- 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
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.
I’ve been using the beta on my iPad Pro since the first day of the public beta and thought I’d write a bit about what stands out to me as noteworthy. This is just a tiny fraction of what’s coming and again, it’s what I’ve found noteworthy. The most comprehensive coverage that I’ve found thus far is this fantastic mini-site over at MacRumors.
First and perhaps unexpected, I’m enjoying and using the new widgets far more than I expected.
With iPadOS 14 and earlier I generally kept my Home Screen clear except for the sidebar of widgets. All my apps were in a single folder in the dock. With iPadOS 15 I’ve moved all my apps to the App Library and now have a full Home Screen of widgets which functions as a fantastic dashboard. I’m finding the 2nd largest widget sizes the most useful with just one small section for 4 of the small widgets. So, a view of my Home Screen gives me the current weather, easy access to my most recently listened to music, my most recent email, a selection of frequently used Shortcuts, my most recently accessed folders and files, calendar, current daily calories, battery status and upcoming reminders. Edit to note that I’ve since changed this by moving the 4 small widgets back to the sidebar which stays hidden. I’ve since added the large-sized Contacts widget which does a great job of providing an overview of my latest interactions with my closest contacts.
With earlier versions of, the public beta some of widgets were l a bit buggy, especially the Files widget though it seems to have settled down as of this date. Also, the mail widget does not always update recent new mail in the background as I would expect though that may be an expected limitation. Obviously having to switch to mail to see updates isn’t helpful.
I’ll mention Spotlight next because it’s somewhat integrated with the above mentioned Contacts widget. In short, Spotlight has a few new additional results added to searches. Most important for me is the improvements in it’s surfacing of my contacts related information such as photos, shared notes, messages, etc. Also, Spotlight now does more with web searches of public figures and built in web search generally. Rather than go to Safari it’s possible to just start with a Spotlight search of a topic. Web results starting with Wikipedia, images, top web results are all neatly organized in the Spotlight results. For some searches the results can be quite extensive ranging from your content, shared with you content, articles from Apple News, TV shows or movies and on. By default the extensive content categories are hidden behind a “Show more results” button.
Next, while I’m still training myself to use it the new globe keyboard shortcut is great. I forget too often to use it but suspect that as that habit takes hold it will become a really nice feature. Specifically the Siri shortcut Globe-S as I’ve always wanted such a shortcut on the keyboard. I enjoy using Siri and know I’ll use it more with that shortcut. Also, the globe shortcuts for multi-tasking are very useful. Again, one I need to practice more to more fully integrate and take advantage of. It’s not that it’s difficult so much as remembering it’s there and making it a new habit.
On the subject of multitasking, using the keyboard to navigate through app windows In the multitasking view is really nice. I normally use the trackpad but the arrow key navigation works great too.
Also in the category of multitasking, the active window indicator is still too subtle when using split screens. It’s better than before but Apple insists on making the indicator subtle enough that I have too look longer and with more attention than I should. Actually, in a nod to macOS I wish they’d offer an option to have the same red-yellow-green color scheme. Not likely and probably not that useful. But at the very least, more contrast would actually be useful.
Keyboard shortcuts are improved in presentation when using an external keyboard and the new organization of keyboard shortcuts to resemble the Mac’s categories of File, Edit, etc are nice improvements. This whole area is more compact and useful.
The Safari redesign. This one has been talked about a lot as it should be. I agree in general that it’s nice to see an effort but it made Safari worse and seemed to be an attempt to solve problems that most people don’t really have. Glad to see the dedicated tab bar back as the default now they need to take the next step of putting it where it was and also removing the extra padding that the new rounded rectangles have. It’s wasted space that hides the description of the tab. Also, the active tab indicator is far too subtle.
But there’s some good stuff with the updated Safari too. Tab groups!! This falls under the “I didn’t know I needed this until I had it” category. I’m using it a lot to create topic areas. I’ve got a climate change group and a tech group. A week ago I was searching for a new chair and had a group of tabs for that. I’ve got a group now for a new WordPress site I’m working on for a client. I expect some of these will be persistent as they are topics I always read about. Others will come and go as needed. The key is that a tab group is easy to create from any window with tabs, easy to re-open via the sidebar and easy to delete when you’re finished. It’s also easy to add a tab from any other Safari window to an existing tab group.
I’m glad to have the updated Notes and Reminders apps. The ability to tag will be useful in both of these. Also, Quicknotes in Notes is very nice though I’m not using it as much as I think I will. Notes really is an excellent app. The indexing of Notes text, attached pdfs and now text recognition in images is fantastic. It’s all very fast and shows up nicely in Spotlight. If I hadn’t recently integrated Obsidian into my daily workflow Notes would likely shine brighter. As it is though it will still have a place. It’s a great place do do photo and document scanning and as I’m currently scanning in a bunch of old family photos I’m enjoying it for that.
