Mac Power Users 472: Live in Chicago with Friends

This week’s episode of Mac Power Users is live from Chicago. Stephen and I thaw out long enough to talk to a couple of very special guests about the MacBook Air and the friction between analog and digital tools. We also answer some listener questions.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • 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.

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

  • CleanMyMac X: Your Mac. As good as new.

GoodNotes and Planner Forms

Daily Diary.jpg

During Mac Power Users episode 472 (releasing later today), I talked through my spirit quest to figure out analog versus digital planner tools. I’ve been building digital planner sheets in OmniGraffle for use in GoodNotes. When exported from OmniGraffle as PDF’s these forms import into GoodNotes easily. I initially went a little nuts with this projet and made several more forms than I actually ended up using. I'm sharing them all anyway. Here are links to the PDF files.

Once you fill out the forms in GoodNotes, it is easy to export them to Apple Notes, Day One, or anywhere else. This is definitely a work in progress but give them a try, listen to me talk about them on MPU 472 (with a secret guest), and feel free to make adjustments to make them work for you.

SaneBox, Because Email Doesn't Have to Suck (Sponsor)

This week’s MacSparky sponsor is SaneBox, the email tool that everybody could use. You may have heard about some of the innovative new email features like inbox auto-sorting, deferred email, and reply tracking. The trouble is that early implementations of those features were all app-specific. You had to switch to a different email client that you didn’t necessarily like to get those features.

SaneBox fixes that. SaneBox has all of those cool new email tools (plus many more), and it works with just about any email client. Over the last few years, I have been jumping between iOS email clients trying to find the right app for me. Throughout this process, my one constant has been SaneBox because no matter which email client I'm using, I can still get auto inbox sorting, deferred email, reply tracking, and a pile of additional email tools via SaneBox. The service gives me the freedom to try and use any email client that tickles my fancy.

There is a lot more to SaneBox, but in addition to all of that, SaneBox gives you email client freedom. To learn more head over to SaneBox and sign up today. Using the links in this post, you’ll even get a sweet discount.

Replacing an AirPod

For some time now, we have been waiting for an update to the Apple AirPods, those clever little wireless headphones that we all went for bananas for a few years ago. Whether or not Apple plans to come out with a new version (which seems likely), it’s hard to believe it has been two years since Apple first started shipping them.

When I'm wearing my lawyer hat, I spend a lot of time on the phone. The AirPods were a game changer for me in that regard. They sound great. They fit in my pocket. They can be used in both ears or just one ear. I often keep one in my right ear for hours at a time as I'm fielding calls with clients and other lawyers.

It was that right ear thing that got me in trouble. A few months ago, the right AirPod went fritz on me. The microphone stopped working, and it couldn’t hold a charge any longer. I took it into the Apple Store, and they declared it dead. Unfortunately, I was out of warranty and $60 later I had a new right ear AirPod. While it was no fun paying to replace the dead AirPod, there was no question in my mind that I would do it.

After two years, I continue to use the AirPods every day. Going forward, I'm going to try and make a point of splitting single AirPod use between both ears.

Mac Power Users 471: Menu Bars, Docks, and Startup Apps, Oh My!

Join Stephen and me on this week’s episode of Mac Power Users as we talk through the Mac utilities and applications that are always at our fingertips.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Gazelle: Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle! 

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

  • Setapp, from MacPaw: More than 100 powerful apps for your Mac.

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

Save Time With TextExpander (Sponsor)

This week MacSparky is sponsored by TextExpander. Copy and paste is an inefficient way to keep track of the things you type again and again. TextExpander makes you more productive by taking care of all those words and phrases for you. TextExpander works in all your apps so you can use it everywhere, like Microsoft Word and Excel, Adobe Illustrator and InDesign, and Apple’s Pages.

I love how you can push TextExpander beyond the usual restraints of text replacement. Just last week I shared a snippet to add a recipient's name to an email automatically. Because TextExpander is multi-platform, you can use it (and share snippets) between your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Windows PC instantly.

So spend less time typing and more time doing what you want with TextExpander. To get 20% off your first year, use the links in this post to get started.


