Category: Blog (page 2 of 7)

Siri Shortcuts Questions – WorkFlow Wednesday

With WWDC Keynote now done and the sessions beginning, I think it’s time to start talking about the features that Apple has presented to us in the last 48 hours. Namely Siri Shortcuts.

This, to me, was by far the most exciting announcement in all of the keynote. Workflow lives on, and it is now built into the OS. The screenshots and the look of the app is very similar to that of Workflow.

Before I get into what I think, a bit of a history lesson is important to note. Workflow has long been a beloved app to power users of iOS and without it the iPad doesn’t feel like an honest-to-god replacement for the Mac. Workflow has become a pillar for iOS users to lean on when they hit a wall due to limitations in sand boxing.

Workflow is the bridge between the apps we love and allows for some powerful and interesting ways to get our work done. Without Workflow, I would probably still have an iPad as my main device but it wouldn’t be nearly as effective. It would be a chore to move things from one app to another, and this is why this one app is so important. It is also why when the announcement was made that this app would be acquired by Apple, along with its team, we all started to worry.

We have seen things like this happen before. A big company buys a team of very talented developers to join them, then the app is “sunset.” This has happened to things like email clients and other app that are a dime a dozen. But workflow is one of a kind. It is a unicorn of a tool that, if removed, would shatter a lot of people’s day-to-day operations. Especially mine.

Workflow has since been updated since the acquisition, and that allowed us power users to breathe. But when Siri Shortcuts was announced, a lot of people, including myself, got worried again about the future of Workflow.

There are a lot of questions still to be answered. Siri Shortcuts isn’t even on the iOS 12 beta as of now. But I have a list of questions I want answered before I can ease off on my apprehensive attitude on this new addition to iOS.

1.) Is this app going to replace Workflow, or will it just be an addition?

2.) If this is replacing Workflow, will I be able to import my current workflows without sacrifice?

3.) How powerful will this app be for automation?

4.) Can I trigger this without Siri? For instance, as an action in the Share Sheet?

5.) Is there a limitation on how many actions happen in a single workflow?

6.) There seems to be some kind of scripting possible with Siri Shortcuts, but what kinds of scripting is available?

I failed to watch the live stream of the WWDC session on Siri Shortcuts last night due to work, so if you know the answers to these questions, feel free to let me know on Twitter.

Siri Shortcuts is still an exciting feature for me. However, until we learn more I will contain my excitement for now. I just worry that this might be a “two steps back, one step forward” kind of change for iOS.

So I beg of you Apple, please know you are dealing with a delicate tool that could break a lot of our, well, workflows.

My Hopes for WWDC

With WWDC just around the corner I wanted to talk about some of the things I hope to see. With that said, I am not necessarily expecting to see any of these things. Some of them are wild and probably not going to happen, but I can hope right?

Honestly my expectations for this WWDC is very low because I don’t foresee anything coming from this years keynote that will blow me away, and that’s okay. With low expectations I can be easily surprised and delighted, and I also think that for Apple to continue improving iOS, the Mac, and their software they could use a buffer to make sure their foundation of current apps, hardware, and software are up to snuff.

However, I do have a list of things I want to come in WWDC.

Better Notifications

The current climate for notifications for me is abysmal. I never use the Notification Center or really anything other than badges and a few banner notifications. I rarely have anything pop up, and it is all because it doesn’t make things easy for the user. When I have Twitter notifications on, for instance, when someone tweets it removes all of them as soon as I open the app. So if I get a few notifications when people I want to see tweet, I open the official Twitter client. Then all of those other notifications, including the ones I never tapped on, are no longer in my list. So I end up having to either keep a mental list in my head of all the people who were in my notifications or, more likely, decide which one seems the most interesting and dismiss all the rest. This frustrating experience leaves a bad taste in my mouth and this incessant need to immediately tap on any new notifications I get because I fear if I don’t I won’t be able to later once I get more down the pipe.

