2018 Recap: OmniFocus 3 and my Fall Hardware Bumps

I’ve recently written to end out 2018 about apps that finally stuck this year and the most important book.

The two changes in my workflows this year that made me happiest were my Fall hardware upgrades and OmniFocus 3.

When I got into OmniFocus 2 last year it changed the game for me. To put some numbers behind that, I’ve kept track of 3,211 actions since getting OmniFocus, and completed 523 since the beginning of November alone (when my actions last archived). I keep everything that I’m trying to keep track of in OmniFocus, from new habits and routines, to whatever level of detail I need to break up a bigger project into. I use it to keep emails of things I need to do out of the way (with Airmail links), grading, and just having a list of the things that need to happen before I go home.

OmniFocus 3 came out first on iOS and then on the Mac. The best feature for me on iOS was initially being able to attach notifications that were unbound from due and defer dates. Unfortunately, this still hasn’t made its way to the Mac version, so its usefulness has started to dissipate. But the new tags feature and the accompanying custom perspectives have been awesome.

The custom perspectives feature as it exists today is exactly what I hoped it was back in OmniFocus 2. Now it supports a huge list of arguments, and nested AND/OR functionality that gets me the exact task list I need. With good tagging, this is even more useful (for example, a filter of items that contain the tags that mean something takes place at school, organized by date).

OmniFocus on iOS has become way more useful to me though, with my far more useful XS Max. I felt guilty spending this much money on a phone, but I’ve been holding out for it since its first leak in December 2017. The additional screen size makes it vastly more useful for keeping track of all the information I’m handling on my phone, especially in OmniFocus. Because I was coming from an iPhone 6 Plus, I had a ton of other upgrades along with that screen size including (by my likely faulty math) 240% better processor performance, 3D Touch, Face ID, and an OLED screen, among other things. (As an aside, 1Password’s new AutoFill features that iOS 12 enabled with Face ID takes all the friction of using a password manager away, and actually makes it faster than my bad password practices ever were).

I also picked up an Apple Watch this fall. They were a hard enough tech item to grasp from others’ accounts and using demo models that I really didn’t have a great idea of what to expect. I’m surprised by how easy it is to get drawn into the fitness features, and in love with keeping media controls on my wrist. It’s also changed the way I handle a number of apps (and finally gotten me into using Due to pester me to make sure I get something run down the hall for another teacher between classes or remember a special announcement at the start of class.)

Ultimately, technology is something that I do get enjoyment out of. It’s part of why I decided to blog, and it dominates my podcast feeds. I remember being a kid and playing with the calendar on Outlook wishing I had a job so I could have coworkers to schedule meetings with and use the availability features. As an adult, technology does find its way to make work easier, and some challenges become a bit brighter because of the tools I get to use to solve them.

Managing Multiple Drives and Managing My First Year

I’m well into the start of my first year teaching now, and things are crazy. I wanted to first share a tip I’m using to manage some of the work I’m doing on my own computer for work (I have a PC assigned to me by my school, but I’m working a lot outside of the school day).

I have my primary personal Google account set to my “default” Google account in my browser. The primary benefit of this is that if I click a link to a Google Doc anywhere on the web, it goes into that account (which is the behavior I want). The downside is that when I’m opening up a new tab or window for Google Drive in the middle of work-related things, I’d have to click the account switcher, select my work account, and then wait a second for Drive to reload while closing the first tab. It’s a small inconvenience, but it adds up doing it a lot.

Instead, I’ve bookmarked the Drive URL that I have after switching to my work account. It should be something like drive.google.com/drive/u/(number for that account)/my-drive. Your default account is 0, then each one down the list is another number.

To speed up getting there, I usually launch the bookmark from Alfred, as I don’t keep the bookmark tab open for Safari. It’s a pretty simple solution to a pretty simple problem, and I could always use a different web browser for work matters (but I don’t want to).

App updates

OmniFocus 3 has changed the game for me. I was part of the TestFlight for OF3 for iOS, and I’m now in the beta for OF3 for Mac. Tags and better perspectives are helping me manage a ton of work. I’m a bit disappointed that OF3.0 for Mac lacks support for the advanced notifications that OF3 for iOS has, because I’m still taking out my phone to set a reminder notification for tasks. It’ll come in a point update that I”m already excited for.

I’m constantly restructuring my projects and tags to make them work better for me, but it’s not a time sink, it’s just a chance to organize better. I have so much on my plate at work that I think I’d have a nervous breakdown without OmniFocus to keep track of it all.

I’ve finally got Drafts integrated into my workflow. Drafts 5 added some really nice features, and it’s a great fit. Part of the reason it was so essential is because of some degradation of my iPhone 6’s speed (which will cease to be a problem within the month), but it continues to be the first thing I open when someone tells me something in the hallway that I can’t forget. Most of it goes into OmniFocus still. Because of how little email I compose on iOS, I’m still not getting the most out of it, but between updates to my phone or Drafts coming for Mac, it will only be more useful soon.

