Whether your journaling needs are driven by professional requirements or personal uses, Day One has a cross-platform journaling/diary-keeping solution that is convenient, elegant, and easy to use. Day One provided me copies of their Mac and iPad apps for review. For the past three weeks, I’ve been journaling daily–sometimes more than once a day–and have found the experience to be pretty much all I’ve wanted in a journaling app. It’s no wonder to me that Day One was a Mac App Store top app last year.
Available both for Mac OS X (updated for Mavericks) and iOS (updated for iOS 7) as a universal iPhone/iPad app, Day One combines a solid writing environment with data tools to give your writing context. Starting an entry automatically date and time stamps it, though this can be edited to be whatever you want it to be. Location and weather data can be added with a single tap, as can be tags, current iTunes track, and for devices with the new motion processor, daily step count, and activity tracking such as whether you were flying, running, or doing other activities. The distraction-free writing environment lets you get down to business, without tons of formatting palettes and toolbars that make writing in a regular word processor somewhat less than optimal for capturing your free-flowing thoughts.
The main view shows a snippet of each entry in reverse time order, from top to bottom, newest posts on top. Hovering over the entry lets you see more of the entry without opening it fully. The integrated calendar shows you at a glance the days on which you have journaled, and the days for which you might still need to write an entry. Hovering over a date shows you what you wrote on that date. On iOS devices, the photo view arranges all your entries with attached photos into a full-screen collage with the date of each photo superimposed, for quick reference and enjoyment. On Mac, the maps view allows you to see how many entries you’ve written at each map location you’ve captured in your entries. This could be fun for journaling whilst on holiday, to track your travels visually. The interface as a whole is uncluttered and visually pleasing, in comforting tones of blue, grey, and white.
The Mac app contains the option to show writing prompts, useful for those who journal regularly and like to record their thoughts on a wide variety of subjects. For professional users, tags and the built-in search tool make Day One a useful repository for client-specific note taking or project note keeping. Attorneys, for example, could assign tags for client names or types of cases, and easily keep track of the results of meetings and phone calls with clients. The time stamp on note creation can be useful to those who bill their time out, though there is no ending time stamp, so that would have to be noted manually if this were to be your usage scenario.
In my three weeks of using Day One, I have found it to sync perfectly across my devices, which has made me more likely to actually keep a journal, something I have tried to do off and on (mostly off) for years. The ability to set a daily reminder to journal is nice for keeping me on target, as is the quick entry feature on the Mac version, which places a Day One icon in the menu bar where you can quickly type an entry (or just a brief thought to finish later) without even launching the full app. Like so many things that my iPhone and iPad have made easier in my life, being able to write (or dictate!) a journal entry whenever and wherever I am when the inspiration arises has been a tremendous boon to my journal-keeping goals. The seamless set-it-and-forget-it iCloud and Dropbox syncing capability makes this possible. I especially enjoy that Day One has given me the ability to remember my random iPhone snapshots in context and make notes on them for future enjoyment. Too often, the casual ability to take photos with our phones results in lots of pics with not a lot of context or remembrance of why they were meaningful to us to begin with. Being able to incorporate those pics quickly and easily into a journal may be the best thing to ever happen to the camera phone. Exporting from Day One to a PDF is also smooth and easy. Perhaps each year you might want to print and bind your journal, and Day One makes this a snap. Emailing a PDF or the text of any entry is also very simple right from within the app, using the standard iOS sharing tools.
Suggestions: color-coding entries would be a nice addition, sort of like the colored tags (formerly labels) in Mac OS X. For professional users or individuals who need more privacy, the built-in passcode protection on the Mac app can be gotten around by all but the most casual would-be snoopers. Of course, anytime a third party has physical access to your computer, your data is at some risk of being compromised. But it would be nice if a true encryption option existed rather than app-level password protection, which just prevents the app from being launched without the passcode, while leaving the actual text data files still accessible to those who can find them. For most users, though, the user-account password in OS X should suffice, because theoretically if you don’t want someone accessing your data, you probably don’t want them in your user account to begin with. Also, whilst a single journal entry can be viewed on the map on iOS, the Mac-only map overview of all entries would be nice to see on the iOS app as well.
Get the apps here:
Day One for Mac $9.99
Day One for iOS (combined iPad/iPhone app) $4.99
- Review by Ronald Schoedel, Esq.
