Always Learning Something New

This morning I learned you can have a subject line in the Messages application. This is similar to the way you have a subject line in an email. I tried it and it stands out from the actual message underneath. I didn’t know it was possible, but I learned it from a tweet. We should all try and learn something new each day.

Clips Video Creator

While listening to a podcast this morning I learned it’s possible to add a voice-over in the Clips app. If you’re bringing in video already recorded with audio you can talk over the audio you already have there. It seems the audio doesn’t play while you are recording the video into the clips app. So you could be talking over some speech you already have in there. Maybe it would be better just to use this with video without any sound already.

Clips isn’t a real and proper video editor. It’s only there for doing the throwaway type of video you push onto Instagram or onto Facebook. I do have this application on my iPhone and I have tried using it once. I wasn’t terribly impressed and I think there are better ways of making video. You’d only really want to use this if you want to make use of the special features, such as stickers or the fancy filters. You can also have your audio captioned. It converts your speech to text and you may need to edit it to get the words just right.

You can make your video look quite different and even make it look like a bit of a cartoon. Probably the worst part of the app is that it only films in square mode. You can only use it with your device in portrait mode and it’s probably best used on an iPhone rather than an iPad. All in all Clips is kind of a weird application, but a little bit fun to use.

Sample Video From Clips

Catalina Voice Control

Disappointing Dictation

First of all I tried Voice Control dictation into Drafts. This is where I normally work with DragonDictate. Nothing happened. None of the words I spoke got turned into text. I decided to give Voice Control dictation a go in Textedit. I was slightly surprised when it did actually start to work. It only works with short pieces of speech and it was unable to complete a full sentence. This would make it extremely frustrating to work with. All of your thoughts will be truncated as you try to get the ideas out of your head and onto the page.

DragonDictate Professional Individual

On too many occasions Voice Control dictation missed out either whole sentences or parts of a sentence. It would then be necessary to go back to where the text was supposed to be and dictate the words a second time. This is extremely annoying when trying to dictate. It works worse than when using Siri dictation or the enhanced Siri dictation in Mojave or on iOS.

Where the dictation did work with Voice Control I have to say I was impressed with the accuracy. It didn’t seem to have any problems with my accent or how I spoke. This may be due to the fact it’s using a UK dictionary. This wasn’t the case when I tried out the Voice Control accessibility feature on iOS. The only dictionary available was the US English. I like to have a full stop at the end of the sentence and not a period.

Continuous Improvements?

I’d like to think that this is just the first iteration of Voice Control with improvements to come. There will be upgrades coming once Catalina is formally introduced to the world. I would expect continuous enhancements after that. Hopefully there will be artificial intelligence or machine learning helping to improve the way the dictation works. For the moment though, there is no way I would give up Dragon Dictate in favour of using Mac OS Catalina Voice Control.

Not Fit For Purpose

The Voice Control feature has been packaged as an accessibility feature. It is for people who have a need to dictate because they can’t properly use a keyboard. This feature is going to have to get better quickly or even the people this has been designed for are going to get really annoyed. It just isn’t good enough as it stands right now.

Sanity Returns – Day after Apple Event

It’s inevitable when you’re watching the Apple event you’re thinking “Oh, that looks nice I’ll have one of those.” Everything looks so lovely and the adverts they show are just so beautiful. The lure of something pleasurable, new and sexy and you’re looking in the Apple Store to see how much it would cost. The Apple iPhone I would want would cost me just under €1000 and that’s with a trade-in of my iPhone 10. It’s kind of crazy in these days when the new iPhone is only going to give you a small update on the previous one. There is only so much they can do to improve tech when the law of diminishing returns comes into effect. You can’t make it any thinner. There’s not much scope for changing the shape of it. The processor can only get a tiny bit faster. How many more cameras can you add to it?

I promised myself last year I would stick with this iPhone XS Max for at least three years. It does everything I need it to do and probably more. I really don’t need to change for a new and only slightly improved version. The iPhone photography might have improved with the extra lens in the camera bump. How often is that going to come into play and be worth spending a whole pile of money? Never mind, it was good to dream and to look at the new products.

It’s the iPhone 11 Pro which takes my fancy although the iPhone 11 looks pretty good too. As Apple says, it has just the right amount of everything. It does iPhone 11 for a good price too. Most people won’t need to get the top of the range iPhone 11 Pro.

