home screens

Home Screens — Michael McGuinness

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This week’s home screen features Michael McGuinness, a podcaster and geek who loves his iPhone. Michael's show, the Mikez N Brodz Podcast, ranges from technology to productivity. So, Mike, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favourite apps?

I really like the Headspace meditation app. I heard about this on the Focused podcast (#65) and have been doing it 90 days straight (just got a badge!). I also use the AutoSleep and AutoWake apps by Tantsissa. AutoWake allows me to set a wake alarm and be gently woken based on my sleep cycle. AutoSleep has a great sleep tracker, even if I forget to wear my watch (monitors iPhone movement). I would have to say that, overall, Fantastical would be my most used app as it works on all of my Apple devices. I can easily add new events (adding reminders is so easy), and I print off the daily view to allow me to plan my day really easily.

Since macOS Mojave introduced Dark Mode, I have been using Apple Notes as my default app for any text. Sure, it’s not the most feature rich, but for me, it is just so easy to start writing. And as I have to capture lots of conversations in my job, I need something that I can quickly launch and sync everywhere with limited fuss. I do have to say that in writing this Q & A, I have started using Ulysses for more focused writing. It really is a step up.

What app is your guilty pleasure?

This would have to be my sports app: NRL (National Rugby League). On a recent Focused podcast, I heard how Shahid Kamal Ahmad removed all of his “infinity pools”. For me, this was email. I kept my NRL app but don't use it as an infinity pool. I remember saying to myself, “I am going to do more than just listen this time. I am going to take action.” So I removed all traces of email from my phone and have not looked back. If I really need to, I can get to them easily enough.

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I use Overcast for all of my podcasts, I had set up different playlists, but I mostly use the "All Episodes" playlist to just view and look for the ones I want to listen to. I used to be a big fan of Mac Power Users, though I have reduced this a bit now as I did find it was making me feel that sometimes I needed the latest Apple gear to take advantage of the advice given.

I listen to personal development podcasts like Focused, The Life Coach School Podcast and BookWorm. I always have a place for the Automators podcast, though. I got the referral via the newsletter from Career Tools when the podcast launched late last year.

What app makes you most productive?

For macOS, my number one app has to be Alfred. I really can’t live without this, and it's the first thing I install on a new Mac. (Yes, I still do a clean install for every new major release of macOS. Call me crazy, but I just love a clean install and the feeling nothing has been carried across from the past). I have scripts that I can fire with keywords, and I use it to launch the Fantastical parser to add reminders as I mentioned above. The snippets feature suits my needs really well. I have been tempted to go to something like TextExpander, but for the cost, I just can’t justify it.

The Headspace meditation app is something I use each morning in the car before I walk into the office. It helps me clear my mind and get ready for the day. I also use Focus@Will on my Mac at work (using a 30-minute timer mimicking the Pomodoro Technique), and then just counting the amount of these I get done in a day. My most productive app is to actually not use an app at all—that's right, close them. Quit email (only view three times per day: morning, lunch, and before leaving for the day). Close any social media. Put my phone on Do Not Disturb. (There are some great Siri shortcuts for this). And remove anything that might distract me. This is all in my 30 minutes focused time. If I do get distracted, perhaps a thought, I write it down to action later.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Firstly, in regards to hardware, due to the fact I've only got an iPad mini 1, there are many apps that I can no longer run or access. I have heard a lot about the latest iPad Pros and how good they can be. In my current job, I drive to and from work, but if I needed to use public transportation, I think this would be a purchase I would make very quickly.

I was using the Togge app for a while. I really liked how it allowed me to track my actual time spent on tasks, instead of just planning what I would do. I found keeping it up to date was harder than I expected, and I haven’t used for a while.

I also really enjoy working on automation. I have some things set up in IFTTT and Zapier, but I really could use this a lot more to do things that would bring more value, like posting the episodes for the Mikez N Brodz Podcast.

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

Mostly for podcasts when in my car and general texting. I really don’t use social media on it. After listening to a few other podcasts around the danger of phones getting in between families, I am actively trying really hard to reduce my phone usage, especially when at home with my family. If I am in a place where I just want to use my phone to pass the time while waiting, I use the Kindle app to read or undertake some writing in something like Drafts (just loving the speech-to-text feature).

I have been into Siri Shortcuts. I have a few solid ones now that I use everyday, like when I leave work, it sends a message to my wife, based on GPS, the estimated time to get home. Though other than these core ones I use, I don’t do much more. However, iOS13 will dramatically change this.

I must be getting better. I notice that each week, screen time alerts are showing that my phone usage is going down. I’m really proud of myself for reducing this and spending that time on things that matter, such as connecting to my family and getting other important stuff done.

Overall, for anything that is shiny and new, this can become a time sucker. I have found writing down what I want to achieve and then just focusing on those tasks works much better than just blindly going through the app and looking for things to do.

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What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I really just use Siri Shortcuts. It's the most efficient place to run them from. While I do have a lot of other apps on my Today View, I have just never connected with any of the apps this way. It could also be because my iPhone 6 Plus can be quite slow to load these.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

I think the best feature is that for really anything you can think of, there is an app for that. Having music on the go makes a big difference, and I have to say being able to listen to podcasts in my car on the way to work is a life changer, so much that it was one of the inspirations to start the co-hosting of the Mikez N Brodz Podcast. The one thing that makes me recommend an iPhone/iPad to others is they are really just so easy to pick up and start using. Sure, they are more expensive than other phones, but you do get what you pay for.

In my experience, they also hold their value really well. When it comes time to sell, I always get a fair price. Another good thing is that while Apple continues to roll out updates for old devices, there is not much of a need to replace them until they stop or get really slow (aka why I still have my iPhone 6 Plus). This means the total life span out of a device is really about four to five years. I think is a wonderful return on investment.

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

For me, while I like Apple a lot, I think that their competitors are doing a better job moving products at the local electronics store. When I see their catalogues, they are full of everyone else's stuff with maybe one page of Apple products, if at all. I have also heard of issues with stock not being available and then buyers getting frustrated and just getting another company's product.

While I know Apple produces quality products and they hold their resale value, the cost to entry for the average person is just too high. I have a lot of Apple devices that I need to replace, but when I look at the prices for a like-for-like replacement, I just can’t justify it (that’s why second hand can be so attractive). I am aware they are trying to do this with entry level iPads and iPhones, but for me to replace my MacBook is over four thousand dollars (AUD), which is a lot of coin. My employer has also now stopped allowing us to buy Macs due to this, so I am not the only one questioning the price (which means I know I have to hold onto my 13″MacBook Retina until it dies).

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

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Yes, I have a Series 1, and I love it. My main uses are Apple Pay, Activity Tracking and Sleep Tracking. I use the Modular watch face as with AutoWake app in the bottom left, which does require the complication to be on the active watch face. CARROT Weather in the middle and extra alarms along with the activity rings.

I have tried the Siri watch face, but it doesn’t really give me the info I need. See what happens in watchOS6. It looks like my watch will get the update—feeling very fortunate.

I wear my watch all day, put it on charge when I have my shower in the early evening, and then back on just before bed. Works well and gets me through the day easily.

I am still surprised how excited some people get at the bar when I use my watch to pay. “Did you see that he used his watch to pay," says random person waiting at the bar.

What's your wallpaper and why?

I have a nice black background that looks like a leather couch (direct link to image). I use it because it has a nice clean dark look that I really find great on the eyes, and it's just simple. I find this much better than a picture. Can’t wait for iOS13 dark mode though.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I just wanted to give a shoutout to David for the opportunity to write my Q & A. I actually had to go through a bit of a journey in writing it. It was one of those things I wanted to get to, but it always fell down the list of my priorities. Today I set a new intent to just work on personal tasks first thing, and I was able to finish this. Even using my stand up desk, which is one of those things I have but don’t use enough.

At the start of 2019, I created the Mikez N Brodz Podcast, which covers technology, personal development, and career advice. This is all with my good friend and co-host, Brodie Greig. It’s been a great journey so far, and we are coming up on our 10th episode, which is a big milestone for us. Overall, this is just two friends catching up, talking about areas that interest them, and it happens to have some structure to it while being recorded.

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Thanks, Mike!

Home Screens — Hugo Castellanos

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This week’s home screen features my friend Hugo Castellanos (Twitter). Hugo is an electrical engineer who has been using computers since he was five years old. Hugo currently works with Intel, but he does so much more, including producing the podcasts conexiones.io and latinoswhotech.com, which encourages younger latino students to explore science and technology. Hugo also loves his iPhone. So, Hugo, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Definitely OmniFocus (OF). I've been a very happy user for close to 3 years, and I've been able to adapt it to different jobs, life circumstances and goals. I've played with energy contexts (now tags), tools and even moods. It's definitely the heart of my workflow. 


I am also a huge fan of the Kindle and Pocket apps. One of the new habits that I am building this year is reading at least 30 minutes a day, everyday. The fact that I can read any of my e-books and articles across my Mac, iPad and iPhone makes this so much easier. 


Mindfulness meditation is a newfound interest of mine. Calm is an app that lets me meditate while walking, driving or just sitting down on my favorite chair at home. It can do guided meditation in 2 — 20 minute intervals. I find that it’s difficult for me to meditate as soon as I wake up so the way that I incorporated Calm into my daily routine is that I practice mindful meditation during the 5 minutes that it takes to walk from my car to my desk at work. When the weather is nice (most days, yay California!), I will park a bit farther out on purpose just so I can walk some more. 

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I tend to geek out when I start talking about productivity and setups, but the one that sparks the most joy for me is Overcast. I am an avid podcast listener and actually share podcast time stamps from Overcast to DEVONthink to remember and revisit some of my favorite episodes. I spend the first hour of my day, my commute time and at least 1 — 2 hours at home listening to podcasts. This love for all things audio evolved into launching my very own called Conexiones (conexiones.io) where I interview immigrants from Latin America who work in tech companies in Silicon Valley. 

What app makes you most productive? 

Surprisingly, it’s not a task manager or timer. I feel that it's Calm. I find that spending those 5 minutes doing mindfulness meditation in the morning make me feel happier and at ease with my day. I may have a day with 5 meetings before lunch, but I trust that I will be fully present and in a great mood after using Calm. 


A close second is OmniFocus. Teammates at work often compliment me at how I never forget a task or a followup. It's all OmniFocus. Even things like planning the weekend with friends or my girlfriend is easier since I keep lists of restaurants to try, movies to watch and gifts to get for others. One of my favorite new uses for it is a perspective called “Amorcito” (literally, “little love”) that looks at all the available tasks tagged with my significant other’s name. This way, I can quickly check on the things that we need to talk about, movies to watch together, articles she has sent my way that I want to read, and even funny/cute memes that I want to see with her. This has been a game changer. It’s helped me spend time with her in a more intentional way. 


What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Definitely Drafts. I struggled (still am) with using ONE single app for notes. I've played with Evernote, Bear, GoodNotes and Ulysses looking for the perfect one. Now that Drafts 5 is available for the Mac as well as for iOS, I feel comfortable migrating all of my notes to one single application. I still use Ulysses for long-form writing like podcast scripts, show notes and blog posts. My workplace is Windows heavy, so the fact that I can export documents from Ulysses into .Docx works amazingly well. 

What is the app you are still missing?

A roadmap app for projects that can connect to both my task manager (OF) and my project support folders (on MacOS). The forecast view in OF is really good for seeing tasks and projects, but it can be difficult to visualize dependencies in projects when you have so many moving pieces at the same time. I am experimenting using the Compact Calendar by David Sheah. It’s a pretty neat tool. Whenever I have a new big project that will last several days or weeks, I print a copy of the calendar and fill out the milestone dates + time estimates and see what holidays/vacations collide with it so I can plan accordingly. There is a Google sheets version of the calendar that works really well, so I currently use it for my podcast calendar and work deliverables. We use the enterprise version of Google Docs for work so it is straightforward to enable within my Mac. This kind of calendar gives me a quick birds-eye view of what’s on my plate every week. The only hassle is that I have to update it manually, hence why I’d like to have a roadmap-like tool that connects to OF tasks. 

