Tag: mac

Laptop Bag Round-up: 15″ Edition

After multiple weeks of going into work on Saturdays and/or Sundays in an effort to catch-up on work, I finally broke down and requested a laptop for work. I’m giving up my trusty, giantess iMac 27″ that I’ve been using. I’ll miss the luxury of acres of screen real estate, but I’m hoping to reclaim a little bit more time at home.

Having a work laptop means seeking out a new carry-all bag that could fit a large 15″ MacBook Pro when needed. Thanks to the a shoutout on Twitter last week, I got lots of recommendations. If you’ve ever in the market for a laptop bag, I thought I’d share some of the recommendations I received. Many were recommended more than once, often with caveats of having withstood years of use and abuse and traveled hundred or thousands of miles. I was so glad to see that folks were so satisfied with their bags —  from so many different bags.


In no particular order:

  1. Cocoon SLIM Backpack with GRid IT Organization System $89.99 (via Cocoon)
  2. The Maker’s Bag which holds a 13″ laptop $130 (via Tom Bihn)
  3. Cote & Ciel Seine Bowler also only holds a 13″ laptop $195 (via Cote & Ciel)
  4. Waterfield Vitesse Messenger bag from $159 (via sfbags.com)
  5. The Cadet $160 (via Tom Bihn)
  6. Inateck Carrying Case $19.99 (via Amazon)
  7. Cote & Ciel Moselle Backpack only holds 13″ laptop $195 (via Cote & Ciel)
  8. Uptown Laptop TSA-Friendly Backpack 2015 $119 (via Timbuk2)

I absolutely loved how unique and interesting the Cote & Ciel bags looked but the ones I liked the best were too small for the behemoth laptop sadly. And many of the bags large enough to truly hold a 15″ laptop for me were just too big (I’m only 5’4″) or too business-y looking for days when I might not need to schlep the laptop around. In the end, I had a nice chat with the folks at Tom Bihn who assured me that I could squash a 15″ laptop into The Maker’s Bag though it is not recommended. I just need to get it from the office to my car to my house and back — and usually just on the weekends so I’m willing to take my chances. (Just don’t tell my IT dept I said that!). So I placed my order this morning, before I hopped on a plane for SF. I also ordered their tool/pen wrap which can double as a DPN keeper (the knitters will know what that is!). How cool is that? So I think I’ll have a great EDC and can cram the behemoth laptop in when I need to.

Should I need to transport my laptop for a business trip I have an enormous Timbuk2 backpack that I bought for a trip to China a few years back that’s so big I could use it as a sleeping bag in a pinch.

Big shout out to everyone on Twitter who helped me on my hunt: Arman, Lee, Tindra, Ray, Calligraphy Nut, A Better Desk, Carmina, Dave, Jojo, Sandra, Ken, Brad and Daniel and even the folks at Tom Bihn!

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?

Still Searching for a Google Reader Replacement

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 7.28.56 AM

There’s only a couple of weeks left before Google turns off Reader for good and I’ve yet to make a decision about what service I will use as a replacement. There is a site listing the most popular alternatives as mentioned by hashtag on Twitter called ReplaceReader.

Feedly is topping the list at present but I am still on the fence about it. I set it up but I found the interface a little too “jazzy”. I don’t want my RSS to recommend other content, allow my “friends” to see what I’m reading or any other social integration. Am I the only one who is a total curmudgeon about this?

Feedbin seems popular but because its a paid service entirely, I don’t think very many people have experimented with it yet. I love Reeder for Mac and iPad so I’m leaning towards Feedbin as they are promising integration but, at present, they have only updated the iPhone app which is the one place I don’t usually attempt to read RSS.

I’ve also tried The Old Reader and Blog Lovin’ but did not favor either. While The Old Reader is free, I suspect there will not be a lot of mobile app support for it. And Blog Lovin’… let’s just say I feel a little old to be hanging out in that crowd.

Have you found a replacement for Reader or have you moved away from RSS altogether and found another system for keeping up with your favorite sites?

App Love: PicFrame

PicFrame for iOS

I thought I would share a favorite app today. I discovered PicFrame for iOS awhile back which is a great way to do a grid of photos to post on Instagram, Flickr or Facebook. The app costs $0.99 and works on iPhone or iPad. Its quite flexible with an assortment of grids to choose from and then you can pull the frames to reshape them as needed. You can round corners, add filters and change the width and color or pattern of the borders too. The iOS app also includes the ability to add labels — there are default looks or you can get in there and choose font, font color and label color. Its a pretty powerful app for under a $1.

