Alfred 3 (for Would-Be Mac Power Users) Just Released

Alfred Logo

 

Alfred can be an intimidating Mac app, but its capabilities are pretty unparalleled when it comes to automating workflows. They’ve just announced the release of Alfred 3:

After months of intense development, polishing and testing, Alfred 3 is here and ready for you!

It’s been a thrill to add new features to Alfred, and improve existing ones. We already can’t live without these new features, which add so much to our workday productivity; Amazingly flexible workflows, snippet expansion, multimedia clipboard and more.

You can download Alfred 3 to get started right away.

We’ve highlighted a few of the new features below. We also published a post answering some of the commonly asked questions for Alfred 3; upgrading your Powerpack, migrating your preferences and more, so take a look for details.

The download of the app itself is free, and then you can pay for an upgrade to get the full set of features.

The snippet expansion is perhaps the most exciting feature to me. Much as I and others owe TextExpander a dept of gratitude, its new monthly subscription model suffered from a hasty (and probably overpriced) roll-out. Alfred, at any rate, can expand keyboard shortcuts and much more.

Find out more here.

Done with Threes? Sworn off 2048? Try Diced

Agile Tortoise (Greg Pierce) is probably the best iOS developer there is. I use his Drafts 4 app all the time–an amazing combination of text editor simplicity and power user export options.

He’s just made a $0.99 game called Diced.

 

IMG_6858

 

IMG_6856

 

From Agile Tortoise’s blog announcement:

Diced is a simple puzzle game. Place dice on a grid to make five of a kind or five in a row (straight) combinations to score points and clear the die. Score as many points as you can before the grid fills up and the game ends. Some game play features:

  • Quick launch and game restore. Easy to leave and come back where you left off.
  • Wild die.
  • Bombs.
  • Random blocks to add difficulty as the game progresses.
  • Game Center support with leaderboards and achievements

There are no ads, no in-app purchases, and it works perfectly. It’s universal, so you can play on iPhone and iPad, where Split View is also supported. (This guy thinks of everything.)

It’s not quite like poker–a full house combination won’t clear a row for you. But between the five of a kind and five straight goals, you’ve got enough ways to clear the board (the bombs help, too). Also cool is the dark mode, which you can toggle off and on.

Check out the app here.

OmniOutliner for Mac and iOS, Reviewed

OmniOutliner-for-Mac-1024The rise of the brilliant app 2Do notwithstanding, I continue to utilize OmniFocus as my task management hub. I was eager, then, to try out The Omni Group’s outlining app, OmniOutliner.

Think of OmniOutliner as a thought structuring app, suitable for both creating and organizing content. You can use it for any of the following scenarios:

  • making a grocery list
  • taking notes in class
  • writing a paper (and re-arranging sections easily)
  • planning and following through with a project
  • tracking and categorizing expenses
  • writing and editing your podcast script

There are multiple other uses for the app–I’ve made good use of it in sermon preparation, as you’ll see below. Right away the Mac and iOS apps take you to a templates screen so you can get started without delay:

 

Templates
On this and all images in the post, click or tap to enlarge

 

What’s Awesome About OmniOutliner

 

Getting content into OmniOutliner is fairly easy. It’s not as intuitive as just opening a blank Word document and typing, but it’s simple enough to open an outline and start writing.

Once you’ve gotten your outline going, being able to fold and unfold (collapse and expand) entire parts of the outline is a huge asset. If I’ve broken a book review down into parts, for example, I can just collapse the sections I don’t want to see at the moment:

 

Book Reviews Two Columns

 

Then there is the organizing power of OmniOutliner: you can take any node and indent or outdent it. You can drag sections of the outline around to quickly re-order them. And you can make batch edits when selecting multiple parts of your outline.

Perhaps the most helpful feature to me has been the ability to add notes to content, which you can then either hide or show. In this simple outline, I’ve set the note at the top to display (in grey), while the one toward the bottom remains hidden.

 

OmniOutliner Simple

 

You can show the sidebar, which allows you to move back and forth between a lot of content in one outline. When preaching on David’s odious sin against Bathsheba and her husband, I utilized an outline that included both my sermon structure and accompanying research. You can see that reflected in the sidebar, at left, even while my Topic column could remain focused on a smaller portion.

 

Outline in OmniOutliner

 

You can add media (audio recordings and video) to your outline. Your files would be huge, but if you wanted to use OmniOutliner for classroom notes, you could also add a live recording of the session, straight into your outline.

And then there is the styling. My goodness. You can tweak every aspect imaginable of your outline.

OmniOutliner Style PaneI found this feature set to be impressive but overwhelming. For my purposes, I didn’t need to do a whole lot by way of formatting, but the options are there should you need them.

To that end, the help files for OmniOutliner are incredible. So is their support team! There are user manuals you can download in multiple formats, and they are outstanding. In a couple of sittings, I read some 100 pages of the iBook version of the OmniOutliner for iOS manual. Yes, it was that interesting! Other app developers should take notes.

