That Mac Nerd

Posts - Page 6 of 13

My WWDC 2017 Wish List

  • 3 min read

I love this time of year.

It’s WWDC season and I usually turn off notifications and non-essential phone calls and texts 1.

I fire up my 3rd Gen Apple TV 2, sit back on the couch and watch the keynote.

Most of the time I am excited about new features in iOS and the Mac, but last year I felt none of that excitement, nothing like iOS 8 and 9 and macOS Yosemite.

So this year, I am laying out not my predictions for WWDC but my WWDC 2017 wish list.

Pro iOS Features

I use my Mac for pretty much everything 3 but I am starting to look at my iPad Pro for work.

Currently, iOS on the iPad is hampered by lack of work-related features like a file system. My wish for iOS 11:

  • Access to a better filesystem: iCloud Drive on iOS 10 was a great sign for filesystem improvements for iOS. I’d like to see that continue. Improve the document picker or do away with it completely. A central repository for files across all apps [^4] would make working on iPad much easier.
  • Drag and Drop: I know that drag and drop is a mouse and trackpad/traditional desktop/laptop paradigm, but that shouldn’t be a reason to not implement it on iOS. The way Readdle hacked the filesystem to actually run a server between two apps to simiulate drag and drop is a pleasure to use. Drag and drop makes sense for finger navigation. I would love to see that come to iOS.
  • Native screen recording: I do a lot of screen recording for this blog. I’d like to not have to be tethered to a Mac to actually record the screen. Apple introduced ReplayKit in 2015 for livestreaming games. It makes sense that screen recording would be the next extension of this.
  • More intelligent photos app: Right now I am using Google Photos for searching my photos. iCloud Photos and Photo Library are still my preferred Photo organization tools, but Google is so far ahead in the AI game that their offering is 10x better than Apple’s current one. I can search for “MacBook” in Apple Photos and I barely get any results even though I have at least 20-30 MacBook photos. Same search in Google Photos returns most of those 20-30 photos. I know Apple doesn’t want to use the cloud to parse information from user data but I think it is hampering their AI efforts. Users really don’t care about privacy as evidenced by Google Photos 4.5 star rating with over 1k reviews.

macOS Improvements

macOS is really a mature OS. The only thing I’d like to see in macOS is relaxed sand boxing rules for the Mac App Store.

I barely get things from the Mac App Store. The Pro apps I need have already left the MAS. I’m sure there are more to follow.

I’d also like to see them rethink the Bluetooth module. Inconsistent, constantly disconnecting from my Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard [^5], Handoff and Airdrop unreliability. Either Apple’s devices aren’t ready for Bluetooth 4 or there’s something fundamentally wrong with Apple’s Bluetooth daemon or module.

snippets for Just Another Software Engineering Blog and videos for this blog. [^4]: Even cloud apps like Dropbox. [^5]: Getting this keyboard in a couple months and I can’t wait. Apple’s flat keyboard has given me some RSI issues after only a couple months of using it. Also, as a programmer, I need a better, sturdier keyboard.

Your WWDC 2017 Wish List?

What are you looking forward to this WWDC?

  1. Everyone except my aging family. 

  2. Upgrading my Apple TV in a couple months. I am also probably watching on my iMac. My TV is small and ancient. I’ll be upgrading it, too. 

  3. Moving my writing workflow to iPad has been fruitful until I need code 

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Readdle Updates Apps with Drag and Drop

  • 2 min read

 

Readdle, maker of apps like Spark Mail App, Documents, and PDF Expert, has released v6 of their popular iOS apps.

Documents 6 and PDF Expert 6 have gotten a much need facelift.

Inside of these apps, icons are larger and the colors muted to give a more personal feel.

Glyphs are also colored here which distinguishes the different actions from each other, which is a nice touch.

[masterslider id=”2”]

The marquee feature of this update is the drag and drop addition.

You can drag and drop inside of their apps but also between their apps.

Drag and Drop: A Welcomed Addition

System wide on iOS, you cannot drag and drop between apps in split view on the iPad.

Federico Viticci and the MacStories team came up with a very slick, very popular concept video for iOS 11. Here, Sam and Federico propose drag and drop in split view among all apps, as well as some other interesting concepts.

