Gabe Weatherhead, author of the MacDrifter Blog, is one of my favorite writers on the Internet. He’s thoughtful and wicked-smart. Visiting Gabe’s website, you’re not only likely to find some bit of technology magic, you also may learn just a little more about Kurt Vonnegut. In addition to all of that, as a kid Gabe was an absolute badass. I remember that shirt. I wore mine out. Anyway … Gabe, show us your home screen.
What are some of your favorite apps?
Well, I guess every app on my home screen earned that place so by that logic they are all my favorites. But if you want to know what apps I enjoy using the most, I’d say MyScript Nebo is the one that makes me feel like technology is catching up to my childhood dreams. The handwriting recognition is a small miracle. In that same vein, I really like sketching with Linea Sketch. It’s so close to writing on paper but with the feel of a whiteboard. I think visually and sometimes it helps to just doodle and draw some lines. Linea works well for that. It’s not as advanced as an app like like Procreate. or Tayasui Sketches but sometimes all of those extra tools are just cruft in the way of thinking.
Writing in Nebo. (Click to expand)
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
I guess Slack since it’s mostly just for chit-chatting and memes. I don’t really feel guilty about it because my primary Slack group is a bunch of super smart people that are also pretty helpful.
I’m not really an iOS gamer. I enjoy Monument Valley but usually, iOS games leave me feeling uninterested after about 20 minutes. Strangely, I enjoy Wikipanion Plus for iPad with the Adventure Time, Wookiepedia, and Simpsons Wikias. I can spend an hour reading random pages.
Second to that would be my strange fascination with learning new knots using the Animated Knots by Grog HD or Knots 3D apps.
What app makes you most productive?
By design it’s OmniFocus, because that’s where I manage my project and task list. But, I really spend a ton of time in DEVONthink To Go. That’s where I keep pretty much every piece of information I might need for a task. The search performance is fantastic and it has one of the best share sheets for capturing from other apps. I know iOS 11 is bringing a new file manager, but I’m not sure if they can beat what I get with DEVONthink meta data and search.
What app do you know you’re underutilizing?
Without a doubt, I could get more out of iThoughts if I really forced myself to use it the right way. Every time I noodle around in iThoughts I find something new or something I forgot it could do. It’s a pretty snazzy research tool but I always forget to start in iThoughts, which is the best way to capture with the app. There are so many excellent apps for iOS that it’s hard to keep to just one workflow and really learn it in depth and build routines. But there are dividends when I focus on one application and disregard existing habits.
What is the app you are still missing?
Call Recorder for podcasting. That’s not very relevant for most people but the sandboxing and lack of true multi-tasking prevents the iOS platform from doing some things I love on the Mac. Apps like Little Snitch, Keyboard Maestro, and Hazel are among my favorite applications on the Mac and they aren’t just missing on iOS, they are impossible. I also can’t say that I want Apple to open up iOS like the Mac, either. It’s the sandbox on iOS that makes it so safe. But, there are a lot of smart people at Apple. I like to think that this is a problem with a technical solution that doesn’t depend on share sheets and switching apps.
How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?
There are about 1,000 waking minutes in my average day. So let’s say about 1,000 times.
What Today View widgets are you using and why?
I like the Crisp Weather Widget and more recently CARROT Weather to keep up with the nutty weather in New England. Then there’s OmniFocus 2 and Fantastical 2 for iPhone for quick access to my agenda and task list.
I use the Copied widget a lot since that’s the closest thing to a mult-clipboard on iOS. I just pull down and activate the widget to keep gathering items into the Copied stack. Later, I can get to everything from any of my Apple devices.
I also really appreciate the Drafts! widget for its dictation option. I use that far more on my iPhone than on my iPad though. I probably use that feature once a day, just to take down a quick thought. I even dump some half-considered tasks in Drafts to avoid cluttering OmniFocus with things I haven’t thought through.
The Workflow widget is nice but I’ll be honest, I don’t want to depend on Workflow too much. I don’t think it will be around that long and there are so many routines that I had that were unrealistic without Workflow. It felt like dangerous territory to depend on one app that’s now owned (and barely updated) by Apple. I still use Workflow, but I’m trying not to build new dependencies on the App until I see Apple move it forward and make it an equal iOS citizen with Mail, Safari, and Calendar. If it remains as important as Clips then I don’t have confidence in its future.
Gabe's iPad (click to enlarge)
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?
My single favorite feature is portability. I know I should say that the limitations make me more focused, but that’s not as true anymore. If I had true multi-tasking like on the Mac, I’d be more productive on iOS. But what wins the day is how easy it is to pick up my iPhone and just get something done. Easy in and easy out.
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
iOS 11 is on the right track, but they need to rethink how sandboxing works. I think it’s time to rebalance the safety controls with the modern needs of a computing device. As I mentioned above, most of what the iPad can not do is related to the guard-rails Apple has against inter-app communication and system level access. I don’t claim to be as smart as a team of Apple engineers. Those are some smart cookies. But they are working with user requirements that are nearly a decade old now. I bet that if they really focused on the problem that they could come up with a way to allow a user to exercise their own control and accept the risks of those decisions, without endangering the device or the network.
Do you have an Apple Watch?
I wear an Apple Watch almost every day. I bet I’m not like a lot of daily users though. I wear it like I do a pocket knife. I have it with me because it’s nice in a few circumstances but most of the time I don’t need it. If I lost it, I probably wouldn’t replace it until the next revision.
I have two primary faces:
- The daily face that’s pretty ugly but really functional
- The distraction-free face that’s good for movies, bedtime, and when I don’t want to think about the outside world
What’s your wallpaper and why?
On my iPhone, I use the app WLPPR which has some terrific looking satellite images to use as wallpaper. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since 2016 and doesn’t support the iPad.
I highly recommend two David Lanham collections available for sale. There’s a collection of over 100 cartoons that I love so much I have a few framed. His photography bundle is also fantastic.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve considered myself a “Mac guy” for a very long time. Since the latest iPad Pro was released, I’ve tried to go iPad-only. It’s mostly been a success but when there are edge cases on iOS, they are pretty hard edges. No automation on iOS comes close to what can be done on the Mac. A lot of what I need to do is completely possible on iOS. Some of it is even easier with a dedicated app. This notion that there’s a competition between an iPad and MacBook is unreasonable. The iPad is not a Mac replacement for someone like me and it often requires ten times more work to get something done. My Mac is nowhere near as convenient and ever-ready as my iPad or iPhone. I wrote all of these words in Drafts on my iPad because it’s pretty handy. That doesn’t mean I don’t also love my Mac. They are two different things in my world but I use my iPad a heck of a lot more than my Mac.