Series 5 Apple Watch

I’m working with a Series 3 Apple Watch and I use it every single day. I use it for sending and receiving messages. I love it for giving me the notifications of emails arriving. It’s great to have it for the reminders from the Day One application. I am a fanatical journal writer and like to make sure I have something new in the application every single day. The Apple Watch also tells me when Day One has previous posts in my journal. It’s great to look back and see what happened on this day going back over six years.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is brilliant for the health features. I use it to keep track of my sleep as well as for standing, exercise and how many calories I’ve burned. The ECG capabilities of the newer models would be useful, but not absolutely necessary. Not necessary to dive in with both feet and get the version which connects to the mobile network. The watch I have still has a good battery inside it. One of the reasons I changed to the series 3 was because the original watch had a battery which was getting a little tired. I easily could talk myself out of buying the new Series 5 Apple watch. I have to admit though, I’m still tempted to get the one with the bigger screen. The new Apple Watch also does that thing where it’s shows the time constantly rather than you having to lift your wrist to see. The physical action of moving the watch into view does a quick enough job of showing the time. I’m sure I could get away without the new and improved time telling capabilities. Then again, the newer watch with a bigger screen does show more information and that would be super. It’s good to see you can go to the Apple Watch Studio in the Apple Store and choose the exact watch strap you’d like to go with your new Series 5 Apple Watch.

The New Apple iPad

The new entry point Apple iPad is not one I would buy. I’m happy with my large iPad Pro. Occasionally I think it would be handy to have a smaller second one for carrying around the house. The iPad I have sometimes feels a little bit heavy. I do carry it around quite a lot as I move around from room to room. The new entry level iPad is going to be a good iPad for people coming in to test the water of the Apple ecosystem. The new iPad is priced well and people will probably buy it rather than going for something inferior. You really don’t want to see the look on the face of the kid who was hoping for an iPad and gets an Android device instead. You can even get one of those folding keyboard covers and an Apple Pencil to go with it. It is the series 1 of the Apple Pencil, but that’s still good. This new iPad has all the features coming with iPad OS and is an excellent tool.

Marginally Computer Crazy

Finally decided I’m going to upgrade to the latest version of the Apple operating system on my Mac. This latest operating system is called Catalina. We are quite close to when the final version of the operating system will be released. There have been a good number of updates made available to the beta software. I therefore think it is time to go ahead and put the system onto my computer. There is the possibility that one or two things I have on my computer will not work anymore. I know there are a couple of applications which are only 32 bit and will not work because everything needs to be 64-bit now. I don’t think these applications are vital so not too worried about leaving them behind. There’s a possibility I’ll be able to find apps to take their place.

Why make the upgrade?

It’s always nice to have the new stuff. I’m keen to try out the Voice Control on my Mac. I have been giving it a little try on my iPad and iPhone. Not impressed in the slightest by the capabilities. It’s nowhere near as good as DragonDictate. I’m wondering if Voice Control dictation and editing will be better on a Mac rather than an iOS device. Maybe DragonDictate will not work on my iMac with Catalina. I have seen reports that it does work, but then again some other people have had problems. If this is the case then I might go through the rigmarole of installing Parallels, with Windows operating system and a Windows version of DragonDictate. This is going to cost some money. The parallels is going to cost €49, I think I can get Windows for free and I’m not sure yet how much an upgrade to the Windows version of DragonDictate will cost me. It will possibly be more than €150. The Windows version of DragonDictate is reported to be better than the Mac version. I’m able to dictate on my Mac using Dragon for Mac v6 without too many problems. I like the way it works and I can talk to my computer and have speech turned into text quickly. With the Windows version you have improved transcription services. In the Mac version if you make any changes to transcribed text you don’t get any updates to your personalised vocabulary. With the Windows version anything you may correct will be corrected also in any further dictation you do. Good to have the software learning as it goes in an Artificial Intelligence way.

Music, TV, podcasts are the big intro in Catalina

iTunes is going the way of the dodo. In its place there will be a Music application, plus TV, and Podcast applications. The work of synchronisation with an iOS device is going to be done in Finder and iCloud rather than within iTunes. I’ll still be using iMazing for that job. I don’t tend to listen to podcasts on my Mac. I use the application Pocketcast my iPhone and I am much more likely to listen to podcasts while I am away from my computer. Using iTunes doesn’t really bother me although I’m not sad to see it go. Many other Apple commentators have said iTunes is bloated. I remain to be convinced and wait to see if the new applications give a better user experience.

iOS apps coming to the Mac

Apple made it so it’s easy for developers to create Mac applications from their iOS development. I already have applications which span across the platforms. Applications such as Drafts, Day One, Ulysses as well as the Apple application such as Reminders work this way. I like it than I can pick up whatever device and access all my work and information in one place. There could be more of this type of application coming. It’s going to take a while before we see these available on our desktops.

Updates to main applications

Photos, Notes, Reminders and Safari are all getting updates with added facilities and better design.

Adding another screen to the desktop

We will now be able to connect the iPad to the desktop either with or without a cable. This is what Apple are calling Sidecar. I already have two large screens in front of me and I’m not sure if I will get the benefit out of having an iPad connected as another screen as well. It could be useful to make use of the Apple Pencil to draw on the iPad in an application working on the Mac in Catalina. This could be with Affinity Photo. I already have Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer on my iPad, but it could be useful to pick up the iPad and continue working in the same space. That would save having to push the file out to the iPad, open up the iOS version of the application and use the Apple Pencil. I’d then have to send it back to the Mac afterwards. Using Sidecar instead could be a timesaver. Only know how good when we see how it fits in our workflows.

