Sticker Doodle makes messaging fun again

    Chad Etzel, who recently went independent, released one of the most fun apps for the iPhone this year.


    If you like to have stickers in messages but always wanted to make your own you are now able to with a few taps and swipes. You can use your camera, saved photos, or draw your own! This is honestly the first app that had made stickers fun for me since it was released on iOS.

    Best part? You can share the stickers you make within the app.

    A Conversation with Kotaku's Editor in Chief

    Patricia Hernandez, the editor-in-chief of Kotaku, talks with Alanah Pearce about the changes in coverage for Kotaku, online publishing in general, and the state of games media/journalism. A very open and enthralling conversation for anyone interested in online publishing and journalism. For extra credit you can read Patricia’s open letter after taking the EIC position.


    Goodbye iPad Pro, Hello iPad Air

    Matt Birchler ditches his 2018 12.9” iPad Pro for the new iPad Air. His reasoning is great and honestly I am in the same boat as him when it comes to my uses for the iPad.


    Craft Notes 101 with James Eaton

    Today I am happy to present a Craft 101 video with James Eaton where he walks me through how to set up my Craft notes system, what I can do to make it more useful, and how to get the most out of this app.

    This was a lot of fun to make and I can’t wait to see how it helps anyone looking to set up a Crafts notes system.


    Things included in this video:

    • How to organize your notes
    • How to make Craft a PKM system
    • The difference between notes, pages, cards, and blocks
    • How to make a wiki for a person/author
    • Many quick tips

    I want to thank James for being a part of this and I hope to make a more advanced walkthrough with James in the near future as I get more time with Craft and look to take the next step with it.

    How I Play Pokemon on OpenEMU

    As a kid growing up with a GameBoy Color (I had the Gorgeous Green version), Pokemon was one of the most constant games I played. I played Yellow, Red, Gold, and Ruby all to completion. After Pokemon Ruby I had a falling out with the games because it seemed to get more complicated with IV and EV being more prominent as well as competitive play. I just wanted to catch Pokemon and beat the story in each game, not worry about whether the Pokemon I just caught is the strongest it can be. I moved on to other games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at this time as well, which also became a factor in Pokemon drifting away from me as I grew older.

    Recently I have wanted to go back and play Pokemon games, but because Nintendo has yet to make them available on the Switch, I had to look elsewhere. Thankfully, MacStories recently shared an app that you can sideload onto you iPhone that allows you to play emulated games. The app is called Delta, and it’s free.

    After I installed this on my iPhone with AltStore I knew that I wanted to play Pokemon as I edit my podcasts. If there is one thing that warrants playing video games while you work it is podcast editing. Sadly, Delta seems to be an iPhone only app. When I launched it on the iPad it was in iPhone compatibility mode, which I didn’t think would be an issue for me. I had planned to have this in split-screen with Ferrite running simultaneously, but alas that did not work either. Turns out that you can’t even run an app in iPhone compatibility mode in split screen on the iPad.

    For now, Delta remains on my iPhone and I play Pokemon when I have some downtime or just want to relax at home on the couch while watching TV. This didn’t completely fix my problem for the podcast editing issue, but that is where my M1 MacBook Air comes in handy.

    I remembered reading an article about how the new M1 Macs were fantastic for emulating games on the GameCube, and I figured that if my Mac can handle Gamecube games without it should be more than able to play GameBoy games.

    Thankfully, after a quick google search it turns out there is a fantastic all-in-one option for emulating games on the Mac called OpenEmu. This app is something I wish I knew about earlier, because it is an app I thought I could only dream of. I tried emulating games years ago on a Windows PC and it quickly became a Frankenstein of sorts with different apps, files, BIOS, and other core items you need just for it to work, let alone play at the correct frame rate or aspect ratio. OpenEmu makes emulating games as simple as dragging the ROM into the app and you are ready to go.

    Once I found some ROMS online (Google it, there are plenty of sites online) I can open the game within OpenEmu and begin the pure nostalgia.

    Controller Support

    One of my favorite things about both Delta and OpenEmu is that they support external controllers, and thanks to Apple allowing both Xbox and PlayStation controllers to be paired to your Apple Devices you most likely have a compatible controller.

    If you are in need of a controller you can either purchase an Xbox or PlayStation controller, or if you plan to play exclusively Nintendo games you can buy the beautiful 8Bitdo Sn30 Pro+. All are options that work for the iPhone and Mac, and you can always make use of them for their respective consoles in the future if you decide to buy it.

    Once I put my Xbox controller into pairing mode, I was able to connect it to my Mac. Once connected, it is just a matter of assigning buttons to the controller in OpenEmu’s settings page.

    After about 15 minutes worth of work I am all set to start playing my games while I edit my podcasts. I can’t tell you how adding this to my podcast editing workflow has allowed me to edit for longer stretches without feeling bored or getting cabin fever. I don’t have the sound on the game, and I am able to fully pay attention to the podcast, but I am giving my hands and eyes stimulation while I listen for audio issues, outtakes, and more. When I do find something that needs to be edited, I pause the game (or just leave it running if I am not actively in battle) and make the quick edit and continue listening to the podcast and playing OpenEmu.

    Quick Tips with OpenEmu

    If you are like me and want to edit podcasts while playing the game, you may want to consider turning on Always float popout gameplay window on top” enabled and also turn off Always pause gameplay when in the background” so that when you are editing your podcast you can have the editing app active but still be able to see and play your game.

    If you have a Mac or iPhone and want to learn more about emulators you can check out Delta and OpenEmu. From there, you find plenty of websites and walkthroughs on how to use these apps and where to download the ROMS you want to play.

    Happy gaming!

    The podcast episodes that make me better

    I wanted to fulfill my promise of bringing some fun to this issue and share some podcast episodes I listen to fairly often. I have been an avid podcast listener as long as I can remember it being available on iTunes. As someone that drives two hours a day for my day job I fill the time almost exclusively with podcasts. This collection is just the tip of the iceberg for me, and the reason I listen to them multiple times varies. In general, it all boils down to a combination of enjoyment and knowledge. I have left every episode listed below feeling better than I was before I listened. If you want more, I am happy to add to the list in a future issue.

    • Automators #28: Keyboard Maestro and the Mac - Keyboard Maestro was Shortcuts for the Mac before Shortcuts can’t to the Mac. It has so much power and this episode gave me a taste of the app and what you can do with it.
    • Longform: Jenny Odell - This podcast opened my mind in many ways, mostly in ways I can’t articulate here in this newsletter. If you ever feel like you are on the internet too much, have caught yourself Doomscrolling, this is a podcast that is worth a listen. You can also buy Jenny’s book, How to do Nothing, and gain even more insight.
    • Compound Writing: How to Design a Sustainable Daily Writing Workflow for Blogs and Newsletters with Michael Jones - Michael gives a talk about his story in making The Supercreator, what he did to brand and define his newsletter, how he writes daily, and what you can do to stand out. Michael is a genuinely nice person and graciously gave me a half hour of his time to chat with me about Tablet Habit as I got started with it. If I ever feel lost or want to make sure I am doing the right thing with this newsletter I listen to this.
    • Media Voices Podcast: Man cannot live by newsletter alone, the realities of going solo as a journalist - An audio documentary showcasing newsletter writers in all stages of their writing careers. This is some fantastic reporting, interviewing, and editing to show the good and bad sides of newsletter writing. It doesn’t just show the wildly successful stories, it also shows when things don’t work out and what those people have learned from it. This is easily one of the best pieces about the creator economy I have consumed in the past year.
    • 43 Folders Podcast: John Gruber & Merlin Mann’s Blogging Panel At SxSW - Merlin Mann and John Gruber have a talk at SxSW in 2009 where they talk about what makes for good blogging. Really, this talk is about creating things online in general. Online publishing as changed dramatically since 2009, but very little about this talk has seemed to become obsolete after more than a decade since it was given.
    • Mac Power Users #583: The Obsidian Deep Dive - David Sparks and Stephen Hackett dive deep into Obsidian and helps newbies to the app understand what it is, what it can do, and how you can make it work for you. There have been a few meaningful updates since this episode went live but it’s still suitable for those getting started.
    • Automators #71: Automated Capture - David Sparks and Rosemary Orchard show how to handle capturing ideas, tasks, notes, etc. and what to do to ensure you have a system that works.
    • Do By Friday: The Doodler - This isn’t a normal productivity podcast, so be warned about that. That said, this is my favorite podcast to listen to to get back to the basics of Drafts. The hosts have creator of the Drafts app, Greg Pierce, on as a guest and talk about what Drafts is, what it can do, and how you can make it your own. If you want a fantastic text editor that holds a lot of power user options download Drafts and give this a listen. Bonus points if you listen to their later episodes, one revisiting Drafts to do more with it, the other where they write their texts in Drafts.
    • Automators #73: Custom Drafts Themes, Syntax, and more with Tim Nahumck - Tim, who is a friend of mine, shares how one of the latest updates to Drafts allows you to use custom themes and custom syntax. This is for the people that already use Drafts. If you aren’t familiar with the app I suggest you listen to the previous episode of Do By Friday.

    The Elephant in the Room

    I wanted to kick this week off with something light and fun, but if we are being honest here—I like to think this is a safe space—this week has been a lot to handle as an Apple enthusiast.”

    I have been reading so many different news stories, opinion articles, and comments about the recent announcement from Apple regarding the future scanning of iCloud Photos. I don’t want to explain the details about what is happening, you can find more about the announcement explained by The Verge or this more detailed FAQ from TidBits.

    I will say here that this isn’t Apple getting unfettered access to your entire iCloud Photo library, they are specifically looking for child sexual abuse material (CSAM) that matches a hash in a database of known CSAM. That said, there are several people and organizations sharing concerns regarding loss of privacy to users, possible political exploitation, and overall creepiness that Apple can now have backdoor access your photos in iCloud. There are arguments saying this is a slippery-slope for Apple, others say that it is only a matter of time before it affects other types of

    I am not here to add to the pile of people looking to share their opinion on this matter. I am not an expert in privacy, CSAM, or the legality of photos in the cloud. There have been great arguments that I will encourage people to read. The first being John Gruber’s take on Daring Fireball, second is an open letter to Apple signed by over 5,000 people including Edward Snowden, and finally Casey Newton’s article from Platformer. All of these have great explanations for their arguments and they fall on different spots of the spectrum as far as their privacy concerns.

    The main point I want to make here is that Apple is a big tech company, and the changes they make aren’t always going to be fun or simple to talk about.

    The reason I love talking about hardware, software, UI design, and the overall experience in using computers is because I love what people can make with it. I didn’t get into writing about Apple to dive deep into the political ramifications these companies make. That isn’t what revs my engine, in fact it is the kill switch to my enthusiasm. To put it bluntly, the less I have to think about those kinds of things the better. Yet, today, and this past week really, isn’t one of those times.

    This isn’t to say that what is happening isn’t important. In fact, I think it is a pivotal moment in the ongoing concerns about privacy. Still, for right now, writing about Apple isn’t fun for me, and I am having a hard time to get past the concerns so many people knowledgeable about the situation have raised. Apple has always been the privacy-focused company but now it seems that things are changing on that front.

