- Export to ePub.
- Small businesses and nonprofits that want to cover their own document creation internally
- Students creating reports
- Nonprofit and community volunteers that need to creat newsletters, brochures, flyers, or other documents
- Creating ePubs
- Document design and layout that can be fully customized with no limits on graphic elements or text
- Management of large documents with many layers and assets
- Documents intended for printing that requires industry standard output such as printers marks with bleeds.
- Documents in Pages lack the option for "master pages". It is possible to have a page template which can have elements added that will appear across the document but it's far more limited.
- While Pages has built in snapping for objects on a page it lacks the option to add other guides to pages. Affinity Publisher allows for adding unlimited guides for flexible design of columns or other elements that will be snapped to as a document is put together. A less flexible but helpful work around in Pages is to use the more basic page template to set-up various invisible lines/boxes that can be used similarly.
- Document set-up in Pages also lacks options such as bleed and then, when exporting, options such as printers marks crop marks.
- Effects are far more limited in Pages. In fact, there are only two, reflection and shadow and they can only be applied at the block level. So, for example, a block of text as opposed to smaller level of elements like a single letter or word.
- Layers of objects in a Pages document can become cumbersome with larger documents. Affinity provides per page layering that is easier to manage with large documents.
- Pages is free!
- While simplicity limits the potential results to some degree, it is easier to learn for new users.
- When learning Pages users are also becoming familiar with similar tools and interface elements found in the other iWork apps, Numbers and Keynote
- Pages works well with other iWork apps and Apple apps generally. Need to add a photo? You can drag a photo from the Files app or add it from the toolbar.
- Pages comes with a variety of ready-to-use, well designed templates for newer users.
- Tables are much easier to set up and modify in Pages. Need a table with calculations? Just copy and paste in a table from Numbers. Charts are also easy to set-up in Pages.
- Interesting multimedia options for documents that won't be printed.
- Editable options for sharing to other users via built in collaboration tools for other Apple device users, Pages in iCloud or export to Word.
- Though this document is being created using the Page Layout option which is more freeform offering a blank canvas, there is also an option to start with a basic word processing document which makes getting started easier for that kind of document.
- Excellent visual design and function. I really like the defaults but if want to change the font, font size, font spacing or justification, it's all easily done from an always visible button in the top right of the article viewer. Nice! But Reeder does offer this as well.
- Full, reliable keyboard navigation with the arrow keys. Works in 3 panes, works in 2 panes. And keyboard shortcuts for everything I need. Exactly what I wanted.
- Customizable smart folders. This is the feature that the others don't have and one I've long wanted: saved searches. It's fantastic. This is what makes the purchase worth it. I've set up two such searches and in the next few days I expect to set up quite a few more.
- Double tap the Safari icon in the dock or tap and hold then select Show all Windows.
- If you’re using a Magic Keyboard (or another keyboard with the globe key) use the globe and down arrow shortcut.
- Look in the sidebar of recent apps on the left, tap or click the Safari icon (if it’s visible in one of the 4 spaces).
- Activate multitasking and tap the Safari icon anywhere you see it amongst your open apps.
- Files: More customizable tool bar, more complete indexing of file contents for better search results, more column options in list view
- Improved or added support for smart lists, saved searches in apps like Files, Mail, Notes, Reminders, Contacts
- Improved Safari bringing it ever closer to the full desktop experience
- Improvements for Stage Manager and multitasking
- Improvements to virtual memory and background tasks for apps like Final Cut Pro
- While Pages, Numbers and Keynote are all excellent apps, there's more to do to bring them fully in-line with the Mac apps
- As the new app in the Apple ecosystem, Freeform could use some big improvements. This app should really shine on the iPad.
- FCP: To start I'd expect to have the above mentioned missing features addressed: round tripping to and from the Mac, editing from external storage
- Xcode. I'd guess that in 2023 Swift Playgrounds will again be improved but that we'll also see Xcode for iPad. First to what will be described as Xcode lite and then to something closer to the full version.
- Improved Lock Screen that will bring last year's iPhone Lock Screen improvements to the iPad
- Improved widgets, perhaps with new options for interaction
- iCloud Pro?
- More sharing, collaboration and development of the iCloud and app ecosystem into a more complete social network.
- Whatever is happening with the headset I'd expect Apple to market it as the new TV. Talking to family members that all have iPhones, I've recently become more aware of their media consumption habits. It's more individualistic than I realized. It occurs to me that the long-term vision of the headset might simply be the new TV: Movies, shows, sports and as a general purpose computer. I'd speculate that Apple hopes that in 5 years homes with iPhone users will have 1 or more headsets that have replaced flatscreen tvs.
- That FCP does not allow editing off of an external SSD is true but it's a limitation of FCP. LumaFusion and DaVinci Resolve both have this feature
- The lack of some keyboard shortcuts in FCP has nothing to do with iPadOS
- The interaction of FCP with Stage Manager is critiqued but again, this is how Apple has implemented FCP. I've not used DaVinci Resolve but LumaFusion has no problem with Stage Manager on the iPad screen or full screen on an external screen. It's excellent.
- Round-tripping a FCP project from iPad to Mac and back. Again, this is likely a limitation of FCP not iPadOS.
- A general collection point for miscellaneous, often short lived text that might also include an attached pdf, scan, or photo. For a good long while Apple's Notes app has served this purpose and will continue to do so. While some report problems with iCloud synching it's never been a serious problem for me. So, I'll stick to that for those kinds of notes. I've currently got just under 500 of these.
- Website coding and management
- Podcast transcripts
- Blogging and journaling. This is where I go when I intend to write something that will likely end up on one of my two blogs. This is also a space where I'll only use an app that is based on distinct text files that's capable of syncing via iCloud. All of my blogging is done in Markdown and any Markdown editor can open up a folder of files. Very nice for trying different apps and for easy backing up.
- Textastic - My primary tool for managing client websites: editing html files and uploading those to various servers.
- Apple Notes - My general go to for quick notes, shared notes or notes that might have a pdf attached.
- Notebooks - The newest addition and my current primary for markdown files. More details below!
- iA Writer - In the past this has served as my primary markdown editor for blogs and podcast transcripts. The only markdown app on iPadOS that also has a built in publish to WordPress and Micro.blog.
- Taio - Another excellent, more recent markdown editor that I've been trying out. Added support for tags and wiki style links. I'd been using this for most of 2021 as it's a well built native app, often updated and supports iPadOS features. Interacts well with Shortcuts for receiving Safari content and sending to Micro.Blog.
- Obsidian - This one has gotten a lot of attention the past year. Very powerful, lots of plugins and offers wiki style links for creating digital gardens. This one does offer publishing via plugins. Something about the UI of Obsidian bothers me. It's not a bad looking app, it just seems off regardless of the theme I try.
- 1Writer - Like iA Writer this one's been around a long time and has similar features to both iA Writer and Taio. An excellent app but my least used of the top five.
- Drafts - Used by a lot of nerds to capture text and then push to other apps. Been around a very long time. I don't use Drafts for much because it does not work with individual text files in iCloud but rather keeps it's files in it's own, siloed database. It does have a built-in audio transcription feature which is what I use it for these days.
- Byword - My introduction to markdown was Byword. An excellent app but not updated in two years. Publishes to WordPress.
- Notebooks does more with with pdfs. Specifically, pdfs can be added to Notebooks and their content is indexed and searchable.
- In addition to plain text and markdown, Notebooks also does rich text formatting stored as html.
- Sketches, voice memos, scans/photos, web page bookmarks or full webpage archive imports.
- Tasks, reminders
- Notebooks even allows "importing" of other files for preview and will point to original for opening: Apple's Pages, Numbers or Microsoft Word
Experimental iPad Configurations
Before I dive into the discussion of my ongoing experimentation with iPad modularity I think it would be helpful to provide a description of the physical space and context of my iPad use.
I work from a 200 sq ft tiny house which I share with 2 dogs and a cat. Over the past 15 years most of my work time is either in this small space or outside on a porch. In the house only about 30% of my work is at a desk, mostly it's done reclining on a futon. Those may seem like simple options but as I live on my own I have the freedom to reconfigure the small space fairly often. And even more so, within the space, I reconfigure the iPad arrangement constantly. This, in fact, is why I've come to love the iPad so much.
With a traditional laptop or desktop I have a screen or screens, keyboard, mouse and/or trackpad as the base configuration. But at a minimum the traditional computer must have the keyboard and pointing device. And of course with a laptop that keyboard and trackpad are not removable which is why I sold my MacBook Pro in 2017. Using it actually frustrated me because I came to dislike the fact that the keyboard was permanent.
I still marvel at the fact that the iPad, in its base configuration, seems like such a simple object. Just a rectangle of glass and aluminum. And though I can use it in this simple form I rarely do. The iPad is the core building block which, in my case, is always being used with at least one other component.
A 13" iPad Pro is not heavy but compared to its smaller counterparts it's less a hand held tablet device. Yes, it can be held in the hand and it can be used in portrait mode. But for me, the most likely, most natural pattern of use and function is in landscape mode, standing up on its own with the addition of a stand of some sort. But often with no keyboard. So, yes, still very much a tablet, just not a hand held tablet.
The delight of this device and form factor is best described in terms of nearly unlimited depth of variation and experimentation. This happens in two ways. The arrangement of the device in physical space as well as my interactions with the device via screen or a variation of input devices.
I'll note the possibility that my experiments are, perhaps, sometimes a bit off the wall but I enjoy trying out arrangements with keyboards and accessories that were not necessarily intended. I also enjoy customizing my space. So, for example, in my tiny house I often add and rearrange shelving near desks, my futon, and anywhere I might work or lounge with the iPad. This means that walls get shelving for the purpose of a standing desk. Other walls just get shelves solely for holding an iPad near a desk or extra display.
I should note too that because I've added an inner wall of reclaimed, rustic wood I don't hesitate to move planks of wood to accommodate shelving or anchors for shelves. It's a freedom others in more conventional housing may not have.
In some ways I treat the interior of the house as one of my reconfigurable building blocks that I arrange to suite my current comfort, thoughts and needs for a workspace. I move around a lot for a change of view and posture.