The updates in the Photos app are really proving useful. I love the improved metadata, editable location and machine learning that now identifies plants and other objects. Some of that was identification was already there but it’s much, much better now with more accurate results and far more specificity in the identifications. Where before Photos could show me my dog pictures it now also suggests the specific breed and has an integrated Wikipedia link. This is especially useful for all of the photos I get out on the trail for identification of plants and flowers. It’s not yet offering specific insect ID but it does recognize more general animal categories such as insect, butterfly, bird, horse. I suspect that over time range of objects for which specific IDs are offered will grow.
Live Text in photos is absolutely fantastic and useful. Not only does it improve search but if you’re someone that deals with a lot of text and images it comes in handy often. I often need the text that’s in an image for a document or a website. Lazy clients will just send a photo or screenshot with a bit of text rather than retype it for me. This is the sort of feature that once you start using it and realize how often it can be useful, well, you’ll wonder how you did without it.
Messages has some nice improvements, namely “shared with you” which integrates into all the other system apps. Nothing earth shattering but nice. I’ve not had a chance to use FaceTime with any other beta testers and am not a big FaceTime user generally but the announced changes look very helpful for those that use video calls.
A couple more tid-bits. System-wide “shared with you” is a nice new feature. Continuous dictation is great for those that like to dictate text rather than type. Especially useful on the iPhone where I’d much rather dictate than type a long message.
That’s it for the moment. There’s far more of course but they’re features I’m not going into as this isn’t really a review so much as my notes on what I’m interested in and finding most useful. The above linked mini-site over at MacRumors has all the details! Also worth noting, at the bottom of the page is a list of helpful how-to articles for iOS 15.
I started this post in July and am just now, having used the beta for almost two months, finishing off my notes. The final release will likely be coming in the next couple of weeks and with it a load of very detailed reviews.
It’s kind of funny really that for the past year I’ve considered my move to the iPad for most of my work as not only easy but pleasurable. In fact, it’s because I so enjoy the iPad that I made the move. There was no sacrifice or pain, quite the opposite! I’ve been happily using the iPad Air 2 released in the fall of 2014. I rarely notice lag of any sort. In fact, it wasn’t until using the recently released Affinity Photo that I used an app that actually prompted me to wish for faster hardware. Don’t get me wrong, the app is wonderful but it does push the limits of what nearly three year old hardware can do. Even so, the older iPad still handles it pretty well. But the 2017 iPad Pro? Easy Peasy. And with the larger screen? Affinity Photo and a 13" is a great combination.
Yeah, 9.7" screen just a bit cramped for some tasks. Editing websites in Coda works pretty well on a smaller screen though I did often wish for just a wee bit more room in my edit window. Also, while split screen on the 9.7 works well, there again, I often wished for a bigger screen. Using split screen with the onscreen keyboard is not advised on the 9.7! Not a big deal as I usually use an external keyboard if I’ll be typing more than a few sentences. So, in my use, this upgrade is not just about a much faster machine with a better screen but also about a bigger screen. 12.9" is exactly what I wanted. This feels exactly my favorite sized laptop, the 13" MBA. And again, with iOS 11 around the corner, I think the larger screen is going to be that much better.
I’ve not had a chance to use the Pencil much just yet. A few minutes on a current Procreate painting of a nebula and no doubt, it’s better than a cheap stylus on the iPad Air! I’m sure I’ll be getting my use out of the Pencil for those projects. Now, the Apple Smart Keyboard? I’ve used it a good bit over the past 12 hours and I really like it. I do wish that it had the special shortcuts for playing media, volume, home, and spotlight but I’ll make do. Also I wish it had back-lighting. But beyond those limitations, I like the feel of it. Not only that I like the sound of it. Typing on this keyboard has a very pleasant feel and sound that I would describe as quiet but lightly clicks. Even better, it’s very stable. I wasn’t sure how stable it would be and worried that it would be a bit wobbly but in a few hours of usage I’m finding it to be pretty solid. Lastly, I really like the feel of the material used for the keyboard. Not quite cloth or rubber but almost something in between. Time will tell how well it holds up but my first impression is that this is a great keyboard. And the fact that it all folds up into such a compact and fairly light cover makes it all the better.
