Tag: tools

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.

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.

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.

How To Blog on an iPad

When blogging on Tablet Habit I have gotten the question of how I do it all from my iPad. It is a fairly simple process, but it can be hard to build from scratch, so I want to break it down here.
Before I get into it though, I want to make a quick note. I write in Markdown. If you write in Markdown this should be pretty easy to follow along. If you don’t know Markdown, you can find out more from the creator of it, John Gruber, on his site Daring Fireball.

Also, this is primarily for anyone using WordPress as their blogging platform. That is the service I use as well as a large portion of other websites on the internet. It is a free, open-source platform and is absolutely worthy of the praise it has received over the years. I will happily help those who use other platforms like Squarespace if they would like. Information on how to contact me is at the bottom of this post.

With that out of the way, I am basically going to format this as a step-by-step process of planning, writing, and posting on a WordPress blog.

Brainstorming

So the first thing is to brainstorm your article. You can do this in a Markdown app you will eventually write this in, or use a mind mapping tool like iThoughts and MindNode. You can even use a pen and paper. The only requirement for this is to get everything out of your head and onto a page or screen. Emptying your brain is key to allow for more mental RAM when actually writing the article. Don’t be afraid to dump anything and everything down, even if it has nothing to do with the project at hand.

Forget to take the trash out? Write it down at the bottom of a page or note on your iPad. Just get it out of your head and write it down. The less you have swirling in your mind the less distractions you will have when actually doing the work.

From there, clean out the things not about the blog post and put them elsewhere, like a task manager or even a different sheet of paper, you can deal with it later. Really focus your outline and/or mind map to one specific goal at a time, in this case it is the blog post.

Writing

Once you know the topic and have some kind of idea what you want to say, it is time to write it into a post. Open your text editor of choice and start using that outline you wrote as a basis of what you want to say.

Side-Note: If you want some good Markdown text editing apps I highly recommend Ulysses, Byword, iA Writer, or Editorial. There are a ton of posts elsewhere that will get in the weeds on Markdown apps so you’ll be able to find one that is right for you in no time. Anyway, back to the writing portion of things.

One thing I like to do is focus on one part at a time. This can be the introduction, conclusion, item 1 of 5 if you are posting a top 5 style post, or so on. For me, I like to have the introduction and conclusion done first. It helps me know what I want to have as the “meat and potatoes” of the post. Bookending the main points I want to make allows me to work with the constraints I put on myself. If that doesn’t work for you try something else out.

There really is no wrong way of writing, but I do have one piece of advice for anyone wanting to do anything on the internet: Really take your time and make something worthwhile here. Hang your hat on your work.

So get things right instead of just getting it done. Once it is done and you want to share it with the world, you have to know what to do with those words you’ve written to get on your website.

Exporting and Posting online

After writing the article, comes exporting it to WordPress.

There are a number of ways to do this but if you are using an app that has integration with WordPress you are halfway there. Ulysses and Byword both have this built in. From within the app with integration you can actually send your post straight to the WordPress website. Just login to your website and in the app there is an option to publish (if you need help finding it let me know what app you are using and I’ll happily help you out).

Alternatively, if the app you want to use doesn’t have built in WordPress integration you can still post to your blog. You just have to use the app Workflow. You will need to convert your Markdown text into rich text. Here is a quick and easy Workflow you can use to accomplish this. It converts the Markdown text into rich text and then sends it to WordPress. Upon first use you will need to sign in to WordPress so make sure you have that information at the ready. But after that initial setup you are set to post away!

If you are using an app that is already rich text (Notes, Microsoft Word, etc.) then you can delete the conversion block in the workflow and just have it take the text and make a post on WordPress directly, or you can download this Workflow I made.

From there you can go to your WordPress post either in Safari or the WordPress app and you can edit the post, add a featured image, change the SEO or meta data, and then post it.

