The One That Got Away

There are many thoughts I’ve been having since WWDC. I’m mainly lamenting the choice I made by buying an iPad Pro 9.7″, 3 months before the new 10.5″ was announced.1 But somewhere in the mix of all of my feelings and re-watching some of the keynote, I had some really awesome thoughts about some amazing productivity ideas.

One of the biggest improvements for iPad productivity is drag/drop when incorporated with Split Screen. For simplicity, I’m going to denote the apps side-by-side by writing app | app for each scenario below. The main part of this centers around Workflow. It’s an app that I’ve had a love affair with for a long time now. It’s so useful, but I can’t help think of the amazing things I’ll be able to do. Imagine these simple possibilities:

Quick Memes

Workflow | Safari

I do a search in Safari, searching for the perfect image for a meme idea.2 Now, imagine if you could drag that image over to a specific workflow in Workflow, one that makes quick memes. The image automatically gets added as a variable into the workflow, you type the joke, and you can share it wherever you’d like.

Tasks

Workflow | Drafts

Let’s say you’re taking meeting notes in Drafts. Now you have a list of actions there, and you need to move them over to something like OmniFocus. You could simply drag/drop them over to your Inbox within things. But what if you want to add dates/times/contexts/etc. for them? Well, now imagine if you could drag that list of text over to a specific workflow that would parse each task and allow you to add those elements, then send them to OmniFocus?

Combining Screenshots

Workflow | Photos

You have several screenshots that you want to put side-by-side to show a point. Using the multi-touch gestures with drag and drop, you can tap and hold one image to initiate drag/drop. Then you use a different finger to add another screenshot. And another. And another. Now, imaging dragging them over to the combine images workflow you’ve created to put them side-by-side, complete with spacing. All of this is done as soon as you drop the images on the workflow to run it.

Pretty sweet, right?

Now, here’s the thing to remember: none of this will happen with Workflow because the app isn’t being developed with new features. Yeah, it’s kind of a gut punch for me too. This is an example of an opportunity that will be missed.

But maybe, just maybe, someone at Apple will read this, see the merit, and push to update Workflow for iOS 11 while Apple figures out how to best integrate what Workflow brings into iOS. If it doesn’t happen, this is going to feel like the one productivity feature that got away…

  1. Not the worst thing in the world, but it kind of is a kick in the dick.
  2. I love jokes. Don’t you?

3 Things About Things 3

I recently picked up the iOS version of Things 3 for both iPhone and iPad. And there’s a lot to love about the new version: the new look is great; the simplicity of the layout is fantastic; and all of the small, purposeful animations are phenomenal.

As an app developer, giving users options — even if your own opinions don’t match those users’ thought patterns — is ultimately the best way to go forward. This doesn’t have to be tweaks to everything in the app and giving the user options upon options. But often, these features would benefit the app for both novice and power users, increasing the flexibility and functionality of the app. And I believe that there are some very meaningful changes that could be made in Things 3.

Here are 3 things I want to see in Things 3:

1. Complete Feature Parity

At this point in macOS and iOS development, the feature parity between the Mac and iOS apps should be the same, except where Apple places a limitation. And when there is a redesign of an app, there really shouldn’t be any difference between the two. As more and more users are going iOS only, the functionality of the app should not depend, in any way, on having a Mac. And there are several examples of ways that the Things iOS apps are not on par with the Mac app.

Things 2 had several keyboard shortcuts in iOS. If nothing more, they allowed a user – more specifically iPad Pro users – to quickly create a new task via the ⌘ N shortcut. And it’s a big omission for the growing base of iOS-only users. They exist in the Mac app, I would like to see these get added to iOS, as to make the app more usable when using an iPad Pro and an external keyboard.

The Today view is a great way to view your tasks for Day/Night. But one advantage that the Mac app gives you is the ability to sort based on Area; once set on the Mac, this option syncs over to iOS. It’s an odd choice that you can set it on macOS, but not set it on iOS. This could simply be another sort option placed in the upper right carrot icon, where you find the sorting by tag, select, and share options.

Speaking of tags, there should be a proper way to manage your tags on iOS. As of now, the only way to manage tags would be when editing a single task. What I would propose is an added menu item in the settings list, so that tags can be managed outside of tasks. This will allow you to organize your thoughts on them in one clear list, group them together, and become more useful as you manage your tasks going forward.

2. Dark Mode

The look of Things 3 is clean. Bleach clean. Almost too clean. And while that’s awesome at times for clarity, it is almost too much white. I would love to see a dark mode added. The development cycle has been slow and deliberate with Things, and I feel like this was a miss for some polish and user-facing customization.

As much as I don’t like it, there are are many times that I will dump tasks into my inbox just before bed, because I’m thinking of them and I need to remember them for later. Having the dark mode/theme added would be a welcome change. There are elements of it already on watchOS, and something I’d like to see carried into the app.

3. URL Scheme Support

I am a huge proponent of iOS automation. I am constantly using Drafts and Workflow to get things accomplished on iOS. But there aren’t too many URL schemes available.

What I would like to see them do, at the very minimum, is open up the app from a URL standpoint to allow the use of an x-callback-URL perspective. This will allow other apps to chain into task creation. Rather than send a list from Drafts to Reminders to Things, I could send that list over iterations from Drafts.

Once that is added, adding additional items like due/reminder times, tags, etc. would be easier. There are many reasons to do this: if you’re a new user, you can simply import a text list of items into the app and get going; if you have meeting minutes, you can export the tasks for further processing in Things; and you could build templates outside of the app for importing, similar to how OmniFocus and 2Do currently support. It would make it more powerful while remaining simplistic, which is really what this app strives to be.

Linea, My Unexpected Weekend Companion

Every year in spring, it seems as thought I get sick at least once: the changing of the weather, additional allergens in the air, kids bringing home more and more germs. Whatever it is, it sucks more now that I’m an adult. It usually knocks me down in one form or another, and harder than it used to previously; I need more rest in ever increasing amounts. Getting old sucks.

So, as is tradition, I spent all of this past weekend sick. Naturally, the weekend hit a multitude of complications with our plans and family productivity. Obviously we, as a family, need to be flexible when something like this happens. But when I get sick, it puts a tremendous strain on everyone else in the family. Not as much gets done, our plans change, and everyone is usually bummed about it.

This time, the sickness also took something that made everything that much worse: my voice. It’s simply laryngitis, and thankfully nothing worse. Not having one’s voice is difficult, and I couldn’t imagine life like this permanently; it’s incredibly frustrating to have to figure out ways of communicating other than by speaking. I count myself unbelievably lucky that I have my senses. In a way, I’m grateful that this happened, because it has allowed me to think of things differently in terms of the accessibility of my devices, and also brought an unexpected accessibility feature along with it.
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Trusted Capture with Drafts

Recently I started playing around with different systems, making different changes to how I work. This should surprise exactly no one. Long story short, I’m reading Getting Things Done for the first time:1 not just passively reading and finding little hacks, but rather studying the material. I’m reading it very slowly; I’m using iBooks, highlighting passages and taking notes in various places on how it applies to me. So many people swear by the system, and I want to see what this system could do for me. With all that I have going on, I wanted to make sure that I have a handle on anything and everything that needs to get done.
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