Working Tools 35. The Domino Effect

I wrote only last week about breaking stuff.

Turned out that my migration of the Lime website wasn’t quite as successful as I’d hoped. The theme wasn’t responsive, and activating the menu on a tablet or smart phone, overlaid the menu choices on the current page text. It looked horrible.

I have activated another theme – which whilst still not perfect, is holding the fort, as it were.

Updating the site, I stumbled on a process that is inefficient. As part of my iPad first, streamlined workflow, ambitions, I set to fixing it.

Trigger

Something happens in sphere of anti money laundering that I wish to alert my clients about and to comment on publicly. The first is achieved by sending a briefing note and the second by posting on the website.

Current Process

I write the web piece in Ulysses and upload it to the WordPress Editor, as per this site. I also export the text to form the basis of the briefing note. Typically, I export it as a Word document (Docx). Then, I edit it, copy it, and paste it onto a corporate template. Finally, I e-mail it to the clients with a covering note.

Opportunity

Aha – I thought. Perhaps I can export it straight to a PDF template from Ulysses. Apparently not. Or at least not without building a bespoke “style” over on Mac, using skills beyond my know-how. Even then, the logo might be an issue.

Hmmm…what about some sort of shortcuts / automation on IOS? Nope. Not that I can divine.

How about one of those swish PDF apps? Apparently not.

A little Google-fu convinces me that it might be possible to conjure something on the Mac but that on IOS, I will struggle.

Simplicity

The simplest way is to compose the briefing note on a briefing note template in either Word or Pages and send it from there. Who knew? I will probably compose the text in Ulysses with no formatting, then copy & paste to Word/Pages. That done, I’ll format for web in Ulysses and export to the site, before returning to Word/Pages and manually formatting the briefing note.

Or – of course, somebody will point out to me that I’m missing something painfully obvious.

Content

Schedule

In June – I’m changing things up a bit.

Monday – I’ll link to the 1857 Podcast release.
Tuesday – I’ll link to my article at Lime
Wednesday – I’ll publish the Members-Only post
Thursday – I’ll publish the regular post (like this one)
Friday – I’ll link to my article at Nero’s

The weekend, I’ll take off, though there may be some “downtime” posts too.

Membership

I’m going to change the Membership program too. Offering more content to members in more forms. I will also be increasing the price. Now – people who became members before June 1st 2020 will retain their legacy pricing. If you do want that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from supporting a writer as he gets going, it will cost less if you do it before June 1st. Become a Member.

Working Tools 33. iPad Pro – Fight!

An iPad is not a laptop. Yes, it is. No, it isn’t. YES, IT IS! NO, IT ISN’T!

People do like to get tribal. The internet is getting all shouty about the latest must-have accessory from Apple.

The tech colossus has released a software update that greatly enhances the efficacy of using a mouse or a trackpad with the tablet. Additionally, they have released a new keyboard attachment for the iPad Pro, that includes a trackpad.

Taking these two things together, an iPad Pro can now look and function in a very similar fashion to a laptop.

The internet is awash with videos, podcasts and articles positing that this configuration is truly the laptop replacement. Some are delighted, some horrified and others incredulous of everyone else’s opinion.

Diplomat that I am – I will steer clear of that debate.

Everyone’s wrong. (Alright, not entirely clear of the debate.)

My view

The iPad Pro flutters its eyelids and in a gravelly, seductive whisper says “What do you want me to be, baby?”

The new keyboard, infuriatingly named the same as the keyboard that accompanies the desktop iMac (Magic Keyboard) does indeed give the tablet a similar form factor to a laptop. Macbook killer. Allegedly.

The software update makes the tablet a desktop. The iMac killer, if you will. It sits on a stand, and is controlled by the the old magic keyboard and trackpad. A stripped-down desktop, unsullied by cables.

The Road Warrior sticks to the smart folio keyboard, (no magic there apparently), which allows for typing but preserves the lightweight portability of the tablet. Essential in the old days when she shuttled around the world making deals, kicking ass and taking names.

When the day is done, the user dons a turtleneck, retires to the couch and reads something impressive and intellectual on the naked tablet.

There are more modes – think Apple Pencil, external displays – but you get the picture.

The iPad is all about flexibility of environment and working practice. By happy accident or prescient design, it’s on the way to becoming the device for everyone – or at least most of everyone.

