The unexpected benefit of

That’s unexpected as in who ever goes to Evernote is a service and a whole series of applications so no matter what your device, you can have an Evernote app on it. Write a note on your iPhone and it’s there on your Mac or on that PC in the library you’re passing, if you want it to be.

It used to feel as if the company did all these apps and somehow still expected that people would use its website first. They may have had a point all along. Local apps are handier because they’re quicker, in theory: you have all the Evernote gubbins with you so the only thing you’re downloading is your own note data. And often you have that note data right there on the device.

Yet I’ve been forced to use for the last few days while my iMac has been off being looked at and seen to. (Apple did a recall on certain models because of some hard drive problem. Mine qualified, I’ve let them take it away and tend to it.) I’ve been working on an old MacBook Pro and while for the most part it’s been fine, one area it’s fallen down on is Evernote.

I’m not sure why but I have the latest version of Evernote for Mac and it won’t load on this MacBook. Something somewhere is too old or too new, I don’t know which and I’ve not poked about under the hood. I needed a particular note and I needed it right then so when the Evernote app crashed, I just went to and got it from there.

I also got the hassle of having to log in to the site: not only do you need to log in – for which I use 1Password so that’s quite a simple and quick job that doesn’t involve me having to remember the actual password – but you also have to wait. Evernote texts you a six-digit number and if you don’t enter that correctly, something blows up somewhere.

It’s a good and secure feature, it’s a reason why you can read your Evernote notes on that passing library PC without being worried anyone else can. It’s also just a chore when you have to do it several times a day.

But I did it several times a day because I ended up staying in And I stayed in it because it’s rather gorgeous. Here’s what it looks like on when you start to write a new note.

Evernote screengrab

I used it out of necessity and yet now I just like using it.

Citymapper app

I spend a hell of a lot of time travelling by public transport: it is the handiest thing ever, when it works and when you can find your route. You won’t be surprised to know that I try a lot of apps for this purpose and I’ve just reviewed this one for MacNN.

Actually, review doesn’t cover it: I’ve evangelised Citymapper.

Give Citymapper a round of applause: its taxi listing includes the typical price for that distance – and it does so in the local currency. If you need the convenience and speed of a taxi, this info is a real benefit.

Distressingly, it also tells you approximately how many calories you’ll burn off if you walk. Let’s just gloss over that.

Hands On: Citymapper 5.01 (iPhone) – William Gallagher, MacNN (17 March 2015)

Read the full piece.

Better copy-and-paste: the simple things that speed up everything

They’re called clipboard managers and suddenly I have the image of a time and motion person scribbling down notes about how slow I am. A Clipboard Manager, let’s give it initial caps and explain a bit more, is a type of software that makes your copying-and-pasting better.

It’s hard to see what you could really improve there. You copy something, you paste it. Not a lot of room for technological innovation.

Except there is.

With any such app, you can copy something, then copy something else, something else. An hour later, something else. And then tomorrow paste each of those into an email. Paste them all in one big go. Paste the third thing first, the second thing second, the fourth third, anything you like.

I’ve been aware of these for a long time and paid them no attention at all. But I’ve recently reviewed two apps that happen to include this feature amongst their many others. It was the many others that made them worth reviewing but it’s this clipboard management that was most important in making me keep the software on my Mac. Here’s why. If I got to paste something, it pastes like normal. But if instead of pressing Command-C, I press a slightly different keystroke – with what I’ve got it’s Alt-Command-C – then this is what I see:

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 10.19.00

Click on that to see it full size and to also see exactly what I’ve been copying and pasting for the last few minutes. I’m hoping there’s nothing private in there.

What you see there is how the software Alfred 2 displays its clipboard manager: you get very much the same thing in LaunchBar 6, the other app I was reviewing that has this. There are others and while all of this is Mac-only, there are PC apps that do it too. Do spend some time havering over LaunchBar 6 or Alfred 2, but don’t spend any time hesitating over buying a clipboard manager. It’s that useful. I am that converted.

The Alfred 2 official website is here; LaunchBar 6’s home is there.

Reddit speaks – online community names best productivity apps

This isn’t an award show. There isn’t a single winner nor even a short list, really. Actually, as lists go it’s rubbish from the sense that to get on the list you just had to be named. But it’s also therefore comprehensive and you know that every app on Reddit’s selection is there through passion.

Maybe sometimes the passion of the manufacturers but usually the passion of a genuine Reddit user.

Take a look at the whole list – and yes, OmniFocus is right there.

What Isn’t There an App for?

And you think I’m obsessed with software. Here’s this fella, Henry Alford, writing in the New York Times about deciding to immerse himself in apps.

The market research company Forrester Research predicted in 2011 that annual revenue from the purchase of apps would reach $38 billion in 2015, a figure so large as to inspire curiosity in even the most techno-churlish.

