243: Workflow.app | Mac Power Users

This week on Mac Power Users, David and I dive deep into the new Workflow.app for iOS. We discuss how this changes automation on iOS and provide some sample workflows from our own use and MPU listeners.

By the way, David has created a new MacSparky Video Field Guide all about the app that starts with a few, easy workflows and builds upon them over the course of an hour to turn you into a Workflow pro. You can view a simple clip and buy the video on David’s site.

You can find the show on the MPU site or subscribe in iTunes or via RSS.

ScreenCastsOnline Monthly Magazine: Sling TV Review

This month’s issue of ScreenCasts Online Monthly Magazine is now available in Apple’s Newsstand App. In the March issue you’ll find an article from me reviewing the new Sling TV service 

The monthly magazine is packed with streamable versions of Don’s excellent video tutorials as well as articles, reviews and tips from authors including David SparksAllison SheridanWally Cherwinski and more. The magazine is free for ScreenCasts online Premium Members or available as a separate subscription or you can pickup individual issues. You can download it in the AppStore or find more info at http://www.screencastsonline.com/magazine/

Sesame Smart Lock on Kickstarter

I’m a sucker for home automation. Maybe it’s because I’m a relatively new homeowner, but I love the idea of turning my house into the home of the future. Sometimes this obsession gets the best of me. I recently tried a few sets of Hue lights but returned them after being unable to find any practical use to justify such an expensive purchase. (I may blog more on that experience later.)

Nevertheless, the Sesame smart lock has caught my eye. While smart locks aren’t new, Sesame looks to undercut the competition like the Kwikset Kevo and the August Smart Lock and appears to be a simple and elegant solution that will allow you to retrofit your existing hardware for about $100 less than existing solutions. 

From the Kickstarter page:

Leave your keys behind: Just lock and unlock your door using the Sesame app on your phone. Better yet, open Sesame with a custom knock on your phone or door. Your keys, reinvented.

Share access: Allow guests in no matter where you are. Control who has access and when. Log records: Receive a notification whenever your door opens or closes. Installs in seconds: Simply tape Sesame to your door with a single strip of 3M Command tape (supplied). It fits your lock without removing or swapping anything. No tools required.

Fits all deadbolts: Sesame works with just about any single cylinder deadbolt in the USA / Canada / Australia thanks to five-patented self-adjusting mechanisms.

Long battery life: Sesame lasts about 500 days on lithium batteries (supplied), and sends a notification when the batteries are low. 

I’ve been trying the past couple days to just why I need to kickstart a Sesame, but I haven’t come up with a good enough reason. I live alone and almost exclusively enter and exit through my garage back-door which is equipped with a Kwikset SmartCode lock which allows me to punch in a pre-programed code for access. While it doesn’t include any “smart” technology, it meets my needs and gives me easy access without having to pull out my keys. As far as I can tell, the Sesame would require that I either unlock it using the App on my phone, via voice command (also requiring the phone), or using a special knock. Any of those would likely be more complex and time-consuming than punching in a code, especially with your hands full. 

While the Sesame may not be right for my needs, I think it will fill a need for a lot of people Because of it’s easy install and removal, it is especially appealing to renters. This is an area of technology I have my eye on.

Using Workflow.app to Save Expenses to Evernote (via Brett Kelly)

I’ve been diving deep into Workflow.app (iTunes Link) in preparation for an upcoming Mac Power Users Episode. (The show should hit your feeds Monday) While I’m really enjoying the power and simplicity of Workflow, I will admit that I’m not that creative in coming up with my own unique workflows from scratch. However, I have become proficient in taking workflows that others have created and tweaking them to meet my needs. 

Earlier this week, my pal Brett Kelly posted his workflow for saving expense receipts to Evernote. This struck a cord for me because I too use Evernote to manage all my receipts and I keep a notebook with all potentially tax-deductible expenses that I go through when preparing my taxes. I downloaded Brett’s workflow and modified it a bit so it would better fit my needs. Before you read about my changes, you should first read about Brett’s workflow and how it works

I updated the expense category list to better suit my needs and instead of using this variable for the name of my note, it became a tag. You could do either, but this better fits into the way I use Evernote.

I use a uniform naming convention when naming my notes that includes the date as the first part of the note title (See this article from David Sparks for more insight). So I created a step in the Workflow to get today’s date, format it using my preferred naming convention and insert this as a variable into the note’s name. This way every note will start with the date the image was taken (which can be adjusted later if needed) in the YYYY.MM.DD format.

Speaking of formatting dates, I have notebooks titled "Tax Receipts YYYY" for every year dating back the last few  years. Because I'm currently working on my 2014 taxes while saving items in to my 2015 Tax Receipts folder there are several times of the year when I have multiple folders active. I want to make sure my note is saved in the proper folder, and I don't want to forget to update my workflow when the new year rolls around. So I created another step to get the current year, save it as a variable named "Year". I then add that Variable to the end of the notebook name "Tax Receipts". This means Workflow always saves my receipt to the proper notebook and I don't have to worry about updating my workflow when the new year rolls around.