Let's have a look.
Starting off with the first iPad in the Keyboard Dock.
Pages and Publisher on the iPad Compared Pt 2
This story is available as a pdf download.
For the first few years of my switch to the iPad I relied heavily on Apple’s Pages app for many of my document layout projects. It’s a fairly powerful app and in most cases was easily capable in creating the newsletters and annual reports I often create for clients. When clients needed printers marks, bleed or other features I fell back to Adobe Indesign, then, later, Affinity Publisher, both on the Mac. In the fall of 2022 Serif released Affinity Publisher for iPad and that’s now my go to for all of my design and layout work. There are only two exceptions! First, projects for clients that require delivery of a Word or Pages file. Second, projects that require delivery of an ePub. Though this hasn’t come up for me yet it’s worth noting that Publisher does not yet support export to ePub but Pages does.
I continue to recommend Pages for people that need a more general use word processor and layout application. It’s a fantastic application that Apple is likely to support for many years to come.
Why Affinity Publisher?
Simply put Publisher offers nearly everything I need and want for designing documents on the iPad. No app is perfect but Publisher is excellent and a real pleasure to use.
Before I dig in to everything I like about the app I’m going to tackle the one current problem I have with the app: It’s not yet optimized for Stage Manager and external display support. Serif states that they do not support Stage Manager. But in truth it actually works pretty well with Stage manager. What it does not do is support the many different resizing options of a supported Stage Manager app. But I can use it as a floating window and have other windows under or on top of it. Where this is most useful is having Files and an app like Notes or Word with text sent by a client. This allows me to easily refer to those other apps for text or images in the Files app for adding to the document.
What does not work is using Publisher on an external display. While I can technically put it on an external display and use it but the right side toolbar disappears making the app nearly useless. So, for now, if I want extra space for files and reference notes/text I can connect to an external display and keep those other windows there while I work with Publisher on the iPad screen. And really, that’s an excellent experience. I don’t need to have the Publisher on the larger screen.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s jump into the good stuff!
Before Affinity Publisher there was InDesign
I started with InDesign with the first version back around 1999. I used it fairly regularly until 2019 when Affinity Publisher for Mac was released at which point I transitioned entirely to Affinity apps. I used Publisher on the Mac alongside of Pages on the iPad to cover all of my document design work. Not long after releasing Publisher for Mac, Serif announced that they would eventually bring it to the iPad and three years later they delivered.
As with all of the Affinity apps on the iPad (and in sharp contrast to Adobe), these apps are the full versions. It’s worth noting too that Publisher is best used with the other two Affinity apps, Photo and Designer installed. Publisher has a feature called Studio Link which, assuming the other two apps are installed, allows the user to simply change “Persona” from Publisher to Photo or Designer. It’s seamless and there’s no launching of another app. Rather, the Publisher interface changes to the toolbars of the other app. So, for example, when I recently needed to edit a photo provided by a client I just tapped the photo to select the image and then tapped to the Photo Persona to edit the photo. When finished I tapped back to Publisher to carry on with the layout. The same can be done when creating or editing more complicated vector objects by tapping over to Designer Persona.
Okay, time to dig into some of the comparison points between Affinity Publisher And Apple’s Pages.
While Pages is free, Publisher for iPad is $20. It’s a one time purchase rather than a subscription. But really, to take full advantage, the other two Affinity Apps should be purchased as well, same price. So $60. There’s a bundle price for a Universal license for all apps, all platforms (Mac, Windows, iPad) of around $165.
This is big. As mentioned earlier, with Studio Link and all three apps installed, I have a design and layout tool that has, thus far, seemed unlimited. There are many features I’ve not used yet. Publisher alone is a very powerful program, add into it the features of the other two apps and, well, I suspect there are many features I will never use. This is a good thing. It just means that the apps cover a very expansive set of methods, use cases and so on for many different users and scenarios.
Vectors and Text
A part of what’s so impressive about Publisher is that while I can tap into the other two apps as needed Publisher itself has a very impressive toolset on it’s own. This is especially true of the text and vector tool sets which allows for the creation of elements like complex curves, shapes, and text on curves. Perhaps I’m designing a brochure that includes a map for a park and trail with various points of interest. I can easily do this within Publisher. If I reach the limits of what Publisher can do then I just change over to the Designer Persona.
While Pages allows for layering of objects, a large document with many objects can get unwieldy to manage as there’s no indicator of where objects/layers are in relation to one another. Publisher has page-by-page layers all of which are visible in the layers sidebar - much easier to keep track of everything!
Bleeds, Printers Marks, Guides
These are all features considered essential in professional page layout and Publisher has them, Pages does not. Bleeds can be added anytime in the Document Set-up screen. Printers Marks are an option when exporting. Pages has alignment options to help snap objects but does not allow for creating custom guides in a document.
Zoom in, Zoom out
This isn’t anything special in the realm of page layout apps but Pages is limited in what it allows in terms of the level of zoom it offers, even more so if Stage Manager is being used. And it’s a limitation I often bumped into when working on a document.
Publisher allows for zooming as far out or in as desired. I’m not sure if there’s a limit. Very fluid and fast, helpful when working on small details or when wanting to zoom out for wide view of a page.
Again, this isn’t all that special for page layout applications but Pages lacks most of the options that might be expected. Bevel/Emboss, outline, inner and outer shadows, glow, Gaussian blur are some of the possible effects and of course each effect has a variety of variables that can be adjusted for each.
Built in access to stock photo libraries
Publisher includes built in access to Pixabay and Pexels stock photos libraries. On Pixabay this includes vector images as well. Handy in my use case for infographics when doing annual reports and newsletters.
Add images and vectors to an Assets library for reuse in a document or between documents. While there is a small library of assets included with Designer I often will search Apple’s Pages included vector art and copy those over as needed (bike on left comes from Pages). Or, mentioned above, vectors are available for download via Pixabay. If I can’t find what I want I can make my own.
Affinity also includes it’s own Font Manager. Install a font in Publisher directly via the settings in the app. It’s much easier than going through a third party using the Settings App to download profiles. The benefit of that method is that installed fonts are available system wide. But as I’m doing almost all of my design work in Affinity apps it’s not an issue. Also, install a font in one Affinity app and it’s available in the other two Affinity apps.
Publisher has space outside of the document for storing objects. If I’m not sure where something is going or if it’s going to be used I can keep it off to either side of the document. It’s incredibly helpful and not something found on Pages. At this point I consider it a necessity.
Importing IDML and PDF
I’ve had several occasions to use the option to import IDML and pdf files. It’s a time saver and really helpful getting started when a client wants to start with a previous document template. Or, as with a recent annual report, a client provided numerous pdf infographics several of which needed minor edits. I was able to do the editing right in Publisher within the larger document.
In direct comparison to Pages there are two missing features that stand out:
There’s no work around for the first but it’s not been a problem for me as I’ve never had the need to export to ePub. In the second case, charts, the work around would be to set-up a table and chart in Apple’s Numbers app and copy paste. It’s not ideal as it’s pasted as in image but it does work.
iPad users are well taken care of in the category of document layout. Pages is very powerful and fairly easy to learn. It is a great app to get started with but it’s not a basic application. Over the past few years, Pages has really matured into an app capable handling many of the projects I’ve needed to do. But when compared to a dedicated document design and layout app like Publisher, Pages does lack some of the options. I’ve not covered all of the differences here but have tried to mention some of the more notable examples.
Some example use cases for Pages:
Use cases for Affinity Publisher
Publisher is an advanced app for doing practically any kind of document design project. It takes more time to learn but if you’ve had experience with Adobe applications you’ll likely learn Publisher and the other Affinity apps fairly quickly. The tool set and tool options found in Publisher go far beyond what I’ve covered here.
Pages and Affinity Publisher on the iPad Compared Part 1
I've been using Pages since the first version available on the Mac many years ago. And of course I used the first version that was available on the iPad from day one. In the years since the app has gone through many changes as Apple worked to bring compatibility between the iWork apps on the two platforms which began with the Pages 1.7 on iOS and on the Mac, version 4.3 in 2012. But the big change in 2013 with an overhauled Pages 5.0 on the Mac. This new version on the Mac was a step back in features and templates as it was brought inline with the upgraded iOS version of Pages.
Gradually features were added back in as Pages across the platforms were improved year to year. It's been 10 years since that major re-write and while the Mac version of Pages of 2023 is still different from the version of 2013 it is far more capable and the app across platforms is much closer to feature-for-feature parity.
Pages on the iPad
Pages is an excellent app for general purpose word processing and document layout. For students, businesses, organizations, Pages is a feature rich, capable app that's fairly easy to learn and use. Brochures, posters, flyers, newsletters, annual reports, research papers are all easily created with Pages. The app can export to Word, PDF, ePub as well as several other formats.
Over the years I've relied on Pages for a lot of my work with clients that required a pdf or Word document as the final product. Until Serif released Affinity Publisher in the fall of 2022 Pages was usually the app I used
Keeping in mind that Pages is free and intended for a general audience, ie, anyone that purchases an Apple device, I'd like to do a basic comparison to Affinity Publisher on the iPad. This is from the perspective of a more advanced Pages user but with an awareness that the app is not just for advanced users.
Pages - The misses
While I generally find the user interface and features of Pages to be a good balance for a large range of users, there are a few aspects of the design that I think could be improved. In addition, there are also a few features that still could be added to bring it closer to full parity with the Mac.
Interface In terms of the Pages interface, the most notable problem I have is the palette of formatting controls. On narrow displays formatting controls are displayed as a dropdown window that will disappear to make room for content on the page.
This generally makes sense on a narrow window when it is more necessary but I'd suggest it's important to only force the dropdown when it's necessary. Why? Well, because it's harder to use because it takes more tapping/clicking. Every time I tap or click in a document the format options dropdown disappears requiring me to click again to reactivate it. This adds up to lots of extra tapping/clicking.
On the large 13" iPad there are many times I'd prefer to have a more permanent sidebar for the formatting options. The sidebar is available when the app is full screen or nearly full screen. I'd like to have a preference or the ability to pin the formatting options as a more permanent sidebar.
