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Categories: ipad

Turning Off Notifications

As a culture, our ability to discern what is important from moment-to-moment is completely gone.

I read a lot of talk about this among the technorati, but the public at large seem to be content to bury themselves in their screens more than ever. There’s a very popular Louis CK bit making the rounds lately from his recent appearance on Conan O’Brien. I find myself thinking about it often and it syncs up almost exactly with the books I’ve been reading about Buddhism and meditation.

I’ve been trying to look at my phone less and experience what’s been happening around me more. This probably comes as a relief to those who have known me for years since I’m fairly well known as “the guy who is looking at his phone”. I’m surprised by how people who used to complain about me phone-gazing barely take notice of the difference in my behavior, mainly because they’ve started doing it too. Smart phones have reached a point where people use them to soothe their minds and distract them from stray second of having to notice what is really happening.

Sure, we use our phones to get work done, interact with friends, message people, take pictures, research facts you can’t bring to mind – I get that. I’m just saying we need to think for a second before taking our phone out of our pocket. I’m saying we should keep them off the dinner table. I’m saying we should set up some personal rules that allow us to control our time and attention rather than have it demanded of us only to have it given away to something as unimportant as a picture of someone’s cat on Facebook. As a society we have taken to calling ourselves “more connected” because of our technology but the opposite is happening. We’ve becoming less connected than ever.

A few weeks ago, Alice and I went to a ramen place in New York City. It was packed so we had to sit and wait in the lobby for a table. Around us were five other couples, all waiting for their tables too. Every person, all ten of them, had their face cast down, illuminated by the light of their cell phones. There was no interaction between anyone and all of them were completely ignoring their date. What kind of “night to remember” were they going to post about on Facebook that night? Maybe they were just there to post an Instagram of their bowl of noodles instead…

Here are some of the things I did to reduce the amount my devices compete for my time and attenion.

  • I disabled almost all notifications.
  • I disabled almost all badges.
  • I set up Favorite contacts so their messages get through – generally people on my contact list who might need to reach me in an emergency (a non-work emergency, mind you).
  • I set up my do-not-disturb settings so that I am never bothered after midnight or before 7:00am except in cases of extreme emergency.
  • I leave do-not-disturb on 24/7 on my iPad so that it doesn’t ring or buzz.
  • I turn off auto-fetch on my email clients on weekends and check them at times that work for me.

You can do things to lock it down more, or you can be less stringent than me. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. The point is to make conscious decisions. Don’t fly on autopilot. Don’t give your attention away for free.

I’m not saying we throw the technological baby out with the bathwater but I am advocating some thought and awareness about how we view our connectedness or we may end up missing what is important, right in front of us.

Editorial Comments

There has been a buzz in the echosphere about a new iPad text editor called Editorial. Speaking as a person who has purchased their fair share of iPad text editors, at first the news was met with an eyeroll. Then I started noticing the names of the people mentioning the tool – all people whose opinions I hold in high regard.

Gabe from Macdrifter has a long piece, complete with tutorial videos. Federico Viticci from Macstories has a review that spans more pages than Newsblur’s parser can handle. After reading and watching the videos, not to mention Brett Terpstra’s and David Sparks’s comments, I decided to check Editorial out. I’m not going to give a full rundown of the amazing and innovative features of Editorial – Gabe and Federico have done a much better job than I’d ever do – but I will say that the abilities of the app are up to pretty much any task you’d need a text editor for. In some ways, its more useful than the Mac-based text editors I use. It’s incredible.

I already have Nebulous Notes for iPad and I use it daily. I even wrote a few macros to help with note-taking during meetings to cement its place in my workflow. Once I do a lot of tailoring to get something to work just the way I want it, it takes quite a bit to move me to something else.

Digging into the snippet and workflow creators in Editorial, I was able to not only replace the macros I created with Nebulous Notes, but I was able to extend them. The ability to push things even further with Python gives the user nearly-unlimited capabilities for turning this into the ultimate portable writing environment.

