Introducing Squarespace 7

Squarespace today introduced their new version of their content management system. I'm composing this new post in it, and while different, I must say that it is fantastic. I manage lots of sites on Squarespace and this will help me a lot.

From Squarespace themselves:

Squarespace 7 is the result of a year-long effort to refine the simplicity of our platform while retaining its power. The biggest change you’ll notice is in our interface; you can now make live edits in your website without switching back and forth between preview mode and your Website Manager, and we've annotated every editable element on your site to make everything easier than ever. We've also reorganized our menus to create a more intuitive experience overall.

We’ve made great efforts to solve some real pain points for anyone that’s building a website. Often, a great website relies on great imagery – with our new Getty Images integration, you now have access to tens of millions of premium creative and editorial images, all starting at $10 per image. For those of you who want personalized email, you can sign up for Gmail for Work and other Google Apps features right within Squarespace (starting at just $5/user per month). When you don’t necessarily need a full-fledged website for your idea, you can use our Cover Pages tool to create a beautiful landing page.

The new platform will be available to groups of existing Squarespace customers starting today in a controlled public beta format.

For more information, including how to gain access to Squarespace 7, please visit our launch site at For specific questions, see our Squarespace 7 FAQ

To find SS7, just look for 'Squarespace 7' under your Settings tab and enable it. Squarespace promises that you can go back if you don't like it, but I doubt you won't. 

If you're looking for a great website building, I can't recommend Squarespace enough. It's less than $100 a year for a great website that will function on anything and look great on mobile devices. And as you can see, they keep making their platform better and better. 

Email me at and ask any questions about it you want. I would love to help you find a web solution for your church, business, or organization. 


Preaching from a 5.5-inch iPhone

The supposed 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 to be announced next week. Source

If the overwhelming rumors hold true, Apple will announce not one, but two new iPhones next week at their special event in California: an newly-designed iPhone 6, one with a 4.7-inch display and one with a 5.5-inch display.

If you take a ruler to your current iPhone, it's just 4 inches diagonally. Now expand that out to 4.7 and 5.5 inches. You'll see that the 5.5-inch phone is much bigger. You get a whole lot more screen real estate with 5.5 inches.

Which brings up an interesting question - if you use an iPad mini to preach from, would you consider using a 5.5-inch iPhone to do the same thing?

I would. And I'm planning to. And here's why.

1) One device, not two. Right now I have the trifecta - the iPhone, iPad mini and my Macbook Pro. But I would love to trim that down to just two devices - my iPhone and Macbook. I use the three devices I have now for very different things. I use the phone for taking pictures, checking Twitter, taking down quick notes, and oh - texting and talking on the phone. I use the iPad mini to preach from, and I've found myself not using the iPad mini as much as I've wanted to. I surf the web and read a lot on my laptop versus my iPad. I write and watch videos on my laptop. I'm not much of a digital reader so I don't use the iPad for that (plus I do most of my reading right before bed, and they say that looking at screens before bed leads to sleep problems).

2) It won't be a 'blown-up' iPhone. Apple wouldn't do that (or at least I hope they wouldn't). They didn't just blow up iOS to fit on an iPad, they made a different interface for it. The 5.5-inch iPhone, whether it comes out 10 days after the announcement or not until 2015, will have a different kind of OS. In my opinion, it will still run on iOS of course, but it will be some kind of hybrid between iPad and iPhone views. Don't ask me to explain all of that, I just think that's what Apple will do with it.

3) The resolution will be crazy high. And that will lead to great looking text - at any size. Whether you're looking at Evernote, Simplenote, or a PDF in Goodreader, it's going to look fantastic. Text will be able to be resized to whatever you want it to be.

Are there trade-offs to a huge iPhone? Why sure. For one, you look wacky with the thing on your ear talking on the phone. Like holding small Bible to your head. Another thing would be how portable it is - will it fit in your pocket?

But to me, having one device that has everything I need and is big enough so that I can preach and teach from it will be invaluable to me.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

What's On Your Home Screen?

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It's always cool to see other people's home screens - it's like peering into their living room. So I present my current home screen. What I'm using and how I'm using it. 