While you can’t do this between two different apps currently, Readdle implemented drag and drop between their apps.

Dragging and Dropping Inside Documents 6 on iPhone

You cannot drag and drop between Readdle apps on iPhone but you can drag and drop inside of one of their document apps.

For instance, you can drag a PDF into a folder in Documents 6 or PDF Expert 6 on iPhone.

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Drag-and-drop-in-documents-6-on-iPhone.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/documents_6_iPhone_ui.png” width=”375” height=”667”]

There is also the ability to hold a dragged document over a folder until it opens the target folder via spring loading.

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Spring-loaded-ui-drag-and-drop.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/documents_6_iPhone_ui.png” width=”375” height=”667”]

Dragging Around on iPad Pro

You can also drag and drop similarly on iPad and iPad Pro.

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/drag-and-drop-between-folders-iPad-Pro.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Documents_main_ui.jpg” width=”1366” height=”1024”]

You can also drag folders into folders:[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Folder-drag-between-cloud-services.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot2017-06-01_07-45-48_PM.jpg” width=”1366” height=”1024”]

Drag and Drop Between Apps

This is the most interesting part of these updates.

Dragging a file from Documents 6 into, say Spark, is a delight. You can easily share a PDF by sending it to your editor, accountant 1, or whatever. The drag and drop capabilities make this easy.

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/drag-and-drop-between-documents-and-spark-documents.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot2017-06-01_07-43-09_PM.jpg” width=”1366” height=”1024”]

You can also drag images into Spark or Documents:

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/dragging-images-between-apps.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot2017-06-01_07-44-47_PM.jpg” width=”1366” height=”1024”]

Dragging from right to left works, too. [fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/dragging-the-other-way.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot2017-06-01_07-48-05_PM.jpg” width=”1366” height=”1024”]

Snappier Dropbox Loading

One of the main pain points for me using Documents and PDF Expert 5 was the seriously slow loading of my Dropbox content. I’d wait sometimes five or 10 minutes for them to load my folders. Sometimes they didn’t and I’d have to back out, force quit the apps, and try again. I’d have to do this several times.

In Documents and PDF Expert 6, the Dropbox loading is much faster.

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/faster-cloud-access.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Documents_main_ui.jpg” width=”1366” height=”1024”]

Check These Out

If you have previously given up on the Readdle suite of apps 2 then try them again. The drag and drop between their apps and in each individual app is well worth the repeat download.

  1. As Federico does 

  2. I deleted Spark and went back to Airmail but decided I’d use Airmail to process and Spark/Gmail to read. 

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Pick of the Month: Timing 2

  • 1 min read

When I first came across Timing, it was recommended to me by my good friend Nick Lash. We were talking about time tracking apps and his possible employment as an iOS developer for time tracking juggernaut Toggl 1.

He was thinking of rewriting their Mac app 2 in the vein of Timing.app.

I got to check it out in my trial of Setapp 3 and I couldn’t figure it out. I also didn’t want to: the design was Mavericks-esque and didn’t appeal to me at all.

Productivity in Tech and Apps

Productivity in Tech Facebook group is a goldmine of productivity information and app recommendations. Jay Miller, Community Organizer of Productivity in Tech, mentioned Timing.app v2 and how much better it was than v1. I put off checking it out: Toggl was enough. Besides, I had the perfect Alfred workflow for Toggl.

The problem with Toggl, at least for me, was keeping up with logging my time. I kept it up for two weeks then slowly my tracking fell off.

I checked out Timing’s website, poked around, looked at videos and thought, Wow. This is what I need.

Limits of Toggl Aren’t Limits in Timing

Manually tracking your time is tedious and cumbersome. My Alfred workflow made it easier but it still didn’t work for me. Timing tracks everything you do on your Mac, asks you what you did while you were away, has a beautiful new interface, and can generate reports. The Professional version gives you timesheet tracking and other perks.

I am trialling the Professional version and I am going to be buying it very soon. It’s $50 4 but $50 well spent.

Where Timing Fails

No web API. No iOS app. These aren’t deal breakers for me but could be for some.

Love?

I have been using it for a couple of days and I really do love it: the new UI, the reports, filters, overview of my day. It is everything one could want in a time tracking app.

