Compromises don’t make for great products, and nor do they make for great experiences.
That’s why you have more than one device. That’s why it’s perfectly reasonable to pack and travel with several of them. And that’s also why a more rational view of a piece of technology is that it’s part of an ecosystem — your own personal one, encompassing your work, leisure, interests and utility needs.
November 21, 2013
Leading up to the launch of The Sweet Setup, we were wrangling about 20 active documents. I was working with half-a-dozen different authors on their app reviews along with writing several reviews and blog posts of my own, and Jeff Abbott was editing everything.
To manage all of these documents we use Editorially.
It’s awesome. Here’s why.
Markdown support: All the writers we work with prefer to write in Markdown. I prefer markdown. And, well, Editorially supports markdown syntax highlighting in the browser. It also displays images inline. When you’re done writing you can export your writing as an html, markdown, plain text, Latex, rich text, MS Word, or ePub file. Wow.
Collaboration: invite people to join the document as read-only privileges or with editing privileges. You can highlight words and passages to make notes about, and you can comment on the document in general.
Track changes and version control: Editorially auto-saves as your working on a document, so if your browser crashes you don’t lose your work. It also keeps all the versions of a document, and allows you to compare the changes of one version with another.
Document status: Documents start as “Draft”, and as you progressively work on them you can change their status to “Reviewing”, “Revising”, “Copyediting”, and “Final”.
These states worked perfectly with our workflow, and followed perfectly the progression of our articles from the initial submission by a contributor, my reviewing of it, the author’s revising of it, and then Jeff’s editing of it. When visiting my Editorially dashboard I could see instantly what the state of each document was, and knew which ones I needed to attend to myself.
Dropbox support: you can link Editorially to a folder in your Dropbox and then send an article to that folder. This is Editorially’s answer to “archiving” since there is nowhere to move documents that are in their final state and which have been published and that you no longer need to keep on your dashboard. This is how I archive all of our published articles, and it works very well.
Pasting into a document: Copy rich or formatted text from one place and when you paste it into Editorially it will format in Markdown. Even images. Amazing.
iPad and iPhone friendly: Editorially is a web app only with no native apps. However, it has a responsive design that works great in Safari on the iPad and iPhone. It can be a bit clunky if you’re making lots and lots of notes and annotations, and I wouldn’t want to spending hours a day, every day, working in Editorially on my iPad. But I edited several documents from my iPhone and iPad with no trouble.
Our Editorially Workflow
Being editor-in-chief, I was reaching out to potential writers asking them if they’d like to do an article for the site. Once they submitted their draft to me I would paste it into Editorially and read through it.
Because Editorially lets me make highlight words and passages, it was easy to make comments about what I felt were good, what needed improvement, and what was missing altogether. I would also make general comments on the document itself such as, “All done. Your turn.”
If I hadn’t already, I would then invite the author to join the document so they could see all my comments and edits, and then they make any changes and leave comments of their own.
Some articles were done after just one pass. Others took several rounds of back and forth work to get it to a place where we were completely happy with it.
Once the article reached the point where the author and I were happy with it, then I would invite Jeff to join. (Jeff is the editor for The sweet Setup.) He would then read through the article for the first time, making sure it had a good flow, made sense, covered all the bases, and was free from typos and other grammatical errors.
When Jeff was done, he’d set the article’s status to “Final”. I would then export the markdown out of Editorially and paste it into our CMS. Editorially also supports publishing to WordPress, but I don’t use this feature — we have quite a few custom fields and other metadata tables set up in our WordPress install that hinder us from just publishing straight to the site from Editorially.
Technically, Editorially is still in beta. There are a few bugs here and there (for example, the dashboard doesn’t remember my preference for displaying documents in a grid format or a list) and there are some other features I’d love to see added (such as the ability to transfer ownership of a document from one user to another, or an “inbox” that listed all the recent activity on all my documents). But these are small issues, and Editorially has proven to be an invaluable tool for us.
We are using it to get a lot of work done without losing our minds. I can’t imagine what our workflow would look like without Editorially.
Tuesday, November 19
By the way, you should definitely follow @thesweetsetup on Twitter. That’s where we’ll be tweeting most about the site’s new app reviews, articles, and other updates to the site.
Also, here’s the link to The Sweet Setup’s RSS feed.
