iCloud Authentication Video

Apple has recently announced that starting June 15, any Mac app needing access to iCloud data is going to need an app-specific password. While this is a bit of a pain, it provides a significant increase in your security and I'm all for it. The gang at Fantastical asked me to make a video explaining exactly how to make an iCloud app-specific password. This video is for Fantastical, which is my calendaring weapon of choice, but you'll be going through the same steps with any third party app starting June 15.

MPU 379: Workflows with Liana Lehua

This week on the Mac Power Users Liana Lehua shares her hardware and software setup, apps, and workflow for television production. We also share our hopes and dreams for iOS 11 and other Apple products at this year's WWDC. Also, here's a picture of me and Liana the first time we met in 1990.

Sponsors inclue:

  • Fujitsu ScanSnap ScanSnap Helps You Live a More Productive, Efficient, Paperless Life. 
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.
  • Freshbooks: Online invoicing made easy.
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore.

Apple Maps/Google Maps Comparison

Justin O’Beirne updated his Apple Maps/Google Maps comparison from last year. This is the most thorough comparison of the two products I’ve seen. One clever trick he did this year was run monthly screenshots giving you a sort-of time lapse.

Reading the article, Google seams better. I’ve been primarily using Apple Maps because of Siri integration but I'm going to run Google Maps for the next month to see if it makes any difference for me.

TripMode 2

There’s a new version of TripMode out. I’ve written about TripMode before. It’s a Mac app that will monitor your internet traffic and selectively turn off apps. This can be a lifesaver when tethering. As a quick war story, I once had a very large podcast file come in over Dropbox while I was tethering my Mac and burned through a month’s wireless data in about an hour. With TripMode, when I tether, I turn off Dropbox so that doesn’t happen.

The new version 2 adds several new features, including profiles and better app sorting. The best new feature is data limits. TripMode can now automatically block traffic when reaching a pre-defined data limit.

It’s a free upgrade if you bought version 1. If not, it’s just $8. If you ever tether your Mac to a wireless device, you’ll want TripMode.

iOS 11 Musings

As Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) approaches, a lot of folks are thinking about what Apple will do next with iOS 11. I am particularly interested to see if they can push the ball forward for iPad. It has been two years since the iPad got any significant love, and an iPad-heavy iOS update is long overdue.

I've been writing about this a lot here at MacSparky, and I'm not alone. Federico Viticci at MacStories wrote an interesting "wish list" for new features in iOS 11, and it is primarily focused on iPad. Viticci and Sam Beckett put together a remarkable concept video for some of their favorite ideas for the new operating system on iPad.

I like nearly all of their ideas. One in particular that makes sense is the idea of the shelf. They've created a drop-down shelf where you can temporarily store files and data. I do something like this already on my Mac with an app called Dropzone. This idea makes even more sense on iOS where moving data between applications is harder than usual. Something like this could alleviate a lot of the bottlenecks that come from working with multiple files on iOS.

Either way, it's been two years, and I sure hope Apple is as ambitious as Viticci and Beckett were. I’ll be at WWDC in a few days and will report back here.

A Missed Opportunity with Text and Screen Effects in iOS

We have now had text and screen effects on iOS for eight months. Are you using them? Perhaps more importantly, does Apple remember they exist?

When iOS 10 was first released, I made the argument that to keep these relevant, Apple needed to constantly iterate and update them. If you've ever spent any time with Snapchat, you know what I'm talking about. Snapchat regularly releases new filters and effects that you can apply to your images. They often change seasonally and even for particular holidays. Watching my children and their friends, they all get a kick out of whatever the latest and greatest Snapchat filter is.

I think Apple had a similar opportunity with text and screen effects in iOS messaging. Why not render text with snowflakes during the winter? Why not have a screen effect with flowers blooming in the spring?

By changing things up, Apple could keep text and screen effects more relevant, and they’d get used more often. (When’s the last time you used either of these features?) If Apple brought a little regularly updated whimsy to the table, it would make the iPhone even more "sticky" for users and make them less likely to change platforms.

This seems like such a no-brainer that I'm surprised Apple hasn’t been more aggressive with text and screen effects. I'm guessing we’ll get a few updated animations with iOS 11 when they announce it next month, but I think they are missing out by not having much more frequent updates and animations.

Sort Your Mail Automatically with SaneBox (sponsor)

This week MacSparky is sponsored by SaneBox, the email service that allows you to be the boss of your email inbox.

SaneBox is an email service with a lot of features. This week I'd like to focus on SaneBox's ability to automatically sort your email for you. Every day we all get a lot of email. Some of it may come from family or coworkers and be super important. Other email may come from some online store that you bought a shirt from 10 years ago and be a lot less important. With all of your email going into your inbox, you’ve got to spend time every day sorting the wheat from the chaff.

SaneBox can do that for you. Specifically, SaneBox will look at your inbox and sort your less important email into other folders. For instance, SaneBox sorts all of my email from people that I buy things from into a specific folder. Likewise, SaneBox has a separate folder, called "Later" that holds email from senders I usually let sit for a few days. Once SaneBox is done sorting out my inbox for me, I only see the email that is most important to me. I can deal with those and then come back to the remaining sorted folders later when I have time.

