Categories
Links

Things, Logging Movies, & Screen Time

This week I published four articles – three on my website and one for The Sweet Setup.

I started out the week with a Tips & Tricks post explaining the basics of cancelling tasks in Things. I didn’t discover this feature for a while after using things, so I figured a quick write-up on it couldn’t hurt anyone.

On Tuesday I posted a recap on what I’ve shared around Shortcuts and Siri so far. I talked a little bit about working at Workflow, shared about my iMore link and Vector appearance, and talked about future plans for Shortcuts posts here – looking forward to sharing more next week.

On Wednesday I also published an article explaining a handy workflow for adding movies to your watchlist in Letterboxd. I’d been meaning to take advantage of this film-tracking app and found this was helpful for getting lots of ideas in to save for later.

On Thursday, my article for The Sweet Setup went out covering “How to add individual time limits to Screen Time” since that feature is slightly buried too. If you’re on the iOS beta you can test this out now for limiting specific apps instead of the entire app category – I’m already finding it easier to avoid problem apps when I know they’re not available. I’ll be doing a deeper dive into Screen Time for the fall, which should be an interesting experiment and fun to research.

On Friday, I didn’t publish anything. Instead I was prepping more stories for The Sweet Setup, iMore, and a contributor post at a special publication I’m very excited about. Plus, I’m trying to get ahead of myself for this website so I can share my thoughts with you all regularly and not be rushing to finish each time.

I’ve been enjoying writing more and am already finding it easier to get into the flow & pump things out – turns out when you’ve been listening to podcasts for years and steeping yourself in the community for years, you build up a lot of material to write about.

My biggest hurdle now is just doing the work. 💪

Hope you have a good weekend!

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Categories
Apps Shortcuts

Keeping a better film watchlist in Letterboxd

Lately, when I’m ready to sit down and enjoy something for the evening, I’ve struggled to find the right movie to watch.

It’s way too easy to quickly pick whatever’s available on Netflix, Hulu, or HBO, but really all you’re shown is what they’ve purchased movie rights for. The TV app and iTunes on Apple TV are somewhat helpful, but you can’t go very deep into the catalog of films available when you’re just browsing.

So I’ve been trying to use Letterboxd to keep track of movies and build up a better list to pick from when it’s time to watch. The iOS app is designed for finding films, saving them for later, and logging reviews, wrapped up in a mini social network.1

Letterboxd is nice enough for a dedicated app just for movies – the features you’d want here are different from a TV-tracking app like Couchy, which is more designed for keeping up (because you don’t usually review episodes).

Thankfully, Letterboxd added automation support last year along with the release of their iPad version. They have documentation for their URL scheme available, so I took a look and put together a shortcut to help me get started tracking movies to watch.

Categories
Shortcuts

Shortcuts & Siri: I’m excited to see more

The best announcement at WWDC this June was Shortcuts, which will let you seamlessly interact with your apps with Siri, your iOS devices, and Apple accessories.

These quick actions will make using Apple devices much faster for everyone, plus the upcoming Shortcuts app will mark iOS opening up to true automation and sets the platform down a path full of potential.

I originally joined Workflow, the app and team that was acquired by Apple and is now becoming Shortcuts, because I believed in the power of getting things done on mobile devices and what it means to have the capability to do so in your own hands. I saw firsthand the benefits of having your own creations to use with you everywhere,and the accessibility for everyone to build those programs with the touch-based interaction.

I left and started working independently because I wanted to share my own experiences directly with people. I want to take time to help everyone understand how to take advantage of these types of tools in their own lives, work directly with app developers and companies to build integrate these properly, and share my own vision of what the world could look like with these technologies properly utilized.

Now that the public beta is available, people are starting to see what the basic custom voice and suggested shortcuts can do – I’ll be sharing my thoughts even more here and a few other places.

Categories
Tips & Tricks

How to cancel tasks in Things

In my first Tips and Tricks post for this site, I wanted to share how to cancel tasks or projects in Things if you haven’t yet learned how.1

In order to cancel a project, task, or checklist item in Things, tap and hold on the item’s checkbox. You’ll be presented with the options to “Mark as Completed” or “Mark as Cancelled” – if you cancel the item, it will be marked with an X instead of a checkmark.

