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5Mar/13Off

Logitech Ultrathin is a good, but cramped, keyboard for the iPad mini

One of the things I never thought I would miss when I made the switch to an iPad mini is my keyboard case. I loved using my Jot Writer 2 Plus with my iPad 2, and the friend who subsequently inherited that iPad also loves the case. I never thought I would need or want a keyboard to go with the iPad mini.

But, there are a growing number of keyboard cases for the iPad mini. Steve Sande took a look at the Belkin Portable Keyboard Case for iPad mini, but found it a bit frustrating to use because of certain key placements and the stand. I'm taking a look at the $79.95 Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard for iPad mini, and if I was to recommend any keyboard case for an iPad mini, this one would be it -- even though it has its own quirks.

Design

If you're familiar with the larger Ultrathin Keyboard Case for the iPad, then the mini version doesn't add anything new. This is a svelte case, thinner than the non-keyboard cover I'd been using on my iPad mini and weighs around 7.33 ounces.

Like Apple's Smart Cover, it attaches to the front of your iPad by magnets and activates the iPad's sleep/wake function by opening and closing the lid. The resulting sandwich of iPad and case is still thin. I keep the mini tucked in the back pocket of my normal purse (a Rickshaw Bags mini commuter messenger) with the case on with no issues. If you want to use your iPad without the keyboard, you'll need to detach it. Just make sure not to lose it, and turn the keyboard off so you're not wasting the power.

It comes in two models: all black and white/aluminum. There is a deep, notched groove that will let your iPad mini stand in landscape or portrait mode. A power button, Bluetooth-pairing button and micro USB charging port are on the upper-right of the keyboard. It does a good job at protecting the front of your iPad, but I found that the aluminum got dirty quickly when I was using it on different tables. The nature of the keyboard case means the back of your iPad mini will be unprotected, so you might want to take a look at a skin to use with it if you want to avoid scratches.

Functionality

When it comes to scaling keyboards down for the iPad, and especially the iPad mini, there are some sacrifices that have to be made. A lot of keyboard makers cram multiple functions onto a single key, forcing you to stop and stare at the keyboard for a moment to figure out what combination you need to hit to do a quotation mark.

Logitech tries to make those changes minimal on the iPad mini, despite the much smaller working area. Instead of pairing some of the punctuation marks with other keys, it placed chiclet keys the size of a normal function key on an Apple keyboard. This enabled more of a normal keyboard layout. The caps lock and tab keys are subfunctions of the A and Q keys. Number keys will activate iPad shortcuts when used along with the function key. The nicest shortcuts are the ability to activate Siri and the ability to toggle among world keyboards you have installed. However, the Siri key is a bit redundant, since holding down the Home hotkey does the same thing.

Logitech Ultrathin is a good, but slightly cramped, keyboard for the iPad mini

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Case overlaying my 13-inch MacBook Air's keyboard

When it comes down to it, whether or not you'll like this case depends on how much you tolerate the tiny keyboard. When he reviewed the Griffin keyboard case, Steve Sande was OK with its smaller keyboard, other than the punctuation keys. I was chatting with Macworld's Lex Friedman about his experience on Twitter, and he found that the keyboard could be detrimental to touch typists. His writing speed on the Logitech keyboard dropped from 110 words-per-minute to roughly 30. The cramped keys hampered former TUAW staffer David Chartier as well.

I'm not a touch typist, but I'm not entirely a hunt-and-peck person either. When I started using the Ultrathin, I had a hard time getting used to it, and I have little hands. It got better after a couple of hours of heavy use, and after three days I was typing at normal speed and not making many errors. The biggest problem I have typing with the tiny punctuation keys. But, I vastly prefer them over the alternative of hunting down specific punctuation under a function shortcut.

