Tag Archives: iOS

Finding Trust and Delight in the Apple Ecosystem

I am increasingly happy to be in Apple’s always improving ecosystem. No, more than happy, I’m delighted. Really. It’s fantastic. The devices and services tie together so smoothly. I cannot imagine a better experience. iCloud has evolved into something that just works all of the time. I can’t think of the last time I encountered something that didn’t work. From Music to Photos to the syncing of documents, notes, Safari data, etc.

Example. A few minutes ago I was listening to some music via my Apple TV and browsing Twitter. I came across this tweet:

David Chartier @chartier

This stuff is so much fun. Upbeat, instrumental, little quirky, foot tappin work music. https://itun.es/us/kHQC6?i=980592724

I’ve clicked on his Music suggestions before and enjoyed them so I tapped. I paused playback on the AppleTV and began listening to the this new album on Apple Music on the iPad. Perfect. With a tap I added it to my library and marked it as loved. I know that when I go for my walk in 10 minutes that album will be waiting under the recently played category on my iPhone. It’s also showing up now on my AppleTV. Because it’s something my sister and brother might enjoy I shared it with them via Messages with a couple taps.

Another example. I finally enabled iCloud Photo Library on my phone and two iPads. I’ve not turned it on my Mac yet as that library is long overdue for a clean-up. Within a day the photos on the three iOS devices were synced. This could be better if the people/face recognition synced between them. But as is it worked flawlessly.

Syncing between devices seems flawless for everything. Whether I’m adding a reminder or calendar event, a note or link for Safari’s Reading list, I know that it will be there. Same for editing documents. Same thing for podcasts. I happily choose to use the Apple Podcasts app. It gets the job done. And it’s super nice to know that when I pause a podcast on my iPad and grab the iPhone for a walk I can pick-up playback right where I left off.

Siri and HomeKit

These are getting progressively better. I’ve been using Siri fairly consistently for the past three years and the improvements have been easily noticeable. It’s not 100% but it is so much better. I still get misses but they are, by far, the exception. And I’m not just talking about asking for the weather or setting timers or alarms. I can ask how late a business is open or request Siri to call a business. Or ask her to do math. Or ask her when my niece’s birthday is.

And when used with HomeKit devices it truly seems like magic. Walking up in the driveway in the evening after a walk and asking Siri to turn on the porch light or the window AC and then seeing (or hearing) the result seconds later makes me smile every time. My last action each evening before going to bed is to ask Siri to turn off my light across the room. So much better than trying to convince my cat and dog that they need to move so I can get up and do it. That’s right, it’s all for the comfort of my animal companions. I do it all for them. Also worth noting, devices with Hey Siri do a great job of negotiating which device will answer.

AirPods

What can I say that hasn’t been said by many others? AirPods are fantastic. I wear mine many hours everyday, usually with the iPhone while walking but sometimes while at the iPad. Regardless, I know that they will work with any device with no hassle with what seems like magic switching between devices. It’s not likely that I will ever buy another non-Apple speaker or headphone set. What’s the point? And I’ll add that a part of what makes these seem like magic are two details: Siri and the extended range. If I happen to leave my phone and go into a different room or outside while listening to music or having a conversation my connection is solid for at least 25 feet. It’s nice to have the freedom to forget the phone or to deliberately leave it sitting on a desk or table knowing that my connection is fine as I roam about. Also, Siri’s accuracy is even better with the AirPods. Using Siri with AirPods is, currently, the best possible Siri experience. We’re a long way from the AI found in the movie Her but until then I’ll happily use Siri and the AirPods.

Trust and Delight

Those two words sum it up for me. At this point I trust this ecosystem. As a whole it performs at something like 99% and thanks to that dependability I am constantly delighted. It’s been a long road getting here but I really feel like we’re there and it’s very nice to have arrived.

iPad Journal: First Week with the 2017 iPad Pro

Using Affinity Photo to design a promotional postcard

Using Affinity Photo to design a promotional postcard

It’s been a week since the 12.9″ 2017 iPad Pro arrived at my door. I can best summarize by saying that without any doubt, this is my favorite Apple device ever. I’m not surprised. I expected it would be. And I say that having used it on iOS 10 only. No beta for me. Actually, I should say that it’s not the iPad alone but the pairing of it with the Apple Smart Keyboard and Pencil. I’ve not used the Pencil much but after just few minutes with Procreate and Affinity Photo,  I was certain that I will indeed get great use and enjoyment from it. I hope to use it more this week. I did however spend many hours with the keyboard.

