Category Archives: iPad Journal

Two months with iPadOS 15

I’ve been using the beta on my iPad Pro since the first day of the public beta and thought I’d write a bit about what stands out to me as noteworthy. This is just a tiny fraction of what’s coming and again, it’s what I’ve found noteworthy. The most comprehensive coverage that I’ve found thus far is this fantastic mini-site over at MacRumors.

My impressions…

First and perhaps unexpected, I’m enjoying and using the new widgets far more than I expected.

With iPadOS 14 and earlier I generally kept my Home Screen clear except for the sidebar of widgets. All my apps were in a single folder in the dock. With iPadOS 15 I’ve moved all my apps to the App Library and now have a full Home Screen of widgets which functions as a fantastic dashboard. I’m finding the 2nd largest widget sizes the most useful with just one small section for 4 of the small widgets. So, a view of my Home Screen gives me the current weather, easy access to my most recently listened to music, my most recent email, a selection of frequently used Shortcuts, my most recently accessed folders and files, calendar, current daily calories, battery status and upcoming reminders. Edit to note that I’ve since changed this by moving the 4 small widgets back to the sidebar which stays hidden. I’ve since added the large-sized Contacts widget which does a great job of providing an overview of my latest interactions with my closest contacts.

With earlier versions of, the public beta some of widgets were l a bit buggy, especially the Files widget though it seems to have settled down as of this date. Also, the mail widget does not always update recent new mail in the background as I would expect though that may be an expected limitation. Obviously having to switch to mail to see updates isn’t helpful.

I’ll mention Spotlight next because it’s somewhat integrated with the above mentioned Contacts widget. In short, Spotlight has a few new additional results added to searches. Most important for me is the improvements in it’s surfacing of my contacts related information such as photos, shared notes, messages, etc. Also, Spotlight now does more with web searches of public figures and built in web search generally. Rather than go to Safari it’s possible to just start with a Spotlight search of a topic. Web results starting with Wikipedia, images, top web results are all neatly organized in the Spotlight results. For some searches the results can be quite extensive ranging from your content, shared with you content, articles from Apple News, TV shows or movies and on. By default the extensive content categories are hidden behind a “Show more results” button.

Next, while I’m still training myself to use it the new globe keyboard shortcut is great. I forget too often to use it but suspect that as that habit takes hold it will become a really nice feature. Specifically the Siri shortcut Globe-S as I’ve always wanted such a shortcut on the keyboard. I enjoy using Siri and know I’ll use it more with that shortcut. Also, the globe shortcuts for multi-tasking are very useful. Again, one I need to practice more to more fully integrate and take advantage of. It’s not that it’s difficult so much as remembering it’s there and making it a new habit.

On the subject of multitasking, using the keyboard to navigate through app windows In the multitasking view is really nice. I normally use the trackpad but the arrow key navigation works great too.

Also in the category of multitasking, the active window indicator is still too subtle when using split screens. It’s better than before but Apple insists on making the indicator subtle enough that I have too look longer and with more attention than I should.  Actually, in a nod to macOS I wish they’d offer an option to have the same red-yellow-green color scheme. Not likely and probably not that useful. But at the very least, more contrast would actually be useful.

Keyboard shortcuts are improved in presentation when using an external keyboard and the new organization of keyboard shortcuts to resemble the Mac’s categories of File, Edit, etc are nice improvements. This whole area is more compact and useful.

The Safari redesign. This one has been talked about a lot as it should be. I agree in general that it’s nice to see an effort but it made Safari worse and seemed to be an attempt to solve problems that most people don’t really have. Glad to see the dedicated tab bar back as the default now they need to take the next step of putting it where it was and also removing the extra padding that the new rounded rectangles have. It’s wasted space that hides the description of the tab. Also, the active tab indicator is far too subtle.

But there’s some good stuff with the updated Safari too. Tab groups!! This falls under the “I didn’t know I needed this until I had it” category. I’m using it a lot to create topic areas. I’ve got a climate change group and a tech group. A week ago I was searching for a new chair and had a group of tabs for that. I’ve got a group now for a new WordPress site I’m working on for a client. I expect some of these will be persistent as they are topics I always read about. Others will come and go as needed. The key is that a tab group is easy to create from any window with tabs, easy to re-open via the sidebar and easy to delete when you’re finished. It’s also easy to add a tab from any other Safari window to an existing tab group.

I’m glad to have the updated Notes and Reminders apps. The ability to tag will be useful in both of these. Also, Quicknotes in Notes is very nice though I’m not using it as much as I think I will. Notes really is an excellent app. The indexing of Notes text, attached pdfs and now text recognition in images is fantastic. It’s all very fast and shows up nicely in Spotlight. If I hadn’t recently integrated Obsidian into my daily workflow Notes would likely shine brighter. As it is though it will still have a place. It’s a great place do do photo and document scanning and as I’m currently scanning in a bunch of old family photos I’m enjoying it for that.

