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Using Bear as an Apple Notes Replacement

  • February 7, 2018
  • Blog

Note-taking has become a staple in any modern computer in your pocket, backpack, or tablet sleeve. That much is clear, but the apps in which people write their notes in has been a point of contention ever since there were blogs.Apple Notes was my app of choice ever since I switched to iOS and has been my go-to note-taking app since, until I started using Bear shortly after its release.

There are a number of reasons that I can now say that Apple Notes is no longer my favorite note-taking app, here are a few of them.

Markdown

Markdown has been my preferred syntax in writing since Is started to learn it in 2014. It is simple, effective, and doesn’t require anything special.

John Gruber created an amazing way to write the majority of what is needed in blogging without ever needing anything except a word processor and a few specific characters memorized.

Markdown not only is a very nice tool to use on other platforms, it also is universal and allows you to write what you have to say and focus less on how you’re going to say it. Apple Notes doesn’t have Markdown support, instead it has its own formatting stuff that pretty much boxes itself out from other apps if you want to move it elsewhere. Essentially, Apple Notes makes your words and ideas squatters in a home, only coming out with certain conditions and rules.

I will say that Bear has its own “flavor” of Markdown, but with a quick change in the General Settings of Bear you can put it into “Markdown Compatibility Mode” and all will be the same as other Markdown apps.

This entire review was written in Markdown inside the Bear app. Including all the images, links, and text formatting you see.

Customization

There are a number of things you can customize within Bear that you simply can’t in Apple Notes, making Bear offer a unique and personalized experience to whomever is using it. Notes has improved their overall look from a journal with lined paper to now a clean look where your words pop.

However, changing the background color, the font, and the font size leaves a lot to be desired. Some of these things can be done on Apple Notes, but not easily nor to the capacity Bear offers.

Themes

Where Bear shines brighter than other writing applications is their themes. From light themes, dark themes, and everything in between Bear offers the look a vast majority of people would want when they are writing notes, or even long form.

The dark themes are especially eye-catching because of how useful they can be for people that find a white text on a black screen easier to work with than the illuminating white background and black text.

To date there are 13 theme options, some being from a recent update earlier this year. I personally like the High Contrast theme for a light theme and Panic Mode as a dark theme.

A really nice addition is that each theme has its own app icon as well. You can choose whether to use the theme icon or not when selecting one in the app.

Typography

One feature I didn’t know about until very recently is that you can change the font in the app, which blew me away because it offered a whole other level of customization I didn’t even think I needed. Needless to say I played around with it and found that I actually prefer the system font over the standard Avenir Next font it ships with. Something about have the same uniform font across all applications is more appealing to me. There are a few other options to match most peoples needs. To change the font simply go to Settings within Bear and tap on “Editor” and from there you will see the option for “Typography.”

Organization and Functionality

So far I have only spoken about the cosmetic features Bear offers, which are great, but when you are talking about a notes application the proof is in the pudding. To stick with the analogy, Bear’s “pudding” is so rich you won’t be able to enjoy any other pudding the same way again.

Checklists

When I work with my notes, I sometimes find myself needed to make a list of items or things to do into a checklist, which used to mean I would take the list I created in Apple Notes and have to create a Workflow to make this list into a format another Markdown app supports. With Bear, it is a simple selection of the text and tapping on a checkbox in their custom shortcut menu.

Not only that, but Bear has sweat the details so much you can go into settings and have it automatically fold any sub-lists once the main item is checked off. Meaning you don’t have to deal with the 16 tasks under one big project checklist you created after completion. Next time you enter the app all the completed tasks will fold into a gray icon with three dots. Which allows more screen real estate available to the remaking unchecked items.

Bear checklist before fold

Bear checklist before fold

Bear checklist with fold

Bear checklist with fold

Tagging system

Organizing your notes and lists in Apple Notes is probably the most frustrating thing about the app. Not only can you not sync your notes with third party services like Dropbox, you aren’t allowed any subfolders. So if you have plans to keep notes for that big project for work, the project has to have its own folder rather than being a subfolder within the Work folder you already had.