And on an external display, well, it actually feels broken. If I'm using an external 27" display I only get the sidebar when I'm in full screen mode. If I have a Pages window set as a floating window that takes up any other portion of screen, even if stretched across 24", I'm forced to use the dropdown formatting window. That's huge waste of space on a big screen.
First, I'll note at least one tool that's missing on the iPad version of Pages which is present on the Mac: the pen tool for drawing complex, multi-point lines and shapes.
Now, comparing to Affinity, we begin to see how Publisher is an advanced application for a more specific, professional publishing and design audience. The reason for the smaller, more dense tool palette in Affinity Apps is because there are far more tools and options. Just as one example, text spacing. While Pages has many of the most important basic options such as finely adjustable line spacing and spacing before and after paragraphs, Affinity Publisher has all the very fine-grained controls expected of full publishing apps. While Pages has had many new features added over the years it still lacks options when compared to an app like Publisher. Really, there are far too many to list here. But I will note a small sample:
That's just a small sample of what features found in Publisher but lacking in Pages. And they are significant. And yet, Pages is still quite capable. Let's move on to the features Pages does have that make it worth considering.
Pages - The hits
So, what does Pages on the iPad have going for it?
For people that are in a general use setting, Pages as a part of the larger iWork suite of apps makes a lot of sense. It's easier to get started for more novice users who might just need basic word processing or someone that needs to put together their first newsletter for a community group they belong to. It's easy to work with using touch, Pencil, trackpad or mouse or some combination of those. As a simpler app the settings are more sparse than dedicated professional graphics design apps like Publisher and yet provide enough to allow users to accomplish a great deal without getting bogged down.
For more advanced users Pages is powerful enough that large and fairly complicated documents are possible. Documents can be laid out using free form, linked text boxes intermingled with charts, tables of static data or live calculated data. Adding photos, line art, shapes or even embedded video or scrollable photo galleries are all options for export to multi-media ePubs. I've only touched on a small sample of the features found in Pages and just a simple example of what's possible in terms of designing documents with Pages.
Because it's a free app there's no cost to try it out and if you need to create documents it's an excellent app to start with.
Working on a fun and hopefully helpful two-part article. The overall topic is a comparison of Apple Pages to Affinity Publisher. Though specific to the apps on the iPad it generalizes pretty well to the Mac.
Part one is centered from the perspective of Pages and I've written the post in Pages and designed it in Pages as a sort of 3 page example of what a user can do in terms of laying out a document with the app. I'll have that as a viewable/downloadable pdf.
The second part is written from the perspective of Affinity Publisher and will feature a very similar designed document that will highlight some of the additional features found int the Affinity app.
The goal is to help potential users see and understand the differences in terms of using the two apps as well as the potential results. Posting part one sometime today.
A return to the iPad Mini
For most of the past 6 years the vast majority of my computing has been with the 13" iPad Pro. Three years ago I bought an iPad Mini 5 primarily for reading and browsing. And it’s been perfect for that, especially books. So light and easy to hold.
In fact, I was so enamored with the small size and light weight of the Mini I found myself using it not just for reading but also writing and even some website updates. There was a 3 to 4 month period where I only used the larger iPad when I had projects that required multi page layout in Pages (newsletters, annual reports, etc) or design projects that required Affinity Designer. Otherwise I used the Mini which reminded me of the joy of the tablet experience of the original iPad.
Even more, there was something enjoyable about just how minimal the Mini form factor is when paired with an ultra thin, light keyboard like the Logitech Keys-to-Go. It is the ultimate portable form factor that is still large enough to be usable for my aging eyes. The two easily fit in the smallest of cases.
I gradually, unintentionally shifted back to the larger iPad Pro for most of my computing even when the larger device wasn’t optimal. Certainly the 13" screen is what I need to use when I’m working with Affinity Publisher or Designer. It’s also the iPad I tend to use for working with Numbers spreadsheets or updating websites because I’m likely to be referencing 2 or 3 apps at the same time for those tasks. The larger screen makes sense in those two scenarios.
But my habit has been to use it for everything and the large screen is overkill for most things. For all the talk in tech circles about multitasking and multi windows on the iPad, I usually just need one app, one window. And that one window usually doesn’t need to be a full 13". Of course it works but has me covering much more screen with trackpad or touch. And so I’ve taken to shrinking each app window via Stage Manager so that I have a smaller, centered window on the large screen. But that doesn’t actually help that much.
To put it another way, the larger iPad has been my laptop and the iPad mini my tablet but I’ve been using the laptop form factor for everything, including things that are best left to a smaller tablet.
So I paused and asked, what are my most used apps and how well do they work on the smaller screen of the iPad Mini? iA Writer, Textastic, Apple Notes, Mail, Safari, Mona for Mastodon and ReadKit for RSS are my most used apps and they all work very well in both portrait or landscape orientations on the smaller screen.
So, I’ve been making it a point to use the Mini these past few days. I’m leaving the larger iPad on my desk for the actual work related tasks that require the larger screen. For writing and blogging, browsing and simpler website updates I’m using the smaller, tablet-first iPad. I think it will make for a fun little shake-up of my daily routine.
I expect that with the slower processor and less memory (3GB vs 8GB) on the older Mini I’ll notice a few slowdowns when switching between certain apps. But thus far, it’s really not been a problem.
Thus far it’s been pretty smooth. And as expected, I’m really enjoying the ease of just lifting the iPad from the stand for hand held use when I’m not typing.
Warning: What lies ahead is a lot of rambling about nitpicky details that may bore anyone who is not me to tears. Proceed with caution.
My exploration of RSS apps seems never ending. I'm sure I'm not the only one who never seems to be able to find the perfect RSS app (the same is true of writing/notes apps). Years ago I used NetNewsWire on the Mac and it held for a very long time. Then as I spent more time on the iPad there were several apps that no longer around like Mr. Reader and likely others, the names of which escape me at the moment. At some point Reeder came along I used that for a long time.
But then came Apple News and while I only dabbled with it briefly it was long enough to realize that I preferred a magazine style grid. It seemed a better use of space. A full window of sheets appealed to me more than the column/pane based Reeder design that so many RSS apps seem stuck on. So I went searching for something similar.
I even revisited Flipboard which I'd tried years earlier. I really like the design of the app interface and page turning which is excellent on the touch screen of an iPad. And it's an interesting take on adding in social interactions to news with user created magazines, comments and as of this spring, integration with ActivityPub. I could almost see myself using it more. That said, the app is really lacking in font size customizations. In general a very small font is used and I've found no way to increase that size to a point that I would need it. There is a setting but it's largest size is still too small.
I found Newsify which I used for several months but over time some aspects of the app bothered me enough to keep looking. I came across News Explorer which I switched to and used for a while. It too offers a grid option but again, there were certain aspects of the app that bothered me over time. I use RSS apps a lot, perhaps too much. But I tend to get comfortable and familiar with them I inevitably discover those little nits that bother me. In some cases it's some aspect of the visual style, in other cases it's more about function such as how gestures or keyboard navigation work.
When NetNewsWire came back to the iPad I jumped back to give it a try. Something about the visual design didn't sit right with me so it didn't last long and I decided to try Reeder again. And amidst these jumps I also briefly tried others like lire, Unread, Fiery Feeds, Big News and Inoreader. Of this bunch Big News instantly reminded me of the Apple News design but it's a subscription app so I only tried it in the limited free mode for a brief period. For a while I also used the Feedly app as I was using Feedly as the back-end. More recently some apps have been offering iCloud sync as the back-end and I decided to try that instead of Feedly so that's another consideration. There are many feature options in this app category.
In recent months I'd again settled into Reeder. This time around with Reeder I decided to use it a bit differently. Rather than a large window with 3 panes: Folders of feeds, individual feeds and articles I tried it with just 2 panes, feeds and articles. Seems less a waste of space to hide the 1st pane of folders and only use it when needed. This was working for me until a few weeks ago when I started paying more attention to keyboard navigation. With the iPad I want the best possible touch gesture support but also keyboard navigation within and between panes and articles. Reeder does provide keyboard navigation but for whatever reason I have difficulty with it. It was something I'd overlooked for awhile but I can't easily, reliably move between the 2 primary panes back to the first pane of folders. At first I was trying this with arrows which is intuitively what I think to use. I discovered that the shortcut is p (previous) and n (next) and then space bar to select. I want to be able to use the arrow keys and ideally when I'm navigating these sources I'd like to actually be in the first pane.
So I thought I'd try NetNewsWire. It works perfectly for keyboard navigation with three panes. Exactly the way I'd want to do it with arrow keys but as I'd gotten in the habit of just using the two panes I gave that a try. No go. Like Reeder it does have navigation shortcuts, an and z to move up and down. At this point I just sorta laughed at myself for being so picky.
Okay then. Fine. I'll see if I can settle into Net News Wire and just use the three panes. Or try the a/Z shortcuts with 2 panes. It wasn't bad but it wasn't good. Like Reeder it does work but after a few days it still felt clumsy for me. And while NNW offers different themes for reading articles I was also not happy with the few available offerings. I could create my own, but from what I could find would have to do so from the Mac. So, okay, fine I thought, I'm back with NNW. Cool, it will be like years ago when I happily opened this app up every day. Yay for nostalgia! I was a few days into this when some heartless bastard in a thread somewhere mentioned ReadKit.
Me: Don't do it. Hey, brain, STFU. Just stick with NNW. You got this. You can do it.
Brain: Hey, I remember ReadKit. You actually tried it awhile back and liked it a lot.
M: Oh, really?
M: Well then, why am I not using it?
B: Cause it's a paid app and you're cheap.
M: Piss off. Okay. True enough. And NNW is free!
B: It is. But you really did like ReadKit. You thought it was purty as a flower.
M: I don't need purty.
B: Yes you do.
M: How much was it? Dammit.
I downloaded ReadKit. Again. I don't do subscriptions but it's available for one-time purchase of $10. That's not much but I'm cheap and enough $10 apps add up. There's a trial with a few features missing so I downloaded and set up a few feeds to give it a spin.
