How To: Improve the Battery Life of your iPhone

One thing that Apple has worked on a lot recently is the performance of the battery in the various models of iPhone. Battery Life, which is the amount of time that your device is running before it’s in need of a recharge, as well as Battery Lifespan, which is how long your battery lasts until it needs to be replaced, have improved greatly. 

There are, however, steps that we can take as end-users to improve both of these metrics and prolong the life of our devices. Let’s be honest, they aren’t cheap and if you aren’t worried about upgrading every single year then eeking out some extra battery life is always a good thing. 

Temperature

With the (mini) heat-wave we’ve just enjoyed in the UK, I was curious as to what happens to my phone when left in direct sunlight. Quick research pointed out that the optimum temperature for your phone is 16º-22º C (62º-72º F), although it’s still designed to perform well between 0º and 35º, so on this side of the pond, this isn’t too much of a problem. If it does go over 35º, you may find that you permanently damage your battery capacity. Also, if you charge your device at a high ambient temperature, this can damage the battery further. 

On the note of temperature, be mindful of the case that your iPhone is in. The case may act as an insulator and warm your phone up whilst charging. If you notice your phone getting excessively hot whilst charging, make a point of removing it from its case beforehand. 

Latest OS

With the majority of iOS updates, there are tweaks designed to improve battery life and reduce energy consumption. If practical, try to keep up-to-date with the latest version of iOS. This also has security benefits too. 

Brightness

Reducing the brightness of your screen can make a tremendous difference to the battery life. I have mine set to Auto Brightness and (so far) have never felt the need to increase the level manually, even in brightly lit areas. 

Wi-Fi

There are two main points to note with Wi-Fi. Firstly, if you are out and about with no plans to join a Wi-Fi network, then turn it off. If Wi-Fi is enabled then your phone will poll for new networks at regular intervals, reducing the amount of charge you have on your phone for this cycle. Switch it off until you know you need it. 

To that end, not many people know that if you have a choice between using your data connection and using Wi-Fi to access data, Wi-Fi actually uses less power, so always opt for that where possible (and secure). 

Background Activity

Do all of your apps need to be polling in the background for new information? Go to Settings -> General -> Background App Refresh and you’ll see a list of applications with toggles next to each. Turn off the ones that aren’t needed. If you’re feeling daring, turn them all off with one switch at the top of the screen. 

Location Services

Lots of applications try to enable Location Services by default, however, I’d say there is only a handful where this is truly useful. To see your applications that have this enabled, go to Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services. Turn off those that aren’t needed. 

View Battery Usage Information

If you go to Settings -> Battery, you can see a list of applications that have been in use over the last 24 hours, or 7 days, listed in order of battery consumption (highest to lowest). From here, you can see the culprits that need tweaking, although be mindful of the fact that the percentage is not an exact science, it’s just relative to the total amount of battery used. If you don’t have a battery problem, then the percentage is OK. For more information, click the clock icon to see some facts relating to exact amount of time on screen as well as background activity to ascertain whether you need to take action. 

I hope that helps. Any other advice for readers, please feel free to post in the comments

How To: Link To Separate Trello Boards with Drafts

My workflow for Task Management has taken a bit of a new direction over the last few months or so. I’m not putting everything into Omnifocus anymore. There are some things that are simply better suited to another style of application, which is why I’ve started playing with some Kanban alternatives, namely Trello and Zenkit

If I have a project that has a number of recurring steps (for example, creating a series of videos), this is much better suited to a Kanban board, with a centralised task sitting in OmniFocus telling me that today, I’m going to be working on this project. In that task is a link to the Trello/Kanban board that I’m working on. 

I’m also using these boards for capturing ideas and moving them to maturity. Which booksdo I need to buy/read/am I reading? A board system is great because I can move the book title card as I purchase/read/start reading accordingly. I can tag the books with author names to keep a record if I wish. What apps do I want to perfect? Are there new TV Programmes or films that I want to buy/watch? GamesGift Ideas - these boards really help me with projects that always follow the same template

As lots of ideas go into these boards, I need to be able to capture efficiently, so that’s why I’m going to show you how I use Drafts on iOS to process these ideas and send them to the Trello. 

1 - Get your Board ID

Each Trello board has a unique Board ID. The easiest way I have found to locate this ID is to:

  • Navigate to the Web Interface of the board
  • Click on More Settings
  • You will see a box named Link To This Board and within is a URL. The Board ID is the character string that follows http://trello.com/b/. Make a note of this Board ID. 
  • Obviously if you wish to use Drafts to post to other boards too, each will have a unique Board ID so these will need to be collected.
 
trello5.png
 

2 - Configure Drafts

For the purposes of this walkthrough, I am using Drafts 5 however the process is very similar for Drafts 4. 

  • Within Drafts, go to the list of current actions and click on the + button in the bottom right hand corner. Select Add New Action
  • On the next screen, name the action appropriately, click Steps and then + again.
  • On the Step Type screen, scroll down to Callback URL
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  • On the Callback URL page, copy the following text into the Template box, substituting BOARDID with the ID you captured earlier. 
 trello://x-callback-url/createCard?shortlink=**BOARDID**&name=[[line|1]]&description=[[line|2]]&x-success=x-drafts5://x-callback-url/create
 
trello6.png
 
  • Go back to the main Drafts page and type your text. 
  • In the Actions list, click on your newly created action and the text should go to Trello. Also, as we have defined the success parameter within the callback-url to go back to Drafts when completed, so it doesn’t keep you in an application you don’t want to use right now.
  • Repeat this for as many boards as you need to add to. 

