macstories

A Blogging Experiment

Yesterday I posted The 7 Best Apple Home Devices on this blog. In part this was an effort to condense some of my intense study on the subject of home automation over the past four or five years so that someone could benefit from a broad-stroke overview of how I set everything up.

But this post was also 50 percent an experiment. Two summers ago, I posted The 6 Best Automation Apps for iOS. Strangely, this has become the most popular blog on my entire website, by far. This is despite it not really being about music or education, and despite the fact that blogs like MacStories pump out articles 100 times better on the subject, regularly.

My second most popular post is a video about indexing large PDFs using the musical score app forScore on iPad. It is far less popular from the post on automation, but still far more popular than anything I have ever posted. I feel like it represents my niche pretty accurately.

I did some thinking on what could have made my automation blog post so popular. Was it that the title is concise? Bold? Simple? Was it that it had a bite-sized, concrete, number of apps in that same title? Or was it that I successfully tagged the post so that it shows up in a lot of web searches? I tried to replicate a little bit of that format in yesterday’s home automation post, while still writing about something I am passionate about. We will see how well it does.

And please do tell me if the home automation post was helpful to you in any way.

App of the Week: OmniOutliner 3

I am kicking off a new series this week where I will highlight an app I am making use of lately. 

Hundreds of the apps I experiment with never make it into any of my conference presentations, longer form blog posts, or every day conversations. In effort to start sharing how I am taking advantage of these (and to get me posting here more consistently), I am going to do my best to write about one app a week. 

My goal is to very briefly explain what the app does and how I am using it in my life. I will leave full length reviews to the professionals. 

This week’s app is OmniOutliner. OmniOutliner comes from Omni Group who makes my task manager of choice (and number one most used app), OmniFocus. OmniOutliner is a writing tool that emphasizes features for creating outlines. It is far more intuitive, beautiful, and user customizable than what you are probably using to do this kind of work now, which is most likely a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. These traditional word processors are a clunk-fest of digging through menu options and formatting settings.

Hierarchical, list-types of documents are what this app handles best, though you can really do anything with it...budget, draft your next novel...anything. OmniOutliner has friendly keyboard shortcuts to make outlining fast. Pressing Enter goes to the next line of text. Command+Right Bracket or Left Bracket makes the current line of text you are typing go one level deeper or shallower in the hierarchy. Collapsible arrow buttons can be clicked to expose or hide entire sections of your outline. A theme can be stylized and applied across the entire document, or even just one level of the hierarchy.

Things I have used this app to write in the past few years: my book, every music presentation I have ever given at a conference, and lesson plans. The last one, lesson plans, I have especially come to love doing in OmniOutliner. My daily lesson plan is permanently left open on both my iPad and Mac. When I have something I want to add to my warm up or announcements, I add it from my Mac (or iPhone, depending on what is in front of me), type the extra line of text, and then wait. When I open up OmniOutliner on my iPad alongside my score reader of choice, forScore, the edits automatically sync to my iPad’s copy and I have an up to date version of my plan, ready to rehearse from.

For an actual review of OmniOutliner, check out this great one from MacStories. BTW, OmniOutliner now has a 10 dollar “Essentials” version that gives you most of the compelling features of the app without going all in on the powerful stuff I did not mention here (like cross-platform automation, for example). 

Download here:

OmniOutliner 3 by The Omni Group

OmniFocus 2 by The Omni Group

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Black Friday App Deals

Every Black Friday, tons of apps go cheap or free on the App Store. I always use this opportunity to score a bunch of apps I have been waiting on, particular higher priced apps. 

The best resource I have found for keeping track of every deal is MacStories. Check out their blog post on The Best Deals for iPhone and iPad Apps, Games, and Accessories. They have already started collecting apps on sale and will be updating it all throughout tomorrow and in the coming days. It catalogues apps ranging from iOS apps to Mac apps to tech deals on Amazon. 

Happy app purchasing!!!