Category Archives: tech

The Best Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard: Keychron K2 Review

When pre-orders opened for the Keychron K2 I knew that this was finally one of the bluetooth mechanical keyboards I wanted to try. In the past I test out a couple others: Lofree Retro Mechanical Keyboard and Keychron’s K1 Mechanical Keyboard. The Lofree keyboard prioritized aesthetics over functionality. The retro layout of the keys caused me much consternation as I was constantly pressing the wrong keys, especially some of the modifier keys. Kechron’s K1 I had high hopes for. Unfortunately the low profile of the keys made it feel more like a laptop keyboard, which I despise. Additionally, the keyboard stopped working after a couple days and I ultimately returned it. The reliability made me skeptical of the K2 but I decided to try it out and am happy I did.

I’m not going to go into an in-depth review of the keyboard but suffice it to say, this is the best bluetooth mechanical keyboard I’ve tried. Below are some brief thoughts on different aspects of the keyboard:

  • Layout: A standard 84-key semi-compact layout. All the keys are sizes that you would expect so typing on this keyboard feels completely natural.
  • Feel: I chose the blue switches, which gives you that beautiful tactile feel and a soothing “click” when half-pressed. The keyboard sounds and feels great when typing and is one of the main reasons I love typing on mechanical keyboards.
  • Bluetooth Connectivity: Mechanical keyboards are generally wired. I won’t get into details but the speed of typing along with some of the functionality of mechanical keyboard keeps companies away from producing bluetooth versions. I’ve had no issues with connectivity (except some iOS 13 related problems, which have nothing to do with the keyboard). One nice feature of this keyboard is you can connect three devices and switch between them seamlessly. While I use this primarily with my iPad, I also have connections to my phone and laptop. The other day as I was preparing notes for a meeting I just switched to my phone and jotted down some quick notes in Drafts. The transition was seamless.
  • Aesthetics: Personally, I think the keyboard is beautiful. I love the muted grays along with the bright orange escape key. If you don’t like the orange escape key you can switch it out.
  • Use: I absolutely love typing on this keyboard. For me, this is the perfect keyboard to pair with my iPad. It does not take up a lot of space and looks great on the desk. I use with the Twelve South Compass Pro stand or my beloved Yohann iPad stand (pictured).


Overall, I give this keyboard a 5/5. I have zero complaints about it and would highly recommend if you are in the market for a mechanical keyboard. At only $72, this is an inexpensive quality for a mechanical keyboard.

iPad Home Screen

I haven’t shared my iPad home screen on here before so I thought I’d write up a little rationale for my setup.

The Basics

  1. Blank home screen: I’m not entirely sure why but having the blank home screen just feels right for the iPad. Maybe its because it mimics my MacBook desktop (completely clear) but this is what has been working for me. I wish you could hide the dock when connected to an external keyboard. This is what I do on the Mac because I search and open everything via a keyboard shortcut. When I open up the iPad there are minimal distractions and only apps that I use to do something productive.
  2. Second page with a couple folders: This just houses a couple folders of apps. They really aren’t organized except one folder is games (board games for iOS) and the other is just a handful of random apps. I always search for apps so this isn’t an issue.
  3. Dock: Like most people, the dock is my most used apps. I’ll list them below. One particular feature of the dock is I do have a folder in it. The folder is my second tier most used apps. When I do not have a keyboard connected it is difficult to search for apps and put them in split screen. By have the folder in my dock I don’t have to go all the way back to the home screen to search. This has been the biggest change for me and I’ve really grown to like it since having the 12.9” iPad. I keep all time wasting apps out of the dock such as Twitter. It’s too easy to get sucked in just by seeing the app.

Apps in the Dock

I could write a separate blog post for the reason I use each of these apps and why they are my favorite but for this post I will only write a one or two sentence description.

