Mac Power Users 466: John Gruber Returns

John Gruber of Daring Fireball and The Talk Show join Stephen and me on this week’s Mac Power Users’ episode for a discussion about writing and podcasting, WWDC, and what the future may hold for the iPad and Mac.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Gazelle: Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle! 

  • TextExpander from Smile: Get 20% off with this link and type more with less effort! Expand short abbreviations into longer bits of text, even fill-ins, with TextExpander from Smile. 

  • 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.

Getting Back on the Mechanical Keyboard Train

Lately, I've had the itch to try a mechanical keyboard again. It has been many years since I last used one but every time I start to think about pushing the button to order one, I get cold feet because I don't like the idea of a USB cord, or they look too big, or something else.

This week I stumbled onto the Keychron K1 keyboard. Keychron is a company I've never heard of before and I may have made a mistake, but their new mechanical keyboards push all my buttons. (See what I did there?)

The Keychron K1 keyboards are Mac friendly, with the expected command button and the function row has glyphs very similar to Apple's there is even a dedicated screenshot key (which presumably macros Command-Shift-4) and separate keys to activate Siri and Dictation. The keyboard is Bluetooth so there is no cord and it can, with the push of yet another button, jump between my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. The switches are half height blue switches and the whole thing just looks damn sexy with keys that seem to float.

I've ordered the 87-Key Mac variant. I'll report back when I actually have one on my desk.

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The Questionable Fate of the AirPower

It seems like that just about every time we write off the Apple AirPower, the charge-everything-in-one device announced but never shipped, rumors start up again about it going into production. Again we are hearing it is back from the dead.  While Apple watchers love to talk about the AirPower, I have to wonder if anyone actually cares. How many people: a) have a need for one gadget to charge all their Apple devices (iPhone, AirPods, Apple Watch),and; b) are going to pay Apple sized prices for a charging mat?

I hope Apple does perfect and ship the AirPower, if for no other reason, so we can start talking about it. Regardless, I can’t help but think in the overall scheme of things, AirPower is small potatoes. 

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Attending Podcon

I’m hitting the publish button on this post as I am about to board a plane for Seattle to attend the Podcon conference. The decision to attend came pretty late in the process for me but one of the main reasons I’m going to Podcon is to meet up with friends, old and new. If you are attending Podcon and see me shuffling around, please say hello.  If you’re not attending, check out my Instagram feed (@macsparky) the next few days. I plan to publish some fun stories as I deal with Podcon.

If you are attending, Rosemary and I will be recording a live episode of Automators on Saturday February 19 at 11 AM. We’ll also be live-streaming that episode through Twitter so even if you’re not in Seattle, check our Twitter feeds (here’s mine) tomorrow before 11AM PST. We’re also doing a meetup, which is sadly fully booked but going to be a lot of fun tomorrow. 

First Impressions of the Apple iPhone Smart Battery Case

Well that didn’t take long. Ordered yesterday and arrived this morning. I explained why I ordered the case yesterday. Here are some photos of the new case in action and a bit of commentary. Click on any image for further detail.

The New Apple iPhone Battery Cases

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Today Apple released battery cases (in black or white) for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

It has been a long time since I used a battery case on my iPhone. (I am pretty sure my last battery case fig my iPhone 3GS.) The reason I gave up on them is that when you get a new phone, the battery case is of no further use to you.

Nevertheless, I ordered one of these. I've got a lot of travel over the next six months, and it sure would be nice to carry an extra charge when I am out of town. With the iPhone XS Max model, this new battery gives you talk time up to 37 hours, Internet use up to 20 hours and video playback of up to 25 hours. The other way I justified it is that when I ultimately hand this phone down to someone in my family, they will inevitably be less interested in charging their phone than I am. This battery will serve them well.

A nice feature of this battery is that it is Qi-certified. That way I can set it on my Qi charger and charge the battery while it is in the case. Ultimately, I expect this will be the battery I use for trips to Disneyland and trips out of town, but not my everyday case. If you are wondering, after way too much consideration, I bought the black one. I think a MacSparky sticker will look nice on the back.

Work Faster with BetterTouchTool - Sponsor

This week MacSparky is sponsored by BetterTouchTool, the powerful little app that lets you customize your Mac's input devices to match and improve your workflow perfectly. Apple gave us these great trackpads and mice, but they've never really let us use them to their full potential.  BetterTouchTool does that. With BetterTouchTool, you can completely re-design your Touch Bar, configure various Magic Mouse and Trackpad gestures, define keyboard shortcuts, bind standard mouse buttons, use the Siri Remote with your Mac and do tons more.

