One Week with the New iPad Pro

I’ve been using the new 10.5 inch iPad Pro a lot over the past week and thought I’d share a few thoughts:

That Screen


The screen refresh at 120 timer per second is immediately noticeable. Everything is snappier. Maps zoom faster. Apps and folders leap off the glass. It plays with your mind. As I write these words, it even seems the cursor is jumping across the screen faster than usual. The screen is also noticeably brighter than my existing iPad Pro. My best summary for this new screen is that it is hyper-real. 

Maybe at some point I’ll get used to this but then again it may just delight me for years. (Retina screens still make me giggle.) Speaking of retina screens, I think the jump from non-retina to retina was a bigger deal than this, but not by much. This tech is pretty remarkable. One clever bit to all of this is that the screen isn’t always driving forward at 120 frames per second. Instead the iPad is smart and only amps things up when needed. If there is no movement going on with the screen, the frame rate slows down to conserve battery.

10.5 Inches

While the feel of the 10.5 inch iPad is about the same as the prior 9.7 inch iPad Pro, Apple managed to add some additional pixels. They did not, however, make the 10.5 inch iPad match the pixel count of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. Doing so would have allowed us to see two full sized iPad apps on the 10.5 inch iPad but also make everything on the screen smaller. I used to make fun of people that didn’t use the smallest possible typeface on their screens. These days I actually prefer text a little larger. Apple’s decision to keep the same pixel size (so text doesn’t shrink) but just add about 20% more screen real estate with the 10.5 inch iPad works for me. However, 20-year-old me would have preferred smaller pixels and two full-sized iPad apps. 

As for my existing 12.9 inch iPad, I have yet to determine its fate. The big iPad currently taking a sabbatical while I attempt to do all of my work on this 10.5 inch iPad to see how it goes. I'll revisit and report back in a month or so.

There's another piece to this larger screen: the keyboard. When I first started using the new 10.5 inch iPad, I didn't feel the keyboard was any different than that for the 9.7 inch iPad. Now that I've spent more time typing on the Smart Keyboard and the glass, I can report this slightly wider keyboard is more comfortable than I expected it to be. Just that little extra width makes a significant difference.

The Pencil

In addition to a faster screen render, the new iPad also provides a faster scan for the pencil at 240 times per second. You won't notice any difference when drawing quickly. The first time I tried it, I made broad fast strokes on prior generation iPad right next to this 10.5 inch iPad and couldn't notice a difference. Then I got thinking about the times I try to use the pencil with precision and I started doing some tests. I use the pencil to make very small and detailed annotations on PDFs. I also use the pencil to write music in NotateMe. It was with that second test that I really got religion. NotateMe allows me to write music on my iPad with my pencil. It transcribes the music as I write it and even gives me a little preview. I like using the application to sketch of ideas for songs and solos. This task gets a lot easier with a higher scan rate on pencil. The application gets a better reading and, as a result, gives me better response. No longer do my eighth notes turn into quarter rests. One remarkable part about all this is the fact that I did not have to buy a new Apple Pencil. The iPad improvements were all that were needed in order to give my existing Apple Pencil these new powers.

Other Nerdy Bits

  • If you spend any time in Safari, you'll notice the additional memory (4 GB).
  • The weight feels exactly the same as the 9.7 iPad Pro.
  • The speakers sound about the same to the 9.7 inch iPad Pro
  • There is no discernible difference in battery life. About 10 hours.

What about the Software?

For months I've been writing that the problem with the iPad isn't hardware, but instead software. Apple fixes a lot of my complaints (and a few I didn't even think of) with iOS 11. I'm currently running the iOS 11 beta on my 10.5 inch iPad and will have a lot more to say about that when it gets closer to shipping. The point, however, is that Apple has improved hardware and software. When iOS 11 ships, a lot of people will be able to get work done on iPad. September can't come soon enough.

Road ID for Apple Watch

For people who are active or have special needs, Road ID is a great product and service. Road ID is a wearable doodad that lets emergency responders know who you are and who they should call. There is even an option that allows you to keep an online profile with lists of your medications, allergies, and more.

Best of all, they now support the Apple Watch. They’ve got several products that will work with Apple Watch bands. If you're active without identification or have a medical condition that you want to make sure first responders are aware of, check these out.

