software, software.apple

Why I Gave Up Evernote

I used to prefer Evernote (why) over other productivity apps. I thought I’d never do it, but I have moved from Evernote to Apple Notes. Here are the reasons why; in random order.

Sync 

Cross-device Evernote sync messes up my shortcuts within the app. After carefully organizing the shortcuts on my Mac, I turn on my (normally idle) iPad; which reverts the shortcuts back to the last time I had my iPad on. I couldn’t find any way to disable that.

Visual

Despite persistent user requests, Evernote Mac still doesn’t have a dark mode. After activating the dark mode of Mac Os Mojave, Evernote was the only bright & shiny window left, which was undesirable to tell the least.

When using Mojave in dark mode, the list view messes up with random black lines; and I was unable to get this bug through to the development team (read further).

In my opinion; Evernote is slow to follow the visual trends on Mac anyway. It doesn’t feel like a native modern Mac App to me; it sometimes feels like a program running in a virtual box or something.

Editor

Evernote editor is not very good if you use a lot of indentation in your notes. You can indent a line, but as soon as you hit enter, the new line starts at column zero. This might be insignificant for many users; but as a programmer working with indentations all the time, I find that frustrating.

Support

I was using the paid version of Evernote, and expected to have a decent support. However; getting a bug or significant request to the actual development team is really painful and time consuming.

First, they assign you a random community member which assumes that you are a random dummy end-user and forces you to walk through uninstallation, deletion of cache and whatnot – which never helped in my cases. Then, you need to provide screenshots and videos; which is fair. But most of the time, the random member told me that this matter is or is not in the development plan; and you can’t get through that.

You can try posting on the forums, but I got no response from Evernote devs from there either. It is so time consuming and frustrating that I totally gave up submitting bugs and suggesting new ideas.

Features

I have noticed that I don’t use most of the paid features at all. The ones that I use are available for free on other platforms. So, it didn’t make sense to keep my subscription active.

I have simplified my productivity workflow; and I don’t need the (otherwise wonderful) tagging / searching / linking / etc. capabilities any longer. The ones I need are available on other platforms as well; such as Apple-scripting, sharing, cross-device availability, etc.

(I am planning to write about my new simplified productivity workflow as well; follow me for updates.)

My Choice: Apple Notes

Looking for an alternative; I have found that the latest version of Apple Notes has all the capabilities I need + better Siri integration. Moving from Evernote to Notes was also very easy; I have simply exported my notes from Evernote and imported them into Notes, and was back to productivity within 15 minutes or so. Here is a useful guide on the subject.

Evernote is still a very good and powerful product though, if you like it and don’t have any frustrations, keep it.

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software, software.apple

Why I Prefer Evernote

Update: I don’t prefer Evernote any longer, the post below is outdated. Check my post Why I Gave Up Evernote .


I am asked frequently why I picked Evernote over its competitors. Here are my subjective reasons in alphabetical order.

AppleScript support. With very little programming knowledge, anyone can use AppleScript to automate Evernote tasks. I wrote scripts to pull Jira data into Evernote, create tag matrix notes, determine notes I modified today and many more; which definitely make my digital life much easier.

Content. Evernote can contain a virtually unlimited amount of text, images and file attachments. It is also possible to create tables, checklists, etc. It can also clip Web pages to create new notes.

Cross-platform. If I switch to another OS someday, I don’t have to worry about accessing my notes.

E-Mail. Evernote gives me a free E-Mail address. Any mail I send there turns into a note. Very good functionality to feed 3rd party app content into Evernote, or maintain an Inbox Zero.

Flexibility. Evernote provides a flexible system including notebooks & tags, which can match any workstyle. In my current personal system; I have distinct notebooks for active, deferred, idle tasks and templates. I put two tags to each note: One tag determines the priority (p1, p2, p3) and another tag determines the scope (dev, music, writing, etc).

Reliability. Evernote application worked fine so far, and the company is unlikely to go out of business any time soon.

Search. Evernote provides a very powerful search tool to query notes. I can search notes over notebooks, tags, keywords, modification dates, file attachments, checklists, etc. Search queries can be saved and re-called any time needed.

Siri. I can dictate new notes over Siri. Very useful when I get new ideas while driving.

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software, software.apple

How To Merge GMail’s Important Folder into Apple Inbox

There is an annoying problem experieced by Apple Mail users with GMail accounts.

GMail creates a virtual mailbox called “Important”, which displays your seemingly important mails. That’s all good and fine until you attempt to access GMail over Apple Mail application on your Mac.