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

According to Screen Time, I average 70 pick ups a day for my iPhone. A lot of these are me checking out my calendar or my Today widget to refocus on what task I should be doing with it. 


My iPad is strictly for consumption, so I don't have Screen Time set up for it. I mainly use it to watch YouTube or read on the Kindle app or Pocket. 

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

OmniFocus and Calendar are the main ones. I am often switching spaces from my desk to meeting rooms and my lab. Having a quick way that I can check my @Today list in OF is a lifesaver. 


Being able to see the white open space between calendar meetings is also a great visual cue for me to assess what is my bandwidth for the day. I played with Fantastical for a while, but not being able to see those open spaces unless I put the phone in landscape mode bugged me a little bit. 

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

For iPad, it’s the ultra portability of it. For iPhone, it’s the new Screen Time app. I sat down at the beginning of the year and audited all of the apps I was using and probably deleted 50+ apps that I felt were not serving me. I also uninstalled Twitter and Facebook. I believe I was wasting 3 — 4 hours a day on social media. It feels slightly embarrassing to write it down, but it's so liberating knowing that I have gained that time back to use on other things that I value more. 


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

Podcast bookmarking for Apple Podcasts! Also, not sure if the new iBooks app has it, but a driving mode would be extremely helpful to bookmark chapters or specific phrases as well. I listen to a lot of long-form content and sometimes I want to grab a snip of it for reference. I believe Audible is the only app that offers this feature so far. 

What's your wallpaper and why?

Lock screen is a picture I took of downtown San Jose, California, while landing. I like how it reminds me of the wonderful place I get to call home. Not only California, but Silicon Valley. Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, I never thought I would call this place home. 


Anything else you'd like to share?

There are no perfect apps. There are tools, systems and mindsets that work for each one of us. Part of the reason why I love Home Screen and all of the productivity geeks and their content is because it helps me understand which one of these tools work for me. It’s important to keep in perspective what all of these things are for: to free up focus, energy and ultimately help us spend our time more intentionally. 

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Thanks Hugo!

Home Screens - Developer Elia Freedman

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This week’s home screen features Elia Freedman (website)(Twitter), the developer of the PowerOne calculators, one of my favorite calculators, particularly for business and special purpose functions. Elia’s been paying for his shoes with mobile apps much longer than the iPhone has been around and has some definite opinions on how he uses his iPhone. So Elia, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

I love productivity software! (Surprise given that if I'm known for anything I'm known for writing a calculator for the past 22 years!) In particular, I love GoodNotes. I prefer handwriting lots of stuff, to be honest, and GoodNotes lets me take notes, draw screen designs for my software, and all kinds of other stuff all in one app. I spend a lot of time in my own app, PowerOne calculator, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Reeder for RSS feeds as well.

For work I spend a lot of time in Slack and Asana. Asana, for tasks, is as close to my own mental model for how to do task lists. We use it for tracking bugs, feature requests, and what we are currently working on.

I'm also learning to play guitar and have a number of apps for that as well. I use GoodNotes to transpose tab notation on various songs, my teacher actually draws on a whiteboard and I take pictures of all the lessons, and I use apps for tuning my guitar (GuitarTuna), apps for slowing down songs (Capo), and an app that has tons of tabs for songs (GuitarTabs).

Finally, during baseball season, you'd find me in MLB app quite a bit. I read baseball and Cleveland Indians news, and love watching and listening to games.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I love to read and spent a lot of time in Reeder and Safari. I love Safari's reading mode. When I will be without an internet connection I use Instapaper to read offline. I read the Washington Post on my iPad, the sports section of my hometown Cleveland Plain Dealer, my local newspaper, The Oregonian, and Twitter as well. I also really enjoy the National Geographic app on my iPad. The experience of the app impacts whether I will continue reading the source. While the Plain Dealer and Oregonian have horrible apps or no app at all, the website is passable. I'm thankful for how good Safari is!

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Not an app per say but the iPad in general. Because I write code I spend a lot of time on a big screen. (27" first gen iMac 5k) I really wish I could spend more time on my iPad however. For apps I'd really like to spend more time in Photos. Its ability to edit pictures, organize them, and share them is so powerful and yet all I use it for is as a massive dumping ground for family photos.

What is the app you are still missing?

Programming stuff, although I don't know how reasonable it is to write code on the small screen. For that, I'd need Xcode for iOS, Terminal, Github, and database clients, plus some way to run Ruby on Rails. Then it would still be writing code on a small screen. It'd be pretty cool to "dock" my iPad, though, to a 27" screen and get the benefits of both. This dream dates back to the late-90s/early-2000s when I got my first Windows 2000 tablet.

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

I use it off and on all day on my iPad, especially when traveling or away from my desk. I generally don't write code away from desk so only carry the iPad when traveling. While there are some inconveniences, for the most part I can do everything I want on it. I use it to read during breakfast and lunch, if I'm home, and read a lot in the evenings especially after the kids go to bed. It sits on my desk next to me during the day and use it as a second screen for all kinds of work stuff. And my Pencil is never far away.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

I'd have to say the Pencil, although I utilize split screen a lot as well to work on two things simultaneously.

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

From a product perspective I'd focus more attention on making iPad a functional machine for all day work. I'd love to work on that problem myself!

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

Yes! I use a minimalist Utility watch face. I like my watches fairly sparse but wish there was one more slot for a complement. I use my technology for four things: work (productivity), reading, communication, and exercise. My iMac and iPad is my primary tool for work and reading, my iPhone for communication, and my watch for exercise.

The weather and exercise app are immediately available, the time and schedule ensure I have the time to get out and about. If I had one more complement I'd use it for my exercise rings. As of this writing I've completed my circles for over two months straight.

What's your wallpaper and why?

My iPad's wallpaper is a picture I took facing southwest from the rim of Crater Lake here in Oregon at sunset. My lock screen is a picture of my daughters.

Anything else you'd like to share?

My general philosophy is to have all my apps about one folder away and never use a second screen. Ideally, the items on my dock act as an entry point into other data and/or apps I use in a smaller split screen regularly. And I hate seeing a full home page so always leave a few "app slots" open. Often times I use these for slots for apps I want to try.

Oh... and if I had to pick either an iPhone or iPad, I'd pick iPad. I love this thing!



Home Screens - Marina Epelman

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Marina Epelman is a professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan, specializing in theory and applications of mathematical optimization (professional twitter), homepage. In her copious spare time, she eagerly follows Apple and the Boston Red Sox (personal twitter). I’ve got to know Marina over the years as we’ve spent time together at many Mac-related conferences. She always blushes when I introduce her as my brilliant math professor friend … but it’s true. So Marina, show us your home screen.

Marina's "Home" Screen. (Click to enlarge.)

Marina's "Away" Screen. (Click to enlarge.)

What are some of your favorite apps?

The contents of my home screen change a little depending on the circumstances. I took two screenshots for this writeup a couple of days before a trip (to WWDC 2018 “unconference,” as it happens) in quick succession: before and after I rearranged my home screen to help me pack and otherwise prepare for travel. In between, some apps moved to the second page (controller for the Sonos speakers in my house, and ATracker time tracker and Productive — since I would be putting my regular routines on hold). To replace them, I brought in Wallet (for boarding passes and tickets to WWDC-related events), Yelp, and AnyList (which contains my very detailed and elaborate pre-travel checklist, including a packing list for items to bring to the dog sitter — yes, “dog” is one of the items, as I am the dictionary definition of “absent-minded professor”).

I have many favorites that will likely be familiar to most readers — Overcast, OmniFocus, Carrot Weather (on Overkill), Drafts, PCalc (as a college professor, I am required to use the chalkboard icon). I want to highlight a few that might be slightly less common. 

I am very particular about my calendars, and Week Calendar has been in my dock for as long as I can remember. As you can guess, it has a superb week view, but also an excellent month one, which manages to pack information for a month worth of events on an iPhone screen. In addition, its settings options are very rich and flexible.

Scanner Pro from Readdle is a great scanner app, and my favorite in most circumstances. However, I highly recommend adding Office Lens if you ever need to capture and share notes written on whiteboards. It has a whiteboard mode that gracefully removes the unavoidable glare that office fluorescent lights cast on the boards, and does a very nice job framing the contents.

ATracker is an iOS app, backed by a web portal, that I hope will work out for me as I am trying to jump on the time-tracking bandwagon. It has a widget and a Watch counterpart, and some nice display options and calendar intergrations that set it apart from other time-tracking apps I’ve tried so far.

I have also been experimenting with using Notion as my app for note-taking and information tracking. The Notion system is very flexible and somewhat complex. Many articles and tutorials have been published about it lately, and I am not going to do it justice in one paragraph (see this recent review by the Verge, for example. At this point, I’ve only spent a couple of weeks with it, and it looks promising for bringing different types of notes and other bits of information together in one place, and linking easily between them. It is not as flexible and full-featured as some tools designed with a single purpose in mind, but I think it has enough power in most cases, and allows for easy export of individual items or entire databases if it becomes necessary. (Also, this math nerd appreciates the opportunity to throw in an occasional LaTeX equation into her notes.)

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Probably the same as for most people: social media, in my case, Tweetbot and Instagram (all those dog pictures and videos are not going to view and like themselves!). I don't have them on my home screen — they are hidden away in the "Communicate" folder on the next page — but Siri suggestions don’t lie...

What app makes you most productive? 

I don’t use iOS very much for full-on productivity. I use my iPad occasionally to read and mark up research papers in pdf format, but most of my productive computer time is spent on a Mac (although, of course, I can get quite a lot done on an iOS device in a pinch). On the other hand, the iPhone is invaluable in quickly accomplishing so many small, useful tasks that I honestly don’t remember how I was getting through the day at work, or taking time off without falling too far behind, 10–15 years ago!

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Workflow. Let’s see whether its transition to Shortcuts nudges me to start utilizing it more.

What is the app you are still missing?

I have pretty serious chronic migraines, and would love to have an app that makes it easy and convenient to track pain levels and medication doses at regular intervals throughout an episode. I try to keep track manually as best as I can using a pre-configured sheet in Notion, but the last thing you want to do while in pain and medicated is to remember to create database entries. A perfect app would have an easy and gentle UI but have enough persistence to help elicit information needed to understand pain patterns and effectiveness of different medications. Ideally, it would also collect information about what I eat, where I travel, and what I do throughout the day, and provide longitudinal data for my doctors.

In terms of productivity, I’d love to have a LaTeX writing app with access to any sub-folder in Dropbox (although it might be the Dropbox sync protocol that’s preventing it more than lack of effort by iOS developers).

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

My sense is, I use my iPhone many, many times a day, but primarily for short, specific bursts of activity. 

Incidentally, David has been asking his home screen contributors to answer this question for years now — I am looking forward to a follow-up piece, comparing all those “my sense is...” answers to hard, cold numbers that iOS 12 will be providing! 

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I use widgets that provide either quick pieces of information, or access to quick actions: Up Next (next calendar event and alarms - sadly not currently available), Carrot Weather, ATracker, Productive, Batteries, and PCalc.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

Always having a map and a GPS navigation device on me. I am literally lost without one — often even in my small town.

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

I have a strong preference for ultra-wide external displays over, say, an iMac, and a laptop plugged into one takes up the valuable real estate on my small home office desk. So, if there is a “making Marina’s life better” department at Apple, they are working on a modern model of Mac mini.

