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Posted by MadaboutDana
Jun 18, 2014 at 10:33 AM


Well, it’s been an interesting learning curve: Macs are nowhere near as like PCs as I thought they were.

There are some great apps out there. DayOne in particular springs to mind. As far as outliners are concerned, my two favourites are Outlinely (essentially exactly the same as Workflowy) and Tree (amazing outliner!). Although I run OmniOutliner on my iPad, I’ve not, for some reason, felt especially inclined to invest in the (rather expensive) desktop version. I have, on the other hand, bought MagicalPad, the desktop version of which is rather impressive.

E-mail is an issue. Apple Mail is, to my great surprise, not great (with a very nasty tendency not to pick up certain e-mails from my primarily IMAP-based suite of accounts). I’ve tried Outlook (much better at picking things up—right up to the moment it crashes and has to rebuild the “Microsoft Database”). I’ve tried various other favourites (Postbox, Thunderbird—both much slower and more hesitant than their PC siblings). I’ve finally settled on Airmail, which is very good, although its search function is rather hit and miss.

Office apps are also interesting. I installed, then discarded, Microsoft Office 2011: a weird mixture of highly competent and distinctly old-fashioned. I used the iWork apps for a time, and they’re not bad, but have some quirks I’m not really prepared to take the time to familiarise myself with (notably language settings). Instead, I’ve installed LibreOffice, which is, I have to say, superb—very fast, very steady.

On my iPad, however, I have to say that Word is superb (apart from, again, limitations on language settings). It’s a great platform for drafting and syncs instantly with OneDrive. For general word processing I rate it higher than Pages.

A large part of my information management system is now based on PDFs, because Adobe Reader and other PDF apps have such efficient and user-friendly search engines. This works especially well on the Mac, which has a plethora of PDF viewers. I use Reader to run searches, and Preview to view source documents and so on. And I’ve also found a replacement for my favourite document manipulator on PC, PDF Split and Merge Basic, which allows me to interleave PDF pages from source (e.g. German) documents with target (e.g. English) translations to create “bitexts” (i.e. dual-language PDFs with the texts side by side). The Mac equivalent is a commercial app at the very reasonable price of £1.50 called PDFSuite (by a German programmer).

Finally, Growly Notes has pretty much replaced OneNote as my web page store of choice. I can print straight to Growly Notes from any application, including e.g. Chrome, Safari etc., and the web pages (or other pages) are saved as embedded PDFs. Growly Notes also indexes them, so I can use the app’s very capable search engine. Sadly, Growly Notes is not cross-platform, but an iPad version should be out later this year.

Still learning, however!

I did invest in Ulysses in the end, but to my embarrassment, find I’m scarcely using it. On the other hand, I haven’t really had a chance to.


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Jun 18, 2014 at 01:01 PM


Interesting update. Thank you.

Curious: Have you developed a work flow for getting items created or saved on the iPad into Growly Notes? This is my big hangup about relying on GN more.

Steve Z.


Posted by Hugh
Jun 18, 2014 at 02:05 PM


An interesting summary.

I agree Growly Notes is worth considering as a non-Microsoft, OneNote Lite option - if for no other reason than that its creator seems ready to attach his name, face and reputation (and track record) to it, in a way that few other shareware developers are prepared to do. As far as I can see, GN has progressed since it was first launched, and the addition of an iPad app should make it more useful.

But I think the key question if moving from a Windows machine to a Macbook, is: To what uses will it be put? In my case, long-form writing has been the key use, so my focus has been on gathering and storing research, sorting my ideas out and getting them down, and planning and scheduling the activities involved. I do use OmniOutliner, partly because of familiarity with and use of other Omni products such as OmniPlan and OmniFocus. But I also like Neo (and before it, Tao, from the same developer), although they sometimes seem over-complicated for the uses to which I put them.


Posted by MadaboutDana
Jun 18, 2014 at 02:37 PM


Two interesting questions:
- with respect to workflow from iPad back to Growly Notes: no, I haven’t really found a perfect solution. But I use both iWork apps and other note-taking apps on the iPad, all of which synchronise with my MacBook. Once they’re on the MacBook, they’re easy to ‘print’ to Growly Notes. Obviously in such cases Growly Notes only acts as a repository, not a round-trip working platform. For that, I’m afraid we have to wait for Growly Notes for iPad!

- with respect to usage: I’ve always tried to keep my main information repositories in ‘neutral’ formats, specifically HTML, PDF and less obviously TXT. On the whole, this means I can transfer the archived data into more or less any system (including e.g. web-based CMS solutions), benefit from full indexing on any platform, and avoid anxieties about possible loss of proprietary support. But OmniOutliner and other outliner apps all support OPML exports, so in principle that acts as a reasonably ‘neutral’ option as well (although as we’ve seen, OPML exports don’t always include notes!).

- with respect to round-trip workflow: we use a platform known as Soonr for our document management, especially of live projects. This is like a business-focused Dropbox, and works extremely well. It also has clients for iOS, Android, Mac OS, Windows and other platforms.

Having said that, my very favourite all-singing, all-dancing app for iOS is Documents by Readdle, which integrates with a wide variety of Cloud services (and is under continuous development). It’s extremely predictable, robust and can be set to synchronise specific folders in e.g. Dropbox, Box, WebDAV servers etc. with set folders on your iPad. When I want to transfer documents quickly and reliably from one platform to another, it’s usually Documents I turn to!

Speaking of which, one of the best apps I’ve found on the Mac rivals Copernic Desktop and even DTSearch for sheer searching power. It’s called FoxTrot, and comes in Personal and Professional versions. So far, I’ve found the Personal one quite powerful enough, but I can see sense in moving to the Professional for the convenience of more search parameters from the start (the Personal version can also be tweaked, but not as easily). The app indexes pretty much everything (PDFs, MS Office, iWork, you name it) and generates search results with WYSIWYG previews very quickly indeed. Makes Spotlight look a bit tragic, frankly.


Posted by Franz Grieser
Jun 18, 2014 at 04:47 PM


Thanks for this post. I’ll get my Mac Mini (no real need for a Macbook Air as I had thought) in the next few days and am looking forward to trying some of the apps you mentioned.

Have you tried Curio? And how does that compare to MagicalPad on the Mac?
Or maybe Stephen can tell?

TIA, Franz


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