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iPad Diaries: Working with Drag and Drop – Bear and Gladys

iPad Diaries is a regular series about using the iPad as a primary computer. You can find more installments here and subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.

In my review of iOS 11, I noted that the impact of drag and drop – arguably, the most powerful addition to the iPad – would be best measured in the following weeks, after developers had the time to update their apps with richer implementations of the framework. I dedicated a large portion of my review to drag and drop as I felt the feature would fundamentally reshape our interactions with iPad apps and the entire OS altogether. However, I knew that wouldn’t happen right away. With iOS 11 having been available for nearly two months now, I think it’s time to reassess the effect of drag and drop on the iPad’s app ecosystem.

Starting this week, I’m going to take a look at some of the most important tasks I perform on my iPad and how drag and drop is helping me rethink them for my typical workflow. For the comeback of this column, I chose to focus on Bear and Gladys – a note-taking app and a shelf app, respectively – as I’ve been impressed with their developers’ understanding of iOS 11 and intricacies of drag and drop.

When I started researching this mini-series, I assumed that drag and drop hadn’t dramatically affected my favorite third-party apps yet. I was wrong. Drag and drop has started to trickle down into several areas of my daily iPad usage, often with surprising and powerful results.

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iPhone X First Impressions Arrive via Steven Levy and YouTube

Ahead of any full reviews for the iPhone X arriving, today one writer and a host of YouTubers published their first impressions for the new device, which releases November 3.

Steven Levy was one of the handful of journalists who received review units of the original iPhone over ten years ago. Today he exclusively shared his early thoughts on what appears to be the biggest evolution of the device, at least in form factor, since that original phone. Despite his praise for the device’s advancements over previous iPhones, Levy concludes that some of the iPhone X’s greatest achievements may only come to fruition with the help of third-party developers.

Remember, as cool as the original iPhone was, it didn’t really begin changing the world until Apple let third-party software developers take advantage of its innards—stuff like the camera, GPS, and other sensors. Maybe something similar, albeit not on such a grand scale, will happen with the iPhone X. Those who shell out the cash for this device will enjoy their screen and battery life today. But the real payoff of the iPhone X might come when we figure out what it can do tomorrow.

As Craig Federighi quipped during the iPhone X’s introduction in September, taking some of the most advanced technology ever found in a smartphone and using it to create animated poo is, well, perhaps unsurprising, but certainly a bit anticlimactic. There are undoubtedly applications of the iPhone X’s TrueDepth Camera and other features that haven’t been dreamed up yet.

Speaking of which, among the YouTubers who were invited by Apple to get early hands-on time with the iPhone X, one of the guys from Highsnobiety performed (jokingly) what is perhaps the first relationship breakup over Animoji. How do breakups by Animoji rank compared to breakups by text?

Videos by UrAvgConsumer, Soldier Knows Best, and Booredatwork contain detailed walkthroughs of how to use the new phone, while Popular Science has a fun science-infused overview of the X’s new features, and FASHION Magazine has a short, quick-hit look at ten favorite aspects of the iPhone X.

Apple’s marketing strategy with the iPhone X clearly appears to differ from the company’s standard practices, with this wave of first impressions preceding any proper reviews. While we should expect to see more traditional reviews from the usual sources in the coming days, perhaps Apple is simply attempting to highlight how this isn’t just like any other iPhone launch.


Learn Ulysses: Easy Video Tutorials for the Best Writing and Ideas App [Sponsor]

Learn Ulysses is a video course from The Sweet Setup, a site known for picking the best apps in certain categories. Their pick for the best writing app on Mac, iPad, and iPhone is Ulysses, and with their Learn Ulysses videos, The Sweet Setup can help you get the most out of the app.

There’s a lot of power just under the surface of Ulysses’ simple interface. It’s the power-user features that make Ulysses more than just a simple text editor. Tools for document organization, exporting to a wide range of formats, filtering, and more make Ulysses a complete writing environment.

The Sweet Setup created their Learn Ulysses course to help users get the most out of Ulysses’ power. The seven high-quality videos will get you up and running with all the features of Ulysses so that you can stay on top of your ideas, your writing, and more. Each tutorial dives deep into the details making even complex topics easy to follow and understand.