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

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I do indeed! I have multiple Watch faces set up. The two that I use most often are Modular and Simple. The former is great because of the density of information it presents without tapping or scrolling — perfect for running between meetings or sessions at a conference, especially when my hands are not free. The latter is the complete opposite — I switch to it when I am having a leisurely day with no events to remember and nowhere to rush. Lately, I’ve also been using the Siri watch face. Initially, I set it up when I realized that it shows a “Now playing” platter whenever I am listening to Overcast or Spotify on my phone, allowing me to change the volume easily even if the phone isn’t nearby. It has been slowly growing on me, and I am very curious to see whether it will become even more useful with third-party apps joining the party. (So far, the only non-native complication I have on any watch face is Carrot Weather.)

What's your wallpaper and why?

Last fall, I set the wallpaper to “OLED black.” I thought that I would just keep it for the first few weeks with my new iPhone X, to show those curious just how black this black was, and how the icons popped against it. Half a year later, I still can’t get over how good it looks! 

Anything else you'd like to share?

This post was written and edited on the last day of WWDC week in the cafe at the visitor center at Apple Park. It’s a perfect Northern California day, and I can see the edge of the Spaceship roof from my table. The Americano was pretty good, too.

Editors note:

And with that answer we find exactly how slow David has been about posting home screen posts. More in the pipeline gang.

 

Home Screens - Zac Hall

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This weeks home screen features Zac Hall (Twitter)(Website). Zac is the lead editor and one of the prolific gang of writers over at 9to5 Mac. Zac and I recently met for the first time and found ourselves in a mutual admiration society. So Zac, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

Streaks by Quentin Zervaas at Crunchy Bagel. I use it to remind myself to track my weight with my smart scale, close my Activity rings with my Apple Watch, and use the Breathe app on my Apple Watch daily. The app talks to HealthKit, too, so marking an item as done and continuing the streak is automatic.

Tweetbot by Tapbots. I try all the Twitter clients and nothing else feels as fast to me. Given my job, I just don’t feel “at work” without my timeline streaming. Twitter is both my primary way to track breaking news and the “water cooler” where I talk with friends.

Fantastical from Flexibits. I tend to prefer Apple’s built-in apps over learning other apps, but Fantastical has always just been light years ahead of Apple’s calendar app for me. Natural language input makes scheduling events on the right calendar super easy, and the simple list view just clicks with how I process my calendar. Fantastical also has a really great month view widget that I keep turned on.

Nike+ Run Club. I track all my runs with NRC. The built-in Workout app on the Apple Watch is great and getting better all the time, but Nike+ Run Club does a great job of showing how many data points that Apple’s Activity app doesn’t highlight. Data like how many miles I’ve ran per month, how many miles I’ve ran in total, and my fastest mile, 5K, 10K, and half marathon. I’m pretty locked in for now.

Apollo, a Reddit client. I only follow a few subreddits, each Apple related, and it helps expose me to points-of-view I may not be seeing on Twitter based on who I follow. I really like how this app takes advantage of the ability to offer a variety of app icons too.

Reeder for RSS. I've used David Smith’s Feed Wrangler subscription RSS service since it launched a few years ago, and it works great with Reeder on iOS and the Mac.

Instagram. I love the stripped down view of the world with a photo and a caption. After reading all day, an image is just so refreshing to process. Instagram recently added the ability to follow search terms and hashtags too, and I use this for one group: #CloseYourRings. This puts people using their Apple Watch to workout in my feed which motivates me to do the same. I wish it wasn’t owned by Facebook and I really wish there was an Instagram for iPad, but I like the community on iPhone.

These aren’t necessarily on my Home screen at all times, but a few are. App launching for me is a combination of widgets in the Today View, Spotlight search, notifications, and apps categorized in folders alphabetically on my second Home screen. My primary Home screen is just one part of that approach.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Pokémon GO. So much that I’ve recently uninstalled it — for now at least. For a while, it motivated me to go new places and explore, but I started to get a little too obsessed with advancing in the game.

When I noticed I was less present in the real world (and spend real world money to keep playing), I knew I needed a break.

What app makes you most productive?

Things! I’m fortunate to be able to work remotely and have a lot of agency over what I work on day to day, but that means I need to be my own manager a lot of the time.

My approach to task management with Things is thinking of myself as my own employee. When I’m populating Things with tasks ahead of time, I think about the process as what I want my one employee to do.

Then I use it as a reference point for what an ambitious version of me from the past has assigned the current, slightly less focused version of myself to do. It’s a total brain hack but it works for me, and I feel a lot more accomplished at the end of the day.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Workflow! I’m really looking forward to Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12 and I’m really into home automation through HomeKit, but I’ve never really unlocked the potential to Workflow and other forms of automation on iOS. I can’t wait to dive in again when the new Shortcuts app debuts in iOS 12.

What is the app you are still missing?

Audiobooks from iBooks (or Apple Books starting in the fall) on Apple Watch. The redesigned Apple Books app looks terrific on iPhone and I enjoy listening to audiobooks in the app, but I would love to be able to see my audiobook library and stream it from the watch.

Apple Music and Podcasts streaming on watchOS 5 is really great on my Apple Watch Series 3 — especially over LTE when I’m away from my iPhone — and audiobook streaming is the last streaming media source I’m missing.

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

Moment of truth… Prior to iOS 12, I could honestly give a low ball, double digit guess and believe it, but now we have Screen Time and the data doesn’t lie.

According to Screen Time in iOS 12, I’ve picked up my iPhone 340 times today, or 15 times per hour and once every three minutes. Tweetbot and Messages are my go to apps, and I’ve logged 3 hours 31 minutes of usage.

In reality, I could try to game those numbers down a lot on typical work days like today when I’m working primarily from my Mac and anything on the iPhone is mainly checking in.

If Screen Time comes to the Mac, my numbers will really rocket.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I love widgets that are so glanceable I rarely need to open the app. I keep Weather, Activity, and Streaks at the top for this reason. I count calories when dieting or trying to maintain a weight with MyFitnessPal. The widget is both a reference point for me and an app launcher.

Things and Fantastical give me an idea of what tasks are on my radar and what’s coming. Photos for recommending Memories, Music and Podcasts for starting audio, and Apple News for glancing at headlines.

Finally, I keep the Batteries widget at the bottom for seeing iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods battery status at a glance.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

iCloud Photo Library. It gets a bad wrap sometimes, but the experience has been rock solid for me since I started using it in beta.

I currently have 21,687 photos and 1,921 videos and counting that are all instantly accessible on my iPhone and iPad — regardless of how much local storage my device has. That’s every photo I’ve ever taken (and kept) from any camera viewable on all my devices.

And unlike Google Photos, iCloud Photo Library has a solid Mac app in Photos — I would pay for iCloud storage if the only thing it did was unlock iCloud Photo Library.

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

My first answer is sharing the full Mac roadmap with customers. I think previewing the iMac Pro months in advance and confirming the redesigned Mac Pro years in advance has served Apple well. I would like to see a similar openness with other Macs in Apple’s lineup, like every MacBook and the Mac mini. But that response is probably motivated for my desire to upgrade to a newer MacBook Pro as soon as something new is ready.

Separately, I would love to see Apple continue to advance its focus on helping customers live a better day through health and fitness. I love capturing data in the Health app, but it’s not always clear what to make of the information. I think Apple could do more to make this information actionable through education.

The Apple Watch also does a great job of pushing you to be more active with Activity rings and the Workout app, but I think there is an opportunity for a more structured digital fitness trainer. That could be in the form of a first-party fitness coaching app or even workout videos from Apple’s fitness experts.

I always get really pumped up from the Apple Watch ads showing people being active in different ways, but my comfort zone is currently limited to the treadmill, elliptical, and outdoor running.

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

Absolutely! I adore the Apple Watch, and I love seeing it get more powerful and capable every year. Workout tracking and the Activity rings motivated me to diet and exercise to improve my health a few years ago, and the Activity Digital face was my top choice.

watchOS 4.3 added Activity rings as a data source on the Siri watch face, however, and I’ve been using it since then. I’m really looking forward to third-party data sources coming to the Siri watch face in watchOS 5 this fall.

The trick to the Siri watch face for me has been turning off data sources in the Watch app on iPhone that you don’t want to see on your watch face (like Apple News and Stocks in my case).

Once you tune the Siri watch face to your liking, it can be the most dynamic interface on the watch.

I always want to see the current temperature and date so I use those as complications, then other data sources appear on the timeline: Activity rings, personalized Apple Music playlists, HomeKit scenes based on time and location, and timers but only if they’re running.

I love how contextual it can be compared to the other watch faces.

What's your wallpaper and why?

A photo of my son Rory! He was born August 2017 and he’s changing all the time — and so is my wallpaper but it’s always him.

I really like using Live Photos when I capture a good shot because it animates when I press the lock screen firmly, but the current photo is one captured on my Sony a6500. Every few weeks, I like to take out my good camera and just crawl around with him and take a ton of photos with him.

The iPhone is fantastic as a camera and captures almost all of my photos, but sometimes dedicated cameras just do a better job with indoor lighting.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Sure! For anyone with a free slot on their Home screen, check out the 9to5Mac iOS app. We don’t promote it a whole lot, but my 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast co-host Benjamin Mayo develops it and recently shipped a big update to how notifications for breaking news works. Try it out!

Home Screens - Mike Schmitz

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This week’s home screen features Mike Schmitz (blog)(twitter). Mike’s a geek that writes and talks a lot about productivity. In addition to his own work, Mike also writes at Asian Efficiency and makes several good podcasts, including Bookworm and the Productivity Show. Mike was a recent guest on Mac Power Users and is a swell guy. So Mike, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

I love podcasts, and I love Overcast. It's probably the app I use the most. The Smart Speed and Vocal Boost features are awesome, and Marco Arment (the developer) is always pioneering crazy new features. Another app I use every night is Sleep Cycle. It's uses the microphone to detect when you are coming up out of your deep sleep cycles. It wakes you up at the opportune time, which allows you to wake up alert instead of feeling groggy the rest of the day. I've also gotten into meditation in the past year and really like Calm. The design is beautiful and I really enjoy the new meditations that are delivered every day (the "Daily Calm"). Productive is a fun habit tracking app that helps me stay consistent and "not break the chain" when developing new habits, like journaling or getting up early. And of course Drafts. I capture everything in Drafts and I absolutely love it.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I have two: on my iPhone, it's Twitterrific. I like Twitter about 1000x more than Facebook because you can choose you want to follow without having to reciprocate "friendship" with them. IMHO, Facebook tends to be people form your past while Twitter is future-focused. Who are the people you want to surround yourself with? That's what Twitter is for me.

On my iPad, it's Civilization VI. I've been a huge Sid Meier fan for years, and I think it's amazing that I can play a full Civilization game on my iPad.

What app makes you most productive? 

This is a tough one. Probably Ulysses (where I do all of my writing), MindNode (where I keep all my book notes as mind maps), or Day One (which I use for my daily reflection). If I had to pick one, I'd say Day One because it's been key to me developing a consistent journaling habit. Journaling has really transformed my productivity by giving me a record of my personal growth. Whenever I feel stuck or discouraged, I go back through my journal entries and look at how much progress I've made.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Workflow for sure. I have a few workflows that I use all the time, but I tend not to go into the app to make workflows unless I have a specific problem I'm trying to solve. For example, I have a workflow that records the answers to several prompts and stores the responses as variables, then puts them into a Markdown-formatted table in Day One. It took me awhile to make it, but I use it every day. I have a couple of these workflows set up, but if you just launch the Workflow app on my iPhone the number of workflows there doesn't look that impressive.

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

Not nearly as often as some people, and that's by design. I try to be very intentional about having a reason to reach for my phone. For example, I rely on my phone for my morning routing (daily Bible reading and prayer, meditation, etc.) but I've trained myself to use it for those things instead of checking email or looking at Twitter. After I start working, I won't look at my phone again until lunch. I've also turned off almost all notifications so that I don't get interrupted when I'm making progress on a big project by something that doesn't really matter, like a social media mention.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

I absolutely love the camera on my iPhone X. I decided after my iPhone 6s that whatever phone I got next would have dual lenses so I could get better pictures of my 5 kids, and the iPhone X doesn't disappoint. Related: Live Photos are amazing and using burst mode has allowed me to finally get non-blurry pictures of my always-moving munchkins.

