Tag Archives: iPad

iPad Journal: Looking for a new writing & blogging sweetspot

A couple weeks ago the developers of Ulysses took the app to a subscription model. I don’t do subscriptions. So, I said my goodbye. Then I began my move back to Byword for writing and publishing to WordPress. It works pretty well. There are a few quirks. For example, while it is possible to publish a post with an image the image must first be uploaded to the web and a link inserted for this to work. Compared to Ulysses which took care of uploading the image during publishing. Not as convenient but still not worth a subscription.

Another, when working on something of several pages, Byword lacks the ability to quickly jump to the beginning or end of the document with a keyboard shortcut. I often do podcast transcripts of many pages so this is important and a bit of a hassle when it’s lacking.And, on the note of trying to navigate through many pages with keys, I easily loose track of the cursor and have to tap the screen. Not the end of the world but just one of those little oddities. Byword still has not added the overlay for displaying keyboard shortcuts. As far as I know,there is no shortcut in Byword to easily add a link. Not the end of the world but just another little annoyance.

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Enter, iA Writer
So, with reluctance I’ve purchased yet another writing/publishing app: iA Writer. Reviews are good and, like Ulysses and Byword, it offers publishing to WordPress. At $3.99 it’s certainly worth a try. The way I see it, it’s still far less expensive than locking into a Ulysses subscription.

My initial impression is that it is certainly a solid app, pleasant enough to work with. Whether little annoyances such as those I mentioned about Byword begin to show, well, more time using the app will bring those to light. I’m not sure what I think about the font choice for writing but it’s not changeable. Something lacking that I was hoping for is an option to share text/urls from Safari. Currently, I can send such things to Drafts or Notes as a go between. Or, just as likely, I’ll use Clips. With iOS 11 around the corner it may be that I’ll be getting in the habit of dragging and dropping text and urls.

What I like:

  • The blue cursor and highlight are nice and easier to see than the dark gold used by Byword.
  • Set-up for publishing was very easy. It publishes as a draft and then opens up the page via web which is perfect. From there I can set the post type and add keywords and categories.
  • I can select text then use the Command-k shortcut to turn the text into a link with the URL currently in the keyboard. It’s a little thing but one I really like.

What I don’t like:

  • I’ve tried uploading an image with this post and I get an error that the request timed out. So, that’s a bummer.

Time will tell.

How-to iPad with iOS 11

Last week Apple released a series of six iPad and iOS 11 How-To videos. I’ve also discovered, what may or may not be a new section of their website, How to do even more with iPad Pro and iOS 11 which not only has the new videos but also four sections for learning about the iPad:

I don’t spend a lot of time browsing Apple’s website unless I explicitly need information. Browsing around just now, via the above links, I’m impressed. This would be a great place for any iPad user to explore and bookmark. I’m particularly impressed with the iPad Apple Support page.

It’s good to see Apple promoting the device and the new features of iOS 11. I’ve thought for awhile now that Apple was doing too little to promote the features of the iPad and anecdotally this bears out in my observations of usage by the people around me. Very few of them are aware of what iOS and the iPad are capable of. While they get a lot of use out of their iPads it’s mostly a casual use. As has been repeated over and over, the iPad as a casual consumption device. For many that I have observed (my extended family all have them) that is indeed true. That said, it is also true that it is their main computing device. But it’s mostly for messaging, browsing the web, Facebook, email and games. Most of these folks are retired though so it makes sense.

There are plenty of kids in my family that are now in Junior High, High School and college. Most of them in fact. Will they be using iPads as their primary computing devices? With iOS 10 and now 11, they certainly could be. The hardware of the iPad is more than capable. And now with iOS 11, even more so. I’ve been out of the college world for 24 years but I know much of it remains the same. From what I’ve seen the iPad is not only well suited to that job it may well be the perfect device for it. The same goes for many other areas.

After browsing the above pages I doubled back to the Main Apple page and then visited the iPad main section. I wasn’t all that surprised that while the content is, of course, about selling iPads it is heavily weighted towards educating the reader about what the iPad can do. I’ve long thought that Apple needed to do more to demonstrate to the public what the strengths of iOS and the iPad form factor are but I’m beginning to realize that the website does this very well. The stores and staff also do this very well. In-store programs such as Apple Today are exactly what’s needed.

