Using TextExpander Snippets in Non-traditional Ways

 

TextExpander is one of the first apps that I install when I get a new device. I have written about TextExpander in the past. A brief excerpt from a prior post regarding TextExpanders functionality is below1 (Full post here):

One of the applications that I cannot live without is TextExpander. The application’s primary purpose is to expand snippets of text through simple key combinations (e.g., ty = Thank You!) but it does much more. TextExpander is available on the Mac, iOS, and Windows (in beta).

TextExpander’s core functionality sounds simple; but, its uses are limited only by your imagination. As an academic, I have used TextExpander in an academic setting for over five years. I use TextExpander for all its typical use cases (e.g., general text replacement, email responding) but also use it in ways specific to academics that I detail below.

TextExpander Can Expand in the Comment Fields of Most Word Processing Applications

TextExpander snippets will expand anywhere you can type (baring some password fields)2, including the comment fields of most word processing applications. As an academic, I often comment on drafts of manuscripts using the comment function of Microsoft Word and Apple’s Pages applications. Prior to TextExpander, this meant invoking my comment keyboard shortcut3 and then typing in the comment. While this method works, it is not efficient. For instance, grading a stack of 40 papers leads to repetitive typing of phrases in comment boxes (e.g., This is a sentence fragment; This is an awkward sentence. Consider rewording it for clarity). Using TextExpander, I can create a comment, populate the comment with a snippet, and continue editing the paper without removing my hands from the keyboard4. This method is extremely fast and efficient once the commonly used editing snippets are committed to muscle memory. Additionally, students and colleagues receive better more consistent feedback when I use TextExpander to comment on papers. More complex snippets can also be expanded in comment fields. For example, cursor placement works in comment fields allowing you customize your comment snippets on a per comment basis5. Below is an example of one such workflow:

Click here to download some of my example snippets for commenting on papers. Note that these are geared toward college students using the American Psychological Association (APA) writing format.

TextExpander Can Help Write the Results Sections of Empirical Manuscripts

TextExpander can also format statistical results sections for publication in academic journals. For example, I often need to write results sections that involve statistical symbols and specific formatting (e.g., F(2,34)=235, p=.002). While not complicated, these results sections take time. With TextExpander, I can invoke a snippet for a particular statistical test, fill-in the relevant details (e.g., test statistic, degrees of freedom), and let TextExpander take care of formatting the text correctly (including those hard to find statistical symbols6). I have a TextExpander snippet for each statistical test I typically use to analyze my data. An example of using TextExpander to write up an analysis of variance (ANOVA) in APA format is below:

TextExpander Can Help Statistically Analyze Data

Another uncommon, but useful, place snippets come are useful is when writing statistical syntax (read coding here) in SPSS or the open source language R. Both of these instances require repeatedly writing syntax in a structured way. Using TextExpander dramatically speeds up the process of writing code to analyze data in R or in the syntax window of SPSS. Using TextExpander frees you from having to remember the specific syntax for any single analysis. Instead, you need only remember the brief keyboard snippets and fill in details like variable names. For example, I invoke the t-test keyboard snippet, fill in the variables in the analysis and TextExpander fills in the code for me7. Below is an example of this process using TextExpander to compose syntax for an independent samples t-test in SPSS.

TextExpander Synergy

Finally, the application really begins to shine when it is paired with other productivity applications like Sanebox and OmniFocus. Combining these applications allows a single snippet accomplish multiple tasks. For example, invoking a single snippet can fill in an email recipients email address, add the task to your OmniFocus database (i.e., populate the “BCC” field with your OmniFocus specific email address), set a reminder to follow-up with the recipient if the email is not answered (i.e., using a specific Sanebox email address), and compose the subject and body of the email.

Note: All of the examples contained in this post should be viewed as general productivity strategies. That is, I may be using TextExpander to format statistical prose for academic journals. However, what you should be taking away from the examples is the strategy rather than the specifics. Anytime you have text that must be formatted in a specific way, TextExpander can make that process more efficient.