Apple’s view

Apple is a business, and will have no trouble selling us desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, accessories and services as long as we buy them. Arguments between Apple fans about which hunk of metal is best, bother it not a jot. Apple wants to capture all those people who don’t “compute” on Apple devices. Apple wants the young “future-consumers” to get aboard. These markets aren’t going to be buying huge desktops or $3,000 laptops, at least not many of them.

The iPad is the best tablet on the market, and it’s a pretty damned good desktop and laptop too.

My Usage

I’m writing from my dining room table, where I have setup a temporary workstation while my wife recovers from surgery. I’m in mini-desktop mode.

It’s too hot for a turtleneck, but I do subscribe to magazines and newspapers which I read on the couch through my magic slab of glass.

Eventually, we will be allowed to move again, and I can see myself outside a beach bar, or jammed into a airline seat, tapping away on a folio cover keyboard.(Sand can’t get under the fabric.)

The laptop form? Not for me. I suspect it’s much more stable than the folio if you type on your lap – but I don’t, and if I’m at a table, I find the desktop setup more ergonomic.

These things are always subject to change, but I can’t see myself buying a desktop Mac or Macbook again. Others may buy more of these things – and I’ll be honest, I’m not bothered.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Working Tools 30. iPad First

In April of 2019, I had settled that I was not ready to leave behind a traditional computer and work on iPad first.

Concerns

  1. Backup. Corporate disasters in a past life make me paranoid of data loss. My mac has backups of backups.
  2. Filing systems. I found IOS cumbersome in managing nested folders.
  3. Certain tasks – podcasting for example, just worked better on the Mac.

Remedies

  1. The world has moved on. Everything is online. Either in proprietary databases (my company accounts for example) or remote sevices like Dropbox or iCloud. We have, in effect, outsourced data backup to third parties. These guys have backups of backups don’t they? Don’t they? As you may gather, I’m not 100% sold on this, but I have also come to realise that not all my data is a precious as I would like to think. I’m thinking on that. In the meantime, my Mac sits in a corner, quietly running backups.
  2. The files app on IOS is fine. Could it be better? Yes – but increasingly, I access data, not through a central repository of data, but through an app. This post, for example, originates in Ulysses. I wouldn’t know how to find it in the Files system.
  3. Apple updated their operating system (Catalina) and it broke my podcasting workflow. Once forced, I explored multiple alternatives for both Mac and IOS, and found IOS easiest.

I know what I always suspected. Everything is possible on every platform. It’s a case of having the right workflow for the chosen platform. So – I’m committed to learning how best to do things on IOS.

Project 1

A Newsletter. I want to send a monthly email to customers over at Nero’s Notes, and in the future, one to subscribers here. I have lists at Mailchimp.

Task – Produce a simple newsletter that can serve as a template going forward.

Reset

I was remembering why I had stopped sending newsletters. Surely it shouldn’t be this hard?

My intention was to reach out to some smart people. People who know what they’re doing. However, just like asking for directions, reaching out is only to be done once I have driven round and round in circles for an hour or two. Me? Stubborn?

I went back to basics. A pencil and a bit of paper. I drew out what I wanted a newsletter to look like.

The scales fell from my eyes. The newsletter was the final product that would be sent via Mailchimp, but it was made up of a series of distinct elements. Each element needed to be viewed separately.

Solutions

Photos – there are multiple apps that make this an absolute breeze. I download the photos to my library, edit them to to the right size and resolution (I use Pixelmator) and save them to an album.

Text. I live in Ulysses. I like the interface, and I can make the final version come out in all sorts of formats. I’ll write the copy in this app.

Links. In essence, I want to be on a website, mine or someone else’s, and quickly file the link somewhere. A clipboard, if you will. There are loads of these. Some of which I had discovered in a past life, downloaded and forgotten. Copied is one great option. However, if I tap the share icon, I can save the link into a Ulysses Group set up for the purpose.

Once all the elements are complete – I simply assemble. I upload the photos, paste in the copy and links, and boom, I have a newsletter. I can even use multitasking on the iPad.

It tickles me that this process mirrors exactly the way I cook. All the ingredients prepared and ready to go in advance.

The epiphany was not discovering a specific app, it was rediscovering that doing one thing at a time is nearly always more efficient than multi-tasking.

Shortcuts

But wait…there’s more.

The process above is a huge improvement, but it’s only halfway there.

There are shortcuts.

Literally, the app is called shortcuts. Built-in on IOS devices, this is the successor to an indie app called Workflow. It’s a simple automator. Actually, it can be a really powerful automator too.

Time for me to explore…

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.