As for the new A10X processor–which Apple says is up to 30 percent faster and up to 40 percent faster for graphics–its promise is mostly about letting developers ratchet up the ambition of their creations. You can see why Apple gave WWDC keynote time to Affinity Photo, a hyper-ambitious photo editor that has more of the kitchen-sink capability of full-blown Photoshop than the Photoshop apps that are available for the iPad. The A10x chip’s performance gains are apparent in areas such as the thumbnail previews of filter effects, which gradually pop into place on last year’s iPad Pro and are just there on the new model. This is the sort of app that benefits from as much computational horsepower as it can get–and the more apps there are like it, the better the case for the iPad Pro as a PC-rivaling creativity machine.
When I first saw the new iPad Pro's test results from our lab, I thought there was a big mistake. This new 10.5-inch tablet turned in performance scores so high that they blow away most laptops
John Gruber’s review at Daring Fireball:
Apple’s in-house chip team continues to amaze. No one buys an iPad because of CPU benchmarks, but the new iPad Pro’s CPU performance is mind-boggling. Forget about comparisons to the one-port MacBook — the iPad Pro blows that machine out of the water performance-wise. The astounding thing is that the new iPad Pro holds its own against the MacBook Pro in single-core performance — around 3,900 on the Geekbench 4 benchmark for the iPad Pro vs. around 4,200–4,400 for the various configurations of 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros...
All that said, the real story of these new iPad Pro models can’t be told today, because that story is iOS 11…
It feels like a hand has been untied from behind my back, and this amazing hardware has finally been allowed to run free.
Matthew Panzarino, An iPad Pro 10.5" Not Review:
With the iPad Pro, especially when it’s armed with iOS 11, it’s beginning to feel possible to see Apple in this world. The combination of custom silicon, a still robust and specifically attuned software ecosystem and a focus on security, Apple has everything it needs to make a strong showing here.
Whether it leads to immediate growth of the category I don’t yet know – but this particular recipe is coming to maturity. The iPad is a full-fledged computer, and you can argue against it but you’re going to increasingly sound like a contrarian.
A couple months back I posted about my workflow for managing websites from my iPad Air 2. I’ve got an update. At the time I was waiting for and hoping for an update to Editorial that would allow for split screen mode so that I could split with Transmit. As of now that still has not happened. I’ve seen it mentioned that it’s currently in beta testing but it seems ridiculous that it would take this long to put out an update that takes advantage of iOS features released 10 months ago. . Editorial is great and I guess I’ll get back to it for Markdown documents but for now I’m shelving it until it’s updated.
I’d thought that Textastic might work but I didn’t care for its method for using DropBox files so I decided to look around for another text editor. I’m happy to report that I found one a week ago and thus far it’s been a pleasure to use: GoCoEdit seems to be exactly what I was looking for. It’s packed with features, many of them I’m not likely to ever use but it has most of the features and supports the workflow that I rely on.
First off, the app is updated on a regular basis and takes full advantage of the features of the current iOS. Second, I can connect to my Dropbox account (or ftp, sftp, or google drive) and easily browse all my project folders and documents in one pane of my split screen. Editing those documents is live and does not require that they be downloaded first and I can have multiple documents open with tabs. GoCoEdit includes syntax highlighting, find/replace, code completion, a variety of syntax options and a preview of documents. Oh, and the app supports oodles of keyboard shortcuts if you’re using a Bluetooth keyboard or an iPad Pro with attached keyboard.
When I’m done with an edit in my left pane I can copy and paste into the same document on the server in my Transmit document edit window. Which reminds me, Transmit for iOS is pretty damn crashy. (Side note: maybe I’m just cranky in my old age but I think Panic gets far too much praise. They seem to have this kind of celebrity thing going on in the Apple community. I don’t get it. While I do use Coda and Transmit I find them to be a bit buggy. I’d rather see updates to buggy apps than blog posts about fancy signs and other hipster goings on at Panic headquarters. Yes, your sign is cute but your app is crashing far too often. Fix it.)
It was just a year ago that I posted about all the noise regarding Apple’s supposed decline in quality control. My take on it was that it was unneccesary and misplaced drama. To be honest there’s a bit of an echo chamber going on with some of the more prominent Apple bloggers and sadly one complaint often leads to a second and a third and before too long they’re all writing and podcasting about the terrible tragedy of this or that hardware/software blemish. Frankly it’s a fine example of the “First World problems” joke. As is usual though Apple got a handle on most of the software problems and most of the complaints faded. The hardware was solid with the exception of the fabricated “bendgate” non-issue.