By Ronald C Schoedel III
Finally, the silence can be broken! I've been using the Yosemite beta since July, and now that the final version is out, everyone can get their Mac a brand new shiny OS update! (Everyone on 10.6.8 or later, that is.)
I'm pleased to report no problems at all have been experienced by yours truly. iCloud Drive is a dream. The new Mail app with Markup makes annotations on files so simple to share with others. The evolution of thd interface seems natural and is not jarring at all. New Spotlight, with its increased search tools extending to the web, makes finding anything a snap. (One complaint: I've loved using Spotlight as a calculator for years. But since it now occupies the middle of the screen, that is hard to do when the numbers for my calculations are on the screen in a document. Oh well.)
Handoff and Continuity are the two big features I've been waiting for. iOS 8.1 drops on Monday; you'll need it to gain the maximum increased interaction between iOS and Mac devices.
I'll be writing a few short blurbs on cool new things in Yosemite as I discover them and discover their application to my workflow. For now, go forth and fearlessly update. The future is bright with this latest OS X release.
- Ronald C. Schoedel III
To begin with, MailMate is not the most beautiful email app, aesthetically speaking. It doesn't have any pretty icons or colorful interface elements, but instead carries a basic chrome interface and nearly all text-based buttons. There's good reason for this: MailMate is a keyboard centric email management system, which means it saves you time if you take a few minutes to review it's extensive keyboard command set. If you are super busy and like to get through your email quickly, or if you have to process metric tonnes of email every day, the quite beautiful icon for Mailmate gives us a hint as to its strength: carting in all your mail, sorting it in its virtual mail room, prioritizing it for your viewing or just stacking it up and setting it aside for later, and then getting all your outgoing messages on their way, on your schedule (with a built-in send-later features).
Also, unlike most every other email app, MailMate offers full offline support, even for creating or deleting IMAP mailboxes. Users of web-based clients cannot work through their email inbox whilst in flight, for example, whereas true offline support lets you do everything except send and receive messages, which obviously requires an internet connection.
In my decade plus of tech training and consulting, I have met many people who have a hard time taming their inbox, partly due to the number of subscriptions they have, such as to Listservs, which--whilst offering access to lots of useful information and conversation--can often be the source of getting so far behind on reading through one's inbox. MailMate offers the ability to selectively "mute" conversations. Don't need to read everything on a Listserv but don't want to unsubscribe? Take a quick glance at the subject or the first message in the thread, and mute it if you don't want to follow it. You'll still get all the subsequent messages, which can be automatically tagged and filed into smart mailboxes, but you won't see them show up in the unread count in your inbox. If a large numeral glaring through the email count badge has ever caused you stress, you are not alone. This seemingly simple answer to taming mailing list subscriptions will add a new level of calm to your email life. On a side note, when I first added my accounts to MailMate, it created some smart mailboxes for some of my subscriptions automatically. That was a pleasant surprise.
The smart mailboxes feature in MailMate far surpasses any I have seen, with its deep filtering and searching ability into such header fields as unquoted text or quoted body text. If there's a header field in an email, I'm pretty sure MailMate supports filtering by it. Combine that with the power of true Boolean logic and your smart mailboxes can do more than you might have imagined. MailMate comes pre-populated with a dozen or so smart mailboxes, which whilst useful on their own, more or less serve as guides on how to create others customized to your uses. Which leads me to mention the manual. Unlike a lot of modern software, MailMate has an extensive manual available online and through the Help menu, with tips also built into the app which can be set to show up every day, in an unobtrusive little bar at the bottom of the main window. For those who want to go the extra mile in their email management, MailMate supports custom keybindings, though I have not yet done much in that area.
MailMate may not be for everyone, though for those who rely on email to get a lot of things done, MailMate could be exactly what you are looking for. It is lean, super fast, and incredibly powerful, and at a cost of only $50, a solid software investment in your own productivity. A 30-day trial period is available at no charge.
* Shortly after I published this review with a screenshot I blurred for privacy, Benny, MailMate's programmer, emailed to tell me of the Distortion Mode available under the View Menu. If you need to do screenshots in your email, they will look nice, as below!