OmniOutliner is also available as a universal iOS app, working on both iPhone and iPad. You can sync across devices using Omni’s own server or your own.

The keyboard shortcuts available for iPad make OmniOutliner a serious contender for best writing app for those who are trying to make a serious go of it on iPad instead of computer. Omni Group’s Ken Case announced the shortcuts last November.

This means that the iOS OmniOutliner app is close to parity with the Mac app. This rarely seems to be the case with other apps, where iOS versions tend to lag behind their desktop counterparts.

OmniOutliner has had Split View and Slide Over in iOS for just about as long as iOS 9 has been released.

One other really cool thing: you can import the OPML file format from a mind map to move from mind mapping straight into OmniOutliner.

 

MN and OO with note

 

If that workflow interests you, read more about it here.
 

What’s Lacking

 

A few things are lacking in OmniOutliner:

  • I’ve experienced a couple of crashes when exporting my outline to other formats
  • The precision and plethora of styling options makes the app feel wooden and clunky at times, especially when you want to just sit down and write
  • If I want constant access to, say, a section of text in the second half of my outline, while I work on the first half, there is no way to split the screen or freeze a section so I can see easily disparate parts of my outline at once
  • There is no word count feature (!). Omni has indicated this could come in 2016, but not having it has kept me from making OmniOutliner my go-to writing app
     
    (Note: if you have OmniOutliner Pro for Mac (twice the price of the regular OO), you can go to the forums for an AppleScript that will help you with word count, but this is more than the average user should be expected to do.)

 

More Info

 

Byte for byte, OmniOutliner is worth your considering as your primary writing app. If you don’t need to be as structured with your writing, it may not be your top choice. Its integration across iOS and OS X, though, make it a possible go-to repository for collecting and organizing information.

You can find out more about OmniOutliner here and here.

OmniOutliner for iOS (Universal) is $29.99.

OmniOutliner for OS X is $49.99. OmniOutliner Pro includes a few more features and is $99.99.

You can get a free trial of Mac app here.

 


 

Thanks to the fine folks at The Omni Group, the makers of OmniOutliner, for giving me downloads for the Mac (OmniOutliner Pro) and iOS apps for this review. See my other AppTastic Tuesday reviews here.

Review: HEX Century Icon Folio for iPad Air 2

Last month I reviewed an iPad Air 2 case from KAVAJ and said:

As with iPad Mini cases, there are a lot on the market–so many that one could easily get lost in the three-hour rabbit hole of trying to find just the right one.

I’m not sure I have found just the right one for the iPad Air 2. There are a couple that are close–I’ll share about those in due course.

One of the cases that is close to being just right is the Century Icon Folio for iPad Air 2, from HEX Products.

 

What I Like About the Icon Folio

 

It’s not all leather, but the external material is primarily waxed canvas of high quality. The casing around the iPad itself is hard rubber. The HEX case strikes a neat balance of professional, classy, and casual.

 

Front

 

Back

 

The cut-outs for volume buttons, headphone jack, and camera are 100% A++.

 

Hole Cut-Outs

 

It’s a slim case, which makes it a good one for pulling in and out of a satchel a lot. It doesn’t add any bulk to the iPad.

You’ll have seen in the images above the elastic strap–you can use this to secure the bi-fold case, so that it doesn’t inadvertently open in your bag. The strap is thick and has the perfect amount of tension.

A key feature of the folio is the inside compartment where you can put three cards, cash, and a few notes, as you like:

 

Left Inside Card Slots

 

You can squeeze enough in here that you could take literally just this case and its contents to your favorite working spot (if you didn’t need an external keyboard).

 

Open

 

What I Don’t Like About the Icon Folio

 

Just two minor critiques to offer:

1. There’s no mechanism whereby you can make the case stand or prop up. In other words, the front of the case doesn’t fold as other cases do, for when you want to sit your device on a table and watch something or use an external keyboard with it.

2. After only a little use, part of the (faux?) leather strip on the side was starting to separate from the hard rubber. Nothing major, but one does hope this doesn’t worsen with time, especially given that this is not an off-brand, $20 option.

 

Bonus Feature, and Where to Get It

 

Bonus feature: though I haven’t seen HEX advertise it anywhere for this case, it does have a sleep/wake feature, so that when you close the case with the iPad on, it puts the screen to sleep automatically to save battery. This functions as it should consistently.

You can learn more about the HEX case at their Website here. And it’s available on Amazon here.

 


 

The kind folks at HEX provided me the case for the review, without expectation as to my review’s content.

App Review: Day One (Day One 2 Coming Soon)

Day One is easily the best app for keeping a journal or life log–if you’re going to do it in a 1s and 0s environment, rather than on paper.

In this post I briefly review Day One. I’ll leave for another time the question of whether journaling by hand or by phone/tablet/computer is preferable. Okay, actually… I’ll answer that now: better to do it by hand, because… reasons. But Day One has photo capability, so it has served as a nice digital repository for me to chronicle my kids’ growing up, without having to post it on Facebook, etc.