First of all, I don't have folders on my home screen. Why? I think a home screen should be reserved for those apps that one uses every day. I want to get to the info or app when I want to as fast as possible. 

Starting with the dock, I use a three-app setup for the apps I use the most: Silo, Calendars 5, and OneNote. 

Silo is an excellent To-Do list app and has a native iPad and Mac app as well, which is essential for me. You can make multiple lists and Silo's signature feature is sharing those lists. This app is great for task management within groups. 

I've raved about Calendars 5 from Readdle. Lots of people love Fantastical, but I prefer Calendars 5 because it just works best for what I need. I need to see a month a time in meetings and talking to people about scheduling, and I need to do it quickly. C5 offers that and a very quick entry of new events into my calendar. 

OneNote has become my default app for everything. I love the design, I love the updated iOS apps, and I love how it handles documents to and from devices (it maintains layouts and fonts across all platforms). It's a great project management tool - not just for notes. 

Back up to the top, I use the Ascend Federal Credit Union app to keep track of my bank account. It's a small local bank here in Tennessee but have just added mobile check deposits through the apps. Nice. 

I use the standard Apple Maps app because it has pretty good integration with iOS. The Weather Channel is also pretty standard, but their recent iOS 7 update made it way more like Yahoo Weather, except with the accuracy of The Weather Channel. 

Scanbot has become a new favorite of mine for scanning documents with my phone, which is surprisingly great. You would think that would be cumbersome, but it's not. 

Tweetbot is my Twitter client of choice. It is magnitudes better than the standard Twitter app. I love the user muting feature - comes in handy when you've got those people that you follow that tweeting just a little too much. 

Paper has actually made me like Facebook again. It's a real pioneering app that uses "sloppy swiping" to navigate. It works really well and I like this Facebook app a lot better. 

Reeder is my RSS reader of choice, and I sync through Feedly. I don't have a ton of feeds, but it's nice and handy when standing in the checkout line and you can quickly skim your feeds. 

Dropbox is a staple. While I don't have as much storage space on DB as I do with Google Drive or Box, I still find it more useful and less irritating than other services. 

Mailbox is my favorite email client on iOS. It's basically email triage. I talked about this app on episode 16 of Ministry Bits. I have it set to display a numbered notification badge on the app if there's messages in there, so for me it's almost like a task list, because I know if I see a badge there that I need to act on something. I hear there's also a Mac app in the works as well. 

1Password is probably my most essential app. While not cheap, I know that my passwords are secure and every one of them is unique and very difficult to break because I have this app. You have a master password to unlock the app, and then you can copy any of those password into other apps or other sites using the built-in and very capable browser. 

Pedometer++ is great for tracking your steps every day. It's simple and effective. 

Instacast is my podcast catcher of choice. It's great, and I use it on iPad as well. You can subscribe to podcasts directly within the app, and download podcasts for later viewing. 

The ESV Bible is the simplest Bible app out there, and it's the version I prefer. 

Evernote I mainly use for taking pictures and scanning business cards, all of which are searchable. Evernote can be used for lots of things, but that's what I use it for. 

Last but not least, Day One is a journaling app that I use to keep track of what I've done - as a youth minister I need accountability, and I log every event from phone calls to conversations I've had to ball games I go to. It comes in handy if I ever need to remember what I did on a particular day. 

So that's it! Let me know if you would like YOUR home screen featured on the site. We'd love to see your home screen!

If OneNote Is A Filing Cabinet, Evernote Is A Bucket

I have actively struggled with how to take notes. From organizing them in nested folders in plaintext and markdown documents to throwing everything I digitally collect into Evernote, I have never been really happy. 

Microsoft's OneNote made a splash last week when the company released the Mac app (on the Mac App Store no less), and reduced the price to free. I've heard a lot about OneNote and loved the iPhone app, but without a companion Mac app, it was dead to me. 

I've been using the Mac app, along with the iPad and iPhone app for over a week now, and I am truly impressed. 

First, it's a Microsoft product. I didn't know that the boys from Redmond could make quality and stable apps on the Mac. Usually you got one or the other: it was great but not stable, or it was stable but not great. OneNote is both. 

