The Paradox of iPhone

There was a time when getting a new iPhone was a simple decision. The only choices you had to make were colour (black or white) and storage size. Everything else was the same.

Today, there's no such thing as "the best iPhone". It doesn't matter which one you choose, you'll have to make a compromise.

For example:

  • iPhone: This is the "normal" one (right now the iPhone 7). It's a fine device, but you'll get a lesser camera and miss out on Portrait Mode and image stabilisation. And personally, I find it too big.
  • iPhone Plus: This one has the latest technology. You get the best camera and everything that comes with it, but you better have big pockets to carry it around. If you want a huge phone you're fine. But if like me, you don't, then compromising on size isn't even an option.
  • iPhone SE: This is the perfect size for me, but there are too many compromises: older camera, older chip, no barometer, lack of features such as 3D Touch, and you're mid-cycle (and who knows if it'll ever be updated).

A few years ago, when I upgraded from the iPhone 5s to the iPhone 6, I wrote an article with my thoughts on this and why I just did not like the size and form factor of the new iPhone. For the first time, I was disappointed with my purchase and seriously considered switching back to the 5s.

I never got used to it.

Also for the first time, I did not upgrade to the iPhone 6s. I just didn't like the size. And I didn't want to go through the mental angst, again, of having to choose between a huge phone or a lesser camera. I only got an iPhone 7 in January this year because I gave my old one to my dad. I would still be carrying my iPhone 6 today otherwise.

Apple used to make these decisions easy.

Now I feel like my 7 year old trying to decide which flavour of ice cream to get. Instead of being a great experience I'm looking forward to, getting a new iPhone has become a stressful experience I dread. Yes, I know how that sounds. It's true though.

What I really want is the latest tech in the size of the SE.

I do not want to have to compromise on the camera or features. And I certainly don't want to spend time analysing different iPhone models to decide which one is the lesser compromise.

I just cannot get the iPhone I want because it doesn't exist.

Every time I think about it I remember The Paradox of Choice. In that book, Barry Schwartz gives an example of buying jeans. It's the same thing with iPhones today. Too many choices.

Next week Apple will announce the new iPhones. The rumour is they'll release the "S" versions of the current ones and a higher end model that some people are calling iPhone Pro or iPhone X or iPhone 8.

Here's hoping that new one brings us back to an easier choice where the only considerations, other than price, are colour and storage size.

I'd love to see an SE sized iPhone with all the latest tech.

But if they keep the same size as the regular iPhone, no matter what decision I make, getting an iPhone will be a compromise. That is not what I expect from Apple.

This is when you know Apple screwed up iCloud storage for iOS

This is going to be an interesting conversation. (Sorry Mom if you're reading this).

How the hell do I explain what this message means to someone that's not a geek and couldn't care less about understanding geeky stuff. She just wants her iPhone to work.

We'll iCloud storage plans don't "just work".

And replying to my Mom with a "just subscribe to the US0.99 plan per month" is a stupid idea. First of all, she'll ask why. And rightly so. Which will only open a can of worms if I try to explain what it's doing in the background. She just doesn't care and nor she should. Second, she'll probably be pissed off that she has to pay a monthly fee for something that makes no sense to her and she sees absolutely no need for.

Now, I do see the value and pay for a 50gb plan right now. And I know that once I start to really use Photos I'll upgrade to the 200gb. But I'm a geek and she isn't. She's only using iCloud storage to back up her iPhone even though she doesn't know it.

As it is, iCloud storage is only causing my mom angst. And I'm pretty sure that's the opposite of what Apple wants to cause its users.

A good solution is if I could share my plan with her and take care of it all. I'd be happy to pay for a 1tb plan if I could share it with my family and make these emails go away.

My thoughts on the new Apple TV

I finally got a chance to watch the recent Apple keynote where they announced the new iPhones, iPad Pro, a few Apple Watch updates, and more exciting for me, the new Apple TV.

