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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.

Post to WordPress on iOS – Workflow Wednesday

If you blog on iOS, sometimes you want to send a quick post to your WordPress site as soon as possible. The WordPress app on iOS has come a long way in recent years, but when you are just sending a quick post dealing with the app can be cumbersome. This is where my workflow comes in.

What it is

This workflow is quite simple on the surface. However, thanks to Workflow’s integration with WordPress, you can handle even the most advanced options on every post you share. Things like the slug, post format, tags, excerpt, etc. are all options with this workflow.

What it Does

The Workflow starts by asking you the title of the post, which is then saved for later use as a variable.

After that it asks if you have a featured image for the post. This is an option of yes or no. If you say yes, it then opens up the Photos app to select the photo you wish to be the featured image.

Finally comes the fun part. Posting a blog post on WordPress can be fairly easy, but this workflow also allows you to handle the minutia if you so choose.

Once you connect your WordPress site to Workflow you’re ready to start blogging your heart out!

Tweaks You Can Make

I have set this workflow to only ask for the categories and tags, but you can edit this workflow to ask you for more information if you want to have more control in each post you make. Simple go to the section you want to integrate with your workflow and tap the “Ask When Run” option. This will now ask you for an input every time you run the workflow.

I have also made this workflow with Rich Text in mind, if you prefer to write in Markdown you can add an action to convert rich text to Markdown if you would like. Everything I write is in Markdown, but I wanted to leave the option to you.

Also, if you prefer to select images in your iCloud or Dropbox folder instead of Photos, simple replace that action with a “Get File” action within Workflow.

You can download the workflow here. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below, or contact me.

The 9 Things I Learned Going iPad Only

Going “iPad only” wasn’t a goal for me until recently. Before then it was just something I felt more comfortable using over a Mac. Now that I have made this blog it got me thinking about all the things I learned by making my iPad my main device. These are some of them.

It’s Easier Than You Think

When I first set out to make my iPad Air 2 my main computer back in college it seemed too daunting and scary. A lot of these questions came at me when I left for class without my Mac, knowing that I only had this tablet to handle all of my work.

How will I handle my files? How can I make sure I keep things on task? What about my trackpad?!

By the end of the day, though, I realized that there wasn’t anything that really got in my way of my work. Things like taking notes, writing papers, or even researching for other assignments came easy. This small piece of glass seemed to handle everything I threw at it.

Something about working with this device made sense to me. This was the beginning of something magical for me.

Like many things in life, I decided to disregard my reservations about trying something new. I just dove in head first into the sea of the unknown, only to come out the other side a more experienced person. Going iPad only seemed like a silly idea, but in practice it allowed me to do my work freely and with more joy.

Less is More

Limitation is often seen as a negative thing, but for me having that limiter on myself makes my life a lot easier. It’s not about making decisions on how I do my work, but more on the work itself.

For instance, recording a podcast on an iPad isn’t impossible, but it does require a lot of effort and some sacrifice. I wrote about podcasting on iOS before, but to reiterate I have to use both my iPhone and my iPad to record a podcast successfully. I did this because even though it isn’t a pretty solution, I can still do it with just an iPad and my iPhone. I was able to take a theory and turn it into a proof. I also did this because I really wanted to go iPad only, even if it meant function over form.

There are some things you can’t do on iOS that you can on a Mac or PC; but they are so seldom that I often don’t need to worry about it on a day to day use. Plus, with limitation comes innovation, and I have stripped down a lot of the things in my workflow because of iOS. I also have learned a lot from it as well.

You Learn a Lot About iOS

If I only used my iPad when I was on the go instead of all the time, there are a lot of things I wouldn’t know I could do with an iPad. I would have had the instinctual reaction to open up my MacBook Air instead of trying to find a solution with the tools I already had in front of me.

One of the big ones for me is automation and using the app Workflow. There are a number of things I never would think I could do on an iPad that Workflow allows me to do with ease. For instance, converting rich text into Markdown has been a hassle for me for years. That is until Workflow built a simple tool to take that text and convert it to a fully functional Markdown.

To go even deeper with this, I have also learned how to bend and contort many types of media to the specific types I need them in. It’s all thanks to the brilliant minds behind Workflow and knowing what I needed to make these alterations happen without a hitch.

The iPad Can Be a Workhorse

Working on my iPad has been my preferred device ever since I realized how little there is I can’t do with this device. My work can be done on an iPad about 90% of the time no problem. The other 10% is where things get tricky. Doing something like editing a podcast, making graphics for the website becomes problematic on any iOS device.

