Tag: Apple

The iPod is now dead.

Apple has officially said that the iPod is no more. You can still buy one, but only while supplies last.

Since its introduction over 20 years ago, iPod has captivated users all over the world who love the ability to take their music with them on the go. Today, the experience of taking one’s music library out into the world has been integrated across Apple’s product line — from iPhone and Apple Watch to iPad and Mac — along with access to more than 90 million songs and over 30,000 playlists available via Apple Music.

I remember when I got my first iPod, it was the original iPod Shuffle. After that, I got the first iPod Nano, the wide iPod Nano 3rd generation, and eventually bought the iPod with video.

The iPod with video was my pride and joy, and it was also my first encounter with handling digital video. I learned about different video formats, how to download videos from the web, converting those videos to fit the settings needed to have them play properly, and the beauty of the internet. There were many times I would be scouring forums and chats to figure out how to get Handbrake to output the right video I needed or how to rip music from YouTube and get it onto my iPod.

Now, as someone that does video production for a living, I am happy to have had that experience.

The iPod was also my first Apple product. I grew up in a PC home, like most in the early 2000s. I remember getting that magical experience of flipping my thumb over the wheel of an iPod to select from a list of menus and options. I had my entire audio library in my pocket, and the best part was it would never skip as a portable CD player did. It would be several years before I’d get an iPhone or Mac computer, but the iPod was what sold me on Apple, the company.

While the iPhone has replaced the iPod for me – and has for the better part of a decade – it’s still sad to see the end of an era here.

The Elephant in the Room

I wanted to kick this week off with something light and fun, but if we are being honest here—I like to think this is a safe space—this week has been a lot to handle as an “Apple enthusiast.”

I have been reading so many different news stories, opinion articles, and comments about the recent announcement from Apple regarding the future scanning of iCloud Photos. I don’t want to explain the details about what is happening, you can find more about the announcement explained by The Verge or this more detailed FAQ from TidBits.

I will say here that this isn’t Apple getting unfettered access to your entire iCloud Photo library, they are specifically looking for child sexual abuse material (CSAM) that matches a hash in a database of known CSAM. That said, there are several people and organizations sharing concerns regarding loss of privacy to users, possible political exploitation, and overall creepiness that Apple can now have backdoor access your photos in iCloud. There are arguments saying this is a slippery-slope for Apple, others say that it is only a matter of time before it affects other types of content.

I am not here to add to the pile of people looking to share their opinion on this matter. I am not an expert in privacy, CSAM, or the legality of photos in the cloud. There have been great arguments that I will encourage people to read. The first being John Gruber’s take on Daring Fireball, second is an open letter to Apple signed by over 5,000 people including Edward Snowden, and finally Casey Newton’s article from Platformer. All of these have great explanations for their arguments and they fall on different spots of the spectrum as far as their privacy concerns.

The main point I want to make here is that Apple is a big tech company, and the changes they make aren’t always going to be fun or simple to talk about.

The reason I love talking about hardware, software, UI design, and the overall experience in using computers is because I love what people can make with it. I didn’t get into writing about Apple to dive deep into the political ramifications these companies make. That isn’t what revs my engine, in fact it is the kill switch to my enthusiasm. To put it bluntly, the less I have to think about those kinds of things the better. Yet, today, and this past week really, isn’t one of those times.

This isn’t to say that what is happening isn’t important. In fact, I think it is a pivotal moment in the ongoing concerns about privacy. Still, for right now, writing about Apple isn’t fun for me, and I am having a hard time to get past the concerns so many people knowledgeable about the situation have raised. Apple has always been the privacy-focused company but now it seems that things are changing on that front.

Instead, I took the time I usually spend writing this newsletter to escape from this ongoing debate. I listened to podcasts like Do By Friday and The Dollop. I played Mass Effect Legendary Edition on my Xbox, and started watching To Obsidian and Beyond, a new course by The Sweet Setup. All of these things have been great distractions for me, and a much-needed mental health break.

How the iPad mini can thrive in 2021

I have been thinking a lot about the iPad Mini lately. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but I have a few links peppered in this that got my gears going. Furthermore, I have many questions about the iPad mini now and the future of the iPad mini.

The iPad mini might not be for everyone, but people who have used it will tell you that it just works for them.

Shortly after he wrote this, Lee shared that due to new circumstances, the iPad mini doesn’t quite fit like it once did for what he’s doing. Now, he is rocking the M1 MacBook Air as his main device.

What I’ve found this year is that since getting the larger screened iPhone 11 I’m using my iPad Mini less. It’s just always with me and easily accessible. I use the iPad Mini now for about 20% of the time in my week. Maybe to read a magazine or look at my RSS but I’ve found its use has dropped off.

With all this said, José Adorno posted an article on 9to5Mac sharing other use cases for the iPad mini.

The iPad mini has some things going for it, mainly because of its size. The first thing is it’s a great reading device. Whether you are scrolling a book, reading a digital magazine, or skimming a New York Times article, the mini provides a Retina screen that can be held in your palm with ease. That being said, there is the argument that the iPhone can do all of these things too. For me, though, I have found that reading on my phone for longer than a few hundred leaves me wanting a larger device to read things on. I also get fatigued holding my 11-inch iPad Pro, or even the regular iPad when I had one.

