My 7 most used iCloud enabled apps

iCloud is one of the much helpful Apple features that many people don’t know and can be a timing saver when using multiple devices. Not only iCloud can be used to save iOS device backups automatically, it is widely used by Apple apps such as Pages, Numbers, iMovies, Books among others. You can start a document anywhere, let’s say your home Mac, make most of changes on other device, maybe an iPhone during commute, continue during the day and wrap up at home. It all works automatically most of the times. For example, I keep résumés versions on Pages on few languages and I can quickly edit on the iPhone and export a PDF customised for a specific role. In Numbers, I use a mileage spreadsheet where I keep fuel consumption when filling up, and I can easily review at home in my Mac for reports.

So, apart of Apple apps, there are 7 excellent iCloud enabled apps I use frequently in my Mac, iPhone and iPad. All of them use iCloud to sync information and some allows other services such as DropBox (it allows integration with Windows versions where available).

MindNode

MindNode is mind map application where you can draw and link ideas, turn them into tasks and track them, use an infinity canvas, set different colour layouts and finally, export into Markup language and import in other applications. I usually layout ideas for writing in MindNode before moving them into Ulysses for writing. It allows focusing on main items first, develop few subitems before starting writing and getting details.

Project managers benefit of mind map when developing WBS (Work Breakdown Structures). While it does not expand for collaboration in MindNode it can be used in minor to medium projects to start up WBS and dependencies.

As for iCloud use, it does support Continuity so if you start a project on a Mac and open your iPad within same iCloud account, you should be prompted to continue working on the iPad. MindNode support iPhone as well and while not practical to use in a small screen, it can be helpful for quick edits. Once it is done, you can pick it up back on the Mac or in the iPad.

MindNode showing an example of mind map project
MindNode showing an example of mind map project

Ulysses

Ulysses is also one the veteran apps used a lot for writing, blogging, essays and notes, using iCloud mainly for storage. Having versions for iOS and macOS it is super useful for writing most type of documents anywhere. You can organise your writing in a single sheet or multiple ones into groups. Groups can be main chapters and sheets subtopics, and sheets and groups can be reordered.

Ulysses focus is on writing so you won’t be presented regular word processor tools that takes space on your screen and cause distraction. You mainly use Markup language to do few formatting such as starting headers, item lists or make text bold or italic. All of them can be accessed using the mouse or track pad, but the intention is to get out the writer’s way by the use of keyboard shortcuts and preferable, the markup codes. It gets sometime to learn them but once memorised, those are time-savers.

You can write a lot on Mac and move to iPad or iPhone on commute, again, with different usability levels and continue working normally on the project. iCloud will keep all synchronised across the devices. I like using dark theme and sometime type write mode so screen space is dedicated to writing instead of tools fighting for attention. Often, I will have main ideas drew on MindNode and split the screen on the Mac with Ulysses or export and import as markdown. If I have some idea, I can quickly add on the go via the iPhone version.

Last, when document is ready, you can preview it formatted as a web page and export it to DOCX, ePub, among others and a few blogging platforms (WordPress and Medium). Ulysses website has an extensive tutorials and tips on how to use if you are a frequent writer or student.

Money Pro

Money Pro is a personal finance organiser where you can quickly create accounts such as banking, credit card, savings and assets and start tracking them. Being an iCloud enable app, all your financial data is synch’d via Apple servers, so be aware of privacy issues. Having said that, I use it a lot on the iPhone to record transactions on the go, categorise spending by type and merchants and hopefully know where and how my money goes. It allows me generate reports by categories where I can trim down expenses I can cut or help me prepare a budget (I do this one or twice a year).

Both macOS and iOS versions are kept with same data quickly and you can import and export data from both versions. If your bank provides you QIF or OFX files, it can make easier to bulk upload them once a month. Since I use Money Pro on the iPhone, I usually don’t import anything but the option is there. Also, via in-app subscription you can enable automatic transaction import if you bank and card issuer supports it. Another advanced feature by subscription is inter-profiles synchronisation, so a family can have its data synch’d to one main account. As an example, could join their spending as most likely they will be using different iCloud accounts. As a bonus, it offers Apple Watch app which you can use for quick reports and entries.

While Money Pro does not track advanced accounts like investment ones, it is most useful to keep tracks on spending.

Tyme 2

Tyme 2 is another awesome iCloud tool to help you keep track of spent time in work, in study, as a contractor, and many others. Both macOS and iOS versions are similar, and synchronise projects, activities/tasks and generate beautiful reports. You can start a project in any device, including the watch, and finish on other. Particularly I find quicker to create projects on the Mac but it can be done easily on iOS devices, and use them on the road to track projects.

Mac version allows import and export as CSV, so you can reuse data on different apps and it has integration with GrandTotal (for expense report and invoicing).

All tasks and projects can be colour coded and have different billing rates applied so it is easier to bill customers.

There is a team feature paid by subscription where you can share projects and track their times among your peers.

