Home Screens – Kathy Campbell

Kathy Campbell is the Internet’s very own Unicorn Sidekick, helping small businesses succeed in the confusing landscape of technology. So, Kathy, show us your home screens.

What is your wallpaper and why?

My lock screen is a photo I took of my amazing child, we did a photo shoot when I got a new camera to test out and this is one of my absolute favorites. I love the widgets on the lock screen, using the calendar and Timery (making sure the right timer is running) and also a reminder to get my steps in.

My wallpaper is the beautiful logo from my podcast Conduit over on Relay FM. It’s a show about productivity with my friend Jay Miller, but it’s productivity in real life. It also has a strong accountability community with our Conductors. I love our logo (and doing the show) so much!

What Widgets are you using and why?

I use my widgets so often! It is mainly my media launcher, but also a quick access portal for my battery check and Adding a Task. I use both Apple Music (for specific artists/albums) and Spotify (for playlists other people have made). It has my audiobook launcher (Libby is amazing for reading and listening to books) and also lets me launch Endel, which I use mainly for my evening routine and sleeping, but sometimes will also run it when I want something to listen to but don’t want to pick anything.

Main Home Screen Walkthrough:

Dock: I love the look of 3 icons. Phone is there because when I need to call someone, I need to call NOW. Overcast is my podcast app of choice. Instagram is my dose of joy in my day, checking up on what my friends are doing and getting inspiration when I need a micro break.

1st Page: Stack with Calendar and CARROT Weather with smart rotate on.

2nd Page: 

🌮🕹️ – food/delivery apps, plus entertainment apps

💥 – Apps that aren’t for business and get enough notifications/desire to utilize that I want them on the homepage.

🦄 – mostly messaging apps but also business-related items live here.

Safari – pretty obvious …

Small Stack – Fitness, Photos, Todoist Quick Add (also using smart rotate)

Other than these, I use Spotlight to get what I need.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

My Screen Time says I spend about 3 hours a day total. That usually ends up being when I’m out of the house and getting notifications, taking a walk with one of our dogs, or sitting on the couch during my separation between work and home life.

What app makes you most productive?

So many apps help keep me on task in the easiest way possible.

Timery: Time tracking is vital to my work, especially for the clients that are hourly. If I can’t produce a report of my monthly hours in my invoices, I can’t get paid! Timery makes it SO easy and useful and beautiful!

Calendar: Every day is run by my calendar. I tried using Fantastical for almost a year but the unreliability of the widgets showing me what was coming up meant I finally went back to just the native Calendar app. 

Messaging apps: Every part of my life requires messaging. I know most productivity gurus will tell you to leave things alone and reply at set times. My brain and my days don’t let that work. I try to take action almost immediately on things that come from my messaging apps. This bounces around between Messages, Slack, Discord, and Facebook Messenger. I very rarely do any truly deep work that requires shutting everything out and, actually, my ADHD brain is always context switching anyways so I might as well be productive with it!

For someone with a productivity podcast, you’ll notice I didn’t mention my task manager. I use Todoist, but mainly as a list of things I’d like to do in the future. Anything that has a due date gets added to my calendar to dedicate time to do it. Every morning, after I journal, I will do a light brain dump and transfer tasks into my Bullet Journal. By writing it down on paper, I am able to purposefully choose what I’m concentrating on during the day, especially since my tasks and projects are so variable with the work I do. I am constantly working with my clients and contractors and communicating changing priorities. This way works for my brain and makes it so I don’t forget or lose something (or have a million tasks that are overdue and make me completely shut down).

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

It’s not an app so much as Focus modes. I only have a Sleep Focus that shuts everything down except for the ability to allow my favorites to call. I am not sure the best way to use it yet, since I don’t use my phone a ton anyways, but it’s on my mind.

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

I finally upgraded my S5 watch this past year when the battery health dropped to 70% … it was time! I love having my watch (and not only because I can find my phone if I’ve put it down somewhere), but the notifications feature is critical. It allows me to quickly check if it’s something I need to do right now or attack it in the future when I’m actively doing something different.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I try to make sure everything I use on my phone is there for a reason. Even if I’m intentionally using my phone to decompress or dink around, it’s because I’ve given myself permission to do that.

I love doing these kinds of interviews because it allows me to think about what has changed since I last did one and I can do some changes/clean up!

Thanks, Kathy!

Home Screens – Author Chris Bailey

This week I’m featuring the home screen of my friend Chris Bailey. Chris is a best-selling author with books like The Productivity Project and Hyperfocus. Just this week Chris released his latest book, How To Calm Your Mind and it is his best yet. You may not know it, but Chris is also a Mac geek of the first order. So Chris, show us your home screen.

Chris's Home Screens
Chris’s Work and Personal Home Screens

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

I’ve gone all-in on Focus modes. I just have four of them: Personal, Work, Sleep, and Do Not Disturb. But I’m always in one of these modes, regardless of what I’m doing. My philosophy is that technology exists to support what we intend to accomplish, and I find Focus modes a nice expression of this idea. I hope Apple keeps investing in the feature over time. 

Another one of my favorite features with Focus modes is the ability to trigger automations by switching to them. I just have one of these: enabling grayscale mode on my iPhone when I switch to Work focus. This way the device is far less distracting—in grayscale mode I hardly want to use it at all!

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

This one’s easy: Uber Eats. It’s food! On demand! Whenever you want it! What’s better than that?

(Please send help. And Uber Eats gift cards..)

What is the app you are still missing?

TextEdit for iOS. I’ve been waiting for this text editor since it was first rumored, and have only grown to want it more over time.

Which apps makes you most productive? 

My favorite apps for productivity are simple ones that let me get in and out quickly, that also have a lot of power when I need it. 

  • Fantastical: My calendar of choice. The natural language event entry feature saves me an inordinate amount of time every week entering events across multiple calendars.
  • Timeular: My time-tracker of choice. I use this because of how physical it is: the product is an octahedron that you can flip to whatever activity you’re working on. The app then automatically tracks how long you spend on the activity that’s face up. I use this mostly on the Mac, but also use the iPhone app when not working out of the office. 
  • Simplenote: I use digital notetaking apps primarily to capture and then build on my thoughts. Simplenote is the best app I’ve found for this—and it’s incredibly simple, lightweight, and beautiful. The cross-platform syncing has also never let me down, unlike with every single other notes app I’ve tried. 
  • Things: My task manager of choice. (Though these days I’m managing my to-dos in a plain text file in Simplenote with a lot of success. If you can’t tell, I’m a plain text fanatic: it’s just me and my ideas.)
  • Insight Timer: My meditation app of choice. I like to work a bunch of meditation breaks into my day to keep my focus sharp. 

What’s your favorite app on iOS?

My favorite app on iOS is probably Locket. Locket is a homescreen widget that just displays a picture from someone you partner up with in the app (I use the app with my wife). Every day or so, we take a new photo that shows up on the other person’s homescreen widget (I have the widget on every homescreen page so I see it regardless of which focus mode I’m in).

I’m also a big fan of less techy apps that save me time in the analog world, like Instacart, Uber, and Find My. 

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Shortcuts for Mac. I know I can use this app more, but I’m so familiar with Keyboard Maestro on the Mac that I haven’t pulled the trigger on switching over. (Plus, until recently, the Mac version of Shortcuts has been super buggy.) I should probably get reacquainted with David’s fantastic Shortcuts Field Guides for some inspiration. 