The other option for extra productivity with Sidecar would be Apple Pencil for drawing and marking up screenshots and PDFs.

Security and privacy improvements

Initially this means getting bugged by the operating system about giving access to applications. Will I allow an application like Day One access to my Photos folder. Can Drafts have access to where the documents are stored? Karabiner wants to do something with my keystrokes. Is that OK? This will be an annoyance to start with, but will get out of the way in time. The security and privacy is more applicable to people working with mobile computers like the MacBook Pro. Less important to me with my iMac on my desk. Good that Apple are beefing up security anyway.

I like the feature that I can approve with Apple watch. If I need to authenticate something on the Mac I’ll be able to double-click the side button on the Apple watch. I could unlock notes which I have locked previously. I could approve app installations or view passwords in Safari preferences without having to insert any password to see them. I already like the feature which I have to unlock my Mac with my watch. So this extra security connection is going to be useful. I’ll need to update the Apple Watch for this to happen. At the moment a double click goes to the last app used on the watch.

Voice Control

For the most part Voice Control is for people with disabilities. I’m not really going to need to zoom into a second display so I can see it better. I won’t make use of Hover Text, where you hover over some text and press control get a large high-resolution text. What I am interested in, is the voice control dictation. Apple says we will get the latest advances in machine learning for audio to text transcription. There is supposed to be an improvement on the existing enhanced dictation feature on Mojave. Voice Control uses the Siri speech recognition engine and we can add custom words. We will have rich text editing to make corrections by saying things like “Replace almost there with I’ve just arrived.” It also will be possible to move the cursor around within the text. There are commands to get to the beginning or to the end, or to move up two lines. We will capitalise words just by telling the dictation software to do the job for us. I suspect this is a work in progress and is not going to be great to start with. I’d like to think it’s going to get better over time though. Hopefully it learns from how I speak and improves the recognition capabilities. I’m looking forward to giving it a try anyway.

The installation file has been downloaded

While I’ve been writing this I’ve downloaded nearly 7 GB of operating system installation. All I have to do now is to click on the continue button and cross my fingers. I do have a backup of my system. I use the application SuperDuper to automatically backup my Mac. I usually have another disk which runs Time Machine. I discovered this morning it hasn’t been working since October. That’s quite a long time to be without Time Machine in action. I’ve ordered a new hard drive which should arrive tomorrow. So let’s go for the upgrade to Catalina and hope for the best.

Catalina up and running

Everything seemed to go really well. DragonDictate is working, this is how I’m writing at this very moment. I had to click on lots of notifications asking me if I wanted to allow an application access to the system. This was all of the applications I have set to open up when the computer starts working. Things like Hazel, Dropbox, Better Touch Tool and Keyboard Maestro had to ask for permission to continue. There were quite a lot of pop-ups to deal with.

Loads of popups like this when you get started with Catalina. Just to keep you safe and out of trouble. I suspect many people will just click on yes to get to the goodies as fast as possible.

Using Hazel to Tidy up

What happened to the second monitor?

The first problem came when the second monitor I have wasn’t working. I tried switching it off and switch it back on again a couple of times. That didn’t make any difference. What did make a difference was doing some housework, taking a trip to the shops and when I got back the monitor was functioning. How weird is that then?

Motorbike but no Sidecar

I wanted to see if Sidecar was working so I could get the iPad set up as an extra display. I can’t really see me using it much, but I thought I’d try it anyway. It said I needed a different version of Mac OS Catalina in order to make that work. It could be this version of the beta software has had Sidecar disabled. Sometimes Apple does that and then brings it back on the next version of the beta. My next trick will be to try plugging in the iPad using the USB 3 cable. I tried that and it still says Sidecar requires a newer version of Mac OS. This is kind of weird because I do have the latest version available. No rush guys, take your time and get it right.

Looks Just the Same

So apart from having a different picture on my desktop now, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot changed. I can use my DragonDictate so I’ll put off buying the Windows version and Parallels for as long as possible. Why spend the money if I don’t need to!? I will be giving the dictation service in Voice Control a try soon. I am noticing some slightly odd behaviour with DragonDictate. It’s putting in a capitalised word in a couple places where it’s not expected. It is also putting in extra space in between words on occasions. Nothing major at the moment, but I’ll be monitoring it.

32 bit Apps not supported

The other thing I want to do is to check through the system and find out which applications no longer function. There is a way you can do this fairly easily. Go to the Apple Menu in the top left of the screen. Click on About This Mac, then the button for System Report. In the left panel go to Software – Applications. You might have to wait a short while for it to populate if you have a lot of applications. Look for the app which isn’t working and you’ll see – 32-bit (Unsupported) if it’s not compatible with Catalina. I have a couple of apps like that. One of my apps is Yummy FTP Pro which says 32/64-bit and it doesn’t work. Then there’s Yoink which shows the same and it does still work. For the FTP software I have downloaded Transmit. I’ll need a subscription to keep that. Or I could use ForkLift which does the same job. Transmit lets me create a Droplet for a connection. Useful to drag and drop a file to automatically connect and upload to the server. Tested it and it is pretty handy.