MultiMarkdown Converter Pro

Fletcher Penney, who has put years of work into MultiMarkdown, has a new app: MultiMarkdown Converter Pro. If you write in Markdown or MultiMarkdown, this one is worth checking out. With MultiMarkdown Converter Pro, you can drag and drop text files from anywhere and convert them into the format you desire. It includes support for HTML5, EPUB 3 (including images), LaTeX, and Flat OpenDocument.

The New Glif

I backed the new Glif iPhone tripod mount and mine showed up a few weeks ago. Studio Neat has come a long way with this product. The newest Glif is spring loaded and pulls back easily around your phone (any size, in a case or not). You then just press down the quick release lever and you’ve attached three tripod mounting points to your phone. The whole thing easily fits in your jeans’ pocket. Quick. Secure. Portable.

If you want to go crazy, Studio Neat also sells a wooden grip with a tripod screw on top and wrist strap. You can combine this with the Glif to have a nice comfortable handle for your phone. I used it in this configuration recently at Disneyland while walking in a crowd. Combined with the iPhone camera stabilization, it took some great video for something I just pulled out of my pocket. As an aside, you’ll see some cranes in the background at the end of the video. You’ll never guess what those are for.

This third iteration of the product is so good that I'm not sure where they can go next. If you have any desire to put your iPhone on a tripod, look no further.

Free Agents 23 — Hard to Get on a Different Train

The latest episode of Free Agents is available for download. In this episode, we talk about what business forms make sense for your new venture. Topics include sole proprietorships, corporations, LLCs, and what seems like an episode-long disclosure that you really need a local attorney to help you out with these things.

Sponsors include:

Hazel 4.1 Update

I’m a little late on this story but Hazel got a very nice update over the last few months. The new version 4.1 adds several useful features including:

  • Better date matching
  • The ability to make a match based on file attributes of another file in the same folder
  • There's also a new token for "any non-blank character"

These and other additions make this a nice improvement to an already useful Mac utility. I'm working on some new video content based on the updates. It will get added to the Hazel Video Field Guide when it's finished. I’m not making any promises on a release date just yet.

Subscription Database

Several months ago we did an episode on Mac Power Users about managing subscriptions. During the show I explained that I have an Apple Numbers spreadsheet where I keep track of all of that information. I've finally gotten around to posting it. Below is a screenshot and at the bottom of this post is a download link.

The spreadsheet allows you to enter the name of the service and then whatever fee you’re paying. When you click the checkbox as to whether or not it's an annual subscription, the spreadsheet does some conditional computations to figure out the monthly cost and annual cost in the following two columns. Those are the key locations that you're going to be getting information about how much you’re spending. At the bottom of those columns you'll see how much you're spending per month and per year.

After that it’s just further information concerning the specific service like website, account number, contact information, and email. The point is you want to keep whatever you need in this database so you can cancel a subscription whenever you feel like it. The one thing I don't keep in this database is passwords. For that I go to 1Password.

Feel free to download, use, and modify. Let me know how it works for you.

Download the Subscription Database.

The Omni Group (Sponsor)

This week MacSparky is sponsored by the Omni Group. One of the most interesting things I saw last week at WWDC was Sal Soghoian’s presentation about JavaScript integration with the Omni applications. The Omni Group has been hard at work adding JavaScript integration. They currently have it on betas of OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle. Using this, Sal was able to prepare an outline in OmniOutliner that automatically generated presentation slides in OmniGraffle. The documents were linked and making changes in one affected data in the other. Impressive! It was really powerful and available on both Mac and iOS.

Seeing how much time the Omni Group is spending putting this advanced automation in place just affirms my decision to buy their software. The Omni Group truly wants to make the best possible software for Mac and iOS. If you're looking to be more productive, I recommend checking them all out.

OmniFocus — to get more productive

OmniGraffle — to make beautiful diagrams and images

OmniOutliner — a powerful outlining tool

OmniPlan — for project planning

Check out the Omni Group today and let them know you heard about it at MacSparky.

WWDC Reflections and Future Hopes

Now having returned from WWDC, I can't help but take a few minutes to reflect upon the general mood in San Jose this past week. Developers were a lot less surly this year and I spoke with several developers inspired by Apple’s work to go and create the next big thing.