I’ve never thought I’d be able to be one of those people who switch to using just an iPad for writing. It seems unnecessarily constricting. Most of the articles I have read about it exhibit a stubborn quality – as if it’s being used just to prove it can be done. With the release of Editorial, it makes this more of a possibility. I won’t use it for all writing but it takes the iPad Mini one step closer to being an autonomous, remote workhorse.

Boy, Was I Wrong: My Initial Impressions of the iPad Mini

Well, I have to admit, I’ve never been so wrong about a device.

I usually have a pretty good feel for these things, and I’ve spent a lot of mental clock cycles thinking about how a device like this can’t possibly work. Devices like the Samsung Note look inane and deeply flawed. I have played with the software that passes for applications on them. Awful stuff. Software on those devices always seemed to try to straddle the line between being a blown up phone app and a half-baked afterthought of a tablet app. Comparing “workhorse” apps like OmniPlan and OmniFocus on the iPad to those found on Android devices just seem… well.. terrible.

So I assumed that apps that were designed for a specific scale and use case on the iPad would scale down poorly with small tap targets and a non-retina display which would compromise the very detail you’d need to run those apps. Again, I was wrong.

I was thinking that the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard I bought for the iPad 3 I had been using was going to be wasted or useless. Wrong.

I’m typing this on my new iPad Mini (32GB with LTE) using my Ultrathin keyboard. The screen is small but not overly so. I can carry this light, slim device easily (it even fits snugly into the back pocket of my jeans) and I find it is always a first choice when reaching for something to browse the internet with, catch up on ADN or skim through Reeder or Instapaper.

The worry that apps like Comixology would suffer due to the lack of a larger screen or lack of retina resolution was unfounded. I was reading comics on the Mini yesterday and they looked pretty damn good and the fact that they’re more portable makes up for it.

Other reading apps fare pretty well too but admittedly in this area I do miss the retina resolution. iBooks, Kindle, Reeder, Instagram, Goodreader, the Magazine are all front and center on this thing though. While it used to lay all around the house ready to go at a moment’s notice, lately the Kindle Paperwhite is relegated to my nightstand. I still prefer the Paperwhite’s low-light reading capabilities and I’m sure it will fare much better when reading outside in the summer but for now, the iPad Mini is going to be my go-to for reading. Strange but true.

Thanks to the miscreants on ADN who pushed me over the edge. I am not regretting the decision. In fact, for once I’m pretty damn happy about being wrong.

Building a Better iPad Outliner (with Nebulous Notes)

I own OmniOutliner. It’s a fantastic app when you’ve got a job to do on your Mac. However, I’ve written before about how frustrating the sync options are – the Omni method of going back and forth between the Mac and iPad versions of OmniOutliner just doesn’t work for me. It’s awkward and assumes I have a decent data connection. Sadly this is often not the case in conference rooms that sometimes do a passable impersonation of a lead-lined coffin.

What I’m left to do is create a new outline for my meeting on the iPad and then find a way to merge it back into my larger weekly meeting outline file on the Mac. It basically makes my iPad useless for taking meeting notes in OmniOutliner because the steps necessary to go back and forth are too much to bother with.

Up until yesterday, I was hauling my 13” Macbook Air around from room to room, keeping a large outline of the week’s meetings in nvALT. Since my machine was doing a backup yesterday, I cracked out the iPad and decided to figure out a way to solve my outlining problems once and for all.

My workflow relies heavily on two things – Dropbox and text files. Dropbox is the hub for all documents and does a great job syncing things back and forth between devices as well as home and work. The key to working with these files on the iPad is having an app that works well with Dropbox (and there are many) but also has the capacity to create a clear, easy-to-read, well-indented meeting outline.

There’s no clear winner on the latter part of that requirement so I enlisted the help of Nebulous Notes, a universal app which I’ve been using on my iOS devices for some time. It makes use of TextExpander, markdown and has a great macro feature which I thought might take advantage of to replace my iPad’s OmniOutliner for good (or until they make sync work the way I need it to).

