Tag Archives: Workflow

iPad Journal: Setting up a new website

I keep forgetting that the iPad is only meant for watching movies and reading websites! While I did use the Mac today to do a bit of revision on an annual report with InDesign most of my time was spent on the iPad:

  1. Set-up a new website for Revival Trade and Coffee Company. This entailed purchasing domain, configuring account, setting up files on server, creating and editing raw code on html and CSS files using Coda. Image optimization via Workflow. Various file transfers to and from local Mac with Transmit.
  2. Used Transmit to retrieve a pdf from a server then marked it up for review by a client.
  3. Updated a website with new pdf content which was converted to jpg and web optimized.
  4. Converted another pdf to web optimized jpg for client use on social media.

iPad Journal: Workflow improvements!

A new and very helpful feature of Workflow: Convert PDF to Image

A new and very helpful feature of Workflow: Convert PDF to Image

Every Apple nerd knows by now that Apple purchased Workflow a few days ago. The app was updated and within hours an image was all over Twitter. While most people were jumping to the conclusion that Apple was up to no good I was trying to read what was under the bottom red line of the bottom box: "Added support for converting PDFs to images". Here's the image:

I'm not a power user of Workflow but there are a couple of things I'm doing with it. Most important for me is being able to resize an image for sharing on the web and then sending it via email or saving it do DropBox and my iPad file store for my Coda website projects. I wrote a few months ago about creating a nifty Workflow that does all of this and no doubt it saves me time.

Often times though I'm starting with Pages documents or PDF files using the Share Sheet to send to the Graphic app as a go between from PDF to my Workflow for images. Not a big deal but it is an extra step and a couple of extra touches to share from Graphic as an image to my Workflow. But now? Well, now I can send a pdf from an email straight to Workflow. I touch the screen a couple times to set the size and the save location. Done. What was already easy is even easier now. It took me a whopping two minutes to open Workflow and create the new workflow to convert a pdf to image with an option to crop. Thanks to recent additions to Workflow I can then just call up my "Resize and act on image" which is a workflow that calls up other workflows to continue the process offering to work from a file or clipboard then, resizing and then presenting options to email or send via Transmit and/or DropBox.

Lately I've been doing some volunteer work for our local rural library which has entailed a series of posters which I design in Pages and then send out as pdfs for printing and as images for the web. Here again, I can skip the step of sending the pdf to Graphic and just go straight to Workflow.

I don't know what Workflow does to convert from pdf to jpg or what it's doing in the resizing process but I can say that I end up with an image that is on par in quality and file size to what I would get with Photoshop via Save to web. The difference is that with iPad and Workflow I simply tap to guide the process. There is practically no time involved, very little mental effort.

By comparison, on the Mac I'm jumping from Apple Mail to Photoshop to Finder to Transmit or Coda. It's not difficult but it does require more mental effort and more clicking. It's not a huge difference but there is more friction on the Mac largely because the Finder and multiple apps and thus more windows are more complicated to navigate. In short, the "power user" features of the Mac are also what can get in the way.

I suspect that most people that are Mac-based would tell you that it would be easier to do this on a Mac, that using an iPad requires hoops and extra work, extra effort. I've written about this before, I think it's simply a matter of taking the time to become comfortable and familiar with iOS something most long-time Mac users never do.

But wait, am I cheating? I'm comparing one process which is automated in iPad to one which is manual on the Mac. Why not write a script on the Mac? I tried Automator back in the day. It never stuck. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Maybe this is all very easy to do via Automator? No doubt if I worked through the process manually using the Share Sheet from Mail or Pages to send files to Graphic to then send to Transmit it would be a more comparable process and number of clicks and mental friction. Maybe. But I can say that because I've gotten comfortable with the iOS way of doing things I find the Share Sheet process incredibly easy and one which feels easier than the Mac.

I don't know what the future holds for Workflow but I do know that even if I never use it for anything but this one series of tasks it will have been worth it for me. Now that I have made good use of this one Workflow I'll be paying more attention to other possibilities based on the tasks I need to do.

iPad Journal: Weekly Links

Lots of interesting iPad related news this week. Well, actually, two very notable things.

  1. Apple purchased the Workflow app and the 3 developers of the app will be joining Apple. The app itself will (for now) remain in the App Store but is now free.
  2. Apple released new iPads. Not the updated iPads Pro everyone was expecting. Nope. Even better. They did something no one was expecting: they released a new budget priced iPad simply called iPad.