The new iPhone has a few pretty cool features like live photos and 3D Touch. And the iPad Pro looks great, but I have to see and touch it before I can make my mind about it. The watch, well, I’m still not sure where it could fit in my life and I haven’t bought one, so can’t really comment on it yet.

The new Apple TV, on the other hand, looks great and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Way back in 2012 I wrote a short article speculating on what I wanted the next Apple TV to be when there was a lot of talk about Apple building an actual TV set. I wrote:

As cool as an Apple television set could be, I have no need or desire to purchase a new one. I believe the potential is in the experience of watching television, not in the hardware itself.

And then went on to speculate about Apps.

It looks like my wish is coming true with the new Apple TV and it's even better than I thought at the time. The addition of games, the new remote, and Siri have the potential to make watching, and interacting with, TV an extraordinary experience.

The one thing I’m not clear on that I brought up in the article is if independent content producers can create an app to sell their content directly to consumers. For example, shows like TikiBar that were distributed as a video podcast, could now have their own app in Apple TV and sell a subscription (or per show) directly to consumers. They could also add interactive content, links/promos to complementary iOS apps, books, merchandise, even spinoff games.

It seems to me this could be a great way to monetise content by reaching consumers directly and skipping the middle-men. And who knows, if Apple TV grows enough maybe bigger productions could be funded directly by us.

I wonder how many paid subscribers it would take at $20 to $30 a season for a show like Firefly) to be self funded? How awesome would that be?

Aperture... so long and thanks for all the fish.

I just got the below email from Apple regarding Aperture. Like every other Aperture user out there, I've known about this since it was announced last year. That doesn't make it any less annoying.

I'm disappointed in Apple and upset about this.

Apple has a history of ditching technologies for something they consider better. Remember floppy disks, CD-ROMs, Firewire ports, Adobe Flash, iTools? They even did it with their own operating system when they moved away from OS 9 into OS X. Almost every time, they’ve been right. What came after was better than what we had before.

They did it with Final Cut. But they jumped the gun and shipped the new version to early. We all complained that it was missing features and, for many, the new version just didn’t cut it. Apple realised the mistake and put the previous version up for sale again and acknowledged the problem. They said Final Cut X would get new features soon. Eventually Final Cut X matured and it’s now a great app.

At first, I hoped they wouldn’t make the same mistake with Aperture. Then they announced Photos for Mac and I thought oh no, here we go again. Then I used the beta of Photos for Mac and thought shit, there’s no way this can mature into an app that can replace Aperture.

And that’s where I’m at now. Photos for Mac is pretty and I’m sure my mom will love it. After all, iPhoto is confusing and has only gotten worse over time, so Photos for Mac will be a welcome change.

For Aperture users however, Photos for Mac is both a disappointment and a joke.

What I don’t get is how they thought this was a good idea. It’s one thing to change technologies where the impact is that we have to buy new hardware, but this is messing with peoples photographs.

In moving on from Aperture we will loose data. And that’s just not cool. Shame on Apple for leaving it’s customers in such a predicament.

Apple is wrong this time.

Apple results. But will it last?

Apple published its latest financial results last week and they sold even more iPhones than ever before. If you take a moment to consider the numbers it's quite an incredible accomplishment. In the last quarter they sold over 74 million new iPhones.

They don't specify the breakdown of models, but I think it's safe to assume most of them were the latest iPhone 6 and 6 plus. Interestingly, the breakdown was different across markets. In the conference call Tim Cook suggested that the bigger screen 6 plus sold better in the Asian markets.

Remarkable achievement indeed.

But I'd like to suggest that perhaps the amazing interest in the iPhone is not because it's the best possible phone, but because it's the best one out there right now.

Let me explain what I mean.

I'm a geek and I love technology. But I'm not flippant about gadgets. I don't upgrade every time there's a new shiny toy. Hell, I kept my Nikon D700 and have no intention of upgrading my Fujifilm x100s even though the new model looks very cool. But my phone is different. It's the one gadget I get to play with. And because it costs me nothing to upgrade because I hand down my current model, I have always upgraded my iPhone. This is the first time I've regretted it.