OneNote for Mac

I plan to do some comparing and contrasting of OneNote versus other note-taking platforms in the coming weeks, but I can faithfully say that I've found what I'm looking for. 

Why do I like it, you say?

1. It's pretty. I know that doesn't matter to some people as long as it's not ugly and it's great at what it does, but it matters to me. A lot. In OneNote, you can add notebooks, which go down into tabs that you can color any way you want. Then those tabs can be further subdivided into pages in that tab. Microsoft's stamp is all over the product and it should be - from Calibri font to the famed "ribbon" for formatting at the top. What's weird is that after kicking Office to the curb six years ago, all this doesn't bother me one bit. I will use whatever I deem is the best for me, no matter what company makes it. 

2. It does everything Evernote does. From a basic functionality standpoint, OneNote does everything Evernote does for me. It just does it a bit better. I never bought into the tagging system - even with multiple tags on one note, I still didn't feel like everything was organized. With OneNote, everything is categorized into your tabs and then subdivided into your pages if you wish. OneNote is also pretty great in the fact that it lets you type anywhere on the document open, almost giving you a canvas feel to the thing. I can put blocks of text, to-do lists, pictures, and anything else I want to - anywhere I want to. 

3. OneNote interfaces with Office much better. If I was an Office user, I would be absolutely giddy over OneNote. It would be a major thing for me. As it stands, I'm not, but OneNote is still a great standalone app for me. It collects everything I need it to, and it syncs to my devices for later use. I can configure what I need to and drop whatever I need to in it. And it will be organized where I want it. 

You should give OneNote a try, on the Mac or PC. There are obvious advantages to using OneNote on Windows, and for the low price of free, you can't lose by trying it out. I hear that the Windows Phone app is pretty swell also. 

Bottom line: don't change your notes system if it's working for you. Just like the Bible says though: "Test everything." Doesn't mean you have to change your whole process, but it might be a good thing for you to do. 

The Ministry Bits Podcast


One of the things God has blessed me with was the ability to know stuff about technology that most other people don't know. I don't say this because I'm an expert (because I'm not), I say this because every day I come across someone who surprises me with either their knowledge or lack thereof about technology.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Youth Ministry Workshop at the Freed-Hardeman Lectureships this past week - and I was on the other side of the table. I know a lot of stuff about technology - maybe too much. But I learned about new ways of doing things, new apps, new ways to create apps - stuff I had literally never heard before. 

So my new podcast I (re)started about 2 weeks ago is just that. It's about technology - both the tools we can use and the lessons we can learn from it in ministry. It's called Ministry Bits, and you don't have to go too far to listen. 

There are lots of people in the ministry that you and I know that are good at a lot of different things. Some are good at graphics. Some are good at using technology to preach and teach. So how can we use their knowledge to make our ministries better? We can see how they did it. 

If we want to be like Christ, we need to do the things he did. If we want to use technology effectively in our ministries, then we need to do the things that effective people do. 

Ministry Bits is an attempt to cobble together all this knowledge into one weekly podcast, so that everyone can listen and benefit. We will have guests in the coming weeks talk about perspectives on technology in ministry, reading, writing, and teaching and preaching in ministry. I hope that you the listener will benefit greatly from their knowledge and experience. We'll have shows on apps, workflows, and gadgets to use in ministry. 

Thank you in advance for supporting the new podcast. It's going to be a great ride. 

You can check out Ministry Bits right here on the website, or you can subscribe with iTunes in your favorite podcast client for easy listening. Shows run 25-30 minutes, no more. Your time is valuable. If you have a request, a comment, or would even like to be on the show, give me a shout at

Tech Resolution #3: Backup Your Stuff


Ten or fifteen years ago, you could have gotten away with not backing up your computer. Digital photos and great smartphone cameras we're quite common yet, we still used paper for things, and with the exception of a few things, our lives weren't yet totally on our computers. Fast-forward 15 years, and here we are with portable computers in our pockets. We have thousands upon thousands of digital photos and videos. We communicate through email and messaging. We live on social networks. 

And very few of us back all that data up. 

One out of every two computer users (which is pretty much everyone) will have a negative computer event in their lives every year. That could mean a computer crashing, a hard drive failing, or some natural disaster like flood or fire taking out your digital devices. 

