Home Screens – John Voorhees

This week’s home screen features my friend John Voorhees (Website) (Twitter). John is a writer at MacStories.net, the developer of Blink, an iTunes affiliate linking app for iOS that is published by Squibner LLC, the indie iOS and Mac development business he runs with his son, Owen. John is also the co-host of a tech podcast called Ruminate. So John, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Overcast, Ulysses, Tweetbot, and Telegram are my favorite Home screen apps. I commute in and out of Chicago from the suburbs every weekday, so Overcast is a constant companion, unless I’m working, in which case I switch to Apple’s Music app. Overcast’s Smart Speed is the perfect feature because it gives me what the clock can’t – time for more podcasts.

Ulysses for iOS and Mac is where I get all of my writing done for MacStories, Club MacStories, the Squibner website, and things like these interview questions. Ulysses’ unique take on Markdown took some getting used to, but I don’t see myself switching away from it anytime soon now that it has sunk in. I don’t write on my iPhone as much as I do my iPad Pro or Mac, but I keep Ulysses on my Home screen because it’s great to have handy for quick edits and note taking.

Tweetbot has been my Twitter client for a long time. I love its dark mode, multiple account management, stats, and sync capabilities. I occasionally give the official Twitter client a try, but always find myself back where I started with Tweetbot.

I discovered and fell in love with Telegram when we were looking for a way to share behind-the-scenes material with MacStories readers. Ultimately we settled on the channels feature of Telegram, which became The MacStories Lounge. I particularly like Telegram’s media-rich, in-line integration of video, audio, and links. In addition to publishing to The MacStories Lounge channel, Telegram has become the primary messaging app for many of my friends and I. It will be interesting to see if we all end up back on Messages, which is slated to get many of my favorite Telegram features when iOS 10 debuts.

What app makes you most productive?

Slack wins on the iPhone because it’s where I communicate with the MacStories and Squibner teams. Trello is a close second to Slack because it helps Federico Viticci, Graham Spencer, and I collect ideas for the Club MacStories Weekly newsletter, divvy up the work among ourselves, and track our progress.

That said, nearly every app on my Home screen plays some role in making me more productive with my writing or app development. The icon next to Ulysses is Working Copy, a GitHub client that I use for sharing drafts and edits of articles with the MacStories team. Blink, which I wrote, and the App Store app are for finding apps to cover on MacStories and generating the affiliate links that are used in the articles I write. Photos is full of more screenshots for articles than I can count. Notes collects article ideas, links to apps, lists of bugs to fix in Blink, ideas for other projects, and dozens of other bits of text. Instapaper is for personal reading, but also has dedicated folders in it for MacStories and Squibner research. Copied and Dropbox help me work seamlessly between multiple iOS devices and Macs. It’s not unusual for me to use all of these apps in a given day.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Day One is underutilized. I write short entries when something big or interesting happens, but I could be doing so much more with it. Making the time to write in Day One is my biggest problem, but when I do it, I often find myself pleasantly surprised that it’s helped me generate new ideas and plan out longer term projects, so I’ve been trying to set aside some dedicated time each week to write in Day One.

What is the app you are still missing?

I think a podcasting app for iOS that lets you carry on a conversation with someone over a VoIP connection like Skype, but record both ends of the discussion as separate tracks would be great. I know I’d like to do that with my podcast, but the OS-level audio APIs just aren’t there to do it yet.

I would also like to see Xcode come to the iPad. Swift Playgrounds, which is available in the iOS 10 beta, is a great first step. The special programming keyboard Playgrounds uses feels like the beginning of something that could evolve into a full-blown development environment. It’s hard to imagine writing an app with thousands of lines of code from scratch on an iPad, but it would be a great tool for editing an existing project and testing out smaller chunks of code.

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

I use my iPhone continuously throughout the day. My most used apps are Slack, Telegram, Messages, Tweetbot, and Overcast, though it’s not unusual for me to use as many as 20 apps during a typical day on my iPhone.

My iPad is used primarily at the beginning and end of the day, but almost every day. Coding is strictly a Mac endeavor, but my writing is split between my iPad Pro and MacBook Pro. Over time, I’ve found that the iPad Pro is getting more and more time as my primary writing tool, though my Mac is still a more comfortable and familiar environment in some ways.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

Launcher is hands down my favorite Today widget. The first Launcher widget in the screenshot gives me quick access to Overcast and a playlist of songs I’ve marked as favorites. It also includes the Apple Wallet app, so I can quickly grab a coffee in the morning and a shortcut to my train pass. The next widget is Klok, which is a handy way to check the time in various places where people I work with live. The second Launcher widget in my screenshot is dedicated to MacStories and includes quick links to channels in the MacStories Slack, the Club MacStories Weekly newsletter Trello page, and links to access Wordpress in case I’m publishing an article on the go.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

On the iPhone my favorite feature is probably its camera. The 6s Plus I have takes great pictures. On the iPad Pro, it’s the ability to work in two apps at once in Split View mode. The ability to read a web page while I’m writing or chat in Slack while I’m referencing other material has made the iPad my primary writing tool.

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

As a developer, I’d fix the App Store. Easier said than done, and Apple has shown some recent signs of moving in the right direction, but as I explored in June on MacStories, app discovery still has a long way to go.

As a writer, multitasking on the iPad needs work. I have a lot of apps, some of which I only use occasionally, and it’s too hard to find them in the scrolling list that comes up when you enter Split View mode. If I were in charge, I’d implement something like Federico imagined in his iOS 10 wish list and concept video article.

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

I rarely change my Apple Watch face. I primarily use the ‘utility’ face with a second hand and date color coordinated with whichever of my sports bands I’m wearing. My Apple Watch serves two main purposes – fitness tracking and notifications. I rarely use apps. My complications include the stock weather complication that tells me the temperature, the Activity++ compilation that I find superior to Apple’s activity rings, and the Pedometer++ complication because I like to see my step count.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

This may be the longest standing wallpaper I’ve used. It was created by Frank Towers who designed the icons for Squibner’s iOS apps Blink and Associate, and its tvOS game, King Me. The wallpaper is based on the artwork Frank did for Relay.fm’s podcast Cortex hosted by Myke Hurley and CGP Grey. I love this particular wallpaper for the iPhone because it lays out so nicely with the icon grid and doesn’t distract me from the icons themselves.

Anything else you’d like to share?

The bottom row of icons in my iPhone screenshot is empty. I have several friends who keep that row empty because they like how it looks. I keep the last row empty for a more practical reason. At any one time I typically have 10–20 betas on my iPhone that I’m looking at as potential reviews on MacStories. I usually keep a couple of those that I am testing the most in that last row. Having those betas visible whenever I open my phone serves as a reminder to play with them as often as possible.

Thanks John.