Mac Power Users 452: 2018 Developer Roundtable

Ken Case of the Omni Group, Greg Scown of Smile, and Dave Teare of AgileBits join Katie and me on this week’s episode of Mac Power Users to talk about the state of development for Mac and iOS and life as an Apple developer.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Fujitsu ScanSnap: ScanSnap helps you live a more productive, efficient, paperless life.

  • SaneBox: Stop drowning in email!

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

  • FreshBooks: Online invoicing made easy.

Automators 8: File Automation

The latest episode of the Automators is up and it’s all about file automation. Okay. Admittedly file automation is not the sexiest topic we could cover on Automators but we all file documents every day and a little automation here could go a long way. In this episode we cover file automation on both the Mac and iOS.

The Mac still reigns supreme as the place to manage files. Not only is the Finder more versatile than the iOS files app, we also have tools like Hazel and Keyboard Maestro to make dealing with files even easier. I wax poetic in this episode about Hazel and Rose talks about some clever Keyboard Maestro tricks to rename groups of files. She even made a screencast.

Eventually, we do get around to iOS and using some clever tricks in Siri Shortcuts on the front end, and Hazel on the back end, we sort out some pretty useful file automation tricks for your iPhone and iPad. I made a screencast on that.

Are you subscribed to Automators? If not, you should. It’s a great way to get better at making your devices work for you and have a little fun along the way.

Some Speculation on iOS 12's Faster Adoption

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Apple is tooting its horn today about iOS 12 adoption. Specifically, 53% of iOS devices sold in the last four years are running iOS 12. That’s faster than in the past and, from my informal research, at least part of the reason for that uptick is that people are no longer as afraid of iOS updates. For several years after iOS 7, I bumped into lots of people who actively avoided iOS updates. Many users felt iOS 7 made their phones and iPads run worse so they wanted to avoid that pain for a second time.

There is a line to be walked by Apple. They want to add new features every year. Indeed, if they are to remain competitive they need to add new features every year. Nevertheless, if they fly too close to the sun, as they did with iOS 7 and, arguably, iOS 8, they end up shipping a buggy operating system. Users hate that and it will affect their future behavior with iOS updates.

I think what we are seeing here is a return to trust. This is the first year since iOS 7 that I haven’t had at least one person write to ask me if it’s “safe” to install iOS 12. Of course Apple could blow this in the future but, for now, I think users are generally trusting of the iOS and macOS updates again.

I'm Trying Bear

I have a thing about text applications. I love the idea of an app that can hold little buckets of text. I look at these as reference libraries, and I've gone through a string of apps for this purpose over the years. For the last couple of years, I've mainly been using Apple Notes as a result of its stability and deep integration throughout the operating system.

But there are things about Apple Notes I don’t like. My biggest complaint is the slow rate of innovation. I know that comes with the territory of a stock application, but I was hoping by now that it would have a few more bells and whistles.

Also—I acknowledge this is petty—I have never been comfortable with the textured paper design background of Apple Notes. Every year I think they will remove it, and every year it stays in. They have even made textured paper for dark mode. This seems silly, but it grinds on me.

The natural replacement was Bear, a similar notes app that has been out a few years and has been gaining traction. I have played with Bear on and off since it first launched. I have even subscribed. However, its innovative functions never got quite far enough for me to want to invest in it fully until last week.

With the release of Mac OS Mojave and iOS 12, Bear pulls ahead with innovation. I’ve been toying with the app for the last week, and a few days ago, I moved my 1,000+ Apple Notes into Bear. This is still just an experiment.

Bear's tagging system works better for me than the Apple Notes' folder system. Tags work with a large collection of notes, and Bear even lets me nest them. Bear also has deep integration with Siri Shortcuts, the ability to link notes between each other (even at the header level), excellent markdown integration, and a host of other delightful little touches. For instance, if you two-finger tap inside the body of the message, Bear gives you navigation tools. Also, Bear looks gorgeous. There are multiple themes, and the typography is spot on.

