April 9, 2017

Curiota: The Free and Efficient Note-Taking Application

Curio IconCurio Icon

Product: Curiota
Available: Curiota on the Mac App Store
Price: Free

Zengobi's main product is Curio. I have talked about it here. They also offer a free application called Curiota. "It's pronounced "Curio- ta" ("kyoo-reeO-ta")" says the developer.

What I find curious about Curiota (see what I did there?) is, "Why is this product free?"

Curiota helps you collect notes and files.

Curiota sits on the menubar and gives you the ability to add notes and files to it. The notes are saved as .rtf files which means TextEdit can read and edit them. There is no proprietary database or single application lock in. That is an important feature to me. My notes are important to me. I don't want to be dependent on the continued existence of any application to have access to my notes. I keep my notes in text files. That is an universal format with no application lock-in. I can use any of a whole host of text editors to interact with my notes. RTF files have the same advantage. There are a whole host of programs which can deal with RTF files without a hitch. You are not locked into using Curiota. (I am going to cover two of these RTF editors in an upcoming post soon, so look out for that).

Open With…Open With…

In fact, while in Curiota, you can right-click or ⌃Click on a note and get a drop down menu. You can choose a whole host of rtf-editors to work on your file. The same file is available to Curiota or any rtf-editor you choose.

Preferences

Curiota PreferencesCuriota Preferences

Curiota's preferences are simple.

You get to choose where Curiota stores its files. It can be on the hard drive or on any cloud folder, like Dropbox, or iCloud. That ensures that your files are available to you on multiple devices.

You can choose to launch the application at login. It is a notes application. It should be active all the time. I choose to "Launch at login".

You get to assign a keyboard shortcut to start a new note. It is a global shortcut. You can press that and the menubar application becomes active with the cursor on a new note. Quick, easy and efficient.

You get to choose between two alternative behaviors when it comes to the Curiota window. You can choose to close the window when you switch to another application or you can choose to keep the window open even if you switch to another application. This is important for a menubar application. I like keeping the Curiota window open because I might be checking something out in another document in another application or checking something out on the web. I don't want the editor window in Curiota to close. I want to be able to come back to it and continue editing where I left off. Choose what you are comfortable with.

Additionally, you get to choose your own font for the editor.

Usage

Curiota doesn't have a tagging system, but it has what it calls Collections. Collections are just folders and you can have nested folders within folders. It is intuitive and useful. There is a powerful search system which relies on Spotlight. Make sure that the folder which contains your Curiota documents are indexed by Spotlight.

You can enter data into Curiota in myriad ways. You can drag a document directly to the icon on the menubar. You can use the Services menu. Or the share button in applications that support the share function.

Save as PDF to CuriotaSave as PDF to Curiota

You can save to PDF from the print dialog box in any application. You can use a JavaScript bookmarklet, or an AppleScript.

The usual keyboard commands available on the Mac also work in the Curiota editing window. ⌘+B for bold, ⌘+I for italic, ⌘+U for Underline and so on.

Workaround: Curiota doesn't support printing. Open the file in TextEdit to print it out when you need a hard copy.

This is well designed software which is a pleasure to use and can be the answer to most users note-taking needs.

Improvement:

Of course, I have a few suggestions for improvement:

  1. Deal with text files. Extend the product to support text files. That would make it perfect. I already have an extensive collection of notes in text files and don't want to move them over to RTF format.
  2. Support markdown.
  3. Charge for the product. I am wary of products which are free. I want the product to have a long life. Charging for the product makes it more likely that Curiota is going to continue to be developed and supported.

Readers who are looking for an efficient, easy note-taking system, should take a look at Curiota. It might be the right tool for your note-taking needs.

Curiota is heartily recommended.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Curiota Notes macOS
April 2, 2017

Caret Hits Version 2 and Sprouts a Command Palette

Caret iconCaret icon

It is fun to see a product which I am interested in grow up. Caret, the cross-platform markdown based text editor is growing up. It is up to version 2.0.6 and significant changes have happened since the last time I wrote about it.

I am going to highlight a few of these changes.

Font Preferences

Caret Font PreferencesCaret Font Preferences

Caret lets you use your own font, including proportional fonts. It lets you tweak the font size, the line height and the line width in your document.

Multiple Cursors

Like Sublime Text 3, Caret lets you use multiple cursors (⌘+D) to edit text in your document. You have the ability to choose multiple occurrences of a word by selecting the word and typing ⌘+⌃+G. You can then edit the multiple instances of the same word all at once.

Multiple cursors seem gimmicky at first but you get used to it and it is a useful addition to your text editing skills.