The updates in the Photos app are really proving useful. I love the improved metadata, editable location and machine learning that now identifies plants and other objects. Some of that was identification was already there but it’s much, much better now with more accurate results and far more specificity in the identifications. Where before Photos could show me my dog pictures it now also suggests the specific breed and has an integrated Wikipedia link. This is especially useful for all of the photos I get out on the trail for identification of plants and flowers. It’s not yet offering specific insect ID but it does recognize more general animal categories such as insect, butterfly, bird, horse. I suspect that over time range of objects for which specific IDs are offered will grow.

Live Text in photos is absolutely fantastic and useful. Not only does it improve search but if you’re someone that deals with a lot of text and images it comes in handy often. I often need the text that’s in an image for a document or a website. Lazy clients will just send a photo or screenshot with a bit of text rather than retype it for me. This is the sort of feature that once you start using it and realize how often it can be useful, well, you’ll wonder how you did without it.

Messages has some nice improvements, namely “shared with you” which integrates into all the other system apps. Nothing earth shattering but nice. I’ve not had a chance to use FaceTime with any other beta testers and am not a big FaceTime user generally but the announced changes look very helpful for those that use video calls.

A couple more tid-bits. System-wide “shared with you” is a nice new feature. Continuous dictation is great for those that like to dictate text rather than type. Especially useful on the iPhone where I’d much rather dictate than type a long message.

That’s it for the moment. There’s far more of course but they’re features I’m not going into as this isn’t really a review so much as my notes on what I’m interested in and finding most useful. The above linked mini-site over at MacRumors has all the details! Also worth noting, at the bottom of the page is a list of helpful how-to articles for iOS 15.

I started this post in July and am just now, having used the beta for almost two months, finishing off my notes. The final release will likely be coming in the next couple of weeks and with it a load of very detailed reviews.

Obsidian Mobile

Finally!! Been waiting for this one for months. Obsidian Mobile released! I set this up on my Mac several months back but have been doing all my iPad writing in Taio or 1Writer because the mobile Obsidian app was not available. That’s worked out pretty well and frankly, I really enjoy working in both of the above mentioned apps. But I’m curious now to see how Obsidian works. After setting it up on the Mac I hardly touched it because I don’t really use the Mac much unless I have to.

So, I’ve now got a Vault set-up in iCloud for Obsidian. Will give it a whirl and add to the post when I’ve had a chance to spend some time with it.

Edit, two weeks later…

Okay, I’m back after a two week shake down. I can’t really say that I’ve explored the app as deeply as I expect to over coming months. But, I’ve given it a light shakedown and I like it! Many have commented that, as an electron app it does not have a native feel to the Mac, iPad or iPhone. I disagree. It certainly lacks the native UI elements a developer has access to but with the Minimal theme it feels close enough and looks quite nice.

The app is very stable and I’m having no problems with the switch from 1Writer and Taio. I’ve got both of those apps set-up to be able to access the Obsidian library should I feel the need to jump into one of those apps to edit. More importantly, I’d created a nice workflow for publishing to my blogs using Taio and that continues to work perfectly. When I’ve got a post written in Obsidian I can jump over to Taio and export to html then I load a new post in WordPress on Safari. It works pretty well.

And coming back again to add to this. I’ve now seen several different writers post on their Obsidian set-ups and have been following threads over at the MacPower Users forum. But today’s post by Federico at MacStories is certainly worth mentioning. It’s the first in a series on his Obsidian setup and covers Sync, Core Plugins, Workspaces and other settings. While I often find his posts interesting and sometimes helpful, he tends to go into a depth of detail that covers his very particular workflows that they don’t often translate well to how I use an app. So, I’ll at least skim his posts but unless I can easily see how it is relevant to my workflow I may not finish it. But his post above is very relevant in that it points a finger to the importance of Obsidian the plugins, various options and shortcuts.

After reading his post, the threads at Mac Power Users and a few others, the depth of features in Obsidian really do set it apart from most other apps. It’s easy to get started with the basics and then spend weeks or months just slowly poking around those depths to get to the many possibilities. That said, I’m glad it is based on Markdown files that other apps can access because even as feature rich as it is it does lack the export options that most other apps seem to have.

Using an iPhone and Apple Notes to Scan and Export Old Family Photos

I’ve started a project scanning in old family photos. It’s something I started years ago with a flatbed scanner which I no longer have. This time around I plan to just use my iPhone and Apple Notes. There are a couple things I’ve learned since getting started that might be helpful to others doing a similar project.

Before you get started scanning you’ll want to go to the Settings app and then go to the section for the Notes app. There you’ll see an option under the “Media” section to “Save to Photos”. Turn this on and every scan will be an image in Photos! Doing this eliminates the need to export from notes which the second portion of this post covers.

When you open a new note and choose the camera icon to open the camera you’ll choose “Scan Documents” which will open the camera and if auto is selected your iPhone will automatically capture a scan as soon as it detects a photo or document (In the image below I have mine set to manual). To stop the auto scan just put your finger over the lens or put the iPhone down on the table. It’s important to to note that the default scan assumes a color document, not an image. If you’re scanning an image, color or black and white, you need to be sure you select “Photo” as the media type being scanned. You can select this option before each scan or after.  To do so tap the  icon of 3 overlapping circles (for this post I’ll refer to that as the media type icon).