The Keyboard

I was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed using the Smart Keyboard. I’d only used one in a store for about 20 minutes and knew that it felt pretty good to type on. What I wasn’t sure about was the stability of the keyboard or how I would feel about the lack of special, media playback keys.

  • Special Keys: I DO miss the lack of media playback keys which are especially helpful when using Apple’s Podcast App in split screen for transcription work. That said, reaching up to the same spot to pause and start isn’t killing me. Same for the volume keys. I’d prefer to have them but will get along without them.
  • The Smart Keyboard/case is very stable thus far. I’ve used it in may lap during much of every day for the past week. But I’ve found that it is most stable when used on something and conveniently, almost by accident, I set it on the box it was packaged in as I was setting up the iPad the first day. The first time I picked it up to use it I left it sitting on that box which provides a lightweight and stiff base. It’s perfect. I haven’t even used it in my lap without that box under it. Confusing at first but now that I’ve done it a few times the folding of the case over the top of the iPad is very easy as is opening it and setting up the iPad for typing. The two together are very compact and light. I’m really glad I went with this case.
  • Typing has been great. Just as I remembered from the 20 minute test in the store, this keyboard is a real pleasure to type on. When I set-up on Tuesday I was halfway through a 75 minute podcast transcription so of course I finished that transcription using the new set-up and I required no time to get used to the new keyboard. It’s every bit as enjoyable to type on as my to Logitech keyboards. No, actually, it’s more enjoyable with less key travel but with a satisfying movement and light tappy sound.

Screen Size

My main motivation in an iPad Pro was the bigger screen size and it’s been fantastic. Using Coda and Affinity Photo for work over the past week has been an excellent experience on the 12.9″ screen. Over the course of the week I updated a client’s website to a new responsive design all from the iPad using Coda to edit CSS and HTML. I often use Coda in conjunction with Transmit, Safari, Messages, and Spark. It’s so much nicer on the larger screen. I also had to put together a magazine ad for a client and a promotional postcard for another client. Both of those were a pleasure to do with Affinity Photo. At no point did I feel I was using anything less than the full version of the app that I’ve gotten used to using on my Mac. The only downside is that Affinity Photo does not yet support split screen. I can live with that given that its the sort of app that begs for the biggest workspace possible. I just use a slide-over when I need to.

Screen Tech

Unlike many I don’t see a huge benefit in the new refresh rate of 120Hz, what Apple is calling Promotion. Sure, scrolling on the new iPad as absolutely smooth. Everything is smooth. But I don’t read text while scrolling. I’ve compared to the iPhone 7+ and I just don’t see a difference. Everything on the iPhone is also buttery smooth. I do notice the TrueTone and the increase in brightness but there again, I rarely use my iPad brighter than 40%! So, yes, it is an absolutely gorgeous screen but to my eyes it is nearly identical to the iPhone 7. I just went back to my Air 2 and scrolled through a full page of text in Safari. First time I’ve done that in a week. I do see a difference but nothing so fantastic as what I’ve been hearing and reading from the Apple Nerdery. Shrug.

Audio

As was noted when the previous iPads Pro were released, yes, the speakers are pretty great. Much better than the iPads that had only two speakers.

Speed and Memory

Yes, no doubt, this machine is beast. Blazing fast. I’ve not noticed any lag in anything I’ve done with any app. Also, having 4 gigs of RAM is pretty nice. I go back to apps that I’ve not used in hours and they are ready to use with no delay. Safari holds far more tabs than I ever saw with the Air 2. I keep most of my apps in folders and all apps that aren’t in the dock are on the second page of the home screen. My main strategy for opening apps is either the dock, Command-Tab, or Spotlight. Most often it is the latter two and it is instantaneous. With Spotlight I type the first few letters of the app then return and there it is 1.

Weight, Size and Portability

Yeah, well, this is bigger than the Air 2 but still, very portable. With it’s Smart Keyboard it is lighter to tote than a MacBook Air 13″ or a 2017 MacBook Pro and only slightly heavier than a MacBook. And with at least 10 hours of battery time, yeah, it’s still a great portable machine.

Pro Computer, Pro Apps

Until last spring I’d owned an Apple laptop of one kind or another for 17 years. I sold my last one a year ago because it wasn’t getting used anymore. After over a year of using the iPad Air 2 as a primary, preferred device I have no doubt that my Mac laptop days are over. The real point of this size iPad is that it be a laptop replacement it is fully capable of doing that and even more. As a form factor with flexibility it is better than a fixed hinge laptop. It can be used attached to a keyboard or near a keyboard or with no keyboard at all. Not only that but with the maturity of iOS I have an operating system that I find a delight to use and with iOS 11 it even more so. With the Pro line, iPad is no longer a compromise, no longer a sidestep, it is a step up to something better.

