Taio – Text all in one

In episode 334 of the podcast Connected, Federico Viticci talked in passing about a relatively new app named Taio as the „spiritual successor to Editorial“. I listened to the episode while walking, got interested, and stopped immediately to have a look at the app.

It seems that Federico nailed it: Taio1 is a markdown editor that comes with a lot of useful features, among them the ability to perform actions on the content of a markdown file, similar to the workflows defined in Editorial.

In contrast to Editorial, however, Taio does not have a „personality“. It uses standard controls and symbols that can be found in other apps as well. Personally, I don‘t care much. A standard iOS app these days looks quite nice and does not require a „personality“ in the same way as it used to be the case.

I‘d much rather that the developers focus on functionality rather than appearance. A distinct and recognizable look and feel is certainly nice, but no replacement for a solid set of features. To win me over, any app that provides extensive customization has a much better chance than a comparable app with a fixed look and feel.

For example, I have a tendency to be picky with the fonts that I like to use with any app that focuses on text2. Taio gives me the option to choose my font freely and the list of supported fonts even includes fonts that are installed on the device via a profile.

When I started to write this text, Taio was available for free on the App Store. The „Pricing“ menu item in the preferences contained a statement from the developer. The gist of it was that Taio was considered very much a work in progress and would only remain free as long as some sort of feature completeness had not yet been achieved.

Having reached that goal, access to specific pro features would require some exchange of money. In other words, Taio had obviously been considered as something like a „public beta“ that were (for some reason) not distributed via Testflight, but as a regular App Store app.

Meanwhile, a new version of Taio has been released which introduces the already announced Taio pro feature-set. As with many other apps, you have the choice between a one-time payment and a monthly or yearly subscription.

The creation of a markdown note in my iOS usage will either happen in Drafts or DEVONthink. In the latter case, I typically don‘t start typing, but share the note with an editor (like Taio) that can do in-place editing and which gives me more comfort than the bare-bones text editor that comes with DEVONthink.

In Taio, I can work on the text of the note and add the meta-data for the stylesheet. I can do a preview using the same stylesheet as in DEVIONthink. After I’m done with the editing, I can simply get back to DEVONthink and the updated note text appears after a few seconds3.

In terms of the ability to preview markdown content, Taio stands out by supporting a couple of previewing options:

  • It has an integrated preview mechanism for markdown content.
  • It is also possible to implement a preview using the action mechanism provided by Taio. There is an example for a custom preview using actions that can easily be updated with custom stylesheet content.
  • Preview using Markdeep is provided as a further customizable action.

Even though the app is already very impressive, there are some aspects where I would personally see some room for improvement:

  • There is no support for markdown meta-data at the moment. This is an important detail for me because I put a reference to a stylesheet located in DEVONthink at the top of all my notes that I plan to import into DEVONthink. That way, the notes are rendered in the style of my choice in DEVONthink.
  • Some markdown editors will render markup for bold or italic text using a bold resp. italic text style. Taio currently does not support such a feature. Although I can certainly live without it, I would welcome a future extension of the text rendering in the editor.
  • Markdown markup in quotes or footnote text is completely ignored by the syntax coloring. This is an obvious defect that hopefully gets added at some point in time.
  • Speaking of footnotes: while the release notes claim that footnotes are supported my own tests came to a different conclusion. I previewed text that failed to render footnotes in Taio in other markdown previewers and it worked just fine in those.

Nevertheless, I see the potential in Taio, it has already become my preferred solution for iOS text file editing.

  1. Taio is the abbreviation for „text all in one“. 
  2. For example, I stopped using Bear some time ago and one of the reasons was the fairly limited font selection. I start my texts mostly in Drafts, which supports customizability to an extent that makes me like the app. 
  3. Of course, I would prefer DEVONthink to provide an integrated text editor that resembles the comfort that Taio provides me with. But it would not be wise to hold your breath for that. The integrated editor was on my wishlist for the recently release major version 3 of DEVONthink to go. If there is any activity to work on a more sophisticated text editor it might have been part of the major release already. 