Another way to see which apps don’t work is to scroll through the Applications folder. There are icons on top of the no functions apps making it clear they are not going to start.

Happy days with a new operating system

So far I’m pleased I’ve upgraded to Mac OS Catalina. No huge problems and my dictation application is working. The apps which are not going to work are not showstoppers. It all looks good and I’ll find out in the next couple of days how things have changed. I’ll be able to decide if it is for the better or not.

The Joys Of Beta Software

To a certain extent all software is a work in progress. There’s always something in there which needs further work to make perfect. An operating system is so complex the software engineers can’t help making bugs when they’re fixing something else. This is why we are getting updates on a regular basis of our favourite softwares. Then there are the bigger changes when Apple updates a whole lot of stuff all in one go and gives it a new number. This time we are moving on to iOS 13, (Lucky for some!). We are also moving to iPad OS giving a proper split between the software for each of the platforms.

 Why use unfinished software?

The biggest reason for using beta software would be impatience. The software manufacturer has set out what will be coming and you want it now rather than later. There could be people who have noble desires to help find bugs to improve what’s coming for the general populace. We beta testers are prepared to put up with applications crashing or not working as expected. Just so long as we send in the reports to help get the software fixed and ready in time for the final release.

Going beta sooner or later

If you have a device which is a spare then you could reasonably install the first betas to become available. Sometimes these can be good enough to be usable, but are most likely to be unstable. Definitely not something you want to put onto a device you use to do proper work on a daily basis. Most people tending towards normal, will wait until beta five or maybe beta seven before sticking a toe into the water. It can also make a lot of sense to wait until the final release. Just be more patient. In the past when there were no public betas, there were still problems to overcome on release day. Waiting until the point one release was the sensible thing to do.  It isn’t much fun having to do a rollback on an upgrade. When you were so looking forward to having new toys to play with and you find your device has been bricked. So much time can be lost. So it is always a good idea to have multiple backups before you go ahead with any upgrade to the operating system. This is especially important if you try a beta version. It’s a good idea to follow a few people on Twitter who are likely to have tried the beta software. People who have tried it will often report back over social media on how well their project is going. The online reports will be general because we know beta software is not finished. There’s no point in getting upset and throwing all your toys out of the pram when an app doesn’t work as expected. Broken parts of software is inevitable in beta testing.

Being brave and going for it

With iOS 13/iPad OS I waited until beta five before installing it on my iPad. There were enough reports from trusted sources saying it was stable enough. I left it a bit longer before installing iOS 13 on my iPhone. This is because my iPhone gets more use than the iPad. There’s no way I would let myself be without the use of my iPhone for any length of time. Since the installation of the new operating system I have been happy with the way things have been going. In one of my applications, Drafts I have noticed some automations didn’t work. Two applications have crashed at the first time of opening since installation of the beta. Trying a second time immediately afterwards and the application opened without complaints. I got lucky nothing important was out of action.

Reporting back to Apple

If you’re going to try one of the beta versions of the operating system it’s expected you will report back any problems. That’s the point of having beta software. You are testing and letting them know if there are things not working. So far I’ve been running the betas for a couple of weeks and not made any reports. Mostly because nothing’s really been going wrong. Partly because I’ve been busy with my life and not had the time to fill out any forms. If there was something terrible I’m sure I would have sent in a radar or report. I’ve just been enjoying playing with the new toys.

What do I like about iOS 13 and iPad OS?

IOS 13 has given me an upgrade to the Apple Carplay. The best part about this is being able to change to a different application on the phone while connected to the car. The screen on the car stayed with the application I was using. It could be annoying in the previous version when the screen of the car only mirrored what was on the phone. This is only important when a passenger is using the phone alongside me as I’m driving. Or if I’m sitting in the car not driving and want to look at something else while the car screen is perhaps displaying my podcast application. This means I can press the controls on the podcast application on the car screen while doing something else with the phone. They have also added the calendar app to Apple Carplay. I can see a view of what’s coming up for the day. I can even tap on one of these to get directions to a place. The home view on Apple Carplay has changed. It shows more information. It kinda feels like I have to press more buttons to get to my podcast application. I suppose I’ll get used to it.

Reminders

I like the upgrades made to the Reminders application. It is useful now to have subtasks by indenting tasks beneath others. It’s not as advanced as you’d find in Omnifocus, but is enough for my purposes. The application is prettier as well as being slightly more functional. There is a new quick toolbar making it easier to add dates, locations, flags and scanned documents to Reminders. You don’t get many smart lists to play with in this new version of Reminders. You only get Today, Scheduled, All and Flagged. For most of us this will be enough. If you need to group reminders into one place you can always add a new list.