 I prefer to have a bit more description in my titles for the receipt, so I have Workflow prompt me for a description of the item which will be inserted in my note title. Therefore the final title of my note will look something like this: 2015.02.25 Business lunch with David  $25.15

Brett's action had Workflow then prompt him to take a photo of the receipt. I played around with trying to integrate Workflow with various iPhone scanning apps but was unsuccessful (if anyone can make this work let me know.) So I had to settle with using the iPhone's camera App itself, but I did want to clean up the image a bit before saving it. So I added a step to edit the image. This will allow me to crop and rotate the image as necessary to clean it up before saving the image to Evernote.

Finally, I prefer to save all my receipts as PDFs rather than images. So I dragged in the "make PDF" action after the photo action. This converts the image to a PDF before creating the note in Evernote.

If you want to download the final workflow you can do so here. Please feel free to tweak it to meet your needs.

I should also take this opportunity to mention that for my fellow Evernote fans, Brett Kelly is the man who *literally* wrote the book on Evernote. If you are still looking for ways to up your Evernote game, you should check out Evernote Essentials. Brett also joined us on an episode of MPU discussing Evernote.

242: MPU 242 – Troubleshooting with Joe Caiati | Mac Power Users

This week on Mac Power Users, David and I talk with former Apple Genius Joe Ciati about troubleshooting your Mac. We discuss removing adware, explain Activity Monitor and Console, how to diagnose hardware and software problems and when you can attempt to fix something yourself and when its time to call a pro.

You can find the show on the MPU site or subscribe in iTunes or via RSS.

241: iCloud in 2015 | Mac Power Users

This week on Mac Power Users, David and I dive deep into the state of iCloud in 2015. We talk about the various services, where you should trust it, where you should take a pass, how it integrates with other services and peek at the new Photos.app.

You can find the show on the MPU site or subscribe in iTunes or via RSS.

BusyContacts 1.0 is released

BusyMac, the makers of my beloved BusyCal has introduces v 1.0 of BusyContacts. As we’ve discussed on Mac Power Users, managing contacts can be difficult and OS X’s Contact.app is by no means a tool for power users. When I learned last year at Macworld/iWorld that BusyMac was jumping into contact management, I was ecstatic. 

From BusyMac: 

Here are some of the great features you'll find in BusyContacts:

  • Customizable Views — View contacts in a single-column Card View or multi-column List View.
  • Tags — Tags can be used for grouping, filtering and coloring contacts.
  • Smart Filters — Smart Filters are a powerful tool for filtering contacts, creating saved searches, and even applying custom view settings in the List View.
  • BusyCal integration — BusyContacts integrates with BusyCal by linking contacts to events in your calendar, providing flexible CRM capabilities for tracking past and future activities.
  • Activity List — The Activity List displays activities associated with the selected contact including calendar events, emails, messages, and recent social network posts.
  • Social network integration — BusyContacts syncs with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, combining contact information from each of these sources into a unified contact view.
  • Syncing — BusyContacts syncs with the built-in Contacts app on OS X and iOS through all leading cloud services including iCloud, Google, Exchange, and other CardDAV servers.
  • Sharing — BusyContacts allows you to share address books with read-only or read/write privileges through Exchange, Fruux, LAN, and other CardDAV servers.

I’ve been in on the BusyContacts beta and using it as my primary contacts manager for the past several months and I’ve been very happy. While I’m generally not a user of tags, I’ve already found them invaluable for contacts. I have tags set up for contacts for various organizations and groups as well as tags devoted to events. When I need to email someone associated with a certain group or event, I simply search by tag. I’ve also started tagging attorney contacts based on their area of practice, so when I need to find someone who focuses in a certain area, it’s a simple search.

BusyContacts has also been rock solid in syncing. Unfortunately since my office switched to Exchange 365 I’ve had a range of odd problems related to missing and duplicate contacts with Contacts.app. None of those problems have occurred with BusyContacts.

BusyContacts is available now for $49.99 and there’s a 30 day free trial. There is also a BusyCal + BusyContacts bundle for $79.98 as well as discount pricing for owners of BusyCal.

Disclosure: BusyMac has been a sponsor of Mac Power Users

240: MPU Live: Auto-Magically, with Kenny G | Mac Power Users

Last weekend was the first Saturday of the month which means it was time for MPU Live, a bonus episode of Mac Power users featuring feedback, tips and workflows from our listeners. In this episode David and I talk with Bonni Stachowiak, a professor at Vanguard University about providing better feedback, they also follow-up with listener comments about financial management apps, clarify FileVault, share their thoughts on antivirus, discuss upgrading your Mac with an SSD and share listener tips and tricks.

You can find the show on the MPU site or subscribe in iTunes or via RSS.

239: Workflows with Adam Christianson | Mac Power Users

This week on Mac Power Users, David and I are joined by Adam Christianson. Adam is a long time friend and generally regarded as one of the first Mac podcasters. We talk about his history with Apple, life as a programer, experiences through the years podcasting and Mac User Groups.

You can find the show on the MPU site or subscribe in iTunes or via RSS.

Inquisitive Appearance on Relay.fm

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Myke Hurley for Inquisitive on Relay.fm. I’ve been a long-time fan of Inquisitive and the predecessor show, Cmd-Space, so it was a thrill to be invited.

Myke and I spoke about how I grew up with the Mac, how I came to ultimately pursue a career in Law, not computers, and the origin story of Mac Power Users. 

You can find the show on the Relay.fm site.