The only area that might still need improvement is television spots. The current ads are great in that they offer up an easy to grasp lesson. I’d like to see more of them in this style. A lot more. Just a simple lesson in using one part of the iPad. Currently the spots just end with large text, “iPad Pro” and I know this is very un-Apple like but I wish they’d include something along the lines of “Learn more at apple.com/ipad/howto”. They’ve developed a very helpful, educational website, why not do more to direct users to it? I don’t have access to broadcast television so I have no idea how often Apple airs ads. It would be great if they’d buy a lot of time each fall to educate users about the new features of iOS.

iPad Journal Video Editing

Back around 2002 I spent a bit of time editing video using a couple of G4 Macs with Final Cut Pro. A series of experimental shorts as well as a full length documentary. Previous to that I’d also used iMovie and since then I’ve mostly used iMovie on Macs and then in the iPad and even the iPhone.

First, the experience of editing on a G4 Mac with iMovie was magical. I’d never done such a thing before. But it was also a process that involved external hard drives and various cables. My Mac’s internal drive did not have the capacity to handle larger projects so those had to be offloaded to external drives in the range of 40 to 80GB. Importing meant attaching a digital camcorder with FireWire and importing the data as the camcorder played the footage. Which meant a lot of time working with a camcorder attached to the computer. Once footage was imported then it was a matter of working with the clips. Arranging them on the timeline, splitting, trimming, etc.

Then there was the rendering. Oh, yes that. Adding transitions, adding captions or titles, could require a few seconds to a few minutes depending on the Mac and the work being done. Then at the end of the project there was the rendering out to a final product. It might be digital or it might be back out to tape. This often took hours for larger projects. Even our top of the line G4 Power Mac could take hours. When I worked on my G4 PowerBook it took even longer. It was the sort of thing you didn’t have to do often but when you did it was best left to do overnight. Come back in the morning and hope there were no errors. Also, as I recall, we didn’t use them much while rendering. All the memory and processor power was consumed by the task at hand. For some context, these Macs. As I recall it had something like a 867 MHZ processor and 512 MB of RAM. I’m pretty sure we upgraded to a gig of RAM. The internal hard drive was, I think, 60 GB hence the need to use externals. That set-up was $2500 not counting the external drives that were roughly $200 as I recall. Plus the cost of FCP.

So, in 2002, that was our “Pro” machine that we used to get our work done. Video editing with Final Cut, effects with Adobe After Affects, Photoshop for photos, etc. Out of a small office our little digital arts co-op with 3 desktop Macs and several laptops produced several films that were shown at several film festivals. At least a couple of those filmmakers are still at it today. I was mostly in it for the fun and for the learning. Filmmaking has never been a passion so much as just something I like to tinker with.

Jump forward to 2017. Over the past couple of years I’ve edited several for-fun projects in iMovie on the Mac, iPad Air 2, iPhones, and and now the most recent iPad Pro. Of course the Mac handles it all very well, but I want to focus on iOS devices. The iPhone 6s and iPad also have no problems running iMovie though with the 64 GB storage I had to be careful with stored video. But in terms of processor and memory, iMovie ran very well. Importing is instant if you’re using video recorded on the device. AirDropping clips from an iPhone takes seconds to minutes depending on the size of the clips. Then just import from the Photos library, so, again, it’s instant. Of course, there is no rendering of transitions or captions anymore. Just place them in the timeline and it is instant. Same thing for color filter affects. It’s instant. Editing timeline is a matter of splitting clips, changing length of clips, etc. It’s all pretty basic but it is the essentials and is all instant. Multiple layers of video are not possible. In summary, it’s simple but incredibly fast and smooth. The only time I’ve ever had to wait is in the export process which applies to both Mac and iOS devices. But this isn’t something that takes long and while I’m doing it I can open up apps in slideover (iMovie doesn’t do split screen) and carry on with no lag at all.