I won't say anything about the big one because I don't own one. I can see the appeal for some but it's just not for me. It's the "normal" one the one I currently own and which infuriates me several times a day. Let's see why.

Holding it one handed is awkward. Trying to navigate it with one hand while walking is a recipe for disaster. I've almost dropped it too many times already. Stretching to tap the buttons at the top is infuriating. And that double-tap on the home button hack is the sort of thing we used to make fun of when Samsung did it.

Fitting it in jeans pocket is just bizarre. The iPhone is so big that it keeps moving inward, so I'm now walking around touching my crotch as I move it back into place.

The layout of the buttons is the exact opposite of user friendly. How often do you try to turn the volume up/down and the iPhone switches off? I can't imagine who thought it'd be a good idea to put those to buttons on opposite sides. And then there's the different layout from an iPad.

Running with an iPhone is weird. Granted, this won't affect the majority of people out there, but if you're a runner it's pretty annoying to have a huge phone jumping around.

When the 5s came out I wasn't convinced about the bigger 4 inch screen either.

I had no issues with the 3.5 inch screen of the previous models and it had never occurred to me that I would need a bigger screen. But I quickly got used to it. It didn't fit in my jeans pocket quite as well as the older ones, but I could live with that compromise. But that's the thing. It was a compromise.

I still think the original iPhone size was the perfect size. Here's hoping we see an iPhone 6s Mini in October 2015.

OmniFocus 2 Released!

OmniFocus 2 is now available!

I’ve been beta testing it over the last few months and I’m excited to be using the official release. Up until now, I was running both OmniFocus 1 with my real data, and OmniFocus 2 Beta with what started as dummy data. But as time went by, I started to put real projects and actions into the beta version because I liked it so much more. I now have a bit of a situation on my hands as I consolidate everything into the brand new OmniFocus 2.

I’m taking this as an opportunity to do some long overdue house cleaning of my database. Instead of migrating my data, I’m thoroughly reviewing every single project and bringing into OmniFocus 2 only those that are still relevant and I intend to work on this year.

I found I had a lot of projects on hold that I no longer care about or aren’t that important anymore. That’s part of the beauty of OmniFocus. You can easily get things out of your way without deleting them. I’m enjoying this clean up and it’s giving me a chance to dive deep into OmniFocus 2.

Once I’m fully up and running and I’ve used OmniFocus 2 enough on a daily basis I’ll write my thoughts.

In the meantime, there are several places to find more information and learn a great deal about it. Start by checking out all the info on the official OmniFocus pages at the OmniGroup. They also launched a great resource called Inside OmniFocus that showcases different workflows from OmniFocus users.

And finally, there are a few reviews already out there:

I’m excited about OmniFocus 2. More to come soon.

The mess that is media management with Apple devices

Media management across Mac OS X and iOS is a mess.

If you want to find TV Shows on your Mac, you go to iTunes, but on an iPhone or iPad, you go to the Videos app. Podcasts? Also in iTunes on Mac, but in your iPhone they've moved to the Podcasts. Photos? Try explaining the difference between iPhoto on Mac and iPhoto/Photos/Camera on iOS to regular people. Looking for a book? That's easy, you'll find it in iBooks across all your devices. Unless you haven't "moved books from iTunes". Then they'll be in iTunes on your Mac. Well, some of them. Some will be in iBooks depending on where you purchased them from or if they're PDFs.

Hang on... what?

A week ago I was having a coffee with a friend who's not technically savvy. He has been a happy Mac and iPhone user for years, but he's not the type to spend hours figuring out his gadgets and he couldn't care less about things like application preferences and other nerdy stuff like that. He just wants things to work. He is, what most would call, normal. 

Of course, as with most of my non-geek friends, I've become his personal Apple Support assistant, and every time I see him he remembers something geeky he needs help with. Last week he raised an interesting point.

