A year ago, when the iPad mini came out, I kept my full-sized iPad because of the retina screen. And it’s not like that was a sacrifice. I love the larger display on my full-sized iPad for writing and reading. The size and weight (which, come on, have never been that bad) have never bothered me. Sure, I can’t hold the iPad with one hand while lying down in bed, but I don’t do that anyway. For long-form reading I have a Kindle.

The question for me, today, on iPad Air Eve, is: could the iPad mini — which is cheaper, smaller, and lighter, with an even denser Retina than the iPad Air display — be just as good for how I use my iPad?

Maybe. But maybe not. Ugh.

All those who got early review units of the iPad Air are talking about how thin and light it is. Naturally. That’s the hallmark feature for which it’s named. Some wrote in their review that they will be leaving their old iPad mini for the new iPad Air, while others are not getting an Air and holding out for the new iPad Mini with Retina screen.

When I travel, I like to leave my MacBook Air at home and take just my iPad. In part because when I travel (especially vacation) I like to avoid bringing work with me. Also, there are a few days a week when I will leave my home office to go work from a coffee shop or the local library. Most of the time I like to take just my iPad on these occasions as well.

There are myriad conveniences to working from an iPad. The insane battery life; the extreme portability; super-fast LTE that’s available just about anywhere (except the middle of Kansas, fyi, in case you too happen to find yourself driving on I-70 between Denver and Kansas City); and more.

Also, the iPad comes with its own “anti-distraction software” — iOS itself. On the iPad you can only wrangle one app at a time.

But lately, when traveling or going to a coffee shop, I’ve been taking my MacBook Air with me more often than not. When I went to WWDC in 2012 I took only my iPad, yet this year I took my MacBook Air along.

As water likes to flow downward I naturally gravitate towards working from my laptop.

I’m at my desk working from my clamshelled MacBook Air right now, and I have 9 active application windows in my view: MarsEdit, nvAlt, Safari, Mail, Pages, Byword, Messages, Rdio, and OmniFocus. My MacBook Air is packed to the rafters with Keyboard Maestro macros, TextExpander snippets, keyboard shortcuts, and other scripts. It can display many app windows at once, and is generally more efficient for most tasks.

There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to iOS’s constraints just as there are advantages and disadvantages to the versatility of OS X. Each device and its operating system have their own ways of empowering creative work as well as hindering it.

It’s often easier for me to work from my MacBook Air and sometimes I flat out need to. But I want to and will continue to work from my iPad as often as possible.

Though I’m still not 100% confident that an iPad Air will be the best iPad for me now that the iPad mini has a Retina display, the alarm on my iPhone is set for tonight at 2:00 am local time. I’ll wake up, order my iPad through Apple’s Store app, choose in-store pickup (assuming it’s an option), and mosey down to my local Apple store some time tomorrow after I’ve had my coffee.

Then, in about a month from now, for the sake of science, I’ll get an iPad mini as well.1 I don’t want an iPad Air or an iPad mini specifically — I want the device that’s the most enjoyable and conducive to use for getting work done.

Perhaps it’s with the one that has a bigger screen that will prove to be thin and light enough. Or, maybe, the one that is thinner and lighter with a screen that proves to be big enough.

I don’t yet know how the pros and cons weigh against one another. But I do know that the iPad as a computer is the future. And the entire iOS and iDevice ecosystem is, to me, the most exciting and fascinating thing happening right now.

  1. Last year I had a very good feeling that this sort of dilemma would present itself, so I’ve been saving with the expectation of buying one of each so I could use and test them both. These are the sorts of sacrifices I’m willing to take for my job.

Fantastical 2 for iPhone: The Best Gets Better

The new Fantastical is the best calendar app on the iPhone. It was great before, but now, it’s, well, fantastic.