The day after I signed up for SaneBox my morning inbox went from 150 emails to seven emails and I immediately knew I had a winner. I've been a paying customer for years and couldn't get by without it.

If you have been struggling with email, you should check out SaneBox. It's a great service that will save you a lot of time. Use this link to get a discount and let them know you heard about it here at MacSparky.

MPU 378 – More iOS Hidden Features

The latest episode of Mac Power Users is up and available for download. This week we are joined by Clayton Morris to talk about some of our favorite underused iOS features. This episode is actually a continuation of an episode recorded several months ago. The outline had so much content that we couldn't finish it in one show.

This is one of those shows full of little tips and tricks, and my goal is that everyone who listens to it can get a little bit better and a little bit faster using their iPhone and iPad. Check it out.

Sponsors include:

  • Freshbooks: Online invoicing made easy.
  • 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. 
  • Market circle: We help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.


The CMD-D Mac Automation Conference

When we had Sal Saghoian on the Mac Power Users a few months ago, I observed that one of the best things about him leaving Apple is that he gets to share more with us automation-loving nerds. It looks like Sal is pretty serious about that because he is putting on a conference with Paul Kent (the former conference organizer for Macworld Expo). CMD-D is a one day conference in August in Santa Clara all about Mac and iOS automation.

If you're thinking about attending, I'd recommend it. I took a two-day AppleScript course from Sal several years ago and can attest that he's not only very knowledgeable on the subject of automation, he's also a great teacher. Learn more at the CMD-D website.

AirPods Sport Strap

I spend a lot of time on my bicycle riding around town. It's one of the advantages of being self-employed. I can work where I want, when I want.

One bit of forbidden fruit on my bicycle is my Apple AirPods. The idea of coming to a sudden stop and watching them fly out of my ears down onto the street or the drain, or simply somewhere else is enough for me to keep them in my pocket while pedaling around.

I have, however, found a solution. The Sport Strap for AirPods is nothing more than two plastic clips that fit over your ear with a hole of exactly the right diameter to securely hold my AirPods and a rubber tether between them. I can put the AirPods in the clips, slide them over my ears, and everything is much more secure. I'm actually thinking about cutting off the rubber tether. When I ride my bike, I only keep one AirPod in so I can keep the other ear open for my surroundings. 

The Sport Strap includes a little zippered carry pouch, and everything tucks away nicely in my bag. If you’re concerned your AirPods may fall out, these $13 bits of plastic will help you out.

MPU 377 – Audio Media Management

This week we take a good look at dealing with audio on your Apple gear. Topics include traditional music management, the best streaming services and why I loves them, podcast management, and playing audio in your car and home.

Sponsors include:

  • TextExpander from Smile Type more with less effort! Expand short abbreviations into longer bits of text, even fill-ins, with TextExpander from Smile.
  • Pixelmator Powerful image editing that gives you everything you need to create, edit and enhance your images, now on iPad and Mac.
  • Sanebox Stop drowning in email!
  • Casper: Because everyone deserves a great night sleep. Get $50 off with the code ‘MPU’

30 Years of PopChar

I would like to congratulate Ergonis software, which is now celebrating 30 years of the Mac utility PopChar. Keeping a software application running for 30 years is quite an accomplishment. PopChar allows you to easily see all of the characters attached to your various fonts. There's a lot in there, and if you're looking for a specific symbol or emoji, they aren't always that easy to find. PopChar solves that problemand has been solving that problem for 30 years now.

If the character lists Apple provides you with when you hold down Control + Command + Space isn’t solving the problem for you, you should check out PopChar. Best of all, with the 30-year celebration, it's reduced by 45% until May 24 ($16.50 for an individual license.)  Follow this link to get the discount coupon code "PopChar30”. 

MacPaw's Ukrainian Apple Museum

Over the years of publishing MacSparky, I've got to know the team from MacPaw. MacPaw makes several Mac Apps that I use including CleanMyMac and, increasingly, their SetApp (Netflix for Mac Apps) service. I've been genuinely impressed with everyone I've met from MacPaw. They make great software but, even more, they get being part of the Apple community. 

Last year the long-running New York Apple repair shop, Tekserve, shut down and sold their Mac collection to, it turns out, MacPaw. Now MacPaw's set up their own Apple Museum in Ukraine. I love that. They even made a clever video.



Automating PDF Creation from Image Files on the Mac

Recently a client sent me a contract electronically by taking a series of photos of a document. This happens to me once in a while, and usually I open the individual images in Preview, combine them, and save them as PDF. I received another such series of photos this morning and finally decided to automate this process so I don’t have to do it manually anymore. Automator to the rescue.

Why I Love Automator Services

Automator has the ability to create Services. These are little programs that reside in the contextual menu on your Mac. Right-clicking on a file gives you an option to employ Services. The nice thing about Services is that they stay out of the way until you need them, and then they are there, just a right-click away. (All screenshots in this post will get bigger on your screen if you click them.)

