drive. So, with back-up made I made the jump to Mojave.

I don’t recall now what the changes were from Sierra to High Sierra but the jump from Sierra to Mojave has been nice. Nothing too crazy but nice enhancements and, as a bonus, my older version InDesign still works. I really don’t use the Mac for much more than iTunes, general file serving and the occasional InDesign project but having spent more than the usual amount of time with it the past few days I still really appreciate it this OS. If it were not for iOS I’d still happily use my Mac everyday.

Hey Siri on new AirPods is Fantastic

I’m just going to say up front that I am a big fan Hey Siri generally, but it’s especially nice when accessed via AirPods and HomePods too. The first version of AirPods were excellent and I ordered them the minute they were available, aesthetics be damned. People joked about how they looked but I wore them out in my small rural town without hesitation because these little white buds were the future (and honestly, I just don’t care much about what people think of me). I wore them on errands, walks, all the time. The one thing I hoped for with the next version was Hey Siri and we got it.

It’s been a week and I just want to praise these great little things that are now even better. I mean, you know, before I had to lift my finger up and double tap. I almost sprained my finger every time! Wink. But really, as easy as that was, I have to say that this IS an improvement. Just as with the HomePod, speaking out Hey Siri and getting a nearly instant response is pretty fantastic and less error prone. In fact, while I’d occasionally have misses with my double taps (worse in winter with hoods and hats in the way), the new AirPods have picked up every single request.

A bonus is that Siri on my iPad, my main device, is now useful again. Before the HomePod always picked up “Hey Siri” which was fine for most things. And while activating the Siri button on the 2018 iPad Pro isn’t difficult I found that I used Siri less without the Home Button activation. Yet another bonus, with the AirPods connected to my iPad I can use Hey Siri even while enjoying music on the HomePods or watching a movie with loud audio through the HomePods. The mics on the AirPods are excellent and audio just above a whisper will do the trick. And in the hierarchy of Hey Siri devices they seem to rule above the HomePod which is what I want when I’m actively using them.

Two+ years in with AirPods, a year with HomePod, and Hey Siri still seems like science fiction to me. I use it constantly and still crack a smile half of the time. I’m used to it but still surprised, comfortable but still delighted. We’re not yet at Star Trek Enterprise voice interactions but I’ll happily use what we have.

My favorite daily interactions with AirPods and HomePods are the usual things I suspect most people use (assuming they’re in the habit of using it at all):

• Controlling home kit devices. This is an all the time thing for lights, plugs, checking the temp in or outside.
• Adding reminders, especially shopping list items. But I do all reminders with Siri.
• Adding calendar events. I can’t think of the last time I’ve done this with a keyboard.
• Sending texts while walking.
• Initiating knowledge/image/web searches.
• Searching my own photos.
• Getting the weather forecast.
• Controlling playback of music and podcasts.
• Maps/Local business calls/open/hours info.

Probably the only remaining roadblock is my own mind. For certain tasks I find that I still tend to work visually, for example, choosing music. I’m just not great at remembering albums names though requesting a couple of frequent playlists and artists is something I do. Also, I’d like to get better at composing vocally. I’ve been using a screen and keyboard so long that dictating anything beyond a sentence or two really requires a different kind of process though it’s fun to try. But for the list of quick short tasks above, is a real pleasure to use.

Apple’s Latest iPad Tutorials

A couple weeks ago Apple published some fun new iPad Pro videos highlighting various apps and tasks. Very well done and, as a bonus, the films were made entirely on the iPad. A couple days after posting the series they followed up by posting a neat behind the scenes video explaining what apps were used in making the series. The behind the scenes video was also made entirely with iPad Pro.

I wish they’d do several of these every month. And, while I’m making wishes, I wish they’d do a monthly series highlighting a professional of some kind that uses the iPad as their primary device.

A new way to create a presentation with iPad Pro:

A new way to take notes with iPad Pro:

A new way to go paperless with iPad Pro:

A new way to host your own podcast with iPad Pro:

A new way to design your space with iPad Pro:

Behind the scenes:

 

2018 iPad Pro: The review scene and bigger picture context

As I write this we’re about two weeks in since the new iPads were delivered and there are reviews everywhere and most of them say the same thing which I can sum up as “fast and powerful but limited by iOS and the lack of professional apps”. I’d like to offer a counter to those reviews and the half-baked argument they make to cover-up their own lack of effort and knowledge. But first just a few words, not about iOS or the professional app ecosystem, but about the new iPads.

By way of introduction let me say that I don’t use an iPad as my primary computer because it is the most powerful computer I own (though it is). I use the iPad because it enables me to do the work I need to do (as does the Mac) and because I find it the most delightful computer I’ve ever used. I have said this about the iPad Air as well as my previous iPad Pro and I’ll say it again about this new iPad. This is the best computer I’ve ever owned. As tech goes, the 2018 iPad Pro is a stunner in every way. By itself or attached to the Keyboard Folio with the Pencil, this is a beautifully designed computer that is so much fun to use.

