HashPhotos Review

One of those tasks I’ve never been consistent at doing is culling duplicate or near duplicate images from my Photos library. It’s been on my mind recently that I need to tidy up and bring in some older photos stored on a backup drive in my old Lightroom and old Aperture libraries.

HashPhotos was mentioned on a recent episode of the iPadPros podcast and it’s proving to be a fantastic compliment to Apple’s Photos app. I’m not a fan of Adobe’s subscription model so I don’t use Lightroom which many use for this kind of management.

A screenshot showing an app window which shows the user two nearly identical images side by side for the purpose choosing the better image. In the particular example the photos are of a small mushroom in moss.

HashPhotos is an ideal tool for finding exact duplicates and very similar, near duplicate images. The app will scan your photos library then present what it found allowing you to browse through with similar images side by side with the option to enlarge them for magnified comparison. It works very well for zooming in both images to the same spot and same magnification at the same time allowing you to determine, for example, which images have the sharpest focus.

HashPhotos can also be used alongside of Photos with it’s own, additional metadata options such as Memo and keywords. Unfortunately this metadata seems somewhat limited in usefulness. The keywords assigned are not written to the photos database so it will only work in HashPhotos. But it is very easy to add keywords to batches and navigating the library with keywords in the app is helpful. I’m not sure what the memo field is useful for.

What is far more useful is batch metadata editing for location and photo date. Perfect for older digital or scanned photos and easy to apply to large numbers of photos at once.

In general the HashPhotos provides a helpful and enjoyable alternative Photos browsing experience. It’s also worth mentioning that the app offers photo editing though I’ve not explored this yet.

What I wanted was an app that would help me work more quickly to find and remove duplicates as well as a way for adding location data and for changing image dates and HashPhotos does exactly this. I’m satisfied!

Celebrating 20 Years of Apple’s Safari and Keynote

Screenshot of Apple's website page for Safari in June, 2003

On January 7, 2003 Apple introduced two new apps, both of which proved to be significant steps for the still young Mac OS X platform. The apps were a surprise to the public and press and were important steps in a much larger process of Apple building it’s own ecosystem of applications which it continues today.

Of the two, Safari was likely the most significant. Apple’s press release:

MACWORLD EXPO, SAN FRANCISCO—January 7, 2003—Apple® today unveiled Safari™, the fastest and easiest to use web browser ever created for the Mac®. Safari’s highly-tuned rendering engine loads pages over three times faster than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer for the Mac and runs Javascript over twice as fast. Safari’s innovative features include Google search capabilities integrated directly into the toolbar; SnapBack, a new way to instantly snap back up to search results or the top level of any website after browsing down one or more levels; a completely new way to name, organize and present bookmarks; and automatic “pop-up” ad blocking.

Safari began it’s life at Apple with the WebKit project which was a fork of the open source KHTML layout engine. Don Melton started the WebKit project at Apple on June 25, 2001. He’s got a great post about Safari on his blog, published 2013.

Apple’s Safari Page on Web Archive

Safari on Wikipedia.

I remember being very excited as I’m sure many were. The significance of Apple releasing its own web browser was pretty clear to Apple users. My take-away at the time was that Apple didn’t want to depend on Microsoft for what was becoming one of the most important apps on a computer. 20 years later and Safari continues and is now the second most used browser largely due to the introduction of the iPhone and iPad. While I tried various browsers over the years Safari remained my primary browser and today is the only one I use for day-to-day browsing.

But their big app announcements for that day were not finished.

A screenshot of the Keynote application running on Mac OSX. The screenshot is a pie chart with the title Market Share about the chart

The other significant surprise of the day was the release a new presentation application: Keynote. This release seemed to further underscore Apple’s intention to become more self-reliant in it’s app offerings. As a user of the Appleworks suite of applications I was very excited at the new release as it filled a gap. Though we were unaware at the time it would prove to be the first of a new suite of applications that Apple would release over the next few years called iWork.