Earlier this month I celebrated my birthday. For a while now I've treated my birthday like my own personal New Year's Day. What I mean by that is I often reflect on what's working, what's not working and things I'd like to change going forward. Since going to work for myself, I've even expanded on this idea and made a point of taking my birthday off for a bit of introspection. Every year I find it's a precious day and every year I take it a little bit more seriously.

Working with my pal Mike Schmitz over at the Focused podcast, inspired me to go even deeper this year with my "Birthday retreat". In the past, I've gone to the beach or somewhere unfamiliar to get myself off the grid. This year I had some family plans in the late afternoon and didn’t want to spend the day driving so instead I went to my familiar Starbucks in the early morning along with a paper notebook, a fancy pen, and no technology. I unplugged myself from the Internet, turned my notebook to a clean page and just started writing.

I didn't have a plan as I got started. Initially I intended to be there an hour or two, but in the end, the process (including a long walk and a nice lunch) was six hours.

The first thing I did was write down at the top of the page,"How am I doing?" I then wrote a small essay in answer to that question concerning each of the various areas of my life. In my case, that was MacSparky, the law practice, relationships, self-care, and overall. Like I said earlier, I didn't have a plan.

I started with the intention of a sentence or two on each subject and, in my head at least, get all of those areas covered with one page of my notebook. However, when I started writing, things just began to pour out of me, and I quickly realized my arbitrary ideas out page count had to go out the window. Paper is cheap! I wrote for pages and pages. Apparently, I had a lot to get off my chest.

After that, I took a walk.

Then I turned to a new page in wrote a new question, "Where can I get better at this?"

By then I was wise to the fact that this process was going to take a while, so I settled into it. I then took on the same five categories discussed above and wrote at length about areas that I could to improve. I tried to take a growth mindset to the process. Again, I had a lot to say. Having just spent time reflecting on areas I can improve upon, I tried to figure out, constructively, how to turn thoughts into actions (and some new habits).

As I continued using up ink and pages, I noticed a word that kept showing up.


I didn't start this little retreat with the idea of coming up with a theme for the next year, although I must admit I do like the idea. (Myke Hurley and CGP Grey’s yearly themes make a lot of sense to me.) Regardless, as I continued to write, I realized that I did have a recurring theme relating to things I can improve upon. I need to be more intentional.

Looking back over the last few years, the place I seem to fall down most often is when I dive into a project without thinking or ramble through days (and sometimes weeks) without clear intention. The things I want to fix quite often require me to bring more intention when both making and executing commitments.

I have always considered myself good at avoiding emotional whirlwinds. Partly as a result of lifelong meditation practice but also partly because I don't get frazzled easily. What surprised me during this little retreat, however, was, upon reflection, the realization of how easily I can let life waylay my intentions.

There is a lot of personal thoughts in my notebook from that day, but here’s one paragraph I'm willing to share:

“Too often, I let the storm of life carry me away. The smallest client thing or smallest distraction will appear and needlessly lay waste to my plans, my focus, and my day."

That sentence was the big take away for me from my small birthday retreat. Going into this next year, I intended to work on that. I'm not even sure at this point what that means, but I’ve already taken some small steps. I'm trying to give more respect to my carefully laid plans. If I care enough to make a plan, I need an excellent reason to upset it (or something needs to be truly on fire). Also, I've decided I am going to be much more intentional about that ever-so-dangerous word, “yes” and not use it going forward without some real reflection and a few night’s sleep.

I'm still figuring out what intentionality means to me. I've left some pages in my notebook and am continuing to reflect on this routinely.

Regardless, I find the birthday retreat one of the best things I do every year. Maybe with a little intentionality, I can spend even more time on these types of reflections and getting myself sorted out.

Focused 67: Staying Motivated with Laura McClellan

On this week’s episode of Focused, Laura McClellan, the Productive Woman, joins Mike and me to talk about her perfectly scheduled day (and what happens when that goes wrong), habits, mastermind groups, and staying motivated.

This episode of Focused is sponsored by:

  • FreshBooks: Online invoicing made easy.

  • Hover: Extensions for anything you’re passionate about. Get 10% off any domain name.

