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Working from an iPhone

One of my goals in 2016 was to make working from my iPhone as efficient as possible. The desire to make this happen initially sprung from experiences raising a baby. My wife and I began foster parenting in July of 2015, and one of our foster children was AJ, a four-week-old baby boy. AJ ended up staying with us for about a year before returning to his birth mother, and in that year I learned that when raising a baby, there are frequently occasions when only one hand is available for computing. I would often have a hand tied up feeding AJ or carrying him around, and if I needed to get any work done during that time, my iPad Pro was no help. iPads are built for two-handed computing, while iPhones work great with one.

In addition to the motivation of being able to get work done with one hand, one of the things I’ve learned during the past couple years is that the best computer for work is the one you have with you. Despite the iPad Pro being more portable than most Macs, it still pales in portability compared to the iPhone. Because my iPad doesn’t travel with me everywhere, I need to be able to do anything on my iPhone that I can on my iPad.

Between my two current jobs, much of my work can be done while on the go – whether I’m waiting for an oil change to be completed, standing in a seemingly endless DMV line, or any similar scenario. In these short intervals of life, there are moments work can be done – which is where my iPhone comes in, because it’s with me wherever I go.

If and when a pressing work issue comes up, in many cases it can’t just be ignored until I get back to my desk; my iPhone needs to be capable of handling the task. Even if the issue isn’t time-sensitive, getting things done while I’m out makes the load lighter when I do get back to my desk.

I’ve grown extremely proficient in using my iPhone to get things done, and there are six key things I’ve identified that make that possible.

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Working with Duet Display

Stumbling around on a Monday morning, I wake up too late, throw on a hat, and unplug four devices: my 12.9” iPad Pro, my iPhone 7, its companion Apple Watch, and my 12” MacBook. The first and last are tossed in my backpack to be used in and between classes to take notes, check social media, and design documents.

When I sit down in my design class, I pull out my MacBook, open inDesign, and try to manage multiple windows as I pull images from the Web and import them into my document. On the MacBook’s 12” screen, the limited real estate forces me to use a slew of keyboard shortcuts and trackpad gestures as I jump between apps. Frustrated, I pull out my iPad, fire up an iOS app to replace one on the Mac, and work in two separate environments.

The problem here is obvious: although macOS and iOS functionality overlaps, working in two OSes simultaneously isn’t ideal. The inability of the iPad to act as an extension of the MacBook’s display limits my productivity. Even people with larger 15” MacBook Pros would probably appreciate it if their iPad’s screen was available to display Mac apps.

For a while, I’ve been trying to solve this problem by using Duet Display, an iOS app that allows your iPad or iPhone to function as a second screen for your Mac or Windows PC. Duet has been around for a couple of years, but continues to get significant updates to speed it up, reduce lag, and offer touchscreen support. The fundamentals, however, are still the same: Duet, with an iOS device, can be your mobile Mac monitor.

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Working on the iPad: One Year Later, Still My Favorite Computer

My iPad Pro Home screen.

My iPad Pro Home screen.

Four years ago, I struggled to move from a Mac to an iPad. Today, I only have to open my MacBook once a week. And I wish I didn’t have to.

In February 2015, after years of experiments and workarounds, I shared the story of how the iPad Air 2 became my primary computer. The article, while unsurprising for MacStories readers who had been following my iPad coverage since 2012, marked an important milestone in my journey towards being Mac-free.

As I wrote last year:

Three years ago, as I was undergoing cancer treatments, I found myself in the position of being unable to get work done with a Mac on a daily basis because I wasn’t always home, at my desk. I was hospitalized for several weeks or had to spend entire days waiting to talk to doctors. I couldn’t write or manage MacStories because I couldn’t do those tasks on my iPhone and I couldn’t take my MacBook with me. I’d often go weeks without posting anything to the website – not even a short link – because I couldn’t do it from my bed. I began experimenting with the iPad as a device to work from anywhere and, slowly but steadily, I came up with ways to speed up my workflow and get things done on iOS. I promised myself I’d never let a desk set my work schedule or performance anymore.

