2018 iPad Setup

It’s so amazing to look at my 2016 posts and see how much has changed in iOS and my own setup and workflow.

The start of every year I prepare my device for the work year ahead. I spend time archiving old documents, notes while preparing all my most used apps for the year ahead. In doing this I think through my workflows and ensure I am maximising the apps and setup I have.

By admission I’m an app junkie anything and everything that’s looks remotely interesting I’ll download and buy. This affects my setup as I can sometimes use an app for the sake of it without thinking through the entire workflow.

2018 iPad resolution

  1. Create a workflow and stick with it for the year
  2. Use the least number of apps
  3. Keep it simple stupid

Home screen(s)

Since iOS 11 I have adopted a blank main home screen. This I call my workspace. All my work related apps1 reside in the dock with the most common easily accessible on the dock and those least used in folder on the dock.

The second Home screen is all my more personal use apps and naturally games. This is where I can relax, read and get my mind off work. Currently I have Spark back on my iPad again testing to see if it can replace mail.app as my default email client. As per previous 2 I’m never quite satisfied with my email setup and continue to look for the Holy Grail of email applications. If you are looking for some good games you should check out Civ VI and Antihero both are really great time wasters.

Getting stuff done

Lucky for me I spend a bit of time out of the office at different locations and thats where the iPad comes to the fore however I am still bound to an PC centric organisation.

I have been reasonably successful in having other colleagues provide meeting papers and other documents to me in PDF format. Allowing me to take them on the road and mark them up without having to rely on being at my desk. Sadly the PC iCloud app is useless and I’m left using Dropbox for storing documents. If a better alternative for iCloud existed I would store all my docs there.

PDF’s are where the first rationalisation need to occur. Three apps are currently in use and not one meets all my needs; PDF Expert, Notability, and DEVONThink.

PDF Expert has fantastic annotation tools and has the ‘Open in’ ability unfortunately the inking engine is lacking and adds to more poor handwriting.

Notability is a lovely looking app with a great inking engine that makes my handwriting look pretty decent. Sadly you need to import PDFs from Dropbox them export them back when finished, this is better now with drag and drop but Dropbox in the files.app is damn awful. In addition the annotation tools are poor by comparison.

Lastly there’s the PDF tools in DEVONThink which are solid enough and offer all the tools one could need however it’s just not as polished as PDF Expert and the inking engine is even poorer.

Winner: PDF Expert – works in all the right places, convenient to use with files.app or DEVONThink I’ll live with the poor handwriting

This next workflow is a little harder to work through and I’m still undecided where to turn. I meet regularly with my team and takes notes of actions and discussion points. I like to keep a record of these discussions and last year used notes.app to accomplish this. Sadly as good as notes.app is I would rather keep all my work documentation together in a app with great search features, that app is DEVONThink. So the question is how do I get it there?

Some might think this is easy just share and send the note to DEVONThink – sure that seems easy enough however its just plain text and I like to do a little formatting. I especially like writing in markdown. I have two thoughts and both I really like and find hard to split.

First is Drafts 4.0, I can write in Markdown and using my custom action can send it to DEVONThink with all the formatting intact this works quickly and efficiently with the added bonus of any to do items can also be highlighted and sent to Things 3 using an action created in Drafts 4.0.

The alternate option is Bear which is a stunning looking note taking app which you can use Markdown to write in and the export as markdown to any app like DEVONThink.

Winner: Drafts 4.0 wins hands down however Bear is so pretty!

Things 3 is my to do app of choice it is a well thought out app that is nice to look at and flexible to suit most needs. The UI gets out of the way to allow you to get stuff done. There is no system for you to follow freeing you to use it how you see fit. Worth every dollar – just get it!

1Password is the must have tool for managing all you passwords both for work and personal. Security is so important these days and any tool that helps create and store secure passwords is a must.

Slack is my team communication tool whilst the apps are on the average side the tool itself has helped to reduce the number of emails I receive on a daily basis.

Finally Ulysses is my tool of choice for blogging and writing long form papers for work. The subscription is expensive here is Australia but you can’t deny the quality of the software and the app is fantastic.

This is my setup if you have thoughts or questions leave a comment or touch base with me via Twitter @YouSaidWhatBlog

  1. Yes I know Tweetbot is there and is not work related – It’s my most used social media app!
  2. https://yousaidwhat2.com/2016/11/05/email-client-wars-pt-2-returning-to-an-old-friend/

Return to blogging

After nearly 13 months I think it’s time I return to writing for my webpage.

