Credit Due Microsoft Office

This week Microsoft released an update to Office for Mac. The update makes Office for Mac dark mode-friendly. We’re just a few months since Apple released Mojave and Microsoft already has the new feature in Office. I have to give a hat tip to the Microsoft Office team. In years past, I was pretty hard on them. For years after the Mac Intel transition, Office was unusable. You would press a key and there was a noticeable delay before the letter would appear on the screen. It was like using an electric typewriter, except instead of electricity, the typewriter ran on a hamster power, and the hamster was drunk.

I still have my quibbles (particularly on the feature set for the iPad version) but, overall, Microsoft Office is a solid set of applications across the Apple platforms. Now I just need to cross my fingers that when Apple starts shipping ARM-based Macs, Microsoft handles that transition better than they did the switch to Intel. 

Mac Power Users 460: Casey Liss Returns

Casey Liss returns on this week’s episode of Mac Power Users to update us on his life as a free agent, his new love affair with the iPad, becoming a YouTuber, and more.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Luna Display: The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code POWER at checkout for 10% off.

  • Hover: Show the world what you’re passionate about with 10% off your first purchase.

  • Away: Travel smarter with the suitcase that charges your phone. Get $20 off with the code ‘mpu’.

  • TextExpander from Smile: Type more with less effort! Expand short abbreviations into longer bits of text, even fill-ins, with TextExpander from Smile.

"Looking Forward" OmniFocus Perspective

There is a growing thread in the Mac Power Users forums about custom OmniFocus perspectives. Since it’s Sunday, I though I’d share one of my favorite Sunday perspectives. While I don’t use a defer-date management system for my tasks these days, I do use defer dates on flagged tasks. This perspective shows me all of those tasks on their defer dates going forward. It’s a great deal for a little weekly planning on Sunday.

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Automators 12: Holiday Automation

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The holidays are upon us, and the Automators are ready to automate with episode 12, Holiday Automation. We start with simple things like wallpaper and voice-in-a-can technologies.

Next, we get to holiday music. It’s great that you can automate music playback, but I want to go deeper with Siri Shortcuts and automation around my music. I have a white whale concerning HomePod destination for audio, but we all need holiday wishes … right? Rose has a cool holiday music Siri Shortcut.

Then we get into our favorite automation contraptions for automating holiday lights. I have a thing for making Christmas just happen using HomeKit Automation, and Rose tempts me by talking about homebridge. Open my front door, and the magic starts happening.

Then we get to the best ways to automate holiday cards. It’s harder than you think. Finally, we move into automating and collaborating on present lists, grabbing multiple browser tabs via automation, and turning my Christmas card into a nerd project.

It’s all there. Get Automating!

Get Control of Your Meetings with Agenda Minder (Sponsor)

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This week MacSparky is sponsored by Agenda Minder. Agenda Minder is a productivity tool that helps you prepare for meetings and developers meaningful agendas. Meetings are rarely fun but with Agenda Minder at least they can be efficient (and faster!).

With Agenda Minder you can add meeting details, import existing calendars and, most importantly, add agenda items. Then you can share that meeting information with your team via HTML, text, and, with the next update, OPML. Be that guy who sends out an agenda in advance. You’ll be shocked at how much the meeting's attendees appreciate your preparation. There are more features, like filters and tags but in my opinion, this app really proves itself with meeting planning.

With the upcoming 1.7 update Agenda Minder will add dark mode, export to OPML, and several nice design tweaks.

Show everyone on your team how it is done with Agenda Minder.

Learn more over at the Agenda Minder website and use the links in this post to get the app for just $8.99 through the end of December.

How to Enable Shared Family Storage

You may not have noticed, but last year Apple enabled a new feature that lets family members share a single pool of iCloud storage. I have the 2TB (terabyte) plan. For me and my family, that’s enough for iCloud storage and over a terabyte of available storage. Rather than pay for unused space, I can have my other family members join in that pool and, in turn, cancel their iCloud storage plans to save a few bucks.