Being tied to a desktop computer isn’t an option for me. No matter what life has in store for the future, I have to be ready to work from anywhere. I have to consider the possibility that I won’t always be okay, working from the comfort of my living room. That means having a computer that can follow me anywhere, with a screen big enough to type on, and a higher degree of portability than a MacBook. That means using an iPad. That means iOS.

The past 12 months have cemented this vision and raised new questions. But, more importantly, the iPad and iOS 9 have been essential to launching a project I’ve been working on for years.

At this point, I can’t imagine using a computer that isn’t an iPad anymore.

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Samsung’s Head of Mobile: “We Didn’t Copy Apple’s Design”

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Samsung’s chief of mobile division J.K. Shin explained why the company is heavily committed to the Android platform and why, considering the history of mobile devices, the fight with Apple won’t be “legally problematic.” In the ongoing series of lawsuits between Apple – which first sued Samsung back in April claiming the company copied the “look and feel” of the iPhone and iPad with its Galaxy phones and tablets – a document uncovered over the weekend revealed Samsung’s lawyers asked the court to get access to final versions or production units of Apple’s next-generation iPhone and iPad, so they could evaluate whether the products they’re working on could be subject to Apple’s legal action in the future. The bold move came after a judge ruled Apple’s legal department (not engineers or executives) could see Samsung’s upcoming Droid Charge, Galaxy Tab 8.9, Galaxy Tab 10.1, Infuse 4G and Galaxy S 2 – some of them unreleased devices, but teased and unveiled anyway by the company months ago.

The Wall Street Journal reports the following statements:

We didn’t copy Apple’s design,” Mr. Shin said. “We have used many similar designs over the past years and it [Apple’s allegation] will not be legally problematic.” He suggested the scale of the lawsuit could grow, though he didn’t provide more details.

Android is the fastest-growing platform and the market direction is headed toward Android so we’re riding the wave,” added Younghee Lee, senior vice president of sales and marketing. Samsung also aims to differentiate itself from Apple and other tablet makers by continuing to offer various sizes, Mr. Shin said.

Samsung is a key partner in Apple’s production chain for iOS devices, as also confirmed by Apple’s Tim Cook at the Q2 2011 earnings call when directly asked about what effects the lawsuit against Samsung’s mobile division would have on the collaboration between Apple and Samsung’s component business. In fact, whilst LG’s shipments of iPad displays in the first quarter of 2011 reached only 3.2 million units, a report claimed Samsung shipped 4 million iPad displays in the same quarter. It is unclear at this point what Mr. Shin meant by “not legally problematic” referring to a lawsuit that could grow in the coming weeks, though it appears none of the companies is willing to back down until the court decides or a settlement is reached.

iBackupTunes: Copy, Backup & Share Your iOS Music Library

Released yesterday in the App Store, iBackupTunes by drahtwerk is one of the most powerful music apps for iOS I’ve recently installed on my iPhone and iPad. This time, though, I’m not talking about a new iPod replacement app that aims at enhancing music playback with Wikipedia or integration: instead, iBackupTunes is “powerful” in the way it lets you copy songs and albums off your synchronized iPod library, back them up locally on your device and share them with others, even wirelessly. Whilst the procedure of importing songs might sound a little too complicated at first, iBackupTunes provides a graphical user interface that makes it easy to choose music, listen to it, and back it up. Read more

Establish Simple Networking Reminders with MicroCRM. 20 Codes Up for Grabs!

Whether you’re a freelancer, a contractor, or perhaps even a technician, life is full of social networking. Everyday we continue to add contacts to our address book, but every so often we come across leads - pathways to financial opportunities. Your leads, who may eventually become your clients, are important to keep tabs on and stay in touch with.

