Posted in: Technology/Software

Using HEY for email

Last week I posted my First impressions of HEY email. Today, I paid the $99 for the next year, so I guess the pros beat the cons.

Sometimes it’s best to just let things go. For example, the idea of “Inbox Zero”. I’ve come to think of Inbox Zero as yet another thing to punish myself about when I fail to achieve it. I don’t need more ways to feel bad about myself. HEY does a good job of making me not care. No unread icons, no notifications by default. Just a list of new emails that fall down into a list of “previously seen” messages once I’ve read them. No rush.

That “previously seen” list represents something else I need to let go of… archiving. It’s taken a few days, but I’m learning to not worry about archiving messages. They just drop out of sight. If I don’t want to lose track of a particular message, I just “set it aside” and it sticks. Or I can put it into the “Reply Later” collection.

Email clients are really just fancy file managers.

I’ve seen many reactions to HEY that claim “HEY is just a bunch of fancy filters, I can easily recreate the experience in Gmail.” While that’s true, sort of, HEY is more than a few clever filters. It’s the less obvious features of HEY, and, along with the general workflow, that are worth such a disruptive change for me. A few examples…

Renaming threads. The ability to change the subject of incoming emails is terrific. Message lists now read like a collection of notes I’ve taken rather than a list of whatever every individual sender blurted out. I now rename half of the messages I receive. I hadn’t realized how many emails I get with hard-to-parse subjects. Now I can fix them, and everyone else still sees the original subject, so this doesn’t confuse anyone.

Merging threads. This is great. I no longer need to manage multiple related threads. I merge them so replies to any of the messages in any thread end up in my merged thread. Everything behaves normally for everyone else, though. Handy.

Bundling senders. There are some senders from which I receive lots of messages. Things like Gitlab, Basecamp, etc. Now I “bundle” those senders and no matter how many messages I get, they only take up one one line in my Imbox (still don’t like “Imbox” but ¯_(ツ)_/¯).

Sticky Notes and Notes to Self. This is huge for me. I often want to add a quick note about an email, so what I used to do was link or copy the message into whatever note-taking tool I’m using and write the notes there. Now, I do it right in the email thread. Before HEY, I only did this with emails that really needed notes, but now I do it all the time because it’s so easy. This is also much better than creating a bunch of draft replies around for keeping notes.

I don’t like that HEY is its own thing and not a “real” email service. And it remains to be seen how well this works once I get a lot of history in there; I’m used to the fancy searching features in Mu4e or MailMate. I can export an mbox file any time and have all my messages local for searching with whatever, so that might work if needed.

I may not be able to fly through my inbox like I used to; tagging and filing and flagging and building new smart mailboxes. On the other hand, HEY makes it so I don’t have to.

Posted in: Photography

Bringing my photos in from the cloud

For years, I’ve kept my photos in a nicely-organized, dated folder hierarchy on my local machine. Eventually, the lure of easy management and ubiquitous access became impossible to ignore, so I spent some time using cloud-based services to manage, edit, and organize my photos.

I’m done doing that, now. I’m back to managing photos locally.

In the process of reeling things back from the cloud, I’ve updated my workflow a bit and will try describing it here.

The current year’s photos go in dated folders on my big iMac’s local hard drive. I’ve decided to call the top-level folder “Negatives”. So photos from today will go in ~/Pictures/Negatives/2019/11-November 2019. I chose to call it Negatives because that’s how I’m thinking about both film scans and RAW digital files. From here on I’ll refer to both scanned film and digital RAW files as “negatives”. Next year I’ll start a new folder and move last year’s off to the Synology.

I maintain a Capture One Pro “session” named “Capture One Inbox”, into which I import all new images. This also includes importing photos from my iPhone. I export periodically from Photos into C1. I think of my iPhone as just another camera/source. After culling and aggressively deleting from this inbox, I move the original files into the appropriate Negatives folder.

From there, I edit the photos I’m interested in using Capture One. Once editing is complete, I export a JPG into my “Digital Print Archive“. The DPA is where I live with the photos after editing. I don’t go back to look at the negatives unless I want to make a completely new version (e.g. black and white) of something.

Not relying on Lightroom or Capture One as the only way to view or catalog my images is comforting, but I still kind of want a catalog. That’s where I’ve started using the still-in-beta Photo Mechanic Plus from Camera Bits. I’ve used the original Photo Mechanic for many years as a tool to ingest, cull, rate, and caption photos. It’s by far the fastest method I know of for doing that. Photo Mechanic Plus introduces comprehensive cataloging to Photo Mechanic.

At first I didn’t take to Photo Mechanic Plus. I found it kind of weird and awkward to use. Subsequent betas have improved things, and I’ve become accustomed to the way it thinks. It’s quite powerful and flexible.

What I’m now doing is cataloging my Digital Print Archives. I’m not cataloging my negatives/RAW files. That seems weird, but really, once I’ve edited and exported a negative, odds are I don’t need to go back and dig through everything again. I truly am thinking of them as negatives.

