iPad

Spending Time with iPadOS 13

I have been running the beta of iPadOS 13 for almost a month now. iPadOS 13 ships this fall and is the first version of iOS that Apple is branding iPadOS because of its focus on features unique to the iPad. At first you might think this to mean that Apple is adding ‘desktop’ features to the iPad, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that the iPad is in many respects growing into a platform with its own unique set of strengths. Here are my favorite features so far.

New Home Sceen!

The first thing I really love is the new home screen. You can fit way more apps on it now, and they stay oriented the same way in both landscape and portrait because it is a 6x5 grid in either orientation. This wastes way less space on the screen and allows you to cram a lot more apps into a smaller space for extra productivity!

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Also useful is that you can pin your widgets to the left of your apps. I can now see my OmniFocus tasks, upcoming calendar events, recently accessed Files, and notes, every time I return to the home screen. For OmniFocus, I have it showing my Priority perspective, which shows all due items, soon to be due items, and flagged items that are tagged ‘Today.’ This is one more tool to help make sure I don’t let stuff slip through the cracks. The same could be said of the Calendar widget. Having the Files app display recently opened files on the home screen sure does feel a lot like being able to treat the home screen the same way I do my Desktop on the Mac.

desktop safari

The thing that is surprising me the most is how much the new Safari update transforms the way I use my iPad. Safari now runs like the desktop version. This means that websites operate as you would expect them to on the Mac. No more taking out your MacBook for those few websites that just never quite worked right on iOS. For me this is going to change the way I use a lot of my school district’s mandated learning management software, which would often not work correctly, or as reliably, on my iPad.

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But what is really great is that I can now access the full versions of Google Docs and Squarespace from my iPad. Google’s apps on the App Store are still a little nicer, but they have never had the full feature set of the web apps, and now this is nearly a non-issue. Apple and Google need to find out some way to better let users choose if a document opens in Safari or Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, but I expect that to be eventually ironed out.

Even more exciting is that I can finally use the full toolset of Squarespace to update my website on the iPad (just one of the few things that would keep me taking my Mac out of my bag). So far, Apple has already done a nice job with these features, and they are not even ready for public release yet. There are some issues and unexpected behaviors, but not nearly as much as I expected. Desktop Safari has turned out to be the biggest productivity boost of all the new features. And did I mention there is now a download manager!?

multitasking and pencilkit

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There are also some improvements to multitasking. Notice above that I am using two apps open side by side with another one floating in what Apple calls Slide Over view. iOS 13 now adds the ability to manage multiple different apps in Slide Over at once. The implementation is great. It works like multitasking on an iPhone X or higher. You can swipe the little handle on the bottom of the app left and right to page through recent apps, and you can swipe it up and to the right to see all recently opened Slide Over apps. This makes it much easier for me to manage the few apps I am using often in this mode: apps like Tonal Energy Tuner, Messages, and Twitter.

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I now also appreciate that you can have more than one instance of the same app open at the same time. Notice above that I am viewing two notes side by side. When I mentioned that iPadOS is growing into its own specific identity, the pencil tools on the right side of the screen are what I was thinking about. They have been brilliantly updated. And Apple is releasing them for use by third party developers in an API called PencilKit. Here’s to hoping that it is widely implemented so that using the Apple Pencil feels more consistent across apps.

See below also. Swiping from the lower left of the screen with the Apple Pencil allows your to quickly mark up whatever you are looking at. And if you are in Safari, you can now clip an entire website, not just what fits into the screenshot. You can highlight, annotate right from this screen and then send it somewhere like Apple Notes where you can search the article by text.

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For me it is becoming clear that PencilKit is a feature that is going to widely shape and define the iPad as a particular tool for certain jobs that a Mac or an iPhone is not as useful for. Apple is bridging the gap a little by introducing a feature for the Mac called Sidecar, where you will be able to send windows of Mac apps to the iPad to be able to take advantage of the same pencil precision editing tools.

Conclusion

Overall, iPad OS is shaping up to be an awesome release. I didn’t even mention half the features here. And even some of the ones I am most excited about will not reach their fullest potential until third party apps take advantage of them (like PencilKit) or until more people are on iOS 13 (like iCloud shared folders). If you are an iPad user you have a lot to look forward to this fall. If you want to try the beta, you can go here. It is pretty risky though, and I am admittedly very unwise for doing it.

iOS apps I would love to see come to the Mac, a musician’s perspective

There has been a lot of buzz lately around ‘Marzipan,’ a set of developer tools that Apple is making to help third party developers more easily port their iOS apps to macOS. It is heavily rumored that Apple will detail this initiative at their developer conference, WWDC, this June (during the keynote on June 3rd).