Why wouldn’t they? We got new Macs, iPads, and the software updates addressed many priority issues, like iPad productivity. I can't really put my finger on it but it seems like Apple just has its eye on the ball better this year than it did last year. Talking to folks around San Jose, one explanation was that Apple had a lot of focus on the new building and the car project. I'm not sure if that’s the case. It may just be that the features they announced this year took longer than expected. 

Indeed, it really doesn’t matter why it suddenly seems Apple is addressing these issues so much as the fact that they are addressing these issues.

The iPad gets a lot better with iOS 11. I have a long list of critiques having used it under fire for several days but, fundamentally, the iPad gets more useful when iOS 11 ships.

The bottom line is people are generally happy with what Apple announced last week. Now let’s keep the the momentum rolling. I’ve got three hopes for the next year:

  1. I'd like to see that Apple is listening to feedback particularly on the iOS 11 iPad improvements. Beta users have some great ideas and I'd like to see the best of them make it in before iOS 11 ships.
  2. I would also like to see Apple continue to do incremental updates to the Macintosh hardware. The fact that they upgraded the MacBook Pro to the most current processor in less than a year is a great sign. That is, however, just one data point. I hope that they continue to upgrade hardware as soon as the appropriate upgraded chips are available.
  3. With the improvements of the iPad and the iPad operating system, we now need a healthy ecosystem where developers can spend the time necessary to make professional iPad applications and then sell them for enough money to justify the effort. Hopefully Apple can work with developers to find a way to make that happen.

MPU 381 – WWDC Special

The latest episode of Mac Power Users is live. I spent a lot of time this week speaking with developers at Apple's WWDC. In this week's episode, Katie and I break down Apple's latest announcements along with what I've been hearing in San Jose and our analysis of what it all means. The episode came out great.

Sponsors Include:

  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap ScanSnap Helps You Live a More Productive, Efficient, Paperless Life. 
  • MindNode MindNode makes mind mapping easy.
  • Fracture Bring your photos to life.

A Little iPad Productivity with iOS 11

I'm writing this post sitting in San Jose Airport. I didn't have any WWDC plans today so instead I arrived at the airport ridiculously early, found a comfy chair and did about a three hours of real work on my iPad running beta one of iOS 11. I did this not wearing my MacSparky hat but instead my lawyer one. I wrote contracts, sent and received emails (with multiple attachments no less!), tracked changes in Microsoft Word, scheduled meetings in Fantastical, took notes with my pencil in Apple Notes, and otherwise made myself productive.

It's still early days. This is the first after all. I wouldn't recommend loading this early beta on your production iPad. I know of at least one person that managed to severely crash his iPad with the beta. Also, the battery life running the beta is about half what it normally is. (That's normal for early betas.)

What I can say is that once iOS 11 releases, people that want to be more productive on an iPad most certainly will be. iOS 11 is very kind to iPad power users.

Mac Power Users 380 - Feedback Show

I'm a little late on this post but the latest episode of Mac Power Users is live. In this episode Ed Cormany joins us to talk about regular expressions, how it works and practical applications. We also cover lots of listener feedback including photo scanning, switching from Windows to iOS, privacy and the Internet of things, shared photo libraries and more.

SaneBox for Email Sanity While Traveling (Sponsor)

This week MacSparky is sponsored by SaneBox. SaneBox is the mail service that keeps you … well … sane. With a SaneBox account you can have your email automatically sorted for you so you only see the most important email in your inbox with less important email put in other folders for later viewing. You can also take your email and defer it for as little or as much time as you want. I’m traveling this week and I deferred several less important emails to next Monday, when I’ll be in a much better position to deal with them.

Those, however, are just two features. There is so much to the SaneBox service. You can, for example, throw unwanted email into the SaneBox blackhole and you’ll never receive email from that sender again.

Between attending the Apple Developer conference and managing the law practice, this week SaneBox has really been clutch for me. It has allowed me to manage the most important email but at the same time kept me from drowning in email.

SaneBox is a great service for anybody struggling to keep up with email. I hear from listeners all the time that love using SaneBox. If email is causing you any grief, you should check out SaneBox. Use this link and get a discount and let them know you heard about it here at MacSparky.

Insight on Apple from Craig Federighi

Last night I attended the live Talk Show episode where John Gruber interviewed Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi. (I’ll update this post with a link as soon as there is one.) John did a fantastic job. The star of the night was Craig Federighi. He did most of the talking and that’s exactly what I wanted.