  1. David Sparks (MacSparky) has done some great videos for Smile (the company that makes TextExpander) on the basics of TextExpander. If you are a newcomer to TextExpander they are worth your time.  
  2. I have yet to find a place outside of password fields and the name field of some apps like editorial where TextExpander snippets fail to expand.  
  3. I strongly suggest creating a keyboard shortcut to create comments in your word processing programs as it makes commenting on manuscripts significantly faster. Create the shortcut using the same key combination across programs so you only need to learn one keyboard shortcut and can use it across multiple pieces of software.  
  4. The workflow involves opening a comment through a keyboard shortcut, invoking the TextExpander snippet, and hitting the escape key to return curser focus to the body of your document.  
  5. An example workflow might be to copy a portion of text to the clipboard, invoke the comment field, and type a TextExpander snippet that fills in some text and pastes the contents of the clipboard into the comment following the written text.  
  6. I also have simple TextExpander snippets that simply replace regularly used statistical items (aalpha expands to the statistical symbol for alpha)  
  7. Although I have not tried it, this whole process could likely be completed using Keyboard Maestro (with the addition of actually running the code once it’s produced). 

 

Automating Omnifocus Using Drafts.app and Workflow.app

 

Automating Omnifocus

The Omni Group recently mitigated the most cited impediments1 to productivity when using Omnifocus as a task manager: the drudgery of getting complete information into the system because of a lack of automation.

The Problem

Entering tasks in Omnifocus on the iOS or macOS is slow; it requires too many keystrokes (macOS) and taps (iOS). Using keyboard shortcuts and TextExpander snippets helps increase entry speed, but task entry is still more difficult than it should be.

The Solution

After a recent upgrade, almost every aspect of Omnifocus (e.g., due dates, defer dates, notes, project structure) can now be automated on iOS (and only iOS)2. Automation of Omnifocus on iOS is done through URL schemes and/or TaskPaper formatted text.

If you understand URL schemes and are familiar with TaskPaper formatting, skip to the automating Omnifocus using Drafts and Workflow section.

URL Schemes

URL schemes allow you to use a URL (the same kind you type into your web browser) to pass information into Omnifocus. Typing a URL schemes into a web browser launches applications and can also pass information to the launched app. For example, clicking on a restaurant review in the Yelp section of Apple Maps without having the Yelp application installed quickly launches Safari and pastes in the URL scheme which opens iTunes and displays the Yelp application.

Try clicking the link below on an iOS device without Yelp installed and see if you can catch being directed first to your web browser and then to iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/yelp-the-best-local-food-drinks-services-more/id284910350?mt=8

The first part of the URL (https://itunes.apple.com/us) directs the device to open the US iTunes store. The remaining code directs the device to the target app (in this case Yelp) within the US store (app/yelp), provides a description of the target app for the user (the-best-local-food-drinks-services-more), provides the unique id for the item in the iTunes store (id284910350?), and tells the user the media type is an app (mt=8)3. This same process is used by iOS to pass information to and from apps. Alex Guyot wrote a detailed description of URL schemes on MacStories.net that is a great resource for understanding URL Schemes.

TaskPaper

TaskPaper is a way of writing ToDo lists in plain text files using special formatting (e.g., @due, @flagged(true)). There is also an app that supports the TaskPaper method of ToDo lists. However, many other text editors such as Editorial support TaskPaper formatting4. Omnifocus has been updated to accept TaskPaper formatted text through the “paste” command in its URL scheme. TaskPaper format is simple and can be quickly typed into a text editor to create complex sets of tasks (see example below).

- Task 1 @due(tomorrow) @flagged(TRUE) 
  This is the note for task 1
- Task 2 @due @flagged(False)
  This is the note for task 2      

Combining URL schemes and TaskPaper format allows you to quickly use an app like Drafts or Workflow to enter tasks to specific projects in Omnifocus.