    I hope to come back Thursday with something fun for my paid readers, but today I couldn’t ignore this elephant in the room.

    Instead, I took the time I usually spend writing this newsletter to escape from this ongoing debate. I listened to podcasts like Do By Friday and The Dollop. I played Mass Effect Legendary Edition on my Xbox, and started watching To Obsidian and Beyond, a new course by The Sweet Setup. All of these things have been great distractions for me, and a much-needed mental health break.

    Thursday will have something fun for you all. If you have anything you want me to write about or questions you want answered you can leave a comment at the link below or email me

    The 5 Things I Learned from Casey Newton

    In the latest episode of A Slab of Glass I interviewed Casey Newton, creator of Platformer, about his writing process. This is what I learned in the interview.

    1. Take Your Shot

    This is partly something I learned prior to this interview and partly something Casey validated for me during the interview.

    I asked Casey to be on the show, thinking he would fully decline (politely). To me, he seems like such a busy person so why would he waste” it on someone like me. This is me not giving myself enough value.

    I also felt like one of the reasons he was so receptive to me asking him to be on the show was because I had a different angle than others. Instead of just talking about how he went independent, I wanted to talk about his process. He even told me in the interview saying that I am the first person to ask him about how he does his work, which I took as a compliment.

    So if you have someone that you want on your show, ask them to be on but have it be mutually beneficial if you can.

    2. Have a system, and stick with it

    Casey spoke at length about how he uses Notion and Roam in a system, and I noticed that he not only had a place for everything but he also had a well thought out reason for each decision, and he continually stuck with that system to accrue more value from it over time.

    People who care deeply about notes are also the ones to jump ship every time something new comes along. While it can be fun to play around with the latest software, if you keep moving from one app to another it isn’t allowing you to have any real value accrue over time.

    There will never be a perfect notes app, you just have to pick something that has flaws you’re willing to live with.

    3. Be judicious with your tags and labels

    One feature that most of the newest notes app have, including Apple Notes, is tags. If you have redundant tags, it can grind your note taking effectiveness to a halt. For example, if you have a tag like iPad and another tab like iPads you now have duplicate tags. So after some time you might be looking for something about the iPad but when you use your tags you now aren’t sure if the correct tag is iPad or iPads.

    If you continue to maintain your notes like a garden your yield will be much more prosperous. So when you add tags, look to see if there are potential tags already in your system before making new ones.

    4. Brain dump everyday

    Casey mentioned about how he just brain dumps with Roam as a pseudo journal of sorts. This reminded me a lot about daily notes, which I am a huge fan of.

    One thing that I know has helped me as a writer is to have a place like a daily note or even a scratch-paper app like Tot to quickly jot down something in my mind. Once it leaves my brain and goes into a note or onto a piece of paper my mind lets go of that thought completely. When I do this enough times the only thing left to think about are the big things. Things like my newsletter, my plans for my house projects, my goals for the next 5 years, things that need significant time for my brain to noodle on.

    The items I captured earlier are still important, and I do indeed process them. Most of the time those quick thoughts either go into an ongoing note like one I have for house projects, or it goes into my task manager as something I should do.

    Another benefit with daily notes is that sometimes a thought you had that seemed small can grow into something much larger. I have had multiple things pop in my head that sparked an interest of mine and caused me to write about it here on Tablet Habit. My piece about Regex, for example, was a simple thought I wrote down one day and after hours of playing around with Regex I decided to write about it.

    Allowing my brain to stretch out a bit every day is the mental exercise I need to keep my writing and thought processing limber.

    5. Just use a to-do app, they all do the same thing

    wCasey had a singular hot take about to do apps and it was that most to do apps are just meant to be glorified checklists and they all do pretty much the same thing. So instead of wasting your time fiddling with different apps you should just pick one and live with it. He used to use TickTick, but now uses Todoist. Just find one that is pretty enough for you and functions the way you want it and start using it. Embrace its flaws and make it work for you.

    How the iPad mini can thrive in 2021

    I have been thinking a lot about the iPad Mini lately. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but I have a few links peppered in this that got my gears going. Furthermore, I have many questions about the iPad mini now and the future of the iPad mini.

    The iPad mini might not be for everyone, but people who have used it will tell you that it just works for them.

    Shortly after he wrote this, Lee shared that due to new circumstances, the iPad mini doesn’t quite fit like it once did for what he’s doing. Now, he is rocking the M1 MacBook Air as his main device.

    What I’ve found this year is that since getting the larger screened iPhone 11 I’m using my iPad Mini less. It’s just always with me and easily accessible. I use the iPad Mini now for about 20% of the time in my week. Maybe to read a magazine or look at my RSS but I’ve found its use has dropped off.

    With all this said, José Adorno posted an article on 9to5Mac sharing other use cases for the iPad mini.

    The iPad mini has some things going for it, mainly because of its size. The first thing is it’s a great reading device. Whether you are scrolling a book, reading a digital magazine, or skimming a New York Times article, the mini provides a Retina screen that can be held in your palm with ease. That being said, there is the argument that the iPhone can do all of these things too. For me, though, I have found that reading on my phone for longer than a few hundred leaves me wanting a larger device to read things on. I also get fatigued holding my 11-inch iPad Pro, or even the regular iPad when I had one.

    All this to say that the mini can be argued that it deserves a spot in the Apple iPad lineup, but I am still not sold on the iPad mini 5. To me, it seems time that the iPad mini fit between the 10.2-inch iPad and the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.

    How Can the iPad Mini Improve?

    There are several ways that the next iPad mini can be improved upon to make it more enticing for users, and for people who already have an iPad and iPhone to want the iPad mini.


    The current 10.2-inch iPad is selling at the starting price $329, whereas the 7.9-inch iPad mini 5 is being sold at the starting price of $399. Selling the iPad mini $70 more than the iPad is like selling an iPhone 12 for more than a 12 Pro. It just doesn’t make much sense. It also isn’t like they differ in any meaningful way.

    They both are using the same A12 Bionic chip, and both support the Apple Pencil. One of two things needs to happen if Apple wants the mini to thrive going forward. They either need to lower the price to lower or at the very least match the iPad. On the other hand, they could offer an updated version of the iPad mini with a better ship and better features to justify the added cost.

    Screen Size

    The iPad mini is only 1.2-inches bigger than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which isn’t enough to make it appealing to users with larger phones like the 12 Pro Max, or any iPhone Max device in the last few years.

    It is rumored that the iPad mini will be getting a larger screen size, one place estimated 8.9-inches for the screen size, all without changing the footprint of the iPad Mini. This means that the bezels are getting thinner and the Home Button is going away in the next version of the iPad mini.

    Thankfully, it seems that there are several sources sharing rumors and information indicating that the next iPad mini will indeed be larger.

    Support Apple Pencil 2

    This seems like a no-brainer to me. It is time that Apple cut the cord from the Apple Pencil 1 and make the move to generation 2. Not only is it magnetic and can be stuck to the side of some supported devices, the Apple Pencil 2 is much more accessible to purchase compared to the first generation.

    Support MagSafe

    This is a more edge-cased thing, but in my opinion, Apple should lean in with MagSafe and start implementing it in the iPad lineup. The iPad mini is a perfect place to start. It isn’t much larger, the battery size is comparable, and it wouldn’t look so silly with the current MagSafe puck.

    How to Make Your Notes More Valuable

    When I was in high school, I distinctly remember a moment where my social studies teacher was going through a lesson irregularly fast. It got to be so much of an issue that several students, myself included, begged him to slow down on his PowerPoint presentation so that we could write down what was on each slide.

    “You know,” my teacher began to say, your generation is great at writing out notes and dictations of what us teachers say, but you rarely take in the information we are giving you.” For years this sentiment lived under my skin rent free. I was personally offended by his tone and was adamant that this was just a microaggression towards millennials. I have come to learn that I begrudgingly have to agree with his original statement, at least partially.

    Note taking for me was indeed transcribing what my teachers were saying. I would stress over whether or not I wrote everything down. There were multiple occasions in my high school tenure where I had to lean over to a nearby classmate to ask for their notes because I had missed what was shown in a previous slide. I wasn’t focused on what the actual teachings were. This eventually extended into college, and even into my career. For years I had a notebook with me frantically writing down everything that was said to me because I was terrified I would forget.

    The problem with this was that it wasn’t helping me remember things, but rather allowing me to immediately forget what was said to me. So long as I wrote it down, my mind felt that it wasn’t worth my brain capacity to remember.

    Now, this isn’t inherently a problem. So long as I had a trusted system that can take these notes it would have worked, but I didn’t have that. So, multiple times a day I would write down something that was said to me, a task I needed to do, or an idea. Those notes in my notebook were captured, but they fell through the cracks because I would often overlook them as I captured more and more in my notebooks throughout the day.

    I knew this wasn’t a system that was going to help me in the long run because I used my notes as a crutch that and they weren’t holding me up properly. So I had to find a different way to take notes.

    It all startsed with a book from Sönke Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking — for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. Ahrens pulled me in immediately with the introduction.

    Writing plays such a central role in learning, studying and research that it is surprising how little we think about it. If writing is discussed, the focus lies almost always on the few exceptional moments where we write a lengthy piece, a book, an article or, as students, the essays and theses we have to hand in. At first glance, that makes sense: these are the tasks that cause the most anxiety and with which we struggle the longest. Consequently, these written pieces’ are also what most self-help books for academics or study guides focus on, but very few give guidance for the everyday note-taking that takes up the biggest chunk of our writing.

    […] What they all have in common, though, is that they start with a blank screen or sheet of paper. But by doing this, they ignore the main part, namely note-taking, failing to understand that improving the organisation of all writing makes a difference. They seem to forget that the process of writing starts much, much earlier than that blank screen and that the actual writing down of the argument is the smallest part of its development.

    From there, I stumbled upon a TEDx talk from Hazel Wagner, author of Power Brainstorming: Great Ideas at Lightning Speed, where she spoke on mind mapping.

    What particularly resonated with me in her talk was how using mind maps illustrated how we actually think about things.

    [N]otice … you put down single words or short phrases. This isn’t whole sentences or paragraphs. Do you think you store in your brain paragraphs? How about sentences? What about those outlines you spent of time in school, Roman 1A, B, C, remember that stuff? Do you think that is what you store in your brain? I don’t think so. You store images, you store key ideas, you store the connections between the things you’re learning and things you already knew.
    Mind mapping isn’t the only way to make notes, and it’s not my preferred way of taking notes. Still, the premise of reducing your thoughts down to something that is easier to recognize can help you understand things more. In fact, there’s a study that shows taking longhanded notes with a pen and paper might be more efficient than using a keyboard and computer.

    In an interview with NPR Pam A. Meullar, author of The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking, expanded on their research article. She spoke about note taking on a computer compared to long-handed notes saying that typing up transcriptions is not only ineffective but being more selective is much more rewarding in the learning process.

