Journaling A Few Days With Day One

Journaling is a good habit, so it makes sense to support it with a good tool. Some prefer good ol’ fashioned pen and paper, yet others like to go digital. While there are many journaling apps, one often stands out: Day One. I’ve been using the app for a week, but this is not my first time trying it. What’s different now?


Day One has a positive reputation, having earned awards for its beauty, simplicity, and functionality. Added to that list are its more recent achievements: privacy and security via end-to-end encryption. Suffice to say, this digital diary deserves noteworthy attention for all its quality. So over the past few years, I’ve eagerly installed Day One a handful of times to try it, but the app never clicked with me.

One of the reasons was its interface. Despite exuding elegance, I found the high number of features, icons, settings, and fine text to be a bit much for my taste. In other words, it looked and felt distracting and somewhat overwhelming. I am accustomed to the relative simplicity of Apple Notes, which has been my main outlet for private journaling; Day One was “busier” by contrast.

Another issue I’ve waffled about — across a variety of productivity apps — is whether to rely on first-party software or third-party solutions. There are pros and cons to both sides; in general, I stick with Apple’s default apps for their ecosystem synergy. That said, there’s a distinct advantage to using a specialized journaling app over a generalized note taking app: dedication.

Day One app on iPad.

That’s why I am trying a third-party journaling app again. It recently occurred to me: I need to remove my innermost personal thoughts from the Apple Notes app. Instead, they should be kept in a dedicated or specialized app, separate from disparate folders and tags of general notes. This would let my secret musings be siloed into their own service that’s more private and secure, and it would allow me to focus attention on my journaling habit, giving it a vital boost.

Simply having a particular app icon — dedicated to journaling — on my iPad’s home screen or dock, for example, makes journaling more visually prominent. Seeing the Day One app reminds me it’s important to journal. More than that, it welcomes me to a dedicated place where I can pour out my brain’s firings and misfirings — unfiltered and unfettered.

I love Apple Notes and rely on it, but my journals felt somewhat overlooked within it; my journaling habit fell to neglect. This is despite the fact that I had a Shortcut on my home-screen to automatically create a new note with the current date in the title, which allowed me to quickly start the day’s diary entry. Also, since Apple Notes now features tagging, in addition to folders, I have begun to reorganize my notes by type and subject. This process, and the results, will work much better with my journals relocated to Day One.

My Day One-week streak!

I’ve only been using Day One for a week, so it’s too early to know if I’ll stick with it. I need a dedicated journaling app though, so I’m giving Day One a real try with an open mind. As I move my journals from Apple Notes to Day One, I backdate them as needed. I’ve also restarted daily journaling again, utilizing one of the features that a dedicated journaling app is uniquely apt for: a writing streak or goal. With Day One, I now have a widget on my iPad that shows my current 6-day journaling streak; it’s another reminder of the importance to reflect daily.

Day One Streak Widget
Day One Streak Widget.

Besides widgets, Day One has many other niceties that aid or improve journaling: calendar view, timeline view, auto date/time stamps, auto weather data, templates, daily prompts, reminders, and ”On this day”. This last feature automatically displays photos for any given date along with any journal entries on that same day. Seeing this in action has been somewhat revelatory, making me think it’s a feature that I can’t believe I’ve lived without.

I have only a few minor quibbles with Day One. I wish the passcode was at least 6 digits instead of a mere 4, or maybe an alphanumeric passphrase option would be better; I guess it’s secure enough. The app has extra icons, text labels, and other features I don’t need — like adding audio, video, or drawings — but the user interface overall is easy enough to look at and use; I’m already becoming accustomed to it. In time, I’ll probably unpack my bags, settle in, and feel comfy enough to unpack my feels and thoughts on a regular basis. And I’ll likely pay the annual subscription fee, which amounts to about the cost of one coffee per month — totally worth it I think. Otherwise, the free version is very capable so far.

So do you journal? If so, how often? And what tool is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

iPhone Interactive Widgets Hide In Plain Sight

Redesigned Widgets came to iOS 14, but for all their benefits, they still lack perhaps the best part about a widget – interactive functionality. Currently, Widgets provide glanceable information, which is nice, but it would be better if a few basic functions were available directly on a Widget. Such utility is already proven as interactive “widgets” do, in fact, exist currently on iPhone.

The best example for an interactive widget would be the Music app using playback buttons. Coincidentally, the app already has 3 different sizes of interactive ”widgets” in iOS; they’re just not part of the widget library. All three “widgets” have basic playback buttons and are, actually, Controls.

The first example is the Now Playing Control ”widget” in Control Center. While using the Music app, it features an interactive play/pause button and forward and backward buttons, which change to seconds-skip buttons when using the Podcasts app. A fourth button reveals an audio output button.