So I decided to make my little automation routine for combining PDF files a Service. This happens after you open the Automator App and click New in the File menu. 

In order to get to the Services menu, you’ve already selected a file. This means the Services don’t need the typical file-selection nonsense. To run the Service, you’ll first select the images you want to combine and convert to PDF. Clever, right?

Because the Service we are creating is made specifically to turn images into PDFs, we don't want our Macs to try and use it against other types of files such as text files or music files. Therefore, we will limit the Service so that it only works when it receives image files.

Now Let’s Get Automating 

If you’ve never used Automator before, don't sweat it. It's easy. Automator has a series of tools on the left side that you drag into your workflow on the right side. You stack those together like LEGO bricks and at the end you've created a program. This Automator workflow has just two bricks. The first thing we’ll need to do is take the existing images and convert them into a single PDF.

Fortunately, Automator has a tool specifically for this job named, not surprisingly, "New PDF From Images". Go in the Search bar for Automator and type "new PDF”, and the search gets you there. 

Drag the tool into the workflow area and we’re halfway there.

The Quartz Filter

We could really stop with just the one step and convert the images to PDF, but there is still a problem. Photos converted to PDF still make lousy documents. They have lots of color and are hard to read. 

MacOS has quartz filters built in that can change the way a PDF looks. There’s also an Automator tool to apply a quartz filter right in your workflow. So go ahead and search for “quartz”.

Drag the “Apply Quartz Filter to PDF Documents” tool into the workflow. When you do that, however, you’ll get the following dialog.

This dialogue is Automator being extra careful that you don’t override something you want to keep. For this workflow, I clicked “Don’t Add”.

After that, you’ll see the workflow with both steps.

You’ll note in the above screenshot that the quartz filter isn't doing anything yet. Time to change that. Click on the arrow next to the filter and select "Black & White". This converts the color image to a black-and-white image and makes the document much easier to read and edit.

That’s it. Save the script, select some images, right-click on them, and try it out from your Services menu.

Sponsor: OmniFocus and the Review Feature

This week the blog is sponsored by my friends over at the Omni Group and their best-in-breed task manager application, OmniFocus. There is so much to love about OmniFocus. It's a powerful task application that works with you to not only check off your boxes but make sure you're on track with your own priorities and goals.

OmniFocus represents a lot of rethinking about what a task management application should be and as a result, there are several unique features. One of my favorite unique features is its ability to review projects over time.

OmniFocus allows you to set a review period for all of your projects. It is user customizable on a per project basis and that is part of the reason it's so powerful. By tapping the Review button a few times a week, you can take a look at all of your projects that are due for an independent review. For a corporate client that I don't do much work for, that review time may be every six months. For an active project where, perhaps, the client is acquiring a competitor, I may make that review period every four days.

Because I've taken the time to set up these review frequencies appropriately, when I tap the Review button I just see those projects that truly require my attention. I've made this a regular practice and it has paid great dividends. Using the OmniFocus Review feature I have:

  1. Found projects that fell off the wagon, allowing me to get them back on track and not look like a fool.
  2. Discovered additional work that needs to be done for clients because I took a moment to sip some tea and think about their project in the abstract.

Best of all, a regular review routine gives me peace of mind. Knowing that I'm keeping track of projects lets me know that I'm doing my job and allows me to sleep easy at night. Whenever I feel a little frazzled, it is because I'm behind on project reviews.

Review is just one more reason why I love and use OmniFocus. To learn more head over to the Omni Group and check out OmniFocus.


Timing 2 for Mac

Today Daniel Alm released Timing 2 for Mac, version 2.0 of his popular Mac productivity app. Over the last several months, I have definitely climbed on the timers’ bandwagon. I'm in the process of hiring people to help me out, and the first thing I needed to do was figure out where I was spending my time. Timing 2 for Mac does that. The best thing about this app is that it does the work for you. Timing provides automatic time tracking. As you jump around different applications, website URLs, emails, and even conversation partners in Messages, Timing quietly keeps track in the background. It then gives you an interactive timeline that shows you exactly when you did what. There’s even a rule system to take you even further down the road. There is a lot of data in this app that will shed new light on how you work.

If you’re concerned about privacy, timing runs locally on your Mac and nowhere else. It does not upload your data to the cloud and does not share with anyone.

I’ve been running the beta for a few months, and I like it. The killer feature with this application is how granular it can get with automatic time tracking. To the extent I use other timers that require manual logging (switching the timer as I switch between tasks), it is really easy to forget and interrupt your flow when you remember. With Timing, I've been able to easily and accurately track all of my tasks while sitting on my Mac.

The biggest downside is that it works so well while at my Mac, I want something just as good when I'm working on my iPad or riding my bike. Either way, while I'm sitting at a Mac, I’ve got time tracking figured out with this app.

With this version, the developer has left the Mac App Store. You can download and purchase Timing 2 for Mac directly from the developer. My congratulations to Daniel on his hard work over the last year to get this new version out the door.