This isn’t an intuitive system and I would rather have these notifications be more granular with the abilities it can do. Things like grouping by app, selecting more specific functions of what notifications I can get, and how they are removed. These are all things I desperately want to see Apple implement come iOS 12.

Default Apps

This has been on my list for a long time and I think it is time with iOS to allow for people to decide things like their default mail app, browser, and default task manager. Instead of having to either deal with the extra taps every time you want to share something, or conform to the stock Mail app as I have. I want people to be free from these chains and use whatever app they want.

I want people to be able to tap on a button like “Open in Browser” and have that link open in iCab Mobile or Chrome for iOS. I hate having to take the extra unnecessary steps to use the share sheet and scroll to iCab Mobile every time I want to open a link. It doesn’t seem like much once in a while but if it is a default app those few taps add up exponentially.

New Smart Keyboard

It is time to make the Smart Keyboard a Pro keyboard.

I love the practicality and portability of the Smart Keyboard but I think it is missing a few things that are needed for Pro users. Things like backlit keys, or an added function row come to mind when I think of the things I want improved with the keyboard.

In a perfect world I would also like Apple to use key switches like that on the Magic Keyboard. Both the current Mac butterfly switches and whatever switches are in the Smart Keyboard don’t provide enough travel to my liking and I think most Keyboard enthusiasts will agree that key travel is one of those things that, if not done right, is a deal breaker.

More Keyboard Friendly shortcuts in iOS

If Appel doesn’t make a better keyboard, I would at least like to have better shortcuts. Things like multi-tasking is still touch-only. This was something CGP Grey brought up in the iOS 11 betas where you can use spotlight, search for an app and when highlighted you can use a shortcut like Shift+Command+→ to move that app in the right position of split screen. The same could be done for the left side, and if you want it full screen just use the down arrow.

An app like Things 3 touts the ability to make their application “Desktop-Class” and allows for nearly everything to be done in that iOS application right from a keyboard. No more zombie-arm when you have to reach out and interact with the screen anymore. Instead, you have the ability to do everything right from a keyboard. This is what I want with iOS. I want Apple to really make the iPad Pro a piece of hardware where professionals can take this with the instead of a laptop without compromise, and until a keyboard-only ecosystem is embraced I don’t think that can be done.

Better Audio Functionality for Podcasting on iOS

I have spoken about podcasting on the iPad before. While it is possible to record and edit a podcast on iOS, you need two devices to do it. I would love Apple to go all-in on podcasting on iOS and make it possible for developers to easily allow for both a Skype or FaceTime call to be in progress and use an audio interface to record the mic plugged in to the iPad. If I am able to record a podcast with only an iPad I would find myself on the “Best I love you” side of happiness from the Ticci Leak Scale.

More Automation in iOS

It has been a little over a year since Apple acquired Workflow and the staff behind this automation app. Outside of a few updates, which are pleasant surprises, there hasn’t been much else to indicate what Apple is doing with either Workflow or that team. I would like to see something to point towards automation on the iPad to know that Apple is making good on their acquisition and allowing that amazing team continue to push the platform forward and make iOS an even more powerful system.

In a perfect world I would like to see automation baked into iOS 12 and allow for people who want more automation be able to do so in a simple and powerful way. More than likely though it will be a slow roll for automation to come to the iPad and iOS, chipping away bit by bit to get automation for iOS to be less nerdy and complicated.

Conclusion

WWDC is set to have their keynote Monday, June 4th, at 10am PT (1pm ET). Most of the speculation is for it to be a snooze but I am looking forward to an event that has no leaks. It’s like going into a critically acclaimed movie without having heard a hint of spoilers. It is exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.

I plan to record an episode of A Slab of Glass with Christopher Lawley shortly after the keynote is over and will have it posted a few hours afterwards for you all to hear.

I also plan to write a few things about iOS 12 and anything else that seems interesting here. So make sure you add this to your RSS feeds so you don’t miss a thing!