The other issue I had with the case is the placement of the groove. The groove holds your iPad pretty securely, and I've carried my iPad mini across the room in it without no issues. However, the angle is a little steeper than I'd like, and you can't adjust it like with the Belkin case. I had to sit cross-legged to use the iPad mini and case comfortably in my lap, and I wonder what the experience will be like on an airplane when you can't compensate for the person on front of you leaning their seat back.

Conclusion

I wrote this review in Drafts on the iPad mini using the Ultrathin, and once I got comfortable with the keyboard, the experience was mostly pleasant. It's made me reconsider my stance on having a keyboard with the mini, and I can see it being a good companion when I want to do some writing away from home and not carry my laptop with me.

But, if you have large hands or you're a touch typist, this keyboard might not be for you. If you have the chance to test the Ultrathin before purchase, I recommend you do so.

Pros

  • Thin and light, the stand supports the iPad mini in portrait or landscape mode and can be used on a table or in your lap.
  • You can access most keyboard punctuation without having to use the function key.
  • The iPad shortcuts, such as Siri and world keyboard switching, are useful.

Cons

  • Because of the tiny keys, you might not enjoy typing on a keyboard designed for an iPad mini.
  • The stand might be a bit steeper than some people would like.

Who's it for

  • iPad mini users who want to use the iPad as a portable writing machine or want a good keyboard.

TUAW - The Unofficial Apple WeblogLogitech Ultrathin is a good, but cramped, keyboard for the iPad mini originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Tue, 05 Mar 2013 14:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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4Mar/13Off

Pad and Quill’s Aria iPad mini case: A masterpiece

In musical terms, an aria is an expressive melody usually sung by one singer. In classic opera, an aria is one incredible, soaring experience that brings an audience to its feet. For an iPad mini, an Aria (US$99.99, pre-order price $89.99) is a beautiful leather iPad mini case crafted by the artisans at Pad and Quill.

Brian Holmes, aka "Mr. PQ", was kind enough to send me one of only three Aria prototypes in existence so I could give it a try. What I found upon opening the box was a symphony of wood and leather that is really quite breathtaking.

The Aria, which folds into a traditional landscape-mode stand, is made of a thick full-grain American leather -- boot leather, if you will. That's quite different from the thin leather veneers that are usually used in concert with book binder's board to make a stiff cover. The leather has small embossed decorations on the cover and spine, with the cover decoration done in an "apple branch" motif.

Pad and Quill's Aria iPad mini case A masterpiece

The Aria comes in three color schemes: coffee spine and onyx black cover, chestnut (lighter brown) spine and onyx black cover, and an onyx black spine with chestnut cover. The cover, by the way, has those little magnets to turn your mini on and off automatically. There's also an elastic band to hold the cover closed in transit, and a red "bookmark" ribbon to ease removing your mini from the case.

Holding the iPad mini in place is one of Pad and Quill's hand-finished Baltic Birch frames, perfectly form-fitting and beautifully finished. There are large cutouts for the earphone jack, orientation lock, volume controls, speakers and Lightning port.

Pad and Quill's Aria iPad mini case A masterpiece

If you've been holding off on buying an iPad mini case, there's no reason to wait any longer. I honestly don't believe that you're going to find a more stunning or well-made iPad mini case anywhere.

Owners of "regular" iPads will be happy to hear that a full-sized version of Aria is in the design phase now and should be available later this year.

TUAW - The Unofficial Apple WeblogPad and Quill's Aria iPad mini case: A masterpiece originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Mon, 04 Mar 2013 20:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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4Mar/13Off

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator WorkflowsAutomator's great for streamlining time consuming and repetitive tasks on your Mac. It's easy. Just launch it, find a few actions, and string them together to form a workflow. Then, run your workflow anytime you want to perform that series of tasks again.

What happens if your workflow doesn't run as you expect, though? Finding and solving problems in Automator is often easier said than done. Suddenly, the simple tool that's supposed to make your life easier has become a real pain in the neck. This week's post covers some things you can do to troubleshoot a finicky Automator workflow, track down the problem, and hopefully solve it, so you can get back to work.

