Writing a book is the tough part—getting it published should be easy nowadays. Instead of needing a publisher, anyone can submit their own book to the Kindle and iBooks stores and be a published author in hours.
And yet, it's not quite that easy. The first times we tried to publish books on the Kindle and iBooks stores at Zapier, I ended up hand-coding XML files inside ePub exports, and spent hours figuring out how exactly to get a free book listed on the Kindle store. It was crazy.
Preview's one of the Mac's best-kept secrets. It's a simple image and PDF viewer ... and it can also make basic edits to your images and PDFs. You can rearrange pages in PDFs, merge multiple files, and even sign documents from your touchpad—that's so handy.
But what's even more handy is Preview's Image Adjust Size feature. With a retina display, screenshots can be rather huge—making them rather slow to load in blog posts. Just open your image in Preview, select Tools -> Adjust Size... and enter the pixel width or height you want. Tap Ok and save, and you're done.
To shrink your images more—and to shrink a batch of images at once—ImageOptim is your friend. But for simple resizes, Preview just about can't be beat.
Plus, if you want, you can rotate or annotate your image or delete private info—you'll never need another tool to tweak your screenshots again.
Forms and surveys are everywhere. You fill out census and product surveys every so often, carefully add your tax info to your tax forms every year, and seemingly fill out online signup forms a million times a day. You can't avoid them.
And then, if your business needs to collect any type of data—feedback, payment info, preferences, and so much more—then you need to make your own forms and surveys.
Which app should you choose for building them, and do you need a form or a survey anyhow? And how can you make sure your forms aren't as annoying as tax forms and those endless lists of questions at the doctor's office?
We've got the book for you: The Ultimate Guide to Forms and Surveys. The latest book in Zapier's Learn library, it'll take you through the differences between forms, polls, and surveys; show you the best apps to build any type of form or survey you need; give you pointers on how to make a great form or survey; and show you how to analyze and chart your survey data. It's what your statistics class should have taught you.
It might not be absolutely everything possible to write about forms and surveys, but it's more than enough to help you be confident in making great forms and surveys. And that's what's really important.
I've loved web apps for quite some time, having edited two sites focused on web apps and now working with Zapier which mainly supports web apps. Yet, I'm always balancing that with a love for native Mac and iOS apps—and of those, OmniFocus is one of my favorites. It's a powerful task management system that lets you dump anything you need to do into lists, and make sure you won't forget to do anything important. And its latest versions are rather beautiful.
As a native Mac & iOS app, OmniFocus only has one tiny online component—the Omni Sync Server that lets you sync OmniFocus and add new tasks via a unique private email address. We've now used that email address at Zapier to create an OmniFocus integration, so you can send tasks to OmniFocus from any of the over 430 (and counting) apps we support today.
Here are some of the ways I've already been using OmniFocus with Zapier to create tasks from Slack messages and Trello cards, and more:
There's more, too: you could connect Salesforce, GitHub, Evernote or any other web app or RSS feed you use to OmniFocus with Zapier. The tasks will only go in your Inbox, unfortunately, but at least you'll never have to copy/paste from your web apps into OmniFocus again.
It's so easy to write about tech that solves tech teams problems—thus the focus on so many blogs (including ones I've directed) on writing tools, code editors, team chat apps, and other similar things. You write what you know, and so the tools that help you with your work in the office are the most obvious things to write about.
But there's an entire other world of software that's aimed at more traditional businesses, those with brick-and-mortar stores and inventory to audit and remote locations that don't have consistent internet connections: mechanics and doctor's offices and utilities and farms and more. It's businesses like these that find it the most difficult to go paperless—and that stand to gain the most benefit from switching away from paper and clipboards.
That's what my latest app roundup at Zapier is focused on: apps that make it easy to replace paper forms and gather data remotely, even when there's no internet connection. They might not be the form apps your average tech business needs, but they're perfect to replace paper and clipboards in the rest of the businesses that keep the world running.
But the thing on the wrist is new. It is there. Strapped on. You are strapped into this new world. This future of screens in places you may not want them. And so you must embrace it. This thing on the wrist. It will not make you better. It will not change your life. Someday, perhaps. The potential is there. But not now. It is still a baby.
My first PC—a Compaq LTE laptop—was a limited little beast. It weighed a ton, had only a 75Mhz processor, and would struggle on anything beyond DOS games and SimCity. And of all the things it could have come with, it only included 2 Office apps: Word and Access '97.
And so, I made my first apps. I wanted Excel, but didn't have it, so I made little Access tools for the things I wanted: a basic schedule, a stamp collection database, a contacts book, a crude finance tool. I never did that much with it—didn't even dig into coding macros—but it was enough to make me excited about the possibilities of making software without programming (all the more exciting as I sloughed through Java textbooks).
Today, there's a lot more you can do without coding, from far more polished versions of Access and web apps that are even easier to use. I've just rounded up the best app builder tools on the Zapier blog, along with some tips on how to use your new simple tools alongside the rest of your software. It was a fun exploration for me, and hopefully will help you find the tool to jumpstart your next project.
Next time you need a tool, don't open the App Store. Fire up one of these apps instead, and see what you can make on your own. And have fun!
It's a beautiful device, the Apple Watch. Or just Watch as Apple refers to it, helping technology redefine what yet another everyday word means.
It's yet another gadget you'll want to own as soon as you touch it. Even the cheaper aluminum body and fluoroelastomer band are lovely, finely crafted futuristic-feeling products. And, once again in a decade, it's a brand new device category that has developers crowding to make the next big app for it.
