Tag: apple

Digital Life: Evernote Alternatives

Evernote Plans

There have been lots of articles floating around the internet this week following the announcement that Evernote was changing its policies regarding how it was handling its accounts. Now, if you want to use the service on more than two devices, you must pay for their premium service to the tune of $34.99/year for their Plus account or $69.99/year for their Premium account though their are offering the Premium account for a year at half price to entice folk over to the paid service.

I’m not exactly a “power-user” of Evernote but I like being able to access notes across multiple devices (iOS, web and home computer) so I think I’ll try to find a different solution sadly. Or maybe a couple different solutions. Sadly, my work computer does not allow me to install any applications so whatever options I choose need to have a web interface.

I have collected some recipes in Evernote over the years but mostly I have various snippets, half-baked ideas, some lists and idea starters and an assortment of links stored in Evernote. I don’t usually use it like a paper notebook, it tends to be things that are copied and pasted from a digital source to a digital source, like URLs or in preparation to be digital content.

Google Keep

I had several folks recommend Google Keep as an option which offers a web based interface as well as an iOS (and Android of course). It has a very “sticky note” aesthetic and allows for checkbox lists, image embeds and categorization labeling. It ends up looking like a tidy wall of sticky notes and has tagging. There is a plug-in for Chrome to automatically add content to Keep from a web site and options to move content from Keep to Google Docs so if you are already entrenched in the Google camp, this might be a good candidate for you.

OneNote

Microsoft OneNote is another candidate though I cringe at the idea of utilizing another Microsoft product. I’ve already adopted Outlook on my iPhone as a legitimate alternative to Apple’s kludgey Mail app which neither filters junk mail nor handles Gmail with any sort of efficiency so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Microsoft is quietly creeping in with alternatives that might actually be useful. It works across just about every possible platform and looks to be designed to integrate seamlessly with Office products, though for me that’s not as big a selling feature.

Another solution might be to use Apple’s Notes app which is available across the iPhone, iPad and the desktop. Of course, this only works if you’re fully invested in the Apple ecosystem. I am fully invested in the Apple ecosystem but I’m not sure I can take advantage of it at work because I cannot connect the work station to my Apple ID so I can only access it via the iCloud interface via a web browser which does not allow the addition of images as anything other than links. There is minimal formatting options on the web version.

SimpleNote

The last option I’m considering is Simple Note. I’ve already been using it to a certain extent in combination with an older version of Notational Velocity (NVAlt) which will sync to Simple Note on my iPhone and the web. Notational Velocity hasn’t been upgraded in years and NVAlt has also been left to languish for some time so the default Simple Note apps and web interface are your safest bet. The biggest downside for Simple Note is the absence of any support for images. SimpleNote does support Markdown and tagging which is nice. But its still a pretty stripped down option in comparison to all the bells-and-whistles with Evernote.

With all of this research, I’ve determined that the bottom line is that I no longer want to have multiple places where my data detritus is saved. Evernote’s ultimatum is forcing me to set aside some time to merge and purge data and files and get them all in one place and then choose one system to use to its fullest extent.

Are you an Evernote user presently? Are you sticking with the service or jumping ship? If you’re leaving Evernote have you chosen a new service yet?

Analog Products/Digital App Makers Round-up

I’ve noticed a lot of analog tool makers are also making apps. I thought I might take a look at a few of them and see if any of them might of use with or in combination with your favorite analog tools.

moleskine app icons

Moleskine:

Moleskine offers several apps at the moment, the latest being the Moleskine Timepage Calendar for iCloud, Google Calendar and more (iPhone and Apple Watch). Its a paid app that claims to be revolutionary. It looks like a clean, simple calendar app that is designed to integrate seamlessly with existing calendar tools like iCloud, Exchange and many others. It is a $4.99 paid app so I’ve just downloaded it to give it a try. I have been using Fantastical for years on my phone without complaints so I’m trying the Timepage as an experiment. The app has beautiful typography and a very simple design. The default view is the week-at-a-glance and if I swipe to the left I get a monthly calendar view with each of the days with activities highlighted with “heat circles” indicating activities from various calendars – i.e. work, personal, birthdays, holidays, etc. The method to build individual events in the app are a little different than other apps like the default Calendar app or Fantastical but I quickly figured it out. It is actually pretty elegant and uses a built-in weather app and a lot of natural language elements that make it feel very friendly. My work meetings are all scheduled through digital calendars and I don’t always get them moved to my paper planner so having an aesthetically appealing interface to view these makes having work meetings a little less painful. If you haven’t invested in a calendar app beyond the default app that ships with your iPhone, the Moleskine Timepage is actually a lot nicer than I thought it would be.

Moleskine also offers their digital Moleskine Journal app (free with in-app purchases for iPhone and iPad) and a Moleskine/Creative Cloud connected app to work the Moleskine and Adobe Creative Cloud notebook (iPhone only). The Moleskine/Creative Cloud Connected App has only one very lackluster review. The notebook was designed to work for Adobe creative products like the Evernote/Moleskine notebooks work with the Evernote app system though it appears most folks aren’t using the Adobe or reviewing the Adobe Creative Cloud version.

There’s a Moleskine Photo Books app for the iPad (free) to help build a photo book through their service. Again, there are very few reviews and I don’t know anyone who’s actually used Moleskine’s photo books as an option so I don’t know about the print quality. But if you’re feeling brave, please let us know if you like the app and the quality of the photos you receive.

Baron Fig app icons

Baron Fig:

Baron Fig has released two digital products to compliment its analog tools: Spark and Mosaic.

Spark ($0.99 + in-app purchases) is an iPhone and Apple Watch-enabled set of creativity prompts. The reviews look positive as quick flashes of ideas to help stir thinking and mindfulness. Think of it as your digital page-a-day calendar with better typography.

Mosaic ($1.99) is Baron Fig’s answer to a digital notebook. While I prefer to write my notes on paper, there are moments when I just don’t have a paper and pen with me but I do have my phone and the Mosaic app lets me capture those little tidbits so I can transpose them later. I do wish there was a way to export projects or share them but they are sort of trapped in the the Mosaic app. Its good for to-do lists and quick reminder notes though.

Exaclair App icons

Exaclair (AKA Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Quo Vadis):

LifeNoted (free + in-app upgrade $1.99 for full version) is a calendaring, journaling and to-do app all rolled up into one. You can add photos and videos as well plus tagging. While it looks like it keeps it all the appointments and to-dos together, I don’t find it to be the most aesthetically appealing app. But if you’re juggling professional, personal, home and family commitments, this might help balance it all. There’s more information available about the app at Life Noted.

ME Journal is the app interface for the Quo Vadis Habana ME (Multimedia Enhanced) Journal. The app is available for iPhone and iPad. I wrote a review last fall about my experience with the ME Journal.

Do you know of any other analog companies that are dipping their toes into the digital world? Or vice versa? Let me know if I missed anyone.I live in both the analog and digital worlds so I won’t say I don’t appreciate efforts to make my digital world as pleasing as my analog world but I do still have some reservations about it. How about you?

What I did today and what’s in my bag

What's in my bag: iphone 6

Today didn’t really go according to plan. I had planned to spend all day working on the blog, prepping for the Thanksgiving week. However, a couple errands took us out of the house, which lead to the AT&T store, and we  finally upgraded our phones and VOILA! I am now the proud owner of a new iPhone 6. In gold, if you can believe it. Surprisingly, the gold color is quite pale and not nearly as bling-y as I thought it would be.

iphone 6 and Pentel i+ pen

I picked out a ridiculously girly, floral hardshell case for my new treasure, a Lenntek Sonix Inlay case with a Rifle Paper Co. floral design which just happens to match the new Pentel i+ 3 multi-pen I got. It all matched nicely with my EDC bag, a pink Coach leather clutch, my Pantone lime business card case and my Miro pocket notebook with pink edge painting.

iphone 6 and Pentel i+ pen

Lots of people have reviewed and re-reviewed the new iPhone 6 so I’ll spare you suffering any additional commentary. Suffice it to say, its not uncomfortably large, even with my munchkin hands, and its nice to have a bigger drive, faster service, better camera and better battery life. So its all good. And damned girly.

