September 10, 2017

Keyboard Maestro Tames Text Editors

Keyboard Maestro IconKeyboard Maestro Icon

Product: Keyboard Maestro 7.3.1: Work Faster with Macros for Mac OS X
Price: $36

Too Many Keyboard Commands to Learn

In my off time, I play with text editors. Yeah, my life is interesting. Don't judge.

Caret, has the following choices:

CaretCaret

Dark Mode has a keyboard command of ⌘;.
Focus and Typewriter modes have no keyboard commands.
The File pane has a toggle of **⌘**.

iA Writer gives you the following commands:

iA WriteriA Writer

Focus Mode has a keyboard command of ⌘D.
Typewriter Mode is ⌘T.
Night Mode is ⌃⌘N.
Show Library which is the File Pane has a toggle of ⌘E.

Bear gives you the following commands:

BearBear

Bear doesn't have a Focus Mode or Typewriter Mode. It's Night Mode is a function of the theme you are using. It however has a Library, and the keyboard command to show everything is ⌃⌥1, and it is not a toggle. The command to show only the Editor is ⌃⌥3.

Byword has a completely different set of keyboard commands:

BywordByword

Its Full Screen mode is a non-standard ⌘↵. Different from the standardized ⌃⌘F.
Paragraph Focus is ⌥⌘↵.
Line Focus is ⌃⌘↵.
Typewriter Mode is a toggle tied to ⌃⌘T.

So the four text editors each have different keyboard commands for the same function. Drives me nuts. I have a solution.

Keyboard Maestro makes it possible for me to work in each editor without any friction.

Markdown and Keyboard Maestro

I use Zettt's Markdown library for Keyboard Maestro to write Markdown. I don't worry about how keyboard commands are implemented for Markdown in each of the text editors I am working in. I use the Keyboard Maestro macros. They work the same in each of the editors and I don't have to learn anything new. Less friction for me.

Keyboard Maestro and Bear

Take Bear. The commands I am interested in here are Show Tags, Notes and Editors and Show Editor Only. Bear doesn't have a typewriter mode or focus mode or night mode and so those are not relevant. The full screen mode is also the standard ⌃⌘F. So, I don't have to worry about that either.

The Library Macro:

Bear: The Library MacroBear: The Library Macro

I like typed strings better than keyboard commands in Keyboard Maestro. Less stuff for me to remember. I type the string ,libr and all three columns show up.

The Editor Only Macro:

Bear: The Editor Only MacroBear: The Editor Only Macro

This one is to get rid of all distractions in Bear and concentrate on the Editing window. I type the string ,edit and the only thing left is the editor window. The sidebars disappear leaving me to concentrate on my words.

The Preview in Marked Macro:

Bear does not have a built in preview function. It farms out the preview to Marked 2. The command does not have a keyboard command attached. I made a typed string macro (,prma) to preview the document I am working on in Marked 2.

Bear: Preview in MarkedBear: Preview in Marked

Makes the process simple and it is easy to remember.

Keyboard Maestro and iA Writer

I am fond of iA Writer and spend a lot of time writing and editing in it.

The Focus Mode Macro

I am interested in Focus Mode in iA Writer. It has the keyboard command ⌘D. There is no way I am going to remember that.

iA Writer: Focus ModeiA Writer: Focus Mode

But I can remember ,fomo, for focus mode.

The Typewriter Mode Macro:

The next command I need is of course, Typewriter Mode. It is assigned to ⌘T, that is the system command for Open a New Tab. There is no way I am going to remember that either. We need a Keyboard Maestro macro:

iA Writer: Typewriter ModeiA Writer: Typewriter Mode

The string to type is ,tymo, for typewriter mode.

The Night Mode Macro:

iA Writer has a Night Mode. The Keyboard Maestro macro for that is:

iA Writer: Night ModeiA Writer: Night Mode

,nimo toggles Night Mode on/off in iA Writer.

The Library View Macro:

The last one is the Library view in iA Writer. Assigned to ⌘E. I don't find that intuitive. So another Keyboard Maestro macro to the rescue.

iA Writer: Library ViewiA Writer: Library View

Tied to ,libr, this toggles the Library on/off.

