Why I Like: - Jisoncase Microfiber Leather iPad Pro Case

I’ve found myself using my iPad Pro a lot more over the course of the last few months - more specifically, I’ve been making use of the Apple Pencil. It’s great in meetings, when you want to take notes digitally yet still give the air of professionalism and not look as though you are hiding behind a laptop, checking your emails!

Until recently I’ve been using the Logitech Create keyboard cover. Whilst it has a great keyboard, I’ve found that I’m now using the Pencil more than ever. Also, I’m using the iPad for consuming a lot more media than before - namely magazines, comics and books - so the need for the fancy keyboard is diminishing. My needs now are for a pouch-style case which can also house the Pencil and function as a stand. 

I’ve been using the Jisoncase Microfiber Leather Case and I”m very impressed with it! 

Visually, it’s great. The Microfiber Leather material looks very stylish and conveys a look of professionalism when you’re in those important meetings. 

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Sliding the iPad Pro in and out of the case is smooth. Sometimes these cases can offer resistance as the dimensions seem a little small for the tablet, however no such experience here. It’s a perfect fit, not so large as to slip out accidentally, yet not so snug as to bring on the gnashing of teeth when trying to fit the darn thing back in. 

It doubles up as a stand, which is important, especially if I decide that I’m going to use a Bluetooth keyboard with it (I’ve got my eye on this Microsoft Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard). When I first opened it, however, I had to question how on earth it folded together to form the stand. It didn’t take long to suss out how to fold the pre-built ridges into the required prism shape. It holds the iPad Pro 12.9 solidly in both landscape and portrait mode, which I have to say was a bit of a surprise. It doesn’t look as though portrait mode should be possible, however, it’s a very strong, resilient case.

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The slot for the pencil is perfect, at no point has it slipped out whenever I’ve picked up the case, or placed it in/out of my work bag, which happens multiple times daily. 

I’ve been using the case for a couple of months now and there is no physical sign of wear and tear or degradation on the surface, in fact it still looks brand new, which is very important for this style of case. You buy it because it looks nice and you want to look professional and so far, I’m happy to say that it does just that. 
 

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I opted for the brown case as it goes with my Snugg Messenger bag, however it also comes in black, red or blue. 

Whilst I love writing about software that I like, I don’t often feel compelled to write about hardware or accessories that impress. This case changed that. Credit where it’s due to the folks at Jisoncase, they’ve created a quality product and I think I may have to add them to my list of favourite suppliers.

Why I Love: Copied

The Universal Clipboard on macOS/iOS has been around since Sierra graced our desktops in 2016 and had the potential to be a real boon for productivity whilst switching devices. I’ve found the experience of implementing less than stellar and I know I’m not alone in this. I looked for a third-party application that would allow me to use this feature seamlessly, as well as a host of other configuration options and I’m so pleased to say that I have settled on Copied from a developer named Kevin Chang

As you would expect for the features I require, there are two versions that need to be obtained. The Mac version can be purchased from the App Store for £7.99 and the iOS version is free (although there is a $2 in-app upgrade to unlock iCloud sync). Let me tell you how I use the Mac version first. 

The first thing I love about the Mac application is that it sits in the menu bar and detaches when I need it. Click the icon and drag the application window to a location that suits you. You can also set a Global HotKey to show the application at any time (I use Caps Lock and C, using these instructions for modifying the Caps Lock key). Having a minimised interface is important to me and this suits well. 

Using the application is easy. Firstly, be sure to set it to start on system launch (easily done from within the preferences) and then decide how many clips you wish to have stored. I have it set to the maximum (currently 1000). Every time you press ⌘+C, not only is the snippet stored on your macOS clipboard, it can be found retrospectively in Copied too. By default, it will be stored in the Copied list however here we can now talk about another great feature of Copied - lists and rules. You can create different lists to store batches of content. As an example, I have a list that contains copied images, another for website links, one for affiliate links. If you are of the mindset that craves organisation, rather than one big bucket for storing all of your stuff, then this is a great addition - especially when you pair it up with rules to automatically file them. There are application rules, hostname rules and Regular Expressions that can be configured to direct your clips to the appropriate list.