Sure is purty like a flower. Dammit.
I clawed my way back to NNW and lasted 2 whole days before I bought ReadKit. After several days I really do love ReadKit.As I wrote this I jumped back and forth to NNW and Reeder for closer comparison's. I could have gotten by with either of those. They're both excellent apps. I would have gotten used to the shortcuts for keyboard navigation.
Here's what I'm loving about ReadKit and one of these features is pretty fantastic.
What's missing? Only one thing stands out after a few days of use and I'm not going to miss it: iCloud sync. I'll mostly use it on my 13" iPad Pro. I will install the app on my iPhone and iPad mini and import the opml file to get started on each of those. But I'm not to worried about syncing read status. The app does support several backend services but I'm not using any at the moment. It's possible that, like the other apps, the longer I use it I'll find something but right off this just feels like a perfect fit.
In episode 176 of the iPad Pros podcast Chance Miller mentioned that when he’s using the iPad he misses TextExpander where he stores long text templates. While it’s possible to save text snippet shortcuts on the iPad they don’t retain line breaks. So any lengthy template of text will just result in a large block of text.
But there’s an easy work around: Shortcuts. Just set up a simple Shortcut for each text template you regularly use. While it can’t be formatted with rich text it will keep line breaks. And if you use Markdown you can, of course, add all of that for the formatting.
It’s just a two step Shortcut: Text > Copy Text to Clipboard. Give it a name you’ll remember, then use Siri to run it. With Siri’s new one word activation it’s quite fast to get your needed text then just paste. Or Command+Space and run from Spotlight then paste.
Not as easy as TextExpander but still pretty easy/fast.
Using the iPad with Stage Manager? Have a lot of Safari windows stacked up? Remember the different ways to activate App Expose to quickly pick the window you want:
Of course this works with any app but I suspect that for many people Safari is one that is most likely to have the most windows open.
The easy way to move Safari tabs on iPad into tab groups. Rather than individually long pressing tabs to move just drag and drop directly from the tab bar or use the tab overview. Multitouch tap and hold to select multiple tabs then drag into group in sidebar. Why haven’t I tried this before?
iPadOS 17: Improved file content indexing
For iPad users, it appears that with iPadOS 17 beta file contents are more thouroughly indexed and revealed in Files app search results than previously. Some of these were indexed before but some are new. I’m seeing results from text/html/markdown files in app folders for Notebooks, iA Writer and Textastic. Also content search results for pdfs, Numbers and Pages documents.
If you're using an M1 or M2 iPad with an external monitor you'll have noticed that the only audio available is that monitor. If there are no speakers or if the built in monitor speakers are lousy you have a couple choices for audio. Of course, AirPods are an option. Bluetooth to an audio speaker. If the monitor has an audio out you could plug in speakers. But HomePods are another option.
It might seem at first that this won't work. When using Music or the TV app, if you select HomePods from the AirPlay widget you'll get an error: "AirPlay is unavailable while an external display is connected."
The solution is a simple shortcut. Run this and you can play audio to your HomePods when connected to an external monitor. If you pause playback for for more than a few minutes you'll have to re-run it because audio will default back to the connected monitor.
Other benefits of using this Shortcut: It seems to connect a bit faster than using the built in AirPlay widget found in apps. When I use that widget in the Music or Podcast app it actually transfers "ownership" of the audio stream to the HomePods. So, really, it's not AirPlaying the stream from the iPad/iPhone to the HomePods but rather the HomePods become the new source device:
When using the Shortcut the iPad or iPhone remains the source device and pushes the audio to the HomePods:
Another benefit when using the Shortcut is bedtime playing of a podcast. By using the shortcut method I can set the sleep timer in the Podcast app from the device. This isn't an option when using the AirPlay widget.
Convert image or pdf, resize, save, rename and extract alt text with two taps
One of my regular tasks is updating the front page of our regional library website, either adding upcoming events or removing finished events. Our front page is a grid of event flyers with an expandable accordion under the flyer that contains a text description of the event, usually very similar to the flyer itself. A staff member emails the flyer with the accompanying text.
Previously my process was to have Mail and Textastic open side-by-side for easy copy/pasting. The attached flyer images are a mix of pdf, jpg or png. In the past I would have saved to Photos then selected them all and used a Shortcut to export to the website’s image folder in Files, converting them all to jpegs at a preset size and quality. Fairly quick and easy. I still had to rename the files and then I would proceed to copy the event text from the email and paste it into the html, manually copying or typing the name of image files into the html.
But in recent months I’ve added new steps to the shortcut. Now the shortcut will first process text in the clipboard, turning it into a variable, then it extracts the text of the flyer and adds it to the clipboard. Then the shortcut puts all the text together into a field which it copies to the clipboard. I’m not sure why I didn’t add these steps in earlier. This is the third revision of this shortcut, each time new steps have been added to streamline the process.
The only downside is that I can only do one image at a time which isn’t too bad as the typical email only has 2 to 4 such files. Overall I’m still saving far more time with this approach.
So, here’s how it flows from my perspective as a user: I select the text of an event in the email sent to me and copy it. Then I select the image or pdf in the message and select share then select the shortcut. The shortcut runs and brings Textastic to the forefront. I just scroll in my html document to where the new event text/photo is to be inserted then paste. Done! I still have to spend a minute there adding a couple of paragraph tags and a quick clean-up any errors in the text extraction but it works pretty well and the whole process only takes a few seconds after I paste.
So, while the original process was 6-8 minute back and forth between Mail and Textastic with bits of text editing, copy/pasting in Textastic, the new process is a text selection and copy, 2 trackpad taps in Mail then a paste. About 20 seconds.
Shortcuts is a fantastic timesaver for repetitive tasks and it’s an app I keep finding new ways to use.
I don’t often speculate about upcoming Apple announcements but I’m going to make an exception with this post. And it’s nothing complicated, just putting a few pieces together. Most of it is probably pretty obvious to folks who have been paying attention Apple news over recent months. Before I continue, for anyone not familiar with my blog, I’m a full-time, very satisfied iPad Pro user. I’m not someone who struggles with the iPad, not someone who longs for macOS on the iPad. For me, iPadOS sings and my interest is in seeing what Apple does to refine the iPad experience rather than any hope of a macOS to iPad face-plant, er, transplant.
May 29, 2023. We’re a week past the release of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad. Apple first announced the release on May 9th and it took everyone by surprise. It’s always fun when they can still surprise everyone! Boom. And, interesting that such a significant announcement is done by a press release a month before WWDC. For the most part the reviews have been very positive. The two most repeated critiques of FCP for iPad: No round tripping to and from the Mac and no editing off of external hard drives. But given this is the initial release, it seems reasonable to expect that these two features will be added before long.
We’re one week away from WWDC 2023. The rumors of a VR/AR headset have been buzzing for the past year. In recent months it’s been rumored that the headset would be running many of Apple’s apps in an iPad-like form. Many assume the headset is now a certainty that will be announced at WWDC 2023.
While much of the excitement about WWDC 2023 has centered on speculation about the headset, it’s OS and features, I’m curious about the connection that might exist between the headset and the iPad or, more specifically, the potential commonality between the two operating systems. Given the rumor that the headset will, essentially, be running iPad apps, this seems a relevant question to consider. Given the need for energy efficiency, it would make sense that the OS running the headset would be more like iOS or iPadOS than macOS. If true, well, then there is now a new category of hardware that runs on the iOS family.
Another rumor, discussed far less, is a larger iPad Pro, perhaps 15 or 16". With the release of FCP and Logic Pro for iPad, a larger iPad Pro would make a lot of sense. And of course with these new pro apps, it also starts to seem inevitable that Xcode for the iPad will be released. We’ve seen some big improvements to Swift Playgrounds in the past couple years but still no Xcode.
Last year we saw quite a few improvements to iPadOS and the stock iPad apps. Much of this was overshadowed by a few prominent pundits that disliked the implementation of Stage Manager. I’m not going to dwell on that other than to say that the negativity around the feature is greatly overblown. Though not what some wanted, many of us use it and actually like it. It’s certainly made my iPad experience much better, allowing me to use 3-4 apps at once. It’s been a real and measurable productivity boost for the work I do. At the very least, it is Apple’s first step towards an improved multitasking experience on the iPad.
But looking at the improvements brought to iPadOS over the past 2 to 3 years, we have an OS that is has steadily matured. The Files app has had many previously missing features added and is now fully functional, nearly on par with the Mac Finder. Stock apps like Notes, Mail, Safari, Reminders have all seen significant improvements.
Putting the puzzle pieces together If the rumors are true it would seem that Apple has also been developing the headset and its OS for awhile. For several years they’ve been publicly promoting Augmented Reality and LiDAR with new hardware and software features on the iPhone and iPad. Tim Cook has been outspoken of his support of AR during that time.
In a week Apple will begin to provide more details about where this journey is going and how they expect these devices to work together. Given previous years development of the larger Apple ecosystem, it seems likely that not much has been left to chance. Apple has a well thought out plan that it’s been following. It would seem a given that the time and energy put into the development of LiDAR and AR in iOS and iPadOS has been a part of the process of developing the OS and hardware for the headset.
Of particular interest to me: how will the features and technology put into the headset OS overlap or come back to iPadOS?
My expectations and hopes for the iPad in 2023 and 2024 is that Apple will continue to fill out and refine the OS and the default apps. I think most of this list is just an obvious continuation of what we’ve already seen.
What I’m hoping or expecting to see in terms of iPadOS and apps:
An iPad Pro 15 or 16". Along with this I’d hope/expect to see other iPad accessories as Apple broadens the iPad platform. A new version of the Magic Keyboard. The iPad Pro needs better battery life, I’m hoping we’ll see this in the form of a new Magic Keyboard with an integrated battery that can charge the iPad. I imagine the Brydge form factor but with more ports. I can imagine this combination being the iPad Studio. Larger iPad, FaceTime camera moved to the long side, M3, detachable Magic Keyboard that boosts the iPad to 20 hours of battery life. I’d expect it to have the same battery life as a MacBook Pro but weighing in a bit more as it would be 2 batteries. Also, maybe a redesigned Magic Keyboard for the current line of 13" iPad Pro and a new M3 13" iPad Pro.