My meeting notes consist of a header which contains the meeting name and a time-date stamp. I have had a TextExpander macro made for this for years and the naming consistency has helped me find many a meeting entry over that time. I just type “newmeeting” and it fires a macro that puts the cursor right where I need it.

- **%| %m%d%Y %H%M%p**

Once the meeting header is set up, I need a new line a tab and a hyphen so that markdown formatting can take over, creating nice, easy-to-read indentation. While there are some ways that Nebulous helps out of the box, such as providing a “Tab” button, it was still a lot of taps to enter the new line, hit the Tab toolbar button, hit the keyboard alternate button, find the hyphen, tap that, enter a space, etc.

Nebulous also supports custom macros in addition to the canned (albeit helpful) ones already on the toolbar. Custom macros can be put on the toolbar for quick access as well. All of a sudden this ad hoc, plain text outlining tool starting looking much easier…

The first macro is one that creates a new line, single tab and a hyphen as described above.


Seems easy enough but it saves a ton of keystrokes and tapping. Now, when I’m on the end of a topic line, a simple button tap sends me into the details. But what if I want to create two levels of detail? Simple, another macro with two tabs. The last piece was to create another macro to add a hyphen when needed instead of the three-tap method I was current dealing with. (I realize the “slide the finger to quickly access the alternative keyboard” trick works on the iPad but it takes far longer than hitting one of Nebulous’ macro buttons.)

Just by setting up those few macros, I have create a fully-realized meeting outline tool in markdown using Nebulous Notes. The outline in the same format I’ve been using for years and is searchable, extensible and ubiquitous thanks to Dropbox. The beauty of this is, after the meeting is over, the notes I’ve just taken are ready back at my desk – they can be inserted into an email to the team with a simple copy/paste.

It’s always worth taking a look at old processes and see what you can improve. If you have to do something more than a few times, it might be time to see if you can automate it, or least take some of the pain out of it. By removing friction, you’re not only making yourself more productive but you’re also taking away some of the frustration that keeps you from doing things in the first place.

Which Apps I Use (and When)

One of the big focus areas for iOS developers lately is the creation of task and reminder apps. Being a heavy OmniFocus user, the thought of splitting my focus isn’t one that I look forward to. Sure, I like checking out new apps now and then, but putting tasks in the iOS Reminders app, OmniFocus and yet another app seems like I’ll end up missing something.

Enter Checkmark by builtbysnowman, a new app that helps you remember things you need to do, but focusing more on where you are doing things rather than just having good ways of managing your lists.

After buying the app, and testing it out briefly, it is clear the app is slick and has merit but it is causing me, yet again, to rethink my tool selection to find the best combination of tools for the jobs at hand.

I have the following apps on my phone being used for some very specific functions:

Task and List Management

  • OmniFocus - Main task/project repository. Useful for everything. Does location-awareness and integrates with Siri (sort of).
  • Checkmark - Location-based reminders only(?)
  • Due - Useful for pulling recurring, reminder-type tasks out of my Calendar (“take out trash”, etc)
  • Reminders - Stock Apple app. Useful but hardly idea. Just used to shuttle things from Siri to OmniFocus.
  • Ita - Gorgeous but never used.

Writing and Note Management

  • Drafts - Useful for quick, “reminder-like” notes.
  • Scratch - Another quick text entry tool, like Drafts. Testing it out.
  • Writing Kit - This is the best app for writing on the iPad. By far. Hands down.
  • Nebulous Notes - Still my favorite Dropbox text file editor.
  • Byword - I generally use the Mac version (writing in it right now)
  • Notesy - I want to like this but had stability issues. Waiting…
  • Elements - Some great parts, but rarely used.

How Do I Decide Which App To Use?

Having this many tools makes it critical for me to be targeted with how each app should be used. Like lots of people who post about this stuff, I feel like each tool is not quite up to the task. I keep downloading each new thing, expecting it to be the final piece of the puzzle only to find it is ever-so-slightly imperfect.

