Mac Power Users 483: Being a Compulsive Maker, with Tiff Arment

Artist and podcaster Tiff Arment joins Stephen and I on the latest episode of Mac Power Users to talk about her background in photography and analog and digital art, as well as the work that goes into recording and editing podcasts. 

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • 1Password: Have you ever forgotten a password? You don't have to worry about that anymore. 

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

  • Direct Mail: Create and send great looking email newsletters with Direct Mail, an easy-to-use email marketing app designed exclusively for the Mac.

The Updated inShort (Sponsor)

This week MacSparky is sponsored by inShort for macOS.

inShort is an advanced diagramming and planning tool that lets you specify processes, resources, and how they all fit together. All of this is built around a unique interface that enables you to drill down into the details of a project or move back up to the overview and see the project in its entirety. The interface is brilliant.

Since the last time I featured inShort on this website, there have been several significant updates. The application now works with layers (for pro subscribers), which add a new dimension to your diagrams, successfully combining related schemes in a common space.

If your project works in cycles, there’s new logic available in the application that lets you take into account several schedules for one object. One of the most interesting new features to me is the introduction of failed tasks. You can map out what happens if the task fails in your project planning. This lets you log and analyze how what happens if things break, and it even updates the Gantt chart to display the failure.

Other improvements include the ability to customize your chart presentation style, a dark theme, and several other minor improvements.

If you’d like to bring some powerful tools to your planning, check out inShort.

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Focused 73: Productivity and Art with Bob Reynolds

Mike and I are interview professional saxophonist Bob Reynolds on the latest episode of Focused. We talk about the importance of productivity when creating art.

This episode of Focused is sponsored by:

  • FreshBooks: Online invoicing made easy.

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

  • Hover: Extensions for anything you’re passionate about. Grab a .ME domain for $9.99.

Mac Power Users 482: Color Me Interested

Join Stephen and me on the latest episode of Mac Power Users. We share our confessions about the iPad Pro, then we discuss managing client data before doing some wishcasting for WWDC.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • 1Password: Have you ever forgotten a password? You don't have to worry about that anymore. 

  • 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.

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

  • MOO: Custom business printing and design. Use promo code PRINT15 for 15% off.

Automators 23: Diving into Drafts Automation with Tim "The Drafts Man" Nahumck

In the latest episode of Automators, Rosemary and I get Tim “The Drafts Man” Nahumck to talk about how he uses Drafts, sharing actions, tips and tricks.

This episode of Automators is sponsored by:

  • TextExpander, from Smile: Try the new release with the visual editor. Get 20% off your first year.

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

Bokeh - a Private Social Network Attempt

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We discuss user data and privacy a lot around here. Here is a Kickstarter project that will actually respect user privacy. Instead of collecting and mining your user data to sell you creepily specific targeted ads, Tim Smith is building Bokeh to be a private, secure, and user-funded social network. For instance, when you post your photos, you get to choose who sees them. Bokeh won’t show who follows you or who you follow. You don’t have to worry about friends of friends seeing your photos. If one of these “friends” has requested to follow you three times and you said no, Bokeh will prompt you to block them.

It’s intended to be a user funded project. No creepy ad-crawling. I sincerely hope this works.

OmniFocus and Review (Sponsor)

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This week MacSparky is sponsored by OmniFocus, the application I use to capture, manage, and complete my tasks and projects. One of my favorite reasons to Use OmniFocus is its powerful review tools.

Specifically, with OmniFocus you can assign a specific review frequency to each project. For some active projects, I may set the frequency to once a week. For other less active projects, it may be just once every six months. Regardless, this system builds in an easy way for me to stay on top of projects that may otherwise fall through the cracks. The trick is, at least once a week I take a look at all of the projects that are due for review.

Once I take a look at the projects, I often find things that I can update, revise, or even kill. Think of it as Game of Thrones, but for projects. Every week something must die. I love having these powerful review tools in my task manager, and it has saved my bacon more than once. Over the years, the team at the Omni Group has made this feature even more powerful, and it is easy to use on all of the various platforms including Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

My weapon of choice for review continues to be my fancy iPad with a cup of tea somewhere away from my desk. For some reason, I find it easier to kill projects when I’m not sitting at my desk. Maybe a psychiatrist could explain that to me one day.

Either way, if you’ve got OmniFocus installed, start using the review process now. You’ll be surprised at how powerful it is and how much better you feel once you have a regular review practice. If you don’t have OmniFocus, download the free trial and see what I mean. The Omni Group sweats the details, and this is just one of many features that you’ll love.



Privacy Versus Cloud Services, Continued

For years now, folks interested in technology have considered the tradeoffs between cloud services and privacy. Tim Cook’s recent comments at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder conference has me thinking about it again. Tim was clear on Apple’s position:

But we don’t want to use you as our product. And we just have a fundamental issue with doing that. And we’ve always thought that the building of a detailed profile about your life could result in tragic things.

The contrast Apple is trying to draw is with other Silicon Valley giants whose business model is grounded on user data (and advertising)—namely Facebook and Google. 

The question gets interesting when you realize there are tradeoffs. Privacy protects users, but access to mountains of user data helps make better, faster, more responsive cloud services, which also benefits users.

If Apple intends to protect user data, are they going to fall behind on the better/faster end of the equation? Probably. But how much?

Those who follow Apple closely have known about their position on user privacy for years. But lately, Apple is more vocal about their preference to protect user privacy. Nearly every time someone puts a microphone in front of Tim Cook, he raises this point. 

When these lines were first drawn years ago, there was a lot more digital ink being spilled on the wisdom of Apple’s position. You don’t hear as much about it lately.

So how is Apple doing? From my experience, Apple still is lagging, but not as much as I worried it might. 