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

Thoughts on the Apple Video Service

Occasionally, Apple surprises us with a new product that we had no clue was coming. That is not the case with the soon-to-be-released Apple video service, which I’ll call “Apple Video”. For at least a year now it has been an open secret that Apple is hiring entertainment executives and making deals for the independent production of new content for Apple Video.

If the rumor sites are to be believed, they've made deals for science fiction shows, comedies, children's shows, and just about everything else. It appears as if Apple wants to hit the ground running with a wide assortment of original programming.

With the rise of cord cutters and some of the fantastic original program we’ve seen from nontraditional media companies, like Netflix and HBO, there appears to be a bit of a gold rush with entertainment companies vying for your monthly subscription dollars. In addition to Netflix and HBO, CBS has a service (that you need to get the new Star Trek series), Hulu has been after your monthly subscription for years, and several new contenders are entering the field.

Disney has announced that they will be launching their subscription-based content channel this year. Disney has been maneuvering for this launch now for years, and they have a lot of pieces in place. They have Disney content, Pixar, Marvel, and my beloved Star Wars. Disney will get my subscription just based on the planned live-action Star Wars series. Besides, Disney has years of back catalog from these sources that they can use to fill programming, and they've recently also bought big chunks of the Fox catalog.

In contrast, Apple doesn't have anything in terms of back catalog. While there are many rumors of deals for new content, there have been very few rumors of them licensing the existing content to put on their new channel. Looking at it in terms of sheer volume, the Disney service looks to eclipse whatever Apple can offer.

That got me thinking about whether or not Apple Video can succeed. No matter how good the original programming, there won't be that much of it and consumers are not going to be excited about paying a monthly fee for just a few shows. While there is a gold rush right now for networks and entertainment companies to get your monthly subscription dollars, eventually I expect there to be a reckoning and there's no certainty that Apple will survive that. Netflix has been hammering away at creating additional content for years, and Apple is just getting in the game. Disney has an impressive amount of existing content and Apple has none (or very little). As much as I like Apple hardware, they are not guaranteed to get my money for their video content unless they can make a compelling case.

I am not predicting that Apple Video is doomed. It just seems to me that they are facing an uphill battle. Indeed the lack of original programming to kick the service off makes me think they may take a different approach. Maybe they won't immediately want $10 a month from you but instead, merely give you the programming as part of an Apple music subscription or some rebranded Apple entertainment service that includes both music and video. Or perhaps they will offer it at a drastically reduced amount while the service builds up programming. If, however, people are expecting Apple to get massive numbers of subscribers at $10 a month with limited new content and no old content, they may be surprised.

Mac Power Users 470: From Computing to Sheep Farming, with Oogie McGuire

Programmer and sheep farmer Oogie McGuire joins us on this week’s episode of Mac Power Users. She talks about LambTracker, her application for managing flocks and the hardware that goes along with it, as well as her ongoing project of digitizing historical photos.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • CleanMyMac X: The all-in-one package to awesomize your Mac.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Get It Together With OmniFocus (Sponsor)


This week MacSparky is sponsored by OmniFocus 3. I’ve heard from lots of readers that are loving the new OmniFocus 3 features. I sure do.

The new version features a unique design that makes smart, useful changes without making change for the sake of change itself. Moreover, they've added several useful features of the application, my favorite of which is tags. Adding tags OmniFocus gives you the ability to have multiple vectors to get into your OmniFocus database and find exactly what you need precisely when you need it. I even wrote an article about how I'm using tags for the Omni Group's website. Tags help you manage big things, but they also help you manage small things too. Lately, I’ve been tagging tasks related to bill payment with the additional “bills” tag. Then when I sit down to pay bills, I can press one button in OmniFocus and pay them all at once.

I use OmniFocus every day to keep my life together. There is no way I could run a law practice, video business, three podcasts, and be a dad without the powerful tools that OmniFocus gives me. Why not check it out for yourself? Head over to the OmniFocus website and download the free trial. Make sure to let them know you heard about it here at

Improved AppleScript to Automatically Insert Recipient's Name in Apple Mail using TextExpander

Years ago I published an AppleScript that allows you to automatically insert a recipient’s name to an email using TextExpander on your Mac. This is a cool trick because when you use it, you never get a person’s name wrong when replying to them. 