What’s on my Desk(top)?

apps on my desktop

Strangely, for a fan of all things paper-and-pen/cil, I’ve been thinking a lot about my digital tools recently. I’ve been fiddling with which music player is best for me, what task manager can get me off the panic precipice as well as all the other digital tools I need to stay organized and productive like text input, calendar management and getting all this stuff to synchronize together.

I can’t be the only one who worries about the best way to stay on top of everything, can I? The to-do lists, grocery lists, ideas for blog posts, things to read now, things to share, things to read later, work projects, events in my life and everything else?

A lot of this fussing has come as a result of upgrading to Yosemite (OS X 10.10). Many of my standby tools required upgrading and some fell by the wayside. Other issues had never been thoroughly dealt with in the past so I used the growing pains of Yosemite as my chance to re-evaluate my whole digital tool library.

The first aspect to my organization is that I work on Mac and Apple products exclusively. I have an iMac 27″ at work (behind a big SERIOUS firewall), a personal 13″ MacBook Pro, an iPad Mini (the original incarnation, no retina, no data) and an iPhone 4s (seriously needing to be updated). As a result of my office firewall and absence of wi-fi for my iPad at work, I need most of my tools to be accessible without installing an app or feature a browser-accessible interface.

Music Player:

Luckily, most music players and streaming music tools are now accessible via web interface so I’ve been able to test and play with Spotify, Rdio and Pandora. The first one I ever tried was Rdio and I’ve built a lot of playlists on it. I abandoned it when everyone went to Spotify and played with that for awhile and finally went to Pandora for the ability to say, “I like English Beat. Play stuff like that,” without having to build all the playlists myself. But in the end, there was just as much work involved in grooming Pandora to my tastes that I might as well have built my own playlist.

So, I’ve come full circle and gone back to Rdio. The web interface is vastly improved over the last few years and includes a free streaming option (with ads) as well as paid subscriptions that allows users to download content to a mobile device. If you don’t pay for the premium subscription, the only mobile option is a “radio” option. The radio option let’s you select a song and the app builds a playlist based on it. I think Spotify free works the same way.

Podcast App:

Overcast has become my go-to for podcast listening. For me, the web interface means I can tether myself to my desk at work and access my podcasts without using up my mobile phone data plan. Sure, I don’t get the benefits of some of the iPhone app features (like speeding up the podcast or skipping pausese) but I can easily bounce back and forth from my phone at home to the browser at work and stay current.

Task Manager:

I’ve tried to keep daily lists on paper using a modification of the Bullet Journal system which is fine for personal projects and home stuff but work projects needed a digital option that would allow me to copy and paste text and rearrange and update a lot. I tried both Todoist and Wunderlist and have bounced back and forth, depending on the types of projects I’ve been working on. This week, I decided I needed to embrace ONE and make it work. So I chose Wunderlist because the Todoist site locked up on me and I could not use the web interface. Wunderlist provides web interface through a browser and a mac desktop app as well as iPad and iPhone versions. In other words, I can have all my lists wherever I am. I can add sub-lists and images to each “task” which, in my case, is a card collection or individual card design. I can snap a pic of the sketch to store with the task item. I don’t know why I didn’t figure this system out ages ago. Now I wish I could copy multiple sub-tasks from one task to the other because every card I do has to pass through the same series of tasks. Sometimes there’s additional task but it would be so helpful.

