Save Today’s New York Times Front Page with Shortcuts

Save Today’s New York Times Front Page with Shortcuts

Okay, so this one requires some credits before anything else.

  1. I modified Brian Renshaw’s shortcut which saves the page as a JPEG to Day One.
  2. His was modified from one by Matthew Cassinelli.
  3. His was modified from this one on Reddit.

The Shortcut

Download it here.

Before anything else, make a folder called "nytimes" inside your Shortcuts iCloud folder. Otherwise the shortcut will error out because it doesnt know where to save the file.

You can run this from the Shortcuts app, or you could run it from the home screen widget, or you could even set it up on an automation to run every day automatically. iOS still requires you to confirm you want it to happen, but it gives you a persistent notification on your iOS devices to make it happen.

What it Does

  1. Downloads today’s front page of the New York Times
  2. Saves the file to iCloud Drive (/Shortcuts/nytimes/2020-03-29.pdf, for example)

And that’s it…it’s pretty darn simple. My contribution was simply to make this a little cleaner and save the file named nicely with no usr input: simply tap the shortcut and it will be done in a second. Forgot if you ran it already today? No worries, just run it again and it will overwrite today’s PDF if it exists already.

Saving the file as a PDF takes up a little more space than the JPEG version in Brian’s version, but it also means you get high quality, indexable text you can use to find things at a later date. I don’t use Day One anymore, but I suspect the reason for the JPEG was because Day One doesn’t support PDFs for diary entries, but I’m not sure.

Bonus Shortcut

This one is embarrassingly hacky, but I used it to get all of the 2020 covers in one go.

Download the Jan 1 - Mar 29 covers with this shortcut.

If you know of a better way to do this, please let me know! Better yet, update it yourself and share it so more people can enjoy it.

UPDATE: Jimmy Little improved this version of the shortcut to return however many days of results you'd like. This is way better, so use it instead! Download here.

First Impressions of Mouse Support in iPadOS 13.4

Apple made a lot of iPad users very happy yesterday where they unveiled mouse and trackpad support in iPadOS 13.4. A someone who has been asking for more full featured mouse support for a while, this got me really excited and I immediately installed the update and tried it out.

Pairing Process

Pairing your mouse is super simple. Just hold down the pairing button on the mouse, open the Bluetooth settings page on the iPad, and tap your mouse that appears in the list of available devices.

That’s it, the next time you move the mouse at all, the new cursor will show up on screen.

Movement and Scrolling

Basic mouse support was added in an accessibility feature last year, and that was okay, but it was clearly a hack on top of iPadOS. It was aimed at simulating the same touch events you did with your fingers. This mouse support is much different, and it’s absolutely not a tacked on feature.

First, the cursor itself looks much nicer, and it adjusts its form depending on what you’re hovering over. The way it animates from circle to cursor to buttons is really slick, and immediately made the Mac/Windows style of moue feel a little old to me.

And moving the mouse feels perfectly normal, which is that say it feels like using this mouse on my Mac. Additionally, scrolling with Logitech’s awesome scroll wheel is a delight. This all feels more fluid and more natural than doing these same things with the accessibility version of mouse support.

And if you prefer different settings, there are options to change the tracking speed, the scroll direction, and what the right click button does. Interestingly, there are no options to configure the other buttons on the mouse to do anything. So my back, forward, and scroll wheel buttons all are now left-click buttons, which is weird. Right-click does indeed work as you’d expect.

Where Did the Cursor Go?!

This first implementation is not perfect though. The first thing that throws me is that when you hover over certain elements, the cursor goes away and the thing you’re hovering over gets highlighted. It’s not always obvious what you’re hovered over, especially on things like home screen icons because the difference between the hovered icon and all the rest is super slight. Can you tell where the mouse is in this screenshot?

You might have been able to tell it was Deliveries, but you had to think about it.

Also, because the cursor turns into the thing you’re hovered over, you lose some context on excactly where inside that item the cursor is. This made moving the mouse elsewhere a little odd because I didn’t know exactly where I was starting from. One of the things that’s great about the mouse is how accurate you can be with it and this makes it so you feel less accurate than you’re used to being. Conveniently, you can turn this behavior off by going to Settings > Accessibility > Pointer Control and turning off pointer animations.

I’m leaving it on for now because this is how Apple thinks it should be and I may get used to it and come to love it, but I’m keeping this escape hatch in the back of my mind just in case I never come around.

Unexpected Behavior

iPadOS has always been a touch-first operating system, and over the past decade of using iPads, I’m very used to how things work with my fingers and Apple Pencil. I know how to drag files around, pull up multitasking, and do all the little things with the iPad.