Automating Omnifocus Using Drafts and Workflow

Automating Omnifocus Using Drafts

Omnifocus automation requires building URL schemes with the appropriate structure. Many iOS apps like Drafts make this process easier. Using URL schemes, drafts can match the title of a note to a project in Omnifocus and use the body of the note (written in TaskPaper) as the task(s). The URL to make this happen is:

You can install this action directly in the Drafts App here.

omnifocus:///paste?target=/task/[[title]]&content=[[body]]&x-success=drafts4://

Just like the iTunes Yelp app URL discussed earlier, this URL instructs the device to open Omnifocus (omnifocus:///) and use the (paste) command to paste into the target project (target=/task/[[title]]) using the TaskPaper text (content=[[body]]). The end code of the URL (x-success=drafts4://) instructs the device to return to the Drafts app after writing the task(s) to Omnifocus. The Omni Group wrote the paste action so you do not need to know the exact name of the project in which you would like put the task(s). Omnifocus will match the name of the project with what you type in the title of your Drafts note.

Drafts with TaskPaper Formatted Text

Omnifocus accepts the following TaskPaper tags (from Omnifocus blog):

  • @autodone(bool) – whether the item automatically completes itself when its children are complete (true) or not (false). Named to match @done.
  • @context(string) – the context to assign
    *@defer(date) – defer until date, e.g. 2016-04-19 5pm or next Thursday -3d
  • @done(date) – completed on date
  • @due(date) – due on date
  • @estimate(time span) – time estimate, e.g. 2h for 2 hours or 3w for 3 weeks.
  • @flagged – present when an item is flagged
  • @parallel(bool) – whether children are parallel (true) or sequential (false)
  • @repeat-method(method) – the repeat method: fixed, start-after-completion, or due-after-completion
  • @repeat-rule(rule) – an ICS repeat rule (see RFC244557), e.g. FREQ=WEEKLY;INTERVAL=1

TextExpander makes entering these Omnifocus tags even faster as snippets can be created for each tag and can place the cursor in between the parentheses [e.g., ddue = due()]. You can download my TaskPaper to Omnifocus snippet library here.

Automating Omnifocus Using the Workflow App

Automating Omnifocus using the Workflow app requires a basic understanding of the creation of workflows using the Workflow app5. Knowing how to create workflows in the Workflow app allows the creation of simple workflows to input task(s) to specific projects in Omnifocus. Additionally, the Workflow app enables the creation of templates (that are stored within the Workflow app).

Using The Workflow App to Get Tasks Into Omnifocus

Inserting tasks directly to the omnifocus inbox or projects field is easy with the Workflow app. It requires creating a workflow that can be accessed using the share sheet that accepts text 6.

Workflow With TaskPaper Formatted Text

Once the workflow is created, all that is required is to write TaskPaper formatted text in a text editor and share it using iOS’s built in share sheet.

Using The Workflow App to Make Templates for Omnifocus

There is no limit to the length of TaskPaper formatted text Workflow can pass to OmniFocus. Thus, entire projects (or multiple projects) can be stored in the Workflow app until they are needed allowing the templating of tasks, projects, or both. This means that any repeating complex tasks can be made into templates in the Workflow app that can instantly populate OmniFocus when needed. For example, as a professor, there are a number of classes that I repeatedly teach each year that require certain tasks to be completed every time the courses are taught (e.g., create syllabus and all the subtasks that apply to that project). Having these tasks templated in the Workflow means faster creation, but more importantly, less error as I am significantly less likely to forget a task.

Workflow to Hold Templated Omnifocus Tasks

You can also hold multiple TaskPaper formatted templates in a single workflow and have the workflow prompt you to select which one to send to Omnifocus. These workflows can get quite complex and are immensely useful.

Automating Omnifocus For the First Time

If you have never automated Omnifocus, I encourage you to try. Once you understand the basic structure of the method you are using, you can create templates and enter tasks in Omnifocus extremely quickly. The short time spent up front learning the method will result considerable time savings with repeated use.