All this to say that the mini can be argued that it deserves a spot in the Apple iPad lineup, but I am still not sold on the iPad mini 5. To me, it seems time that the iPad mini fit between the 10.2-inch iPad and the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.

How Can the iPad Mini Improve?

There are several ways that the next iPad mini can be improved upon to make it more enticing for users, and for people who already have an iPad and iPhone to want the iPad mini.

Price

The current 10.2-inch iPad is selling at the starting price $329, whereas the 7.9-inch iPad mini 5 is being sold at the starting price of $399. Selling the iPad mini $70 more than the iPad is like selling an iPhone 12 for more than a 12 Pro. It just doesn’t make much sense. It also isn’t like they differ in any meaningful way.

They both are using the same A12 Bionic chip, and both support the Apple Pencil. One of two things needs to happen if Apple wants the mini to thrive going forward. They either need to lower the price to lower or at the very least match the iPad. On the other hand, they could offer an updated version of the iPad mini with a better ship and better features to justify the added cost.

Screen Size

The iPad mini is only 1.2-inches bigger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which isn’t enough to make it appealing to users with larger phones like the 12 Pro Max, or any iPhone Max device in the last few years.

It is rumored that the iPad mini will be getting a larger screen size, one place estimated 8.9-inches for the screen size, all without changing the footprint of the iPad Mini. This means that the bezels are getting thinner and the Home Button is going away in the next version of the iPad mini.

Thankfully, it seems that there are several sources sharing rumors and information indicating that the next iPad mini will indeed be larger.

Support Apple Pencil 2

This seems like a no-brainer to me. It is time that Apple cut the cord from the Apple Pencil 1 and make the move to generation 2. Not only is it magnetic and can be stuck to the side of some supported devices, the Apple Pencil 2 is much more accessible to purchase compared to the first generation.

Support MagSafe

This is a more edge-cased thing, but in my opinion, Apple should lean in with MagSafe and start implementing it in the iPad lineup. The iPad mini is a perfect place to start. It isn’t much larger, the battery size is comparable, and it wouldn’t look so silly with the current MagSafe puck.

How to Make Apple Notes More Useful

This week I wanted to utilize the Apple Notes app, and how you can use the synergy with the Mac and your iPad or iPhone to up your note-taking game.

I made a quick video showing how you can use your Mac and iPhone or iPad to capture photos, documents, or sketches like magic. Let me know if you like these videos, if a lot of you do I might make some more down the line.

Have you ever been in a meeting or something and see a document, visual aid, or something else you want to capture in your notes? Well, thanks to the Notes app you can grab a quick photo, scan, or sketch out what you wanted to save. It all starts with a simple icon in the Mac Apple Notes app.

Once you click on this icon in the upper right-hand area of the Notes app, a world of options comes up. Depending on what devices you own, you may see multiple things show up. For me, it shows my iPhone and my iPad. Both of these devices have the same options available, here’s what each does.

Take Photo

This is pretty self-explanatory, under the device you wish to use, for me it is my iPhone, click on “Take Photo” and then your device opens up the camera for you to snap a photo. Take a photo, decide if it works for you and once done it will show up in your note on the Mac.

Scan Document

Like the photo option, once selected your device’s camera opens up but instead of it being a standard camera, it is now looking for documents to scan and once it finds one it will cover it with a blue UI and automatically scan it for you. You can scan multiple pages and edit the pages you want to keep by tapping the bottom left ahnd corner. When everything is the way you want it select Done and press Save. Once saved, the documents show up in the note on your Mac.

Sketch

Sketch is the most interesting one for me, as it is using PencilKit to allow you to draw, color, and sketch something on your iPad or iPhone. Just select “Sketch” in the options, draw out what you want on your iPhone or iPad. Once you’re all set tap “Done” and it will pop up in the note.

Conclusion

This is one feature I never knew about, but now that I do know about it Apple Notes seems like a killer app for when you want to take notes quick and want to capture reference material as well.

Let’s Talk About Safari

There are some significant changes coming to how we browse the web on iOS 15 and macOS Monterey. If you follow Apple news or other tech writers, I am sure you have seen just how polarizing the new Safari is.

Chaim Gartenberg writing for The Verge:

Over a decade of muscle memory has trained my brain to reach up for the menu bar on smartphones. I get Apple’s motivation in moving it to the bottom, making it easier to reach on the increasingly large phones it makes and putting the actual content of devices front and center at the top of the screen, it’s still a change that’ll require an adjustment period.

JuanSC Writing for Mac O’Clock:

Modifying habits that have been built for ten years is not going to be easy. We have always clicked on the top address bar to move through Safari and reload a page. And the bottom one to share, go back and forth, open tabs and history.

But it is easy to see how reloading the web and sharing are the ones that can bring us the most problems. Because it is not obvious where we are going to find them, despite the fact that when you click on the menu they have a preferred place. And when the user knows where they are, they will see that options that were previously accessible with one tap now require two steps.

Stephen Hackett writing for Six Colors:

Safari 15 brings big changes, and surely not everyone will be a fan. I, for one, think the expanded use of color is distracting, and the tabs-aren’t-just-tabs-anymore design confusing at times. I hope Apple might reconsider some of these more drastic design changes during the beta process this summer.

Clearly, there is much left to be desired from Apple when it comes to the changes to one of the most popular apps on the planet.

