Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Part 7 - Simplifications and Annoyances - iPad as my main computer

As I mentioned in my last post about the "fun" aspect of the iPad, it's been a month since I really started using the iPad for most of my computer-related tasks and I've gotten some great feedback from all of you reading my blog and my tweets and shares. Now it's time to share the Good, the Bad and the Ugly about working on the iPad and how I've managed to simplify my work even more.

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My Dropbox setup

As I mentioned in my post about clouds, on of the main storage options for me on the iPad is still Dropbox and I use it like this:

I have a main Dropbox account where I store all of my data and I access it mainly through the Dropbox app and Good Reader.

I set up a secondary Dropbox account that shares all of its folders with my main account and I use this account for most of the apps on my iPad. I just don't trust all the apps to have access to my main Dropbox account and all of my files. Only the files located on the secondary account.

What annoys me: Dropbox app on the iPad doesn't actually "sync" with the iPad. I mean, if you "star" some files, they'll be offline but you can't "star" folders to have really a seamless offline storage on the iPad. There is a 2-year old thread on the Dropbox forums about it and they still haven't done it. Seriously? I have a 64GB iPad and cannot sync the 5GB of Dropbox files to it? Why not?

My Evernote setup

Because of what I mentioned earlier, I use Evernote as my main cloud storage now. It has "offline notebooks" and syncs them beautifully. I'm now emailing lots of stuff to Evernote (more than I used to) as I prefer to store the info there and have it offline on my iPad whenever I want. The legendary search and OCR of Evernote works great, too and their iPhone apps (together with Food and Hello apps) help me get more stuff to Evernote and let me have the information at my fingertips at all times.

Side-note: Nozbe syncs with Evernote and we're working on a tighter sync with them to make sure I can make any of my notes "actionable" and "sharable" with others. Can't wait for that to happen.

What annoys me: Their iPad app has gotten a lot better over the years and I love it... but "processing" notes is not ideal. I cannot easily "move" my notes from my "inbox" notebook to their corresponding notebooks - need to edit the note first and then change notebook. This can be done a lot better (and the Mac app is better for it). Hope they'll improve it on the iPad.

Nebulous for writing

I got rid of Simplenote. It was cool when it lasted but when writing a note in Simplenote it got "accidentally" deleted when I was typing it (due to issues with their sync) I decided not to trust it anymore. Now I just use Nebulous for all of my writing. It works seamlessly with Dropbox and has great searching capabilities. I wish it synced with Evernote, too. Dropping Simplenote let me focus on Evernote and Dropbox as my main clouds now.

I simplified my blog posting routine: Now I write all my blog posts in Nebulous where they are saved in Dropbox automagically. The app has a "full screen" view, spell check and preview of the Markdown code which I use for typing. I send my blog posts directly from this app to my blog. Sweet :-)

What annoys me: Not much, lack of Evernote sync and "focus" mode of AI Writer. Other than that, it's great.

Other apps I frequently use:

Textastic for coding - I don't do much coding these days but when I do, this app does the trick. Very cool indeed. Works fast, is very stable. Nice.

Clipboard History - it's not ideal, it crashes at times and I need to switch to it to save stuff from clipboard (I wish it copied everything I copy to clipboard in the background but I don't think iOS allows for this). I just wish iOS had a full clipboard history built in.

TextExpander - I use built in keyboard shortcuts in iOS but for longer text snippets I use TextExpander. Many apps work with it, including Nebulous and AI Writer.

A note on keyboard shortcuts

Many folks asked me about it. iPad is not a PC. It's a touch interface and one can argue if the lack of keyboard shortcuts is a problem or not. I just don't like keyboard anymore. Yes, I love it for typing (just like I typed this blog post) but I don't use it all that much when I use the iPad. I prefer to use the iPad alone, type short things on the on-screen keyboard and just use my fingers to navigate and move around. Keyboard is an "additional thingy" to the iPad, it's not an integral part of it. Some of you might not like it. I love it and I think that this is the future of personal computing. That's also the reason why I went with the Zagg Flex Keyboard instead of any "cover with keyboard" - I don't want a "netbook" - I want an iPad.