The deal is sealed with “pro” apps. For those that require apps such as InDesign, Final Cut Pro and Xcode this is not YET the device for them. I’m sure there are plenty of other example apps that are not available on iOS and for folks that need those the time for using only an iPad Pro is not yet. But we can see with the release of Affinity Photo that the iPad is fully capable of performing heavy-duty tasks with fully featured apps. There should be no doubt, Affinity Photo represents the long sought after “Photoshop for the iPad”. I’d go further and say it is better because, like it’s desktop equivalent, it does not come with the baggage or subscription pricing that come with Adobe and Photoshop. Going forward it seems a certainty that the iPad Pro, along with iOS 11 and upcoming pro apps by Serif and others, will begin to gain a great deal of traction.

Apple has made it clear that the Mac is not going away which is great news for folks that prefer the Mac. It’s a mature and powerful platform that has it’s place. But it is equally clear now that the iOS platform as an increasingly pervasive and capable mobile ecosystem will continue to expand in power and flexibility to accommodate the needs of power users. I for one am happy to celebrate all of them but it is the iPad that I will look forward to using everyday.

  1. Of course, it was pretty fast on the Air 2. See, mostly, the Air 2 felt very fast to me. I was not unhappy with it and were it not for an iPad with this screen size I would have likely just kept using the Air 2 which says something about how fast older iPads and iOS are.

2017 iPad Pro Reviews Consensus: WOW


Well, it seems the consensus on the new iPad Pro is that it is an absolute monster. Yes, well, you know, a very svelte monster that’s ready to do your bidding. The A10X is off the charts. The new ProMotion is an improvement on par with the switch to Retina, or close to it. Battery life is the usual, 10 hours or better. I’ve not read one review that is not raving about this device or one which has not mentioned how much better it will be with iOS 11.

It’s kind of funny really that for the past year I’ve considered my move to the iPad for most of my work as not only easy but pleasurable. In fact, it’s because I so enjoy the iPad that I made the move. There was no sacrifice or pain, quite the opposite! I’ve been happily using the iPad Air 2 released in the fall of 2014. I rarely notice lag of any sort. In fact, it wasn’t until using the recently released Affinity Photo that I used an app that actually prompted me to wish for faster hardware. Don’t get me wrong, the app is wonderful but it does push the limits of what nearly three year old hardware can do. Even so, the older iPad still handles it pretty well. But the 2017 iPad Pro? Easy Peasy. And with the larger screen? Affinity Photo and a 13″ is a great combination.

Yeah, 9.7″ screen just a bit cramped for some tasks. Editing websites in Coda works pretty well on a smaller screen though I did often wish for just a wee bit more room in my edit window. Also, while split screen on the 9.7 works well, there again, I often wished for a bigger screen. Using split screen with the onscreen keyboard is not advised on the 9.7! Not a big deal as I usually use an external keyboard if I’ll be typing more than a few sentences. So, in my use, this upgrade is not just about a much faster machine with a better screen but also about a bigger screen. 12.9″ is exactly what I wanted. This feels exactly my favorite sized laptop, the 13″ MBA. And again, with iOS 11 around the corner, I think the larger screen is going to be that much better.

Accessories

I’ve not had a chance to use the Pencil much just yet. A few minutes on a current Procreate painting of a nebula and no doubt, it’s better than a cheap stylus on the iPad Air! I’m sure I’ll be getting my use out of the Pencil for those projects. Now, the Apple Smart Keyboard? I’ve used it a good bit over the past 12 hours and I really like it. I do wish that it had the special shortcuts for playing media, volume, home, and spotlight but I’ll make do. Also I wish it had back-lighting. But beyond those limitations, I like the feel of it. Not only that I like the sound of it. Typing on this keyboard has a very pleasant feel and sound that I would describe as quiet but lightly clicks. Even better, it’s very stable. I wasn’t sure how stable it would be and worried that it would be a bit wobbly but in a few hours of usage I’m finding it to be pretty solid. Lastly, I really like the feel of the material used for the keyboard. Not quite cloth or rubber but almost something in between. Time will tell how well it holds up but my first impression is that this is a great keyboard. And the fact that it all folds up into such a compact and fairly light cover makes it all the better.