The current task-tracking tool breakdown, for today anyway, is to use OmniFocus for capturing tasks that are related to projects. If it is something related to a project or a person I have a context for, OmniFocus is also a natural choice.

For single tasks or tasks that are tied to a specific place, I’ve started using the fairly-amazing Checkmark. So far the app has been performing really well in all of my tests and the interface is slick as hell. As I’ve never really used the location-based reminders in OmniFocus, this is scratching the itch for ephemeral needs. I will continue to put it to work and expect I’ll follow up with some sort of tech note on this site at some point.

Checkmark also does time-based tasks, which I have started using as well. Previous to that, I was using a mix of OmniFocus or my calendar, both of which aren’t really the best tool for the job. Due was in the mix for a while, and it was well-suited to the task, but having things spread out over so many tools is disorienting and just doesn’t sit well with my somewhat-well-ordered-and-organized mind. I generally want the best tool for the job, but I want to use the least amount of tools possible. Adding more tools just adds more friction.

For recurring events, since Checkmark doesn’t have support for them, I continue to use Due. As mentioned above, Fantastical works for this but it always felt like pushing a boulder up a hill. I’ll still use Fantastical to set up things like birthdays and actual events, but recurring reminders are now much better served using Due.

The Apple Reminders app only really comes into play via OmniFocus, making use of the makeshift Siri integration. Using Siri, I can integrate iCloud and Siri’s insertion of tasks into OmniFocus, which has saved me a ton of time over the last few months.

When I need to write something down that isn’t task-related and anywhere between a few words to a sentence or two, the two apps I turn to are Drafts and Scratch. Given how easy it is to make nice Markdown changes in Scratch, I’ve been using that more. I’d say Scratch is still in a beta state for me. It’s an impressive app so far, however. If I could get Scratch’s “append to Dropbox file” to work in the iOS6 beta I’m sure I could find some interesting uses as well…

Writing Kit is an amazing iPad editor (in fact I’ve written this post using it). I feel dumb not having used it sooner and I can’t recommend it enough. I have the notes for an upcoming review/recommendation post to explain exactly what makes it so great but, in the meantime, just go buy it.

Nebulous Notes is still a staple for editing Markdown notes for work. It works well for a lot of things and does a decent job of avoiding Dropbox conflicts, although they still happen occasionally if I’m swapping back and forth between my Mac and iPad.


For me, keeping things as simple as possible in a very hectic work (and home) environment is paramount. Cluttering up my devices with a bunch of apps that are half-solutions doesn’t really help me much because adding any level of friction just means that I won’t record something or remember something or be reminded of something important. Friction can be anything from not being able to find an app you need when you need it to having to think for a half-second about what the best way to record something is.

Do I use Due or Checkmark to set a reminder? Do I use OmniFocus? Wait, is there a project for that? Does it make sense to put it in a particular context? Will I need to transfer this task to my main OmniFocus database at some point? Let’s look at how I make some of these calls…

I will generally follow the decision tree outlined below to determine which reminder app to use:

  1. Is it a simple recurring task? If yes, use Due. If no, go to 2.
  2. Is it a complicated recurring task? If yes, go to 4, if no, go to 3.
  3. Is this a simple, one-step task? If yes, use Checkmark If no, go to 4.
  4. Use OmniFocus.

How should I set a timer?

Due has timers, but Siri is so dead simple I prefer using it. I guess if I have to be sneaky and silent when I need to time something one day, I’ll use Due but how often does something like that come up? I’d guess nearly never. At least I have alternatives..?

I need to write something. How do I choose which tool to use?

