Apple Watch Success and Jim Hanks

Yesterday Strategy Analytics announced that it believes Apple shipped 3.5 million Apple Watches in Q1 2017, making it the global leader in wearables and displacing Fitbit. If true (Apple doesn’t publish its numbers for Apple Watch), it’s pretty remarkable.

The Apple Watch is at a significantly higher price point than a lot of its competitors (including Fitbit), which makes them selling the most units even more impressive. The Strategy Analytics report doesn’t cover profit but I'd speculate that Apple is leading on making money in wearables even more they are in unit sales. 

I have to say, however, that I'm not surprised. If you own an iPhone, the Apple Watch is an extremely useful (and expensive) accessory. Getting notifications on my wrist means my gigantic iPhone stays in my pocket a lot more often. There's also several other nice little delights for Apple Watch owners. Turn by turn directions (particularly when you are walking) are awesome. Being able to ask your wife if she needs more bananas while you're walking through the grocery store by just talking to your wrist is also pretty great. Overall, Apple has made a lot of progress with the Apple Watch with recent hardware and software updates and I've spoken with very few people who bought one and didn't end up using it every day. 

It always strikes me how people talk about Apple Watch success as if they are surprised. In some ways, the Apple Watch reminds me of Tom Hanks’ brother, Jim. He's a great guy. He does voiceover for Woody. But also, he's Tom Hanks’ brother and everybody always wants talks about Tom Hanks, not Jim.


Happy May the 4th

I know these days that it seems like every day is a holiday of one sort of another but how could I let May the 4th go by without acknowledging it. Why do I love Star Wars? One reason is because of the fans. They are completely insane ... like me. Last year, Adam Driver did a funny skit on Saturday Night Live where his Star Wars character, Kylo Ren, went on Undercover Boss as "Matt, radar technician".

As I was walking through the Star Wars celebration, I stumbled into a group of people that dressed up as "Matt". That's right, they even cosplay the spoofs. Star Wars has some of the greatest fans in the world. May the force be with you.

Sponsor: SaneBox - They Respect Your Privacy

This week MacSparky is sponsored by SaneBox, the email service that brings sanity back to email. There are so many great SaneBox features. It lets you easily defer email to the future. It follows up with you if you don’t get replies to important emails. It automatically sorts your email for you so you can deal with the urgent and save the rest for later. Best of all, this magic works with just about any email application and on any computing platform.

One feature I’ve never mentioned about SaneBox before is that it costs money. You pay for the service. In this day and age, the fact that they have a business model that doesn’t require them to sell your data to someone else is, in fact, a feature. Indeed, SaneBox is very respectful of your data. To pull off their magic tricks, they only look at the email header information (primarily they need to know who sent the email and the subject line). They don’t look at your email body and they don’t sell your data to anyone. SaneBox explains their … well … sane belief in protecting your privacy right here.

So don’t only give your email super-powers, do it with a company that respects your privacy. I’ve been a SaneBox subscriber for years and don’t know how I'd get by without it. Go check it out and use this link to get a discount off your subscription.

Some Thoughts on the Hypothetical Apple Echo Competitor

The Verge recently ran an article speculating that Apple will release its Echo competitor at WWDC. I’ve got a few thoughts about this.

First, I'm happy to see that rumor sites are starting to treat the existence of an Apple device that competes with the Echo as a certainty. Apple’s always been so hesitant to release new products that part of me has wondered if they will even enter this space. An Apple Siri/AirPlay device makes a lot of sense for those of us invested in iCloud based services.

Second, I think such a product could provide a real test for Apple’s design chops. I'm sure the industrial design will be very … well … Apple but I'm more curious to see how they implement a voice-only operating system. We’ve got an example of that right now in the iPhone Siri but a device that plugs in the wall with always-on power and released from the power constraints you get with mobile devices could be interesting.

Third, I think the existence of a such a product would signal Apple opening Siri up further for third party development. I don’t mean I think Apple would open it up to third parties the way Amazon has but I do think a product like this would only make sense if Apple were simultaneously opening up more categories of applications with Siri hooks. An obvious one would be audio controls. If I could use such a device to start a podcast in Overcast or a playlist in the Sonos app, things could get interesting.

Finally, Apple’s Echo competitor could be fundamentally different because of the simple existence of iOS. We’ve all already got iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV’s around our homes and Apple would be foolish not to try and leverage that fact into such a device. As one example, think about how Apple now let’s you bounce television programs from your Apple TV to you iPad. Why wouldn’t you be able to bounce a podcast from the Apple Echo-thingy to your iPhone?

Will Apple announce such a product at WWDC? I’ve got no clue. I could make the case for it if they truly are expanding Siri hooks with iOS 11 but I don’t think Apple is all that eager to release hardware at WWDC, especially now that they have their own theater on campus. If I was a betting man, I'd say a product like this gets its own event.