This isn’t to say I can’t do those things on iOS, but because I am a creature of habit I still am apprehensive to migrate it over to the iPad. I am slowly moving towards Ferrite for podcast editing and recording, as well as Pixelmator for photo editing. The only problem I still am yet to tackle is editing the website. I still need to use a Mac for it, albeit on a seldom basis.

But to set aside the 10% I don’t use with my iPad, the fact that this machine has gone from a giant iPhone into a full-fledged Mac replacement is astonishing to me. I still find it a shock to my system when I think about all the things I need to do that get done solely on my iPad.

iOS is the OS for Me.

I have been an Apple use for years, ever since I got my iPhone 4s I made the switch from Android and PC to iOS and macOS. I have owned a Mac longer than I owned any iOS device.

With that said, macOS has slowly drifted away from me like Wilson in the movie Cast Away. Instead of screaming for the Mac to come back to me, however, I have found solace in iOS.

To me, iOS is equally lightweight in robust tasks I barely do, and more flexible with the minimal tasks I do. I can write and blog without having several apps open, yet I can edit a podcast if I so choose.

I mentioned already how working with my hands is a satisfying thing, but it isn’t just that I control it with touch. Working on the iPad, for me, has changed the way I look at computers all together.

The Mac was a window into the world, the iPad is more a window into the things important to me.

I am not here to badmouth the Mac, but to say that the Mac is a good alternative to an iPad would be doing the iPad a disservice. I would actually counter it with the iPad being a good alternative to the Mac. At least for me.

Portability Becomes More Important

Until I started to use my iPad, I used to think that my 13” 2015 MacBook Air was the epitome of portable. Now, in the seldom times I need to open the Macbook, it seems like a giant computer. It makes my shoulders hurt just thinking about lugging it around town with me as I work from coffee shops and local libraries.

The iPad is perfect for someone who is on the go and working from place to place. It offers keyboard accessability, but it isn’t required to work with it. the fact that you don’t need to have a surface to hold it is something you don’t appreciate until you are in that position.

If I could explain this feeling, it is like having a piece of paper to write with. But when you finally need to write on that sheet of paper, you then need to find a surface flat enough to write on. Now imagine the iPad is a proverbial clipboard, allowing you to write anywhere you go as you wander the area. That is the relief and ease I am talking about with the iPad.

The iPad Really Can Replace Your Other Computers

Do you remember those “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” commercials? I think back on those a lot. Mainly as a question of what would Apple be comparing these days with those two actors? For me it would be an iPad and everything else.

“I’m an iPad, and I’m everything else,” could start the commercial. Then Apple could talk about how the Apple Pencil is the most efficient stylus on the market. Or how the iPad allows your to work on the best hardware Apple has to offer with the best OS as well. The comparisons are endless.

It Is Much More Enjoyable

Speaking of joy, working on an iPad can be a lot of fun. Something about working on a device with my hands is just so satisfying. I still use the iPad with a keyboard for the most part. But at times where I need to use Drag and Drop or editing photos with Pixelmator, I notice how much more I enjoy handling the mundane. Using my hands to physically move and edit things over a mouse or trackpad is just nice compared to a more “traditional” computer.

Tapping and sliding my fingers on the glass is a lot like ice skating. The flow in which I feel in my hands only validates that feeling more. I feel like I am soaring through my work much more efficiently and elegantly than I would on any other device.

On top of that, when I got the iPad Pro I bought the Apple Pencil. It’s still one of my favorite tools Apple has made. Writing notes down on a pen and paper is still satisfying, but being able to do it on my iPad still feels like the future. the latency is next to nothing, and the feeling you get writing on the glass screen is incomparable.

I love opening up GoodNotes 4 and jotting down ideas for Tablet Habit and having them saved digitally. Unlike a notebook, if I lost my iPad tomorrow I would still have all of my notes saved on the cloud for safekeeping.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

All of the people I know who are iPad only (or even iPad first) have taken the limitations of iOS in stride. Some, like me, use the limitations as a means of focus. Others, like Federico Viticci over at MacStories, have found ways to bypass those limitations. He creates Workflows, automation, and even writing his own code to make iOS work for him. In both cases pro users of the iPad will hit some roadblocks, but they take that as a challenge rather than a disadvantage.

So much of what I do can be done without many bumps in the road. But when I do get to an area where there are some road blocks, I take it as a chance to learn more about the systems in which I do my work. I want to find ways to make my own detours towards my destination.

Something about iOS, and those who use it as their main OS, makes you want to push forward and raise the bar just a little higher each and every day. I am sure there are other communities like us, but for me this feels like home.