I’m planning to write soon about how my adoption of Bear has let me keep track of the documents and emails for rehearsals and individual class periods, why Dorico has won me over, and how I’m getting great use of Pages for making materials.

My Tech Set-up

Here’s a quick break down of what I’m running to do what I do.  Technology is an incredibly important part of what anyone in any field is doing, and education is no exception.  It’s worth laying out what I use as an entire field before getting into any specific details in future posts.  This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s what I feel is worth sharing or important enough to me.  I’ll make updates to this as time goes on.


2015 13” Macbook Pro, upgraded from stock.
This is my primary computer, and it’s easily the best computer I’ve ever used.  I’ll talk about what I’ve used in the past down the road, but this computer rocks.  There was a post from  Marco Arment about the predecessor of this computer, the 2012 Macbook Pro.  The 2015 is essentially the same design as I understand it (form factor, ports), but with a force touch trackpad.  (He also is highlighting the 15”, while I have the 13”)   This being my first Mac, I haven’t used Apple’s non-force touch trackpad for an extended period of time, but when I’m on someone else’s Macbook, I am not a fan of the older trackpads.

iPhone 6 Plus
This phone is old but still trucking.  I actually just changed out my iPhone 6 with a Plus (I didn’t buy it new, I got it from a family member), but my iPhone 6 was similarly running really well.  I’m impressed with how well it runs for being three years old, though I’ve checked the battery health and I see I’m likely not getting throttled.  Both my original 6 and my current 6 Plus were upgraded to 64GB storage.  I’m eager to upgrade, and the new features of newer iPhones look nice, but no single release has “wow”ed me since the iPhone 6.

iPad Air 2
When I was attending the University of Iowa, I was the last class to get a free iPad through a generous grant for student in the College of Education.  I never thought I’d use tablets, and wouldn’t have bought one for myself when I got this one.  I used it as an additional alarm clock for the first year-and-a-half I had it before I started using it for D&D books.  I get more use out of it now, occasionally reading music off of it, or reading it while getting ready in the morning.  I’m somewhat limited by the storage capacity (16GB, but it was free), and the screen size when it comes to reading music.

I wear a Citizen watch with only a date complication every day.  I bought my first watch to help sate my slight obsession with knowing the time when I was taking recital attendance and couldn’t check my phone in college.  This one was a bit of an upgrade, with a nice metal band (my old leather one started to fray). 

The last PC I bought was an ASUS G75VX.  I bought it to play games on, and it has aged horribly, mostly thanks to its traditional hard drive.

Yamaha P70
I got a pretty good deal on this piano, it was a used former rental that was being phased out by the local music store.  It’s 88-key and the weighting is pretty decent.  It’s by no means compact and it lacks the sort of controls you would want for serious music production.  I have a sustain pedal hooked up to it, and do some light practicing on it

My tuba is a Miraphone BB♭98 “Siegfried” – It’s huge, but it’s also big.  My mouth piece is the Arnold Jacobs Canadian Brass mouth piece, which is based off the Helleberg design.  I love both and will probably never buy another horn or mouth piece.

Apple TV 4th gen 64GB
I picked this up right after the 5th gen came out.  I don’t have a 4K TV, but the extra storage was probably unnecessary in hindsight.  


Apple Music
I switched to Apple Music from Spotify on the day of Apple Music’s launch.  I’m doing Apple Family Sharing with my girlfriend, and paying for the family subscription for Apple Music.  Their first year it was probably at its best, when they were paying people to make ridiculously specific playlists.  The biggest appeal of Apple Music is its Siri integration and how nice the integration of my existing iTunes Match library was.

iCloud 200GB
200GB is $3/month, and it’s enough to back up my iPad and iPhone, along with all my photos.  Now that they have family sharing with iCloud, I can back up my girlfriend’s iPhone too.

Other cloud service
I double backup my photos into Google Photos, and use the free tier of Google Drive for a lot of documents.  I need a cloud service at the 1TB tier, and I think Dropbox is the right solution for that due to its integration and sharing abilities.  

I’ve found myself listening to more podcasts with my commute since I started student teaching.  I used Apple Podcasts until I switched to Overcast, but I haven’t ever tried its competitors.  I’m paying the $10/year to support Marco and get the upload functionality.

I’ve been using Instapaper for awhile now and I still can’t believe it’s free.  I save tons of articles here, and it’s an awesome reading environment.  I might prefer Pocket, but I can’t justify spending $45/year for the minor improvements.

Pastebin Pro
I was using Pastebin as an informal blog on college football back when I was a pollster on r/cfb.  It’s nice being able to just dump text somewhere to share with others, and a lifetime subscription was on sale when I was looking into it.  I don’t use it a ton, and the official app for iOS isn’t 64-bit compatible.  I’m trying the PasteMe app, but the jury’s still out.


All of these are worth talking about in greater detail at a later date, and I’m not going to dig into it that far

OmniFocus 2 Pro iOS and Mac
This runs my life.  I’ll write about my specific use of it, but this is something that others have written about ad nauseam.