A positive side effect of this is that I’m no longer tempted to tweak every single photo I view. In Lightroom or C1, as I’m browsing my catalog looking for something I invariably end up spending half the time just making “one more little tweak” to an image I was done with weeks or months ago. Nothing is preventing me from doing this now, it’s just that it’s become a deliberate act rather than a distraction.

I’ve changed my file naming process too. I no longer rename the original negatives. They remain named as they were coming out of the camera. Film scans get my “2019 Roll-NNN-FrameNo” format. When exporting to the DPA I rename them using the format “YYYYMMDD_ORIGINALFILENAME_TITLE.jpg”. It makes the filename a bit longer, but this way I can easily find the original negative based on the filename of the “print”.

From Photo Mechanic I can upload/share/archive whatever. Photo Mechanic is good at that stuff. And fast.

I admit that I also take advantage of Google Photos’ AI features. My entire DPA folder is automatically uploaded to Google Photos. This gives me a great way to browse and share collections from everywhere, without losing control of my library. I’ve decided to ignore my privacy concerns around this for now.

This all sounds pretty complicated when written out like that, but it’s basically this:

Import to C1->Edit->Export->Add to PM+->Share

The filesystem is my binder of negatives. Capture One is my enlarger. The filesystem is where I store and peruse boxes of prints. Photo Mechanic Plus is my librarian. Flickr/Instagram/Blogs are my gallery.

Posted in: Hardware

Why do I try so hard to use an iPad for everything?

I’ve been trying very hard to adopt the iPad as a tool for Serious Work since at least 2013.

I’m not sure why.

It probably started when Federico Viticci (@viticci) started writing about switching to using an iPad only. He claimed to love, and actually prefer it, even though his posts were full of ways he’d learned to work around shortcomings in iOS and how everything was “fine”. Still, it sounded fun.

Many people seem to get along well with only an iPad. I envy them, but why? I’m not at all unhappy with having a desktop Mac or two, and a Macbook or Air or whatever’s relatively portable. What’s the rush?

I’ve had several iPads, starting with the original in 2010. I now have the latest 12.9″ iPad Pro and it’s a wonderful, powerful, beautiful machine.

But…

It’s not a viable full-time device for me. Here’s why1.

The iPad doesn’t multi-task well. “Yes it does!” you exclaim. No, it doesn’t. Not really. What it does is pretend to multi-task by letting me glue two apps side-by-side. That doesn’t count, unless your definition of multi-tasking is quite different than mine.

There’s no terminal. I don’t enjoy working on a device that doesn’t offer me a reasonable set of tools available using the command line.

I want a filesystem. I know, we’re supposed to be in a post-files era, but I’m not ready for that yet. Sending files between apps has gotten better, but it’s still awkward, slow, and inconsistent. Having to import photos from a card reader into one specific app just to get them where I wanted them in the first place is crazy-making.

The software I rely on isn’t available on iOS. Software such as…

  • Tinderbox. There is nothing like Tinderbox, anywhere, on any platform. Tinderbox alone is enough to keep me forever on macOS.
  • Capture One Pro. After flirting with Capture One several times over the years, I finally went all-in last year and it’s fantastic. Why would I want something so much less capable just so I can use an iPad? I wouldn’t.
  • BBEdit. There are some nice, surprisingly powerful text editors on iOS, but they’re nothing like BBEdit. (or VS Code, or Atom, or Vim, or Emacs, or…) for dealing with text.
  • DEVONthink. Yes, there’s DEVONthink To Go, which is nice and I rely on it on the iPad, but mostly as a way to get at the stuff I put into the macOS version. I use templates and AI and scripts all over the place in DEVONthink Pro. I would be worse off without them.

It’s not all bad, of course. I really love my new iPad. Here’s why.

Taking meeting notes and annotating PDFs with the Apple Pencil is fantastic. Once I learned to use Notability and LiquidText on the iPad, I’d never want to go back to doing those things on my Mac.

Photo retouching is more fun on a touch screen. I know I said that I rely on Capture One for processing photos, but for actually retouching them, the Pencil and fingers make great tools. I’m looking forward to doing more of it, but until there’s a way that I can reasonably manage photos on the iPad, retouching them there will be more work than it should be.

I’m doing a little drawing with Procreate. I have a soft spot for real sketchbooks and pencils, but the ability to freely experiment digitally is pretty great, especially since I’m not very good at drawing.

The iPad is great when I just want to go somewhere and write something. Calling the iPad “distraction-free” isn’t accurate. I’m always just a gesture away from many of the same distractions available on the Mac, but it’s just a little harder to get to them. On my Mac’s 27-inch screen I can often see three or four app windows at the same time2. One of them is bound to hold something I can use to keep me from doing whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing. The barriers to multi-tasking on the iPad make for a “distraction-reduced” environment. And a darn fine environment at that.

All this to say that for me to do the things I want to do on a computer, the way that I want to do them, I still prefer using a Mac. The number of things I prefer doing on the iPad continues to increase, and some day it may reach a tipping point. Today, though, I’ll continue using both devices for the things each is best at. There’s no reason to push so hard at switching. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. I’m not sure why I find it hard to remember that.