  1. Drafts – for quick notes, adding items to OmniFocus, and other random writings. Since Agile Tortoise released the beta for the Mac app I’ve been using this for all my quick notes since it easily syncs with the Mac. I also have several shortcuts that open Drafts to send an email.
  2. OmniFocus – this has been my task manager of choice for 10 years now. I’ve looked at others and they may be a great choice for some people but for me OmniFocus is tried and true.
  3. Spark – no email client is perfect and has everything I would like but Spark has a decent interface, not buggy, and has some key features that I like such as send later.
  4. Day One – my journaling app of choice and for the past 6 months I’ve really been putting more stuff in here. I use it as my own social media posting so I am not living out my life in public.
  5. Ulysses – the app where I do most of my writing. I’ll throw completed notes that serve as reference for later in this app as well.
  6. Copied – clipboard manager, which is indispensable for me
  7. GoodNotes – what I use for all my handwritten notes, brainstorming, meeting notes, and I use it when I teach Greek
  8. Canvas Teacher – our school uses Canvas as our LMS (Learning Management System)
  9. PDF Expert – I’ve tried all the PDF apps out there and this is the absolute best in my opinion
  10. Accordance Bible Software – my Bible software of choice, which I use for both personal and school research
  11. Safari – self explainable … not a fan of Chrome
  12. Due – quick place to add reminders throughout the day. I really wish this app had keyboard shortcuts for the iPad.
  13. Messages – have to stay in touch
  14. Fantastical – expensive as a separate iPad app but still my favorite calendar app. I like the layout of the week and how you can infinitely scroll through the future and the past. And of course, the natural language input is fantastic
  15. Folder – all my second tiered apps quickly available if I don’t have the keyboard connected

The Shortcuts app could be in the dock but I start all my shortcuts from the widget or the share sheet so really the only reason I would have it in the dock is to create shortcuts. I have this app in my folder for quick access.

Brydge Keyboard Pre-Orders for the New iPad Pro are Open

Jason Snell over at Six Colors had a pre-production version of the keyboard and posted some great initial thoughts on it.

My favorite keyboard for the iPad Pro has just started pre-orders for the new iPads. I previously had one for the 9.7 iPad Pro and it was by far my favorite keyboard for the iPad. Like I’ve said before, the Smart Keyboard is good but not ideal. Personally, I hate typing on it. The limited range of viewing angles, lack of controls for iOS (c’mon Apple), and most importantly, the typing experience is less than ideal. The Brydge Keyboard gives you a laptop typing experience for your iPad.

Additionally, since the new iPad Pros have USB-C connection you can charge the keyboard via USB-C or if your Bluetooth connection is spotty you can just connect it via a cable for a no lag experience.

If you’re looking for the best keyboard for your iPad this is it.

Other Features:

  • One Bluetooth keyboard
  • One protective cover for back of iPad for Apple iPad Pro (2018)
  • Full keyboard with dedicated iOS keys
  • High-grade aluminum body
  • Any-angle viewing from 0-180 degrees
  • 3-level backlit keys
  • Matching iPad Pro color, design and form

Pre-order here. I believe they will start shipping in April.

Image from Brydge

Scheduled Shortcuts and Location Triggers

One feature that the Shortcuts app desperately needs is the ability to run shortcuts in the background based on a certain time or location. Launch Center Pro recently released version 3.0 and one of its selling features is the ability to run shortcuts based on a certain time or location (listen to the discussion from Viticci on Connected). Not only does this feature require a subscription or a one-time in-app purchase but it can not run the shortcut natively in the background because they are limited by Apple’s API.

Personally, I’m hopeful that Apple will add this type of integration into the Shortcut app sooner rather than later so investing in an app such as Launch Center Pro seems premature and more work later. Additionally, there is actually a way to do something similar without an additional third-party app.

Enter the “Siri, remind me of this later” feature. I think many people forget about the Siri feature which allows you to say, “Siri, remind me of this…” and you can quickly return to whatever you were doing by tapping the icon. I use this method to “schedule” a shortcut. I realize that you still have to tap something but at this point its the fastest and most efficient way to run a shortcut at a certain time or when you arrive/leave a particular location.

For example, I send an email on the first of every month. I have a shortcut that helps me populate the email with the correct date and information and then sends it to the correct people. Using this method, a reminder will pop up on my phone at 9 am at the start of every month, I tap on the Shortcut icon in the reminder, and then it will take me right to the shortcut to run.

Additionally, in the Reminders app you can also set a reminder based on when you arrive or leave a location instead of a time-based reminder. Theoretically, if you wanted to run a shortcut every time you arrived at work you could easily do so.

The video below is just a minute long and shows the process.

Note: In the video, the audio cuts out when I use Siri. This seems to be a limitation of the screen recording feature on iOS but you can still see what I say because Siri types out the words.