 
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There are a wide variety of keyboard shortcuts that can be configured to your choosing. As you can see from my screenshot, I don’t use them all - my brain is starting to fill up with the custom shortcuts that need remembering for all of my apps! The key ones DO get used though and as a bare minimum I’d recommend setting the Show/Hide Copied one as well as the shortcuts for Copy Queued Clipping and Paste Queued Clipping. I find myself gathering up a list of clippings I know will need copying and love the ability to add them to a queue and paste them one at a time - very handy. 

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The Mac version offers so many options for configuration, it’s a power user’s dream. Using Templates, you can even copy text and paste it into a variety of formats. Copying a web link and want to paste in Markdown? Easy, set a keyboard shortcut and you’re away. Then browse to the URL, hit ⌘+C and paste using the new shortcut you’ve created - the URL will be in Markdown format. There are other templates for Plain TextSource TitleSource URLLink in HTML and Quote.

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The iOS Version is a master-class. Like it’s Mac counter-part, there is a dark/light theme to suit your tastes and optional sounds to let you know Copied is doing it’s thing. Templates are available, as are Rules (although there are no Application rules, only Host Name and Regular Expressions). As I use my iOS devices primarily for research on the move, paying for the upgrade to allow for iCloud Sync was an absolute no-brainer for me and the core reason for buying both versions of the application. I may use multiple devices, however I’m one person so need one clipboard history. 

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Copying on iOS is reasonably straight forward and you have the following options. You can:

  • Use the Share Extension to save content directly
  • Use the Clipper Extension to modify/transform the rest beforehand
  • Activate the Custom Keyboard to copy text from any application sporting a text field (I tend to mainly use the keyboard for pasting text though)
  • Use the iOS Widget to save the clipboard
  • Use the ‘Save Universal Clipboard’ setting to save anything that is copied from within another app - this is only available with Split View though. 

I love Copied - it’s versatile, easy to use and feature-rich which is just what I look for in an application. Also - and most important for me - it solves an actual problem I had, rather than acting as a ‘nice-to-have’. This makes spending money a little easier!

Why I Love: Cardhop

It’s been a long time coming (the first announcement was in 2012!) however the team at Flexibits have now given us Cardhop, their attempt to improve the Contacts experience on macOS. It’s certainly been well anticipated - Fantastical 2 is a great calendar application for macOS and if even a fraction of the ingenuity shown in Fantastical 2 is present in Cardhop then there is the promise of a great application. 

Well - it is indeed a great application, although I have to say it won’t be for everybody. Let me explain. 

I love the simplicity that Cardhop brings. We have one single text field for creating, managing and interacting with contacts and this is accessed from either the dock or menu bar, as per your liking. The menu bar is optimal for me, although I’ve also assigned a snappy shortcut (Caps Lock and D). When the application is accessed, a window is presented which doesn’t list your contacts from A-Z. No, instead of this, Cardhop is intelligent enough to show you contact entires you may be interested in, such as Birthdays and Recent Contacts. If you do want to see all of your Contacts, there is a button at the bottom of the detachable drop down menu. 

You can also show/hide a list of contact groups. I love the fact that this side panel can indeed be hidden, as grouping contacts is not something I’m overly invested in. If I start a new contract, then I may well add tags (groups) to any new contacts I need - this makes it easy to cull those entries when I move to a new role. Most contact applications keep this window in view all of the time, which is not to my taste - minimalism is key for me in my working environment.

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If you start typing in the blank text field, Cardhop will either start the process of creating a new entry, or show you relevant entries based on the names/words you have typed. Adding a new entry is easy - you can add contact information from the input field easily enough through natural language and Cardhop will parse the information - totally expected behaviour from the team at Flexibits as they set the standard for this functionality with Fantastical. If it detects the name of an entry, but not the attribute that you are typing (for example, you have a phone number for Joe Bloggs yet type the phrase Joe Bloggs emailthen Cardhop has the smarts to edit the entry for Joe Bloggs with a new email address. 

If you click on an existing contact, then a card will display on the left hand side, showing four customisable actions you can perform. By default you can send a message, email, call or video call the contact, however you can change these for other options such as Get Directions, Copy To Clipboard, FaceTime, Start a Skype Call, Tweet and others.

