Little Irritations

I’m a long-time user of Safari in MacOS (and iOS and iPadOS) and was happy to see Tab Groups added as a feature in macOS Monterey two years ago. I’m a heavy user of tab groups – having separately my browsing activity into various categories which help me focus my work and reading.

I’ve been frustrated, however, with my inability to reliably use a keyboard shortcut on my Mac to switch between the dozen or so tab groups I have setup. Sometimes the shortcut (⌘-Shift-⬆︎/⬇︎) would work but most of the time it wouldn’t.

I’ve done a number of searches over time trying to figure out what I might be doing wrong. Earlier this morning I stumbled across one comment in a long thread discussing tab groups saying that for the keyboard shortcut to work the focus needed to be in the URL bar. In other words, if the focus isn’t in the URL bar you need to get it there first (easily done with the ⌘-L shortcut) and THEN you can reliably use the keyboard shortcuts to switch tab groups.

While I appreciate almost everything Apple does in terms of user interface simplicity, sometimes an arcane nuance like this is just way to hard to discover – and I consider myself an experienced “power user”!

Oh well, just another first world problem I suppose!

Applications Drafts iOS iPad iPadOS iPhone Mac Productivity Tools Utilities

Drafts – a tool for idea capture

I’ve been using this handy utility for a few years now – but increasingly so over the last year. It’s kind of magical in the functionality it provides. While there are other good note taking apps – including Apple’s Notes app – Drafts is especially useful for capturing spur of the moment ideas for later processing. The developer describes Drafts as “where text starts. Quickly capture text and send it almost anywhere.”

Because Drafts is available everywhere in the Apple ecosystem – Mac, iPad, iPhone and Watch – it’s universally available whenever you need it. Apple Notes is mostly everywhere – but weirdly not on the Watch.

The way that Drafts works is simple but takes a bit of learning to grow accustomed to using it regularly. When you open Drafts on the Mac or iOS/iPadOS, it opens as a blank note – waiting for you to enter something. It’s designed for that quick capture – type in some text – or dictate it – and away you go. Sometime later you can come back to Drafts and review all of the notes you’ve captured – and decide what you want to do with each one.

I’ve put a complication for Drafts on my Apple Watch face so that with one tap I can open Drafts and begin capturing an idea using dictation on the Watch. After I’ve captured my idea, Drafts on the Watch will sync the note containing my new idea via iCloud and make it available to Drafts apps running on my other devices – Mac, iPhone, or iPad – where I can open it later and decide what to do with it. For example, if I have an idea for an email I need to send or a blog post I want to write, I can capture those initial thoughts using Drafts and later go back and “revise and extend” those thoughts as I choose – and then send that final version of the text out via email or into my blog application. It doesn’t get any handier.

Drafts has a number of additional features that continue to evolve as the developer releases new versions and as members of the Drafts community contribute actions and themes which extend the functionality of the app.

Drafts is no youngster – this month the developer is celebrating the app’s 10th anniversary. The app is available for free – but the advanced features require a Pro subscription which is available on a special deal this month (through April 2022) for $4.99 for the first year.

I’m a big fan of Drafts – and a Pro subscriber. It’s become a regular part of my daily tech life. I’m such a fan that I just wanted to highlight how useful it is to me – thus this post – which itself began on Drafts! Perhaps you’ll find Drafts a useful tool as well if you’re an Apple user.

iPad iPhone 5 Journaling Living Mac

Congrats to Day One – 2012 Mac App of the Year

Back in September, I wrote about how an app had worked its way into my daily life. That app is Day One – a personal journaling app that works on my Mac, iPhone and iPad – and syncs across all three using iCloud (in my case) or Dropbox. Day One was just declared by Apple to be the 2012 Mac App of the Year – a very well deserved award in my view!

Congratulations to the small Day One team for creating such a great application that I use every day to capture those more personal moments, observations, and insights. I’ve got almost 350 entries in my Day One journal – since I started using it in early June following surgery. Day One’s cross-device sync’ing just works – and makes journaling anywhere so quick and easy. And the results are beautiful.