My Favorite Photo Editing App: Darkroom (now on iPad)

Darkroom has long been one of my favorite photo editors on the iPhone (also voted best photo editor at the Sweet Setup). I’m excited that it is now on the iPad so I can take advantage of the large 12.9” screen, Apple Pencil, and keyboard shortcuts.

Hero

I’m not a professional photo editor, but I have been trying to learn how to do better photography from my iPhone and also edit photos. This app has allowed me to learn about the editing process without using some more advanced apps such as Photoshop, Lightroom, or other “pro” apps. Instead of outlining everything that Darkroom can do I just want to highlight some of my favorite features. If you want a full review of Darkroom 4.0 go check out the excellent article from John Voorhees over at MacStories.

  1. Portrait Editing – This by far is my favorite feature of Darkroom. When you take a portrait photo Darkroom allows you to edit the background and foreground separately. This will enable you to get some outstanding photos from Portrait mode. Often I will increase or decrease the contrast and/or brighten or darken the background, which allows the subject of the photo to really stand out.
  2. Batch editing and exporting – Many times I will take several photos in the same location and would like a similar edit on each of them. I will first edit one photo then batch copy those edits to all the photos in that same location. From there I will go in and fine tune each one. Additionally, you can batch export your photos to either modify the existing photo or create a new one. If you edit the current photo, you can still go back and see all your changes.
  3. Filters – what’s a photo editing app without filters? Darkroom has some of my favorite filters out of the popular photo editing apps. Additionally, you can modify a filter and save it for use later.
  4. The User Interface (UI) – The UI is one of the most intuitive aspects of Darkroom. It reads your photos right from your photo library and has easy to identify markers to know which are portrait photos, what photos have been edited, and photos that have been exported.
  5. Adding borders to photos – When sharing to Instagram and other social media it is helpful to add a border, so you do not have to crop the photo. I particularly like adding a white inset/border to specific photos when sharing to Instagram.

Overall, Darkroom has always been very intuitive to use and has become my go-to photo editing app. I can get into the nitty-gritty with the color palettes or just add a simple filter. Whatever my needs have been Darkroom has met them.

Now that the iPad app is out, I’ll be able to edit photos on a nice large 12.9” screen with my Apple Pencil. With the addition of keyboard shortcuts for the iPad, app editing will be a breeze. This will be ideal when I’m going through hundreds of photos after a family gathering instead of editing on my iPhone.

You can download Darkroom here.

Some Photos Edited in Darkroom taken on the iPhone XS

  

Initial Thoughts on the New 12.9-inch iPad Pro, Apple Pencil 2.0, and Smart Keyboard Folio

Some initial thoughts on the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

  • Initial Impression: Walking into the Apple Store this morning the screen reminded me why I loved the 12.9-inch model in the first place. It is big and beautiful with tons of space to do your work. The Liquid Retina display feels like the OLED screen on the iPhone 10XS but it is slightly different but still beautiful nonetheless. Compared to the 10.5-inch model its a definite improvement.
  • Size: The new 12.9-inch model is noticeably smaller than the original 12.9-inch but it’s not so small that you don’t really notice. After reading John Gruber’s review I thought it would actually feel smaller and more portable that what it actually feels in my hand. Don’t get me wrong it is definitely more portable than the original 12.9-inch model but its not as portable as the 10.5-inch. That said, I think it is small enough for me to enjoy casually plus large enough screen for more serious work. The reason I returned the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro was that just holding it the thing felt huge. Now, I feel like I’m holding a screen and nothing is wasted. It will be different but I think ok. Having the larger iPhone again keeps that ultra portable space with a nice large screen.
  • Smart Keyboard Folio: One thing that I was worried about with the Smart Keyboard was it would be difficult to remove the iPad and use by itself. I removed the other 10.5-inch Smart Keyboard all the time. This one is different, not quite as easy, but still quick to remove and just use the iPad by itself. With that being said the size of the folio really doesn’t bother me. It is still a thin device. I probably won’t flip the folio behind the iPad and hold it most of the time but I never really did that either. That said, when you flip the Smart Keyboard Folio back the keys do disable even though you can feel them so you don’t have to worry about typing while holding it. I enjoy typing on this one more than the 10.5-inch model.
  • Did I say the screen is gorgeous?
  • FaceID on the iPad is almost better than the iPhone. You are always looking at the iPad so anytime you need a password it just automatically registers. I haven’t had to move my head once and its worked in every orientation.
  • Home Button and Bezels: No home button seems natural. Swiping gestures just seem natural This is not an issue whatsoever.
  • The Apple PencilThe magnetic charging and holding mechanism on the top/side of the iPad is absolutely genius.
    • The Apple Pencil feels really good in the hand with the matte finish
    • It’s a little bit shorter so a little nice to write with
    • Using the double tap to switch to an eraser in GoodNotes is magic. Love that feature. This will be great when teaching and I’m sure will be a natural workflow here in a couple days