Last year at WWDC, Apple unveiled four Mac apps that use this new set of tools to bring iPad-like versions of iOS apps to the Mac. The apps launched were Home, Stocks, Voice Memos, and News. The apps have been met with much criticism for their lack of Mac-likeness. For example, when you double click a news article in the News app, you can't see an article in a separate window, a behavior you would expect from the Mail app or Notes app on Mac. Likewise, the Home app, when setting up a time based automation displays they iOS style date picker, with scrollable numbers, rather than the calendar like interface that you would see when selecting a date in traditional Mac apps.

I agree that these four Mac apps are garbage, but I would much rather have the utility of them than not. Even if all these Mac apps do are act like iPad apps that accept input from a cursor instead of a finger, I would still kill to have any of the following on macOS:

-Tonal Energy Tuner. There are no tuning drone based apps, even on the web, that do 1/100th of what this iOS app does. My Mac is my primary device for sharing audio and visuals with my students during class. This would get used every single day.

-forScore. I have a weird way of managing my digital sheet music using the file system of my Mac, but then importing duplicate copies into my iPad’s forScore library. It would be really nice to have one place where this is all managed across all devices. Of course, this would require forScore to sync a library across devices, which the team has told me is too difficult a task to prioritize currently.

-Twitter. Twitter killed their Mac app recently and as someone who recently started using their app on iOS (Tweetbot is still far better but Twitter no longer provides the proper APIs for them to stay up to date on modern features), I would really prefer to not use the web browser on the Mac.

-Apollo. To my knowledge, there has never been a good Reddit client on any non-mobile device. Apollo is great.

-Facebook Messenger. I hate Facebook but it is a necessary communication tool. I would love to use it for that without going to their stupid website ever again.

-Overcast. My favorite podcast player. Would love to have it on Mac.

-Health. An app that excels in showing me data on graphs and charts sure would be useful on the big screen of a Mac.

-Due. My favorite reminder app is already on Mac but it looks gross.

-Instapaper. I use ReadKit on the Mac as an Instapaper client on Mac now, but would not mind something more minimal. Instapaper is the perfect candidate for a Marzipan app for its simplicity.

-Instagram. Who wouldn’t want this on Mac?

-Tempo. There is only one good metronome app on the Mac (Dr. Betotte). Opening up UIKit to Mac developers would bring a whole lot of competition in this space. Frozen Ape’s Tempo would be my first choice to get ported over.

-AnyList. Their Mac app is already just a gross port of their iOS app. Using Apple’s tools would surely make it prettier and more responsive.

-Ferrite Recording Studio. My podcast audio editor of choice is only on iPad. It sure would be cool to use these tools on a bigger screen with keyboard and mouse.

Road Trip!!! Off to the Tennessee Music Educators Association Conference!

 

I am pumped to be spending the next four days in Nashville to present at the Tennessee Music Educators Association Conference. I am presenting three sessions tomorrow, Friday, April 13th. One of these sessions is brand new and focused entirely on teaching intonation to student musicians with the support of the Tonal Energy tuning app. Scroll down for links to all of my session notes.

Road Trip!!!

My wife and I are making a road trip out of this event. In addition to eating and drinking our way through the city over the next few days, I am excited to be seeing old friends and new. Tomorrow night we will be seeing the Nashville Symphony Orchestra performing a program of Elgar, Mozart, and Bach. I will get to watch a friend of mine from grad school, Joshua Hickman (Principal Timpanist), performing with the ensemble.

I will also get to meet friend, Craig McClellan, in person for the first time. Craig has an awesome education/technology blog called The Class Nerd and has been a recent regular on my podcast. (Listen here and here).

Craig and I may or may not have a very special project we are cooking up for teachers later this year...

Session Notes

Here are the session notes for my three sessions. Check them out!!!

Going Paperless with iPad (April 13, 9 am)

Working with Digital Scores (April 13, 10 am)

Teaching Intonation with Tonal Energy (April 13, 3 pm)

New Tech! Using Square Register with Private Lessons 

I just purchased a new piece of tech I am looking forward to integrating into my private studio next school year.

I teach about 20-25 private students outside of the normal teaching day. As my number of private students increases, my ability to manage scheduling and payment is stretched. For the past ten years, I have strongly preferred checks for payment. I finally decided that I do enough transactions a year to rationalize the purchase of a Square Stand.