Get it here: http://freron.com
-Ronald C. Schoedel III
For Gmail fans on the Mac—especially for those with multiple Gmail accounts—there is no better choice than Mailplane 3, to integrate the best features of Gmail with useful operating system integration that makes working on the Mac so productive. Typically, webmail services have two major shortcomings: you can only be logged into one of the same account type at a time (e.g., only one Gmail account at a time) and they are usually left out of interoperability with system-level functions such as using the OS X Contacts app, sending files from the Finder, mailing PDFs from the Print dialog box, true OS-level QuickLook functionality for previewing attachments, and accessibility to Apple Script functions. Because webmail accounts typically live inside a web page, loaded within a web browser more or less like any other page, they are isolated from the system and must be interacted with solely from within the web browser. Mailplane solves these problems and brings the power and ubiquity of Gmail to the integration with Mac OS X that non-webmail accounts, or webmail accounts loaded in to a typical Mail client (like OS X Mail, or Eudora of old, etc., or either of the other two modern mail apps I’ll be shortly reviewing) have enjoyed.
If you’re like many folks, you’ve quite possibly got a personal Gmail account or two and a work Gmail account with a custom domain. If you’ve been using only browser-based email, you’ve likely been logging into one, doing your email within that account, logging out, logging into another…lather, rinse, repeat. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could fire up one app (especially an app with a snazzy icon!) and have a tabbed interface, just like a browser, but with each of your Gmail accounts and their respective calendars occupying a unique tab that you can easily switch between without any logging in or logging out, ever? That is, at the very minimum, what Mailplane can do for you. I’ve been using Mailplane with three Gmail accounts: one personal, one work, and one using the custom domain of my alma mater.
In my mind, one of the things (aside from massive free storage) that sets Gmail apart from the other webmail providers is a keyboard-centric user interface that really shines for power users. But the downside is not being able to keep two accounts active at once. With Mailplane, I can use keyboard shortcuts to advance between messages, apply labels to messages, archive them, and then zip over to the other accounts and do the same. The preferences also contain the ability to record your own keyboard shortcuts, providing an extra level of customization. And, because Mailplane is integrated into OS X instead of just being a browser, its icon in the dock as well as the application switcher (command-tab) shows the unread message count with a red badge, as the stock Mail app does in OS X. The unread message count also shows up as a badge on each account’s tab.
Speaking of notifications, a menu bar notifier as well as integration with OS X’s Notification Center are also available within the preferences of Mailplane, and those notifications can be turned on account by account, rather than universally. Use one account primarily for spam/subscriptions? Turn of the notifications and just see those messages when you choose to, not being bothered by badges and notifications.
One of Mailplane’s cleverest features is the ability to edit attachments you’ve received (such as PDFs for signature) and then turn around and email the edited version back, with just a few mouse clicks. This can be a real workflow time saver, freeing you from first saving a file, opening it, editing it, saving it again, locating it on your hard drive, and sending it back. As with OS X’s Mail.app, you can also drag and drop a file icon on the Mailplane app icon in your dock to attach a file to a new message, something that is impossible with the web client.
And if all that wasn’t enough, if you never use GChat or Google Plus, you can suppress those functions, as well as block Gmail ads from showing up within the app window. It’s the best of Gmail whilst cutting out the annoyances.
The same productivity tools that Mailplane providers for Gmail are also available to your Gmail calendar, which can reside in its own tab within Mailplane, again for multiple accounts if that is your need.
If you are a fan of Gmail and Google’s approach to email, but wish for better integration with your Mac, Mailplane is the way to go. At only $24.95, it’s a small price to pay for a huge productivity boost. I highly recommend Mailplane for power Gmail users on Mac OS X. A 15-day free trial period is offered.
Get Mailplane here: http://mailplaneapp.com
- Ronald C. Schoedel III
iBank 5 was released last month as the latest entry into the Mac personal finance software world. iBank 5 is a strong follow up to the previous versions, and with a companion iPad app, is a mature, stable money-management platform for any Mac and iPad user.
iBank had its beginnings in a post-Mac OS Classic world in which Quicken had all but become abandonware on the Mac, with Intuit leaving the market wide open for a bright newcomer to move in. IGG rose to the occasion and with each successive release of iBank has gotten only better. iBank 5 builds on its past successes (including an Apple Design Award) and offers features that allow it to breeze past its competition.
