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The Launch of OmniFocus 2

The Launch of OmniFocus 2

CEO of Omni Group, Ken Case announced the Debut of OmniFocus 2 (at Macworld/iWorld):

…our goals for version 2 are to bring back to the Mac all of the design and innovation that went into our iPad edition of OmniFocus: dedicated Forecast and Review modes, clearer navigation, and a fresh look and feel.

As a long-time practitioner of what is a personal evolution of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach, I’ve used a variety of organisational tools on a variety of platforms – OSX, iOS, Windows, PalmOS, etc. These have included native and third party apps. OmniFocus on OSX and iOS remains my pick due to its all around power. I love the fact that the Omni people have uncovered a very clever workaround to get OmniFocus to work with Siri.

A lot of people however find OmniFocus to be a complex app, particularly on the Mac (OSX). As Katie Floyd mentioned in her post about the announcement of OmniFocus 2, there is the perception amoung some users that you need a “degree in OmniFocus”!

OmniFocus for iPadBy contrast, OmniFocus for iPad sports a brilliant UI, and is actually where I do most of my process and review activities. I use the OSX and iPhone versions of the app to capture and also to check off next actions completed. The iPad version has a special “review mode” that takes you through a review of Projects that have had the appropriate attention recently. This powerful function will be a feature of OmniFocus 2.

The other factor that has made OmniFocus less approachable to the average user was its pricing. In his post he also outlines a new pricing approach, which will see a standard version available at US$39.99 – still a high end app, but half the price of the current version. There will be a Pro Version with support for custom workflows. There will also be special pricing for users of the current version of OmniFocus on OSX, available through the Omni Group’s website.

OmniFocus is a high end, quality app. With the new UI in OSX, and with its new pricing model, it will continue to be the first choice for productivity power users, and will be an excellent choice for less full-on productivity enthusiasts. Availability has yet to be announced, and it will go into private testing shortly.

Hybrid PC-Tablets – Revival or Desperate Move

Hybrid PC-Tablets – Revival or Desperate Move

Seems that Microsoft and PC manufacturers are trying to drive focus on “hybrid” PC-tablet products to combat the iPad. This article in the SMH talks about this trend based on products introduced at the recent CES show

Call these machines “hybrids”, “convertibles”, or maybe just call them “very weird”.

IMHO, one of Microsoft’s long term mistakes is trying to force-fit a one-size-fits-all approach to OS and devices. They want Windows to run every computer from a smart phone to a high end server. They, along with some of the PC manufacturers who are dependent on the Windows ecosystem, continue to focus on the techology that drives their world, rather than focus on the needs and wants of users (aka “customers”).

This is probably why Acer and Asus are dropping the netbook, and why Samsung USA is not planning to bring Windows RT products to market. Yet each of these companies is pushing forward with Andriod based tablets, and why Acer and Asus are also continuing with Windows 8 based tablets. It will be interesting to see if Acer and Asus follow Samsung away from Windows RT.

Personally, my iPad is my main device away from the office. Only occasionally do I use my MacBook Air, and generally only when needed for specific needs – particularly Keynote presentations that have embedded multimedia (the iOS version of Keynote doesn’t yet support these requirements).

Back in the office, I use my “truck” (an iMac) to do most of my heavy processing, particularly images, videos, building presentations, accounts and heavy duty writing. But for a heck of a lot of people the iPad or other tablet will handle most, if not all, of their requirements.

In the words of Steve Jobs

After all, if you need a truck, you can always borrow one from a friend.

I wouldn’t consider a hybrid PC-tablet. It will likely be the “worst of both worlds” making compromises between power, portability and usability. I think the movements by Microsoft and PC manufacturers to push the hybrid PC-tablet is a sign of desperation to keep their existing view of the tech world, and not to consider the actual needs of users.

New iMacs – November?

New iMacs – November?

20121130-094603.jpgMy current iMac is a 4.5 year old 24″ model that is getting to the point it needs replacement. Actually, it realistically hit that point 6-9 months ago, but I’ve been hanging for an iMac refresh, and of course, since the announcement last month, I’ve been waiting for the new 2012 iMacs to be released.
With Apple’s announcement that the new iMacs will be available for ordering on 30 November, and that the 21.5″ version will be available for purchase, I assumed that I would be able to see at least those in the Apple Store in Sydney this morning (30 November). With some flexibility to work remotely this morning, I thought I’d wander in for a look.