This brings me to LumaFusion. Every couple of years I do a little family oriented documentary. In the recent past they have usually been focused on older family members such as grandparents. I wanted to record some of their stories so we would could enjoy them into the future and pass them on to great grandkids. As my parents get older I thought it was about time to get started on their videos and also I have aunts and uncles that I would like to do videos for. So, I decided to splurge on LumaFusion and I’m really glad I did.

I’ve got two active projects going at the moment. About two hours worth of editing time. Enough to begin to form an opinion which is this: LumaFusion is a fantastic tool for anyone that wants or needs to do video editing on an iPad. It’s far more powerful than iMovie. I’ve not used Final Cut Pro since around 2005 so I can’t say how similar it is compared to the current version but I can say that it reminds me of what it was like to use FCP and I’ve heard others say the same. Essentially, it is the closest thing we currently have to FCP on an iPad. It offers up to three layers/tracks of audio and video which was the most obvious feature I considered. Of course, it is far more powerful than iMovie and there are many other features that could be discussed but that’s all on the website. I won’t repeat it here. I will just say that the app is exactly what i was hoping for and works as advertised. 9To5Mac had a great review.

Until Apple offers up FCP for iOS this is the app to use for more advanced video editing. The two projects I’ll be working on over the next couple of months are likely to each be in the 60 to 90 minute range so I expect to have a much better idea of the strengths and limitations of LumaFusion when I’ve gotten to the other side. Based on the time I’ve already spent with it I do feel comfortable in my expectation that this app, combined with the iPad Pro, will serve as a very powerful video editing combination. By comparison to the “pro” Power Mac, my current iPad cost less than half and is portable in a way that that desktop could never be. Furthermore, my iPad actually contains a video camera that is far better than the one I used back then. Or, if preferred, I can use the slightly better camera found in my iPhone 7Plus. My point is that what we call “pro” is always relative. What “professionals” might use at different times for different tasks will vary.

I’m really looking forward to giving this a whirl and will, no doubt, report back on the experience!

Back to Byword

Getting Byword set-up again for blogging. Haven’t used this app in over a year and I think I’ll settle back in just fine. As comfortable as I was with Ulysses, the interface between the two is not all that different.

What the iPad Pro is capable of

The Matter of High-End iPad Growth

Nigel Warren (via Michael Tsai):

The iPad’s average selling price can be seen as an indication of whether the iPad has the potential to continue evolving into a more capable tool. If sales of the Pro line are weak, it’s a sign that Apple hasn’t succeeded in creating useful functionality that takes advantage of improved hardware. And if users don’t need improved hardware, Apple’s business model can’t justify continued iPad software development long term.

Nick Heer at Pixel Envy chimes in:

It has been remarkable over the past several years to watch the iPad’s skyrocketing performance potential, but it has been infuriating to see a lack of comparable software improvements. iOS 11 will help turn that corner, but I feel a lot of work remains to make the power of the iPad feel like it’s being put to use.

Yes, iOS 11 and then apps like Affinity Photo and soon, Affinity Designer. Also, the excellent multi-track video editing app, LumaFusion Pro. These apps are exactly the kinds of apps that push the hardware of the iPad Pro. There are, of course, other “pro” apps such as Panic’s Coda and Transmit that are used for professional purposes but which do not push the hardware in the same way. The point is though that these apps exist. Now. If anything, it might be said that what is increasingly needed is for Apple to really push the marketing of the iPad. All of them.

Regardless, I don’t think I’d call the state of iOS or available apps “infuriating”. There are things in our world for which that kind of emotion is warranted but it isn’t this.

It’s 2017, we use many computers

My Color Classic and iPad Pro as imaged by an iPhone 7+.

My Color Classic and iPad Pro as imaged by an iPhone 7+.

So techie and web publisher Joshua Topolsky recently went on a very emotional, not too rational, Twitter tirade regarding the iPad Pro. Just a tiny example:

Couple of tweets about the new iPad and iOS 11. It is inferior toa laptop in almost every way, unless you like to draw.

