Category Archives: Review

Managing Websites with iPad – Update

A couple months back I posted about my workflow for managing websites from my iPad Air 2. I’ve got an update. At the time I was waiting for and hoping for an update to Editorial that would allow for split screen mode so that I could split with Transmit. As of now that still has not happened. I’ve seen it mentioned that it’s currently in beta testing but it seems ridiculous that it would take this long to put out an update that takes advantage of iOS features released 10 months ago. . Editorial is great and I guess I’ll get back to it for Markdown documents but for now I’m shelving it until it’s updated.

I’d thought that Textastic might work but I didn’t care for its method for using DropBox files so I decided to look around for another text editor. I’m happy to report that I found one a week ago and thus far it’s been a pleasure to use: GoCoEdit seems to be exactly what I was looking for. It’s packed with features, many of them I’m not likely to ever use but it has most of the features and supports the workflow that I rely on.

First off, the app is updated on a regular basis and takes full advantage of the features of the current iOS. Second, I can connect to my Dropbox account (or ftp, sftp, or google drive) and easily browse all my project folders and documents in one pane of my split screen. Editing those documents is live and does not require that they be downloaded first and I can have multiple documents open with tabs. GoCoEdit includes syntax highlighting, find/replace, code completion, a variety of syntax options and a preview of documents. Oh, and the app supports oodles of keyboard shortcuts if you’re using a Bluetooth keyboard or an iPad Pro with attached keyboard.


When I’m done with an edit in my left pane I can copy and paste into the same document on the server in my Transmit document edit window. Which reminds me, Transmit for iOS is pretty damn crashy. (Side note: maybe I’m just cranky in my old age but I think Panic gets far too much praise. They seem to have this kind of celebrity thing going on in the Apple community. I don’t get it. While I do use Coda and Transmit I find them to be a bit buggy. I’d rather see updates to buggy apps than blog posts about fancy signs and other hipster goings on at Panic headquarters. Yes, your sign is cute but your app is crashing far too often. Fix it.)

Apple Fall 2015 Releases

It was just a year ago that I posted about all the noise regarding Apple’s supposed decline in quality control. My take on it was that it was unneccesary and misplaced drama. To be honest there’s a bit of an echo chamber going on with some of the more prominent Apple bloggers and sadly one complaint often leads to a second and a third and before too long they’re all writing and podcasting about the terrible tragedy of this or that hardware/software blemish. Frankly it’s a fine example of the “First World problems” joke. As is usual though Apple got a handle on most of the software problems and most of the complaints faded. The hardware was solid with the exception of the fabricated “bendgate” non-issue.

June rolled around and with it the WWDC and the details of OS X 10.11 and iOS 9. As may expected and hoped, these releases were largely about refinement rather than major new features. Actually, between the two of them there were quite a few new and significant features added but yeah, it’s probably accurate to characterize them as refinement releases. Of course, there were still a few that shrugged their shoulders and offered at least mild complaint at the lack of whizbang but some of these are the same that complained in the fall about Apple doing too much. For the most part I’d say most folks were positive. For myself, I’ll just say that I was happy with the announcements and I’m happy with the releases we now have on our devices.

I’ve not yet installed El Capitan on my primary work machine, the 2012 Mac Mini. No hurry there as I’m in the very beginning stages of a series of projects that will be ongoing till spring. I’ll probably leave that machine as it is for the next few months. But I have installed it on my 13″ rMBP and it’s performed flawlessly thus far. Will be installing it on Kaleesha’s 2011 MacBook Air and on the 2009 MBP that the kids use for school. My favorite features thus far: split full screen; full screen mail that allows for minimizing draft emails; Mission Control seems tighter and more fluid; the new Notes app is fantastic; improved Airplay; last but not least, the system-wide use of the new San Francisco font is a nice improvement.

iOS 9 has been solid too. I’ve got it on an iPad Air 2, iPhone 5c and an iPhone 6s. The install on the first two devices went smoothly and both of them were up and running in no time at all. Split screen on the iPad is excellent. 3D touch on the iPhone 6s is also proving to be useful. As with El Capitan, Notes is a greatly appreciated improvement. Of course there’s been lots of talk about the new ability of Safari to block content and yes, it’s a fantastic feature that will save users hundred’s of mb of data each month. An added bonus, those blockers work in any app that has implemented the new Safari web viewer. The News app is an interesting addition. I typically use Newsify for RSS and will likely continue but News app will likely prove useful for people that might not normally use RSS. It’s a little wonky in terms of the selections in the “For You” section but adding favorites and going to that section works great. I expect it will get better as Apple provides access to the full formatting power of the app to more providers. Right now it is restricted to Wired and a couple others. I’ve saved the best for last: Siri is vastly improved on all of my devices. Wow. The service has been improving steadily over the past year but is now lightening fast and with the iPhone 6s, it’s always on. Not only is it fun to use but increasingly useful.

