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Posts tagged with "productivity"

Documents Adds WiFi File Transfer

Documents by Readdle has been on the App Store a long time. Before Apple released its Files app, Documents filled the gap with features that made it indispensable for accessing files on iOS devices and doing things like unzipping an archived folder. Although the stock Files app has taken over many of my day-to-day needs for file handling, Documents continues to evolve and adapt, providing tools that aren’t in Files.

Today, for instance, Readdle added WiFi file transfers between a Mac and iOS device to Documents. The system is easy to use and more flexible than AirDrop, making it something to keep in mind, especially when you are moving large numbers of files between a Mac and iOS device.

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Agenda for iOS Review

Agenda, which launched on iOS today, is one of the most interesting note-taking apps I’ve used. The app is simultaneously structured around projects, like a task manager, and dates, like a calendar app.

Agenda immediately caught my eye with its beautiful design and unique approach to notes when it launched on the Mac in January. At the time, I was intrigued by Agenda, but the lack of an iOS version was a deal-breaker. Notes apps are one of those categories that benefit immensely from being available everywhere. When I tested Agenda in January, I found myself on my iPad wanting to refer notes that were locked inside Agenda on my Mac almost immediately, so I put Agenda away and waited for the promised iOS version.

On the iPhone, Agenda uses the same sliding panels where they dominate most of the screen.

On the iPhone, Agenda uses the same sliding panels where they dominate most of the screen.

With today’s release of Agenda for iOS, which syncs between platforms, that’s no longer an issue. The Mac and iOS versions are virtually identical in their designs, interaction models, and feature sets. I won’t repeat the details here. You can learn more about the app’s structure and design from my review of the Mac version. Instead, I want to focus on the ways I’ve begun to integrate Agenda into my work over the past week that I’ve had the beta; with an app as flexible as Agenda, concrete examples of how it can be used are more useful than a list of features.

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Cardhop 1.1 Adds Smart Groups, Printing, and More

Cardhop from Flexibits got an update to version 1.1 today, and it packs in some pretty great improvements for an incremental update.

If you missed it before, Cardhop is the app from the makers of Fantastical that does for contacts what Fantastical did for calendars. All your contacts are managed from your menu bar, and you're never more than a few keystrokes away from sending an email, making a call, sending a text, or anything else contact-related. Type "email elle" and it will find Elle's card, pick the first email address, and hitting enter will fire up a new email in Mail (or your favorite mail app). Type "call mom home" and handoff a call to Mom's home phone number. It's far more powerful than that, but I'll refer you to John Voorhees' great writeup back in October for the overview.

Cardhop 1.1 comes with some fixes and improvements, not least of them being parsing and formatting support for French, German, Italian, Spanish, English, and Japanese. But the two updates that I personally find the most useful are Smart Groups and printing support.

Smart Groups are what you probably imagine – a group of contacts based on a set of criterion that automatically updates as contacts change to match (or fail to match) those criteria. It opens up a few interesting organization and productivity schemes, but my first interest is in pseudo-tagging. I can now add @tags in contact's notes field and have them sorted into one or more smart folders, reducing my need for a large number of "actual" contact groups. And if I stop using Cardhop and need to access those groups in another app such as Apple's Contacts, I can always just do a search for the @tag and drag them into a regular group.

The printing features are elegant. Much like those in Apple Contacts, but with a few extra touches in the print dialog, as well as the convenience of printing right from Cardhop. Being able to pull up a contact or an entire contact group and print envelopes with return addresses, or spit out address labels for the whole bunch with just a few keystrokes is a wonderful convenience. All you have to do is type "print [name]" or "print [group]" (or use a Quick Action).

Print from Cardhop

Print from Cardhop

When the print dialog comes up, make sure that you've clicked "Show Details."

Show Details

Show Details

From there you can choose a list, envelopes, or labels, and define which fields to use and other particulars for each type. (You can also switch type with ⌘1-3.)

Envelope printing setup

Envelope printing setup

Other new features include template preferences to control which fields are shown when entering new contacts, an “Add Notes with Timestamp” option to add dated notes to a contact, and typing in the "related contact" field now autosuggests other names from your contacts.

I've been loving Cardhop, and I think it's worth anyone's time to grab the free trial and give it a go. Cardhop costs $19.99 US and is available on the App Store and direct from Flexibits.



Things 3.5 Brings UI Refinements, Tagging and Automation Improvements, Clipboard Integration

It's been a busy 2018 so far for Cultured Code, makers of Things for Mac and iOS. Earlier this year, the company shipped Things 3.4, which, thanks to app integrations and a toolkit for third-party developers, propelled the task manager into the elite of automation-capable apps on iOS. It doesn't happen very often that a task manager becomes so flexible it lets you build your own natural language interpreter; Things 3.4 made it possible without having to be a programmer by trade.

Today, Cultured Code is launching Things 3.5, a mid-cycle update that refines several aspects of the app and prepares its foundation for other major upgrades down the road. There isn't a single all-encompassing change in Things 3.5 – nor is this version going to convince users to switch to Things like, say, version 3.4 or 3.0 might have. However, Things 3.5 is a collection of smaller yet welcome improvements that are worth outlining because they all contribute to making Things more powerful, intuitive, and consistent with its macOS counterpart.

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Things 3.4 Brings Powerful New Automation Features and App Integrations

I switched to Things as my task manager late last year, sometime before the holidays. While I discussed this decision at length on Connected and AppStories, I didn't write about it on MacStories because I didn't want to rehash Ryan's in-depth review of Things 3. In terms of design and features, everything I like about Things is covered in his original review.