To do so, go to the Settings app on your iOS device and select your iCloud account. Then tap on the Family Sharing button.

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Next, look down at the shared features and pay attention to the iCloud Storage line. If it is Off, then tap it to turn it On.

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This prompts you through a few screens to send notifications to your family members. They need to accept to join, but when you’re done, you will have all your storage for a little less money.

Fujitsu ScanSnap 64-bit Software Update

I have been using the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners for a long time now. Today Fujitsu announced that they have a brand new 64-bit version of their scanner software. This comes as a relief to users that have been getting the 32-bit software warning. I've been using the 64-bit software for a while and had no issues. Interestingly, this is not an upgrade to the existing software but a brand new version of software that you’ll need to download from this link

Mac Power Users 459: My Life Is a Subscription

Subscriptions! It seems the wave of the future, but should we be happy about that? In this week’s episode of Mac Power Users, Katie and I talk about this trend towards subscriptions and the software and services we believe are worth the effort.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.

  • Luna Display: The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code POWER at checkout for 10% off.

  • eero: Never think about WiFi again. Get $100 off the eero base unit and 2 Beacons package, and a year of eero Plus.

  • Gazelle: Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle!

The Yule Apple Music Playlist

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The holidays are here and I’ve been doing more work on my “Yule” playlist. I’ve made lots of new additions this year including this gem from Joey Alexander. If you’ve got an Apple Music subscription, go ahead and subscribe and enjoy. The playlist is very heavily jazz but with a few other delightful holiday songs from other artists, including this one where Jack Johnston takes Santa to task for the way they were treating Rudolph just because he has a red nose.

Anyway, here’s the link:

MacSparky’s Yule Playlist

The Pesky Problem of Playing Music to a HomePod with Siri Shortcuts

As we are now on the back end of Thanksgiving with the holidays upon us, a lot of us are thinking about new automation routines using Siri Shortcuts. One shortcoming with the new system is the inability to address a specific HomePod via Siri Shortcut. You can play music through a specific HomePod by triggering the shortcut with your voice. MacRumors did a nice explaation of that today. 

I’m thinking, however, in terms of a remote trigger that doesn’t involve me talking to the specific HomePod. What if I just want to trigger a shortcut that has a music playlist in it and address a specific HomePod without using my voice? Or even better, I’ve got a HomeKit switch on my front door. Why can’t the act of opening my front door enable me to not only turn on the Christmas tree lights but also play my Yule playlist through the downstairs HomePod?

For the time being, at least, you are going to have to trigger that playlist from the HomePod itself using your voice. 

While I’ll agree that Siri Shortcuts got a lot further in the last six months than I ever expected it, this is definitely one of those tools where the more I get, the more I want.  

Wrestling with the Infograph Watch Face

I have spent a lot of time in the last few months trying to figure out how to configure my Apple watch infograph watch face. This watch face certainly brings to mind the old warning about being careful what you wish for. For so long I've been looking for a watch face with many complications and now Apple has given it to me. The problem is, I made a big mess out of it. My first attempts involved using all of the available complications. If it was shiny, I put it in. The trouble with that is the complications surrounding the watch hands tend to blend in with the watch hands. As a result, when you glance at your watch, sometimes it is difficult to tell what time it is.

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Ultimately, I decided that complications in the center of the watch face were generally a bad idea.

The only exception I made for that was the calendar watch face. I hyper-schedule my days... still. I like having appointments set up for my next tasks and I run these all day. I frequently look at my watch to see where I need to go next or what I need to be working on next. Having the calendar available and the next event written across the top of the infograph face is quite useful. For that reason, I have been leaving the calendar in the center complication, but that's it. The rest of the center of the watch face is blank. Making it easy to read the watch hands.