What’s Next

The iPad is a tremendous machine, and a testament that Apple continually innovates their products years after it comes out. There is very little I have to say negatively about the iPad, but in the future I hope Apple keeps their momentum with the iPad going. A version of this device has been out over 8 years now and I hope in another 8 years I am as satisfied and pleasantly surprised as I am today.

For now, the iPad will continue to be the device I take with me everywhere I go. Whether it is to catch up on some news, or to write an ebook, the iPad will be my computer of choice.

If you want to make the switch and go iPad only, sign up to get my free ebook coming out at the end of April. It will show you the 20 apps to get productive on the iPad, and how you can make the transition from Mac and PC over to iOS.

The Best iPad Keyboard – A Slab of Glass #4

Christopher and I have been looking for the best iPad keyboard since we started using the iPad, and the quest to find it hasn’t been easy.
We talk a lot about the keyboards we like, the ones we don’t like, and what we want in a “perfect” keyboard.

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Apple Adds How-To Videos for iPad

Apple recently put together a beautiful space for iPad users to learn more about what you can do with the tablet. It includes several videos of both simple and pro features you can use on an iPad.

All of the videos are great, but what really surprised me was the fact that 3rd party apps like GoodNotes 4 and Pixelmator are getting some love on these videos. I am happy to see Apple showing off some of the best apps offered for the iPad and I hope this continues going forward.

Apple’s style in these short videos are also probably some of my favorite they have done in years. I enjoy the simplicity, yet rich personality, they put in these.

There are some things I wish they put in here like Workflow and more writing tools, but I guess that is where I can come in and help more.

So if you want to spend 10 minutes and watch all of these to either learn some new stuff or just refresh yourself on some things you can do on an iPad I highly recommend it.

Get App Icon – Workflow Wednesday

This is a new weekly segment I am doing called Workflow Wednesday. Every Wednesday I will be sharing workflows I have either made myself or found elsewhere that is worth sharing with you. If you haven’t tried out Workflow yet I highly suggest downloading it (it’s free).

What The Workflow Is

This week is how to get the app icons from an App Store URL. Meaning that you can share a link from the App Store and then run a workflow that will get the image of the app icon, and mask it to look like a home screen version of it. This is great if you are writing a blog post or want to use an app icon of something to share in a document or website.

How it Works

The masking part of this is a new addition to the latest Workflow update and it’s probably my favorite thing about Workflow image manipulation as of right now. It makes things very easy to conform image to match the style of app icons. You can also use the mask for other things like a rounded rectangle, an ellipse, or even your own custom image. I have not tested the custom image just yet but according to MacStories it can be done with some trial and error.

in my early tests with this feature, I had fun using random images from my photo library as masks and understanding how Workflow treated their brightness as a custom alpha mask. According to the app’s documentation, darker colors in the alpha mask become transparent and lighter colors remain opaque; the mask is also resized to match the dimensions of the source image if necessary.

How to Use It

Once you download the workflow it is simple to run it and save the image for later use.

Simply open the App Store and find the app you want to save the icon for and tap “Share App.”

From there tap the “Run Workflow” option in the share sheet. If you don’t see it you may need to check and see if you have it enabled. To do that scroll all the way to the right on the bottom section and tap “More” and make sure the Run Workflow option it switched on.

Finally, select the App Icon Workflow you just installed. For you it may be more towards the bottom depending how many workflows you have that are action extensions.

This workflow came in handy for me when I was working on getting the images for a new ebook I am working on. I took the apps I wanted to cover in this ebook and ran this workflow to make the app icons and then save them in a folder on my iCloud for later use in Pages.

All in all this may be a simple workflow but it has been getting a lot of mileage from me and I think if you ever want to grab an app icon this will do the job for you.

You can download the workflow here if you would like it.

If you have any requests for workflows for me to build feel free to contact me and let me know!

Writing Workflows – GCU 12 →

This episode of Getting Caught up I talk about how I write for Tablet Habit, my new toy, Mike explains why he spends 2 hours a week sending one email, and I get advice on Imposter Syndrome in the after show. Click here for show notes and more from the podcast.

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Why I Use Time Blocking to Be Productive

If you are like me, you probably only think of a calendar app for appointments and time sensitive events happening in your life. You need to keep those events in a safe place so that they remind you of when, and where, you need to be. Which is all fine and good but what about that empty space? What do you do when you have nothing scheduled? For me, I decided to utilize my calendar more and fill up that white space. Some call it hyper-scheduling, other call it time boxing, but I call it time blocking.
Whatever you call it, it basically means that I plan everything in my day within my calendar app. If I have plans to write, it goes in the calendar. If I plan to edit a podcast, it goes in the calendar. If I want to work on more administrative work, it goes in the calendar.

But before I explain how, I think knowing why will help understand what brought this change.

