iOS8 is a major leap in many respects. There are lots of great articles and reviews of this massive update and you could certainly spend days checking out all that has changed. However, this post is focused on eight (for iOS8 of course) updates that have increased my productivity on my iPad and iPhone. By no means is this an exhaustive list of iOS8 productivity-focused update, but each change is a major step forward in overall usability and efficiency of the iPad.
- Support for new keyboards and quick type. I have been a bluetooth keyboard guy since my old iPad 2 and Adonit keyboard and now with my new iPad Air and the Logitech Ultraslim Folio. I originally switched to bluetooth to speed up my relatively slow typing on the iPad screen. However, iOS's predictive text capability on both the iPad and iPhone make typing on the screen faster. Start typing and iOS shows several word options for everything you type. This does take some getting used to, but I have already gotten much faster typing on the screen, probably not faster than my Logitech, but certainly closer. Similarly, iOS8 supports other keyboards like the new iOS8 TextExpander extension. This finally brings TextExpander functionality to all apps throughout the iPad including Mail! Just install the latest version of TextExpander and then enable the app in Settings->General->Keyboards. Once enabled, click on the globe at the bottom of the screen and select the TextExpander keyboard. Now, all your snippets are available everywhere! The catch however is that this only works when using the screen keyboard, it does not work using a bluetooth keyboard.
- Scanning a credit card instead of typing. Here is one I have not tested yet, but I am considering buying something for the sake of trying this functionality. I do hate typing credit card numbers and I am sure this functionality, if it works reliably; will make buying stuff even easier than it is now…just what I need!
- Ability to add widgets to the notification screen, Evernote in particular. The creation of widget functionality with integration on the home screen is a much needed upgrade. My favorite widget so far is Evernote's which allows you to add information to Evernote including Text, Camera/Scans, Photos, Reminders and Checklists right from the notification scree. This is definitely a quicker way to get information but it still is not as quick for information capture as Drafts. However the Evernote widget does allow quick access to the camera for document scanning that is not possible in Drafts.
- Finding battery hogging apps. One of the bigger problems I have with my iOS devices is the erratic draining of the battery that happens from time to time on both my iPad and my iPhone. This new functionality located in Settings->General->Usage->Battery Usage will show the percent of battery being drained by each app over 24 hour and 5 day periods. Remember killing an app does not mean that it will drop from the app list. The point however is you get a clearer picture of what is drawing the most juice over a 24 hours – 5 day period. However useful this is I would still like to see current usage draw for now vs. for a given time period.
- Automatically adding contacts from mail. This was a pleasant addition that just popped out at me before reading about the addition. In summary, every time you receive an email from a person not in your Contacts list iOS 8 gives you the option to add the person to your contacts with the press of a button. I wish it had the ability to select a block of text from the email signature to save some data entry, but I will take was has been added as it is certainly better than cutting and pasting from email and then opening Contacts every time a new contact needs to be added.
- Making calls from iPad using iPhone. This is another cool, unexpected add with iOS8. With this functionality the iPad can become your phone. Where this is useful is when you are working on your iPad and a call comes in; if setup correctly the incoming call will appear both on the iPad and the iPhone. This eliminates having to pick up another device. Another benefit that I see is for people like me who work in the basement or in places with sketchy cell coverage. When enabled, the iPhone can be placed somewhere in your house with better coverage than where you are sitting allowing you to effectively mitigate dead spots. The setup is not really difficult if the iPhone and iPad are on the same network and you have enabled iPhone Cellular Calls within FaceTime setup on both the iPad and the iPhone.
- More integration with 1Password, can now fill passwords from Safari directly rather than using 1Password's own browser. Finally just like in Windows and Mac OS there is direct integration from the Safari browser with 1Password. This means that you can navigate to one of your secure sites and have 1Password auto-fill usernames and password…right from Safari! This can be a big time saver and it certainly makes the process of using 1Password more available to the masses. Like clipping above, you do have to setup 1Password integration by again going to the share button within Safari and then swipe to the right on bookmarks to reveal the More button; click it and then enable 1Password. Once clicked you simply need to navigate to one of your secure sites, click the Share button in Safari and then click 1Password; the username and password will autofill as they do from within 1Password's own browser or like they do from a PC browser.
