My Homescreen: May 2015

With this week completely focused on finishing phase one of a client project, I completely missed that it was the 1st of the month yesterday. So now that the working week is over and I’m sat back relaxing it’s time to sort out this month’s edition of my homescreens. I’ll tackle both iPhone and iPad at the same time, since the changes to both are identical and for the same reason.


iPhone May 2015


The Rest


iPad My 2015


The Rest

What’s New?

  • OmniFocus – Since the start of the year I’ve been using Things to manage my tasks, in the last month I’ve ended up switching back to OmniFocus. Partly because one of the porjects I’m working on has needed breaking down further than Things can cope with, and partly because of OmniFocus MailDrop.
  • Outlook, Gmail, Inbox by Gmail and Mailbox – Recently I’ve been having some issues with the provider of my email, lots of servers down and unreliable delivery. As a self-employed person I need to be able to rely on my email never failing, and so my work email has now switched to Google Apps. I’m still deciding on my personal email setup.

One of the advantages of moving to Google Apps for Work has allowed me to test out a few email apps I couldn’t use previously, and also to combine my email with IFTTT so that it works harder for me. Part of that IFTTT integration has been to combine the Gmail channel with the email channel and my OmniFocus MailDrop address. I’m still refining things and trying to decide which apps to use, but I hope to be able to explain further how I’m making my email work for me rather than having to work to keep on top of it.

Rediscovering the Personal Site

It’s been an interesting start to the year to say the least, but one positive from it has been the renewal of my interest in both my own blog and the blogs of others.

I’ve been reading blogs, or personal sites would probably be a more accurate term in 2015, since I came across them in my second year at university in 2006. Back then I loved the idea of people publishing something to the internet and quickly set my own blog up. I came across a number of great writers who like me were just finding their feet in the world of Web 2.0. In the 8 years that have passed since then, I’ve had a number of my own blogs and lost my motivation/desire to post to them all at various points in time.

In the early days of the blog, there was what felt like a strong community. A group of people writing about what interested them in a way which was new and exciting. It was inspiring to see others sharing in this way and it made me want to do the same. In the years since I left Uni in 2007 there seemed to be a change amongst the blogs I read. They became focused and somewhat same-y in their content, it felt like the blogs lost their personalities as their authors pursued a desire to be better writers. A few of them managed to maintain the personality that drew me to them in the first place, but, many didn’t and as a result the blogs either died off or my interest in them waned. It was sad and with that homogenising of content my own inspiration and desire to write also dried up.

Over the last few months I’ve started to notice something different. Perhaps it’s just that my own mindset has changed, or it could be that I’ve been finding a bunch of new sites, or a reaction to the likes of Facebook who seem to want to be the internet rather than part of it. But the personal site seems to be rising like a phoenix from the flames.

Many of the sites are specialised, with focused content, but they no longer seem to be of one voice talking about the same thing all the time. They have personality. The posts, whilst often being focused around a similar subject, are varied and seem to be a reflection of the people who write them. It’s both inspiring and a joy to read these sites. They might be writing about a pen, a notebook or a new Mac, but they are doing it in a way which is interesting and engaging.

These personal sites have the polish and high standard that the web in 2015 demands, but they seem to be returning to the personality and interest that was so apparent in the the rise of the blog back in the mid naughties. It’s refreshing and I’m thankful for it. I applaud those behind it and I hope it continues long into the future.

The Week in Links

This weeks edition is a bit of a bumper one with a combination of interesting and geeky. There’s a look at what London could’ve been, some thoughts on work and showing up, a history of a typeface, a pen review and reflection with the benefit of hindsight.

The Week in Links

This weeks edition arrives a bit later than normal. A combination of catching up on a little work this afternoon, watching my favourite cycling race (apart from Le Tour) and then being engrossed in final round of The Masters after church this evening has been the cause. If it’s a bit late in the day for you, you might have to make it these links your reading material for your Monday morning coffee.