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

I love this question (edit from future Chris: and loved how therapeutic it was to answer)! Here are a few ideas that come to mind:

  • I’d completely overhaul Apple Music. I find Apple Music an organizational mess, the app often still feels like a web wrapper, and my recommendations are all skewed because I listen to so much instrumental music as I work. I also find it very difficult to discover new music. The app needs a rethink. The only thing keeping me on Apple Music is my play counts, which I don’t want to lose by switching to Spotify. I know I’d discover more music I love if I switched to Spotify.
  • Siri on the HomePod. Our HomePod minis now answer around 70% of our queries correctly—and I promise that this is not an under or overestimation. Things seem to have gotten worse when we went from two HomePod minis to five.
  • I’d also change the company’s communication strategy on current products. I totally get why the company doesn’t want to talk about future products. But a lot of my frustrations with the company come from that when something is wrong, the company doesn’t acknowledge it. It’d be nice to hear something—anything!—even if it’s just couched legalese—about real problems that their customers have faced, like Siri frustrations, butterfly keyboard complaints, original HomePods that would randomly brick, and so on.

All that said, luckily the delights of being in Apple’s ecosystem far outweigh annoyances like these!

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

Here’s the face for my Personal focus mode on the watch! I’m a fan of the Metropolitan face (at least right now). The corner widgets, clockwise, are The Weather Network (which has the best Canadian weather data), Workouts, Activity, and Zero (an intermittent fasting app). It’s green because that’s the color of my watch band right now.

Thanks Chris, and congratulations on the new book.

Home Screens – Ian Byrd

Ian Byrd (Website) is a friend, an educator of educators, and a charming human overall. He’s also incredibly thoughtful in the way he handles his technology. So I asked him to share his home screen with us. So Ian, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

I’ve been off-and-on studying Japanese since college but never thought I’d be able to tackle the writing system. For the past couple of years, I’ve been using the service WaniKani and it has really worked! It’s basically fancy flashcards with hilarious mnemonics. I use the third-party app Tsurukame on my phone. It adds some very nice features. Highly recommended for folks who want to learn kanji. 

The Eufy app is great for checking in on our 4-year-old when he’s in his room but suddenly goes quiet. We were using a Ring camera, but the Eufy camera feed loads much faster since everything is stored locally.

AutoSleep is a great sleep-tracking tool that works with the Apple Watch. 

Libby is wonderful for finding and playing audiobooks from the library. I also use it to send ebooks to my Kindle. 

And I have a tiny shortcut that locates my wife so I don’t have to constantly text her for updates.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Here on the Oregon coast, we don’t have any of the big food delivery services, so we use a local version called Slurpalicious! I always feel guilty having food delivered – but the app’s name makes it even worse. 😆

What app makes you most productive? 

I work with school districts, which means I get paid with paper checks. I signed and deposited them all by hand for a while, but that became untenable as my business grew. So I use a mail service called Earth Class Mail. All of the checks go there, and they scan and deposit them for me. Their app makes it easy to keep track of it all. 

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I use Todoist for, well, to-dos. I’ve tried taking advantage of all of the features in the past, but can never keep up with all of that. So nowadays, I use it to surface must-do, time-sensitive tasks. 

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I have a shortcut to Notes so I can easily update a shared note that my wife and I use to track funny things our kid says. We are also awaiting new insulation in our attic, and things are very cold upstairs. So I’ve got a Wyze smart plug hooked up to a space heater in my office. There’s a widget that lets me quickly access that plug.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

As a parent, I’ll say that it’s the many ways that the iPhone lets us easily document and share our kid’s life. There’s no way we would have saved all of these quotes otherwise. And it’s fantastic to revisit all of the videos we’ve shot and remember what he sounded like. I also love that the photo widget surfaces old vacations or Christmas over the years. 

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

So, half of my Home Screen is that Photos widget, which I mostly love, but I’m often annoyed by the videos that appear in there. I click it, thinking it’s a photo, but then it turns into a slideshow with music and I can’t figure out how to just get to the photo. Give me a photos-only setting, Apple! I’d also like more control over which photos go in there – just my favorites or just certain people, for example. I’d also like to be able to manually advance the widget if I’m ready for something new. So, yes, as CEO my priority would be the Photos widget. 😆

Do you have an Apple Watch?

I do! I mostly use my Watch for tracking my activity and sleep. I changed my diet up recently, and it was amazing to see how that impacted my heart rate and sleep quality. It’s so nice to have that data on hand. But I probably interact with the Watch the most as a remote control for podcasts in Overcast while I’m walking around town.

Thanks Ian!

Jeff Richardson’s Home Screen

It’s been a while but Jeff Richardson is back to share his Home Screens. Jeff’s an attorney who not only writes the technology blog iPhone J.D., but also cohosts the podcast In The News. So, Jeff, show us your Home Screens.

How Are Are You Using Widgets on Your Home Screens?

The Home Screen on my iPhone changed substantially in the fall of 2020 when Apple added the ability to use widgets. A year later, Apple brought this feature to the iPad, where it had an even larger impact for me because my iPad Home Screen is now all widgets. I love having the information that I am likely to want displayed directly on my Home Screen. That way, I can see the important information at a glance without having to open up an app to see the information that I want.

The dock on my 12.9” iPad Pro can display 17 app icons that I select, plus three app icons for the three apps that I used most recently other than one of those 17. Most of the time, the app that I want to launch is one of those 20 apps, so there is no reason to devote any of the real estate on my first iPad Home Screen to app icons. Instead, the Home Screen of my iPad acts like a dynamic white board containing lots of key information.

My first column starts with a Fantastical widget so that I can see the next few items on my calendar.  Next, I have two widgets created by the fantastic CARROT Weather app, one that shows a radar and one with the weather forecast for the day and week. Finally, I have two Notes shortcuts that bring me specifically to two notes that I use all the time. For example, one of them contains the file numbers for each of the cases that I am working on in my practice, which is something that I refer to frequently for various reasons.

The top of my middle column features perhaps my favorite widget: the time. I created it using Widgetsmith, matching the widget to my background color so that it appears as if the time is just sitting on my Home Screen. I love being able to glance for just a fraction of a second at my Home Screen to see the time without having to squint to see the time at the top left of the screen. The next widget comes from PDF Expert, giving me a shortcut to go back to one of the last four documents that I viewed in PDF Expert. The final widget in this column is associated with Things, my task manager app. Thanks to this widget, I can glance at my Home Screen and see my most time-sensitive tasks without having to open up the Things app.

The top of my third column is the Photos “For You” widget. I have around 50,000 photos in my library, and I love how this widget changes frequently to show me a photo to bring back a memory. It is so much better than displaying a single, unchanging photograph in a frame on my desk! After that I have the “Today” widget from the Apple News app, and I love being able to see the top news headlines throughout the day.

On my iPhone, I only devote two 2×2 spaces to widgets because I also like having space for my most-used apps. On the top left, I have a stack of Fantastical and Things. I like how you can stack multiple widgets and see different widgets at different times of the day. On my iPad, I have enough space to give every widget I want its own location. But on the iPhone, stacking is useful. On the top right, I have a stack that includes the Photo widget and a CARROT Weather widget.

What Are Some of Your Favorite Apps?

I could probably rave for many paragraphs about each of the 20 apps on my iPad dock, but I’ll mention two. First, I don’t think I could live without 1Password. Of course, I use it for my passwords, but I also store a large number of other important and personal information in there.

When you last asked me to show off my Home Screen in 2013, I said that the one app that I was missing was Microsoft Word on my iPad. That app came out in 2014, and I still use it every day. Indeed, I have been using Word since 1988, when it was an essential program on my Mac Plus. I don’t do a lot of original writing in Word on my iPad in Word, but I frequently review and edit Word documents on my iPad.