Beats Flex

A couple of months ago, my Beats X died. Technically, it did not die, everything worked just fine. I just couldn’t switch it off. Ironically, it only much later dawned to me that this incident turned out to my first disappointing experience with an Apple headphone product that did not have a (working) on/off switch, some time before the AirPods Max were released.

The replacement product for the Beats X in Apple’s line-up is called the Beats Flex. These are nearly half the price of the Beats X. The price might have been a contribution to my decision to – although I wasn’t exactly a fan of the Beats X – order a pair of Beats Flex as a replacement on the spot.

The build quality is comparable to the build quality of the Beats X. The play button and the volume control have move to different places, which is not a big deal for me. It just took me a couple of days and then muscle memory finished reprogramming.

Like other Beats products, the Beats Flex integrate very well into the ecosystem. If you pair the Betas Flex with one of your devices, they are instantly available on all devices logged into the same iCloud account.

Pairing is instant and reliable. That’s more than you can expect from other significantly more expensive products. I also can’t complain about battery life, especially in comparison to the Beats X.

And yet, my experience with the Beats Flex is mixed.

I planned to use the Beats Flex for listening to podcast episodes while outside and for this purpose the headphones turned out to be quite good, at least after replacing the original ear pieces with third-party memory-foam tips. These provide a much better sealing and that makes a lot of difference.

I also (briefly) tried the Beats Flex for music, it is not recommended. The sound quality subjectively turned out significantly worse then the already borderline sound quality delivered by the Beats X, and that concluded the experiment.

The bottom line in four words: voice yeah, music meh.

Maps.me, or how to totally destroy a useful App

A new version of my (for years in a row) preferred map app Maps.me has been posted on the App Store today. After downloading and launching the new version, I could not believe my eyes. The app underwent a visual refresh (which admittedly looks nice), but unfortunately also underwent some significant functional changes1.

First of all, the incredible level of detail2 that used to be the signature feature of Maps.me is entirely gone. The app used to show literally every trash bin, but from now on not even house numbers are available any longer.

The only improvement that I’m willing to admit is that Maps.me can now show locations on the map without loading the respective map for offline usage first.

Next, it seems that the app (for inexplicable reasons) only works in portrait mode, which is a big bummer on the iPad. On top of that, all my already downloaded maps are gone after the update. I’m asked to download maps for offline usage again.

But if I look at the storage visualization in Settings.app, several gigabytes of storage seem to be allocated by Maps.me still. So, it seems that Maps.me still retains access to the data, it just refuses to display them any longer.

I have no idea what happens to all the still allocated storage that is no longer accessible in the long term. Would I need to delete and reinstall the app to get the storage back? I deleted and reinstalled the app, and sure enough the storage utilization with the same amount of downloaded maps is much lower.

Until the release of this new version, it was possible to log in with your Open Streetmap account and report issues with the existing map data. These issues would usually be fixed in a short amount of time by Open Streetmap volunteers, way faster than other map providers (I’m looking at you, Apple) would even dream of.

The new version offers some kind of reporting functionality that redirects to a website that is not functional, according to my experiences. At least, I wasn’t able to report a broken location on that website.

Further examples concerning the functional degradation: opening hours of local businesses that used to be provided by the app are no longer accessible. It is also not even possible to get an information about the address of an arbitrary location on the map.

And finally, the app crashes like crazy. I was unable to work with the app for more than a minute without Maps.me becoming unresponsive and would only work again if I killed it in the task switcher and launched it again from Springboard.

All this would not be a such a big deal for me if there was any other app that came even close to the usefulness that Maps.me had for me until yesterday. Now, I’ll stop using Maps.me and I’m left with only a so-so plan B for a halfway privacy-respecting map solution.

In other words, the second best app (in my opinion) in the domain of map apps that show data from Open Streetmap, CityMaps2Go, quite frankly gets at most lukewarm endorsements from me.