In short I expect that Apple will double down on its commitment to the iPad platform: hardware, iPadOS, Pro apps and accessories.
Last, a few words on the larger Apple Ecosystem and the new headset as the new TV
Yet another installment of an “Apple pundit ignores the facts to write a clickbait story about the limitations of iPadOS”. It’s a bummer that they just make stuff up to fit their preferred narrative. Filipe Espósito over at 9to5Mac in his work of fiction, Final Cut for iPad highlights iPadOS limitations:
This week, Apple finally released Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad – two highly anticipated apps for professionals. While this is a step in the right direction, these apps highlight the limitations of iPadOS.
I tried using Final Cut for the iPad, but… I wasn’t expecting the iPad version to have all the features available on the Mac in version 1.0. However, the limitations go beyond what I was expecting. And some of these limitations are due to how iPadOS works.
The “limitations” he attributes to iPadOS:
Okay, background export of a movie. To some degree this is a limitation of FCP but also I suspect iPadOS. Certainly Apple made it a choice to not allow it. Using an M1 iPad Pro with 8 GB of memory it’s possible to do a background export with LumaFusion. I just did it. That said, it does fail if I try to do many other tasks with LumaFusion in the background the whole time. I can hop to Notes or Mail or Safari with no problem. But if I were to leave an export in the background and try to hop from Notes to Mail to Safari then back to the export it will have failed. I’d guess that an iPad with 16 GB of memory would do better. And I’d guess that more could be done with iPadOS to allow for apps to be given priority for such background tasks.
Espósito concludes, “And with all these limitations, I’ve given up using Final Cut on the iPad. I’m sure a lot of first-time video makers will have a great time using Final Cut on the iPad. But for those professional users, having a Mac is still the way to go. Hopefully, iPadOS 17 can put an end to some of these limitations.”
He seems to consider himself a “professional” but I would think a professional journalist would have more regard for the truth. Ignoring or distorting the facts to fit a narrative doesn’t make much of a case that one’s journalism is professional.
For at least a couple years the Apple pundit mantra has been “the iPad isn’t pro unless Apple brings its pro apps to it”. Well, Apple has begun that process last week with the announcement of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for iPad. As I expected the primarily Mac using pundits are moving the goal posts. Here’s one example that popped up today from Dan Moren in his Stay Foolish column at Macworld, Final Cut Pro changes everything and nothing about the iPad:
This past week, Apple once again took a step towards the idea of the iPad as the modern-day computer replacement with its long-awaited announcement of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the platform–but is it too little, too late?
“Is it too little, too late?” See, right off, it’s not enough. For long-time Mac users nothing Apple does with the iPad will ever make it explicitly a Mac and so the goal posts will always be shifting. Moren mentions Xcode as another missing pro app. In recent years Apple has added new features to Swift Playgrounds, making it a more capable app and I suspect that Apple will, eventually, bring Xcode to the iPad which will move the iPad closer to being complete. But that won’t be enough either.
Hopefully Apple will add the audio input/output features podcasters like Federico Viticci have been asking for. But that’s a very tiny group of users and while it will satisfy that particular need, again, it won’t be enough. The goal posts will move again and again.
Jumping right to the end of Moren’s article, he suggests an iPad that shifts over to being a Mac when connected to a keyboard:
The idea of a device that works as a Mac while connected to a keyboard and an iPad while detached might seem like an unholy Frankstein’s toaster fridge to some, but after 13 years of the iPad, I’d argue that people are pretty comfortable with going back and forth between two (or more) separate devices with different interfaces. Why not find a way to consolidate them?
This is really is what Mac users want. They want a touch screen Mac and evidence thus far seems to indicate that they’ll never be happy with iPadOS. Which is totally fine, it’s not for them. But perhaps they should just move along and be happy with their Macs. And yet, they continue to linger on the iPad. It’s almost as if their Macs are incomplete, not quite enough for them. But they seem stuck between devices that they’re not quite happy with.
What we’re all looking for, ultimately, is the right tool for the job.
Mac users contend that that tool is the Mac, that it is the more complete computer. My suggestion and hope for them is that they can just accept the Mac and move on. Be happy with your Mac. When you need a portable touch screen be happy with your iPhone. Or add in an iPad Mini for your content consumption. Not every device is for you.
I’ve written here many times about my gradual transition to being a full time iPad user. It was gradual and complete. I learned iPadOS and became comfortable with it. With each new iteration of iPadOS I’ve been more satisfied as new features were added. But throughout that time I’ve generally been satisfied, no, delighted by the iPad. I don’t spend my time longing for the iPad to have Mac features or to have it be a Mac. I wish the same for Mac users, that they can learn to be satisfied with what they have in the Mac and not spend so much time wishing for a different computer.
I’m generally not big on hot takes so gave myself a few days to consider before attempting a blog post. As for the news of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad, well, fantastic! Personally, I don’t do much video editing. I’ve currently got a personal/family project going in LumaFusion. My next project might be in FCP just for the fun of learning it. Way back around 2001 -2005 I spent some time doing video work and learned FCP but I’ve not had much use for it since then. I’m looking forward to giving it a go.
But to the larger question of the apps, the platform and the response thus far, as I’ve written about before the loudest complaints about the lack of Apple Pro apps for the iPad seems to come from Apple/tech focused pundits, podcasters, and YouTubers. Some in the first two categories have already admitted in their hot takes on the new release that the don’t actually use those two apps so… 🙄 I expect they’ll keep complaining about the lack of Xcode even though most of them also do not use that.
As for the Apple/tech YouTubers I predict that it will shake out like this: those that have very expensive FCP desktop set-ups will keep using those most of the time for most of their work. Why wouldn’t they if they already have invested so much in a desk-top based workflow? But many of the folks that prefer a mobile workflow away from the desk will try out FCP for iPad and many will use it, prefer it. And of course there will be those that loudly share how it’s not good enough or how it’s still held back by iPadOS. 🙄
Other categories of users: iPad first folks that have been happily using LumaFusion. Some of them will switch over to FCP but others will stay with LumaFusion because it allows editing projects using media from an external drive. LF is pretty feature rich and I suspect many of its users will remain with it.
Then there are the DaVinci Resolve users. It’s relatively new on iPad and I suspect it’s user base consists of folks that were/are also serious users of the desktop version of DaVinci Resolve. They’ll stay with DaVinci Resolve. And some are probably LumaFusion users that are trying out DR as an experiment. They’ll probably also try out FCP and some of them will end up switching. I’m guessing these folks are kind of up in the air at the moment.
FCP/Logic on the iPad don’t seem to be “lite” versions but full versions with a touch-adapted interface. Some features are missing from FCP like round-tripping and editing from files on an external drive will likely be added in an update. But also, these apps seem to be aimed at younger users that are focused on creating for social media like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube. I suspect that there will be some solid adoption there.
In it’s first promo video Apple is touting fast turn-around, quick production on the iPad using it as both camera and editor. For some this will be attractive.
But thinking about the Continuity camera feature that allows for an iPhone to be used with a Mac for live FaceTime calls, I can imagine a new feature with iOS 17 where such live video allows for capture from iPhone to an iPad running FCP. This would seem to be a pretty attractive feature in certain scenarios. But the point is this is just the first shoe to drop in FCP for iPad, new features will come and given Apple’s track record of ecosystem integration, I can imagine we can expect to see them offer up features like the above.
I’d guess it won’t be too long before we see a new version of FCP for Mac that further leverages the hardware ecosystem with round tripping from iPad to Mac and adding in the iPhone as a live camera feed for Mac FCP as well. Again, just my speculation.
I’m glad to see Apple deliver these apps if for no other reason then it might dampen some of the continued complaining from the primarily Mac using pundits. It also boosts the notion that Apple is committed to the iPad as a platform. Mac users not happy with the iPad should just move on. Those that want to use the iPad as their computer can continue doing so but with added assurance that Apple continues to take the iPad seriously.
A few related links of note:
iJustine actually had some hands on time: her video
Dylan Bates, a Final Cut Pro YouTuber offers his thoughts FCP for iPad. Not surprisingly, there were several FCP using YouTubers offering their takes based the above linked promo video and Apple’s website.
And Jason Snell at Six Colors offered his thoughts
As is common with many Apple nerds, I like to play with text apps. My primary purpose is blogging which has also served as a journal of sorts.
For quite a long time I used ByWord for this. Then Ulysses then iA Writer. iA Writer stuck longer than almost anything else. Then a brief dalliance with Obsidan, Taio, and Notebooks. I’ve spent the past few months with Notebooks which has served pretty well. Review here. The only problem there is that it continues to be somewhat wonky. It’s a great app but often feels buggy. So I’ve been using it as a partner with iA Writer. Where Notebooks shines is in adding images for blog posts. I can copy a single or multiple images from Photos then insert into a Notebooks draft. Not only does the app downsize from full quality but inserts each as a Markdown link. If I move the file to a folder it also moves the images to a corresponding sub folder. It works fantastically.
So, why mess with it if it’s working? Yesterday in the Mac Break Weekly podcast Andy Ihnatko recommended Day One for journaling. I’d never tried it. There’s a free option so I downloaded it. My thought being, hmm, perhaps I could have a private journal in addition to blogging? Okay, will try it. Then thought, hmmm, I could also use this for blogging. I always gravitate to blogging.
I spent an hour with it and loved it.
All except for the fact that using the arrow keys while writing/editing text does not move the cursor up or down, left or right, but navigates the files. Ugh. Well, that’s a show stopper. No setting I could find to change it. But so much to like about the app other than that. Edit to add that upon trying this again today, well, it works as expected. Unless it was something wonky with my keyboard I’ll have to say it was user error. 😬
The free version does have other limitations such as no sync between devices, only one image per post, only one journal. So, with these things in mind I started thinking again about Apple’s Notes app.