Add a New Task to Things 3 – Workflow Wednesday

For this edition of Workflow Wednesday I am keeping things in Drafts 5. I have been going all-in with Drafts 5 and one thing I absolutely love is the ability to make Drafts whatever kind of app you want.

It can be a Task management app, like this workflow shows, or a writing app as I have been using it recently. The versatility and power this app can’t be overstated enough. It is crazy what people have come up with it.

Matt Birchler of Birchtree.me has made a very easy way to add tasks with the specific things you want in it very easy with Drafts.

Matt Birchler’s Drafts 5 List:

The task name must always be on the first line. Additional info needs to be prefixed by a set number of strings followed by a space:

  • “at” or “@“ are for due dates (using Things’ smart time parsing, so “10am tomorrow” works)

  • “tag” or “tags” are for tags

  • “deadline” or “dead” are for deadlines

  • “list” is for projects/lists

  • “note” or “-“ (dash) will create a note

  • All lines that don’t match up with a prefix listed above will be assumed to be a note

He goes on to present this example:

    
        Buy some milk
        at 8am tomorrow
        list grocery
        2%
    

Creates a task to "Buy some milk" due tomorrow at 8AM on the Grocery list/project and a note to buy "2%" milk

You can download the Drafts Action, and if you want more check out Matt’s post or go look at the multitude of automation options for Drafts (an many more apps) over at Automation Orchard where I found this one.

Uncanny Valley and the iPad

The iPad is a great machine and has come a long way over the past 10 years. With that said, there are still some things that people who are long-time Mac users will stick their nose up at. Things like advanced multi-tasking and Sandboxing have long been issues Mac Power Users have touted to be inferior on the iPad. Other things like using an iPad as a laptop replacement is argued to be only possible with sacrifice.

While I don’t necessarily believe in all of these claims I have to admit there is some merit to the issues that are raised by long-time Mac users. I have found myself getting more and more frustrated with the iPad. Not because I am doing more with it, I have been writing and blogging on an iPad for some time now and have never changed what I did on that machine. The reason for my frustration to be growing is because of something called Uncanny Valley.

The definition of Uncanny Valley is as follows:

used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.

For me it is more simply when I notice something that is very close to being optimal but isn’t quite there. For a lot of the things I do on the iPad, this term could be used.

Why the iPad is so close, yet so far

I have been touting being iPad only for nearly 6 months until recently. One of the reasons for me to crack open the MacBook Air again was because of how I decided to spend less time making the iPad conform to what I want and just use the Mac because I know it will work the way I want it to in certain situations.

For me, it started with editing a podcast. Ferrite is good but I am so used to Hindenburg that I am really fast on it and I felt using a new piece of software was more of a hindrance than a new skillset. I was so used to editing with Hindenburg that I felt that learning how to edit with Ferrite wasn’t worth the time as I was already pretty speedy on my Mac. It wasn’t a matter of if I could but rather a matter of if I should.

Soon this started to fall into the blogging parts of my life. I could write with Ulysses without issue but I wanted something that I could use to handle my posts after they are published. I wanted to use something like MarsEdit for my iPad. But when the only thing available is the sub-par WordPress app on iOS I decided to being my blogging over to my Mac as well. I am happy with MarsEdit, but that isn’t to say I can’t use the iPad for writing. In fact I think the iPad is more efficient when it comes to writing than a Mac. I can use apps like Drafts 5 and Workflow to manage my text and format things faster than I could on a Mac.

Where it Stands for Others

Outside of my experience, I don’t think this Uncanny Valley phenomenon is anything new. I think the comparison of the iPad and Mac has been around for quite some time. You can do a quick google search and find articles from several years ago about how whether an iPad is or isn’t qualified to be a replacement for a Mac. However, because the iPad has gained more and more power and functionality it isn’t a stretch to believe that the reason why so many people aren’t team iPad is because it can’t handle the handful of things people use a Mac for over an iPad. Those small, but important, things are what prevents people from moving to the iPad full time. When you are given a microscope you notice the small things a lot more easily, and that is what is going on today with the iPad and Mac comparisons.