November 19, 2013
Today is the day. It’s here. The Sweet Setup has launched.
There are three groups of people I want to thank:
Erik Olsen of Ink Blot Media Group did all the front-end design. Jonathan Christopher of Iron to Iron did the WordPress implementation and all the custom CMS wizzbangery.
All the contributing authors who’ve been working with me over the past few months to research, test, compare, and pick a “best” app: Federico Viticci, Ben Brooks, Dr. Drang, Bradley Chambers, Stephen Hackett, and John Moltz. As well as Jeff Abbott who edits every word on the site.
The site’s very classy launch partner sponsors: Studio Neat, Macminicolo, Backblaze, and Doxie.
There is much more to say about the site, but right now I’m busy fixing launch-day typos and broken links. I hope you’re able to take some time to check out the site and read some of our fantastic and considered articles. If you’re not sure where to start, take the Dime Tour.
Monday, November 18
Voila is the most powerful screen capturing software available for your Mac. Voila lets you capture and record content and then easily share it with friends and co-workers or upload it to the web.
Voila is the perfect screen recorder for your Mac. You can easily make high-quality product demos, DIY app simulations, and tutorials. Create interactive content by recording your Mac screen along with audio and all your click streams. Then complete your screencast by annotating your screenshots with professional tools and features. Record like a pro and publish your final project to FTP/SFTP, Tumblr, Dropbox, Evernote, and YouTube with Voila.
Made for Mavericks, Voila is simple and intuitive. With Voila, keep your captures organized and within your reach while enjoying a boost in productivity.
Try Voila today. Download Free Trial.
* * *
My thanks to Voila for sponsoring the RSS feed this week. Sponsorship by The Syndicate.
These are fantastic. (Via Jason Santa Maria.)
Friday, November 15
For the past 3 months I’ve secretly been working on a new website.1 It is now nearly done and is on track to launch next week.
To stay abreast of the launch, and to stay up to date with the site once it goes live, you really should follow The Sweet Setup on Twitter.
Now, long-time readers of shawnblanc.net will be familiar with the awesome series of Sweet Mac Setup interviews I’ve conducted over the past several years. I’ve often thought that it would be cool to chart out all the apps and gadgets listed in those Sweet Mac Setup interviews and have some sort of site that listed what was the most popular.2
That’s not quite how the site has landed, but it was the start.
The purpose of The Sweet Setup is to research, test, compare, and find the very best apps for the iPhone and Mac. And, of course, the setup interviews I’ve been doing here over the years will now continue at the new site.
As readers of shawnblanc.net, you are no doubt familiar with my affinity for fine software — there are just so many fantastic apps out there. That is a huge reason for why I built this site. It’ll be a place that floats evergreen content, recommending the best apps for whatever the task and listing those recommendations and reviews in an easy-to-discover layout rather than a reverse-chronological posting format.
Needless to say, I’m incredibly excited to be launching this new site.
November 13, 2013
These two new iPads are marvels.
It’s already amazing that there exists gadgets made of aluminum and glass which weigh less than a pound and have screens that rival the resolution of a printed magazine. Now add to that the fact these devices have touch screens so true-to-life and so responsive that it feels as if you’re literally manipulating the pixels with your fingers.
And it doesn’t end there.
Pacing around the coffee table in my office, thinking about the new iPads while contemplating the big picture of things like personal computers that fit in our pockets and purses, it’s easy to get swept away in just what an incredible day and age we live in.
These devices are also connected to the world wide web — allowing me to communicate with friends, family, members, and strangers alike. A photo I took of my son using my phone has magically appeared on my iPad, and I can email it to my parents with ease; I can write words and publish them to a place where anyone in the world can come to read; I can download music and books; and so, so much more.
But then, returning to Earth, what are the brass tacks here? I’ve been sending emails for over half my life; I’ve never owned a cell phone that couldn’t send a text message; I’ve been making my living publishing to the web for nearly three years; and this isn’t my first iPad.
But yet, in a way, this is my first iPad.
The iPad Air is, hands down, the most amazing iPad I’ve ever owned. And I’ve owned several.
I bought an original iPad on launch day; I bought the iPad 2 on its launch day; and I bought the iPad 3 on its launch day. Each of those successive devices got better and better and better.