    When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can … The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.
    Now, I am not here to say writing notes by hand is better. If you are one that enjoys writing out notes and systems with pen and paper, then this might be what you need to make the move to doing something like a Bullet Journal.

    For me, this information has led me to the conclusion that we can’t simply copy and paste the things we see in front of us. Whether it’s a lecture, video, article, or something else you consume, you need to put them in your own words if you want to remember the lessons learned from it.

    In my experience, if you don’t have a system like this in place my notes are merely being stored and collecting metaphorical dust.

    How Casey Newton Helped me with Taking Notes

    In an interview with Casey Newton, which will be on the next episode of A Slab of Glass, I was interested to hear about his note taking process.

    For those of you who don’t know, Casey is a prolific writer for his Substack, Platformer, where he writes 5000-10,000 words an issue, four times a week. Needless to say, he has a ton of information, links, research, and sources that all need a place to be saved and further clarified. One intriguing thing I learned from him was that he has a database in Notion where he saves links to throughout the day. Every link is its own page, and all of those pages live in a database called Platformer Links”.

    Let me first explain that you can do something like this with practically any note taking app. From Apple Notes, Evernote, Craft, Notion, Bear, or something else, it is almost a given that you can share a link or document and put it in a notes app.

    So, as Casey saves these links he uses them in his link roundup for Platformer, as well as a way to see trends or possible future story ideas. Once saved, he then adds tags to them. For example, he speaks a lot about Facebook and misinformation, and he uses both of those words as tags regarding any links he saves. Once he has his tags set up, he then has different views”. One view will only show links added in the last 24 hours, another has a month’s worth of links being shown. These views allows Casey to see connections in his links he might have seen otherwise.

    How I am Using These Lessons Learned

    For me, I have taken Casey’s process a step further. Along with tags, I add comments to these links explaining my thoughts on the content, takeaways I got from them, and any criticism I might have on the premise of the article or video.

    Adding my own words to the content I have saved allows me to make connections in my mind that I otherwise wouldn’t. This is where I change my notes from simple storage of links to actual notes I have written.

    I am also using tags in the links and resources I am saving into Notion. Tags like iPad, iPhone, Apple are used regularly, but I also have tags like video, rumor, and touch bar that is more specific but can be used in more notes down the line. The reason for tags is because I want to use them as means of connecting notes together in new ways. I could use something like a backlink to do the same thing, but with tags you are able to sort them in more ways than the simple two-way connections backlinks offer.

    Aside from links, I am also using my notes as a means to capture, organize, and elaborate on ideas I have for Tablet Habit. From article ideas, workflows, etc. I have a database set up that’s similar to my links to allow me to see what I can use for future issues of Tablet Habit.

    My note taking journey is still going on, and I doubt it will ever  truly”end”. That said, I am happy with where I am right now and I hope this feeling continues as I push to improve and innovate my notes.

    How to Make Apple Notes More Useful

    This week I wanted to utilize the Apple Notes app, and how you can use the synergy with the Mac and your iPad or iPhone to up your note-taking game.

    I made a quick video showing how you can use your Mac and iPhone or iPad to capture photos, documents, or sketches like magic. Let me know if you like these videos, if a lot of you do I might make some more down the line.


    Have you ever been in a meeting or something and see a document, visual aid, or something else you want to capture in your notes? Well, thanks to the Notes app you can grab a quick photo, scan, or sketch out what you wanted to save. It all starts with a simple icon in the Mac Apple Notes app.

    Once you click on this icon in the upper right-hand area of the Notes app, a world of options comes up. Depending on what devices you own, you may see multiple things show up. For me, it shows my iPhone and my iPad. Both of these devices have the same options available, here’s what each does.

    Take Photo

    This is pretty self-explanatory, under the device you wish to use, for me it is my iPhone, click on Take Photo” and then your device opens up the camera for you to snap a photo. Take a photo, decide if it works for you and once done it will show up in your note on the Mac.

    Scan Document

    Like the photo option, once selected your device’s camera opens up but instead of it being a standard camera, it is now looking for documents to scan and once it finds one it will cover it with a blue UI and automatically scan it for you. You can scan multiple pages and edit the pages you want to keep by tapping the bottom left ahnd corner. When everything is the way you want it select Done and press Save. Once saved, the documents show up in the note on your Mac.


    Sketch is the most interesting one for me, as it is using PencilKit to allow you to draw, color, and sketch something on your iPad or iPhone. Just select Sketch” in the options, draw out what you want on your iPhone or iPad. Once you’re all set tap Done” and it will pop up in the note.


    This is one feature I never knew about, but now that I do know about it Apple Notes seems like a killer app for when you want to take notes quick and want to capture reference material as well.

    Why I Don’t Use Just One Wrench

    Adam Savage, the famed MythBuster, has now been on YouTube for several years making things and sharing things others make. He has a whole collection of Hellboy builds where he makes the Samaritan, the sword from a Hellboy comic book cover, and more. It’s not just comic books though, he also shares how to build  simple things like a box. I find it very enjoyable to watch. In fact, I have it on constantly.

    I am not someone that makes things like Adam, but I do run his videos in the background as I write, edit podcasts (the volume from the video is off), or just when I am in need of a break. What Adam taught me though, wasn’t how to build something, it was that you can have variants of the same tool for different purposes.

    I was watching a video where he made a tiny thwacker while literally using a similar tool to make this hammer. I don’t use hammers though; my hammers” are note-taking and writing tools.

    Throughout the time I have been writing for Tablet Habit, I have been searching for the perfect notes app.” I wanted an all-in-one solution that captures, organizes, and edits perfectly to what my brain wants. I have been using everything you can possibly imagine. I have tried Apple Notes, Craft, Notion, Obsidian, and even Evernote to name a few.

    All of these apps and services have their benefits and flaws, and I am yet to find the notes app that works perfectly” for me. Now, I have come to the realization that this search is not only never-ending but it is also inherently flawed. There is no perfect notes app”, much like there is no perfect anything in this world. You need multiple tools to get the job done, and you might also need multiple apps to store and save your thoughts, ideas, and journal entries.

    In the latest episode of A Slab of Glass I interviewed James Eaton, someone I have spoken to online quite a bit over the years. He had some fantastic insight, which I will share on the next Premium issue of Tablet Habit. However, I will share one of the things I learned. It’s that you shouldn’t make a tool something it’s not. James said it best when he talked about how he started using the note-taking app Craft.

    I basically let go of any other structure that I had. Because I am always bringing a structure from an old thing in. I used to it this this way. Well how do I Evernote in Craft? How do I do Notion in Craft?’ I kind of just said How do I do use Craft? What would it look like if I didn’t have all of this?

    If you pay attention to the workshop he is working in you will see dozens of saws, pliers, and drill bits. They are all slightly different, but they all have a purpose.

    If we think of this for software, you can use Apple Notes for a particular set of work, Notion for another, and Obsidian for something else. However, this isn’t permission to just throw your notes anywhere you feel like, it still needs a system in place otherwise it won’t work.

    This tool metaphor goes both ways, because I have seen workshops that have no semblance of order or organization. This doesn’t mean that your workshop (notes app) is helpless, but it definitely needs some TLC. Assess what you have to work with and go from there.

    Taking this insight from James Eaton and Adam Savage has helped me put my search for a perfect notes app” to rest. I don’t know why it took me nearly 30 years on this planet to come to this conclusion, but I’m glad I reached this point at all.

    As for what system I am using now, that is still a work-in-progress.

    Finally, Obsidian for iOS is Here

    Obsidian, the popular note taking app, came out for iOS and iPadOS recently. I have been playing with the beta for quite a while and Obsidian is becoming my favorite writing tool.

    For those of you who don’t know what Obsidian is, you can think of it as a note-taking system that used plain text Markdown files. Unlike Craft or Evernote, you don’t need to rely on their services to sync and save your data, it is directly saved on your hard drive, and you can do with it as you see fit anytime. In other words, if Obsidian were to go away tomorrow and offer no chance for you to recover your files you would still have access to your notes because they are saved right on your computer. Also, don’t worry about Obsidian going away, this app isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    I enjoy Obsidian because it is a plain text editor, meaning it is just words on a screen instead of something like Craft or Notion where they are cards, blocks, or pages. It is a straightforward editor that works great on desktop, and is equally satisfying on the iPad and iPhone.

    It is completely free to try, and if you do decide to give it a shot, I have a ton of articles and videos on how to get started below.

    My Favorite Obsidian Plugins

    If you aren’t familiar with the plugin system Obsidian has, it’s a neat concept. Obsidian is a text editor, but if you enable plugins either made by Obsidian or by other users you can make this text editor into something much more like a Swiss Army Knife instead of a One-Trick Pony.

    Here are some plugins that have helped me make Obsidian into something I can use for all of my notes, writing, task management, and research.


    Templater is a fantastic plugin that makes using templates in Obsidian significantly powerful.

    Templater is becoming my one-stop shop for various templates I want to implement into my notes. So far I have made one for my Daily Notes, YAML markup, and Newsletter setup.

    If you want to learn more Curtis McHale has a great starter video for Templater to show how he uses it and what you can do with it as well.


    I have been using the Kanban plugin for project management, and it has been very interesting. If you don’t know what Kanban is, think of it as cards being moved into different stages while you work on them.

    This Kanban plugin allows you to make different cards in a Kanban board, add notes to those cards, and then move them around the board. It is a fantastic place for me to add writing ideas to and keep them all in one trusted system. Once I want to expand on that idea or link a different note to it I just open it up and put in what I want.


    Vantage is a tool that makes search more powerful and allows you to embed them into notes and templates. I have spoken about Vantage before and how I use it for my Daily Notes, and things haven’t changed for me on that front. I still use it to find notes and articles I have tagged #readlater and I also use it to find tasks due today.

    That said, I did find Greg Morris’ setup and love how he uses the plugin Tasks, which is in a similar vain as Vantage.

    Paste URL into Selection

    Paste URL into Selection is a plugin that is pretty self explanatory. If you have a link in your clipboard, you can select text in Obsidian and paste it into selected text. It behaves similar to how Ghost, Notion, and Craft behave with links.

    It seems small, but it makes things very conveinient when you are dealing with a lot of links at a time. Say for instance you are rounding up links for a newsletter, instead of having to format everything into a Markdown link you can just paste the link into the selected text that is the title of the article you want to save. It makes things easier to deal with than having to make you you format everything into the correct Markdown syntax.

    Let's Talk About Safari

    There are some significant changes coming to how we browse the web on iOS 15 and macOS Monterey. If you follow Apple news or other tech writers, I am sure you have seen just how polarizing the new Safari is.

    Chaim Gartenberg writing for The Verge:

    Over a decade of muscle memory has trained my brain to reach up for the menu bar on smartphones. I get Apple’s motivation in moving it to the bottom, making it easier to reach on the increasingly large phones it makes and putting the actual content of devices front and center at the top of the screen, it’s still a change that’ll require an adjustment period.

    JuanSC Writing for Mac O’Clock:

    Modifying habits that have been built for ten years is not going to be easy. We have always clicked on the top address bar to move through Safari and reload a page. And the bottom one to share, go back and forth, open tabs and history.