10.5-Inch iPad Pro Review: A Better Window Into The World Of Apps – Fast Company

As for the new A10X processor–which Apple says is up to 30 percent faster and up to 40 percent faster for graphics–its promise is mostly about letting developers ratchet up the ambition of their creations. You can see why Apple gave WWDC keynote time to Affinity Photo, a hyper-ambitious photo editor that has more of the kitchen-sink capability of full-blown Photoshop than the Photoshop apps that are available for the iPad. The A10x chip’s performance gains are apparent in areas such as the thumbnail previews of filter effects, which gradually pop into place on last year’s iPad Pro and are just there on the new model. This is the sort of app that benefits from as much computational horsepower as it can get–and the more apps there are like it, the better the case for the iPad Pro as a PC-rivaling creativity machine.

iPad Pro 10.5-inch (2017) Review: This Is Crazy Fast

When I first saw the new iPad Pro’s test results from our lab, I thought there was a big mistake. This new 10.5-inch tablet turned in performance scores so high that they blow away most laptops

John Gruber’s review at Daring Fireball:

Apple’s in-house chip team continues to amaze. No one buys an iPad because of CPU benchmarks, but the new iPad Pro’s CPU performance is mind-boggling. Forget about comparisons to the one-port MacBook — the iPad Pro blows that machine out of the water performance-wise. The astounding thing is that the new iPad Pro holds its own against the MacBook Pro in single-core performance — around 3,900 on the Geekbench 4 benchmark for the iPad Pro vs. around 4,200–4,400 for the various configurations of 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros…

All that said, the real story of these new iPad Pro models can’t be told today, because that story is iOS 11…

It feels like a hand has been untied from behind my back, and this amazing hardware has finally been allowed to run free.

Matthew Panzarino, An iPad Pro 10.5″ Not Review:

With the iPad Pro, especially when it’s armed with iOS 11, it’s beginning to feel possible to see Apple in this world. The combination of custom silicon, a still robust and specifically attuned software ecosystem and a focus on security, Apple has everything it needs to make a strong showing here.

Whether it leads to immediate growth of the category I don’t yet know – but this particular recipe is coming to maturity. The iPad is a full-fledged computer, and you can argue against it but you’re going to increasingly sound like a contrarian.

A few links and thoughts on iPad after WWDC 2017

Well, well, well. The 2017 WWDC has come and gone and much that iPad users hoped for has been announced. As far as I’m concerned Apple hit it out of the park. If the features announced work as well as they look then I will be very happy and more productive. While no operating system is ever really finished with iOS 11 we see the most significant complaints about the iPad being addressed. Perhaps the two most significant of these were lack of a user accessible file system and the lack of drag and drop. Not only will iOS 11 have both of these but Apple has implemented each of them in ways that are fully featured and in some ways may well surpass the abilities of the Mac. I’m really looking forward to trying the new features. I’ve been getting along very well without them but I don’t doubt that they will come in handy for some tasks and workflows.

The new Files app looks pretty great. I use DropBox as my primary file system these days so having that integrated along iCloud and local documents will be great.

Drag and drop in iOS goes beyond what we have on a Mac because it’s multi-touch. On a Mac I can select multiple files on the desktop or in a folder and drag to a new location or a new mail message. With iOS 11 I can select multiple items from multiple folders and apps and drag and drop to multiple locations. Finger ninjas will be able to select an image from Safari, text from Safari, and the url of Safari all in one go and then drag to a destination or multiple destinations to drop them. This will require a bit of practice but I imagine it will be really powerful when mastered.

The new dock is going to be far more useful as it will now hold far more apps and will have added functionality with a contextual menu for recently used documents as well as the swiping up action to bring an app into a multi-tasking window. But what about adding an app to the multi-tasking that isn’t in the dock? Well, luckily, we will be able to use Spotlight for that. I’m already in the habit of opening all my apps from Spotlight so being able to drag one down from Spotlight to a multi-tasking window will be a welcome addition.

Paired apps in spaces will probably be very nice too though I’m curious about how it will work to have apps paired up and how easy it will be to change those pairings. I use split view a good bit and will likely use it even more with the 12.9″ but I don’t necessarily have two apps that I consistently use together with the exception of the Podcast App which I use with Pages to do podcast transcripts for a couple of clients.

Notes is getting some nifty new features. Document scanning and inline notes/sketching look great. The new bits with Apple Pencil will come in handy I suspect. I don’t do a lot of work that requires mark-up or screenshots but on occasion it comes in handy.