Next up: Office, Browsing and Social Media

In my next posts I'll focus on these aspects of my "computing" life and why iPad excels in these and why I love working on it even more... stay tuned.

How did you simplify your iPad life? Which apps help you simplify your workflows?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Part 6 - Portability and Fun - iPad as my main computer

I'm back from my holiday trip and back after a long and tiring week of work (we just launched new Nozbe Desktop and new Productive! Magazine issue! Yay! :-) and it's time to get back to posting about my workflow and my new toy, I mean, "work device" called the iPad. This time we'll focus on iPad's real strengths - portability and fun.

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A month has passed...

It's been more than a month since I picked up my new shiny iPad 3 and decided to do most of my work on this new device instead of my trusty Macbook Air. It was also the first time I went for a two-week trip without my laptop. Here are some thoughts on that.

iPad is very portable... duh!

It's not like I discovered something here. iPad is half the weight of my Macbook Air and half the size. This means I can put it into my man-purse and take it with me. No need for a full-blown backpack there. 10 hour batter life is exactly that - 10 hours worth of life - each 10% is one hour. Sweet and very long. On my trip (as I wasn't working a lot) I used to charge it every 3-4 days. When I'm back, I charge it basically every night. I don't use cables in between.

iPad is just more convenient when traveling

It's just not clumsy when I want to pull it up from my bag and use it. I take it in one hand, use the other to navigate and that's it. A lot more comfortable than using a laptop on a trip (try to hold a laptop on one hand and type with the other!). I don't need to sit. I can just stand (or walk slowly) and use it. Sweet.

iPad means more "fun" than "work"

When I pick up my laptop, I tend to think "work" and start opening up web sites, checking email, etc. When I pick up my iPad I firstly ask myself this question: "Is there anything I absolutely need to do now?" As I have my flows for work nicely designed on the iPad, if I don't need to work at this moment I simply open up Kindle app (for ebooks), Reeder app (for news) or Pocket app (for the articles I've saved) and start reading. And I usually use it in portrait mode, without keyboard and stuff. It just naturally transforms itself from a "work machine" to a "play machine" or simply a very versatile "reader device".

This was especially convenient on a plane. I'd use it at times with my Zagg keyboard to write things (i.e. "create") and then I'd just pick it up to read. A real Transformer :-)

I tend to use the iPad more now

This week has been crazy. We've been working a lot just to catch up, we've launched a few things and we've mainly succeeded. And the whole week long I preferred to just pick up my iPad to work instead of my laptop. I just enjoyed working on the iPad more... it's just more fun, I feel more and more productive on it every day now... and I hardly need my laptop anymore. We'll see in months to come, but I lean towards my iPad a lot more these days than towards my laptop. Strange feeling, you know?

Do you use iPad a lot these days, too? How do you use it?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Part 5 - Traveling - iPad as my main computer

On Monday we landed in Los Angeles for our two-week vacation with my wife visiting West-Coast, Grand Canyon and other spectacular sites nearby. It's the first trip ever that I didn't take my laptop with me. Normally even though I wouldn't work too much (as I really want to spend this time with my wife), but as my laptop is (was) the center of my digital life (and I am a geek), I'd take it anyway. Now that I'm on my iPad only trial I just took my iPad. And nothing more. And I even planned the whole trip on the iPad. Here's how:

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iPad is ideal for traveling... because it's so small

First let me tell you that iPad as such is ideal for traveling. Weights a lot less than my laptop (which is already an ultra-light Macbook Air!), needs less accessories, holds 10 hours on battery without any problem and can be turned on really instantly which is seriously amazing. It's a perfect travel computer as such. And when I want to read something, it converts to an ebook reader in an instant.