If you are a current iBank user, iBank 5 adds a number of compelling features to complete your experience. If you are using Quicken Essentials, iBank 5 is such a huge leap ahead in functions and features, you'll hardly believe it. Upgrades from version 4 are half-price ($30, purchased through the software itself), a nice reward for faithful iBank users, but even at full price of $60, it’s a great deal. Now, all inside one window and one app, you can manage your checkbook, investment accounts, credit cards, download banking statements and data, and pay bills online, while also offering check printing capabilities. If you connect to your bank by OFX, you can pay your bills directly from within iBank 5, which is very cool!
Other new features include improved handling of scheduled transactions, with reminders to help you never miss a payment. Back in the “old days” I used to write a bunch of checks and keep them, along with addressed envelopes, in a folder and mark on my calendar when to mail each one of them. iBank 5 allows me to use the same concept by allowing me to schedule payments in advance, and then remind me in time to send them (either by sending online or printing the check) and enter them. As a big fan of organization and planning ahead, this feature suits me well.
Many folks have lately adopted the envelope method of budgeting that has been promoted by financial gurus in recent years. Envelope budgeting has long been my favored method. Envelope budgeting is used by first setting up a budget through iBank’s setup assistant and creating categories that correspond to envelopes of your choice, then creating virtual envelopes and funding them with existing cash or scheduled deposits from future paychecks. Then, when you get paid, money will automatically go into your virtual envelopes, and when you spend money and enter the transactions with the appropriate category information, money is automatically removed from the corresponding envelope. You can see, through detailed bar graphs, how much of your money is left and how much has been spent from your envelopes. iBank has incorporated envelope budgeting in an easy to use manner, which very much replicates the simplicity and visual appeal of the envelope method of budgeting.
If you’re the sort who loves to keep data synced across your Mac and iPad, the combo of iBank 5 and iBank for iPad along with IGG’s Direct Access service (by subscription) keeps all your banks’ downloads updated constantly and across all devices (fixing what I found to be a shortcoming in the former version when I reviewed iBank for iPad last year). If your bank is one of the very few that doesn’t support Direct Access or OFX—or if you just prefer to do it manually and not pay for the Direct Access service—you can use the integrated browser to download your banking data directly into your account files. This simplifies the process, which previously would involve going into your web browser, downloading the file, finding the file in your downloads folder, and importing it into your finance app. iBank simplifies that substantially.
Part of any serious financial management is reporting and analyzing data to find trends, spot problems, and plan better for the future. iBank’s reporting tools are capable and I appreciate how reports are generated in a format that prints easy, yet also is viewed within the app window. Building a budget is an easy process, which iBank conveniently walks you through, setting up the different income schedules you might have, recurring bills, and also allowing budgeting for one-time or sporadic expenses.
Aside from these new or improved features, all the usual needs are met in a finance app as well: a familiar register view, which allows for categorization and subcategorization of expenses, split transactions, and account reconciliation. I’ve not started on my taxes yet, but iBank very easily prepared a report with all my taxable transactions and deductible expenses. TurboTax export is also available for fans of that software.
Though I do love iBank 5 and its new features, I was sorry to see that the new design aesthetic in iBank 5 has removed almost all color from the majority of the interface. I was also disappointed when Apple went to monochromatic Finder sidebar and Home folder icons, as well. I realize that iBank has just followed Apple’s own lead to smooth out and flatten the interface a bit, but I really liked the colorful icons in iBank of old. I also miss the coverflow view of transactions (yes, I also complained when iTunes got rid of coverflow). I’d love it if iBank could provide an option for colored icons in the source list (accounts, reports, etc.). Oh well. The individual transaction icons are still colorful, even if not cover-flowable anymore. In the end though, these are minor details, that don’t really detract from the functions and usefulness.
For anyone who wants to manage their personal finances, including cash, bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, and budgets, iBank is a solid choice, and one that I can easily and happily recommend. The video tutorials and user guide available provide a level of support that a lot of software developers have forgone in recent years, which is a nice touch, and adds to the user’s confidence that iBank will be around for a while and that its developers care about the software and its user base.
Get it here:
iBank for iPad
As you may have heard, Apple has released the latest version of its Mac operating system: OS X 10.9 Mavericks. I have spent the last couple days playing around with some of the new features, and one of my favorites is called Enhanced Dictation. As you also may know, last year Apple introduced dictation in both iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion. It did not take long for me to become a huge fan of both. Now, I most frequently dictate e-mails, rather than type them. I have generally found the dictation feature to be highly accurate and very convenient. My only complaint about the feature was that it required a persistent Internet connection, in order to transmit speech to an Apple server and then receive the words back in typed form. This generally happened quite quickly, within a second or so. It was never a question of the time it took to convert the spoken word into typed words, only a question of whether an Internet connection was available. On an iPad without cellular Internet service, or for a MacBook (period), it meant only being able to dictate where Wi-Fi network was available. When using the online service, one also is limited to about 30 seconds of dictation at a time.