The Week In Links

This weeks edition has only four links, but they are packed with interest. There’s a short post to get that started that will of particular interest to those who run their own business, followed by a series of posts giving a few details into the behind the scenes of starting a new company (they make my favourite notebooks). Following my trend in recent weeks of looking into notebooks, there’s a review of the latest Field Notes colours edition, and then an in-depth article into the beginnings of the Apple Watch.

Sit back with a coffee and enjoy.

My Homescreen: April 2015

Most of the interest has been on my iPad this month since there are a few additions there and only one change on my iPhone.


April 15 iPhone


The Rest


Scanbot – I’ve recently begun using my iPhone to scan my shopping receipts and consequently Scanbot has found itself promoted to my homescreen in place of the no longer needed Rightmove app from last month.


April 15 iPad


The Rest


Tweetbot – Despite the fact that it’s still not been updated to the iOS7/8 aesthetic, it’s ability to sync with my Mac and iPhone has forced me to bring it back to my iPad. I simply have too any hashtags muted in Tweetbot on my iPhone that not having it on my iPad was driving me nuts.

Adobe Comp – Adobe have been busy lately and have updated and introduced a new app. Leading the way is this new one, which seems to finally bring the kind of functionality to the iPad that I’ve been looking for. Since Adobe updated InDesign CC a couple of months back to introduce Creative Cloud Libraries I’ve begun use the extensively and I expect this new apps role in my design process to grow as a result of that.

Adobe Color – I’ve had this on my phone for a while, but a recent project had me sitting back in my chair with a cup of tea creating some possible colour schemes on my iPad. Again it’s integration with the other Creative Cloud apps is the killer feature.

CreativeCloud – Since I started my Creative Cloud license I’ve been making use of the 20GB of space I paid for to house my projects. The iOS app was always lacking though, but a recent update has improved it and joy of joys, I can now view multipage documents in the app.

When Creative Cloud was announced I was annoyed, I liked owning my software, especially when my livelihood is dependant on it, but I’ve been really impressed with the recent updates. Adobe have really stepped up their game in this regard and there’s no greater proof of that than the growing use of their apps beyond the Mac in my design process.

The Week In Links

This week’s edition highlights just four things I think are worth looking at. The first is something I’ve never really thought about, but on reflection and with my interest in typography, should’ve been high up on the list. Following that is a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in in typography, an insightful look into a cycle for generating meaningful content before ending with an imaginative glimpse into what impact the Apple Watch could have on people’s lives. Enjoy your Sunday evening reading.

The Week in Links

Having missed the last couple of weeks due to being away and then ill this weeks Week in Links has a few more than normal. There’s no real theme to this weeks, other than a continuation to some of the ongoing themes in this weekly post. Anyway, enjoy your Sunday evening with a glass of wine and have a read.

The Week In Links

I only have four links to share with you this week, they’re all loosely connected and perhaps show you a bit of an insight into my thinking at the moment.

Journaling and my daily schedule are something which I seem to be considering a lot at the moment. Journaling is something which I’ve long had a fascination with and have dabbled and used as a tool at various points in my life. At the moment, I’ve been doing a spot of journaling, but not with any consistency and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Consequently it was with great interest that I read Joshua Ginter’s post on his approach to his diary/journal and I may begin to adopt some of his practises, I already have a Baron Fig Apprentice in my back pocket that I use as a scratch pad.

My Homescreen: March 2015

The first of March presents a few changes to my homescreens over the last month, but the overall majority seems to have remained the same.


March 2015


The Rest


Overcast – Having said at the start of last month that I was happy with Instacast, I’ve gone through a bit of a podcast splurge. I’ve found myself listening to more podcasts while I work and while going for a walk, consequently I found myself wanting a means of listening to them from my Mac and Overcasts web player has provided that. I’ve also realised I prefer the icon over Instacast.

HSBC – This app has been on my phone for a while, but a recent update has made it more capable and it is steadily becoming my primary means of personal banking, hence it’s new spot on my iPhone.

Rightmove – This one will only be here for the next month at the most, looking for a new flat to rent has meant the app has received a lot of use and it warranted a spot here because of it.


iPad March 2015


The Rest


The Week in Links

This weeks Week in Links comes at a new time and on a new day. I had originally been posting these on a Saturday but it just didn’t feel right to me since Sunday seems to be more of a day of rest to most people.