What happens is, the e-mails in your “Important” folder don’t show up in the inbox of Apple Mail. You see them via GMail Web, but not in Apple Mail. Considering that those are actually important E-Mails, the problem is pretty frustrating.

I have constructed a workaround for this annoying problem, which might help others out there.

First; go to your GMail settings, go to the tab “Labels” and ensure that your “Important” folder is enabled via IMAP.

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 17.06.05

After this step, Apple Mail will start showing up your “Important” folder. You can see the mails by accessing that separate folder.

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 17.06.51

However, the “Important” mails still won’t show up in your inbox. To work around this problem; go to the menu Mailbox – New Smart Mailbox and include your inbox + the “Important” folder.

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 17.08.35

Voila! From now on; you will click the smart mailbox to see all of your E-Mails.

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 17.09.19.png

If there is a direct way to merge all mails into the inbox, please let us know in the comments.

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software, software.apple

Evernote Daily Progress Report

I manage my life plans and todo lists in Evernote; both personal and business. For every task I need to work on, I have a corresponding Evernote item.

A typical work day ends with a review of what I did on that day. A clever Evernote search query returns me just that:

tag:"#ecz" updated:day

#ecz is the tag I use on job related notes. updated:day covers the notes created or updated today. Combining them both, I get to list the job related notes I created or updated today. Cool, right?

Please note that Evernote search queries don’t return deleted notes at this time. So if you deleted a note, it won’t appear in the search results. Be mindful of that.

For more information on search capabilities of Evernote, you can check the following articles:

Bonus information: On a Mac, Evernote can also be automated via scripting; you can check my sample codes on GitHub. You can also check Why I Prefer Evernote .

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life, software, software.apple

No Instant Defective Device Replacement at Apple Online Store Turkey

Summary

I ordered a new iPad from the Apple Online Store Turkey, which had a minor defect on its screen. Apple support said that I would have to wait 10 days for a replacement. Brick & mortar Apple stores do instant replacements in such cases; therefore, I don’t recommend anyone using the online store for substantial purchases.

Details

Last week, one of my peers approached me and asked if I’d be willing to sell my (2012) iPad to her. I use my iPad in meetings and on the stage in case I need to read music while playing. Therefore; it has an important place in my daily life, but I don’t need too much computing power. Nevertheless; I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to upgrade my hardware. We shook hands, I passed the iPad to her and ordered a new one from the Apple Online Store Turkey. Needless to say, the delivery was very fast and I was playing around with my new Apple toy in no time.

However; I noticed a black fleck on the screen. It’s not a dead pixel because it’s visible when the iPad is turned off as well. It’s either a tiny crack within the glass, or a little piece of dust between glasses. It doesn’t really affect my usage, but defects cause raised eyebrows when you are re-selling your device. And why not have a perfect device when you paid for it?

Being a long time Apple fan, I confidently contacted support to talk about my replacement options. The people I talked with were very polite and knowledgeable; however, the result was very disappointing. They said that the cargo company would contact me within 48 hours, pick the defective iPad up, carry it to some facility for inspection, and a new one would be sent to me within 7 days. That makes 10 days in total. Although I asked for different options, I was told that there isn’t one.

I could get an instant replacement if the purchase was made from a brick & mortar store.

I use an iPad extensively at work and on the stage, and sold my old iPad. So I don’t have 10 days to live without an iPad. If that was an iPhone, living 10 days without a phone would be impossible either – not everyone has a backup device. Therefore, I was forced to live with my defective device. I don’t know what else to do, and I’m very dissatisfied.

Bitter lesson learned: Never ever purchase a substantial Apple device from the online store unless you have a backup, because you don’t get instant replacements like the brick & mortar Apple stores.

Supplementary

The order was made at 2017-07-11, my order number was W430294017, and the incident number of the issue was 100236141732.

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software, software.apple

How To Correct The Local File Glitch of Spotify on a Mac

Recently, I have experienced & solved a minor glitch of Spotify on my Mac. I would like to share the solution with everyone out there.
I have deleted a large quantity of local MP3 files “because of reasons”. After I restarted Spotify, I have experienced two problems:
  • The deleted files were still listed under “Local files”
  • I couldn’t stream any song which used to be a local file
Among countless suggestions on online forums, only one worked for me. After quitting Spotify, open terminal and execute the following command:
mv "`mdfind local-files.bnk`" "`mdfind local-files.bnk`.old"
The command above will rename the local-files.bnk file, which stores the local file list. This forces Spotify to re-scan the local folders and re-build the file; and voila! Everything goes back to normal.
In case anything goes wrong in Spotify, one could rename local-files.bnk.old back to local-files.bnk.
If you happen to have multiple instances of “local-files.bnk” files belonging to various applications, this command would rename them all and potentially confuse other applications as well; but this is very improbable. I don’t think that any other application would have such a file.
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life, music, software, software.apple

Spotify vs Apple Music

Being an active musician, I was an advocate of having a music archive of offline MP3 files. However; due to the popularity of stream services, I decided to give it a shot.