These work for individual tasks, whole projects, or even checklist items. If you choose cancel on a project, you’ll also be prompted to choose whether to cancel or complete any subtasks that are remaining.

On both the iPad and Mac versions of things, there are keyboard shortcuts for you to mark tasks as complete or incomplete:

  • iPad2 & Mac: press Command + K (⌘K) to mark an item as complete, or Command + Option + K (⌥⌘K) to cancel a task, project, or checklist item.3
  • Mac-only: for compatibility purposes, the Mac version of Things also allows you to use Command + Period (⌘.) to mark something as done and Command + Option + Period (⌥⌘.) to mark something as cancelled. However, the team recommends using the K method everywhere for consistency across platforms.

Sometimes whatever you needed to do is indeed cancelled, sometimes you’re just not ever going to do it, or sometimes you might want to clear out an item with deleting it or incorrectly marking it as completed.

I usually choose to cancel everything I didn’t do, as I want to keep the Logbook section of my things database accurate and be useful for keeping track of what I’ve actually completed when I review it later on. If something was added in error or I never truly intended to incorporate that task into my life, I’ll delete it from Things.

Hope knowing these little details helps – in the future, I’ll be sharing Tips & Tricks posts every Monday. Until then, check out my workflows collection of posts so far.

Update: This post originally recommended the Command + . method on Mac, but the Cultured Code team replied to me on Twitter and recommended using Command + K on the Mac as a best practice.


Links for Things


  1. I saw someone ask the question of Cultured Code on Twitter this morning – it took trial and error to discover it myself too! 
  2. Also this technically works the iPhone, but almost nobody attaches a Bluetooth keyboard to their phone. 
  3. I currently have the Things beta for Mac and in version 3.6.1 they added support for cancelling tasks with the keyboard shortcut within checklist items, if you’re interested in using that on desktop as well. 
Categories
Apps Shortcuts

How I Lost My iPad

This last week, I published two posts – one post on The Sweet Setup and one on my website.

Over on The Sweet Setup, I shared “Losing my iPad Pro: what I missed (and love) about Apple’s tablet experience” where I talked about replacing my iPad after it was stolen and how it clarified the space in my experience the device fills for me:

The iPad has been my main computing device since the Pro line came out. Being without it for a few weeks has really highlighted why I prefer the iPad, and in many cases, has shown me how I can do more than on any other device.

Without an iPad, the joy of using a device doesn’t exist to the same extent. I still have an iMac, but since I lost the iPad and have had to use the iMac full-time again, I’m starting to feel the desktop’s limitations.

Categories
Apps Shortcuts

Saving your clipboard to Copied with Shortcuts

One type of apps that make the Mac more useful than iPad for many are clipboard managers.

Instead of copying & pasting one thing at a time, tools like Alfred, Pastebot, and Copied let Mac users copy lots of information in batches and then use it later (often with special formatting or inserting with keyboard shortcuts).

On iOS, the problem isn’t nearly as solved – since apps don’t have the same access to your clipboard at all times, they can’t capture everything you’re cutting & pasting on your iPhone or iPad.

However, Copied does provide a solution that works across the Apple device line, letting you save things to their database, sync it across iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and share it elsewhere.

And, with support for URL scheme actions on iOS, it’s possible to use Copied in conjunction with an app like Shortcuts. You can create shortcuts that clip the contents of your clipboard, share sheet & save it into your Copied lists for organization, and much more.

Categories
Gear

Playing around with the 2x Zoom on iPhone

Even though I've had the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X, I haven't nearly taken advantage of the 2x zoom lenses on both. I default to using the wider iPhone's lens since that's what I've always had before, plus years of training against using digital zooms makes it feel unnatural to zoom in with a phone.

Instead, I've been trying to switch to the 2x camera lens right away each time so I could get better use of it and see if there were any places I hadn't realized it would be helpful beyond Portrait Mode.