MicroCRM is to tracking these potential contacts as what TaskPaper is to GTD - dead simple.

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Automation April: 10 Shortcuts for Mac Multitasking, Markdown, Reminders, Music Lyrics, Twitter, and More

10 shortcuts for Automation April.

10 shortcuts for Automation April.

Automation April is well underway: we’ve entered the second week of our month-long special event about automation on Apple platforms, and – in case you haven’t noticed – things are happening everywhere. We’ve published Shortcuts-focused articles on MacStories; interviewed developers of Shortcuts-compatible apps on AppStories; we’ve hosted a Town Hall Workshop on our Discord along with giveaways. And, of course, our panel of judges is now busy testing and evaluating shortcuts submitted by people for the Automation April Shortcuts Contest. If you haven’t yet, now would be a great time to start following @AutomationApril on Twitter to keep up with everything we’re doing.

Last week, I shared an initial batch of 10 shortcuts I prepared for Automation April here on MacStories. I’m back this week with another set of 10 shortcuts that encompass a variety of platforms, app integrations, and functionalities. In this week’s collection, you’ll find even more shortcuts to speed up macOS multitasking; a shortcut that makes it easy to create a calendar event starting from a date; there will be a couple of shortcuts for Markdown and Obsidian users too.

I’m having a lot of fun sharing these sets of shortcuts for Automation April. So once again, let’s dive in.

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Textastic: Code Editor and SFTP Client for iPad and iPhone [Sponsor]

Textastic is the most comprehensive and versatile text and code editor available for iPad and iPhone.

This starts with syntax highlighting support for more than 80 programming and markup languages: Textastic handles highlighting for C, C++, Swift, Objective-C, Rust, Go, Java, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, PHP, Python, Ruby, Perl, Lua, Markdown, LaTeX, YAML, JSON, and many more. If your favorite language is not yet included in the extensive list, you can add your own syntax definitions and themes compatible with Sublime Text and TextMate.

With clients for SFTP, FTP, WebDAV, Dropbox, and Google Drive, as well as the integrated SSH terminal, however, Textastic goes well beyond the functionality of a traditional text editor. Since Textastic supports tabs, you can have multiple files and SSH terminals open at the same time, and, on iPad, in multiple windows side by side.

Whether you want to create web pages and check them with the built-in web preview, edit configuration files on your server, or perform code reviews, Textastic is the perfect tool for your mobile workflow.

Customizable keyboard shortcuts, wide-ranging configuration options, support for Git repositories using the Git client Working Copy, and robust find and replace, turn this app into the most powerful code editor for iPad you’ll find.

The long list of features also includes support for iCloud Drive, the Files app, drag and drop, trackpad and mouse, printing, Split View, multiwindowing, and a whole lot more.

The app is, of course, regularly updated and maintained as well. With the recently released version 9.8, for example, Textastic got the ability to search the contents of files in a folder and its subfolders for text or regular expressions, allowing you to stay on top of large projects and quickly find what you’re looking for.

And if you ever get stuck, the in-depth manual, which describes every part of the app in detail and is illustrated with nearly 150 screenshots, will help you out.

To learn more about Textastic and what it can do for your iPad and iPhone code editing needs, visit, and download a copy today.

Our thanks to Textastic for sponsoring MacStories this week.

MacStories Unwind: Safari Extensions, a CARROT Weather Update, and iWork App Changes


Sponsored by: Daylite – The CRM with Apple Fans in Mind

This week on MacStories Unwind:


Club MacStories

  • Monthly Log
    • Federico on Marvis Pro
    • John on setting up devices from scratch
  • John published the latest Macintosh Desktop Experience column all about his Loupedeck Live workflows
  • MacStories Weekly
    • Craft
    • Federico shares a Working Copy Shortcut for managing hidden folders on iOS and iPadOS
    • John has an iPhone drag and drop tip
    • Club Member JC shares their work setup