Keyboard Maestro Tames the Text Editors

Whenever I get a new text editor to try out, I look at the keyboard commands and then make the corresponding macros. There are a few standard commands I am interested in:

  1. Typewriter Mode ,tymo
  2. Focus Mode ,fomo
  3. Library View ,libr
  4. Editor View ,edit
  5. Night Mode ,nimo
  6. Full Screen Mode ,fsmo

The Markdown portion of the keyboard commands in each of these editors are not relevant to me. Zetts' macros take care of those. These are the ones which are specific to the text editor and I use the same typed string triggers in each of them. Standardizing on the typed strings makes it possible for me to reduce the friction of using a new text editor. It is one less thing for me to learn and it makes the process of writing easier.

These are basic macros and they are easy to create. Keyboard Maestro is a productive addition to any workflow. You can find many ways to make your life easier through this amazing application.

Keyboard Maestro is heartily recommended.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Keyboard Maestro Bear iA Writer Writing
August 30, 2017

Now for Something Completely Analog - a Canteen From Corkcicle

Product: Canteen – CORKCICLE.
Amazon Link: Corkcicle Canteen Waterman Collection-Water Bottle & Thermos-Triple Insulated Shatterproof Stainless Steel, 25 oz, Waterman Seafoam:Amazon:Kitchen & Dining
Price: $27.99 - $54.95

"Drink more water." I was told.

A canteen from Corkcicle is helping me achieve that goal. It keeps my cold water brisk and cold for 25 hours. I love drinking from it. It is well made. It is convenient and it does what it is supposed to do while looking good.

Brushed SteelBrushed Steel

Being boring1, I got the steel version. It is also available in some fancy colors. Check them out. Pick your color. Available in 9, 16, 25, and 60 oz versions. I got a 25 oz one.

The best water bottle I have ever used.

Some things I like about it:

  1. It has flat sides to let you hold it.
  2. It has a rubber feet to make it stable.
  3. The top is simple. Easy to clean.
  4. Made of steel. Unbreakable.
  5. I am going to be using mine for a while.

Recommended heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie


  1. "That is such a guy color," I was told.

Canteen
August 23, 2017

Learning from Ulysses' Struggles With the Switch to a Subscription Model

Ulysses and I. A Dysfunctional Relationship.

I have been an user of Ulysses since version 1 of the app. That is a long long time ago.

It hasn't been a loyal relationship. Ulysses III managed to piss me off enough that I developed a strange love-hate relationship with it.

I dislike the way it handles Markdown. I make periodic attempts to move all my writing to it. I give up after a few days. My established rituals for writing Markdown will have to be discarded when I write in Ulysses. I use Zettt/km-markdown-library: Markdown library for Keyboard Maestro, for writing Markdown, most of them do not work in Ulysses. Every link needs to be entered using it's pop-up dialog boxes and I get frustrated and move away from it.

The environment is beautiful. The implementation of typewriter scrolling is the best in the marketplace. Ulysses provides enough control over the look and feel of the editing screen to not be overwhelming and just perfect. I love writing in it for while and then the frustration kicks in with its half-baked support of Markdown. I get the feeling that Ulysses was not sure whether it wanted to be a Markdown based text editor or just a text editor. I write in Markdown and Ulysses always leaves me with the feeling of wearing a t-shirt several sizes too small.

So, I have it installed on my machine, but it doesn't get used much.

If you are a writer who has to have web-links in their writing, Ulysses is not an ideal solution. On the other hand, if you use headings, bold, italic, and the occasional lists either numbered or not, Ulysses is a great solution. Ulysses does a great job of supporting formatting elements of Markdown but doesn't do links or images all that well. It doesn't yet do tables. Four years after the product has been released it still hasn't implemented tables. If tables are a necessity for you, I wouldn't hold my breath for tables from Ulysses.

You can write blog posts in Ulysses if you manage to adapt your workflow to the nuances of Ulysses. I had trouble doing that. So, Ulysses was not the solution for me.

I have moved on to writing in Bear - Notes for iPhone, iPad and Mac and editing in Full Focus on Writing – iA.