With Bear that all goes away, because Bear uses something similar, but different. They use a tagging system, and they allow sub-tags. For all intents and purposes this is the same as folders and subfolders. Regardless of the terminology, Bear allows you to have those project notes inside its own folder wherever you want. It doesn’t have to be a top-level folder.

Bear has actually made some serious updates to their tagging system as of late. They have now implemented autocomplete features so when you begin typing a tag within the not a pop-up dialog box appears where you can then select any existing tags that fit what is already written. It makes thing a lot easier from an organizational standpoint, and prevent users from using several tags that all have the same meaning.

The Little Things

Now that I have converted both the cosmetic and the functional portion of Bear, there are still some things that these developers have put in that deserve to be mentioned.

Icons for tags

Bear’s tagging system is not only very functional, they managed to put in a few secret nuggets of fun to boot. If you use tags like “Podcast” or “Blog” or “Personal” Bear automatically assigns icons (what they are calling “TagCons” for now) for those tags that are seemingly prebuilt in the application.

Bear TagCons Bear TagCons

If you use a tag that doesn’t meat this hidden criteria, they will use a generic “#” instead, which looks all well and good, but those TagCons that appear magically really make all the difference.

Handling of Drag and Drop

When I am working on notes for my podcast Getting Caught Up I tend to use a lot of links to things mentioned in the show. As I said before I prefer Markdown, as it is my favorite way to write, but it also is supported by my podcast host, Simplecast.

Before Bear I had to copy and paste each link in a new document, then find the summary and/or title of the articles I grabbed and then put in a serious amount of time to do the tidying up.

With Bear, I simply have to drag from the page in Safari and drop in into my Bear note where it gets the heading of the page and uses that as the text to encase the URL in. It makes for bringing webpages and articles a breeze and easily saves me an hours work.

What Bear isn’t doing that Notes can

While it is easy to tell I am a fan of Bear, there are some things that Apple Notes has that the note-taking app should consider building in.

Secure notes

Apple Notes added the functionality of having secure notes in a recent update, meaning that in order to access notes you deem private it requires either a passcode you set or Touch ID (Face ID for iPhone X).

While this was never something I used because I put my secure notes in 1Password, I do see the importance of having this option. Whether it is you banking information or just a Christmas Gift list you don’t want anyone to stumble upon on accident, the ability to thwart any snooping eyes with this added security is important.

I am not sure whether Bear hasn’t implemented this because of limitation in what Apple allows users to use (which I doubt because this kind of security is used for password managing apps all the time) or it simply isn’t something that the developer have pushed out yet.

If it is the latter, BEar needs to make the effort to make this a reality, security is a growing concern among Apple users every single day, and one way to retain your current users, and probably gain new users, is with this option.

Document scans

Sometimes when you are working with others or even for yourself, there are times when you get physical items like contracts and information you want to keep for “future you.” If you are like me, you try and go paperless as much as possible.

Sadly, Bear doesn’t have any kind of document scanning app like that of Apple Notes as of iOS 11. Granted, you can use 3rd party apps to make this happen, but going from one app to another just to keep a contract on hold for later can be a dealbreaker to some. If Bear were to implement this feature, it would dramatically improve some people’s workflows and allow them to make the complete switch over.

Final Thoughts

Bear is a colossal giant among note-taking apps and after getting deep int the application making the switch over was one of the best things I have ever done for personal productivity and keeping my thoughts organized.

you can download Bear for free, but I recommend going Pro early on for either $1.49 a month or $15.00 a year. The features you get when upgrading can be explained on Bear’s pricing page.