Command Palette

Caret Command PaletteCaret Command Palette

⌘+⇧+P gives you the command palette. It is another feature borrowed from Sublime Text. All the commands supported by the program are accessible through the command palette. You don't have to remember the keyboard commands anymore. Invoke the command palette and start typing out the command and fuzzy search will narrow it down to the one you are looking for. Makes using Caret easy. The keyboard commands do show up at the right of the command and you are better off learning the ones you use regularly.

Tweak Your Keyboard Shortcuts

Caret Keyboard ShortcutsCaret Keyboard Shortcuts

You have the ability to change or assign any keyboard shortcut to any command you want. Caret gives you the ability to customize your use of the editor and use any keyboard shortcut you are familiar with. I love it. I can standardize on the keyboard shortcuts I use across programs and that makes my use of Caret more efficient. Learn once. Use everywhere.

Miscellaneous Improvements

  1. The file handling features have been improved. Caret lets you rename, delete, copy and paste files in the directory tree. You can even open the file in the Finder if you so choose.
  2. There is inline rendering of math expressions.
  3. Editing command additions like add selection above/below, command to split selection into lines, command to duplicate line, command to delete line.
  4. Added support for column selection. Hold down the ⌥ key and drag.
  5. If you have a URL in the clipboard, highlighting a word and pressing ⌘+K, now gives you a markdown link.

There are many more. Caret is growing up to be useful.

Price Increase

Along with all of these improvements has come an increase in the price of the product. It is now $25.

Conclusion

I am not interested in the cross-platform nature of Caret, but if that is important to you, then Caret is a great solution. For the Mac user, Caret is growing up to be a formidable contender in the space for minimalistic markdown based text editors.

I recommend it heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Caret Markdown
March 19, 2017

Developers Should Avoid setapp.com

Setapp | Your shortcut to get the best apps for Mac

As a developer these are your tasks:

Developer TasksDeveloper Tasks

Sounds complicated doesn't it?

You want to make it simple?

The one thing that you need to be engaged in when in the business of selling software?

Only One GoalOnly One Goal

Reference price is the price that the consumer expects to pay for your product. It doesn't have to be the price you charge but it is the price that the consumer expects to pay.

You have to work at establishing a reference price for your product. The competitive landscape, the feature set of your major and minor competitors, and your goals from the product will all constrain the milieu that you are playing in. Within those constraints the reference price for your product is your responsibility. You use all the elements of the marketing mix to establish your reference price.

I am going to explain how one establishes a reference price in a future article. In this article I am going to analyze how setup.com detracts from your reference price and your control of it.

Decision Heuristic

As a developer, you are bombarded with the need to make decisions and there is no good cheatsheet. You are flying by the seat of your pants in this process. This is an attempt to make it easy to make decisions.

There is one compelling question you have to ask yourself. This one question will define whether you need to do something or don't.

One QuestionOne Question

When you are evaluating a decision, the only thing that you have to ask yourself is "How does this effect my reference price?" If the decision helps you establish your reference price, you should do it. If it detracts from your reference price, don't do it. If a decision is unrelated to your reference price, there is no compelling reason to waste your time on such decisions.

Setapp.com

The decision here is a simple one. Do you want to be included in the bundle of software which setapp.com is offering its customers?

What is setapp.com?

setapp.com is a subscription service for Mac apps. The consumer pays $9.99/month or $119.88 a year ($120/yr, to make my life easier) to belong to the service. setapp.com in return provides the consumer a folder of "curated" applications which they get to use in their always updated state for the year.

Sounds like a good deal for the customers. What is in it for you, the developer?

This is the selling spiel to the developer from setapp.com:

  1. Be the maker, not the marketer.
  2. Get recurring revenue, without paid upgrades.
  3. Reach a whole new audience without a single ad.
  4. You'll be in select company.

There are two kinds of developers:

  1. Your product is a hobby. You have your eyes set on an opportunity with a startup and this is an incidental revenue stream which you have cooked up in your spare time. Put your product in the setapp.com bundle. Move on with your life.
  2. Your product is a part of your business. You are in the business of selling software and want to build a viable business. Please read on.

Marketing is not difficult. It is time consuming, it is a lot of grunt work, it requires discipline and sometimes professionals. The one thing it is not is difficult. Boil down your marketing activities to a few goals: design a product which is differentiated, shout about it every opportunity you get, take care of existing customers. Rinse and Repeat. You will be fine.

Paid upgrades enable you to build a cadre of users who keep you in business for the long haul. Embrace them.

You are not reaching a new audience. You are reaching the cream of the audience in the macOS space, and you are doing it at a discount. Don't get conned.

You are not in select company. You are surrounded by a whole host of also rans, and a couple of outstanding products. setapp.com is not curating anything. Their interest runs counter to curation.

Analysis of the setapp.com Consumer

$120/year? This is the top end of the Mac consumer base.