The app was originally designed as presentation software for Steve Jobs, Keynote originally retailed as a stand alone application for $99. Pages was added in 2005 and Numbers in 2007. While Microsoft continued to provide its Office apps, Keynote quickly became a favorite of Mac users due to the ease of use and quality of the presentation. I’ve used Keynote many times over the years and it’s been a pleasure to create presentations with it.

“Using Keynote is like having a professional graphics department to create your slides,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “This is the application to use when your presentation really counts.”

Keynote includes 12 Apple-designed themes featuring coordinated backgrounds, fonts, colors, bullets, tables and charts. Users can change the theme of their presentation any number of times, modify an existing theme to their liking, or create custom themes to give their presentations a totally unique look.

Freeform, the new kid on the Apple block

Freeform, the new kid on the Apple block In first use I immediately felt a comparison to Apple’s Pages, Keynote and Numbers would be in order as Freeform seems a natural companion to those apps. In fact, one of Apple’s own marketing images demonstrates a potential use of Freeform as a collection point for digital assets including Pages and Keynote documents. In this marketing image a Freeform document is being used to organize an issue of a school newspaper and contains various embedded documents including PDF, Pages, Keynote, web links and images. It’s clear that Apple intends Freeform to be used a collaborative collection point of not just ideas or process, but of project resources.

Like many others in the Apple ecosystem I’ve been using Pages, Numbers and Keynote for many years. In general, the formatting and style features are just a small subset of what’s available in the other Apple apps like Pages and Keynote. Given this is the first version of the app it’s not too surprising that there might be some missing options. Here’s a sample of what’s missing:

  • Cannot customize drop shadows or add them to shapes
  • No gradient fills
  • Text cannot contain a link
  • Oddly, without a hardware keyboard I can only style text at the block level. If I want to style text within a block (sentences, individual words, etc) I have to use a hardware keyboard.

While Pages, Keynote, and Numbers all have a standard, uniform UI for design and formatting tools, Freeform deviates from the other three in small ways that seem unnecessary. Why not stick to the same UI? Of particular note is the lack of a complete formatting palette. It’s possible that the more basic options are just the fact that it is a version 1 of the app.

Attached File Considerations It’s worth noting that attached files are not links to originals but are copies that are embedded. One can view them without editing and in this QuickLook mode copy text. In that mode there is a button to open the file in the native application but doing so will result in a duplicate document being created in that application’s file storage space. Edits can be made but are in the new document and are not copied back to the file being stored in Freeform. So, if multiple people are sharing in Freeform it’s worth mentioning that editing of embedded documents should be done carefully so as not to result in mix-ups of edits/document versions. Any time a user makes edits to the embedded original they’ll need to manually attach the new version to the Freeform document.

I should also note that I’ve not actually shared a Freeform document yet so I can’t say for certain what happens with embedded documents in that case. What I would hope for is that in any embedded document, particularly any embedded Pages, Keynote or Numbers document, iCloud sharing with participants would be automatic. That the embedded document would become a shared iCloud document. I doubt that’s the case currently but I’d hope for that in the future.

Will I use it? I tend to work with individual clients but I immediately thought of one use I’ll have with one client in particular. I manage his website as well as design promotional postcards and posters. Add to that various graphic and document designs during the year as needed. Typically he sends requests for edits, new pages, new documents via email or Messages. About a 50/50 mix and that’s always worked pretty well. Sometimes its just text, other times it’s a Pages document with text and images to be used. The main downside to using Messages is that over the course of a busy day or days, it can become a bit tricky following a thread of files intermixed with commentary about those files.

Freeform is going to be a great solution in this case. I’ve already created a new Freeform document. I’ve created 4 initial landing zones to keep it organized. I’ll add new sections when or if they are needed.

  1. This client’s business is primarily based on Spring/Fall workshops so I’ve created a section for the upcoming schedule that get’s added to the events page of the website/postcard/poster.
  2. A section to place his Pages documents for new or updated event pages.
  3. A section for the links to the pages so that he can review previous year’s event pages as well as the new or updated pages before we make them live.
  4. A section for miscellaneous documents such as the postcards, posters, etc.