Today View on Home Screen

On the iPad I enjoy having the today view permanently available on the home screen. I get to see extra information quickly such as the weather and what’s coming up next in the calendar. I get quick access to shortcuts and Siri suggestions. This also fits in well with having more icons on the screen. I can add more icons into the bar at the bottom of the screen.

A Lot of Fuss about Dark Mode

I still don’t know why there is such a lot of talk about dark mode. It might be useful to automatically have dark mode for seeing what’s on the screen better at night time. Apart from that it really doesn’t make a lot of difference in terms of usability. To to me seems more aesthetic than it being a new useful feature. The Apple geeks on the various podcasts love to talk about dark mode and how wonderful it is. Maybe I need to spend more time with it.

Editing in Photos App

There are changes to the photos app. We are getting powerful video editing. It will be useful to rotate, crop and auto enhance video clips. The editing tools for the photos are mostly just redesigned rather than anything being specifically new.

Sign in with Apple ID

In privacy and security they have given us another way to sign into applications and websites. We’ll be able to sign in with our Apple ID in the same way as we’ve been able to sign into these things with either Facebook or Google ID. I haven’t come across any app store websites allow me to do that yet. That will take some time before it goes mainstream.

Siri sounding more Human

Siri is getting a better voice which sounds more human. This is something else I haven’t really taken much notice of. Siri shortcuts and the Shortcuts application will be included in everybody’s iOS 13. Previously you would have to download it specifically if you wanted to get into iOS automation. More people will be using it and it shows Apple is more confident by letting more people get at it. There are changes to the way you build the shortcuts in the application. At first it seemed a little confusing, but I’m getting used to it. Apple have made it easier for non-programmers to understand shortcuts. Despite the simplification there are more features and an increased depth of automation abilities. There are more triggers and I especially like the trigger to make things happen when I connect to Apple Carplay. Before, I activated a shortcut in the car by using an NFC tag. It didn’t always see the NFC tag. I might have to try twice before it activated. Then I would still have to press a button on the phone to get things happening. Now I just plug the phone into the car and it just works with no extra input from me. This is more like proper automation.

Swiping for Typing

In the past I’ve been a fan of the Swype keyboard on the iPhone and iPad. It is much faster to type by swiping the finger around the keyboard to get the words into your document. Apple has now built that into its own keyboard and it works really well. I now don’t have to have a third-party application for swiping.

Voice Control

Voice control – They built voice control into accessibility and that can be useful to anyone interested in voice computing. We are all getting used to talking to our computers now by having either an Amazon Echo, Google Home or the Apple Home Pod listening to us. I like things getting done around the house when I activate a process using the Amazon Echo. I’m also keen on dictation. I have dictated the whole of this article. I’ve dictated this using DragonDictate, but I’m interested in finding out how good voice control dictation will be. With my tests so far it doesn’t seem to be as good as DragonDictate. It does seem to be a little better than your usual Siri dictation which you activate by tapping on the microphone icon on the keyboard. More testing needed when we get the final release of iOS 13 and iPad OS. I am pretty sure I will be using DragonDictate for a long while yet.

A selection of the many commands for editing text with Voice Control
Make your own commands

Working with Files is Improved

I bought the Hyper Drive dongle to use with the new iPad. This will come into its own with iPad OS. There is a more advanced files application meaning I’ll be able to import files other than just photos. I’ll be able to connect external drives to get files into my iPad more efficiently. It’s now child’s play to drag a file from an SD drive and put it into iCloud Drive or wherever else I want it. This will be great with video files I want to use with Lumafusion or with audio files to use with Ferrite. This will make the iPad more like a ‘Real Computer’ and facilitate getting more work done.

The Hyper-Drive Dongle

Pro Writing Aid Software – For the Grammar Nazi?

Saw an offer going on MacHeist to buy two years of Pro Writing Aid for $45 – although you need to add the sales tax. Total came to $54 at the final payment screen. My previous subscription was for three years and I’ve been tempted lately into buying the lifetime subscription. The lifetime subscription at full price is $240, and I didn’t want to pay that out all in one go. I thought it better to keep on the lookout for similar offers and pay every couple of years. Pro Writing Aid is a fantastic tool which looks for problems you might find in your writing. The more you edit what you write, the better you get at writing. I expect the software will find fewer problems after I’ve been using the editing software for longer. Could have bought the Grammarly grammar checker instead, but Pro Writing Aid is just that bit better. It does intensive deep checks on the text. The software looks at structure, readability and basic grammar. Pro Writing Aid will look at the style of writing and also check for overused words. I’m smiling like an idiot to find out I can dictate into the Mac version of the software. I could also use Scrivener for the dictation and work with Pro-Writing Aid.

Finding problems in real-time

Real-Time icon at the top of the screen informs how many mistakes found in the text so far. At this point, it’s telling me about nine possible mistakes in the draft. Ten by the end of that sentence. I can see words underlined with red. Yellow underlines adorn other parts of phrases within the writing. The text with red lines are spelling mistakes. Only one of those at the moment because I’m using dictation and I don’t get many spelling mistakes. The red line is under a word which Pro Writing Aid doesn’t recognise and I will add that to the list of recognised words.