On my iPhone, Overcast is one of my favorite apps. I love listening to podcasts, and Overcast does a fantastic job of fetching and organizing my podcasts. Plus, it has a great interface, and the Smart Speed and Voice Boost features improve the listening experience. Sometimes I use it with AirPods Pro, sometimes I use it with CarPlay, and sometimes I even just use the iPhone’s built-in speaker. But no matter how I listen to podcasts, Overcast works well.

What App Is Your Guilty Pleasure?

I enjoy playing Good Sudoku, an app that is not only fun but also teaches you how to be a better player. I purchased it soon after it first came out, but there is now a version that is part of Apple Arcade for those who subscribe to that service. It is my “guilty” pleasure because I often find that it has sucked 30 minutes of my time that I suppose I could have devoted to doing something more productive. That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy playing Wordle in Safari every day; it is fun, but doesn’t take much time.

What App Makes You the Most Productive

It’s a tie between two apps. I work with a lot of documents in my law practice, which tend to be in PDF format, and Readdle’s PDF Expert is my app of choice for reading and annotating those documents. I also take a lot of handwritten notes as I am doing legal research, preparing for an oral argument, meeting with a witness, attending a meeting, etc., and the GoodNotes app works incredibly well with an Apple Pencil.

What App Do You Know You’re Underutilizing?

Things. My wife uses that app extensively, and she has lots of different types of lists, tasks associated with dates, etc. But I just have a single list of to-do items, with no dates attached to them. I like that I can drag a task closer to the top if it is more important. 

What Is Your Favorite Feature of the Iphone?

I love that my iPhone can keep track of virtually all of the information that is important to me so that I don’t have to waste time trying to remember things. Almost every name, number, date, etc. that I need is likely in there somewhere. That way I can devote my brain power to other things, like coming up with creative solutions for clients in my law practice or just enjoying life when I’m not working. 

Indeed, one of the single most useful features of my iPhone and Apple Watch is that I can tell it to remind me of something at a specific time or when I’m in a specific place. That way, I don’t have to fret about trying to remember something, and when I actually need to be reminded of it, the Reminders app lives up to its name.

If You Were in Charge at Apple, What Would You Add or Change?

I wish that the iPad would more quickly add more advanced features so that it could replace a laptop even more. I recognize the difficulty of adding power while maintaining ease of use, but today’s iPad is much more sophisticated than the original iPad of 2010 while still being easy to use, so it is definitely possible to do both. I just wish Apple would do it more quickly.

Thanks, Jeff. 

Home Screens — Joe Moyer

Joe Moyer is writing some great stuff over at his blog, 24 Letters. That name comes from an Athenodorus quote, “Whenever you feel yourself getting angry, Caesar, don’t say or do anything until you’ve repeated the 24 letters of the alphabet to yourself.” Of course Joe and I get along great! So, Joe, show us your home screens.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Craft has become my favorite app. I use it every day on all of my devices, and it’s a big part of how I keep track of what’s going on.

Readwise is another favorite that I interact with a lot. I post quotes weekly on the blog and have just started an Instagram account. I like starting my morning with the highlights email because it can help inspire new ideas and positively shape the day.

CARROT Weather is a favorite too. It’s so useful and such a thoughtfully designed and customizable app. It has a prominent spot on my iPad and iPhone, and I often check it. 

I listen to a lot of podcasts, so I’m in Overcast often. I like the redesign a lot. It was an improvement without changing how I use and enjoy the app.

I use Day One to write a daily gratitude entry. I created a simple prompt and have a Shortcut set on my devices and my newly acquired Stream Deck. I also do deeper reflection in a separate journal, and I enjoy having separate spaces for the different types of writing. 

For task management, my favorite is Todoist. I’ve been a subscriber for several years. I like the Kanban board style view to track larger projects and used it at my most recent corporate job to track the performance reviews I was responsible for every year. I like the natural language processing and the ease of use. It feels lightweight yet comprehensive.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Instagram. I enjoy staying connected with friends and family and following creative people on the platform for inspiration. I recently created an account for the blog at https://www.instagram.com/24lettersnet/to experiment and see how I can be creative in a different medium.

What app makes you most productive?

Craft is where I go to be productive. I organize the blog and elements of my personal and family life and find that it’s a joy to use and helps me stay on track with projects. I do my monthly and quarterly reviews in it as well.

I created a dashboard in Craft where I manage everything and have a shortcut on the Home Screen of both my iPad and iPhone. It’s constructive to see things at a glance.

Craft is a beautiful app, too, so that helps!

My runner-up is Ulysses. I’m using that to write the blog entries, and I like how clean the interface is. I can jump right into writing without distraction.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Shortcuts! I’ve created a few simple shortcuts on my Home Screen, like opening a specific MindNode project or opening my daily gratitude journal in Day One. I like how it improves my focus and gets me to where I want to be quickly.

I’m deeply interested in focus and productivity and look forward to exploring Shortcuts more actively in the future!

What is the app you are still missing?

I still don’t have a great calendar app that I love. I’m going to explore Fantastical in the future. Right now, my “day job” is as a stay-at-home dad, so my schedule is rarely my own anyway!

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

I’m on my iPhone a lot because I use it for everything from tracking my toddler’s daycare and my infant’s feeding and nap schedule, to organizing tasks and lists, messaging, and working on projects.

I am on my iPad several times a day as well. I use it as a tool for consumption, review, and idea creation. I watch content from YouTube and the big streaming services, read books on Kindle or news on the NYTimes app, or check in on my dashboard in Craft. I also like to do my monthly and quarterly reviews on the iPad.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I keep my Today View pretty simple, with my battery status on the top left, the month view of my calendar on the top right, and below that the productivity widget from Todoist because it’s fun to see my stats. I also keep my screen time widget here to see where my attention and efforts are going.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

On iPad, split-screen went from something that I struggled to remember how to use effectively to something that I use all the time. Apple fixed that so successfully.

My favorite feature on the iPhone is Focus. I know it’s not exclusively on iOS, but that’s where I find it to be most helpful. I wrote on 24 Letters about how it helps me stay on track with my sleeping (despite a four-month-old baby’s best efforts not to sleep!).

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

I’d provide more than 5 gigabytes of iCloud storage when someone buys a new iPhone. It’s just not enough!

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

I have an Apple Watch Series 5 that I love. My complications include Messages, Activity, CARROT, and Todoist. I regularly use dictation to compose messages, and that’s even more helpful and necessary after a recent wrist injury.

I use the California face during the active part of my day and have an automation to change to the Simple face in the evenings. I got the idea from an MPU episode, and I do this to help shift the context from the busy task-filled days to a more gentle data set for evenings and overnights.

On the Simple face, I have the alarm, sunrise/sunset, CARROT, and mindfulness complications.

My Apple Watch is several generations behind now, so I’m interested in what the Series 8 will look like.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I’ve been using the Aqueux wallpapers on my iPhone and iPad for a while now. The iPad Lock Screen often has a recent family photo, but I prefer to keep the home screens simple to avoid visual distraction.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’ve taken advantage of widgets and stacks, particularly on my iPhone. Apple Music and Overcast share a small stack, and Todoist, Calendars, and Photos share another.

CARROT gets its own medium widget space just because there’s so much data that I want at a glance. As I write this, it’s 62°, and yet there’s a winter storm watch for the coming days. Massachusetts weather is a mystery!