I arrived in at the Sydney store just after opening at 8am, and was told that the new machines had arrived, but were not yet on display. I found this surprising, as Apple is generally known for having new stuff put out overnight. When I commented on this to the Apple Store Specialist I was talking to, he indicated that even they hadn’t been sure whether the new units would be available today. He stated that they would be put out on display “sometime this morning”.

I have a bit of time to kill, so I decided to walk down to the Broadway store, as it opens at 10am, and thus I thought there would be a good chance the new machines would be out on display.

I am now sitting in a coffee shop outside the Apple Store Broadway, and as the photo shows, the old iMacs are still on display.

I dislike the “this wouldn’t have happened if Steve was running the show” meme, and don’t want to suggest that would be the case. But I certainly think that the Apple Store’s need to have someone at the helm who ensures these seamless transitions. If the new model is being released on a day, the old ones should be gone (at the very least), and the new ones should be on display at opening.

Given that you can’t purchase iMacs from Apple at the moment, that display should’ve disappeared anyway yesterday, even if the new ones aren’t available.

I am looking forward to new iMac. I don’t know whether to order the new one as soon as its available for ordering, or whether to wait 30 days to let manufacturing processes. Heck, I am still wondering whether to go an iMac or a Mac mini with a 27″ Thunderbolt Display. But I do know I want to see the new iMac so I can make my decision.

Its not just the physical Apple world, btw, even online (website and the Apple Store app), there is no ability yet to purchase or even configure the new iMacs.

So, at least as far as Australia is concerned, were leaving it not just to last day, but actually the last few hours for the new 21.5″ iMac to be available in November. Be interesting to see what Apple means by “December” for the 27″ iMac…

Backups of iCloud Documents in the Cloud

Backups of iCloud Documents in the Cloud

I had a scary experience over the last couple of days, which I resolved this morning.

I’m working on an important project for a client at the moment, and had a bunch of annotated files saved to iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud feature from the excellent PDF Pen app, which I use on both the iPad and my Macs.

I had manually deleted a few unrelated files, and when I returned to the app on iPad, all my files were missing. So I checked on my MacBook Air and my iMac, and same story. Gone!

At this point, I had lost a bit of faith in the iCloud promise (which I am otherwise liking), and was certain that the problem was either a software issue (Smile Software’s implementation of iCloud), or with iCloud itself. After calming down, I realised that it was probably user error, but that wasn’t getting my documents back.

I was at a bit of loose end, not knowing whether to call Apple Care, or post to a forum or similar, when I saw the blog post by Chris Breen at MacWorld, When Documents in the Cloud aren’t… Chris had been responding to a reader who had “lost” a document he printed as PDF to iCloud:

In the Finder, hold down the Option key, click on the Go menu, and choose the now-visible Library command. Locate and open the Mobile Documents folder. Within you’ll find multiple folders. In your case you want the com~apple~mail folder. Inside you’ll find a Documents folder. Within it is your PDF file.

Now this didn’t address backups, but it did make think that if there is a local copy in the file system, then my Time Machine backups may well have a copy of my missing documents.

The next problem was that the “Library” folder in Finder is hidden, and while the Option-Click approach above works well for finding current documents, I wasn’t sure how to approach this in Time Machine. A quick visit to Dr Google found the CNet article How to access hidden files to restore in Time Machine.

Unfortunately, if you have removed a hidden directory that is within a normally visible directory (as is the case with the entire /etc directory), then the Finder will not allow you to see it by default, so using the “Go to folder” command will not work. Nevertheless you can still restore it using Time Machine by first showing hidden files in the Finder.

To show the hidden files, simply open Terminal, and enter this command [1]:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE;killall Finder

Once you’ve done this, enter Time Machine as usual, browse to the dates you’re looking for, and go to the Library>Mobile Documents folder, and you’ll see a list of folders for iCloud Documents, sorted by app. Find the right folder, and you should see the files in the iCloud for that App on that Date. Select and Restore, and you should be good to go.