Ulysses and Subscriptions

Ulysses announced that it was moving to a subscription system along with an attempt to communicate with its users through Ulysses Switches to Subscription | Ulysses Blog and Why we’re switching Ulysses to Subscription – Building Ulysses – Medium.

It was the same version that they were selling yesterday for $44.99 for the macOS version and $24.99 for the iOS version. No changes were made except that the product is now sold as a subscription service. $39.99 a year will give you both the macOS version and iOS versions. You can buy a monthly subscription for $4.99 a month. For existing users there was a deal. "50% off the monthly subscription" except that this needed to be paid for the year, or it was $29.99 for the year. In other words, it was only 25% off the yearly subscription rate.

Oh, I've made a mistake. It wasn't exactly the same version. It now has a slightly tweaked version of the old icon. This is the only change.

Predictably Twitter had a typically bi-polar reaction. One group of people were eager to tell us how quickly they signed up for the subscription, and how this switch in pricing was absolutely the right thing to do. How Ulysses was the ultimate text editor in the marketplace and the developers needed to make a fair living.

Examples of this train of thought were the following:

Ulysses Announces Move to Subscription Pricing – MacStories

The new Ulysses subscription pricing model – The Sweet Setup

Subscriptions: Ulysses joins the growing band of drip-feeders — macfilos

Ulysses Switches to Subscriptions | Infinite Diaries — Technology, Photography & Travel

The amazing Ulysses has gone subscription only – BirchTree

The new Ulysses subscription plan is a wonderful idea – David Hewson

Daring Fireball: Ulysses Is Switching to Subscription Pricing

This last one gave me pause. Gruber is not an Ulysses user. He is a Bare Bones Software | BBEdit 11 guy. Why is he opining on this change? This is what he had to say:

This is a really thoughtful article, and I fully support their decision. I think subscription pricing is an excellent option for truly professional apps like Ulysses, particularly ones that are cross platform (Mac and iOS).

The usually articulate Gruber has two sentences of pablum? He has no idea of the specific circumstances of this switch for Ulysses and he has an opinion? "Truly professional app?" "Subscription pricing is an excellent option?" Really? Why? More importantly why is this system better than the one Gruber is intimately familiar with: The BBEdit example of churning out periodic updates of a mature product, and charging for them?

All of us are guilty of sometimes speaking out unformed thoughts and maybe Gruber was having a bad day. That is why he didn't give us his usual articulate, well reasoned arguments. Or maybe, pablum is all he had. It gave me pause.

Along with the happy there was of course a fair number of people who were not. This is a smattering of contrary opinions:

Stop the BS behind paid-subscription apps! – Olivier Simard-Casanova – Medium

To subscribe or not to subscribe | Welcome to Sherwood

Taking note: Ulysses Has Lost its Way

Taking note: Ulysses, One More Time

Ulysses Subscription Model – Benjamin Metzler – Medium

Ulysses becomes a subscription-based app | Leziak.com

I love writing apps, but now I hate Ulysses

I liked Dr. Drang's take the best:

Subscriptions - All this

He laid out some of the advantages of a subscription service and provided the reader with some new ways of looking at the scenario.

Like Dr. Drang, I don't have a dog in this fight. I loved the app, but have moved away from it. I don't have anything against subscriptions. After all, I paid for an annual subscription to Bear. I must admit I don't like them all that much but if the product is one which is integral to my workflow, I am willing to pay a subscription fee.

My decision to dump Ulysses from my workflow happened before this subscription move, so it didn't have any effect on my decision.

Issues Relevant to a Move to Subscriptions

This move by Ulysses generated a ton of negative reactions from users. Vocal, loud condemnations filled the Twitter timeline for a product which was loved by its users. So, what could developers do better?