The mouse doesn’t simulate touch interactions, so you kind of have to figure out how to do everything with the mouse. For example, I wanted to select multiple items from the Files app this morning and drag them into Safari. With touch this is incredibly simple. but I could not figure it out with the mouse. I tried CMD+clicking around and could not do it, and eventually gave up and used my meaty fingers in 2 seconds.

Also, things like bringing up multitasking is a little tricky, as are pulling down notifications or accessing Control Center. You can do them, but the actions you perform with the mouse are a bit different and are taking a little time to get used to.

Overall

I think using a mouse with the iPad on its own is nice, but is not something I’m going to do all the time. I did find using Working Copy to edit code and Affinity Designer to edit images to be a little nicer with the mouse, but most things are either the same or more difficult. The iPad’s touch-first UI is really fantastic and I often felt like direct manipulation of the stuff on screen was easier than using an old fashioned mouse to do the same thing. After all, this is one of the things that makes me love the iPad in the first place!

I do think this makes the use case for a larger, desktop iPad (or even an iPad hooked up to an external monitor) to be a much more compelling use case going forward. I also wish I had a track pad to try this out with. I think a track pad + keyboard + touch would be really nice, and I look forward to trying that out in May when the very expensive, but very cool looking iPad Magic Keyboard comes out.

My Short 2020 iPad Pro Wishlist

I am currently using a 12.9” 2018 iPad Pro and I truly love it. We are a few weeks (maybe) away from a new model coming out, and I thought this was a good time to get a few ideas out there about what I would want in an upgrade.

As far as I can tell, neither of these have been mentioned in the rumors, so if they come to pass, remember you heard them here first. 😉

New Webcam Placement

The current webcam is at the top of the screen if you’re holding the device in portrait, but this is the iPad Pro, and I would guess most people use it in landscape most of the time. With this configuration, the webcam in on the left, middle of the screen, and that’s just an awkward angle for conference calls.

I’d love to see Apple move the camera to the top of the iPad when it’s in landscape mode. Sure, leave the normal iPad, the Air, and the Mini where it is, but this pro machine needs a better webcam position.

New Premium Keyboard

Ok, hear me out, but I want Apple to sell a more expensive keyboard than the Smart Keyboard Folio. With rumors that trackpad support is coming, and my wish from January that Apple release a laptop-style iPad, I think I’d love to see something like the Surface Book, where the iPad can click into a keyboard/trackpad/battery combo.

This would give us the stability of a laptop form factor in our laps, the freedom to tear off the iPad whenever we want the freedom the iPad allows, and potentially a lot more battery life with a second battery housed in the keyboard.

On the battery front, not only would this be a welcome improvement to the already great battery life, but that heavy battery will help add some heft to the base, making it easier to get the weight ratio right so the screen doesn’t want to tip the whole thing over.

The Vision of the Microsoft Surface, and the Vision of Apple’s User Base

The Vision of the Microsoft Surface, and the Vision of Apple’s User Base

The latest iPad rumors are that the next Smart Keyboard will have a version with a trackpad. As many have already stated, this takes the iPad Pro into a remarkably similar form factor to not only the current Surface lineup, but the original Surface from 2012.

Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia

And before the snark monsters come in and complain about Windows not being a touch-first operating system, yes, I get it. Windows 10, despite it’s affordances for touch, never feels quite right when using it with a touch screen. But the original Surface shipped with Windows 8 RT, a touch-first version of Windows that required developers to integrate to a new type of Windows. Your old Windows apps simply didn’t work on this machine. The good news was that they had an app platform that developers could use to write apps that ran on phones, Surface tablets, and desktops with one shared code base.

We all know the story here, though. The market didn’t want Windows but without all the bullshit that comes with it. Reducing the software you could use and changing the UI that dramatically were not acceptable to a Windows user base who is large and incredibly inflexible when it comes to change. In subsequent years, the hardware got better, and the software changed to the point that the Windows I run on my desktop PC is basically identical to what I ran on my Surface Go last year.

Where Apple Is Now

With things like Swift UI and Catalyst, Apple is now at a place where you can have one code base relatively easily run on phones, tablets, and desktops. With the Smart Keyboard, Apple made the default iPad form factor something that looked very much like a laptop. With the rumored introduction of a trackpad-equipped keyboard this year, Apple will get even closer to the traditional laptop design.

And if they add a kickstand so you can have a much smaller keyboard case, then they will have completed the transformation of the iPad into the Surface.