Select Photo option on the right side

Alternatively, just start scanning your photos and once the group is scanned you can go back and select “Photo” from the media type icon seen below.

If you scanned a group of images selecting Photo and then tapping Save will then save the whole group to the Photos app. So, to summarize, you can select Photo from media type before scanning or after, then you save the images after that by tapping the Save button.

A final note, it’s possible to save groups of photos as described above. You can also just scan one at a time marking each as a photo and saving it individually.

When finished you can confirm that all the photos have been autosaved into the Photos app. You may want to keep or delete the note once you’re finished scanning.

What to do if you’ve scanned images before setting them to save in the Photos app?

If you started scanning before discovering the setting I mentioned at the top of the post that  saves your scans to photos automatically, you’ll have notes full of pdf scans that seem stuck as pdfs. There’s no built in way to export those pdfs to Photos. But, there’s an easy two step process to get the scans to photos.

Before you jump into the export process an optional but important step is to confirm that your scans were done as Photos. Tap a scanned image in a note to open it. Then look in the toolbar for the three overlapping circles icon for selecting media type. Tap that and then select “Photo” as the media type. If you have a group of photos saved in a group you’ll need to go to each photo in the group and do this step. Once you’ve done this for all the scans in the note you can move on to the export.

First, you have to save the pdf scans from Notes to Files. Just long press a note with scans in the list view of your notes. In the context menu chose “Send a Copy”. From the list of options choose Save to Files. Choose the location to save your pdfs and save. Then open the Files app to that location. You’ll see a pdf or multiple pdfs from that note. If you scanned images in groups you’ll have multi-page pdfs consisting of each image.

For the second step, you’ll need this simple Shortcut which will save the pdf as an image or images to the Photos app. Install the above Shortcut into your Shortcuts app. It’s a simple 3 step Shortcut. Once installed you can select your scanned pdf file then tap share, then select the Shortcut “Convert and save to photos”. The Shortcut will run and when finished your image or images will be in the Photos app! It’s also possible to choose multiple pdfs at once and share to the shortcut as described above and all the pdfs will be processed at once into the Photos app.

That’s it, you’re done!

Keychron K2


My favorite keyboard in recent memory has been the Logitech K811. I bought it reconditioned from Amazon seven years ago. It’s no longer manufactured and mine is beginning to fail. It no longer pairs reliably and at least one key has stopped working. I’ve got at least one other similar Logitech keyboard that can be used but I often have issues with it and the iPad Pro. I’m not sure why. It seems to cause conflict with the Apple Trackpad which I like to use if I’m using the iPad with a separate keyboard and a second display.

So, I decided I’d look for a new keyboard that could connect via Bluetooth and usb as well. And, while I was at it thought I’d finally take a look at mechanical keyboards. I type a lot and have heard lots of good things about mechanical keyboards. This past summer my nephew had one so I had a chance to give it a go and it was very nice. After looking at the less expensive options I settled on the Keychron K2. It seemed reasonable at around $80 and has great reviews. It arrived a few days ago and boy-howdy is this a nice typing experience!

First, I like the fact that it is Mac/iOS first. They include extra key caps for switching out 3 or so keys of you prefer the Windows specific symbols. As I’m running the iPadOS 15 beta which now makes great use of the globe key I’ve got the caps lock re-mapped to the globe key. It’s superficial but I wish that key had a globe icon. Yeah, that’s silly but whatever.

I plugged the keyboard into the iPad with the included and very nice braided USB cable and away we went. I’ve also paired it with the Mac via Bluetooth. I’ll pair it with the iPad Pro as well but with the iPadOS beta Bluetooth is currently somewhat buggy so I’ll wait till that get’s fixed.

I ordered the keyboard with the brown switches from Amazon but was sent the blue switches which are, as I understand it, the loudest of the three options. It’s not a problem as I live and work alone and they’re not that much louder. Many of the reviews mentioned that the keyboard, being quite tall, is best used with a wrist pad. I have lots of scrap wood boards that I save for projects and found a piece of cedar that was the perfect width and height to match the keyboard. I gave it a light sanding and it’s perfect. Actually, adding this a few days later, I went with a piece of wood that was both deeper, wider and taller than the keyboard. The larger and taller plank provides a platform for my entire forearms rather than just my wrist and hand. I’ve got it covered with some soft flannel and it’s very comfortable. I’m still experimenting with the best position for the trackpad.

The two things that come to mind when describing the typing experience on the K2 is that it is comfortable and efficient. By comparison, the last keyboard of this type (large, deep keys) was the keyboard that came with the iMac G5 from 2006ish. I still have that keyboard as my usb back-up for the occasional Bluetooth issue. But it’s horrible to type on as it really requires effort. There’s nothing enjoyable about the key action.

