Notes app: The unsung hero of OS X and iOS

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The unsung hero of OS X and iOS, Notes app, received an unexpected seal of approval by Jason Snell. I’ve been using Notes app for years and rely it for writing down quick notes, or retrieve small piece of information. 

Notes app is the quintessential note software, and I still have to find an app that is:

  • So minimalist
  • Easy to use
  • Able to seamlessly sync between OS X, iOS and has an acceptable web interface through iCloud.com
  • Scriptable
  • Fast to open

It also has good search and natively integrates with Spotlight in iOS and OS X. 

Moving from Evernote to Dropbox

Seth Clifford has migrated from Evernote to Dropbox. He replaced his Evernote archive with a good old fashioned set of folders in Dropbox: 

  • Audio
  • House
  • Lists
  • PDF
  • Photo
  • Scans
  • Sketches
  • Text

I’ve been trying something similar, but the biggest obstacle I’ve encountered is web clipping from Safari iOS.

The best solution I’ve come up with is using Drafts in a two-step process. First I clip the content I am interested in in Drafts, and the end of the working day I send those files to my Dropbox. 

It’s a convoluted solution though. Evernote’s advantage is its ubiquity and fantastic web clipping capabilities. 

On iCloud, again…

Dr. Drang on iCloud

I use what I consider the sweet spot of iCloud services: Calendar and contact syncing and iPhone backup. In each case, the huge convenience and timesaving that comes from using the service outweighs the occasional (and by now quite rare) frustration when it doesn’t work.

That seems to be the trend among Mac power users (see also the comments on this post).

In my experience, iCloud services are good when it comes to PIM (personal information data) data. Contacts and calendars are stable and robust. Email is OK, certainly Gmail is more flexible, but for years I haven’t needed anything more powerful. 

Cloud sync/storage and complex note taking is still something that other companies are doing better. 

On 3rd party Twitter apps

Marco Arment on 3rd party Twitter apps:

We’re all just one compelling feature away from leaving our third-party apps on our own. For some of us, this full-archive search will be that feature. What’s next remains to be seen — I suspect direct-message enhancements may be — but I bet third-party clients will lose half of their users within two years without Twitter ever having to explicitly kill them.

Twitter’s restrictions on API usage are effectively killing — in a not so subtle way — the market for 3rd party apps.

In the sad realization that this process is a one way street, I’ve already deleted [Tweetbot](Tweetbot 3 for Twitter. An elegant client for iPhone and iPod touch by Tapbots
https://appsto.re/ie/TEvdR.i) and started using the official Twitter app instead.

DEVONthink To Go 1.5.3 adds improvements to its action extension

DEVON technologies today released an updated version of its iOS DEVONthink app:

We’ve also added an iOS action extension for clipping data and improved the compatibility to iOS 8, the iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus. You can now create new documents with the current clipboard contents, too, and use cross-links to a specific page of a PDF. We’ve also made the Sync button easier accessible, updated the TextExpander support to version 3.0, and made the app run in 64 bit. Finally the update fixes some other bugs such as stretched images and broken item links.

DEVONthink is an expensive, yet irreplaceable application to data mine the collection of articles, books, essays, web clippings you have. It’s also almost indespensable for a robust paperless system. 

Unfortunately, its mobile companion lags behind in functionalitites, which is OK, but it also lags in stability and article clipping features. I’m happy to see that the team is working tirelessly on this app, with constant updates and stability fixes. And of course I’m looking forward to version 2.0. 

On iCloud challenges and Apple’s organizational issues

The Information has written a report on the fact that organizational challenges are at the heart of iCloud’s below average record:

Apple is great at building hardware and software that runs on it. But it has long struggled to build services reliant on software that runs remotely rather than on devices. While company executives say they are making progress, interviews with nearly a dozen current and former Apple employees paint a different picture.

Deep organizational issues are holding up releases and complicating products.

I’ve been an advocate, and most important a user of Apple online services (note that I don’t use the word cloud, as when I started using them, they were still referred as services) since iTools

Despite the lack of flashy features, I’ve never had any problems with Apple’s online services. I’ve never lost any data, and to this day my old .Mac email address is impeccably spam free. 

One thing is certain though. iCloud, as MobileMe, .Mac and iTools before, are not services designed for power users. They cover the basics for the average Apple user. Convenience over power, shall we say. 

Yet lately something surprising happened. Even services that were meant designed for the average user (it just works) stopped working properly. 

  • Changing the iCloud password takes you to an endless labyrinth of lost permissions, password retyping etc. 
  • iMessage has problems reactivating when changing the iCloud password
  • iPhoto Library (beta) can’t even be activated on many devices/iCloud accounts. Fair enough it’s a beta, but at least you should be able to activate it. 
  • iTunes Match is in shambles, and I’ve used it since day zero. 
  • iCloud document sync is not at par with services like Dropbox. I’ve had problems with apps hanging or unable to upload/download large sets of documents
  • Trying to share across devices some PDF files is an herculean technical challenge. 
  • Continuity works, 75% of the time. For a feature which is constantly advertised that is not a good percentage. 
  • Maps is still a joke.
  • FaceTime lately has worse video quality than Skype.
  • iCloud Drive’s implementation suffers from the initial decision to sandbox apps and their data. 

The result is that I’ve re-subscribed to Dropbox and I’m seriously thinking of getting an Evernote Premium subscription (yes sorry, I’ve been critical towards Evernote lately…) to store my notes.

I am not sure if organizational issues are the real cause here. Maybe so, but maybe there’s something more serious going on. Something that involves strategy and roadmaps.

I am really afraid that the silly yearly OS X / iOS release cycles, and new products like the Apple Watch are diverting important resources to core services. 

Spotify reached $1B of revenue in 2013 already

Spotify has a superlative music service (its Mac and iOS applications are a bit less impressive), so I’m glad to see that they’re making some good money out of their business:

Spotify says it has 12.5 million paying subscribers. If you do some very simple math, you can guesstimate that the company is going to end up doing more than a billion dollars in revenue this year.

Another reason you can feel comfortable guessing that: A year ago, when the music streaming service was smaller, it had already hit the $1 billion mark.

SwiftKey Adds Languages in iOS Without App Store Updates

SwiftKey is admittedly a fantastic 3rd party keyboard for iOS 8. Like all 3rd party keyboards, it needs Full Access to the system. The actual effect of this is that the app can update its internal libraries (languages in this case) without the need to release a new app altogether. 

MacObserver writes:

Since SwiftKey needs to use Full Access because it’s a keyboard, the keyboard itself is separated from the container app you see on your device. This means the container app can look for additional languages using an internet connection, and language packs can be added any time without having to put the app through the review process.

Integrating Alfred & Keyboard Maestro

So, let’s be honest: if you you’re already a Mac power user, you probably have far too many hotkeys rattling around in your brain already. This is especially true if your a developer. KM is an excellent piece of software out of box, but adding more hotkeys to the list of things you must remember might not be the ideal solution. But if we could just name our macros in a memorable way and then call them up at will based on that name we could do amazing things.

Great introduction to a super handy Alfred Workflow by Ian Sinnott. I love Keyboard Maestro, and being able to trigger macros via Alfred lets you be more efficient.