In the past I’d thought to try to make Notes work as a part of my blogging process. It didn’t quite take. So, this morning, I’ve spent a couple hours tinkering. I whipped up a Shortcut to create a new note with a template similar to the default Day One posts. Basically, just the date, weather and a default Journal hashtag. Also spent more time really looking at the organizing possibilities of Notes. It’s not that complicated but I’ve never given it a proper go.
Step two, then, was to set up some proper organization in Notes. A mix of folders and smart folders. I’d already tried tags which works well. So, I’ve added a few. I’d like to try the journaling thing as a sort of foundation or addition to the longstanding practice of blogging. In theory, I’d like the journal to contain everything the blogs have with additional private text. So, a dedicated Journal folder. Going forward most new notes will get tagged as Journal. For text that I intend to post to one of my two blogs, those will get additional tags appropriate to the blog. Initially I think everything will go into the Journal folder. If I want to see the blog posts on their own I’ll use a Smart Folder based on the tag. I can always move these later into actual folders if that’s the choice.
My tentative workflow will go something like this. Run a shortcut to start new Journal entries using the template. For blog items, I might just start a new note or, if I’m sharing a link from Safari as I often do I’ll use a Shortcut that converts the article to Markdown and creates a new note. What about blog posts with photos? Well, as it turns out, notes with images can be shared to Notebooks via the share sheet.
Any post, with or without a photo can be easily shared from Notes to Notebooks. So, once I’ve got a post ready for sharing I’ll just send it to Notebooks, hop over to iA Writer which has direct publishing to Micro.blog and Wordpress and which has access to my Notebooks folder. With a tap I’ve got the post open then another tap to publish. So, this workflow starts in Notes, ends in iA Writer and I have a copy in the Notes app as well as a discrete Markdown file in iCloud. Exactly what I want.
Downsides? Notes does not have built-in support of Markdown. Apps that do have that support provide convenient one-click formatting or keyboard shortcuts. But it's not all that hard to type the Markdown code when needed as it's designed to be simple. Notes tries to do fancy preview links which are nice but not what I want. I don't think there's an option to turn that off. But just pasting a url works.
Editing to add that after originally posting this to the blog someone on Mastodon chimed in that Everlog is another nice journaling app with Markdown support. I'm trying it out and it is excellent and doesn't have the flaws that Day One has. Now that I've got this handy-dandy Notes based system I'm not sure though that I want to abandon it.
Several months ago I decided to try out a couple of iPad accessories from Moft. They have a series of products called the Snap System that are designed to work together. I bought the Snap Case and the Snap Float Stand. The various items can be purchased separately or in bundles. Their website is a little confusing when trying to create bundles.
Of the various iPad accessories I’ve tried over the years I think this pair is my favorite. While I spend some time at a desk I’m often on a futon/beanbag and this combination works great in both places. In both situations it works well to be propped up at various angles in the horizontal or portrait positions. The float stand is also a kickstand that can be used in so many different orientations that it is basically without limit. And it’s very stable on a pillow in my lap.
A fairly typical configuration over the course of a day: iPad propped up in horizontal position, Pencil attached at bottom. This is nice as it keeps the bottom of the screen up off of the pillow and accessible for swiping.
Flipped, the pencil on top. iPad propped up in horizontal position, Pencil attached at topiPad propped up in portrait mode
I find that with this case and stand I’ve been using the iPad as a tablet far more because I like having it propped up but without a keyboard in the way. If I want a keyboard I can just reach over and grab it. If I want a keyboard/trackpad I can attach it to the Magic Keyboard which is also nearby.
Because the stand and case are magnetic the stand pulls away easily. I did find that the embedded magnets in the Snap Case were not as strong as I wanted them and I was getting accidental detachments when readjusting the stand angles. Moft includes an extra sticky metal plate with the stand so I attached that to the case as it provides a much stronger connection that never comes off accidentally.
The Snap Case is really thin and Apple’s Magic Keyboard attaches just fine to the Snap Case and closes too though it bulges a bit with the added thickness. That said, because the case is so thin it’s not going to provide much protection in a fall though it does provide a bit protection in terms of daily wear along the edges and back-side.
A few last notes. First, the case also has a convenient spot for the Pencil. If you have a Pencil and like keeping it close by this is a nice addition. It also serves as an extra place to hold the iPad. Second, while the case provides access to the 3 buttons on the outer edges of the iPad it makes it fairly difficult to actually press those buttons.
In terms of durablity, I’ve been using the stand for most of the past 7 months and it’s held up very well. The hinges are as solid as the day I started using it.
Back in November I published a mini-review of Affinity Publisher for iPad.. At the time I’d only had a week to work with it but was happy with the app. It’s now been four months and I thought I’d offer an update. Serif have released 4 small bug fixes but most of the larger bugs have yet to be fixed. In my experience there have been just three bugs that have been a bit of a bother. The first, some fonts show up in Chinese characters instead of being displayed in English. Second, sometimes the app stops taking input from an external keyboard, restarting the app fixes the issue. The third really isn’t a bug at all because it’s specifically a problem related to using the app on an external display which Serif have said is not yet a supported feature. For now using the app on an external display is useless because the the right side context toolbar disappears anytime a tool is changed using the left side toolbar. Technically Stage Manager isn’t supported at all but I’ve found the app works fine with Stage Manager turned on.
In general the app has been very stable and usable in my four months of use. And to be clear, it’s not just usable, it’s smooth and responsive on the M1 iPad, 8GB of memory. Being able to work with touch, Pencil and trackpad is a real pleasure.
The foundation of Publisher was put down in 2019 with the desktop version of the app. It was a solid foundation offering excellent performance and a well rounded feature set.
Where Publisher really shines is in multi page documents and it has not disappointed in that role. Newsletters, reports, brochures, magazines or anything of that sort. I’ve also been using it for all my single page documents as it has linked text boxes and text wrap, two features not found in Affinity Designer which is what I would have used for single page designs previously.
The usual tools one expects to have with this kind of app are on the left toolbar. As you would expect, as you change tools the top toolbar changes to reflect the options associated with the selected tool. On the right side is a vertical stack called the context toolbar represented by icons that allow for the full range of options you need for whatever tool might be selected. So, for example, when you’re working with text you’ll see the most common tool options in the top tool bar but most of the options are only visible when you click to the text tool button on the right side context toolbar. Note all of the disclosure > icons on the right side. Tap into each one for another menu of text related options. Just as they did with Affinity Designer and Photo, Serif have done an excellent job translating the desktop interface to the iPad.
A powerful app like Publisher, by definition is more complicated than many other apps. I’ve seen people complain that Pages is too complicated and, well, Publisher does far more than Pages. This isn’t an app you’re going to open for the first time and suddenly understand. It can take some time to learn and remember all of the options. It took me several days of repeated use to remember which sub menus in the text tools contained which options. But as you use it you’ll see that the submenus are organized with purpose. For example, when I tap into the Leading disclosure triangle the resulting submenu is appropriately titled Spacing and it’s here that I can change the spacing around paragraphs and other options.
A word of advice if you’re just getting started, the built in help is also available on the web and it can be useful to have that open as it allows you to bounce back and forth between the app and the help while you’re working. The built in help system is located within the main app home page and unfortunately it’s not possible to access the help while working on a file In addition to the help Serif has also posted quite a few Publisher tutorial videos on their YouTube channel and these are worth checking out.
For many iPad users Apple’s Pages app is all that’s needed. That app has also had many features added over the years and is quite capable for laying out documents. I used it for years designing a wide variety of reports, newsletters and brochures. Affinity Publisher is a competitor to Adobe’s InDesign. It will open InDesign IDML files as well as pdfs for conversion to Publisher files.
Unlike Adobe’s various iPad apps, Publisher on iPad is the full app with the full feature set. Should you want to edit a Publisher file shared by someone or share to someone using Publisher on a Mac or Windows, it’s no problem as long as the file will be opened with version 2 of the app on those platforms (Files created by Publisher 2 or any of the Affinity 2 apps are not backwards compatible so cannot be opened by the version 1 apps. If you’ll be sharing a file with someone else be sure to confirm that they’ve updated to version 2 of the app).
Not only are files cross compatible between iPad, Windows and Mac, but all three apps of the suite can open files from the other apps. So, for example, it’s no problem to open a Designer or Photo file in Publisher. The file can continue to be edited and saved in its original format.
The last feature I’ll mention is perhaps one of the best. StudioLink, allows me to open up an a vector graphic in Designer or an image in Photo without actually leaving the Publisher app. It’s an amazing feature though it does require that you have all three apps installed to work. From within the Publisher app the other two apps are referred to as “Personas”. Open them up as needed by tapping the Publisher icon in the top left of the window where you’ll see a dropdown menu showing the other two apps. Choose the other app you need and the Publisher toolset will instantly change to the tools and features found in the other apps. Make adjustments to images from the Photos Persona, create advanced vector graphics or edit embedded vectors from within the Designer Persona. You have the full range of the tools found in the app you’ve “switched” to. When finished just tap back to the Publisher Persona to return to page layout. The transition is seamless and instant.
Serif has set a high bar with the Affinity apps on the iPad and Publisher allows all three to work together seamlessly. And at a time when Apple pundits continue to doubt the potential of the iPad as a powerful tool for creative work, Serif demonstrates what is possible.
If only those pundits could occasionally step away from the churning the rumor mill for a bit they might actually discover there are still innovative developers working hard to create valuable tools used by real people in the real world.
Serif’s Affinity 2 apps continue to be a fantastic bargain. Buy single apps or buy the universal license and use the Mac, Windows or iPad apps, no subscription, these are a one time purchase.
I recently came across this thread on TidBITS looking for an app for scanning and OCR. The solution comes with every iPhone and iPad: Both the Notes and Files apps can scan and perform OCR automatically. Open Files and look to the top of the sidebar and tap the circle ellipses then “Scan Document”. The scanning app will autodetect each page and snap the scan for you then wait for the next. When you’re done tap save. Text detection is automatic and can be searched for within the Files app by opening the PDF.
Alternatively, using the Notes app, open a new or existing note and tap the camera icon in the toolbar to bring up the scanner menu. Choose the option to Scan Documents.