The news on the Workflow first came via Matthew Panzarino:

Apple has acquired Workflow, a powerful automation tool for iPad and iPhone

Of course, Federico had something to say about it (along with every other Apple nerd I follow on Twitter):

At this stage, it’s not clear what Apple’s plans for Workflow in the long term might be. I have a few theories, but this isn’t the time to speculate. I’ll say this, though: Workflow has been the driving force behind my decision to embrace the iPad as my primary computer. Workflow is a shining example of the power of automation combined with user creativity and its underlying mission has always been clear: to allow anyone to improve how iOS can get things done for them in a better, faster, more flexible way. Workflow is the modern bicycle for the mind. There’s nothing else like it.

Ben Brooks has a few interesting points regarding Wednesday’s acquisition: Apple’s New Workflow.

Like many, Ben speculates about the different ways Apple could go with the app. It’s an unknown at this point and for many like Federico who have made the iPad a primary device the app has become central to their working day. I don’t use the app much but would like to use it more. I have a couple of Workflows that I do use on a semi regular basis and in those cases I really appreciate the app. I’d like to use it more and I can see the potential. Time will tell.

Regarding that second bit of news, a new, cheaper iPad to take the place of the Air 2 in the line-up. I love that the rumors had it all wrong. Not that I doubt that eventually we’ll see updates to the Pro line. In fact, I’m really looking forward to that as I’m planning to add a 12.9″ Pro to my device roster. We’re too far into the cycle to purchase the current 12.9 so I’m waiting. But here’s the thing, I’m not in a hurry. Yes, I’m excited and will buy the first day they are available. But really, this iPad Air 2 is fantastic and is plenty fast for my daily work. I’m looking forward to a bigger screen for multi-tasking. That’s my main driver. But, back to the point of the new iPad. I think it’s fantastic.

I like the new, easier to understand, cleaner naming: iPad Mini, iPad, iPad Pro. And that lower price is an excellent move. It will entice people like my parents who have been holding onto their iPad 4. Just a week ago my mom was here on a visit and pointed out that she was out of storage and asked what she could do. I didn’t realize but her iPad 4 only has 16GB of storage. If it weren’t for that she could go on for another couple of years. She has no complaints about the performance. But now she can no longer save images and videos of her grandkids. Same goes for my dad. I told them last week they could get refurb iPad Air 2s or new ones but that they might want to wait a week. They waited and now they can get the new iPad, with a faster processor, for less. It’s a great upgrade for them. No doubt these iPads will be great for many who are still clinging to older iPads as well as for schools. Jason Snell, waiting for Macworld: Lower the price, expand the market:

But this isn’t a product Apple made to excite people on features. It’s made to compete on price, and Apple competed on price by building a new iPad on the base of the iPad Air, with its cheaper screen, cameras, and other components.

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about how Apple has stood by as Chromebooks have become incredibly successful in the education market. It’s hard not to see the new iPad as Apple’s direct reaction to those challenges. At $329 (actually less than that, due to education discounts), the iPad is at least in the ballpark with Chromebooks, especially nicer touchscreen models.

Over at ASYMCO, Horace has a great post on iPad Opitcs. It’s not about the cameras in the iPad, it’s about the visuals of graphs that seem to depict an iPad in decline which has, of course, been a topic of concern the past couple of years. He argues, as many have, that use of the iPad is not in decline at all but that purchasing reflects a durable product with reported high customer satisfaction and longer replacement cycles:

Taking into account that the iPad has a large, stable, engaged and loyal user base that continues to expand and find new uses the optically bad sales data needs an explanation. The simplest explanation is probably the best: iPads remain in use far longer than phones, and perhaps even longer than some computers.

Anecdotally we can see evidence for this. Few iPads are replaced every two years the way phones are. They are not tied to service contracts or subsidized. They are also less likely to be damaged during usage as phones are dropped and banged-up. iPads are more stationary or carried in protected containers. Phones are in pockets, iPads are in bags.

So iPads are longer-lived products and it’s perfectly reasonable that people who have them keep using them and more people are joining them but slowly. Note also that the decline in sales seems to be flattening out and perhaps might show stabilization.

I completely agree as I see this very thing happening in my own family as evidenced by parents using iPad 4s with 16GB of storage!

Unrelated to new iPads or Workflow, Federico continued his excellent IPad Diaries series this week with: Working with Zip Archives. It’s a very useful post if you’re someone that uses zip files. I don’t very often and when I do it’s usually at the end of an InDesign project when I’m at my Mac preparing to deliver a folder of files so it’s something I take care of via Mac. But it’s nice to know that if the need ever arises I can open a zip archive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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