He complained that he just couldn't get his head around where his stuff was at any given time on his Mac and his iPhone.

By stuff he meant media content. Things like music, podcasts, TV shows, movies, books, and photographs.

During the holidays, he downloaded the free content from Apple's 12 Days of Gifts app, and he got confused with where things had ended up. I can't blame him. Even reading the FAQs from the 12 Days app would confuse many people:

Where can I find the gifts I’ve downloaded?
On your computer, you can find your music, TV and film content in your iTunes library and books in your iBooks library. On your iOS device, you can find your music in the Music app, your TV episodes and films in the Videos app, and your books in the iBooks app. Apps will appear on your home screen.

That's messy to begin with, but it gets worse once you start digging deeper.

For example, music videos live in iTunes on the Mac, but on iOS they appear in both the Videos and the Music apps. In Videos they're clearly labeled as music videos, but in Music they're just in there with the rest of the songs. In a way, I guess it makes some sense.

However, books are where things start to get really confusing.

Books, like everything else, used to be in iTunes on the Mac, but the latest update to the Mac OS brought iBooks to Mac OS. You'd think all books are now in iBooks and sync across OS X and iOS. That's true for books purchased from the iBookstore (although you might have to tell iBooks to move them over from iTunes), but it doesn't work as seamlessly with books from elsewhere or with PDFs. Those you have to manually add to each device or sync via iTunes which pulls them from iBooks. See? Confusing.

Even worse, audiobooks aren't considered books apparently, or at least are not worthy of iBooks. Audiobooks stay in iTunes on Mac and in iOS will be in the Music app, which just does my head in.

As I was explaining how all this works go my friend, I drew a version of the table above in an attempt to clarify things.

That's when I realised just how broken content management across Apple devices currently is.

Normal people must be really confused. My mom is currently travelling and can't figure out Photo Stream on her iPhone so she keeps sending us photos via Messages.

I believe the right approach is one app for each media type with a Mac and an iOS version and everything kept in sync via iCloud. Audiobooks should be in iBooks. Photos should make sense to users. And you should be able to read purchased magazines full screen on your 27 inch iMac.

The introduction of dedicated apps for iOS makes me think that's the direction Apple is headed. Maybe we're just in transition at the moment. Maybe in the next OS X update we'll see a counterpart for Music, Podcasts, Videos, etc. But what will be the fate of iTunes then? It's an interesting dilemma.

Halfway through my explanation my friend just gave up. Too hard, he said, and changed the subject.

WriteRight Review: A writer's text editor

I love writing with the iPad. In fact, right now I'm in the balcony with my iPad, bluetooth keyboard, and a cup of coffee writing this in WriteRight, an iOS text editor I've been using a great deal for a couple of months.


The App Store has no shortage of writing apps. I should know. I have a bit of an obsession with them and have tried way too many over the years. I don't even want to think about how much I've spent on them.

To my mind, there are 2 types of text editors. First are notes apps, where I keep a lot of small notes like quick thoughts, reference material, lists, and other things I want to have easy access to. I don't do any "real" writing on these. The most important features are quick entry and robust search. Apple's Notes and Simplenote/NVAlt are good examples.

Second, and more important to me, are writing apps. These are where I do long form writing (as opposed to jotting down short notes). For these, the writing experience is key. Things like good organisation features, word count, markdown support, preview, and full-screen mode are crucial. And because I spend so much time in these, the user interface is a big factor. Of course, sync is essential for both types.

WriteRight is unmistakably a writing app.

It has all the features I expect from a writing app, and then some. It's a universal app that looks beautiful in both iPad and iPhone.

WriteRight Features

In using WriteRight, it became clear the developers thought about every feature from the point of view of a long form writer.