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

The ability to change the default apps, particularly Apple Mail. I use Dispatch because it's the only email client that allows me to send messages directly to OmniFocus and include a link back to the original message in the message:// URL format. For example, Airmail uses airmail:// which means that if I click on the link in OmniFocus on my Mac it will only open in Airmail (which is a problem since I love MailMate so much). But it'd be great to click on those message:// URLs in OmniFocus for iOS and have them open in Dispatch. Unfortunately, right now that's impossible.

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

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I really like the Utility watch face. I keep it pretty simple, and don't use the complication on the bottom because I think it makes the screen too crowded. I use the Activity complication in the upper left (gotta close those rings!) and the Drafts complication in the upper right. I love Drafts on the Apple Watch, and use it all the time to capture things on my watch. Using Siri for capturing is surprisingly accurate (even when I capture ideas while out for a run). There's even a setting available for Drafts under the Apple Watch app that allows to auto-capture straight from the complication, eliminating the need to tap again to start dictation.

What's your wallpaper and why?

When I got the iPhone X, I started with an all black screen because it looked great on the OLED screen. But it was a little too plain for me, so I found one online that is black on top to hide the notch but still has a little bit of color.

Anything else you'd like to share?

With great power comes great responsibility. The iPhone is an amazing little pocket computer, but it's also a gateway to distraction. Do whatever you can to protect your ability to focus and eliminate distractions. If you have to completely delete email from your phone to keep from checking it first thing in the morning, do it!

Home Screens - Darren Carr

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This week’s home screen features Darren Carr (Twitter). Darren blogs at The Mac Quad and podcasts at the Mac Quadcast. Darren writes, podcasts, and does Mac troubleshooting. He’s also a graduate of the London School of Economics. Darren pulls all of this off while being paralyzed from the neck down. So Darren, show us your home screen.

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What are Some of Your Favorite Apps?

My homescreen changes on a regular basis but there are some apps that have established themselves as mainstays. For my personal life Spark and BusyCal are the two that stand out, for many years I just used the Mail app but several bugs (such as notifications being extremely flaky) sent me on a quest which ended in Spark which I find extremely stable and easy to use. BusyCal is my calendar of choice on the Mac therefore it seemed natural to use the iOS app. My task management app of choice at the moment is Todoist, I seem to go between Todoist and OmniFocus, however, Todoist has suck for the last few months as I found OmniFocus had features that I just didn't make use of.

My notes app is one that has caused much head scratching, I think I've been through every new/popular one on the market but have ended up back with Evernote, it has the feature set I require and on the Mac I feel the Web Clipper is unrivalled. Other apps that I access on a daily basis are Day One not so much for a journal but enables me to easily keep a medical diary (essential in my situation) and also Ulysses for blog post ideas etc.

WHICH APP IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

I wouldn't describe any of the apps I use as a Guilty Pleasure but I love audiobooks, being paralysed it is much easier to listen to audio than access a physical book or continuously be looking at a screen to use an ebook so I would say Audible and iBooks. Many people would include their Social Media apps here but I seem to have a hate/hate relationship with current social media.

WHAT APP MAKES YOU MOST PRODUCTIVE?

Probably Todoist, having a convenient list of tasks to tick off and therefore seeing that badge count come down is always a great feeling. Todoist is so simple that you don't get trapped in there once it is launched thus you spend more time being productive.

WHAT APP DO YOU KNOW YOU'RE UNDERUTILISING

I know I should be using Drafts more, it has been on my homescreen for an eternity but I always find myself going into the appropriate app for the writing that I'm going to do eg. Messages, Spark or Ulysses. I realise using Drafts will save me time but going to the individual app is a habit that is difficult to break.

HOW MANY TIMES A DAY DO YOU USE YOUR IPHONE/IPAD?

My iPad is mainly a consumption device so I don't use it everyday, as a motor impaired user I find it much easier to get things done on my Mac which I spend most of the day on. The iPhone is used about 5 or 6 times a day the main times are in the morning before I get up and then in the evening for either an audiobook or to catch up on podcasts.

WHAT TODAY VIEW WIDGETS ARE YOU USING AND WHY?

My today view widgets are Todoist Today for obvious reasons. The Apple News widget, the BBC Sport widget and the BBC Weather widget just for a quick overview of what's happening in the world and what the local weather is likely to be (it's London, obviously it's raining). Doing this homescreen exercise has made me put Drafts into the Today widget list to try to utilise it more.

IF YOU WERE IN CHARGE AT APPLE, WHAT WOULD YOU ADD OR CHANGE?

A feature that I've wanted for ages is Siri added to iBooks on iOS so that it is possible to say: 'Hey, Siri“ ”Turn Page Forward", surely this is really easy to add and would be a very useful accessibility feature.

DO YOU HAVE AN APPLE WATCH? SHOW US YOUR WATCH FACE TELL US ABOUT IT.

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I have an Apple Watch series zero with the Utility watch face. My complications are Messages, Spark, Date and Calendar. I primarily have my Apple Watch for the time (who'd have thought) and for and easy way to check for notifications. Being paralysed from the neck down the activity features are not a major selling point, however, the Heart Rate app is a great feature. It would be a bonus if a blood pressure sensor could be added.

WHAT'S YOUR WALLPAPER AND WHY?

I like to keep my iPhone and iPad wallpaper set at the solid back one provided by Apple, I think it looks much more sophisticated than a photograph and makes it easier to distinguish between apps.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

I'm using an iPhone 8 +, I really enjoy the large screen as it makes the iPhone useable for most applications. I'm able to watch something comfortably, read ebooks or PDFs and typing is much easier than smaller screens. I chose the 8 + over the X mainly due to the facial recognition on the X, the facial recognition only allows for one face to be recognised at present and being paralysed from the neck down there are several people I have to trust with access to my iPhone, the Touch ID sensor enables this while facial recognition does not.

Thanks Darren.

 

My iPhone Home Screen, 2018 Edition

It’s been awhile since I shared my home screen and since I finally shipped my iPhone Field Guide, this seemed the right time to share my iPhone home screen, 2018 edition.

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Since getting the iPhone X, I’m still in love with the OLED display. I like it so much that I’ve been keeping a pure black background on my home screen since the iPhone X first released. 

The top row is my folders of apps. I’ve been using this system for some time, and I still think it’s the best, at least for me. Each folder has a verb for its name: Make, Learn, Fix, Play. Any app that doesn’t make the home screen cut goes into one of these folders. I just ask myself what I’d do with the app and put it in the appropriate folder. I use Siri or Spotlight to find most apps, not on the home screen but having this rough sort helps. I also really like keeping my phone to just one screen.

The second row has some Apple Fundamentals: Phone, Mail, Safari, and Maps.

Occasionally I swap out the Mail app for a third party client like Spark or AirMail. The trouble is, they are never quite as stable for me as Apple Mail, so I usually end up going back.

Likewise, when I travel outside of California, I’ll often replace Apple Maps with Google Maps, but Apple Maps works for me in California.

The next row includes my essential audio apps: Overcast, Audible, Music, and Sonos.

In the past several months I’ve tried out several alternatives to Overcast just to see what’s out there. I wanted the Apple Podcast app to work because I love the idea of kicking off podcasts with my voice, but that was a bust. Moreover, Overcast keeps getting better. The latest update rewinds the podcast a few seconds any time you pause or stop, which helps me get back into the swing and I like the way Overcast works with CarPlay.

I’ve been a subscriber to Audible for years, and I used to keep the app in a folder but moved it to the home screen this year, and I think it will stay. Finally is Sonos. I’m hoping that AirPlay 2 will allow me to easily stream to Sonos from the Apple Music App. As much as I like my Sonos speakers, I’m not a big fan of the Sonos app. 

The fourth row has my social apps: Messages Twitterific, Slack, and Unread.

I switched from TweetBot to Twitterific in December, and I like it. I’m not sure it’s better than TweetBot, but I was ready for a change. This week in response to the Twitter’s threatened further moves against third-party apps, I tried to use the official Twitter app for a few days. Ugh. Twitter is definitely a better experience with third-party apps. Slack is home screen worthy and Unread remains my favorite RSS app.

The fifth row includes productivity apps: Ulysses, Notes, Dragon Anywhere, Workflow.

When I first put Ulysses on my home screen, it was just an experiment, but I find myself opening the app and writing in it often. I’ve flirted with Bear, but Apple Notes still is my place for reference notes. Dragon Anywhere and I are at a difficult point right now. Some days it works amazingly well. Other days it doesn’t. With a $15/month subscription, I feel like it should be more consistent. Nevertheless, it remains on the home screen.

And then there’s Workflow. My beloved.

Interestingly, my dock has all third-party apps in it: Fantastical, Drafts, and OmniFocus

Fantastical runs circles around the native calendar app. I wrote this week about Drafts 5. Finally, I’m running the beta of OmniFocus 3 and digging it. I’ll be posting more on that next week.

I also find apps through the Today View. The Siri recommendations are pretty good. I’ve been using Headspace lately, and I’ve even given it the right to give me limited notifications. Because I normally meditate at the same, it gives me an appropriate notification at the right time to get mindful and I don’t have to dig for the app.

 

What I'd Change

I often ask home screen guests about the one thing they would change about the iPhone if they were in charge. I’ve got a few.

First, I’d do whatever it takes to make Siri work better, faster, and more consistently. Siri is a great idea that needs better execution, now.

Next, I’d open the iPhone up more to allow users to change default apps, for instance substituting Chrome for Safari. I’d also put in place whatever resources are necessary to make the Workflow-as-part-of-iOS project awesome and the envy of all non-iPhone users.

 

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My Apple Watch

For a hyper-scheduler such as myself, the Siri watch face is ideal. A lot of people don’t realize it, but you can turn on and off individual components of the Siri watch face to make it work for you. I'm using Drafts as my single complication because it’s so damn handy.

 

My Lock Screen

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I’ve currently got a home-made inspirational quote lock screen. That’s not usually my thing but someone made this wallpaper from a Merlin Mann quote years ago and it does inspire me. The trouble with the above-linked wallpaper is that it is too hard to read with 50-year-old eyeballs so made my own version and spread on the Futura Bold extra thick.

 

That Blank Space

I like having empty space on my iPhone home screen. A lot of people think its nuts, but I like the way it looks and should we like the way our stuff looks?

 

And a Shameless Plug

I did a whole section in the iPhone Field Guide on Home Screen layout. I’ve shared several of the pages below. It’s fun reading, and maybe it’ll even tempt you to check out the whole book. Enjoy.

Home Screens - Dr. Barrett Mosbacker

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Some of my favorite home screens come from MacSparky readers. Dr. Barrett Mosbacker is one of those. So Barrett, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

For managing my personal and professional life my favorite apps are Spark, Fantastical, Things 3, GoodNotes, and DEVONthink. Spark and Fantastical are powerful but easy to use applications for managing my email and events. After being a long time OmniFocus Pro user I recently made the switch to Things 3. Both are exemplary apps for managing projects but I ultimately moved to Things 3 because I found myself spending less time fiddling with the application and more time getting work done. Things 3 is also an exquisitely designed app that is a pleasure to use.