10 Ways Canvas Makes Your Life Easier

Earlier today I led some faculty training on how Canvas makes your life easier as a teacher or teaching assistant. Personally, I love Canvas and could come up with a whole host of tips but here are 10 things that stand out to me:

  1. Announcements
    • Announcements are the best way to help your students stay up-to-date with the course. By default, not only will students receive an email alert of the announcement but if they have the Canvas Student app installed on their mobile device they will receive a notification.
    • You can also schedule announcements for key dates during the course. For example, if an exam is due on Sunday you could schedule an announcement for the Tuesday or Wednesday of that week reminding the students to study, some key information regarding the exam, and a word of an encouragement.
    • Remember, you can send announcements either from the web browser or the Canvas Teacher app.
  2. Granting individual extensions for any assignment or allowing for a retake of a quiz/exam
  3. Contact individual students about missing assignments or low grades.
    • Using the Message Students Who… feature you can easily contact student’s who are missing assignments or score below a certain score. This will allow you to better help your students stay on track in the course.
  4. Notification settings
    • Canvas provides a plethora of notification settings that you can fine tune to only be notified of what you want to see and when you would like to see them. You can choose to be notified immediately or sent a daily or weekly summary of your notifications.
  5. Prevent or detect plagiarism
    • Unfortunately, plagiarism is a reality that teachers must address. The Turnitin software that is integrated in Canvas provides an opportunity for student’s to detect their own plagiarism before submitting to better learn how to properly cite and/or allow for teachers to detect potential plagiarism and have the necessary tools to address the students.
  6. Restore deleted files and assignments
  7. SpeedGrader options
  8. Nickname your courses
    • You can update the names of your course to whatever you would like it to be and it only shows this name for you. Personally, I write an abbreviated version of the course name and put the term in parentheses for my courses.
  9. Canvas Teacher App (iOS and Android)
    • The Canvas Teacher app allows you to do all the functions you need to do as a teacher in Canvas such as message students, send announcements, update due dates, add files to the course, record video or audio messages, and much more.
  10. Support
    • Clicking on the help button in Canvas provides the following options (this will differ based on your own school’s implementation but these links are customizable by your school’s administrator)
      1. Report a problem or need help? This submits a support ticket to the Online Learning office and Campus Technology. Upon review our support teams can either provide an answer or solution or escalate it to Canvas support who responds within 24-48 hours.
      2. My course information – find information such as meeting times, location, professor and more
      3. Register for classes – students can click here to register for classes
      4. Student account information – student’s can learn more about their tuition fees and payment dates
      5. Search the Canvas Guide – any question you have regarding Canvas can probably be found in these guides.

Contact me on Twitter @renshaw330 or comment below with your own tips.

Switching from Squarespace to WordPress

Today I made the switch from Squarespace to WordPress as my blogging platform of choice. I’ve been on Squarespace since I started my blog back in 2012. One of the advantages of Squarespace was being able to completely customize your website, which WordPress didn’t allow nearly as well, especially if you were on a basic plan. Additionally, at that time I wrote mostly on my laptop and had really no problems getting my posts up on the platform.

But its 2018 now and I work primarily on my iPad and Squarespace has really fallen behind in this category. Their iOS app leaves much to wanting and additionally there is no way to post directly from an app like Ulysses (my writing app of choice). Sure, I can copy and paste my text to the app and finally get it posted but that sheer amount of tension in my workflow has caused me not to write as much as I want. Yes, this is a terrible excuse but always in the back of my mind I knew I had to take the time to post and this barrier proved to be too great for me. I want a platform where I can write in Ulysses, click post, and I am done. WordPress is the answer for me.

I’ve had this setup for four months now but couldn’t get myself to make the switch due to broken links but thanks to Brian Davidson for forcing me to finally make the switch. So, some of my links may be broken, and that’s ok. My postings are primarily to share my thoughts on certain issues and not build some type of high traffic platform. I will fix those in due time but at this point I want to focus on writing and not worry about anything else.