That's my top eight for now. I am sure there is more functionality I will discover over the coming weeks, but the above are making me more productive and definitely glad I went through the brain damage of clearing memory to make room for the big upgrade on both my iPhone and iPad.
Have you upgraded to iOS8 yet? Have you noticed additional functionality not mentioned above that is making you more productive?
DISCLOSURE: The links above are affiliate links. This means that I earn a few cents if you click the link and purchase the app. This costs you nothing but it helps me keep this site running.
Trello has turned out to be one of the very few combined task management and project management systems that works equally well for the individual and for the small to medium sized team…all in the same app. Over the past several months I have transitioned all of my personal and business task management to Trello as well as transitioned my entire team. Combining both project management and task management in one system saves me duplicated effort required when tracking project/business tasks in different systems. Read on to learn how I am using Trello to manage all aspects of my productivity.
My company has historically used spreadsheets to track projects and tasks. The reason we have used Excel is because it is easy to use and approachable by all employees whereas real project management tools like Microsoft Project and others are lots more complex. Additionally, our projects have not been complex enough to warrant the extra capabilities of Microsoft Project. Historically I have struggled to move tasks between my Excel and my task manager because it is yet another task itself to synchronize the two systems. The tasks have to be tracked in both places and I never found a good way to efficiently connect the two systems without cutting and pasting.
Trello solves this problem by combing both a personal task manager and a light project manager all in one. I can have my own personal boards while also having work/project boards all in the same interface. This allows me to easily move tasks back and forth between the personal and the business boards. I still have not settled on the best way to connect the two systems, either via copying tasks between boards or by linking tasks between boards; Trello supports both. And, Trello supports a third method, querying for tasks assigned to me. This indecision is well supported by Trello because of the flexibility of the system and the interface. Additionally, following my automated task entry process as described in my recent post on DEGConsulting, I have the added benefit of linking my tasks directly to Evernote notes for even more documentation and context.
As I wrote in this post, Trello works just as well within a browser on my laptop, home computer and in a browser on my iPad. Additionally, the Trello app allows for most functionality necessary to fully manage my personal tasks and work projects. The iPad app just seems to lack the powerful searching functionality available on the web apps. I would also like to see some Evernote-like functionality in the iPad app where searches could be saved as folders for quick reference to imported workflow-based searches. Trello recently added saved searches in a recent update to the web version.
I have been using a combined personal and business project workflow with Trello now for several months with much success. I feel I am wasting a lot less time moving and tracking tasks across multiple platforms with Trello. I have even created boards for my blog as well as for the upcoming major update to my iPad Productivity eBook.
Have you found a system that combines project management for teams as well as personal task management? If so, what system are you using?
I have working my way through some of the newer case options available for the iPad starting with my TouchFire review a few weeks ago. The next review up is for the innovative care Air Professional Case. Having used the case for a few weeks I have been pleased with it overall and quite impressed with the quality of construction and usability. The case is extremely flexible and professional in appearance and provides a good bit of protection for your iPad. Read on for more details.
- Professional appearance
- Durable construction
- Nice flexibility in viewing angles both for the lap top and on the desk top
- Interesting shoulder strap
- Cover that allows for picture taking even when folded back; eliminates the need to remove the iPad from the case to take pictures
- I am not a fan of cases that cover the top of the iPad
- The case itself sometimes impedes access to to down swipes and left-right/right-left swipes.
- A bit heavy for a non-plastic case
The first impression I had when I un-boxed the case was the quality construction. The material the case is made from is a rubber-like canvas that feels durable and high-quality. Unlike the TouchFire and other similar cases, the Air Professional holds the iPad with a fabric enclosure and a flap that slides between the back of the iPad and the back of the case. This is definitely a secure design, but one that has the potential of obscuring swipes from top to bottom and side to side. This is because the case’s fabric is fairly thick, and cropped tight right up to the edge of the screen. However, after using the case for a few days I became accustomed to this issue and easily adapted.