Many of the features in WriteRight give you a little bit more, or are slightly different than typical, in a way that favours your writing flow. For example:

  • Easily move through your document: Tap on the margins to move the cursor one character at a time. Long tap to move by word. Swipe up or down with two fingers to instantly go to the start or end of the document. And if it's a long piece, moving your finger along the margins activates fast scrolling.
  • Undo/Redo: Select the arrow icons next to the keyboard or just swipe with one finger. No more shaking the iPad like a caveman.
  • Change font size: You don't actually pick a size, you pinch in or out (like with a photo) to make the text larger or smaller. And it remembers your choice in the previews.
  • Search and Replace: I recently changed the name of a character in a short story and this was a huge time saver. Without it, I would've had to wait until I was back at the desktop or do it manually. Again, like a caveman. You can choose to make search/replace case sensitive, use whole words or even ignore accents.
  • iCloud and Dropbox: iCloud syncs files and folders between iPhone and iPad. With Dropbox, you can import a file and save back to Dropbox, but you can't choose a folder (or series of files) in Dropbox and keep them in sync (see "what's missing" below).
  • Markdown Support: WriteRight is built for Markdown. Like many writing apps, it includes an additional keyboard row with often used Markdown symbols for easy access. But they take it one step further with additional options via clever popups that make fast typing easy and enjoyable with the device's keyboard.

These are fine features that once you get used to them, they're difficult to live without.

However, the biggest value in WriteRight is in the following:

English and Spanish dictionaries

WriteRight includes a vast dictionary in both English and Spanish. The developers are the guys that do Word Magic dictionaries and translation software, so you know they're serious about this.

According to the help file in WriteRight, the dictionary includes:

  • In English: 345,000+ meanings, 275,000+ unique words and phrases, 1,708,000+ synonyms, 358,000+ antonyms, 165,000+ phrasals (verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs)

  • In Spanish: 282,000+ meanings, 242,000+ unique words and phrases, 1,280,000+ synonyms, 441,000+ antonyms, 148,000+ phrasals (verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs)

And they keep adding more. The latest update added 68,000+ new English words, 560,000+ new English synonyms, 29,000+ new Spanish words and 320,000+ new Spanish synonyms.

Linguistic Tools: Synonyms, Antonyms and Phraseology

Selecting a single word gives you synonyms, antonyms and of course, definitions. I don't know about you, but when I write on the Mac I keep the Dictionary open and I often command-tab back and forth to use the thesarous. With WriteRight, I have it right there in the iPad as well.

The best feature though, is phrase or expression change recommendations. Tapping on the cog icon activates it and little blue cogs appear throughout your text to indicate WriteRight has an alternative available. Tapping on these shows you the suggestions.

You can just tap on one and it'll replace your word or phrase with the selected one. What I found even more impressive is that WriteRight will recognise conjugated words, tense, person, and gender, and replace accordingly.


When you want to see your document in it's final stage, you can preview it with Markdown rendered. But WriteRight has three different preview options:

  • Continuous: Shows you your document in one long continuous page formatted with Helvetica Neue. This is what most other text editors do.
  • US Letter and A4: Shows you your document in actual pages (either the standard US Letter or the European A4) with page numbers using Georgia in size 12.
  • Manuscript L and A4: Shows you your document in pages using Times New Roman in size 12 with a spacing of 1.5 and margins studied to contain between 1800 and 2000 characters per page.


The export options are comprehensive:

  • Copy: Text, Text with format, HTML Code, link to share documents in iCloud or Dropbox.
  • Send by mail: Text, Text with format, Attach Text, Attach HTML, Attach PDF, link to share (iCloud or Dropbox).
  • Printing document: Text, Text with format, selection of number of pages to print.
  • Open with: Any text editor that accepts .TXT and .MD formats.

What's missing

I really like WriteRight. However, there are a few things that are missing:

  • Dropbox sync: WriteRight can access your Dropbox account and import a file. It'll create a local copy which it'll save back to Dropbox when it has Internet connection. However, it doesn't really sync. You can't, for example, choose a folder to sync where WriteRight keeps a copy of all files locally. It's only one file at a time.
  • Font options: I'm a typography nerd. I'd like to be able to pick a different font for writing. Menlo is good, but it would be awesome if I could import my own like Daedalus Touch.
  • Text Expander support: Personally, I don't mind this one. I use Text Expander in notes apps, but not for creative writing. But I know many people need it.
  • Mac App: Full sync via iCloud with a WriteRight for Mac would be awesome. Currently, I use Ulysses III on the Mac for almost everything. The files I want to edit in WriteRight are saved in Dropbox and pulled from there.