I recently spent three weeks trying to improve my life through apps. First, I diagnosed myself; I determined that I have bodily ills, household ills and wardrobe ills. Then I started Googling.

Lo, my bodily ills. The cold weather has slowed my commitment to swimming and walking; my current love handles give my mid-torso the silhouette of a rotary telephone. So for $2.99 I bought Meal Snap: You photograph food and Meal Snap coughs up a calorie count.

Maybe this will inject my snacking with accountability, I thought: taking pictures of all my midafternoon snacks and late-night indulgences will turn my liaisons with Mallomars into a war-crimes tribunal of eating.

What Isn’t There an App for? – Henry Alford, The New York Times (2 January 2015)

You read the full feature to see if that worked and what else he tried. And I’ll come to terms with the notion that apps aren’t just for transforming my work.

I can’t really imagine trading in OmniFocus for Meal Snap, can you?

Revealed: the tech Santa uses

How does Santa do it? Technology. Today, Santa can run almost his entire business from his smartphone.
As a small business person, you can learn a lot from this wildly successful, world-renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Which apps does Santa rely on to run his small business? I’ve listed a few in my free Holiday Success Guide, which you can download here. They include:

Strategies: Which apps are on Santa’s smartphone?

I bet Santa has an iPhone 6. Read the full piece.

The iPhone App(s) of the Year – as chosen by Apple

Spot the difference:


On the left, Apple’s iPhone App of the Year – Elevate. On the right, Apple’s iPhone App of the Year – Replay Video Editor. The difference is that I took the screen grab on the left on my iPhone while logged in to my USA iTunes account and the other while back on my UK one.

Interestingly, both Elevate and Refresh are available in the two stores. I just don’t know anything about them because I’d not even heard of either until twenty minutes ago. This is another thing that makes me wonder if they are really the best app(s) but then that is being a bit parochial of me. Maybe I’m just looking for my favourite apps of the year and these aren’t them.

If you fancy the brain training utility Elevate – seriously, I don’t know anything about how it elevates your brain, you’re on your own there – or Replay then you’ve just read over the links.

Very important: Things for iOS is briefly free

Stop reading this and go get both the iPad and the separate iPhone version of Things on the App Store.

Are you back? Things is important because it’s a very good To Do manager and I don’t believe it’s ever gone free before. I could be wrong, but To Do apps fall into four tiers that they generally stay in. There’s your free ones, your low-price, your higher price and your OmniFocus.

To my mind OmniFocus is the best by far and what it does for me is worth an awful lot more than its asking price. I used to say that I relied on OmniFocus so much that if I had to pay the money again, I would. I don’t say that any more – because I did pay the money again. New versions came out and I bought them faster than you can read this sentence.


Before I found OmniFocus, I very strongly considered Things.

In its favour, it has a great name. I’ve got Things to do. Sold. I am a sucker for a good name and this is a good name. Then it seemed to me that it was more powerful than anything else I’d tried up to then and at the time I was moving to needing something with much, much more oomph. I had so much more to do at that point and actually it’s only got worse.

Also, Things looks great. Today I’d say OmniFocus looks very good and even if it didn’t, the look wouldn’t be enough to make me switch. Right now, this minute, nothing is enough to make me switch. But you spend a hell of a lot of time in your To Do app so the look – both in terms of its aesthetics and in how it works for, what you press and what you tap – that’s important. You can’t quantify it but you also can’t deny it.

In the end, I think I tried the Mac version and it just didn’t take. Not for me. I wish I could tell you why, I wish I could point to something. I can with the iPad version that I’ve just downloaded and played with: there doesn’t appear to be a way to set a start date for a task. A deadline, sure, but not a start date. I regularly now have work that is scheduled months out and while I need to plan for them, it’s unproductive of me to plan now, to plan the day before, or to have a reminder every day in between. So I tell OmniFocus that my planning task should first show up on my list about a week or a fortnight before the due date. Can’t see a way to do that with Things.

Sometimes this stuff can be a bit buried under preferences and suchforth so I could be wrong.

And I told you I just downloaded this to play with. I did that to get you the screenshot above and to see what Things looks like now, a few years down the road. Why not? It’s free.

Until 28 November.

Because the reason for this rare free-dom is that Apple has chosen Things as its app of the week. Come next week, something else will go free.

So go grab Things right now. Remember that the iPhone and iPad ones are separate, they’re not universal. So grab them both right now. Even if you haven’t the time to play with them, grab now and you can use them tomorrow, next week, next year, whenever you have a minute or a need.

Video: Forbes on the best productivity apps

There’s a pile in here that I hadn’t heard of. I think the format of having two blokes stand there talking to each other is as irritating in this as it is on television – what, no, really, I am so surprised to learn of this app you’ve only mentioned in every rehearsal and while we were writing the script – but what they’ve got to say is useful.