Great apps for traveling help you plan the trip

Traveling with an iPad? There are apps for that! Here are the ones I used:

  • TripIt! - thanks to the suggestion by David Pogue of the NYT, this is the "mother of all travel apps". When I ordered our plane ticket, rented car, hotel... whatever, I'd always receive a confirmation email. Forward it to TripIt and it beautifully parses the emails and adds them to the app. Perfect. In my last post I mentioned why I love how the apps work with email.

  • Booking - I've been always using Booking.com for booking hotels and the iPad app works beautifully, too. I stopped using the web site, only use the app now.

  • FlightRadar24 and Flightrack PRO - both apps are great for following the airplanes, making sure we're not late and having up-to-date info about the flights. The latter syncs with my TripIt account which is really neat :-)

  • Navigon and Google Maps - I use navigation on my iPhone (Navigon in Europe and Copilot Live in the USA) by an extra view of the maps on my iPad helps me plan a trip. Google Maps app on the iPad is still a joy to use.

  • The Weather Channel - great app for watching weather forecast in various places at a time. Indispensable.

  • Evernote - as Evernote is my personal brain, I forward my travel confirmations there as well, just to make sure I can access and search them anytime. It's a backup solution for me, although I prefer the view that TripIt offers me. But I still have the habit of sending stuff to Evernote just in case.

  • Mercury Browser - I use this browser very often especially when ordering flights or cars as many web sites detect the iPad as a mobile phone and send me over to a crippled mobile site and won't even let me to go to their "normal" site. Mercury Browser has an ability to "imitate" I'm not on the iPad and it works.

  • 1Password - I use this to store passwords across all of my devices. Works beautifully and this app is one of the essentials on the iPad for any type of browsing, especially accessing different travel sites with my credentials. Or my banking account.

What's the journey going to be like? Should be fun!

I'm only starting my two-week trip so I'll be posting later how iPad worked, but so far so good. The planning and preparation on the iPad worked beautifully. Now it's time to see how iPad substitutes my main computer on this journey. Fingers crossed!

How do you find traveling with the iPad? Any tips or apps I missed?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Part 4 - Email, clouds and APIs - iPad as my main computer

The more I use the iPad the more I explore its "nuts and bolts". The more apps I try the less I need... and the more I appreciate the small, subtle things app designers have gone to actually make my new "productivity machine" better. In this part of my iPad-only saga I'm going to focus on several aspects of my iPad's apps:

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Email. To zero. Every day.

When I wrote my first post on the iPad two years ago I didn't know it'd be so true. Processing emails on the iPad to zero is so beautiful. It's really great. I'm "touching" emails and processing my inbox to zero every single day. I love it. The best part is that my Mail application is not "asking for attention" in the dock, it's there when I need it... and I use it several times a day and it's a great experience every time.

Email integrations work, and help.

When you're on a desktop is so easy to drag and drop files to other apps, to desktop and take it from there... here on the iPad I start appreciating how many apps have taken a great approach to Email integration and enable me to "forward" emails to them. Evernote, Nozbe (of course!), Tripit, Buffer, Kindle... and many others. I find myself emailing other apps a lot more often than before... thus processing email to zero even faster!

I love the APIs of apps. They play so well together!

My favorite "content consuming" apps are Reeder, Tweetbot, Pocket (formerly Read-it-later) and well, Safari. Except for the last one, all are very tightly integrated with each other as well as my clouds like Evernote od Dropbox so this makes using them a breeze and making sure I don't lose the articles I want to keep or read later (for which the iPad is a beautiful machine, too :-)

Bonus - IFTTT = If This Than That

This service is like "one API to rule them (APIs) all" and I've already configured it to post all of my Instagram photos to Evernote, when I star an item in Twitter or Google Reader, send them to Evernote or Pocket... and other stuff. It's like an Automator for the web... and for my iPad. Works beautifully.