Highly recommended!

Apple iPad Mac

Trading my iPad (3rd Generation) for an iPad mini

Since the launch of the iPad (3rd Generation) with that beautiful Retina display earlier this year, mine has been an almost constant companion. At breakfast each morning, it has been my go to machine – with Verizon LTE speeds and the beautiful display. Same for lunch if I’m alone. It’s gone of many airplane flights with me across the country – and has been a real workhorse – replacing my use of my 11-inch Macbook Air much of the time – except at the office where I plug the Air into a larger Cinema Display and use it with the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and Magic Trackpad.

But, about two weeks ago, I bought a new iPad mini – and just never looked back. In fact, I’ve just sold that big iPad – after becoming very pleased with the even more versatile, small iPad mini form factor. I was even pleasantly surprised by the screen on the mini – a non-Retina version to be sure (as pointed out by many reviewers) but one which still looks great on the smaller mini screen. The feel of the iPad mini reminds me of the feel I had when I first got the 11-inch Air – compared to the 15-inch Macbook Pro that had been my everyday workhorse machine. Small is beautiful!

I noticed that Nick Bilton seems to feel the same way. In a post earlier today on the New York Times Bits blog, Bilton writes “If you’re still on the fence about whether you should buy the iPad Mini, I have a tip for you: you’re on the wrong fence.”

Yep, I agree! These iPad minis are going to start being seen everywhere.

Apple iPad iPhone 4S Living Mac

Tracking Life with Day One

Three months ago I had major surgery to deal with an important health issue. A few days before my surgery, I happened to discover an app that sounded like it might be useful for me to use as a journal following my surgery. That app was Day One.

Day OneSince the day of my surgery three months ago, I’ve been using Day One to journal my thoughts every day, noting my progress (or, sometimes, maybe a lack of progress!). Day One is there for me every morning – and it’s been where I’ve captured how I’m feeling, what I’m learning, and more. I mostly write in the morning – but, sometimes, I write later in the day – adding to my morning thoughts based on the events of the day.

Day One has both iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Mac versions – and they fully synchronize – so you can write whenever and wherever you are – with the device that’s with you. Day One is one of the best examples I’ve seen of using “the cloud” to make things seamless. It just works.

I’ve never been up to a keeping a daily paper-based journal – but I’ve been enjoying how easy daily journaling is to do so with this app. It looks great – and its cross-platform features just help encourage journaling wherever I am. It’s my version of a Photo 365 project – writing sometime every day about how I feel…and more. A delight – especially now as I’m looking back on three months of my daily notes! And, with the latest update, I can add a photo to each journal entry – just makes me happy!

Thanks to the Day One team for making such a wonderful app! You guys “done good”!

iPad Living Mac Productivity

Wasting Time

A Window in Time

For the first time in the last few days, I’m back in my home office this morning using my normal computer configuration (MacBook Pro, external display, etc.). While I’ve been away, I’ve been relying exclusively on my iPad for my online activities. And, it’s been different.

This forced separation – of me from computer and big display to using only an iPad – made me realize a few things about how I’ve been doing and getting things done. All in all, the experience of just using the iPad has been refreshing. No extra windows (like a perpetually running Twitter feed on the right side of the screen) to pull my attention away, an integrated email experience so that I’m not flipping between email accounts in my browser, no urge to click on any of the other 20+ tabs that I have open, by default, in the browser on my computer.

On the iPad, I get done whatever task that is in my mind – and then I’m done. On the big screen, I’m much more tempted to click around and get lost in new things. As I finish a task on the iPad and put it down, it’s different – I can go do other things away from the device. Refreshing in a way!

I know some folks use Lion’s Mission Control to setup separate screen spaces that provide this kind of isolation on the big screen. This recent dedicated experience with the iPad makes me want to explore that approach further!