Uploading Images to WordPress

There is one more thing I wanted to share with you that helped me a ton. It is related to images. Uploading images to WordPress from an iPad can be a royal pain if you let it. I created a workflow that allows you to upload an image from Photos right to WordPress and then copy the link of that image so you can paste it into your Markdown text editor. It comes in handy especially if you write in Markdown and want to share that image within world. You can download that workflow here.

PLEASE NOTE: you will need to change the domain from tablethabit.com to whatever your domain is. Otherwise your links won’t be right. Also, this only works if you have a custom website as the link it creates is based on a custom domain. If anyone knows a way to make this work with a WordPress.com website I would love to know!

Congratulations! You just posted your blog using nothing but your iPad!

If you have any thoughts or ideas on how to improve this feel free to let me know on Twitter or get in contact with me.

How To Annotate Screenshots on iOS 11

When you want to share your screen on iOS it has become second nature to just take a screenshot and send it to the person you want to share it with, usually without any editing. This can be useful, but an even better solution is to add things like text, arrows, handwritten words, etc. to that screenshot. It can give whoever is getting that image that little extra reference to help then understand what you are sending.
A great example of this is when a family member needs help with a setting in iOS or has a technical support question. A simple screenshot that may help, but a screenshot with an arrow or an explanation on what to do can save you a ton of time (and headaches).

With iOS 11 this has never been more accessible and easy to use.

Annotate On iPad

To start, you can take a screenshot by pressing the Home Button and the power button at the same time. The only outlier with this is the iPhone X as it does not have a Home Button. To do this you simple press the side button and the volume up button simultaneously.

There is also a way you can take a screenshot with a keyboard attached to your iOS device. If you are a Mac user you probably know the shortcut. You can use pres SHIFT+ ⌘ (cmd)+3 to take a screenshot. You can also take a screenshot and immediately get into the annotation with the keyboard shortcut SHIFT+⌘(cmd)+4. Both are staple keyboard shortcuts that works in any app you are using. So pick what ever method you want to get the screenshot(s) as you see fit. After that is where the real fun begins.

Once you get that screenshot, a small photo of the screenshot shows up on the bottom left corner of your screen. If you take multiple screenshots, they stack on top of each other to indicate that you have multiple screenshots.

From there you can either tap on the screenshot(s) and the built in iOS annotation will come up with a plethora of options at your disposal. You can crop the image, write on it to create arrows or hand write some stuff explaining things.

Alternatively, if you decide you don’t need to annotate or edit the image you can press and hold on the screenshot on the bottom left and the Share Sheet will pop up to send wherever you like.

One great example of what an annotate image can provide is a screenshot I recently got was from my co-host of A Slab of Glass, Christopher Lawley, who shared his thoughts not the redesign of Tablet Habit.

He pointed out the two things he thought needed changing on the site (he was totally right and I have since changed the menu and image like he recommended).

This is the power of screenshots and specifically annotating them.

Along with the crop tool, pen, pencil, and highlighter options you get in the built in iOS editor you also have this lasso tool, which is underrated if you ask me. With this you can select any and all added markings on the image and move them around as you see fit. Below is a quick video of what I am talking about.

So these are the tools you get with the built in annotation, but what if you want to do more advanced stuff with your screenshots? This is where 3rd party apps come in.

3rd Party Apps for Annotation

One app I love to use for annotating images for Tablet Habit is Annotable. It is a 3rd party app that allows you to do some pretty amazing things. I personally love the spotlight feature where everything you select is at the foreground while the rest of the unselected areas of the screenshot are dimmed to showcase the selected areas. It is great to point people where to look in a way that is appeasing to the the eyes.

Spotlight Feature with Annotable

Spotlight Feature with Annotable

If you want to learn more about Annotable and other apps that are great additions for annotation check out The Sweet Setup’s article and pick the right app for you.
So if you find yourself wanting to share your screen with someone, maybe a few seconds of editing a screenshot can help.

If you think I missed something about this or want to give any advice you have about annotating screenshots on iOS feel free to leave a comment below or get in contact with me.