For some reason life just kept getting in the way with every attempt to write being thwarted by other activities.

My original plan was to write once a fortnight in hindsight quite ambitious for someone who had never blogged before. This year I’ll attempt once a month.

My first post will be my 2018 iPad setup for work. Which will be completed by the end of this weekend1 at the latest.

  1. Fingers crossed

@Email Client Wars Pt 2: Returning to an old friend

In a previous post I discussed my search for the perfect email client. Airmail and Spark where the two contenders with Spark ending up as the preferred option. Spark stayed on all my devices for some months however on hearing from David Sparks Mac Power Users1 and Federico Vittici Macstories on a an update to Airmail2 I decided to go all in and give it another shot.

Unfortunately after a couple of months Airmail didn’t work out. In principle the idea of a power user email client sounds great however the implementation isn’t up to scratch. Plagued with bugs, UI inconsistencies and notifications that worked intermittently Airmail didn’t live up to the hype. Going back to Spark seemed like the only option however that too was underwhelming. In the end I decided to take a look at what I was looking for.

Email is an important business tool for me however it becomes an anchor at times and even after implementing Slack across my teams the volume is quite over the top. To determine the best app for me I really needed to consider what exactly are my needs and from there source the client that best fits my needs. What was I looking for then?

  • Clean UI
  • Few bugs, tricks or gimmicks ( I spend too long in email to work around them)
  • Snoozing
  • Unified Inbox
  • Minimal friction to get things done

Going back to Spark as I mentioned underwhelmed me whilst a solid client the UI appeared to crowed. In an attempt to look different many UI elements that were not functional took up valuable screen real estate. Snoozing was great emoji responses were not – I could not have imagined sending an emoji response to my boss!

The search continued with Airmail staying as my client of choice until I saw a tweet about SaneBox the service which helps manage the email beast.

SaneBox learns what email is important to you and filters out what isn’t – savings you from endless interruptions.

I watched the introductory video and signed up for the free trial. In conjunction with Airmail it worked OK however it made one of the features I liked in Airmail redundant. In addition the new triage folders didn’t display so well in Airmail and left me to think about of an alternate client.

In the Macstories review of iOS 10 Vittici note the changes made for iPad were minimal however some were quite useful. One example were the improvements to mail which allowed for three panes to be viewed in landscape; folders, inbox and the actual email.

As a trial I moved my exchange and icloud accounts over to the Apple Mail client incorporating the SaneBox triage folders. For me this has been a resounding success. Over a few short weeks I have trained my email with the help of SaneBox unimportant emails go to a SaneLater folder, newsletters to another and i am only interrupted by what is important – funnily enough its very few. Now I only check my emails twice a day.

Apple’s Mail is simple and bare bones however it is this simplicity that makes it powerful and far more user friendly. The less bells and whistles makes for a much better work environment that is distraction free3. Distraction free has become an important selling point for many apps particularly writing apps like Ulysses.

SaneBox has filled a gap adding the snooze feature missing from Apple Mail which is a must have in my workflow. Snooze comes in two flavours; tomorrow and next week (Monday morning) however there is a more powerful specific time customer folder that can be created as well. This feature allows you to create a custom snooze for a set number of hours, days or weeks; great for emails with actions.

SaneBox also has a reminders feature. SaneReminders notifies you when an email you sent wasn’t responded to by a certain time (just CC or BCC tomorrow@sanebox.com, monday.9am@sanebox.com). This can also remind you to come back to an email you need to reply or follow up on.

Dependant on the subscription4 you signed up for you have multiple options and other folders.

  • Archive
  • Custom trained folders
  • On forwarding folders
  • Vacation
  • Custom snooze
  • No reply folder
  • Spam black hole

SaneBox provides a web dashboard where you can train/untrained folders, statistics on you folder and email usage, and time saved. if during the course of the first few weeks with SaneBox you move emails to folders where you would like them to go then you will spend very little time in the dashboard. It is very handy though for fine tuning your subscription.

SaneBox is not necessarily the saviour to all your email issues. It is however a great tool and one when paired with the Apple mail client really shines. It has given me back some much needed time and organised my email beast. The cost is small when you consider the time saved and it costs nothing to try. If you use this link you’ll get $5 off your first month.

  1. MPU #328: iOS Email
  2. Airmail 1.3
  3. Not to mention bug free!!
  4. There are a number of subscription options with very reasonable pricing and payment options.