The Problems

Let’s dive right into what the issue is for Safari. I want to cover the three biggest issues I encounter. There are other minor things that bother me about Safari, but that is for another time. Today, I want to bring up the more drastic changes that fundamentally change how we browse the web.

The tab bar doesn’t help

Apple has moved the tab bar (or address bar as many call it) from the top of the screen to the bottom. This is obviously meant to make it more usable for bigger phones. As an iPhone 12 Pro Max user, this is a welcome change, but the problem is how this new bar behaves.

The new tab bar is no longer connected to the bottom of the screen, it now floats.

As you can see, the bottom bar now floats and shows some content between the bottom of the bar and the bottom of the screen. Or, as Apple puts it, “Safari gets a new design that makes controls easier to reach with one hand and puts content front and center.”

The problem here is that the tab bar isn’t working well for some websites. A large amount of the websites that aren’t working properly are because of a floating menu or buttons. Nintendo’s website, for instance, is horrible to use in the new Safari.

It is almost impossible to use the bottom buttons on the website when the floating bar is active, making it incredibly frustrating as a user.

What makes this even more of a conundrum is that there are other sites that work perfectly fine with the new Safari. Twitter, for instance, works just fine.

My website, however, has a subscribe button that wasn’t working right with the new Safari.

On the left, you see my website with a Subscribe button floating fine when the tab bar is minimized. However, when it is active, you see that the Subscribe bar isn’t floating above it as it should.

I am sure there is a way to make this work, but I am not a web developer and the number of people that actually click on that button is most likely slim to none. Because of this, I decided to just eliminate it from my website entirely.

Where’s the Share button again?

The new design also entirely ruins all muscle memory we have with Safari. We no longer can go by memory on where the Share button, reload button, or back buttons are. We are back to square one with web browsing on our phones.

To add insult to injury, the functionality of Safari is now hidden away in a junk-drawer styled “…” button. If you want to do anything useful with Safari, you now have to activate the bottom bar, tap the “…” button and select what you want.

If you want to share this via the standard Share Sheet, you have to tap on another button to get access to that. Feel fatigued yet? I say that in jest, but it is obvious that Apple has a problem with quick access in Safari.

Sure, my website gets an added line or two of content, but the cost of bringing things “front and center” isn’t worth the added sentence I can read on an infinitely scrolling feed.

Tabs on the iPad and Mac are worthless

I’ve spoken enough about the woes on the iPhone, but the iPad and Mac aren’t any better. The biggest, most griped about thing with the new Safari is the tabs. No matter what you do, the tabs in Monterey and iPadOS 15 are no longer reliable.

By reliable, I mean that because of the nature of how tabs work, I have to play Where’s Waldo with the tabs on my screen. Gone are the days when tabs were normally in the same vicinity because now instead of the tabs being separate from the address bar, Apple has decided to bring it all into one amorphous blob.

While this may look fine in a screenshot, when you are using it in practice it is almost impossible to find the tab you want once you have more than 5 or 6 tabs open at a time.

What is the most difficult for me, is that I can no longer reliable guess what keyboard shortcut I need to press to get to a specific tab. If you don’t know if you wanted to open the third tab in Safari, you can just press Command-3 and you are there. Back when Safari had a uniform tab length and the address bar was separate from tabs, you could reliably guess what tab was what. Now, the address bar moves to the tab location, which makes things very difficult. Now, I can’t estimate what tab is where anymore. I have an abysmal average of successfully guess what keyboard shortcut I need to reach to Safari tab I was hoping to open.

The Solutions

With these large issues, there are some options Apple can make to improve Safari. I am not an engineer, nor have I spent years researching UX and UI. That said, I have found some interesting solutions and have thought of my own as well.

Better Web Developer support

I did some digging to try to find a solution to make my Subscribe button float above the tab bar on iOS, but I couldn’t find anything in Google or Apple’s developer sessions. I found an article by Samuel Kraft that explains it reasonably, but it is beyond my minimal knowledge in web development.

I would love to have a simple bit of code to add to my header to make things like my Subscribe button and other UI elements to comply with the new Safari design. Furthermore, I know enough about web development that websites are built in a variety of ways; and I know that this kind of ask is huge from Apple, but when it is literally how millions browse the web regularly it needs to allow for things like this.

I am sure there are people reading this that think implementing this is simple to understand. For me, though, it is too much of a hassle for me to bang my head against a wall until I figure it out.

Redesign the Safari app

As far as iOS Safari goes, Matt Birchler had an interesting take, which I shared recently, on how to fix this: use Maps as a starting point.

Matt Birchler:

Apple’s own Maps app has a similar UI where they’ve moved the search field and bookmarks to the bottom of the UI, while letting the content (the map) occupy most of the screen. The search bar is always visible, a small swipe up reveals your favorites, and a full swipe up brings up the full functionality of that app’s “start page”.

Is this as adventurous as the new Safari UI? Nope, but it sure didn’t spark the frustration that Safari has caused either.

Conclusion

While I did harp on the bad things about Safari, I do find some things to be a breath of fresh air. I just hope that those bits of fresh air aren’t smothered with the difficult and frustrating UX that is the current Safari beta.

The Changes to Shortcuts that Makes me Excited

Now that the Public Beta for iOS 15 is available, I thought I would talk about some of the changes and additions to Shortcuts that has me excited this year.