I have no idea what the average Mac consumer spends a year on software. We have some data on the iOS marketplace. The average iPhone user spends $40 per year on software from the App Store. The average Mac user? We don't have data. How many multiples of that figure do you think? I don't know. Considering the service is new and it is not a category which existed before we are going to struggle with data availability. It is my gut instinct which is telling me the following:

$120/year on Mac software is the cream of the market. These are the heavy buyers of software.

These are the people most likely to buy your software. You are making your software available to them at a discount. How does this make sense?

I am going to take two products and try to make my argument:

Ulysses

Apple Design Award winner for 2016, Ulysses is available at the App Store for $44.99. It is the high end of markdown based, minimalistic text editors. There are competitors in the space but Ulysses is the undisputed leader in the category. In fact, if you look at the writing software space, Ulysses is the first entrant who is giving the leader Scrivener Writing Software strong competition.

Soulmen, the developer of Ulysses has been doing this for fourteen years and have built an absolute cult following in the marketplace. They have a web presence, they publish a blog with tips and tricks, they have a strong twitter presence. These folks know marketing. They know how to build a customer base.

They have joined setapp.com.

This is what their decision tells the consumer:

  1. Ulysses is one of the 68 apps in the setapp.com folder.
  2. It is not distinguished at all. It is just one of the crowd of apps I get for $10/month.
  3. The marketing message of Ulysses: "The Ultimate Writing App for Mac, iPad and iPhone" is completely lost. It is just one of the many apps in a folder.

Think about it. Fourteen years in convincing the customer that text and not rich text is the way to productivity. Fourteen years in convincing the customer that minimalistic writing environments are the way to go if you want to control distraction and be productive writers. Fourteen years in convincing the customer that most of the solutions available in the marketplace are laden with choices which make your life difficult. Ulysses makes your writing life better by providing you only the choices which matter and letting you get on with the business of writing.

And you are going to pay $44.99 for this bundle of features.

What does the $44.99 figure tell the customer?

  1. This is serious software.
  2. They have the balls to charge this much money? They must be good.
  3. This is an investment. I am going to learn how to use this product and I am going to be using it for a long time.
  4. This will make my writing life better.

Does being one of the 68 apps in the setapp.com bundle convey any of the messages that Ulysses needs to convey to the customer to justify their $44.99 price? Nope. Is the customer even aware that the product costs $44.99 in the Mac App Store? What happened to the premium price segmentation strategy?

It all disappeared. Gone.

For the honor of being one of the 68 apps in a setapp.com folder?

Ulysses has given up control over its reference price. Has given up control over its segmentation strategy. They have become one of the herd.

If I was Soulmen, I would pray. Pray setapp.com was a flop. Pray no one signs up.

Marked 2

It is a crowded marketplace. You are a lonely developer working in your office in the backwoods of Minnesota. I am talking about Brett Terpstra. He has a product called Marked 2 - Smarter tools for smarter writers. It is a previewer for markdown files. In fact, it is the best and only product of its kind. It does a great job at its basic function, previewing markdown files, irrespective of your choice of text editor. But, like all of the Terpstra creations, it does a whole lot more. Brett sells the product for $13.99. The promotion of the product is everything he does online. Two podcasts, innumerable appearances in other podcasts, a book, a whole slew of scripts, plugins and doodads which make your use of the Mac better. Oh, I forgot, nvALT. All of this is promotion for Marked 2. It is also promotion for the forthcoming note-taking application from him.

Marked 2 is in the setapp.com bundle.

Marked 2 is unique. It has no competition. It is micro-targeted. For those users of markdown who want complete control over their output and their preview, Marked 2 is the only solution in the marketplace.

Why would you take such a product and put it in the setapp.com bundle? Increase the price to $19.99 and keep improving it. Your user base is price-insensitive. The features of your product are not replicated anywhere. You have a differentiated product in a growth category. More and more people are discovering markdown and your product is what they will grow into. Give them information, lead them to that growth, write a few more books, but don't make your product a non-entity surrounded by 67 apps no one cares about.

You have completely lost the ability to control your reference price at this point. You have given up the fight. You have given up control. You are donating your application and all the work around it to build the business of someone else.

How does this make sense?

Conclusion

To make myself clear, I don't care about the split of revenue between setapp.com and the developers. It is not meaningful to the analysis. I don't care what the share is between the developers of the included products, it is not pertinent.

setapp.com is directed towards the top end of the macOS marketplace and they are selling a service. The effect of setapp.com is going to be the commoditization of the software market. Remember all the griping of the push towards the $0.99 software in the iOS store? That is what setapp.com is doing. Making the top end of the market move to the $9.99/month all you can eat buffet. And they are doing it with your work, your sweat, your ideas.