Again, we can argue about the specifics here, and you can rail about how Microsoft has no vision and Apple dominates all innovation, but it’s impossible not to recognize the shift in the past decade: iPads in 2020 look more like Surfaces in 2012 than ever before.

Apple’s Commitment and Flexible User Base

There has been much talk in the Apple world lately about how terrible the iPad is for many things, and it’s a conversation that’s frankly tiring and typically held in bad faith, but despite this consternation, the Apple user base in general has been much more welcoming to the iPad than the Windows user base was to the Surface and Windows RT.

While Microsoft had to pull back on Windows RT and turn Windows into something that was the same everywhere, Apple has never given up on iPad software. Yes, Mac people want it to be more like the Mac, but Apple is not going to do that anytime soon. They built something new with iOS and introduced the world to the first truly mainstream interface. The paradigms set on the iPhone have carried over to today and it deserves tons of respect for that.

Meanwhile, the iPad has grown up kind of in the iPhone’s shadow, but Apple has always remained true to its original software vision for the product. It is a touch-based OS that cane be used with other accessories, but it is definitively not a clone of what Apple’s legacy OS. In fact, while I think the anti-iPad sentiment is often expressed poorly, I don’t think anyone is asking for Apple to throw in the towel and just make the iPad run macOS.

It’s a testament to Apple that they have not gone the easy route and just shipped macOS on iPads. It’s a testament to the Apple user base that they are not demanding this because they can’t handle change. Hell, it might even be a testament to Time Cook’s product vision that he has not pushed the company to make an iPad that runs macOS because it would probably be easier from an operations perspective to make all their laptop-style devices run the same stuff.

Yes, And…

The Surface lineup is a very compelling collection of products, and were I buying a Windows portable in 2020 it would almost certainly be a Surface Pro. But at the same time, I don't like Windows as it has existed for decades, and that's what you get with a Surface. It kills me that Microsoft tried to start fresh in 2012 and gave up almost immediately when they didn't stick the landing on their first attempt.

I appreciate that the Apple community tends to take a more “yes, and…” approach to new products. No, the original iPad didn't do as much as the Mac, but people were excited by that, not terrified by it.

So for the past 10 years the iPad has been evolving, but has never lost touch with its original vision as a next generation computer that is not beholden to the expectations on the previous generation. Microsoft definitely saw, to borrow a phrase, where the puck was going, but a combination of execution and user demands made them change that vision, even if the hardware looks very similar.

As any number of business experts will tell you, ideas are only worth a little. It's all about execution, and Microsoft needed either their users to be flexible enough to see where they wanted to go with Windows RT, or they needed to execute so well that their users would come along for the ride. Neither came to pass, so while the Surface gets tons of points for vision, the iPad is clearly the more successful product, both in terms of market success and commitment to vision.

One More Tale of Discoverability Oddness

Here's an interesting anecdote about discoverability. Below is a very rough mock up of a web app I manage at work:

The only things you need to know are the two places you can get to "General Settings."

  1. A menu item which is hidden on page load and is only made visible by clicking on the "Options" item, watching some more options animate in, and then clicking on General Settings. This has been this way for the better part of a decade.
  2. Click the big old General Settings button on the home page which is immediately visible and takes one click to get to the same place. This was added about 2 years ago.

Currently, the vast majority of users who were using us 2+ years ago and had gotten used to the old way of getting to this page still use the two click method that's objectively slower and less discoverable.

The vast majority of newer users who have always had the home screen icon available use that because it's faster and more obvious on screen.

I was concerned about this behavior when we originally rolled this out because we spent all this time making the things people did all the time one click away, but so many users continued to do it the older, slower way. Some of them even reported not noticing they could do it from the home screen because they just know how the menu works. Even after being told why the new way was easier, most didn't change their behavior.

Again, this is not that the new feature was worse, it was better, and our data on people who had the choice from day one clearly shows they prefer it, but people were not willing to change to save themselves a click and a second or two.

So if and when you hear someone tell you that something is inherently more discoverable than something else, remember that there is a whole lot of personal experience and bias behind that ascertain. We can do our best to be objective, but it's not really possible, and you certainly can't use a sample size of one to assert "I didn't know this existed, therefore it's not discoverable."

My 10 Year Review of the iPad

My 10 Year Review of the iPad

10 years ago the iPad was "about to replace the personal computer."

Today the iPad is "about to replace the personal computer."

10 years from now I suspect the iPad will be "about to replace the personal computer."

Meanwhile, people like me and millions of others will continue to work on an iPad, not really trying to prove a point, just trying to use the best tool for us.

