Best productivity deals now on

So you’re stuffed and sleepy and you’re watching Strictly Come Dancing’s Christmas Special. Before Doctor Who begins, go grab some of the very best deals there are for productivity tools and advice.

Email and Paperless Field Guides
All of David Sparks’ Field Guide books are half price. That includes his excellent one on Presentations plus a title I’ve not read 60 Mac Tips and a title I’m not interested in, Markdown. However, by far the best and most useful to you right now are his books on Email and a very wide-ranging one called Paperless.

Read that and you’ll transform your working life. Read his Email one and you’ll make so much more use of your email that you will enjoy it.

David Sparks’ Field Guides are all iBooks that cost now cost around £3 or $5. I actually can’t confirm the UK price because I’ve bought most of these already so the iBook Store doesn’t tell me the price anymore. Get them on the iBooks Store or check them out on Sparks’ official site.

The Blank Screen
My own book is half off too: it costs you £4.11 and after it you’ll be creative and productive. I may have mentioned this book before but this is the first the Kindle version has ever been on sale. Grab a copy now.

Drafts 4
This app for iPhone and iPad looks like a very simple notebook kind of thing. It is. Tap that icon and start typing. If you never do anything else with it, it’s still good because it’s somehow just a pleasure to write in. I can’t define that, can’t quantify it but also can’t deny it. I just like writing in this notetaking app and in fact I am doing so right now.

What happens after you write a note, though, is what makes this special. I’ll send this text straight to The Blank Screen website. But I could choose instead – or as well – pop it onto the end of note in Evernote. Chuck it over to my To Do app OmniFocus. (Which reminds me, OmniFocus for iPad is not on sale but it’ll still be the best money you spend on apps ever.)

Equally I could write a note in Drafts 4 and send it to you as a text message. Or an email. I don’t know that it’s actually got endless options but it must be close. And that combination of so very, very quickly getting to start writing down a thought and then being able to send your text on to anywhere makes this a front-screen app for me.

It’s down to £2.99 from £6.99 on the iOS App Store.

TextExpander 3 + custom keyboard
When I want to write out my email address I just type the letters ‘xem’ and TextExpander changes that to the full address. Similarly, I write reviews for a US website called MacNN now and each one needs certain elements like the body text, an image list, links, tags and so on in a certain order. I open a new, blank document, type the letters ‘xmacnn’ and first it asks me what I’m reviewing and then it fills out the document with every detail you can think of.

The short thing to say next is that this is via TextExpander and that it is on iOS for a cut price of just £1.99 instead of £2.99. So just get it.

Got yet yet? Okay, there’s one more thing to tell you. TextExpander began on Mac OS X and it is still best there. The iOS version wasn’t really much use until iOS 8 when Apple allowed companies to make their own keyboards. Suddenly you could switch to the TextExpander keyboard whatever you were doing or whatever you’re writing on your iPhone or iPad. That meant you could expand these texts anywhere. Fantastic. Except the TextExpander keyboard is somehow less accurate and harder to use than Apple’s.

So what you gained with the text-expanding features, you lost a bit with everything else you typed.

Except many other apps work with TextExpander. Apple’s ones don’t but Drafts 4, for instance, recognises those ‘xem’ or ‘xmacnn’ things and works with them. So buy TextExpander 3 for iOS in order to get these things set up and working. It’s a bonus if you like the new keyboard.

Get TextExpander 3 + custom keyboard.

Hang on, Strictly’s nearly over. These are my favourite deals on productivity books and apps available right now but remember that they won’t stay on sale for long. If you’re only surfacing from Christmas and reading this in February, ignore the prices and just focus on the recommendations. None of these are here just because they’re cheap, it is that they are superb and the sale is a great bonus.

Final Draft on sale (pretty briefly)

You’ve got until 19 September to get Final Draft version 9 for $149.99 US, approximately 40% off, from the official site here.

The sale includes both the Mac and Windows editions: for Mac you need OS X version 10.7 or later – that’s better known as OS X Lion – and for Windows you need XP or later.

Final Draft doesn’t exactly stretch your computer: it’s funny how old-fashioned the software looks. I have version 8 and don’t really use it enough now to warrant going to 9 nor can I really see much of a difference in the upgrade: there isn’t a killer must-have feature.

But it’s a solid script-writing word processor and if it has more and better competitors today, it is still true that Final Draft is the nearest thing to an industry standard.