Using Bear as an Apple Notes Replacement

Note-taking has become a staple in any modern computer in your pocket, backpack, or tablet sleeve. That much is clear, but the apps in which people write their notes in has been a point of contention ever since there were blogs.Apple Notes was my app of choice ever since I switched to iOS and has been my go-to note-taking app since, until I started using Bear shortly after its release.

There are a number of reasons that I can now say that Apple Notes is no longer my favorite note-taking app, here are a few of them.

Markdown

Markdown has been my preferred syntax in writing since Is started to learn it in 2014. It is simple, effective, and doesn’t require anything special.

John Gruber created an amazing way to write the majority of what is needed in blogging without ever needing anything except a word processor and a few specific characters memorized.

Markdown not only is a very nice tool to use on other platforms, it also is universal and allows you to write what you have to say and focus less on how you’re going to say it. Apple Notes doesn’t have Markdown support, instead it has its own formatting stuff that pretty much boxes itself out from other apps if you want to move it elsewhere. Essentially, Apple Notes makes your words and ideas squatters in a home, only coming out with certain conditions and rules.

I will say that Bear has its own “flavor” of Markdown, but with a quick change in the General Settings of Bear you can put it into “Markdown Compatibility Mode” and all will be the same as other Markdown apps.

This entire review was written in Markdown inside the Bear app. Including all the images, links, and text formatting you see.

Customization

There are a number of things you can customize within Bear that you simply can’t in Apple Notes, making Bear offer a unique and personalized experience to whomever is using it. Notes has improved their overall look from a journal with lined paper to now a clean look where your words pop.

However, changing the background color, the font, and the font size leaves a lot to be desired. Some of these things can be done on Apple Notes, but not easily nor to the capacity Bear offers.

Themes

Where Bear shines brighter than other writing applications is their themes. From light themes, dark themes, and everything in between Bear offers the look a vast majority of people would want when they are writing notes, or even long form.

The dark themes are especially eye-catching because of how useful they can be for people that find a white text on a black screen easier to work with than the illuminating white background and black text.

To date there are 13 theme options, some being from a recent update earlier this year. I personally like the High Contrast theme for a light theme and Panic Mode as a dark theme.

A really nice addition is that each theme has its own app icon as well. You can choose whether to use the theme icon or not when selecting one in the app.

Typography

One feature I didn’t know about until very recently is that you can change the font in the app, which blew me away because it offered a whole other level of customization I didn’t even think I needed. Needless to say I played around with it and found that I actually prefer the system font over the standard Avenir Next font it ships with. Something about have the same uniform font across all applications is more appealing to me. There are a few other options to match most peoples needs. To change the font simply go to Settings within Bear and tap on “Editor” and from there you will see the option for “Typography.”

Organization and Functionality

So far I have only spoken about the cosmetic features Bear offers, which are great, but when you are talking about a notes application the proof is in the pudding. To stick with the analogy, Bear’s “pudding” is so rich you won’t be able to enjoy any other pudding the same way again.

Checklists

When I work with my notes, I sometimes find myself needed to make a list of items or things to do into a checklist, which used to mean I would take the list I created in Apple Notes and have to create a Workflow to make this list into a format another Markdown app supports. With Bear, it is a simple selection of the text and tapping on a checkbox in their custom shortcut menu.

Not only that, but Bear has sweat the details so much you can go into settings and have it automatically fold any sub-lists once the main item is checked off. Meaning you don’t have to deal with the 16 tasks under one big project checklist you created after completion. Next time you enter the app all the completed tasks will fold into a gray icon with three dots. Which allows more screen real estate available to the remaking unchecked items.

Bear checklist before fold

Bear checklist before fold

Bear checklist with fold

Bear checklist with fold

Tagging system

Organizing your notes and lists in Apple Notes is probably the most frustrating thing about the app. Not only can you not sync your notes with third party services like Dropbox, you aren’t allowed any subfolders. So if you have plans to keep notes for that big project for work, the project has to have its own folder rather than being a subfolder within the Work folder you already had.