Lots of reports to check the text.

The summary report goes into deep detail of all the problems found. Any problems raised are advisory only, ignore if you wish. One thing it does is to check for sticky sentences. A sticky sentence is one with lots of glue words which don’t really do anything useful. They are only present to stick the useful, hard-working words together. Pro Writing Aid recommends sentences should only be about 40% sticky. It’s not too difficult to rewrite sentences to cut out glue words and make the whole piece much more readable.

Possibly tedious though satisfying at the same time

It takes time to go through your text to check out all the problems. There are words to delete completely, sentences to rewrite and thinking is required. After you’ve gone through the text three or four times with various reports, you have a piece to be proud of. I like to go with the Hemingway style of writing. Short to the point sentences are easy to read and make more sense to the reader. I also have another grammar software called Hemingway which is useful but doesn’t go into the same detail. The goal is to produce good writing which our readers enjoy. Good result if no glaring mistakes are present to slap the reader in the face. Without a doubt, I will use Pro Writing Aid regularly during the next two years. Could even buy the lifetime subscription next time.

The only problem you’ll end up with is deciding when enough editing is enough.

Related Posts

Get Notes into Agenda

There’s nothing I like better than trying out new software. I’ve been looking at the software which combines notes, reminders and calendaring. It’s called Agenda and it’s a pretty little thing! It is basically a note taking application which allows you to have an emphasis on dates. You can just put a date on a note or you can connect it to a calendar event. Whether this is of any use to you depends upon how you do notes and what your notes are for. You can already do this sort of thing with the Apple Notes application to a certain extent. I’m just looking at the Notes application now and I can see that each of the notes has a date and time at the top of it. Agenda takes it further. The other application which encroaches upon what Agenda can do is Reminders. Maybe the way you work and organise yourself being able to use one application instead of three will work out for you.

Free or go Premium?

Agenda does have advantages and you can use it for free. However, to get some of the benefits you might pay for the application. Either on iOS or Mac and iOS you can go pro with Agenda. I don’t like the way you have to pay separately to go pro on the Mac and on iOS. When I’m using Day One I can use all the premium features across platforms. If you get just the iOS version you have to get a discount code to upgrade to the full package across platforms.

Working out how to use the Agenda App

I keep trying out at this Agenda application and I like the look of it. I sometimes feel like I can’t quite get my head around how I would use it. You have projects and categories to work with. You put your projects into categories to give it some top-level organisation. You also have an inbox where you can just throw stuff. Then you have various notes inside your project. Inside the notes you can put all sorts of information. Header text, various types of lists including checkboxes if you wish. You can even use bold, italic and underline. You can take a picture with the camera or you can choose a photo from your photo library. The photos show up as thumbnails, with or without a title. Tap on the photo and it will fill the screen. If you want the photo to show fullscreen you need to use the premium facilities. One of the useful things you get in Agenda is tagging. Add a tag anywhere in your note. Tags are handy because you can search for them later. There is another form of tagging where you can link to a person. As I’m trying these things out and comparing them to the Notes application it’s making Agenda look quite good. You don’t get any sort of tagging with Apple Notes.

Agenda to get things done

You could use this Agenda application as your GTD application. There is a Today view which obviously shows whatever is due for today. The view called On the Agenda doesn’t show you everything within the application. When you create something within a project somehow or other it appears in that year. I was expecting that to be just for notes which have had a date or a calendar event assigned to them. I’ve just found out there is the little dot to the left of the title in a note. If that is filled it is marked as being On the Agenda. The note will then appear in the On the Agenda view in the sidebar. This small icon also allows you to mark the note as being done, completed. The other option is to pin the note to the top which is a premium feature.

There are lots of different ways to organise yourself with this application. Use that icon of the top of the note next to the title to have notes directly available in a special section in the sidebar. Mark when a note is completed. Then within notes themselves you can have checkboxes. This means that separate tasks within a project can be ticked off as done. There are a number of levels within the Agenda system.

Sidebar on the right side

The sidebar you pull out from the right side is your calendar. Tap on a note and you get the option to –

  • Go to Note
  • Mark as completed
  • Quick Reschedule (premium feature)
  • Edit (premium feature)
  • Show in Reminders – this will open up the Reminders application and highlight the note.

To Go Premium or Not?

I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to go premium with this application. I had a couple of choices. One was to not bother at all. Stick with using the Calendar app, Reminders and Notes. Second option was to go with just the premium on iOS. This was coming in at €12. All go all in and get the Mac version as well. To get everything the price bumped up to €28.

Agenda in All Places

After experimenting and playing with the application for quite some time I decided to go the whole hog. I like having all my information available wherever I am. I use my Mac about as much as I use my iOS devices. I like to be comfortable when I’m writing and use dictation. I get the best dictation on my Mac using DragonDictate. So it’s obvious I need to have Agenda in all places.