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There is also a Notes field under each contact which is, admittedly, nothing new, however now that this field is (almost) a shortcut combination away, you may well find yourself tempted to use it more. It will never act as a CRM tool yet it’s a great way of being able to track actions that you have carried out with a given contact, or note down little nuggets of information for the next time you speak to them. If there is an important contact you have, jotting down information about their family, or interests that they have, can make a great conversation starter when you need to reach out to them. 

One feature I have started to use extensively with Cardhop is making calls directly from my Mac. If you have Continuity or Wi-Fi calling enabled on your iPhone, calls can be kicked off from your Mac. Tapping a keyboard shortcut and then the phrase Call Kelly whilst wearing my headphones is so effortless - and effortless for me is good!

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The reason this app may not appeal to everybody comes down to how people generally pull up their contact information. If an email needs to be sent to somebody, then email applications can fill in the contact information themselves. When people send iMessages, the Messages application is usually the source of the contact information. The same can be said for Twitter. We’ve become so used to a method of working that it’s going to be difficult to deviate from this and for just under £20 (after the introductory offer), people will struggle to see the value. For myself, my brain thinks in terms of the people I’m communicating with first, then the medium comes second. I will think to myself:

I need to contact Jim about this issue and will automatically open up Cardhop to view his info while my brain is working out the best medium for the task. If it’s a call, I’ll call him - if it’s an email, I’ll email him and I’ll initiate the action from the Cardhop application. This makes sense to my way of working, but this won’t be the case for everyone. 

I think it’s a great application and is available from the Mac App Store or from the Flexibits site. 

Check it out.

Why I Love: FruitJuice

I’ve got a 2015 MacBook Pro and, being self-employed and reliant on the upkeep and maintenance of this device, I need to take good care of it and eek out the most of every single penny that has been spent on it. To that end, making sure that the battery is looked after is one of my most important responsibilities. 

It’s all too easy to leave your MacBook on charge for long periods of time, however this is not good for the long term life of your battery. The ions need to move. When the battery is charging, the positively-charged lithium ions move from one electrode to the other (these are called the cathode and anode if you’re interested!). When this happens, electrons concentrate on the anode, which is the negative side. When your device discharges, the reverse happens.

Batteries have a set life-span because this process can only take place a certain number of times. To help with this, I use an application called FruitJuice by The Battery Project. 

As they know far more about the lifecycle process of the lithium-ion battery than I, I’m happy to follow their advice during my sessions of work. That’s right - as you are working, FruitJuice offers guidance as to when you should plug your laptop in or run from the battery, through notifications. Sounds simple, right? That’s because - that’s exactly what it is! And I’m all about simplicity with my life currently, which makes FruitJuice a key application for me. 

In order to ascertain when you should plug/unplug your machine, FruitJuice requests that you run a maintenance cycle when you first launch the app. This is simply a controlled discharge from 100% to 20% of the battery life, at which point you receive a notification asking you to connect back to the charger. Fruit Juice then tracks your usage and attempts to keep you running from your battery for around 20% of the time you typically use your laptop. 

Clicking the menu bar icon shows your battery time for today, the average for the last 7 days and the last 30 days. You can also view a well laid out bar graph that plots your statistics for a pre-defined time period by clicking on Power History

Preferences allow you to choose the icon style in the menu bar, as well as information that it displays. 

You can also run your own Maintenance Cycle from the menu bar icon, although FruitJuice will, of course, remind you on it’s own when a cycle is due.

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There are other applications available, some of which are free. At £9.99, it’s not the cheapest option, however it’s full featured and, most importantly, regularly updated, so I know it’s not going away any time soon. Being able to maximise my battery life for under a tenner is a no-brainer for me!

Check out the UK App Store version here.

Why I Love: Unclutter

Some people believe that for an application to be truly useful and worth our hard-earned cash, it needs to be bloated with features and have the aesthetic qualities of a recently discovered Dali masterpiece. There are others, like myself, that believe the best applications focus on one or two features and deliver them perfectly. Unclutter, by Eugene Krupnov, actually focuses on three tasks - however I love them all and this is definitely one of those applications that I qualify as a hidden gem

What Is It?

In it’s simplest form, Unclutter is an app that allows you to store clipboard snippets, drop files and make notes in one easy to access interface. 