BetterTouchTool offers many actions to automate various tasks on your Mac. These can be assigned to any input-device trigger you choose. Additionally, it contains some handy features like window snapping, a clipboard manager, a screenshot editor, and much more. It even includes a free iOS app to control your Mac and trigger actions remotely.

Recently, the BetterTouchTool Community was begun, which you can find at community.folivora.ai. Users have shared some amazing presets there, including some very advanced custom Touch Bar setups that you should check out.

BetterTouchTool comes with a 45-day trial after which you can choose between a license that includes all updates for two years and a lifetime license.

BetterTouchTool has been around for nine years, and I've been using it the entire time. With BetterTouchTool, I can make my Mac dance. You should too. To celebrate its 9th birthday, MacSparky readers can purchase BetterTouchTool for 15% off at checkout by using the coupon code MACSPARKYBTT for a limited time. So don’t delay. Go to folivora.ai to learn more and take advantage of the special limited-time, 15% discount on BetterTouchTool.

Mac Power Users 465: The Mighty Mac mini

Introduced as a low-cost way to switch to the Mac, the Mac mini can now be found working quietly as home and office servers, hosting files, media, backups and more. Join Stephen and me on the latest episode of Mac Power Users to find out more about how the Mac mini stacks up.

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.

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

  • SaneBox: Stop drowning in email!

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

The Focused Podcast

Today marks the release of the Focused Podcast (formerly Free Agents). The Free Agents has had a great run but Mike and I discovered that we were increasingly talking about productivity and increasingly our audience included people more interesested in productivity than free agency. So we shifted the show and now it’s call Focused. The subtitle, “Life is about more than cranking widgets”, really means something to me.

So much of the talk about being productive is about life hacks and dumb nonsense like “5 ways to become more productive in 3 minutes”. Focused isn’t like that. Mike and I don’t have all the answers. Instead, we are more like motivated fellow travelers. We’ll be bringing research and knowledge of our own personal successes and failures. We’ll also be bringing in interesting guests to help everyone along. Today the first episode released. We’ve already got several more in production. If you never listened to Free Agents because that was not your thing, I’d encourage you to give Focused a try. I’m really proud of it. Also, just look at that gorgeous artwork.

​MPU 464: Stephen Who?

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The latest episode of Mac Power Users is now available for download. In this episode, my friend Stephen Hackett joins as the new co-host. Stephen and I have been friends for years and working with him over the last several months as we chart out the future of Mac Power Users has been a joy. In this episode, we get to know Stephen a little better and how he uses his Apple technology to get work done. Stephen also weighs in on other critical questions, like “who shot first”.

We’ve got some great content planned in the coming months and this episode is the start of it all.

Manage Your Email with SaneBox (Sponsor)

This week’s sponsor, SaneBox is the solution to so many of my email problems. SaneBox is the email service that adds a pile of productivity features to your email, regardless of what email client you use. For a lot of folks, email is a constant pain point, and it doesn’t need to be. With SaneBox at your back, you can:

  • Wake up every day to find 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. They’ve even added a new feature that can optionally auto-reply to snoozed email with something like, “I’m sorry, but I'm underwater right now. I’ll get back to you in a few days.”

  • 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 like Evernote, Expensify, and Kayak.

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

The list goes on, and MacSparky readers love this service.

The SaneBox team has been hard at work lately improving the SaneBox interface and releasing even more new tools. For instance, now you can have SaneBox send an auto-reply when you defer an email. Why not straighten out your email by getting a SaneBox account today. If you sign up with this link, you even get a discount on your subscription. 

Automators 14: Automated Journaling

Get out your artistically crafted paper notebook and favorite fountain pen as we talk about journaling in Automators episode 14. Actually, forget that stuff. We are nerds so while the focus of this episode is journalling, it’s really about automating the process so you can get more efficient at your navel-gazing.

We start out talking about the idea of journaling and why automation can help. The first app we recommend is Day One.

Last year I bought a year subscription to Day One, and I'm digging it. We both approve of Day One’s automation tools with things like IFTTT along with several built-in features (like the activity feed) that ease the process of journal entry creation so you can focus on your precious words. Day One can integrate with third-party apps, like Instagram and Swarm.