Split View and Slide Over Actions

The new and improved multitasking features being available on iPadOS 15. With that, Shortcuts now allows users to create actions and shortcuts that opens apps in both Split View and in Slide Over. I made a demo shortcut you can download here.

As you can see, you can choose the two apps that will be in Split View and have a separate action opening a specific app in Slide Over. In just two actions I can have my entire setup change on the iPad.

You are also able to change the Split View ratio from 50/50 to 70/30 if you so choose.

This might not seem like something to write home about, but like most Shortcut posts it is all about how you use these tools and actions.

For me, I integrate this with my Focus areas and have Shortcut Automation perform these actions automatically.

Focus Automation

Speaking of Focus Automation, here is what I have happen when I open my Writing Focus.

In two actions I have Safari and Craft in Split View and I have a new Toggl timer going in Timery. With just a single tap I have moved everything I need to the forefront and allowed everything else fall to the wayside.

This is what I was talking about with the building blocks and how you use the tools Shortcuts provides. Once you begin to understand the small things Shortcuts offers you can then build them into something bigger and more meaningful.

Stop and Output

This is a very specific feature in Shortcuts for people that build larger shortcuts and need to debug them.

Stop and Output is an easy way for you to put in an action to see what the output is at that particular point in the Shortcut. You can even copy it to the Clipboard for further investigation.

I don’t normally need this kind of tool when I am making Shortcuts, but when I do need it, I will absolutely be joyous that it is there.

Files Actions

Last, but certainly not least, is the improved Files support. Previously, you would only be allowed access to the Shortcuts folder in iCloud Drive to save, append, or edit files. If you had a file in any other iCloud or local folder on your iPhone or iPad it wasn’t accessible.

Thankfully, that has changed. You can most likely thank the Mac version of Shortcuts for this change, but it is here nonetheless. Now, you can choose a folder or file anywhere in your file system. From Dropbox, to iCloud Drive, to local storage (On My iPad/On My iPhone). Simply tap where the destination is on the Files action and “Replace” the folder/file with what ever you want.

As of right now, in the Developer Beta 2 (2nd Beta 2 update), I cannot seem to be able to make changes to the file/folder in Shortcuts. When I select “Replace” it is consistently crashing every time. If it does work for you, here’s an image of what it looks like in a Shortcut to “Replace” the File/Folder location.

As far as the crashing problem goes, I have filed a Feedback request to Apple sharing what I can in hopes it is fixed in the next version.

As a disclaimer for Beta season, there may be times where Shortcuts won’t work for you properly, like what I just explained above. I will try my best to debug things if something happens, but consider this your warning for testing things in the public Beta.

Conclusion

Shortcuts has a lot more changes and additions up its sleeve, and I can’t wait to share more with you this Summer about it as iOS 15 and macOS Monterey show us what Shortcuts has in store for us.

The Globe Key and iPadOS 15

Jason Snell from Six Colors recently wrote about the new universal keyboard shortcuts on iPadOS 15.

Down in the bottom left corner of Apple’s keyboards is a new key labeled with the picture of a globe. Initially intended for supporting multiple languages, in iPadOS 15 the Globe key has become something much bigger: it’s a symbol for global keyboard shortcuts.

If you hold down the Globe key on iPadOS 15 you will see the following pop up.

As you can see, there are a number of keyboard shortcuts on iPadOS 15 using this Globe key. Some of the more notable ones are things like Show App Library, Quick Note, Siri, Notification Center, and Control Center. These weren’t available via keyboard shortcut on iPadOS until now.

There are also some new multitasking keyboard shortcuts as well. Now, you can use the keyboard to initiate, select, and organize your multitasking. On top of that, you can also switch between apps as well with the Globe key and the arrow keys. So, instead of the 4 finger swipe to get to the previous or next app on your iPad you can leave your hands on the keyboard and use that to get to where you want to.

These additional universal keyboard shortcuts don’t interfere with the previous version of shortcuts on iPadOS either. In fact, all of the keyboard shortcuts that were previously in iPadOS 14 seem to still be baked in on iPadOS 15.

What if I don’t have a Globe Key?

If you use a keyboard that doesn’t have the Globe Key Shortcut you can change that in Settings > General > Keyboard > Hardware Keyboard > Modifier Keys.

From there, is you can map something like the Caps Lock key and use that as the Globe key instead. Alternatively, you could make the Caps Lock key a dedicated escape key if you did have a Globe Key.

Future Additions

I am also hopeful, like Snell, that more functions will be added to the Globe key in due time.

It feels like it’s inevitable that Apple will add hardware and media controls to the Globe key. I’m writing this on Apple’s Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro, which is a great keyboard—but frustratingly lacks a function row. So when I want to adjust the device’s volume or brightness, pause music, or skip to the next track, I have to use Control Center [or physically use the volume button]. It would make sense for all of those controls to have key equivalents, and assigning them to the Globe means they won’t collide with keyboard shortcuts available in individual apps.

This is still a beta 1, meaning things can change before public release That said, I really want Apple to make this change for good. The added abilities to use the keyboard makes the iPad go from a touch-device that has decent keyboard support to a full-fledged computer that can be used with a keyboard or touch.

Logitech Combo Touch vs Magic Keyboard

Logitech recently came out with an updated keyboard case for the iPad Pro line called the Combo Touch. If it looks familiar, that’s because it is very similar to the Folio Touch, which came out almost a year ago. I wrote about my initial impressions of it after the announcement if you want to learn more.