I have been looking for the Holy Grail of applications for managing and integrating project and meeting notes, documents, and research. I finally found them in GoodNotes and DEVONthink. GoodNotes gives me the ability to use my iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil to take meeting notes in an unobtrusive manner. Because GoodNotes has accurate handwriting recognition (even for my horrible penmanship) I can export my meeting notes to DEVONthink. Later when I need to find these notes I can search for them in DEVONthink. I switched to DEVONthink after being a long time Evernote Business user. Although DEVONthink takes time to learn, its powerful features and integrated mobile app make it the ideal repository for all of my personal and professional notes, documents, and research.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I’m feeling a little guilty for saying so, but I don’t have one. Virtually all of my iPhone and iPad applications are for getting things done. The closest I come to a guilty pleasure is the Kindle app for my professional and pleasure reading. I may need to get a life! :-)

What app makes you most productive?

Things 3. I manage a large number of complex projects involving my Senior Leadership Team as well as mundane personal tasks like reminding me to take the trash to the curb. For my purposes, Things 3 has the right balance of power, flexibility, and elegant GUI.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

I am probably underutilizing MindNode. I do a lot of writing and speaking. Scrivener is my go to application for all writing—from short blog articles to essays and book projects. I also use it for drafting my speaking notes. I find myself vacillating between using MindNode and OmniOutliner when drafting my thoughts and outlines for writing or speaking projects. I would default more often to MindNode if it had true Apple Pencil support.

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

I use my iPhone approximately once an hour through out the day beginning at 4:30am when its alarm goes off. I use the iPad all day throughout the day. I have Things 3 open on the iPad, which sits next to my MacBook Pro. This keeps my to-do list constantly in front of me so that I focus on what is most important. I grab the iPad and Apple Pencil whenever I have a meeting. I take my handwritten notes in GoodNotes and then export them to DEVONthink for future reference. Any to-do items arising from the meeting go into Things 3.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I use the Fantastical, Things 3, AccuWeather, The Calculator, and Deliveries widgets.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

It is difficult to identify favorite features but I suppose on the iPhone it would be the dictation application. I cannot type quickly and accurately using the on screen keyboard on the iPhone X so I rely heavily on dictation. Apple Pencil support is my favorite feature of the iPad Pro. I use it for taking notes, annotating PDFs, and jotting down ideas.

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

I would enhance iCloud to have the feature sets of both DropBox and Google Docs and I would substantially increase the total free space available to iCloud, or at least substantially increase the space available at each price tier. I would like to make iCloud my default application for storing and sharing documents and collaboration. The way things stand now, I use iCloud to sync across my devices, DropBox for sharing documents with others, and Google Docs when I need robust collaboration. I would also substantially enhance the capability of Siri. Apple lead in this space but has since fallen behind Google and Amazon.

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

I have a Series 2 Apple watch. I use the Siri watch face as my default but I also use the Activity Face for my morning workout and for tracking my physical activity throughout the day.

What's your wallpaper and why?

I use a solid black wallpaper on my iPhone because it makes the app icons stand out without distraction. On my iPad I use a beautiful fall picture of the Saint Louis Gateway Arch National Park.

Thanks Barrett.

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Home Screens – Jeff Perry

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This week’s home screen features Jeff Perry (Twitter), proprietor of TabletHabit.com where Jeff talk about how he uses his iPad as his exclusive computer. Jeff’s a busy guy, also producing his podcast, Getting Caught Up. So Jeff, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

Ulysses is my primary app I use day-to-day as I write a blog and Ulysses is hands down the best writing app for bloggers in my opinion. 

I am also a big fan of Gladys as a shelf app on the iPad. It quickly turned into a utility app I use a lot when I have to save photos, links, and pretty much anything else from one app and I drag and drop them into Ulysses or into Wordpress itself. 

Calendars 5 is my main calendar and task management app of choice (it’s a long story and something I think I might write about). It has some quirks but it is a beautiful app with a high-functioning UI and works great.

Finally, I use Blink a lot to help get affiliate links for posts on my blog. I don’t have any sponsors or advertisements on my blog so the only source of revenue on there currently is affiliate links. I don’t make much but it helps keeps the lights on for the website. 

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Apollo. I joined reddit almost 10 years ago now and it has changed a lot in that time frame, mostly for the worst in my opinion. I still frequent Reddit but every time I do I feel like there could be something better with my time. Apollo as an app though is by far the best reddit app I have ever used, and the 10 years worth of apps I have used quite a few of them.

What app makes you most productive?

In terms of content creation it is Ulysses, in terms of managing my day-to-day tasks and keeping on track it would be Calendars 5.

Ulysses is a powerful text editing tool and by far the best writing app on iOS in my opinion. I write everything in Markdown and when I am writing to share something with other I use Ulysses 90% of the time. 

Calendars 5 is a new addition to my devices. I was a big user of Fantastical 2 on iOS but the agenda view wasn’t what I wanted when I looked at my calendar. I know a lot of people like it but for me I like to see my time in blocks and Calendars 5 offers the natural language addition with beautiful UI and Reminders integration. The only big difference is that it shows things in the traditional calendar format and I like that. 

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Ulysses. I know there’s so much more I can do with this thing but for me it is just a very well performing markdown machine that integrates with WordPress for publishing articles. 

I’m sure there’s something I’m missing when it comes to what I can do to make my writing more efficient and I hope to learn more about the app soon. I purchased Shawn Blanc’s Ulysses Course but I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but it’s on my list of things to do in the new year. 

What is the app you are still missing?

I’m currently not using any dedicated task manager. I have tried everything under the sun and haven’t found anything that works the way I want it to. In a perfect world I would take the natural language Todoist has, the features OmniFocus has, and the design of Things 3 and have them fuse together to make the perfect app for me. Because of this, I have actually moved my big picture plans and goals into a bullet journal and my daily tasks into Calendars 5 with their Reminders Integration. 

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

I use my iPad as my main computer so whenever I need to do work I use that, my iPhone is there mainly as a way to send Bluetooth media to my AirPods and check Twitter in my downtime. But when I’m in a pinch I will write my thoughts and outlines into my iPhone to get it out of my head and then deal with it later. 

I usually am on my iPad working on Tablet Habit or my Podcast Getting Caught Up from when I get up at 10 am (I work my day job until midnight so I don’t get to bed until 2 am or so) until I leave for work at 2:30 pm. From there I bring my iPad with me to work for downtime during lunch to continue working on stuff. 

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

Workflow – One of the biggest things I want to start doing in 2018 is to track my time more and I found some modified workflows from Federico Viticci’s post that work quite well for me. So I signed up for Toggl and set up the workflows and so far it is working quite well. Instead of having these workflows as an icon on my home screen or take up space in my dock I have it as a widget to quickly start and stop timers for the work I am doing. 

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this but iOS 11 adding Drag and Drop to the iPad (and iPhone to some extent) has been an absolute dream. Especially with shelf apps like Gladys and Yoink coming into the picture. Those two things have killed several workflows I had previously because it is just a delight to use this feature and these apps with synergy that wasn’t on iOS before. 

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

I would have a bigger team in the Podcast department. From what I understand there is a very small team handling the entire podcast library and with Apple still having a huge stake in the game for podcasts I think a bigger team is necessary. There are a ton of companies and 3rd part hosting services trying to bridge the gap between host and platform but I think Podcasting needs to have more from Apple. It seems like this is something that is taking place currently with the beta of podcasting stats from Apple being implemented recently, so if they can keep that momentum I think we will see more from them in the coming years.

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

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My Apple Watch face is the modular face. I know a lot of people aren’t big fans of it but I use my watch to keep track of what I have going on and the modular watch face allows me to have my “terminal” on my wrist. 

I have the date and time on the top, because it is a watch after all. 

Reminders takes the bulk of my screen because I am using Reminders within Calendars 5 as my day-to-day task manager

The bottom three icons are messages, which is to check when family and my fiancé get a hold of me, Battery life (mainly because I have a Series 1 and it isn’t great on battery life. Finally I have a timer. I find myself setting timers for pretty much everything from work time-blocking, laundry, my lunch hour at my day job, everything and being able to quickly set a timer on my wrist is more convenient than my phone. 

What's your wallpaper and why?

iPhone - Cortex because it is my favorite background I have found that grids out each app without being intrusive. 

Anything else you'd like to share?

I have began to take on a minimalists perspective when it comes to a lot of aspects in my life, one being what I keep on my iPad and iPhone. Every single app I have on my devices is deliberate and with purpose. There are no games on it (I have a PS4 for that), and I purge unused apps regularly to keep a tight ship. 

I also just want to let anyone reading that I write about this stuff and how you can use an iPad as a main computer on my blog at TabletHabit.com and on a podcast called Getting Caught Up. I am active on Twitter and you follow me at @iamJeffPerry.

Finally I just want to thank you, David, for being an inspiration for me to start doing Tablet Habit!

Thanks, Jeff.

 

Home Screens - Daman Rangoola

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One of the great things about living in Southern California is all the local nerds I get to hang out with. One such new friend I made this year is Daman Rangoola (Twitter). Daman is a clever guy and put a lot of time into his home screen. So Daman, let’s see it.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

I find almost everything on my home screen to be invaluable on a day to day basis, but the two that stand out are Downcast and Tweetbot. I also have Overcast, which I find to be a great app in it’s own right, but after spending so much time tweaking my settings in Downcast and having the app work great for me - I haven’t felt the need to totally make the switch. 

Twitter is somewhere I find myself all day whether it’s for monitoring the news (in tech and otherwise) during the day and then diving into the glorious world known as “NBA Twitter” - following along with all the basketball games with a phenomenal community of basketball diehards. Tweetbot has consistently proven to be the best Twitter client for my usage but due to Twitter’s API limitations for third-party apps, I also use the stock Twitter client frequently, thus it also lives on my home screen.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I would say Tweetbot but I can conjure up enough professional purpose to open it to not feel as guilty about it, so I’m going to say Threes. It’s still the best game I’ve ever played on the iPhone - it’s the only game I downloaded and have never removed from my iPhone. It’s challenging, fun, and most importantly - I can play for 2 minutes or one hour and it doesn’t require constant attention. 

What app makes you most productive? 

Strictly speaking, Asana. Slack is vital to my work but I get most of my daily tasks done in Asana and having an on-the-go view of everything I’m working on has been a great addition to my workflow. If I’m away from my desk but an idea hits me or I am talking to somebody and a task presents itself, I can quickly add it into Asana and lose the burden of worrying that I will forget something. 

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

This will be of particular interest to the owner of this website: Workflow. I know I can make great use of this app, and I know how powerful of an app that it is, I just haven’t put in the proper time and effort into getting the app working for me in that way yet. 

What is the app you are still missing? 

WhatsApp for iPad, please! WhatsApp has become the go-to communication method for my family (locally and abroad) and for several groups of friends, and it has no iPad client yet.

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

Constantly. If I’m not reading something on my iPhone, I have my iPad open next to my Mac at all times for work with the Notes app open with my Pencil charged, jotting notes all day. There is virtually no part of my waking hours that I’m not actively or passively (listening to podcasts etc) using either of my iOS devices.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The ecosystem. There are a lot of reasons to individually love my iPhone X and the 10.5” iPad Pro, but the way they work together is my favorite single feature of iOS.

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

I think it’s time to allow for default apps for major app categories to be changed. I wouldn’t do it like Android, I would make it very difficult to qualify to become a default. I would create a new App Review system for becoming a default, ensuring a good experience for the user. 

Two of the biggest examples that would be great for me? Allowing Google Maps to become the default Maps option and allowing Downcast or Overcast become my default podcast player. There are more categories out there that could qualify (like Internet browser) but those two would be game changers for me.

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

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I use my Apple Watch for the following: seeing the time, monitoring my activity, monitoring my notifications, and Apple Pay. I have never been interested in apps on the Watch, even though they are greatly improved, simply because it’s not what I’m personally looking to get out of it.

The bottom complication is what I refer to as “Mean Boss Time” - my boss is rarely in the same time-zone as me, so it’s important for me to know what time it is for him (and he’s sick of me asking lol). 

I swipe right to the Activity Analog face when I’m going to the gym or doing any other workout to track my activity in a focused way. 

