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.

If It's Not a Hell Yes, It's a Hell No

If It’s Not a Hell Yes, It’s a Hell No

With Christmas now a passing memory, I’m hoping that my wallet can recover from the open heart surgery it experienced towards the end of last year. It’s certainly an expensive time when you have a young family - although the rewards trump the cost by a significant factor. 

I’ve found that when I spend money on others, a net result of this is a change in attitude regarding how I spend money on myself. There’s only a finite pool of cash that I can spend, so at times when my loved ones are the focus of my expenditure, I have to be ruthless when it comes to spending on myself. In fact, I’ve learned to adopt a strict strategy when it comes to buying something I like. I ask myself a simple question. 

“Do I 100% want/need this? Is it a Hell Yes?”

If it’s a Yes, then I’ll make the purchase. I trust my thought process enough to answer honestly. More often than not, however, the answer is No (In fact I’d say that 95% of the time, it’s a No!). 

I love this way of managing my purchases. It means I have to be ruthless with the money resources I have available and it allows me to make the best use of them that I can. 

So - why is a productivity guy talking about money management? Well, I quickly realised that this approach doesn’t have to be used solely for my finances. There is another resource that needs closely monitoring to make sure it’s utilized effectively and that’s my calendar

If I spend a little too much money in a month, then by hook or by crook, I can find ways of replenishing the pot - whether it’s by working extra hours, selling household items that are no longer needed - the bottom line is, there is a way of redressing the balance. Can I do this with my calendar? No chance! When the time is gone, it’s not coming back. This means that I need to be every bit as protective of my calendar as I would my bank account. 

This allows me to adopt the Productivity NInja characteristic of Ruthlessness when looking at Projects I have available and requests for my time. I ask myself a simple question. 

“Do I 100% want/need to do this? Is it a Hell Yes?”

If the answer is yes, it goes into Omnifocus as an Active Project and I schedule the necessary time in my calendar to work on the next actions for it. The same approach goes for meeting requests - If I’m 100% required to be at the meeting, then I attend happily. Otherwise, I make a point of requesting the meeting minutes as soon as it’s complete and picking up any relevant actions (which as I’m not at the meeting, is an infrequent occurrence - double win!). 

There are so many demands being placed on us within this Information Age that we live in. We’re all connected, our brains are being overwhelmed with the stuff of life and we need to adopt a ruthless approach if we are going to protect the resources that are dear to us. We don’t give people open access to our wallets - we shouldn’t do the same with our attention.

Protect your attention. Be Ruthless. 

When you create your magic and perform superbly at the office and home, everyone will thank you for it.

How To: Export Your Day One Entries

As regular readers will know, I love to journal my thoughts, ideas and goals, as well as track family memories using the wonderful Mac and iOS app, Day One. Having all of this information in one place that’s easy to access, simple to use and - just as important to me - visually stunning, is very important to me. 

A concern that people have levied against this approach pertains to what happens with my data should anything ever happen to Day One. Is it still mine? Will I be able to access this in thirty years time when I want to pass things down to my children? As negative as these thoughts may be, they are not without foundation and so I started looking at ways to ensure I’ve got a copy of all of my Day One entries. Thankfully, the team behind the app understand these worries and have a feature built-in to help with this. 

Exporting Entries

Entries can be exported, in bulk, on both the Mac and iOS versions of Day One. These are the export formats:

- JSON - This format is used when you are planning to re-import archived data into Day One, as well as other programmatic uses with applications that support Day One JSON files. Not something I need as I’m not a coder in any form at all, however, some of you out there will like this. 

- PDF - I use this when I want an offline record of a particularly memorable event, such as a family party or day trip. This format is great for printing and includes both formatted text and inline images. 

- HTML - Creates a zip file that allows you to view the entry via a web browser. 

- Plain Text - This is the format that forms part of my ‘backup’ regime. Comprises of one single zip file that contains a single text file with all of your selected entries. These entries all include the inline references to folders, however as they are plain text, they don’t contain the photos themselves - there is a separate photos folder that is exported. 

The process for exporting these entries is simple in both formats:

iOS

  • In Day One, open Settings then Import/Export.
  • Select the required journal.
  • Choose a date range. 
  • If there is a tag that you wish to specifically export, toggle Only Tagged Entries then select the desired tags. 
  • Choose the export format you want. 

macOS

  • In the Journal Pane, select the Journal that you wish to export entries from. Alternatively, if you only wish to export selected entries, then highlight these entries by holding down the  key and clicking on the entries you wish to export. 
  • Bring up the contextual menu and select Export
  • Choose the desired format. 
  • Select the location for the files. 

It really is that simple. Part of my weekly review involves reading my Day One entries for the previous week. I’ve now added a stage whereby I quickly export these entries to my NAS device (which in turn backs up off-site) so I know that no matter what happens, I’m taking the appropriate measures to ensure that these important memories, of both thoughts and events, will be mine to keep.