    But it is easy to see how reloading the web and sharing are the ones that can bring us the most problems. Because it is not obvious where we are going to find them, despite the fact that when you click on the menu they have a preferred place. And when the user knows where they are, they will see that options that were previously accessible with one tap now require two steps.

    Stephen Hackett writing for Six Colors:

    Safari 15 brings big changes, and surely not everyone will be a fan. I, for one, think the expanded use of color is distracting, and the tabs-aren’t-just-tabs-anymore design confusing at times. I hope Apple might reconsider some of these more drastic design changes during the beta process this summer.

    Clearly, there is much left to be desired from Apple when it comes to the changes to one of the most popular apps on the planet.

    The Problems

    Let’s dive right into what the issue is for Safari. I want to cover the three biggest issues I encounter. There are other minor things that bother me about Safari, but that is for another time. Today, I want to bring up the more drastic changes that fundamentally change how we browse the web.

    The tab bar doesn’t help

    Apple has moved the tab bar (or address bar as many call it) from the top of the screen to the bottom. This is obviously meant to make it more usable for bigger phones. As an iPhone 12 Pro Max user, this is a welcome change, but the problem is how this new bar behaves.

    The new tab bar is no longer connected to the bottom of the screen, it now floats.

    As you can see, the bottom bar now floats and shows some content between the bottom of the bar and the bottom of the screen. Or, as Apple puts it, Safari gets a new design that makes controls easier to reach with one hand and puts content front and center.”

    The problem here is that the tab bar isn’t working well for some websites. A large amount of the websites that aren’t working properly are because of a floating menu or buttons. Nintendo’s website, for instance, is horrible to use in the new Safari.

    It is almost impossible to use the bottom buttons on the website when the floating bar is active, making it incredibly frustrating as a user.

    What makes this even more of a conundrum is that there are other sites that work perfectly fine with the new Safari. Twitter, for instance, works just fine.

    My website, however, has a subscribe button that wasn’t working right with the new Safari.

    On the left, you see my website with a Subscribe button floating fine when the tab bar is minimized. However, when it is active, you see that the Subscribe bar isn’t floating above it as it should.

    I am sure there is a way to make this work, but I am not a web developer and the number of people that actually click on that button is most likely slim to none. Because of this, I decided to just eliminate it from my website entirely.

    Where’s the Share button again?

    The new design also entirely ruins all muscle memory we have with Safari. We no longer can go by memory on where the Share button, reload button, or back buttons are. We are back to square one with web browsing on our phones.

    To add insult to injury, the functionality of Safari is now hidden away in a junk-drawer styled …” button. If you want to do anything useful with Safari, you now have to activate the bottom bar, tap the …” button and select what you want.

    If you want to share this via the standard Share Sheet, you have to tap on another button to get access to that. Feel fatigued yet? I say that in jest, but it is obvious that Apple has a problem with quick access in Safari.

    Sure, my website gets an added line or two of content, but the cost of bringing things front and center” isn’t worth the added sentence I can read on an infinitely scrolling feed.

    Tabs on the iPad and Mac are worthless

    I’ve spoken enough about the woes on the iPhone, but the iPad and Mac aren’t any better. The biggest, most griped about thing with the new Safari is the tabs. No matter what you do, the tabs in Monterey and iPadOS 15 are no longer reliable.

    By reliable, I mean that because of the nature of how tabs work, I have to play Where’s Waldo with the tabs on my screen. Gone are the days when tabs were normally in the same vicinity because now instead of the tabs being separate from the address bar, Apple has decided to bring it all into one amorphous blob.

    While this may look fine in a screenshot, when you are using it in practice it is almost impossible to find the tab you want once you have more than 5 or 6 tabs open at a time.

    What is the most difficult for me, is that I can no longer reliable guess what keyboard shortcut I need to press to get to a specific tab. If you don’t know if you wanted to open the third tab in Safari, you can just press Command-3 and you are there. Back when Safari had a uniform tab length and the address bar was separate from tabs, you could reliably guess what tab was what. Now, the address bar moves to the tab location, which makes things very difficult. Now, I can’t estimate what tab is where anymore. I have an abysmal average of successfully guess what keyboard shortcut I need to reach to Safari tab I was hoping to open.

    The Solutions

    With these large issues, there are some options Apple can make to improve Safari. I am not an engineer, nor have I spent years researching UX and UI. That said, I have found some interesting solutions and have thought of my own as well.

    Better Web Developer support

    I did some digging to try to find a solution to make my Subscribe button float above the tab bar on iOS, but I couldn’t find anything in Google or Apple’s developer sessions. I found an article by Samuel Kraft that explains it reasonably, but it is beyond my minimal knowledge in web development.

    I would love to have a simple bit of code to add to my header to make things like my Subscribe button and other UI elements to comply with the new Safari design. Furthermore, I know enough about web development that websites are built in a variety of ways; and I know that this kind of ask is huge from Apple, but when it is literally how millions browse the web regularly it needs to allow for things like this.

    I am sure there are people reading this that think implementing this is simple to understand. For me, though, it is too much of a hassle for me to bang my head against a wall until I figure it out.

    Redesign the Safari app

    As far as iOS Safari goes, Matt Birchler had an interesting take, which I shared recently, on how to fix this: use Maps as a starting point.

    Matt Birchler:

    Apple’s own Maps app has a similar UI where they’ve moved the search field and bookmarks to the bottom of the UI, while letting the content (the map) occupy most of the screen. The search bar is always visible, a small swipe up reveals your favorites, and a full swipe up brings up the full functionality of that app’s start page”.

    Is this as adventurous as the new Safari UI? Nope, but it sure didn’t spark the frustration that Safari has caused either.


    While I did harp on the bad things about Safari, I do find some things to be a breath of fresh air. I just hope that those bits of fresh air aren’t smothered with the difficult and frustrating UX that is the current Safari beta.

    The Changes to Shortcuts that Makes me Excited

    Now that the Public Beta for iOS 15 is available, I thought I would talk about some of the changes and additions to Shortcuts that has me excited this year.

    Split View and Slide Over Actions

    The new and improved multitasking features being available on iPadOS 15. With that, Shortcuts now allows users to create actions and shortcuts that opens apps in both Split View and in Slide Over. I made a demo shortcut you can download here.

    As you can see, you can choose the two apps that will be in Split View and have a separate action opening a specific app in Slide Over. In just two actions I can have my entire setup change on the iPad.

    You are also able to change the Split View ratio from 50/50 to 70/30 if you so choose.

    This might not seem like something to write home about, but like most Shortcut posts it is all about how you use these tools and actions.

    For me, I integrate this with my Focus areas and have Shortcut Automation perform these actions automatically.

    Focus Automation

    Speaking of Focus Automation, here is what I have happen when I open my Writing Focus.

    In two actions I have Safari and Craft in Split View and I have a new Toggl timer going in Timery. With just a single tap I have moved everything I need to the forefront and allowed everything else fall to the wayside.

    This is what I was talking about with the building blocks and how you use the tools Shortcuts provides. Once you begin to understand the small things Shortcuts offers you can then build them into something bigger and more meaningful.

    Stop and Output

    This is a very specific feature in Shortcuts for people that build larger shortcuts and need to debug them.

    Stop and Output is an easy way for you to put in an action to see what the output is at that particular point in the Shortcut. You can even copy it to the Clipboard for further investigation.

    I don’t normally need this kind of tool when I am making Shortcuts, but when I do need it, I will absolutely be joyous that it is there.

    Files Actions

    Last, but certainly not least, is the improved Files support. Previously, you would only be allowed access to the Shortcuts folder in iCloud Drive to save, append, or edit files. If you had a file in any other iCloud or local folder on your iPhone or iPad it wasn’t accessible.

    Thankfully, that has changed. You can most likely thank the Mac version of Shortcuts for this change, but it is here nonetheless. Now, you can choose a folder or file anywhere in your file system. From Dropbox, to iCloud Drive, to local storage (On My iPad/On My iPhone). Simply tap where the destination is on the Files action and Replace” the folder/file with what ever you want.

    As of right now, in the Developer Beta 2 (2nd Beta 2 update), I cannot seem to be able to make changes to the file/folder in Shortcuts. When I select Replace” it is consistently crashing every time. If it does work for you, here’s an image of what it looks like in a Shortcut to Replace” the File/Folder location.

    As far as the crashing problem goes, I have filed a Feedback request to Apple sharing what I can in hopes it is fixed in the next version.

    As a disclaimer for Beta season, there may be times where Shortcuts won’t work for you properly, like what I just explained above. I will try my best to debug things if something happens, but consider this your warning for testing things in the public Beta.


    Shortcuts has a lot more changes and additions up its sleeve, and I can’t wait to share more with you this Summer about it as iOS 15 and macOS Monterey show us what Shortcuts has in store for us.

    How Daily Notes Changed Everything for Me

    I have been on a note taking journey for some time, and its been both interesting and precarious. While I may not have finished this adventure yet, I have learned the value of daily notes.

    This week, I want to share with you what they are, how I am using them, and how daily notes can be a benefit to you.

    What Are Daily Notes?

    Daily notes are pretty self-explanatory for the most part. They are notes you write in daily, with each note being the day’s date. It’s that simple, at least by definition. What you do with the daily notes can be very complex if you want it to be.

    I learned about Daily Notes years back but it never quite clicked” with me. There were apps like Agenda that were all about having daily notes and there were people using Drafts just for this purpose. Some used it to journal, others used it for task and project management, or a bit of both.

    At the time, it seemed interesting but I had no interest in categorizing my notes by date. It stayed that way for me until I started to use Obsidian and enabled the Daily Notes core plugin.

    Ever since then, daily notes has been my most frequented place in my notes. I rely on it to keep my tasks in check, capture everything I come across, and even as an agenda for what I have happening today and a log for what I did that day.

    Greg Morris had a nice article about daily notes and explained them perfectly saying:

    Daily notes is a practice that I preach to almost anyone that will listen, the one thing that remains form my time using Roam Research. In these I record almost everything that happens during my working day, such as telephone calls, things I am thinking, interactions I have had and anything else I think I might need to refer back to later. This allows me to just get things out of my brain at the time they pop up so I can act on them later, or refer back to them if needed.

    Once I learned about the power of daily notes, I started to think about how to maximize their value and remove any friction I could have when making these notes. Thankfully, Obsidian has an impressive set of options you can use to make daily notes populate automatically and even have templates set up. There are other options as well that deserve mention, namely Craft and Drafts. If you want to look into those apps you can take some of what I write here with you as well.

    I want to share with you my daily notes setup, some tools and resources I recommend, and show why you should consider daily notes for yourself as well.

    My Daily Notes Template

    My notes template isn’t anything special, but I think it is a great starting point for many looking to use Obsidian, or another app, for daily notes.

    Here’s what my daily note template looks like:

    If you want to learn more about templates you can find a bunch of great information from Obsidian help and support documents.

    Let’s break this down for each section in the template.