If you think you can replace you laptop with this setup: youcannot. Imagine a computer, but everything works worse thanyou expect. […]

But this doesn’t COME CLOSE to replacing your laptop, even forsimple things you do, like email. AND one other thing. Apple’skeyboard cover is a fucking atrocity. A terrible piece ofhardware. Awkward to use, poor as a cover. Okay in a pinch if youneed something LIKE a keyboard.

This whole “can an iPad replace your laptop” discussion is really silly. We live in a world of many devices that come in many forms. They are complimentary. Back in 1993 I bought my first computer, a Mac Color Classic. That was my only computer until 1997. It was a desktop. I used it for school and for email. In 1998 I wanted a computer that would run Netscape. That’s right, my $2,500 desktop would not even run a web browser. So I purchased a Mac Performa 6400! That’s the machine I used to build my first website. And then another and another. It’s also the machine I used to begin dabbling in “desktop publishing”. Then a Lime iMac a couple years later. Then 1st gen blue iBook. And so on. But at any given time I owned and used one computer. Then the iPod came in 2001 and now I had another computer though I didn’t think of it as a computer. At some point around 2005 I found myself with both a laptop (PowerBook 12″) and a desktop (iMac G5) and I wasn’t very clear at the time which one I wanted to use on any given day. I could share files between them but it was an awkward sort of back and forth. I also used a video camera and a still camera and a cheap mobile phone. Lots of wires for charging and transferring data.

Skip forward to 2010 and I was using a Mac Mini for a media player, a 2009 MacBook Pro for my work, and a 1st gen iPad for email and web browsing. No iPhone yet, just a cheap mobile. Also, separate still and video cameras. Transfer between devices still awkward. Each device with a pretty well defined purpose.

It’s now 2017 and my workflow has completely changed. I am surrounded by devices that communicate with one another flawlessly. Sometimes locally, other times via iCloud or Dropbox. The iPhone replaced the iPod, mobile phone as well as the still and video cameras. A newer Mac Mini serves primarily as a media server but also now does duty an occasional work machine for InDesign projects. I watch movies and listen to music via an AppleTV. I also watch movies and listen to music via the iPad and iPhone. I have wireless AirPods that switch between all of my devices with just a single tap or click. I have Smart plugs that I control via Siri and the network to turn devices on or off. By this time next year I expect to have a HomePod which will be yet another computer in this ecosystem.

Another aspect of this is the fundamental truth that most of what we do on a daily basis relies on the internet, on countless computers around the globe. The music I’m streaming through my iPhone to my AirPods comes from an Apple server I don’t really think about. Same for my email. Same for the web page I’m browsing. The screen in front of me might be the most intimate, the most directly interacted with, but it is just one of countless computers I rely on in the interconnected reality of 2017.

In 1993 I used my “desktop” Mac to do a very tiny number of jobs. But in form factor it was indeed a desktop computer. With each new iteration my computer changed in form factor, flexibility, power, and, as a result, the number of jobs I could do with it expanded. My first Mac did not include a modem, the second had both a modem and Ethernet. The third was the first to include wireless network access. But none of them could be an everyday still or video camera, that wouldn’t come till later.

By comparison, my iPad today seems limitless in power. It is a lightweight, impossibly thin computer that can be used in too many ways for me to count. I can input data with my finger, a keyboard, a stylus, or my voice. I can hold it with a keyboard or without. I can lay flat on my back and use it in bed. I can use it while walking. I can speak to it to request a weather forecast or to control devices in my home. In the near future I’ll be able to point it at a window or object in my environment to use the camera to get a precise measurement of the dimensions of the object. The same might be said of the iPhone.

We’ve reached a point where it’s probably best to just acknowledge that incredibly powerful computers now come in a variety of forms and that they perform a limitless list of jobs for us and that which tool we use at any given moment is likely to become a less interesting topic. Just use what works best for you in any given situation. There’s really no reason to draw lines in the sand, no reason to argue. Such arguments will become less interesting as time goes on.

A few others have been making similar points. My favorite was by Matt Gemmell. If you’re interested in this sort of thing his whole post is worth a read.

There’s no such thing as a laptop replacement, and if there were, the iPad isn’t meant to be one.