So hopefully this will help my output. Anything I want to write on I can do so quickly and efficiently.

Thanks for reading…

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Review of the Lofree Bluetooth Mechanical Keyboard

Awhile back Jason Snell over at Six Colors wrote a review of the Lofree Bluetooth mechanical keyboard that was a campaign on Indiegogo. It sounded promising and looked absolutely gorgeous. Plus a mechanical keyboard that is also Bluetooth caught my eye. So I decided to go ahead and back this beauty.

At first sight, the keyboard did not disappoint. The muted black, round keys, pinkish backspace keycap, and a compact design had me quite excited. Most mechanical keyboards have, well, a very mechanical look to them. Additionally, they are wired, which is fine, but aesthetically having one wire strung across my desk isn’t very pleasing. Regardless, I brought to the office to text out over the next couple days.

Initially, I was pretty excited. The keys felt nice under the fingers, looked gorgeous on the desk, and made the perfect clickity-clack sound that I love from mechanical keyboards. Additionally, the keyboard can be paired with three different devices. I didn’t know this at first until I started reading through the instructions. I’ve always wanted this in a keyboard but all the options out there don’t feel pleasing to type with. After connecting my Mac, iPad, and iPhone I was good to go. Switching between devices was a breeze and worked well. Some people have issues on certain Bluetooth keyboards with the iPad going to sleep and then reconnecting. I had no such issues when switching between devices.

But as I started typing more I noticed two things that ended up being somewhat of a deal breaker for me. First, the return and shift key are much harder to press down. All the other keys press down with an ever so slight depression on the key but those two keys have a double click, which feels like they have multiple key switches in them. I’m really not sure what is going on here but pressing them down took a noticeable toll on my pinky fingers. At first it wasn’t that big of deal but halfway through the day I was making more mistakes because it took a cognitive effort to think about pressing those keys with more pressure than the rest of them.

The second problem I had was with the number row because it is shifted to the right from its normal position. Normally I don’t have to look at the number row when typing but with this decision its caused me numerous typos because I am always hitting the key to the left. Thus, trying to type an explanation point I hit the tilde or attempting an asterisk I type an ampersand. I didn’t realize how often I was typing numbers or these modifiers but it throughout the work day this proved to be the biggest barrier of this keyboard. Usuallly I can type fast on a mechanical keyboard, which is one of the reasons that I like them but with this design decision it simply made it very difficult to type without looking down at the keys.

At the end of the day the keyboard is not for me. Granted, it is really a beautiful keyboard but functionally those two issues make it unusable for my main keyboard. I think I will use it in my home office when it is set up. I plan on having a small desk in there so the compact and wireless design of this will go together nicely. Additionally, I won’t spend a lot of time in there so typing will be minimal and will not be work related so I imagine I won’t be using the modifier keys as much. But for my main keyboard at work I just need something that doesn’t cause me to think about the keyboard. The keyboard should fall into the background and let you type without having to look down. Additionally, it shouldn’t cause unnecessary finger fatigue after a long day of typing. I have a hard time recommending this keyboard that retails for $149 (on sale on Amazon for $129). But if you’re really needing a Bluetooth mechanical keyboard this is the one to get even if you have to adjust your typing. But for me back to my beloved naked keycapped Das Keyboard for work.

Counting Steps on the Apple Watch with Pedometer++

Awhile back I recounted hitting 200 days of 10,000 steps. Today I hit 254 days in a row by talking a late night walk to complete my goal. Late night walks and exercise have occurred several times during my current streak. The gamification of counting steps really has caused me to be active throughout the day for awhile now. It’s really become a habit.

The Apple Watch does track steps but as David Smith has noted it is not entirely accurate. Basically it uses a priority device to track steps. If your watch is on then that is the primary device. But what happens you’re carrying groceries or walking the dog? You’re not getting those steps counted because your arm isn’t moving. So David’s app will merge the data to get the most accurate steps.

In short, I love this app. It’s helped me track my steps daily for over a half year now and has a permanent spot on my home screen on my Apple Watch. Also, I love getting the confetti to when hitting 10k steps everyday.

PS I wrote this post on my computer, errr I mean iPhone.