June rolled around and with it the WWDC and the details of OS X 10.11 and iOS 9. As may expected and hoped, these releases were largely about refinement rather than major new features. Actually, between the two of them there were quite a few new and significant features added but yeah, it’s probably accurate to characterize them as refinement releases. Of course, there were still a few that shrugged their shoulders and offered at least mild complaint at the lack of whizbang but some of these are the same that complained in the fall about Apple doing too much. For the most part I’d say most folks were positive. For myself, I’ll just say that I was happy with the announcements and I’m happy with the releases we now have on our devices.
I’ve not yet installed El Capitan on my primary work machine, the 2012 Mac Mini. No hurry there as I’m in the very beginning stages of a series of projects that will be ongoing till spring. I’ll probably leave that machine as it is for the next few months. But I have installed it on my 13" rMBP and it’s performed flawlessly thus far. Will be installing it on Kaleesha’s 2011 MacBook Air and on the 2009 MBP that the kids use for school. My favorite features thus far: split full screen; full screen mail that allows for minimizing draft emails; Mission Control seems tighter and more fluid; the new Notes app is fantastic; improved Airplay; last but not least, the system-wide use of the new San Francisco font is a nice improvement.
iOS 9 has been solid too. I’ve got it on an iPad Air 2, iPhone 5c and an iPhone 6s. The install on the first two devices went smoothly and both of them were up and running in no time at all. Split screen on the iPad is excellent. 3D touch on the iPhone 6s is also proving to be useful. As with El Capitan, Notes is a greatly appreciated improvement. Of course there’s been lots of talk about the new ability of Safari to block content and yes, it’s a fantastic feature that will save users hundred’s of mb of data each month. An added bonus, those blockers work in any app that has implemented the new Safari web viewer. The News app is an interesting addition. I typically use Newsify for RSS and will likely continue but News app will likely prove useful for people that might not normally use RSS. It’s a little wonky in terms of the selections in the “For You” section but adding favorites and going to that section works great. I expect it will get better as Apple provides access to the full formatting power of the app to more providers. Right now it is restricted to Wired and a couple others. I’ve saved the best for last: Siri is vastly improved on all of my devices. Wow. The service has been improving steadily over the past year but is now lightening fast and with the iPhone 6s, it’s always on. Not only is it fun to use but increasingly useful.
Last but not least, I’ll mention the iPhone 6s. We’ve been holding at one phone for awhile. Neither one of us are big on talking on the phone so it’s worked pretty well. That said we’re getting out a good deal more these days which means choosing to either take the phone or leave it at home so we’ve finally decided to go to two lines. I’ve passed my iPhone 5c to Kaleesha and ordered the iPhone 6s. Ordering it using the Apple Store app was painless and set-up was super easy. I’ve only had it for a week but in that week I’ve gotten a good bit of use and I’m pretty happy with it. As I mentioned above, 3D Touch looks to be very useful and is a good bit of fun too. And did I mention how much I’m enjoying Siri? Yeah. It’s a fantastic pocket computer with an excellent camera and a phone to boot. Good stuff.
Before I go any further, let me say this isn’t much of a review or even a mini-review. Just my initial impressions.
I’m a regular user of Adobe CC but not a big fan of the subscription model. When I recently learned of Affinity Designer and the upcoming Affinity Photo I figured it was worth checking out. The reviews for AD thus far are very high and having used it for a couple of projects I can see why. The Permaculture-themed poster below started as just a quickie to test out some of the basic tools I’ve come to expect from Illustrator and I’m happy to report that AD was a pleasure to use. Everything from the pen tool to text to text on a curve were easy and buttery smooth. As with Illustrator, layers are easy enough to use to group elements for editing and locking. On a couple of test designs I tried a few of the other basics such as shape building and editing as well as applying gradients and various styles, all worked just as one would expect.
What’s missing? Right off, there is no workspace outside of the defined document margins which is something I definitely miss. Illustrator and InDesign both allow for the storing of elements outside of the defined art board or document margins.
Also, no export for web. Perhaps I missed it but I certainly didn’t see it and I’ve looked a couple times. I know that I can set a document up as having an intended use for the web but that’s not what I’m after. I want to be able to set up for print and also be able to export or save for web. Found it! Right in front of me but called “Export Persona”. The only option I don’t see is the option to resize the dimensions at time of export.
I’m guessing that I’ll find other features missing that I’m used to having but as of this moment I intend to switch to AD for any design work that I would have previously used Illustrator for.
My main work machine is the 2012 Mac Mini. I’ve written before about my transition to a standing desk for health purposes. That said, I do want to be able to use the iPad as a tool to get work done. Having a flexible workflow is good and it would seem a waste, with the increased power of the iPad Air 2, to not utilize it when the need arises. My initial thought was that it would come in handy for editing the html of client websites and yes, that is a breeze with Diet Coda and Transmit. But why stop there? Those were tasks I could also accomplish with the 3rd gen iPad.