I plan to use Sticky notes for commenting back and forth on the specific elements/documents/pages etc as needed. As changes are made we’ll both be able to view everything in one space. I’ll use a green check mark from the clip art gallery as an indicator that I think something is finished and if the client needs a new change he’ll either remove it or we’ll add in another clip art indicator that a revision is needed.

Hopes for future Aside from the above mentioned critiques and hoped for changes I would add the following:

  • Just as Apple Notes provides checkboxes I’d hope that we’ll get a checkbox list type. This seems like an obvious feature for an app designed to help people with project tracking and creation.
  • More Pencil options. Currently it works just as a drawing tool. As a drawing tool it would be good to have the ability to draw a square, arrow, triangle, etc and have the app straighten the lines into a perfect shape is it does in the Notes app. Also, have as an option to use the Pencil to select/drag to move objects.

Talking Affinity 2.0 on the iPad Pros Podcast

Tim Chaten invited me to join him on his podcast iPad Pros to talk about the new Affinity 2.0 creative suite. Affinity is notable for bringing its Photo and Designer apps to the iPad several years ago. In contrast to Adobe, Serif’s apps were fully featured and equal to their desktop apps. They set the standard for design apps on the iPad and the new Publisher 2.0 for iPad raises the bar even higher. It was a fun conversation and my thanks to Tim for inviting me on!

Affinity Publisher for iPad mini-review

Serif recently released the long anticipated major updates to it’s Affinity suite of creative apps bringing them up to version 2.0 and adding in a new Publisher app for the iPad bringing it up to full parity with the desktop app suites.

A screenshot of Affinity Publisher for iPad

I’ve used Affinity Publisher for the iPad for a week during which time I’ve imported several of my regular, client projects, mostly, newsletters. And yesterday I just finished off a marketing one sheet and a newsletter. For the newsletter importing from the Mac version of Publisher 1 was easy, no issues. Importing from a pdf also worked very well with various images, text, shapes, etc mostly intact. Exporting the final pdf was fast and as expected. Exporting a Publisher package also went without a hitch with the expected folder of linked images, fonts, and the package file.

Publisher on the iPad works exactly as it does on the Mac with the exception that instead of the top level menu the iPad has the touch, optimized tools and what Affinity refers to as “Studios” on the right side of the window: Layers, Pages, Colors, Text, Stock Photos, Assets, Text Wrap, etc.

Using the “more space” option in the display settings on the 13 inch iPad Pro has the effect of making some of the touch points fairly small, even in full screen. Fine for using with a trackpad or Apple Pencil, but a little bit difficult with the fingers when, for example, selecting layers.

Somewhat surprising to myself is that I did most of the two projects yesterday in tablet mode using the Apple Pencil and my fingers to select text from documents provided by client to place or paste into the publisher document. It works very well and I am reminded why I enjoy using the iPad so much for this kind of work. It’s a very smooth and quick experience alternating between a pencil and fingers as needed to select, move, copy, drag and drop from Files, est. Oh, and notably, moving between pages, and using touch to zoom in and out of details on a page was super smooth just as it’s always been on the Photo and Designer apps by Affinity.

Looking forward to trying it out on an external display when 16.2 is released. I tried the trackpad a bit while importing and updating some of my other projects and it also works very well (as expected).

Not too much of a surprise for a new app there are a few issues. In my case I noticed a few font issues which others are also reporting. I also had a few app crashes though I’m using Stage Manager so it’s possible that might have been related. With the next project I’m going to use it without SM to compare. Oh, and the top toolbar is hampered by Apple’s 3 dot window dropdown widget which gets in the way of any button underneath it. Hoping I do find that 3 dot window widget useful but hope Apple increases the window chrome just a small bit at the top of windows because it’s something I accidentally tap far too often in many apps. Guessing I’m not alone there. So, not really an Affinity app specific problem.