Did I miss something in this article or have any corrections? Feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email contact@tablethabit.com.

iCab Mobile – The Best Browser for iPad

  • December 19, 2017
  • Blog

Browsing the net on any device that has internet capabilities is nothing new, but not every web browser is equal, and same goes for device.
A lot of people have been saying that the future of media consumption is mobile, and it is mostly right except for many use-cases where an iPad simply doesn’t work the same as a Mac or Windows computer.

The iPad is in a gray area when it comes to how it loads websites, some load it as a desktop would while other websites have been optimized to load their mobile versions on the iPad. Now, this isn’t normally a problem but sometimes you need to view the desktop version of a website. Thankfully Safari has some capabilities for this, but even then there’s no guarantee it will work. Enter the fix for this, and many other problems, iCab Mobile.

iCab Mobile is a web browser packed with features and workarounds that can tackle any issues you may have within other web browsers like Safari. From custom settings, modules, reader mode, and the ability to download files locally the power a browser like this has for the iPad is infinite.

Here are Four uses I come to iCab for regularly.

Downloading Videos

Videos on an iPad is nothing new, but when you are on the go with your device and not sure of the signal you will get or the wifi situation, it can be a hassle trying to get your videos to stream. This is where iCab comes in.

With a simple tap and hold on a video you can download it straight to your device and play it within iCab, which also allows you to have it play in Picture in Picture mode as well.

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/2E836F75-058B-49F5-8A2B-6BEADE2D579E.png" alt=""/>

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/6749270F-3F71-43D4-A049-C7A2A200E3A2.png" alt=""/>

In my testing this works for nearly every type of HTML 5 player so Wistia, YouTube, and other native players on websites works with this.

Spoofing Device Network

As mentioned before, one thing that is an inconsistent issue is the fact that some websites treat iPads as mobile devices and shows the mobile version of their site, while other websites see it as a netbook/desktop version.

The times where you get the mobile version of the site but need the desktop version to get what you need to do done can be frustrating. Safari has this fixed in some instances where you can press and hold on the refresh page and request the desktop version of the site, but this only works some of the time.

the other times you are either out of luck and have to grab a laptop to get the task done, or you can use iCab and change the network settings to a plethora of options.

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/61493397-B4E7-43C1-B856-CA8CE8CBD3F4.png" alt=""/>

With this option you can change the device your iPad can be recognized as and voila you are set!

This might not be a frequent problem you have but it surely is one that can make you start ripping your hair out and solutions like this built right into the browser is a lifesaver.

A Better Share Sheet

Over the years, iOS has gotten better about allowing apps to share things to them, allowing tunnels and gateways to send information from one app to another with just a few taps, but there can be some issues with it.

The main problem is that sometimes the services you want them to go to aren’t readily accessible and you find yourself playing hide and seek to find the icon you need and checking every nook and cranny until it is found.

With iCab, this is no longer a problem as they have a custom share sheet that you get when tapping on the share icon. It gives you loads of options that may not be available in the standard share sheet. Things like a twin browser, and access to saving passwords are more accessible.

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/A1CED438-EB8B-4AFF-83A9-E59E55D63B8C.png" alt=""/>

They also have a modules, allowing the most popular services like Pocket, Instapaper, and some not so known ones, to be just a tap away.

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/546C984F-7E3F-41CC-BA47-238DE03A98C5.png" alt=""/>

The inclusion of both of these options within the app make the standard share sheet almost obsolete, but if you do prefer it over these options you can just press and hold on the share icon and the regular share sheet will show without issue.

Keyboard Support

May people who use their iPad as their main computer find they have an external keyboard attached to their iPads to allow for faster typing and keyboard shortcuts. iCab Mobile has no shortage for keyboard shortcuts.

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/436DDF69-6ADD-4ED7-A80D-8A2ECE6A9D4F.png" alt=""/>

Honorable Mentions

While these 4 things are what i use iCab for the most this app isn’t close to being done. Here are just a few short things that iCab offers that may fit your needs.

Users

iCab is the only browser I have seen on the iPad that offers separate users, meaning you and another person can have their own username and settings that fit them. This also goes for bookmarks and quick start links per user.

