Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web:

The Unroyal Warrant
A new Field Notes colours release always brings a good degree of interest around the web. This, a unique one in that we have a larger sized notebook in a two pack rather than the traditional 3 pack of pocket-sized notebooks. I’m really looking forward to getting some of these myself, however in the meantime, some thoughts from The Unroyal Warrant:
Field Notes Arts and Sciences Edition Review

Office Supply Geek
Whilst we are on notebooks, a look at the new limited edition 80 Year Anniversary Rhodia Ice notebook range from Brian at Office Supply Geek:
Rhodia Ice 80th Anniversary Notepad

The Writing Arsenal
OK – last notebook link. Writing Arsenal Tim with his Field Notes Shelterwood Review, concluding this particular edition is not a pocket notebook:
Field Notes: Shelterwood

From The Pen Cup
Of course we also need something with which to write in these notebooks. This is a great post from Mary describing how impressions of a pen can change markedly depending on paper and proposed/actual use. When I purchase my Metropolitan will it be M or F?:
Too fine?! The Pilot Metropolitan/Lizard/Fine nib

Gourmet Pens
I’ve been using my trusty Retro 51 Tornado (all black Stealth model) for a good while now, and hadn’t really been in the market for another, however the colour of this Kiwi model is enough to make me reconsider. Azizah at Gourmet Pens appears to be a fan as well:
Review: Retro 1951 Classic Lacquer Tornado

Chambers Daily
With the ever increasing number and size of apps, along with the amount of photo and video we all take these days putting a significant strain on a 16GB device, a nice guide from Bradley Chambers on managing this precious space:
How to Free Up Space On iOS

World Aeropress Championships
The World Aeropress Championships took place in Rimini, Italy last weekend, alongside the World Barista Championships (congratulations to Hidenori Izaki for becoming the new WBC). Give Japanese and WAC Winner Shuichi Sasaki’s recipe a run for yourself. Perhaps a return to the traditional, non-inverted style of brewing may be the order of the day?:
Shuichi Sasaki’s WAC winning recipe

Macstories
I’ve been a long time user of Launch Center Pro on my iPhone, and am currently setting up some actions on my iPad. A recent update of the app to version 2.3 saw IFTTT integration added, greatly expanding LCP’s ability to trigger automated web recipes in addition to the URL scheme actions that have long been at its core. Macstories also has a fantastic guide to getting started with LCP, a link to which appears early in the article:
Launch Center Pro 2.3 Extends iOS Automation

~PD.

In Use – Vesper 2.0 for iPhone

Although I use Evernote for storage and archiving of longer notes, articles, web clippings, PDF’s and the like, many quick notes are just that, short and quick. The type of notes which don’t require any further action, sharing or archiving until I need to refer to them again. When I’m standing in a shop, I don’t want to be searching through my filing cabinet for the pen refill model number, I simply need the notebook in my back pocket where this information is written. To me, if Evernote is my digital filing cabinet, Vesper is the digital notebook in my back pocket.

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I love Vesper, and it has been on my home screen for the past 4 months or so, being a fast and reliable way of taking quick notes with a minimum of fuss inside a great looking interface. If we go back to the notebook example above, Vesper is the book you grab when you may not necessarily need to write down a note, but simply enjoy writing in the pages with your favourite pen anyway. Yes – in my opinion the user interface is that good. I have never been a fan of Apple’s native Notes app, pre or post iOS 7, and if you are in any way similar, go and have a look at Vesper.

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Vesper supports tags, photo and text notes, has gesture based (L swipe) archiving, and the usual email/message or copy all actions. Notes can also be reordered or “prioritised” through a tap and hold to drag up or down the list.

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Have I mentioned Vesper is a beautiful app? From the design, colour scheme and font (love the smallcaps option for note titles), not to mention the understated icon on my home screen. The icon, incidentally, sits right beside Drafts, another app I use extensively for longer form note taking (e.g. notes while listening to podcasts; email drafts), which usually end up being archived to Evernote, Dropbox, or sent to other apps such as Omnifocus for further action. Of course, I acknowledge a great looking app is virtually useless if it does not have the functionality you require, however for the times I use Vesper, I don’t need anything else – and that is precisely it’s strength.