Check it out and see for yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAM5eT00lnE

[caption id=”attachment_1311” align=”aligncenter” width=”819”]timing_watch How much is your time worth?[/caption]

  1. I talk about Toggl in this post and this one

  2. It’s ugly and pretty useless. 

  3. Subscription based model for a suite of different apps. 

  4. $29 for Productivity and $79 for Expert. 

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App Spotlight: Calibre 3 Beta Now With Retina

  • 3 min read

You could never chastise me for not reading enough.

I have been reading since I was three years old.

Mom and I weren’t exactly middle class so we would trek to the local library where we’d check out a mountain of books, all of which I’d read in about a week.

When I started school, we had the Weekly Reader and Scholastic book drives. I’d eagerly come home and read to my mom all the books I wanted, which were quite a bit. I’d read until past my bedtime, against my mom’s rules. I’d read in class when things got a little boring or I knew the material. I got in trouble for reading a lot.

Now, as an adult, I still have a passion for books. I read them in all forms: print, audio, and ebook.

I have a massive library 1, about close to 4,000 titles, of ebooks stored in several folders across my iMac 2.

How Does One Manage That Many ebooks?

I use a bit of open source free software called calibre. It isn’t the prettiest app - in fact, it’s quite ugly on macOS 3 but the app is powerful.

Kovid, the developer, recently released the beta of v3 and it brings a server where you can read your ebooks on practically any device browser, and retina graphics, which had been sorely missing from the app for years.

Adding Books

There are many ways to add books to calibre. The easiest is to drag them into the app.

Another way is to click the green Add Books button in the top left corner.

One of the things the app does is convert ebook formats. There are a ton of files you can convert from one to another. You can even strip DRM from books 4 with a plugin.

This is useful if you don’t want to read books you get from Amazon in the Kindle app and the app you want to read them in is an epub only app like Marvin. You can convert the mobi, azw, azw3 files to epub with calibre.

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Adding-books.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot2017-05-14_09-00-03_PM.jpg” width=”1280” height=”720”]

Adding Metadata

Editing metadata for your books is as easy as right or ⌥ clicking the book, or, selecting multiple books and ⌥ clicking and selecting download metadata. This will give you a couple of options like just downloading the metadata or covers or both. You can review the metadata before you add it to make sure it is correct.

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Adding-metadata.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot2017-05-14_09-00-03_PM.jpg” width=”1280” height=”720”]

Dragging Tags

In order to add tags that may be missing from your books you can drag the books onto the tags 5 you want to add.

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Dragging-tags.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot2017-05-14_09-00-03_PM.jpg” width=”1280” height=”720”]

Editing Books

You can edit books directly in the main interface but you get plenty more options by hitting e when a book or multiple books are selected. Here you can add custom metadata, if you’ve made your own columns 6, add star ratings, etc. I use this option all the time as it makes bulk editing and editing in general easier.

[fvplayer src=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Editing.mp4” splash=”https://thatmacnerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Screenshot2017-05-14_09-00-03_PM.jpg” width=”1280” height=”720”]

More Tips and Advanced Features in Another Post

These are the basics. Try it out, see if it is right for you and let me know what you like 7 about it.

  1. But not as many as this guy 

  2. By several folders, I mean the same copies in different folders that I need to catalogue and upload in different apps. For instance, my main book folder is Books for iPad and I’ve set up Hazel rules to move them to Books for Sideloading and Import which get uploaded to Dropbox and downloaded in Marvin.app and imported into Book Collector respectively. 

  3. Kovid Goyal, the developer, does not own a Mac to test but his Windows app is ugly, too. 

  4. Assuming you’ve bought them. The latest version of Kindle for Windows circumvents the DeDRM plugin. The creators are working on a fix. I can only imagine that feature coming to Mac sooner or later from Amazon. For now, we’re safe. 

  5. Provided the tag is there. If not you can always add it. 

  6. Will go over advanced features soon. 

  7. Or don’t. 

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3 Years An Apple Fangirl

  • 8 min read

I have been writing about Apple in some form or another for the past two years. Starting as an app blog for non-traditional students, to moving my work over to The Apple Fancast 1, then back to my blog.

