Tag Archives: iOS

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 A couple of these are a bit outdated but I think still worth posting.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Apple’s services get a bad rap they generally don’t deserve; the company’s reputation for not doing services well is outdated.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.

Podcast Apps: Overcast vs Apple Podcasts

I've been a podcast listener since 2005. I forget when Apple released its Podcast app but when they did I started using it. It was nothing fancy but it was functional. When Marco Arment released his Overcast app the Apple nerdery raved about it so I gave it a shot. It seemed to work pretty well and I used it a bit but eventually switched back to the Apple app because at the time I was also using iTunes on the Mac to listen to podcasts and I liked the fact that all my devices remained in sync. I could start a podcast on the iPhone and finish it on the iPad or Mac.

When Overcast 2 was released I updated and gave it another go. But after a month or two I ended up back with Apple's offering. I just didn't find the features of Overcast worth switching. Largely for the same reason as the first time. I still used iTunes on the Mac for some of my podcast listening.

With the recent release of Overcast 3 I thought I should give it another go. I don't listen to podcasts on my Mac anymore so I figured this time it might stick but this time around I found another reason to stay with Apple's app: Siri. When I'm listening to a podcast I'm usually walking or driving and when I get to an ad I tap an AirPod and ask Siri to skip forward 3 minutes (sorry there's only so many times I will repeatedly listen to an ad for a product or service I'm never going to use). Also, my mind occasionally wanders and it's nice to be able to request that Siri rewind a minute or two. Overcast doesn't seem to work with Siri in this way. Well, it does, but requires a second tap to be instructed to begin playing again. Also, I like to ask Siri to play the most recent episode of a podcast and this works pretty well with Apple's app but not with Overcast.

This fits in well as another example of my recent efforts to simplify my use of iOS. While I'll give an app a try if there's a chance it's better than my current choice, I'm not going to switch unless there are real benefits for doing so and in this case there aren't.

iPad Journal: Notes App misconceptions

Over the past year or two there have been quite a few write-ups comparing note taking apps particularly comparisons between Apple Notes (since it's big update with iOS 9) and Evernote and most recently the new app, Bear. Inevitably such write-ups always leave out the newest Apple Notes features that were added in iOS 9 and iOS 10. In fact, I'm often left wondering if the writers of such comparisons actually bothered to really use the updated Notes app at all!

  1. You can lock any note with a password.
  2. All kinds of files can be sent via the share sheet to a note as an attachment. The first that come to mind: Pages, Numbers, Keynote, PDF, audio files, video and images.
  3. PDFs and images can be annotated using the same tool box that allows annotation of such files in the Mail app.
  4. Offline viewing and editing is possible.
  5. While markdown is not possible some formatting is: bold, italics, and underline.
  6. Also, any note can easily be shared as a collaborative note with any user that has an iCloud account.
  7. Notes can be exported as PDFs via the print preview though that option is not immediately obvious-not sure why Apple hides it in the print dialog on iOS devices.
  8. The text, links and attachments within a note can easily be shared via the share sheet.

I'm sure there are others but this is just a quick list I put together in response to the most recent articles I've come across. As a default, free app, Apple notes really is a powerful app with many of the features found in paid services and I suspect it is underutilized by most users. It's the sort of app that often provokes the response: "I didn't know you could do that!" It's an app I use daily and I expect to do a post on how I'm using it soon. In fact, it fits in well with my recent post about doing more with the stock Apple apps when possible as opposed to cluttering up my iPad with third party apps. Stay tuned for that!

iPad Journal: Week in Links

The Workflow folk have put out yet another update and of course Federico has an excellent write-up: Workflow 1.7.1 Brings New Icon Glyphs, ‘Run Workflow’ Action.

This week’s episode of Canvas with Federico and Fraser is excellent. They delve into one of the most powerful (and I suspect underutilized features of iOS), the share sheet. I didn’t really understand the power of iOS until I understood and began to fully utilize the share sheet. Give it a listen here.