The latest incarnation of Mac OS X removes this stumbling block to dictation. Now, with a download of less than 800 MB, dictation is available on a MacBook or a desktop Mac anytime, anywhere. And best of all, since Mac OS X10.9 Mavericks is available for free, enhanced dictation is free. What used to cost hundreds of dollars for third-party software, is now available to anyone with a Mac capable of supporting OS X 10.9, which means pretty much any Mac purchased in the last six years. Enhanced Dictation lets you speak continuously with the words appearing before your very eyes. Anywhere you can type, you can dictate. The service is very smart about capitalization and to enter punctuation, you just speak the name of the punctuation mark you want. So, for example speaking quote I love ice cream period unquote produces "I love ice cream."
Apple has truly been at it again: providing new value and adding features to years-old hardware. There are many reasons why you might want to update to Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks, but not as many of them are as obviously useful for an attorney as enhanced dictation. If you skipped any of the recent Mac OS X updates, you are in luck. OS X 10.9 Mavericks is free to any Mac owner who is using 10.6 Snow Leopard or later.
PS: this entire blog post was done with dictation.
Get it here: OS X 10.9 Mavericks on the Mac App Store (FREE)
Brainstorming has been considered an effective technique for collaboration, getting ideas out of one's mind or a groups' minds, and into a format that can be analyzed, expounded upon, and subjected to a critical process, with the end goal of finding the best ideas and acting upon them.
Mind mapping is a concept that originated a few decades ago, and has since come to the fore of productivity enhancement techniques. If you are not familiar with mind mapping, it consists of a visual representation of the relationships between ideas. A mind map is started with a single idea which becomes a node to which appendage ideas are connected. As the thought process flows, additional ideas are linked together through nodes, subsides, and with color or text style sometimes serving to differentiate trains of thought.
Studies have suggested that mind mapping can be a more effective means of note taking for students, as well as planning, decision making, problem solving, and information gathering/organizing. With such a method being so popular and effective, it only makes sense to bring it to the iPad and Mac, which IdeasOnCanvas GmbH, out of Austria, has done with their MindNode Pro and MindNode Touch apps (hereafter, collectively MindNode).
MindNode is available for Mac and iOS (both iPad and iPhone), and all versions interact with each other and can edit mind maps created with the other version. Dropbox and iCloud synchronization is available within MindNode Pro, so that whatever device you have available, you can use your documents.
For example, in a study group session or a meeting setting, you might put your mind map on the projector screen from your MacBook, allowing collaboration, and then saving it all to iCloud for later reference and editing from your mobile devices. I found the syncing to work exactly as expected, just as reliably as any Apple app uses iCloud, such as Pages or Numbers. It just works.
The software itself is polished and intuitive. It has relatively few controls, making it very easy to get right into and pick up the methodology of mind mapping, even if you've never done a hand-written mind map before. Main nodes are initiated with a simple click, and then branching off is as simple as dragging out from the main node in the direction you want to go. A smart layout mode is available to organize branches, or you can go free form and drag your ideas anywhere onto the page.
Sometimes, after you've got a few ideas on the page and many sub-nodes, you will have occasion to identify connections between ideas that exist within separate trees. Connecting these ideas is quite simple, and provides a visually uncluttered way of acknowledging and organizing relationships in the thoughts you've mapped. The programs' specifications say that the canvas size is unlimited. The ability to collapse and expand nodes as needed helps keep your map tidy when it begins to get expansive.
Colors and fonts are all customizable, but there are also several pre-programmed color schemes that are attractive. Media can be added to a mind map very easily, such as photographs, to add further visual impact to your maps. The flexibility of the software and the method by which the interface just allows your ideas to shine and take center stage really sets MindNode apart from other mind mapping apps I have tried and gotten frustrated with. The keys of good software design is to let the application sort of fade out of view so that the creative work being done is not obscured by buttons, widgets, controls, menus, and so forth. MindNode Pro's exceptionally clean design (across both versions, Mac and iOS) has made me enjoy mind mapping on the computer and iPad, something that a number of cheaper or free programs has not done.