Much Love for Day One

Day One is also friends with Siri Shortcuts, which opens you up to lots of potential automation, although I would like more. This leads to the discussion of automating Day One entries in a “prompt style” with a new journal entry generated out of Siri Shortcuts and used to create a Day One entry. I created a sample shortcut on a meditation journal. You can watch it in the Automators course at Learn.MacSparky or on YouTube.


Rosemary goes a step further by using Launch Center Pro to launch her Siri Shortcut to launch her journaling prompts. This lets her present different prompts on different days of the week. Clever. We’ve shared a link to Rose’s shortcut in the show notes.

I also explain audio transcription in Day One, that works much better than you think it would be.

If This Then That (IFTTT) can also create a Day One entry, pulling data from other web services. Think about that one for a moment. Simple things, like a Google Calendar event, can be enough to trigger a new Day One entry. Rose has a cool automation that helps her log and journal television consumption using automation between trakt.tv and Day One.

Another way to automate journal creation is through text automation. You could use tools like Drafts or Text Expander to give you prompts to easily create journal entries.

Other Options

We then talk about journaling solutions outside of Day One. Using third-party applications like Ulysses or even just a plain text file, you can use many of the above referenced prompt-based journal automation to create new entries. There can be some challenges with things like photos and other media, but it can work. I even at one point suggests using Pages, which would work better than you think if you want media in your journal.

Next, we discuss automating public journals with services like micro.blog.

Fancy Pens and Paper

Finally, we break out the pens and paper. Just because you have a fancy pen and paper, doesn’t mean you can’t bring some technology to the table. Use ScanBot or Scanner Pro to grab an image for a digital backup. If you like the idea of us a pen but not paper, there are some great iPad-based digital alternatives like GoodNotes and Notability.

It’s January and a great time to develop a journaling habit. Why don’t you use some automation to make it easier?





Apple's Reduced Earnings in Perspective

Today Apple announced they didn’t expect to hit their earning expectations, apparently largely due decreased Chinese sales. I expect the tech-related Internet to lose its collective mind over the next few weeks. Apple has already taken a beating on Wall Street. I don’t own Apple Stock and prefer to write about using Apple technology (as opposed to the business of Apple) with my little corner of the Internet. However, as the “Apple is Doomed” machine is getting warmed up, I would advise you to keep in the back of your mind that Apple’s reduced expectations doesn’t mean it’s losing money. It just means that instead of selling $89 billion in gizmos, they expect to sell $84 billion in gizmos.

Of course this isn’t good news for Apple. The company is worth less money this evening than it was this morning. Among other things, that makes it harder to hold on to top engineering talent. Still, I’m not going to lose any sleep over this and you probably shouldn’t either.

MPU 463: All Good Things…

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After nine and a half years of getting on the microphone once a week with Katie Floyd, Katie is on for her last episode. Katie’s been a friend and partner for a long time and I’m sure going to miss her. In this episode we cover feedback on subscriptions, iOS tips, and more. We also look back on the last 463 episodes and discuss the origins of Mac Power Users. Katie discusses her journey, favorite workflows, and answers a few listener questions. By the end, I was a wreck.

This episode is sponsored by:

  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. Save up to 20% using this link.
  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad.
  • Sanebox Stop drowning in email!
  • 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.

Automate Your Team with TextExpander (Sponsor)

This week MacSparky is sponsored by TextExpander for teams. Did you know you can automate your entire team with a TextExpander for teams account?

When you have your teammates using TextExpander, the application becomes even more powerful. Just think about it. Because it is cloud-based, your snippets are always up to date and searchable by your entire team. Moreover, your snippets get written and edited by your best writers. If your workplace has multiple platforms, no problem. TextExpander works on macOS, iOS, Windows, and web. Best of all using TextExpander with your team will make you more productive, and leave more time for what you do best. For larger teams, TextExpander supports Single Sign-On (SSO) and grouping accounts to make onboarding a breeze.

To learn more, head over to TextExpander and let them know you heard about here at MacSparky.


Mac Power Users 462: Return to the Snell Zone

Jason Snell returns on this week’s episode of Mac Power Users to tell us about his iMac Pro, how he uses his Mac mini, his move towards iOS, being an avid reader, making time for it all, and a few of his favorite picks.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • PDFpen from Smile: With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.

  • 1Password: Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. Save up to 20% using this link.

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

  • 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.