All in all, I think Serif has done an excellent job and, with Publisher on iPad, my full workflow is now possible on that device. My Mac will be officially retired to file/media server backup. For Mac users I have no doubt that the 3 new Mac apps are all solid upgrades. And I expect Serif will be fairly reliable in releasing bug fixes for all the platforms as they’ve done so in the past. For a one-time purchase it’s a fantastic deal if you’re someone that needs these kinds of apps.

Quick Start Guide for Affinity Publisher 2 for iPad

The Universal license provides access to all the V2 apps on all the operating systems: Mac, iPadOS and Windows is 40% off for a few weeks, only $100. A bonkers good deal!

Affinity 2.0

Exciting day for users of the Affinity suite of creative apps, especially users. Serif have released the new 2.0 suite which includes Publisher for iPad. Publisher was previously only available for Mac/Windows. So, now all 3 desktop apps have been updated and all three are also updated and available on the iPad. I’ve already imported a project from my Mac into Affinity Publisher on the iPad and it’s fantastic.

Screenshot showing an iPad screen with an Affinity Publisher document open

If you’re not familiar with the Affinity apps, they are Photo, Designer and Publisher and are similar to Adobe’s Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I dropped Adobe several years ago and have never regretted it. The Affinity apps have met my needs. Not only are they fully featured but in my opinion are far more responsive than the Adobe apps. The apps on the iPad set the bar for what professional creative apps can and should on iPadOS.

No subscription and they’re offering a launch special, all of the apps (a universal license), desktop and iPad, for $100. I think that includes Mac and Windows apps as well. Or buy the individual apps at 40% off the future full price. I don’t think I’ll use the Mac apps much but bought the universal license anyway.

Switching from a dedicated financial ledger app to Numbers

A few months ago I posted about my switch from FileMaker Pro to Numbers for my client invoice tracking. It’s worked out very well. Recently upon opening the iFinance app where I track my banking I was greeted to a message that there was a new version available. The amount is not too much but my current version works fine and browsing through the changes I didn’t see anything new that I needed. But it brought to mind that it would mean that the current version wouldn’t be seeing any more updates. Not a problem for now but perhaps in the future with OS updates. So, I had a similar thought, why not try to move my banking to a Numbers spreadsheet?

My needs are pretty basic. I wanted to mimic iFinance. I exported each account to a CSV and imported into Numbers. Then I created a master account file and set-up multiple sheets, one each for the various accounts. So, for example, Cash, Apple Cash, bank, PayPal, credit card, etc. Each is a simple line-item ledger that keeps a balance along with the usual: date, description, payee, category and note if needed.

Screenshot of Numbers Spreadsheet depicting multiple sheets and a table

The table for cash on hand. Different accounts are visible in the top row of sheet tabs.

The first sheet, Account Overview, consists of a series of simple 1 row, 2 column tables each showing the balance of each account. At the top is a table that calculates the total balance of all the accounts. Last, I added a simple bar graph showing the total amount in each accounts.

Screenshot of Numbers Spreadsheet depicting multiple sheets and a table

The Account Overview shows the current balance of each account as well as a bar graph.

It’s fairly simple but works exactly as I hoped and only took a couple hours to create. I can open with any of my devices and I know that because it’s based on Apple’s own Numbers app, it’s likely to be supported for years to come.

Stage Manager for iPadOS is coming together

3 windows side by side taking full advantage of the 13″ iPad Pro. Apps: Spring, Twidere X, Taio

For the iPad enthusiasts that are tuned in to the various pundits of Twitter, YouTube, Blogs, Podcasts, the common narrative is that Stage Manager is a hot mess of bugs, poor design, etc. While I’d generally acknowledge that it’s been buggier than recent years’ beta cycles I don’t think it’s the dumpster fire some are making it out to be. A few thoughts.

Windowing: Free form or tiled
Some will like overlapping windows, some won’t. Notable iPad enthusiast Federico Viticci doesn’t seem to like overlapping windows and was hoping for tiled windows instead. I do like the idea of tiled window options as an extension of the current 2 window split. Having options for 3 or 4 windows in splits might work very well. That said I think the current implementation is a good start.