1. Run Saved Workflows in Automator

Automator workflows are saved and run in a variety of ways - as apps, iCal alarms, print plugins, and more. When a saved workflow encounters a problem, however, it may be next to impossible to figure out what went wrong. This is because saved workflows don't really include any diagnostic tools. In some cases, the workflow may even fail silently, without alerting you that something is wrong. Your only indication of a problem may be a lack of the end result you were expecting. Not very helpful, especially in a longer multi-action workflow. When you encounter a problem with a saved workflow, your best bet is to open up the workflow in Automator, and try running it there. By doing so, you'll gain access to some of the techniques described below.

2. Fake Workflow Input

When you run a workflow app or plugin within Automator, you may see an alert indicating that the workflow will not receive input.

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows

An Automator Input Alert for a Text Service Workflow

This is because, often, saved Automator workflows expect input for processing. For example, a workflow app may expect dropped files or folders as input, a service workflow may expect text as input, or a print plugin may expect PDF files from the print system. In any case, just dismiss the alert and add an action to the beginning of the workflow to retrieve the required type of input. If your workflow processes files, for example, add a Get Specified Finder Items action. If your workflow processes text, add a Get Specified Text action. Whatever you add, just be sure to remove it once you're finished troubleshooting.

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows

Get Specified Text at the Beginning of a Text Service Workflow

3. Check Action Results

Automator works by passing information to actions for processing. Most actions perform a very specific function. As such, they accept specific types of information as input. And, they produce different types of output. The New TextEdit Document action, for example, wants text as input. It then adds this text to a new TextEdit document, and passes the document as output for further processing.

Often, when a workflow fails or produces an undesired result, it's because actions aren't receiving or producing the expected types of information. To diagnose this problem, click the Results button beneath each action in your workflow. Then, when you run the workflow, you can see exactly what information is being passed from action to action.

Suppose, for example, I have a workflow that should take the contents of a text file and add it to a new TextEdit document. I may try creating my workflow with the following actions:

  • Get Specified Finder Items - Configured to get a text file
  • Filter Paragraphs - Configured to look for non-empty paragraphs
  • New TextEdit Document

All the actions appear to link up properly, and the workflow may even run without an error. But, the result is not what I want. Rather than the content of the text file being added to the new TextEdit document, the path of the document is added.

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows

A Misbehaving Text Workflow

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows

An Undesired Workflow Result

By displaying the result area of each action in the workflow, I can see that a file path was passed to the Filter Paragraphs action as input. I can also see that the same file path was output by the action, rather than the paragraphs I was expecting. This tells me that there's something wrong with the Filter Paragraphs action.

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows

Action Results Indicate Potential Problems

Checking the action's description area provides additional clues. It tells me the action expects text as input, not files.

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows

Action Descriptions Specify Input and Output Types

So, in this case, the fix is to insert an action that outputs text, rather than files, before the Filter Paragraphs action.

NOTE: Surprisingly, Automator doesn't include an action for reading text from a file. There are third-party actions available that can do this. Or, as a workaround, you can try using the Combine Text Files action, which receives one or more files as input and outputs their text content.

4. Check Automator's Log

Checking the results of an action doesn't always tell you what went wrong. You may glean a little more information by consulting Automator's log area. Press Command+Option+L or choose View > Log to display it. When you run a workflow, the log area tells you which actions ran, and often indicates problems that were encountered along the way, such as an action that wasn't supplied with the appropriate type of input.

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows

Automator's Log Area Indicates Successes and Failures

Sometimes, the log tells you that information was converted from one type to another. This is because, in some cases, Automator tries to make incompatible actions work together. This doesn't always work, however, and can result in an error. So, be on the lookout for failed conversions.

5. Step Through Workflows

Running a workflow and checking action results is great, but it's even more useful to check the results of each step of your workflow as it happens. You can do this by stepping through the workflow step by step. Click the Step button in the workflow's toolbar or select Workflow > Step from the menu bar.