In my use of the apps, I never encountered a single problem or difficulty either in execution of what I wanted to do, or in the results. I'm a big fan of being able to use the same apps across all my devices, and MindNode indulges this need of what I believe is a pretty large group of users. The interface in iOS is optimized for the touch screen, so it's pleasant to use MindNode across platforms, which is often note the case (many mobile apps have been ported from the desktop without much thought given to optimization for a touch interface). Once you've used either the iOS or Mac version, picking up the other without any training is quite possible, but there is a helpful manual and support website available.
Just as important as getting your ideas into the app, and organized, can be the need of getting your ideas out of your computer or iPad onto paper, or into another application for further collaboration. MindNode offers numerous exports, including formats such as PDF and images, but also text (into outline form), and FreeMind and OPML, which is useful for outlining apps such as Omni Outliner. In my tests, mind maps exported into OPML opened perfectly in OmniOutliner, with all data present and organized as a traditional outline. On the iOS version, a handy textual outline view is available. Exporting on the iOS version allows you to save a mind map to your camera roll, or export to another app via the same formats the desktop version supports (of course, using an easy touch interface). It is nice to see an app that exhibits so much thought put into the porting process from desktop to touch. As Mac and iOS users, as we know, it's the little things
Whatever your purpose may be in mind mapping, MindNode Pro provides the canvas for your ideas to bear fruit. I heartily recommend MindNode Pro without any reservations at all. There are no downsides or cons to the apps or to the MindNode ecosystem.
Get it here:
MindNode Pro (Mac)
MindNode Touch (iOS devices) (same app works on iPhone/iPod touch and iPad)
Copy.com is one of the latest entrants to the increasingly competitive consumer-oriented cloud data storage market. If you are familiar with Dropbox, you will be instantly familiar with Copy. I've been a Dropbox user for a few years now, and have also been a very happy Copy user, for the past several months. I use both services, each for different purposes, and I submit that even if you have a Dropbox account, you, too might find a place in your workflow for Copy.com.
Copy combines a web interface, an iOS app, and a Mac app (as well as Linux, Android, and Windows versions) to make all of your stored documents available across any device you might have access to at any given time.
I am using Copy to make files from my Documents, Downloads, and Desktop folders on my Mac available to me anytime on my iPhone and iPad, as long as I have internet access. This has proven quite useful when I am away from my computer, on the phone with someone whilst I am out and about, and I want to refer to a document for some information. I simply pull up the Copy app on my iOS device, navigate my folder structure which mirrors that on my Mac, and download the file. The Copy app has a built-in file viewer so I can read most any sort of file. Pages, Numbers, text files, Word, Excel, PDF, images, and others are all readable within the app. For other sorts of files, the "Open in..." function allows you to send your document to other apps on your iPad or iPhone.
Among the other useful features of Copy are its Shared folder, which allows files to be shared amongst Copy users for collaboration or multiple user access, the ability to restore files from multiple previous versions (I counted at least 20 prior versions available to me when I accidentally deleted a file the other day), and significantly better pricing than Dropbox: your first 15 GB are free, compared to Dropbox, which gives you 2 GB free. Use this link, and get an extra 5 GB free after you sign up and install the Copy app on at least one device.
Whether you're looking for backup in the cloud, or file syncing across devices, Copy is a compelling new service that will give Dropbox, SkyDrive, and Google Drive a run for their money.
Get it here:
Review by Ronald C. Schoedel III, Esq.
After having used Todo on my iPhone and iPad for months, I was eager to try Appigo’s Mac client of the same name. I have been engaged in the quest for the holy grail ever since I got my first iPhone: a synchronized to-do list that stays current between my iPhone and Macs, with very little fuss on my part. There are a number of great to-do lists, but few of them synchronize well, and few have powerful feature sets that are fairly equal across platforms (OS X and iOS). Todo breaks out of the pack with a home run in their Mac and new iOS 7 versions. I will review the iOS and Mac versions separately. This post is about the Mac version.
To begin, the app itself is beautifully designed with adaptive windows that showcase your tasks in any level of detail you wish to see. This means you can, for example, make your Todo list show in a small square window all the time, or maybe a vertical rectangle window on the side of your screen. Or, my preference, is a full-screen view of my Tasks, the calendar, and all contexts and tags, occupying a virtual desktop all to itself. Being able to swipe into that desktop with trackpad gestures means my complete personal productivity organizer is always close at hand, for when I think of a task I need to do, or someone I need to phone, or a website I need to visit.