The small Now Playing Control in Control Center on iOS resembles a 2×2 widget.
The Batteries and Music Widget bear striking resemblance to the Radios and Now Playing Controls.

The small Now Playing Control next to the Radios Control resembles a 2×2 Widget, which is clearly evident when compared with the 2×2 Music Widget next to the Batteries Widget.

The 2×2 Music Widget can obviously incorporate playback controls. Of course with a bigger widget, more controls could be utilized. A simple example of this is, again, the Now Playing Control in Control Center. Tap and Hold the Control to reveal a larger 4×6 Control with interactive sliders and buttons.

The 4×6 Now Playing Control looks very nice – love those interactive buttons.

A good example of an interactive 4×4 Music Widget is the 4×4 Now Playing Control found on the Notification Panel.

The 4×4 Now Playing Control in the Notification Panel has tappable buttons – very useful!

These interactive controls easily demonstrate how Apple could implement useful buttons on the next versions of Widgets, and I hope they do. Not only is adding controls to widgets feasible, their current implementation suggests that Apple may intend to eventually tailor these features for future Widget iterations.

Bringing controls to Widgets, on both iPhone and iPad, will make Apple’s future mobile devices more functional and more friendly. I encourage Apple to make it happen.

The Safari Browser Refreshes Tab Design

Apple’s newly redesigned Safari web browser is now available, so I’ve been trying out the refreshed “tabs”, among other things, on my iPad. While still adjusting to the updated design, I’m loving the changes so far.


Tab Trials

These aren’t the tabs you’re looking for.

When iOS and iPadOS 15 were undergoing beta testing during this past Summer, early reviews made Safari’s compact tab layout seem dire. After a few iterations, the public version of Safari landed. I wondered how bad the tabs really were and wanted to try them myself, so once my devices were updated with the new release, I set Safari on my iPad to the Compact Tab Bar. I didn’t do this because my 10.2” screen real estate was insufferable; I was simply curious to use the renewed Safari tabs as Apple had initially envisioned for the update. Being optimistic, I figured Apple’s intended tab redesign was good.

I wanted to think different.

Looking at the new ”tabs”, I realized they’re really the same as the URL address bar, just more narrow while more tabs are open. So I thought, I’m looking at web pages, not tabs. To explain better, here’s an excerpt from an article titled, ”Safari 15 isn’t bad, just misunderstood”:

“The tabs are the address bars of other pages you have open. You’re not switching tabs, you’re switching pages. This is also why the title bar and toolbar take on the same background color as the page you’re on. The entire Safari window is the page. When you switch from one page to another, it all changes to match the new page.“

Jeff Kirvin
Safari settings. Compact Tab Bar, please.

Thinking Differently

It’s only been a week, but I don’t think the compact tab design is merely a novelty; I genuinely like the radical tabs, though some reviewers still don’t. On the plus side, it’s good that Apple has provided options in Settings, letting users choose their preferred tab style. I turned on Compact tabs — I call them tab capsules — which combine a tab’s button with the URL bar; the “Omnibar” is really living up to its name. I also enabled “Show Color in Tab Bar.”

Visually, tabs have soft rounded corners, and the tab bar suggests minimal elegance. The active tab is darkened or lightened, making it easy to identify. With multiple tabs open, although the website name is truncated due to narrow width tabs, I haven’t had trouble knowing which tab I’m on or which one to switch to. Each tab has a colored Favicon, and part of the URL title is visible most of the time. These show enough to know where in the world wide web I am — with one exception, using iPad in Portrait mode with more than a handful of tabs open. To help, a simple pinch-in gesture shrinks the current tab to reveal all open websites in a tabs overview page, which shows each web page’s content and name. It’s easy to switch tabs there.

Tabs overview page in a grid.

Functionally, the tabs work well enough. Because the URL bar and tab are now combined, some previously exposed buttons hide in an overflow menu — the ellipsis /three dot button. When accessing a button, an ideal design minimizes extra gestures or taps to save time and be efficient. But an extra tap or two isn’t that big of a deal; the iPad remains a wonderful modern touch-based computer, easily accessible and user friendly. So despite a few functions living behind the ellipsis button, the Safari redesign remains nice to use.

Whimsy Works

The new compact tab bar also presents something special Apple has been known for: whimsy. The company’s software designs have sometimes been called whimsical, featuring fun things like animations. In that light, the tab capsules are delightful to swipe back and forth as they tug on the rubber-banding animation and bump into each other.

Another cool feature of Safari’s refreshed tool bar is simply color; it will now match the main color of the website being visited. This appealing aesthetic blends the tab bar with the website better, making it look and feel more native to the particular site. This color-matching complements the web page rather than contrasting from it. I like the holistic look, and although the tool bar and tabs change color, I don’t lose my location or wonder where the tabs are.