There are so many other goodies coming for both iPad and iPhone. With iOS 11 it’s obvious that Apple has no plans to back-track on the iPad. The above notes are just the most obvious for those of us using iPads everyday. Any notion that the iPad is not a fully capable computer for most people should really be put to rest at this point. With the increasing power of the hardware and the deepening feature set of iOS the iPad is maturing into an incredible tool that is not only as capable as a notebook but one which surpasses that form factor in it’s flexibility.

I’d been waiting for the new 12.9″ update so I ordered that, along with a Pencil and Smart Keyboard the minute the store came back online. I’m very excited to put the bigger screen to use. It will come in handy with the newly released Affinity Photo and will be even more useful when iOS 11 is released. The Smart Keyboard was not my first choice as it lacks iOS shortcuts I enjoy: volume, play/pause, Siri activation but the only other keyboard I was interested in and which I would have preferred was the Brydge but I’ve read far too many reports of those having poor build quality with people having to not only go through an exchange process because the out of the box keyboard was broke but of the replacements also being broke. Bummer. Hopefully the Smart Keyboard does the trick!

A great deal has been written in the past week about all of the WWDC news. Here’s just the tiniest sampling of links that caught my eye.

Harry McCracken, writing for Fast Company: With iOS 11, The iPad Will Make More Sense To A Huge Market: Skeptical PC Users

Serenity Caldwell: iPad Drag and Drop, Multitasking, and Split View in iOS 11: Everything you need to know!

iOS 11: The MacStories Overview

Jason Snell asks:Three big questions about Apple’s new iPad announcements

A more general overview is offered up by Steven Sinofsky: WWDC 2017 – Some Thoughts

Pre-WWDC Apple Nerdery

Wow. So much going on in the run-up to WWDC. As most have said, it looks to be a big one with likely hardware announcements. Apple seems to be releasing bits of news this week that would normally have been in the keynote prompting many to suggest that they are making way for a jam-packed presentation.

I’m not an educator but if I were I’d be very excited about what Apple is doing with Swift Playgrounds. The next update, due Monday, expands coding education to robots, drones and musical instruments :

Apple is working with leading device makers to make it easy to connect to Bluetooth-enabled robots within the Swift Playgrounds app, allowing kids to program and control popular devices, including LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3, the Sphero SPRK+, Parrot drones and more.

That’s going to be a lot of fun. On the topic of Swift, Fraser Speirs has an excellent post about teaching Swift over the past year.

I’m looking forward to new iPads being announced and hopefully the long rumored and hoped for “Siri Speaker”. And of course all of us iPad nerds are hoping for big iPad features with iOS 11. We never know until Apple announces it but I have a feeling (as do many others) that we’re going to see some great stuff Monday!

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

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: Painting astronomical objects with iPad and Procreate

Just to be clear from the start, aside from grade school, I've never painted anything other than room walls and home exteriors. I'm not a "painter" and only occasionally had a passing interest in trying it out. I've sketched a few times but there too, very minimal. A few months back the iPad app Procreate popped up on my RSS or twitter feed. I had recently bought some supplies to begin an attempt at sketching astronomical objects while observing at the telescope. Those supplies have gone unopened and sit in their original bag. I'd not really figured out how to go about setting up to sketch in the near dark but it was on my mind as something I wanted to try. Suddenly a lightbulb went off and I had the thought that perhaps I could use Procreate and the iPad to sketch? That approach might be easier because I always have the iPad out with me anyway. So, no extra supplies, no set-up of lighting and supplies. I'd give it a go.

My first effort was Mars which was a pretty basic object to paint/sketch. A circle with a few faint strokes to denote a few of the larger features viewable through the telescope. The next was the Lagoon Nebula. A little more too that but still not a whole lot. Then it occurred to me that it might be fun (and good practice) to try my hand at painting an object from a photograph. Actually, it was not quite like that. It was more like a moment of boredom as I was looking at the a beautiful image of the Eagle Nebula on the cover of a book sitting on my coffee table. It occurred to me to give it a try. To be honest I didn't expect it would go as far as it did. I'm often good at starting little projects but often don't finish. For some reason in this case I found myself drawn in.

I started playing with the brushes. There are many, many brush options in Procreate. I had absolutely no idea where to begin. I tinkered with a couple of brushes and settled in on the airbrush as it seemed the best candidate for painting something like a nebula. I focused on just a portion of one of the "Pillars of Creation" and after a couple hours I decided to try a larger portion. Over the course of a few days I came back to it. It was surprised how quickly time seemed to move as I focused on the "brush". I would look up and two hours would have passed. After about 15 hours I had this:

As it turns out the process is very enjoyable. I worked mostly with the airbrush on the first project. I worked i layers in a way mimicking what I imagine the dimensionality of an actual nebula to be. I created a background of black and on top of this a layer of background nebulosity. On top of that another layer of nebulosity. And then another. And another. Stars had their own layer on the very top though in reality, of course, the stars in intermingled dimensionally.