It isn’t impossible to use an iPad full time, I would know; but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. They may be minor drawbacks when looking at the whole picture, but they are bigger when you look as close as many do when looking for a new device.

For me, I don’t plan to get a new Mac or iPad even if WWDC does bring some in the coming weeks. I am more than able to get by with my 2015 MacBook Air and 10.5” iPad Pro. Both handle my writing without issue, and both have the ability to edit podcasts without being bogged down. I am happy with both, or either, machines as of today, but that isn’t the case for everyone.

Automation

When it comes to automating things like blog posts and show notes for my podcasts I am still using the iPad. It is my bread and butter for formatting things the particular way I want them and I am not savvy enough on a Mac to make that happen as of yet.

Drafts 5, while being a new addition to my arsenal of daily apps, is the biggest factor for me choosing whether to use a Mac or an iPad. It is such a powerful tool that I can’t help but be drawn towards it.

Workflow is also an app I use daily for a multitude of things. From managing my images and having them formatted correctly to using it for converting lists into markdown. It really is a Swiss army knife that allows me to work between apps. Without it I don’t think the iPad would even come close to being a Mac alternative.

What This Means For the iPad and Mac Today

Right now, before WWDC 2018, I think the Mac needs some serious changes to the hardware. Specifically the keyboards. One of the biggest reasons I would move people towards an iPad today is because they don’t have to worry about a speck of dust destroying their entire machine. The iPad Pro is compatible in pricing, and, as I said before, can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. The Mac needs some changes in order to be worthwhile again, but that doesn’t mean the iPad is better overall.

I think the iPad needs changes to the software. The bugs in iOS 11 have been less than ideal, and I think that is one of the biggest issues I have found with the iPad ecosystem as a whole. I am hoping that iOS 12 handles these bug and squashed them once and for all. If that does happen, I expect I’ll be moving more towards the iPad with my work.

Until then though I am enjoying the experiment of finding where my work is better suited for. It is less about what I can do on the devices I own, and more about where my time and attention are better suited for with each thing I do.

Interview with Rosemary Orchard, Creator of Automation Orchard

I had the pleasure of conducting an interview via email with Rose Orchard, a developer, blogger, and creator of Automation Orchard. Rose came on my radar when I found her on micro.blog a lot more over Twitter and Facebook. When I really learned more about her was on an episode of Mac Power Users and the launch of Automation Orchard. If you use an iPad or iPhone and want to make it an automation machine this is a fantastic place to start.

I wanted to pick her brain a little about creating this project and how her workflows look as well. So I shot her some questions and this is what came from that. I want to thank Rose for doing this and taking her time. If you want to check how her stuff (I highly suggest you do) you can find her on her personal blog, and over at Automation Orchard.

1. Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself and who you are?

I’m Rose, originally from the U.K. and living in Austria. I studied foreign languages at university and am currently working on my MSc in Computing (Software Engineering). I’ve been into computers ever since I was allowed to play with them but it took me a long time to decide that technology and programming were the career for me. Nowadays I’m a developer in Vienna.

2. You recently launched a very impressive website called Automation Orchard, can you talk about what this site is and what it provides?

It’s a collection of resources with tags – so if you want to learn about Keyboard Maestro you can filter for that, or if you want to see automation for Things 3 then you can search for that too. The idea is it’s a one stop shop to find the resources – the articles themselves are of course on their original websites.

3. This website really is impressive, it has a ton of content and curation in it. How long did this take you to build? What kinds of workflows did you use to make this process easier for you?

It took me a little longer than I had planned to build – I changed the content structure about 3 times! In the end I did it over the course of about 4 months though.

I decided early on the easiest way to collect the content was to use RSS and JSON feeds. So I started with the basics – MacStories, MacSparky, and kept adding more sites. I used Pythonista on my iPad to go through and save data about the articles, and then Workflow to review each article and create the posts if I chose to.