Last but not least, I’ll mention the iPhone 6s. We’ve been holding at one phone for awhile. Neither one of us are big on talking on the phone so it’s worked pretty well. That said we’re getting out a good deal more these days which means choosing to either take the phone or leave it at home so we’ve finally decided to go to two lines. I’ve passed my iPhone 5c to Kaleesha and ordered the iPhone 6s. Ordering it using the Apple Store app was painless and set-up was super easy. I’ve only had it for a week but in that week I’ve gotten a good bit of use and I’m pretty happy with it. As I mentioned above, 3D Touch looks to be very useful and is a good bit of fun too. And did I mention how much I’m enjoying Siri? Yeah. It’s a fantastic pocket computer with an excellent camera and a phone to boot. Good stuff.

Permaculture Poster Design (& Affinity Designer First Impression)

Before I go any further, let me say this isn’t much of a review or even a mini-review. Just my initial impressions.

I’m a regular user of Adobe CC but not a big fan of the subscription model. When I recently learned of Affinity Designer and the upcoming Affinity Photo I figured it was worth checking out. The reviews for AD thus far are very high and having used it for a couple of projects I can see why. The Permaculture-themed poster below started as just a quickie to test out some of the basic tools I’ve come to expect from Illustrator and I’m happy to report that AD was a pleasure to use. Everything from the pen tool to text to text on a curve were easy and buttery smooth. As with Illustrator, layers are easy enough to use to group elements for editing and locking. On a couple of  test designs I tried a few of the other basics such as shape building and editing as well as applying gradients and various styles, all worked just as one would expect.

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What’s missing? Right off, there is no workspace outside of the defined document margins which is something I definitely miss. Illustrator and InDesign both allow for the storing of elements outside of the defined art board or document margins. Also, no export for web. Perhaps I missed it but I certainly didn’t see it and I’ve looked a couple times. I know that I can set a document up as having an intended use for the web but that’s not what I’m after. I want to be able to set up for print and also be able to export or save for web.  Found it! Right in front of me but called “Export Persona”. The only option I don’t see is the option to resize the dimensions at time of export.

I’m guessing that I’ll find other features missing that I’m used to having but as of this moment I intend to switch to AD for any design work that I would have previously used Illustrator for.

Mini-Review: iDraw for iPad

My main work machine is the 2012 Mac Mini. I’ve written before about my transition to a standing desk for health purposes. That said, I do want to be able to use the iPad as a tool to get work done. Having a flexible workflow is good and it would seem a waste, with the increased power of the iPad Air 2, to not utilize it when the need arises. My initial thought was that it would come in handy for editing the html of client websites and yes, that is a breeze with Diet Coda and Transmit. But why stop there? Those were tasks I could also accomplish with the 3rd gen iPad.

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In recent days I have also begun wondering if I might not also be able to get a bit of graphic design work done with the iPad. Adobe does not yet sell an iPad version of Illustrator or Photoshop but there are other options available. Pixelmator is the most recent crossover from the Mac. It has some pretty fantastic photo filters and the handy ability to be passed back and forth to the Mac version. It can also export to psd for crossing over to Photoshop when I’m back to my Mac. That said in the little bit of dabbling I’ve done with it I’m finding some frustrating limitations which I’ll likely explore in more detail soon. Suffice it to say for the purposes of this post that those limitations led me to try out iDraw and that has proven to be a great decision.

iDraw has been available for the iPad since the first iPad release in 2010 and there is a Mac version too though I’ve not tried it. Last week I downloaded the iPad version and have been giving it a spin. Fantastic. This is an app I can use to get real design work done. I’ve not yet used it for a client project though that will come soon enough. I’ve done enough with it in a few hours to know what it is capable of. Not surprisingly, it’s not as fully featured as Illustrator or Photoshop but it does have the most important tools and they perform very well. In fact, the iPad handles everything I’ve tried to with iDraw with ease.

I created the example image in my first spin with the app. Shape building, styling with gradients, adding text to a path are all very straight forward. I started with the rectangle tool and then used the pen tool to begin adding new points and then used the path tool to make my pen handle and tip. Apply stroke and gradient and then tweek. As with Illustrator, all the objects are put on one layer but layers are supported and easy enough to create. I used the same process for creating the inkwell. Styles include drop shadow, inner shadow, inner and outer glow. Multiple instances of these effects as well as multiple fills can be applied to each object. Very handy to be able to apply multiple gradients to single objects.

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The brush tool is very easy to use with width and smoothing options though I only found the one style brush tip. Will need to investigate. Adding text to a brush stroke is easy enough as is styling that text after adding it to the path. Adjusting the path or moving the text to different points along the path are also very easy. As you might expect, there are plenty of object options such as alignment, path combinations and more.

When you’ve finished you have quite a few options for using and sharing images. Before sending to any of the iOS 8 app extensions for sharing (Transmit, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) you have the option to choose the file size, resolution, and format: pdf, svg, psd, png or jpg.

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