For me, Dropbox sync is the big one. I'd love to keep a folder in sync between Ulysses III (or Scrivener) and WriteRight without relying on an Internet connection. I write a lot in coffee shops and when travelling and having access to all my text files is necessary.

The good news is the developer is aware of this and has told me they're working on it and should have full Dropbox sync in an update soon.


WriteRight is, as I said, a writer's app. The linguistics features are impressive and the fact that it's built for both English and Spanish is big for me since I write in both languages a lot. I'm a fan and it's earned a spot in my iPad home screen.

If you do a lot of creative writing you should check WriteRight out (website/App Store). It's available for iPhone and iPad and only US$2.99.

It might be the text editor you're looking for.

Evernote Essentials PDF

I'm a big fan of Evernote. These days, I use it for almost everything and it has become a big part of my workflow, but that wasn't always the case.

When Evernote first came out, I wasn't sure how to make use of it, or even why. Then I read Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials PDF.

Evernote Essentials

Evernote Essentials

About Evernote

Evernote is, as Brett himself describes it in the ebook, "a ubiquitous digital notebook which syncs to the web and across all of your devices that can capture, store, and index just about any type of data you can throw at it."

You can pretty much store anything and everything in Evernote. Text notes, images, web clippings, audio, video, pdf files, lists, iWork files, and more can be organised in Evernote.

How I use Evernote

Here are a few examples of what I use it for:

  • Productivity - Store reference material for tasks I need to do.
  • Writing - Keep a list of ideas for articles to write, and the related research.
  • Learning - Take notes, and store reference material, for courses I take. For example, I have a notebook for SCUBA diving and one for Platform University, amongst many others.
  • Reference - Store instructions, how-to's, and assorted tips for things that interest me. Or save web clipping with my own notes (Evernote is awesome for this).
  • Lists - For example, a wines I like, movies to watch, books to read, places to visit.
  • Shopping - Keep info on different products to compare later. For example, I have a notebook right now for a SCUBA dive watch.
  • Keep all my travel documents handy: hotel confirmation emails, tickets, research, lists of places to visit, maps, and more.
  • An extra back up JPEGs of my 5 star photographs.
  • Save my daughter's drawings (a great tip in the Evernote Essentials PDF).

I use it for more than that, but you get the idea. The more you throw at it, the better it gets. Searching for stuff in Evernote is easy and powerful. And all your stuff is available from any device: desktop, smartphone, tablet, and even the web.

The problem with Evernote is that it's so powerful that it's often overwhelming.

Many people don't know where to start. I was one of them. This is where Brett Kelly's ebook can help.

About the author

Brett is arguably the perfect person to write a book on how to use Evernote. Not only has he been using it for over five years, but he clearly knows it pretty well.

In fact, he was hired by Evernote themselves after he wrote the book. That has to be the best endorsement possible.

Evernote Essentials PDF

Evernote Essentials is the definitive guide for Evernote users. It explains everything from how to set up an Evernote account all the way to how to become a power user.

In the ebook, you'll learn how to organise your database (or Evernote Library as I like to think about it). You'll learn how to put stuff in and take it out. How to take advantage of tagging. How to search effectively. Tips on sharing, using reminders, adding metadata, and more.

Brett includes several use cases that show you specific examples of how to use Evernote:

  • Evernote for Travel Junkies.
  • Evernote for Parents.
  • Going Paperless with Evernote
  • Archiving Your Social Media Offerings with Evernote
  • Evernote as Your Personal History Book

In the latest version, Brett also added a few new sections:

  • How he uses Evernote.
  • How to set up a new account.
  • Evernote and Security.