This keyboard case touts four different modes: reading, typing, viewing, and drawing. Aside from the Reading mode, which isn’t great after a few minutes of holding up like a magazine or book, we will cover everything.

The case covers the entire iPad and has special connectors for the Smart Connector on the back of the iPad, which then powers the detachable keyboard magnetically. You read that right, detachable keyboard.

This case has a lot to offer and could very well be an alternative to the Apple Magic Keyboard given the $199 price point compared to the $299 price tag for the Magic Keyboard. But is it good enough to use over the premium first-party option? Logitech sent me a review unit a couple of weeks ago, and I have that answer as well as my final review for you today.

Look and Feel

If I were to drop my iPad from desk height with this Combo Touch case attached, I wouldn’t be worried about whether or not my iPad would survive. It is absolutely secure and safe inside this sturdy and thick case.

I say thick, but it is by no means cumbersome. It feels just a smidge thicker than Apple’s Magic Keyboard case, and about the same weight as well.

The outside of the case is covered with a gray “woven fabric” leaving it to look nice in most settings. The color is muted enough to not clash with anything you might have in your office, but also stylish enough to stand out on its own.

One downside with the build is how the keyboard stays flush against the iPad case. When I want to open the keyboard or detach it I have a hard time finding where the keyboard and case separate. I fiddle with it just enough to be annoyed every time I want to use it. I’m sure over time it will work itself out but for now it’s annoying at times.

Keyboard Experience

After using the Magic Keyboard for months, when I made the switch to the Combo Touch it wasn’t quite as satisfying to type on. Don’t get me wrong, Logitech makes great keyboards and I know this is a reliable keyboard. I never had any issues with mistyping or multiple letters after one press. There is nothing functionally wrong with this keyboard, it just feels mushy by comparison to the Magic Keyboard. Something about the scissor switches Apple uses feels gratifying to type on, and Logitech can’t quite compare to it. The feel of these keys aren’t bad I just prefer the Magic Keyboard keys instead. One keyboard that I think is a great comparison to the Combo Touch is the K380 by Logitech. I use this keyboard anytime I need an external keyboard for my iPad or Mac. It’s a work horse of a keyboard for me and works great.

I will say this keyboard is far and away better than any Brydge keyboard I have used to date. Honestly, I think it is a solid second choice for typists like myself. If you aren’t interested in spending the extra $99 for the Magic Keyboard you won’t be disappointed by the keys, but if you already have the Magic Keyboard you may want to test it out before you buy it.

Keyboard layout

The keyboard layout is uniform for all of the keys. Aside form the modifier keys like Tab, Shift, Command, etc. all alphanumeric keys are the same size.

This can’t be said about the Magic Keyboard. Certain keys like the “]” key and both “-” and “=” keys are slivers on the 11″ Magic Keyboard. If I were comparing the 12.9″ Magic Keyboard layouts here this would be a different story, but sacrifices were made to fit a “full size keyboard” on the Magic Keyboard. If we take a look at the keyboard layout side-by-side I would be shocked to find anyone who prefers the Magic Keyboard layout over the Combo Touch.

Hell, Logitech wins just because of the media keys. One thing that baffles me with the Magic Keyboard is that media keys weren’t a priority for Apple. If Apple wants to say the iPad is a computer, the iPad should have media keys by now.

I know that the layout for the Magic Keyboard has significantly less real estate, and Apple has done a good job all things considered. However, I would argue that if Apple had to sacrifice the keyboard layout and media keys perhaps a second or third option might have been worth the time.

Trackpad

Compared the the Magic Keyboard, the trackpad is larger on the Logitech Combo touch. That being said, the size increase isn’t anything to write home about. It is nicer to have a larger trackpad, but I never had an issue with the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard. If you have found the trackpad on the Magic Keyboard to be too small though, the size increase might be what you’re looking for with the Combo Touch.

What is something to write home about is the “new click-anywhere trackpad” the Combo Touch ships with. Previously, the Logitech trackpad on the Folio Touch had a diving board trackpad, which meant a section across the top of the trackpad wasn’t made to be clicked but instead to be used as leverage for the rest of the trackpad.

Now, that section at the top is completely clickable, making for a much more pleasant experience. The Apple Magic Keyboard come out with this ability to click anywhere on it and was the only keyboard I know of (until now) that did this. Both the Combo Touch and Magic Keyboard, unlike the trackpad on a MacBook, it is a mechanical button of sorts that clicks regardless of whether it is powered or not.

I am not sure if this was something that Apple helped Logitech with, but regardless of how this technology made its way to the Combo Touch it is a welcome addition.

Footprint and Kickstand

The only reason the Combo Touch is able to have media keys, a larger trackpad, and a uniform keyboard layout is because of the real estate it gains by having a kickstand that keeps the iPad upright. Granted, the Combo Touch offers the ability to take the keyboard off the iPad case and use it as a canvas, but for right now I want to talk about it in a laptop setting.

The keyboard and kickstand make the iPad Pro longer than it is wide when using it. It is the only instance where you have to worry about the length of your desk or table rather than the width.

I did some measurements of the footprint the Magic Keyboard and my 13.3″ M1 MacBook Air have for comparison and found some interesting results.