Keeping with tradition, I bought the iPad Air on launch day, too. Thirteen days later I can say, unequivocally, that it is the greatest iPad ever. The change in size and weight and speed when compared to the iPad 3 is something that must be experienced and not read about. Trying to describe the difference in usability between the iPad Air and its predecessors is an exercise which puts my wordsmithing skills to the test.
My iPads have always received quite a bit of use from me. Even from the very first generation iPad, I have toted these things with me to meetings, coffee shops, vacations to the Rocky Mountains, “business” trips to WWDC, my living room, and everywhere in between.
Moreover, I am quite comfortable using the iPad as my “laptop”. My work is such that I’m fortunate enough to be able to do pretty much everything I need from the iPad. Nearly all of my daily tasks and routines related to work or play are things I can do on iOS.
Every design and engineering progression with the iPad has been a nice, incremental, and welcomed step. Thinner and lighter, then Retina, then faster. But the iPad Air is a leap and not a step. It feels impossibly thin and impossibly light while also being extremely fast and responsive. It is quintessential.
And then, yesterday, the iPad mini with Retina display appeared. And, well, it is also the best iPad I’ve ever owned.
Here is a device that will fit inside my wife’s purse or the pocket of my peacoat. And it’s ideal for all the most common personal computing tasks of doing email, surfing the Internet, and checking Facebook and Twitter. And we all know the iPad can do so much more — there’s no reason why the iPad mini couldn’t be someone’s only computer.
And that fascinates me. Who knew that one day our uncompromising personal computers would cost a few hundred dollars and would comfortably fit inside a woman’s purse?
I’ve been using the Retina mini for just a day now, but I am confident that I could use it for all the tasks which I’ve been using my full-sized iPad for all these years. The question is not about the capabilities of the mini; the question is about my own preferences. And, at the moment, I don’t have an answer.
It’s different than deciding between an 11- or 13-inch MacBook Air, or between a 13- or 15-inch MacBook Pro. For laptops you mostly use them while they are placed on top of a desk or table (or perhaps your lap) while you sit in front of them. You mostly pick which laptop you need based on your computing tasks and needs, size plays a role in terms of portability, but once the laptop is out and on the desk it mostly doesn’t matter what size it is (unless you’re sitting in coach).
But with the iPad Air and iPad mini, computing usage is not the only factor. There’s also a tangible, kinesthetic-centric factor at play here. Because the iPad is something you hold and touch while using.
Which is better: an iPad Air that has a bigger screen and which is thin and light enough? Or an iPad mini that is very thin and light and which has a screen that is big enough? I just don’t think you can pit these two devices against one another. They are not competing — they are two of a kind.
They are both great. Both favorites.
Over the next several weeks and months I plan to use both iPads for the same tasks. It’ll be interesting to see how the dust settles and if I’ll naturally be drawn more to the smaller device or the larger one, and why.
Wednesday, November 13
Actually a bit surprised to see how many folks keep their bottom row clear of icons. That’s how I’ve been doing it since forever (and I also prefer just three icons in my iPhone’s dock) because I like the extra breathing space it gives. But I always thought I was the minority. Perhaps more folks do this than I thought. It is, after all, how the original iPhone’s Home screen looked.
As usual, a fantastic and concise review with gorgeous photography.
For my work flow, the iPad Air and a MacBook Air is kept in sync through iCloud and is the ideal multi-screen mobile computing solution for me. Originally, my belief was that the iPad Mini would be more of a second screen companion to a heavy notebook user like myself. But the larger screen of the iPad Air and now its new thin and light form factor, favor me using it as a replacement for my notebook when I am highly mobile. For me, this has become a real revelation.
This also has been my setup for a few years now. My MacBook Air usually at my desk and hooked up to my external monitor and keyboard, while my iPad is what I grab when I’m heading out of the house. I’ve also taken several trips (business and personal vacations) where I left the MacBook Air at home and took only the iPad.
It’s actually quite fun and even liberating to work from just the iPad when out and about. The currently-looming question for me is if the iPad mini with Retina display could usurp the full-sized iPad as my laptop replacement.
Speaking of heating and overheating, I’ve heard from a lot of iPad users who seem really concerned that the iPad mini with Retina display is going to get too hot. Is this a reaction to all those stories about the iPad 3 running hot, way back when? Maybe. Anyway, I tried a bunch of stuff on the Retina iPad mini and the hottest it ever got was slightly warm. This doesn’t seem to be an issue, but I’ll keep checking.