    The first thing I have in my template is tasks. I use this for two instances of task management: the tasks I assign to do today and the tasks I created today.

    For the former, I user an embedded search with the plugin Vantage and their search query. It sounds like a lot, but basically this plugin is used to allow users to create custom searches that finds instances in their notes library that fit their search. Once you have one made that you want to use you can embed that search into a template and use it every time you create a new note with said template.

    For me, I wanted to find every incomplete task that is due on today’s date. I might have a document that has a task in it that I have assigned a due date like 2021-06-27. With this embedded search set up in my template, I create the daily note for June 27th, 2021 and the search query populates looking like this:

        (line:(/- \[ \].*.*/))

    What that shows is this:

    There’s more you can do with this for tasks, but you can learn more about Vantage and how to use it on their GitHub page.

    For the tasks I create that day I just input them as the following:

    - [ ] this is a task 

    From there, I will process any incomplete tasks and move them to either the next day or assign them to another date. It is also very possible I decide the task I created is no longer worth my time and I just delete it entirely.

    It might seem pointless for me to make a task only to delete it later but at the time I put it in I wanted to do that task, but after some time settled and I thought more in the processing phase I deemed it not to be worth my time, effort, or both.

    Reading List

    One thing I also use Vantage for is a reading list. Instead of using a date to find notes, I use tags.

    Tags in Obsidian aren’t too different than tags in other apps you have used. For me, I use #readlater for all the articles, videos, and more that I want to capture in Obsidian and read later. There are two ways you can add tags to a note in Obsidian.

    You can either use tags inline with text like #readlater or put it in the front matter of the note, which is as simple as having the following at the top of your note:

    tags: readlater

    Either way, once you have a specific tag set up for your reading list you can use Vantage to create this embedded search.

    Once I have it the way I want, I click Create embedded search” and it will paste it into my note.


    It looks very similar to my other embedded search, but you can see that it uses tags rather than dates in the query.

    When I change it from editing mode to preview mode (using Command-E ) I see something like this:

    Once I add the embedded search to my daily notes template it will populate all notes and text with the tag readlater.


    Finally, Notes is a catchall for everything I find, think of, or want to remember. It is my scratchpad for all links, ideas, events, etc. that I want to make sure I capture before it leave my mind. I also have been dabbling in writing out journal entries from time to time as well.

    Once I know it is in this notes system and I have it written down somewhere i can allow my mind to relax and focus on coming up with ideas rather than keeping them.

    David Allen, author of Getting Things Done once said Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” I often think about this quote and I use it to remind me just how important it is to have a trusted system for you ideas, tasks, and everything else. I am not saying Obsidian is the perfect app for all of those things, but Obsidian has become a bigger part of my trusted system for some time now.

    As for what happens to all of my notes, tasks, etc. I process them either at the end of the day or first thing the next morning.

    Quick Capture

    I really wanted to show Quick Capture in action on iOS 15 but as of right now, I can’t seem to get beta 2 to work with Shortcuts reliably. At times it works, but at other times it doesn’t. Sadly, for that reason, I can’t in goo conscious share anything iOS 15 related

    However, if you are on iOS 14 and want a way to make it happen right now, all you have to do is follow this video Curtis McHale streamed a week back and it will help. The catch is you need to use the app Toolbox Pro in order for this to work for you. It uses a neat workaround for you to append files outside of the Shortcuts folder.

    With Curtis’ shortcut you can even take it a step further and get things from Safari like the page Name, Author, publication date, etc. and use that in a shortcut to have everything you need all in one spot. The opportunities for growth and tweaking are endless. If you end up making something awesome let me know on Twitter, I would love to see!

    There is also a workflow from Mike Schmitz over on The Sweet Setup where he shows how to use Drafts with Obsidian for quick capture.

    The nice thing about Obsidian is that it is a notes app built around markdown files. It is just plain text, and because of how simple it is there are lots of different ways to add, edit, and append to the files.

    I hope that iOS 15 allows for these workarounds to be obsolete, but until then there are a couple ways for you to add to your Obsidian daily notes.

    How Daily Notes Help

    So, what is the point of daily notes? Why bother with all of this setup? Here’s a few things you can benefit from with them.

    Remember it Now

    I am a huge fan of Field Notes. They are small notebooks that I keep in my pocket to write down things when my phone isn’t going to cut it for me. Their motto has always been a mantra for me, I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.” I have always kept that in my mind over the years because it reminds me that my brain isn’t going to remember this later so I need to write it down now.

    If you are someone that wants to be more diligent in notes and capturing the things that you want to remember, daily notes is a perfect way to do that. Before I was using daily notes, I was relying on my brain to remember and save all of the things that I would think of in a day. This is a horrible system. I lost count how many times I would forget a thought I just had minutes prior. If I had daily notes, or a notes system I trusted, I could have written it down and saved myself the trouble. Now, with this system I am able to drop links, ideas, and tasks without worrying about forgetting them.

    Daily Log

    Another benefit with daily notes is that I now have a log of what I have done for the day. Before, I would often go to bed feeling like I hadn’t accomplished much for that day. I would feel unfulfilled, wish I had worked harder. Over time I began to feel like I wasn’t doing enough, until I started logging what I was doing each day.

    What I learned by logging what I was doing was that while I may not have something tangible to show for my work every day, I was indeed making small incremental changes moving the proverbial needle forward to reach my goals. I took nothing for granted, everything I was doing needed to be logged no matter how small it was. After a short time, the feeling of inadequacy and failure washed away all because I was making a conscious effort to write down everything I was doing each day.


    I mentioned journaling earlier, and it is similar to the daily log, but I wanted to harp on this a bit more. Journaling can be beneficial for your mental health. It can help reduce anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression.

    For me, I never got into journaling until I started to use it in my daily notes. It was a game-changer for me. I really felt that, similar to the daily log, I was able to process my emotions and concerns in a more fully-thought-out way. Instead of having anxiety without knowing what may be causing it, I am able to look at my journal and see why. For instance, between my daily log and my journaling I can see that I had a lot on my plate the last several days and that could be the reason why I have been uneasy every time I sit down to do some work.

    I don’t write mountains of text in my journal. I simply write how I am feeling, what I did to help with it, and how I felt about the day. It is as simple as a few sentences a day.


    Daily notes aren’t something new, but they are new to me. After some time with them I have seen the benefits of them already, and I am sure I will see other implementations going forward that will inspire me.

    If you are looking to have a notes system you can trust to capture ideas and resources, be a journal for your life, and log the things you did each day give daily notes a chance.

    If you are using daily notes please let me know how you are using them by either emailing me or DM me on Twitter.

    Why Craft is the Note Taking King

    This weeks issue of Tablet Habit is going to be all things Craft. This was originally going to just be an interview with CEO Balint Orosz but after spending more and more time with Craft I went into a rabbit hole.

    I promise this isn’t sponsored, this is just such an amazing app that I have been thinking about a lot this week and this was literally the only thing on my mind for the newsletter.

    Today we are going to talk about what Craft is, the history of how it came to be, how things are going now, and what makes it such a great app to use.

    Finally there will be a litany of resources below as well as interesting workflows for Craft if you are interested in trying this app out yourself.

    What is Craft?

    Craft is a note taking app created by Luki Labs. Released in November 2020, it quickly became the latest hot note taking app in the Apple ecosystem.

    I think that Ryan Christoffel from MacStories said it best in his review of Craft:

    Craft is launching today across iPhone, iPad, and Mac as a new note-taker that blends the block-based approach of Notion with a thoroughly native experience, taking advantage of all the OS technologies you would hope for and throwing in valuable features like real-time collaboration. It’s the most exciting note-taking debut I’ve seen in years.

    Craft offers some interesting features including excellent collaboration tools, full markdown support, native iOS and macOS apps, beautiful design, and the ability to link notes together.

    Linking Notes

    If you aren’t familiar with what it means to link notes, think of it as you have two pieces of paper on a board, and you want to link the two together because they are related in some kind of way. Craft allows you to create. a metaphorical piece of yarn to connect those two pieces of information.

    All you have to do in order for that to happen is type the @“ symbol and start writing out the note you want to link. You can even create a new note if you find yourself wanting to have a separate note that will link up with information in the note you are currently working on.

    For instance, if I were working on a note that is for a review of a product and I find myself wanting to write out some more background information about the company, I can create a new note and have it linked to the note I am currently working on by typing @Company Info.”

    Not only can you use Markdown to write in Craft but you can export it in Markdown with multiple different variation options. With support for CommonMarkiA WriterBearUlysses, and Notion you can export your notes into pretty much any flavor of Markdown you want. You also have the ability to export it as a PDF, TextBundle, Microsoft Word, and more.

    Speaking of exporting, there are direct app integrations with apps like DraftsOmniFocusThings 3, Ulysses, and more. With just a simple tap in the export options you can send your Craft note to the app of your choosing like magic.

    These are just a few of the plethora of options Craft has to offer, and I want to dive deeper than a review for Craft. With that said, if you want to learn more about Craft feel free to look at the resources below from both Craft and from others who have shared some very interesting and cool ways to use Craft.

    You can download Craft today for free at If you decide that Craft is your kind of note taking app you can purchase a Pro membership for $44.99 a year.

    History of Craft

    Craft was spearheaded by founder and CEO Balint Orosz, who began this note taking journey back in 2018. Balint began researching and creating the app that is now formerly known as Craft. In an interview I conducted with him, Balint tells me that this app was created because he wanted to do more with touch screens saying:

    I just simply didn’t feel I can be productive on touch devices. It took me a good 6-9 months of thinking and researching to figure out the exact reason - which was mainly related around organizing/restructuring content on touch devices was horrible - and for my thinking process that is crucial.

    One thing that got Balint to think that this kind of touch-first note taking can be accomplished was an app that had actually nothing to do with note taking.

    After seeing TikTok, Instagram stories, etc. which effectively simplify video editing (one of the most complex desktop software) in a way where billions of people can use it, I thought that for sure we can do it for text.

    Nearly 18 months later after a long beta season with users, of which I was a part of, Craft was ready to launch.

    Release Day

    By November 2020 Craft had become publicly available for people to download and use. Version 1.0 was officially out, and with it came some challenges.

    One of the challenges was feedback and bug reports. As Balint explained to me, when you have a beta app you get different kinds of feedback than you would a public app.

    [I]n beta very few people actually used Craft as their primary tool - while a lot of them started doing so once we were publicly available - and this meant that some smaller bugs which have been overlooked became critical. Balancing these, with new features our users are requesting is very challenging.

    Even though there was more work to be done, it was clear that Craft had managed to catch lightning in a bottle. It gained momentum right out of the gate.

    Balint Orosz on the user response from launch:

    You get tons of (new/different) user feedback you want to address as soon as possible - so a mix of joy & dopamine from the positive feedback with the longer than usual shifts to get the first few fixes shipped ASAP.

    Overall as the feedback, download & revenue numbers were above expectations we were very happy - recognizing there’s so much more we need to do.