MPU 375 - More Big Questions

This week on Mac Power Users we cover some big questions including the Workflow app, secure cloud storage, email sharing, moving data, managing your network, and how they scan. Also, we learn that under no circumstances will I ever get access to Katie's Synology.

Sponsors include:

  • Making Light Get (or give!) a candle subscription and make some new habits. Use offer code "MPU".
  • PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
  • Freshbooks: Online invoicing made easy.


Glad I Brought the Laptop

A few weeks ago I wrote about my little nerd-crisis as I prepared to go on a trip. It was largely a trip for fun and I was hoping I could get by with the iPad but I had a few things cooking at the day job that made me ultimately decided to bring the laptop along. I thought I'd report back on that.

I got by just fine with a 9.7 iPad Pro for most of the trip. It's an excellent computer to use on an airplane and combined with the smart cover, I can type pretty damn fast on it. Moreover, despite my constant grumbling about file management on iOS, I got a significant amount of work done between Microsoft Word, Apple's Pages, and Numbers. Likewise, the day-to-day management of email and OmniFocus was just fine.

As expected, as I tried to rely on the iPad, I found a few areas that could use automation improvements and the experiment resulted in a couple clever new Workflow recipes.

Overall, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself about not needing the Mac … until the last day. 

On the last day a client contacted me with a new contract that they needed to turn around quickly. In the law game, most contracts are provided to you in Microsoft Word and sometimes even Apple's Pages. The real rare snowflake is a contract provided to you as a Google document. Lawyers just haven’t adopted Google documents very much. Its track changes features (which Google calls “suggestions”) are fairly recent and still a little clunky. Something I didn't know until the fateful day is that the Google Docs app for iPad doesn't include support for Google document change tracking. You can see other people’s suggestions. You can even accept or reject them. You just can’t add your own. If you go to the Google website they explain that the way to suggest an edit on the iPad is to “open a document, spreadsheet, or presentation on your computer.” That’s right. If you want to make suggestions with your iPad the trick is to put it down and open the file on your computer. 

So on the last day of my trip I was forced to pull out the MacBook and do some work. My grand experiment was struck down by Google.

That's the thing about trying to get by with your iPad alone. It works great until it doesn't and then it doesn't work spectacularly. Over the years the percentage of work you can complete and iPad has steadily increased. I'm at about the 90% range. That doesn't mean I can work just as fast on iPad but I can work on an iPad. The trouble is, however, that last 10%. It's not a simple problem that Apple can fix with a single software update. In this case, it was Google's delay in adding a feature that is common on every other platform for their software except the iPad.

I don't know how long it's going to take us to travel that additional 10% but I expect it's going to be an uphill climb for a while. As much as I'd like to have the freedom of using my iPad only on trips, for the time being I'm still going to have to bring a laptop. That won’t, however, stop me from continuing to try.

Using Workflow with Multiple Apps

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I have so many Workflow recipes, which prompted several emails asking me to share. I already shared quite a few of them in the Workflow Video Field Guide but since publishing that I've added several more. Over the next couple months I'm going to share some of the more interesting ones.

The Home Screen Post Workflow

I occasionally post the home screen of interesting readers and friends on this website. Setting up those posts require several things. First I need to send the questions to the home screen guest along with some instructions (like requesting for headshot). Next I need to set up the publication task and OmniFocus. Finally I do all the edits and preparation of the post in Ulysses.

After doing this manually for what seemed like the millionth time, I finally got wise and created a Workflow automated process. The Workflow steps are in the screenshot below.

The Email

If I start this process on my Mac I do with a TextExpander snippet but since I'm going to be using this workflow to also create an OmniFocus and Ulysses project, I decided to combine it all in workflow on iOS. The workflow asks for the name of the person and any additional text I want to add to the email. It saves those two items as variables and then opens a body of pre-written text and drops in the name and additional text data I just captured. It then combines all of this into a third variable for the combined text.

I appreciate that using Workflow's Magic Variables, I don't need to necessarily declare variables anymore. Nevertheless, this one was prepared long before they added magic variables and I've never bothered to change it up. It works fine as is.

Next I take the variable containing the combined text and drop it in a new email message. Because I know that this is going to be an email about a home screen post I can even insert the subject line in the Workflow. All I need to do when the workflow activates is pick a recipient and the email fires off.

The OmniFocus Task

Next the workflow opens up OmniFocus and creates a new task to publish this home screen post using the variable for the person's name. The beauty of this is I'll have to type their name and once and it gets used in several applications. (Note this does not create an OmniFocus Project. I’ll show that one off in the future.)