With Bear that all goes away, because Bear uses something similar, but different. They use a tagging system, and they allow sub-tags. For all intents and purposes this is the same as folders and subfolders. Regardless of the terminology, Bear allows you to have those project notes inside its own folder wherever you want. It doesn’t have to be a top-level folder.

Bear has actually made some serious updates to their tagging system as of late. They have now implemented autocomplete features so when you begin typing a tag within the not a pop-up dialog box appears where you can then select any existing tags that fit what is already written. It makes thing a lot easier from an organizational standpoint, and prevent users from using several tags that all have the same meaning.

The Little Things

Now that I have converted both the cosmetic and the functional portion of Bear, there are still some things that these developers have put in that deserve to be mentioned.

Icons for tags

Bear’s tagging system is not only very functional, they managed to put in a few secret nuggets of fun to boot. If you use tags like “Podcast” or “Blog” or “Personal” Bear automatically assigns icons (what they are calling “TagCons” for now) for those tags that are seemingly prebuilt in the application.

Bear TagCons Bear TagCons

If you use a tag that doesn’t meat this hidden criteria, they will use a generic “#” instead, which looks all well and good, but those TagCons that appear magically really make all the difference.

Handling of Drag and Drop

When I am working on notes for my podcast Getting Caught Up I tend to use a lot of links to things mentioned in the show. As I said before I prefer Markdown, as it is my favorite way to write, but it also is supported by my podcast host, Simplecast.

Before Bear I had to copy and paste each link in a new document, then find the summary and/or title of the articles I grabbed and then put in a serious amount of time to do the tidying up.

With Bear, I simply have to drag from the page in Safari and drop in into my Bear note where it gets the heading of the page and uses that as the text to encase the URL in. It makes for bringing webpages and articles a breeze and easily saves me an hours work.

What Bear isn’t doing that Notes can

While it is easy to tell I am a fan of Bear, there are some things that Apple Notes has that the note-taking app should consider building in.

Secure notes

Apple Notes added the functionality of having secure notes in a recent update, meaning that in order to access notes you deem private it requires either a passcode you set or Touch ID (Face ID for iPhone X).

While this was never something I used because I put my secure notes in 1Password, I do see the importance of having this option. Whether it is you banking information or just a Christmas Gift list you don’t want anyone to stumble upon on accident, the ability to thwart any snooping eyes with this added security is important.

I am not sure whether Bear hasn’t implemented this because of limitation in what Apple allows users to use (which I doubt because this kind of security is used for password managing apps all the time) or it simply isn’t something that the developer have pushed out yet.

If it is the latter, BEar needs to make the effort to make this a reality, security is a growing concern among Apple users every single day, and one way to retain your current users, and probably gain new users, is with this option.

Document scans

Sometimes when you are working with others or even for yourself, there are times when you get physical items like contracts and information you want to keep for “future you.” If you are like me, you try and go paperless as much as possible.

Sadly, Bear doesn’t have any kind of document scanning app like that of Apple Notes as of iOS 11. Granted, you can use 3rd party apps to make this happen, but going from one app to another just to keep a contract on hold for later can be a dealbreaker to some. If Bear were to implement this feature, it would dramatically improve some people’s workflows and allow them to make the complete switch over.

Final Thoughts

Bear is a colossal giant among note-taking apps and after getting deep int the application making the switch over was one of the best things I have ever done for personal productivity and keeping my thoughts organized.

you can download Bear for free, but I recommend going Pro early on for either $1.49 a month or $15.00 a year. The features you get when upgrading can be explained on Bear’s pricing page.

Did I miss something in this article or have any corrections? Feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email contact@tablethabit.com.

10 iPad Life Hacks

When you are working with your iPad, many people feel stuck. Some feel like they aren’t being efficient enough or doing the right things. Well, today we have 10 ipad life hacks on how to get more out of your favorite iPad.