Why write about Vesper now? A recent free update to the app has now added Vesper Sync for your notes, a missing feature pointed out by any as a downside of the original release. Although the sync is essentially a back up as there are no Vesper iPad or Mac apps yet, Vesper will run at 2x on the iPad. Set up for a free (optional) Vesper Sync account is a simple process using an email address and password, and you are up and running. For those suspicious of a “free” syncing service, John Gruber on the Vesper blog:

Vesper Sync is not a free lunch, because Vesper is not a free app. Sync should be a feature, not something you have to pay extra for.

Although my note collection is very small, (I tend to delete or amend the 20 or 30 notes I have on the go), the syncing is fast and unobtrusive, both key aspects for my continued use of Vesper as a primary quick note/recall app (from what I understand the app scales well with larger note collections). This added feature now bodes well for the development of companion apps, and I believe the Mac app is first in line.

Read more on Vesper Sync and future plans on the Q Branch blog, and you can follow Brent Simmons engineering diary at Inessential.

Vesper 2.0 is currently available on the iOS App Store for AUD$6.49 (or the update is free if you already own the App).

Wiser Web Wednesday

Welcome to the first Wiser Web Wednesday (www), a weekly post with links to articles or blog posts from around the web I have found either interesting, beneficial or both. Why run a link post each week?

Firstly, I find these types of posts on other sites I follow extremely useful to broaden my knowledge and awareness of information on the web. Secondly, many links I collect either don’t make it into posts, or due to time constraints, planned posts may never be written, with the links archived in Pinboard rather than shared in a longer form post.

In summary, I’d simply like to share a little more of what interests me with you. Away we go.

Overthought.org
Great advice to follow that appears to have helped many a battery drained iPhone user:
The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain

Out of interest, author Scotty Loveless’ follow up article on just how popular the battery drain article became:
Overwhelmed

Asian Efficiency
As I do 90% of my writing on an iPad mini, another view on going iPad only from Thanh at Asian Efficiency:
Going iPad Only: How to do it with the right apps and accessories

A Fool With a Pen
A review of a pen currently on my shopping list:
A Clear Winner: A review of the TWSBI Diamond 580

The Pen Addict
Jeff Abbott’s review of a notebook I have been meaning to get my hands on and try for some time now:
Leuchtturm 1917 Soft Cover Notebook Review

Field Notes Brand
With two packs of the Shelterwood Edition of these pocket notebooks ordered and on their way, I will write about my impressions once they arrive. In the meantime, watch this fantastic video on how the covers made of real American cherry wood are manufactured:
The Shelterwood Edition for Spring 2014

The Erasable Podcast
Just on 4 episodes old, now is your chance to get in at the beginning and see where this promising show goes. What do you mean a podcast about pencils seems strange? Go on, start:
Episode 1 – The Erasable Podcast.

Also worth a look are the individual sites of the three co-hosts:
– Tim Wasem: The Writing Arsenal
– Johnny Gamber: Pencil Revolution
– Andy Welfle: Woodclinched

Brew on Flipboard
For a varied collection of coffee related articles, I am always happy to share my own Flipboard magazine:
Brew by petedenison

I hope you get something out of the above www links – until next week!

App Updates for Byword and Command-C

Recent updates added some nice features to two of my favourite apps, Byword and Command-C.

Byword

I have written previously about the use of Byword in my writing workflow, unsurprisingly around the time of a previous major update from developer Metaclassy. Although the current update is a minor one, a great feature has been added in the form of support for external keyboard shortcuts, shown in following screenshot from the app update screen.

Update Screen

Although the additional keyboard row from the onscreen keyboard remains visible when an external keyboard is connected (as you can see below), users who prefer, and are familiar with the keyboard shortcuts from the Mac app will welcome the increased functionality on iOS.

Byword Screenshot

Although I have recently been using Editorial for much of my iPad writing needs, Byword remains a great alternative (and extensively used one on my phone and Mac) with an elegant interface, additional keyboard features, and Markdown support. Robust syncing for the iPad, iPhone and Mac versions is through iCloud or Dropbox.