Fantastical 2 for iPhone

Let’s talk for a moment about friction, learning interfaces, and natural language parsing

I’ve always been a fan of Fantastical’s natural language parsing and it’s simple-yet-powerful design. When I say Fantastical is the best calendar app for the iPhone, I define “the best” as being the easiest to use (adding/editing events) and the easiest to read (checking schedule) for most people.

About a month ago I took a little poll on Twitter. It’s nothing scientifically conclusive, but it does provide some interesting data points to say the least. In the poll I asked people how many events they enter into their iPhone on a weekly basis.

Of 179 total responses:

  • 73% enter 1 or fewer events per day (130 people)
  • 21% enter an average of 2 events per day (38 people)
  • 6% enter an average of 3 events per day (10)
  • Less than 1% enter 4 or more events per day (1)

So, 94-percent of the total respondents use their iPhone’s calendar app 2 or fewer times per day to enter in a new event with most of those people actually using it just once or less per day.

Think about the situations you’re typically in when adding an event to your calendar using your iPhone. For me, I’m usually in the middle of a conversation with someone and we’ve just agreed upon our next meeting or a meal together. Or I’m in the lobby at my kids’ doctor’s office making their next checkup appointment, or I’m at my dentist making my next cleaning appointment. Etc.

In short, the times I’m using my iPhone to enter an event are times when I’m usually in the middle of something else. I want to add the event and get on with life.

The more we become familiar with a calendar app’s new-event interface, then the faster we can navigate it. However, as my Twitter poll hints, people entering in just one event or less per day is not much usage to learn an app’s interface.

I’ve been using my iPhone to enter calendar events since 2007, and the default new event entry sheet provided by iOS has always felt like an obstacle course. If most of us are entering one event or less per day on our iPhones, then are we ever really learning the event input interface of our calendar app?

That is why natural language parsing is so divine. Because what’s an “interface” we are all extremely familiar with? Natural language.

We say sentences like “I’m having lunch with Steve tomorrow” all the time. It’s called “natural language” for a reason — we say these sentences in our everyday conversations, emails, text messages, etc. It’s natural to us.

And so a calendar app that can understand our own natural language is one that we can use as infrequently as we want without suffering the consequences of not learning its input UI.

Fantastical has, by far and away, the best natural language input mechanics of any other calendar app on the iPhone. It is fast and smart at parsing just about any event- or reminder-based sentence, and it has easy-to-understand animations which let us know how the app is translating our words.

As Dr. Drang pointed out, Fantastical’s animations do more than dazzle:

The animations are providing instant feedback on how Fantastical is parsing your words and, more important, they’re teaching you Fantastical’s syntax.

What’s New in Fantastical 2?

In a sentence, it’s faster, it’s built and designed for iOS 7, it has Reminders integration, light and dark modes, and there’s a swell new week view if you flip your iPhone on its side.

Let’s dive in.

Landscape Mode’s Week View

Flip your phone into landscape mode and Fantastical shows you your week view with the time plotted on the calendar (not unlike Calendar shows you on the Mac).

Fantastical week view in Landscape mode

I’m a fan of this view because it’s a great way to visualize what blocks of time I’m booked for during the day and what blocks of time are open.

Moreover, from this weekly view you can drag and move events very easily. You can adjust their start and end times. And if you tap and hold on an empty spot, you can create a new event
(which also means, by the way, that Fantastical now supports the landscape keyboard for creating a new event or reminder).


Pulling down on the day ticker and/or the month view is how you transition between one or the other. This animated transition is smoother and faster in the new version of Fantastical.

iOS 7

Updated with a 64bit architecture, background updating, and dynamic text. New events and reminders you add via your Mac or iPad or any other app beyond Fantastical still will sync to Fantastical in the background.

Reminders Integration

You can add a reminder by typing “Remind me to…”, or you can manually tap the toggle on the new event creation window that will switch Fantastical between new calendar event and new reminder.

Custom keyboard row

If you’ve got an iPhone 5 or 5s, above the QWERTY row is a 5th row with numbers, a forward slash, and a colon to help enter in calendar data faster. In my time testing the app over the past several weeks this row has proven to be immensely helpful.