Each video can be streamed or downloaded, and there are full transcripts of each so you can pick up tips even when you can’t access video. In addition to the videos, Learn Ulysses includes bonus content. There’s a cheat sheet highlighting keyboard shortcuts and additional features and interviews with writers, in which each explains their Ulysses setup and workflow, which is a fantastic way to get ideas about how to use the app yourself.

The Sweet Setup has a special deal for MacStories readers. This week only, you can get the Learn Ulysses video tutorials and all the bonus content for 20% off by visiting learnulysses.com.

Our thanks to Learn Ulysses for sponsoring MacStories this week.


1Writer Update Includes Open in Place and Drag and Drop Support

Before I moved to Ulysses for most of my writing, I used 1Writer. At first, it was how I accessed my large collection of NVAlt notes when I wasn’t at my Mac because its search is exceptionally fast. Over time though, it became my primary text editor because it syncs with iCloud and Dropbox, works with Markdown files, has excellent export options, is highly customizable, and supports URL schemes and JavaScript actions. I don’t use 1Writer as often these days, but it remains one of my favorite text editors, so I was glad to see it has been updated to take advantage of new iOS 11 features.

The latest version of 1Writer supports Open in Place via iOS 11’s new document browser. Tap the omnipresent plus button in the lower right-hand corner of 1Writer and choose ‘Open Other…’ to launch iOS 11’s document browser. 1Writer has tinted the navigation elements of the document browser, which helps remind users that they are still in 1Writer, which is a nice touch that not all apps bother to support. With Open in Place, 1Writer can edit the Markdown or plain-text files of any file provider. For example, that allows me to grab a draft from one of our MacStories GitHub repos via the Working Copy file provider to make edits to the original document without creating a local 1Writer copy of the file.

1Writer supports Open in Place.

1Writer supports Open in Place.

1Writer also supports two-way drag and drop. I can drag any document from 1Writer’s document browser and drop it into another compatible app that accepts text like iA Writer, Byword, or Notes. I was also able to attach a 1Writer file to a message using Apple Mail.

Dragging into 1Writer works too. 1Writer can handle text and URLs, so it disregards images included in something like a note from the Notes app, but will set up Markdown syntax for an image if you drag in just a photo. If you drag into an existing 1Writer document, the text and links are appended to the end of the document.

1Writer has also added support for smart punctuation, which, for example, replaces straight quotes with the curly variety, and is iPhone X-ready.

1Writer is one of the most versatile text editors available. The addition of Open in Place means the app can be used with a wider variety of apps than ever before and drag and drop eliminates the number of steps needed to get text into and out of 1Writer. If you’re looking for a text editor that is at the forefront of iOS 11 technologies, 1Writer is an excellent choice.

1Writer is available on the App Store.


iPad Diaries: Numbers, Accounting, and Currency Conversions

iPad Diaries is a regular series about using the iPad as a primary computer. You can find more installments here and subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.

For years, I struggled to settle on an accounting workflow I truly liked.

In the past 8 years of MacStories, I’ve tried organizing financial records and statements with plain text files and PDF documents; I’ve used and then abandoned dedicated finance management apps; for a couple of years, I even tested a combination of Dropbox, Excel, and Editorial to visualize transactions and generate invoices with a Markdown template. My Italian bank doesn’t support direct integrations with third-party accounting services, and my particular requirements often include converting expenses from USD to EUR on a per-receipt basis.

Eventually, I always managed to keep my records up to date and neatly sorted with the help of an accountant, but I never loved any of the workflows I had established. In the end, several factors contributed to begrudgingly assembling reports and statements with systems I didn’t find flexible enough.

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iPad Diaries: Advanced File Management and Research with DEVONthink

As I wrote in my story on one year of iPad Pro, I consider cloud services a necessity for managing files on iOS. Dropbox and iCloud Drive make it possible to keep the same sets of documents and app libraries synced across devices, but, more importantly, they help overcome iOS’ file management woes through centralized storage spaces. In the article, I espoused the flexibility of Documents and its tight integration with Dropbox, noting how Readdle had built the missing iPad file manager with features Apple omitted from their iCloud Drive app.

Since early January, I’ve been thinking about my larger writing projects scheduled for 2017 and whether Documents can scale as a reference and research tool. Looking back at 2016 and the time I poured into organizing and referencing files for my iOS 10 review draft in Scrivener (which I covered here), I realized that neither Scrivener’s built-in file manager nor Documents could meet the basic requirements I have set for this year’s review. These include the ability to search different file types with advanced operators as well as a system to reference individual files and folders throughout iOS with local URLs. It was during this meta-research phase1 that I decided to try DEVONthink To Go again.