An interesting feature of the case is the included shoulder strap which turns the case into a very small briefcase. Additionally, the strap provides a way to keep the iPad around your neck as you do other things. A potential use that comes to mind are for care givers or photographers that use their iPad while they move around on the go. Not being a person that uses my iPad while standing or walking, the strap does not seem as useful. However, I am confident that many people would find value in this unique feature. The strap is not really a surprise given that Innovative Care also sells some pretty cool tablet bags as well.
One of the coolest features has to be the cut out on the cover. I think of this feature as the “why didn’t someone think of this sooner” feature. The benefit is that you can take pictures without having to awkwardly hold the iPad with the cover hanging awkwardly, with the Professional can you simply flip the case back and snap away. In addition to the cover cutout, the Professional has the expected viewing angle options including for both lap and the table-top viewing. The method for both of these angles is a small flap on the back of the case, exactly like the original iPad 1. Not sophisticated or creative, but simple and effective.
Overall the Professional is a solid case with some unique features. At $59.99 the Professional is a bit pricey given that the TouchFire Case is $10 cheaper at $49.99. However, the Professional is a different animal with its professional appearance, shoulder strap and unique top cover cutout. Are these features worth the additional 10 bucks? It depends on what you value; the Professional will look great in the board room and provides plenty of useful features that make it a productive addition to your iPad. Take a look at their site and make the choice yourself.
Next, a review of some of the cool products offered on http://www.everythingtablet.com!
I have made the transition from Evernote to Onenote at work! Because my new employer does not allow Evernote I struggled with using the web version to leverage Evernote's cool new Reminders functionality. As you might imagine, this got tedious so I devolved back to Outlook Tasks and added Onenote because both apps fully integrate with Exchange. I am happy to report that with new updates to Onenote (v2.3 as of this writing) and its seamless Microsoft OneDrive integration; I can achieve Evernote-like productivity with Microsoft on my iPad! Read on to understand why.
I wrote here that I was looking forward to the ability to seamlessly use Onenote across all of my devices like I can with Evernote. However, in this post I documented that the experiment failed with Box; Onenote and Outline+ simply do not sync in a seamless fashion. I was excited to find out that the newest versions of Onenote for the iPad support Microsoft OneDrive sync'ing, Microsoft Office 365 Sharepoint sync'ing AND simple Sharepoint URL sync'ing. This is very cool for people who use either Sharepoint with external URL access or Sharepoint 365. Given that my organization is now on Office 365 I now connect my OneNote to both my personal OneDrive account and now OneDrive Business for work files.
This allows me to keep my confidential work files in a respository stored securely behind the corporate firewall and all of my personal files and notes on my personal OneDrive account. This is really the best of both works as I have the same connectivity for all of the information in my personal and professional lives.
If the latest version of iOS Onenote only added the ability to sync to Sharepoint and OneDrive sites I would have been very happy. However, the improvements did not stop there. The new interface is a vast improvement and adds many features that Evernote has for the iPad like tagging, tables, inserting pictures, inserting hyperlinks (not note linking however, although Evernote still has not added this functionality) and many others. All of these new features work well and are very quick to use; the interface is even snappier than Evernote on my iPad Air.
All of this new functionality makes MS Onenote a lot more usable than prior versions and quite frankly better and more usable than Outline+.
All is not perfect on Onenote of course as Onenote lacks the amazing searching functionality that Evernote has and Onenote does not support native task management either. That said, Onenote on the desktop has completely seamless integration with Outlook Reminders; a user can flag a line in a note as a task with or without a due date. Then, a task/reminder is automatically created with a link in the task/reminder back to Onenote. The problem however is that this functionality only works on the computer versions of Onenote. As I mentioned above, Onenote also lacks the ability to create note to note links although as you probably know Evernote still has not added this functionality either, unless of course you are using CleverHD. Other annoying iOS functionality omissions native to Evernote include an inability to move a note from one notebook to another and an inability to email and forward notes via email. Yes, important features for some; but for me neither of these issues have been showstoppers.
