September Apple Updates

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September is quickly becoming a contender for my favorite month of the year – not only because it’s my birthday month, but because it seems like Christmas comes early for Apple users. This has been a big release month for Apple, so I wanted to take a bit of time to talk about the good and bad.

iPhone XS

Last year I upgraded to the iPhone X, so I really didn’t NEED to upgrade to the XS. The keynote sold the iPhone XS as a minor “S” release. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great phone, but it is admittedly a hard sell for most early X adopters like. That being said, I’m on the upgrade program, so upgrading was still on the table since I could either keep paying for my X or pay the same price to switch to the XS.

I opted to switch to the Gold XS (which is really more rose gold) and couldn’t be happier. I had considered going with the XR but the larger phone was a no-go for me. Like all the reviews say, the camera on the Xs really is better. Face ID seems snappier as well (maybe even as snappy as Touch ID), and can we just talk about the gold color? I smile every time I pick up the phone (5 times an hour according to Screentime). It is a beautiful phone.

Side Note: I absolutely hate the naming scheme of the new X line. I am forever correcting myself from calling it the “ex S” and not the “ten S”. Apple missed a great opportunity to keep the X but switch to numbers. X2 would have been such a cool name.

Apple Watch Series 4

I was getting increasingly annoyed with my Series 2 watch. There were days when seeing “I’ll tap you when I’m ready” for the 5th time in one day or waiting for the Workout app to catch back made me want to throw it across the room, and I also found myself waking up to a nearly dead watch more and more frequently. As far as I was concerned, Apple could have released a watch with only minor spec bumps and I’d have bought one.

Thankfully the Series 4 Apple watch is no minor spec bump. I got a 40mm Gold Aluminum (sans LTE) model. Again, I don’t know who at Apple is deciding the gold finishes, but like the iPhone XS, the gold on this one is a more rose gold – which I prefer. The extra 2mm are barely noticeable on the wrist (and I have tiny wrists), but boy do you notice them when you’re using the watch. All of the touch targets seem massive (and way easier to hit) compared to the Series 2. I also appreciate the speed jump. No more waiting for the Workout app to catch up before I can begin a workout.

iOS 12

iOS 12 seems like it was a release made just for me. I’m always trying to reduce the time I have to spend using my phone. (Note the use of ‘have’ there. I’m fine with wanting to use it, but I don’t like having to be tied to my phone.) iOS 12 brings revamped notifications meaning my phone bugs me even less often. It brings Screentime and Downtime offering insights into how I use my phone, which apps are pestering me most, and the ability to dim apps I don’t want bothering me (and their badges) during certain hours. And of course who can forget Siri Shortcuts. I’ve already made a handful for seemingly mundane tasks I do on a regular basis (checking the boyfriend’s hockey schedule, starting a Headspace meditation, launching my shopping list, or viewing my the day’s office schedule). One of my favorites is a shortcut for creating appointments in my calendar, which creates two events (one for the actual appointment on my personal calendar and another to block off the time in my work calendar).

MacOS Mojave

Mojave is a smaller update, but there are still worthwhile changes. Let’s just get the elephant out of the room and say Apple’s key feature, Dark Mode, is terrible. Just turn it on, open a website, and you’ll see why. (If anyone tries this, I apologize for burning your retinas.) Quick actions in the Finder are nice, but I’ve admittedly not had much of a chance to use them yet. I do appreciate being able to mark up an image quickly though. The one feature I can’t wait to use is the ability to scan or snap a photo directly to your Mac. Airdrop and the scanning feature in Notes on my iPad were already saving me from having to walk a few steps to the office scanner, but now I can cut out another step and scan from my iPad directly to my computer.

 

Photo by Michał Kubalczyk on Unsplash

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Overlooked Apps: My Favorite macOS Utilities

If you look at this blog’s tag cloud, you can get a quick overview of some of the apps that are essential to my workflows. These are the apps and services like Omnifocus, Keyboard Maestro, and Pocket, but there’s another set of apps that don’t get as much love that are just as essential. In fact, I have used them for so long I often forget they’re not actually part of macOS in the first place. Today I wanted to share some of my favorites that don’t get as much love on the blog.

Bartender ($15)

I cringe a little bit whenever I catch a glimpse of a menu bar that stretches across an entire 27” display. Don’t get me wrong, I love my menu bar apps, but Bartender allows me to be much more intentional with how I use my menubar. My default menubar now only contains Fantastical and the time. Everything else lives tucked away in the Bartender bar or is hidden entirely unless I need it.

Minimal MenuBar

A view of my menubar while I’m working

One of my favorite features of Bartender is it’s ability to only show a menubar app when it has an update. This lets me see when Crashplan or Time Machine are backing up or my MacBook Pro’s battery is dying without having them in my menubar. Not only does it keep my menubar streamlined, but I now notice when something pops into it much more helping me to know what’s going on on the computer.

Taking things a step further, many of my menubar apps only launch under certain conditions thanks to Keyboard Maestro.

Healthier ($3.99)

Healthier is one of those menubar apps that Keyboard Maestro launches only when I’m at work. It’s function is simple – every 60 minutes, it overlays the screen with a quote and a quick timer to remind me to get up and take a break from my computer. Unlike other apps that remind you to take breaks, this one lets you continue to work if you happen to be working on something important which I like.

Moom ($9.99)

Apple tried to improve window management in El Capitan, but it just didn’t work in the way I had hoped. As much as I hate to admit it, Microsoft was on to something when they added the Aero Snap feature to Windows. Moom brings that experience and more to the Mac. Snapping windows side by side is something I do regularly and immediately notice when it’s not there.

PopClip ($6.99)

The first time I tried this app, I hated it. It was always getting in the way and seemed like a total nuisance at first. It wasn’t until I took some time to explore the various extensions for it that I learned to love it. Now sending highlighted text to Day One, Deliveries, Notes or Omnifocus are just a click away. It also automatically calculates word counts and allows me to highlight PDFs in Preview with ease.

QuickCast (Free)

Working in tech support, I’m often needing to show people how things are done. QuickCast is the best lightweight screencasting app I’ve found.

ClamXAV ($29.95)

While viruses are still fairly rare on Macs, I still like to keep some sort of virus protection on my computer. I never know what kind of attachment someone might attach to their support request or email. I also don’t want to be that person who unintentionally sends something malicious along to some poor unassuming Windows user. ClamXAV has been there for me as long as I’ve used a Mac. It’s not free anymore, but for $30, it’s well worth it.

GhostTile ($9.99)

This is one of those apps I never see mentioned anywhere. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m very intentional about what is visible on my devices, and many of the apps I like to keep running in the background don’t have settings to hide their dock icon. Apple’s also made it increasingly difficult to modify the app’s settings to hide the icon without also breaking the app. Ghosttile is the only app I’ve found that successfully hides the icons of apps I truly never need to have in my dock.

I’m always on the lookout for new apps, so what are some of your favorite “hidden gems” for your Mac?