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Notebooks for iOS and Mac Organizes Your Research and Reference Materials

There’s a reason why there have been so many different notebook-style apps on iOS and the Mac over the years. Media-rich research projects and reference materials benefit from the familiar metaphor of a notebook as a way to organize everything in one place. The difficulty, though, is balancing organizational functionality with editing tools. Good organizational tools like search, sorting, and sync are a must, but apps that go too deep into editing features can quickly become a bloated mess. Go too light, and the editing features aren’t of much use.

Notebooks by Alfons Schmid is an iOS and Mac notebook app that has excellent organizational tools on iOS and the Mac. With solid search, sorting and sync options, your notebooks and documents are always readily available to you, which makes it a great research tool, especially on iOS. Notebooks’ editing tools are a different story. Notebooks for iOS strikes a nice balance with excellent text and PDF editing tools. The more recently released Mac version of Notebooks, however, doesn’t go much beyond text editing, which is a little disappointing.

Whether Notebooks is right for you will depend on the extent to which you want to edit files stored in it and, if so, whether iOS or OS X is the dominant platform you use. People who work on iOS will love the power of Notebooks; on the Mac, Notebooks is closer to a viewer app and may not be sufficient to meet your needs.

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Qwiki and Wonder: No-Nonsense Wikipedia Research

There was a time, before Twitter implemented restrictive API limitations, when Twitter clients were a playground where app developers tried new ideas. It felt like there was a new Twitter client released every week. Today, that role seems to have been taken over by Wikipedia apps.

There are a lot of good Wikipedia apps. Some, like Wikipedia’s own client that I reviewed earlier this year, are designed to optimize the reading and browsing experience, while others, like Curiosity, focus on location-based discovery. Those are great approaches to Wikipedia, but often I use Wikipedia for quick research and just want to get in and out of Wikipedia quickly without being distracted from writing. For those times, I’ve found two apps I like – Qwiki, a menu bar app for the Mac, and Wonder, an iOS app. Both apps are fast, no-frills utilities that help you find and browse what you need, copy a link, and share it quickly.

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A Comprehensive Guide to the iTunes Affiliate Program

Inexpensive software and other tools, coupled with ubiquitous Internet access, have made it easier than ever for creative people to reach a large audience. Whether you are a writer, a podcaster, a video producer, a software developer, or a maker of some other description, distribution has been reduced to a mere implementation detail.

Yet, with barriers to entry being lowered, this also means that it’s never been more difficult to make a living online. Right now, if you run a website, advertising rates are down while readers are blocking ads in ever-increasing numbers. Podcasters are doing better as sponsorship rates are superior to web ads, but it’s a relatively new medium dominated by a relatively small group of companies that sponsor the most popular shows. The resulting concentration makes many podcasts vulnerable to losing the majority of their income if a sponsor leaves. Meanwhile, app prices continue to race toward free on every platform.

One of the keys to succeeding in any online market where supply outstrips demand, or where risk is concentrated, is to remain nimble and distribute the risk. People have experimented with all sorts of revenue models as a hedge against this uncertainty. Memberships and patronage systems are options that let “super fans” support work that they value more than others. But, there’s another option you should consider that has a lower barrier to entry, the potential to reach a far wider audience, and once set up, works on autopilot, producing cash without any intervention by you and at no added cost to your audience – the iTunes Affiliate Program.

In March, I launched an iOS app called Blink that makes it easy to create links for the iTunes Affiliate Program. I know writers, developers, and podcasters who have used the program successfully for years, but each had their own unique, quirky, and often fiddly solutions for generating links. I set out to streamline that process so they could concentrate on their craft instead of links.

But, Blink is just a tool. It leverages Apple’s iTunes Affiliate Program to help creative people build a sustainable business, but outside of a savvy core of people who recognize that the affiliate program helps them keep doing what they love, the program is still largely unknown. The purpose of this article is to fix that – to lay it all out comprehensively.

There is a lot here on the program because who doesn’t like a nerdy “deep dive” into almost anything? Don’t let that intimidate you. At its core, the program is dead simple. There are tools, like mine, to make linking easier once you have signed up, but you don’t need them to get started.

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