The addition of external keyboard shortcuts is a welcome addition for the iOS versions, which I’m sure will be well utilised by those doing a lot of writing in Byword. If you are a keen external keyboard user, check out the dedicated page of iOS keyboard shortcuts (including Byword) and the apps that support them at Macstories.

Command-C

Another app that has increasingly been of more use in my workflow over the past couple of months is Command-C, a Mac and iOS clipboard sharing utility. As probably the simplest and quickest way to share URL’s, text and images between my iOS devices and Mac, it is extremely useful in putting together relevant information for blog posts.

Once installed and set up on your devices, when copying and sharing contents of the clipboard, the receiving device gets a push notification which can be actioned directly from the Notification Center.

Command C Options

The latest update includes performance improvements, as well as a clipboard history feature for the iOS app, and is a nice improvement on the original version which I have always found to work extremely well.

Clipboard Hx

Read more on the update in this article at Macstories or of course directly from the developer Danilo Torrisi.

If you haven’t tried them out already, both these apps are well worth a look in the respective App stores.

iTunes Radio – First Impressions

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Almost a week ago Apple released iTunes Radio in Australia. As someone who listens to a reasonable amount of music, that same morning I began listening on my commute into the Brisbane CBD.

My main use of streaming services, (to date has involving both Pandora and Spotify), is to utilise the discovery type features to hopefully stumble across some new music I like. Given I have a reasonably sized collection of my own music accessed through iTunes Match, I have never seen the need to subscribe to the paid or premium levels of any streaming services.

After hearing about iTunes Radio last year, I was keen to see it released in Australia, knowing that as an iTunes Match subscriber I would avoid advertisements, yet have access to a free, curated streaming service. An added advantage was purported to be that iTunes Radio would learn my tastes, and adjust my stations accordingly.

Other features include the ability to build stations based on the artists or songs you choose; play iTunes Radio through any iOS device, Mac or Apple TV; check play history; immediately buy a track from iTunes (of course); utilise Siri for voice control of most features; and easily share stations.

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All of the PR aside, how good is it? For me – I have found a good mix of songs and artists in both the Apple curated Hot Alternative and my own stations based on the Arctic Monkeys and The National I have listened to so far. Although the lack of ads has been nice, this never really bothered me with Pandora, however became somewhat annoying at times when using Spotify (no great complaint though, as I realise I am accessing this music for free, and artists deserve to be paid). How well iTunes Radio learns my preferences will become more apparent with time.

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Personally I would recommend giving iTunes Radio a run. Others have found some faults with the service (relating to the use of the iTunes desktop interface, curation and lack of easy customisation). These aren’t really a problem given most of my listening takes place on iOS devices, and the other points I wouldn’t necessarily agree with from experience. Whether or not the results played by Apple when creating your own stations are to your taste, is simply a matter of, well…your taste. A comparison of Pandora and iTunes Radio and any conclusions drawn are more a reflection of personal taste rather than any definitive conclusion as to the merits of one over the other. Whether certain songs don’t belong in a playlist generated by a particular song or artist, is for you to decide, which again leads me to my recommendation – give it a try.

Is there really anything to lose apart from your time (which would be minimal if you work with music in the background anyway), and perhaps some data if you are streaming on your iPhone or iPad data plan, which, according to Gizmodo, will chew up around 28MB per hour (840MB over 30 days if used an hour per day) – though of course this is not unique to iTunes Radio, and applies to any music streaming. Probably one thing I would like to see is easier access to song and artist information within iTunes Radio itself, rather than having to follow the link back to the iTunes Store (this would be particularly useful with the “Spin the Globe” and “New Artists” featured stations).

I will certainly be utilising iTunes Radio quite a bit, and for the times I want to listen to an entire album or specific, queued tracks I’ll simply head back to iTunes Match. Whether or not the stations align more with my preferences over time remains to be seen, however my early impressions lead me to think Apple will be quite competitive in the music streaming market.