1. Type to Siri

Type to Siri is a new addition to iOS 11. And if you are like so many others, you usually have a keyboard attached or connected to the iPad. So, instead of talking to Siri you can type to her (or him).

This is great for the people who aren’t into talking to a computer to do tasks, it is also great for those night owls who don’t want to wake anyone that may be sleeping in your home.

Give type to Siri a try, it may just be the extra kick you need to getting things out of your head and into a system you trust.

To do this go into Settings>General>Accessibility>Siri and from there turn on Type to Siri.

2. Have a shelf app in Slide-Over

I spoke about Shelf Apps before. They are a great way to put things you want to save and use in other apps for later. One trick I found to be immensely helpful it to always have it available with a simple swipe from the right side of the iPad.

This is called the Slide-Over app. It is basically a floating app that isn’t connected to another app, allowing it to be freely accessible wherever you are on you iPad.

I use this a lot with the images to my posts, but I have seen others use it for practically any type of file or input.

If you are looking for a good Shelf app I recommend Gladys or Yoink. Each have their quirks but they are both very powerful and definitely something I keep in my dock for frequent use.

3. Use Spotlight for searching more than just apps

Spotlight is underutilized, in my opinion, when it comes to using the iPad. Many just use it for the occasional search for an app, but there are so many other things that Spotlight can search for.

You can search for files, websites, and even local stores through Maps. Spotlight is something I underutilized until I started pushing to see what all it can handle. I was beyond pleasantly surprised to see that it managed to find what I wanted a large majority of the time.

Granted, there are times where I couldn’t find what I was searching for but that happened far less then when it worked.

Give Spotlight a try more and see it it works for you.

4. Edit your Share sheet

The Share Sheet is the place to send things from one app to another. But sometimes you have to dig through to find the right app to send the information or file to.

One thing you can do is remove the apps you never use in the Share Sheet. You can do this by hitting the share icon and scrolling all the way to the right and tap the “More” button.

From there you can rearrange, hide, or add the apps you want. This works for both the top and bottom rows of the Share Sheet.

Additionally, you can drag icons to rearrange them if you find you want one more readily accessible.

5. Use text shortcuts and/or TextExpander

Many of us have common phrases or information we send to people regularly. Things like email addresses, updates on where we are, or just emails we send when someone asks a question you get asked a lot. This is where Text Replacement and TextExpander come in.

Text Replacement is a feature built into iOS. To see it go to Settings>General>Keyboard and you will see the option there. Once you open it you can add or edit text replacements. One you may see there is omw. What this means is that any time you type “omw” iOS will replace that with “On my way!”

Text Replacement is useful for quick phrases or words that you may use a lot, but when you add longer strands of text or need something that is Rick Text, you will need TextExpander.

TextExpander is a great tool I recommend to anyone who does email support, communicates to others via email or text as part of their job, or just someone that is geeky like my and wants to make things easier for me in the long run.

Because of the robust features TextExpander offer you may need some help getting over the learning curve of it. David Sparks did a video series on Textexpander a little over a year ago when the company redesigned their app from the ground up. If you want to learn more about the vast amount of features this app has, David is the man to teach you.

6. Edit Control Center

Control Center is one of those features that if you use it, it can make things much more efficient and change the way you use your iPhone or iPad.

When iOS 11 came out Apple put together a slew of options you can set for your Control Center, including having up to 8 button instead of the default 4. There are some great options on there, my personal favorite is the screen recording option. With this you just tap on the button and you screen is then being recorded. This is especially handy when you are the tech support person for your family and a relative asks you how to do something on their phone. Instead of walking them through it with long texts or emails you can record how to do it and send it their way to view as many times as they need to accomplish what they want.

7. Schedule Do Not Disturb times for working on the high-energy level tasks

Do Not Disturb sounds like a feature you would use when you are going to sleep or when you’re at the movies, but this feature can cut distractions out of your life big time.

I use DND when I am writing or working on other high-energy tasks that require my full attention. It saves me from being distracted by email, messages, and more when I am in deep work mode.