Some immediate downsides to leaving Apple Notes are:

1. The loss of shared notes

Because of the ubiquity of Apple Notes and Apple's increasing abilities with synchronization, shared Apple Notes are pretty useful. Mike Schmitz and I have been using them to run the Free Agents podcast with little trouble. Bear does not have a similar feature and, even if it did, it's not necessarily installed on the computer of every person I work with. If this move to Bear is successful, I will still need to use Apple Notes for some collaboration. So I'm talking about taking what was once done in one application and now doing it in two. Usually, that’s a bad idea.

2. Missing attachments

I don't attach a lot of photos and other files to Apple Notes, but the ones I have attached did not come out with the export. If I want to move them over to Bear, I'm going to have to do so manually. (Related: Bear does allow you to attach files and links to notes.)

If you are thinking about similarly jumping ship, there are a few tools and tricks I suggest. The best way I found to get my notes out of Apple Notes with some formatting was with Exporter. It successfully extracted all of my Apple Notes in markdown format. Also, when inserting the notes into Bear, make sure to check the box to add the text file title as the note title.

I'm not at a point yet where I can recommend Bear; I'm still kicking the tires. I am, however, seriously looking at this app and will report back. For me, the tipping point will be in seeking how much more I can automate Bear over Notes.

Blast Through Your Email Inbox with TextExpander – Sponsor

This week MacSparky is sponsored by TextExpander. I feel like this is particularly appropriate because TextExpander has been helping me keep up with what can only be described as an email deluge over the last few weeks. Last month I released two field guides, which stretched all of my resources to their very limit. Every time I publish a new field guide, I get lots of email from customers and prospective customers about the new course. The last few weeks I’ve had that problem times two.

TextExpander has saved my bacon, again. I’ve created snippets to answer all of the most common questions and solve the most common problems. This lets me get through hundreds of emails in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise. Moreover, I have a team TextExpander account, so my assistant has access to the same snippets that I’m using and is just as fast at helping customers as I am. It’s productivity times two.

TextExpander allows you to simplify and automate what can be time-consuming and frustrating text entry. Not only does it substitute text at your will, but it also does things like insert dates, grab the contents of the clipboard, and even run AppleScript and JavaScript. It’s text expansion plus so much more.

I’ve written about TextExpander many times over the years because it’s so useful to me. I bet you have times where you get more email than you expect as well. Set yourself up with a TextExpander account and see just how much time you can save. It will surprise you. Use the links in this post and let them know you heard about it on MacSparky to get 20% off your subscription.

Mac Power Users 451: Task Management Strategies

On this week’s episode of Mac Power Users, Katie and I revisit the topic of task management. We talk about digital task managers, our history managing tasks, various tiers of task management from simplified to advanced, systems for digitally managing our tasks, and how to keep it all together.

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.

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

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

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

Free Agents 57: Chef = Boss

This episode of Free Agents is all about space. Mike and I discuss the role of mise en place (French for “set up” or “putting in place”) for a successful free agency. Also, I talk about the effect of dedicated spaces on production, Mike is thinking about leaving his co-working space, and I’m plotting a sabbatical for more "space".

This episode of Free Agents is sponsored by:

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

  • FreshBooks: Online invoicing made easy.

Get Three Free Months of Ulysses – Sponsor

This week, MacSparky is sponsored by Ulysses, the writing application I use every day. Ulysses gives me a focused writing environment, eliminating distractions and encouraging me to do the hard work of moving the cursor across the line.

While there are plenty of minimalist writing tools, there is only one Ulysses. That is because in addition to obsessive design, Ulysses has some real power under the hood.

I love the way Ulysses organizes the various facets of my life and where I do my writing. This screenshot is only the tip of the iceberg for me. As I go deeper in these levels, I have all sorts of text that I'm currently writing, have already written, or use as a reference. And because it syncs across macOS and iOS, all of it is always available to me. There is a reason I always have this app open.

For the latest operating system updates, Ulysses was there. Version 14 adds a new dark mode, better designs on sheets, Siri Shortcuts integration, and iPhone XS Max support. The Siri Shortcut support lets you create a new sheet, view an individual sheet, or even view a group of sheets. 