The idea of this watch face is to create something for use during the day while I'm trying to be productive. I have a separate face that I use for my workouts. I did not include any health-related information on this watch face. Instead, I knew I wanted to use the drafts and OmniFocus complications. The trouble with these complications is that they add text along the rim of the actual watch face. With OmniFocus, it gives you your next task, and with drafts, it gives you your inbox count. I don't want that across the top of the watch face because looking at those words on top of the next appointment makes a jumble of letters that again is difficult to read as you're getting through your day. As a result, I decided to put the OmniFocus in drafts complications in the bottom slots.

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For a while, I tried the watch just like this with no additional complications across the top, but it made the watch look bottom heavy, and I do love complications. As a result, I decided to put some additional complications across the top of the screen. I don't want words combining with my next appointment, a condition of any complication going across the top of the screen is that it'd not have words across the bottom of it, but instead a line or some other graphic image. Ultimately, I decided on the timer and CARROT weather.

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I use timers all day for things like the Pomodoro Technique or just checking on the water in the garden. This one has already been a winner for me on my day to day watch face. I'm not sure about the need for a weather complication. I live in California, and the weather is generally pretty mild. I don't need a minute by minute update of what the temperature is.

I am, in general, pretty happy with this setup for the Apple infograph watch face. I am, however, still not entirely convinced it's any better than the Siri watch face. I used the Siri watch face all of last year, and it generally gives me the information I need when I need it. I am disappointed that it hasn't done a better job of servicing third-party application information as we were promised with iOS 12. While I'm giving the infograph face a real try here for awhile, I can't promise I won't ultimately end up back on the Siri watch face, particularly if it gets better at third-party integration.

Free Agents 61: The Morning Routine

Join Mike and me on a fresh episode of Free Agents. We dig in on our morning routines. Mike finds himself entering the Free Agent arena like never before, and I want to start year-end planning.

This episode of Free Agents is sponsored by:

  • FreshBooks: Online invoicing made easy.

  • Timing: The automatic time-tracking app for macOS. Use this link to save 10% on your purchase. Check out the Timing blog for articles for independent workers.

Mac Power Users 458: MPU+: There's Something You Didn't Tell Me

Katie has a big announcement. I have a new Field Guide. We both have new iPads. Also, we discuss the new MacBook Airs, Apple’s pricing, our daily routines, and answer listener questions on this week’s episode of Mac Power Users.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • FreshBooks: Online invoicing made easy.

  • Luna Display: The only hardware solution that turns your iPad into a wireless display for your Mac. Use promo code POWER at checkout for 10% off.

  • The Omni Group: We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 

  • Gazelle: Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle!

Get SaneBox at Your Back (Sponsor)

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This week MacSparky is sponsored by SaneBox, the email service that can help you get control of your inbox. I’ve had some significant challenges lately on my time. Before SaneBox came into my life, times of unexpected down time always preceeded an email train wreck. That’s not the case for me now though. SaneBox helped me stay on top of the most important email and kept things going. With SaneBox, you add a powerful set of email tools that can work in just about any email client. SaneBox allows you to:

  • Wake up everyday to find that the SaneBox robots have automatically sorted your incoming email for you so you can address the important and ignore the irrelevant.

  • Defer email for hours, days, or weeks so it is out of your life until a more appropriate time.

  • Set secret reminders so if someone doesn’t reply to an important email, SaneBox gives you a nudge to follow up.

  • Automatically save attachments to the cloud (like Dropbox).

  • Use their SaneForward service to automatically send appropriate emails to services such as Evernote, Expensify, and Kayak.

  • Move unwanted email to the SaneBlackHole and never see anything from that person again.

One of the best parts about SaneBox being a web services is that it works no matter which mail application you prefer. If you want to jump between different mail apps on your iPad, no problem. If you want to upgrade your Mac to High Sierra, there’s no need to wait for SaneBox to work. It already does. SaneBox is a set of tools that will move with you between different applications on different platforms with no trouble at all.

Why not straighten out your email today? I’ve been a paying subscriber for years and can’t imagine getting by without it. If you sign up with this link, you even get a discount off your subscription.