    Craft was out, and people were flocking to it. The reason, from my persecutive, was two-pronged. The first is that it is simply a great note taking environment on all three Apple platforms. Second, it is a native iOS and macOS app that simply oozes Apple aesthetics and design prowess.

    I wasn’t the only one thinking this, in fact a lot of people have seemed to join the Craft bandwagon because of these two reasons.

    Christopher Lawley on Craft:

    Personally I have gone all in on Craft for note taking and research. I like their implementation, I like what they’re doing with the app, they are constantly updating it.

    Curtis McHale:

    The big thing Craft did was give me a truly excellent iPad app for my writing and research. Obsidian only had desktop at the time and their predicted iPad app was not what we have now. Craft was an excellent app on iPad which let me used my preferred platform for focused writing and research.

    Reception and Best New App” Award

    By December 2020, just one month after public release, MacStories gave Craft the award of Best New App” award, with editor-in-chief Federico Viticci saying:

    I’ve been reviewing apps at MacStories for well over a decade at this point, and it’s only natural that, over the course of several years, it’s become increasingly rare for a new app to genuinely surprise me and upend my expectations in a specific category. I don’t mean this in the context of I’ve seen it all, everything is boring now”; it’s just that after writing hundreds of app reviews in 11 years, testing even more betas, and following the evolution of App Store trends on both MacStories and AppStories, my threshold for being impressed by the 1.0 version of a new app or service is very high.

    Present Day

    Craft has been out for nearly 6 months now to the public at the time of this publishing. I wanted to know from Balint how the company felt about the reception of the app and the numbers they have for Craft subscribers.

    We’re very happy with the numbers, but most importantly the user engagement (both within the product, but also the level of communication between the internal team and users) is just amazing. We’re getting a tremendous amount of insight from our users, and this makes our job both very challenging in one way, and easy on the other.

    Using Craft

    When Craft came out, I originally thought that this app was nearing its maximum capacity. Thankfully, I was dead wrong.

    Ryan Christoffel from MacStories explained just how powerful Craft was as a 1.0 app in a way I couldn’t.

    Craft is the strongest 1.0 note-taking app I’ve ever used. It offers a thoroughly native experience, taking advantage of all the best system features across its respective platforms, while also retaining the power and versatility of modern web-based services like Notion. Real-time collaboration is an especially exciting feature, and I love that even if someone doesn’t have a Craft account, they can add comments to your notes through public webpages.

    Just as a user of this app, there is a lot going for it. Where I find I am using this the most is on my iPad, for obvious reasons.

    Since launch, Craft has had numerous updates. Among them are some strong features added and bugs squashed. Here are the highlights:

    • Faster Search
    • Trash Can for deleted items
    • Web Editor (currently in beta)
    • Dedicated sidebar for iPad
    • Tabs in both iPadOS and macOS
    • Universal Attachment support
    • Surround selections (You can add ( )[ ]{ } easily to the beginning and end of the selected text by simply type ( or [ or {.)
    • Swipe to indent lines
    • External Locations
    • Notion, Roam, and batch Markdown import
    • Spotlight Search integration
    • Backlinks
    • iOS 14 widgets

    The iPad Experience

    One app that comes to mind a lot when I think about the design, usability, and versatility of Craft is Things 3. To me, they both offer a similar feeling with me, and I think it is because it is also native, frictionless and beautiful.

    If you have ever used Craft or Things 3 you will know right away that it isn’t like every other app. It has an aesthetic that shows care, finesse, and obsession. Someone who worked on this app put their heart and soul into how this app looks and feels for the user.

    I love that Craft decided early on to focus on being a native app, rather than doing something like Notion, a competitor for Craft, where it is a web app wrapped into an iOS and Mac app.

    Balint commented on this decision saying:

    From the start we wanted to create a Mac App which isn’t a blown up iPad app - but rather something you feel is built for the Mac itself - and Catalyst doesn’t provide much for you in that area (with the new MacOS 11 design language it’s better - but at the time with MacOS 10.15 you still had a very different visual environment). This meant we had to re-build pretty much the whole UI - different visuals, interactions, overall structure - and all of this had to be done in a way where we don’t have two apps - but one. So any feature we introduce on one platform should be available on the other platform as well.

    Looking back moving to Mac early on was one of the best decisions we made. It forced us to re-think components and interactions in a more holistic and cross-platform way. It provided plenty of challenges, but both our design language and codebase is now a lot stronger because we made that decision - and with the M1 Macs Catalyst performance is just amazing.

    It is interesting to see from a developer standpoint how integrating macOS can cause a complete overhaul for the iPhone and iPad apps as well. This decision could not have been made lightly, thankfully it was absolutely the right call. The native iOS and macOS experience is something that Apple users can sense and when it is done wrong, it leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

    Personally, I can’t count how many times I have tried an app and leave it feeling like it is trying to be a Mac app but it feels like a web app. One app that is like that for me is Notion.

    Recently I was talking on Twitter about Notion, and many were telling me that, when it comes to iOS and iPadOS, the best note taking experience between Notion and Craft is by far and away Craft.

    Not to continually lead the Craft train but I used Notion for at least a year, and hated the iOS experience. Craft doesn’t have all the functionality I wish it had, but as someone who primarily works in iOS it was a better fit.

    — @andy (@andyjoeshow) April 27, 2021

    James Eaton wrote:

    One of my favorite things about Craft is how easy it is to just start taking notes. I tend to take somewhat of stream-of-conscious notes in meetings and I love how I can just type my thoughts and then sort, add lists, and develop blocks after the meeting is over. To put it simply: Craft does not get in my way when I want to capture text.

    It’s clear that the current success for Craft is prosperous, but what does the future hold for Craft? According to Balint, quite a bit.

    The Future of Craft

    While Craft is still in its first year of release, it is clear that there’s more to come. Each update is indicative of that.

    I wanted to know what Balint had planned for Craft, and when I asked about what the future of Craft looks like this is what he had to say.

    Most of the things you see in Craft are the result of us learning from our users. We have a strong vision of creating the next generation writing app” - i.e. one that supports workflows for knowledge workers in today’s ecosystem, not one which was built 20-30 years ago. This means we have very strong principles around :

    1. Cross platform and form factor usage (users are no longer working on just one device)
    2. Integration to other services / tools vs being the all-in-one” (respecting that others across domains built amazing tools - we shouldn’t try to replicate that into one monster, but figure out ways that tools can be effectively co-used)
    3. Privacy & Data Accessibility - Your data is yours, and we should actively help you exercise those rights.

    There’s lots of details and nuances in all of these - and that’s where user input and feedback drives majority of the implementation details.

    The biggest thing we’ve learned is that every individual has a different set of preferences & needs for them to become productive - in other words to please hundreds of millions of users (which we want to do) one needs to provide a large number of features - or features in a way where these are customizable - while making sure the product doesn’t become overly complicated or bloated. In other words we are not in a sprint - but rather a marathon.

    What also sends a clear message is $8 million in funding they received earlier this year in Series A funding. Craft made it clear that this funding will help grow Craft and expand its reach in a recent email to users saying:

    What this means for you is that we will have plenty of resources to continue & build Craft for years ahead.

    As for what Craft plans to work on in the near future, Balint tells me it is actually one of the most common requests they have received since launch.

    On the very top of our list is of course tables - it’s challenging to get it right on touch, but we’re making good progress - and of course we’ve just launched our web editor, which has also been requested by many users.

    The new Web Editor mentioned is something I didn’t expect to see so soon. Alas, I am pleasantly surprised by this. Like many, I work in an office environment that is completely Windows based which doesn’t bode well for apps that are only in the Apple ecosystem. Thankfully, the new web editor is working on fixing that for users.

    I don’t want to talk too much about this as it is still in beta but I will say that even as a beta app it is surprisingly full-featured. Craft continues to raise the bar for beta and version 1.0 apps and for that we can all be grateful.

    If you want to give the web editor a shot you can sign up for the waitlist of the beta.

    Wrap Up

    Craft has been a welcome addition to my workflows and I can’t wait to use this app more and see what kind of benefits I receive once I invest even more into the app.

    If you are at all interested in trying out Craft you can start with the free tier and see how you like it. The features you get even in the free tier are vast and the amount of notes you can write before hitting its limits is large. I highly recommend giving this a go for a project you are working on or as a system of saving notes for different aspects of your life.

    Finally, if you want to learn more about what you can do with Craft or how to use the app please look below at the multitude of resources I have curated of the last month.

    The iPad needs the software to catch up with its hardware

    In case you missed it, Apple unveiled new iPad Pros April 20th for their Spring Loaded event. These new iPad Pros are beyond anything that was expected from a hardware perspective.

    Here’s a quick list of the best new features:

    • M1 chip inside
    • 5G Capability
    • 12.9” iPad Pro gets an all new mini LED Liquid Retina XDR display
    • Up to 16GB of RAM available
    • Up to 2TB of storage (with SSDs that are twice as fast as previous drives in the iPad Pro)
    • All new 12MP front-facing camera with ultra-wide lens and Center Stage

    It is clear that Apple is leaning hard into the idea that the iPad Pro can be a laptop replacement. According to Apple, the M1 processor offers 50% faster CPU than the A12Z and 40% faster graphic processing. it’s clear no punches were pulled.

    The difference in hardware between the 2020 iPad Pro and the 2021 iPad Pro isn’t a small jump, it’s a large leap over the chasm between the Mac and the iPad. That said, I can’t help but wonder what about the software?

    These latest iPad Pros aren’t looking to be an improvement in the user experience for the next version of iPadOS 14, but instead it is looking at iPadOS 15 and beyond.

    It is almost a given that Apple has another trick or two up its sleeve for the iPad this year. They showed their hand for the hardware in the new iPad Pros but they have yet to flourish what iPadOS 15 will bring.

    I’m not the only one that thinks that this is just part one of a two-part reveal for the future of the iPad.

    Christopher Lawley spoke briefly about his thoughts on what is going to happen with iPadOS 15 saying this in his video about the event:

    Seeing as this iPad both got the M1 which gave a huge CPU and GPU performance and a crap ton of more RAM this makes me think that there’s still another shoe to drop on the software side. That there is going to be other stuff that we’re gonna see probably at WWDC or maybe later this year.

    Christopher also mentioned the release of the iPad Air 2 in his video, which was a very compelling example of the last time Apple threw everything into the next iPad. While it seemed like overkill at the time, iOS 9 started to make the iPad a pro user computer and it needed that new hardware to make it happen.

    It reminds me in a lot of the iPad Air 2, the iPad Air 2 when it came out it was completely, it was overkill, it I was so powerful. But then we got iOS 9 and multi-tasking came along. So I m really curious to see what this other shoe is going to be that can drop.

    I remember being so elated with Split Screen and Slide Over when it came out that I truly felt like it was the beginning of a fantastic run for the iPad. So far I still feel like we are in the midst of a transition for the iPad Pro to be an optimal choice for users wanting a fantastic computer.

    However, I think that until the software catches up with this new hardware upgrade we will continue to see people comparing it to the Mac. In fact, Jason Snell raised an interesting point about this in his Macworld article.