Keyword Kanban with OmniFocus

Recently I had the honour of appearing on LearnOmniFocus and I spoke about a system I have in play that allows me to use OmniFocus in a form of Kanban structure. It’s rudimentary in nature and certainly isn’t, in any way shape or form, a substitute for a dedicated Kansan-Style application, such as Trello - however if you are fully invested in OmniFocus and need some kind of Kanban functionality, then you may be able to look at my system and tweak it for your own ends. 

Background

The reason I started looking at this system stems from the fact that I am increasingly finding myself working in different modes at varying times of the day. When I am at home, with the kids at school, it’s the optimum time for me to be recording for an upcoming project. In the evenings, I like to use this time to prepare the environment for these videos and, when complete, move into writing mode where the scripts or bullet notes for content are created. 

I also need to schedule in editing and upload times for these video segments and, in order to maximise my time and effectiveness, it’s beneficial for me to batch this work. If I can spend a day recording multiple videos, when the environment is most conducive to this, that is going to be the best use of my time. 

The issue with OmniFocus is knowing where I am at any given time in the project. I can focus on the project easy enough, however, listing just the tasks that fit one of the modes above is a little more problematic. Sure, when multiple contexts come into play (early 2018 is the plan) then assigning the mode as a context will solve the problem easily, however until that time comes, I need an alternative. That’s where Keyword Kanban has come in. 

Setup

The setup for this process is surprisingly simple in execution. In this example, I’m going to create a project for a set of video screencasts for a mock application called Everything Is Awesome. 

This application is going to have a lot of videos and each video has 8 repeating actions. The steps for Video 1 will be exactly the same as for Video 30, so it would be great to get some automation in - that’s where Curt Clifton’s Populate Template Placeholders script comes in. I’ve recently created a post for that 

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My screenshot above shows the tasks for the first 5 of the videos to offer some context. Each one of the videos has a list of sequential tasks, so I cannot see the editing actions until the recording actions have been completed. 

I also needed to be sure I was naming my tasks/actions in the following manner:

(Verb/Mode): Action

So, If I was looking to Prepare the environment for the first in a series of videos, I’d write the action:

Prepare: Environment for Video 1 

As the video moves between the different stages of production, the verb changes. You can see that once I’ve prepared, the video, I need to write the scripts or notes. The sequential setup of these projects allows me to see only the actions I can complete, at a time I can complete them. 

Perspectives

Once the project has been setup, with actions in play, then it’s time to create the Custom Perspectives. Again, this is simple. The most important points are as follows:

1) Any projects that I do not wish to work on currently are deferred until a later date, so they can’t appear. I do this as a matter of course, I hate seeing an overloaded plate. Alternatively, you can just set the Focus field to the key project of your choosing. 

2) The Find Text field contains the Verb/Mode with supporting colon

You can see by my screenshot that I have Perspectives for the four main focus areas of the project - PrepareWriteRecordEdit. I don’t have ones for Encode and File as the former is one that I set overnight if needed and the second isn’t dependant on me being in any particular context or frame of mind to work. 

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So, by accessing the Prepare perspective, I can see a list of actions that I need to complete before the script, or notes, for that particular video can be written. 

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In order to give this more of a Kanban Card feel, I’ve placed the shortcuts for these perspectives into the Toolbar. This allows me to move from left to right and this feels a more fluid way of working to me - especially as I am working for myself. As soon I find the Prepare perspective empty, I know that I can release the next video in the guide from it’s current deferred state and let it into the system. This prevents overwhelm when I look at the amount of work that needs to be done and allows for, in my opinion, a tidy little system.

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I'd love to hear about ways that you take the existing functionality of OmniFocus and manipulate it for your own ends. Get in touch!

How I Use: Template Scripts in OmniFocus

As you become more invested in OmniFocus, you may well find yourself creating tasks, or projects that are similar in nature. In fact, they will could be exact duplicates at times. I know I find this. If you think about my writing workflow, each post required the same steps to be completed. I need to researchwriteedituploadfinal edit and more. 

I used to write these actions out manually - talk about ineffective! I then hit on the idea of taking a template project, with generic actions completed and then just duplicating this project. So for example I would have:

Research: Blog Post (SUBJECT)

Write: Blog Post (SUBJECT)

EDIT: Blog Post (SUBJECT)

written out in OmniFocus and then manually change the (SUBJECT) name to to the topic of the post. This was a little more efficient, however still not optimal. 

I then watched Joe Buhlig’s LearnOmniFocus live session and discovered a script, created by Curt Clifton that could perform this heavy work for me.

Before we download the script, let’s look at the setup of the template you need in OmniFocus. It turns out I was halfway there, so if we use my original example above:

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Template Preparation

As you can see from the screenshot above, the project name contains a keyword in placeholder brackets. These brackets can be typed (UK keyboard, unsure about the US equivalent) with *

This same placeholder must be located in the notes field of the project. This is crucial because this field is going to be referenced when the script runs. 