  1. Is it really short? Like noting where I parked or someone’s phone number? Use Scratch or Drafts (Scratch is currently on the Home Page for this purpose).
  2. Is it a piece for the website? Use Byword on my Mac, or Writing Kit on my iPad. I don’t use my iPhone for writing posts.
  3. Is it longer than a few lines but not for the website? Then I almost always use nvALT on my Mac and Nebulous Notes on my iOS devices. Whatever it is gets synced to Dropbox.
  4. Is it really long? Use Scrivener or Byword (although I recently wrote a very long work document in nvALT – I didn’t know it would grow to the length it did and nvALT worked pretty damn well. It looked gorgeous with my output from Marked too.)*

So there you have it. My streamlined decision trees for which tool I use and when. I try to keep it as simple as possible but still use the best tool for the job. I consider myself lucky that there are so many great tools out there to make me more effective wherever I happen to be.

7" iPad Rumors

Out of all of the articles and rumor-mongering going around over the last few days, I think Ben Brooks hits closest to what I agree with but I’ll take it a step further. I don’t think the 7” iPad is a good fit for the stable of Apple products.

It doesn’t make sense from a portfolio fit, from a usability fit or from a developer buy-in fit. Apple doesn’t shoot for the lowest common denominator, it innovates. It’s more likely that they are coming up with something no one has thought of yet, rather than chase the low-end and play in the same pool as the Amazon Kindle or Nexus7.

Here are some practical considerations from a design and development perspective.

  • The controls for current iPad apps will be too small to use in a lot of cases (think OmniFocus or OmniPlan for iPad). Do you really think this will look good on a screen that is THIRTY percent smaller?

  • How would ebooks created through iBooks Author work on a 7" screen (besides "badly")? Books like Paperless would be cramped and terrible or the fonts would be extremely small. iBooks might display OK in a “paperback” format (vs the current, larger “hardcover” format). If you have something with diagrams or specific design constraints, you’d be out of luck.

  • Is text going to automatically scale for all apps? Will that be developer controlled via different device targets?

  • What about Newstand magazines? Smaller text won’t do New Yorker any favors. I think you’d need a retina screen to do it justice, but then you’re raising the price of this supposed “bargain” device…

  • Pretty much all games will have to be redeveloped, from a control/interface perspective, to work well on this size device.

  • How usable is this device for typing? Is it a huge-ass iPhone keyboard or a shrunken iPad keyboard? They both sound terrible. If this cues the “but this will be for content consumption” then go read the statements above about how terrible it will be to consume content.

I’m not saying Apple definitely won’t build a 7” iPad-like device. If they do, it will be something new and different rather than a simple downscaled, lowest common denominator, “me too” device. Can you imagine what kind of industry we’d have right now if Apple decided to make netbooks just because HP was making money on them?

Me neither.

App Store Woes: A Perspective

Over the past couple of days, iOS developers have been citing complaints from users that their apps are crashing and causing waves of 1-star reviews. What’s worse is the hit to the user’s faith in the developer to deliver a consistent, stable experience.

For years, the sides of the argument that make the case for why the “walled garden” approach of the App Store has a detrimental affect for users have largely been proven wrong. You need only look at the state of malware on Google Play to see how advocates of Google’s approach have to live with their choices. It doesn’t look like a lot of fun to me.

For the vast majority of users, the approach Apple has taken with their App Store (curated, sandboxed applications) delivers a good user experience overall. Knowing that an app you bought has been vetted by some authority goes a long way for some people. That’s not to say that this method is totally perfect.

The problems arise when the trusted system goes bad. The app corruption problem that’s being brought to light is a huge issue for people who base their whole livelihood on the App Store.

When something like this is beyond your control as an application developer, it is a terrible feeling. It highlights the fragility of the ecosphere and underlines the reliance on a system that you have no input to, no authority over and no autonomy from if you want to continue to distribute your apps this way. Indeed, for iOS developers, this is the only way to distribute apps legitimately. As long as there is no workaround, or acknowlegement from Apple that there is even a problem, as a developer, you are left in a limbo state with no recourse whatsoever.

As frustrated as the developer community is right now with this issue, (rightfully so), I try to temper my reaction somewhat with the fact that what we do isn’t possible without Apple’s infrastructure.