4. You also blog on your own website using Grav. Is this something that you use an iPad for?

Yes! I do most things on iOS nowadays. I write my blog post drafts in Drafts, and then when they’re done upload them via SFTP using Coda. Grav does have an admin UI but I rarely use it myself.

5. Automation is clearly a very important topic and a passion of yours, can you elaborate how this came to be such an interest for you?

I’ve always tried to avoid doing unnecessary work – from the beginning of my university studies I kept my bibliographies in a Numbers document – simply so I could automatically sort the entries alphabetically and paste them in at the end of an essay. I’m not quite sure why automation in particular caught my attention, but saving time and effort is certainly why I’m still interested today.

6. What is something you use for automation that you’re proud of? This can be anything you want.

I created Automation Orchard almost entirely with automation tools – I’m pretty proud of that! I’ve also got a lot of scripts I use at work to help me create and update documents quickly which save me lots of time.

7. If someone wanted to get into automation, but maybe needed some help getting their feet wet, what would you say to them?

Look for something you do a lot, and automate one step in it. Break it down into chunks, and find something simple – for example sending an email that has today’s date in it. Once you’ve got that step you can look at the next one.

8. How do you use iOS and the iPad in your work?

At work my iPad is my OmniFocus tool, it sits below my monitor and shows me my ever-growing to do list. For Automation Orchard my iPad is where I do all of my work now. I did use my Mac to set up a local site for testing and to edit the theme, but nowadays it’s all on iOS – and that’s the same for my blog too.

9. What are some pros/cons you have found when using iOS in your work?

My iPad is fun to use. I use it more like a traditional laptop than many would I suspect – with a keyboard almost permanently attached, that’s a definite pro. There are cons of course – some apps just aren’t as good as their Mac counterparts, though thankfully most of the apps I use seem to not be of that kind.

One con is people don’t really take you seriously with an iPad – at least until you show them what it can do. I remember a meeting last year where I got looked at more than once for using my iPad, but once I plugged it into the projector and used GoodNotes to sketch out the diagram we’d been discussing (using their shape recognition tool), and then typed up the notes we wanted recorded it became a nonissue.

Accessible 001: Massive Move

In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day I wanted to showcase a new podcast by Steven Aquino and Timothy Buck called Accessible.

The podcast is by two Indie Bloggers that I admire and follow, and the podcast is all about “the accessibility in tech.”

Accessible is a fortnightly—episodes are released twice per month—podcast about accessibility in tech. Topics covered on the show are mostly Apple-centric but will span the tech industry at large where appropriate.

Episode 1 was recently released, so you can listen to it now and be part of the beginning of another great tech podcast.

Congrats to the both of them and I can’t wait to see how this show blossoms in the future.

How a Talk at SXSW From 2009 Helped Me Be a Better Blogger

I listened to a talk from 2009 by John Gruber and Merlin Mann from SXSW about blogging, and it caused a carnival of thoughts to swirl in my mind. This is me trying to articulate them.
I had never listened to this talk before, but because I started listening to the podcast Back To Work it made me want to listen to it as after being brought up so much in the first few episodes. I wanted to know if it still holds up, to see if the blogging platform is a shell of its former self. This talk couldn’t be more true today than it was then.

The talk, titled How To: 149 Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog with Credibility, was about an hour in length. Which made me sad because an episode of the The Talk Show can run twice that on average. I wanted more, I felt like there was a great deal more to learn from.

Why You Should Blog

It started with John and Merlin explaining one of the main points: to write about what delights you. To write about what you’re obsessed with. This main point would come up again and again throughout the talk. At one point Merlin would say:

“How do you know that you should start a blog? People keep telling you to shut up.” – Merlin Mann

I can’t say I am not part of this group. My fiancé is tired of me talking about Apple news, working on my iPad, and my feelings on productivity. It is something I have obsessed on in some capacity for years.