Photo Editing and Management:

I was one of those suckers who bought Aperture as my go-to photo editing and cataloging. So, with Apple’s announcement that they’ll no longer be supporting the app, I had to switch to Adobe Lightroom CC. Its been a slow process. It took about 8 hours to migrate my Aperture library to Lightroom. I can see why it is the preferred application. Even after just an hour using it, I think my photos look better and the interface is intuitively Adobe.

If photos need more manipulation, I use Adobe Photoshop CC. The weekly Fashionable Friday is built entirely in Photoshop and I design logos, icons and the like in Illustrator CC.

Text Input:

I still use paper for most list-making and taking notes in meetings. I need some excuse to use up all those notebooks and inks I buy. When I have to write on the computer, either to prepare blog posts, work documentation or brain musings, I still have a gap.

I’ve heard lots of recommendations for DayOne as a place to dump ideas but I’m not sure how easy it is to access individual pieces and how much formatting it allows.

I’m taking recommendations now!

Calendar Management:

I still use iCal (or whatever Apple is calling it these days). I use Fanstastical on my iPhone which makes adding events on the go super easy. Wunderlist automatically adds tasks to a special calendar on iCal and provide alerts to keep me on task as well so that all my calendar activites sync. Sadly, my work calendar is the cheese that stand alone. My company uses Outlook and the calendar cannot be linked or synced to my iCal for whatever reason. So I have to manually add events. If anyone has a workaround for syncing Outlook to iCal let me know.

Other tools:

I use 1Password to keep all my passwords sorted. I use Suitcase Fusion to keep my massive font collection together. I build some of my photo collages with PicFrame (like the one at the top of this post). I live and die at the hands of Alfred who helps me find my apps, my files, helps me add, spell and even defines words for me in a pinch. I use Firefox almost exclusively for web browsing and have plugins for some of my favorite utilities like Pinterest, Evernote, Twitbin, 1Password and Wunderlist. Most of my email is now managed by Gmail.

Do you use any of these tools to keep organized? Have any recommendations for me?

Curious iApp Discoveries

my iPhone home page

I started this post because I found some unusual iPhone apps recently but then I got to thinking about it and decided maybe folks would like to see some of the apps I use regularly as well. So, here are the highlights of the apps I use almost daily as well as some funky little tidbits I’ve found recently. (The screenshot is my home page as of this morning, truth.)

  • Dots: Dots is a beautiful time-waster game in chunks of 30 seconds. Its free and its addictive. You’ve been warned.
  • Device 6: This looks like a game made for me. Its a thriller/puzzle/mystery game wrapped in beautiful design and a mysterious man in a hat. I just got an iTunes gift card so I’ll be downloading this ASAP. $3.99
  • Connor: Connor NYC is a high-end bespoke stationery company that produced an iPad app to create e-stationery
  • Squarespace apps: I’m familiar with Squarespace as a blog/commerce/website venue but did not know that they offer several apps to create on-the-go notes, portfolio viewer from content on their Squarespace site and a sleek site controller. Squarespace Note app does not require an account and its free.
  • Dictionary.com: I love the Word of The Day feature and being able to look up words on the go. Free.
  • Gmail: I have tried lots of email apps for the iPhone including Sparrow and the default Apple Mail app and I am stuck on Gmail. The new divided tabs that separate updates from social from pormotions and your actual email is genius. It saves me tons of time and lets me see my mail from all the spam, newsletters and miscellany. Genius.
  • Cardstar: This app has the ugliest icon ever and it makes me cringe when I look at it but it is the wallet-lightening joy of an app. It will scan the bar codes off all those frequent shopper cards, hotel/airline points accounts, etc and store them in your iPhone complete with the scanner-readable bar code. Other apps have better icons but THIS one works. And its FREE.
  • Fantastical: Why do I need another calendar app? Because Fantastical lets me type “Meet with Stephanie at 3pm today” and voila! It places a meeting in the right time without having to remember that today is the 15th. I thought it would be more cumbersome to type out a whole sentence to schedule a meeting but its not. I like it so much, I just paid $2.99 to upgrade to the new iOS 7 version.