    This is the crux of the issue: Apple’s decision to market the iPad Pro as being powered by an M1 processor. As a marketing move, it’s solid. There’s been so much positive press about the M1 that wrapping the iPad Pro in its halo makes sense. (In truth, the M1 is an evolution of the processors Apple has been building for the iPad Pro for years, so the  real story is that the Mac has adopted the iPad Pro’s processor, not the reverse.)

    Here’s the problem with this clever marketing, though: it draws a direct parallel between the iPad and the Mac. And while the Mac definitely lacks in some areas (no touchscreen or Apple Pencil support, for instance) you can basically do anything on your Mac, including run a bunch of apps that originated on the iPad.

    The iPad Pro, in contrast, can’t do all sorts of pro” things that a professional-level user buying a device starting at $1,099 might want to do. They can’t run Mac apps (though if you connect a keyboard and trackpad,
    you certainly could!), and Apple has failed to build iPad-optimized versions of its own professional apps.

    Harry McCracken from Fast Company also had thoughts about the distance between hardware and software for the iPad Pro in his Fast Company article.

    Ideally, a device’s software and hardware become so symbiotic that you stop thinking about the distinction between them. Over Apple’s long history, it’s achieved that state of zen more often than any other company. However, the iPad—at least in the iPad Pro era—has yet to reach it. The platform consists of remarkably advanced hardware running an operating system and apps that lag in sophistication.

    To make the disparity even more obvious, new iPads don’t follow the dependable, synchronized release schedule of iPhones, which show up in the fall running a newly minted version of iOS. Buy one of these iPad Pros upon release, and you’ll probably be a bit antsy waiting for iPadOS 15—which, even if you’re brave enough to install a beta or preview version, is months away from availability.

    Even though I am a huge advocate of the iPad as a computer, I can’t help but agree with Snell and McCraken here. It is a two-sided coin for Apple to give the iPad Pro an M1 chip. One one side it is a fantastic jump in specs and gives the iPad more power than ever before. On the other, it also directly links the iPad and Mac together because for the first time ever they have the same chipset.

    I can see reviews coming a mile away claiming that the M1 chip is overkill for the iPad Pro and that it isn’t worth the same price as the MacBook Air, or that users should save money on the iPad Pro and just get the MacBook Air instead. As of right now, I can’t come up with any new arguments on behalf of the iPad than I had before this announcement.

    My hope is with iOS 15 there will be more compelling reasons for people to buy the iPad over the MacBook Air.

    What iPadOS 15 Needs

    Here is a small list of things I believe needs to be in iPadOS 15. This isn’t what I expect to see at WWDC, but instead it is what I believe needs to be included in the iPad for it to really contend against the Mac as a laptop alternative.

    Better Multitasking

    It has been 6 years since Split View and Slide Over were introduced on the iPad. While these two features have been a staple for any pro user of the iPad very little has been improved upon it over the years.

    I think it is high time for Apple to come up with a new system for multi-app workflows. Whether it is something more elegant and easier to manipulate or something that offers even more power I just want Apple to improve upon this feature set.

    Pro Apps

    I was really hoping that with the new iPad Pro announcement Apple would also give us a taste of Apple’s pro apps on the iPad as well. Apps like Final Cut, Logic, and Xcode are all fantastic examples of showcasing the power and ability these M1 chips can handle. Alas, nothing of the sort came of it. Instead Apple showcased third party apps that have pushed the envelope of what the iPad can do for years now.

    As much as I love seeing Apple showcase developers and third-party apps I can’t help but feel that it is a crutch Apple leans on year over year instead of using their own apps to push the envelope on the iPad.

    Widgets on the Home Screen

    When widgets were introduced on the iPhone the whole world exploded and began customizing the look and feel of their devices. Sadly, when iPadOS 14 came out that ability was only contained for a portion of the first home screen page and nowhere else.

    This was a blunder from Apple and it needs to be rectified for iPad users everywhere. I have wanted my iPad home screen to be more of a command center allowing me to get glimpses of everything happening in my day. I also want my widgets to be like mini-apps available on my home screen to use without needing to open the full app.

    According to Mark Gurman this is already on the way.

    The company is planning the most significant update to the device’s Home Screen since first launching the product in 2010. Following a similar feature for the iPhone introduced last year, Apple plans to let users place widgets — miniature apps that can display the weather, upcoming appointments, stock tickers and other data — anywhere on the Home Screen. Users will also be able to replace the entire app grid with only widgets.

    Wrap Up

    I am excited about the future of the iPad, and anyone who saw that keynote should be as well. This progress for the iPad Pro is tremendous and I cannot wait to see what Apple has in store for iPadOS 15.

    That said, if Apple doesn’t deliver with some kind of power user features what was this all for?

    Apple Needs to Remove Weekly Subscriptions, Here’s Why

    As I was scrolling through Twitter last Monday, I came across a tweet by Federico Viticci, editor-in-chief of MacStories, showcasing an app that is part of an ongoing problem in the App Store.


    This isn’t the first time I have seen an app try to do something like this to dupe users into agreeing to a weekly subscription, and it seems to be a growing issue.

    Simply put, these app developers are creating simple and easy-to-make apps with misleading names and app icons to try and trick you into installing them. Once you do install them on your iPhone or iPad, the app quickly asks you to start a Free Trial.” Seven days later, you’re now giving this app money every week for their minimal work.

    Thankfully, the app mentioned in the tweet above has since been removed, either by the developer or Apple. Still, the concern is warranted as there are plenty of other apps that will show up like a forever game of whack-a-mole.

    If ever there was a time that I think Apple needs to remove the weekly subscription it’s now.

    History of the App Store

    In order to understand why the weekly subscription isn’t necessary we first need to talk about the origin of the App Store and App Store subscriptions.

    The App Store Announcement

    The App Store launched in July 2008, but before the launch Steve Jobs had to introduce it.

    After speaking about the SDK for iPhone, Jobs had an example of what might happen after a developer created the app they want to share and sell to others.

    You just spent 2 weeks, maybe a little bit longer, writing this amazing app and what is your dream? Your dream is to get it in front of every iPhone user and hopefully they love it and buy it, right? That’s not possible today. Most developers don’t have those kinds of resources. Even the big developers would have a hard time getting your app in front of every iPhone user. Well, we’re going to solve that problem for every developer, big to small. And the way we’re gonna do it is what we call the App Store.

    After Jobs goes more into the 70/30 revenue split between developer and Apple, which has since changed, he then starts talking about what kind of apps Apple will not allow.

    Will there be limitations? Of course! There are going to be some apps that we’re not going to distribute. Porn, malicious apps, apps that invade your privacy, so there will be some apps that we’re going to say no’ to but again we have exactly the same interest as the vast majority of our developers which is to get a ton of apps out there for the iPhone and we think we’ve invented an incredibly great way to do it. Which is the App Store. It’s gonna reach every single iPhone user.”

    It is clear that, from the start, Apple and Jobs both knew that there needs to be rules and guidelines to keep nefarious no-good-doers from their App Store, and they are willing to put their money where their mouths are.

    Apple created an App Store Review team with the job of handling all apps that are submitted to the App Store and approving them before it becomes available to the public.

    From the Apple App Review website:

    We review all apps and app updates submitted to the App Store in an effort to determine whether they are reliable, perform as expected, respect user privacy, and are free of objectionable content.

    The guiding principle of the App Store is simple - we want to provide a safe experience for users to get apps and a great opportunity for all developers to be successful. We do this by offering a highly curated App Store where every app is reviewed by experts and an editorial team helps users discover new apps every day.

    App Store Subscriptions

    Three years later, in 2011, Apple made the decision to allow developers to charge users a recurring subscription with the same revenue split as single-pay apps in the App Store.

    From Apple’s original press release:

    Subscriptions purchased from within the App Store will be sold using the same App Store billing system that has been used to buy billions of apps and In-App Purchases. Publishers set the price and length of subscription (weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly). Then with one-click, customers pick the length of subscription and are automatically charged based on their chosen length of commitment (weekly, monthly, etc.). Customers can review and manage all of their subscriptions from their personal account page, including canceling the automatic renewal of a subscription. Apple processes all payments, keeping the same 30 percent share that it does today for other In-App Purchases.

    It has been over 10 years since App Store subscriptions were announced by Apple. The subscription-based app wouldn’t gain traction until years later, but Apple knew that if developers were to make their revenue recurring it would be a win-win for Apple and the developers.

    A side-effect of this are the grifters and scammers that are utilizing this as a get rich quick” scheme.

    After 13 years of existing I wonder if the App Store has started to lose its grip on the netting protecting users from malicious, scammy, and nefarious intended apps.

    Scammy Apps Aren’t New

    There have always been scammy apps like the one in the tweet above, and my thoughts are the same as Matt Birchler when he commented on Viticci’s tweet.

    As Matt said, I have never seen a weekly rate used in a meaningful way. It is always meant to be something that is deceptive and gross. All of the subscriptions I have are either monthly, annually, or lifetime. I have never seen any useful subscriptions in the weekly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or bi-yearly rates as the App Store also allows.

    The only case I have seen for the need of a weekly subscription is for a newspaper, but even that seems to be a moot point. I cannot see the benefit of having a weekly subscription for a newspaper over monthly or yearly for either the user or the publication. If anything, the weekly subscription is meant to be a tool to make the total cost of a subscription to look lower than it actually is.

    Take a look at the New York Times, for instance. They charge people $1 a week, which doesn’t seem like a lot. That said, if you change the phrasing to $52 a year it can cause people to put their pocketbooks away rather than pay the premium. If there is indeed a subset of apps that have weekly rates in a meaningful I would love to know.

    A New Subscription Model

    If I were able to wave a magic wand and become the person in charge of the App Store for a day I would remove all kinds of recurring subscriptions except for monthly, yearly, and lifetime. The other subscriptions are then required to change to one of those three options in order to allow for in-app subscriptions again. The case for a weekly recurring subscription is all but unnecessary, much like the bi-monthly, bi-annual, and quarterly subscription options as well.

    I have reached out for comment from Apple, and will update this article if/when I hear back from the company.

    How to Check Your Subscriptions

    If you want to edit the subscriptions on your Apple account you can do so in various ways.

    If you want to do it through the Settings app you can go to Settings >iCloud (top bar with your face on it)>Subscriptions.

    You can also view your subscriptions through the App Store app by tapping on your icon in the top right, from there you can tap on Subscriptions.

    If you want to get there faster you can use this shortcut.

    What Happened to Shortcuts?

    I have spoken a lot about the Shortcuts app, and for good reason. It is the bridge to automation for the iPhone and iPad.

    One of the best things about Shortcuts is that you can share ones you have created via an iCloud link. It’s great when you want to resolve an issue for someone via Shortcuts. The only problem is when it doesn’t work. That is what happened late March 23rd.

    What Happened?

    In the evening of March 23rd people began to notice that some Shortcut links weren’t showing anything when you click them on your iPhone or iPad.

    Instead of a shortcut populating, there would be an error saying Shortcut not found. The shortcut link may be invalid, or it may have been deleted.” This was happening with every single shortcut with the exception of those that were created less than a week ago.