Forget the iPad. The iPhone as a “Laptop Replacement”

The tech Twitter and blog community is currently in a frenzy about whether or not the iPad is a laptop replacement (here, here, here, and several other places. . Ironically, I wrote a post at the beginning of the week about the iPad as a laptop replacement based on the question from a friend over the weekend. I’m in no way implying that I had anything to do with the uproar on Twitter (I didn’t) but I found it interesting that this question is still a hot topic not just among nerds but also the everyday user considering using an iPad for their main computer. My post was basically with the perspective of an academic or student trying to go all in on the iPad. I could have been more sensitive to this and frame the discussion differently, especially after reading Matt Gemmell’s excellent post on the idea of a laptop replacement. In his article he points out two flaws in this thinking:

The two big general flaws in that kind of thinking are: (1) the idea of replacement is already laden with confirmation bias, and (2) the question can only ever be validly answered with reference to an individual. It’s as stupid as if I were to claim that iPads are, in some notional, bizarre, universal sense, “a laptop replacement”, just because I personally use an iPad full-time now. I don’t understand why this is hard to understand.

I agree, this decision is intensely personal and will look different for everyone. For some the iPad can be their sole device and for others, like me, I still need access to a computer, but for the majority of tasks I do the iPad works beautifully. Personally, I prefer the experience using the iPad over a computer. Additionally, some people work better on a computer and would prefer that plus they can do everything they need on it so for them the iPad is not a laptop replacement.

Thinking about this device replacement idea I was struck by my wife’s usage of her iPhone 7. For her, the iPhone is her personal computer. She is an accountant and she has a Windows desktop at work. But for her personal life the iPhone is always with her. She answers email, which are often somewhat lengthy, texting, web browsing, social media, watching Netflix, reading books (I still don’t understand this one but she will read entire books on her phone), gathering documents and researching for our adoption, tracking our adoption finances in Google Sheets, taking photos, editing photos, phone calls, and more. She has a laptop but only uses it sparingly to play the Sims and she also has an iPad, which I can’t remember the last time she used it.

For her, the device that is with her all the time is her computer. She doesn’t need or want anything else. For me, this wouldn’t work. Sure, I get a lot of work done on my phone but if it is a longer email or web browsing or any other number of tasks I prefer getting out the iPad. So this discussion of “laptop replacement” is intensely personal and will look different for everyone.

Its kind of funny seeing the uproar on Twitter. Many are pointing out that this decision is intensely personal and it depends on your job as well. Many jobs it doesn’t even make sense to think of an iPad as a laptop replacement. Work will often provide a computer and for many they just need a personal device for the basics and a laptop or iPad will fit that. At the end of the day, its not a question of whether the iPad is capable because it is for many situations. Just as a laptop works for most situations its not capable of everything the iPad is. So, think about what you want out of the device, what you use it for, and decide on a device. If you have the means, by all means have a laptop and an iPad. Its up to you. Don’t get stuck reading some tech review saying that the iPad can’t be your laptop. Its not trying to be.

Switching to the Native Twitter App

I’ve been a long time Tweetbot user. The aesthetic, simplicity, and mute functions always made me a firm believer in the third-party app. I’ve tried Twitterific several times in the past but I never was a fan of the design. Not that there is anything wrong with the design, the dislike is purely personal, but it never jived with me.

So what did I decide to do a couple weeks ago? I installed the Twitter app to test out for a couple weeks.

At first sight my face wrinkled in disgust, stomach churning as I became queasy from the design, I could feel blood running through my veins as I just pondered why anyone could use this horrible thing. But I decided to press on. Give it a chance and push through my initial reactions. And…

I like it

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are several major design flaws. I don’t have easy access to my lists. Promoted tweets are annoying. Searching my previous tweets are difficult. The share sheet is atrocious. I can’t customize the icons at the bottom of the screen.

On paper, this seems to be enough to send me immediately back to Tweetbot. I can’t remember what exactly instigated the switch. I think it was getting a couple notifications for replies that weren’t showing up in Tweetbot but they did in the Twitter app. Additionally, searching to mention people in a Tweet was a crapshoot. Half the time nothing would come up in my search and the other times it would be wildly inaccurate. If those were the exact reason for trying something new then it is something that definitely has bothered me in the past. Regardless, Tweetbot was seemingly losing some of its attractiveness to me.