Yep - that’s pretty simple! And that’s what I love about it - in particular the Notes section, which is my main use case for this application. Let me run through each of the features quickly and you can decide for yourselves whether it’s worth your attention or not. 

Ease Of Access

Unclutter is not visible whilst you use your Mac, however you can access it easily by moving your cursor to the menu bar and swiping down. If that action clashes with another gesture you have configured, you can choose an alternative, either holding a modifier key or simply waiting for a period of time (half a second, one or two seconds).

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Moving to the top of the screen and swiping down is now firmly ingrained as muscle memory every time I think about taking a note. It’s a great gesture, superbly executed. 

Clipboard

I’d say that the Clipboard is probably the feature I utilize the least as I use a separate third-party application called Copied to manage my clipboard entries - however that isn’t to take away from its usefulness for others. You can modify the number of entries that are stored in the clipboard history (10, 25 or 50 - significantly less than alternative applications, it has to be said) however you can also identify applications that should not store their clipboard information within Unclutter

There isn’t much interaction with the clipboard entries on-hand. I’m told that in previous versions of Unclutter, you could drag text out directly from the panel, however, I haven’t been able to replicate this (happy for you to comment if you have achieved this!). You can click on an entry for a web link and then open the page in your default browser, which is an improvement on previous versions, yet I still find the Clipboard manager to be the weakest of the three features. It’s a nice to have though if there aren’t any alternatives in your list of applications.

Files

Files is a genuinely handy feature. You have the ability to drag files from any location and pop them into the Files panel ready for use later. This is useful if, like me, you tend to use the Desktop as a default location for storing random files that you know you are going to be working with soon. Simply drag and drop them into the menu bar and the Unclutter panels open up automatically. Like Finder, you can use Quick Look to get a quick preview of the file. 

One way that Unclutter has evolved recently is the ability to show the files in List view as well as Icon view and you can also create Folders now within the Files panel to store files.

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The default location for the storage of these files is deep into your Library, however, you can change this. I now have a Dropbox folder designated for any files stored within Unclutter, meaning that if I am in a hurry, I can just drag some files into Unclutter and know that they will be available on any machine I work on later that day, including my iPad Pro. 

Files is great - however, I don’t use it as much as I use….

Notes

I used to have a system whereby I would leverage nvALT to save any plain text notes on my Mac. This has changed now, thanks to Unclutter. 

I need to take notes multiple times in an hour when I’m working on any given project. It could be because I’m being disturbed whilst I’m in a focus block of work and need a reminder to contact that person back, it may be taking notes on a certain project I’m working on, jotting down numbers or reference material - anything. I’ve always maintained that the simplest solution to a given problem is always the most effective, so that is why I am now starting all of my Mac notes within Unclutter. It’s like my scratch pad, any ideas or thoughts go in there ready for filing. Like Drafts on iOS, it’s the default location for the majority of my text entries and I can utilize keyboard shortcuts to send the text to the application required. Currently, there are two main applications that suit this purpose - OmniFocus and DEVONthink. Using the Caps Lock demonstrated so ably by Brett Terpstra, I can highlight any text within Unclutter and either hit Caps Lock + O (New OmniFocus Entry) or Caps Lock + N (Create New Plain Text Note in DEVONthink) and it goes to the system of my choice. I can also create new entries in Day One if I so wish. I haven’t looked at other services I can enable as they haven’t come up as a requirement. 

Like FilesNotes can be stored in a different location to the Default and again, I’ve moved this to Dropbox. You can create multiple notes however the name for these notes in Finder/Dropbox is always in the format Unclutter Notes - Date/Time.txt. I haven’t found a way of easily manipulating this, however, I’m sure if it was an issue for me I could just get Hazel to track this folder and rename with the first line of the draft easily enough. 

I’m very strict with my workflow, however, and I check the Notes after every session of work, sending them to the correct permanent location. This is an absolute necessity for me as there could be important information within there that needs dealing with that day. Renaming the files and working with them on the move becomes irrelevant for me as they only really end up in OmniFocus or DEVONthink Pro Office anyway. 

On the whole, Unclutter is great value on its own from the App Store ($9.99) however you can also pick it up as part of the Setapp subscription, with other great apps such as Ulysses (I’m writing this post with now!). 

Check it out and let me know what you think!