But I will have to live with it for the moment, maybe until the big relaunch in the sky of Apple Maps in Europe is somehow happening. Or, which would be my preferred solution, a new app that utilizes Open Streetmap data in a decent form for offline-usage hits the market. I don’t need guides or bonuses, just the map data. But it does not seem as if there is a market for that category of apps.

Update (2021-01-04): a couple of days ago, a new version (12.0) of Maps.me was released on the App Store. It fixes all the issues I have complained about in 11.0, and restores the old maps, with all the glorious details. It is basically the old app with the visual refreshes (which I like, as mentioned above).

I also got a response to a review that I left on the AppStore of version 11.0. The response also clarifies that the developers have listened to the responses from the users (I was obviously not the only one who came out unhappy after the update) and that the new version 12.0 shall be the basis for Maps.me, going forward.

Thanks guys, this change of direction is much appreciated.

  1. Frankly, “regression” would be a far more accurate description for the changes. 
  2. Thanks to using map data from the Open Streetmap project. 

Maps hiccup

Here's a story from the early days of iOS/iPadOS 14. After updating my devices to said operating system version, I noticed at some point that my favorite locations (in my case: home and work) in Maps were gone.

This happened to my iPhone and iPad simultaneously. I tried various things to fix this issue, but to no avail. For example, I tried declaring my home address a favorite and the menu item for favorites did: nothing.

Shortly before deciding to give up, I remembered that I have another iOS device that–at that time–was still on iOS 13. I tried, and sure enough: the favorite locations showed up in Maps on iOS 13.

Not only that, they instantly also showed up on my iOS 14 devices. I can tell because I had Maps open on my iPad when I launched Maps on the iOS 13 device.

My best guess is that this issue was caused by some anomaly in iCLoud. I'm fully aware that I'm not the only person getting tricked by iCloud. In contrast to some other people who suffered more or less severe data loss, I've been fortunate enough to just lose some bookmarks (and got them back 100%).

RSS Primer

Matt Webb has created a new website named “About Feeds” as an explanation of RSS for newcomers:

My hope is that About Feeds can become the default “Help! What is this?” link next to every web feed icon on the web. It’s bare bones right now, and I have a ton of ideas of how to make this site more and more useful.

The content of the site is bare bones indeed. While there is useful content available, it is somehow unstructured. And the big picture of why you’d want to use RSS for your web consumption in the first place is entirely missing.

The difference between a news aggregator and a reader app is not properly explained, and apps like Reeder or Unread that deliver a whole new level of reading experience are not even mentioned.

But it’s a first step, and as a huge fan of RSS myself, I’d like to see the site grow into a real RSS primer that not only focuses on the technical aspects but also on why it may be a good idea to get into RSS feeds.

Phone Rebel Crystal iPhone Case

I don’t remember exactly where I saw a picture of the Phone Rebel Crystal case for the first time. It caught my attention because the case design is very distinct, I haven’t seen any iPhone case that looks like this before. The most prominent feature, at the first sight, is that the case leaves the left and right side (except for the corners) of the phone entirely exposed.

In stark contrast to the left and right side, the four corners and and rim around the lenses are (according to the Phone Rebel website) protected by “aggressive guards”. The obvious assumption behind the case design is that phones are mostly dropping on corners.

This is the first case (to my knowledge) that lets me directly use the phone’s buttons. I’m not a big fan of the mushy haptics of buttons integrated into one of the cases I have been put on my phone in the past and the ability to use the iPhones buttons directly is a nice improvement.

What really sold me on the case is that (as mentioned before) protection focuses on the corners of the phone while the raised edges on the corners are taken back in the space between the corners so that the case is more or less level with the display.

In combination with the exposed side this makes swiping from the edges in all directions so much easier. On a typical case that has raised edges around the entire display you have to start the swiping movement on the edges and continue on the display. This issue has been solved very well by Phone Rebel, even for the invocation of Control Center.