The Ulysses Sheet

Finally, I create a new text file with the name of the post, dropping in the name variable one last time. I then use that text to open up a sheet in Ulysses to hold the text for the home screen post. Having that text file ready in Ulysses is a nice reminder for me and when I receive the responses from the home screen guest, I simply drop them into Ulysses and work from there. You'll note there is a long string identifier for the group name in Ulysses. This is how Ulysses knows to put the text file in a specific location in my Ulysses hierarchy where I'd expect to see these posts.

Overall, this is a very simple workflow but when it saves me a bunch of time. Indeed, this is one of those things that is now faster for me on iOS than the Mac because of the way all these apps can work off a few variables. Do not underestimate the power of Workflow to take one little bit of information and use it in multiple key applications. To me that is one of the application’s best features.

Sponsor: Daylite CRM for Mac

This week MacSparky is sponsored by Daylite, the CRM & Project Management app for teams on Mac, iPhone & iPad.

Daylite helps companies manage more leads and projects by organizing all your data so you can work more efficiently and gain valuable insights into your business. 

Recently a law firm in Georgia shared that Daylite has helped them grow from a team of 2 to 13 in just two years. By using Keywords in Daylite to tag how new lead and client heard about them, the firm was able to filter and uncover which methods worked best for attracting new clients. 

They also use Daylite to filter and identify which clients were referring them the wrong type of leads. By educating their referring clients about their services, they saw a big improvement in the type of leads they were getting, which led to more clients.

By using Daylite to capture important information, this firm was able to leverage that data and grow their business.

If you are managing a small to medium sized business, you can't go wrong with Daylite. It works on Mac, iPad, and iPhone and gives you and your team one place to manage tasks, contacts, calendars, email, and all those other bits you need to make your business successful. Head over to Daylite today and learn more.

Free is Never Free

The New York Times piece on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is pretty damning. There’s a lot to consider in the article but one bit that stood out for me was this:

They (Uber) spent much of their energy one-upping rivals like Lyft. Uber devoted teams to so-called competitive intelligence, purchasing data from an analytics service called Slice Intelligence. Using an email digest service it owns named, Slice collected its customers’ emailed Lyft receipts from their inboxes and sold the anonymized data to Uber.
— Mike Issac, New York Times

As I read this, I had to wonder how users felt about their email getting harvested. is a free service that looks at your email for you and helps you unsubscribe from unwanted junk mail. The most important word in that last sentence is “free”.

Free is never free.

Indeed in this case, where is owned by an analytics service, it appears that the entire purpose for the service is to get access to user email data for monetization. So apparently, with access to its user email accounts, collected their Lyft receipts, anonymized them, and sold them to Uber. I'm pretty sure people signing up for don’t expect that to happen.

The CEO wrote a sort-of apology where he explained that the biggest mistake was not communicating to users how much does with subscriber data. “And while we try our best to be open about our business model, recent customer feedback tells me we weren’t explicit enough.” Looking through the website, I agree. They could definitely do a better job communicating what they're up to.

It’s often argued that you should only use web services that require payment because free services won’t be able to stay in business. However, even scarier in my book are the free services that manage to stay in business and the things they do with your data to keep the lights on.

Be careful out there.


Free Agents 19 - Nobody Grades You on the Scaffolding

Every independent worker will agree that being organized is important. But should you adopt an organizational system? How can these systems help you, and are they worth the investment? In this episode Jason and I detail our own personal organization systems and discuss approaches to getting more organized, as well as tools to use to help in the process.

Sponsors include:

  • Sanebox: Clean up your inbox in minutes. Sign up for a two-week free trial and a $20 credit.
  • Freshbooks: Online invoicing made easy.

Apple's Green Ambitions

Yesterday Apple released it's 2017 Environmental Progress Report. The company has come a long way on this front in the last few years. They've got most of their operations working off renewable energy. They've also developed a robot that takes iPhones apart so they can better recycle. The big announcement with this latest report is the aspirational goal to, at some point in the future, make their products entirely from recycled goods. Apple wants to stop digging in the earth.

It sounds crazy, but we’re working on it. We’re moving toward a closed-loop supply chain. One day we’d like to be able to build new products with just recycled materials, including your old products.
— Lisa Jackson, Apple VP of Environment and Policy

I spent some time reading the various spins on this position around the Internet and I think it's a mistake to look at this as some hippie-lipservice from Apple. I think they really mean to pull this off and we'll see further steps in this direction going forward. Also, I don't fault Apple for stating their intention to do something they still haven't entirely figured out how to pull off. I think the fact that Apple is publicly working on this will encourage other big tech companies to do the same and maybe they'll even collaborate on finding solutions. Wouldn't it be great if they pulled it off?

A Few Rules to Avoid Getting Stung with Crowd-Funding

Three years ago I backed this project on Indiegogo that was a clever iPhone battery/cable/locator/camera trigger. At the time it seemed pretty useful and I was still in those heady days of believing that anything listed on Kickstarter or Indiegogo would necessarily ship.