This weeks edition follows what I would imagine will be quite a common set of themes for the series. Articles on working, writing and design, all of which are topics that fascinate me. There are some very thought provoking articles in there and the pinnacle of which is the interview with Jonathan Ive which is a long but worthwhile read with your Sunday coffee.

The Week In Links

This weeks edition of The Week In Links seems to have inadvertently developed a bit of a theme to do with journaling and notebooks. In a similar vein to my interest in homescreens I’ve always been intrigued to find out what notebooks people use. Ever since I was little I’ve always enjoyed getting a new note/sketchbook and so I’m constantly on the lookout for new ones to try. Maybe it’s something to do with the crisp pages, with the potential for how they can be filled, I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s just something so inspiring about a new notebook.

Anyway, sit back with a coffee and enjoy some Saturday morning reading.

My Homescreen

I can’t remember why, but a while ago I began taking a screenshot of my iPhone and iPad homescreens on the first of the month. I always find it interesting seeing what apps people have on their devices and so I’ve decided to begin sharing my homescreen on the first of each month. If nothing else, it will be an interesting way of monitoring how I use my devices and how the apps I use change over time (if at all).

This first post will be a bit more detailed than the ones which will appear over the next few months. I want to give a brief outline of how and why I use the apps, and so in the future only new apps will receive this commentary.


First thing to note is that my iPhone is currently a 16GB iPhone 5c in white. It’s the first ‘tall screened’ iPhone I’ve owned, the second plastic one (I had a 3G) and the first non-black one I’ve owned. Even going back to my iPhone 4 days I’ve always kept the bottom row of my homescreen empty, I find it makes swiping between the screens easier as well giving some space to the icons.


In The Dock

I must be one of the few people who actually uses my iPhone as a phone, hence the inclusion of the phone and messages apps. The messages app is probably my most used app on the phone, especially as my friends have gradually got iPhones and begun using iMessage.

Safari takes up the second spot in my dock. Along with the phone and messages apps, it’s one of my most used apps. When I got my first iPhone, the ability to have the internet in my pocket and easily accessible was the most exciting thing about the device and it still is.

Tweetbot is my Twitter client of choice. I’ve been on Twitter since January 2007, and have used it extensively ever since. When I got my first iPhone (the previously mentioned 3G) a twitter app was the first 3rd party app I installed (I believe it was Twitterrific) and to this day remains on my most used services on my iPhone. I’ve flitted between a number of different clients over the years, but when Tweetbot came out I settled on it very quickly, it just fit with the way I used Twitter. Tweetbot 3 is, as far as I’m concerned, the best version of the app both in utility and style.

The Rest

My most used apps are towards the bottom of the screen so it seems prudent to start with those.

Things – When Things first came out I was a big fan, a few years ago I switched to OmniFocus for it’s cloud sync, in the last month I’ve made the switch back to Things. I find the app works the way I think, and whilst OmniFocus can be set up to behave like Things it seems silly to use it in such a way. The Today view is where I live on my iPhone and with the latest update most of my interaction with the app takes place through notification centre. The ability to control exactly what tasks appear there and not rely on forcing the app to show what I want when I want allows me to prioritise my days in a way that is manageable and realistic. Whilst the integration with Siri is great for getting random tasks into the inbox no matter where I am.

Day One – This is another app that I’ve used sporadically since I bought it. Back in August 2014 I began using the app to record 3 things I was thankful for from that day, I still try to do it, but over the last month I’ve begun to use the app as a more in-depth journal as well. My iPhone is the most convenient way of using My Day One and the lowest barrier of entry, whilst I only use it once a day, it’s prominence on the bottom row helps keep it at the forefront of my mind and ensures I use it consistently.

BBC Sport – I use this app multiple times a day. It’s there because it’s the easiest way of keeping up with the multiple different sports I follow and provides push notifications for my football team Nottingham Forest.

