CalZones - A New Take on Time Zones

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David Smith released a new app, CalZones, which addresses the pesky problem of time zones with way more panache than I’ve seen from any other time zone app. I particularly like/use the Today Widget. 

It is always kind of amazing for me when an app developer can redefine an app genre and CalZones makes all prior time zone-related apps look pedestrian. If you work with folks in other time zones (like podcasting with someone in Vienna), get this app.



Mac Power Users 480: Catching Up with Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt joins Stephen and me on the latest episode of Mac Power Users to talk about how to get your life together and find a little focus to nerdy Keyboard Maestro scripts. 

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

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

  • SaneBox: Stop drowning in email!

  • 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.

Automators 22: Text Expansion

The latest episode of the Automator's podcasts is now available for download. In this episode, we go back to basics and talk about text expansion. I joke in the episode that text expansion is a gateway drug or automation, but that's really kind of true. Just about anybody can do text expansion and as you start to get your mind around some of the more powerful text expansion tools, you're going to find a lot of ways to use it.

The thing I like about this episode is that we not only talk about the basics, but we move into the advanced. No matter what level of usage you are at with text expansion (or if you've never used it at all), I think this is a great episode to help you move the ball little further down the road toward getting your work done faster and more accurately.

MindNode 6 Released with Focus Mode and Additional New Features

MindNode, my mind mapping app of choice, continues to iterate and improve with the recent release of version 6. This new version features a “Focus Mode” that lets you focus on one section of your map while removing the rest. It’s an excellent way to minimize distractions when you are drilling in on a small part of your map.

For iOS, they have added the ability to select multiple objects. Anytime you can add more power to the iPad version, I'm happy. (I do most of my mind mapping on the iPad.) Another nice addition on iOS is external screen support. A helpful refinement with this external support is the ability to lock that view, which can make a lot of sense when sharing a map with a group of people.

There are additional features such as sticker search, customizable panels on IOS, Chinese localization, and better keyboard shortcuts, but, in all honesty, they had me with Focus Mode.

This new version is a free update to MindNode 5 customers.

Home Screens — Hugo Castellanos

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This week’s home screen features my friend Hugo Castellanos (Twitter). Hugo is an electrical engineer who has been using computers since he was five years old. Hugo currently works with Intel, but he does so much more, including producing the podcasts conexiones.io and latinoswhotech.com, which encourages younger latino students to explore science and technology. Hugo also loves his iPhone. So, Hugo, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Definitely OmniFocus (OF). I've been a very happy user for close to 3 years, and I've been able to adapt it to different jobs, life circumstances and goals. I've played with energy contexts (now tags), tools and even moods. It's definitely the heart of my workflow. 


I am also a huge fan of the Kindle and Pocket apps. One of the new habits that I am building this year is reading at least 30 minutes a day, everyday. The fact that I can read any of my e-books and articles across my Mac, iPad and iPhone makes this so much easier. 


Mindfulness meditation is a newfound interest of mine. Calm is an app that lets me meditate while walking, driving or just sitting down on my favorite chair at home. It can do guided meditation in 2 — 20 minute intervals. I find that it’s difficult for me to meditate as soon as I wake up so the way that I incorporated Calm into my daily routine is that I practice mindful meditation during the 5 minutes that it takes to walk from my car to my desk at work. When the weather is nice (most days, yay California!), I will park a bit farther out on purpose just so I can walk some more. 

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I tend to geek out when I start talking about productivity and setups, but the one that sparks the most joy for me is Overcast. I am an avid podcast listener and actually share podcast time stamps from Overcast to DEVONthink to remember and revisit some of my favorite episodes. I spend the first hour of my day, my commute time and at least 1 — 2 hours at home listening to podcasts. This love for all things audio evolved into launching my very own called Conexiones (conexiones.io) where I interview immigrants from Latin America who work in tech companies in Silicon Valley. 

What app makes you most productive? 

Surprisingly, it’s not a task manager or timer. I feel that it's Calm. I find that spending those 5 minutes doing mindfulness meditation in the morning make me feel happier and at ease with my day. I may have a day with 5 meetings before lunch, but I trust that I will be fully present and in a great mood after using Calm. 


A close second is OmniFocus. Teammates at work often compliment me at how I never forget a task or a followup. It's all OmniFocus. Even things like planning the weekend with friends or my girlfriend is easier since I keep lists of restaurants to try, movies to watch and gifts to get for others. One of my favorite new uses for it is a perspective called “Amorcito” (literally, “little love”) that looks at all the available tasks tagged with my significant other’s name. This way, I can quickly check on the things that we need to talk about, movies to watch together, articles she has sent my way that I want to read, and even funny/cute memes that I want to see with her. This has been a game changer. It’s helped me spend time with her in a more intentional way. 