Tasks can be entered with minimal or great detail. Aside from generic tasks, one can assign a type, such as “call a contact” or “visit a website”, and then connect the task to the contact information or website, so that information is immediately available from your own task list. Creating a task is as easy as typing a title for it and hitting enter. But if you’re the type who likes a task list, you’re probably the type who likes lots of detail, and Todo shines here. You can assign a due date, a due time (from a rolling clock-like dial), make a task into a checklist, give it a priority level, and add notes (at least several lines worth of notes). The one thing I wish it permitted is either the ability to attach a document to a task, or at least reference a document on the computer with a link. Setting alerts is easy and it appears that one can add a bunch of alerts for a single task. Very handy for procrastinators, or for people who like more advance warning, say a day or more out.
All of that is wonderful, and everything Todo does on the Mac, it can do on the iPad and iPhone, as far as I can tell. Except display notes in the task list, which seems to be available only on the Mac (due, no doubt, to the much bigger screen available).
Synchronization, as previously mentioned, has always been the holy grail of to-do list-making for me. Ever since I started keeping a paper to-do list, I’ve wanted the ability to add to it from anywhere, and have its contents always perfectly updated. Obviously, with paper, that’s pretty much only possible if you carry a list around with you everywhere, all the time. With a combination of electronic devices, it should be relatively simple (to the end user at least), to implement a way to keep multiple lists in sync. Todo includes the ability to sync via Dropbox and iCloud, as well as a subscription service of their own, which offers some perks and extra features. But the app is not crippled if you don't use their pay service. If you don’t use Dropbox but want a syncing task management system, I’d get Dropbox just for this convenience. The new Todo 7 for iOS works great with the Mac app and I now have my to do list on all of my devices, synced perfectly.
Other makers of productivity apps have promised integration but failed, at least in my attempts and having spent lots of money trying to achieve the sort of integration I need for my busy life. Appigo customer service has been very good too, in my experience. Tech support is responsive and fast, and quite willing to help.
Get it here:
Todo for Mac
Review by Ronald C. Schoedel III, Esq.
Every once in a while, a company makes a major mistake in their attempt to enter the mobile app space. Even when their desktop software is amazing, a proper effort is not always put into translation of that software into a mobile context. One such major failure is Microsoft's One Note. What is an outstanding desktop application -- I run Parallels on my Mac almost exclusively for the purpose of using One Note -- has no comparable "official" iOS companion. Sure, there is an official One Note app for iOS. It, however, is rubbish, to be kind. I've never met anyone who thinks otherwise. What I have met, however, is a multitude of iPad users who desperately want to be able to sync One Note with their iPad and use their iPad to edit their One Note notebooks. Thankfully, Outline+ has come along with an amazing app at a bargain price, which makes nearly the entire range of One Note features available on the iPad.
This is the app I've been looking for, since I bought my first iPad just before I started law school over three years ago. Outline+ syncs via iTunes, Skydrive, Dropbox, or Box.com, with any One Note notebook you give it access to. It also has the ability to open One Note notebooks that you get in your email via the "Open In..." feature of iOS. Once a notebook has been brought into Outline+, it's an amazing thing to see in action and to work with.
I first discovered this app when I was a busy law student last year, when my notes were pretty much my life. I had been been searching high and low for the very best way to take notes and keep them synchronized between my MacBook Pro and my iPad. Prior to discovering Outline+, I could not say I was really very pleased with any solution I attempted to cobble together. Now, I feel like my iPad is living up to its true potential to revolutionize the academic and professional side of my life.
Anyone who has ever used One Note will immediately recognize everything about Outline+. But it doesn't have to be used with One Note. It is a fully capable stand-alone note taking app, with the capability to manage data in multiple notebooks, each with multiple colored-tab sections, with multiple pages, which can be created and moved to organize your data how you need it.
Using Outline+ is as easy as anything. Create a notebook, assign it a cover from one of many various colors or designs), then create sections within the notebook, and pages within the sections. In my tests, each page can store a ton of text. (It took me only 3 pages to store the entire content of a multinational treaty I am studying.)