Twitter used to open up everything for third part developers of apps but awhile back they began limiting features they would allow them to implement in hopes, I guess, of sending people to their own app. The default app for almost anything always has certain advantages over third party solutions. The third party solutions in turn provide usually a more creative design, unique features, and rethink the goal and focus of the app. For example, the Notes app has significant advantages to other third party note taking apps. Its automatically added to your phone, you can add it to the control panel (iOS 11), begin writing from the lock screen (iOS 11), share sheet functionality is the best, and more. But apps like Ulysses and Bear offer what I would argue a better design, unique functionality, support for writing in Markdown, different themes, and more robust settings. This isn’t a one-to-one analogy because unlike a Twitter client you are more likely to use different note apps for different sorts of tasks (at least I do).

So lets get back to the Twitter app. I’ve found that notifications, replies/mentions, direct messages are much more consistent in the native app. I’ve never missed anything that I wanted to see, I can use groups in direct messages, and the replies seem to be more consistent. Additionally, I’ve been able to participate in some Twitter polls and post GIFs easier as well. Searching for people for mentions works immediately and trying to find a certain user in the search is quick and easy. In addition, at some point Twitter added muting to the app. I’ve always been a heavy muting user because I want Twitter to be a place I enjoy. This means no politics, annoying hashtags, articles about hockey, guns, abortion, Trump, Grammys, and more. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on these things or even read articles on some of these topics but I just don’t want to see them in my timeline. Overall, its been a more streamlined experience. Its not without flaws and minor annoyances but for some reason the features and consistency of the Twitter app are winning the day.

The design has taken quite a bit to get used to. Compared to the Tweetbot app Twitter seems cluttered, the timeline is out of order, and you see ads. Really, this is what drew me away from from every trying it in the first place. The design was just awful. For some reason, I’ve gotten used to the design, instinctively ignore the promoted tweets, and actually like having replies be directly under the original tweet.

So, I don’t have the love affair that I used to have with Tweetbot but Twitter is slowly becoming my Twitter app of choice. If you would have told me a couple weeks ago that I would be doing this I would have called you insane because I was disgusted by the app that much. But certain features and functionality are winning the day and I’m enjoying my experience and that’s all that counts. I know some of you will call me absolutely crazy for thinking this and I would have too a couple weeks ago. But to each his one and use what works for you

Scanning Documents in iOS 11 with Notes and Augmented Reality

At WWDC Apple announced AR Kit for developers. In short, Apple is opening up a framework for developers of apps to easily create augmented reality apps. Tim Cook has spoken about augmented reality as one of the key technologies for the future. Even if you haven’t heard of augmented reality you’ve probably seen it before. One of the latest fads, Pokémon Go, is an example of augmented reality. Basically a device is able to superimpose digital items into the real world through the screen of a device. When you are playing Pokémon Go, you see the characters on the screen in the real world.

An example of a Pikachu sitting in the real world through your phone

One way Apple is integrating augmented reality in iOS 11 is through the new scanning feature of the Notes app. Previously scanning apps tried to detect edges through other means. You would have to setup your phone in good lighting, holding it over the document, steady, and shoot the picture. Depending on the quality of your picture you would have to detect the edges and if you took it at the wrong angle your document would look skewed.

Not so anymore. Below I took a picture from pretty far away and at an awkward angle to capture the scan.

Using Notes in iOS 11 to scan a document

With the technology of augment reality the phone is able to easily detect the edges of the document and make a scan of the document. Pretty impressive. Just as with other third party software I imagine other companies will implement a better scanning solution using the same technology. Apple usually releases a good basic version (mail, notes, scanning, reminders, etc) and then other companies build on that idea adding more features.

If you follow @madeiwthARKit on Twitter you will see tons of other cool ideas as well. This measuring app is particularly cool.

Scanned document from the earlier picture and if you’re ever in Louisville you have to go to Quills Coffee :)

Can the iPad Replace Your Laptop?

When the new iPads were released a couple weeks ago it reignited a conversation not only on tech blogs but also from friends about the iPad being a replacement for the traditional computer. My current setup is the 10.5” iPad Pro for basically everything outside the office. In the office I have a work iMac and at home I have a 2012 MacBook Air that normally lives tucked away under the couch. If I was to break down my usage it would be:

  • iPad – 60%
  • iMac – 40%
  • MacBook Air – negligible

I can and prefer to use the iPad for most of my work. There are a couple key hang ups for my situation (citations/bibliographic management for research papers, screencasts) but for the most part I could do it all from iPad. That’s not to say that I have to think differently about some tasks that I do. But once you make the switch you can maneuver your way around and get things done as fast or sometimes faster on the iPad. iOS 11 will be released closer to the Fall and it will reduce many friction points that people have when using the iPad.