Below are several examples of websites showcasing the color-matching of Safari’s new tool bar. In particular, notice how the Six Colors site, with its constantly changing color gradient, is rendered. Safari matches the color in real-time, as it is changing, and automatically adjusts the font color from white to black and back again. It also subtly applies a lighter or darker active tab fill-color so that the text stays legible.

Six Colors with white text.
Six Colors with white text.
Six Colors with white text.
Six Colors with black text.
Six Colors with black text.
Six Colors with black text.
Starbucks
Target
Nintendo Life
Wikipedia
Psychology Today
Apple
Amazon

Overall, the new compact tab bar is great. It’s not perfect — tabs get a bit too cramped in portrait mode — but Apple did a good job in its design and implementation, thinking through different points. I even like the new pull-down-to-reload gesture to refresh the web page.

The change that I’m still adjusting to is Tab Groups. I had looked forward to the new Tab Groups feature above all, and I’m glad to have them. They change the way I surf the web, and while they add a bit of complexity to Safari, the trade-off is worth it because grouping tabs together and switching between them as needed reduces the bulk of tabs open in the compact tab bar. This improves visual and mental clarity for better focus on the current web task. More clarity yet mild complexity is a fair enough deal.

Finally, I’m also enjoying Safari’s other new features like the new Start Page that is customizable. I also plan to try Extensions, which are new to Safari; I’ve got my eye on Grammarly.

So what are your thoughts about the new Safari tab design? Do you go compact or separate? Color-matching or not? And do Tab Groups help or hurt your web surfing?

UPDATE: Credit to John Gruber at Daring Fireball for surfacing the article by Jeff Kirvin.

Giving Credit To Apple Card

When Apple Card launched a couple years ago, I was interested but somewhat skeptical. Could Apple really apply its simplicity and elegance to a credit card? Doubtful, and uninterested in interest payments on debt, I ignored it. However, it’s funny how things can change over time; I’m now a happy Apple Card carrying customer.

I think most would agree that consumer credit cards don’t have the most favorable track record; they’re kind of icky. Credit cards statements are hard to read (there’s always fine print), interest payments and fees can really put the hurt on your wallet, and managing debt with an omnipresent FICO score is the kind of fun nobody wants.

Solving these problems seemed impossible, but as I looked into Apple Card, I noticed that somehow Apple made it feasible. Give Apple credit; it was the one that solved the problem in 2007 of bad phones and voicemail service from cell carriers.

As I was recently on the fence about getting a credit card, the only one I really considered was Apple’s. Its advertisement of simplicity, zero fees, and integration with iPhone made it more attractive than any other. Then one night, I got an email from Apple with an invitation to see if I was pre-approved: it would be easy, convenient, and not mark my credit report. What’s more, I would get instant credit if approved. With nothing to lose, I tapped the button. In moments, I was offered a line of credit, which I gladly accepted.

Apple recommends and encourages healthy finances.

From initiation, onboarding, to now using, Apple Card has been as simple and elegant as advertised. The most striking and pleasing thing is Apple wants to help the consumer avoid debt or interest. It does this by presenting a diagram that compares making a minimum payment with a large or full payment, so the user sees the costs or money saved between them. It also includes short descriptions that explain and encourage keeping the balance paid down.

“Built on Simplicity, Transparency and Privacy, and Designed to Help Customers Lead a Healthier Financial Life“

Apple

Another rewarding aspect is Apple Card’s instant daily cash back. The percentage varies, but it’s fairly straightforward. I like seeing the amount of daily cash quickly add up and appear on my Apple Cash card; it’s like saving change from the register and filling a jar at home. Before long, I’ll have some extra spending money, which I’ll need for my next Apple purchase of course.

The mantra truly applies to Apple Card, ”It just works.”

There are more details about the card I appreciate, like it being built into the Wallet app and the convenience of Apple Pay in stores via my Apple Watch or online. I also love that purchases are color coded to their types, which makes it easy to see at a glance how I spend my money. As with all Apple products, Apple Card also benefits from the privacy and security that Apple is known for. Suffice to say I’m a delighted Apple Card user.

No, my name is not Marisa. But you get the idea.

Not surprisingly, my latest Apple hardware acquisition does include a chip in it: the titanium physical Apple Card. It may be the most simple and elegant piece of Apple hardware and tech I’ve ever owned.

As one who generally eschews consumer credit cards, I admit to really enjoying Apple Card and look forward to building my credit. It’s simple, elegant, and convenient. I recommend it, and I’m not alone. This recent consumer satisfaction report tells the same story; many people are happy with it.

Do you use Apple Card? Are you thinking about it?