Why Time Blocking?

The reason I started to do this is because I was frustrated with task managers for iOS. I wanted to go about task management from a completely different angle than I had been. My issues with task managers has boiled down to having a lot of things in one place, and then not knowing what to do with it. I know about the weekly review process Getting Things Done (GTD) has in place, and I have tried that. I just never seem to stick with it. I think my brain isn’t wired for a GTD-style task management system, which is a hard pill to swallow because I have been trying to use GTD for years with little to no success. It also doesn’t help when I have a lot on my plate in many aspects of my life.

I wear a lot of different hats. I write for Tablet Habit and do a weekly newsletter. I am a freelance podcast editor, I co-host two podcasts, and I also have a day job. Those are a lot of different things I handle on a regular basis, and I needed to figure out how to maintain and advance my goals for each. Enter Time Blocking.

How I Got Started Time Blocking

The first thing I needed to do with time blocking was to figure out what I need to get done each week in order to maintain the different areas of my life. So I got a pen and paper and started to write down everything I needed to get done each week and what area of my life that falls in to.

I had an idea of what I had to do it was now a matter of when. So I took the time sensitive stuff first and made all-day events for when I am doing things like posting podcast episodes and blog posts. They are things that need to be done that day, but not at a specific time. It also helps me keep track of these things because all day events are at the top no matter what. Which makes it super easy to find when I am skimming my upcoming week.

From there I worked backwards to determine when the drafts of my posts are “due” and when to have each episode of the podcast edited. Christopher Lawley edits A Slab of Glass so thankfully I just need to plan for each episode and record them. Getting Caught Up, however, requires me to edit each episode.

My plan is to have each episode editing 3 days prior to posting day. Since the show is a fortnightly show it isn’t too hard to manage that schedule. I gave myself 3 days before the release of each episode so I can work on things like show notes, chapters, and all the other things that goes into a podcast after it is cut. So far, it seems to be working.

Once I had an idea of where to put the time-sensitive stuff, I now had to put the rest in. My thought process for this was to theme each day of the week. For instance, I could have my Mondays be when my first draft of my big post a week is due. Or have Thursdays be when I outline the weekly small post. Then it isn’t a matter of me checking the calendar daily, instead I just need to know what day of the week it is and know what it is I need to get done.

I shared this in my newsletter, and I plan to write more about it there, but after I started putting events in my calendar I realized that I could be doing this way more efficiently on my Mac. By that I mean that handling events in a calendar and making sure every detail in it is correct can be tedious. It is doubly so when you then want to input custom repeating structures in it. So I decided to put the iPad down and crack open my MacBook Air to get this done.

I didn’t like the idea of needing to use a Mac to get this done. It’s something I hate to admit, but sometimes the iPad falls short, and this is one of those times.

Once I gathered my themes for each day it was a simple process of making events to match the theme, and then having them repeat where necessary. From there it is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing.

I will say that I add things in my calendar from time to time and move my events for the day around if need be. This is done on iOS with Readle’s Calendars 5 app. I recently switched to this app from Fantastical 2 because it offered a much nicer weekly view.

This app, unlike Fantastical, doesn’t emphasize on the agenda style of planning as much. In fact, it resembled more of a calendar app you would find on Apple’s stock calendar app, but it offered natural language input which is one of the reasons I loved Fantastical. I am not sure how long I will stick with this, but I will say that I feel that Calendars 5 handles the fluidity of my system very easily once it is in place.

Conclusion

With this system in place there are a few things about this system that makes me nervous.

The first thing being that if I don’t stick with this and I miss something due to some unforeseen reason that I will just assume that my entire day will be shot now. A cartoon I recently discovered sums this up beautifully.

My second concern is that I will not know what to do when a new idea or task has to be done will go. For now I think the answer to this is going to be using either my current task manager OmniFocus 2 or use Apple’s Reminders app as it integrates within Calendars 5 natively.

There is going to be some testing and experimentation with this until I find a solution I am happy with. Until then though, you can follow along on my weekly newsletter. So if you are interested to keep up with this you can do so there. I also plan to answer any questions you may have about this or anything iPad/iOS related in the newsletter as well. To ask a question just fill out the form here.

Apple Education Event Wrap Up

While I wasn’t able to go to the Apple Event in person, a lot of other great people were. I decided to put together a wrap-up from the live-tweets from those that were there for the release of a new iPad. There is also some notes I put in during the live event as well. Continue reading

Our Desk Setup – ASoG 1

Episode 1 of A Slab of Glass is finally here! This first episode Christopher and I share what we have on our desks and what kind of things we like to have with us in our offices. Episode 2 comes out March 20th!

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