Tips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows

Automator's Step Button

The above techniques may not resolve every problem you encounter with Automator, but they will certainly help you to more easily identify solutions for some. Happy Scripting!

TUAW - The Unofficial Apple WeblogTips for Troubleshooting Automator Workflows originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Mon, 04 Mar 2013 07:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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28Feb/13Off

MacTech BootCamp Seattle: Includes Kelly G and Microsoft

If you're an IT professional supporting Apple software and hardware, or you are an Apple Consultant, you might want to check out the MacTech series of BootCamp events. Actually, I'm going to upgrade that to you should check out the MacTech BootCamp events. They take place all over the country, and as with any conference, you're absolutely going to get your money's worth just on the hallway track alone. Interacting with other technicians/consultants is always valuable time. Not only do you get to chat up fellow Apple tech types, you also get sessions with a variety of topics.

MacTech's first BootCamp of 2013 is in Seattle on March 6, and this one adds an interesting feature. Those familiar with MacTech's conference later in the year may recall the opportunity to test for Apple Certification at the end of the conference.

Earlier this week, MacTech announced the Microsoft Office for Mac Accredited Support Professional accreditation pilot program. This is a half-day program the day before each BootCamp event. Microsoft's program will cover information for supporting Microsoft Office for Mac and Microsoft Office 365, particularly for Apple users. And it's free, MacTech's gift to you as part of attending MacTech BootCamp. Let's be honest, there's not a lot that Microsoft gives away, particularly when it comes to Apple or certifications.

If a free certification wasn't bonus enough, MacTech BootCamp Seattle will now include yours truly. I'll be there looking for stories, so if you have something you want to pitch to TUAW (and you've read the book to know how to do this properly), now's your chance!

I know budgeting can be a concern, so I have a deal for you. If you register using this extra special TUAW link, you'll get a pretty fantastic deal (regular price is $499, TUAW reader price is $299 with six months of MacTech magazine). I will see you in Seattle!

TUAW - The Unofficial Apple WeblogMacTech BootCamp Seattle: Includes Kelly G and Microsoft originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Thu, 28 Feb 2013 21:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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28Feb/13Off

iTunes U Content Tops One Billion Downloads

Apple announced that iTunes U has reached a new milestone — over one billion content downloads. iTunes U features the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content from top schools and prominent libraries, museums, and organizations. Educators are using this content to create courses that include lectures, assignments, books, quizzes, and more for iOS users around the world. “It’s inspiring to see what educators and students of all types are doing with iTunes U,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “With the incredible content offered on iTunes U, students can learn like never before ― there are now iTunes U courses with more than 250,000 students enrolled in them, which is a phenomenal shift in the way we teach and learn.”

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28Feb/13Off

Fortune Names Apple World’s Most Admired Company for the Sixth Year in a Row

In its annual rankings, Fortune magazine has named Apple the world’s most admired company for the sixth year in a row. Fortune calls Apple “a financial juggernaut,” citing Apple’s $13 billion in net income last quarter — earnings that made it the most profitable company in the world during that period. The magazine also applauds Apple’s “fanatical customer base” and the unprecedented success of the iPhone and iPad product lines.

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23Feb/13Off

Thanking the Academy: Five Apps for the 2013 Oscars

If you're eagerly awaiting the 85th Academy Awards airing this Sunday on ABC, you may find one of these five apps useful before and during the show -- and all of them are free. Good luck to the nominees!

Oscars

The official app for the event. It's pretty much a US-only affair, and isn't perfect, but it's a handy way to learn more about the nominated performers, creators and films. You can also fill out a virtual Oscar ballot and share it on Facebook. I found it was a somewhat better experience than the mobile version of oscar.go.com (which pushes you to download the app anyway).