It’s rare that Apple engineers get to speak publicly about what gets them excited but at these Talk Show events you get a fully un-restrained Federighi. He literally ran on to the stage when introduced and then spent the hour and a half sitting on the edge of his seat.

The overall takeaway I got is that Craig, who’s in charge of Apple software, is obsessive about delivering quality software. Among the tidbits that came out:

  • Apple “practice” installed the new Apple File System on millions of devices before releasing it to everyone with the 10.3 update.
  • Apple spent a lot of effort figuring out how to sync your text messages while still maintaining your secrecy.
  • When you say “Hey Siri” in a room full of your Siri enabled devices, they have a quick computer-style conversation to figure out which device is closest to you and which device you’ve used most recently. They then decide which device is most likely the one you were talking to and act accordingly.

The thing about these little stories is that they often were disclosed in passing, on the way to explain something else or answer a different question. They jump through these hoops every day.

The most telling part of the evening was when John asked if Apple could protect user privacy and make Siri competitive with Google’s assistant. In a rare moment when he was not smiling Craig looked at John, dead-serious, and said “Yes”. There was some mettle behind that answer and I have no doubt he fully believes Apple can compete.

Apple is such a secretive company that we rarely find out exactly how the sausage is made. That makes it easy to imagine magical things are happening (or just the opposite). What I took away was that Craig Federghi and his small army of engineers have a plan and are working hard on making it happen. It was really nice getting this message and I wish Apple would let Craig talk a little more often.

Initial Thoughts on iOS 11 iPad Improvements

I took a lot of notes this morning watching the WWDC Keynote right up until the point they started talking about iPad improvements. At that point I was completely absorbed by the presentation. That's a good sign. I'll be writing/podcasting more about this in the coming days but in the meantime, here are a few thoughts:

  • It's a Mac ... in a good way. So many of the features were very Mac-like. Spaces for instance is very similar to what we already have in macOS but probably even more useful with a touch interface
  • Selecting between multiple pre-arranged spaces is a feature I've always wanted without verbalizing.
  • The redesigned control center is a significant improvement over the iOS 10 three-page version. I still would have preferred to exchange stock apps for better third party alternatives, like switching PCalc for calculator.
  • Files. Amen. My biggest white whale on iOS is dealing with multiple files. Often I'm required to work with multiple documents and until today this was a huge pain point on iOS. With the Files app and Drag and Drop, my iPad got a lot more useful.
  • They only demonstrated iCloud in the Files app. Will we get "favorites" from third party cloud document providers like Dropbox?
  • Does the existence of the Files app indicate they'll make it easier to open and save files to cloud services directly in Apps? That's still pretty clunky.
  • The new 512GB iPads may make sense if you can locally store massive amounts of cloud data locally on your iPad.
  • Multiple file selection with gestures? Yes, thank you.
  • The Dock is another super-useful feature for power users. I need to get hands on this before saying more but that won't be long now.
  • I have a feeling we are going to be wanting app suggestions in our iPhone docks before long.
  • They went through the multitasking stuff very quickly. There's a lot there but it looks like a much-needed improvement.
  • I like the semi-transparency on drag-out multitasking. It really makes the old system feel pedestrian.
  • I am impressed with the scope of Drag and Drop but want to get my hands on it before saying more.
  • Interesting how much focus there was on Apple Pencil. It looks like we'll also still be able to use the Apple Pencil to navigate but we'll know soon enough as the beta gets out.
  • There were significant new improvements to Notes. I didn't expect that.
  • Scan and Sign looks really clever. I hope it works as well as demonstrated.
  • The new QuickType keyboard looks pretty useful. How much time have you spent switching between keyboards on your iPad? Related – the 10.5 iPad software keyboard does not quite appear to be the awesome monster that the 12.9 iPad software keyboard is.

App Camp Benefit and Relay Meet-Up at WWDC

One of my favorite gatherings every year at WWDC is the App Camp for Girls benefit party/concert. This year it is on Wednesday, June 7 and tickets are still available. 

In addition to great music and a great cause, this year the event will also serve as a semi-formal Relay FM meet-up. I, along with several other Relay hosts, will be hanging out so join us and meet up with fellow listeners starting at 7pm. See you there.