Believe me, the Evernote Essentials pdf is a good investment.

Some people complain about the price, but seriously, it'll save you so much time that you'll be thankful you read it. The ebook is 160 pages packed with valuable content. Plus, when there's an update you get the new version for free.


Evernote Essentials is available as a PDF (the original version), an ePub (for iPad/iPhone), and a .MOBI (for Kindle). You get all version when you purchase it. It's also available directly from the iBookstore.

Whilst the content is the same for all versions, I strongly recommend reading the Evernote Essentials PDF.

The design and formatting are really nice and it's lost in the ePub and .MOBI versions. Plus, you can read it on your iPad and make annotations directly on it as you read it.

This is the best and quickest way to become proficient in Evernote.

I highly recommend the Evernote Essentials PDF. If you don’t agree, Brett offers a 100% money-back guarantee, so there's nothing to loose.

How to open plain text in MindNode Pro

MindNode Pro is an wonderful mind mapping application. There are versions for Mac, iPad and iPhone, and the documents are kept perfectly in sync via iCloud. I use MindNode Pro often for a multitude of things, one of which is to visualise my Aperture keywords.

In fact, a few months ago I started the laborious process of cleaning up my Aperture library (which I haven't finished) because I made some fundamental changes to my workflow. Part of this involved organising the keywords I attach to photographs.

Open plain text in MindNode Pro

At the time, I started a new MindNode Pro document and did a mind map of all the keywords. Once I was happy with the new structure and all the keywords, I exported the mind map as a plain text file and used that to import into Aperture.

MindNode Pro lets you export a mind map as a plain text file. It indents the text to match nodes, so it looks like a simple outline and it's easy to understand. Aperture's keyword list can be imported and exported as plain text as well, and it uses the same indent method to show parent/child relationships, which are effectively the same thing as nodes on a mind map.

Over time, I've added new keywords to Aperture. This weekend I wanted to update the MindNode Pro mind map to match what was in Aperture.

I thought I'd just reverse the process. Export a plain text file from Aperture and import that same plain text file to MindNode Pro.

But to my surprise, MindNode Pro can't import plain text. At least not directly.

What MindNode Pro does accept is pasting indented text directly onto an open document.

It turned out to be fairly simple.

After exporting the plain text file from Aperture, I just opened it in a text editor, selected everything (⌘A), copied (⌘C), went over to a new, empty document in MindNode Pro and pasted (⌘V).

How to organise iCloud folders by name

Today I realised you can organise folders in iCloud by name, date, or tags. I assume the default is by date (as in modified date) since I'd never changed this before and that's what my Mac is doing.

I'll use Byword as an example, since that's where I just experinced it. I use just three folders. One for the files I'm actively working on, called Writing; one for drafts where I keep new ideas and unfinished drafts that are not urgent; and one where I dump all text files once I'm finished writing and I've published the content elsewhere, called Archives. I specifically put a number in the folder name so they were always in the same order, but today I noticed 03. Archives was first.

iCloud folders organised by name, date, or tag

It's a small thing, but one that really irks me. On instinct, I control-clicked (or right-click) on the gray area and got the option to sort by name, date, or tag. Easy fix.

But I wondered why I'd never notice this before. Turns out the order of folders in Byword for iPhone and iPad is always by name, and I almost always start new documents from an iOS device. In Byword for iOS you can choose to sort documents by date, but it affects only documents, not folders.

Fresh iOS install and apps without sync

The only gadget I own that I upgrade regularly is the iPhone, and every time I get a new one I do a fresh install.