  1. This assumes that you are already using Omnifocus for task management and have gotten over the largest barrier to entry: Omnifocuses steep learning curve.  
  2. Although I wish automation could happen on macOS, having the automation only available on iOS is not deal-breaker as the database synchronization provided by The Omnigroup (OmniPresence is rock solid.  
  3. For a wonderful primer on iTunes URL links see The Comprehensive Guide to Affiliate Links on MacStories.net
  4. You can write TaskPaper format in plain text files and not view them on a TaskPaper enabled app although you will not get the benefits of syntax highlighting making TaskPaper less useful.  
  5. There is an abundance of resources to learn how create workflows in the Workflow App: The hosts of the Canvas podcast did a multi-part series on the Workflow App: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7); Federico Viticci wrote a wonderful article on how to use workflow; David Sparks created a Workflow Video Field Guide; The Workflow app developers have great documentation available at the Workflow App Web site
  6. The Add TaskPaper to Omnifocus action has two options: one places the TaskPaper formatted text in the Omnifocus inbox and the other places it in the Projects field. This option can be found in the action itself.  

 

Scribble on the Apple Watch

Scribble has become one of my favorite features on the Apple Watch.

I was skeptical when Apple debuted the Scribble feature for the Messages app on the Apple Watch. Scribble is a feature in WatchOS 3 that allows you to send messages created by drawing individual letters on the face of your Apple Watch. The advantage of using Scribble is it allows you to send messages beyond Apple’s stock template messages.

I have begun using Scribble on the Apple Watch to reply to messages when Apple’s template replies will not work. My first use of Scribble was a little cumbersome. I was drawing letters on my Apple Watch with about 80% accuracy and it was slow. Had I stopped using the feature after that use, I would likely not be writing such a positive review today. However, with a little practice, sending messages using Scribble is fast, accurate, and increases the utility of the Messages app. If you have not tried Scribble, give it a shot.

Tips: You do not need to wait for the first letter to disappear before drawing the second letter. Also, you can draw multiple letters at once.

 

Read Your Writing Aloud To Improve Your Writing

 

Many classic and contemporary resources exist to help you write well. Reading these guides will make your writing better. What if you do not have the time or motivation to read these manifestos but still want to practical ways to improve your writing?

Reading your writing aloud is a simple, immediately applicable, tip to improve your writing advocated by many people that write a lot and well (e.g., CGP Grey; Mark Leary).

Problem

Great! You are ready to put this tip into practice and begin reading your writing aloud. There is only one problem, you work in an office with others who you might disturb (and might be disturbed) by reading aloud. Do not fret; there is a solution.

Technological solution

Your writing device can read your writing to you 1. If you write on Mac OS or iOS there are many ways you can have your text read to you (in headphones) by the operating system.

Mac OS

  • If you use Launchbar there is a built in “speak text” command that reads text you provide. Thus, you can copy what you want to have read to you, paste it into the Launchbar window, and hit Enter. Launchbar will then read your text to you from beginning to end. Subsequently hitting enter will stop the reading of your text. Once you are proficient with the keyboard shortcuts to start and stop the reading of text, having Mac OS read your text to you becomes something you can invoke in seconds.
  • If you are not a Launchbar user 2, you can accomplish this feat less eloquently using apple script.

iOS

Note: Do not forget to plug in your headphones


  1. This is of course assuming you do not compose your prose with a paper and pencil like a Neanderthal. Since you are reading this blog, I assume most of your writing occurs digitally.  
  2. If you do not currently use Launchbar, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. Here is a jumping off point from Macsparky. Using the program will save you an immense amount of time controlling your computer without having to use your mouse. Seriously, try it. Other “launcher” apps like Butler and Alfred may do something similar but I do not use those apps and cannot confirm their functionality.  
  3. Workflow is a wonderful app. If you want to become a master at its many uses, I suggest watching Macsparkys Workflow Video Field Guide

 

Where Are My TextExpander Snippets? Using TextExpander With The SmartKeyboard On The iPad

TextExpander

One of the applications that I cannot live without is TextExpander. The application’s primary purpose is to expand snippets of text through simple key combinations (e.g., ty = Thank You!) but it does much more. TextExpander is available on the Mac, iOS, and Windows (in beta).

I invoke about fifty TextExpander snippets while working on macOS during a typical day (I am university professor by day). It is one of the first apps I install when setting up a new machine. The functionality that TextExpander brings to macOS is transferred to iOS through TextExpander’s iOS application. TextExpander on iOS accomplishes this feat by using a TextExpander specific keyboard. This functionality allows me to respond to emails with lengthy thought out replies while on the road and compose posts like these with ease.