Day One offers sync via iCloud, Dropbox, or their own sync service, so you can keep everything together on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

I really like the layout, which allows you (much like in this blog, for example), to combine headings, text, and photos. Check out this sample entry on Day One for Mac:

 

Mac Sample Entry

You can even add an entry right from the menu bar, so that you can write down that brilliant insight before you forget it.

 

Mac Menu Bar Option

 

Your entries could be text, a (single) photo with text, location-based entries (that also pull in the weather automatically), meeting notes, day debriefs, etc. Each entry is automatically time-stamped. The possibilities are pretty robust, and folks use Day One in lots of different ways. The tags feature especially enables this, as you could use the built-in tagging system to sort by “journal,” “family,” “song lyrics,” “insights,” “questions,” and more.

My first question is–to the extent I use Day One as a sort of photo-journal (especially of the family), will having my info in a proprietary format some day cause issues? That’s always a possibility with software (score one for physical journals and photo albums), but Day One allows for PDF export, so you don’t really have to worry here.

 

Mac PDF Export

 

You can also set a reminder so that Day One reminds you each day to write:

 

Mac Reminders

 

It looks and works really well on iPhone and iPad too.

 

iPad Menu Landscape 2

 

If you want to try the app and really put it to use, Shawn Blanc has written a pretty thorough ebook: Day One in Depth.

You can find Day One for iOS here; the OS X app is here.

Also… if you want to wait a few days… Day One 2 releases this Thursday. I haven’t used the new app, but beta users seem to love it. You can check out what’s new in the FAQs here.

 


 

Thanks to the makers of Day One for the review copy of the app on Mac, given to me for this review but with no expectation as to its content.

Review: KAVAJ iPad Air 2 Leather Case

 

Image via KAVAJ (all others my own)
Image via KAVAJ (all others my own)

 

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first iPad Air 2 case I’ve reviewed at Words on the Word. As with iPad Mini cases, there are a lot on the market–so many that one could easily get lost in the three-hour rabbit hole of trying to find just the right one.

I’m not sure I have found just the right one for the iPad Air 2. There are a couple that are close–I’ll share about those in due course.

In this post I review the KAVAJ iPad Air 2 “Hamburg” leather case in cognac/brown.

 

What’s Great About the KAVAJ Case

 

This is an ephemeral satisfaction, but the packaging in which KAVAJ sent the case was as classy as the case itself:

 

2_Packaging

 

I really like the leather look and feel (and, of course, smell) of the case. (Current WordPress technology does not yet permit me to upload the smell to the blog.)

The stand system is secure and allows you to put the iPad at just about any angle you want. This is the best part about the case, as some others give you just two options, neither of which is quite the right angle. Here are some of the ways you can angle your iPad in the case:

 

1_Side View

 

1_Case at Other Angle

 

There’s also room to set up an iPhone there, in case you want to toggle between iOS devices. That’s a nice bonus.

The case is light–when folded back and reading in portrait mode, it actually makes the device easier and more enjoyable to hold than on its own. Cases that combine usability in both keyboard/orientation mode and reading/portrait mode seem to be rare.

The stitching is good, too. It looks like it’s not coming loose any time soon. And the inside flannel is nice and soft–no worries about it scratching your screen.

 

What’s Not-So-Great About the KAVAJ Case

 

There is an auto sleep/wake feature with the magnetic closure, which is good, but it’s really hard to get at the sleep/wake button itself when the case completely covers it. What if you want to leave your iPad set up on the stand all morning and turn it off when you’re not using it? When the iPad is in the KAVAJ case, it is very hard, if not impossible, to do.

This next assessment may be picky on my part, but I think anyone looking for a good case for an iPad Air 2 is warranted in that: the casing is not 100% centered when placed around the iPad.

It covers the home button just a tad, so that any time you go to press the home button, you’re competing the case. This is not an insignificant hassle, especially considering the use of Touch ID.

Here are some images showing what I mean:

 

2_Open with iPad in

 

1_Close-Up Home Button

 

Also, the snugness and slight off-centeredness of the case makes sliding in or up from the edges of the screen almost impossible. I’m not sure how else they could have circumvented this with this kind of case, but it feels like a design flaw, or at least something that leads to unusability.

That said, leather stretches out over time. A good week in the case didn’t make a difference on this front, but maybe it would improve over a longer period of time.

Finally, the case leaves just a little bit of exposure to the edges of the iPad. This may be necessary for the slide-in feature to work, but it leaves iPad exposed at a couple key spots–you’re likely to get a dent if you drop it. (And the leather isn’t all that protective anyway–a trade-off for the aesthetic.)

Where to Get It

 

2_Open and Empty

 

You can learn more about the KAVAJ case at their Website here. And it’s available on Amazon here.

 


 

KAVAJ provided me the case for the review, without expectation as to my review’s content.