When Steve Jobs debuted the iPad in 2010, he described it as a device that would live between a laptop and a smartphone. By that measure, I think the iPad has more than lived up to that positioning, and I don't think anyone would disagree. It's more capable than an iPhone, but not as capable as a Mac.

The thing that still bothers people is the idea of the iPad replacing the Mac for all people and I just don't know if that's going to happen. The Mac debuted in 1984 and evolved into what we have in front of us today. The iPad is 26 years younger, and it was conceived and grew up in a completely different era, and as such, has much different priorities and design philosophies. Of course it doesn't work just like the Mac!

We live in interesting times, where the personal computer is not being replaced by anything, but instead is growing into a collection of devices. Your data lives in the cloud, you can do tons on your watch, and you likely do most of your "computing" on a 5 inch screen in your pocket. Within 10 years we will likely have another major platform that we will get to see grow from fun tech demo to relevant and useful mainsteam products, and I would not be surprised if we have the same conversations around "is it a success if it doesn't totally replace something else for everyone?" that we continue to have about the iPad.

I'm writing this, as I have the last 1,000 or so posts on this site, on an iPad. It's the best tool for the job, and I genuinely love this hardware/software combination. By that measure, the iPad has been a massive success in its first 10 years. And based on sales, it looks like this platform is going to be around for quite a while longer, and those are the most important measures of success for me.

A Download Folder That Syncs

How I’m Using iPadOS - Part One. - Daryl Baxter - Blog

To test the download manager, I thought I’d try a random site I used to go to for…certain files once upon a time, and I came in with low expectations. But as expected, it downloaded the file as I would have with my iMac back in the day; I went to Files.app, unzipped, and there it was. And because of iCloud Drive, it appeared on the MacBook Air, ready for an app to be used with it.

iPadOS1 lets you download either to a local Downloads folder or a new Downloads folder synced over iCloud. I didn’t think I’d like the iCloud one at first, but I have ended up using it for everything besides the largest files I download and then just having them everywhere. Download something on your iPad? Access it from your phone in a few minutes when it’s done downloading and you’re at work, for example.


  1. And iOS 13, for that matter. 

Surface Go Performance Follow-Up

The Surface Go, the most interesting computer Microsoft has released in recent memory, was released a year ago this month. I got mine a few days after launch and posted my review several weeks later…conveniently before the return window closed.

Look, I get that this is a $399 device and it’s not going to be the fastest machine in the world, but I personally found the performance issues to be relatively shocking for a device sold straight from Microsoft.

I liked a lot of the device at the time, but at $399 it seemed insane to me how slow it was at doing literally anything. Brad Sams has a good retrospective on his YouTube channel today and he suggests the $399 one I bought is not even worth picking up and you really should get the $499 model at minimum.

Here’s the thing: if you want a Surface Go because it runs Windows, then get one by all means, but if you want something small and easy to use and that runs reasonably well, the iPad wipes the floor with it.

In a very downvoted video, I compared the speed of the 2018 Surface Go to the 18 month old iPad from 2017. The iPad outperformed the Surface Go at every turn, and at 18 months older and over $100 less expensive, it seemed insane to me that the Go was as bad as it was.

Today, the Surface Go is still $399 for the “don’t even bother” model and $499 for the one you should actually get. Meanwhile, there is a new $329 iPad that has an A10 (one generation newer than the 2017 model I tested) and the iPad Air at $499 with an A12. Basically, iPads $70-150 less than the entry-level Go are far faster, and the comparable iPad Air at the $499 price point wipes the floor with the slightly faster Go as well.

Again, if you prefer Windows, then this comparison is moot, but if you are looking for something that has a 10” screen and lets you do basic tasks on the go, there is far more horsepower in the Apple offerings. You should really read the rest of my review if you’re interested in the Surface Go because I think it’s a really good Windows device with the exception of performance.

Microsoft Office for iPad: My Beginner's Guide

My overview of Microsoft Word for the iPad over on The Sweet Setup:

Microsoft Word on the iPad is currently a solid app. It has the core functionality nailed down. Editing documents is as pleasant as it’s been on any version of Word I’ve used in my lifetime. If you use Word for basic to medium-level work, then there is a good chance that it will work well for you. However, if you are an advanced Word user or rely on some of the customization options present in the desktop apps, then this will likely let you down.

I don't use Word a ton, but when I do I'm usually impressed with how well it works. Those of us who write in text editors will of course not get as much use out of it, but if you work in rich documents or as a team, then Word is pretty darn compelling.

Thanks to Josh Gitner from The Sweet Setup for letting me use his awesome mockup at the top of this post!