Over the last 4 years, we have enjoyed an unprecedented ability to reach new users, clients and respondents. We have reaped the benefits of Apple’s distribution system, audience reach and smartphone technology. We have gained a whole new platform since this whole process started in the iPad and we have seen our businesses grow because of Apple’s success.

While this may be frustrating now, keeping the above things in mind will help us keep perspective on this bump in the road. Once things settle back into the status quo of solid up-time and the reliable mechanisms of software distribution we’ve enjoyed since 2007 but it may be smart to examine our reliance and find ways to mitigate the risks inherent in a system so beyond our control.

Kindle vs iBooks

For those with the patience to listen to my comments on Twitter, you probably heard me making note of how terrible the new version of the Amazon Kindle app is for the iPad. The last version made a few changes to what I once considered the best e-book reading app on the device.

After a few emails from helpful friends, some gyrations with file formats and and upgrade to my version of Calibre, I had all of my Kindle books residing happily in the constantly-improving iBooks app.

Overall, I much prefer the reading experience on iBooks at this point, for many reasons. I’ll address them in a minute, but first I wanted to show you why I feel the Kindle app has gotten so bad.

Where Amazon Went Wrong

Here are two screenshots of the same page in both apps. I greyed-out the Kindle app version to better differentiate the two. Key to note here is the amount of “breathing room” there is around the text. In the previous version of the Kindle app, the text used to float inside the frame much like the iBooks version but with the latest release, it is cramped on all sides.

(click the pictures to enlarge)

kindle page  ibooks page


While it is distracting enough while reading, if you display the interface elements to do something like look at the time, check your progress through the book, or add a bookmark you can see that the interface elements cover the text in the Kindle version. Why? It’s inexplicable, distracting and downright ugly.

kindle interface ibooks interface


I’ll admit that one spot where Kindle gets it right is the Library display. There are rare occasions where the skeuomorphic design might work but the whole bookshelf idea is not one of them. I much prefer the Kindle version of this screen.

kindle library ibooks library

What’s A Good Solution?

Before Amazon laid this egg, I had been almost all of my ebooks from them. I figured their versions would be portable to my Kindle 2, my iPhone or my iPad. Another big plus was that the Kindle app for iPad had a “night mode” long before iBooks did which it made it the best choice for reading at night, as I generally do before bed.

Since Apple opened their online bookstore, I rarely bought ebooks in iBooks format but it was sometimes necessary if they weren’t available from Amazon. It was rare however as, even now, I can count the number of iBooks epubs on one hand. I even pre-ordered the Steve Jobs bio on Kindle which seemed somewhat of a betrayal at the time.

But, as with all things (especially software development!), time marches on and with each release Apple improved the iBooks app. When night-mode was added, I seriously started to look at it for handling the bulk of my reading. Still, ebook pricing was generally more favorable on Amazon and the selection was much better so moving was not going to be an easy choice.

That said, some events have conspired to precipitate an quicker move to iBooks than I had previously anticipated (*cough-IOS6beta-sneeze*) and I needed a good way to read books on my devices. After some asking around, it turns out many had solved this problem before and were eager to proffer solutions. Thanks for all of the help, folks.

At this point, I’ve come up with a decent (if fiddly) method for moving my books to iBooks in epub format. I can switch back and forth depending on my needs at the time and, if Amazon ever decides to improve their Kindle app (or at least restore it to it’s former level of usefulness), this way I’ll be able to switch back. The issue of having a perfectly serviceable app become unusable (for me) is something I’ve rarely had to contend with (Instacast is another example of an app that had a misstep but, after their last release, they seem to have corrected the most glaring issues). I’m hoping Amazon corrects their problems and gives me the options which I appreciate for things like this. Until then, at least there is one really excellent choice for epub reader in iBooks. It is gorgeous, works really well and its bookmark cloud-sync seems to be working flawlessly.