I’ve had this thing running just a fraction of the time of other indie blogs and that’s because I didn’t get my first Apple device until October of 2013.

First Date

I was a writer, a creative, and thus, the allure of Apple devices hit me pretty early in my computing life.

I remember back in my first stint at college, we had a Mac lab 2. I hadn’t heard a lot about Macs at that point. I had spent most of my high school years in a boarding school so I didn’t really have access to the things everyone else saw, up until about 1997.

By 2000 I was enamored with the web and computers. My first experience with a modern computer 3 was a Windows box. At that time, I knew I wanted to work with them, though my college journey would take many turns, ending right back to where I started in 2002, working and building software.

I went into the Mac lab and sat down at this beautiful Bondi Blue iMac.

[caption id=”attachment_1256” align=”alignnone” width=”1280”]Bondi Blue iMac, circa 1999-2003 Bondi Blue iMac, circa 1999-2003[/caption]

It had no icons on the desktop and a hidden dock. It was inscrutable to me - I didn’t know how to navigate it without a desktop full of icons.

I got up and decided Macs weren’t for me.

Apple Envy

As school and the years went on, I saw a lot of software I was using wasn’t available for the Mac platform. I scoffed and thought, those poor saps. Can’t even use good software.

Then 2008 came and I was in the full creative person swing.

A writer who I admired wrote all her pieces on a Mac. She told me it was for creatives.

For a year I had been bombarded by the I’m a Mac campaign. It rubbed me the wrong way. Truly the wrong way. I began to have a simmering disgust for Apple and its overpriced hardware.

Around this time, the iPhone was making waves. For Christmas 2009, I bought myself an iPod Touch with the money I got for the holiday. T-Mobile, my cell carrier, didn’t have the iPhone - neither did Verizon or any other carrier that wasn’t AT&T. Everyone and their mother on writer blogs were talking about geolocation apps, productivity apps on the iPhone, and as someone who is into all of those things, I decided to get the iPod.

I was in love with that iPod. I still had my flip phone. That was until my cousin told me, after I insisted that Android copied Apple, to give Android a try. My cousin was a Flash developer and so he already had a disdain for Apple for trying to drive the stake into Flash’s heart. I went to T-Mobile and decided to try a Windows Mobile phone 4 as I had experience with the platform. The salesman told me there were no apps on that platform. He encouraged me to buy the Samsung Galaxy S.

The OLED screen was gorgeous. The app ecosystem rich. I put down the money then for the phone.

My friend Rick bought an iPhone and the MacBook Air when it first came out. We would go out and we’d have our computers - my huge, power-hungry Toshiba computer that I had just bought and his MacBook Air. I felt an air of superiority. His tiny little MacBook Air! Not a serious machine.

He let me get on and it was fast. Really fast and much faster than my Toshiba that took at least two minutes to load after booting up.

He took me to the Apple Store in Central PA, about an hour from where we lived. I saw the 2011 iMac and I felt immediate envy. I knew I needed a MacBook Pro, iMac, something. I just couldn’t afford it.

iPad: The Gateway Drug

I have a lot of Apple devices and other gear now. I am not wealthy by any means - most of the stuff I bought I bought for working reasons, as a student and independent blogger 5. I used the left over funds from loans to get the gear I have 6 and I am grateful for the stuff I was able to buy.

I bought the iPad to read textbooks. I bought the iPad 4 knowing full well the iPad Air was about to come out. However soon that would be, I couldn’t wait.

Coming from Android phones and tablets, and being frustrated with them, I decided that I would join the in-crowd and buy an iPad. I had the money. I moved out of Central PA to Pittsburgh to finish my education at Pitt.

I went to the Shadyside Apple Store. It was magical.

I had long maintained that I would keep my Samsung Note II - I had spent so much time hating Apple that I was only going to give them a little of my money. I also needed a new computer - my Toshiba bit the dust after two years of owning it. I’ll buy the iPad and a MacBook Pro. No iPhone.

I bought the iPad. The Genius helped me set it up, or at least tried - I was already pretty tech savvy. In preparation, I bought over $300 worth of apps to fill my iPad with, over several months.

The apps were all pulled down from iCloud rather seamlessly. It felt like heaven. My Android devices lagged, ran out of RAM quite frequently, crashed, etc. This was a whole other world to me.