It'll change the world! One can only imagine what developers will do with it!
That's the problem, though. Everyone can't quite decide what they want it to be. Is it a watch, or a tiny computer, or something totally new?
The iPod made sense. It was a better music player, and that's it. You could play any song in 3 clicks, and carry a thousand songs in your pocket. Expensive, unnecessary—people called it all those things, too. But it fit a particular need, and even the naysayers ended up buying it.
The iPhone made sense. Jobs called it 3 devices in one—a phone, a toucscreen iPod, and an internet communicator—and it was great at those three things at first. Apps came later—that first version was best when you were showing off visual voicemail or the iPod app's Cover Flow scrolling or Safari's web rendering. It was better at all those things—so much better it changed the entire industry.
So what is the Apple Watch? Check Apple.com/watch today, and it's two things: a modern timepiece, and a tiny screen filled with the apps and infinite possibilities.
Those possibilities are tantalizing, and no wonder the App Store update queue has been clogged of late with Apple Watch updates for every app imaginable. Let no app be left behind. Surely you'll want your news and social networks and photos and games and reading and so much more on your tiny wrist window into the world.
And yet, it's the former idea—that of a modern timepiece—that I find most fascinating. Just trying the Apple Watch on reminded me I liked watches, liked the ability to tell time at a glance So imagine what a better watch could be, a watch+ if you will. The best mechanical watches can tell you the time, date, moon phase, and perhaps the time in another land; the best digital watches might even include a calculator. And a smart watch? The possibilities are endless—and they could still be something instantly recognizable as a watch, by updating those "extras" in traditional watches.
Those extras beyond telling time, or complications as Apple has taught those of us who weren't already watch geeks, are to me the most tantalizing possibility of making a truly better watch, not just another smart gadget that runs the same old apps.
There are 10 complications today, as tiny extras that you can add to watchfaces (up to 5 at a time in the Modular face, 4 in most of the others, and none in some of the fancier faces like Motion). You can add your calendar, stocks, weather, and activity, say, and whenever you look at your watch face, you'll see that info at a glance.
Think about all the times you pull out your phone today, just to check the time—or perhaps the weather, or your next calendar appointment. Add the complications to your watch face, and you can in a couple seconds get all of that info at a glance. No information overload, nothing to suck you in for an accidental half-hour of browsing—it's quick info, then you go on with whatever you're doing.
Today, Apple Watch Complications are solely Apple's game, just as the iPhone's notification center widgets originally were and the Command Center still are today. There's enough to give you a taste of a smarter watch face, a device that gives you info automatically without jumping into a half-dozen apps.
For everything else on the Watch, you'll need to swipe up to see "glances", or full-screen widgets with bits of info from your apps. Or you'll need to tap the crown to see your apps, with that tantalizing full-screen potential.
I get it, why Apple opened the ability to add full-screen apps right from the start. The press would have gone crazy if there weren't full apps.
But imagine if the watch face and complications where all there were. Imagine if complications were opened to 3rd party developers, so you could have your next OmniFocus task or most recent Slack message show up in a watch face. Better yet, imagine a smart notifications system that, instead of showing the most recent notification, would figure out which are your most important notifications and would show them right at the bottom of the watch. You'd glance, see the most important info, and be able to trust there's nothing else you've got to know right now.
You'd use it a lot less time each day, but each glance would be far more valuable.
Then you could define what Apple Watch is. It's a better watch. It tells time, and your motion and activities and the other bits of info that are so necessary for modern life. You still could say that today, with the current Apple Watch, but that's not the full story, and without the focus there's no focused story to tell.
Maybe Apple Watch 2 could have full apps, then, if Apple had gone that route. Maybe they'd keep the two on the market together—here's one that just has at-a-glance info, and one that has apps.
Maybe that focus could keep the original Watch from ever slowing down—after all, a watch that's slow is useless, and every Apple Watch owner today has got to be silently hoping their Watch won't get slower over time as every other gadget inevitably does with new updates and features and apps.
Of all the "real" apps I tried in my Apple Watch demo, Maps stood out as the most uniquely useful—as one I'd actually use if I had an Apple Watch. And it, too, is based on quick glances. You start directions, then drop your wrist. It'll pulse when you need to turn, so you'll lift up your wrist, see the next step on the map, and keep going. In, out. Quick info, and you're good.
Maybe one day 3rd party apps can be that good. But for today, for the sake of battery life and our own attention spans and being a device that does something truly unique, I wish there was a bit more you could do with the watch faces and complications. Just a few more options and app integrations and smarts, so you could use the watch face and nothing else, and feel like your device was truly a valuable addition to your life.
Because if it's just another place for the same apps we're already using, we already have a Mac and iPhone and iPad to run them on. It's hard to want another device just for that.
It sounds like stuff of science fiction, building a product and working with a team that's spread across the entire globe. And yet, it works.
From the very beginning, Zapier has been built as a distributed company, with team members spread across the US and later across the globe. Along the way, our CEO Wade Foster and the rest of the team have found ways to make working remotely work for our team—and work well.
Our latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work, includes content from Foster about how to start a remote company and build a successful team that works together, and then includes further chapters from other team members and contributors about being productive while remote, overcoming time zone gaps, staying in touch, not burning out and more. And, once again, it's a free book that you can read online, or download from the Kindle and iBooks stores.
Whether you're currently working remotely, hope to work in or start a remote team, or just want some tips to help your on-site co-located team work together better, you'll find something helpful in this book. Enjoy, and if you have any tips to share, be sure to let us know!