I like the Agenda app and being able to organise my notes in a way which works well as a GTD method. The tagging is going to be useful for searches. There is a vibrant community of people using the app giving ideas, tips and tricks on how to get the best from Agenda.

What Next with Agenda

My next trick will be to get automating ways to capture text, ideas and notes from various sources and probably using Shortcuts apps to do it. I already have got a Drafts action to send text to Agenda. Drafts is great for plain text but sometimes you need rich text with images in your notes.Agenda doesn’t have the option to add handwritten notes or drawings as you can in Notes app. My handwriting is terrible anyway.

Checking Out iPadOS beta

iPadOS First Look

Great to have the icons on the screen smaller and fitting more of them per page. Even when you have the today view pinned to the left side of the first screen you still have more app and folder icons. Good to finally pin your widgets.

Reminders Improvements

Completely different layout of the app. A big area on the left side which has Today, Scheduled and All buttons at the top and then the lower part is the list of lists. Then right at the bottom of that is your button to Add List. The interface works nice and fast when you change between the views. You get a limited number of colours to assign to your lists. There’s a small dot on the top right corner of the right side of the screen. Also from that button you can select reminders and do some rearranging or deleting. Show completed tasks in the list if you wish.
When you have a task selected there is an info button giving you access to the details of the task. Add notes, set alarms and reminders including location based reminders. Set the priority to low, medium or high. The final option is to move to another list if you like. An easier way to move an item to another list is to drag and drop. Easy Peasy…

The New Siri voice

There isn’t a huge change to the Siri voice, but she does sound a little bit nicer!

The Joys of Beta Running

You can run multiple app in Slide Over. Drag them on top of one another. Slide your finger up from the bottom of the screen to see the apps fanned out across the screen. For the life of me I can’t get to switch between the apps at the side of the screen. I have to get them to fan out in a stack and choose the one I want. Try too many times and it crashes the operating system, then nothing works. You can expect things like this when running a beta. Certainly not advisable to put a beta on your work machine. I have the iPadOS set up on my old iPad Pro. I had to to a reboot to get things moving again. Such is the beta life living on the edge of technology. When it does work, it will be great.

Pinned Widgets

It takes a while to learn how to set up all these new views and ways of working. I had the widgets pinned to the left of the home screen and I wanted to get rid of it. I hunted through the settings and finally did some GoogleFoo to find I need to scroll to the bottom of the widgets to tap on edit to turn it off. Then it was still on the screen. So I thought I’d done it wrong. Nope, I just had to swipe it off the screen. Sorted!

The App Store is different

There used to be a button on the bottom of the screen for updates. Now you have to hit your picture Nat the top right to go to account and see pending updates. For the moment nothing is updating. I have 104 updates waiting in the wings. It will be next week before the public beta drops and some of these bugs will be fixed. Like I said good job I put it on a spare iPad.

There’s more

The Files app is getting some love. You’ll be able to use generic external media. Local storage gives you the opportunity to create folders, save files and reorganise at will.

Other things I like about the new iPad

I was seriously tempted to get the 11 inch iPad instead of the 12.9 inch. It wasn’t the difference in price that was tempting me. It was more to do with the weight of the object and of the perceived size. I was thinking that a small one would be nice. Easier to carry around the house. But after looking at the two devices side-by-side in the Apple Store I’m sure getting the largest size was the best idea. In any case, the new iPad is still smaller and lighter than the iPad it’s replacing.

It’s taking a while to get used to the Face ID being the way to get into the iPad. But, it’s okay and I don’t suppose it will be long before I have it in there as muscle memory. When typing on the keyboard it’s super that my hands are close to the keyboard. It’s easy to lift a finger and to tap on the screen to get the suggested word from the iPad. The keyboard has a decent touch to it. Initially I was thinking that the short depressions for the keys were going to be insufficient. That isn’t the case. It works really well and it only takes time to get used to the layout. It was fortunate I was able to get a English international keyboard and didn’t get stuck with the Spanish one. I wasn’t sure they would have them in stock in the Apple Store in Barcelona.

I just got a notification on my watch

I have no idea what the notification is for. I woke up the watch to have a look and there was nothing there in notifications. I suspect the notification was coming in for the exercise rings. Maybe my son has just completed a task or closed one of the rings in the exercise app and the watch was letting me know.

Lots of space to fill

I’ll be able to use this new iPad as a main computer if I want to. If I’d bought the 11 inch model I perhaps would’ve gone for the 512 GB , But as it is I have the 256GB and with it being double what I had in my previous iPad I think I should be fine. Even if I start to edit more videos on the iPad because of it being faster and more capable, I don’t expect to fill up the storage too fast. I have it set so that most of what I put there goes into my iCloud storage anyway. I’m still running with the 2 TB of storage on iCloud.

Grainy image looks lo res

I’m going to have to change the image on the front screen. Because it looks a little bit too grainy for my liking. I will put on one of the backgrounds I have downloaded from Pinterest. It makes the screen looks like it’s got only low resolution by using a grainy picture.