What's your wallpaper and why?

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I am absolutely in love with the new OLED display of the iPhone X and to get the full effect out of it, I changed my background to be pure black, which is stunning especially in comparison to non-OLED displays. Similarly, I have changed my home screen background to accentuate the stunning black:

It’s just gorgeous!

Anything else?

I have a no folder policy on the home screen of my iPhone. There was a time where I put everything in folders to only have one total page for all my apps, but I enjoy having the ability to see everything clearly and every app on my home screen being one press away. If I need to launch any other apps, I enjoy using Spotlight most of the time.

Thanks Daman

 

Home Screens - Dan Catlin

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Dan Catlin (Twitter)(Website) is an interesting guy. He had a fancy pants job that required him to do lots of traveling but one day realized his kids were growing up and he was never around. So he gave up the fancy job and opened his own business making candles so he could have more time to be "dad". MiddleDavids is a sometimes sponsor of this blog and over the years I’ve come to know and respect Dan as a friend and fellow nerd. So Dan, show us your home screen.

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I’m a one page guy with page two overflow pretty much only holding new apps I haven’t decided if I want to keep yet. My top row is folders that I usually access via pull down from top and search, although occasionally I’ll navigate them old school. My second row is mostly media - I find that I tend to pick something to listen to and let it go, so I don’t really need one handed access too often.

My third row is mostly there because usually I’m thinking about going for a bike ride and the weather, routes/buddies, wind are useful, but just seeing them makes me happy.

The closer you get to the bottom, the more I’m thinking about using them on the fly, with one hand. Row four is calculators, my calendar and Waze, which is an annoying data hog in many ways, but seems to be the best in my area at getting traffic right, so it earns its place until Apple Maps catches them. The bottom two rows and dock are things I want to open quickly, often with one hand.

Favorite Apps:

Braintoss - strangely simple way to get stuff into my GTD system. Tap it (or say, “Hey Siri, open Braintoss,” then either record a voice memo, take a picture or (rarely) type something in. Then it emails me with the item. I’m much better at getting things into my system from email than all the other ways things come at me, so this helps a lot.

Strava - I was an early adopter about six years ago, and have been logging my bike rides, almost 30,000 miles of them, ever since. Has social media components (kudos, comments), but mostly it’s a way to keep track, set goals, follow friends and find new routes, etc. 

Soulver - Although I use pCalc for simple one-off math and love the Reverse-Polish notation option there, Soulver plus TextExpander is my secret sauce. I’ve built several fill-in formulas that really take it to the next level. Example - making a custom batch of candles in an odd amount of wax. On my Mac, I open Soulver, type ‘xbatch’ and a fill in snippet asks me for the amount of wax I’m making, the % of fragrance strength I want to make, and the magical “pop” gives me the exact amount of fragrance needed for the batch. Because the iPhone is more limited, I just keep a batch calculation worksheet in the list and can edit quickly. And because Soulver ‘shows your work,’ you can double check and live the old adage, “measure twice, cut once!” It’s really pretty slick!

I’m a data nerd. I love the Activity App that lets me worry about filling in my rings each day, Pedometer for steps tracking, and love-to-hate LoseIt, for calorie tracking. It’s the simplest and least cluttered way for me to manage portion control, and once I’ve built in most of our family recipes, it’s pretty easy to log and keep myself honest.

My phone is almost always adding sound to my world, whether through Audible books, Overcast podcasts, or my 80’s Rock ’n Roll dominated music collection, so those are favorites, too. 

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Through the Ages - an iOS adaptation of my favorite strategy BoardGame that I always have a game going with three of my friends. Only get to take a turn or two each day, but enjoy them! Ascension is another game I usually have a few games going with friends - I like turn based games that I can jump on once or twice a day and think about the people I’m playing with as much as the game itself.

What app makes you most productive? 

Braintoss and Drafts (plus Due) for smaller ToDo’s. Braintoss helps me capture, Drafts is where most ideas/messages, etc. start (and sometimes stay - I have lots of notes there that I keep running like reading lists, quotes, etc.), Due is where things go that have to be done at a set time since it will annoy me until I do them!

OmniFocus for projects with lots of moving parts or that bear repeating. Today I have am embarrassing 87 things to do, but that’s a little silly because all of my month end tasks are ‘available’ at the moment, many of which are multi-step like payroll and sales tax for our small business, using a monthly repeating project keeps me from forgetting a step, which helps a ton.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

OmniFocus. Although it is a wonderful tool that I use faithfully for larger projects, I wish I was better at getting more of the ‘cruft’ into it so that I could have a single task management solution. Still working on that.

What is the app you are still missing?

I’d love to have a sort of DayOne alternative that kind of interviewed me at the end of the day, captured maybe my location data, and had elements of ‘streaks’ or activity ‘hooks’ and even completed ToDo’s in it so that you could sort of build a single view of what that day was like. One of my goals for next year is to see if I can hack DayOne to do that with some TextExpander snippets and screenshots.

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

I use my iPhone almost constantly in the background (tracking steps, podcasts, music) and actively several times an hour.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I haven’t really adopted many of them. Sometimes use Find Friends when coordinating kid pickup, etc, but that’s something I could probably do better.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The fact that it really is a computer that I always have with me and is truly acting as a ‘second brain’ for much of my life. Having a camera, voice recorder, and supplemental memory at all times is really pretty awesome. (I haven’t fallen in love with the iPad yet - I’m a piano player and fast touch typist and if I have to do more than a little typing, I run for my Mac.)

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

We’re pretty ‘all in’ with the Apple ecosystem. My wife and I have three daughters, and our family has a Mac Mini, four MacBooks, two iPads, five iPhones, a bunch of iPods, some of which still get used, two Apple Watches, and the new Apple TV. We love how well they interact. Probably our one complaint is that we’re always out of storage and not in love with the Cloud yet. I’d love it if onboard storage was a little more modular/granular and maybe a little less expensive - it’s probably the one thing that leads to frustration.

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

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I got it for my birthday this past June, and really like it. Messages on my wrist and the fitness stuff are the primary uses (and just telling time on my wrist again rather than from my pocket)!

I wore an analog watch for years and love the way it makes me think in ‘quarters of hours’ rather than digital minutes. My complications are all fitness focused - Pedometer

What's your wallpaper and why?

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My Lock Screen wallpaper is our family crest that a friend made from a sketch. My wife and I both graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, hence the anchor with ’89 (the year we were married), and our family slogan, “We do hard things the hard way.” Kind of a joke but also reminds us that worthwhile things are usually not easy, and often it’s the journey that matters far more than the destination. My app wallpaper is just plain in my favorite sort of dark indigo color that makes the apps ‘pop’ so my rotten eyes can see them!

Anything else you'd like to share?

Thanks! I’m humbled to be considered since so many of the tips and techniques I’ve developed have come from hours spent listening to MPU and reading the MacSparky blog and books. If anything I’ve said is good, you deserve a lot of the credit; if not, I’m still learning!

Thanks Dan.

 

Home Screens – Kent Sutherland

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This week’s home screen features Kent Sutherland (website)(Twitter). Kent is part of the Flexibits team and a pretty busy guy. Now that Kent has shipped the latest update to Fantastical and a brand new contact app, Cardhop, I asked Ken to share his home screen. So Ken, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

Reeder is one of my favorite apps that also gets used all the time. I'm one of those weird people that still loves RSS feeds and uses them all the time. I also enjoy Words With Friends because it lets me distract myself occasionally and keep in touch with friends that I wouldn't otherwise talk to as often. Pinner is used frequently so I can pull up saved recipies when I'm at the grocery store or when I'm cooking. For built-in apps, the Podcasts app gets used a lot although I'm not a fan of what happened to it with iOS 11 (it might be time to explore alternatives). Finally, it's not on my home screen, but I don't know how I'd type on my phone without Gboard.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Reddit, because it lets me look at stupid images and videos while I'm waiting for a bus or in line somewhere.

What app makes you most productive?

I've found my phone doesn't really help make me productive, as getting real work done requires my Mac. Slack at least helps me keep track of our build system and any issues that might come up when I'm away from a computer though. Judging from my home screen, my phone is frequently used for communication (Viber, Facebook Messenger, Messages, Slack, and Words With Friends are all used for text messaging).

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

I should probably be using Pocket more often. I'd be a bit more efficient if I deferred reading for later, but I've gotten out of the habit.

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

Who knows, but probably more than I'd expect. To try to minimize that number I often keep my phone on do not disturb while I'm at my computer, which helps to reduce the chance that I'll get distracted by push notifications.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

Fantastical in the expanded month view and Weather Underground. I'm pretty light on widgets, but I get regular use out of both of those. There's only really room to see a couple of widgets at once, and I found I never used the others if I had to scroll down to get to them.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

My favorite little feature on the iPhone is the 3D Touch gesture to switch apps. I was distraught when they removed it from iOS 11, and I was very happy with they said it was coming back.

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

In terms of iOS, I'd make iOS faster to use. The iPhone and iPad are fast computers now, but that speed is often locked behind all of the animations and gestures. For example, switching between two apps takes a second or two for the app switcher animation, then another to tap on another app and wait for it to appear. In my perfect world there would be an option to disable all of the unlock and app transition animations. I've used iOS enough to know exactly where on the screen everything is going to appear, and if I could tap without delay the time savings would add up quickly.

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

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My watch it spends most of its life on the charger, as I'm not much of a watch person. It does get used to test Fantastical's watch app and complications, and the timer occasionally comes in handy when I'm doing laundry.

What's your wallpaper and why?

My wallpaper is one of the cloud and star pictures from a previous version of iOS that has long since been removed. My lock screen is a picture of a jellyfish that I took in a zoo. I set it a long time ago and it seems to have just stuck.

Thanks Kent ... and great work with Cardhop!

Home Screens – Chuck Joiner

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Chuck Joiner’s with his Mac Voices podcast (website)(Twitter) is the James Lipton of our Mac community. He’s been delivering great content for years and today he agreed to share his home screen. Okay Chuck, show us your home screen.

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What are Some of Your Favorite Apps?

Downcast for sure. It takes care of keeping all my podcasts downloaded and synced between my iPads, iPhone and Macs so that I can listen or watch to any of them any time, without having to spend time managing what is where. The capability of having custom speeds for each show subscribed to is also important, since some can be consumed easily at 2.5x, while others may only be listenable at 1.5x. My perception is that the algorithm for accelerated listening has improved over time, and the addition of an Apple Watch app puts the audio controls on my wrist if the phone is in my pocket. 

Feedly also ranks high because I still use RSS feeds as a major part of my information flow. There are prettier feed-reading apps out there, but Feedly does what I want it to do in a no-nonsense format.

Camera+ is my go-to camera app because of its RAW shooting capabilities, and the best one-touch photo enhancement I’ve seen, though the new Photos in iOS 11 is making me re-think that. Lots of power in this one, but there is a bit of a learning curve to take advantage of all the features.

FiLMiC Pro is a favorite for its versatility and power as a video recording app. If you can’t capture the video you want with this app, then you can’t do it on an iPhone.

What app makes you most productive?

At this point, Apple’s Notes, because it lets my iPhone be an extension of my Mac in making and keeping information, project lists, and other items organized and in sync everywhere. Was using another solution before, but Notes makes it super easy.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Drafts. I know it can do so much, but I tend not to think of it until after the fact. That’s often half the battle with a new or under-used app - remembering what it can do for you and integrating it into your personal workflows.

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

iThe Phone is in use almost constantly. Even if I’m at the office, it is out and in sight for incoming messages, alerts, etc. It is also a great second (or third) dedicated screen, even if it is just monitoring Twitter or email. Some might say that’s a distraction, but I see it as keeping what I need or want to know in front of me.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

With iOS 11, I’m just starting to dig in to the productivity features, but really like what I see, especially for the iPad.