If you are an existing user, by the way, you can upgrade to version 9 for $99.99 on the same official site’s store.

MyScript Smart Note free (briefly)

That’s script as in handwriting, not script as in coming soon to a cinema near you. MyScript Smart Note is for handwriting on iPads and I’ve no compulsion. Again, I enjoy typing.

But this isn’t really a sale as I think for it to be called that, the maker has to be selling it for something. And at the moment, MyScript Smart Note is free. Take a look on the App Store.

Talk to the Mac: Dragon Dictate on sale (briefly)

I haven’t used it in centuries but those who do tell me that Dragon Dictate is very, very good. Not only in the way I would’ve imagined – that you can, you know, dictate into it – but also in that you can control it by voice. Nip up a paragraph, skip to the end of a page, right a bit, left a bit, fire.

I’m still not going to get it because I really enjoy typing but if you’ve been thinking about it, go get Dragon Dictate now for half price. Cult of Mac has a deal running where it costs $99.99 instead of $200.

Mindmapping iOS software iThoughts on sale (briefly)

It looks to me as if there are really two contenders in mindmaps for iPad. I have one – MindNode – and the other is iThoughts, which is now briefly on sale.

I’m more of a text guy than a visual thinker, though that varies and I’ve found directing is like writing in 3D, but I’ve found mind maps useful for starting projects. You have this mass of ideas and you don’t know how or whether they fit together. Actually, you’re having a hard time getting all this stuff down because there’s so much and oh, yes, if I do that, I could do this, and then there’s that. And the other.

Mind mapping software lets you – forgive me – just vomit up everything you can think of. And keep adding. Keep doing your doings. Then drag two things that seem like they should be together. Drag a third. Drag these bits over to somewhere else. Delete something. Add something else.

You reach the point where your initial mess becomes rather structured – and with both MindNode and this briefly-on-sale iThoughts you can then shove the map off to your To Do list.

I love that. The visual mess becomes the organised visual mess becomes the text list in my OmniFocus.

Take a look at iThoughts on sale on the App Store.

Favourite productivity apps now (briefly) on sale

There’s a bunch of productivity apps that have just had price reductions. As ever, the price of these is rarely all that much so if you miss a sale, shrug and buy at the full price anyway. But if you’ve been havering over any of them or you just want to try a category of app out, this is a good time.

From all the ones I can see, this is what I’d pick out for you. Click on the titles to go take a look.

Mind-mapping software that plays very nicely with outliners and To Do lists such as OmniOutliner and OmniFocus. It’s now £2.99 UK or $4.99 US instead of £6.99 UK or $9.99 US

Appigo ToDo
This was the app I lived in before discovering OmniFocus. There’s a huge amount to love in it and I did deeply love it, I’ve just found OmniFocus is a far better fit for me. Since I moved on, Appigo has released a range of versions and I get a bit confused – some have Cloud syncing, some are for older devices – so read the release notes before you buy. But this one is now £1.29 UK or $1.99 US instead of £2.49 UK and $4.99 US

Never used it. Never heard of it. But it went on sale today and I’ve already told three people it looks worth a go – and they’ve all bought it. One has bought and is sold: it’s just what she needed. Now 69p UK, 99c US instead of £1.49 UK or

Very important: this is for the iPhone version of iDatabase and you’ll benefit from having the Mac version too – and that’s on sale as well. It’s an even bigger sale: iDatabase for Mac is now £1.99 UK instead of £13.99 UK ($2.99 US instead of $19.99 US) and the second I found that out while looking up the price for you, I bought it myself.

Fantastical 2 for iPad
The app that finally got me to change away from the regular Apple Calendar on both my iPhone and my iPad. Buy the iPad version now for £5.49 UK or $7.99 US instead of the usual £6.99 UK or $9.99 US and you’ll be buying the iPhone one soon. Right now that is also on sale: £2.99 UK or $4.99 US instead of £6.99 UK or $9.99 US.

Launch Centre Pro and Launch Center Pro for iPad
Use this to set up one button that, say, rings your mother. Instead of tapping on the phone icon on your iPhone, then contacts, then scrolling to your mother’s name and finally tapping on whether you want to ring her mobile or her landline, you just tap once and your iPhone does the rest. Maybe that would be handy enough for you but LCP can get really powerful – also, disclaimer, I found it a bit confusing – and it can do all sorts of things for you. Ridiculously detailed things.

