Home Screens – Robert Black

This week’s home screen post features Robert Black (Website)(Twitter). Robert is a strategic cartoonist (bringing a bit of humor to corporate communications). Robert is also a geek and loves his iPhone. So Robert, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

When I originally studied engineering, we all had the classic engineer’s calculator, the HP15C, which used something called Reverse Polish Notation. RPN is kind of like the calculator equivalent of a Dvorak keyboard on a computer – much more efficient for difficult calculations, but as mind-bending to learn and use as it’s name suggests.

So although these days I don’t need a calculator nearly so much, and actually have the official HP15C emulator app stowed away in a folder on my phone for nostalgia, Soulver is the calculator that makes me grin from ear to ear every time I need to work out something simple or complex. I love it — it’s a brilliant rethink of how to make a calculator easy and useful!

On occasions when I have to make emergency changes or tweaks to my website from my iPhone, the combination of Textastic (code/html editing), Working Copy (a full, elegant Git client on a phone that integrates with Textastic!) and Prompt (the SSH client from Panic) is magic. It’s one of those moments when I have to pinch myself, that I’m actually doing what I’m doing from my phone.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Not Facebook! It would be Reeder. I’m an information omnivore, and I love gathering interesting articles from around the web by following the RSS feeds of clever people who’s instincts I trust.

What app makes you most productive?

I’m not sure I’d describe my time on the phone as productive. I don’t spend a lot of time on it, but if I have to pick something, I guess I’ll be boring and say Mail — it’s boring, but true.

Hey Siri on my Apple Watch has taken over an important function that I used to use the iPhone for — capturing task thoughts to my inbox as they occur to me, GTD style. But I do still use Drafts for capturing a cartoon idea if one pops into my head half-formed — I love the way Drafts greases the path to capturing first, and working out what to do with that text afterwards, which in my case is an action that appends the string to a text file of captured ideas that’s kept in Dropbox.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I don’t use a 100th of the power of the text editor Editorial — it’s my iOS tool of choice for the text, Markdown and Taskpaper files that live in nvALT on my Macs. (I also have Ulysses and Scrivener, but the problem I have is that I just don’t write enough to make use of these fine tools. I spend my days drawing rather than crafting words. Well… strings of words longer than a cartoon caption, which does take some crafting!)

And FileMaker Go – I mean, I practically live in FileMaker Pro Advanced on my Macs, and it’s a literal miracle that you can design a custom app for your iPhone in FileMaker Pro and download it to FileMaker Go and have a fully-functional iPhone “app” that you put together yourself without writing a line of code, and yet, I personally haven’t found really compelling uses for FM Go on my phone’s small screen. But it boggles my mind that the whole FileMaker suite of products for small business are mentioned so seldom — they’re game-changing, and most people have never heard of them. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What is the app you are still missing?

The full Adobe Illustratoron a phone? I mean, I know there’s Adobe Draw for iOS, but it’s not the same thing. Hey, a guy’s gotta dream!

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

That’s a good question. I suspect the only way to know for sure would be to film me surreptitiously, but if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say somewhere between 10 and 20 times.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

Fantastical – well duh! Time Zones, because I publish stuff in multiple time-zones every week and stay up half the night to see what the reaction on the other side of the world is. And Weatherline, because I prefer its presentation of data.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

The camera! I’m taking snaps of sketches or things for reference ALL. THE. TIME. Closely followed by Touch ID (magic!) and Air Drop (grumble not 100% reliable grumble)

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

Phew! That’s a tricky one. The first thing that comes to mind is a renewed focus on coding quality around edge-cases, but I’m prepared to give them a pass on that for now… I suspect that the massive new Apple Campus 2 has been consuming a lot of their time to get perfect, because that’s going to pay and repay dividends to the future of Apple if they achieve the lofty goals they’ve set for it.

So instead I’ll say DON’T DROP THE BALL with APPLESCRIPT on the Mac!!! The scriptability of applications on the Mac is probably my most cherished platform feature, so the recent ructions with the sudden departure of Sal Soghoian worry me greatly for the future of the platform I depend on!

I mean it Apple (finger wagging wildly)

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

I have a Series 1 Apple Watch. On the face I use the Modular face, mainly to get the best use of complications. Front and center I have Fantastical’s complication, followed by Streaks in the lower left (hmmm, must up my effort to instill good habits today!).

Lower middle is Workflow’s widget, which currently has 5 workflows that can turn on and off our big TV, various living room lights and our Big Ass Fans Haiku. These Workflow workflows call urls from my watch, triggering Keyboard Maestro macros hosted on a Mac Mini sitting under the TV (also acting as our PVR), which make AppleScript calls to wither EyeTV or iRed 2, which in turn controls an IRTrans USB infrared transceiver to control the TV, fan, and lights.

Just for fun 🙂

Normally all the home automation stuff is triggered via an older Logitech Harmony Companion Universal RF remote control, which channels everything via Remote Buddy to Keyboard Maestro, which acts as the nerve-center for scripting all these moving parts.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

Stars – no particular reason.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’ve probably said enough already!

Thanks Robert.