Spotify and Apple Music were obvious choices. In terms of hardware, I live in the Apple universe; so Apple Music was supposed to be an obvious choice. On the other hand, I heard many good things about Spotify as well.

I ended up picking Spotify over Apple Music and deleting most of my offline MP3 files.

I would like to share my highly subjective personal comparison experience; where I might have missed some features of the respective services. Nevertheless, the overall comparison could be useful to you.

Spotify

Pros

Public Playlists

Spotify seems to have a much larger database of playlists because users are able to create & publish playlists on will. Therefore, search results are more satisfying in a number of ways.

First of all, I can run a search like “Sunday Morning Country” and I’m almost guaranteed to make a hit.

Another point is, I can discover surprise songs or artists over those playlists because a vast variety of people with different musical tastes put them together.

This is clearly an advantage of Spotify because Apple seems to limit public playlists to curators.

Similar Songs

In terms of discovery, Spotify has a neat feature: If you play a single song, it keeps playing similar songs – unless you disable this feature in settings. This feature carries the discovery option beyond playlists of the community.

I am not aware of such a feature in Apple Music.

Social

Spotify provides basic but neat options in terms of social media. Every Spotify user gets an URL pointing his/her profile (mine is http://open.spotify.com/user/keremkoseoglu ). This URL contains a profile picture and public playlists of the user. It is a good way to give the world an overall impression of what you are listening to, or a cover band could make their setlist public via this feature.

It is also possible to follow Facebook friends over Spotify to see what they are listening to.

As far as I know, Apple Music lacks such features completely.

Free Offline Play

If you want to play your favourite streams offline, Spotify gives this opportunity for free. You can download any stream to your computer or smartphone and listen offline anytime.

In theory, Apple provides a similar functionality; but with a catch: Even if you want to create a simple playlist, you must subscribe to iCloud music library, which forcefully uploads your local MP3 files to the cloud and costs ~1$ per month if you exceed 5GB (that includes your contacts, other files, calendars, backups, etc as well). So in practice, Apple makes you lean towards the direction where you pay 1$ per month to create any stream playlist.

Although Apple theoretically provides this functionality for free, Spotify provides it free for real. Therefore, Spotify has the upper hand here.

Superior Interface

This is a highly subjective matter. However; in my opinion, the user interface of Spotify is very good. The fade in / out effect and the dark background gives a smooth feeling.

Apple, on the other hand, has the usual bright white iTunes interface with Apple TV-like shelves of albums and presents tons of ugly scrollbars. It isn’t really pretty.

I wouldn’t pick an application over others just because it has a pretty UI; but it certainly contributes to the overall user experience. This is one of the winning points of Spotify.

Cons

Vendor Lock In

Spotify doesn’t give you an opportunity to download MP3 files. If I decide that I don’t want to pay Spotify any further, I’m left alone without any music file on my computer.

I can keep offline copies of music files on my computer or phone; but those are encrypted and can only be played using the Spotify app.

If you consider Apple Music as a streaming platform, the same applies to Apple as well. However; iTunes platform lets you purchase digital music files as well – which literally are your property and can be downloaded in MP3 format any time you want.

If you would like to purchase legal digital music files for any purpose (like changing the pitch for practicing or syncing into an offline MP3 player), Apple has an edge here because it gives you an option for that. It is not part of the streaming business, but at the end of the day, Spotify feels more like a vendor lock in.

Apple Music

Pros

Single App

Apple has merged various features on one single platform called iTunes. Using only one application, you can stream music, purchase MP3’s, add MP3’s from other sources, rent / purchase movies, stream free Internet radio, etc. iTunes can organise your local file system as well – it breaks music files under folders categorised by artist and album.

Spotify’s application lets you stream music and include local MP3’s and that’s it.

If you are looking for an all-in-one solution, Apple has the distinct advantage here. If you are a best-of-breed picker, you’ll have to compare Spotify and Apple Music alone and ignore other features of iTunes.

Smart Playlist

Smart playlist is an area where Apple has a distinct advantage.

We all can define manual playlists by adding songs one by one. However, Apple gives us the opportunity to write formulas to dynamically create playlists which update themselves automatically as we add new songs to our library.

For instance; I can create a playlist which includes all of my rock songs but excludes songs from the band Beautiful Disaster. This playlist will automatically update itself as I add more rock songs over time.