I love the fact that I don’t have one central inbox anymore for all of these ideas and I can send them directly to the correct board with one touch. They stay in the left-most list until I’m ready to process and this works really well for me. 

I hope this helps - feel free to comment with how you automate this kind of idea capture with Drafts/Trello/Omnifocus or any Task Manager of your choosing! We’re always happy to hear your thoughts.

How I Use: Search in Mail on macOS

Over the past couple of months, my mail workflow has changed. I used Airmail a lot on all devices. Aesthetically it’s great on the eye, lots of Power User actions and it was a pleasure (in the main) to process my Inboxes. I did find, however, that there were occasions where mailboxes weren’t syncing correctly and I was losing important messages. Also, there were times when messages were being stuck in my Inbox on one device, despite being moved to Trash, or Archived, on another. As much as I try to minimise my use of email, it’s still got to be reliable when I need it, so despite the fact it still looks kinda ugly, I moved back to Mail.app as my default Mail client. I also use MailButlernow which makes using Mail a lot more pleasant and I’ll write about my experience with this application soon. 

One thing I missed about Airmail when I first moved across was the Searchingcapabilities. By default, Airmail will search all mailboxes rather than the one you are currently in so this was a habit I had got into that needed to break. Why do I rely on Search so much? Well, my workflow means that I have a minimised email structure. For each email account I have (unfortunately I have several clients, meaning several different accounts as I work with them), I have an Inbox and an Archive folder. Oh, and Trash of course, however I don’t really count that. I don’t like the whole subfolder culture that is around. If I took the time to file every email that came in into a dedicated folder, I’d never have time to work! Also, how often do I find myself retrieving that email? Not often. The time taken to file is a lot longer than the time it takes to perform a search on the whole, so I decided to learn as much as I could about how to search effectively within Mail.app. I was pleasantly surprised when I dug a little deeper and while the below isn’t an exponential list of all of the functionality, it highlights how I use it daily, so hopefully will help you. 

1 - Natural Language

I didn’t realise that Mail was able to understand natural language. I guess I’ve been away from it too long, so when I started to type in phrases like from Kelly yesterday or pdf files to Mike, it was nice to see the right results appear. I’ve got into using natural language parsing a lot when using apps such as Fantastical 2 and voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo so I’m pleased that I can keep that habit going. 

Other searches I’ll use over the course of the day include

  • from (person)
  • To (person)
  • Excel files
  • (date)
  • To (person) about (keyword)

2 - Stack Search Criteria

You aren’t limited to one search term. Once you’ve clicked on your first search element, continue typing and another list of potential search criteria will appear below. Click again, rinse, repeat as often as necessary. You can see below that I’m creating a search for emails from my wife, received yesterday, that have attachments. 

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3 - Saved Searches

If I find myself searching for the same criteria more than once, I’ll save the search so that I can use it again at the click of a button. When you’ve configured your Search criteria, click the Save button below the text entry field. You’ll see a dialog window appear that allows you to configure what is known as a Smart Mailbox. Smart Mailboxes are ace. Just like a Smart Playlist in iTunes, Smart Mailboxes are dynamic and will only show you emails based on the searches you have defined. If you find yourself always looking for emails from your boss that were sent in the last week, then setup a Smart Mailbox that will only show these messages. Saves a lot of time. 

4 - Ranged Date Searches

Sometimes I know roughly when I received an email from somebody, however I”m not entirely sure as to the exact date. You can specify a date range for Mail to search through. Type date followed by a colon and then the range. 

5 - BOOLEAN Operators

Of course, we can utilise BOOLEAN operators if we want an effective search system, such as ANDNOT and OR however I have to say I don’t use them as often as you would think. Generally, I find 95% of the emails I need using the methods above and in a very timely manner. There are occasions where using BOOLEAN operations has helped with complex searches, however if it’s something I may need to search again, I’ll simply setup a Smart Mailbox and use the built-in tools for building the search there. 

So that’s a brief overview as to how I search for emails in Mail on macOS. If you find you need to use more complicated methods than this, or indeed you have simplified ones, then comment below! Would love to hear from you.

Fallback Searches with Alfred

How many times do you find yourself searching for web content a day when you’re on your Mac? Ten times? Twenty? More than fifty? OK, it’s a rhetorical question, we know it’s a lot however it’s only recently that I’ve stopped defaulting to Google for every search I make. If I need to check the definition of a word, I go to Google first. When I watch something on TV and recognise an actor, yet can’t remember for the life of me where they are from, straight back to Google again. Who are my favourite football team playing this weekend? Once more, straight to Google. (OK, sometimes it’s Alexa, but she seems to have the hump with me a lot of the time and refuses to understand my wonderful British accent).

Read More

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 

kanban1.png

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:

script1.png

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. 

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!