Ryan Christoffel

607 posts on MacStories since November 2016

Ryan is an editor for MacStories and co-hosts the Adapt podcast on Relay FM. He most commonly works and plays on his iPad Pro and bears no regrets about moving on from the Mac. He and his wife live in New York City.

|

THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

MacStadium

Mac Private Clouds Built on Genuine Apple Hardware


Apple Releases iOS 13.5 with COVID-19 Exposure Notifications, Face ID Bypass for Masks, FaceTime Setting, and Apple Music Stories Sharing

Today Apple released what is essentially a COVID-19 update for iPhones. iOS 13.5 includes several features specifically designed for our current global pandemic, including exposure notifications, mask detection for bypassing Face ID, and a new prominence setting for FaceTime, along with a nice new Apple Music sharing feature optimized for Instagram Stories. With WWDC and iOS 14’s reveal only a month away, this is likely the last major update to the current OS release cycle.

Read more


Drafts 20 Introduces Advanced Wiki-Style Linking

Drafts 20, the latest update to the powerful text editor and capture tool, introduces an excellent feature for creating in-line links to other drafts, workspaces, or even searches.

I’ve always appreciated the ability to link notes inside of other notes, like what’s available in Bear, and that’s exactly the behavior that Drafts 20 enables. By typing an existing draft’s title inside of double brackets (e.g. [[Draft Title Here]]), you can create a Wiki-style link to that draft that can be tapped or clicked for instant access. For research purpose especially, I’ve found this functionality useful in the past, and I’m glad to see it in Drafts.

One nice detail of Drafts’ implementation is that you can use the same syntax to create links to brand new drafts; if you type a title in brackets that doesn’t currently exist, the app will automatically create a new draft with that title. The system is smart enough, too, to work with only partial titles entered. For example, with an old draft titled “Apple Card Now Available for All US Customers,” all I had to type in brackets was ‘Apple Card’ for the link to be created. The only enhancement I hope to see in a future update is auto-complete suggestions when typing a draft’s title so you can ensure you’ve entered the correct one.

Linking to other drafts is certainly the primary appeal of the new bracketing syntax, but developer Greg Pierce has included a handful of advanced options too that make the feature even more valuable. As detailed in the update’s release notes, you can bracket not just other draft titles, but also links to your existing workspaces, a search term inside the app, or even a Bear note. My favorite options, however, enable creating one-tap links to Google or Wikipedia searches. By typing google: or wikipedia: then a search term, all inside double brackets, Drafts will create links to initiate those types of searches. The added flexibility afforded by these links, alongside the new links to other drafts, makes Drafts a strong research and database tool, alongside all the other things the app’s great at.

Drafts 20 is available on the App Store.


Apple Releases New Pride Edition Watch Bands Ahead of Pride Month, New Watch Faces Coming Soon

In anticipation of Pride month in June, Apple today has announced the release of two new Pride Edition bands for the Apple Watch, and new Pride watch faces that will be available soon as part of the watchOS 6.2.5 release.

It’s become an annual tradition for Apple to debut a new Pride band for Apple Watch and an accompanying watch face, but this is the first time there have been two new options launching. The Pride Edition Sport Band features the traditional rainbow pattern similar to last year’s offering, though that previous band was a Sport Loop, rather than the first-time Sport Band option available this year. The Nike Pride Edition Sport Band follows the unique design style of Nike’s other bands, but with its rainbow colors adorning the white band’s holes. The Nike Pride face arriving in the next watchOS update is unique as well, with colored dots representing the face’s hour markings.

The new Watch bands will be available today from the Apple Store, and watchOS 6.2.5 is anticipated to release some time in the next month leading up to WWDC.


David Smith’s watchOS 7 Wishlist

David Smith, developer of Watchsmith and a host of other Apple Watch apps, shared his watchOS 7 wishlist today. With his pedigree, there’s no one I trust more to make a thoughtful, realistic, well-informed list of requests for watchOS than Smith. For example, here’s an excerpt of his introduction:

I am fully aware of the constraints of the Apple Watch. I’ve spent the last 6 months pushing the limits of what is possible for it and have seen all the corners of its use, where it completely falls apart.

Nearly every one of these ideas or features involves a tradeoff. Either between battery life and capability or between complexity and intuitiveness. I suspect Apple’s own internal list of ideas and possibilities far outstrips my own. The reason they haven’t built a feature yet isn’t because they haven’t thought about it.

Instead it is quite the opposite. They have chosen explicitly to not do it yet. This is the tricky calculus involved in evolving a platform. If they push too fast, too soon on the capability side then they may end up destroying the battery life of the device. Or if they add too many features then they might end up with a jumbled mess that users can’t understand.

I don’t envy the leadership that has to sit down and make the hard calls of what to do, when.

Some of the features he mentions that are at the top of my own list include rest days for activity tracking, true independence, and multiple complications. The full list is well worth exploring, and offers valuable insight into what we might see revealed next month.

Permalink

Noto 2.0 Review: iPad Pointer Support, Easy Note Importing, CloudKit Syncing, and More

Noto, the modern notes app for iPhone, iPad, and Mac that I reviewed back in February, recently launched a 2.0 update that introduces brand new features and key fixes and enhancements. On the iPad, mouse and trackpad are now natively supported, and you can use drag and drop to easily import notes from another app into Noto. Additionally, the app’s syncing engine has switched from iCloud Drive to CloudKit, making it faster and more reliable than before. Finally, several of the issues I noted in my initial review have been resolved in this latest update.