The cardinal rule with backups is three backups on every machine - two on-site and one off. That means you need to have a backup, a backup for your backup, and an off-site backup (either on another HD at another physical location or through a service online like Crashplan). 

But most of us won't do it, because we're too busy to do it and too lazy to figure it out. And one day, it will cost you. 

Don't let 2014 be the year that you lost everything. 

With the cheapness of hard drives these days (even ultra-fast Solid State Drives are coming way down in price) you can get a lot of storage for not a lot of money. 

First, identify your needs. If you're a grandparent and have a bunch of documents to keep up with, but not a lot of photos or videos, then you probably don't need a Drobo storage array with 10 terabytes of storage. If, on the other hand, you're like me and you have small children and a wife that documents their every move, then you may need a 2 terabyte drive to backup all those photos and videos. Those are things you can't get back. 

Determine the size of your computer and devices. If you have a 500 gigabyte HD on your main laptop or desktop at home, using an external hard drive to store your photos isn't considered a backup. You need those files somewhere else. Make copies of all your important stuff (documents, photos, videos) and have them on a separate HD that you update on a regular basis, like every week. Keep that HD in a waterproof and fireproof safe for extra security. 

Utilize off-site services. All of my documents are stored in Dropbox because I have referred enough people to the service that I have ample storage space for project files, Photoshop documents, Word and Excel files, and other things. I know that my computer could be absolutely destroyed and I could fire up Dropbox on another computer and my files would be there. But I don't ever trust services fully either - I make a copy of my Dropbox folder to an external HD every month on top of my weekly backups. As far as photos and videos, you need a copy of those on an external HD, but you can also utilize services like Flickr and Shutterfly as an off-site backup for your photos and YouTube and Vimeo for videos. One bit of advice on that: don't use new services. Only use services that have been established. You don't want to put all your eggs into one basket and have that service go bankrupt or fail. Just ask users of Everpix what I'm talking about. 

Make it happen. Write it on the calendar, put a note on the fridge - do whatever you have to do to make a regular backup of your computers and devices. Most devices will back up to your computer and then you can, in turn, restore them from that backup. Most HDs offer plug-and-play features to where you can just plug the HD in and it does its thing to make a full backup. And if you can't figure it out, find someone who can or watch a YouTube video about it. 

Again, don't let 2014 be "that year we lost all our family photos." 

Back up. Today. 

Tech Resolution #2: Stop Using the Same Passwords

Just stop it. 

Everyone does it, so don't pretend that you don't. Even if your password is really good (like 7 letters and 7 random numbers like my go-to password), STOP USING THE SAME PASSWORD FOR EVERYTHING. Here's why. 


If someone were to break into one of your accounts - say, your email - they would literally have access to everything. Bank accounts, credit cards, Amazon, eBay, and then even more stuff like your iCloud or Google Play account, where they could wipe your phone or even your computer. There are two things that you can do today to make it exponentially harder for someone to compromise your digital life. 

1. Use two-factor (or two-step) authentication. Google and Apple both now offer 2FA as a way for you to add an extra layer of security to your accounts. Basically, it works like this: you must have a a device on an account that you physically have access to and when someone unauthorized requests access, you must approve it. Google Authenticator is the app for this (iOS, Google Play) and Apple will let you enable this over in your iCloud account. 

2. Use an app. This may be the better and easier solution of the two, and you may not even want to fiddle with 2FA. There are a few apps that allow you to generate and save unique passwords for all your accounts, and keeps them safely encyrpted either on their own servers or on your own Dropbox. The app I love for this is 1Password. Their apps are a little pricey, but so worth it when you think about what you could lose if your accounts are compromised. Right now, for my four main accounts (Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook) I have four 16-digit random passwords. And 1Password keeps track of all of them with a really great app. All I need to remember is my 1Password Master password and I'm set. LastPass is very good too and does a lot of the same things. Both apps have Safari and Chrome extentions. 

So, in 2014, resolved to NOT use the same passwords for everything. Because if you do, you're asking for lots of trouble. 