The Problem

This method works great…unless you are on are using Apples SmartKeyboard on an iPad Pro. Since the SmartKeyboard is hardware (and not software), using it means loosing the ability to expand your snippets while typing. My understanding is that this is not something that the folks at Smile Software have any control over as it is a security limitation implemented by Apple.

Partial Solutions

  1. One partial solution is to use apps that natively support TextExpander on iOS. Once granted permission to view your TextExpander snippets 1 , these apps will automatically expend your snippets—without the use of the TextExpander keyboard. This is great; however, you must be using one of the supported apps. This means that if you typically write words in any other applications than those that natively support TextExpander (e.g., Mail), you will not have access to your snippets. More apps are incorporating the TextExpander API each month (see Dispatch by Clean Shaven Apps as an example) but with so few there now your app of choice is not likely to be on the supported list.
  2. Another limited solution is to use Apple’s text expansion built into iOS. This solution is OK but, in my experience, snippets do not sync reliably across iOS devices through iCloud and the service only expands text. While TextExpander’s main focus is to expand snippets of text, the app can do a lot more (See this video series by David Sparks) and the built in snippet expansion in iOS does not come close to matching TextExpanders expanded functionality.
  3. The final and most inelegant solution is to simply detach the SmartKeyboard from the smart connector revealing the on screen TextExpander keyboard granting you access to your snippets. Once you are done using the TextExpander keyboard you can reconnect it and continue using the SmartKeyboard. This solution is reliable and available anywhere you can type on the iPad. However, the time that it takes to detach and attach the SmartKeyboard negates any time you would have saved using TextExpander making this solution only worth while for those times that long or fill-in snippets are necessary.

Footnotes

For these apps to work you must have the TextExpander mobile app installed on your iOS device.  ↩

WWDC 2016 Summary Notes

Watch OS 3

  • Faster app launch time (“apps will launch instantly”)
    • The on stage example was lightning fast.
  • The side button on the Apple Watch is now the dock.
    • You can choose the apps that reside in the dock.
    • Apps in the dock are also interactive.
  • Control center is now a swipe up from the bottom on the Apple Watch just like it is on all other iOS devices.

  • Replying is now easier. The Apple Watch now displays messages inline when you receive a message saving you taps.
    • Scribble: You can also respond in new ways such as writing with your finger on the Apple Watch while it translates what you write into text.
  • Reminders is now a native app on Watch OS 3. Finally.

  • Watch Faces

    • New watch Face called activity that displays your activity in three versions.
    • New face called numerals that shows the numeral of interest (e.g., if it is 3 o’clock only the numeral 3 will appear on the watch face).
  • SOS on the watch
    • Activates by pressing and hold the side button.
      • It will automatically call 911 and notify your emergency contacts via message and a map of where you are. It will then show your medical ID on the watch face (if you set that up).
      • The SOS function works all over the world even if you don’t know the emergency number for your geographic location.
  • Fitness and Health
    • Activity Sharing: You can now share your fitness activity with family and friends.
      • Swipe to the right and you will see family and friends’ fitness rings as well as your own.
      • You can sort by whatever metric you want in sharing.
      • You can communicate with people you are sharing with through messages within the fitness and health app.
    • Wheelchair users fitness
      • Issue: They use different techniques to push their chairs and engage in physical activity. Therefore, there was a need for new algorithms track fitness.
        • Instead of “time to stand” the Apple Watch will display “time to roll!” to wheelchair bound individuals.
        • There are two workouts specifically designed for those in wheelchairs.
        • You can turn this setting on and off on the watch.
    • Brand new app called breath
      • Breath is designed to guide you through deep breathing exercises.
      • You can set smart notifications to remind you to engage in deep breathing.
      • You can change the amount of time for each breathing session with the digital crown.
      • You will be guided buy visual feedback or gentle taps and the app will give you your heart beat at the end of the session.