3D Touch on the iPhone is another of those features that you have to remember to use. Once you get in the habit, it is amazingly powerful.

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

I would set up a team to monitor the Mac media and help the product teams prioritize a list of items that need to be addressed - both bug features and feature requests or reinstatements. That would be a huge challenge since every single user thinks their way and their needs should come first. Still, there are often common issues that crop up that should make their way to the top of the list.

Thanks Chuck.

 

Home Screens - Peter Lewis

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This week’s home screen feature Peter Lewis, maker of Keyboard Maestro, which recently got a nice update, one of my favorite productivity apps on the Mac. Peter not only shared his home screen but also some of his favorite apps on both iOS and Mac. So Peter, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

BBEdit (forever!), PCalc and NetNewsWire 3 are always running, and Acorn and Interarchy are also mainstays. Mail and Xcode are always running too, but I wouldn't call either if them "favorites".

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Really Bad Chess on the iPad. That and chesstempo.com.

What app makes you most productive? 

Keyboard Maestro. Self-serving comment, sure, but other than Xcode, nothing is more important to my productivity.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Script Debugger. I'm not a particularly competent AppleScripter. I'm hopeful that Script Debugger will help improve that, but so far I've failed to get the most out of it.

What is the app you are still missing?

Not so much an app, but the whole home automation space seems almost entirely untapped in terms of potential. That said, I really don't understand people putting Internet connected microphones and cameras in their living rooms (or heaven forbid, their bedrooms!). But I'd definitely like to see some massive improvements in this space, and an iPad's size is probably a perfect fit for the controller.

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

iPad at night to play games. I use my iPhone sporadically but not for much, just for boring "Smart Phone" stuff like phone calls, Messages, and Maps.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I use Workflow, but only for a few trivial tasks, mostly just emailing myself notes. None of my iPhone widgets really get much use — since I work from home on my Mac, I generally have access to my Mac whenever I want to do something, and so I don't need to try to shoehorn myself into a 4" screen.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

My favorite new feature is the "remember where I parked", although I'm looking forward to speed limits and lane guidance when it eventually comes to Australia.

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

A massive increase on the primacy of software quality. There are just too many bugs shipping currently. I'd also like to see a re-focus on the Mac and accept the duality, and free up the iPad/iPhone to be what they are good at instead of making them so complicated that they lose the simplicity advantage they had.

Thanks Peter.

Home Screens – MacSparky's Strange Looking iPad

This week I’m featuring my own iOS 11 iPad home screen, partly because it’s so weird. Here it is. (Click to enlarge.)

The Gorilla on the Couch - That Crazy Dock

For a long time, I’ve kept all my apps on the home screen with everything not on the screen located in four folders. I’ve given those folders verb names, Make, Learn, Fix, and Play. Traditionally I opened apps from the home screen or one of those folders. I still do that on my iPhone.

To say I flipped out when Apple announced iOS 11 is an understatement. I installed beta 1 like a crazy man. One of my first observations about iOS 11 was that the dock is now much more important. It is prime real estate for apps, particularly if you like to use split screen multitasking. Unless you have your iPad connected to a keyboard, getting to apps to split the screen takes too many steps. At first I filled the dock with as many icons as it would accept but then they got too small and I use enough apps that I still didn’t have everything I regularly needed.

About halfway through the iOS 11 beta, I got the idea of putting all my apps on the dock. It started out as a sort-of joke so I could share screenshots of my iPad looking more like a Mac. The thing is though ... it worked for me. So now my home screen is empty and my dock has a few essentials, but also my Make, Learn, Fix, and Play folders. Opening the folder to get to a split screen app feels silly but is still way faster than getting to an app on the home screen.

All of my nerd-friends think I’m crazy but I’ve been pretty happy with this setup. I think the tipping point for this is people that use multitasking without a keyboard. If that’s you, give this a try for a week.

The other thing I did was to turn off Suggested and Recent Apps to the right of my dock. I found I wasn’t paying attention to those so a few weeks ago I toggled them off in the Dock preferences tab. I haven’t missed them.

Some of My Favorite Apps

I love so many Apps. For this post, I want to focus on a few that particularly shine in iOS 11:

Gladys

There was a lot of talk prior to iOS 11 about adding a “shelf” to iOS. Federico Viticci did a great job of showing the advantage of such an interface in his iOS 11 concept video. Apple didn’t add a shelf but with the drag and drop tools, they made it possible for third party app developers to, in essence, make a shelf. The idea behind a shelf is a temporary space on your iPad where you can store things for later use, like digital walnuts you’re burying for winter.

There are a lot of developers releasing shelf apps and I’ve been buying and trying these as they release. I don’t know what app will rise to the top of this space but my current favorite is Gladys. With this app, I can drop most kinds of media, text, and links as I collect them on a project and, using slide over, have them available for use elsewhere as I work on my iPad. This is such a key tool for multitasking that I’ve put Gladys in my dock despite how much I dislike the icon.

Fantastical

Of course the Fantastical team was early to drag and drop. Not only can you now drag and drop events and reminders inside Fantastical, you can also pull events out of Fantastical and drop them in other apps. Drag an appointment out of Fantastical into an email and it becomes an ICS file. Drag some text into Fantastical and it creates an event using the dropped text.

OmniFocus

Drag and drop OmniFocus has been a game changer for me. Every day I start out auditing my email on the iPad with Apple Mail on the left and OmniFocus on the right. Much dragging and dropping ensues. One of the nice things is the link-back created in OmniFocus for linked emails works on both Mac and iOS. I’ve already started production on some screencasts around OmniFocus and iOS 11. It will be a free update to the OmniFocus Video Field Guide and I’ll be releasing it in the next month (hopefully a few weeks).

1Password

This is another app that jumped into drag and drop with both feet. The new 1Password lets me drag passwords onto web forms and re-arrange fields internally.

I feel like this drag and drop thing is going to only get better as app developers feed off each other’s ideas.

My Current Guilty Pleasure

I'm spending a lot of time in iBooks lately. It’s not debugging one of my own iBooks but instead reading Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. A lot of Star Wars fiction is garbage. This is not.

A Small Change

If I were in charge at Apple, I would continue iterate on multitasking. One small change that I think could help would be to include Finder search at the top of the Control Center/Spaces screen. That’s accessible from a single swipe up from the bottom of the screen and would make it much easier to get to non-dock-based apps when multitasking.

My Wallpaper

Another advantage of putting everything in the dock is that I can use really nice wallpaper and see it all. Currently I'm using some concept art from the Disneyland Star Wars expansion. I change wallpapers often though.

 

Home Screens – Jason Tate

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This week's home screen post features Jason Tate (website)(Twitter). In addition to running Chorus.fm, Jason also hosts the Encore podcast, about the music industry. Jason's also an Apple geek. So Jason, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

The big three are Drafts, Launch Center Pro, and Omnifocus. Omnifocus helps me run my life, and it was thanks to your great video courses that I was able to tap into the power the app offers. Drafts has become almost indispensable for me when handling text on the iPhone. Whenever an idea hits me I instinctively open Drafts. I know that I can easily move the text to a better place (event, todo, note) after it's written out. And lastly, there's Launch Center Pro. Which is kind of a cheat, because I use it to tie-in with Workflow to perform a variety of different tasks and give me access to a bunch of things I want to get to quickly, but don't use enough to keep on the home screen. (E.g. 3D Touch to bring up fast access to the phone, settings, and different logging workflows I use.)

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Overcast and Tweetbot. They just feel like such staples in my life now that I don't know what I'd do without either. One for listening to podcasts, learning, being entertained, and one as a machine to check in on whatever fresh horrors are going on in the world at any given moment. (Also memes and @Darth photoshops.) 

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Probably the Music app. There's still some things that bother me about how it's designed, and I feel like I'm one of the weird ones that hasn't had many issues with Apple Music, but I do really like the app and service. Having access to my collection of music, anywhere, is something I've dreamt about since I was a kid. Now that it's here, I still sometimes can't believe how great it is. 

Beyond that? It would be Letterboxd. It's not on the home screen, but it's such a great little app to log what movies I've seen and see what other people are watching and enjoying. 

What app makes you most productive? 

Omnifocus, and there's not a particularly close second.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

Ulysses. I use it mostly as a way to access all of the text documents that are stored in the app or in Dropbox. It has a fantastic, and very fast, search. However, I know I'm just scratching the surface of what the app can do.

What is the app you are still missing?

It seems silly, but I just don't think there's a photo app that has been cracked yet in a way that works right for me. I've tried a variety of third party apps, and all the big ones from the regular players, and none of them seem to stick, or feel right, for handling, managing, and searching my photos. It's like all of them are close, but missing just enough to make it really work.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

From top to bottom: Dark Sky, to give a quick and easy look at what the current weather is and what's coming up. I live in Portland, OR, so knowing at a glance if I need to grab a coat with a hood when walking out the door is essential. Fantastical, so that I can get an overview of what events are on my calendar for the day. Streaks, which I use for a few select "habits" I'd like to maintain and track. Launch Center, where I just have quick links to Settings, Bluetooth, creating a Draft, and getting directions to a location. Then I have an ESPN widget to track my favorite sportsball teams and scores, and the batteries widget is at the bottom.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

At this point it's the incredible app ecosystem that continues to produce great apps that I think are second to none. There's a high bar for great software, and developers continue to impress me and release fantastic updates to apps that I don't think I could live without.

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

I think I'd work on a more robust backup and photo solution. iCloud Backups feel like a half measure to me, it's almost as good as I think everyone wants it to be. The goal would be: your phone could be thrown in a lake somewhere, and you could sign into a new one and all your stuff would be there without much work. You wouldn't need to worry about managing your backup "cloud space" and deciding when or what you want to backup. I think that's the direction they're moving in, but it's not in a place where I'd trust it completely. Especially with photos or other important documents.

What's your wallpaper and why?

My current wallpaper is a simple graph paper design. For the home screen wallpaper, I like something simple and non-distracting. I shift between enjoying a primary color with a "blur" effect on it, and these subtle lines. I've never been one for the completely solid color background, I want a little movement or structure to it, and this has felt like a good compromise. The lock screen is where I change up the photo more often, usually to whatever is striking my fancy on a particular month. It's currently Spider-Gwen.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Nope! Thanks so much for featuring my home screen and for the great podcast and blog. I'm on Twitter posting mostly about music @jason_tate, and doing the same over at chorus.fm.

Home Screens – Greg Scown

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Greg Scown (website)(Twitter) started his programming career at Apple but eventually made his way out of Cupertino and into his the Apple developer community. Greg is one of the owners of Smile Software and is, in addition to being a geek like us, a very nice man. So Greg, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

1Password, Fantastical, Overcast, and Slack are all long-term faves. Micro.blog is my new/trending favorite, and Tweetbot is a stalwart.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Threes, sound on.

What app makes you most productive? 

1Password.

What app do you know you're underutilizing?

OmniFocus.

What is the app you are still missing?

An app (or site) to search podcasts for appearances by a particular guest. Let's say I want to hear Daveed Diggs. I'd love something which could point me to his appearances on Fresh Air, Morning Edition, Hamilton fan podcasts, etc.

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

I constantly use my iPhone, especially when I'm away from my desk. I've recently taken to leaving the iPad open and sitting on my desk so that it can be a gentle reminder of when HootSuite notifications come in from Smile's Twitter accounts.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I'm not a Today View power user, so I mostly use it for Siri app suggestions.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

Beyond the fact that it's an amazingly powerful computer in my pocket, the likes of which was difficult to imagine just 15 years ago? I'd say the camera, in that having a camera in my pocket allows for spontaneous picture taking which I never did before the iPhone.

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

I'd liberate Newsstand and free the trapped New Yorker app.

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

Yes, and I crashed it trying to make a screen shot of my watch face. In fact, I can't seem to get it to make a screen shot. I use the Utility face with the battery life, activity, and timer complications. I use timers on the watch all the time when cooking. I particularly like them when I have company because they're discreet, so I don't have to interrupt conversations with buzzers or bells.