Trouble backing up

This morning I’m trying once again to get the old iPad to be backed up on the computer. Yesterday I tried to do that with the iTunes application and also with iMazing. I seem to be running into a problem and I’ve got no idea what it was. I also need to sort out something with Day One.

My best Journal app

It was taking forever to get Day One loaded up onto the new pad. It wanted to put on a second account I’m not using. I was having a problem with the passwords for the accounts. In the end I tried the password from the wrong account in the proper account and it worked. Based on a different email. I also need to contact the people at Day One and quote a reference number to get them to let me link with iCloud.

Learning Airtable Database App

I joined a choir of old fogeys and it seems I’m the most technically competent. No big surprise there then! There are many people of my age who have no interest whatsoever in computers. In the choir there are at least two couples who share an email address. They are not sufficiently into the tech world to have an email address of their own. Still living in a previous century or millennium. When you have a group of 65 people and you need to communicate effectively it’s a good idea to use a database. This came about when organisers of the group needed to find out who were going to be able to attend an event. They also needed to know if they planned to take food afterwards. One of the questions we needed to deal with was if a bus was going to be required. Obviously there are drinkers in the group who don’t want to drive. Good plan, I hate drinking and driving. It was extremely tedious and annoying to try and do this with asking the questions in an email. We needed a solution to this problem.

Cachondeo Choir

Google Spreadsheet vs Airtable

My first idea was to use the forms available in Google documents. It seemed like it would work to have a spreadsheet table. The form would dump the information into the right places within the spreadsheet. It didn’t take long for me to find out a plain old spreadsheet wasn’t really going to do it as far as data organisation was concerned. People were filling the form in more than once and corrupting the data. Or it was possible for them to fill in the form and for us to not know who had filled the form in. It’s for this reason I decided to jump into Airtable which is available on the Mac and also for iOS. You can also use a browser-based version. On the whole, Airtable is highly configurable and easy-to-use. The feature set is not the same on all platforms though. Can’t make forms in the iOS apps for example. 

Learning Airtable on the job

So I have been learning as I go with Airtable. It wasn’t difficult to set up the initial table or base as they call it. I could then add other tables to give me the specific forms. It did take me a while to work out how to make it so form fillers could only choose from the list of names on the form. I was also able to make it a required field. No chance of someone filling the form in and not letting us know who they are. To make sure you have database integrity it’s best to have specific pieces of information in just one place. With Airtable you can use Look up fields to use the data from where you have put it in the base. If a piece of information is possible to add in two places, how do you know which one is the most up-to-date or the correct one?

Airtable Is Easy-To-Use

Airtable is easy-to-use and yet at the same time quite powerful. The professional database features don’t get in the way of you putting your first database together. Like most things it’s a good idea to start simple and work your way up piece by piece to more complicated setups. Fortunately, there are a good number of Airtable tutorial videos available on YouTube. These are available from Airtable themselves and also from third parties. A combination of both of these sources and you have more than enough to make a really good database.

It’s still not all plain sailing with my choir database

I’m still running into an inability to collect all of the data. This is nothing to do with the usability of the forms from Airtable. It’s all to do with cantankerous old men and women who can’t be bothered to fill in forms. The only way I find around this issue, is to go and speak to the individuals concerned and asked them directly for the information. I have to fill in the form for them. I still can’t work out why it is some people are averse to technology. The usability of software and hardware has improved over the years. It’s not necessary to be scared of breaking the computer. There’s no need to worry your soul or mental well-being is going to be compromised by using the latest technology. Being Good and Geeky is possible at any age if you’re prepared to open your mind to the tech world.

Import the Data from Google Spreadsheet

I started off by importing the data from the Google spreadsheet. I was then able to work on the field type for each of the pieces of information. There are a lot of field types available to take account for all sorts of data. You can have pictures, checkboxes, multiple selections, various forms of number and text fields and you could even include barcodes.

Sorting and grouping the data

I like the way that you can create different views of the same base. For example I have the main view which shows all members and then I can have a view which shows just the tenors or just the sopranos. You can view the data sorted in various ways or split into groups. I found it easier to set up views showing just tenants or just sopranos because of the way I set up the information in that particular base. The choir members could choose multiple options in the job field. For that reason it didn’t lend itself well to showing in groups. It’s not a problem though because Airtable shows me the information by creating separate views.

Database Collaboration

One of the best things about our table was the ability to use it for collaboration. I was the person in charge of the database and I gave other people access to the database on a read-only basis. This meant the people organising various events could see the data which had been collected. I didn’t allow them to jump in and edit it in any way. It was safer that way.

Sharing the Forms

The forms I was able to share in a number of ways. I could just share a link for the members to go to a webpage provided by Airtable to fill in the form. I was also able to embed the form into the choir website. The forms do have the Airtable branding unless you go for the paid version of the software.

Airtable Is Free to Use

To get started with Airtable it is free to use. For many people the free to use facilities would be enough. I got credits from Airtable for introducing other people to the database. These were the people who I added as collaborators.

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