Tag Archives: Notes

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.

iPad Journal: Getting the most out of Apple Notes

I'm on a new quest in how I use the iPad and it can be best expressed with one word: Simplicity. I've always considered myself a "power" user of Apple tech. Of course this is a relative term but I'll just describe it, in this context, as this: I've always used my Macs with a goal as doing as much as possible with them. I used a seemingly limitless variety of apps and utilities. I tinkered. I installed betas. It was practically a goal to break things so that I could fix them. I enjoyed troubleshooting. But I was also concerned with getting things done.

My early use of the iPad was similar. I jailbroke my first two iPads primarily so I could share the cellular connection to my Mac. I immediately installed any app that might allow me to do my "work" on the iPad. From finance tracking to website updating to blogging to graphic creation to database apps. Of course I'm still curious about the possible solutions apps can provide for the tasks I need to do but I've recently realized that I often have the most success with a more straightforward approach. Just as Spotlight gradually replaced Quicksilver and LaunchBar on my Macs, I'm finding that Apple stock apps such as Notes are often be my best option.

I've used Notes quite a bit over the past few years and no doubt, it began as a fairly simple app. But Apple has nurtured it into an app that is, in its current iteration, really very capable. Interestingly, during the same period, I also tried using Evernote more than a couple times but I never quite settled into it. I could understand why so many people used it given its extensive feature list but it never quite clicked for me. My typical use with Apple Notes was saving text notes and the occasional link. I generally did not need to add attachments (on a Mac I preferred to just put any files such as pdfs or images in the Finder) and didn't need to share or collaborate with anyone. I bumped into it's limitations on occasion but it was never enough to stop me from using it.

The best way I can describe my use of Notes is that it is my catch-all for text and links, often as a sort of shared clipboard between devices with an easy way to share out via Messages, Mail or any number of other apps. One unfortunate limitation, links saved in a note seem to export with any method. Any effort to copy/paste or to use a share sheet to send a saved link and any text in a note, removes the link and only results in the plain text of the article title. Not very helpful and a bummer because this could be useful in a lot of different ways. Almost every other attachment can be shared out along with any text I've added to a note. One limitation of attaching documents such as pdfs, Pages or any other document that might have editable text is that they are not indexed. Not a deal breaker but it would be nice. In my personal use I don't tend to accumulate lots of notes with attachments because I tend to use them for projects rather than long-term storage.

More often than not when I create a new note it is a text capture via a share sheet from another app. Quite a few notes are for projects or clients and they might be something that I just scribble in and delete a couple days later or they might be longer term. In the past I've tried different apps for tracking time on client projects but several months ago I realized I wasn't all that happy with the apps I'd been using for such tracking. I decided it might be easier and simpler to do this tracking with a note and I was right. It's worked out great. I have a "Timecards" note and every project gets tracked there. Each project gets a section and anytime I work I log it with a simple line item: Date Time Description in that section. Simple and efficient. Eventually those line items get entered into an a FileMaker Pro invoice.

I've only had a need to share notes via the collaboration feature on a couple of occasions but it has worked well in those instances. It's a nice feature to have when I need it.

A lot of Apple nerds have been raving lately about Bear. I gave it a try and it is a nice app but it's not for me. Between Apple Notes and Ulysses much of what I do with text is covered. In the past I've also tinkered with Drafts and for awhile I used Byword and Editorial as a part of my gathering and writing process but not lately. While I've not yet deleted those three apps I likely will. I've not used any of them in quite some time and doubt I'll have any need of them in the future. They are superfluous. As I whittle down my folders of apps I am enjoying a certain confidence in the fewer tools that I choose to keep.

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: Weekly iPad links

I'm planning to do a post each Friday that will cover the interesting "getting things done with iPad" articles of the week. Currently Federico Viticci, Serenity Caldwell and Matt Gemmel are consistently posting about using the iPad for getting work done. There are others of course and I'll post those as I find them.

This week Federico had another in his iPad Diaries series: Clipboard Management with Copied and Workflow. I'm still reading that as I was busy most of yesterday. Will finish it and digest today. That's the beauty of Federico's posts, the require digesting. Which is to say, they are never easy. He works and writes on a level that usually means the reader is actually going to learn something. For someone who writes about working on a device known for it's simplicity and ease of use, Federico does a damn fine job of complicating it- but in a good way. A really good way.

I've tried using Clips a bit and found it useful. I'm curious to read about what Copied does that might make it a better choice.

Also worth a bookmark, Federico's archive of iPad articles on MacStories. Wowza.

Matt Gemmell has been working on his own series about going iPad-only and has another great post this week on taking notes with GoodNotes. That's an app I recently picked up on sale for .99 cents. I use Apple notes on a regular basis and I'm not sure GoodNotes is something I'll use but for 99 cents it's silly not to try it. Much of the appeal of the app is handwriting. Actually, that's much of the point. I've often joked that I don't do pens and pencils, I do keyboards. My handwriting is atrocious and I've never taken the time to work on that. That said, I do appreciate and love the idea of sketchnotes. As I've been painting with Procreate in recent moths I've become a bit more interested in seeing what I can sketch and thinking about lettering as art rather than writing is appealing.

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”.