Another, more relevant comparison, would be my various recent Logitech keyboards that are much thinner and much more similar to Apple’s scissor switch keyboards used on the Magic Keyboards. Which is to say, fairly quiet to type on and with shallow key action somewhere between bouncy and mushy but not too clicky. They’ve always worked well for me. With the K2 each key press results in a fairly satisfying click and a clicky sensation to match the sound. Not at all hard to depress and with a firm bounce back. I suspect that once I’ve gotten used to this keyboard, perhaps another day or so, my typing speed will be back up to the norm with no problem. (Edit a week after initial writing to add that yes, I did get used to it and it’s even better a week later!)

The only thing I’m not quite used to yet is the slightly different positioning of the arrow keys in the bottom right corner. They’re only off a bit to the right with a somewhat smaller shift key but it’s been enough to confuse my fingers a bit. I don’t doubt that I’ll get used to it.

Review: Logitech Combo Touch for the 12.9” iPad Pro

At the the core of my love for the iPad are the many possibilities that come along with a touchscreen tablet. I particularly enjoy the variety of keyboards and stands that make for the modular computing experience that seem to define this form factor. Whenever the subject of external keyboards and cases come up, it’s common for people on the internet to ask, why not just get a laptop? The simple and best answer is that I can’t remove the screen from a laptop. It’s permanently attached. And, along with that limitation, I cannot rotate a laptop from the horizontal position to a portrait position.

The options I considered
Of all the keyboard cases I’ve tried with all of my iPads since 2010, I think this Logitech Combo Touch may prove my favorite though it’s too soon to be certain. I’ve been very happily using Apple’s Smart Keyboard portfolio that I’ve really enjoyed using the past 2+ years and considered just updating that to a new one. In the end my desire for a trackpad and backlit keyboard led me to consider Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad, Brydge’s Max+ and Logitech’s Combo Touch. I chose the Logitech.

Comparing features
The outer material Apple uses on the iPad keyboards has not been durable in my experience so that was a strike against the Magic Keyboard especially at the price Apple asks. Add to that the missing row of function keys and it seemed I should keep looking. The Brydge Max+ was the next choice but was less protective along the edges of the iPad. And when removing the iPad from the Brydge to use hand held it would have no protection at all. It also costs more and would not be shipping till June. Lastly, Brydge has a mixed track record in terms of quality control. That left the Logitech which offered the best protection, earlier shipping and the least cost. Another plus with the Logitech was the built in kickstand for use with the iPad propped up without a keyboard. I also thought I’d like the textured fabric-like covering on the Logitech. The biggest drawback is that due to that kickstand design it has a very deep footprint and the reviews are mixed as to how that works in the lap.

It’s only been a week but here are some thoughts. I like the feel of this case just as I thought I would. The fabric-like texture is very nice, much preferred to Apple’s. It feels nicer and does not show oily smudges from contact with skin I’m really happy to have the iPad protected in a case that seems sturdy but I’ll note that it’s thinner and lighter than I expected.

The keyboard itself is excellent just as I’ve come to expect from Logitech keyboards. Now, I should say, I’m not that picky and am fairly adept at adapting to keyboards but this one feels very well made and I type well on it. The row of function keys is a very nice feature to have and happily has screen brightness, keyboard brightness and all the other expected functions. I’m super happy that holding the lock key in the top right corner functions as a Siri key. I like using Siri but don’t like reaching up to the iPad corner button. And Hey Siri sometimes has other devices respond rather than the one I’m using.

The trackpad works pretty well. I did turn off tap to click as there’s not much palm rejection going on and so the cursor jumps all over with the slightest touch. So, still getting used to the click to click as I’ve gotten used to tap to click with the Magic Trackpad I’d been using at my desk. But the clicking works very well in all areas of the trackpad. Also, there’s a two finger click to bring up the contextual menu and that works perfectly. Lastly, scrolling and all the gestures work fairly well and smoothly. All in all, the trackpad is excellent.

What about the deep footprint? Well, when I’m using in my lap I’m almost always in my tiny house with pillows nearby and my general habit is to have a pillow in my lap. This works perfectly with the kickstand folded all the way back to it’s lowest position then propped up on the pillow in my lap. If I need to adjust how I’m sitting or move the pillow or my legs it’s easy to just reach up and adjust the angle of the kickstand to keep it stable and at an angle I want. It’s not as sturdy as I would get with the laptop style of the Brydge but it does work very well though I can imagine scenarios where it does not work as well due to more limited space.

I love the iPad as both a tablet and a laptop. With this case and keyboard I can very easily pull the keyboard off the screen and still have my iPad sitting up on it’s own and still protected in a case. This is often what I’m doing when I just want to read or watch video. I can set the keyboard off to the side or even flip it backwards and reattach it as a base but with the keyboard deactivated. This last point is one of the most important of all because with this case the modularity of the iPad as tablet and laptop is at it’s best.