In recent days I have also begun wondering if I might not also be able to get a bit of graphic design work done with the iPad. Adobe does not yet sell an iPad version of Illustrator or Photoshop but there are other options available. Pixelmator is the most recent crossover from the Mac. It has some pretty fantastic photo filters and the handy ability to be passed back and forth to the Mac version. It can also export to psd for crossing over to Photoshop when I’m back to my Mac. That said in the little bit of dabbling I’ve done with it I’m finding some frustrating limitations which I’ll likely explore in more detail soon. Suffice it to say for the purposes of this post that those limitations led me to try out iDraw and that has proven to be a great decision.
iDraw has been available for the iPad since the first iPad release in 2010 and there is a Mac version too though I’ve not tried it. Last week I downloaded the iPad version and have been giving it a spin. Fantastic. This is an app I can use to get real design work done. I’ve not yet used it for a client project though that will come soon enough. I’ve done enough with it in a few hours to know what it is capable of. Not surprisingly, it’s not as fully featured as Illustrator or Photoshop but it does have the most important tools and they perform very well. In fact, the iPad handles everything I’ve tried to with iDraw with ease.
I created the example image in my first spin with the app. Shape building, styling with gradients, adding text to a path are all very straight forward. I started with the rectangle tool and then used the pen tool to begin adding new points and then used the path tool to make my pen handle and tip. Apply stroke and gradient and then tweek. As with Illustrator, all the objects are put on one layer but layers are supported and easy enough to create. I used the same process for creating the inkwell. Styles include drop shadow, inner shadow, inner and outer glow. Multiple instances of these effects as well as multiple fills can be applied to each object. Very handy to be able to apply multiple gradients to single objects.
The brush tool is very easy to use with width and smoothing options though I only found the one style brush tip. Will need to investigate. Adding text to a brush stroke is easy enough as is styling that text after adding it to the path. Adjusting the path or moving the text to different points along the path are also very easy. As you might expect, there are plenty of object options such as alignment, path combinations and more.
When you’ve finished you have quite a few options for using and sharing images. Before sending to any of the iOS 8 app extensions for sharing (Transmit, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) you have the option to choose the file size, resolution, and format: pdf, svg, psd, png or jpg.
Note: Initially published in my 2003 era blog, "Where We're Bound".
The 2 week review
Perhaps my lack of confidence in my decision to get the new powerbook oozed into the experience of getting it… I'm not sure. It's been rocky thus far though the road is getting better.
What fun it is to see the delivery truck park in front of the house! Of course unpacking the new machine is a fun experience. Mine was delivered during a rare Memphis cold spell…. outside temperature was 15 degrees. The powerbook was so cold so I didn't start it up right away. Kinda funny actually, I let it gestate (warm up) by sliding it between my tshirt and jacket. Fifteen minutes later I could wait no more.
The 12" Powerbook has a very solid feel to it. It's smaller than the iBook and is made of aluminum. The result is that it's very light yet very stiff feeling. The screen is, to my eyes, identical to the iBook 700 mhz. The speakers are a definite improvement over the iBooks, probably due to an added midrange speaker. The keyboard is also an improvement over the iBook's. Lastly, the heat issue associated with iBooks is also present with the Powerbook. Seems to heat up on the left side palm rest wear the harddrive lives…. also, a little in the back of the computer. It doesn't feel any hotter than the iBook. The fan kicks on occasionally but isn't too loud. Actually, it came on more often during the first 4 days of usage and has not come on much at all since.
The default configuration includes 256 MB of ram. That's not enough. The first week was disappointing in terms of performance. When the ram came in I installed 512 MB. The powerbook would not start. The Apple Store folk thought the ram was bad and they only had one stick so I went home without it. Went back 4 days later and tried again. Two chips would not work so they tried the chips in different powerbooks at the store and they worked. So, the problem was my pb!! After an hour it was determined they would give me a computer out of store stock as a replacement which was great because I hadn't purchased it there. The hitch: I had to return to pick up the replacement because they had to wait for a phone call and paperwork before they could release it to me.
Picked up the replacement the next day with 640 MB of ram and all was good. My only problem with this replacement is the trackpad clicker which kinda sticks. Though after a few days of use it seems to be better.
A couple days ago I installed the airport extreme card and all is good. After two weeks we're getting along just fine. The machine is as fast as hoped it would be though this requires maxed out ram. I would not want to use it without 640 MB.