Here are a few spots the iPhones with the double lens hardware makes getting the right shot easier:

  • Taking pictures of tiny text: getting into tight spaces is easier when you zoom in, plus you don't lose quality – for example, taking a photo of the lid of my AirPods in order to capture the serial number (which inspired this post 1).
  • Capturing documents: instead of leaning over and getting the phone up close to frame up the paper, zooming in and just pointing the phone down can help you get through a lot of pages without breaking your back
  • Getting shots that are out of your reach: if your arms are fully extended and you're trying to get a photo that's above your head or on top of something, the 2x lens can help you get that additional bit of perspective that you might otherwise miss. I've found it can be super handy to stick your arm up and get a zoomed in photo of what's just out of view.
  • Taking photos that match your eye's perspective: the default 28mm lens on the iPhone is much wider than the way you see things normally – the 2x zoom's 56mm lens is closer to the perspective we see ourselves (albeit more cropped in).

    The wider lens can also distort vertical lines, especially if they're up close. Shooting with the longer lens also helps prevent as much warping, although you may need to stand further back. That being said, it doesn't work very well in low light.

  • Taking sample photos for a bigger shoot later: when I was preparing to make the photography for my HomePod review, I went around first with my iPhone X to scope out how I wanted my photos to look without needing to lug around my full camera.

    The 2x lens more closely matched the "in your home" perspective I was trying to achieve, plus I could zoom in and out further to mimic the full range of my 12-60mm lens. I got sample shots so I could properly integrate the imagery into how I wrote the piece, then later did a proper photoshoot with lights and my camera to get the highest quality photography.

Some of these aren't particularly innovative ways to use a camera, but if you hadn't thought of one before it might be helpful2.

Many of the shots won't be up to par for crisp, clear focus or high quality levels of photography, but for quick memories and productive use cases it does the job well.

Next time you open up the camera app on an iPhone X/Plus, try switching to 2x and just looking through the viewfinder for a while – it may help you see things in a different way.

  1. No, that's not the complete serial number of my AirPods. ↩︎
  2. If you have any other suggestions, let me know on Twitter and I'll add them here & credit you. ↩︎
Categories
Uncategorized

Words I never want to appear in my writing; or, staying friendly towards beginners

As a writer who generally focuses on complicated processes for using technology, I can find it tempting to default to lazy language that over-simplifies for me, but tends to makes things confusing for new users. If something is difficult for everyone else and I describe it as “simple”, I’ve just lost many people who might’ve otherwise made it through.

For example, when I wrote the Workflow documentation, I took care to make sure I avoided assuming the directions given were as straightforward as possible and could always be understood by someone without any technical training (like me).

Today, I came across a great tweet from Jess Telford, summarizing a post from CSS Tricks and originated by Chris Coyier, who message I’ve seen before but am officially copying for my own work. This is aimed at code comments, but the author suggests setting the following words as “errors” in your syntax highlighter:

  • Obviously
  • Basically
  • Simply
  • Of Course
  • Clearly
  • Just
  • Everyone knows
  • However
  • So,
  • Easy

Using these words in an explainer context is now banned from all of my writing.

Nothing with iOS automation or the technical details of how something works is easy, simple, or clear – at some point, it was explained to you. Not everyone knows, you don’t “just” do something because there’s a verb for that action, and many complex things are rarely obvious how to use at first.

I want to avoid alienating anyone who reads my writing or wants to learn more about how to use technology – the goal is to empower, not educate from above.

If you see me using this language, don’t hesitate to call me out.

Categories
Shortcuts

You don’t have to be good at building shortcuts to use Siri Shortcuts

 

In my most recent piece for iMore, I wrote about the ways you can get new Siri Shortcuts for your collection without having to build them for yourself.

In it, I cover getting shortcuts:
from the Gallery
from shared links
with import questions
as a .wflow file
from the community online

But my favorite part was the overall angle – you can just use other people’s shortcuts and never actually build one yourself. Shortcuts is a fantastic visual programming tool, but if you don’t give a shit about that and just want to save time instead of learning how it works, you totally can.

Categories
Shortcuts

10 Shortcuts for YouTubers and video creators

(This post has been updated to refer to Shortcuts instead of Workflow, now that the app has been converted by Apple. All of these still work as quick shortcuts, but not everything operates fully from Siri.)

If you’re in the content creation business, time is of the essence. While you’re busy working on your craft and trying to put your work out into the world, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time on mundane tasks.

Shortcuts for iOS pairs nicely with this, and since it’s free & owned by Apple1 it’s worth testing out to see if you can save time with some shortcuts.

Here are 10 tools that YouTubers and other video creators can take advantage of using Shortcuts (titles are links):