Well it's been three years and I'd pretty much written off the idea of ever receiving my GOkey. A few days ago I received an email from the project organizer making it official by explaining he was out of money and unable to ship. He concluded the email:

"I feel terribly shameful for letting you down.
I am sorry."

I actually felt kind of bad for the guy despite the fact that he got my $69 and I never received anything in return. I would have been more upset about this in the past but I’ve become much more realistic about these projects in the last few years. 

The idea behind crowd-funding is a good one. Somebody has a great idea and rather than going to the bank, they get funded by their first customers. Unfortunately, you’ve got to be pretty discriminating if you don’t want to receive any emails like I just did from GOkey. I’ve got a few rules now for backing crowd-funding campaigns:

1. If it has a circuit board, don’t back it. 

It often seems to me that the biggest fails on these types of projects involved finalizing, approving, and sourcing electronics. I know that this was part of the reason the GOkey never shipped. These days I’ll only back something that has a circuit board if it is made by a company with already a proven and reliable track record.

2. Smashing success is often a bad thing.

If I'm watching a Kickstarter or Indiegogo that starts blowing up, I’ll take a step back and look very closely before I get on board. Being required to make millions of a product when you originally only expected to make thousands adds a lot of complexity and opportunities for things to go wrong. You may recall how long it took them to ship the original Pebble watch. People I talked to said a lot of this was due to them having to ramp up for so many units.

3. Simple ideas are also subject to peril.

Another problem showing up is intellectual property theft. A clever designer will come up with a new way to solve a problem and the project will get some momentum. That very same momentum, however will attract rip-off artists to start flooding the market with similar products, sometimes before the campaign even ends.

I still think the idea behind crowd-funding is a good one. If you see something you feel passionate about and you want to play a role in making it a reality, there's nothing wrong with backing it. Just be warned that no matter how good of an idea a product is, it still may never ship.


Star Wars Episode VIII – The Trailer, The Poster, and the Show Floor

Today was the Episode VIII panel at Star Wars Celebration and it was pretty great. The corker was a 2 minute teaser that LucasFilm is calling a "trailer". I don't see how you can call this a trailer though. It's just the barest of sketches about what's going on with our heroes and villains in the middle act of the trilogy. It's very well done and I like the fact that it conveys very little information about what to expect. The movie is still eight months away. Keep us in suspense a bit longer please.

About that Poster

I really like the new poster. Seeing old Luke so prominantly is awesome considering he had such a small role in The Force Awakens.


I also like the way Rey at the bottom harkens back to Luke in the original Star Wars poster from 1977. (I remember seeing that poster as a kid and not sure what to make of it. The guy holding the light saber looked more like someone out of a Spartacus movie than Mark Hamil.)

Also, did you notice how Rey's saber transitions from blue to red? The point of the middle episode is to leave us feeling our heroes are completely screwed. Between the trailer and this poster, I expect they'll deliver on that promise.

MacSparky's Celebration Multi-Media Extravaganza

So far at Celebration I've been watching panels and meeting up with friends. Today I plan to spend a lot of time on the show floor taking pictures of both the awesome and the bazaar. It's all here gang. Follow me today on Twitter, Instagram, and/or SnapChat for plenty of Star Wars content. I'll even be posting video with my SnapChat Glasses. Such a nerd.

​A Long Sunset for Workflow

 MacRumors reports that the Workflow team has confirmed in a recent customer support email there will be no further features but imply they'll do maintenance updates. Specifically, they wrote:

 "But just so you know, we have no further planned updates for Workflow. That being said we are continuing to support Workflow's current functionality and have no plans to end support, so let me know if you run across any bugs or crashes." 

We all knew this was coming. In hindsight, we should have known it was coming this soon. Whatever Apple hired the Workflow team for, it was not to continue developing Workflow. They've obviously already started on some sort of integration of Workflow-like tools in iOS.

However seeing it there, in black and white, that the app that I use repeatedly, every day, is now frozen feels pretty bad. I'm constantly writing new Workflows to automate working on iPhone and iPad. I currently have 53 workflows that I've written myself or boosted from somewhere else on the Internet.

Whatever Apple is working on, I find it highly unlikely that it will ship with iOS 11 that gets announced in just a few months. So my guess is we'll wait until iOS 12 to get the Workflow replacement, which is most likely 14 months from announcement and 17 months away from release. Will Workflow still function up until that time? I sure hope so.

PDFpen Version 9

Smile just released a new version of PDFpen for Mac. The new version adds several features including better annotations, linked files, better export options, a new "search and highlight" feature, line numbering, a new hand tool, better table of contents editing, and Asian OCR.

There’s a lot more. Indeed, so much more that I made a video for Smile.