I recommend you take a look but, confession, I keep popping it back onto my iPhone home screen and taking it off again. The biggest use I had for it was rapidly adding a new task to OmniFocus and it was faster than going through OmniFocus itself and tapping on Add Task. But now OmniFocus 2 for iPhone is so quick, I just don’t find the benefit.

Launch Centre Pro and Launch Centre Pro for iPad (two separate apps) are both $1.99 US now instead of $4.99 US

Take a potter around the App Store’s productivity category for more, but these are the best ones.

Grab this now – PopClip is on sale until Sunday

When you tap on a word or a line in iOS to select it, up pops a series of options right there. Copy, Paste, all that. PopClip gives you that on the Mac and I have regularly heard how great it is, I’ve just not got around to trying it. PopClip is on sale, I tried it, I can’t believe I haven’t become addicted to it before.

It is a very fast way to copy some text – it’s very much like the mini-toolbar in Word – but once you’re used to that, you can add more options. I’ve now had PopClip for around eighty seconds and I’ve already added options to send the selected text to Evernote or as a new task to OmniFocus.

So I can write ‘Add PopClip to your office iMac’, then select that text in quotes and send it to OmniFocus.

That looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 20.46.14

Consider that a live example: I really wrote that, I really selected it, PopClip really gave me those options and I have really chosen that icon at the end. That text is now in OmniFocus waiting for the next time I’m back at my office Mac instead of here on my MacBook.

PopClip usually costs £2.99 UK or $4.99 US. I now know it is supremely worth it. But if you buy it on the Mac App Store between now and some time on this coming Sunday, you’ll get it for 69p UK or 99c US. It’s being done as part of a deal on the site but just go right to the App Store: go right now.

Scrivener on sale for 50% – but hurry

I sound like an advert there. But hurry – stocks can’t last forever! Before I say “but you do have to be quick”, remember that Scrivener has gone on sale before. Usually only through bundles or other deals as it has today with MacUpdate, but it has gone on sale.

So presumably it will again and I loathe how the words “but hurry” work on our minds: a company sets a completely self-imposed deadline and it works. But every firm does that and this one has a great product which is briefly on sale. At time of writing you have one day and about 13 hours in which to buy Scrivener for 50% off.




Here’s what it is:

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

Literature and Latte, makers of Scrivener

That’s a “yeah, but” kind of description: it does tell you something but it doesn’t convey much. It’s also a “yeah, and” kind of description because it doesn’t convey why you would want such a thing. So let me have a go, with one caveat.

I don’t have Scrivener.

I bought a copy for my wife Angela Gallagher and I tried it out with her. At first it felt like just another word processor but then its way of letting you throw thousands of things – text, articles, websites, images, anything – together into a project and sort it out was really impressive. I’m working on a book with someone and after lots of oddities in our email conversations where some chapters just wouldn’t arrive she’d have to resend them and it’d be out of order. Or often she rewrote some parts and sent me the new versions. I was really struggling to get a grip on what had been written and what was ready, what hadn’t and what wasn’t. Scrivener let me piece it all together in the right sequence and have an actual book at the end of it.

I’d have gone upstairs to my office iMac and bought my own copy there and then.


I am still working on this book. We are still working on it. Chapters go back and forth plus, the day I was doing this compiling of materials, I was doing it because I was going to stay with the writer and we needed to go over a lot of things.  You can’t collaborate in Scrivener. I had to take everything out and put it into Word so that we could work together and I could track changes. Actually, I put it into Word for her and Pages for me, but it couldn’t stay in Scrivener. Actually II, it was Scrivener that made it particularly easy to output the work to Word and Pages. Without it I’d be copying and pasting to this day. With it, the whole process felt relaxed and enjoyable.

So much so that I know I will buy Scrivener for my next project. But that’s not here yet.

All of which was by way of explaining to you why I feel I can enthuse about Scrivener as much as everybody else does, even though I haven’t got it. I was going to tell you all that and then go into why Scrivener is so good. But I think I’ve told you now.

So go take a look at the deal while the clock is running, okay? The regular price is £31.99 UK, $44.99 US so if you get in before the MacUpdate deal ends, you’ll have it for about £15.99 UK, $22.50 US. But you have to go now and you have to go via a deal on MacUpdate here.