My personal motivation for switching to Things boils down to this: the way projects and the Today screen are designed in Things fits well with my schedule, and doesn't stress me out. Things has a "calm" interface that doesn't turn overdue tasks red, making me feel guilty; projects are clearly laid out with a tasteful use of San Francisco, and further organization can be applied to a project using headings, a feature I've never seen in any other task manager. And among dozens of thoughtful touches, Things' separation of Today and This Evening for the current day is absolutely in line with how I think about my typical day. In short: I want 2018 to be less stressful than last year, and Things is helping with the task management part.

That said, as someone who used 2Do and Todoist in the past and heavily automated them for integration with other apps, I was missing some solid automation options from Things. Cultured Code has offered a basic URL scheme in their iOS app for a few years now, but the supported commands never went beyond the ability to create basic, metadata-free tasks in the app.

This is changing today with Things 3.4, which I've had the opportunity to test and experiment with for the past couple of months. With this new version, the folks at Cultured Code have shipped one of the most powerful and versatile URL scheme action libraries seen in a task manager for iOS – comparable to Omni's work on OmniFocus, and, in a way, perhaps even more flexible.

The new Things URL scheme, which has been documented here, lets you create tasks, projects, show specific sections of the app, and search across your entire Things database. This may not sound too impressive on paper, but what sets this feature apart is the level of customization and detail that can be applied to every single parameter of every action. As a result, Things is now a first-class citizen of the iOS automation scene, and, within the limitations of iOS inter-app communication, its URL scheme unlocks several new possible integrations with apps and workflows.

Furthermore, Cultured Code wants to make it easy for third-party developers to natively support sending data to Things from their apps. Today, the company is also introducing a JSON-based command to allow more control when adding items to Things from external apps, and they've created a set of Swift helper classes that apps can use to easily generate the JSON needed to pass data to Things. As I'll demonstrate later in this article, a couple developers of two of my favorite iOS apps are already taking advantage of these capabilities to great effect.

As you can imagine, I've been busy experimenting with the new automation features of Things and identifying aspects of the app I wanted to speed up by integrating them with other apps. Below, you'll find a collection of the launchers and workflows I've put together for Things 3.4. These are the actions and scripts I find myself using the most on a daily basis, and which I believe considerably extend Things' capabilities on the iPhone and iPad. More advanced workflows will follow over the next couple of weeks (and months) exclusively for Club MacStories members in the Workflow Corner section of MacStories Weekly.

Let's dig in.

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The Sweet Setup Launches ‘All the Things’ Video Course

Today The Sweet Setup launched 'All the Things', a video course primarily aimed at explaining how to get the most out of Things, the popular task manager for Mac and iOS.

Like they did for their Ulysses screencasts last year, the folks at The Sweet Setup have produced a series of videos covering Things with walkthroughs of its basic features, project organization, as well as more advanced options such as iPad drag & drop and workflows. The videos included in the $29 'All the Things' Basic package are:

  • Walkthrough of Things on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone
  • Anatomy of a Task
  • All the ways to Capture
  • Anatomy of a Project
  • Anatomy of an Area
  • Cloud Sync & Backup
  • iPad drag & drop
  • AppleScripts & Workflows

In addition to the screencasts, the Basic package includes setup interviews with Things users who rely on the app to get work done. I was honored when Shawn asked me to participate in the course, and it was fun to answer his questions about my decision to switch to Things and how I use the app. You can find my interview here.

I'm a fan of The Sweet Setup's screencast courses. I like Shawn's style of demonstrating features and how they work in practice, and I think the Basic video package is a great deal at $29 if you're looking for a way to get started with Things and learn how other people use it.

There's more, though. In the Pro version of the 'All the Things' package, available at $39 for a limited time, you'll also get access to Shawn's productivity training videos that contain general tips that work for any task manager. So whether you use Todoist or OmniFocus or something else, videos such as 'How to Schedule Your Day' and 'Weekly Planning & Reviewing' will likely give you something you can apply to your own workflow. And if you just want these videos without the Things screencasts, that's also an option at $35.

I watched nearly every video of the 'All the Things' Pro bundle over the past week, and – I don't say this because I was interviewed for this series – I think $39 for the discounted Pro package is great value whether you want to learn Things or optimize the way you work. You can find all the details about 'All the Things' and purchase the course here.


Agenda Review: Mac-Based Note Taking with a Calendar-Focused Twist

Agenda is an intriguing approach to note taking on the Mac that’s organized around dates and your calendar. The app is beautifully-designed and notably feature-rich for a 1.0 but lacks an iOS counterpart, which is still in the works, and collaboration features, which will limit its appeal to some users. There are also areas of the app that lack polish, but overall, Agenda shows a lot of promise and should be attractive to anyone who juggles multiple calendar events and deadlines.

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Cardhop by Flexibits Takes on Contacts

Flexibits took much of the frustration out of calendars when it introduced Fantastical for macOS in 2011 by leveraging natural language input of events. It followed up with iPhone and iPad versions. Now, Flexibits wants to do the same for contacts with a brand new app called Cardhop by integrating contact creation, management, and interaction into a single text field of a macOS menu bar app. The app is beautifully-designed and powerful but solves a problem that I’m not sure many people have today.

Many contacts apps are notoriously clunky, hard to get information into, and prone to creating duplicates, which limits their utility. However, contacts apps are less necessary today than ever before. Email clients and messaging apps automatically fill in contact information based on past messages you’ve sent. Other apps and services make it easy to bypass contacts apps altogether with favorites and recent contacts lists. In a communications app-centric world, I expect Cardhop will be a tough sell.

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