I keep things more straightforward on my iPad. I want to be able to unlock it and jump right in, whether it’s for creating or relaxation.

Finally, I want to say how much I enjoy this community. I’ve been a Mac user for almost 20 years and have followed MPU and many Relay FM podcasts for years. The MPU forum is practically a daily visit for me, and the positivity, kindness, and support that everyone gives each other is refreshing and welcome. I’m excited to share my voice as well, both on the forum and on my blog

Thanks, Joe!

Jim Eagar’s Home Screen

This week’s Home Screens features Jim Eagar. Jim is a retired US Air Force Reserve, JAG (and Chaplain before that), as well as a retired estate planning attorney. Jim is also a first order Mac Geek with his website at OriginalMacGuy.com. So Jim, show us your Home Screens.

What are some of your favorite apps?

MindNode is foundational to every project I work on. I use it to mind map negatives, positives, and other factors when I have a big decision to make. I mind map presentations that I make to my local community Apple group before putting together my Keynote and screencasts.

Unless it’s a simple post, I mind map the content and structure of blog posts before I write them. If a blog I’m working on requires some research, I’ll often insert an article name, author, link, and quotation directly into the appropriate node in MindNode, then transfer the info to Ulysses if I decide to use it when writing. I typically write blog posts with half of my screen showing Ulysses, and half showing MindNode. The one and only simple shortcut I’ve designed arranges these two apps in that configuration.

For my roles-based productivity system, I keep a list of my roles, ideal descriptions, answers to my “tough questions” and action steps in a large mind map. I use this when I go on 6-month retreats away from home to work on my roles system.

The graphical presentation of MindNode works much better for me to organize my thoughts than using a traditional outline. I can visualize my thinking and see connections between sections, and drag and rearrange with ease. I can see where there are gaps that need additional research or thinking to fill in. MindNode saves me hours in rewriting and helps me to produce much better blog posts, screencasts, and Keynote presentations.

Drafts is another primary app for me. Almost everything starts in Drafts. It’s my initial writing app for thoughts I’m not ready to put into my formal write-edit-publish process. I also use it to quick-capture ideas I have on the go (with the app on my Apple Watch).

I maintain an updated list of ideas for blog posts. Furthermore, I keep a few items I want to have instant access to — things like Kourosh’s task words, my updated roles descriptions, and Alfred keyboard shortcuts.

I have a template in Drafts that generates my weekly review. It includes my role descriptions and ideals, a “checklist” series of questions I intend to ask myself each week, and app locations I want to check each week.

I use Alfred constantly to open apps and find files and folders. Since my original 128K Mac, I’ve been in the habit of clicking on app icons, but this past year I’ve been transitioning to mostly using Alfred.

Another feature I use multiple times a day in Alfred is the clipboard history. When I’m researching for a blog post, I can copy the names of articles, links, author’s names, and quotations without constantly having to jump back and forth between my source and the app I’m writing in.

Things is my task manager of choice. I tried OmniFocus , but found it too complicated and fiddly for my simple needs.

I use Things to keep track of all of my tasks that don’t go on a calendar, including projects. I also maintain checklists for routine activities, such as actions I take when I post to a blog. I have recurring tasks for everything that I do on a recurring basis, including household chores, medication refills, and weekly reviews.

I love the simple, beautiful look of Things. To me, aesthetics are important, and I like beauty in as many technology spaces as I can have it.

I use Feedly several times a day to read RSS feeds from blogs in the areas I keep up with. I’m aware that Reeder is the cool app, but I never cared for its layout and prefer the layout of Feedly. I find it easier to use. It still amazes me that I can let one app gather posts from blogs scattered throughout the internet, and I can sit down and read them all in one convenient location.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I use Facebook to stay in touch with some long-distance acquaintances and to keep up with many hobby area groups (backpacking the Arizona Trail, WWII strategic gaming, and WWII history) that only have Facebook pages. I also use my account to advertise my two blogs and often post reading highlights from Readwise. I limit my review of Facebook to 5-10 minute time blocks once a day.

What app makes you most productive?

For mental creative work, it’s MindNode. It’s in MindNode that my blog post ideas and other projects take form. I typically start with a single thought or topic, then expand it into related sub-topics, then flesh those out. In MindNode I create what my writing or project will look like, and the logical and research steps I need to go through to complete it in concept.

For actual production work, I’d have to say Ulysses. I do almost all of my writing in Markdown in Ulysses. I have folders to keep track of the things I’m writing, from initial draft to publishing. At a glance, I know what I’m getting ready to write, writing, editing, waiting to publish, and have published.

When I’m ready to publish a blog post, I can post it to the appropriate WordPress site directly from within Ulysses. It transfers links, inline images, and a featured image for the post. I can also update it in Ulysses, but I typically do the final review and editing in WordPress.

In addition to using the free version of Grammarly, I also use the proofreader and editing assistant built into Ulysses. I find it’s very helpful and improves my writing.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

DEVONthink. Presently, I’m using it for the storage of PDFs, photos, mind maps, and whatever other types of documents I want to keep. I extensively use the web clipping function and sometimes change document formats in it. But I know there are a ton of other things I could be using DEVONthink for. It’s an extremely feature-rich app.

I have David’s DEVONthink Field Guide which is an excellent resource but haven’t worked all the way through it yet. And half of what I did work through, I quickly forget because I don’t implement it regularly.

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

I use my iPad probably 5-15 times a day, sometimes more. I start out with my 11” iPad Pro and a cup of coffee on the sofa in the early morning for my morning routine (which is app-based). In addition, I use it many times each day to enter items into my daily food tracker, FoodNoms, look up things in Safari, check my task manager, and mark off completed tasks.

My iPad is my comfortable go-to device for reading and initial photo editing and viewing. I also use it to sketch out initial mind maps on MindNode and journal in Day One.

I don’t use my iPhone 13 Pro much when I’m home. The font size is too small for my older eyes to do much productive work with it. I use it for telephone calls, but I don’t like talking on the phone and avoid it if possible.

I use Messages and Apple Mail when I’m out and about and need to respond to something. When I go grocery shopping, I use checklists I’ve built in Apple Notes. I use Apple Maps to give me directions anytime I’m traveling somewhere that I’m not familiar with.

Ironically, I get the most use out of my iPhone when I’m on a backpacking trip with no cell service. When doing a section hike on the Arizona Trail, I use a map app called FarOut. This gives me contour maps and shows me my location on the trail (or, sometimes, off it!). I use the MapMate app to connect by Bluetooth to my Garmin InReach Mini satellite communicator to send texts and emails when cell service isn’t available. All during the day while hiking, I’m typically taking landscape photos and videos with the iPhone’s excellent camera. In the evening, I increase the font size in Kindle to read books and perhaps listen to some downloaded music.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

My favorite feature of the iPad is the ability to design custom Home Screens. I didn’t even know that was possible until Focus Mode came out this past year, and I discovered the ability to make different Home Screens for different Focus Modes.

I use custom Home Screens for three purposes: 1) My morning routine screen, which is made up of apps and widgets, 2) My reading screen, and 3) My exercise Home Screen.

I have a custom Home Screen for the morning routine I follow every day. I recently wrote a post describing my morning routine process, “A Morning Routine that Works – An App-Based Approach.”

I use a series of ten apps to complete my morning routine. This was not something I intentionally planned, but developed over time. These include widgets for CARROT Weather, Things task manager, and Fantastical calendar. I use app icons for Day One, Feedly, Readwise, Babbel and Duolingo (learning Spanish), FoodNoms, and meditation with Insight Timer. Using apps for each function makes my morning routine visual and easy to follow (just follow the trail of apps), and increases the probability that I will actually do what I intend to do.

