A week after iOS 8 was released I feel like a dog let loose from his electric collar. Before Wednesday I would often hit some barrier in iOS 7 that would shock me back to reality and remind me that I can’t really escape that app’s sandbox. iOS 8 starts to remove a lot of those restrictions and opens up the OS a little more.
I’ve harped on about how 2014 will be The Year of the iPad for me. In this post, I will tell you how iOS 8 and my iPhone 6 Plus will change my workflows.
The myth of productivity enhancers
I’ve wasted more hours trying to create or improve a workflow to make sure something got done than I would have spent just completing the task. Nothing gives the illusion of productivity better than trying to make yourself more productive. Also, a sure-fire way to get me to mow the lawn is to have an impending freelance assignment. My writing workflow is pretty basic: articles that will go on the web (99 percent of my personal writing) start in Byword on either my Mac or iOS device. From there, they go to WordPress and off to the blog I want to publish them on.
Now what I’m trying to do is simply improve task management at my day job and freelance work, have easy access to key information, and write more. My personal site has been dormant for too long, and seeing Jason Snell writing on his new site, Six Colors, is inspiring me to write more pieces that are not tied to a freelance assignment.
How the iPhone 6 Plus can factor into this
For a while I brought my personal MacBook Pro to work to use as an auxiliary device. A few months ago I decided I wanted a little more separation between my personal laptops and work. The fact that this happened after a coworker almost spilled coffee on the MacBook was purely coincidental. So, I started leaving the MacBook at home and bringing my iPad. My iPad sits next to me and I use it to triage email, take notes during meetings. The iPad is something extra to carry and obviously doesn’t fit in my pocket.
Right now, the biggest impediment to using my iPhone 6 Plus to take quick notes during a meeting is waiting for apps like OneNote to take full advantage of the 5.5″ screen. I’m not a fan of apps that just scale out to the larger screens. Jason Snell has a great piece here on how he hoped the iPhone 6 Plus would be a sort of iPad nano, and how it’s not. Right now, my iOS usage skews about 55 percent iPad and 45 percent iPhone. Once apps are updated for the iPhone 6 Plus, I expect the numbers to skew more towards the iPhone.
Extensions and keyboards, the real productivity enhancers
A lot of my daily workflow requires some level of interoperability between apps. Up until now, I’ve had had to do some kludgy workarounds. Adding items to Evernote and Pocket required the use of bookmarks, and felt as half-arsed as it was. Now I can just use each app’s Extension and add an item from the share sheet. I can even create a note in Evernote directly from the Today screen.
I enter a lot of passwords into Safari on iOS, and 1Password was another hot mess on iOS 7. I’d have to open up 1Password, copy the password and paste it into the browser, Now, I can just pull up 1Password from within Safari and it will enter in my username and password. This is a fantastic improvement over iCloud Keychain.
To-do reminders are something I’m struggling with in iOS 8. Apple’s built-in Reminders app would be perfect for my uses, but apparently only items in the Reminders list populate to the Today screen. This is annoying since I like to break out my Reminders into different lists. OmniFocus 2 may solve some of this, but I’m afraid it will be too complex for my needs.
For time-tracking, I’m looking at a combination of Hours and DayOne apps. My day job requires a modicum of time tracking on the projects I’m working on, but it’s not as exact as what a lawyer or consultant needs to track. I just need to ballpark how much of my day I spend on my projects. Usually, at the end of the week I go through my calendar for the week, see which projects had meetings and ballpark my numbers from there.
The Hours app is interesting in that it works like a stop watch — I just tap it when I start and stop working on a project. I don’t need to be that exact, so I’m also looking at using DayOne to just keep a running log of activities I worked on over the course of the day. I’d also like to get back into personal journaling, so that may help as well. Both of these apps have Today view extensions for easy access.
For keyboards, I’m tying out Text Expander. On my Plus, Text Expander something I can see using a lot, once a key bug is fixed. On my Plus, the Text Expander keyboard starts out filling the width of screen, like a good keyboard should. Once I start typing, though, it shrinks down to the resolution of the iPhone 5 keyboard, so the tap targets are very small. What I do like about Text Expander are snippets of text that can be called forth with a few letters. For example, I manage our time tracking system and a few times a week someone locks themselves out of it. When I reset their password, I can just type in pwdreset and Text Expander will translate that to: “Hi, your password has been reset to (standard password). Let me know if you still experience any issues logging in.” So far, none of the other third party keyboards have held my attention.
iOS 8, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have been landmark releases for Apple, for good and for reasons Apple would rather forget. I am hopeful I will be able to get more done with my iOS devices now. Dave Hamilton hopes his 6 Plus will be his sole iOS device, but, I’m not willing to go that far. Right now, however, the impact the new iPhone and iOS will have on my life is in developer’s hands.
So, consider this a public plea: support iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 Plus as much you can. I will buy your apps.