What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Definitely Drafts. I struggled (still am) with using ONE single app for notes. I've played with Evernote, Bear, GoodNotes and Ulysses looking for the perfect one. Now that Drafts 5 is available for the Mac as well as for iOS, I feel comfortable migrating all of my notes to one single application. I still use Ulysses for long-form writing like podcast scripts, show notes and blog posts. My workplace is Windows heavy, so the fact that I can export documents from Ulysses into .Docx works amazingly well. 

What is the app you are still missing?

A roadmap app for projects that can connect to both my task manager (OF) and my project support folders (on MacOS). The forecast view in OF is really good for seeing tasks and projects, but it can be difficult to visualize dependencies in projects when you have so many moving pieces at the same time. I am experimenting using the Compact Calendar by David Sheah. It’s a pretty neat tool. Whenever I have a new big project that will last several days or weeks, I print a copy of the calendar and fill out the milestone dates + time estimates and see what holidays/vacations collide with it so I can plan accordingly. There is a Google sheets version of the calendar that works really well, so I currently use it for my podcast calendar and work deliverables. We use the enterprise version of Google Docs for work so it is straightforward to enable within my Mac. This kind of calendar gives me a quick birds-eye view of what’s on my plate every week. The only hassle is that I have to update it manually, hence why I’d like to have a roadmap-like tool that connects to OF tasks. 

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

According to Screen Time, I average 70 pick ups a day for my iPhone. A lot of these are me checking out my calendar or my Today widget to refocus on what task I should be doing with it. 


My iPad is strictly for consumption, so I don't have Screen Time set up for it. I mainly use it to watch YouTube or read on the Kindle app or Pocket. 

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

OmniFocus and Calendar are the main ones. I am often switching spaces from my desk to meeting rooms and my lab. Having a quick way that I can check my @Today list in OF is a lifesaver. 


Being able to see the white open space between calendar meetings is also a great visual cue for me to assess what is my bandwidth for the day. I played with Fantastical for a while, but not being able to see those open spaces unless I put the phone in landscape mode bugged me a little bit. 

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

For iPad, it’s the ultra portability of it. For iPhone, it’s the new Screen Time app. I sat down at the beginning of the year and audited all of the apps I was using and probably deleted 50+ apps that I felt were not serving me. I also uninstalled Twitter and Facebook. I believe I was wasting 3 — 4 hours a day on social media. It feels slightly embarrassing to write it down, but it's so liberating knowing that I have gained that time back to use on other things that I value more. 


If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

Podcast bookmarking for Apple Podcasts! Also, not sure if the new iBooks app has it, but a driving mode would be extremely helpful to bookmark chapters or specific phrases as well. I listen to a lot of long-form content and sometimes I want to grab a snip of it for reference. I believe Audible is the only app that offers this feature so far. 

What's your wallpaper and why?

Lock screen is a picture I took of downtown San Jose, California, while landing. I like how it reminds me of the wonderful place I get to call home. Not only California, but Silicon Valley. Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, I never thought I would call this place home. 


Anything else you'd like to share?

There are no perfect apps. There are tools, systems and mindsets that work for each one of us. Part of the reason why I love Home Screen and all of the productivity geeks and their content is because it helps me understand which one of these tools work for me. It’s important to keep in perspective what all of these things are for: to free up focus, energy and ultimately help us spend our time more intentionally. 

– – –

Thanks Hugo!

Instagram Password SNAFU Affects “Millions" of Users

A while back, Facebook disclosed that thousands of Instagram users’ usernames and passwords were stored in plain text on Facebook servers and exposed to thousands of employees. Last week, coincidentally the same day as the release of the Mueller Report, Facebook updated the post and admitted the problem was more significant than they initially thought. (Kudos to TechCrunch for catching the update.) With this latest update, Facebook states the security lapse affected “millions” of users.

I know these posts are starting to sound like a broken record, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that you manage your own passwords. You have to be extra vigilant because the people you trust on those websites are not necessarily worthy of that trust.

Get yourself a good password manager. (My favorite continues to be Mac Power Users’ sponsor 1Password.) Change your most important passwords frequently. Be careful out there.

PDFpen: Powerful PDF Editing (Sponsor)

This week, MacSparky is sponsored by PDFpen for Mac. To properly work with PDF documents, you’ll need some powerful tools:

  • You’ll need to have the ability to perform optical character recognition on the document so you can search it.

  • You’ll need a full set of annotation tools.

  • You’ll need the ability properly redact private information.

  • You’ll need image support.

  • You’ll need the ability to add a digital signature.

PDFpen does all of this, and so much more. Smile also offers PDFpen for iPad and iPhone for editing PDFs for when you are on the go.