My reading Home Screen contains the widgets for CARROT Weather, Things, Fantastical, and Amazon Kindle. I also include the app icons for Apple Books, OverDrive (library loans), and Apple Music for background music if desired.

My exercise custom home page includes the Overcast podcast widget, the Apple Fitness widget, the Stocard app (a wallet app that includes my scannable membership card for the recreation center), and the Apple Music app. My exercise focus mode activates when I arrive at the recreation center and automatically shows my exercise Home Screen, so everything I need is waiting for me.

Over time, I’ve found that my morning routine Home Screen is the screen I use all day unless I’m reading. If I want to use an app, not on the screen, I just swipe down to open the search bar and type in the name of the app I want.

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

My wife and I have had Apple Watches since they first came out. We ordered ours when they were made available, and received them in the first shipment. We’ve loved them ever since! We’ve upgraded a couple of times and now have version 7. One of the times we upgraded was when they came out with automatic fall detection. We were in our 60s, and that sounded like something we might potentially benefit from! (Remember those “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials?)

I’ve used the Infograph Modular watch face since the beginning. I’ve tried a few of the other watch faces, but always wind up returning to it. It’s not the most stylish, but it is the most functional and easy to read. From the upper left to the bottom left, I have the workout complication, the day, and date, the time, my calendar, the Drafts complication, the weather, and the timer.

The Drafts complication is of special note. When I tap on it, it opens, and I can tap on the microphone option when I’m ready to begin dictating. It syncs almost immediately to all of my devices.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

On my Lock Screen on my iPad, I use the multi-colored “Hello” wallpaper in black by BasicAppleGuy. I use it because it makes me happy to be greeted with that classic Mac look when I open my iPad! For my Home Screen, I use the dark blue swirl pattern from Apple that debuted with the iPad Air 5. It’s colorful and interesting, but doesn’t overpower the app icons.

I use the same wallpaper on my Lock Screen and Home Screen on my iPhone. It’s the Blue-Green-Grey wallpaper that comes as a wallpaper option with the iPhone 13 Pro. I use it because it has darker, subtle tones and doesn’t make it hard to pick out apps.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’ve been aware of some productivity books like Getting Things Done for about ten years, and I’ve been an Apple fan since my original 128K Mac in 1984. But it’s only been in the last six years that I’ve spent much more time learning about how to productively use apps, and the whole area of productivity.

For me, the most important material I have encountered that has built the foundation and continues to inform my productivity system is David’s roles-based approach.

If you’d like more information about my system, I’ve recently written a blog article, “How a Roles-Based Productivity System Brought Clarity and Purpose to my Life in Retirement.” I’m sure it’s not for everybody, but it’s made a huge difference in my life and my productivity system.

Thanks, Jim!

Home Screens — Eric Welander

Allow me to introduce you to Eric Welander. (@ericwelander on Twitter.) Eric loves Apple smart home tech, which you can watch here, and earns his coin by building iOS apps. So, Eric, show us your Home Screens.

What are some of your favorite apps?

I don’t know where my life would be without Drafts. I use it to quickly capture ideas I have, either on my phone or on my Apple Watch. Then I have an action to send them to Obsidian, or I copy-paste them to the proper project in Notion.

I love Reeder for staying up to date on Apple and tech news. The design is subtle and absolutely stunning. I connect Reeder with Feedbin where I have RSS feeds and email newsletters. As a YouTuber, I also use Feedbin to watch when certain channels post new videos. I find this chronological timeline easier and more passive than YouTube’s systems for not missing a video from my favorite creators. Getting to the videos over in the YouTube app is a few extra taps, but that’s not Reeder’s fault.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Instagram. I love following all kinds of interior design and luxury home builders on Instagram. It’s an extension of my love of smart home tech that I talk about on YouTube. That said, as a part-time creator, I’m terrible about sharing on Instagram as much as I probably “should”. YouTube and Twitter are more my cup of tea for that. One fancy home-related account that’s a great follow on Instagram is Mike Kelley (@mpkelley_).

What app makes you most productive?

Todoist. I’ve been using Todoist as my task manager since I moved over from Things in 2019. The biggest change that took it to another level for me was separating project and task management. Todoist is full of chores and things I have to do. Notion (previously Trello) is where I manage my projects and related tasks that move the needle. While Todoist isn’t the most beautiful task manager, the natural language processing for task entry and their web API make it too easy to keep using. And because I have this separation of chores and project related tasks, I can easily chuck one or the other (or both!?) out the window.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Matter. I recently switched from Instapaper to Matter for read-it-later content. I’m just barely scratching the surface of what Matter can do. I still need to set up highlight syncing with Obsidian, like I have with Instapaper. Beyond that, the stuff that Federico Viticci is doing with Matter over on MacStories is mind-blowing.

What is the app you are still missing?

I love using Obsidian for notes, but the iPhone version is clunky and difficult to use. I would love a much faster look into my Obsidian database and ways to add thoughts on the go. Right now, that is Drafts for me. Drafts is great, but it’s a one-way street where I’m not able to connect ideas with other Obsidian notes.

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

According to Screen Time, I pick up my iPhone around 42 times a day.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

A lot of my widgets in the Today View are pretty standard, but I want to call out David Smith’s Sleep++ Sleep Goal widget. This is a great way to know how much energy I will probably have for a day, to help know how much I can actually take on. I usually have to tap the widget and open the app to get it to update, but that’s fine with me and probably not David’s fault.

I also like using favorites in Notion and the corresponding widget for quick access to my dashboard and to show projects I’m actively working on for my content creation. As I film B-roll, I will jump into Notion on my phone to check off shots I need to get.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

Apple’s cameras are so good these days and frequently praised, but their screens are quickly becoming just as amazing. The screen on my iPhone 13 Pro Max is absolutely gorgeous, and it makes content I’m looking at really pop.

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

I would tell the iPad team to make a battery-less entry-level iPad you could hang on the wall in your home. I would also assemble a software team to make a homeOS for this product with HomeKit controls. I would also want it so that members of an iCloud family could share eligible, custom iOS widgets to remain on the display. Apple would probably need to build a way developers could make certain widgets eligible for Family Sharing, but I’m sure they would pull it off in a secure system. Oh, and go ahead and ship Family Sharing for photo libraries too … please and thank you!

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

I’ve never been fully satisfied with my Apple Watch face. The California face seems to land the best compromise of data and style, I just wish there were more options for customizing the actual watch dial. I sleep with my watch on and use it as a silent alarm in the morning.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I can’t find the link, but my wallpaper is an image I found around the launch of the Apple Tower Theatre store in Los Angeles in June 2021. I cropped the photo and turned it monochrome to be a subtle backdrop. I’ve had it on my phone since then, and I really like it. My Lock Screen is usually a family photo.

Thanks, Eric!

Home Screens — Jonathan Buys


Jonathan Buys.jpg

Jonathan Buys (website) shares his Home Screens this week. So, Jonathan, show us your Home Screens.


iPhone Home Screen.jpeg

What are some of your favorite apps?

I’m a big fan of the classics. BBEdit is my text editor of choice, I’m subscribed to 192 blogs in NetNewsWire, all my passwords are stored in 1Password, and OmniFocus keeps the madness at bay. I use third-party apps when the first-party apps from Apple don’t cut it, but the truth is that a lot of time the Apple apps do everything I need. Safari, Mail, Calendar, and Notes are daily drivers, I listen to music through the Music app, read PDFs in Preview, keep in touch with friends and family with Messages, and get my work done in Terminal.