After this, they talk about how you can’t, and probably shouldn’t, make everyone happy. Merlin says it best when he explains how he admires John because John’s voice and passion outweighs any obligation to make people happy. He doesn’t go out of his way to upset anyone but he also is steadfast to continue the path he feels is right. This is something I think I lack, and that I should be more assertive at times. Too often I try and be a cheerleader and suppress my negative feelings on certain things, and I think they are valid concerns I should be addressing. I don’t plan on making this blog a place to gripe and complain all the time, but there is a place for that concern and the feelings I have.

Finding Your Audience

Next on their list is finding an audience. Gruber explains his ideal reader is “another version of me.” The crowd laughs, almost as if to say “he can’t be serious,” but I feel the same way as John. I write on Tablet Habit because I imagine myself reading a blog like this that I never started. I imagine myself looking for a place that has similar feelings on Apple, iOS, and using an iPad as a main computer. That is my main motivator for writing here. There are other factors at play, but they are all distant seconds to the strong feelings I have to write about what delights and, at times, upsets me.

“Make something really kickass and try to impress the people you really love.” – Merlin Mann

When Merlin said this, I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement. This is something I have felt for as long as I started podcasting back in 2009. Find someone you want to impress, and ask yourself every time you hit publish if that person will like it or think it’s garbage. If it’s the latter, do better. If it’s the former, send that thing to everywhere you can.

With that said, it is important, they say, to not try and piggyback off someone else’s success. A great example they provide with this is Ted Koppel, who found success as a broadcaster during the Iran hostage crisis. It caused the ABC show Nightline to be made, and it elevated Koppel to be one of the most well know journalists in that era. Side note: Nightline continues to be a great program of long-form news that I find to be more digestible than anything local or national news programs make today.

But the point they bring up, originallly made by Ira Glass from NPR’s This American Life, is that you can’t be Ted Koppel, he already exists. I can’t be John Gruber, or Merlin Mann, or Federico Viticci, those people already exist. What I can do, as they explain, is to learn from their work and try the things they did to get success. This goes for anyone looking to have success in a creative field, whatever your definition of that may be. Learn, but don’t emulate. Take their work and learn how they do the things they do.

The New Printing Press

Gruber then mentions an old saying:

“It is great that we have freedom of the press, but the only people that really have freedom of the press are people with a printing press.”

He goes on to say that “everyone has a printing press now thanks to the internet.” This is a point that especially made me think.

I worry that the “golden age” of blogging is behind us. I feel that it was great to have this ease of disseminating information when the internet was more in its adolescence back on 2009. The internet is now a giant gorilla dwarfing every other piece of media day in and day out. The internet is no longer where the cool kids are. It’s where corporations, national news, and conglomerates come to spread their message. Is the internet killing the little guys like the printing press did so long ago? I thought so at this point in the talk, but that soon changed.

When to Get Serious About Your Work

All of these pieces of advice and truth are great, but the most poignant point made throughout this was when Gruber took out a sheet of paper and explained that this was an email that Merlin Mann forwarded to him just before the talk. It was an email from a “20 year old kid” asking Merlin what he can to to get serious with his blog. What Merlin said came down to 3 short and direct pieces of advice:

  1. Give away more stuff than you think you should, and make it easy for people to get.
  2. Focus on diverse secondary revenue streams and always have your new and replacement ones.
  3. Don’t do stuff that seems profitable, but potentially messes up the reason people like you.

Not only is this advice sound, it is timeless. You could tell someone today these three things and they would all still be worthwhile. This isn’t just for bloggers. Artists, writers, journalists, painters, photographers, and YouTubers can take this advice and go a long way with it. Then John said something.

“The internet is awesome, it is totally fucking awesome. It is not just that we all have a printing press now … it is that we can do it better.” – John Gruber

This is what made my worries of corporations on the internet go away. Both Merlin and Gruber explained that corporations and big business are still failing to be anything other than giant billboards on a small screen. They don’t give anything away, they don’t offer the value indie bloggers give on a daily basis.

Making Money

Finally, the two talk abut money and making a living on what you create.