Another example: I can merge songs of 5 artists + a manually managed playlist under a smart playlist. Whenever I add a new song of those artists or update the manual playlist, the smart playlist is updated automatically.

Spotify doesn’t have such a functionality. The closest you can get is to put your playlist under a folder. By playing the entire folder, you can include songs from all the playlists.

For simple requirements, Apple’s smart playlist feature may look like overkill. However; more advanced users will appreciate this feature.

Sorting Playlists

Apple music playlists can be displayed in a file browser fashion and songs can be sorted by various criteria; such as the last time they were played. This is a very good feature for musicians (like me) who would like to practice their playlists daily – it is a good way to ensure that each song gets practiced. Dozens of other columns can also be added for sorting.

Spotify lets us sort by song name, artist name or date added, and that’s it. I saw users requesting additional columns on forums, but Spotify didn’t do anything about it yet.
In case you need to sort your playlist by peculiar columns or display select columns for a specific playlist, Apple has a distinct advantage at this time.

Cons

Public Playlists

Apple loves controlling things. They are totally in control of their hardware & software, which enables them to create arguably more stable products. They also control the apps on their App Store in order to improve the user experience and prevent malicious bugs / viruses.

It seems like Apple has projected their control tendency towards Apple Music as well. The playlists I have found on Apple Music were created by curators or artists that Apple has picked. As far as I know, rest of the community can’t create publicly searchable playlists.

Result? I feel like I’m limited to the taste of a few people to discover new music; not the entire music community. And the playlists I have inspected felt “sterile”; which means they mostly contain main stream pieces of their respective genre. I was never surprised to discover a peculiarly beautiful song or artist.

Spotify enables it’s community to publicly create playlists and has the edge here.

I generally favour Apple’s control over their hardware & software to provide a stable user experience; but limiting the playlists might have gimped the community contribution.

Artist Overview

When I discover a new artist or simply want to listen to an artist I love, I tend to listen to all of his/her songs; including all the available albums.

In my experience; Apple doesn’t enable such a feature easily. One could do a workaround by creating a playlist including all the albums of the desired artist; but this is simply an extra workload.

Considering that I can listen to the entire library of an artist on Spotify with a simple click, this is a disadvantage on behalf of Apple Music.

iCloud Music Library

Basically, Apple forces us to use its iCloud Music Library service in order to create playlists including songs from Apple Music.

At first sight, this seems reasonable. Apple uses iCloud in any scenario where you need to share content between multiple Apple devices. Your contacts, calendars, etc are all shared over iCloud.

The catch is; if you have offline MP3 files on your computer, activating iCloud Music Library will force-upload them to iCloud as well. And, iCloud offers only 5 GB’s of free space. If you want to upgrade it to 50 GB, you have to pay ~1$ per month.

This might look like small amount, but considering that Apple has 13M subscribers, this strategy leans towards the direction where Apple would earn an extra 13M$ per month.
Spotify, on the other hand, makes playlists available to any device without any additional subscription.

Apple could have easily given us the opportunity to create “Apple Music Only” playlists, but they simply didn’t.

If you don’t have a large number of offline MP3 files, this might not disturb you at all. However; Apple has a notorious history of iCloud file system bugs and posting DRM’s over legally owned MP3 files. Therefore, I subjectively don’t trust Apple with storing any file on iCloud.

Because I don’t want my offline MP3 files anywhere on iCloud, this point is a clear disadvantage for me.

Play Experience

This might be a personal issue due to my location or Internet connection, but I’m not completely satisfied with the listening experience of Apple Music. When I start playing a song, I have to wait a few seconds before it actually starts playing. I have also experienced pauses while listening.

Spotify has provided a seamless listening experience so far.

Although I can’t empirically blame Apple for this issue, I evaluate this as a negative personal user experience.

Verdict

Let’s do a summary of my evaluation.

Spotify offers a great community and a good opportunity to discover new songs & artists; as well as a nice user interface. However, it does nothing but streaming music, and internal playlist options are limited. As of today, it has around 40M paid users.

Apple Music is part of an all-in-one solution; covering streaming, purchasing music, free Internet radio, renting movies, etc. Internal playlist options are very strong. However; its playlists are too sterile – opportunities of discovery are relatively slim. It also lacks community interaction and nudges subscribers towards a paid iCloud account. As of today, it has around 13M paid users.

All in all, I picked Spotify over Apple Music for streaming purposes. Spotify happily accepted my rare local MP3 files as well, and there was no reason to keep the rest of my library (30 GB).

However, I’m still using iTunes to rent movies. That’s another business.

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