A few weeks later I decided to paint a much larger portion of the Eagle Nebula though not the whole thing. I started with my existing painting of the pillars and then painted them in. I used the same brushes and techniques. I finished that in about a week.

The next project was the Orion Nebula and then the Lagoon Nebula. The most recent was an infra-red image of the Horsehead nebula which shows the detail of the nebula not seen in the visual spectrum. My current project is a wide field view of the nebula that surrounds the Horsehead, IC 434 and the Flame Nebula NGC 2024. Really, it's just a complex of various nebulae of which the Horsehead is just one, tiny component.

Clockwise from top left: In process IC 434 (tiny dark spot near the middle is the thick gas and dust of the Horsehead Nebula), Orion Nebula, Lagoon Nebula, close-up Horsehead Nebula in infrared

Clockwise from top left: In process IC 434 (tiny dark spot near the middle is the thick gas and dust of the Horsehead Nebula), Orion Nebula, Lagoon Nebula, close-up Horsehead Nebula in infrared

As I've worked through these various projects I've been trying out some of the different brushes available. There's so much to learn. I have no idea how this compares to painting on a canvas though I expect some of it would carry over to that process. I do feel as though I'm making some progress. Learning how to see details I would have likely missed in the past. Learning how to use the different brushes and their interaction with one another. Learning how to layer and blend color. Painting with Procreate and the iPad has allowed for a whole new experience, a new form of expression that I would not have had otherwise. It's something I thoroughly enjoy and intend to continue with for a long time to come.

iPad Journal: Weekly iPad Links

I'll start this week with one of my new favorites, Jonathan Wylie. He covers a topic that recently came up for me with one of my local clients who uses his iPad while on the road as a long haul trucker. My client needed to produce a pdf from a non-pdf source so I walked him through the print-to-pdf process using the Share Sheet to Print preview process. I've never written that up and just yesterday the client called me back because he'd forgotten how to do it. He was out on the road (though not driving at the time of our phone call!) so I walked him through it over the phone. Then today I find Jonathan's blog post which is perfect timing as I was going to write this up myself: How To Quickly Create a PDF on iPhone & iPad.

PDFs are an incredibly useful file format because they work on all devices and can be read with free or built-in software that you probably already have. In short, if you want to be sure that someone can read your content, send them a PDF. Easy, right? Well, it’s easy if you know how to create a PDF. Luckily, this is very simple to do on iPads and iPhones, but not everyone knows how to do it. So, here’s a little known trick that shows you how to create a PDF of a web page (and other content) on an iOS device.

I've only just discovered his website but I suspect it will prove to be invaluable. He's an educator and technology consultant and seems to put a lot of emphasis on the iPad. While he's using Apple tech he doesn't seem to be a part of that group of people I associate with the Apple nerd herd. I've been longing for writers and podcasters that actually work in fields outside of the Apple-focused commentary sphere. Real people doing other work but talking about how they are using Apple tech in that context. Great stuff.

And another post from Jonathan: How (and why) to Use the Markup Tools in the iOS Photos App

The tools that I need are actually built-in to iOS, and they cover almost all of my image annotation needs. I’m talking specifically about the Photos app. It has some great options for marking up images and screenshots, but not everyone knows where those tools are. So, here’s what you need to know.

And of course, Federico would post this week on Apple Notes! Just a couple days ago I posted my own thoughts on using Notes but by comparison to Viticci's iPad Diaries: Optimizing Apple Notes, well, my take is just bare bones. Of course, that's what Federico does. He takes the apps that he uses and he pushes them as far as is possible. He is the epitome of a "power user". As usual it's a long post and well worth the read:

I've been using Apple Notes every day since its relaunch with iOS 9 in 2015. Apple's refreshed note-taking app landed with impeccable timing: it supported the then-new iPad Split View in the first beta of the OS released in June, and Apple deftly positioned Notes as a nimble, multi-purpose tool that many saw as a much-needed escape from Evernote's bloated confusion. I almost couldn't believe that I was switching to Apple Notes – for years, it had been derided as the epitome of démodé skeuomorphism – but the app felt refreshing and capable.