Experiments with Markdown Editors, Saving Content and Obsidian

Background

This post began as a post over at this thread at the Mac Power Users Forum. I started with Obsidian a couple months back but a funny thing happened. Because I do most of my computing on the iPad and there was at that time no Obsidian mobile app (it‘s in beta now), I started with my trusted iA Writer for the back-end editing of files but it does nothing with Wiki links. So I moved to experimenting with a couple of other Markdown apps, 1Writer and Taio as they both do well with wiki links (more on these two apps later). I figured I’d just hop onto the Mac occasionally to use Obsidian. A couple months in and I’ve hardly touched Obsidian but I’ve been much more proactive in writing of daily notes (a new practice that I’d long pondered) and more writing generally as a result of starting the day with daily notes.

Another result is that it’s got me thinking more actively and critically about what/how/where/why I save files. In yet another post at Mac Power Users, the topic of saving web pages as html rather than pdf files also got me thinking about file format as it relates to what I do with stored files. As a part of considering my intent, I’m also considering the saving process and the information I actually want to save. To put it plainly, I’m trying to be very deliberate about my accumulation of information I may never need. Be it whole files, text, or images embedded in pdfs, etc. The deliberation and a slightly different process adds a bit of friction but that’s good in this case. I’ve generally been pretty good about not saving everything just because I have the thought this might be useful someday. It’s a trap a lot of people seem to fall into.

An example, a few nights ago I happened upon a recipe and considered whether I wanted to save it. Recipes are a new thing for me to bother with but I am starting to save a few. Rather than just save to pdf I used a shortcut to save a markdown/text file to Files in my 1Writer folder. I hop over to 1Writer and open the new document, clean out any cruft and tag it both in the text and also in the Files app. Within just a minute or two I have a very tiny, tidy, portable text file that works in 1Writer and Obsidian and also fairly easy to find in Files/Finder. I’ve since created a Shortcut that outputs nice, clean markdown via reader view which I’ll mention later.

So, rather than dive into DEVONthink (which I had been considering) as a catch-all tool my plan is to go the opposite way. It’s also got me looking at how I use Apple Notes… largely, I’ve been far too lazy and sloppy in throwing stuff in there and not cleaning up after myself when notes are no longer needed. So, avoiding the trap of over-collecting via DEVONthink, cleaning up Apple Notes, and now…

Markdown Editors

Gah!! I consider this useful fiddling but I try to keep app jumping to a minimum as that seems to be a huge time suck. That said, I’m experimenting just a bit. As I mentioned, iA Writer is the app I’ve been using for the past couple years. Love it for compiling podcast transcripts, writing and blogging. But it falls short on Wiki links. So I did a little poking around and found Taio and 1Writer. Here’s how they compare.

Overview

  • In general, I prefer the Taio interface as it always shows the sidebar of files. If I want to go full screen I can but I like seeing the files all the time.
  • Taio does nothing with hashtags for searching whereas 1Writer recognizes tags and a click to a tag brings up other files with that tag, showing them in the sidebar as an auto-populated search which is fantastic.
  • Search in 1Writer is generally much better as it also searches file content. Search in Taio is nearly useless as it basically searches titles.
  • When it comes to editing vs previewing Taio creates a mess of tabs along the top of the document window. Open a file to edit then switch to the preview and you get a new tab showing that preview. Tap on a link in that preview to another document? New preview tab of that document. Want to edit that document? New tab. Now you’ve got 4 tabs open! It can get out of control quickly. By comparison 1 Writer does everything in one window. Much tidier. And if I want nearly real-time html preview with clicking to other files I can bring up a second window of the file I’m editing and put it in preview mode. Works very well.

Exporting

Both apps offer a variety of export options though with a very different interface. With Taio I’m presented with a simpler interface to export files to markdown, pdf, html, Docx, RTF and web archive or by copying text to clipboard as markdown or html. After selecting the standard share sheet interface comes up.

1Writer has a preconfigured set of export options with similar formats:

  • Copy plain text, formatted text or html
  • Email plain text, formatted text, pdf attachment or plain text attachment
  • Print as plain text or formatted text
  • Open in plain text or pdf which then goes to the standard share sheet

Nearly equal but Taio offers Docx and web archive, neither of which I need but might be useful to some. 1Writer allows for creating new actions for sharing but I’ve not explored what’s possible there.

Shortcuts and automation

Taio is much better in this regard! It offers a variety of actions to the Shortcuts app as well as it’s own built-in shortcuts like action editor. It’s not even close. 1Writer offers 1 action for Shortcuts which is to create a new document. Better than nothing! Taio offers 11 actions. Most important of these in my use thus far, I’ve got a shortcut that takes a web page I want to save, generates cleaned up markdown with a link to the page at the bottom. The Taio version of this shortcut results in an actual file containing content. The 1Writer version creates a new file for me with the text copied to my clipboard. All I have to do is paste it in. But it seems silly that there’s no way (that I know of) to create the file with the content already intact.

The built-in action editor in Taio seems very powerful. I’ve not explored it much just yet but I did create 1 automation to create a daily log file with a pre-populated template and ready to go. I’m looking forward to using it a bit more.