Yesterday, as I was setting my iPad mini up for the first time and all my apps were downloading because I was restoring from the iCloud backup of my iPad Air, the bottom-third of the Retina mini was noticeably warm. But not hot.
I think he likes it:
I’m glad that I didn’t buy an iPad Air. My first impression of the iPad Air was right and not buying it was a wise decision. The Retina iPad mini is the iPad I was waiting for, and the next months will provide the necessary opportunities to test its advantages (and changes) over the old model in real life scenarios.
I can create and consume content on the iPad mini because its smaller form factor and lightness allow me to use it all the time in any situation without needing to rest my hands. The iPad mini can be my primary computer because I want to carry it, hold it with one hand, thumb-type on it, and put it in my girlfriend’s purse — which wouldn’t be possible with the iPad Air.
Tuesday, November 12
Your client deadline is in the morning and you really need some web design resources to finish out the project. A dollar here and a dollar there, often stock items add up quickly.
Just because you’re using stock doesn’t mean you have to jack up your prices. There is a better way to stay competitive.
Lootback, the newest addition to your design toolbelt, pays you to make your purchase from the big stock retailers like Envato, iStock, Shutterstock, DepositPhotos, and ThinkStock.
With Lootback you can search all the marketplaces in one spot. Once you find that perfect item, create an account with Lootback, then head over to the other marketplace and buy it. Lootback will track your purchase and get paid a commission for generating the sale. Then they split that commission with you and credit your account to lower your overall costs.
It’s a pretty unique idea that I’ve never seen before. Lootback will save you time and money, so be sure to give it a try.
* * *
My thanks to Lootback for sponsoring the RSS feed this week. Sponsorship by The Syndicate.
I had two small quibbles with Tweetbot 3.0: (1) I wanted app-specific control of text size rather than Tweetbot using the system text sizing; and (2) I missed being able to set a list as my main timeline.
Both of those (along with a few more cool things) were added in yesterday’s update to Tweetbot. Nice.
So the Apple online store went down for a few hours last night, and when it came back on, lo and behold, the iPad mini with Retina display is now available to buy online.
I ordered a Space Gray, 32GB model with Verizon cellular about an hour ago and my order says the iPad will be available to ship within “5-10 business days” and thus is expected to arrive between Nov 26 and Dec 5.
If you’re ordering one of the 16 or 32GB models, they’ll be available to ship within 1-3 business days (which also means some Retina minis will probably be in stores sometime this week).
That’s what the shipping range was when the iPad minis first went on sale early this morning, and it looks like that’s what the shipping times still are at the moment.
Monday, November 11
The major story about the iPad Air is not the reduction in size and weight but the increase in performance. It is, to put it simply, an utter delight to use.
Agreed. And I’d add that the two dynamics of the new iPad — speed and size/weight — go hand in hand to increasing both usability and delight of use. The lighter form factor make the iPad easier to use more frequently, the significantly better processor make the iPad more enjoyable to use when you are using it.
Two points that stuck out to me: (1) David’s first app was built and submitted before he even owned an iPhone(!); and (2) he’s shipped around 80 unique app concepts over the last five years.
Friday, November 8
I’ve watched this video half-a-dozen times, and it’s funny every time.
Beautiful short video by Stephen Kenn. From the description:
The Encounter Collection by Stephen Kenn explores the significant act of passing an object on from one generation to the next. It is in this exchange, accompanied by words of wisdom, that a boy is often called to a life of courage. While aware that everyone’s life experience is unique, and often painful, this film focuses on the experience of a boy losing his father and yet retaining the love and passion that was intended for him.
Update 2: Hold on. I’m not so sure this is actually what’s happening.
The exact language from the Photo Stream KB page says:
There is no limit to the number of photos you can upload to My Photo Stream over time, but iCloud limits the number of photos that can be uploaded within a given hour, day, or month to prevent unintended or excessive use. [...]
There is no limit to the amount of photos you can upload to My Photo Stream over longer periods (such as several months or years). Photos uploaded to My Photo Stream or shared photo streams are not counted against your iCloud Storage.
That sounds like unlimited photo stream uploading forever. But I think what they’re actually talking about is throttling your uploads if you get out of hand.