Creating text notes is as simple as tapping on the page: a long tap creates a new note on the page, inside a dotted outline box, just like in One Note. Editing these notes just requires a tap on the note and then a tap inside the note. Moving notes into new positions on the page is accomplished by tapping the note, then long-tapping it to move it. Easy, right?
Text can be indented, bulleted, formatted, etc., just as easily as can be done on a Mac. Thanks to custom indent and outdent "keys" that are added to the iPad's virtual keyboard, text manipulation for the sake of outlining is super easy and convenient. Text menus for numbering or justifying text, as well as applying bold, underline, and italics, appear at the top of the page, along with an absolute necessity for note-taking: a styles menu, featuring various levels of headings.
Inserting photos, either from the photo roll or by taking a new one, is as easy as tapping an icon. When you're actively taking notes or reviewing a page, you can expand the page to fill the screen.
Finding notes is also dead simple: three levels of search are available. You can search the currently selected section/tab, or the current notebook, or even search across all notebooks. Page titles, text, as well as any text that is OCR'd from images is included in the search results.
A thorough, and well-illustrated, user guide is included in the sample "Getting started" notebook, so there need be no intimidation in getting acclimated to Outline+ if you've never used One Note.
In my tests, Outline+ performed as well as I could ever have wanted. One Note notebooks were opened, read, edited, and synced, with complete accuracy. Drawing, highlighting, and annotation is dead simple in Outline+, and very intuitive.
Since I've been using Outline+, I have felt so much more productive with my iPad than I have felt previously. It really does fill a huge void. There are many decent note-taking applications for iPad, some of which I have reviewed over the last three and a half years since the iPad's release. But each of them stands, for the most part, as an island unto itself. Outline+, with its One Note synchronization, allows for your data to be usable instantly on either your iPad, your computer, or any internet-linked computer in the world (thanks to One Note's online version on Office Live). That sort of versatility makes a big difference as to what sort of data I entrust to an application. Outline+ is fast, beautiful, and everything you want in an iPad app. Outline+ looks amazing on the iPad's retina screen. Their blog and support are also super helpful with questions you may have.
If my review has not been enough to convince you, their demo video on outline.ws should do the trick.
I predict huge success for Outline+ as the iPad revolution continues. It's awesome as a stand-alone note taking application, no doubt. But in addition to that, no One Note-using iPad owner should be without it, and the $15 price tag will possibly be the best app-money you spend. For those who want to try before they buy, a (barely) limited version is available for free, called Outline. It has limits on how many pages can be added to a notebook, and lacks direct Dropbox syncing capabilities, but should otherwise be enough to give you a good feel for Outline+'s abilities.
A companion Mac app has been added, which serves as a reader only at this point. It has the benefit of also being a native Mac reader for OneNote of course, so OneNote notebooks people send you from their Windows computers can be read on your Mac with ease, even if you don't personally want to take notes in OneNote or Outline+. But here's where things get really cool: if you buy the Mac Outline reader app right now, you will get the planned update to an editor for free, whilst the cost will go up after the editor is released. This is a great way to basically get everything awesome about OneNote on your Mac for a really low price.
Get the apps here:
Outline+ for iPad
free Outline (demo) for iPad
Outline for Mac
Review by Ronald C. Schoedel III, Esq.
This review was first published for Alaskan Apple Users Group in October 2012, updated in November 2012, and provided here with additional updates.
For nearly twenty years, I've worked hard to stay up to date on technology so that those who count on me don't have to. I've taught scores of workshops and classes, provided in-home and in-office tutoring and training to many, and have written scores of reviews for Mac and iOS software, accessories, and books.
Throughout my prior career in broadcasting and administration, as a recent law school grad, and a new attorney, I've found many ways to utilize my technological background to make my work easier and more productive.
I want to share those tips, hints, and insights with others of the legal profession. My goal is to help all lawyers and other legal professionals best serve their clients and ultimately justice itself, by helping to eliminate tech-induced headaches, gain some efficiencies in our practices, and free up the legal mind to focus on what matters most. This website will be the means through which I attempt to contribute to the moving forward of our profession.
-Ronald C. Schoedel III, Esq.
Ronald C. Schoedel III is an attorney, former broadcaster, student of Welsh, and Sinophile. He has lived in Alaska, Wales, and China (Hong Kong specifically), and presently calls Utah home. He has been teaching and training Mac users for nearly a decade, and started blogging as a software reviewer in 2004.