Extras

Last, Taio offers an interesting clipboard saver. I’ve not used it much and I’m not sure I will but it’s there and might prove useful. I’m not really prepared to offer any thoughts yet.

Both of these are excellent markdown apps that will create a folder or folders of markdown files that will play well with Obsidian. Not only are they feature rich in terms of editing they are excellent for viewing, interacting with and exporting documents. For the moment I’ve currently settled on 1Writer and expect that to stick for awhile.

All this to say that it’s great that we have so many apps/tools but I’m recognizing how easy it is to get lost in them, jumping from one to another looking for the perfect tool with all of the exact features we need or think we need. It’s easy to focus on the new shiny tool rather than actively engage with and use the information in a meaningful way. I suppose that’s one of the pitfalls of being a geek.

I guess that was a bit of a sidetrack but I think in looking at the bigger picture it can be helpful to ask what it is we’re hoping to do with apps. I expect I’ll get around to actually using Obsidian more often and it’s feature set will prove helpful when I need them. But for the most part I’m currently just enjoying the focus on writing and more active engagement with information processing for a more tidy and deliberately curated set of open, accessible files.

Video Workflow

Last year when I started cycling a couple of family members suggested I get a GoPro. Partly to share with them but I think also because they were concerned with my safety and thought having a camera could be useful were I to have some trouble while out riding around. I eventually got one and have used it a good bit to record some of my rides. All for fun as I have no serious social media goals.

Of course I‘m working from the iPad and needed to figure out some sort of workflow. It‘s been messy! I‘m not sure if I‘m making it more complicated then it needs to be but I suspect that video workflows can indeed be a bit tricky. I expected to edit in LumaFusion. The question how and where to transfer files.

First, I started with the GoPro App and it‘s a terrible mess. It starts and seems inclined to work in portrait mode. Sometimes it can be coaxed into landscape but often goes back to portrait. Probably intended to be a phone thing. Only thing it‘s good for is letting it auto-create a few clips for a quick share. I made the mistake of getting in the habit of connecting to the camera wirelessly to transfer files to the app and then exporting. It took me far to long to figure out that it‘s a bad method as getting the raw clips out is overly complicated.

First, these clips should be accessible in the Files app but they are not. Second, any attempt to share a clip also seems to export the clip to the Photos app whether you want that or not. So I end up with the shared, exported clip but also a video in Photos. It‘s an extra file that I don‘t want backed up to iCloud photos so I have to delete it before that happens. So, if I come back after a bike ride with 10 video clips using the app to get those out for editing is more difficult than it needs to be if I‘m using the app. If I let the files accumulate in the app as I did then getting them backed up to an external device is really time consuming. I ended up saving them all to Photos then exporting to an SSD. Would have been great to open two Files windows and just drag and drop.

Okay, with that out of the way, my process going forward to skip the GoPro app altogether. I‘ll plug the GoPro into the iPad and import directly to Photos. Again, with I could mount the camera directly in Files as a storage device. At some point I might consider getting a new hub with built in flash reader which would allow for that. For now, I‘m importing to Photos and then saving to an SSD via the Files app. Now, just to point out, LumaFusion can access files directly from Photos so why not just work from there. Well, as mentioned above, I don‘t want all these files using up bandwidth and storage in iCloud.

Okay, so, GoPro camera to Photos to SSD. The last step with LumaFusion is to create a project and add media. For this I have to import media from the SSD to LumaFusion which, in turn, copies the files from the SSD to a local folder on the iPad. This works but, again, something to be aware of when thinking about iCloud back-ups and bandwidth so I‘ve excluded this folder from my iCloud back-ups. Problem solved! Mostly. My iPad is the 256GB version and really, now that I‘ve cleared out the accumulated media from the GoPro app I‘ve got plenty of space for any active LumaFusion projects, over 120GB of free space. It would be great if LumaFusion projects could link to external storage devices for media without copying over locally but to my knowledge this is not possible yet. But given my level of use I‘ll get by with no problems.

Still here!

So, it’s been awhile. Almost a full year since my last post here. But really, that’s just the way it goes. Interesting, looking at my last two posts from Late March and April 2020 explains why I’ve not posted here in a year which is to say that not much has changed that was really worth posting about. There are plenty of websites in the world sharing the details of Apple related news. Lots of sites discussing using Apple tech. This site is my journal of sorts where I’ve enjoyed sharing my work or my tech journey as it evolves and over the past year it has been steady-state. It’s been a fantastic year but with no new developments in how I’m using my iPad or other related Apple gear. Looking at the last two posts made me laugh because as I sit here writing I realized why I’d not posted: my set-up is exactly the same.

My iPad Pro, Smart Keyboard Portfolio and the Magic Trackpad 2 in a scene that is nearly identical to the second image in my March 31 post which was captioned:

“My current set-up changes all the time. Sometimes used with a keyboard, mouse and monitor on a desk, other times outside on the porch or under a tree. It changes based on the task.”