  1. Time it better. Introduce a new version and change the pricing structure. Don't take the same product you had yesterday, change the damn icon and charge a different price for it today.
  2. Be exact in your communications. $10 off $40 is not 50% off. Try comparing apples to apples. Just because the marketing person thinks this is a good idea doesn't make it so. Your consumers are not stupid.
  3. Hire people with guts. I am sure that there was someone in the 12 employees you have who thought that "50% off" was deceptive. Create an environment where the contrary voice can be heard. If there were no contrary voices available you need to look at your management style. You have surrounded yourself with sycophants.
  4. Be prepared for the fallout. Twitter is not the right place for this debate. In fact, avoid a debate. Decide on a communication strategy and stick to it. "Sorry to lose your business, but we think this is the best way to ensure the future of our business." Something like this should have been the official mantra repeated ad nauseam. Instead you engaged in debate, you are not going to win.
  5. A focal point in responses. One person. One message. Again and again. Instead Ulysses had two people or more in various stages of sleep deprivation. Bad move.
  6. This is not a debate. This is damage control. Learn how to say "sorry." Specially when you are not sorry. Hey this is your business. You get to decide how or what you are going to charge the consumer for your product. They don't like it, they can go pound sand. You are just trying to limit the damage done to your brand. Say "sorry."

Implications of the Pricing Change

Any given market for a product like Ulysses has two segments:

  1. Pro-Users
  2. Amateurs

Breakup of UsersBreakup of Users

Pro-users are people who use your product to generate income. They are successful at it and they are price insensitive when it comes to your product. David Hewson should be signing up for the subscription immediately. That cannot be news.

The news is that the break up between pro-users and amateur users is always lop-sided in favor of amateurs. If software has to depend only on pro-users for their survival, it has to charge a lot more. Look at Tinderbox: The Tool For Notes as an example. For a writing app like Ulysses, the amateurs are the ones who pay the bills, the pro-users provide the validation. I would argue then that there are no "professional apps" in this category. Even Literature and Latte - Scrivener Writing Software | macOS | Windows | iOS which is the closest competitor has the same kind of numbers to deal with: a small section of pro-users and a mass of amateurs.

Amateurs are the difficult group. They bring various levels of commitment to your product. The ones who live in Ulysses are going to subscribe immediately. Those who are less committed are going to take time over the decision. It is in your interest to push them along that path to subscription. Make it easy for them to jump on the bandwagon. Try not to do things which encourage the undecided to look for alternate solutions.

Converting to the Subscription ModelConverting to the Subscription Model

The numbers, of course, are made-up in my example, but the principal is the relevant one. Convert the amateurs into subscribing customers. Remember that these amateurs are also your paying customers. They have already paid. They have a foot in the door. It should be easy to transition them over to subscribing customers.

  1. Don't piss them off. "50% off the monthly subscription" is guaranteed to piss them off.
  2. Don't start a debate with them.
  3. The ones debating are lost to you. Remember the ones who are not engaged in the debate but reading the debate. That is your audience. Don't piss them off.
  4. Make it as easy as possible to transition to the subscription system. Ulysses achieved this well. The transition is smooth and flawless.
  5. Don't nag the users who are still using the old version and haven't moved on to the subscription model. Remember they are people who paid you already. Show some respect and gratitude.

The problem is that each situation is unique and learning from them is a function of looking at the mistakes and trying to avoid repeating them. I think subscription systems are here to stay, but they are limited by their nature. A consumer is a lot more willing to part with $40 as a one time payment than she is in signing up for a commitment of $30/yearly. Only a few kinds of programs lend themselves to a subscription system. They have to be integral to the regular workflow of the consumer. The value-proposition has to be clear and defined. I suspect that developers in an effort to justify the subscription system are also going to introduce bloat into their product. We shall monitor how this goes.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Ulysses Writing macOS iOS Subscriptions
June 13, 2017

NotePlan Tackles Your Tasks and Notes Through Text Files

NotePlan iconNotePlan icon

Product: NotePlan
Price: $19.99
Product: NotePlan iOS
Price: $14.99

Note: There is a two day launch discount on June 14-15 for both the iOS and Mac versions of NotePlan.

Quite a few attempts have been made to incorporate task management into the world of plain text files. Two of the notable ones are:

  1. Todo.txt: Future-proof task tracking in a file you control
  2. TaskPaper – Plain text to-do lists for Mac

Todo.txt is distinguished by being supported on multiple platforms. There is an active community around the product and they have turned it into a capable task manager.