Head over to the PDFpen website for a full list of features. Also, make sure to let them know you heard about it here at MacSparky.com. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=18&v=1OVaaLEbFH0

Timing App Screencast Series

I believe in time tracking as a productivity tool. I have talked about it on several podcasts over the years, and while I think getting a report of how you actually use your time can be an incredible benefit, I also understand why so few people do it. 

It is a complete pain in the neck to track your time manually. That is one of the reasons I have always liked the Timing application for Mac. It tracks your time automatically and gives you very precise data about what you did on your Mac and when you did it.

The Timing developer asked me to prepare a series of screencasts to explain how the app works. Consider the screencasts a small Timing Field Guide. If you have ever been curious about Timing and the concept of time tracking, check out the screencasts to help you decide if Timing is for you. The first screencasts are linked below. You can watch the rest of them at the developer's website.

Automators Assemble!

Rosemary and I aren’t looking to vanquish Thanos. Our endgame is to show you how automation can make your life so much easier. We just want to enhance your super powers. You don’t have to wear a cape, but there is an awesome Automators Assemble! hoodie and t-shirt now available at Cotton Bureau. You may not always be able to display your prowess as an automator, but you will definitely be able to show the world your keen fashion sense when you sport this hoodie or tee. Shop soon, though. They’re only available for a limited time.

Mac Power Users 479: 100,000 Subscribers, with Rene Ritchie

Over a year ago, long-time Apple blogger Rene Ritchie launched Vector, a daily YouTube show covering the world of Apple and tech. On this week’s episode of Mac Power Users, Stephen and I catch up with Rene. We talk about his video workflows, YouTube as a platform, and the future of the Mac and iOS.

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. 

  • eero: Never think about WiFi again. Get $100 off the ‘Eero base unit and 2 beacons package’, and a year of eero Plus.

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

PowerPhotos 1.6

If you find yourself banging your head against Apple’s Photos app limitations, you may want to check out the latest version of PowerPhotos. Version 1.6 has several new features to help you get your photo library in order. Because PowerPhotos allows you to work with multiple Photos libraries, now when you copy or merge Live Photos between libraries, both the photo and video components will be preserved. Also, your photos’ original filename will be kept so that when you copy photos that have been edited in the Photos app, they won’t be imported into the destination library with its unhelpful modified name (e.g. “IMG_0001.JPG” instead of “fullsizeoutput_123.jpeg”).

The photo browser’s got a few helpful tweaks. Now you can heart you favorite photos with a heart icon in grid view. You can also see how long a movie is in grid view. And if you haven’t titled your photo, its filename will now be displayed underneath the photo.

If you’re an existing user, the update is free. If you’re interested in PowerPhotos, there’s a free version you can try, but if you want to use the advanced features such as copying photos, merging libraries, and removing duplicate photos, you can purchase a license for $29.95.

HoudahSpot 5

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HoudahSpot is an application that unlocks the full power of Finder and Spotlight on the Mac. It simplifies the process of searching through your Mac for specific files. Using HoudahSpot, you can build searches that are as complex or as simple as you want. The beauty of HoudahSpot is that it is a visual process, and anyone can do it. I think I've been using HoudahSpot since version 1.


They have now released version 5, and it is a whopper
. There are a number of new features that justified the upgrade for me, including faster file tagging, keyboard shortcuts, popclip support, and I really dig the new vertical layout. There is a list of new features on the website.


If you spend any time at all working with files on your Mac, this is one of those applications you should own.

Focused 71: Hyper-Scheduling

This episode focuses on hyper-scheduling and how to turn your calendar into a productivity weapon. Mike and I also continue the conversation about digital minimalism and share a few of our favorite books.

This episode of Focused is sponsored by:

  • FreshBooks: Online invoicing made easy.

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

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

Save Time with TextExpander (Sponsor)

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This week MacSparky is sponsored by TextExpander, the text expansion tool for Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Windows that will save you so much time. How much time? TextExpander has saved me 14 hours since my last install. That is literally additional time for me to spend with my family, read a book, or take a nap that I'd have otherwise been at my keyboard.

With the latest releases, TextExpander 6.5 for macOS and 2.0 for Windows, creating powerful snippets is easier than ever. The new visual editor makes it easier to see and edit snippet Fill-ins, dates and date math, nested snippets, and more.

You can Insert words, phrases, forms, templates, and more with just a couple key clicks—everywhere you type. TextExpander is automation for everyone. What would you do with an additional 14 hours? Subscribe to TextExpander with this link to get 20% off your subscription and find out.


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Mac Power Users 478: Journaling with Day One

Journaling can be an excellent way to collect your thoughts and reflect on the events of the day. Join us on this week’s episode of Mac Power Users as Stephen and I talk about how the journal app Day One makes it easy to do so with your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and more.

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.

  • Warby Parker: Quality eyewear at a fraction of the usual price. Order your FREE home try-on kit today.

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