I brought it home and found the apps on it to look and respond better.

[caption id=”attachment_1250” align=”aligncenter” width=”403”]Newsstand, iOS 2013 Newsstand, iOS 2013[/caption]

[caption id=”attachment_1254” align=”aligncenter” width=”238”]Android Goodreads app circa 2013 Android Goodreads app circa 2013[/caption]

It was then that I decided I needed an iPhone.

The Camera

One of the selling points of the iPhone was its superior camera.

[caption id=”attachment_1253” align=”aligncenter” width=”387”]My First iPhone, the iPhone 5s, 2014 My First iPhone, the iPhone 5s, 2014[/caption]

I fancied myself a photographer and the camera was basically what drove me over, as well as the quality apps.

I downloaded a ton of camera apps and joined iPhoneography forums, and went out taking lots of amateurish photos with some gems thrown in.

[caption id=”attachment_1251” align=”aligncenter” width=”594”]Shot with my Samsung Note II but edited on my iPhone 5s Shot with my Samsung Note II but edited on my iPhone 5s[/caption]

[caption id=”attachment_1255” align=”aligncenter” width=”604”]Pittsburgh Pittsburgh[/caption]

[caption id=”attachment_1252” align=”aligncenter” width=”508”]Sometimes you get the decisive moment by luck. Sometimes you get the decisive moment by luck.[/caption]

I spent the better part of a year just playing around with my iPhone 5s, then 6.

MacBook Pro: It Really Did Change My Life

Up until I got my MacBook Pro, I considered myself a writer. This was for many reasons: melancholy, tragedy, love. I could work my way through it by writing. I am very good at it - I have pieces of short fiction published a few places, and places like The Mid-American Review 7 liked my work do much they told me to resubmit, even though they were rejecting me. I was on my way to perhaps good things as a writer, but it wasn’t challenging enough. I know my writer friends would smack me, but it wasn’t. I kept getting bored with the topics I was writing about, and I wasn’t good at sci-fi world building to switch genres.

I also no longer needed a literary outlet to me struggles as those struggles alleviated themselves for the most part.

I bought some coding courses on Udemy for $30 from StackSocial. I also got a text editor with that in anticipation for my Mac. Still in school, my friend Joe Wade who was also a writer, was thinking of getting another degree in something else.

I had been a proponent of fixing computers and software UX problems, often doing it for residents and family. One of my neighbors told me to stop writing and take up computers. I knew it was a sensible move but so much of who I was tied up in writing.

Listening to Joe tell me about his plan, I decided to get a degree in English and computer science. I started looking for online tutorials to learn how until I got into Pitt. It was wonderful.

How does the MacBook Pro fit into this? It was such a pleasure to use. I couldn’t stop working on it. The UI, the ease of bash, the apps 8. I became borderline obsessed with the computer - my productivity skyrocketed.

[caption id=”attachment_1257” align=”aligncenter” width=”523”]First Mac First Mac[/caption]

It set me on a path to actually make a healthy living as a developer 9 instead of a barista at Starbucks and it made me enjoy computing instead of tolerating it.

Now?

Now I’ve added an iMac to the mix. I bought an Apple TV back in 2013 as well which I’ll need to upgrade. I have an iPhone 6s I am upgrading, and iPad Pro 12.9”, and perhaps if funds are right, an Apple Watch.

I am fully locked in. And I couldn’t be happier. I’m definitely an Apple Fangirl.

  1. Jon Norman is a great guy but the way he pumped out content, with the little sponsorship he got, the blog and its sister content was not sustainable. 

  2. Before state budget cuts - 2002 was a great year at that school. 

  3. First was as a kid with a hand me down Commodore 128, which I promptly programmed in BASIC and hated it. Making graphics was really fun and so were the games and joystick, however I had a Nintendo. Didn’t quite compare. 

  4. Lulz 

  5. And at the time, writer. 

  6. I watched my best friend spend up a storm not realizing these funds run out. We partied a lot. And because of that, I took up getting my own loans, and running out. Naivety and not having much will do that to you. 

  7. The Mid-American Review is kind of big deal in the writing world

  8. 2003 me wouldn’t believe the apps available for this platform. 

  9. Almost there! 

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