“Don’t become too obsessed with the thing you want to make money on.” – Merlin Mann

This is probably the best quote to summarize this section. Money is important, but if you first think about wanting to make money and then start a blog, podcast, or something else creative it will almost always fail to meet your expectations in the time frame you set. If you instead flip it around and make something you love and then think about how you can make money with it your odds of success dramatically increase. There is no guarantee that you will make a living, or even a nickel, doing what you love but if you have a solid foundation the chances that house you build collapses on you decreases exponentially.

Final Thoughts

This talk, 9 years after it was first given, is still timeless and something I think anyone looking to seriously create a blog, podcast, portfolio, or YouTube channel. It manages to give you actionable advice while also providing the higher level of thinking necessary to make sure you are doing things the right way with the right reasons.

If you want to listen to it you can do so on 43 Folders, or just download the file directly here.

Link Blogging and Me

Matt Birchler of BirchTree.me talked about using block quotes and link posts recently and it got me thinking.

Why I Love Link Blogging – BirchTree

The web allows us to create content that is connected with the rest of the web. Everything we do, especially us writers, is kicked off by something someone else said, and we should embrace that. Make your blog a part of a conversation, not an island that feels like you’re just doing this all on your own. None of us are, and we should be proud of that.

Honestly, Matt hits the nail on the head with this one. Link blogging is a very standard way to build off of other bloggers and cite them as you expand your own thoughts. It also allows you to make internet friends with other awesome writers, and when you have people to work with and bounce ideas off of, they can be there to help you out.

I have decided to start posting more link posts on Tablet Habit because there are so many awesome bloggers out there, and I want to join their conversations and join this community rather than be “an island” all alone.

Blogging was something I did as a side-project to step away from podcasting. Since then I have started 2 podcasts (Getting Caught Up and A Slab of Glass), which is a story in itself, but writing here on Tablet Habit has become my favorite outlet for my creativity and continues to push me to do bigger and better things. For instance, I am publishing a free ebook of my favorite apps to get work done on an iPad at the end of the month. This is something I never would have done if I hadn’t started Tablet Habit.

Matt is a blogger I found through someone else’s blog and/or Twitter, and I am happy I did. I hope to find more awesome writers in the near future as well, which is where you can help.

If you know any other bloggers feel free to let me know in the comments below, or over on Twitter. You can also email me if that is your preferred method of contact.

I want to build up my RSS list with more awesome bloggers, so feel free to send as many as you want!

If you want to read the rest of Matt Birchler’s post, you can do so here. Check out the rest of his stuff too if you like it. His daily podcast is a delightful way to start your day off right!

Cool Things You Can Do On Drafts 5

This week’s Workflow Wednesday is kind of an audible, but Drafts 5 was released today and I wanted to share some of the cool things you can do with it.
There are a slew of great reviews of this out there (like MacStories by nahumck, and Christopher Lawley’s video). So I am going to let those fantastic people share their reviews and thoughts on what the app has to offer while I show you some really cool things Drafts in their Drafts 5 directory.

Send List to Things

I recently hopped on the Things 3 bandwagon, and so far I am loving it. However, I am not a huge fan of not having native multiple task input support. Meaning I want to be able to add a ton of tasks without having to input them one by one. This is where Drafts comes in.

With this handy action you can make a list and each new line is seen as a new task. So if I have a ton of things on my mind I want out and captured in Things 3 I can do so with just a single swipe and tap!

Run Workflow

I have spent a ton of time in Workflow, and I love the things I have built. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Drafts has a handy action built in that you can simply have it run a previously built workflow. All you need to do is edit the action and put in the name of the Workflow. Make sure it is exactly the same, otherwise it will error out, this is one of those times where it is case-sensitive.

One workflow I have is to post Markdown text I’ve written as a WordPress article. So with a quick tap Drafts takes the work I have written and takes it to Workflow to send to my blog. Super handy for the quick linked-posts I do from time to time.