Lifecraft

Lifecraft is a journal app which also uses iCloud to transfer data between devices. It allows multiple journals and mood selectors (in-app subscription), multiple photo insertion, word tagging and location setting. If you want to keep a personal log or journal, maybe one for work or travel, it is easy to separate them in the same interface.

PDF Expert

PDF Expert is one of the most powerful PDF managers of macOS and iOS. It supports using iCloud File feature and Continuity and among many features, it can do annotations, drawings, merge file operations, reordering, signatures and forms. I use it mainly on organising PDFs in iCloud File/Drive when reading on the Mac or on the iPad (it works also on the iPhone). I don’t have an iPad Pro nor an Apple Pencil but those count as pros for PDF Expert on iOS if you need to use annotation a lot, draw over texts or make changes.

1Password

1Password is also a veteran in Mac world, having many advancements in last few years and iCloud integration with its mobile sibling. The main use of 1Password is to save your site credentials into its vaults (credential repositories, you can have many of them) and kept those in synch with iPad and iPhones. It all happens automatically with no issues, but it does not stops with site credentials feature. 1Password also allows software license categories, so if you have purchases along the years outside Mac App Store, this is a super helpful feature. You can also register your credit card information, documents, identities and logins, and finally both macOS and iOS support One Time Passwords (OTP) for sites requiring multiple factor authentication (MFA). So if your needs go beyond Safari and Keychain password management, 1Password should be very helpful.

So those are my most used iCloud apps besides stock Apple ones, but there are many others such as Fantastical for quick calendar entries and management, Spark email client from Readdle (PDF Expert), both the amazing Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo (Mac and iPad but not iPhone), Pixelmator and MacFamily Tree 8. Hope some of them can be useful for you.

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Organising ideas and writing with MindNode and Ulysses

Professional and amateur writers have several tools and methods when working, and the idea that the content is more important than the tool is always valid. It is up to everyone finding the best workflow, and working on short texts such as blogs, minor essays, I’ve found that having a structure ahead of the content can help when developing.

Mind mapping

One of the many tools used for connecting ideas, developing project requirements and GTD (getting things done) list is mind mapping. They are similar to paper and white boarding and post-it likes but with the advantage of being able to quickly move ideas around, erase, insert, annotate, export and share.

I am describing a flow using MindNode for macOS and iOS because files can be stored in iCloud and I can switch from my desktop to iPad and iPhone and draw everywhere (and it is beautiful), however there are numerous tools around similar, for Windows and online for use directly within web browsers. The topic is extensive, mind mapping can do a lot and I recommend checking out tools and ideas. And again, the best tool fits your workflow and blends in!

Using MindNode you can describe ideas in topics, sub-topics to several levels, design lists and annotate general idea of the text you are going to write.

I made a very simple example with an introduction node, few topics and sub-topics. The annotation to the right helps remembering ideas you want to develop later.

Once you are done at least with main structure of the text topics, you can export it using the markdown format. On macOS, save it to a file first that you can open or drag into Ulysses later. When using iOS, use the share sheet to select export to markdown format followed by the send to app and copy to Ulysses.

Writing into Ulysses

Ulysses is another writing tool that helps in organising writing in sheets that can be moved around, grouped together, and exported to several formats such as PDF, HTML, ePub and Word. Just like MindNode, it is very versatile, works with iCloud and both macOS and iOS, so you can seamlessly write in all those platforms. Ulysses uses Markup-based editor, which means, it gets out of the way when writing so you don’t waste time and be distracted by fonts, colours, rules and tons of features. It is still very powerful but because you don’t see and need to use all features right away. Just check it out some demo videos on their web site.

Back to simple writing, once you have Ulysses opened into a group you want to use, just drag the .md file from MindNode into it and you should get something similar to this.

Once you are editing the sheet, you can see main idea name from MindNode is added as header level 1 with a ‘#’ followed by the topics as second level ones and “##”. Any annotation on a node will appear as simple text below the topic where you can develop the ideas.

The last node level is added in Ulysses as an unordered list because that’s how MindNode exports to Markdown, so subtopic 3.1 and 3.2 are lists. However, you can fix this manually or make a hierarchical list in MindNode to all levels needed to overcome this before exporting. Simply, just add a 3.1.0 sub-topic and both 3.1 and 3.2 should be as third level headers added as “###” in Ulysses.

Now with main ideas ready you can start developing them within Ulysses, move between platforms at any time and iCloud synch should take of it most of the time. Ulysses has some statistics over the written material and an idea of time needed to read it. So those are useful for the ones with goals set.

You can add few elements such as pictures, annotations, footnotes and get it more complex depending on the type of document.

Exporting your work

Once it is completed there are several ways to follow, having a Word document produced, maybe for layout changes, pictures and others. You can use text export as simple text, markup, PDF and HTML and ePub.

You can publish online to regular WordPress web site, selecting one of your accounts, into a custom WordPress site if you host one and into Medium platform if you integrated Ulysses with it.

This text was written in Ulysses and published both into Medium and WordPress as an example. Hope it helps with writing ideas and mostly with the content instead with the tool set behind!