Bonus 2 - GoodReader - one app to integrate them all

I can't say enough about GoodReader - I thought wrongly that it's "only a PDF reader" but it's an app that integrates all the "files" on my iPad with my clouds and other apps. This is a must-have if you're serious about the iPad as your working machine.

Bonus 3 - Second Dropbox account

As I mentioned, one of my main clouds is Dropbox and I can't say enough about it. I store many files on my Dropbox account and need GoodReader to have access to all of them... but I don't need all of the apps to have access to my entire Dropbox account so I decided to create a second dropbox account which shares some files and some folders with my main Dropbox account. The second account is free with 2GB of storage but it's plenty enough for my needs and for the needs of the apps that sync with it. All of the folders I have on this account are being shared with my main account... so that I can access this second account from my main account but not the other way round (for all the files). This way I'm less "scared" when I give access to my Dropbox folder to all of the apps that ask for it.

The last bonus - iSMEStorage

To enable Dropbox to WebDav sync - which in turn gives me access to my Dropbox files directly through WebDav from the Pages, Keynote and Numbers apps, I needed to buy a $5 app called iSMEStorage - there is no subscription, just an "iOS only" plan where I can set it up to "translate" my Dropbox files to WebDav.

There are more tips coming

As I'm discovering my iPad only way I'm finding more and more subtle things that, once set up right, help me work more efficiently on my iPad and in many way more "focused" than ever before.

Do you have any tips for me? Do let me know!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Part 3 - Designing Flows - iPad as my main computer

Many people have asked me why I'm trying to go iPad-only when I'm so productive on the Mac and don't really need to go so far. Well, apart from being excited by the challenge and the new gadget, the other thing is to really re-think how I use my computer and why I do things I do the same way. I've already discovered in my last posts that I need to use different cloud services and also need to change the way I write which brings me to the real deal here: I'm really re-designing my "flows" or processes

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The work is not a place to go, it's a thing you do - was my favorite quote when I was writing my master thesis years ago about tele-working... and the "PC" is also just a machine that should help us get our stuff done... unless we are in the "PC-manufacturing/repairing" business where the PC is our job.

My iPad-only work imposes constraints that make me re-think how I use computer every day

As you have seen in my post about writing - I have to "design" the way I do writing on the iPad and the Mac. I have to make sure there's almost no friction there and I focus on writing and not on "setting up to write". I want to get my writing done as easily as possible.

There are more processes to come

What I'm saying here is that over the course of next weeks you'll see more "flows" or "processes" on this blog where I'll be explaining how I do stuff on the iPad with the apps at hand. I'll be posting how I:

  • do photo management and sharing with m family
  • do videos for my show and for my family
  • do coding
  • do feedback loops with my team
  • do email
  • do reading
  • do listening
  • do everything else...

These all are completely new processes for me and I'm studying them to make sure I finally get them right, with as few apps and services as possible but also in the most focused way possible, too.

My iPad became my ultimate flow-management tool

Thanks to the fact that the iPad is so small, so full of great, focused apps, I can learn new processes and optimize the way I use my computer. And because there are no windows on the iPad, there are no distractions. It's a different beast but my guess is, that even if I do get back to work on my computer for 20% of my time, I'll be working on it in a totally different way than before, thinking about these processes a lot more.

Which flows do you use? How do you design your "processes" on your PC or your iPad or iPhone? Have you thought about your computer this way before?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Part 2 - Writing - iPad as my main computer

It's been almost a week since I got my new iPad and decided to work iPad-only and I've been enjoying the experience very much. I started with setting up my 7 cloud services which not only help me keep only the relevant stuff on my iPad but also sync beautifully with both my iPhone and my Mac. Today I finished compiling the #12 issue of the Productive! Magazine entirely on the iPad and wrote several articles so I'll focus on how the iPad works as a writer's machine.

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The hardware: iPad + keyboard

Most of the time I type using the on-screen keyboard and funny enough it works pretty well. I can "almost" touch-type which is actually surprising. I can type pretty fast on this thing.