There are three reasons why I do this instead of just restoring from a backup:

  1. Culling Old Apps. I'm a shiny-new-app junkie and like trying out new ones all the time. I often download more apps than I have the time to check out, so eventually my iPhone becomes a graveyard of apps I never properly tested or that just didn't stick and I don't use anymore. My yearly fresh install gives me a chance to check them out and only re-download the ones I use. With the iPhone 5s I went from over 300 apps installed to under 80.
  2. Being a new user. By installing the phone I get to experience what a new user goes through when they set up their iPhone for the first time. I like to see what's changed and I'm amazed how much easier it is every time. I also like to go through all the settings and set them again.
  3. It's just fun (to me). I'm from the generation that got into the habit of regularly doing a nuke and pave on our computers to "remove cruft". I guess old habits die hard, but even on the Mac, I still do this with every new OS. I know it's no longer necessary, but for some reason I actually enjoy the process. It feels good to have a fresh start once in a while.

I still use iCloud backup, but to me it's just a backup and nothing more. Meaning it's there in case something goes wrong. I've only restored from iCloud once when I had an iPhone replaced after I smashed the liquid inside the display. But for a new device with a new iOS, I do a fresh install.

In previous years, doing a fresh install of iOS required more manual work than it does today. Hardly any apps synced or stored data in the cloud. Most kept everything local and iTunes was the the only way to back up the data. So with a fresh install you either lost data in some apps or had to manually restore the data files via iTunes.

Last year I noticed that a lot of the apps I use most often sync to the cloud via iCloud, Dropbox or their own servers, which made the fresh install so much easier.

This time, I expected most, if not all, apps to have some sort of cloud component that would allow me to re-download my data without any fuss. It was especially important now since I no longer connect my iPhone to iTunes.

Turns out I was right, almost. Out of almost 80 apps, only 6 stored the user data exclusively on the device, and one offered sync and backup to the cloud but via a paid yearly subscription. I should note that I didn't check games. That's just not important to me, but it may be for you.

Here's what I found:

  • Sleep Cycle: Data is stored locally. If you want cloud back up and sync you need to pay $10 per year. This also gives you web access with more graphs and detailed data, but since I don't care for that it seems pretty steep and not really worth it.
  • Goal Streaks: I've tried pretty much every goal setting/habit forming app out there and Goal Streaks is my favourite. Unfortunately it has no sync or backup, which is weird since it's a universal app. With no sync the iPad version is effectively useless to me.
  • Frameographer: A beautiful app for creating time-lapse videos. You can keep projects in progress in the app, but no cloud back up. All I could do is finish them up and export the final videos.
  • Collect: I use this app daily to manage a "photo a day" or 365 project. This one is the one that really annoyed me that it didn't sync. And even more maddening is the fact that they advertise this: "Protected with iCloud Backup. Photos and data backed up securely when connected to iCloud backup service." Which means it does exactly nothing. It's just backed up in iCloud as everything else on the phone. This is not a feature of the app and I'd suggest is borders on false advertising.
  • VSCO Cam: My favourite photography app. You can upload your photographs to the vsco grid or save them to the camera roll, so you don't loose your finished work. But VSCO Cam has its own photo library that I would've liked to migrate across. Not a huge deal in this case.
  • Figure: The only ways to back up and restore your songs is via iTunes or by emailing each one to yourself and then opening them up again. iTunes is a no go (who syncs with iTunes these days anyway?), and the email is just too much work.
  • Voice Memos: This one surprised me. Apple's own built-in app doesn't sync with iCloud. Really?

Of all the apps I truly like and use often, these were the only ones that caused some friction while installing iOS 7 from scratch. For some, the experience has motivated me to go looking for alternatives and I'm considering a few at the moment.

To be clear, I'm not specifically looking for sync as it doesn't make sense for some apps. What I want is a way to export and import the user data. Some do that inherently because they sync with desktop or web applications (e.g. Day One, OmniFocus, Byword), or are pulling from a feed (e.g. Reeder, Pocket, Twitter), so the master database is in the cloud. But for the ones that don't need to sync, or shouldn't, it would be great if they'd allow me to export all my data and re-import it again later. Figure could've added an option to save all files to Dropbox or at least email myself the whole database instead of one song at a time.

I bet by next year any app that doesn't back up it's data in the cloud, has a sync service, or export/import option will be left behind. I now look for that as a feature in any new apps.