TaskPaper is a Jesse Grosjean creation. He of WriteRoom fame. Jesse has dumped the iOS version. TaskPaper is now a macOS only solution. Developers have filled the gap on iOS, Taskmator - TaskPaper Client, Plain Text Todo List on the App Store is a good example of that.

There is a new entrant in this field with a complete multi-device solution. NotePlan promises to provide "Efficient Daily Planning for Professionals Using Markdown." It is a system which incorporates markdown, a calendar, and notes.

These are the key elements of NotePlan:

Markdown Based

Everything is Markdown-based. You write plain text files with Markdown.

Calendar View

Calendar ViewCalendar View

The calendar is a daily note. You write a unordered list in Markdown on the daily note and they are parsed as individual tasks. These individual tasks can have subtasks.

Date ViewDate View

You can have different markdown headings for different projects. The individual tasks show up in calendar view as tasks. You have the ability to assign sub-tasks to a task by indenting the content. The preferences give you the option of showing/hiding the subtasks from the list of tasks shown in the calendar.

Task ManagementTask Management

NotePlan has good task management commands built in. You can mark a task done (⌘+D). You can cancel a task (⌘+R). Mark as scheduled (⌘+⇧+D), which will let you assign a reminder to it. Or, Send to (⌘+⇧+S) a different day.

An area of improvement for NotePlan, if a task has several sub-tasks and the main task is being sent to a different day, the subtasks should move with the main task. At this point, even though there is a hierarchy, the application treats each task as a separate entity and doesn't move the subtasks.

Notes

NotesNotes

Along with the calendar, NotePlan lets you manage your notes. These are markdown notes. They are stored in iCloud and synced between your devices.

Filter by TagsFilter by Tags

You can add tags to the notes and filter the notes through your tagging system. Efficient and easy.

Markdown aidMarkdown aid

You can link between notes and there is a nice distraction-free interface with markdown aids for you to write your notes.

iOS Versions

The iOS versions are well-designed. The developer has obsessed over each feature of the product and it shows throughout the iOS versions.

iOS CalendariOS Calendar

This is the calendar view on the iPad version. If you click on the icon second from the right-hand corner, you get this view.

Alternate Calendar ViewAlternate Calendar View

Saves you a tap. The tasks for each day are shown at the bottom of the calendar, which is shortened. Useful for a quick look at your schedule for a particular day.

Daily Calendar ViewDaily Calendar View

This is the daily calendar view.

Choose Calendar or NotesChoose Calendar or Notes

Clicking on the list icon on the top left of the screen gives you the choice of switching to the Notes or Calendar view and the Settings of the application.

Notes ViewNotes View

This is the Notes view of the iPad app.

Editing NotesEditing Notes

This is the Notes editing view. The additional keyboard row gives you often used markdown commands.

NotePlan syncs data through iCloud. Makes NotePlan a complete, device-independent, text-based solution for your note-taking and task management system.

Areas of Improvement

These are some suggestions for improvement:

  1. Full-screen mode on an iMac is unusable. The text covers the whole screen, no one can write like that. In full-screen mode, the text should be soft wrapped, say to 80 characters, or lower, which will mean that the body of the text will be centered on the screen and won't span the whole screen.
  2. Another addition could be typewriter scrolling. That would improve the experience of writing notes in NotePlan on both macOS and iOS.
  3. The markdown implementation can be improved by supporting footnotes and tables.
  4. Themes and user-selectable font would make the user experience complete.
  5. There should be a quick entry option. I need to be able to enter data quickly to the NotePlan Calendar without switching to the program itself.
  6. iCloud has improved but there are users who would prefer a Dropbox option. Dropbox just works better.

Recommendation

I am not switching from my tool chest of 2Do and Sublime Text. Those are the apps I use to do what NotePlan does. 2Do maintains my lists and todos. Sublime Text is where I manage my notes.

NotePlan is intriguing because it is so accomplished. Using one program to maintain everything would be fantastic. NotePlan gets there with its release of iOS versions. What NotePlan lacks at this point, for me, is related to the Notes section on macOS. The writing environment needs work. I spend hours every day in my note-taking application. I can't afford the friction that a poorly designed full-screen implementation provides.