However, for some serious typing (like this blog post) I tend to use an external Bluetooth keyboard for two reasons:

1) I can really touch type and don't think about it at all
2) I can see the entire screen and actually use the iPad in the portrait mode which is simply designed for typing.

My keyboard of choice is the ZaggKeys Flex keyboard and it's amazing. I believe it's the lightest and the smallest Bluetooth keyboard out there and it has an amazingly cool "keyboard cover" which serves as an iPad stand. Brilliant and very useful.

Up on the picture you can see me reviewing the interview I did with Jason Womack - and both my iPad and my iPhone are supported by the Zagg's stand.

The other cool thing about the keyboard is that it doesn't change my iPad into a "netbook" just like other "folios" or "covers" do. I still prefer to have "just the iPad with smart-cover" and use the keyboard occasionally.

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When I check emails and process them to zero, I actually like to have my iPad flat on the table to "touch" the emails with less effort and have the keyboard handy in case I need to fire up a quick reply. Although very often I process to zero and write short replies with just the on-screen keyboard.

Writer's apps and the cloud.

Just like I mentioned in my last post most of my writing is done in Simplenote and stored in its cloud there. Simplenote is an elegant writer as such. However sometimes I need to write "richer" articles and this post I'm writing in "Markdown" so I decided to use a different setup.

1) I set up Nebulous and AI Writer to use Dropbox and have a folder there called "MarkedTexts" where I save Markdown-powered text files.
2) I like to write in AI Writer 'cos it's more elegant than Nebulous and has the "focus-mode" which I love.
3) Later for final editing I switch to Nebulous because it also has a preview of Markdown.
4) Once the post is ready I quickly paste it to Pages to catch the spelling mistakes. Once that's done, the article is saved in Nebulous again (in Dropbox). From there I "email" the article to Posterous.
5) That's it. I've been typing it on my Zagg Keyboard having the iPad in horizontal position. Sweet.

As a bonus I paste all of my articles to Simplenote to be able to access them quickly with Simplenote's ultra-fast search.

Bonus - Scrivener

I'm currently exploring some ideas for books and have drafts for three books in Scrivener on my Mac. Thanks to suggestions from Augusto Pinaud I've managed to sync my Scrivener drafts with Dropbox and Nebulous to be able to edit them on the go with my iPad.

iPad is a pretty slick writer's machine

I'd say that after a few experiments iPad can be a pretty powerful writer's machine. It's focused interface, relatively big screen and full-screen apps... together with a good keyboard make it a very light and very portable writer's studio. Here's to me finishing at least one of the drafts and finally shipping my first ever full-blown book to you :-)

Have you ever tried writing on the iPad? What's your setup?

P.S. Here's one of the guys who wrote an entire book on the iPad without an external keyboard:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Part 1 - the Clouds - iPad as my main computer

Today is my first day of working entirely on the iPad. As I mentioned in my last blog post over the course of the next weeks I will try to make this very iPad my only computer, actually spending 80%+ of my time working on the iPad. The last two days I've been setting it up and made a few discoveries... about the clouds and the significant part they'll play in my "iPad only" journey. Here we go:

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Life in the cloud... and there are more clouds than we think

Lots of companies are talking about moving to the cloud and how it can be accomplished and there are many "cloud" services out there... and what I have found out is that in order for my ipad experiment to work I really need to use several cloud services and balance between storing data in the cloud and locally on my iPad. Luckily I have 64GB of storage so plenty to go by... but I need to go away from just storing everything here. It's not possible... and it's stupid. iPad is a post-PC device and needs a different approach. And it's very exciting :-)

7 Clouds to rule them all

Over the last few days I've been playing with different apps and setups and found out that there will be at least 7 cloud services involved in my iPad only setup, here they are in order of importance:

Cloud #1 - the iCloud for settings and some files

The default iCloud is of course the basis of my post-PC iPad - my contacts, calendars and other Apple-relevant stuff is synced via iCloud. Many apps (like "Day One" for journal) also sync via iCloud. We are using a common iCloud account with my wife to sync our contacts and calendar as well as our particular iCloud accounts for our personal needs. I'll talk about this setup sometime in the future. Oh, and my iPad will sync today for the first time with the iCloud. Exciting.