As currently implemented one a general opinion seems to be that truly free form windows would be better than Apple’s attempt to manage windows for users with a kind of size snapping and window juggling that seems hard to predict. Apple’s goal is to make it easier but it may be that it’s actually just making it harder. I think it’s still a work in progress and I’m not sure if I have a preference. But I do think that with the last beta the behavior is better.

The Dock and side strip of recent app spaces

In regards to the bottom dock and the side strip of recently used apps, I like that there are options here to hide one or both in stage manager. What I’m finding is that I like to leave both on because I always have the option to size windows such that they can occupy the full screen, temporarily hiding both the dock and the strip as needed. It’s easy to use a finger swipe or just push the cursor to the bottom or side to bring forth either as needed.

The Home Screen and Stage Manager

Like many who have noted, I agree that it seems silly to blur the Home Screen when using Stage Manager. Also, as noted by others, when tapping or clicking the Home Screen behind a window, it would seem to be an expected behavior that this would hide/minimize the current windows and reveal the Home Screen.

Other notes on recent betas

I’m seeing a lot of improvement, as we would hope and expect, in the latest beta released on October 11/12. Happy to see the return of the feature enabling a tap at the top of a window to quickly scroll to the top. Generally it’s been very stable with fewer bugs or confusing behaviors.

The only reproducible crash I keep seeing is with two specific apps that both use second windows for posting content. Spring for Twitter when composing a tweet and the TestFlight beta for the Micro.blog client.

It’s rumored that Apple will release 16.1 in the next couple of weeks and, given that it’s not on by default, I think it’s ready to go. They’ll continue bug fixing over coming months and whatever bugs or inconsistencies that remain will get ironed out. The vast majority of iPad users will never even know Stage Manager exists. Of those that are aware of it I’d guess only a small percentage will try it. For the more advanced “power” users, well, they’ll try it and for some it will be great, others not so much.

I think it will end up being an excellent multi-window mode for those that want it. And, as has been the case in previous years, Apple will continue to refine it’s vision of multi-tasking on the iPad going forward.

Social media and Blogging updates

I’m currently experimenting with a new host and may move this blog there at some point in the near future. The address for the experimental blog is: http://beardystarstuff.blot.im.

This current blog is hosted via WordPress and while it’s not a bad system it’s got a lot of accumulated cruft and posting can sometimes take longer than it should. I don’t need much of what WordPress offers. By comparison is Blot.im is lighter on code, fewer features, fewer options for themes but, frankly, wonderful. Once an account is set-up it’s simply a matter of dropping files into a folder on DropBox or Google Drive and they’re published. That’s it. Drag, drop, published. I’m using markdown but html also works. Any image can be dropped in and be published directly or added to a text post.

Blog.im requires DropBox or Google Drive for hosting files but beyond that the cost is only $4/month. Really, a fantastic deal. If you’re looking for a blog host, I recommend it. This is especially true if you’re starting from scratch with a new blog.

In regards to social media, I still have a Twitter account but I’m using it less and have been redirecting most of my attention and effort to a mix of Mastodon and Micro.blog.


Stage Manager

Matthew Panzarino has an excellent write-up on Stage Manager over at Tech Crunch.

“As a user, you appreciate that you’re not constantly accumulating clutter, you’re not cleaning things up, you’re not managing where things are, you just do what you want to do. And it’s there. And it’s, it’s all managed for you,” says Federighi on their approach to Stage Manager’s design. “It’s clean and focused. Traditional windowing environments are the opposite. They are mess making by default, everything you open contributes to clutter. Everything involves you having to kind of manage where things are and how things might cover each other up and so forth. And then you’re responsible for sort of cleaning up after yourself the whole time.”

Screenshot of Stage Manager windows

Image courtesy of Apple

I won’t be using it until the first public beta but the more I look at images and videos the more I think this is going to work out very well for those of us that use iPad Multitasking. There’s a lot being said at the moment about the M1 system requirement as well as certain aspects of how it’s currently implemented. I’m not sure I have much of an opinion just yet.