Other apps I use all the time are Tweetbot, WordPress, IFTTT, USPS Mobile, Delivery Status, Wake, Riposte and Evernote. I’ve tried lots of photo editing apps and use AfterLight most often. What are your favorites?

Plugging the Firm: Soundpic

I’ve been implying to folks that I’ve been working on a “secret project” at work. Well, its not so secret anymore. Its a little app called Soundpic that turns your video into a still image and a sound clip in one neat package.

Not only was I actively involved in the design of the user interface, I designed the logo, art directed the promo video and even let them use my largely-unused Facebook page for the video! I am amazed what we could do with just a handful of people and some wishful thinking.

We’ve been running around looking for cool sounds to capture with our images: from rustling leaves to steaks on the grill. I’m still on the hunt for one of those old school sprinklers to add to my “summer sounds” collection.

Soundpic is available on the Apple iTunes store for iPhone. And its free. If you like the app, please let me know or leave feedback on the app store. Thanks!

Macally iPad Mini Cover/Case in Avocado (of course!)

Macally iPad Mini cover

Do you know how challenging it can be to find just the right iPad Mini cover/case? Let’s just say I’ve been looking for awhile. Fnally, I found one that met all my criteria which really… was I asking for so much?

What I wanted:

  • slim line case that could be used to prop iPad Mini up in a position comfortable to type or to view video
  • not to be black or bubblegum pink (not too stodgy, not too tweeny)
  • it would be nice if it had the magnetic on/off but that wouldn’t be a make or break

Macally iPad Mini cover

Well, hello Macally Case in avocado green!

It took some pretty extensive searching to find this case which is a bit of a story onto itself. I decided that I would rather shop locally than making a purchase from an online retailer just because I wanted to be able to touch the cases, feel the materials and the build quality and see the actual colors. So I went to a local computer supply shop with an Apple section that I knew to carry a large selection of accessories. I found this lovely green case for $49 as well as an identical model in a soft orchid lavender for $39. No difference in the specs at all except the price. So I asked the clerk to check on the price and see if there was some reason one case (the one I wanted) was $10 more. The hugely unhelpful and color-prejudice clerk said, “Its probably because the green is a better color”. Really? That’s your idea of customer service? He would neither offer a price match or get a manager who might be able to adjust the price. I was so furious at the lack of care that I walked away, scanned the bar code on the package with the Amazon app, found it for the $30-ish price listed and hit 1-Click purchase. I would have gladly paid the slightly higher $39 price point in the store if someone had been willing to price match their own flipping products!

Macally iPad Mini cover

Now, back to the review.

The cover is a textured PU on the exterior, with a black interior. The cover has a magnetic lock auto on/off and places on the cover where it easily folds. Inside is a matching avocado green plastic case that the iPad Mini snaps into for extra protection. The case does not block any of the screen and is quite discreet.

Macally iPad Mini cover

Macally iPad Mini cover

To get the iPad Mini to stand tall, the cover needs to be folded inwards and tucked into the tab on the back cover. This makes the whole cover very stable and unlikely to slide or tip over.

Macally iPad Mini cover

The big surprise is that there is a hinge built into the plastic case and the back cover that allows the iPad Mini to rotate into portrait mode while still being able to utilize the cover. It can be used in the low profile propping-up like this as well, perfect for blog reading.

There is a hole cut out in the back cover to allow the camera lens to peek out but if the case is not aligned perfectly with the cover, it can block the camera lens. Being able to rotate the iPad case allows the camera an unhampered angle if you do use the camera on your iPad often.

All-in-all I am quite pleased with this case. It did not increase the weight or bulk of the iPad Mini too much, the color is fabulous and its very functional. Do I wish it was made of more luxurious materials? Sure, but since I was fussing about a $10 price difference, I don’t think I would have been willing to pay for much more luxury.