One way to evaluate this is Photo search in Apple Photos versus Google Photos. Google pioneered the ability to search for contents of photos with words. They have a massive database of photos to work with, and their algorithms can easily find a “dog” in the “snow” from your library of 42,000 photos. Apple added this feature a few years ago, but the difference is that Apple built its models on purchased photo libraries, not looking at all of its users’ photos. Moreover, Apple does the machine learning for these searches not on their cloud servers but instead on your devices. You too can now find a “dog” in the “snow” with Apple Photos. I am pretty confident the search terms don’t update as quickly in Apple Photos as they do in Google Photos, but that is the cost of that privacy thing.

Photos is just one measure, and I am sure if I thought about it long enough, I could find other examples that are both better and worse in comparison. For me, at least, when comparing privacy versus cloud services, I would rather err on the side of privacy. So long as the Apple cloud services are viable, I’m okay if they aren’t the best if in exchange I’m getting a higher degree of privacy. 

At first, I tried to quantify it. How close does Apple have to be to Google for me to be happy? 50%? 75%? For me, it is more a question of whether the cloud service is: 1) something I’d use often and; 2) functional. In my case, functionality, even if slower and not quite as good, is good enough. I think Apple gets off easy with my calculus, but everybody gets to set their own threshold, and everyone isn’t as paranoid as I am when it comes to privacy.

One thing everyone can agree on is that this story isn’t over yet.

Mac Power Users 481: Finder and Its Alternatives

At the heart of the macOS experience is Finder, which Stephen and I are talking about on the latest episode of Mac Power Users. It’s part file manager, part search tool and a whole lot more. Its smiling blue icon boasts many features, and third-party developers have written tools to make it even more powerful for those users who need more.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

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

  • 1Password: Have you ever forgotten a password? You don't have to worry about that anymore. 

  • Backblaze: Unlimited cloud backup for Macs and PCs for just $6/month.

  • Hover: Extensions for anything you’re passionate about. Grab a .ME domain for $9.99.

Getting More from DuckDuckGo

It’s been several years since I last wrote about DuckDuckGo and how I use it as my primary search engine. At this point, it is my default search engine everywhere for some pretty good privacy-related reasons.


I do not consider myself a tinfoil-hat-wearing privacy nut, but personal tracking on the web is out of hand. DuckDuckGo provides me some measure protection. Moreover, since using DuckDuckGo, I haven’t noticed much of a decline in search results over what I used to get with Google.


Another feature that I like about DuckDuckGo is its power-user features. There are a lot of them. It usually starts with an exclamation point and then some sort of code. DuckDuckGo calls them “bangs”. As an example, “!g MacSparky” performs an anonymous Google search through the DuckDuckGo system. There are, however, a lot more, and recently Brett Terpstra indexed the best ones on his website with the post appropriately called “The Ultimate Guide to DuckDuckGo”.

How I Defer Email with SaneBox (Sponsor)

This week MacSparky is sponsored by SaneBox, the email management service I’ve now used for years. For this post, I'd like to focus on one SaneBox feature, deferring email.

Deferring email is the process of taking something in your inbox and snoozing it for a set period of time. This gets the email out of your life and lets you focus on other things until some time in the future when you’re in a better place to process that mail.

When I first heard of the idea of deferring email, I mocked it. It seemed like a waste of time. However, I was wrong. I’ve now been using the defer tool for years and I find it useful. I get a lot of email that doesn't merit getting sorted into my task system but also isn’t appropriate for right now. Deferring that email just takes a second and there is something to be said for getting that mail out of the way while you continue doing the hard work.

With SaneBox, you have nearly unlimited options for deferring email. You can defer it to tomorrow, or next week, or Saturday morning, or a specific time. For today, I thought it’d be fun to share my deferred email boxes on my MacSparky email account.

AFTERNOON

This is the nutty one that will make a lot of people angry. I do a thorough sweep through my MacSparky account every morning and afternoon. I try to stay out of that email account in between but inevitably find myself in there for one reason or another. Pushing email away until the afternoon review by deferring it is a great way to keep myself from getting sidetracked by non-critical email. I’ve thought about getting rid of this deferred email box several times but I don’t. It is just too useful.

TOMORROW, 2 DAYS, 5 DAYS

I only give a certain amount of time to email every day, primarily in the morning. I always deal with the most critical email first either answering it directly or turning its response into an OmniFocus project. If there is still email left and time’s up, I defer the email out into the future.

Deferring non-critical email is a great solution, and it’s just one of the many features available to you with a SaneBox subscription. Best of all, use the links in this post to get a discount.

Next Month

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with an even longer defer, next month. I’m not sure that one will stick around but I’m guessing you can see why I’d create it.




CardioBot 4.0

While not everyone is sold on the Apple Watch, its health benefits and data-gathering capabilities are beyond question. Apple has made a lot of progress toward heart health with the inclusion of an electrocardiogram (ECG) function, but people forget there are other ways to use your pulse data.


CardioBot, which released a new version today
, gives you better metrics on your heart data as collected by Apple Watch. One of the new features analyzes your heart rate under walking, sedentary, and meditation sessions. I think the increased granularity only improves the app. If you are interested in what is going on with your ticker and you wear an Apple Watch, CardioBot is worth checking out.

Focused 72: Heart-Centered Productivity, with Jocelyn K. Glei

Jocelyn K. Glei, host of the podcast Hurry Slowly, joins Mike and me on this week’s episode of Focused to talk about avoiding burnout, percolating ideas, intentionality for introverts, and what it means to do truly productive work.

This episode of Focused is sponsored by:

  • ExpressVPN: High-speed, secure and anonymous VPN service. Get 3 months free with a 1-year package.

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

  • Timing: The automatic time tracking app for macOS. Use this link to save 10% on your purchase.