TV OS

  • There are new apps like Molotov tv.
  • You can now watch 4 sports shows on screen at once.
  • There are more games.
  • There is now a single sign on for all apps (e.g., you only have to authenticate once for all apps that require authentication).
    • TV OS will also show you all the apps that are available to you
  • You now have access to a Dark mode.
  • App sync across apple tv and iOS devices.
  • New apple TV remote app for iOS that acts identically to the Apple TV remote that ships with the system.
  • There are also Siri enhancements.

OS X

  • Apple is renaming the MAC operating system to macOS.
    • This years name is macOS Sierra
  • Focus on continuity
    • Auto-unlock
      • You can use your Apple Watch to unlock your machine
    • Universal clipboard
      • Clipboards now sync across devices.
  • iCloud Drive
    • Desktops files will be available everywhere (including iphone).
    • Optimize storage (Your disk is full)
      • Apple will store old files on the cloud and make them available to you on demand and get rid of the files you don’t need (email attachments).
      • Apple claims they had a computer that only had 20 gigabytes available and with the new software they were able to reclaim space so that it now had 120 gigabytes free.
    • Apple Pay
      • You can now shop on the web with apple pay.
        • Now you can “Pay with apple pay” within web sites on Safari.
        • You can authenticate with touch ID on your iphone and your apple watch.
    • Tabs
      • You can now have tabs in any app including 3rd party apps with no modification needed
    • Picture in picture
      • You can now use picture in picture on your mac.
    • Siri on the mac
      • Siri can do sophisticated queires (e.g., show the files from last week on this project) which can be refined (e.g., just the one that Ken sent me).
        • Siri can search the web.
        • You can drag results right out of siri output for immediate use.
        • You can pin searches that you might want to you use again.
        • Siri can play music.
        • You can use Siri to communicate as well just like on iOS.

iOS 10

  • Redesigned lock screen
    • There is a redesigned lock screen that is woken when the phone is raised and supports 3d touch.
    • There is now a special area for music
    • Easier than ever to get to your camera from the lock screen.
    • You can now slide over to get to widgets.
    • Better 3d touch once you get into the phone (e.g., apps can do more with 3D Touch).
  • Siri

    • Siri is now open to developers. This means that you’ll be able to ask Siri for anything from 3rd party developers. The following were mentioned in the Keuynote:
      • Slack
      • Whats app
      • Uber Lyft
      • Photo search in apps like IM Shutterfly Pintrest
      • Start stop pause workouts
      • Payments to friends
      • Voip
      • Calling in skype
    • Quick Type
      * Siri intelligence is now in the keyboard which means more intelligent suggestions like extracting information for calendar events from a text message conversation.

      • Photos
        • Places now lets you see all geotagged photos on a map.
        • Advanced computer recognition done locally on the device recognizes people, objects, scenes (e.g., horse, water, mountain).
          • Photos now uses advanced artificial intelligence to cluster together photos to surface memories relevant at any moment (e.g., topics, people, memories).
          • Photos now also creates a video/picture and summary of a trip which you can share and make changes to fit your preferences. The macOS and TVos also get these new Photos features.
      • Maps
        • Now gives you suggestions on better routes and is better able to filter things you may be searching for (e.g., only show me seafood restaurants).
        • There is more information on the navigation screen.
        • Maps will also give you alternate routes if there is traffic ahead and puts turn-by-turn directions into the instrument cluster if you have CarPlay.
        • Maps is open to 3rd party developers
          • You can now do many things right in Maps (e.g., find a restaurants, make a reservation, book a car, pay for it)
      • Apple Music
        • All new design from the ground up.
          • Music app will have Greater clarity and simplicity from new screens for just about everything in the app.
          • First tab is now the library and lyrics are built in to the “now playing” screen.
          • For you now contains a “discovery mix.”
          • “Browse” tab now tells you what is the most recent and most important.
      • News
        • All new design
          • Clear sections that make them easier to follow.
          • You can read all articles that you subscribe to right inside of the News app along with breaking news notifications.
      • Homekit
        • There is a New “Home” app.
          • The Home app serves as a central location to find all your accessories. Becuase of this centrality, you can trigger a scene for all of them (e.g., nighttime = lock the doors, dim the lights).
          • Siri can also control all HomeKit devices and HomeKit is also available on home screen.
          • HomeKit will use Apple Tv as a secure end to end connection encryption.
          • Apple Watch comes with home support as well.
      • Phone
        • The phone app can now trancribe your voicemails and third parties can let you know of phone calls that might be spam.
        • There is a new VOIP api that makes calls from any app available on lock screen.
        • Apple says that you can now receive work calls on iPhone. (Are there people who really want this?)
      • Messages
        • Rich links in photos and URLS.
        • Videos play right in line.
        • When you choose camera you see exactly what your camera sees So that you can insert the image into messages.
        • Emojis are 3x bigger and messages will now show you words that you can replace with emoji’s.
        • There are now bubble effects that give different feel to messages.
          • Invisible messages (slide your finger to reveal the message) and video now available in messages.
        • There are now quick tap backs that allow you to quickly respond to a message.
        • Messags now supports hand written messages and heartbeat messages.
        • Messages can now use whole background screen.
        • Apple music links play right in the messages app.
        • You can create pictures and video right in app.
        • Messages is now open to developers that gives you an app drawer that shows you the iMessage apps.
        • Mac and apple watch can receive all this new content as well.
  • Other things mentioned briefly.
    • Notes collaboration
    • Conversation view in mail on iphone and ipad.
    • Better live photos that are editable.
    • Split view with Safari on ipad.
    • On device privacy; differential privacy.