Auto-import your settings

Your Fantastical 1 settings auto-import into Fantastical 2.

This seems like a non-trivial thing, right? We’re used to updating our apps and having our settings persist through the update.

But with developers releasing new, iOS 7-only, paid updates to their apps, a paid update like this is actually like installing a new app. Of course your calendars sync right up, but your app-specific display settings — such as having weekends highlighted, if days with no events show up in the day ticker, etc.. — are imported from Fantastical 1 into Fantastical 2. It’s the sort of thing you’d only notice if it didn’t happen.


If you’re not satisfied with your current calendar app, Fantastical is just $3 on the App Store.

Fantastical 2 for iPhone: The Best Gets Better

Here’s an excerpt from article I wrote about a year ago:

For a maker, uninterrupted work time is valuable because it allows us uninterrupted thought. Large blocks of free time so we can focus, freely (or not so freely, because, well, you know how it goes sometimes).

But when we interrupt our own time with habitual checking of email, Facebook, Twitter, et al. then it’s like having micro meetings all day long.

Unfollowing everyone, unsubscribing from everything, and setting up auto-responders in our email seem mostly seem like band-aid fixes. They help in some regard (I’m trying something similar myself with Twitter) but underneath the problem is still there. Yes, apply the band aid, but that alone does not mean the “problem” is “healed”.

Because it comes down to our own choices. Are we going to spend our time the way we want to or not? Are we going to do the work we say we want to do or not? Intentions are dandy, but real men get to work.

Ouch. Seems to get more and more relevant every passing day.

“Intentions Are Dandy, but Real Men Get to Work.”

A short NPR segment with Oliver Burkeman from The Guardian, talking about some of the highlight points found in Mason Currey’s new book, Daily Rituals. (Via my sister.)

Things like time management, focus, the tyranny of the urgent, ego depletion, etc., seem to endlessly fascinate me. I haven’t read Currey’s book yet — I just learned of it this morning — but I’ve added it to my Kindle queue.

But you’ve got to wonder about some of these habits, right? I mean most of these studies and conversations are about the habits, rituals, and “tricks of the trade” of creative guys who never had the internet in their pocket. Hemingway never had a Twitter account.

Not to imply that being a morning person is no longer the secret to creative genius. Nor that you shouldn’t have a set time to do your work regardless of if you feel inspired or not. Nor that you shouldn’t take breaks during the day to let your mind and body wander away from your creative work. In fact, I’m personally quite an advocate of these very same habits.

However, I can’t help but wonder what these types of studies and conversations will look like 50 years from now. When the most creative artists of our generation are studied. Surely there’ll be something in there about how they didn’t check their email or Twitter accounts and how they used an AeroPress.

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While I do use my iPad for writing and work purposes (especially when out and about), I still mostly work from my desk with my MacBook Air, Korean display, and clicky keyboard.

If there’s anyone I know with a right to talk about using the iPad for work, it’s Federico Viticci. And his case that the iPad mini is just as good — if not better — for content creation has me second guessing my plans to get an iPad Air as my main iPad.

However, on the other side of the fence, Ben Brooks is making a case for the iPad Air.

As a service to you, the readers, I did some research and found an app to help you decide which iPad to get.

iPad mini For Content Creation

Marco Arment:

Rather than asking how Apple can keep selling the relatively ancient iPad 2 at just 20% less than its original price, maybe we should be asking why all tablets aren’t expected to be fully useful for over three years after their launch.

It’s one thing to brag that your tablet is cheaper than an iPad. It’s another thing to have proof that your product will be useful and relevant for years to come.

Younger Than The iPad 2

1Password and iCloud Keychains: How They Work Together

I’m posting today’s episode of Shawn Today here to make it available for everyone.