There you have it, Onenote for iOS is a huge improvement for those of you blocked from Evernote on your work machines. In fact, Onenote continues to get better and better with each new version and is approaching a lot of the functionality that makes Evernote so killer. Give Onenote a try, you may be pleasantly supprised!
P.S. In case you are wondering Evernote is still my primary personal filing cabinet and is currently installed on all of my devices, including my wife's iPhone!
I purchased my first TouchFire Keyboard back in 2012 right after it became commercially available. When it arrived I was pleased with the increased efficiency it provided, but I eventually reverted back to my bluetooth keyboard;old habits die hard as they say. TouchFire is at it again with a new case/keyboard combination that I am sure will be nice addition to their sales statistics. In fact, with minimal use I can say that the new case is one of the best I have used and along with the silicon keyboard it may be a killer efficiency booster for the right user. Read on to learn more about this very cool case/keyboard combination from a cool little company in California.
To get the disclosure out of the way early, I reached out to TouchFire after reading about their July-released case for the iPad Air. I hoped that my prior review back in 2012 would be enough to score me a review unit. Sure enough, TouchFire quickly responded inquiring for my address. Within a week, my blue case arrived in a simple and understated package. Once opened I noticed that the case itself is made of some seemingly durable plastic rather than the cheap stuff you find on mall-cart iPhone cases. The second thing I noticed was the overall “tackiness”; of the rubber encasing the outside of the case. With this kind of grip your iPad will definitely not be slipping from your hand. The third thing I noticed was just how changed the keyboard itself was from the 1st generation version I bought when it was first released. As I found out from their site the 2nd generation was released in 2013 adding shinier keys, enhanced durability and a no-slip bottom; all of which make the keyboard itself seem more substantial. But, first impressions are not everything, so read on to find out how the whole package fared against my finicky opinions.
I received one of the more bold of colors with my case, but it also comes in black, light gray and red. Once installed, the total package is surprisingly svelte and very close in size and weight to an uncased iPad 2. This adds up to really nice form factor and the whole package almost feels like I don't have a case at all. Integrated within the case is a very cool speaker cover that directs the sound towards you with wrap-around sound focusers. I found the sound quality much better than the iPad's normal sound. In fact, while working at home I normally plug a set of cheap computer speaker into the iPad for Skype calls, music and NPR. However, I found the sound quality almost better with the iPad alone.
The TouchFire keyboard is nicely integrated with the case and does a great job storing the keyboard when not in use. With early versions of the TouchFire coupled with a standard Apple Smart Cover, the process to attach the keyboard included gluing a couple of metal squares on which the magnets of the TouchFire connected which if not aligned correctly would not adequately hold the cover in place. This resulted in the keyboard often hanging down off of the case while not in use. This problem has definitely been solved with the integrated keyboard/case combination.
Another cool feature of the TouchFive case which sets it far apart from the standard Apple Smart Cover are the multiple viewing options. TouchFire achieves this flexibility via the use of strategically placed magnets across the case itself. Check out this photo from their site to get an idea of the flexibility you have in viewing.
I am on the fence with the TouchFire keyboard itself. I can say with confidence that it in no way replaces my Logitech UltraFolio Keyboard and Case. I simply love the feel of Logitech's chicklet keys. Not only that, I am a vastly slower typer on the TouchFire. Part of this is practice; I know I would get faster with practice. However, I will never get the same feedback and sound that I am accustomed to. In fact, I am just as fast and accurate on my iPad/Logitech as I am on any keyboard attached to a computer. However, for those of you without an external keyboard the TouchFire is a huge improvement without the cost, weight and size of a bluetooth keyboard. My suggestion however is the give the TouchFire a chance as it will take you some time to get accustomed to the feel.
Overall I am pleased with the TouchFire case and I definitely think it is a good value amidst other cases on the market. In fact, a close comparison to the TouchFire is the marblue (formerly MarWare) Slim Hybrid case. I have been a longtime fan of the marblue having an earlier version of the Slim Hybrid on my iPad2. As you will see from their page the cost of the iPad Air version as of this writing is $49.99 which is exactly the same as the TouchFire case without the keyboard. I can honestly say that there is no comparison between the two; the TouchFire is a much better value with its increased protection, no-slip cover, enhanced sound and multiple viewing angles. And, for an additional $20 you can get the case and the keyboard in one package.
