April has drawn to a close and I want to give you another Round Up of stuff that I fancy. This time, it's going to be iOS heavy. Again.
iOS at work
It's been a busy month for me at work as I switched to the endoscopy unit and for the time being no longer work on my former ICU.1 The summer semester has started and I am teaching a group of third year medical students in gastroenterology again each week. Despite my initial doubts, my iOS-only setup has not yet let me down in doing my research and preparing the courses. Especially in teaching, my switch to the iPad Pro from a MacBook Pro might just so turn out to be a win. I am teaching a lot with slides and up until recently, I have relied on the great Deckset to give my presentations. It's a specialized Markdown converter that turns your Markdown outlines into slides. I was hesistant to give up on Deckset as it doesn't have an iOS counterpart, yet. In search of alternatives, I have been toying around with Keynote on the iPad Pro and in split screen multitasking, despite my doubts, it proves to be a real contender. I am working on a short piece on how I present from the iPad Pro at the moment and I can tell you that I am quite happy with how my setup is holding up.
In addition to the daily grind, I have been on a welcome short-trip to Barcelona, the capital of Catalunia. It's a marvelous city with countless corners to explore. I have been to Barcelona several times before, but I tend to fall in love again with it every time I travel there. It's an architectural gem. Every street is highly photogenic. It's like a Paris by the sea. Only then, it's got its own vibe. It's loud and rebellious, but in style.
iOS on the road
I always try to travel light. Unfortunately, with digital devices, cables, accessories and what not, traveling light can be a challenge. However, traveling is another one of the many arguments in favor of a mobile first setup.2 My iPhone and my iPad have eliminated the need for a Mac while traveling. In effect, I can easily go by with just my iPhone on the road. It's my communicator, my navigator, my camera, my wallet, my e-reader, my iPod and a hundred things more. And it's getting better at these tasks every year. To Barcelona, I brought my iPad for convenience and because I wanted to enjoy my daily pictures on the big screen. And really, why shouldn't I? Even though I have the 12.9 inch iPad Pro, it still easily fits my daypack. That's my take away: the big Pro (and the big iPhone, for that matter) aren't as big as they are perceived to be.
iCloud Photo Library with Dropbox backup
I feel like I am converting back to basics on many fronts in recent months. As much as I love well-done third party apps and services, there is something to be said about the convenience of sticking with the proprietary features of iOS. One of these is iCloud Photo Library and I really dig it. Even though it's an old hat and could use some polish, I especially like its shared albums feature. With iCloud Photo Library as the main hub for all my images and Dropbox as a simple iOS backup system, I feel like I have uncluttered the giant mess that used to be my photo workflow. Yes, it's not perfect and I may make changes to my setup as time passes. You can argue the drawbacks of only using Photos.app, but for the time being, the simplicity it provides to me more than makes up for its shortcomings. Back when I was editing and archiving my photos on the Mac, I grew a convoluted photo backup system that involved a split between Photos, Dropbox, external drives and Adobe CC. I was never sure whether I backed up all of my photos and whether I was wasting space on duplicates. These days, it's all become easier: Snap a picture. If it's been snapped with the iPhone, it's most likely already synced to the cloud. Some time later, I will open the Dropbox app on the phone to auto-uploads all new images to Dropbox as a backup.3 I could add additional intermediaries (like a Mac) for further backup, but the whole system already feels pretty safe to me.
Using The Apple Pencil for PDF markup
With my recent transition to the iPad Pro as my main computing device, I also got an Apple Pencil. I am not much of a painter, however I like handwritten notes4 and I like to use a pen to annotate and markup paper documents. The Apple Pencil on the 12.9 inch iPad Pro and a PDF document opened in Readdle's PDFexpert is as close as you can get to hand-scribbling notes into a paper document. It's fantastic for photo editing, as well. Another benefit over using your finger: you are not smudging your screen and impeding your reading or viewing experience. In this way, the Pencil is adding speed and convenience to the main use cases that I have for my iPad and I find it a useful addition.
Some great iOS game soundtracks
Perhaps you have played the iOS games Sword & Sworcery and Monument Valley. They are not only great games, they have great soundtracks, too. The Monument Valley soundtrack is great for background music while doing focused work. It's the secret sauce in Shawn Blanc's writing workflow. The Sword & Sworcery soundtrack has a bit more drive to it and I find it great for leisurely browsing the web or reading lighter articles. Jim Guthrie, the artist behind the great music of Sword & Sworcery, has more cool stuff on Apple Music.
My favorite themes for Ulysses
Ulysses is my text editor of choice. It has basically replaced all other writing tools that I have been toying around with in the past.5Not only does it live up to basically all of the requirements for a writing app, it's also highly customizable. The Ulysses community has come up with a plethora of color themes that you can use to make the app more visually appealing to you. The only bummer: You have to use a Mac to install new themes which then get synced over to Ulysses for iOS. I use Ulysses in light mode as well as in dark mode and my favorite themes are New Wave 80s for daytime, Dracula after dark and Simple Writer for both. Also check out Green Screen.
That's it for now. Have a great week, everyone!
- Hurray for regular working hours. ↩︎
- How cumbersome were the days when I brought a laptop on a trip with me. ↩︎
- If Dropbox would only ever fully complete its upload process. Somehow, the app does this weird thing where it keeps increasing the number of files in the upload cue instead of it getting less. The number in the red indicator batch on the app icon tends to only rise every time I open Dropbox and hardly ever falls. Still, all images seem to be stored in Dropbox. Perhaps this is related to the "optimize storage" feature in iOS? ↩︎
- I have always been more efficient in manual note taking than writing notes on a keyboard. ↩︎
- The only exception being Drafts as I use it more as a scratch pad and a Swiss-army knife for my workflows than as a main text editor. If you wanted, you could use it as your main text editor and this great read by Tim Nahumck shows you how. ↩︎