Length in footprint:

  • M1 MacBook Pro – 8.5” (21.6 cm)
  • 11” Magic Keyboard – 7.5” (19 cm)
  • 11” Combo Touch – 13” (33 cm)

It takes over a foot for the kickstand and keyboard of the Combo Touch to be free and clear to use as a laptop. When the Magic Keyboard has nearly half of that footprint it is hard to consider the Combo Touch portable. For me, I find myself wanting to use the Combo Touch on my desk but move to the Magic Keyboard when I am taking my iPad to work or if I were traveling. While I prefer the keyboard on the Combo Touch, when portability is the name of the game the Magic Keyboard wins hands down.

Lapability

As you could guess after talking about the gigantic footprint the Combo Touch has, the Logitech Combo Touch is not usable on your lap with the keyboard and kickstand. It is entirely too large to get anything done comfortably on your lap.

You can use the touch screen without a keyboard just fine on your lap, so if you just want a couch device this can work for you.

Drawing Mode

The kickstand isn’t all bad though. Because of this kickstand (and the ability to remove the keyboard when you don’t want it), I can finally have an iPad case that has both a keyboard and the ability to draw on it comfortably.

I love the fact that I can use this iPad in a drawing mode without having to move it to a different case. In fact, that was the largest gripe I had about the Magic Keyboard when it came out. As someone that uses my iPad as a canvas for notes and/or drawing from time to time I love this added feature with the Combo Touch.

I can go from typing up something on the iPad to using it as a notepad in a matter of seconds. When I am using the Magic Keyboard I either have to use it in the keyboard case or flat on the table. Both of those options can wreak havoc on my hands after a short time. The Combo Touch, however, is angled at a comfortable position and can be adjusted thanks to the kickstand.

Speed Round

There are a number of other features and changes this keyboard has compared to other models; but for time sake I have just a quick one-sentence writeup for each feature.

Backlit Keys – The brightness is about the same as the Magic Keyboard and works great.

Updated Media Key – Spotlight search replaces mission control which is a no-brainer change.

Apple Pencil Cutout – This isn’t new, but the cutout for the Apple Pencil is great and doesn’t affect the protection of the iPad at all.

Speaker and USB-C Port Cutouts – The speakers and USB-C port isn’t hindered by the case in any way and allows for crisp sound and most charging cables to fit.

Smart Connector Connection – I was skeptical about this case with the smart connector being on the back, but Logitech makes it work without any issues.

Conclusion

All-in-all, the Logitech Combo Touch has some fantastic refinements to previous iPad keyboard cases and some new features that were much needed.

The keys feel like most Logitech keys, reliable and better than most other keyboards. The build quality is noticeably well though out, and the iPad feels protected and snug in the case.

This case isn’t the most portable on the market, but works great on a desk or at a cafe. If you want to type with it on your lap you might want the Apple Magic Keyboard instead.

If you want an all-in-one iPad case the Logitech Combo Touch is one you should absolutely consider buying.

You can buy the Combo Touch today for $199 from Logitech or Amazon.

Why Craft is the Note Taking King

This weeks issue of Tablet Habit is going to be all things Craft. This was originally going to just be an interview with CEO Balint Orosz but after spending more and more time with Craft I went into a rabbit hole.

I promise this isn’t sponsored, this is just such an amazing app that I have been thinking about a lot this week and this was literally the only thing on my mind for the newsletter.

Today we are going to talk about what Craft is, the history of how it came to be, how things are going now, and what makes it such a great app to use.

Finally there will be a litany of resources below as well as interesting workflows for Craft if you are interested in trying this app out yourself.

What is Craft?

Craft is a note taking app created by Luki Labs. Released in November 2020, it quickly became the latest hot note taking app in the Apple ecosystem.

I think that Ryan Christoffel from MacStories said it best in his review of Craft:

Craft is launching today across iPhone, iPad, and Mac as a new note-taker that blends the block-based approach of Notion with a thoroughly native experience, taking advantage of all the OS technologies you would hope for and throwing in valuable features like real-time collaboration. It’s the most exciting note-taking debut I’ve seen in years.

Craft offers some interesting features including excellent collaboration tools, full markdown support, native iOS and macOS apps, beautiful design, and the ability to link notes together.

Linking Notes

If you aren’t familiar with what it means to link notes, think of it as you have two pieces of paper on a board, and you want to link the two together because they are related in some kind of way. Craft allows you to create. a metaphorical piece of yarn to connect those two pieces of information.

All you have to do in order for that to happen is type the “@“ symbol and start writing out the note you want to link. You can even create a new note if you find yourself wanting to have a separate note that will link up with information in the note you are currently working on.

For instance, if I were working on a note that is for a review of a product and I find myself wanting to write out some more background information about the company, I can create a new note and have it linked to the note I am currently working on by typing “@Company Info.”

Not only can you use Markdown to write in Craft but you can export it in Markdown with multiple different variation options. With support for CommonMark, iA Writer, Bear, Ulysses, and Notion you can export your notes into pretty much any flavor of Markdown you want. You also have the ability to export it as a PDF, TextBundle, Microsoft Word, and more.

Speaking of exporting, there are direct app integrations with apps like Drafts, OmniFocus, Things 3, Ulysses, and more. With just a simple tap in the export options you can send your Craft note to the app of your choosing like magic.