When writing, I also use the built-in Dictionary app with a copy of Webster’s Unabridged 1913 dictionary. The language of the definitions are a work of art.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Probably Apple News. I try to limit my access to bottomless pits with endless timelines I can scroll, but since I’m subscribed to Apple News+ I still get lost in there from time to time.

What app makes you most productive? 

Without a doubt that’s got to be OmniFocus. I’ve been using it for so long now it just fits with the way my brain works. I’ve tried a few other apps over the years, but only OmniFocus gives me both defer dates and due dates for tasks. I assign due dates to things that have to be done on a particular day, like taking the trash to the curb, but I use defer dates for things that I have the option to work on that day. I was a GTD proponent before OmniFocus, but the OmniFocus Field Guide was instrumental in helping me integrate OmniFocus into my life.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Without a doubt that’d have to be Shortcuts for iOS and soon to be for the Mac as well. I’m not sure if I have much use for it on my iPhone, but since it’s coming to my Mac soon I’m putting in an effort to learn it now.

What is the app you are still missing?

A really great Jekyll blogging app. What I’d love would be something like MarsEdit for GitHub Pages. I’ve thought a lot about building it myself, but there’s only so many hours in the day, and only so many of those that I want to spend in front of a computer and not outside.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone?

Too many! I try to keep my iPhone configured to be a tool and not an entertainment device. From time to time I’ll play a game on it, but for the most part my iPhone is my device for finding information, keeping in touch, and keeping me on track with my personal, professional, and health goals.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?



I actually had to swipe over to check and see what I had on the Today view. Looks like I use the default Smart Stack, the battery use widget, a Notes note(?) that I update occasionally when it makes sense, and the Screen Time widget to keep track of what I’m actually spending my time on.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

My favorite thing about my iPhone is how I can get to the information I need anytime, straight away. If I want to check the balance of a bank account, that’s a tap and a login with Face ID. If I’m at the hardware store and I need to know the exact model number of my weed eater, that’s in DEVONthink To Go. If we are out browsing at the furniture store and my wife points out a set she likes, I’ll snap a photo and save it in Notes. It’s an information super machine.

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

I wrote an article for my blog a few years ago about some changes I’d like to see made to macOS to make it more of a workhorse for knowledge workers. I’d like Siri to find related documents to what I’m looking at or have selected and have that available at a swipe in Notification Center. I’d like Siri to not only find documents for me, but file and name documents for me intelligently. Finally, I’d like iCloud Drive to encrypt everything end-to-end so I could finally use it without having to worry about sensitive company information leaking in what could possibly be career adverse ways!

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



My wife bought me a Series 3 a few years ago and I’ve been wearing it every day since. I mostly use it for fitness tracking, keeping an eye on the weather, and, you know, telling time. I also enjoy how it unlocks my iMac for me 😀. I’ve got my eye on what Apple releases for the Series 7 in the Fall though, I increasingly want the always on screen in the Series 6.

What’s your wallpaper and why?


On my Mac it’s the default Big Sur wallpaper. I like how bright and colorful it is. On my iPhone it’s a photo of some leaves I took in the Fall a few years back, reminds me that this summer heat won’t last forever!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Following Apple and being part of the community has been a fun hobby and a constant source of joy in my life for years. The things we get into here are of small consequence in the grand scheme of things … but it is fun, and I think that fun is enough. The developersdesignerswriterspodcasters, and creators of all kinds that come together to build and share the joy of a near future that we can almost see is something we don’t have enough of. Inside this community, every now and then we get a glimpse of the future, some amazing piece of tech or beautiful new design that inspires hope. The kind of hope that just breathes optimism into us all to consider that maybe we really can build a better tomorrow.

Thanks, Jonathan!

Home Screens — Jarrod Blundy


Jarrod Blundy (website) (Twitter) is sharing his home screens this week. He’s a pretty cool guy who has come up with some pretty nifty workflows. So, Jarrod, show us your Home Screens.

What are some of your favorite apps?

If I had to pick the Top Four apps that I’m in and out of every day, and that I love to use, it would be Reeder, Overcast, Things, and Drafts.

Reeder and Overcast are both for entertainment, and how I keep up on the news from my interests (technology, outdoor adventure, philosophy). I check my RSS feed in Reeder like other people check their social media and always have a healthy reading queue saved up (though I’d prefer to whittle that down — there’s just so much good stuff out there!). I used to use Pocket and Instapaper for saving articles, but Reeder’s built-in Read Later bucket, which syncs via iCloud, has met my needs well over a year now.

When I’m driving, doing dishes, laundry, or anytime I don’t need to focus too closely on the task at hand, I’ve usually got a podcast playing in my ears. While the playful design of other podcast apps, like Castro, have me giving some side-eye, I don’t think I could ever leave Overcast. The quality is too good, and it’s congruent with how my brain thinks podcasts should work. There, too, I’ve got more episodes lined up than I could listen to. That’s why my “Don’t Miss” smart playlist is where I turn first each day, and where Mac Power Users is surfaced as my Sunday cleaning podcast.

To-do items that are started in Drafts get sent to Things (there are many excellent actions to get them there), which is where all my projects live. I’ve tried all the task management apps — all of them — and Things has just enough complexity between Areas, Projects, and Tags to keep me organized without spending all my time fiddling around. It’s also the most beautiful.

I’ve worked hard over the past few years to get to-dos out of my head, and the combination of Drafts and Things has been vital. They also have great widgets, which I use on my iPhone and iPad to stay on-task with just a glance.



Layout:

On my first page, I’ve got “app pairs” between the Dock and just above it. Message/Phone, Safari/Spark, Things/Reminders, and Drafts/Notes just make sense in my head, and that’s where they’ve been for years.

The second page is for quickly dipping into entertainment and social media. I’ve got a stack of sound-related widgets above the apps. The main one you see in the screenshot is from Soor, and it lets you bookmark your most-used playlists, radio stations, and albums for easy access. I use two shortcuts as icons (TV Menu and YouTube) to get specific places in apps and the other apps on that page. Everything else is in the App Library.

Honorable Mentions:

iA Writer – A simple, beautiful, and powerful text editor for fleshing out ideas and writing longer pieces (like this one).

Spark – Again, I’ve tried all the big players in the email — most recently Big Mail — but I keep coming back to Spark. I don’t rely on a complicated folder structure, so the faster I can review mail and archive it, the better, and Spark has consistently been the best. It’s got a few power-user features like email templates, quick replies, and integration with Things, which I use regularly.

Swift Playgrounds – One of my newest hobbies is learning to code. There are many great resources and apps out there, but Playgrounds is where I’ve started. It turns out that turning lessons into games works for adults too, and I’ve been having a ton of fun learning to “speak” to a computer using code.

TV Forecast – This app helps me keep track of where I am in the seasons of TV I’m watching and stay updated on upcoming episodes. It integrates with the Trakt.tv service, and dispenses of extra features to deliver a straightforward and pleasing experience. Letterboxd is similar, but is for movies and isn’t quite as simplified.

Experiments:

Scan Thing – After Scannable by Evernote showed signs of neglect, I searched for an app that used the native document scanner and got me from scan to share as quickly as possible. Scan Thing does that and as a bonus has neat object scanning and text scanning (à la Text Sniper or Live Text).