    Libraries like those made at MacStories, Matthew Cassinelli’s Shortcut Catalog, and shortcuts by Christopher Lawley became unusable due to this error from Apple and the Shortcuts team.

    Thankfully, later that day Apple gave the following statement to MacStories when they reached out for comment.

    We are aware of an issue where previously shared shortcuts are currently unavailable. Newly shared shortcuts are available, and we are working to restore previously shared shortcuts as quickly as possible.

    On March 25th, it seemed that shortcuts from MacStories had been slowly enabled again, confirming that the Apple team is working on the issue.


    In fact, when I try to open any shortcut on MacStories, Matthew Cassinelli’s website, or shortcuts made by Christopher Lawley I am yet to find something that is still broken.

    While the issue should have never happened in the first place, I am happy to see such a quick turnaround to addressing the issue by Apple and the Shortcuts team.

    You Are in Apple’s Yard

    While this issue has been addressed, I worry about the future of sharing shortcuts as time goes on.

    As of now, the only way you can import Shortcuts is through an iCloud link someone created within the app.

    Before iOS 13 there was a time where you could export a shortcut as a file and save it, which was fantastic because you could export shortcuts you weren’t using but wanted to keep and import them as needed.

    You even could have multiple shortcuts in a single .zip folder and batch import those shortcuts at will. It was great for when you had shortcuts for a specific task or agenda. For example, you are at a conference and have shortcuts that makes it easier to share and save contact info with others. When done with the conference you can lighten up your library by exporting the shortcuts and save them for safe keeping for the next conference.

    When iOS 13 came out Shortcuts removed the ability to import shortcuts via email or as a file. It was only available via iCloud links. Which is why it was such a disaster when the links of Shortcuts broke across the board last week. It effectively made every shortcut on websites, libraries, blogs, etc. completely useless unless you made a new shortcut link for them (given you still had the Shortcut in question in your library).

    Bottom line is this blunder by Apple showed how Shortcuts users are playing in someone else’s yard. You have no control over when you get kicked out Apple’s yard or not, and that makes automation on iOS and iPadOS fickle, frustrating, and nerve-wracking.

    I haven’t had this much anxiety about hoarding Shortcuts since it was announced that Workflow, the predecessor to Shortcuts, had been acquired by Apple. When that news broke many people in the community began to assume the worst. We worried Apple would discontinue the app and absorb the team for something else in the Apple ecosystem.

    How Apple Can Fix This

    The problems that occurred with Shortcuts should never happen again, that much is clear. That said, there are a few more steps Apple can take to make sure the foundation for Shortcuts stays intact.

    Allow For Import and Export of Shortcuts via Files

    The first is to allow for more ways users can import and export shortcuts. It is clear that iCloud links may not always be reliable, but that shouldn’t be the only reason for this change.

    The other reason we should allow Shortcuts to import and export as files is because it allows for an easier way to import multiple shortcuts at once. It is much easier to import a .zip file with all your shortcuts than to scrape a bunch of URLs and import them one by one.

    This may sound like a niche case, but if it were easier to import and export shortcuts in multiple ways I feel that all users of Shortcuts would benefit. More people can share and save libraries of Shortcuts, creating multiple niche shortcut libraries and allowing users to import them all.

    Make a Road Map for Shortcuts

    Apple loves secrecy and NDAs. While I am not saying they aren’t good for tech companies to have, it is often at the expense of the users. What I mean by this is that we don’t know what is going to happen with Shortcuts. It is clear that it has some backend changes in the works, but we truly have no clue what is happening until WWDC or an update to iOS comes out. One thing that I love about Indie developers is they offer roadmaps. OmniGroup, the company behind OmniFocus and OmniOutliner, give roadmaps for their apps all the time. Not only does it set a clear and defined goal for the developers, but it assures users that the companies behind the tools we use every day have plans to continue development of the app and features to come.

    Apple needs to assure the users of Shortcuts that this important and necessary app is staying with Apple and will continue to allow everyone to create and share their work. I think Federico Viticci said it best when he wrote this in his iOS 13 review:

    My only hope is that Apple remembers that the creativity of Shortcuts users is not the enemy. Part of what made Workflow special, which is still true for Shortcuts today, was the community — the people who advocated for automation, helped others by sharing shortcuts, and made iOS a more enjoyable operating system by enhancing it with Shortcuts. To put an end to that creativity and communal aspect of Shortcuts would be in Apple’s power, but it would also be a shame. I’m happy that sharing is still supported in Shortcuts today; I hope Apple won’t go beyond what they’ve done this year.

    Have a Sanctioned Community to help improve Shortcuts

    Speaking of community, I think it is time for Apple to create one. I am not sure what that would look like, I surely hope it is nothing like iTunes Ping.

    I truly think this is a pipe dream, but it would be spectacular for Apple to have an official community or chatroom for people to talk about things like Shortcuts, automation, apps, and more.

    Apple has been hiring tons of content creators as editors for the App Store over the years. With that in mind, I feel the next step is to have a place for Apple users to talk and perhaps be a part of the community with Apple employees.

    Twitter has this to a point, there are times when I see Apple people talking to Apple employees, and it is interesting to see that. However, I feel it is too few and far between.

    Apple might be using data to drive where they want their teams to focus on, or even focus groups at times. But having town halls and open chats where both user and developer can be a part of it — in a sanctioned space — might be the missing link needed to bridge the gap between user and developer. Apple does listen at times when users want changes made, but I worry that there is more of a vacuum for developers inside Apple than transparency with the users.

    What Now?

    Shortcuts is back to its status quo. Things are how they were before March 23rd, but that doesn’t mean the ground beneath Shortcuts users is still solid. Consider saving shortcuts you use and be more stingy when it comes to deleting them. If you do want to lighten the load of your shortcuts you can always file it away in a folder. Label it as something like Safe Keeping” and dump anything you don’t want in there.

    Wrap Up

    I will be continuing to use Shortcuts and making new workflows to share with others. I sincerely believe that this event was an anomaly, but I also hope that Apple and the Shortcuts team takes this as a learning experience. I want them to make the necessary steps to quell the worry Shortcuts users are having after this and reassure us in some way that we will be seeing a long and prosperous life of automation on iOS and iPadOS devices.

    How to Solve Your Problems with Shortcuts

    In a recent chat on Clubhouse with Matthew Cassinelli and Christopher Lawley there was a listener who asked a questions along the lines of:

    How can I get someone new to Shortcuts start using it more?

    My original answer was to solve a problem with Shortcuts for them. I still stand by that statement, but I want to elaborate more. When I say “solve a problem” it can mean a multituide of things.

    Get Somewhere Faster

    The first being to do something in a single tap on your iPhone rather than swiping, tapping, and searching for something. In this case you may be able to figure out a way to get to where you want thanks to Shortcuts. You could open a specific URL, open an app, or even find a deep link to a settings area and save yourself the hassle of finding the setting your want.

    Do More at Once

    The second problem you can solve using Shortcuts is to chain together a number of actions in a single shortcut instead of having to run multiple shortcuts at once. One great option is to have a built in menu selection in a Shortcut like those in Matthew Cassinelli’s simplified Shortcuts Library.

    Do Something You Couldn’t Do Otherwise

    There are things that Shortcuts can do that you can’t. These problems aren’t easy to find without a little knowledge of what is possible with Shortcuts, but when you do start tinkering and playing around in the app you start to make connections you otherwise wouldn’t.

    One quick example is Federico Viticci’s Apple Frames shortcut which takes a screenshot you have and superimposes it into the Apple device to make for a beautiful looking image. You can see an example of this below.

    5 Problems Solved with Shortcuts

    Given this talk about solving problems with Shortcuts, I thought I would help kickstart things by solving 5 problems for you. Some solutions even have variations depending on the service you prefer.

    Read Saved Articles

    If you are a reader, or would like to start being one, a quick and easy way to do so is by saving articles to read later. One great solution for that is with an app or service.

    There are two wonderful web services, Instapaper and Pocket. Both of these services have fantastic iOS and iPadOS apps that integrate with Shortcuts.

    Another read later option is Reeder, an RSS reading service that also has a fantastic Read Later feature.

    The potential problem with these services, no matter which one you choose, is that you need to actually read what you’ve saved. I know that I have caught myself saying I have nothing to read, even though my read later inbox is stuffed. The shortcuts below are used to choose a random article you have saved in Instapaper, Pocket, or Reeder and open it for you to read.

    These are fairly simple shortcuts but you can play around with them a bit and see about filtering out certain articles by tag, folder, or something similar.

    Open Your Task Inbox

    Another problem that can be solved with Shortcuts is to open straight to the inbox of your task manager. If you are a GTDuser you know that processing and clarifying are among the most important steps. Which means you need to periodically take a look at the items in your inbox and organize them. These shortcuts are made to go straight to your Inbox area for just that reason. I have three built, one for Things 3, one for Omnifocus, and one for Todoist.

    If you are a user of a different task manager app, chances are they have some Shortcut support. Just open the Shortcuts app and create a new shortcut. Once there, see if your task manager app shows up in the App section.

    Turn on the Flashlight

    I often find myself needing a flashlight and to this day I still haven’t figured out to long press on the lock screen properly. Sometimes I can tap on that little flashlight icon in the bottom left corner of my iPhone, and other times it just doesn’t work for me.

    A simple solution is to just have a Shortcut for it and either use Siri or add it to the Home Screen and tap on it. Not sure how to make a flashlight shortcut toggle on and off in a singular shortcut so I had to create one shortcut to turn it on and another to turn it off. Not ideal, but it does the job.

    Send Current Location

    As I mentioned earlier, there may be a time where you need to send your location to someone. This could be something as simple as sending it to a friend for directions or something more important like a natural disaster. Either way, this shortcut can be preconfigured to either have a set recipient or allow you to choose who it goes to. Additionally, you can edit the message that is sent as well. I hope you never have to use it during a catastrophe but it might be better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

    New Draft

    If you are a Drafts user, this shortcut is made to open Drafts and begin a new draft document. On the surface this may seem redundant as Drafts is made to automatically open with a new draft note ready to be written in. The difference between this shortcut and simply opening Drafts to begin writing is that you’re able to preconfigured items you otherwise can’t in Drafts. For example, you can edit this shortcut and have idea” as a built in tag. Now, whenever you have an idea you can simply run this shortcut, type in what your idea is, and Drafts automatically has the idea” tag assigned to that note.


    If you or someone you know is looking to get started in Shortcuts, consider thinking about problems you have with your devices and see if Shortcuts has a way for you to fix or simplify that problem.

    One great resource I haven’t mentioned that can help you get ideas of what you can do with Shortcuts is the built-in Shortcuts Gallery. If you haven’t looked into that, I highly recommend it.

    Finally, if you have any Shortcut issues or need help with building a shortcut to simplify your life let me know and I will be happy to help in any way I can. You can either email me at contact[at]tablethabit[dot]com or get a hold of me on Twitter @iamJeffPerry.