I Am Joe’s Blog:

December 24, 2014 • 4:24 PM

Happy Holidays

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a weird and exhausting year. Nothing went quite the way I expected it to, except in the predictable sense that half the things on my “Must Accomplish in 2014 No Matter What” list will still be waiting for me in 2015. But numerous signs suggest that next year will be more prosperous, less weird, and perhaps not quite so tiring. That would be very nice indeed.

My 4-year-old son asked me a few weeks ago what I want for Christmas, and I answered him in the traditional way: “Two good kids.” In fact, my kids are fantastic already, and really the only thing I could ask of them is to let Daddy sleep a wee bit later in the mornings. As if. Of course I’d love to have a little more time and a little more money too. That will probably always be true. But I couldn’t wish for a better family, and that’s the best gift of all.

It’s 72° and sunny in San Diego on Christmas Eve. The presents are (almost all) wrapped, I hear no crying at the moment, and we have alcohol. So I think we’re pretty well set for a merry Christmas. Whatever holidays you celebrate (or tolerate) at this time of year, I wish you all a feeling of contentment and joy.

June 26, 2014 • 11:50 AM

Take Control of Automating Your Mac

Take Control of Automating Your Mac coverCall me crazy, but I don’t like doing unnecessary work. I already have more enough work that is necessary, and too few hours in the day. So I’ve long been in the habit of finding ways to streamline and automate everyday tasks that my Mac can do just as well as (or even better than) I can. My new book, Take Control of Automating Your Mac, shows you how to do the same thing.

This is my 45th Take Control title, and it’s one of my favorites. It was fun to write (and believe me, some of them were not!), and as I worked on it I frequently took breaks to do exactly what I was recommending—find and implement shortcuts for tedious, mechanical tasks. So in fact the book became easier to write as I went along, since I was following more of my own advice!

Usually when people talk about Mac automation, they mean Automator or AppleScript. And the book does talk about those, but not as a primary focus. It turns out there are tons of ways to simplify common tasks that don’t require any programming or even a geeky disposition. And many of them are built right into OS X—text replacement, keyboard shortcuts, Spotlight, Mail rules, and so on. If you want to get fancier (and I know I do), there are third-part automation apps that can do more things, and do them more easily, so I talk about many of my favorites, including LaunchBar, TextExpander, Keyboard Maestro, and Nisus Writer Pro. (That’s right, I think of my preferred word processor as an automation tool, because its built-in macro languages lets me perform everyday writing tasks much more easily.)

Anyone who uses a Mac can find lots of time-saving tips in this book. Spend a little time learning and setting things up, and you can reap the rewards for years. Plus, we’ve included coupons for eight popular Mac automation apps, collectively worth more than $60 in discounts, so we’re practically paying you to buy the book!

I hope you like it. Here’s a little video trailer I made to introduce the book.

April 25, 2014 • 4:00 PM

Take Control of the Cloud

Take Control of the Cloud coverI’m delighted to announce the publication of my latest book, Take Control of the Cloud. This is a topic I’d been discussing with Take Control Books for about two years, but what with one thing and another, we could never make space for it in the publishing schedule. Well, it’s finally done and I’m really pleased with the result.

The premise of the book is that lots of people (including some of those who already use cloud-based services like Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Docs) don’t have a clear idea of what the Cloud is, how it works, whether it’s safe, or how to make good decisions about which of the zillions of services to sign up for. When I speak to user groups and other audiences about online topics, the questions I get tell me that there’s a lot of confusion, anxiety, and misinformation about what’s out there and how different services compare. And that problem is only getting worse as cloud providers and services proliferate.

So, this book is my attempt to explain the Cloud in plain English, for ordinary, nontechnical readers. Unlike most of my books, this one isn’t heavy on step-by-step instructions and technical details. Instead, it’s something you can sit back and read at the beach or in bed. I lay out the answers to common questions and offer advice for choosing and using several major types of cloud services. I give you the lowdown on privacy and security issues (spoiler: it’s scary out there) and even talk about the “personal cloud,” which is a way of providing online services for yourself without all the security worries of public services.

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t quite get the Cloud, don’t worry—you’re not alone. And I’m here to help you make sense of it. I hope you find the book helpful! Here’s a brief video trailer.

December 31, 2013 • 8:30 PM

So Long, 2013

This past year was notable for at least one thing: I wrap up 2013 with a rare sense of accomplishment. For several previous years, what I mainly felt at the end of December was remorse over unfinished projects and unfulfilled ambitions, prompting me to catalog everything I did in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009—just to prove to myself that those years were more productive than I’d imagined.

But this year I feel pretty good about what I managed to do. On my Publications page, you can read about my five new Take Control books, seven updated books, and dozens of articles for Macworld, TidBITS, and other blogs—not to mention 23 speaking engagements, 15 podcast interviews, and a few other assorted gigs. I was also turned into a comic character and even a superhero! My wife and I started a company, survived our first year of homeownership, and got our kid into preschool. We were privileged to spend time in Hawaii, France, and Spain. And I’m pretty sure I broke my all-time record for TV consumption, which was a great way to balance out all that work! And, as usual, I end the year with an empty inbox. I think that’s sufficient for one year.

Although I rarely manage to keep New Year’s resolutions, I do have a number of expectations for 2014.

For one thing, it looks like our family will be growing by one, as Soren becomes a big brother! That will mean a 21-year age difference between my oldest and youngest children and, most likely, a complete cessation of sleep for the foreseeable future. Woo hoo!

Of course, there’ll also be the usual long list of writing and speaking activities next year, as well as some nontrivial home- and self-improvement tasks and, very likely, significant international travel.

But now that I’m just a few years away from turning 50, I’m scrutinizing my Life’s To Do List and thinking hard about undertaking a Big Fancy Project that I just might be able to pull off by then. We’ll see how that unfolds, but let’s just say it would make me very happy indeed to be able to add a certain item to my list of first-half-century accomplishments.

Oh, and I’d also like to fix that whole problem of people not being kind to each other on the Internet, if I have a few spare days.

History tells me it’s unlikely that I’ll post on this blog very often, so if you’re interested in keeping track of what I’m up to, I suggest following me on Twitter and/or signing up for joeMail using the form in the sidebar or on the linked page.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2014!