The difference between these two methods is that documents scanned into the Notes app are also indexed by Spotlight on the iPhone and iPad, and so are searchable both within the Notes app and just using the systemwide Spotlight feature. PDFs created by the Files app are not searchable in Spotlight.
It’s also worth noting that this is also a feature in the same apps on the iPhone. Additionally, almost any app can take advantage of what is, essentially, system–wide document scanning. The Notebooks app that I have been using recently allows for scanning documents, and importing with the OCR. So does Apple’s default mail app. And I’m sure there are others.
Once upon a time, I was a happy user of Apple’s Aperture. I briefly tried Adobe Lightroom, but switched back to Aperture and used it until it was discontinued in 2015 at which point I transitioned to Apple’s new Photos. I’m not a professional photographer, photography is something I do for fun. By 2015 I was mostly just importing my photos, adding keywords, deleting and just doing a bit of minimal editing. And in 2023 that continues to be my process. Which is to say, I don’t spend a lot of time editing photos.
All that said, let me contradict myself. I do love photography and I enjoy sharing. 15 years ago that was primarily through Flickr. 2 years ago it was Instagram. Now it’s via my own blog at micro.blog. I’m taking the time to write this because a couple months ago I decided that it was finally time to start pulling in older images from my old Aperture Library that never made it into Photos. A few years worth of images, some jpgs and quite a few RAW files.
I suspect that many people working from an iPad will either use Photos or jump straight to Lightroom which is an excellent option for people that have the budget for a monthly subscription. I avoid Adobe because of the subscription model so Lightroom isn’t an option. But I wanted a few options not offered by Photos. So, after copying the photos over to an external SSD drive I turned to Darkroom and Pixelmator Photo to fill in the gaps left by Apple’s Photos app. Here’s the workflow that’s working for me.
For importing jpg images I just use Files to save to Photos. Quick and easy to do. For the RAW files I want to reduce the size of the file and convert it so I import from Files into Photos. But then I open Darkroom which allows has an option for exporting file quality and format. I’ve set it to jpeg 80% which typically results in files that are 800k to 1.2 mb. Perfect for my needs. The metadata remains intact. In my case with an older Canon it’s the date of photo, lens and exposure info and often location if I had added it. I select a group of images in Darkroom and then use the export option which saves them into Photos right along side of the RAW files which I delete. I’ll keep all of the original RAW and jpgs on the SSD as a back-up.
Next is to edit. Mostly I’m just using Apple’s Photos app for this. For images that require a bit more work, say, a photo of a bird that also has a portion of a bird feeder at the edge of an image, I’ll use Pixelmator Photo’s Repair tool which looks like a little bandaid up in the top right corner of the window. This tool is great for small imperfections but also works pretty well for even larger objects. Both Pixelmator Photo and Darkroom offer all of the other standard tools for photo editing such as saturation, highlights, shadows, etc. I’ve dabbled with them a bit but mostly just rely on Apple’s app.
The last step is the only step that currently requires the Mac and that’s batch adding metadata like keywords or captions. Photos on the iPad doesn’t do keywords at all and only allows captions to be changed one photo at a time. So for this step I’ll use Screens to connect to my Mac and use the Photos app there to add captions and/or keywords to groups of photos.
There are two iPad apps that offer options in this area of photo metadata. Hashphotos allows for adding keywords but unfortunately they are only stored in the Hashphotos database and not written into the photo files or the Photos app. That said, Hashphotos has some other, useful features so I wrote a mini-review. The other option is EXIF which offers a free and paid version. The free version will allow adding keywords and captions to photos but again, only one at a time. The paid version will do batch adding of keywords and captions. Exactly what I want except that it writes the info to the file itself which requires making a copy/duplicate of the file and for HEIC files from the iPhone it also requires that they be saved to jpg to change the meta data. I’m not inclined to do that.
So, for batch editing of metadata I’ll just continue using my Mac via Screens. It’s easy enough to do. Hopefully Apple will add these features to Photos for iPad.
Continuing with my theme highlighting recent examples of Mac users having difficulty with the iPad. This was a recent thread over at the MPU Forums: My next iPad is going to be a MacBook Air! that consists primarily of disgruntled Mac Users who have, to some extent, tried making the iPad work as a Mac laptop replacement. In one of the most recent posts a user wrote this:
I was trying to create a presentation with PowerPoint pulling slides from different presentations. Very unintuitive and laborious. The iPad doesn’t need to be a Mac (or vice versa) but it does need to provide a smooth experience where I’m not focused on the device mechanics at the expense of what I’m trying to produce. I can’t help but agree with the group that says the device is hobbled by Apple.
That, to me, is an example of someone who’s not as familiar with iPadOS as they are with the Mac. His wording expresses exactly what seems to happen with folks who spend far more time with a Mac and less time with the iPad. When they do, on occasion, try to use the iPad they have to think about it more, they have to focus on the mechanics and as a result, it feels more difficult. For those of us that fully switch, there’s a moment in the process when the mechanics of the iPad become 2nd nature, like walking. The only time I have to think about the mechanics of the iPad is when Apple makes a big change like Stage Manager or when I start using a new app that does things differently.
I can’t say a whole lot about PowerPoint as I’ve only used it a couple times on the iPad to check the export of a Keynote presentation to confirm everything was working before handing it over to a client. I do all my presentation work on Keynote and in that app it’s possible to open multiple files at the same time and simply select a slide from the sidebar, control click or long press to copy, then in the new presentation control click in the sidebar and paste. Or, even easier, just drag and drop a slide from one presentation to another and the slide is copied over. Stage Manager allows for 4 windows so I can have 4 presentations open. I’ve never needed to do that but it would be possible.
I only have the free copy of PowerPoint which doesn’t allow for editing but from what I can tell based on reading the Microsoft user forums the kind of multi-slide selection for copying or dragging and dropping between presentations isn’t possible. Sharing content between files in this way is easy in the various iWork apps on iPad and on the Mac too. Regardless, in the case above, the user was quick to blame the iPad rather than consider the possibility that the fault might be with the application lacking important features fundamental to the iPad experience.
It’s a long thread dating back to January 2022 and is full of examples of users for whom the iPad was never going to be a good fit because of their particular work flows or of users for whom the iPad, especially the iPad Pro with a keyboard/trackpad, would likely work well if the user had only taken the time to become proficient with the device and its OS. Proficiency and comfort with an operating system take time and effort and I would speculate that in many if not most cases the user simply is not making the necessary effort to switch. This is especially true with the latest versions of iPadOS which increasingly offer the features long requested by “power users”.
I mentioned recently that I’d noticed a post on Mastodon by someone who was complaining how difficult it was to resize an image using iPadOS. I replied to point out that it was the exact same process and done with the same ease as it is on the Mac using the same app. With Files it’s simply two taps (or clicks with a trackpad). It seems a fairly common thing for Mac users these days to complain about the many ways that the iPad is not a Mac or is otherwise lacking. But what’s frustrating is that often times such critiques are coming from a lack of experience and knowledge as in the example above. Users simply haven’t taken the time to use the iPad and learn that many of the same features they use on the Mac are also right there in the same apps on the iPad. The Files app is an excellent example so I thought I’d explore it a bit.
Before I dig in I’ll just say that the Files app on the iPad did indeed start out as a pretty basic app (iOS 11, 2017) that was far, far short of the Finder on the Mac. But with each new version of iPadOS it has gained new features, slowly bringing it closer to feature parity with the Finder. I suspect that many mistakes are made by people who simply have not kept up. They used Files 2 or 3 years ago and not much since then.
It might be helpful to start with a comparison of the Files app on iPad to Finder on the Mac. I tend to use the column view the most.
While not identical, two apps are very similar in 2023 and in terms of functionality they are nearly the same. Both share most of the same elements with variations. The most noticeable is that everything on the iPad is larger because it’s optimized for touch so less is visible in a full screen window. But take a look at the sidebar in each. Aside from the difference in the order they contain the nearly the same elements: Locations, Favorites, Tags (not visible on the iPad due to size constraints) all of which can be customized in both apps. One interesting difference is that while Locations on the Mac is drive based, on the iPad Locations also includes app providers. So, for example, FE File Explorer on the iPad, if selected, reveals a list of FTP servers I use for connecting remotely to file servers to update websites. I can browse to any remote server from within the files app. Other apps do similarly. In the various screenshots below the Files app is on top, the Finder below it.
In the primary pane of the column view, again, nearly identical with variations in size and differences in the tool bar and presentation of the details in the right-most pane. Each has the same representation of file metadata but there are differences in the tools available. On the iPad, when viewing an image the tools are: Markup, Rotate, Convert to PDF and last the button to reveal more tools. On the Mac the default is Convert Image, Create PDF and reveal more tools.
Upon tapping into the Reveal more on each we see that by default the iPad has a few extra options that are placed differently on the Finder (see 3rd screenshot below). Also, there are many additional customization options for sharing and Shortcuts that are not visible in the screenshot. On the Mac there are three defualt actions with the option to add more.
You’ll note that at the top of the Finder window is another Action button that reveals options:
For the most part the two apps are offering the same options and actions but in different locations. Here’s the contextual menu for a file on the iPad. As expected and similar to the Mac, it’s many of the same actions that are available in other locations:
And, not surprisingly, other options are the same between the two devices. For example, the space bar brings up Quick Look.
But the Mac Finder remains the better of the two in at least two areas. One, the customization of the top tool bar. The iPad toolbar cannot be customized and some of the options that we see on the Mac, while available on the iPad are only accessible by tapping the 3 column icon which reveals list view, icon grid view, sorting and grouping:
Also, the list view of the iPad is still really limited when compared to the Finder on the Mac. Currently there are three columns available with no possibility for additional columns. If a user chooses to sort by kind or date the column that is displayed changes to reflect the sort. On the larger iPad it would seem there is room for a 4th column.