Tech Resolution #1: Take Charge of Your Photos


One of the disasters in my tech life is photos. Not neccessarily my own, but my wife's. My wife takes at least 15 photos and 3 videos a day of our little son, and that's about to get much worse with the arrival of baby number two in April. My wife loves iPhoto, but with a library approaching 25,000 photos (and topping 75 gigs with videos) iPhoto isn't stable enough to work with. What I've proposed to her (and what I've started using currently) is a three-pronged approach for management and a system for backups. 

The first application I use is Dropbox. Now before you say "I don't have enough room on my Dropbox," listen to me for a second. Dropbox is great for having a backup of important files and access to them on lots of devices, but it's not a repository for big files like photos and videos. Dropbox does have a dandy photo upload feature you can enable within the app (both on Mac and Windows), and you can use that to download your photos from your devices, whether it's an Android phone, iPhone, or SD card from your DSLR. Your photos don't have to stay within your Dropbox folder - in fact, I'd recommend you move them promptly because you'll run out of space fast

This photo-upload feature has its advantages. One, you can categorize your photos and videos based on event titles or by day/month in folders. Two, you can pick, choose, delete, and clean out as you import. Three, all your photos go to the same place. Four, you can move photos around easily, and move them to your favorite editing program or social network. 

The Loom Mac app lives in your Menubar. 

The Loom Mac app lives in your Menubar. 

The second prong in that management approach for photos is an app called Loom. Loom is relatively new but I've come to love it in the past few months. They have beautiful apps for iPhone and iPad, as well as for the Mac. That being said, the free plan is only 5GB. For me, 5GB is plenty, because I'm not using Loom as a dump app for all my photos. I'm carefully pruning my collections and keeping my most important photos in this app, and so it acts as a backup as well. 

As far as backups are concerned, you still need one (or two) no matter what apps you use. 

I sat in a nice hotel room in Gatlinburg, Tennesee a few years ago while at Polishing the Pulpit consoling my wife because she was trying to clear up space on her Mac and ended up deleting her entire photo library (12,000+ photos at the time). I resolved right then and there that if I wasn't going to organize and manage them, that at least I would have reliable backup. 

The obvious backup is to make a copy on an external hard drive. But that can't be your only backup, because what if something happens in your home like a fire? Or robbery? Thousands of photos - gone. 

What's important is to have an off-site backup. Whether that's on a server, through Amazon S3, all your photos backed up to an app or through Google (or even Facebook - eck!), it's incredibly important to have some redundancy. Hard drives can fail, natural disasters can happen. 

I use Flickr, oddly enough, for my off-site backup. Flickr offeres 1TB (that's right, 1000 gigs) of storage for your photos. They limit you to 200 photos per set though, so plan accordingly. They don't have an iPad, Mac, or PC app yet, but they do have Android and iOS apps that are pretty good. You can make all your albums private so people won't see them, but this is a great way to just dump all your photos in full resolution into a service that tied to Yahoo and probably not going away any time soon. 

There are lots of different ways to manage photos, but one of your tech resolutions for 2014 should be to manage them in a better way. What ways have you used successfully? 

Retina iPad Mini: Even More Useful for Preachers, Teachers and Writers

I am sitting here as I write this post typing on a new Macbook Pro with a Retina screen. You've seen a Retina screen before - any iPhone since the 4 has had one, so odds are, if you have an iPhone in your pocket, it has a retina screen.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the iPad mini was its lack of a retina screen. It has the same resolution as an iPad 2, only squeezed into a size that was almost 2 inches smaller. Lots of people love the smallness of the iPad mini, and some have even said that the iPad mini outsold the iPad 4 two to one. People really like it. 

Now the iPad mini has a retina screen, and the resolution on it is even better than the new iPad Air. I haven't seen one yet, and the word is that supplies this holiday season may be severely constrained, but this very well may be the best iPad for preaching, teaching and writing yet. 

Why? Because of text

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Text rendering on Retina screens is extraordinary. And if you're a preacher, teacher, writer, or anything in between, you live in text. You take notes in text. You read and write in text. 

There are lots of great apps for the iPad mini out there - Simplenote and Editorial are a few of my favorites - that take complete advantage of the sharp, un-pixelated text rendering you find on a Retina screen. The best part is that the text rendering is built into the system, so as long as your app runs and has been updated for a retina iPad (which most of the have and are now required to by Apple), the text in any app will look crisp and clean. 