This FAQ page says that “The photos you upload to My Photo Stream are stored in iCloud for 30 days to give your devices plenty of time to connect and download them.”
That’s how it’s always been. You can upload all you want and have at least 30 days to get them out of Photo Stream and onto your computer. But when the dust settles you’re still only allowed 1,000 photos.
Alas, I don’t think that has changed after all.
Also worth noting is that the FAQ page was updated on October 28, 2013 while the photo stream KB page was updated on September 18, 2013.
Below is what I first wrote with my original link, but I think I was wrong in the interpretation. I deeply apologize for my mistake.
* * *
This is great. You can now store unlimited photos in your Photo Stream and they don’t count against your iCloud storage plan.
Though it isn’t a complete replacement for what we lost with Everpix, it does solve one of the biggest problems we had with Photo Stream: that 1,000-photo limit.
Everpix actually solved two issues: (1) syncing all your photos from all your devices to all your devices; and (2) assisted re-discovery.
This updated Photo Stream limits help with the first problem — syncing all photos to all devices — but it doesn’t solve it quite as elegantly as Everpix, Loom, and ThisLife. For example: the pictures I take with my E-PL5 which I then save to my Mac, are not automatically uploaded to my Photo Stream — I still have to import them into iPhoto.
And the second problem — assisted re-discovery of old photos — isn’t solved at all by Photo Stream.
Here are some of the things I loved about Everpix that aren’t a part of how iCloud Photo Stream works:
- Daily flashback emails that would send me the photos from this day in history (one year ago, two years ago, etc.)
- Auto detection of “more important” photos. Everpix basically had a “highlights” reel that — based on the quality of the image and the contents (people vs food) — would show you what it thought were most likely the best photos from all your pictures.
- Auto upload from the Mac of any folder you chose.
BUT! I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth. The lifting of the Photo Stream sync limit is fantastic. Photo stream is better than ever before while retaining its simplicity — it doesn’t require any fiddling, and it’s exactly what most people need.
Update: Totally missed this the first time through, but this Apple Knowledge Base article was last updated almost two months ago, on September 18, 2013. Curious that myself and a few others I’ve talked to have not seen an increase in Photo Stream capacity, also why wasn’t this bigger news back on or around September 18th? It’s kinda a big deal.
Thursday, November 7
It’s a good one this year. Some returning champions — such as the Kindle Paperwhite, the AeroPress, and the Apple TV — along with some new toys, such as the new B&W P7 headphones, the Spyderco Sage pocketknife (thanks, Ben!), and one of the nicest iPad cases I’ve seen.
There is some great and interesting coverage of Twitter’s IPO in today’s edition of Dave Pell’s Next Draft newsletter.
Marc Edwards charted out a month’s worth of steps counted by both the M7 in his iPhone and his FitBit Zip. The stats are extremely close.
Methinks if you’re casually interested in step counting and keep your iPhone in your pocket most of the time, it might be worth saving the money you’d spend on a pedometer and put that towards a 5s (if you don’t already have one).
P.S. Pedometer++ is a pretty cool, and free, app for tracking steps on the iPhone 5s.
Catherine Price wrote an awesome article for Slate about the Vitamix 5200:
When you first buy a Vitamix 5200, the so-called Ferrari of blenders, two thoughts are likely to pass through your mind. The first is “Did I really just spend more than $400 on a blender?” And the second is “This machine is going to change my life.”
Anna and I have this very same blender in our kitchen. We bought it two years ago — at the recommendation of about 13.4 different friends of ours who also own Vitamixes — so we could save money by making our own baby food (my wife was pregnant with our oldest at the time). Little did we know how awesome it would be. Did you know the Vitamix can make homemade whipped cream in about 7 seconds? It literally takes longer to get all the ingredients into the blender than it does to turn them into a dessert topping.
Wednesday, November 6
This season’s Productive Macs software bundle has some excellent Mac apps.
Keyboard Maestro is one of the most indispensable apps on my Mac. And I know a lot of people nerd out over Default Folder X as well, but I never got in to it. The rest of the apps in the bundle are new to me.
You can get al 7 apps for $30, making it worth the price of admission for Keyboard Maestro alone.
‹ Previously Recently ›
This is an excellent piece by Kyle Baxter. I linked to it in my article last night about the iPad Air being the first iPad without compromise, but Kyle’s article deserves a link all its own.