Thanks to everybody who came to our end-of-year meeting & party and contributed to the discussion of the way forward for the group. And thanks for the cake!
As Bram Stoker put it, we came to no definite conclusion, but as he didn't say, a good time was still had by all.
Our speaker was Dave Sparks! We had him on iChat (using my handy little speaker so we could hear him). The topic: APPLE @ WORK.
Dave likes North California, where we are, he is in South California. (Note from Dave: Hey, the ocean is warmer there, makes for nice boogie-boarding!)
Dave is a corporate lawyer by day, nerd by night.
His first computer was a Tandy Color II, 4K of memory! Then 8K! WOW!!! Why would you ever need more than that?
He has a podcast, mac power users. He has a book, Mac @ Work from Wiley Press. He has another book: iPad @ Work.
He talked about using a mac in the legal profession. He has written over 700 pages on workflows. Okay, he's a nerd, he said it a few times, but we are all nerds here. He used to use IBM desktops. Now, he, and most kids, use Macs. He showed a photo of an auditorium full of Mac-using kids, and only one PC user.
Dave discussed three topics: email, writing, and the cloud.
There are lots of ways to look at email on your mac. Apple mail, MS outlook, web mail (like yahoo or gmail). Outlook has gotten a lot better: it no longer keeps all the mail database in one file (if that is corrupted, your email is gone). Apple mail works well with iPad mail.
Mail Workflow. You might have lots of unread emails, inbox full of unread emails, he showed a Mail icon with over 2000 unread. Inbox should NOT be a task list. To fix that:
1: Trash the email if it's not important, if it has no future or archival value (email like a yes or no reply). If you save it, you can archive it. Anyone had trouble finding an email with search? Lion makes searching even easier. So put this email into another box that serves as an archive, if you might want that email later.
2: Reply to it. Gets rid of that email in your inbox.
3: Put that email where you can deal with it later. Dave uses Omnifocus (task management software), it has the ability to tie email to that app.
Dave has 4 mailboxes: inbox, action, archive, and trash. Manages email much more efficiently.
You can kill the notifications (number of mails shown on the email icon). No more DING! The default setting in Apple Mail is to check mail every 5 minutes. Dave showed how many interruptions you can get from this: 1,920 a month!
He showed the flow of emails: you start in the To box, then tab to CC, then tab to subject... It seems there is no sense to write the subject before the email. People keep sending email and forget the attachment, they ought to do that first. A better flow would be 1: attach, 2: who its to, 3: send it.
He mentioned TextExpander, an iPad app that saves shortcuts for words and snippets (like addresses) so you do less typing.
When Dave writes, he needs to stop and think about it. The traditional tool, MS Word, did not make sense to him, that tool is complex and is too much to think about. He mentioned OPML, a document format that can speak with other apps like OmniOutliner and Mind Maps.
Pages and Word are the two big writing tools on the Mac. People can create their own word processors in Xcode, so now you can get a word processor from a small guy. MS Word is crazy with all the stuff it shows onscreen. Dave likes Scrivener, the guy who created it made this for writing novels. It has onscreen note cards on a cork board, and an outliner (Note from Dave: that looks a lot like Storyist). Scrivener is a very powerful writing tool for $40. And it has a full screen mode, for when you just want to see/concentrate on your writing.
The problem: Before the cloud, we shared data by sharing floppies. Then thumb drives. This is sneakernet. Hard drives come under this also (and hard drives can fail). Now you'll put your data on servers online, into iCloud. The Mac is now another consumption device with the cloud.
The first way to share is file sharing. Dropbox is a more traditional file based system, your folder is duplicated in the cloud, and you share it across multiple devices. You can create a link for a file and share it. (Mobileme was really slow that way!) When Apple released the iPad, it did a lousy job of sharing. You would email a document to yourself (bad way to share documents). The file keeps getting more names, because the people who pass it on keep renaming it. You end up with names going from contract.doc to contract-2-ds-v1.2-final-etc-etc.doc!
Dropbox is eating Apple's lunch with cloud file sharing. You hit a button, you save to Dropbox. You go to your Mac, there is that file on your Mac. Dropbox syncs both directions. (Note from Dave: Dang, I really need to start using Dropbox with my Storyist.)
Apple has its iCloud initiative. iCloud has BIG servers built in. Now Apple says it is app based. The idea is that on Pages, when you it write, is synced to iCloud, so when you open it on the Mac, you see the same data and you access it. iCloud still does not have the power or flexibility of Dropbox, but it is very easy. However, it is not on Pages yet.
What about your bandwidth at home, for those who have DSL instead of cable Internet?
Apple seems to think everyone has unlimited bandwidth. But there are lots of places where people have lousy bandwidth.
Security in the cloud. Dropbox did an update, but forgot the security. For 4 hours there were no Dropbox passwords in effect. So maybe you should think twice before you put sensitive stuff on the cloud.
Dropbox has stuff iCloud does not have, but iCloud is integrated better into iPhone and the like. Dropbox and iCloud are better at different things.
PC or a Mac? It depends where Dave is working. People are used to Powerpoint presentations; Dave uses Keynote and its presentations look a lot better, and he can build presentations better and faster than PC users using Powerpoint.
Word has the changes in docs feature.
I asked about a plain text editor for the iPad. Dave discusses 9 of them in his book, such as Markdown (Note from Dave: I saw a couple variations on Markdown in the iPad app store, and I use Markdown to write my documentation at work), Writeroom, and Simplenote. There is a shooting war here with the developers! Find your favorite features and pick the one that works best for you.
At Macworld Expo, Dave Sparks is speaking on Thursday around 10 A.M., the topic is 40 tips in 40 minutes. Friday, he will talk to a Hollywood producer on how the producer uses the Mac to make movies.
Dave Sparks email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch out for info on our next meeting - as I said, it's not clear exactly when that will be.
Thanks to Jo-Ann for the photos, and thanks to Gayle & Scott for the cake(s)!
Steve Bellamy, SMUG President
Dave Strom, SMUG Vice President