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.

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.