If you are starting off now and are intrigued by a text-only implementation of your calendar, todos and note-taking needs, you need to consider NotePlan. NotePlan does provide a wealth of functionality, all through plain old text files.

NotePlan is recommended.

macosxguru

NotePlan Task Management text macOS iOS
May 29, 2017

Notbloko Pays Homage to Notational Velocity

Notbloko iconNotbloko icon

App Store Link: Notbloko on the Mac App Store
Price: Free (In App Purchase of Encryption Feature for $5.99)

Paying Homage to Notational Velocity is Notbloko.

Notational Velocity introduced the unimodal search and input window. Notbloko simulates the same unimodal window. The same window lets you search for text within your notes and also lets you add notes to the collection. Makes the two important tasks relevant to your notes easy: creation and search.

Notbloko misses out on the other defining feature of Notational Velocity and its efficient cousin nvALT. Notational Velocity and nvALT can save your collection of notes in a proprietary database or as individual text files. The ability to save your notes in individual text files gives you the following advantages:

  1. No lock in. You can use any program you want to access and edit your files. You can use any text editor you want and your files are ready to read, edit and manipulate.
  2. Universal Access. Save your files in a cloud solution like Dropbox and your notes are available to you on every device you own. On the iOS devices, there are text editors like, iA Writer, which can read your files from a Dropbox folder. Your notes are portable and accessible everywhere. Text files are the secret behind this portability.

Notbloko doesn't give you this feature. Notbloko is a proprietary database. Which means that the notes you maintain in Notbloko are accessible to you in other programs if you take the additional step of exporting them out as text files.

Features I Am Fond of in Notbloko

Notbloko is well-designed. The developer has attempted to make the ideal note-taking program inspired by Notational Velocity. These are some of the things I like about Notbloko:

Notbloko ScreenNotbloko Screen

  1. You can have multiple Notbloko documents. Each Notbloko document is a collection of notes. Notbloko supports macOS Sierra's Tab Bar. Multiple Notbloko documents can be open in their own tab.
  2. Notbloko is fast. I have a collection of more than a thousand notes in one Notbloko document and it is quick in both search and creation of notes in that rather large document.
  3. Notbloko is minimal. It supports rtf files and text documents. You can write markdown in the text files and Notbloko deals with it as text.
  4. The export function can deal with exporting a single file or many files as text files out of the program. This lessens the fear of lock-in that plagues me whenever I see a proprietary database as the storage mechanism for a note-taking program.
  5. The preferences are adequate and well-targeted to the task of note-taking.
  6. The program is well supported with keyboard commands available for most regular tasks.
  7. Extensive support of tagging to organize your notes. You can search for documents through the tags. Prepend the tag with a / (forward slash) and you can search for notes containing the tag.
  8. There is a Safari extension which lets you add snippets to Notbloko. In Notbloko you have the option of taking the snippets and making individual notes out of them.
  9. If you buy the in-app purchase you have the ability to password protect your notes.

Notbloko PreferencesNotbloko Preferences

Things to Improve in Notbloko

Of course there are things I would like Notbloko to improve:

  1. Notbloko includes an Edit With… function. You can take an individual note and choose to Edit the note in another program. Even when you have explicitly told Notbloko to not use the RTF format, the only choice of editors are RTF editors. In fact, the file that you are editing is a RTF file. You don't have the ability to edit the file as a text file. If you choose a text editor, you are now dealing with the file embellished by the RTF code in the document. That is not something I care to deal with in my text editor. I would like to be able to work on the text file and not the RTF file.
  2. The export of documents from Notbloko is a file with the .txt extension. I want to be able to choose the extension. I deal with .md files. Save me the extra step and let use any extension I choose.

Recommendation

Notbloko is a well-designed note-taking application. It is fast and efficient. If you are comfortable in working in the RTF format for your notes, you are going to be happy in Notbloko. It's support of the text format needs some improvements. It is a good solution for your note-taking needs in a crowded marketplace.

I recommend it heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Notetaking Notbloko Notational Velocity