Weather Strip – I’ve been a Dark Sky user for years and years, but I dabble with other weather apps too. Weather Strip is new to me and has one of the most intuitive ways of visualizing upcoming weather that I’ve ever seen. It’s like Weather Line but shows temperature, cloudiness, precipitation chance, and more all on the same graph. It’s got a generous one-month free trial and an inexpensive subscription after that. My only wish is for some alternative app icons.

All Trails – It’s not featured on my Home Screen, but I’ve been getting a lot of joy out of this app which highlights local hiking and biking trails. You can search anywhere in the world, and since many of the trails are crowdsourced, you’re able to find routes that you might not see on a local map.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

If I go off my Screen Time data, it’s got to be a tie between Twitter and YouTube, but for very different reasons. Like my RSS feed in Reeder, I’ve got a growing list of YouTube channels that keep me entertained and learning. Signing up for YouTube Premium was a worthwhile investment since it cuts out so much time wasted watching or trying to skip ads, and I can keep my Watch Later playlist downloaded on my iPad for catching up anytime and anywhere.

My Twitter usage has drastically ramped up since WWDC last month. So many great new OS tidbits were shared there that it’s pulled me back in. I’ve been fortunate that my feed is still mostly filled with joy, and I’m not afraid to unfollow if someone gets too negative. Despite Twitter playing around with third-party API access, I think it’s neat that Twitter (the service) can still be a design playground for developers. I’ve been trying out Tweetbot and Aviary, which are both opinionated and both great. And, I’ll say it, the algorithmic timeline in the official Twitter app is perfect for quickly catching up on tweets.

What app makes you most productive?

That’s a tricky question because I’m between jobs right now. In my most recent position, it was Spark for unending email and Basecamp for collaborative projects. Until my new job starts, though, I’d have to say that Drafts and iA Writer keep me busiest writing blog posts. But my wife might tell you that Things makes me most productive because I’ve been able to catch up on some home projects that I’ve had saved there for months.

I’ll add that Brain.fm is a huge help for keeping me focused, no matter the task. Lyrical music distracts me and listening to lo-fi, jazz, or classical music for hours in Apple Music alters my recommendations. On the other hand, I’ve found that Brain.fm’s catalog of “music” is stimulating and has enough variety not to get repetitive.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Shortcuts. While I’ve been using Shortcuts since the Workflow days, I feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface. I have more shortcuts saved than I regularly use, but there’s so much to explore. It’s the first automation platform that clicked with me, so I’ve been having fun creating tools that speed things up on my devices. What I also appreciate about Shortcuts is the community that has been built around it, and that it’s so easy to adapt tools shared by great folks like Matthew Cassinelli, the guys at MacStories, Chris Lawley, and more, to craft them to do what I need.

What is the
app you are still missing?

As you might have been able to tell, I’m a big “save-it-for-later” guy. So articles get saved in Reeder, podcasts in Overcast, and videos in YouTube — not to mention lists of books in Goodreads, TV Shows in TV Forecast, and movies in Letterboxd. What I’m missing is a bucket for music.

My music influx is from various sources — new albums from artists I follow in Music Harbor, recommendations via blogs and Twitter, discovery in the Music app — and it’s hard to keep track of all that. I’m reluctant to save something to my library without vetting it first, so I’ve been sending everything to a “Listen Later” playlist. It’s okay, but playlists aren’t meant for that bulk-in/bulk-out kind of management. For a while, I used Raindrop.io as a place to bookmark albums, but it bounced me around via Safari and wasn’t great.

My dream is a simple music-specific bookmarking app where I can send music.apple.com links. It would integrate with MusicKit to listen in-app and take action (send to a playlist, save to library, love, etc.) on the album, song, or playlist right there. Bonus points if it can keep track of the items I’ve finished listening to or that are still in progress, so I don’t have to remember what’s safe to archive. Double bonus points if it can accept links from other music services and convert them to Apple Music items.

How many times a day do you use your devices?

I’m a heavy screen user, especially while I’ve got some extra time at home, but I flow pretty seamlessly between my iPhone, iPad, and Mac throughout the day. Screen Time snitches on me, reporting an average of 10 hours of usage and 84 pickups per day across my devices. That’s higher than I’d prefer, but all of my creative work is happening on those devices. I’m actually watching fewer TV shows and movies these days because I’m spending my time reading, writing, and learning — it just all happens on those devices.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

After years of absolutely cramming the Today View with widgets, I’ve now focused it to be a source for more timely information and actions.

It’s dominated by a stack of large widgets containing Fantstical, Things, and CARROT Weather. These help me to stay on top of my schedule and dress appropriately.

Then I have a Day One stack which flips between the “On This Day” and the “Daily Prompt” medium widgets. I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with journaling, so the stack is placed there in the hope that it encourages me to write more.

Beneath that, and still visible without scrolling, is the small Batteries widget and a stack of shortcuts that pull up a menu for travel and control Overcast. Those shortcuts are conveniently just a swipe away from the lock screen.

Last, I keep an eye on upcoming deliveries with the large Parcel widget.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?

It wasn’t long ago that I was asked about my favorite feature iPhone feature to demo for others. My answer then, as it is now, was Shortcuts. I just think that making automation simple is powerful because it teaches people to bend their device to their will, rather contort themselves to use their device. Shortcuts don’t have to be monstrosities like Federico Viticci’s Apple Frames shortcut used to frame these device screenshots. It’s the simple ones, like a shortcut that queues up the last few photos taken into an iMessage, or that help you keep your Apple Watch streaks going, which unlock people’s creativity and encourage them use their devices more efficiently. It did for me.

Apple’s commitment to Shortcuts being the future of automation on the Mac has me all the more excited to see what’s next.

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

Do I only get one thing?

Apple’s hardware is on a solid run, so I don’t have many requests, but there is one crucial thing missing: an affordable Apple display.

My dream display would take the panel from the recent iMacs and marry it to a hinge like on Microsoft’s Surface Studio. Why such a versatile hinge? Because I think a modern Apple display should work as well with an iPad as it does a Mac, and should, therefore, have some amount of Multi-Touch and Apple Pencil support and ergonomics to use it. I’d love to pull that expansive screen down to a drafting table position and use iPadOS with its incredible creative apps like Procreate with an Apple Pencil. iPadOS would undoubtedly need more advanced external display support, and I would introduce it alongside the fantasy display, just like iPad pointer support was introduced alongside the Magic Keyboard.

(Less selfishly, I’d focus on repairing third-party developer relationships, starting by allowing alternative in-app payment methods or at least linking out to the web for alternative payments.)

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


I do! An Apple Watch has been strapped to my wrist ever since the Series 2 debuted in 2016. These days, I’m rocking a cellular 40mm Series 5 Apple Watch Nike. (Wow, that’s a mouthful.) I wouldn’t say that I’m an Apple Watch power user, but I do love it. Like many, I value the fitness tracking, notifications, and other short interactions I get by wearing one. I also think of it as a modern iPod for listening to music and podcasts on the go without my phone.



I switch between three faces most days. My morning face is the Activity Digital one, which motivates me to start filling my rings. It’s got complications for starting a workout, CARROT’s weather status, and Now Playing. Most of the day, the watch is set to the Infograph Modular face with complications for the Activity Rings, hourly weather from CARROT, Drafts, Waterminder, and Things. Those three bottom complications open stand-out watch apps which feature that quick interaction model that I so enjoy. Drafts opens directly into dictation mode to capture ideas as text. Waterminder keeps my daily water intake front and center and allows me to log a bottle with just a tap. Things lets me add new items directly to the Inbox or Today lists and check off completed items.