Pinner – Most of my use of Pinner takes place through the share sheet extension, but I’m finding that the more bookmarks I add to it, the more I use the app itself as a point of reference. It’s the only Pinboard app I’ve used as I arrived at Pinboard around the launch of iOS 8. It’s a great app and I can completely understand why The Sweet Setup recently made it their Pinboard app of choice.

Instapaper, Reeder and Medium – Over the last month I’ve found myself using my iPhone to read on more and more. These three apps are at the forefront of that. I’ve used Instapaper for a long, long time and it was one of the first apps I bought when I joined the iPhone ranks. It’s one of the first apps I recommend to new iPhone users, originally I didn’t think much to the highlights feature, but it is now my favourite thing about the service. Reeder, along with Tweetbot, is how most of the articles in my Instapaper get added. I use it alongside my Fever installation and it is a pleasure to use to quickly get through a bunch of articles and filter off the ones I want to read. Medium is a fairly new addition, I don’t use the app as often as I could but it does provide me a good way to discover new writers and content.

Mail – I try not to check my email from my iPhone but as a self-employed designer it’s very useful to have. I’m still annoyed by it’s lack of a share sheet, and I’m intrigued by Mailbox, so it may well get replaced soon.

Goodreads – I read a lot, in fact in the last month I’ve read an awful lot. I use Goodreads to track my reading, to find new books and authors based on the books I’ve already read.

Sleep Cycle – I use Sleep Cycle for my alarm and have done consistently since the middle of last year. It fascinates me to see my sleep graphs and in general it wakes me up at the right time so I don’t feel groggy and fall back to sleep again.

Instacast – I don’t listen to many podcasts but when I first started to listen to the few that I do, Instacast had just come out. I’ve stuck with it ever since, although I will admit to being impressed by Overcast, I don’t feel I listen to podcasts often enough to warrant spending more money on it.

Spotify – I recently switched from Rdio to Spotify for my music streaming needs. I prefer the design of Rdio, but it became unreliable on my Mac which forced the change. The recent redesigns of the Spotify apps has made the change more bearable and it’s radio stations are second to none.

Camera & Photos – I use the default camera app, although it’s mostly accessed through the lockscreen. I don’t filter my photos often, most of the snaps I take are just that, snaps. The iOS 8 extensions are great and I do find myself using them more, I just wish that VSCO Cam would add an extension to their app.

Maps – I’ve never really had a problem with Apple’s maps. I like the integration with Siri and so it remains on my homescreen for ease of access when out and about.

Fantastical – For a long time I used the built in calendar app, but with the arrival of iOS 8 I made the switch to Fantastical. I like it’s notification centre extension and it’s a lot easier to input events that I don’t understand why I didn’t switch sooner.


I have a positively ancient 16GB black iPad 2 which I got the day after it was released. I’ve used it a lot in that time, mostly for consumption, but in the last month that has begun to change and I’ve had to use it for work a lot more.

There are a lot of apps that appear on my iPhone, so I won’t go into detail with those, just the ones that are unique to my iPad.


Twitterrific – I only really use Twitterrific on my iPad because they haven’t updated Tweetbot for iPad yet, as soon as they do it will be replaced.

SimCity – I’ve slowly become quite addicted to this game since Christmas. I resisted downloading it for along time, but eventually caved and now find myself dipping into it regularly.

Numbers – I’ve begun using my iPad to do some of my business admin. It helps me to stay focused on the task at hand and I use Numbers to keep my finances spreadsheet up to date. Thanks to iCloud it remains in sync with my Mac.

Billings Pro – This is a recent addition to my iPad. For a long time I’ve used Billings on my Mac, but with the upgrade to Yosemite it began to crash and freeze up regularly. Just before Christmas I began looking around for an alternative and Billings Pro seems to be winning, if only for it’s familiarity and the fact I know it does exactly what I need it to. The iPad app is an added bonus that allows me to do some of the less interesting parts of being a self-employed designer (like quotes and invoicing) in a more relaxed environment where I know I won’t be distracted.