Have you tried the TouchFire Keyboard? If so, what are you thoughts?
Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/vintuitive/
Is it really possible to go iPad-only for the average professional? This is a question that has been circulating around the Internet since the beginning of the iPad and most recently discussed in detail in this excellent post on asianefficiency (AE). Some argued then and still argue now that the iPad is best for consumption and maybe light email work. Others argue that the iPad can definitely replace PCs for many professional workers. My feeling is more nuanced. I believe some professionals can go iPad only. However, I really believe that an iPad can help almost all professionals be more efficient overall. What follows is a summary of why I will likely continue to have both my iPad and my Windows laptop in my brief case.
- I am not iPad only nor do I plan to be iPad for all that I do. However, I am iPad only for all aspects of this blog including writing, editing, maintenance, etc. I am also iPad only for writing and editing the upcoming major update to my iPad Productivity eBook. However, for the day job I am far from iPad only.
- I love the idea of going iPad for all the reasons described in the AE post. Its wonderfully small form factor and instant on capabilities make the iPad one of the lightest computing platforms around. The Macbook Air 11 is of course similar in size, but I am Windows-only at work and I have never felt compelled to invest the additional dollars for the laptop, $599 for the iPad Air 32 vs. $899 for the cheapest Macbook Air 11. And, the process to mold the Mac to my Microsoft-based work environment would be almost as difficult as it is on the iPad. So, why spend more dollars for a work environment that would only be marginally better than with the iPad, at least for my own work situation?
- For certain things that I do I appreciate having full versions of Word and Excel in addition to two large monitors. I do agree that the iPad can be more efficient in that there is never more than one application on the screen at any given time. However, there are times that having the real estate of two monitors and multiple apps is essential for some of the heavier business analysis that I do.
- I work from home between one and two days a week and when I go into the office I generally focus on being present to my employees both via one on one meetings and via office meetings and collaboration. For those meetings I am a copious note taker using my automated notetaking workflow. I am working towards keeping my heavy analytical work for the days I work from home and my lighter email/planning/light office work for those days that I am in the office. The motivation for this shift is so that I can leave my laptop docked in my home office with its multiple-monitor setup while only taking my iPad to the office for everything else. And, this could include interacting with and manipulating very large and complicated spreadsheets given the power of iPad Excel. However, I do not enjoy creating complicated spreadsheets from scratch on the iPad.
- I travel at least once per month and I have been fairly focused on using only my iPad during my last few trips. I have not left the laptop home yet, but I am close. Traveling with just an iPad knowing that I can do most things that I would ever need to do is a freeing discovery. I just need to take the leap and simply leave the laptop home.
- My workflow does depend on some key apps and processes which I will describe in a future post. However, I do agree with many of the ideas described in the Asian Efficiency post. As a preview, my key apps include OneDrive, Microsoft Office 365 including all three primary apps as well as OneNote, VMWare View to access a Windows virtual machine of my work environment, Drafts, Evernote and to a lesser extent Dropbox and Box. More on this to come.
- Others have said before that certain professions lend themselves to iPad only. Writing is certainly one of the professions that comes to mind. I bet there are also some clinicians that could be iPad only with the right electronic medical record. However, there is no way that a finance person whether it be a financial analyst or an accountant could go iPad only. Nor do a think engineers of any sort could go iPad only. These professionals are very dependent on sophisticated departmental systems and powerful computers.
There you have it, some of my brief thoughts on where my iPad sits in my day to day workflow. Yes, I do want to use my iPad as much as possible and I generally strive to do so on most days. However, like many have said in the past having a full computer with either one or multiple large monitors is simply key for some workers, myself included. However, the whole purpose of this blog is to write about ways that the iPad can be used to become more efficient. And this is where the fun is, finding new and fun ways to save time and become more productive.
Have you tried to go iPad only? If so, how have you been able to accomplish this feat? If not, why not?