Alfred 3
This is the most important app on my Mac. If it were to break, I would be paralyzed in my computer use. It’s one of a million little things that make it harder for me to use other people’s devices. It’s the one piece of software I’m so completely in love with I have never looked into the alternatives for. I can’t say that for any other app, even OmniFocus.

OmniOutliner 5 Pro for Mac
I’m on the TestFlight of OmniOutliner 3 for iOS and planning to buy the pro version once it releases to the public. I thought an outliner sounded stupid, then I downloaded its trial on a whim, and was proved wrong.  I get a lot of use out of this for various projects.

Apple Notes
I keep a bunch of long-term notes or things that need heavy formatting in here.  I can’t justify spending money of Evernote when Apple Notes is free, especially considering how little I’m on Windows.. Even if you’re on Windows occasionally, you can access this through the iCloud web interface.

NValt and Simplenote
I’ll let smarter people explain this better than me. Macademic has three posts (one, two, three) on this, MacSparky has probably more than one.
I use this for a lot of things, because it’s fast

Fantastical 2
I use this on both iOS and macOS. I have multiple Google accounts, each with multiple calendars, plus iCloud calendars.  It’s super easy to look at what I need with Fantastical’s calendar sets, it’s easy to put in information with their amazing natural language input, and their scrolling view makes it easy to get information for someone like me.  I haven’t tried its competitor Busycal, so I can’t really compare the two.  I do lament the lack of calendar sets on the iOS version of this app though. 

Airmail 3
Airmail’s not perfect, but it’s what I use.  It’s super flexible and has helped me turn my terrible email habits into (fairly) good ones.

Everyone needs to be using a password manager.  I actually bought 1Password upfront before they started offering their subscription service.  Syncing it myself was one of the things that made it more attractive than competitor LastPass, and I continue to do so.  I also don’t think Lastpass has the same integration into so many iOS apps to fill passwords, but I could be wrong.  I would 100% recommend 1Password to anyone looking for a password manager, though I will say its Watchtower feature probably isn’t enough, and you should augment it by putting your email into this.

Reeder 3
This RSS reader is pretty nice, but maybe it’s not the best solution.  I’ll write about my experiment with RSS in 2017 2018.

Sibelius 8.7
I’ve got the Sibelius upgrades active through March.  There’s a lot to say about notation software so I won’t get into it here.

Finale v25.5 
I use Sibelius primarily, picked up the upgrade to v25 right before I switched.

Logic Pro X and Finale Cut Pro X
I don’t use these a ton, but Logic Pro is a pretty amazing practice tool sometimes.  I’m no power user and I’m still trying to learn to make the most of both of these apps.  There’s an amazing deal for students and teachers to get both of these (plus Compressor, Motion, and MainStage) for $200 (normally these five would be $630)

When I switched to using a Mac, I continued using Chrome until a weird bug on YouTube of all places kept causing the weirdest crashes.  Around the same time, I was finding it more annoying to use Chrome on iOS and I decided to try Safari on both.  I haven’t gone back.  I liked Chrome on iOS, but Safari is a better experience in a lot of ways, and the synergy from using it on my Mac as well is great.

The PDF editing in this app is stellar.  I was using PDFPen Pro, but it was buggy and ultimately not as powerful.  PDFExpert lacks OCR, but this is my default PDF app all the same.

I was looking for a recipe app for awhile, but somehow Paprika didn’t wind up on my radar until I saw it on sale (shoutout to MDM for highlighting awesome sales).  Paprika makes it really easy to log recipes from websites or type them in from a physical recipe.  They sync the recipes through their own servers, and the account systems make it possible to share your library with family members by signing in with the same account.  I use it on both my Mac and iOS.

It does exactly as advertised.  Decent way to get chords or other material to start an arranging project.  Haven’t tried it on iOS, just on my Mac.  It’s pretty accurate with chords, but I found myself frustrated being unable to correct an egregiously bad tempo analysis.  I’ve never tried it with art music, just with contemporary music.

iOS Apps

It’s important for me to keep a metronome and tuner on my front page of apps.  FrozenApe’s Tempo remains the best metronome I’ve found and worth the money.  TonalEnergy Tuner is a bit overkill, but it’s grown on me since the app I was using went incompatible with iOS 11.

I have a lot of friends who use Spotify, and see a lot of Spotify playlists when I’m searching the web that I want in my library on Apple Music.  It was easily worth $10 to be able to port them over.  I haven’t tried other apps, but Stamp works on iOS.  Word of warning though against the bundle, because it simply doesn’t work with iTunes after 12.5 on Mac.  It might still be worth it for you if you’re exporting to a service that’s not Apple Music, but they don’t advertise this shortcoming, so I’m not sure what else is there.

Scanner Pro
I’ll buy a ScanSnap one day, but for now when I need a document available quickly or on the road, Readdle’s app does a pretty decent job of making it look like I actually used a scanner.