Things we didn’t see

  • No sleep tracking?!?!?!?!?
  • No selection of multiple items on iOS

WWDC Wishlist

The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is tomorrow and Apple usually reveals new software during this event. Tomorrows WWDC will likely be no exception. Like others, I have a wish list list that I would like to see in baked into OS X, iOS 10, and Watch OS 3. Below are some of the things I hope we will see tomorrow during Apple’s Keynote.

iOS

  • Multiple selections in iOS: I have started to use iOS more now that I have an iPad Pro. Surprisingly, using iOS to conduct my daily work has been almost frictionless. Almost. One of the pain points I have run into on iOS is the ability to select multiple items. For example, if I need to email a colleague several items sourounding a project (e.g., manuscriopt, data graphs, and data tables), it takes multiple taps. First I must long press on the email message, then select the place that the attachments reside (e.g., Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive), and then select the file which closes the file picker and brings you back to your mail message. If you are only sending one file, this is what you want. However, if you are selecting multiple files, this means that you must repeat the process for as many files as you want to attach to your email message. As you can imagine, this gets cumbesome very quickly. It would be great if iOS 10 brings with it the ability to select multiple items throughout iOS (not just in emails).
  • Better display of workout data: The Apple Watch and iOS, collect a lot of health and fitness data. Using the Health app on the iPhone allows you to easily view this data (e.g., step count, workouts, heart rate). However, you are only able to view these data in small graphs on the Health app dashboard or via a larger (but still abstract) graph if you tap into a graph and turn your phone into landscape mode. Even with the larger landscape mode graph in the Health app, Apple uses a bar graph that is not easily readable. The data could be displayed in a much more pleasing and easy to read way (For an example, see how the Fitbit app displays its data).

Watch OS

  • Better fitness tracking on Applewatch:
    The Apple watch fails at many things (e.g., anything outside of a notification device). However, it is actually a decent fitness tracker. It provides good data, works in conjunction with your iPhone for step count and health kit, and has a heart rate sensor. That said, the implementation of these features still feels like a first generation product compared to other fitness trackers—even with Watch OS 2. Let me be clear, the Apple Watch has the data and capability to compete with other dedicated fitness trackers, it just fall short in the execution. I will note two instances where this is the case below:

    • Automatically starting/stopping workouts: The Apple Watch can track workouts and the data it provides is good. But, to get that data you must tell the Apple Watch that you are working out. This may seem like a small point but it is not. Every time you begin a workout you must physically tap a start button (or initiate a workout through Siri with dictation) on the watch and also remember to tap the stop button when you are finished with your workout. If you stop working out for any length of time you must force touch the watch face (with your sweaty fingers) to pause and resume the workout. Other fitness trackers like FitBit do all of this automatically. If you are wearing a Fitbit, you can just start running and the device will automatically begin a “workout.” For a company like Apple who sells itself on devices that “just work,” this seems like a collosal fail. It would be a welcome addition if Apple adds this functionality to Watch OS 3.
    • Automatic sleep tracking and quality: Like workouts, the Apple Watch (or iOS) does not automatically track duration and quality of sleep. If you want to track your sleep duration with with iOS without an Apple Watch, you must open the Health App and manually add the times at which you fell asleep and woke up. What is the problem with this? Almost no one is going to remember to do this every day and those that do are likely still going to have inaccurate data because of errors in their ability to remember when they actually fell asleep and woke up. If you are fortunate enough to have an Apple Watch, you are in a slightly better position. You can install a sleep app for the Apple Watch like Sleep++ by Cross Forward Consulting. Installing this app will not get you around having to track your sleep manually but it will provide you with “start sleeping” and “stop sleeping” buttons on the Apple Watch. Additionally if you wear the Apple Watch while you sleep, the app will use the motion data from the Apple Watch to give you a rough estimate of your sleep quality.

OS X

  • Not much to report here: When I started this post I felt that I would almost surely have wish list items for all three Apple ecosystems (Mac OS X, iOS, and Watch OS). However, after thinking about what I would like to see in a new version of OS X, nothing sprang to mind. Even as I write this sentence, I cannot come up with anything that l am dying to see in a new Mac OS. I am not sure what that means. Has the Mac OS reached an apex? Maybe my new 9.7 inch iPad Pro is pulling more towards iOS?. Although I have no wish list items for OS X, I am excited to see what Apple can pull out of its hat.

Using My MacBook Pro as an iPad Pro Stand

Something peculiar happened the other day. I was typing on the smart keyboard with my 9.7 inch iPad Pro on my lap and it seemed a bit unstable[1]. To solve this problem, I decided that I needed a flat stable surface on which to rest the iPad. Without thinking, I grabbed the nearest object that satisfied those criteria. Why is this worth sharing?

I finished my current task and when I sat back to think I noticed that the object I chose to rest my 9.7 iPad Pro on was my one-year old MacBook Pro.

At that moment, I realized there is something special about this device that makes me want to use it. Maybe it is the Smart Keyboard; maybe it is the awesome display; maybe it is iOS 9. Who knows? What I know is that the experience of using the iPad Pro is unlike any iPad experience before it[2]. Despite the fact that some things take longer to accomplish on iOS and that I have a beautiful Apple 27’ Thunderbolt Display in my office, I find myself pulled to use this device for more of my daily tasks.

If you are on the fence about purchasing a new iPad Pro, I encourage you try one out. Apple has a 14-day return policy that allows you to test drive one with no consequence[3].


  1. The iPad Pro Smart Keyboard Cover is generally stable when using it on your lap. In this instance, I was sitting in an awkward position not conducive to working with the iPad Pro on my lap.  ↩

  2. I have owned two 9.7 inch iPads before this one that I used occasionally for note taking during meetings and other miscellaneous tasks.  ↩

  3. If you test one, be sure to get the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard during your testing period.  ↩

Want to speed time up? Play Chameleon Run

tl;dr
If you are looking for a game to help pass the time, Chameleon run is it.

I received an iPad Pro 9.7 inch for my birthday of this year. After the usual setup and play features, I began to look for games that would use the iPad Pros beautiful screen and faster processer. The App Store recommended that I try a running game entitled Chameleon Run.

Fast Forward

The game is appropriately priced at $1.99 (US) and downloaded quickly. The concept is simple and there are only two actions to take during gameplay: jump and change color. At first glance, knowing that the game is played with those simple concepts, you might think that the game would be boring or simple; it’s not.

image

Chameleon Run

In fact, after passing a couple tutorial levels, the game quickly becomes highly addictive and difficult. After cruising through a couple of levels (or so I thought) I looked at my watch only to find that 45 minutes had passed. My only conclusion time must have sped up.