My thanks to Ulysses for not only sponsoring the website this week, but also for helping me move the cursor every day. You can get three free months of Ulysses with this link. Check it out.

Mac Power Users 450: MPU+: I'm a Big Phone Guy

Join us this week for MPU+. Katie and I chat about my new phone, Katie's broken Mac, iOS 12 follow-up, Siri Shortcuts, transitioning from Dropbox to iCloud, my laptop replacement, and more.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

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

  • Gazelle: Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle! 

  • FreshBooks: Online invoicing made easy.

  • Handy: The most reliable name in house cleaning.

Facebook Breach: 50 Million Users

Today Facebook explains that on Tuesday, they discovered a security issue, compromising 50 Million accounts. Just to be clear, that is a five followed by seven additional zeroes. While I’m not a fan of Facebook generally, I do appreciate that they shared this with users within days of discovery. (The post explains they discovered the breach on September 25.) At the same time, it’s only been days and 50 million is an awfully round number. Is that really all?

While it is easy to poke fun at Facebook, I think a lot of companies are vulnerable. The hackers are getting smarter and they only need the folks holding our data to make one mistake. Get yourself a password manager and please use multiple, secure passwords. You probably know my choice is MPU sponsor 1Password but whatever your preference, get some real security tools to back you up.

SaneBox, It Just Works … Everywhere

This week's sponsor, SaneBox, might be my most used web service. SaneBox helps me manage the deluge of email. I've had a few releases in the past month, and that means the old inbox has been getting hammered. SaneBox has had my back the whole time, sorting email, with uncanny precision, into different folders automatically so I can find everything I need, exactly where I'd expect it.

Best of all, SaneBox works everywhere. The last few weeks we've had updates to both iOS and macOS and mail tools and plugins are breaking everywhere. Not SaneBox. SaneBox runs in the cloud so no matter how many times you update your operating system, change to different platforms, or just decide to switch mail apps, SaneBox keeps working for you.

There is a whole lot SaneBox can do to help you tame your email. To learn more, head over to SaneBox and use the links in this post to get a discount. Who doesn't love a discount now and again?


Mac Power Users 449: macOS Mojave

On this week’s episode of Mac Power Users, Katie and I talk about Apple's latest operating system, macOS Mojave. We discuss the state of the Mac, yearly release cycles, what we like, what we don't, new features for productivity, and more.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Molekule: The only air purifier that actually destroys pollutants. Use mpu for $75 off.

  • SaneBox: Stop drowning in email!

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

  • Fujitsu ScanSnap: ScanSnap helps you live a more productive, efficient, paperless life.

Free Agents 56: Iterate in Public, with Sean McCabe

Sean McCabe started his free agent journey as a designer doing hand lettering and has built a successful online business through teaching what he knows. On this week’s episode of Free Agents, Sean talks about the lessons he has learned along the way, including the power of rest and why he takes a sabbatical every seven weeks.

This episode of Free Agents is sponsored by:

  • FreshBooks: Online invoicing made easy.

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

1Password 7.2 Brings Autofill for Apps


It’s easy to be cynical these days. So at WWDC when Apple announced app autofill, an API that will fill in usernames and passwords in applications the same way it does in websites, I naturally assumed this would be a feature for Apple’s own password service only and this would be a not-so-subtle nudge to third-party password managers. Then, just minutes later, Apple explained they are making this also available to third-party password managers. My heart grew two sizes larger.

Fast forward to the iOS 12 release and now we’re getting this feature in 1Password 7.2 for iOS 12. I’ve long been a 1Password subscriber (Disclosure: they sometimes sponsor my podcast.) because 1Password brings so much to the table. I love that I can now use my chosen password manager for applications as well.

To turn it on, go to iOS 12 Settings > Passwords and Accounts > Autofill Passwords. You can leave the iCloud Keychain passwords at the same time. It’s a nice update and I already can’t believe I ever lived without application-based password autofill.