For example, in my workflow as a youth minister, I do a lot of writing, copying and pasting, reading, and presenting. I have all my notes in Simplenote (which has a really nice Mac app as well). I compose my lessons and sermons in Simplenote and they're automatically synced to my iPad mini. I can't wait to see what my words look like on a Retina screen, not to mention how much easier it will be to read while presenting. 

If you need to format your work and make it look great, Apple's Pages is also a great place to start. You can even print to several cloud-enabled printers using AirPrint. 

I won't be getting a Retina iPad mini immediately, but I'll definitely be checking them out as soon as I can. If you're in the market for a 7-inch tablet, the resolution on the Retina iPad mini is certain to please. 

Mac Buyer's Guide [Late 2013]

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As a guy who is in the market for a new Mac myself, I figured I would do a no-nonsense, easy to understand buyers guide for all those who may be contemplating getting a Mac. And also, since Apple came out with a slew of new stuff including new Mac and software, there's never been a better time to buy a Mac. 

If you've never used a Mac as your personal computer, you're in for a treat. You get a clean desktop experience with a great Mac App Store ecosystem to play with. Best of all, Apple said yesterday that all their apps (for both Mac and iOS, excluding the pro apps like Final Cut and Logic) are going to be free with the purchase of any new Mac or iOS device. 

That being said, if you go to an Apple Store, the clerk is going to be honest with you. They're not going to sell you a pro machine just because they want to make money. One big difference about Apple is not just their products, but the way they sell them. Sure, you could get a maxed out MacBook Pro with all the bells and whistles, but do you really need that, and do you want to spend that much money. Apple customer care is all about getting you, the customer, the right product, not the product that will help inflate profits. 

So if you've never bought or used a Mac before, you'll need to know that as of yesterday, the entire iWork suite (Apple's much better version of Office, which includes Pages for word processing, Keynote for presentations, and Numbers for spreadsheets) is now included for free. You can download them for free using your new Mac. No more buying $200 worth of software, keeping up with product keys and all that junk. You just need an Apple account - the same one you use to download apps on your iPhone or iPad - and you're good to go. 


Give Up Microsoft Office

These Office-like apps are a huge deal - the main complaint I get from users who want to switch to a Mac tell me, "Well, I just can't give up Office." Yes, you can. Apples iWork apps export to all Word, Powerpoint, and Excel formats. I use Pages every single day and everyone else in my office uses PCs with MS Word. I've had no problems in 4 years using nothing but Pages. People also tell me, "Well I have to use MS Word for work." Again, you can export any Pages document into MS Word format, to PDF, or into plain text, or even ePub. It's simple. 

While there is a learning curve with these apps, as there is with anything new and unfamiliar, I would venture to say that you'll have iWork apps figured out inside of 3 days. You'll wonder why you wasted so much time with Word and Powerpoint when you can use the elegant and simple Pages and Keynote. 

Below is a chart explaining some things about what machine you might get if you were buying a Mac today. 

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1. The only machines on this chart that are desktops are the Mac Mini, iMac, and Mac Pro. I put a 'maybe' here for the Mac Mini and Mac Pro because they are such small devices, especially the Mac Mini. You could fit a Mini in a small backpack and carry it around and hook it up to your different monitors if you so choose. The new Mac Pro is a great deal smaller than the aluminum monstrosities Apple has been selling for the past several years. 

2. The speed of your processor seems to matter less and less these days with dual- and quad- cores (literally extra processors to crunch your data) and RAM, SSDs and OS management have made processor speeds not so important. So don't harp on this number too much, especially with the MacBook Air. The Air was the first Apple laptop to incorporate Solid State Drives (SSDs), i.e. drives with no moving parts. This greatly speeds up your computer. All Macs now have the option for SSDs now. 

I'm going to be spending a lot of time over the next month giving you snippets of my new eBook, A Minister's Guide to the Mac, due out on November 26. The first half of the book will help any minister or professional transition to a Mac for the first time, while the second half with give you helpful apps, tips and tricks to help you make the most out of your Mac and can help even the most advanced Mac user.