I think the hang up for many is that if you use a laptop it covers all situations for the general person. If I was going to go one device without access to any others I would have to go with a laptop. The iPad is nice and I prefer it in many situations but it hasn’t reached the level of a necessity yet. Although, for some tasks it makes the process faster such as grading students papers but I can do that on the laptop as well. Additionally, I may be more focused on the iPad but that is more of a personal problem rather than a device problem.

A laptop may not be the best solution for all situations but it is an adequete device for everything. An iPad may be a better device for many tasks but it can’t do everything.

At the end of the day when you are making a decision about going all-in on the iPad you need to think about what all you use the computer for. Additionally, if there are some things you can’t do on the iPad do you have access to a computer? The iPad can do many many things and for many people this could be all they need. I just know that for me I still need access to a traditional computer. Its not the limitation of the device but the apps that are available.

Below I’ve catalogued in detail what I do on the iPad and what I have to do on the Mac. Notice that the tasks on iPad can all be done on a laptop as well. But as a preference, most of these I would rather do on the iPad.

Tasks on iPad

  • Email
    • Spark
    • Mail
  • Research
    • PDF Expert
    • Goodnotes
    • Evernote
    • Logos Bible Software
    • Accordance Bible Software
  • Writing
    • Ulysses
    • Bear
  • Create and write documents for work
    • Google Docs
    • Google Sheets
    • Ulysses
    • Microsoft Word
    • Keynote or PowerPoint
    • MailChimp
    • Goodnotes
  • Communicate with students
    • Canvas app
    • Email
  • Grade students homework and papers
    • SpeedGrader
  • Meeting notes
    • Goodnotes
    • Notes
  • Communication
    • Slack
    • iMessage
  • Web browsing and reading blogs
    • Safari
    • Fiery Feeds
    • Instapaper
    • Amazon app
  • Photo editing
    • Affinity Photo
    • VSCO
  • Watch baseball via MLB.TV app

Tasks that need a Mac (for me)

  • Finishing research papers: This is one of the biggest and saddest pain points. If you use bibliographic software such as Zotero there is no good way to do this on the iPad. Normally, I will write almost everything on the iPad in Ulysses then export it to a .docx file and finish the paper in Microsoft Word on the Mac adding citations, formatting, and proofreading.
  • Screencasts: For work I make a good amount of screencasts and tutorials for various things. There is no good screencasting software on the iPad and additionally, to help others out I really need to be using the device they will primarily be working with. Making edits (both video and audio), capturing audio, exporting, uploading to Vimeo or YouTube all need to happen on the Mac.
  • Editing websites: this is a more minor issue but is a pain point. For example, the other day my wife and I were working on a website for a donation campaign for our adoption and I had to bring out the old MacBook Air to create the website. I use Squarespace so if you use other services or know coding then you may be able to get by on the iPad.
  • Miscellaneous tasks: every once in awhile I just run into simple tasks that I just can’t do (or don’t have the time to figure out how to do) on the iPad. For example, one morning I was getting ready to send out a MailChimp campaign from my iPad and I was running into formatting issues. I had to go back to the office to finish this up. Another example is using Google Sheets I’ve run into a couple issues that I could not do on the iPad.

I have the luxury of having a iMac for work so I really don’t have to worry about having multiple devices. The only friction on the personal side is finishing research papers on the iPad. For work, I’ve run into more miscellaneous issues that I’ve needed a Mac for. I love the iPad and I wouldn’t want to give it up but I still need access to a Mac for some things.

If you have any further thoughts or comments I’d love to hear from you on Twitter (@renshaw330)

Does the 9.7” Smart Keyboard Fit the 10.5” iPad Pro?

If you are thinking about upgrading from the 9.7” iPad Pro to the newest and slightly bigger one then you will want to plan on buying a new Smart Keyboard as well. As you can see in the pictures the keyboard does fit and will work on the new iPad but the dimensions are slightly different. If you are trying to save some money and have an extra case or sleeve for your iPad then theoretically you could still use the 9.7” Smart Keyboard but I’ll let you make that decision.

For more on the different dimensions of the whole iPad lineup check out Serenity Caldwell’s post over at iMore.

Sorry, forgot to clean off the keyboard...

Slight overhang on each side