Some discussion this week about Apple switching iOS devices to USB 3. I think it’s obvious that they will at some point. This year or next or the next. Shrug. As usual though the Apple blogosphere can’t help itself. Here’s Federico’s take. The Cases for (and Against) Apple Adopting USB-C on Future iPhones. Only thing I have to say is it’s not as big a deal as people make it out to be. Why do folks so often make issues and problems where they don’t really exist? Biggest complaint I’ve seen is that people would have to spend money on new cables. But that’s silly. A cable comes with every new device. Lots of these folks have already got a new Apple laptop which means they have that cable as well. And a new cable will cost what? $10-$30 depending on brand. Just as lightning cables are everywhere and cheap so too are USB-C cables. It’s a non-issue. And if you have a mix of devices that have both you now have to carry two cables when traveling. I hardly thing that’s going to break anyone’s back. Jiminey. We have other things to worry about in our world.

Mossberg has a great write up on the future of the PC and how the iPad fits in:The PC is being redefined – The Verge

If you became a frequent computer user starting anytime between, say, 1990 and 2007, there’s a good chance that your idea of a PC is a desktop or laptop running a mouse and keyboard-driven graphical user interface — most likely Microsoft Windows or, to a lesser extent, Apple’s (recently renamed) macOS.

But if you got attached to computing in the last 10 years, you very likely find it more natural and comfortable to do your digital tasks on a multi-touch device lacking a keyboard or mouse and running a new, simpler, and cleaner kind of operating system. This certainly includes an Android or Apple smartphone, or, possibly, a tablet running Android or iOS. These devices have become by far the most commonly, frequently, and extensively used personal computers. They are the new PCs. Phones and tablets are the new PCs

Even older people have taken to Android and iOS in a huge way, though they can still rely on their traditional Windows and Mac laptops.

Daniel Eran Dilger over at Apple Insider has a great two part series on the iPad:

In 2010, Steve Jobs introduced the first iPad as a new product category between the smartphone and notebook. It ended up dramatically shifting demand in the PC industry, but sales have since plateaued. Here’s what Apple can do, has done and is doing to build iPad into the Post-PC future of computing.

Editorial: The future of Steve Jobs’ iPad vision for Post-PC computing, part 1

Born into ridicule, there’s still a widespread misunderstanding of what iPad actually is, seven years later. Here’s a look at why.

Editorial: The future of Steve Jobs’ iPad vision for Post-PC computing, part 2

This one’s old but if you use Ulysses on an iPad it’s worth a read anyway: Review: Ulysses 2.5 for iPad and, now, iPhone – MacStories

iPad Journal: Coordinating family projects

Our extended family has some shared land with a small lake left to us by my grandparents. Sometimes that means we have to coordinate projects together. From road and dam maintenance to creating trails or any number of small things. In the past this was done via phone calls, sometimes email. Lately it’s been texting. But it can be a bit chaotic with anywhere from 3-7 people (sometimes more) chiming in with ideas or criticisms of the process involved in more complicated projects.

A good example would be a recent project clearing the area behind the lake dam which had become too densely overgrown. As we evaluated the project we took the opportunity to look at related tasks such as dredging out parts of the lake that had accumulated silt over the years. Also, there’s always the issue of repairing damage by beavers and muskrats and spillway maintenance. I’ve been helping coordinate with my dad, aunt and two uncles as well as someone we hired to help with some of the work. If my dad and uncle were a bit more technologically savvy I might try hooking them up on Slack. I may do that yet.

Due to repeated confusion (when texting and phone calls are primary it’s easy to loose track of who knows what!), the other day I decided to put together a project plan of sorts. Just a simple Pages document with a map and diagram. I emailed it out and suggested folks add in details, make changes, etc. But then I realized as I was suggesting they either reply via text in email or use pdf editing built into Apple Mail that at least two of them would likely be confused with the pdf editing. One of them is using an iPhone that he barely knows how to operate. So, it occurred to me that a shared Note which they can all access via iPhone, iPad or Mac might be simple enough and yet allow for the communication to happen all in one document that anyone can edit. It was a trivial task to copy/paste the material from the Pages document into the note. Time will tell if the shared note will prove effective.

