Here’s a list of capabilities Apple added to the Appleverse that I never really asked for, or at least didn’t write a blog entry asking for, that I really like.
End to End Encryption in Notes – This was a big one. I had long wanted to be able to share notes with my wife and Apple delivered on that several of years ago. That took notes to a usability level that let me get rid of Evernote and the thrice damned OneNote. Now that the notes are encrypted my wife and I can use them together for just about every aspect of our lives from caring for our aging parents to recipes. A useful product just keeps getting better.
My Apple wish list is really not very long. Just a very few things I believe Apple could accomplish very easily that would make my life, and that of a great many others, much easier and cause us to snuggle even more tightly into the warm, accepting embrace of the closed garden. And here they are without further ado.
First, give us the choice to work natively with Microsoft Office formats in iWork applications like Libre Office does. It’s just fine that I can import and export MS Office Formats to Numbers and Pages, but that little bit of friction is enough that I don’t bother to use the applications at all. Why? Because almost zero people in the business world even know what Numbers and Pages are much less what formats they use. If I am going to share a document with anybody it needs to be an xlsx or docx file. And if I need to share that document I need to do it now, not after exporting, figuring out where the file is and sending it along its way. And if an associate wants me to edit a file, I don’t need to import the file, work on it, export it and send it back as many times as are required.
Sometimes when changing the applications we use to do things, our workflows must change. Such is the case with web clipping in Evernote. To clip a webpage to Evernote all you had to do was click on the clipper extension in the web browser and follow you nose to create a new note or add to an existing note. This created a static note with the information from the web page, not just a link to the page. It also stripped out ads and other cruft you didn’t want in the note.
Using iPad OS or iOS and Notes this experience can be largely replicated and pretty much just as simply. First you must know that if you are in Safari and use the share sheet to send a web page to notes, what you will get is a note with a link to the web page. This is not generally what I want because pages can change or disappear over time.
Instead the following work flow will produce a note with a clean PDF of the web site in it.
- Display the reader view of the website this cleans up the ads and other cruft. This will not work on a website without a reader view, but my experience is that most have a reader view.
- Use the share sheet to send the website to Markup, this will create a PDF of the page.
- Use the share sheet to send the created PDF to Notes. Select to create a new note and which folder or add to an existing note.
That’s really it. The only difference in clipping pages this way is that the links internal to the page are note live in the new note.
I’ve been somewhat frustrated with the WordPress application on iPad OS. There are settings, like drop cap, that you just can’t access through the application and you really have to use a WordPress account to use the tool, which I definitely don’t like.
So, I thought I’d start writing directly in the web app to see if there were differences that would make me choose to go back to the application. As this blog is infrequently updated (I intend to do more, but seldom do), this could take some time.
One thing I had noted before that kept me on the iPad application vs the web app was the lack of autoscrolling in the writing window as I typed. I note now that this is no longer an issue as the window is scrolling as I type.
The interface is also relatively uncluttered and offers me full access to the full power of the block editor. Now that iPad OS provides the ability to have a browser window dedicated to a web app with another either in side by side mode or slide over, I can still do research as I write or open Notes with prior research to use as I write.
We’ll see how this experiment goes and I’ll post the outcome.
If I’m using my iPad as my primary computing device, which Apple obviously intends I should, why shouldn’t the Facetime camera be on the long axis of the device, the side with the volume controls? I so seldom use the device in portrait orientation, especially since I have a keyboard/folio, that having the camera on the side is a pain.
Since early September I have been using my 12.9” iPad Pro Gen 3 as my primary computing device and I must say it is handling the task with very few complaints.
Furthermore, my complaints are mostly about how iCloud works rather than how the device works. All of them center around services that Apple offers that, if they worked better, would make a huge difference in usability on the iPad.
My first annoyance is with Apple Notes. It syncs across devices and across accounts with shared folders. But it does so with glacial speed. If I scan a pdf of a document and add it as a note it will take as much as a day to propagate across all of the devices and users it is shared with. I have noticed it comes in two stages.
As of today with the receipt of my 12.9” iPad Pro Gen 3, I am all in on taking Apple up on the proposition that, with the advent of iPadOS 13.1, it can be my primary computer.
I have been experimenting with an older 9.7” iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard. A lot is possible, but I felt constrained by the screen size. The larger iPad, just by virtue of its size, makes things that were difficult much easier.
I was disappointed to learn that sharing iCloud Drive folders would not make it into iPadOS 13 as I had planned to migrate all my cloud storage to Apple. I will keep my Dropbox account until it expires in January and either shared folders will make it into iCloud Drive or I will move to the storage that comes along with Office 365.
The ability to share folders in Notes made the move from Evernote a no brainer and has already been accomplished. The attempt to move from Office 365 to iWork was a disaster. We have too much invested in learning how to use Office to make the switch worthwhile.
In addition to iPads and iPhones for my wife and me, we will keep a vintage Mac Mini and Thunderbolt Cinema Display running for times when we need a desktop (like de-duping files in cloud storage). When MacOS no longer supports that Mini, we’ll plunk down for an iMac (or whatever they are selling then) and I’ll convert the mini to a Linux server.
I have been planning on dropping Dropbox when shared folders are available on iCloud. My primary reason was to save money and improve my security by staying in the Apple Walled Garden. Dropbox’s recent announcement of major changes in the way they think about what their service is have made me think a move is even more warranted.
In its new iteration it’s a centralized collaboration point for all of the things people work on together. The new Dropbox not only lets you sync and share your files, the folks at Dropbox now insist that it’s:
…a single workspace to organize your content, connect your tools, and bring everyone together, wherever you are. The first thing you’ll notice is an all-new Dropbox desktop app that we’re introducing today through our early access program. It’s more than an app, though — it’s a completely new experience.Dropbox
I must fully concur with John Gruber at Daring Fireball who writes simply, “I didn’t want any of this.”
That seems to be the upshot of the commentary on the new Dropbox. Nobody was looking for another way, outside the operating system they are running, to integrate the cloud services they use. Especially one that comes in an electron app that eats memory. They wanted a lightweight, cross platform way to sync and share files.
Has Dropbox jumped the shark? Time will tell, but this makes me feel like jumping off the Dropbox platform is the correct decision.
One of the goals of moving to an iPad as my primary computer is trying, as much as I can, to use native Apple tools. If, after having paid a premium for the hardware, I fail to use the software tools that come with it I have wasted the premium to some extent.
I have been a user and occasionally a power user of Excel since version 4 on Windows 3.1 and 3.11 and now use Excel 365 at work and home. Working with Numbers with its entirely different paradigm, was somewhat of a shock to the system. Just the idea that I couldn’t open an actual blank spreadsheet (with no formatting at all) that occupied the entire sheet seemed strange.
So one of my first projects was to find out how iPad could support my blogging activities, preferably without spending any money or only a little. I needed something that would work well with my self hosted WordPress site and would or could have a low distraction environment.
Most of the dedicated iPad blogging software that works with WordPress gets horrible reviews. That includes Blogo which I had used and liked previously on Mac, until they switched to a subscription model and I dropped them like a hot potato. Apparently other users didn’t like the change either and their revenue dropped like the same hot potato. The developer claims they are understaffed and are working hard to recover. Blah. They get two stars out of five.