The Square Stand is a register that you can stick an iPad into and run Square’s Register app. I have repurposed an iPad Air to live permanently in the Stand.

Right when students walk in the from door, they are greeted with a Square Register which they can use to swipe their credit card, or touch their phone or smartwatch to it to use Apple Pay/Android Pay/Samsung Pay. The app has all of my monthly and single lesson fees preprogrammed as “items” that someone can buy. When they pay, the money automatically goes into my bank account after a few days and they get emailed or texted a receipt.

I am not using this enough yet to write at length about my experiences but I thought I would share the idea here in the meantime.

 

Great iOS 11 concept video

Check out this expertly executed concept video of features that Federico Viticci hopes will come to the iPad in iOS 11. 

I use my iPad for getting work done more and more everyday. There are still a lot of hurdles in the software for getting work done. I think Federico has done a great job illustrating how some of these problems could be solved in an elegant way that doesn't confuse the intuitive nature of iOS. 

I will loose my mind if Apple announces a file management feature anything like the Finder demoed in this video. Apple's developer conference kicks off with a keynote at 1 pm on June 5 where they are expected to announce next years iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS feature updates. Announcements of some hardware products, including a Siri powered speaker to rival the Amazon Echo, are also rumored to appear. 

Google Docs, Sheets get iOS 9 split screen (finally)

From the Six Colors blog:

Today brought some great news. Updates to Google Docs and Google Sheets add split-view multitasking to those apps at last.

This is a big deal for iPad users. Now it’s possible to update a Google document or spreadsheet while also viewing Safari or using any other multitasking-capable app you can think of.

Yes! I am recently relying way more on Google Docs and Sheets to collaborate with my colleagues. I am also using my iPad increasingly more often as a work device. These two apps were previously the only two I used on a regular basis that could not be opened alongside another app on my giant iPad Pro's display. Now I can finally do something like, for example, plan a concert in Notes on one side of the screen while referencing my score inventory in Google Sheets on the other side.

My iPad Homescreen - August 7th, 2016 Edition

There is nothing more fun for an app nerd than discussing their homescreen. The homescreen is the screen on a mobile device that contains the most essential apps for the conscious user. I am always changing this screen depending on the time of year, apps I am using frequently, and new apps I am trying out. Here is what my current homescreen looks like...

My current homescreen.

My current homescreen.

And a brief description of some noteworthy apps on it...

The Dock

Messages - With iMessage, my iPad is just another window into my text conversations. I use this app just as much on the iPad and Mac as I do on the phone.

Spark Mail - One of my favorite Mail app replacements. Spark has enough power features to merit its own blog post, but the feature I am finding quite useful right now is the ability to filter just the important notifications so I am not bothered by junk email throughout the day.

Notes - The Apple Notes app is increasingly becoming my go to for most of my note taking needs. I love using it for checklists, outlines, and sketching. The action extension (accessible from within any iOS app by pressing the square with the arrow pointing out of it) allows me to clip whatever I am looking at, no matter the app, into a new note or existing note.

OmniFocus - This app runs my life. I keep it on the dock for easy access to my tasks and projects.

Drafts - Most of what I type on the iPad starts here and then later gets filtered into the app that best suits its content. I am often sending drafts to Twitter, OmniFocus, Notes app, and my blog app.

Other Essentials

Dropbox - Pretty much all of my documents live here. This is where I browse, edit, and share them from my iPad.

Documents - Think of Documents as the missing Finder app on iPad. It allows you to work with files locally on the iPad but also from various cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive. In fact, it allows you to see all of your content from all of your cloud drives all in the same window. Right now this is crucial for me because I am using a personal and professional Google Drive account simultaneously. Documents allows me to be logged into both of them at the same time, something not even my Mac can do.

Pages - Of all the basic "office" style applications I work with, Pages is perhaps the most essential. Pages is a beautiful and intuitive replacement for Microsoft Word. I love how it seamlessly syncs my documents across all devices through iCloud Drive.

Byword - Byword is a plain text editor. If I am typing a document of length that doesn't need to look pretty or include any multimedia, I usually type it here. Byword has a clutter free atmosphere that allows me to focus on just the text I am typing rather than buttons and tools.

forScore - My entire mobile score workflow is based on this app. I pull scores from my Dropbox account right into forScore where I can annotate them, perform from them, categorize them, and add all sorts of interesting metadata to them.

Blog - This is the app I use to post to my blog on my Squarespace website.