Echosphere Note: Frederico Viticci's iOS Wish List Post

Frederico Viticci writes good stuff. His latest article about iOS features he wants to see is a long piece detailing dozens of interesting ideas. Some of them are feasible, even useful, but others seem like they are missing the point of what most users want from their iOS device and would only increase the feature bloat that is making iOS more difficult to maintain (given the number of bugs that have crept into the OS in recent releases) and harder for new users to come to grips with.

Some of his ideas are “expert” level and could be implemented through settings screens. I think most of this higher level functionality would be useless to most users however or, even worse, degrade the experience of people who just want to use their phone to get stuff done.

Other ideas Viticci presented fall in the “why would I ever want to do that, even if I could?” category.

I wanted to go through his list and add comments where I took issue (or agreed fully) with his thoughts. This isn’t a full run-down on his ideas, however, and I’d encourage everyone to head to macstories to read the full treatise.

iOS 6 Wishes

Sync browser tabs through iCloud: I have no idea why I’d ever want to do that. So many websites aren’t really that useful on the iPhone and with all of the link sharing/link saving applications and websites (Pinboard, Instapaper, etc), I use my computer to view websites I specifically don’t want to see on my phone or iPad.

Facebook integration: Don’t even get me started on Facebook. It needs to stay as far away from me as possible and integrating it into the phone will just make its annoyance more ubiquitous. I’d rather they find ways to diminish its presence and given that Facebook is, in some important ways, a competitor to Apple I can’t see them ever doing this for their own sake.

Search in All Mailboxes: Interesting but impossible idea. Searching offline mail folders from a phone would require a server archiving and indexing component that would be too difficult to even envision let alone implement. How would you feel about Apple having an indexed version of all of your email, no matter which service handled the email originally? That’s the only way it could be done though.

Copy link and text in App Store, Sharing options in App Store and iTunes wish list: Good ideas but not too important in the scheme of things. It’s one of those things that I can’t see a lot of users making use of.

Per-contact read iMessage status: I’d like this but it would be a pain to implement and actually use. It’s one of those expert level things I mentioned above. I would hope “fixing iMessage” would rank higher than this…

Mail-style rich text system-wide: I guess. I personally don’t use rich text if I can avoid it and I can see where a writer would want something like this but all I can envision is getting emails from my mother with blue backgrounds and comic sans fonts and shudder at the thought. I’d blame Frederico for each one of those emails…

AirDrop: I love this idea but it does belie the whole notion of using iOS as a simple device devoid of a file system (on the surface anyway). Viticci makes it sound some neat and interesting but where do those files go? How do you open them? How do you send them to the apps that need to handle them? I’d prefer Apple concentrate on fixing iCloud.

Move multiple icons at once: Terrible idea.

Rethink the iOS Home screen concept and Rethinking iOS Multitasking: I like the idea of live icons with the ability to have the current weather on an icon or a cloud when it’s cloudy and maybe a temperature display. There’s a lot you can do with that idea. But the Home screen metaphor is going nowhere and the current handling of multitasking is going nowhere either. I am not averse to a “running apps” page at the end of my screens list, but the point of the Home button interaction to bring up the running apps is not to keep them sequestered where they are out of the way but to make it fast to access the last few apps you used. The double-tapped Home button is annoying at times but I’d rather move that control to something more obvious and less “clicky” than completely blow up the paradigm for a mis-guided sort of convenience. Regardless, the way the the OS itself multitasks is pretty much perfect for a good blend of preservation of battery life and usability.

Deeper Gmail integration: Isn’t that why Sparrow exists? Most people don’t use Gmail, instead using their work’s Exchange, MSN, Yahoo! and others, so enabling these very Google-specific features wouldn’t be the typical sort of wide-brush approach that is common to Apple’s development. Would I like it? Sure. Will it happen? Nope.

Automatic app updates option: OK. I can somewhat agree to this, as a developer, but there are things like data caps, bad WiFi connections and other things that are very connection-specific that make this type of updating problematic. As someone who has to deal with users and connectivity issues a lot, I can assure you, not everyone enjoys the same level of connectivity as the most tech savvy of us.