PicFrame for Mac

What I like even better is the Mac version of the app that let’s you drag a photo from iPhoto, right into a frame and then export at various sizes for blogs, Flickr, Facebook, etc. The Mac app is also $0.99. There are no image editing options or labels in the desktop version of the app. Since you can import photos from iPhoto or other image editing software, you won’t need the image editing features but I do wish they’d add the labels to the Mac version.

tompkins haul

This is a PicFrame collage I made with the desktop version of the app. I used the default borders and the photos were straight from my iPhone via iPhoto. The images are some of the goodies my friends bought while traveling in Japan. I must go office supply foraging there SOON!

Damn You, Art School and Procreate (it’ll make sense when you read the whole article)

Damn You Art School

Damn You, Art School is a web site organized by art school disciplines like architecture, fashion, illustration and others that will give you a list of recommended digital tools for a given discipline. The recommendations range from note-taking and sketching apps to business management tools like faxing and time accounting (in the Illustration tab). There are lots of good recommendations for people in all sorts of professional fields or to help you plan out your next creative project. Snoop around, you may find a tool or app you didn’t know you’d need. I do notice a notable absence of the best tools for all creatives: paper and pencil.

Procreate screenshot

Oh, and on the topic of digital tools you didn’t know you needed, I wholeheartedly endorse a drawing app for the iPad called Procreate ($4.99 from the iTunes app store). Even if you do not consider yourself artistically inclined, this app may change your mind. The brush tools are the most realistic I’ve used since the Mac app Painter and there are additional brush sets available for purchase ($0.99 per set and most are totally worth the upgrade). This app is incredibly powerful and includes layers which can have different blending modes and transparency, easy to use undo options, you can rotate the canvas and so much more. There is a whole community of users that share new brushes and techniques. File can be exported to a PSD file and the layers remain intact. I’ve been using the app to create original wallpaper for my iPad. I’ve been watching a lot of Dr. Who lately so I painted a personal nebula. Not as awe-inspiring as the sample images included with the app but I made them with my finger and a few spare minutes. I’m so proud of my wallpaper, you can download it and use it too on your favorite mobile device.

Procreate download file
Click image to access attachment. Then save it to you computer.

Favorite Tools of 2012

Top 10 Favorites Part 1Top 10 Favorites Part 2

I’ve reviewed, purchased and drooled over hundreds of products in 2012 so I thought I’d share with you my favorites of the year, in no specific order:

  1. Tie for Favorite Fountain Pen: Kaweco Guilloch 1930 EF Fountain Pen
  2. Tie for Favorite Fountain Pen: TWSBI Diamond 540 EF Demonstrator
  3. Favorite Highlighter: Pilot Preppy Highlighter
  4. Favorite Lefty-centric Tool:  Lefty Sharpener
  5. Favorite Notebook: Quo Vadis Habana Notebook
  6. Most Useful Tools: Gel Multi-Pens (UniBall Style Fit, Zebra Sarasa Pre-Fill, Pilot Hi-Tec C Coleto Me)
  7. Biggest Surprise: UniBall Jetstream Ballpoint Pens (Jetstream F*Series Multi-Pen and the 0.5 Ash Green
  8. Best Mac Utility: Alfred App
  9. Favorite Ink: Scribal Workshop Cryptid series, especially Nessie and Leviathan
  10. Favorite Vintage Find: Arrow Plier-Style Hand Stapler

There are a few items I love but never got a review posted and a few things I’ve wanted to try but haven’t gotten yet so there will be more to love in 2013, I’m sure!

What are the best tools you found this year?

Clear-ly, A Digital To-Do List

RealMac has created a desktop and iOS to-do list app called Clear that is simple and easy to use. I have tried just about every to-do app I can find and this one seems simple and not too annoying. I have had a couple to-do apps I had to delete because I couldn’t get them to stop yelling at me.This app never seems to yell or alert so you’ll have to open the app to see your list.

I downloaded the iOS version and it works really well. The quick tutorial makes most of the gestures intuitive before you know it. The only difficulty I had was squeezing a list closed to reveal the group list view if a list only had two items in it. If you intend to just use one big laundry list, then there should be no issues. Its very quick and easy to add, move, delete or check-off items. If you need timed alerts or repeating alerts you’ll need to use a different app.

The NORAD color view is nice: things at the top of the list are marked in red and then they fade to orange and yellow but it doesn’t seem to ever fade to green or blue. I guess its always at a  state of alert.

It appears that by using iCloud you can sync lists between the desktop Clear app and your iOS device. At $9.99 for the desktop app though, I am a bit hesitant.

Currently, I use SimpleNote on my iOS devices with Notational Velocity on my laptop which is a free list/text solution but slightly limited. A full “premium” version of SimpleNote is $19.99/year. SimpleNote and Notational Velocity act as more of a text receptacle than a list-maker and I would say the same thing about Evernote as well. Clear is definitely a DO THIS task list-maker rather than a great big catch-all.

The iOS version of Clear is $1.99 and the desktop app is $9.99.