A Week In Links

This is the first in what I’m aiming to be a series of weekly posts. Over the last couple of months I’ve become quite appreciative of people who post a weekly article featuring links to a number of articles that are worth reading. I find they provide me with good articles to read in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm or flood my RSS reader, there is no obligation to read everything, just the ones that catch my attention. So, it’s with that in mind, that I’m beginning this series of posts called A Week in Links. A method which will hopefully allow me to share some of those articles I read during the week.

Let me make a note of that

Ever since I got my first iOS device, a 2nd generation iPod Touch, I’ve been on a quest to work out the best way to take notes. I’ve tried a shed load of different apps, Simplenote, Evernote, Notesy, the built in notes app, NVAlt… in fact if you can name it I’ve probably tried it. I’ve always read with interest articles on note taking setups, how people use them, how their go to app on their iPhone works so well for them, and I’ve always struggled to figure out how or why that is.

You see I’ve tried so many times to get into the habit of using an app, or a suite of apps, to make my notes in. But for whatever reason I’ve never been able to stick with one. I’ll go through a spell of forcing myself to use them, to form a habit so that my first thought is to use my phone or the Mac app, but they never stick. I can never get to the point where I can declare, so and so is my goto note writing app.

Except, now that I think about it, I can.

My goto for notes sits right beside me on my desk. In fact for the whole of my working life it’s sat right next to me on my desk, or in my back pocket. What’s it called?

Well it’s called paper, or a notebook, and I make my notes on it with a pen. Try as I might I can not break the habit of using a physical notebook to make my notes.

The habit stretches back to my school days. I always had a notebook, or the back of my exercise books, which I would doodle and scribble in. Then when I was 16 I started a Saturday job in a family run hardware store which further ingrained the habit. I always needed a piece of paper and a pen in my pocket, to make a note of measurements, stock numbers, phone numbers, delivery addresses, you name it and it was on my note paper.

Then when I started uni the habit continued, my sketch book was always with me. I’d use it to make note of ideas for projects, to record comments from crit sessions with my tutors and when I got the odd freelance job, to make notes from client meetings. The way I use my notebooks has barely changed since then. When I meet a client I take my notebook and my iPad, but it never feels natural to pull out my iPad to make notes (I use it to show work). It does however feel natural to pull out a pen and jot down some comments.

There’s something about the convenience of a notebook and pen that an app and my iPhone just can’t break. The technology, which on the surface presents a far more superior experience doens’t seem to be able to break the hold a nice notebook and pen has over me. With my iPhone I can make a note, I can tag it, it’s automatically dated and I can search to easily find what I need. It should be the best way of making notes. Except it isn’t.

Tapping out a note on my iPhone, just doesn’t give me the mental connection that I need when making a note of something. It may be less efficient, in the sense that it might take me a little longer to find a note because I can’t search for it, but I do (generally) remember where on the page I wrote it and over time I’ve developed little quirks to help make things stand out. Tasks get a little box to the left of them, if I think it’s important when I write it, it’ll either get a star or often a box drawn around it. Information gets segregated on the page by lines, but more often than not, the simple act of writing it down is enough to commit it to my memory. It’s something which, in this digital world we now live, I fear we will lose. Processing something in an analogue manner can have a far more lasting effect than doing something digitally.

There’s also something rather nostalgic about using a notebook and pen. I have every single notebook from my professional life as a designer on a shelf. I can pick them up and look back to a certain moment in time and have an instant connection. I can remember where I was, who I was with and what was going on in my life at the time. Some of them are all neat and look like they’ve barely been used from the outside. Most of them are nicely worn, weathered with age they bulge in the middle. But I think most importantly, they present a physical instance of the work I’ve done in my life. The vast majority of it is created on my Mac, sure some of it’s printed, but the ideas and beginnings of it all are in my notebooks. You don’t get that with a list of files on a computer screen, you don’t get little sketches or doodles that seemed like nothing at the time but which turned into a substantial piece of branding. The throw away moments that are so commonly created in a notebook don’t even get considered in a notes app. Those are the very moments I can’t give up, the very moments I won’t give up. They’re the very moments that bring the best out of me and my pen and notebook are the most powerful tools I own.