I’ll discuss in order of impact as to how it feels in my use. I’ll start with the Keyboard Folio because I use the iPad attached to a keyboard at least 60% of the time.

The new folio is a much more stable experience than the previous Smart Keyboard. With the Smart Keyboard there was always the feeling and the chance that it could tip or flop backward or, more likely, forward. Even so I used it all the time because I appreciated the proximity of my hands to the screen. Also, I really liked the feel if the keys.

The new Smart Folio Keyboard is so much better because while the keys are the same, the solid base and new magnetic back attachment means the iPad is now very stable even in the lap. I feel completely safe using it knowing that it will not flip or flop. In fact, it feels as stable as a traditional laptop. With this design the only thing I feel I’m missing is the back-light and top row of media control keys. And those are big misses to be sure, but even so the experience is still excellent. I really like the sound and feel of this keyboard, more than any other keyboard I can remember using. It’s a personal preference and some might dislike it.

Another aspect of the new keyboard is the much easier set-up and the new available angle. I can go from closed to typing with less effort. For the tablet experience I can remove the case all together with little effort or fold the keyboard all the way back. Both are very nice. With the keyboard folded back it has a nice grippy feel as the magnet is strong enough to hold it solidly in place but with a flick of my fingers I can easily drop it down for use in the keyboard position.

A last note about the keyboard is just how satisfying the feel of the magnets are. Closing it up results in a subtle but nice click which can be felt and heard. Seating the iPad in either of the two slots also has a satisfying feel and click which affirms the sturdiness of the new configuration.

Then there is the tablet itself. If I had to summarize the difference between the new design of the 2018 iPad Pro compared to the previous it is this: the 2018 feels solid and compact while at the same time lighter and thinner. As much as I enjoyed using the 2017 iPad Pro as a tablet, hand-held with no case, this one is even better in the hand. It feels very solid and yet impossibly thin given its other dimensions. Of course it’s very fast but so was the 2017 version. Even my iPad Air 2 is still fast with apps appearing nearly instantly.

Face Id is better on the iPad than the iPhone though it is excellent on both. The only failures I’ve had have been the result of covering the camera while holding it as a tablet. In those cases correction is quick and easy. When attached to the keyboard I simply tap the space bar twice and I’m good to go with no delay.

The Pencil is so much more convenient! The new combined inductive charging and magnetic storage method is vastly better than the previous. And, like the case, the magnetic connection provides a satisfying click as the Pencil is securely pulled into its place.

The last feature that is not at all new to the iPad but which I really rely on is LTE. My first two iPads had cellular but I then skipped it with the following two purchases. My reasoning was that between tethering and my home internet I would not need built in cellular. In practice my satellite internet is too slow. Tethering to the iPhone is faster but often fails the first few attempts to connect and too often my iPad would sleep and loose it’s connection or I might walk away with the phone and have to reconnect upon returning. In other words, it feels fiddly. Having the always on LTE is so much better. The iPad antennas provide a signal that is equal to or better than the phone and so my connection is always strong. Going forward any new iPad I purchase will have cellular because the experience is just too good to pass up.

Lastly, let’s talk about iOS and the app ecosystem. With iOS 9 I began the shift to iPad as my preferred computer. This was solidified further with the release of the multitasking features in iOS 11 and improved with iOS 12. Much has been made in recent weeks about the missing features of iOS. I won’t argue against facts. It’s true that iOS does not support mice or trackpads or accessing files stored on attached hard drives. It’s true that it’s missing certain Apple pro apps such as Logic or Final Cut Pro. As of this writing these things are true.

That said, the echo chamber of tech reviewers is stale and, even worse, misleading. It seems to me that many of these reviewers have not used iPads enough to know what is possible with iOS or the app ecosystem. Or, if they do, they are deliberately leaving out important information which counters their preferred narrative.

For example, yes, it’s true that I cannot plug in a usb drive and access files unless they are media files recognized by the Photos app, namely videos and images. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most reviewers mentioning the lack of file access on hard drives also consider themselves power users. That’s certainly what they imply or state. In this picture of professionals working in an office setting, it’s to be expected that they have access to a network and nearby computers. Using an app such as FileBrowser or Documents they can easily access their files in such an office setting. I myself have a MacMini that I use as a media/file server and it’s not uncommon for me to need access to older project files. In just a few seconds and a couple taps I have access to all of the files on my Mac or any hard drives attached to the Mac. I can open files from the Mac, copy them to my iPad’s local storage or save/export any of my local files back to the Mac.