If you want to learn more about what Do Not Disturb is, Apple has a great support doc to read over.

8. Long Press on some Apps for a force-touch like response

While the new iPhones have Force Touch, the iPad does not. Regardless of the reasoning from Apple, there is a way to get the added pop-ups on an iPad.

This doesn’t work for all apps that have force touch support, but those that do have it allows you to use it without having to open the app.

Just tap and hold on an app, instead of it wiggling a pop-up will appear with whatever the developers built to come up. For instance, Apple’s Files app shows the most recent documents you have opened, which can be handy when you need to quickly open up something you were working on earlier.

9. Scan QR codes with your Camera

QR codes were never the smash hit they were meant to be. Rarely do I ever use it, but on the rare occasion I do I always thought you needed to download a separate app. Instead, you have a QR code reader built in to the camera.

With a few taps in settings you too can turn on QR Code reader and have the option to scan one within the native Camera app.

Apparently this feature was added with iOS 11. It is a hidden feature to many, but this is so convenient when necessary.

10. Access Saved Passwords in Safari

Password management has become more and more important over the years. Between hacks to your email, or even your personal finance information, a good password that is unique on each site is a must.

Safari has made some major improvements to creating passwords for accounts you make in the browser, making them uniques and then saving them to iCloud.

But there are times where you need that password and iOS doesn’t have it as an option in the shortcut menu. You’re not out of luck, you just need to copy it from Settings.

To do this go to Settings>Accounts & Passwords> then tap on the App & Website Passwords option at the top. From there you will get access to all the saved passwords in you iCloud Keychain.

While the iCloud Keychain can get the job done it doesn’t offer many options for other things like secure notes, and getting to these passwords can be tedious over time.

This is where apps like 1Password come in and they offer a great app that can be built into the Share Sheet and is integrated in may apps like Twitter where you jut tap on the lock button in the login screen and it will search for passwords that match Twitter. It is a very intuitive app and well worth the money to ease the stresses of password management and security.

Extras

So there are some life hacks for using you iPhone or iPad. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed something.

Also, if you’re wondering how I made these screenshot annotations, I used the app Annotable. They are not a sponsor, just a very cool app and one I want to share with you all!

PencilSnap Review

The Apple Pencil is a great tool when you need it, but when you don’t it can be more of an inconvenience than anything. This is why there are so many Pencil cases and products to allow you to store the pencil when you don’t need it.

Apple joined this game last year with their own case. But there was one problem: it provided no function for transporting it. To do that you would need to buy Apple’s $129.00 leather sleeve. I don’t know about you, but if I have to buy something that costs more than my Apple Pencil to just keep it near my iPad it isn’t for me. With that out as an option, I still needed a sleek, high functioning holster for my Pencil.

This is where Twelve South comes in with their new product, the PencilSnap

I recently bought my own PencilSnap to see if this would be the final accessory I would need to carry my Apple Pencil once and for all. I have to say, this little piece of leather has a lot going for it.

Look and Feel

This holster is very minimal looking and there is no noticeable branding on the product at first glance. However, If you look on the back of it where there are magnets to stick it on a Smart Cover to Smart Keyboard you can see the word PencilSnap embossed on the leather. It is a very subtle but nice touch that is something I wish other brands would do on their products.

The leather the PencilSnap is made out of is well crafted to say the least. It has the feel of fresh leather you would get from an Apple branded iPhone case. I haven’t had it long enough to see how this leather ages over time but if the photos I see of leather iPhone cases on Reddit indicates anything, it is going to look even better after some time and use. I will say that it takes a few time of putting it in and taking the Apple Pencil out for the leather to loosen up. Honestly this was fine after about a dozen time of me taking it out.

The backing with the magnets is firm but mailable enough to really allow you to pull your pencil in an out without worrying that you are going to break the case. It also bounces back very nicely, leaving my worries of it being forever bent backwards behind.