These are just a few of the plethora of options Craft has to offer, and I want to dive deeper than a review for Craft. With that said, if you want to learn more about Craft feel free to look at the resources below from both Craft and from others who have shared some very interesting and cool ways to use Craft.

You can download Craft today for free at Craft.do. If you decide that Craft is your kind of note taking app you can purchase a Pro membership for $44.99 a year.

History of Craft

Craft was spearheaded by founder and CEO Balint Orosz, who began this note taking journey back in 2018. Balint began researching and creating the app that is now formerly known as Craft. In an interview I conducted with him, Balint tells me that this app was created because he wanted to do more with touch screens saying:

I just simply didn’t feel I can be productive on touch devices. It took me a good 6-9 months of thinking and researching to figure out the exact reason – which was mainly related around organizing/restructuring content on touch devices was horrible – and for my thinking process that is crucial.

One thing that got Balint to think that this kind of touch-first note taking can be accomplished was an app that had actually nothing to do with note taking.

After seeing TikTok, Instagram stories, etc. which effectively simplify video editing (one of the most complex desktop software) in a way where billions of people can use it, I thought that for sure we can do it for text.

Nearly 18 months later after a long beta season with users, of which I was a part of, Craft was ready to launch.

Release Day

By November 2020 Craft had become publicly available for people to download and use. Version 1.0 was officially out, and with it came some challenges.

One of the challenges was feedback and bug reports. As Balint explained to me, when you have a beta app you get different kinds of feedback than you would a public app.

[I]n beta very few people actually used Craft as their primary tool – while a lot of them started doing so once we were publicly available – and this meant that some smaller bugs which have been overlooked became critical. Balancing these, with new features our users are requesting is very challenging.

Even though there was more work to be done, it was clear that Craft had managed to catch lightning in a bottle. It gained momentum right out of the gate.

Balint Orosz on the user response from launch:

You get tons of (new/different) user feedback you want to address as soon as possible – so a mix of joy & dopamine from the positive feedback with the longer than usual shifts to get the first few fixes shipped ASAP.

Overall as the feedback, download & revenue numbers were above expectations we were very happy – recognizing there’s so much more we need to do.

Craft was out, and people were flocking to it. The reason, from my persecutive, was two-pronged. The first is that it is simply a great note taking environment on all three Apple platforms. Second, it is a native iOS and macOS app that simply oozes Apple aesthetics and design prowess.

I wasn’t the only one thinking this, in fact a lot of people have seemed to join the Craft bandwagon because of these two reasons.

Christopher Lawley on Craft:

Personally I have gone all in on Craft for note taking and research. I like their implementation, I like what they’re doing with the app, they are constantly updating it.

Curtis McHale:

The big thing Craft did was give me a truly excellent iPad app for my writing and research. Obsidian only had desktop at the time and their predicted iPad app was not what we have now. Craft was an excellent app on iPad which let me used my preferred platform for focused writing and research.

Reception and “Best New App” Award

By December 2020, just one month after public release, MacStories gave Craft the award of “Best New App” award, with editor-in-chief Federico Viticci saying:

I’ve been reviewing apps at MacStories for well over a decade at this point, and it’s only natural that, over the course of several years, it’s become increasingly rare for a new app to genuinely surprise me and upend my expectations in a specific category. I don’t mean this in the context of “I’ve seen it all, everything is boring now”; it’s just that after writing hundreds of app reviews in 11 years, testing even more betas, and following the evolution of App Store trends on both MacStories and AppStories, my threshold for being impressed by the 1.0 version of a new app or service is very high.

Present Day

Craft has been out for nearly 6 months now to the public at the time of this publishing. I wanted to know from Balint how the company felt about the reception of the app and the numbers they have for Craft subscribers.

We’re very happy with the numbers, but most importantly the user engagement (both within the product, but also the level of communication between the internal team and users) is just amazing. We’re getting a tremendous amount of insight from our users, and this makes our job both very challenging in one way, and easy on the other.

Using Craft

When Craft came out, I originally thought that this app was nearing its maximum capacity. Thankfully, I was dead wrong.

Ryan Christoffel from MacStories explained just how powerful Craft was as a 1.0 app in a way I couldn’t.

Craft is the strongest 1.0 note-taking app I’ve ever used. It offers a thoroughly native experience, taking advantage of all the best system features across its respective platforms, while also retaining the power and versatility of modern web-based services like Notion. Real-time collaboration is an especially exciting feature, and I love that even if someone doesn’t have a Craft account, they can add comments to your notes through public webpages.

Just as a user of this app, there is a lot going for it. Where I find I am using this the most is on my iPad, for obvious reasons.

Since launch, Craft has had numerous updates. Among them are some strong features added and bugs squashed. Here are the highlights:

  • Faster Search
  • Trash Can for deleted items
  • Web Editor (currently in beta)
  • Dedicated sidebar for iPad
  • Tabs in both iPadOS and macOS
  • Universal Attachment support
  • Surround selections (You can add ( ), [ ], { } easily to the beginning and end of the selected text by simply type ( or [ or {.)
  • Swipe to indent lines
  • External Locations
  • Notion, Roam, and batch Markdown import
  • Spotlight Search integration
  • Backlinks
  • iOS 14 widgets

The iPad Experience

One app that comes to mind a lot when I think about the design, usability, and versatility of Craft is Things 3. To me, they both offer a similar feeling with me, and I think it is because it is also native, frictionless and beautiful.