Its kind of nice when things work out! Everything I needed was there, I just had to do some digging. Given that its more than possible that other users will make silly errors like mine, I wonder when Apple will make this type of restoration more seamless. Whilst its easy to use the Revert To function to go back to previous versions of a file within a given app, it doesn’t help if you’ve deleted the whole file. In the meantime, I hope this workaround works for others.


[1]   The excellent TotalFinder application provides many extensions to your OSX Finder, including the ability to easily “Show System Files”, restoring access to the Library and and other hidden files.

Writing on the iPad

Writing on the iPad

During this month, iPads of March, one of the tasks that I have found brilliantly straightforward has been writing on the iPad.

20120319-135640.jpgI do quite a bit of writing: for this blog, and other personal and business websites, document and reports. I am also in the process of writing a book (or 2). Back on the Mac, I typically use the following writing tools:
– Pages (from the Apple iWork suite);
– Google Docs;
Mars Edit;
iA Writer;
– TextEdit
Squarespace‘s custom CMS; and,
WordPress‘ custom CMS.

Moving to the iPad has been a fun journey. For reports and other documents, these tend to be done end to end in Pages. I am moving away from Google Docs, which is poorly supported on iOS anyway. I am frustrated by the lack of a Mac version of Pages that supports iCloud, but since I can print and distribute documents easily from the iPad, this isn’t as big a hurdle as I thought it might be.

One notable direction for me in recent times has been the adoption of John Gruber’s Markdown approach. This is an approach for writers to be able to focus on writing, and then be able format in an easy manner, then publish to the web or use apps that translate the formating into their own requirements. For web, thats HTML, while for other apps it varies.

Markdown allows a non-distracting environment to focus on writing, then worry about publishing later. Traditional tools like MS Word, and even Pages and Scrivener, kind of lead the writer to procrastinate with formatting, rather than focus on content. To paraphrase Kenny Rogers, there’ll be time enough for formatting, when the writing’s done!

There are a bunch of apps allowing writers to write on iOS in markdown, and then easily copy to their desktop later. For a while I’ve been using iA Writer on both Mac and iOS, and have been loving the simplicity. Its sports a great, non-distracting UI that really lets you focus on the task of writing. It supports iCloud to sync between iPad and Mac versions, and recently it has sported a brand new iPhone version. Seamless writing, everywhere.

So for my book writing, I would work on individual sections in iA Writer, then when done, copy over to Scrivener, which handles Markdown nicely.

For web publishing, this was a little harder, as I wanted to be able to publish from the iPad, but getting code translated from Markdown to HTML wasn’t straightforward, and I am not aware of a blog editor for iPad that accepts Markdown. I don’t think it’ll be long before someone comes out with something to suit.

Last Thursday, the good people at Metaclassy launched a new version of their Byword app for Mac, and also launched Byword for iOS (iPad and iPhone). This nice little app shares a lot of the best features of iA Writer (iCloud, simple UI, etc), and adds a couple of great features, including the ability to print from the iOS app (AirPrint or similar required), and importantly, the ability to export HTML from the file, or simply have the HTML output copied to the clipboard. This can easily be pasted into the Squarespace or WordPress iOS apps (which only supports HTML) for publishing. I can also copy and paste the markdown text from the Mac version of the app straight into Scrivener.

I am using Byword deeply now as my main writing tool on the iPad. To post this blog, I will simply copy and paste the HTML into the WordPress app, add this screen shot image, add category/tag info and publish. For book style writing, I work on the files in Byword, and then copy and paste completed sections into Scrivener back on the Mac.

I am loving Byword – it gives me just the right mix of simplicity and power. Its just about perfect in my work so far.

Its an exciting time in using the iPad as a primary tool. Not only is there a new version on the market, but there are a host of new apps that make mobile productivity even better. For writing, the iPad has truly come of age as a production tool, and is far than a simple consumption device!