Apple Mac

An 11-Inch MacBook Air

A few months ago, I bought an 11-inch MacBook Air. I’ve been totally blown away by this computer – it’s far and away the best Mac I’ve ever had. Here’s my story…

Why this 11-inch MacBook Air? I decided I wanted a “killer” writing machine – something I could just use for writing. This little Mac was going to be it. And, it is!

I happened to swing by the Palo Alto Apple Store one day and it turned out they had the max config of the 11-inch Air in stock – amazingly – so I decided to just go for it. (I suspect Apple’s gotten very smart about stocking their top of line configs in their stores – just for folks like me!)

What’s the max config? Currently, it’s a 1.8GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7 with 4 GB RAM and 256 GB Flash storage (instead of a hard disk).

I bought it, brought it home, quickly configured it, installed some essential software and was quickly up and running – quite seamlessly. By the way, today, I mostly live in Chrome – using it for email, calendar, etc. Chrome screams on the Air. For that matter, Safari does too. Most things do – even PowerPoint!

I couldn’t be happier with this little Air. It’s an amazing machine – no spinning beach balls, super fast performance, and a delightfully tiny form factor – and a beautiful display. This is the future – these amazingly fast, Flash-based machines – a great way to “fly”!

But, then, there’s also the new iPad… 😉

iPad iPhone 4 Living Mac Web/Tech

My Online Life

A colleague asked “So Scott – tell me again what you do about emails you open with 1) PDFs and 2) links – that you want to read later, on the airplane?”

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  1. If I’m on a web page that I want to read – just not now – I quickly archive it (using a bookmarklet) to Instapaper. Instapaper has both an iPhone and an iPad client as well as a browser interface I can use on my Mac – so I can go back and read the article anytime, anyplace. If I sync my iPhone/iPad Instapaper apps before getting on a plane, the articles are all stored in the Instapaper app on the device – so I can read even without network access. I use Instapaper ALOT for asynchronous reading of articles.
  2. If I’m on a web page that I want to remember – perhaps not an article to read but something else, then I bookmark the page using Pinboard (using another
    bookmarklet) – see: Pinboard provides me a chronological history of interesting pages that I might want to go back do. Has a lot of other features (tagging, etc) that I’m just beginning to learn how to use effectively.
  3. For PDF’s, I just download them to my Downloads directory and periodically go back and review what’s there. If it’s a PDF that I might want to be able to read on my iPhone/iPad, I may save to a Dropbox directory instead – so that I
    can access it wherever I have a network connection. This works great when you’re bored at lunch, etc. – except when on a plane. For the plane, you have to remember to download the PDF into your device using Dropbox and to also mark it as a favorite so that it’s saved locally in the device.

How about you? How are you managing your online life?

Mac Web/Tech

Diving into Launchbar

I’ve mentioned LaunchBar several times before – I’m simply addicted to this excellent Mac utility.

Recently, I stumbled across the Mac Power Users podcast devoted to LaunchBar – Katie Floyd and David Sparks do a great job discussing how they use LaunchBar and I’d highly recommend a listen.

If you want to become quickly more productive on the Mac, LaunchBar is just the ticket you need!

Mac Web/Tech

VeriSign’s Email Certificates Work!

Last week I posted – in frustration – about Thawte’s decision to exit the Personal E-Mail Certificate business. They did so for pretty obvious reasons – why give away free certificates – as they had done for years – while bearing the costs of supporting them, etc.

As part of the transition, Thawte offered a 1 year free VeriSign Class 1 Individual certificate – and I had grumbled that the VeriSign issuance process didn’t seem to work well on my Mac. I was wrong.

Looking at my Keychain, the new VeriSign certificates were issued correctly and installed in my Mac’s Keychain. To use them, I needed to “untrust” my Thawte certificates and, once I did so, they started working fine for signing and encrypting in my Mac’s

Bottom line: I’m sorry to see Thawte exit this business but I understand why they did so. I appreciate VeriSign’s generosity in making a 1 year cert available. But I still think all of this secure email stuff is way to hard.

If only my friends at Voltage would step up to fully supporting the Mac, I’d be a very happy camper, I’m sure!