Open up Siri: Yes, sure. That’d be nice but first concentrate on “Fix Siri”.

Better inter-app communication: I think this will definitely be a big feature consideration of future OS versions but it has a large number of problems for implementation, not the least of which is security.

Improve Notification Center: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes

Make iOS devices aware of each other’s presence: I am not sure I’d like this but I am sure they’d allow those of us who like privacy and dislike most people to turn it off.

Bring AIM to iMessage for iOS, and let us selectively mute threads: They need to fix iMessage first. That shit is severely broken, especially when integrating it with my Mac. (iMessage beta actually broke iMessage so badly on my phone I had to delete it from my machine and remove all traces of it to get my phone’s iMessage to work again. Crazy!)

Calculations in Spotlight: That’d be nice but if you really want to be that type of power user, you should be using Launchbar already. And the rest of the user population wouldn’t use it if it was there.

Let users change default apps: That would be great. It would likely be problematic for them to implement (or for us to use) but still a great addition to the OS.

Make Notification Center for iPad Mountain Lion-like: Sure. Sounds great.

Improve Notes with Mountain Lion features: Who uses Notes? I only know one person who uses the Notes in iOS but it’s only because she is somewhat stubborn. For someone who wants an “improved” notes, they should rush out and buy Drafts or Nebulous Notes immediately.

Documents UI for iCloud: This should probably be Apple’s first priority. iCloud is so essential to the company’s future and the current implementation needs a lot of work. No iWork integration yet? Really, Apple?

VIP contacts for Mail and Messages: I love the idea of VIP contacts.

Easy access to WiFi, Bluetooth switches: At the very least allow developers to build apps to do this…


I disagreed with a lot of what Viticci says in his wish list but it was an enjoyable read. It gave me a lot to think about. Thanks, Frederico!

Tech Note: The Cosmonaut Stylus

There have been quite a few reviews of styluses (stylii?) over the last few weeks.

Until the release of 53’s Paper, I hadn’t devoted more than fifteen seconds to the thought of a stylus for my iPad. Before that app, I would have rather wrestled a badger than go back to hauling a stylus around. I was scarred from using a Palm Treo for many years, and then a Windows phone; both of those had very stylus-centric interfaces. Adding to my antipathy was the fact that my kids are always arguing over a lost Nintendo DS stylus.

Despite my hatred of them, a stylus was inescapable in those dark days but thankfully, in 2007, Steve Jobs saved me from the indignity of poking electronics with a stick when he introduced the iPhone touch interface. I haven’t looked back at those times, except for the occasional mocking of Samsung Galaxy Note users, with their ridiculous, stylus-equipped, huge-ass phones.

But then Paper showed up on my iPad and a quiet voice in the back of my head whispered, “This might be better with a stylus.” Uh oh.

It took a few weeks of convincing myself but I finally decided to take the plunge and ordered the Cosmonaut from Studio Neat.

I wish I had waited a few more days until the Verge stylus overview came out because I might have stuck with my original choice of the Bamboo. The finer control offered by the Bamboo would be welcome at times.

That said, the Cosmonaut is sturdy and has a nice, tactile heaviness to it. It feels substantial and weighty. At first I felt like I had to press too hard on the iPad with it to get a mark to appear but that feeling passed after a few minutes of serious scribbling.

As it stands now, I’ve gotten thoroughly used to the Cosmonaut and really like it for drawing and diagramming, especially in Paper. To be honest, I haven’t tried it with any other apps because I much prefer typing for most tasks. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is my nearly-illegible handwriting (and if it’s not plain text you can’t search it, or cut and paste it into an email, or edit it in nvALT, etc. etc.).

So, that said, the Cosmonaut is a great drawing implement for the iPad. If you’re looking for a stylus that’s not fiddly, easily lost or broken, this is the one to buy.

(yes, that is a picture I drew of our corgi, Orbit, in Paper using a Cosmonaut)