Functionality

This thing is crazy strong. Both with the magnets keeping it on the iPad and the overall casing for the Pencil. I have vigorously shaken the case with the pencil in it and it just doesn’t budge. the PencilSnap does its job well and without any margin of error.

I also have had the case on my iPad 10.5” Smart Keyboard and took a shake to that as well, way more than I would actually jostle my iPad in day-to-day use. Again, not a single budge. I wanted to see just how far I had to take things in order to get these magnets to fail.

So I removed the Smart Keyboard from my iPad and unfurled it to have one long silicone case and a keyboard and shook it like a mad man. Finally, after a few good shakes the force of the case whipping back and forth made it fly off the case. So if you end up whipping your Smart Cover around like it’s a bed sheet, this magnet won’t work. But if you aren’t insane, and you treat your tablet with even a little respect this thing won’t fail on you.

If I find any issues with this over time I will be sure to update this post and let you know, but honestly I don’t foresee me having to do that. I am utterly impressed with just how sleek yet strong Twelve South made this.

Conclusion

If you aren’t satisfied with how you are using your Apple Pencil for travel or just want something to keep your Apple Pencil with your iPad Pro, this $30 accessory will be the only thing you need. It keeps it close to your iPad and safely attached. I would recommend this over Apple’s case, or really any other Apple Pencil case, with zero hesitation.

Twelve South continues to uphold their reputation as one of the leading Apple accessory manufacturers because they sweat the details, and make sure products like the PencilSnap make your life easier and look great too.

You can pick up your own PencilSnap at Twelve South’s website for just $1 more than Apple’s and get ten times more use out of it.

Turning Your iPad Into A Second Display

Dual monitors are all the rave now a days. They make working in the office a breeze and even help increase productivity. Clicking between tabs and dragging windows here and there are a thing of the past. The best part about technology now is that you can have your multiple screens at home and take them on the go provided you have the proper hardware, and software, for the job. My favorite thing to do is have my reference image or whatever YouTube video I’m watching to pass the time, on one screen and have my work on the other screen.  The iPad is great for this.

As long as you have an iPad that runs iOS 7.0 or later, you can have a portable second screen. The app that I find the best for this task is Duet Display. I’d like to start off by saying that the app is a paid application and comes in at $15.99 but I promise, it’s worth it. Plus, the accompanying Mac app is one hundred percent free.

The Duet app supports all iOS device that run 7.0 or later (Older versions of the app are compatible for devices that can only run iOS 7.0). As far as the Mac, Duet supports macOS 10.9 and later. However, the creators of Duet Display recommend that for the best experience with macOS Sierra that you upgrade to macOS 12.12.2. If you’re running any of the older macOS such as Mountain Lion or older you won’t be able to take advantage of what Duet Display has to offer.

This isn’t an application just for Apple products, PC users don’t turn away, there is support for PCs as long as they’re running Windows 7 or later.

The best features include the fact that there is basically no lag which is amazing especially if you’re doing intensive work such as coding or video editing. Also, if you happen to have one of the latest MacBook Pros with touchBar support then Duet also bring that feature over to whatever tablet you’re using. I personally haven’t found any use for that feature but I’m sure someone, somewhere will. You can also change the display and performance levels to create a more optimal and efficient experience.

If you do choose to use your iPad as a second display then there is this amazing device that the people over at Ten One Design created specifically for something like this. The Mountie give you the option of clipping your iPad or iPhone directly to your MacBook and as per their website it also let’s the user “enjoy eye-level FaceTime video chats, monitor your Twitter feed, iMessage with family, or even host a live recording session with friends from afar.” Because I have the larger 12.9′ iPad Pro I haven’t personally used the Mountie but I have seen it in action and it does seem to provide a seamless experience. (If you’re interested in purchasing and for more information on the Mountie, please visit Ten One Design’s website HERE.)

Alternatives to Duet Display

If you don’t particularly prefer to shell out that much cash on Duet Display there are other apps that do the same thing at a significantly cheaper cost. These apps include Air Display 3 ($9.99) and iDisplay ($14.99).

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