As of now, the Phone Rebel cases can’t be ordered from big retail. I’ve ordered mine from the website of a company in (I think) the USA, and the case shipped from China to Germany in eight days. The case is not cheap, but still less expensive then cases sold by Apple.

The case ships with an additional screen protector and vinyl stickers to keep the exposed edges of the phone free from scratches. I haven’t applied neither the screen protector nor the vinyl stickers so far.

Overall, what I like about the case is that it tries to take itself out of the way as much as possible in terms of operating the phone. This is the closest thing to carrying a case-less phone while still enjoying a non-negligible level of protection against dropping.


While seting up an 10.5″ iPad Pro in combination with the Logitech “Slim” Combo, I noticed something weird. Although the keyboard layout in Settings.app was clearly set to “German” and “QWERTZ”, the keyboard behaved as it I had configured it as “QWERTY”.

I tried switching the layout in Settings.app between “QWERTZ” and “QWERTY”, and back. No luck. I tried removing the keyboard in Settings.app.

After I set it up again, the layout was still set to “QWERTY”. Positively weird! This issue even survived several reboots. I had never experienced anything remotely like that.

In an act of desperation, I hooked up a spare (Mac) Magic Keyboard to the iPad via Bluetooth. And yay, “QWERTZ” was back in town. But still, why does the Logitech keyboard behave so weirdly?

Let's check again. And thus, I engaged the magnetic connection between the Slim Combo's keyboard and the iPad again.

Guess what? It worked. Just like that.

Frankly, I have no explanation for why I had to hook up the Magic Keyboard to make the already installed keyboard work in the intended way. But that's exactly what happened.

Keep It, Take 2

Today saw the release of DEVONthink 3.5, at a time where, admittedly, I was personally hoping the company would be in the process of significantly overhauling DEVONthink To Go for several months now. That does not seem to be the case, at least not full steam ahead.

Don't get me wrong, DEVONthink To Go is a really good product. However, there are some things that bug me for a while already, for example the seeming inability to customize the preview of markdown content. Yes, there are documentations of some quite hack-ish solutions that are
1. ugly
2. never worked for me

At the same time, markdown preview works very well in DEVONthink on the Mac.

A couple of weeks ago, as part of my habit of keeping up with products I've had an eye on before I had a closer look at Keep It. My first impression of the app, two years ago, was rather disappointing. At the time, Keep it had so many issues for me that I was eager to see what improvements have been implemented since my first contact.

In short, I'm impressed. Very impressed. The list of issues I documented in my last article about Keep It is entirely resolved.

Contrary to last time, importing my stuff (approximately 4000 Documents of various file types) went very well. Initial sync between devices took some time, but after that everything was fine.

Scrolling through even long lists is very smooth. It is possible to display the number of items in a folder, and (very much appreciated) it is possible refrain items in subfolders to also appear in the list of the parent folder.

The share sheet allows for storing items in arbitrary folders, as opposed to DEVONthink where imports go the “Inbox” folders of each data base, from which they have to be moved to their final location.

Preview of markdown content is fully (and very easily) customizable, but the developer did not stop at the customization of the preview. It is also possible to (again, very easily) customize the color scheme of the plain text editor within Keep it.

Search is fast and generally effective, saved searches allow for setting up a similar experience to the landing screen in DEVONthink To Go. There's plenty of meta-data (source, tags, comments) for items in Keep It.

My only complaint is that it is sometimes hard to find the settings dialogs for various aspects of the app. In the list view, for example, it is necessary to switch into “edit” mode before a settings cogwheel appears for customizing the experience.

I'd probably prefer a central settings dialog to Keep It's decentralized approach, but maybe that's just my personal preference.

Also, the app crashed on me several times, but at least for now, I never lost any data in response to a crash.

In summary, my impression is that DEVONthink on the Mac is still ahead of Keep It, but not by a large margin. On iOS, I actually prefer Keep It over the somewhat dated DEVONthink To Go experience.