Notion - Still the best music notation software on iPad. I use it for small projects and defer to Sibelius on my Mac still for larger scale work. Notion allows you to scribble on a staff with the Apple Pencil and then it converts your hand writing into crystal clear notation. It's magical.

Recent Favorites:

Google Drive - I have been deviating a little bit from my entirely Dropbox based workflow recently, in part because some colleagues of mine prefer to use Google Drive for collaboration. I really like the Google Drive app. I just wish that the Google Docs and Sheets app took advantage of iPad Pro split screen multitasking.

Sheets - Of all the a Google Doc apps, Sheets is the one I use the most. There are a bunch of ways to use cloud drives to collaborate with others on spreadsheets but Google Sheets is the only one I trust to sync everyone's data reliably. I use this app very frequently to access docs related to scheduling and inventory.

GoodNotes - Although I am using Apple Notes for most things, I find that a few tasks require a little more power. GoodNotes is great at a couple of things. First of all, it has excellent Apple Pencil support for handwritten note taking and sketching. Next, I love how easy it is to combine my own notes along with other PDFs from my iPad all into the same notebooks. GoodNotes (and apps like Notability, which I was previously using until I started trying GN) does the best job allowing me to immediately scribble on top of PDFs. Many PDF annotation apps offer this feature but typically take a couple of taps to enter into annotation mode. GoodNotes feels more like a piece of paper. Also, while there are plenty of great dedicated score apps (including Notion from earlier in this post), I love that GN has a staff paper option. In fact, it is easy to intermingle a diverse range of paper styles all within the same notebook.

Slack - What is Slack? My favorite communication tool on the planet. Slack is an awesome collaboration tool for teams. I am not really sure this is the place to detail the range of its features, but I will share that the music team at my school has been using Slack for the past few months and it has been a real game changer. It is coming to replace both text messaging and email for us. The basic idea behind Slack is that a team can have multiple different "channels" within their team which are basically conversation threads. Any member of the team can be in any channel. For example, all of the people in our team who teach band or orchestra classes are part of an instrumental music channel where we have almost all of our digital communication about that subject. The choir guy doesn't have to see any of that conversation. There is a general channel for general communication and even a random channel so that my endless gifs do not annoy my coworkers by disrupting otherwise productive discussions. Slack takes the cruft and formality out of the picture, enabling simple text conversation while also empowering us to be way better organized about the way we collaborate on different projects. Slack also has tons of integrations with other services. For example, with the Google Drive integration, I can share Google Docs right from within a Slack channel and other users can comment on it or launch right into it.

1Password - My favorite app for managing passwords, software serial numbers, secure notes, and more. I never forget a password with this app. And Touch ID on my iPad allows me to log in anywhere by simply touching my thumb to the home button.

Scrivener - Scrivener is a non-linear writing tool. I used the Mac version to write my book. I am beginning to plan some other writing projects and am enjoying the ability to sync my projects from Mac to iPad and back again.

comiXology - I pretty much only have time to read comic books in the summer. If you are in to this sort of thing, Amazon's comiXology app is the place to buy and read your comics (actually, because Amazon likes to avoid paying Apple's 30 percent of every purchase, you will have to buy the comics from Amazon or comiXology's website). comiXology has this cool feature I like where it smartly detects the ends of the frames and allows you to scroll through each of them full screen. Right now, I am reading the Walking Dead series.

BusyCal - I am trying out this Calendar replacement right now. Usually, my calendar app of choice is Fantastical but BusyCal allows me to do some interesting things like, for example, associate contacts in my address book with events for better context.

Excellent writing tool, Scrivener, is available on iOS

Earlier this week, Literature & Latte announced that their writing tool Scrivener is now available on iOS.

I wrote my entire book on the Mac version of Scrivener and oh man do I wish I had this on my iPad throughout the process.

Scrivener is a non-linear word processor that allows you to write and organize lengthy projects. I only scratched the surface while writing my book but you can do all sorts of neat things with it including: clipping urls, images, and other research into your project file all within the same interface that you organize the various written sections of your work.

If you are writing a book, thesis, dissertation, or even just need to organize larger writing projects in a flexible way, you should give this app a try.

Interesting tidbit: Scrivener uses Dropbox instead of iCloud to sync projects across devices. The developers wrote about that decision here. It is interesting that Apple's own syncing solution is not flexible enough for pro software developers to build their apps on. I continue to be worried about Apple's ability to stay relevant with both cloud services and the professional market. This is not a promising story but I am glad that the developers of Scrivener made a decision that ensures security and reliability for their users, even if it does come with some compromises.