Read more


Book Track Adds Reading Status, Statistics, Quote Entries, and More

Earlier this year I reviewed Book Track, a new book library manager that debuted across iPhone/iPad and Mac. I noted that the app offered a strong foundation to build upon, but its young age showed in the absence of several valuable features. One such feature, library importing, has been added since then, and today’s 1.2 update introduces a handful of excellent additions as well: reading status, statistics, quote entries, and loan status. This promising app is evolving faster than I had even hoped.

Read more


My 11-inch iPad Pro Experiment

If you’re in the market for an iPad Pro, choosing the ideal model size is not easy. It used to be simpler, back when the big option was made bigger by its bezels, and the small option had a significantly smaller display. I’ve used a 12.9-inch iPad Pro as my primary computer for five years, and have been very happy with it, but as the smaller iPad Pro’s display has grown, I’ve become more intrigued by it.

2017’s 10.5-inch iPad Pro was the first smaller model that tempted me. 2016’s 9.7-inch simply wasn’t enough; as an iPad user since 2010, I knew what a 9.7-inch display was like, and it wasn’t suited for my needs as a primary computer. But the screen bump in 2017 was intriguing, so I gave it a test run for a couple weeks. My takeaways: it was a fine device, but Split View was a bit too cramped, and since I mainly used my iPad at home rather than lugging it around regularly, sticking with the larger model made more sense for my needs.

Recently, however, I embarked on another test of the smaller iPad Pro. On the latest episode of Adapt, the iPad-focused podcast I do with Federico, I challenged us both to try doing our work on the 11-inch iPad Pro rather than our usual 12.9-inch setups. In my mind, it was the perfect time to try the smaller size again because a lot has changed since my 2017 experiment.

First, the smaller iPad Pro’s display has gotten larger yet again. The gap between 11 and 12.9 inches is relatively narrow. Also, while the current pandemic has forced me to work from home more than ever, prior to this global crisis I was taking my iPad on the go more regularly. In 2017 I lived in the suburbs of Dallas, whereas now I call Manhattan home, so it’s much easier to just walk out my front door and visit a local coffee shop, park, or some other public space to get work done.

Finally, the concept of the iPad as a modular computer has been another motivator to try the 11-inch model. I normally use my 12.9-inch iPad Pro exclusively in “laptop mode” with a hardware keyboard attached. But lately I’ve been wondering if that approach is too limited, causing me to miss out on the full potential of the device’s versatility. Using my iPad Pro not just as a laptop, but also as a tablet or in a desktop configuration sounds intriguing, and for several reasons I’ll detail later, I think the 11-inch model is better suited to these alternate setups.

My Apple Store haul.

My Apple Store haul.

So a few weeks ago I ordered an 11-inch iPad Pro alongside the Magic Keyboards for both the 11- and 12.9-inch models; I also bought a USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter so I could connect my iPads to an external display. All of these purchases made possible a comprehensive comparison of the two iPad Pro sizes, spanning tablet, laptop, and desktop configurations, for the purpose of determining which iPad was best for me. As I mentioned, I was already pretty happy with my 12.9-inch model, so my focus was especially on trying the 11-inch and evaluating its unique strengths.

Here is what I learned from my experiment, and my decision on the iPad I’ll be using moving forward.

Read more


Todoist Introduces New Upcoming View Across All Platforms

Popular cross-platform task manager Todoist is introducing a new Upcoming view today that serves as a replacement for the previous Next 7 Days view and adds greater functionality to it with a new calendar element and by offering access to all future tasks.

If you’ve used Next 7 Days in the past, or even the Scheduled view in Apple’s Reminders app or Upcoming in Things, you’ll feel right at home in Todoist’s Upcoming view. It’s essentially an endless list of all tasks with due dates, divided by day. One detail I appreciate is that even days containing no assigned tasks remain visible in the view, whereas in Reminders, for example, Scheduled only shows days with assignments. I could see this bothering some users, but for my needs it’s great because it allows easily rescheduling tasks by dragging and dropping them on to any day I’d like; if only the days with existing tasks were visible, that wouldn’t be possible. It’s just as well-suited for creating new tasks, since you can drag the add task button on to any day you’d like.

Besides providing access to all scheduled tasks, rather than just the next week’s worth, the main change with Todoist’s Upcoming view is the new calendar element. Similar to the Forecast view found in OmniFocus, this takes the form of a row lining the top of the screen that displays the next week’s worth of dates. A small dot indicates whether a day has assigned tasks or not, and you can swipe left to page through future sets of days. You can also tap the month/year button in the top-left corner of the calendar row to bring up a scrolling month view for the sake of quickly navigating further into the future.

The Upcoming view isn’t exactly world-changing, but it is markedly better than what it replaces, and if Todoist were my primary task manager it would absolutely be the view I spent all of my time in. I love the ease of seeing all my tasks in one place, rescheduling them via drag and drop, and the added utility of the new calendar row. Everyone’s task management needs and preferences are different, but if it were up to me, every task manager would have a view that works like this.

Todoist is available on the App Store.


Ulysses 19 Brings iPad Cursor Support, External Folders, Material Sheets, and More

The latest version of Ulysses, the excellent Markdown editor, is available now. Ulysses 19 offers enhancements in several different areas, from fully optimizing for the new iPadOS cursor, to supporting external folders for the first time, introducing a new ‘material’ designation for sheets, and adding keyword improvements, exportable backups, and even a new font. It’s a strong update, and one that continues to prove Ulysses the best app for my writing needs.

Read more