Of course, the app really kicks into gear on Sunday night; it will provide Backstage Pass live streams from the red carpet, control room and backstage to deliver a "second screen" experience as you watch the big show. Fair warning: the streams are all sponsored by Samsung, so you may be subjected to a certain amount of iPhone-needling.

Stitcher

The streaming radio service has been amping up the original content lately, and it is now promising exclusive red carpet coverage on Sunday. If you haven't tried Stitcher and you want a different take on the show, this Sunday is a good time to give it a try.

Live From the Red Carpet

Speaking of red carpet coverage, E! has been at it for a long time. While I haven't used this one, the app has a perfect rating on the store. If you are a red carpet junkie, this is probably going to make you happy until the show starts.

Awards Hero: Oscars Edition

Awards Hero is not just a database of Oscar-related info; it's also a quick way to get a voting pool going with your Facebook friends. If you're looking for some friendly competition over who picks the most winners, this is your app.

IMDb

As the world's foremost online repository of movie information, this one seems pretty obvious. Settle disputes, look up actor histories and lots more with the original "Internet Movie Database." Awards Guide is prettier, however.

TUAW - The Unofficial Apple WeblogThanking the Academy: Five Apps for the 2013 Oscars originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Sat, 23 Feb 2013 13:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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20Feb/13Off

PS4 to have social apps geared toward second-screen experiences

PS4 to have social apps geared toward secondscreen experiences

The most iOS-related news to come out of Sony's big PlayStation 4 announcement is the impending release of tablet apps that promote a second-screen experience. According to Engadget, the apps will be able to stream 10-second gameplay clips, gaming sessions, download items that are auto-tailored to your preferences, and more.

The PS4's revamped interface looks like it would be at home on an iPad. While Sony did not give specifics on if the companion app would be available on iOS, it would be surprising if it wasn't on the App Store at launch.

Sony's following in the footsteps of Microsoft, which debuted the Xbox SmartGlass app in November. Mike Schramm took a look at the Microsoft app; he was pretty impressed with it, and said it was a good alternative to using the Xbox controller when you're not gaming. Looking at SmartGlass, you might get a sense of what the PS4's app could eventually be like on iOS.

TUAW - The Unofficial Apple WeblogPS4 to have social apps geared toward second-screen experiences originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Wed, 20 Feb 2013 21:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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20Feb/13Off

$1.99 iPhone App Saved Oscars Film

In this video report from CNN, documentary film director Malik Bendjelloul talks about how he used a $1.99 iPhone app to finish shooting his Oscar-nominated film, “Searching for Sugar Man.” The film tracks the rise to fame of the Detroit musician Rodriguez, who never made it big in the United States but became a legend in South Africa. Bendjelloul started shooting the movie on film, but with just a few shots remaining, he found his budget depleted. That’s when he turned to an iPhone app called 8mm by Nexvio, which gave his video a retro feel. “It looks like real film,” says Bendjelloul. “You can’t tell the difference.” “Searching for Sugar Man” has garnered praise at the Tribeca film festival, SXSW Film, and the Los Angeles Film Festival.

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19Feb/13Off

Apple issues Java security update and malware removal too, iTunes 11.0.2

Following today's widely reported breach of security affecting Apple's employees, 1 Infinite Loop has issued Java for OS X 2013-001, an update intended to address the issues leading to the hack.

Aimed at Macs running OS X 10.7 and later, the download -- available now through Software Update/MAS -- updates Java SE 6 to version 1.6.0_41. It also includes a new malware removal tool.

In addition to the Java update, Apple has rolled out version 11.0.2 of iTunes via Software Update. This release lets users sort songs and other content by composer, improves app performance when syncing large playlists and fixes a bug that was preventing some purchases from appearing in users' libraries. It also brings with it the usual "stability and performance improvements" -- we love those things!

TUAW - The Unofficial Apple WeblogApple issues Java security update and malware removal too, iTunes 11.0.2 originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Tue, 19 Feb 2013 20:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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