And in that context, it’s true, my set-up changes based on my location but it’s the same iPad, a keyboard and if at my desk the Magic Trackpad. I’m still doing the same work with mostly the same apps and it’s all been fantastic. If anything, I would just offer that I’ve had another successful year getting work done on my iPad though with Covid it was less work, it was enough to get by.

I suppose I’m posting today just as a check-in. To re-affirm that I’m here and still actively, happily using my Apple tech. But generally speaking, I’m not inclined to post just for the sake of posting.

But there is Apple-related news on the horizon that might be worth commenting on. Well, there’s been some of that over the past year for sure, most notably the M1 Macs, the new and widely acclaimed Magic Keyboard for iPad (which I surprisingly did not purchase), and the usual fall operating system upgrades. All significant but none of which were enough to prompt a post here as I wasn’t using the new hardware released and the software changes were, as expected, incremental.

I’m a little antsy about the possibility of a new iPad Pro being announced and I still ponder the purchase of the Magic Keyboard for iPad but given how well my current set-up works I’m not sure I’ll buy anything. My 2nd Apple Smart Keyboard Portfolio is showing the same wrinkling and bubbling that the first one did before being replaced under warranty. Eventually I’ll need to replace it with something. And in the 2+ years of use I’m definitely seeing degradation in the iPad battery. I’m just not sure it warrants replacement yet because for the tasks I use it for it remains a very fast and capable computer. So, ¯(ツ)

What I‘m hoping to see is currently rumored USB C with Thunderbolt which might also come with an iOS update allowing for better external monitor support similar to what we saw last year with the big mid-cycle release of trackpad support. If I were able to have a second desktop on another display (not just the mirroring that we have now) that took full advantage of the full screen width without the black bars on either side, well, that would likely be enough for a purchase. Add to that the faster processors and 5G (in my area I‘m getting excellent 5G thanks to Sprint/T-Mobile) and that would be a very solid upgrade. Though I‘m still not sure what I‘ll do for a keyboard.

iPad and a Magic Trackpad 2

Last week marked the 10 year anniversary of the release of iPad and I shared a few thoughts. In it I mentioned the recently released iPadOS 13.4 update which added cursor support. At the time I posted I’d been trying it with a Bluetooth mouse and found it fairly helpful though lacking in a few things, namely the swiping gestures that are so integral to using an iPad as a tablet.

For the past day I’ve been using Apple’s Magic Trackpad 2 with the iPad and as many have pointed out, it’s pretty fantastic. Of course, interacting with text on a screen for editing is great but, more importantly, the Magic Trackpad 2 fully supports all the gestures that make the iPad a great tablet. For the first time ever it’s now possible to use the iPad in an elevated stand without reaching up. In the past I worked around this by using keyboard shortcuts which works pretty well. Apps like Pages and Numbers are greatly enhanced with the new cursor and trackpad. LumaFusion is another great app that’s working very well with the cursor-trackpad combination. I’m sure many other apps work great as is or will be enhancing what is possible.

About the keyboard, it is often still faster for some tasks than using the trackpad and cursor. For example, app switching via touch on the trackpad is nice but often is much faster via Command-Tab on the keyboard. An even better example, Spotlight, which I use constantly, is faster via keyboard because it works from anywhere. With the trackpad the two finger swipe down to activate Spotlight only works from the home screen.

All that said, having the new cursor is a great new option and it works perfectly with the trackpad. This configuration, a raised iPad or an iPad with an external monitor with a Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad, is going to be a really useful set-up.

A last thought about the upcoming Magic Keyboard for iPad. I’m going to pass for now. It’s the perfect device for the iPad and exactly what I’d love to have. But I’ve already got the Smart Keyboard and I’m just not sure about how much work I’ll have given the current Covid virus situation. I opted for the Magic Trackpad because it will give me the option to use the cursor in an efficient way for a lot less money and has the added bonus of working great when I’ve got the iPad in a stand.

iPad Journal: A Decade of iPad

My original iPad docked in Apple’s Keyboard Stand

Note: I began this post in December 2019 intending to have it finished in time for the Anniversary of the announcement of the iPad. Rather than leave it unpublished I thought I’d tweak it a bit and publish now given we’re at the anniversary of the actual release of the iPad. Still seems appropriate.

On April 19, 2010 I got an email from Apple:

Thank you for your recent order of the magical and revolutionary iPad 3G.

We would like to confirm that your order will be shipped in late April as communicated at the time you placed your order. You will receive a confirmation notice when your order has shipped.

Woot! According to Wikipedia the first iPad was released on April 3, 2010. Like many Apple nerds, I remember watching the keynote when Steve Jobs introduced the original iPad on January 26, 2010. I ordered it the day it became available for order. I was far more interested in the iPad than the iPhone which I didn’t purchase until 2012.