Any action that needs to contain this placeholder is created accordingly. I store this template in a Templates folder that is contained within my Boss Mode folder. 

Script Download

Now to the script. Simply click this link and download the file. Once it’s downloaded:

1) Whilst in OmniFocus, choose Help - Open Scripts Folder

2) Drag the Populate Template Placeholder file into the Scripts folder. 

3) Add the script icon to the toolbar by choosing View - Customise Toolbar. Drag the script icon into the desired location. 

Execution

Creating the project is as simple as highlighting the project in the Sidebar and clicking the icon in the toolbar. A popup window will appear, with the Placeholder text and an entry field for the text you wish to substitute. 

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Fill in the text and the project will be created at the root of your OmniFocus database.

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Massive kudos to Curt for this, it’s a real time saver and I know lots of people in the community are grateful. 

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!

How To: Restore From a Backup in OmniFocus

It’s not very often things go wrong when dealing with OmniFocus, however that’s not to say you shouldn’t be prepared for when they do. It can be all to easy to delete a project and then, weeks later, find yourself needing to re-activate it or review the action steps that were taken. In fact, I need to do an intentional deletion tomorrow evening. I’ll be the special guest on Tim Stringer’s Learn OmniFocus live session and I’ll be showing my live database. There is, however, one client that I have with whom I have signed an NDA, so I need to be sure that any data pertaining to that client isn’t displayed. To help meet this requirement, as well as share my other live data (which may seem mad, but this is important to me - I like sharing things ‘as-is’), I’m going to delete that client’s folder within OmniFocus and then restore the next day. 

This is how. 

Confirm Backups are Taking Place

OmniFocus is kind of obsessive when it comes to protecting your data, so there is no option for configuring backups - they happen automatically. Every two hours, backups are created in the following locations: 

• Omni store version: /Library/Containers/com.omnigroup.OmniFocus3/Data/Library/Application Support/OmniFocus/Backups/

• Mac App Store version: /Library/Containers/com.omnigroup.OmniFocus3.MacAppStore/Data/Library/Application Support/OmniFocus/Backups/

You can verify their presence by opening OmniFocus and going to File -> Show Backups. You will see approximately 2 weeks worth of backup files available. Choose the file you wish to restore from

Complete Restore

When you open the backup file, a second window will appear which displays your OmniFocus data at the date/time of the backup.

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You can click the button that says Revert To This Backup if you want to do a complete restore of everything. However in my case, I only want to restore a folder, or a number of projects. Initially I thought I would be able to drag/drop from one window to another, however that isn’t the case. Thankfully, we have the ability to use good old fashioned Copy/Paste to lift the folder from the backup window and paste into our active one. 

Great for those mistakes (or in my case, planned deletions) that can plague us!

How To: Use Instant Markup on iOS 11

In the course of my day-to-day writing, I find myself taking a lot of screenshots on my iOS devices. A LOT! It’s not just for writing though - when friends or family ask me how to perform a certain action on their iPhone, the ability to take screenshots and mark them up on the fly is extremely handy. 

This is a quick guide on how to use the Instant Markup feature on iOS 11. 

Overview

When you take a screenshot in iOS 11, you’ll see a PiP (Picture in Picture) window appear in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Tapping on this PiP takes you into the Instant Markup window, offering a variety of annotation tools for your screenshot. You CAN take multiple screenshots if you wish. These are stored in a PiP drawer however you can’t hang around. After five seconds, the Instant Markup PiP will disappear. 

The PiP appears by default and currently, there is no ability to disable this in iOS 11. Hopefully, this will change soon as this functionality certainly isn’t for everyone.

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Editing

When you are in the Instant Markup window, you’ll see some tools at the bottom. There is a marker, highlighter, pencil, eraser and magic rope. You can change the colour of each of these tools as well. Currently, there are six to choose from: red, yellow, green, blue, black and white.

There is a More button that offers some other annotations:

  • Text - adding a text field is a commonly used feature when annotating. Tap once to add the field, then again to bring up the keyboard and type your text. 
  • Signature - if you have a signature saved in Preview, then you can access this here. 
  • Magnifier - you may wish to enlarge a portion of the screen. Tap the Magnifier option to drop a magnifying glass onto the screenshot and then manoeuvre into position. You can adjust the size using the sizing bars on the circle. 
  • Shapes - there are several shapes you can add - square, circle, speech bubble and arrow. These can be filled, or outline only and like the magnifier, they are easily resized. 

You can also crop the screenshot as a whole. Touch and hold an edge, or a corner and you can cut out the unwanted portion.

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Saving

When you have finished your edits, press Done and you’ll have the option of either saving your screenshot to Photos, or deleting as appropriate.