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/3C9ACC50-49B0-4AB9-A456-BB3EA98F778B.png" alt=""/>

Reading List

While safari has its own reading list functionality, with the other services and tools this app provides it seems antiquated to revert to the Safari reading list.

Fullscreen Mode

When you want to have a video take the whole screen or just want a more minimal feeling with your browsing experience iCab has that covered as well. With a simple tap you can hide nearly all of the toolbars and still have the functionality of the most common options iCab offers.

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/8E044AA8-1FC1-43AD-AA2A-C5B48D1AFA3F.png" alt=""/>

Reading Mode

Much like the Reading list, iCab also has a reading mode, which allows you to get rid of the clutter on a page and only have to worry about the media you want to consume. Safari has this as well, but like the reading list the options you have here are ten-fold more powerful. You can even have iCab read the text to you with Siri integration.

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/EC4DDFE1-09C1-45D5-A79F-A85CA13A33AC.png" alt=""/>

Conclusion

So if you find yourself frustrated by the limitation the iPad has on the web, or want something to increase you experience browsing online this app is for you!

<

p id=”yui_3_17_2_1_1518970896312_136963″>iCab Mobile is developed by Alexander Clauss. If you do want to download this app you can do so here, the app has some in-app purchases but is at most $5.99 for the full upgrade, which is a steal for when you are in need of a quick fix.

Turning Your iPad Into A Second Display

  • November 23, 2017
  • Blog

Dual monitors are all the rave now a days. They make working in the office a breeze and even help increase productivity. Clicking between tabs and dragging windows here and there are a thing of the past. The best part about technology now is that you can have your multiple screens at home and take them on the go provided you have the proper hardware, and software, for the job. My favorite thing to do is have my reference image or whatever YouTube video I’m watching to pass the time, on one screen and have my work on the other screen.  The iPad is great for this.

As long as you have an iPad that runs iOS 7.0 or later, you can have a portable second screen. The app that I find the best for this task is Duet Display. I’d like to start off by saying that the app is a paid application and comes in at $15.99 but I promise, it’s worth it. Plus, the accompanying Mac app is one hundred percent free.

The Duet app supports all iOS device that run 7.0 or later (Older versions of the app are compatible for devices that can only run iOS 7.0). As far as the Mac, Duet supports macOS 10.9 and later. However, the creators of Duet Display recommend that for the best experience with macOS Sierra that you upgrade to macOS 12.12.2. If you’re running any of the older macOS such as Mountain Lion or older you won’t be able to take advantage of what Duet Display has to offer.

This isn’t an application just for Apple products, PC users don’t turn away, there is support for PCs as long as they’re running Windows 7 or later.

The best features include the fact that there is basically no lag which is amazing especially if you’re doing intensive work such as coding or video editing. Also, if you happen to have one of the latest MacBook Pros with touchBar support then Duet also bring that feature over to whatever tablet you’re using. I personally haven’t found any use for that feature but I’m sure someone, somewhere will. You can also change the display and performance levels to create a more optimal and efficient experience.

If you do choose to use your iPad as a second display then there is this amazing device that the people over at Ten One Design created specifically for something like this. The Mountie give you the option of clipping your iPad or iPhone directly to your MacBook and as per their website it also let’s the user “enjoy eye-level FaceTime video chats, monitor your Twitter feed, iMessage with family, or even host a live recording session with friends from afar.” Because I have the larger 12.9′ iPad Pro I haven’t personally used the Mountie but I have seen it in action and it does seem to provide a seamless experience. (If you’re interested in purchasing and for more information on the Mountie, please visit Ten One Design’s website HERE.)

Alternatives to Duet Display

If you don’t particularly prefer to shell out that much cash on Duet Display there are other apps that do the same thing at a significantly cheaper cost. These apps include Air Display 3 ($9.99) and iDisplay ($14.99).

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