The term usually crops up in the context of the iPad not being whatever it is the author is looking for… and no wonder. The phrase itself is strange, like you’re consciously considering replacing your laptop (implicitly with something else, otherwise you’d just upgrade to a newer laptop, surely), are assessing the iPad as a candidate, and you find that it is indeed an entirely different thing… but that’s somehow a deal breaker. So you want to potentially not use a laptop anymore, but you also want a computer that does all the same things as a laptop, in pretty much the same way. In which case, I think the computer you’re looking for is a laptop.

John Gruber at Daring Fireball:

But people like me and Topolsky — and millions of others — are the reason why Apple continues to work on MacOS and make new MacBook hardware. I can say without hesitation that the iPad Pro is not the work device for me. I can also say without hesitation that the iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard is the work device for millions of other people.

A MacBook is better in some ways; an iPad is better in others. For some of us, our personal preferences fall strongly in one direction or the other. “Imagine a computer, but everything works worse than you expect” is no more fair as criticism of the iPad than a statement like “Imagine an iPad but everything is more complicated and there’s always a jumble of dozens of overlapping windows cluttering the screen” would be as criticism of the Mac.

Rene Ritchie, writing for iMore, Giving iPad fire to mere mortals: On myopia and elitism in computing:

For a long time computing only addressed the needs of a very few. Now, thanks to iPad and products that have followed its lead, computing is open to almost everyone with almost any need. It’s nothing short of a revolution.

People who were, for their whole lives, made to feel stupid and excluded by older computing technology and some of its advocates now have something that’s approachable, accessible, and empowering. From toddlers to nonagenarians to every age in between, and for every profession imaginable.

What Apple and iPad have done to bring computing to the mainstream is not only laudable, it’s critical. And it’s nothing short of amazing.

And, not a response but a great post by Fraser Speirs from nearly two years ago is worth a read as it turns the whole argument about the iPad being a laptop replacement on it’s head:

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the MacBook Pro and, in particular, whether it can replace an iPad Pro for getting real work done.

Firstly, consider the hardware. The huge issue with the MacBook Pro is its form factor. The fact that the keyboard and screen are limited to being held in an L-shaped configuration seriously limits its flexibility. It is basically impossible to use a MacBook pro while standing up and downright dangerous to use when walking around. Your computing is limited to times when you are able to find somewhere to sit down.

Adobe’s Baggage

In a recent post on his blog, John Nack asked; Affinity Photo on iPad: Will anyone care?

I and a few others posted comments. My response:

I know I do. Over the past year I’ve shifted most of my work over to iPad. I manage 15+ client websites using Coda. On the Mac I’d been shifting most of my non-InDesign work over to Affinity Designer and Photo. I almost never open Photoshop or Illustrator anymore. Affinity Photo is the real deal which is to say, it has most of the features found on the Mac version and can be interchanged from iPad to Mac and back. I bought it immediately and have already used it for several client projects with great delight.

So, yes, some of us do. And really, having a look at iOS 11 it seems pretty clear that Apple’s intent is to keep going with the iPad. They’re deepening their investment and I suspect that as the months roll by many more users will begin delving deeper into it’s capabilities. When Affinity Designer is released I’ll buy it immediately. I’d pay them double what they will likely be asking for it. I’ll use it on this big, beautiful iPad to earn my living.

As much as I’ve enjoyed using my Macs for the past 24 years I now use this new kind of “Mac” that Apple calls the iPad. No going back.

He was kind enough to respond:

Thanks for the perspective. I don’t doubt that you & other professionals would pay double without hesitation, but for a company like Adobe, even that (in this case $26, which is what they’d gross from a $40 sale after Apple takes its cut) just isn’t interesting. Making eight figures with Photoshop Touch wasn’t interesting. They’re going to need that amount or more from you every month in order to justify developing a suite of apps. Now, maybe folks like Affinity can be a lot more nimble and lean, and maybe that’ll be enough. As I say, we shall continue to see.

Really? Really? I guess this confirms my thoughts about Adobe: baggage that is best left behind. They’ve built a monolithic business with a lot of weight and apparently they can’t be bothered. I’ll happily support the fine folks at Serif and encourage you do give Affinity Photo a try.

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.

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!

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.