Micro.blog

I have spent more and more time on the up-and-coming IndieWeb social media service Micro.blog. It has become a safe-haven for me to turn to when I wanted to leave Facebook and spend less time on Twitter. I find the community great and it has functions to send out my posts in Micro.blog to Twitter so I can kill two birds with one stone.

Drafts makes it even easier for me. Now, I don’t even need to open the app to send out a quick post. I can just type it out and then send it through the action and the rest is taken care of. This is why I love Drafts, I can quickly send out a post, a tweet, or a message to someone, and then keep right on trucking with my work.

Event in Fantastical

I love Fantastical and their amazing natural language input they have, it makes adding calendar events fun again. But what is even easier is typing it out in Drafts and sending it to Fantastical 2 to sort out for me.

All I do is write something like “Coffee with Jim next Thursday at 9am /p” and it sends it to Fantastical with the name “Coffee with Jim” scheduled for next Thursday at 9am in my Personal calendar. Boom, event added. The “/p” portion is part of Fantastical syntax that takes the “/“ icon and a letter or two written out

Save to File as

Drafts 5 has cloud syncing and auto-saving feature with this app, but sometimes I want to keep a backup of the long posts I write in it, and plain text is my preferred method.

So, I have an action that takes the text I wrote in Drafts, it then prompts me to enter the file name I want. It defaults to a .txt but you can change the filetype to .md or .rtf if you so choose. For me .txt is fine so I leave it. From there it opens up the Files document picker and allows you to save it to any folder in iCloud, or other 3rd party cloud services you have turned on in the Files App, and save it. Now you have a backup of all your hard work!

Conclusion

Drafts 5 is an app I have tried out for testing purposes, but it has easily become one of my absolute favorite apps on iOS. It allows me to get things out of my head and send them out when I want to. I no longer spend my mental RAM trying to figure out what I want to do first, the n what to say.

Drafts makes the process a complete 180 from what it was. Instead of trying to find the app to use, then working on what I want to say, I now can work on getting my ideas and writing out of my head first then send it wherever it needs to. I just tap the app in my dock and dump what’s on my mind out of my head and it’s saved for later organization.

For me, this is how things should be when you have ideas and creativity: a frictionless workspace.

If you want to get Drafts 5, you can download it on the App Store. It is free, but if you want all the features you’ll have to go Pro. It is either $19.99 a year or 1.99 a month. For me, I am paying the $1.99 a month because it allows me to pay Greg more money then $19.99 a year. That is how much I love this app.

How To Clean iPad Smart Keyboard

When you are working hard and doing the important things in your day you can find that your iPad Smart Cover might not be in the pristine condition as you would hope. Things like crumbs, dust, cat hair, and other residue on your keyboard can make the typing experience less than ideal. This can be easily fixed with some water and a couple of paper towels. So let’s make a clean iPad Smart Keyboard.

How to Clean Your iPad Smart Keyboard

One thing you can do, according to Apple, is get a damp cloth (or in my case a paper towel) and wipe the Smart Cover to get any residue or dust off the device. Once you do that you will want to get a dry cloth or paper towel and wipe away any water off the devices before they cause any damage.

Make sure your iPad is not connected to the keyboard. Once you start cleaning the keyboard don’t be shy with getting in between the keys. I found using some elbow grease really made the difference. Don’t use all your might to clean this but don’t be afraid to press down on the keys to scrub off whatever is on the keyboard.

I also found that having a clean microfiber cloth also helped get those pesky pieces of dust and cat hair off the keyboard. In my case, I had a microfiber cloth I got at my local Dollar Store. If that doesn’t work the first time around I would give it another go with just a little more water.

One thing I cannot stress enough is that the cloth or paper towel you use only needs to be a bit damp. It doesn’t need to be sopping wet, a dab will do you. While the Smart Keyboard is water resistant, there are small holes on the back of the keyboard to vent air out of the keyboard every time you press a key.

So if you can’t stand the dust and hair stuck to your keyboard, give it a quick once over and make it shine like new again.

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