Reader Greg (Twitter) wrote to me about the script a while back. One of the flaws with my script was that if the email was written in a way that listed the recipients last name first (e.g., Sparks, David), the script didn't work correctly. As I wrote it, the script required the person's first name to be listed first.

Greg broke out his AppleScript editor and made a few changes. The new version is below:

tell application "System Events"
    tell process "Mail"
        tell text field "To:" of window 1
            if UI element 1 exists then
                set theToRecipient to (value of UI element 1)
                if ((count words of theToRecipient) is greater than 0) and (theToRecipient does not contain ",") then
                    return word 1 of theToRecipient
                else if ((count words of theToRecipient) is greater than 0) and (theToRecipient contains ",") then
                    return word 2 of theToRecipient
                end if
            end if
        end tell
    end tell
end tell

The new version looks at the number of words and looks for a comma. If it finds a comma, it uses the second word as the recipient’s first name. In hindsight, this little addition is obvious. Nevertheless, Greg was kind enough to share this with the rest of the Internet and me through this post. You can download the script file right here.

To implement this, create a TextExpander snippet that runs as an AppleScript and includes this script.

Click to enlarge.

You can see my shortcut phrase is “xmm” (x name in my head) but I never trigger it with that phrase. Instead I embed it in other snippets with different salutations.For instance, to start it with “Hello” and a comma after the name, you would make it look like this.

Click to enlarge.

If you want to have a less formal one starting with just “Hi", it would look like this.

Click to enlarge.

I’ve run the whole board with versions for “Hey” and “Dear” as well. You can download the TextExpander snippet group, including the script, with this link.

If you have TextExpander and use Apple Mail, I recommend trying this out. I use these scripts with nearly every email I write on my Mac. I love that it got just a little bit smarter with Greg's tweak. Take the time to set this up. You will not regret it. Also, if you’re on Twitter, tell Greg “thanks”.

AirBuddy for Using AirPods on Your Mac

Guilherme Rambo, the gent who keeps finding scoops for 9to5Mac with some very clever sleuthing, recently published a simple app to make using AirPods with your Mac easier called AirBuddy. Once installed, it keeps an eye out for your AirPods. When you open them AirPods case you get a little animation that looks very familiar to what you see on iOS.

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 3.09.20 PM.png

AirBuddy can also add a widget to your Mac’s sidebar that will give you easy access to battery status.

(It’s a good thing my iMac has a 100% battery.)

(It’s a good thing my iMac has a 100% battery.)

That’s really about it. Guillermo is using a choose your own price model with a recommended price of $5. That makes it an easy purchase.

Mac Power Users 469: Running a Business with G Suite

With G Suite, Google offers paid versions of its free web apps and services. On this week’s episode of Mac Power Users, Stephen and I discuss our usage of these tools and how G Suite compares to other solutions available to individuals and small businesses. 

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

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

  • SaneBox: Stop drowning in email!

  • 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.

Hyper-Scheduling Without Making Yourself Crazy

There is a thread in the Focused forums referring to an article from The Guardian where a block scheduler gives herself 3-minute bathroom break blocks. I think that is too much. When the blocks get too small, you spend your time arranging your time instead of doing something. Blocks too small can start to feel like deck chairs on the Titanic.

When I started my series on block scheduling, I called it “hyper-scheduling”. That’s because I hadn’t researched it enough to realize everyone else in the world called it “block scheduling”. Regardless, and in spite of my silly name for it, rarely do I schedule a chunk of time less than an hour when I schedule my time. Looking at my current week, my only blocks less than an hour are my daily tasks of starting up and meditating, two things that I want to make sure I make time for and don’t need a full hour.

As I’m writing this, it’s Monday morning. Here’s my current schedule for the week.

Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 7.04.09 AM.jpg

You’ll see that nearly everything is at least an hour. While most of today is booked up, there are still blocks of open space throughout the rest of the week that will inevitably fill up as I move through the week. With these one-hour minimum blocks, it is not difficult to move things around as the need arises. One last note: because it is Monday, this schedule looks suspiciously organized and symmetrical. Have no fear. By Friday, it will look a lot less organized. Shit happens.