With Mavericks support for storing passwords and credit card info in Safari, combined with the iCloud keychain syncing of that info to our iOS devices, I wanted to share about how that impacts my favorite password manager, 1Password.

In short, I wanted to talk about why I still consider 1Password to be vitally important and useful.

On today’s podcast episode I share how I’ve been using the new iCloud keychain in both Mavericks and iOS, how I use 1Password, why the two make a good pair, and why 1Password is still important and useful.

Direct download link. (09:01)

Note: In the show is that I didn’t know if you could look up individual passwords from within iOS (to do things like fill in the UN/PW information for an app). It turns out you can look up password information if you go to the Settings app → Safari → Passwords & AutoFill → Saved Passwords. (You can also find your Saved Credit Card info here as well.)

1Password and iCloud Keychains: How They Work Together

XOXO is about people who use technology to build thing they’re proud of and do the work that they love. Though I’m bummed I wasn’t able to be at XOXO this year, I’m not that bummed because I had very good reason: my wife’s and my 2nd son, Giovanni, was born just a few days before the festival.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to attend vicariously thanks to the event videos of each speaker. So far I’ve watched Marco Arment’s talk on fear and competition, Cable Sasser’s talk on stress and pressure, and Maciej Cegłowski on simplicity and other things.

Each of these talks were incredibly inspiring and encouraging to me.

The 2013 XOXO Festival Speaker Videos

The New Tweetbot for iPhone and iOS 7

Long have I been a fan of Mark Jardine’s heavy-handed design aesthetic. The dark grey industrial materials, the gradients, noise textures, and the playful graphics and icons. These design elements have been inextricably tied to the signature and brand of the Tapbots app lineup.

Today, that all changes.

The new Tweetbot is a ground-up re-design and re-thinking of what is one of the most popular Twitter clients out there.

Tweetbot 3 for iOS 7 - Account Screen

This is the new Tweetbot, for iOS 7. As you can see the design is very new. It’s a starting over, not only for the app itself, but for the Tapbots’ brand.

For this new app, Mark and Paul had to out-Tweetbot Tweetbot. And I think they did just that.

Tweetbot 3 for iOS 7 - the main timeline view

This new version has all the underpinnings of what has made the app great since its 1.0 release in April 2011. It has fast and smooth scrolling, it has clever animations all throughout, swipe or tap-and-hold to act on a tweet, etc.

But, be it familiar, it is still an all new app.

Save for the icons, the new Tweetbot is a radical departure from the look Tapbots has become world famous for. The main timeline view now sports circle avatars and a white, gradient-free background. Tapping on images blurs brings them up full-screen while the background goes blurry. This app has all the design elements of a native iOS 7 app, but with a unique twist all its own.

It’s not all just a new coat of paint. The new Tweetbot supports background updating in iOS 7, which means that when you launch it your tweets are already there waiting for you. (This feature alone is worth the price to upgrade.)

Also, Tweetbot uses dynamic text from the size you set in the iOS system settings. Personally, I find this to be unfortunate. I prefer my system text (such as for emails and Safari’s “Reader mode”) to be just one notch above the tiniest. However, I find that size of text to be too big in Tweetbot. Even at the very smallest setting for dynamic system text size, it is still too big for me in the Tweetbot timeline.

When it comes to whimsy and personality, though the heavy-handed design aesthetic is now mostly gone, there are fun animations and bounce effects to nearly every element of the app. One of my favorites is tapping the profile image up to to bring up the account switcher — the individual account pictures and names slide in from the right and bounce off the left margin.

When you launch the new Tweetbot for the first few times, there is certainly a bit of shell shock at just how different it is. But, as you use it, you realize that it’s still a Tapbots app at heart. It’s just as delightful and just as powerful as its siblings, but it marks the next generation of Tapbots apps. And I’m looking forward to what’s next.

The new Tweetbot is a paid update for all users, and is on sale right now for $2.99 in the App Store.

The New Tweetbot for iPhone and iOS 7