Out and About During the iPads of March

Out and About During the iPads of March

20120315-225323.jpgMy iPads of March experience is swimming along nicely, and not only have I not needed to use my MacBook Air at all away from home or office, I’ve actually found that I haven’t been using it much at all. I am writing this now sitting at my office desk, using my iPad with a bluetooth keyboard. I haven’t even brought my notebook with me today.

Its actually nice not having to lug it around, and of course, among notebooks the MacBook Air is the pick of the crop when it comes to luggable power computing!

Yesterday I caught the train into the city for a couple of appointments, and a visit to the Apple Store. I usually drive, and not only did I get to avoid the 60-90 minute commute and stress levels that come with that, I actually got to do some work. I updated 2 documents and created a third from scratch, checked emails, worked on some spreadsheets and surfed the web a little, all while sitting on the train, and in a coffee shop before/after appointments.

For documents and spreadsheets, the Apple iWork apps of Pages and Numbers, coupled with iCloud, are fantastic. I had a short bus trip before and after one appointment, and it was brilliant to be able to keep working on the same document on the iPhone, as the bus was a bit too crowded and the trip a bit too short to warrant using the iPad.

All this work was done using the on-screen keyboard, as I didn’t really want to bring a bluetooth keyboard with me. I’ve found in the past that in my bag, the keyboard would sometimes be bumped and turn on and thus I’d lose my on-screen keyboard. I decided that I need a better way to carry a keyboard, and so my journey to the Bondi Apple Store resulted in the purchase of the Incase Origami Workstation (see photo).

I’ve only been using the case for 24 hours, and I love it. It makes heavy duty writing much easier.

So my iPads of March experiment is going well. I am finding that my productivity on the go is going well, and that there are few things I can’t reliably do using the device. The iWork apps are a great foundation, and the Incase case makes life easier. Over the next few posts, I’ll talk about further apps that make life easier. I have found a couple of "productivity gaps", and also plan to cover those.

The Canning of

The Canning of

According to, Apple’s services is being canned from 31st July 2012.

I am sure this is hardly a surprise to anyone, given that it has been a little underwhelming. I’m a pretty hardcore Apple / iWork / iCloud user, and I never really got what’s use case would be, at least for me. I have used it once or twice, mainly for quick sharing of an iWork document from iPad, but that would be it.

I think functionality is still needed for collaboration. Even if its not been heavily used at this time, such functionality has to be part of Apple’s long term plan for iCloud and iWork.

The timing of this is interesting. 31st July is “late (northern hemisphere) Summer 2012”, the timing Apple has specified for the full launch of OSX Mountain Lion. I somehow expect that there will be new functionality baked into OSX Mountain Lion and iCloud that will easily allow document collaboration between users.

As I’ve stated in the last few posts, iWork on OSX desparately needs iCloud’s Documents in the Cloud feature enabled. Until then iCloud is going to be clunky compared to DropBox for desktop users, though it does have the advantage for users that are predominately iOS based. For users that switch back and forth (like me, and most others I reckon), either solution is clunky.

I hope that Documents in the Cloud for OSX will be opened up soon – much sooner than 31st July. It certainly needs to be before MS Office is released on iOS.

But, I look forward to the concept of document collaboration between users being baked into iWork and iCloud, from OSX or iOS.

New iPad Launch and My Predictions

New iPad Launch and My Predictions

So the launch of the iPad 3 iPad H “new” iPad has come and gone, and we have an exciting new iPad on the scene. For a quick review, I should start off with my predictions for the iPad 3 launch, which I posted the night before the event. I’ll add some commentary to each of these on my initial thoughts.

1. iPad 3 with double pixel display, LTE and better cameras.

Almost 100% right, but fairly obvious. Of course, it isn’t an iPad “3”, and it seems only one of the cameras is improved. But it is quite “resolutionary“.

Of course, the LTE (4G) functionality will be brilliant for those who work out of a set environment (like I do regularly), and the personal hotspot feature may actually save money (one less device to carry around, and one less mobile broadband account to pay for). It will be interesting to see if Telstra will allow that feature…

The double pixel display (“retina display”) is going to be great for people who work in content. As I am writing this (on my iPad 2), I am also writing a couple of books, reviewing and preparing reports for consulting project clients, and regularly conducting scuba diving and first aid instructor programs. For all of these things, this is a great device.