About Apple’s California Streaming

This week was the ”Superbowl for nerds.” Apple held its annual September event where it showcased the newest iPhones to debut in Autumn. This year sees iPhones 13, which are incrementally better than last year’s iPhones 12. With them, Apple is releasing updated iPads and the latest Apple Watch iteration.

I viewed Apple’s live video announcement — California Streaming — a fast-paced deluge of features packed into a superlative-laden presentation. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m more or less an Apple Fanboy, but it felt a bit like drinking kool-aid with too much sugar. With that small gripe out of the way, here are my personal thoughts as a mobile-computer consumer.


iPad mini

Apple_iPad-mini_ipados-homescreen_09142021

Going from 7.9” to 8.3”, the mini has more screen, yet it remains mini! That’s a solid win in my book. I think most people want as much display as they can comfortably fit in a pocket or hold in one hand. Apple does this via removing bezels and extending the display to the edges of the device. Samsung’s approach is to fold the screen in half! I think I prefer Apple’s method: it’s simpler, more elegant, more affordable, and less likely to break.

The iPad mini basically got all of the iPad Air’s features, but it also got a $100 price hike over the previous mini, which is a bummer. I was thinking about buying my wife her own iPad mini for Christmas, but now it’s more out of reach. Then again, it comes in my wife’s favorite color: purple.

iPad

Apple_iPad-10-2-inch_Family_09142021

I love the iPad! As I type this blog post, I’m enjoying my 8th gen iPad, which I bought in the Summer. I had figured the 9th gen iPad would not get a significant upgrade, and that’s basically what happened. This newest iPad got 3 updates: a wider front camera that follows people to keep them in frame (Center Stage), the A13 chip to replace the great A12, and a True Tone display that, in my experience, is nice but not a big deal.

The one other update that is worth shouting about is that Apple finally bumped the entry priced $329 iPad from a paltry 32GB of storage to 64GB! For that low price, often on sale for $300, I think anyone can now enjoy a viable and enviable Apple tablet. In addition, the $429 iPad now packs a generous 256GB of storage — nice!

iPhone 13/mini/Pro/Pro Max

Apple_iPhone-13-Pro_Colors_09142021
Apple_iphone13_design_09142021

There’s isn’t much for me to say here except that, like most people, the latest iPhones’ camera improvements are more than welcome. I especially am excited about the iPhone 13 Pros getting a Macro photography capability, preferring both the ultra-wide and macro features over the zoom/telephoto features. In addition, the newest iPhones 13 get better performance (not that they were lacking) and longer lasting battery life — what good is all that CPU power if the phone has no battery power at all?

With new phones, I like that the previous few years’ iPhones, which are still excellent devices, now sport a lower price than ever. Those now “older” phones — still for sale as new — make some of the best tech from Apple available to more and more people. Upgrading my iPhone 8 Plus, for example, to last year’s iPhone 12 versus the 13 would save me $100, yet I’d still get a significant update.

Apple Watch 7

Apple_watch-series7_lineup-01_09142021

When it comes to the Apple Watch, I see two sides to it: the fitness side and the smart side. This year’s version 7 does not see much new for either side. Yet while some pundits have panned this year’s Watch as a minor update, I was quite excited for it. Sure, it’s not a huge step up, but it’s better nonetheless. What matters to me is that when I eventually upgrade my current 40mm Apple Watch SE, I’ll see an even bigger display boost when I opt for the now larger 45mm size. Otherwise, I think it performs like my current watch, but it’s vast screen will make using it easier and more enjoyable.

Another welcome change will be the always-on display that’s now much brighter; I presume it doesn’t degrade battery life. Most surprising of all, though, is the new on-screen keyboard! I’m skeptical that it will work well. I suspect the bigger watch size will be easier to tap the tiny letters on. Even without a keyboard, I find voice dictation totally reliable, but it will be nice to try the keyboard once I upgrade in the distant future.


Overall, this year sees Apple making incremental and iterative updates. The biggest changes come to the smallest iPad: the mini. While this might not be an exciting and “revolutionary” upgrade cycle, the progress Apple is making by pushing forward in smallish steps is nevertheless welcome and positive gain. Growth in life only sees spurts during adolescence. Generally, life grows by slow and steady consistency. Apple is a mature company, and all the hardware products announced this week are likewise mature.

The other side of Apple’s coin is more interesting to me this year: software. Next week, Apple will release the public versions of its latest operating systems. I’m eager to install the newest iOS and iPadOS software. Many of the features, like focus modes or multitasking buttons, will make current devices more capable or efficient. Shiny new hardware is fun and functional, but the integrated software is also key to giving nerds, geeks, and ”normal” people the tools they need to apply their talents.

Whether being productive and creative, organizing photo albums, or surfing the web, I’m glad to see Apple steadily improving both its devices and apps that make such tasks simple, elegant, and delightful. Here’s to another year of Apple gear.