If tech reviewers are going to position themselves as advanced power users, shouldn’t they be more aware of the many apps available which allow for access to any local file attached to a nearby networked computer? A part of being a professional user is being aware of the available tools, in this case, apps. But many “professional” reviewers seem to be largely unaware of what’s available on the App Store. That’s their shortcoming not the iPad’s. Take for example the many reviewers who mentioned the lack of Final Cut Pro. Are they unaware of LumaFusion? Apparently so. It’s #2 in the Photo & Video category with almost 5,000 ratings and an average of 4.8 stars.

Apple cannot and will not provide all of the needed software for their devices. That’s why third party app developers exist. From the well known giants such as Microsoft or Adobe to fantastic (though sometimes less known) developers such as Serif (the makers of the Affinity suite of apps, one of which is #1 in the Photo & Video category), Readdle, Omni, just to name a few. If reviewers are going to ding the platform because it is missing essential professional apps or app types then they should know that those apps are indeed missing. It is my contention that they would rather have something to complain about because that’s the in-thing to do with Apple these days. It get’s clicks. Meanwhile, the people who are actually using iPads know about these apps and use them every day.

I’ll round this out with what might seem an odd comparison. In recent years Apple has become quite large as a company (both in financial resources and employee base) and as they have increased in size so too have expectations that they are all powerful. At the same time many of their products are offered at higher prices. iPhones at $1,500!? iPads for $1,800?!? Outrageous. And so now there is the narrative of the “Apple premium”. One result is that reviewers feel they can and should hold Apple to a higher standard. I get that. But at the same time the reviewers themselves should be held to a higher standard. Critique is fine but it should be fully informed and thoughtful. Mostly I see cheap repetition in reviews.

Apple does charge a premium. But you know what else Apple does that is not mentioned in the reviews? Apple has gone to extraordinary lengths to become an excellent environmental citizen. To my knowledge no other company has come even close to what Apple has achieved. This is worth something and it has to be paid for by everyone including consumers. Along the same lines, few reviewers mention the fact that Apple devices get new OS updates for many years, far longer than those in competing systems. So yes, if one purchases a top of the line device they can expect that it it will continue to receive updates and function well for 4 to 5 years or more. These are not throw away devices to be tossed aside after two years.

While I don’t use it often I still have a 2012 MacMini that stays on 24/7 as a file and media server. I occasionally use it for InDesign projects as well. It still has plenty of power and runs the latest macOS. I will be able to use my iPhone X for at least another 3-4 years if I choose to do so. The 2018 iPad should serve me well for at least 3 to 5 years. I’m still using an iPad Air 2 introduced in 2014. It’s 4 years old and I expect I’ll get another two years, possibly more from it. While I greatly prefer the larger screen of the iPad Pro the Air 2 could be my only iPad because it still functions very well. Apps open up nearly instantly and rarely do I see a slow-down when I’m using it.

Rarely do reviewers mention the longevity of Apple devices and this is an oversight. Their reviews are incomplete without this bigger picture.

One last bit. In reviewing Apple products and the bigger picture, I’d suggest that reviewers should at least mention the value added by Today at Apple. This isn’t just a sales gimmick being offered up by Apple. It’s a real offering that requires real resources and it’s offered to Apple customers for free. If I lived near an Apple Store I know I’d take advantage of the program. Aside from this excellent post at MacStories I’ve barely seen mention of the program in any of the Apple Press and that’s a disservice to their readers.

The 2018 iPad Pro

Well, as expected Apple announced The 2018 iPad Pro and what a doozy. I don’t have much to say other than this computer is going to fly. Heck, the current iPad Pro from 2017 flies! Add in the new Pencil and Keyboard Folio and yeah, it’s quite a package. Will be a nice upgrade. I ordered one and am expecting it tomorrow.

Most if the reviews that have come in say a similar thing: the hardware is exceptional and incredibly fast but is being held back by iOS. The specific things being mentioned the most: lack of access to files on attached drives, lack of mouse/trackpad/cursor,  lack of a desktop class browser, and lack of Apple’s own professional apps such as Final Cut Pro.

My take? These features will all come in the next year or two. At that time the reviewers complaining that the iPad is not up to snuff will find something else to complain about. I’m not trying to suggest that these are not real limitations, they are. But the blanket pronouncements by these reviewers that a small handful of missing features is stopping the iPad Pro (or just iPads) from being useful for many pro users is absurd. As one of these users I do not need to attach a drive as I do all of my file work via iCloud. No doubt some users need this missing feature, but not I and not all. The real point I’d make is that many reviewers do a great job reviewing from what they want for themselves but don’t seem to be able to write about the bigger picture. Why not also say in such a review that the iPad Pro might be excellent for many people, just not those that need feature “a” or feature “b”.

A last word about the hardware. The numbers indicate that the 2018 iPad Pro is about as fast as the top of the line Mac Book Pros. Damn.