If you have ever used Craft or Things 3 you will know right away that it isn’t like every other app. It has an aesthetic that shows care, finesse, and obsession. Someone who worked on this app put their heart and soul into how this app looks and feels for the user.

I love that Craft decided early on to focus on being a native app, rather than doing something like Notion, a competitor for Craft, where it is a web app wrapped into an iOS and Mac app.

Balint commented on this decision saying:

From the start we wanted to create a Mac App which isn’t a blown up iPad app – but rather something you feel is built for the Mac itself – and Catalyst doesn’t provide much for you in that area (with the new MacOS 11 design language it’s better – but at the time with MacOS 10.15 you still had a very different visual environment). This meant we had to re-build pretty much the whole UI – different visuals, interactions, overall structure – and all of this had to be done in a way where we don’t have two apps – but one. So any feature we introduce on one platform should be available on the other platform as well.

Looking back moving to Mac early on was one of the best decisions we made. It forced us to re-think components and interactions in a more holistic and cross-platform way. It provided plenty of challenges, but both our design language and codebase is now a lot stronger because we made that decision – and with the M1 Macs Catalyst performance is just amazing.

It is interesting to see from a developer standpoint how integrating macOS can cause a complete overhaul for the iPhone and iPad apps as well. This decision could not have been made lightly, thankfully it was absolutely the right call. The native iOS and macOS experience is something that Apple users can sense and when it is done wrong, it leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

Personally, I can’t count how many times I have tried an app and leave it feeling like it is trying to be a Mac app but it feels like a web app. One app that is like that for me is Notion.

Recently I was talking on Twitter about Notion, and many were telling me that, when it comes to iOS and iPadOS, the best note taking experience between Notion and Craft is by far and away Craft.

James Eaton wrote:

One of my favorite things about Craft is how easy it is to just start taking notes. I tend to take somewhat of stream-of-conscious notes in meetings and I love how I can just type my thoughts and then sort, add lists, and develop blocks after the meeting is over. To put it simply: Craft does not get in my way when I want to capture text.

It’s clear that the current success for Craft is prosperous, but what does the future hold for Craft? According to Balint, quite a bit.

The Future of Craft

While Craft is still in its first year of release, it is clear that there’s more to come. Each update is indicative of that.

I wanted to know what Balint had planned for Craft, and when I asked about what the future of Craft looks like this is what he had to say.

Most of the things you see in Craft are the result of us learning from our users. We have a strong vision of creating the “next generation writing app” – i.e. one that supports workflows for knowledge workers in today’s ecosystem, not one which was built 20-30 years ago. This means we have very strong principles around :

  1. Cross platform and form factor usage (users are no longer working on just one device)
  2. Integration to other services / tools vs being the “all-in-one” (respecting that others across domains built amazing tools – we shouldn’t try to replicate that into one monster, but figure out ways that tools can be effectively co-used)
  3. Privacy & Data Accessibility – Your data is yours, and we should actively help you exercise those rights.There’s lots of details and nuances in all of these – and that’s where user input and feedback drives majority of the implementation details.

    The biggest thing we’ve learned is that every individual has a different set of preferences & needs for them to become productive – in other words to please hundreds of millions of users (which we want to do) one needs to provide a large number of features – or features in a way where these are customizable – while making sure the product doesn’t become overly complicated or bloated. In other words we are not in a sprint – but rather a marathon.

What also sends a clear message is $8 million in funding they received earlier this year in Series A funding. Craft made it clear that this funding will help grow Craft and expand its reach in a recent email to users saying:

What this means for you is that we will have plenty of resources to continue & build Craft for years ahead.

As for what Craft plans to work on in the near future, Balint tells me it is actually one of the most common requests they have received since launch.

On the very top of our list is of course tables – it’s challenging to get it right on touch, but we’re making good progress – and of course we’ve just launched our web editor, which has also been requested by many users.

The new Web Editor mentioned is something I didn’t expect to see so soon. Alas, I am pleasantly surprised by this. Like many, I work in an office environment that is completely Windows based which doesn’t bode well for apps that are only in the Apple ecosystem. Thankfully, the new web editor is working on fixing that for users.

I don’t want to talk too much about this as it is still in beta but I will say that even as a beta app it is surprisingly full-featured. Craft continues to raise the bar for beta and version 1.0 apps and for that we can all be grateful.

If you want to give the web editor a shot you can sign up for the waitlist of the beta.

Wrap Up

Craft has been a welcome addition to my workflows and I can’t wait to use this app more and see what kind of benefits I receive once I invest even more into the app.

If you are at all interested in trying out Craft you can start with the free tier and see how you like it. The features you get even in the free tier are vast and the amount of notes you can write before hitting its limits is large. I highly recommend giving this a go for a project you are working on or as a system of saving notes for different aspects of your life.

Finally, if you want to learn more about what you can do with Craft or how to use the app please look below at the multitude of resources I have curated of the last month.


Craft Resources

Below are a ton or resources I have been saving over the last few weeks that I think might be helpful for new and intermediate users of Craft looking to learn more about how this app works, organizing your notes, and more.

From Craft

Keyboard Shortcuts

Other Blogs/Websites

A Quick Overview of My Craft Workflow

Videos and Screencasts

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