Home Screens – Michael Tsai

This week’s home screen features Michael Tsai (Website) (Twitter). Among many other talents, Michael is a smart Mac developer with some great Mac apps like SpamSieve, EagleFiler, and DropDMG. So Michael, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

I really admire Fantastical and Weather Line. They provide basically the same functionality as the built-in Calendar and Weather apps, but the information is presented in a much better way.

Timer is like this as well. It’s both easier (single tap for common times) and more powerful (names, multiple times running at once).

I use the Camera app all the time. It’s amazing how much the quality has improved since the first iPhone. I rarely carry a real camera anymore.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Tweetbot and Overcast. Both are very useful, of course, but I spend more time in them than I probably should. I feel a bit guilty using Overcast because there are always new podcast episodes, and so I feel like I’m not making enough time for music anymore.

What app makes you most productive?

OmniFocus is the most important app that I use. From the iPhone, I use it to collect ideas and notes throughout the day, which I usually process on my Mac. TextExpander touch is a great help here; I don’t have it on my home screen because I pretty much always use it from within OmniFocus. Of course, I also use OmniFocus as a checklist for the things I’m doing.

1Password, Editorial, and Readdle Documents are great for accessing my account information and files of various kinds.

Rain  also makes me productive by helping me to sleep.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I have Workflow installed but haven’t had a chance to do anything with it. I should probably install Pythonista.

I’ve been entering my weight into Health but otherwise haven’t done much with the app.

I definitely could spend more time reading with the Instapaper and Kindle apps.

What is the app you are still missing?

For years, I’ve wanted f.lux to be in the App Store. That’s not possible, but Apple is adding Night Shift in iOS 9.3.

I want Apple to make the Videos app much better or add APIs so that third-party developers can make an alternative, the way I can use Ecoute instead of Music.

I’d like a camera app that can lock the HDR feature on. I’ve tried lots of alternatives to the built-in Camera app, but they all seem to be slower and/or harder to use.

Of course, I’d like to bring SpamSieve and EagleFiler to iOS.

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

I don’t know. I wish iOS were more open so that it would be possible to write an app to answer this question, e.g. like RescueTime on the Mac. There are lots of interesting software ideas that don’t really fit into iOS’s idea of apps.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I have not found that I use Today View very much now that Touch ID is so fast. Right now I’m using Fantastical and Apple’s Batteries and Find Friends widgets.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

Well, I think the magic is in the combination of features all in one device that fits in my pocket. So maybe the size, if that is a feature.

Otherwise, in terms of hardware features: the camera, GPS, and Touch ID.

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

I would put more of the software focus on fixing bugs.

I would make lots of changes to the App Store: trials, upgrades, faster and more consistent App Review, a way for customers and developers to communicate. I’d also allow sideloading of apps that aren’t in the store.

I would make iCloud and iTunes backups more granular, so that people could, for example, restore the data for a single app without overwriting everything else on the device.

I would make the iPhone thicker and less rounded–more like the iPhone 5s shape. The iPhone 6s is just not comfortable to hold without a case, and cases are bulky and sticky in my pocket. If I’m going to thicken my phone to
make it easier to hold, I’d rather thicken it with a larger battery than an inert case.

Do you have an Apple Watch? Show us your watch face tell us about it.

No. I like not wearing anything on my wrist. I think if I had an Apple Watch I would still be reaching into my pocket all the time because the iPhone is faster and can do so much more.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

My lock screen shows a photo that I took of the fire tower on Mt. Cardigan. That was the first image I chose when I got the original iPhone, and I haven’t seen a need to change it. I added a transparent overlay at the bottom that has instructions for how to access my emergency contacts and health information (by swiping right on the lock screen).

Anything else you’d like to share?

I have both Overcast and Downcast installed because Downcast makes it easy to play ad-hoc audio files that I’ve downloaded or created myself (e.g. by extracting the audio from WWDC sessions or YouTube videos).

Similarly, I have both Instapaper and Pocket installed because I like having two separate buckets for saving links. Instapaper is for articles that I want to read on my iPhone, whereas Pocket is for marking links from the iPhone that I want to process on my Mac. I only ever use it from action sheets in other apps, so it’s not on the home screen.

Thanks Michael.