One advantage the iPad has over the Mac is the additional options in Quick Look on the iPad when viewing a pdf. These options are on the Mac in the Preview app but on the iPad a pdf can be edited right from the Files app Quick Look, a nice convenience:
In previous years one complaint about the Files app was the lack of proper external drive support. That was remedied in iOS 15:
So that’s Files on iPadOS 16. It’s come a long way since the early days. I think it’s fair to say that for most users it’s just as easy and functional to use as the Finder on the iPad. While it can feel cramped on a smaller iPad screen or on a 13" iPad when using 2 Files windows, this is a limitation due to the increased size of the touch interface I don’t see that as something Apple will be able to change.
I would like to see a more customizable tool bar and additional options for the columns that are visible in list view. Possibly an option for smaller touch targets, a kind of Files specific “Show more” view that would shrink the size of icons and text. Lastly, more consistent indexing of the content of files. Currently searching the Files app returns a mix of results depending on the content the app resides in. Some apps seem to provide an index that includes content, other apps only Filenames.
Oh, and I’d love to see Files renamed to Finder or, at least given the Finder icon. I understand that the Files name and generic icon matches the actual use of the app better. You may have noticed I’ve created a Shortcut for opening the Files app and have given it a proper Finder smiley face where it resides in my Dock. It’s as it should be.
I’ll admit I have a habit of collecting text/notes apps. It’s one of my most used categories of apps because it’s what I use for blogging. I’m fairly certain, based on posts over at MacPower Users as well as on blogs I read that I’m not alone in my habit of collecting such apps. That said, I do try to settle into an app for awhile. I don’t actually want to switch all the time, I just enjoy trying the different possibilities.
When it comes to text/notes apps I generally have four jobs in mind.
For context, here’s a list of text/markdown apps I’ve used over the past few years, beginning with most recent favorites and how I use/used them. Note: When I first started this post I considered writing reviews of all of these apps but then I realized, I’ve written about all of them at least once before, many of them I’ve likely mentioned in numerous posts so there’s probably not much point.
I came across Notebooks in late 2022 in a thread on the above mentioned MPU forums. I wasn’t looking to change and had been fairly happy with Taio. So why did I make the move? As a markdown editor Notebooks is very similar to Taio and iA Writer. On that alone I could just as easily stayed with either of the other two apps. The additional features that initially prompted the change:
With those five features Notebooks might also be a gradual replacement for Apple’s stock Notes app and even the Reminders app. A sort of bucket-app for referencing and indexing a variety of files.
Before I dig in I’m just going to note that there’s a great deal to this app so what I’m writing here is just scratching the surface and is based on the things I’ve enjoyed or found useful in just a couple weeks of using the app. So, really, it’s just a mini-review. For the a more full description I’ll point again to the Notebooks website.
The sidebar, organizing and browsing files A pretty typical UI element in these sorts of apps is a sidebar showing folders and files. I consider it to be an important part of the UI because it’s something that is used often and is looked at often. iA Writer does the sidebar really well. Functional and visually pleasing. The sidebar in Taio is functional but feels a bit clunky. The sidebar of Notebooks is between the two. Not quite as compact or clean as iA Writer but it does offer more functionality with several default Smart Books for Favorites, Recent Items, Contexts/Tags and at least one dynamic list that will show up at certain times for due tasks but disappear when there are no due tasks. There’s also a helpful sorting header for quick sorting of folders and files. Finally, a global documents search at the very top. So, while it takes more vertical space it is more functional and still looks very nice. In addition to marking a file as a favorite for display in favorites smart book it’s also possible to pin files for quick access.
I’d initially missed that Notebooks offers tagging. It’s presented as “Contexts”, sort of in the GTD (Getting Things Done) realm of organization. But in an exchange I had with the developer Alfons (who, by the way has been very helpful in a series of email exchanges) he kindly pointed out the feature so I’m adding it to the review. I’ve turned it on and as I have no use for the contexts I’ve removed those and am adding my own to reflect my needs as a blogger/writer. Now, to be honest, I’ve tried tagging off and on with numerous apps and have always struggled to develop a system that works for me. So, I’m not sure if this will stick.
Files can be set to default to editing mode or in the more visually attractive rendered appearance. I’ve chosen the latter as it makes for a more enjoyable experience when looking through documents. With just a tap or click in the text area of the file it switches to editing mode with the cursor at the position of the tap or click. Another benefit is that if you choose the other option, to default to editing mode, you’re making extra work because to view your rendered document you have to click twice to switch to that mode. May not seem like much but I find that it’s much easier to just click once into the document and type than to click a button then another button.
I’ve set up several “Notebooks” in the app which, when viewed in Files are just folders. Currently I’m using a generic Blog folder for published files. Other folders correspond to several blog archives, podcast transcripts, help documents that pertain to the Notebook app and two to-do lists (more about that later). If you click into a Notebook and create a file then of course the file will be created in that Notebook. I generally start in the default, general area and move files via drag and drop as needed.
Getting content into Notebooks This is fairly easy and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. From the Files app select a file and, using the share tool, select Notebooks. The file will be copied to the default Notebooks folder. It’s possible to copy and store iWork documents: Pages, Numbers and Keynote or Microsoft Office docs. The same for pdfs, images, movies, or audio. Once in Notebooks tapping a file in the sidebar will open it up as a preview in the main window. Tap and hold the file name or select the share icon from the top right of the window allows for “Open in” to open in the default app. Any changes made will be reflected in the Notebooks app once the file is saved and then opened again in Notebooks.
I’ve also set up several shortcuts for sending quoted text and links from Safari to new files in Notebooks for easy and quick linked posts for blogs.
I tend to publish a lot of photos on my two blogs, and one of the benefits of Notebooks is the method for adding and organizing photos to blog posts. Whether the photos in my photos, library, or something I have saved to the Files app, I can simply locate it and choose copy. Then using Notebooks “Extra Keys” which are tappable buttons above the keyboard I choose the option to add photo, which detects images on the clipboard and offers an option for Picture from pasteboard. Notebooks manages images by placing the image into a folder, and then a link to the image in the document. Even better, Notebooks quietly manages these images in the background so if I move a post to a different folder, the image is moved as well maintaining the link.
For actual publishing, I either use a shortcut which opens up a new post on Micro.blog or, if the post contains images, I simply tap over to iA Writer, which has the option for “Added Locations” outside of the default iCloud location for iA Writer files. I’ve added Notebooks as one location so I can easily tap into all of my Notebooks folders. With a tap I’ve got my document open, and then with another tap I publish from iA Writer which auto uploads images and then opens up the draft on Micro.blog or on WordPress.
Tasks in a note app? Yep. Notebooks has a pretty interesting and powerful system for tasks built in and I’m giving that a try. I’m not a heavy user of task apps and I’ve gotten by pretty well with Apple’s Reminders app for tracking a handful of repeating tasks. I’m giving the feature a try in Notebooks and so far I like it.
Is there a benefit to having to-dos in Notebooks? With Apple’s Reminders app I am restricted to the predetermined format for every reminder. It works pretty well but it can be a bit cumbersome when using the little pop-up window with set fields. Notebooks offers a variety of more flexible ways to create and track tasks.
One step for getting started with tasks in Notebooks is to set a default task list. Usually this as an Inbox but you can use any name for the default. This is where tasks will be sent when using Siri if you don’t specify where to send a to-do. It’s also possible, in any current text document in Notebooks to select text and then, using the pop-up context menu, select Add to Inbox. Whatever text is selected will be added as a task to whatever list you’ve designated as the default task list.
A second option: Designate any notebook as a task list. You can have as many of these lists as you like. Within each list any markdown file becomes a list item that can be given a due date/time, an alarm, etc. When you navigate to that Notebook/list you’ll see your markdown files but they have a small open circle button next to them indicating that they can be tapped to be checked. A single tap puts a dot inside to indicate that it is in process. A second tap puts a check inside to mark it as completed.
With Notebooks a markdown file in a notebook specified to be a task list is tracked as a to-do. This can be as simple as a one line description or, if a task is somewhat complex, a small document can be written as a detailed note with embedded photos, linked files (pdfs, Pages, Word Docs, etc), links to web pages. Almost anything. The task can be assigned a due date/time with an alarm as well as be marked as repeating. Siri works with Notebooks generally and this includes adding items to task lists.
A second way to set-up a task list begins with a setting in preferences to tell the app to actively search for tasks created in any regular text file outside of a designated list. So, this document is just a standard markdown document but in the below bit of text Notebooks will see three tasks and add them as three separate tasks to a new list based on the title of this document. It’s automatic based on an optional preference that can be set. The list updates as soon as I type in the specified trigger and any text after the trigger.
✓ A first thing to do -task Order needed item on http://amazon.com ✓ another thing to do
So, typing those three lines created a new list and three new tasks. I can see how it might be useful for some folks or certain multi step projects.
As you do those tasks and mark them completed they will be updated in the original document with a check mark. So, in this way, a document could serve as a kind of project manager that can update a list of tasks and which is updated as those tasks are marked as completed.
Or, if you’re working on a document and decide you’d like the whole document to be converted into a series of tasks you can choose to do that with a couple of taps.
There are a lot of options for the tasks features and several settings. I’d at first assumed that the task feature was something simple that would be a nice to have but have since realized that it’s really quite a powerful set of features. For someone spending a lot of time in Notebooks it probably makes a lot of sense to switch to the app for task tracking.
PDFS I mentioned above that Notebooks indexes the content of pdfs making them searchable. It’s also possible to link to pdfs from within a markdown document. And, lastly, when opening a pdf in Notebooks there is full support for all of the features one gets when opening a pdf in the Files app. In the pdf sidebar it’s possible to tap on a page and rotate, add new pages, remove pages, import new pages from another document, etc. Markup is also available on pdfs right in Notebooks.
Getting content out of Notebooks When it’s time to do something with content you’ve created Notebooks has quite a few options which are locating in the “Process” menu. For exporting a non editable document there are two options: PDF, ePub. It’s also possible to “duplicate as” these file times which creates a new document that can continue to be edited as plain text, html, Latex and RTF. All excellent options.
For something as well featured as Notebooks I wish it had publish features. Being able to output to WordPress or other blogging platforms would be great but that’s not exactly an expected or common feature.