Something that I’ve realized with this project is that the iPhone and iPad are a nearly perfect compliment to one another. I suppose I knew that going into it but it’s just working out so well that it seems worth mentioning. I use the iPhone to take notes, measurements and photos. Then from the iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard I can elaborate on the basics and create diagrams and maps with Graphic and Apple Maps. I’m using Numbers (mostly on the iPad) to keep an ongoing record of expenses and dates on which significant work is done.

I’ve not recently been in a position where I needed to do any sort of complicated project management but I’m guessing it could be done fairly well with these two devices and the right apps. In many ways they seem to be the perfect fit for project management taking place “in the field”.

iPad Journal: Website Management with Coda, Transmit, Messages and Mail

Of the various services I offer, web design and content updates are probably 60% of my work. On the Mac I’ve been using Panic’s Coda since it was released many years ago so, when it was released for iOS, I was excited. But I mostly found it lacking (along with iOS at that time) and continued using my Mac. I used it a bit but only minimally. That changed in 2016 as I transitioned to the iPad for website related work. I wrote about my website update workflow back in May and then again in July as things shifted. I’m still not certain things have settled in for good (do they ever?) but I’m more satisfied now then I’ve been in the past with this revised workflow.

As it turns out I have settled in with Coda and Transmit as my primary toolset. I initially resisted Coda because I wanted my “local” files to be synced to DropBox as is possible with the Mac version of Coda. But the convenience and power of Coda was too much to resist. All content updating is now done in Coda on the iPad. Because Coda and Transmit share the same local file store on the iPad I can then use Transmit once a week to push the changed files to my local MacMini’s Dropbox folder and everything get’s synced to DropBox. Not ideal but very close.

What I’ve grown to appreciate about Coda as I’ve used it more is that it is so fully featured and so close to the Mac version. The familiar two pane interface is very easy to use. I can select multiple files to copy back and forth from local files to the server or the other way around. I can drag and drop single files to do the same. I can quickly filter for a file by name or sort by size, name, date modified. The one power tool missing is find/replace for in-file content across multiple files from the file browser. But that’s not something I use all the time so I’ve gotten along okay without it.

When editing, of course Coda provides for syntax highlighting as well as find and replace of text within a file. I can have multiple files open and switch between them via the tabs. Of course there is code auto-complete as well as suggestion for files such as images that have been indexed. When I’m adding code for an image I get a pop-up with a list of images that reside in the images folder for that site. Very handy. Snippets for specific sites as well as app-wide are occasionally useful. And, of course, preview of a page. Lastly, when using with an external keyboard the app behaves exactly as I expect with the same (or mostly the same) shortcuts that are available on the Mac version. I can save, close, switch tabs, find, preview and more with keyboard shortcuts.

Once I settled on Coda on iPad as the primary tool for website related work I learned far more of the features and became more comfortable with the app. It actually mirrors the process I experienced with the iPad itself. The more I used it the more comfortable I became with it and with that comfort comes increased productivity.

A great example of this is using Coda in split screen with Mail or Messages. My clients use email or Messages to send text, PDF and image files for website updates. Having split view makes all the difference. One of my most regular clients sends the text in the body of emails or Messages or as Pages files. Being able to quickly shift back and forth from Coda to one of those other apps via split screen made all the difference. In fact, if it were not for split screen I would not be using the iPad as I do.

I’ll illustrate with a fun moment that happened a couple weeks ago as I was working with the above mentioned client. He was sending new content and I was updating his site as we chatted back and forth. He commented that it was interesting watching the changes pop up live as we chatted. He was impressed and I was too. Without even thinking about it I’d been switching between Coda, Messages, Mail and Pages, updating html pages, creating new pages and carrying on a conversation in Messages. It wasn’t that I’d accomplished any great feat. This was just the normal process of a pretty typical task. But I was using iOS on an iPad with the same speed and fluidity with which I use a Mac. Very satisfying.