What's your wallpaper and why?

Sunset in Ixtapa, Mexico. It's one of my favorite places.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I generally feel that one is meant to learn something from a home screen post, and I'm not sure there's much to be gleaned from mine. Here's one thing, though. I put Settings in a prominent spot because I use it for a DIY dark mode so that I can read myself back to sleep if I wake up in the middle of the night.

Thanks, Greg. Also … thanks for giving me an excuse to link Daveed Diggs at MacSaprky.

Home Screens – Shirantha Beddage

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Last month we interviewed Apple Distinguished Educator, musician, and music teacher Shirantha Beddage (website) (Twitter) on Mac Power Users. Shirantha has released three jazz albums and is an excellent candidate for a Jazz Friday post here at MacSparky. Besides that, Shirantha’s enthusiasm for his music, his students, and using technology is infections. So Shirantha, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps? 

Oh, so many! On iPhone 7, I’m most frequently using Calendar, Maps (love the Apple Watch integration here!), Podcasts and Scanner Pro. Calendar and Maps are great for their clean interfaces and Watch integration. Scanner Pro has become an invaluable asset for capturing receipts on the go. As a small business owner (ie. musician), organization has always been a big challenge for me. I love the “workflow creator” in Scanner Pro, which helps me to capture my receipts as PDFs and send them into a Dropbox folder. These PDFs are then moved by Hazel into a Taxes folder on my home NAS server, which allows me to have everything in one place during tax season. Tempo Advance is my go-to metronome in a pinch, whether I’m dealing with simple music or complex polyrhythms. And I’m always firing up the Podcasts app, to stay up on my U.S. politics, true crime, and of course Mac Power Users. 

I use my 12.9’’ iPad Pro for teaching and practicing exclusively. I don’t have email or calendars set up on it, as this device was provided by my school. For teaching, GoodNotes has become my PowerPoint replacement for classroom presentations. The handwriting recognition is remarkable, and the TV-out features help to eliminate distractions on-screen.  For practicing, I use ForScore quite often. It’s a great all-in-one tool for reading PDF sheet music. I’ve been using it on live gigs as well, in situations where I’m more comfortable with my own mark-ups on the scores than the blank printed copies provided by the bandleader. 

Which app is your guilty pleasure? 

At the moment, I’m having a lot of fun with Clips. It’s great on my 12.9’’ iPad Pro. This past summer, my Apple Distinguished Educator colleagues showed me how to use Instagram filters, so I’ve been playing around with those a bit, too. In case you’re wondering, I look great as a koala bear.

What app makes you most productive? 

OmniFocus is the big winner here. On iPhone I use it for reference, or for inputting tasks via Siri, but I do the heavy lifting on my Mac. AirMail takes a close second prize. I love the snoozes, delayed replies, and integrations with other apps. AirMail helps me to stay fairly close to the coveted “zero inbox” (sweet bliss!).

What app do you know you're underutilizing? 

The Camera app. Probably Workflow, too.

What is the app you are still missing? 

I’m not sure I have a desire for any new apps at this point; I’m mostly thankful for the tools I have, and I’m trying to use them as best as I can. On the other hand, if there’s an app that could do the dishes…

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

I limit my iPad Pro to teaching and music practice, so my use varies from day to day.  My iPhone is most frequently used as an music / podcast player, and I try to limit my use of e-mail apps to 2-3 times daily. Even then, I try to do most of my e-mailing on my Mac, because of the screen real estate, TextExpander snippets, etc.  My texts and phone calls are usually handled on my Apple Watch. I check in with social media, briefly, once a day, maybe twice on my phone.

By nature, I think I’m an easily distracted person, so I have to constantly take steps to cultivate my focus in order to stay present in many facets of my life. The iPhone is a both a blessing and a curse for productivity, so I try and use it only as often as I need to. I turn off most notifications on my devices, and I take pleasure in powering down my phone or using Do Not Disturb mode when I can. I encourage my students to do the same, unless it’s absolutely necessary. 

What Today View widgets are you using and why? 

Calendar, Weather, OmniFocus, and Workflow, though I don’t use the Today view very much at all. 3D Touch seems to cover me most of the time.  

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad? 

Apple’s stance on privacy. The iPhone and iPad provide a great mix of utility and usability, while protecting the privacy of the customer. I realize that it must be an enormous challenge to tread this fine line, especially since privacy and security issues are evolving at such a rapid pace. 

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

I have no complaints whatsoever, and I’m excited to see the new surprises that Apple has in store for us in the coming months and years, but I’m the kind of person that enjoys “diving in” and spending the time to learn new technologies as they evolve. I’m also aware that not everyone feels the same way.  

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

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Yes! I use the Apple Watch more as a productivity / reminder aid than as an activity tracker. For that reason, I really like the Utility face on busy days; I can see the date, my next event, weather, Drafts, and Omnifocus. When I’m not so busy, I flip over to Timelapse face to avoid information overload. 

What's your wallpaper and why? 

Stock images mostly. I like simple wallpapers with minimal busyness.  Sand, calm waters, mountains, that sort of thing. Less distracting.  

Anything else you'd like to share? 

This was fun. Thank you!

Thank you Shirantha. Keep the jazz coming.

Home Screens – Gabe Weatherhead

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Gabe Weatherhead, author of the MacDrifter Blog, is one of my favorite writers on the Internet. He’s thoughtful and wicked-smart. Visiting Gabe’s website, you’re not only likely to find some bit of technology magic, you also may learn just a little more about Kurt Vonnegut. In addition to all of that, as a kid Gabe was an absolute badass. I remember that shirt. I wore mine out. Anyway … Gabe, show us your home screen.

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What are some of your favorite apps?

Well, I guess every app on my home screen earned that place so by that logic they are all my favorites. But if you want to know what apps I enjoy using the most, I’d say MyScript Nebo is the one that makes me feel like technology is catching up to my childhood dreams. The handwriting recognition is a small miracle. In that same vein, I really like sketching with Linea Sketch. It’s so close to writing on paper but with the feel of a whiteboard. I think visually and sometimes it helps to just doodle and draw some lines. Linea works well for that. It’s not as advanced as an app like like Procreate. or Tayasui Sketches but sometimes all of those extra tools are just cruft in the way of thinking.

Writing in Nebo. (Click to expand)

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I guess Slack since it’s mostly just for chit-chatting and memes. I don’t really feel guilty about it because my primary Slack group is a bunch of super smart people that are also pretty helpful.

I’m not really an iOS gamer. I enjoy Monument Valley but usually, iOS games leave me feeling uninterested after about 20 minutes. Strangely, I enjoy Wikipanion Plus for iPad with the Adventure Time, Wookiepedia, and Simpsons Wikias. I can spend an hour reading random pages.

Second to that would be my strange fascination with learning new knots using the Animated Knots by Grog HD or Knots 3D apps.

What app makes you most productive?

By design it’s OmniFocus, because that’s where I manage my project and task list. But, I really spend a ton of time in DEVONthink To Go. That’s where I keep pretty much every piece of information I might need for a task. The search performance is fantastic and it has one of the best share sheets for capturing from other apps. I know iOS 11 is bringing a new file manager, but I’m not sure if they can beat what I get with DEVONthink meta data and search.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Without a doubt, I could get more out of iThoughts if I really forced myself to use it the right way. Every time I noodle around in iThoughts I find something new or something I forgot it could do. It’s a pretty snazzy research tool but I always forget to start in iThoughts, which is the best way to capture with the app. There are so many excellent apps for iOS that it’s hard to keep to just one workflow and really learn it in depth and build routines. But there are dividends when I focus on one application and disregard existing habits.

What is the app you are still missing?

Call Recorder for podcasting. That’s not very relevant for most people but the sandboxing and lack of true multi-tasking prevents the iOS platform from doing some things I love on the Mac. Apps like Little Snitch, Keyboard Maestro, and Hazel are among my favorite applications on the Mac and they aren’t just missing on iOS, they are impossible. I also can’t say that I want Apple to open up iOS like the Mac, either. It’s the sandbox on iOS that makes it so safe. But, there are a lot of smart people at Apple. I like to think that this is a problem with a technical solution that doesn’t depend on share sheets and switching apps.

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

There are about 1,000 waking minutes in my average day. So let’s say about 1,000 times.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I like the Crisp Weather Widget and more recently CARROT Weather to keep up with the nutty weather in New England. Then there’s OmniFocus 2 and Fantastical 2 for iPhone for quick access to my agenda and task list.

I use the Copied widget a lot since that’s the closest thing to a mult-clipboard on iOS. I just pull down and activate the widget to keep gathering items into the Copied stack. Later, I can get to everything from any of my Apple devices.

I also really appreciate the Drafts! widget for its dictation option. I use that far more on my iPhone than on my iPad though. I probably use that feature once a day, just to take down a quick thought. I even dump some half-considered tasks in Drafts to avoid cluttering OmniFocus with things I haven’t thought through.

The Workflow widget is nice but I’ll be honest, I don’t want to depend on Workflow too much. I don’t think it will be around that long and there are so many routines that I had that were unrealistic without Workflow. It felt like dangerous territory to depend on one app that’s now owned (and barely updated) by Apple. I still use Workflow, but I’m trying not to build new dependencies on the App until I see Apple move it forward and make it an equal iOS citizen with Mail, Safari, and Calendar. If it remains as important as Clips then I don’t have confidence in its future.

Gabe's iPad (click to enlarge)

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

My single favorite feature is portability. I know I should say that the limitations make me more focused, but that’s not as true anymore. If I had true multi-tasking like on the Mac, I’d be more productive on iOS. But what wins the day is how easy it is to pick up my iPhone and just get something done. Easy in and easy out.

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

iOS 11 is on the right track, but they need to rethink how sandboxing works. I think it’s time to rebalance the safety controls with the modern needs of a computing device. As I mentioned above, most of what the iPad can not do is related to the guard-rails Apple has against inter-app communication and system level access. I don’t claim to be as smart as a team of Apple engineers. Those are some smart cookies. But they are working with user requirements that are nearly a decade old now. I bet that if they really focused on the problem that they could come up with a way to allow a user to exercise their own control and accept the risks of those decisions, without endangering the device or the network.

Do you have an Apple Watch?

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I wear an Apple Watch almost every day. I bet I’m not like a lot of daily users though. I wear it like I do a pocket knife. I have it with me because it’s nice in a few circumstances but most of the time I don’t need it. If I lost it, I probably wouldn’t replace it until the next revision.

I have two primary faces:

  1. The daily face that’s pretty ugly but really functional
  2. The distraction-free face that’s good for movies, bedtime, and when I don’t want to think about the outside world

What’s your wallpaper and why?

On my iPhone, I use the app WLPPR which has some terrific looking satellite images to use as wallpaper. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since 2016 and doesn’t support the iPad.

I highly recommend two David Lanham collections available for sale. There’s a collection of over 100 cartoons that I love so much I have a few framed. His photography bundle is also fantastic.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’ve considered myself a “Mac guy” for a very long time. Since the latest iPad Pro was released, I’ve tried to go iPad-only. It’s mostly been a success but when there are edge cases on iOS, they are pretty hard edges. No automation on iOS comes close to what can be done on the Mac. A lot of what I need to do is completely possible on iOS. Some of it is even easier with a dedicated app. This notion that there’s a competition between an iPad and MacBook is unreasonable. The iPad is not a Mac replacement for someone like me and it often requires ten times more work to get something done. My Mac is nowhere near as convenient and ever-ready as my iPad or iPhone. I wrote all of these words in Drafts on my iPad because it’s pretty handy. That doesn’t mean I don’t also love my Mac. They are two different things in my world but I use my iPad a heck of a lot more than my Mac.

Thanks Gabe!