There are of course other new features that are great, including the new Bluetooth capabilities.

So will I get one. Yes, but not immediately. I would pre-order one straight away if I didn’t have an iPad 2, but am going to wait and see a little bit to see what Telstra does, and to play with one in store. The new iPad is great, but my iPad 2 is still brilliant, and I am good with that for now.

2. iPhoto or Aperture for iPad

Nailed this one. iPhoto made more sense than Aperture, because it rounds out the iLife suite on iOS.

This is a great app, and I am certainly going to play with it, and probably do a full review later during my iPads of March. The (pleasant) surprise in this for me was the fact that it is an iOS app that works nicely on the iPhone. I particularly like the ability to be able to send images between an iPhone and iPad, via WiFi or Bluetooth.

3. Apple TV with HD Display

Again, nailed it. Again, this was pretty obvious.

I do like the new UI design. Apple is clearly bringing the UX on devices like the Apple TV (and Mac) much closer to the iOS standard found on iPad and iPhone (yes, I know Apple TV is an iOS device, but previously the UX was quite different).

This new UX seems to lay a better foundation for future third party “app-ification” of the Apple TV.

4. iTunes Movies (and possibly Television shows) in HD

Done. Its good to see Apple getting behind 1080p. Of course, the new iPad and new Apple TV made that necessary. And vice versa.

5. iOS 5.1

Done. Again obvious.

Downloaded to 2 iPhones, an iPad and an Apple TV. Working well all round. The changes are most noticeable on the Apple TV, but some nice tweaks on other devices.

I look forward to better battery life.

6. iWork ’12, featuring built in iCloud support

Should’ve been clearer that I was refering to the OSX version of iWork.

This was my “stretch prediction”, and sadly it missed. I have to believe that it must be imminent. If Apple wants to continue to make inroads to corporate and institutional customers, it needs this integration to be seamless.

And it needs to do that before the rumoured MS Office for iPad is released.

Final Thoughts

5 out of 6 predictions isn’t too bad, but I admit that 4 of those (other than the iPhoto one) were pretty obvious.

Apple is clearly setting the scene with the tablet market space, and competitors are struggling to compete. Whilst there are other, competent, tablets out there, I reckon the “new iPad” will maintain number 1 position, by a mile, for the next year, and iPad 2 will be the number 2. The iPad 2 is clearly being targeted to more price sensitive markets, such as education.

Apple also released a slew of new and updated apps yesterday, including all iWork and iLife apps on iOS, and a number of OSX apps, including iLife and iBooks Author. I like the look of the new configurator app that allows centralised control of a fleet of iOS devices. Again, clearly a play for corporate and institutional customers.

My iPad Launch Predictions

My iPad Launch Predictions

We’re less than ten hours away from the big iPad 3 iPad HD launch, and considering I am in my iPads of March, it’s a topic I am thinking lots about. So I thought I would make my predictions about what we might see. Of course, a lot of thesis just repeating what other, more knowledgeable people, have predicted, but what the hell.

So here goes:

  1. iPad 3 with double pixel display, LTE and better cameras
  2. iPhoto or Aperture for iPad
  3. Apple TV with HD display
  4. iTunes Movies (and possibly Television shows) in HD
  5. iOS 5.1
  6. iWork ’12, featuring built in iCloud support

Of these, 1, 3 & 4 are commonly predicted. I think photo management (#2) on the iPad is definitely something we want to “see. And touch“.

As for item 5, I reckon that’s a no-brainer. iOS 5.1 is going to be needed for items 1 & 3, and should e interesting to see if it has any secret new features.

Now item 6 is my stretch prediction. Maybe it’s because it’s something I want need to see. It’s high time that iWork on the Mac supported iCloud, and I don’t think Apple can afford to wait until the release of OSX Mountain Lion in 6 months or so.

So check back in tomorrow and we’ll see how I went.

The iPads of March

The iPads of March

I’ve had an iPad, and an iPad 2 since the day each was launched in Australia. My iPads have been fantastic tools for me around home, and on the road. But they’ve to date been secondary devices, with my MacBook Air or iMac being my primary computing devices.