On the other hand, I'm still on the fringe about whether or not I should flip the switch and use Keep It instead of DEVONthink. Document management is a big deal, and I cannot afford data loss1.

I'm still holding out my hopes for DEVON Technologies to release a redesigned version of DEVONthink To Go at some point in time, although maybe not in the near future2. And I expect this redesigned version to be good.

  1. DEVONthink for Mac supports an “Export” of data bases as a way to create backups. 
  2. Frankly, until today I was expecting the new version of DEVONthink Tp Go to be released shortly before WWDC, but I'm less confident now. 

Arq 6

As a long-time user1 of the backup software Arq, I did not hesitate to upgrade to the new version 6 on the day it was released. So far, I’ve had nothing but the best experience with the software.

That changed with Arq 6. As an early adopter, I still got the chance to migrate my existing Arq 5 to the new version. This process went relatively smooth. Not for everyone, apparently. The migration has been removed from the app in the meantime.

Next thing, I wanted to trigger a backup. But it is no longer supported to manually trigger a backup. It is only possible to define a schedule and stick to it. Hm.

One of the most often used features in the previous versions was the ability to check whether the app regularly updated a computer (especially on the ancient 13″ 2011 MacBook Pro that is still in use as the kid’s computer) by attempting a restore and get the list of existing backups to choose from. Guess what, no longer possible.

But the shortcomings do not only extend to features. Yesterday, the fans of my iMac spun up heavily for a longer period of time. Curious, I went to iStat Menus and checked the CPU utilization, only to find out that Arq was at 500 and change percent of my CPU. I don’t remember any similar incident with Arq 5.

A couple of days earlier, I tried to upgrade the trial version of Arq 5 for Windows on the only Windows Machine in the household. This was already at a time when the migration was disabled. So I tried to set up a new schedule and made sure to provide Arq with a password for encryption.

After the creation of the schedule was completed, Arq 6 presented me with the result that was, according to Arq, creating unencrypted backups, with no apparent way top fix this. Finally, I managed to downgrade back to version 5 and let that one take care of doing backups for the remaining days of the trial period2.

But although I’m pretty sure that not all is bad about Arq 6, I’m no longer sure if Arq has a future in our household. It used to be the perfect solution for backing up to an off-site destination. I never saw the need to even casually check possible alternatives3. This has changed now. I still hope that Arq 6 can be fixed, but the fix better be fast.

  1. I started to use Arq at version 3. 
  2. I would actually consider going back to Arq 5, but I fear that this would not be a sustainable solution. I don’t expect a lot of maintenance for Arq 5 going forward. 
  3. That are very likely still inferior to Arq 5. 

Unread 2 released

Surprise appearance of Unread 2 on the iOS App Store! It’s here, and that means it’s time to check the new features against the wishlist I have created a while ago. If you’d like to read a full review, I’d recommend the Macstories review by Rian Christoffel

In short, a surprising number of my wishes became reality:

  • filter all and starred articles: there is some support for it, but not on the level of single subscriptions. Check-ish.
  • Keyboard shortcuts: check.
  • Readability on a per-feed basis: the new Unread extracts the full text for all subscriptions, server-side, by default. Not bad. Check.
  • Administration of subscriptions: check.
  • Change font size in smaller increments: no, and this is actually a big disappointment. The increments are way too big for an app that puts the reading experience front and center.

To drive this point home, I have created two screen shots on my iPad. The first was taken while using the smallest font size, called “Atomic”:

Screenshot of fontsize "Atomic"

The second screenshot was taken after increasing the font size by one stop. This setting is called “Tiny”1:

Screenshot of fontsize "Tiny"

As much as I appreciate the other features shipped with version 2.0, the unsolved fontsize issue gives me pause with respect to buying a subscription to the app.

  1. I kid you not, the biggest font size is called “Galactic” and people with more or less normal sight can comfortably read it from 3 meters distance.