I don’t need the precise time at the end of the day, so it switches to the California dial. I think the colors are beautiful and calming. I keep just the day/date complication and the Activity Rings on that face to make sure I get them closed by the day’s end.

Okay, confession, I do have a “night watch.” Battery life still isn’t where I’d like it to be on the Apple Watch, so I keep around an older version to wear while sleeping. That keeps my main watch ready to go for the day, and I can take advantage of sleep tracking and silent alarms. Furthermore, I’m the kind of person who has trouble calming down their brain at night. With the complications on its Modular face (all in red to preserve night vision), I can open Drafts and get ideas out of my head, or control music and podcasts while I drift off without risking distraction by using my phone.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

For my lock screen, I use one of the built-in dynamic wallpapers. The abstract mountain and river scene is stunning, and the way it changes through the day (not just for light and dark mode) is delightful. I use the same one on my Mac for that reason. I hope that iOS will someday support these multi-scene dynamic images from third parties like the Mac does today.

For my Home Screen, I’m using the Leopard wallpaper from Hector Simpson’s Aqueux collection. It’s a gorgeous combination of two of my all-time favorite desktop pictures from OS X. All of the Aqueux wallpapers are exquisite and are a steal at just $3.

Anything else you’d like to share?

While I’m not running the beta on my iPhone, I have my iPad loaded up with iPadOS 15 to give it a spin this summer. So I thought I’d share how the beta has changed my Home Screen there.

Like on my iPhone, I’ve consolidated my app pages down to just two. The second page on both devices is dedicated to entertainment (video, games, social media) with several of the usual suspects. I dig the extra-large TV app widget for jumping into the next episode of my ongoing shows, plus a collection of shortcuts for controlling other video sources. I’ve got Photo’s Memories and Music Harbor’s medium widgets there, too.



For my main Home Screen on the iPad, I wanted to create something like a writing dashboard. So while the lefthand column retains the widgets that I used to have pinned in the Today View (Fantastical, Things, and Weather), the rest of the page is full of apps I use for my latest hobbies: writing and learning to code. The Dock, accessible anywhere, is full of apps that you’d recognize from my iPhone’s first Home Screen page.

For widgets on the first page, I’ve got Drafts showing posts tagged blog and two music-focused widgets. The righthand one is from the Music app and the other is from Longplay, which tiles up album artwork and plays an album from beginning to end with one tap. Longplay can be sorted by recency (the latest stuff you’ve added), negligence (albums you haven’t listened to in a while), and more — I’m trying it out, and I’m a fan of how quickly it gets me into playing an album. Plus, it reminds me of good ol’ Cover Flow.

I use the apps on page one to find topics (Reeder) and then write about them (iA Writer, Grammarly, and Day One). Then I’ve got Swift Playgrounds and a couple of background noise apps (Brain.fm, and Dark Noise). Finally, the bottom two icons are custom shortcuts for taking action on things for my site, including one for uploading images to reference in my Markdown files.

The App Library’s introduction on iPad has allowed me to get rid of all the folders I had for organizing apps on my iPad. Moreover, any app can now easily be brought into multitasking via the App Library, so I no longer need to keep apps for slide-over in the Dock either.

I’m really happy with how these screens have worked out so far; their dedicated nature has brought clarity to my iPad usage. Next, I’d like to experiment with Focus to bring forward other Home Screens specific to the task at hand.

Thanks, Jarrod!

Home Screens — John Gerard

This week, John Gerard (Twitter) (Instagram) is sharing his home screens. John is a photographer in the Mid-west who helps promote local business. He also teaches photography and post processing to photography clubs and individuals interested in learning to use Lightroom & Photoshop. So, John, show us your home screens.



What are some of your favorite apps?
Managing the household budget may not be exciting, but YNAB is one of my favorite apps. My wife and I have used YNAB for years and the developers have continued to improve features and functionality year after year. Entering purchases throughout the day is easy, and YNAB is location aware so it auto-fills the name of the store as the payee if you add the expense while you are still in the store.

I use Spark (by Readdle) across all my devices for email. I am certainly not an email power user, but I prefer the user interface in Spark over Apple Mail. Having a consistent email experience from one device to the next is important to me and one of the reasons I didn’t go with some of the other email apps. The speed of the swipe actions in Spark to archive, delete, pin, snooze, etc. allows me to run through my email quickly when I have a few minutes and then move on to other tasks.

Overcast is my preferred podcast app, and it may be my most used app. I have Overcast playing every time I get into the car or when I go for a walk. On weekends I have Overcast playing while I mow the lawn or tackle any of my household chores. Overcast’s Apple Watch app is great for rewinding or skipping ahead quickly without needing to pick up the phone.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?
I keep coming back to Alto’s Adventure. It’s easy to pick up, and it’s a fun way to pass the time while you’re standing in line or sitting in a waiting room. The nice thing about Alto’s Adventure is how quickly you can put it away when your attention is needed elsewhere. I never feel so invested in the game that I can’t just turn it off and start again later. However, if you are having a particularly good run, the pause button is right there so you can pick up where you left off should you feel compelled to reach the next benchmark.

What app makes you most productive?
Apple Reminders. Yes, yes, I know there are a thousand other choices for my task list, but Apple Reminders has improved so much that I find it has all the power I need to manage my various task lists. I used OmniFocus for years and, as great as it is, I found I just spent too much time fiddling with features I don’t need. Once Apple added recurring reminders and the ability to trigger reminders by location, I had all the features I wanted in an app that can be opened on my iPhone, iPad, iMac and Apple Watch. It takes less time to add a new task from the Apple Watch than it takes to read this sentence. When it’s easy, I use it, and when I use it, I stay on task.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?
Without a doubt, Shortcuts. I’ve dabbled with the app and created a few of my own, so I know it won’t take me long to wrap my head around Shortcuts, but I just haven’t set aside the time to figure out where I could apply a shortcut and then create one to scratch that itch.

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?
My iPhone is always with me, but I still do the majority of my work on my iMac. Adobe has done a great job with Lightroom and Photoshop for iOS, but I still prefer the 27-inch iMac for image editing.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?
I have Siri Suggestions and the weather widgets on my home screen. Siri Suggestions does a good job of recommending the app I’m looking for. It’s not perfect, but it gets it right enough of the time to leave it on my home screen. For example, it always has my Sam’s Club app available when I walk into the store, and it knows I like to check the Stocks app in the morning and the evening. The one app I need to search for more often than I should is Photos. For some reason, Photos is only available as a recommend app about half the time I want to open it, but a quick flip to the next screen and it’s right where I can find it. Over on the “Widgets” screen I have the Top Stories, my Next Appointment and the battery indicators at the top of the screen for quick reference.

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?
The iPhone camera is pretty amazing. When I’m not using my pro gear, I love having a great camera in my pocket.

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
I would like Apple to make more iCloud storage available on the free tier. I’m not asking for unlimited storage, but it would be nice to have an iCloud storage plan that expanded based on the number Apple devices you purchase and the available memory on those devices.

Do you have an Apple Watch? Show us your watch face tell us about it.
I really like the Infograph watch face. It has room for all my favorite complications. Most of the complications are just handy for quick updates on stocks, weather, next appointment, etc. But I also like having the timer handy, especially when cooking dinner.



What’s your wallpaper and why?
My lock screen usually has a picture of one of our dogs. This time it’s Boomer, but Bandit gets his time on the lock screen as well. With my screen full of apps, I prefer to have a simple background so I use a grey to black gradient.



Thanks, John!