My iPad arrived a few days later and, like many (3 million were sold in the first 80 days), I loved it. But in my case I was immediately curious about the potential for using the device for work. One of my first app purchases was Gusto which was one of the first coding and ftp apps. For an early gen iPad app it was surprisingly capable and I used it fairly often. Here’s an excerpt of my mini-review of the iPad which makes pretty clear how quickly the iPad became a part of my workflow:

So, I finally have internet access at the cabin thanks to a new iPad…

For now I’m making an effort to actually do the work on the iPad which means adapting my normal Mac-based workflow. I’m using Gusto for html editing and ftp. It’s a pretty good app and allows me to get most of the work done. The exception is image editing and uploading of images. For editing my Blogspot blog I’m using BlogPress which works pretty well. For web browsing on the iPad I’m using iCab Mobile rather than Apple’s Safari because iCab has a much better tab system which does a better job of caching files and is much easier to switch between tabs. For rss reading I’m using Reeder which is by far the best rss reader I’ve found for the iPad. NetNewsWire didn’t cut it.

Depending on how well this goes I may end up jailbreaking which will allow for me to share the iPad internet connection to my MacBook Pro for working the old fashioned way. We’ll see.

Yes I think this is a fantastically cool device. I can now easily update my blog, check email and update my clients’ websites all from home. The AT&T network here is the slower Edge network but it’s better than nothing. I’m averaging 40-70k a second, which is basically dial-up speeds. Plenty to take care of the basics though I look forward to the day we get 3G!

Ha. I can’t believe how long I got by with 70K internet. And when 3G came it wasn’t much faster but I was happy to have it! I did jailbreak the iPad for the hotspot function but the iPad remained an important part of my workflow.

By the time the iPad 2 was announced in March 2011, 15 million original iPads had been sold. It was with the iPad 2 that I saw many in my family become daily computer users. My granny, mom, aunts and an uncle all became regular users of email and the web with their first iPads. The iPad became the primary computer for many, if not most of my extended family.

I often get frustrated when I hear tech nerd podcasters and writers discuss the iPad because they make it all about themselves. I think they forget or omit the important fact that many, probably most, iPad users were and probably still are users for which a simple iPad is better. The iPad, as introduced by Apple, was a computer for any person, not just advanced users that were already served by desktop and laptop computers.

In the years since the introduction we’ve seen that tension stretch and pull at Apple as it has attempted to reconcile the simplicity that serves beginner users, young or old, and the more complex needs of power users like myself that gradually moved to adopt the iPad as primary computers. Ten years on and it seems to me that the pro-class users that finds voice in the tech media are getting what they’ve been clamoring for, a more powerful iPadOS that matches up to the power of the hardware. Even so, anecdotally, the more basic users (such as my above mentioned family) are still happily using their iPads. I suspect that this reflects Apple’s gradual evolution of features with the basic features still on top while more advanced features remain optional for those that want them.

My current set-up changes all the time. Sometimes used with a keyboard, mouse and monitor on a desk, other times outside on the porch or under a tree. It changes based on the task.

In recent days Apple released iPadOS 13.4, a notable update with a surprise (and much requested) feature, cursor support with mice and trackpads. With a generic Bluetooth mouse I’ve found that the new feature works pretty well and much better than the accessibility features introduced with iPadOS 13. I’ve ordered a Magic Trackpad 2 for use with the iPad which I expect will be useful for some projects.

One of the often repeated questions is if the iPad is going to get all these features, why not just use a Mac? Or was Apple wrong with it’s approach as it seems to be moving the device closer to Microsoft’s approach with the Surface. I think the answer is pretty simple. The iPad is still a tablet first. That’s all that really needs to be said. On a fundamental level, any user can pick up the iPad and do everything they’ve been doing for the past 10 years using their fingers. It’s still a touch first device.

For those that want to do more we have more advanced features ranging from multitasking to multiple instances of the same app to added input options via the Pencil and now a mouse and trackpad. None of these features are required to use an iPad but they are now there for those of us that want them.

I think this is the real strength of the iPad is this flexibility of form factor. For my aunt it is still just a big iPhone, a bigger slab of glass that she can use by tapping with her fingers. It’s still easy for her to send an email, browse the web, send a message, save a photo or play a game. She does these things everyday and has for 10 years. When she ordered the very first iPad she also got the keyboard Apple made for it but she never used it. She wanted the big iPhone, a tablet that was easy to use.

On the other hand I bought and used that keyboard. And many Bluetooth keyboards in various shapes and sizes since. I still use the iPad as a tablet and appreciate that I can do so. But I also use it with a keyboard and sometimes attach it to an external monitor and now I’m also using a mouse with it. Not all the time, but some of the time. When the Magic Trackpad arrives this week I’m sure I’ll use it most days that I use my iPad for certain tasks. Other times it will sit on a desk.

The first 10 years of the iPad has been a hardware and software evolution as will it’s next 10 years. I suspect that going forward it will retain the surface-level simplicity as it’s depth of power-user features increase. I’m looking forward to where Apple takes the iPad and have little doubt that it will continue to serve a wide variety of users in the future. On a personal note, I’ll happily continue to use the iPad everyday whether I’m holding it in my hands, using it in a stand with an external keyboard and trackpad or attached to the Smart Keyboard Portfolio. The iPad is still the personal computer I prefer to use for work and fun.