With the steadily increasing number of apps taking advantage of the more powerful features of iPad, and more recently iCloud, it has been becoming more apparent to me that iPad has a very real potential to be a main device away from base. I can see a not-to-distant future where my computing needs will be served by a powerful machine such as an iMac, along with my iPad and iPhone while away from home.

I want to see how close this “reality” is. So a couple of weeks ago I decided that for a month I would use my iPad exclusively when away from office/home for a month (aside from my iPhone of course), and as the preferred device at home/office.

So, for me March is the month I immerse myself with iPad as my main computing device.

My business and pasttime activities are varied, and I use technology extensively across all of them. I teach scuba and first aid instructor courses, consult to businesses in and out of the recreational dive industry, teach karate, run a small business and am a partner in a business that is developing some apps. I am also president of the Australian Shorinjiryu Karatedo Association. In these roles, I give preparations to various sized groups, write reports, conduct research, edit photos and videos, watch videos and so forth. I am also in the process of writing 2 books.

I plan to blog regularly about my experiences in this, the iPads of March. I will cover successes, challenges and things where iPad falls down as. Primary computing device. Please follow this blog to stay up to date with my experiences.


First Contact – Documents in the iCloud and iA Writer

First Contact – Documents in the iCloud and iA Writer

When Steve Jobs announced iCloud in June, the thing that struck me more than anything else is that at last Apple was providing a methodology to allow easy “intra-personal collaboration” – that is an easy method of syncing documents you are working on between your various devices – desktop, notebook, iPad and iPhone. All the other features (calendar, address book, iTunes in the Cloud, etc) are great, but for me the real promise lays in the integration of iWork, and third party apps into iCloud.

ICloud Photos iPhone4s iPad MBP15inch PRINT

When iCloud was launched in October, I was pleased with how simple it was to setup iCloud on all my devices, and how well it works for iWork documents on iOS devices (iPhone, iPad). I guess I wasn’t alone however in my disappointment that the MacOS versions of iWork don’t support iCloud, meaning a clunky download/upload process would need to be put in place everytime I wanted to work on a document on my Macs.

Lets face it, for many professionals productive work generally involves most stuff being done on a desktop or notebook computer, with refinements, edits and updates being done on-the-go. So syncing between two iOS devices is nice, even necessary, but it is certainly not efficient.

I guess its only been a bit over a month, but the iCloud Documents in the Cloud concept is more gimmicky than anything else if there is no real ability to seamlessly work on documents, regardless of which device you’re working on. The magic will start to happen when I can pick up where I left in a document from one device to another.

So I was really pleased when the folks at Information Architects Inc announced yesterday that the iPad and Mac versions of their iA Writer app now support iCloud.


iA Writer has long supported DropBox syncing, and thats a good way of moving documents back and forth. I use DropBox for many things now, but I’ve always had the feeling that iCloud may one day be something even more special.

This post represents my first use of iCloud and iA Writer. I have so far worked on this post across several devices. I started on my iMac, moved to my iPad, and then to my MacBook. I am back on my iMac now. Whilst this sounds geeky, it does represent how I might very well work on posts and articles.

Unlike DropBox where I have to save documents in a special Finder folder than then syncs, in iCloud I can save anywhere on my system, and just tell iA Writer to add the document to iCloud. Shortly thereafter it appears on my other devices. Edits can be done, and things move back and forth quite nicely.

iA Writer is a lovely app. It is a simple text editor with mark-down capabilities. The screen is simple – black text on a plain white background. Using MacOS Lion’s fullscreen mode, there are no distractions – a really useful feature when writing. It has a similar mode on the iPad, taking away the top bar with its many distrations – not the least of which is the time!

Its too early for me to say whether I like iCloud or DropBox better, but I am certainly intrigued by the possibility of iCloud. Once its really working, it will easier for non-technical people to use, as there are no special setup steps. Just save a file and tell the app to put it in iCloud. When you no longer need the document in the cloud, simply tell the app to remove it from iCloud, then you’re done. Simple as that. But I can say that iA Writer is a winner for me, and for now I’ll keep using that with iCloud, and leave DropBox in other apps and for general data.