Cloud #2 - Dropbox for most of the files

Most of my "normal" files are synced via Dropbox - I'm a premium member but have found out that with about 10Gig of space I'm pretty much covered for most of my file storage. Many apps sync with Dropbox (like 1Password) which is great and helps me stay in sync with my home PC if I need to. Dropbox apart from the iCloud is the second storage space I will use a lot on my iPad.

Cloud #3 - Evernote for media-rich notes and stuff

I'm a big Evernote fan and I've been using them for three years now. That's why it was so important to me that Evernote synced with my Nozbe project management app. Thanks to Evernote I'm not "producing" so many files anymore (hence no need for a very big Dropbox) - I dump many things to Evernote, my sketches, scans, documents, I clip articles I find interesting thanks to the Reeder integration... basically I treat Evernote as my second brain. The cool thing is that Evernote does OCR of images and makes them searchable thus making it my ultimate "dump service" for media-rich notes.

Cloud #4 - Kindle for eBooks and... PDFs

As I prefer audiobooks, I tend to directly use Audible app on my iPhone, but some books are not available in audio so I use Kindle... and recently I discovered that Kindle gives you 5GIG of storage for PDFs... and as a Productive! Magazine editor I get lots of PDFs to read. I used to keep some of these in Dropbox and others in Evernote... now I've removed them from both and sent everything to my free.kindle.com email address. Now I can read them in Kindle on my iPad and it remebers my last-read position... and it's a real joy to use. Great iPad-friendly discovery.

Cloud #5 - Simplenote for text-only notes

I write this blog post in SimpleNote. I've been using Notational Velocity on my Mac (NValt fork by Brett) and it syncs beautifully with Simplenote on my iPad. This serivce is far superior to Evernote for simple text-only notes. The search is instant and saving to the cloud as I type. Syncs with NValt on my Mac and has full-page writing mode. As I write very often (blog posts, articles, esseys) this one is a killer writer's cloud for me :-)

Cloud #6 - Nozbe for tasks

Of course I use Nozbe on the iPad for task and project management. I the iPad app designed by Macoscope guys as well as plain-easy Nozbe web interface. We are currently tweaking the Nozbe desktop interface to use it for the iPad as a web app - this will soon be available with more iPad-friendly look and feel. Now that I've moved to the iPad my team is working overtime to make it happen. Thanks to Nozbe we (team of 12) communicate through tasks and hardly send emails to one another. Nozbe syncs with my desktop on my Mac (we just released our Mac and PC app) as well as my iPhone.

Cloud #7 - Google for Mail, Docs and Calendars

Although I don't like where "getting evil" Google is going, I still can't replace my Gmail account as well as Docs for collaborative writing and Calendars for collaborative scheduling. I've set up my Gmail account in my Mail.app as well as the dedicated HTML5 Gmail app. I'm actually paying Google for more space there.

7 Clouds to manage them, one iPad to bind them

These are so far my most important "cloud" services and I'm happy I finally got around to re-designing my computer setup. The iPad only experiment made me re-think the way I work and I love the results so far. No longer is my PC my "central hub" the 7 Clouds are and they compliment my iPad beautifully. The major difference between the iPad and say a "chromebook" is that lots of stuff is still happening locally on my iPad, I can work offline most of the time... and when I connect the stuff syncs right away (although I do have 4G model so I'm very rarely offline).

Do you use "Clouds"? How does your setup look like? Did I miss anything?

Stay tuned for the next episode of my "iPad only" journey by following me on Twitter and subscribing to my blog. Thanks!