Whatever the share of setapp.com. Their goal at this stage is simple:

Increase the number of subscribers to setapp.com.

After the service has been established, the goal is going to change to:

Increase the share of $120/year for setapp.com.

More Attempts at Persuasion

When faced with a question in the macOS software space, it is a good idea to follow the ones who have been successful in the space. Look at The Omni Group. Look at Bare Bones Software. Are they doing it? If they aren't, you need to think this through a lot more.

setapp.com destroys your reference price. Destroys your control of the reference price for your product. Takes the cream of the macOS market and makes it treat software as a commodity. If setapp.com is successful it will push down prices across the board.

Concentrate on the reference price of your product. Reinforce it. Work hard at letting people know you exist. There are no shortcuts to business success. Don't be conned.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Distribution macOS Business
March 12, 2017

Paint the Hot Corners in macOS

Mission Control iconMission Control icon

macOS ships with Hot Corners. You can move your mouse/trackpad cursor to the four corners of your screen and make things happen.

Step 1:

Hot CornersHot Corners

Go to the Mission Control Preference Screen on the Mac. Select System Preference… from the  menu. Click on Mission Control. Click on the Hot Corners… button on the bottom left.

Step 2:

Four CornersFour Corners

You can assign commands to each of those four corners. When you take your mouse to the specific corner on your display, the command chosen will activate.

You have a choice of the following commands.

Command ChoiceCommand Choice

The options are:

Mission ControlMission Control

Mission Control: This is the command which lets you see every open window on the computer. You can activate this usually by pressing F3.

Application Windows: This will show you all open documents in an application. ⌘+`, while you are in the application is a better way of switching between open application windows. So, it doesn't make much sense to use this option.

Desktop: This command shows the desktop. fn+F11 is a better way of showing the desktop. So, this command is not very useful.

Dashboard: This command shows the Dashboard. The Dashboard is a collection of widgets which Apple has forgotten about in Sierra. They have turned it off by default. You are better off leaving it turned off. They are not useful.

Notification Center: You can click on the icon at the topmost right corner to get the Notification window to pop out. You don't need this one.

Launchpad: You are still using the Launchpad? What is wrong with you? You can use the Spotlight menu (⌘+spacebar) to type in the name of the application that you are looking for and hit return when you find it on the list. Why would you go through pages of icons on the Dashboard? Even newbies are contemptuous of the Launchpad. This command is not useful.

Start Screen Saver: This is useful. If you have password protected your macOS, this is a good command to have available. In an office, when you walk away from your desk, it is a good idea to have the login password kick in along with the screensaver. Keeps away prying eyes. Having the screen saver activate when you need it is thus beneficial. Use this for one of the corners.

Password ProtectionPassword Protection

You can enable password on screensaver activation by going to the System Preferences>Security and Privacy preference pane and clicking on the General tab.

Disable Screen Saver: If you are going to have moments of inactivity but you don't want the screen saver to kick in, this is an useful command to have. Since moving the mouse/trackpad or pressing any key disables the screen saver, I am not sure how critical this is.

Put Display to Sleep: This is useful. I use it all the time. I want the computer to carry on its task in the background, while the display is shut off. Saves power and my eyes. This is specially useful when I am using SuperDuper! to back up my computer hard drive to an external hard drive.

Step 3:

If you assigned a command to the Hot Corners and used the computer, it would drive you batty. Every time your cursor would stray to a corner of the screen, a command would launch. Very soon, you would find yourself dreading using the mouse/trackpad, because it would almost feel like your computer is an evil entity specifically designed to drive you crazy. Come to think of it, it would feel very much like using a Windows machine. What a dreadful thought. Instead, when you select the drop down menu hold down a key, any of the following keys, ⇧, ⌘, ⌥ or ⌃. I like the ⌃ key.

Now with ControlNow with Control

See how the drop-down menu changed? There is a ⌃ key attached to the choice. Now when you take your cursor to the corner, nothing will happen. You will have to hold down the ⌃ key and take the cursor to your chosen corner for the command assigned to that Hot Corner. Accidental batty behavior can thus be avoided by assigning a key to activate the Hot Corners.

Painting the CornersPainting the Corners

This is how mine looks. Now get busy painting your corners.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Mission Control macOS
March 6, 2017

fman: A Worthy Keyboard Driven Finder Replacement

fman iconfman icon

Product: fman: The addictive file manager
Price: $13, and $10/year for continued updates (first year free)

The Finder in macOS is a key part of using Macs. Developers over the years have attempted to design a Finder replacement. They include, Path Finder, ForkLift 3, Nimble Commander and Commander One and Commander One Pro. On the whole, they have had mixed success. The products have attracted a core group of users but widespread success has eluded any of them. They have been marketed differently. Path Finder is positioned as the full featured Finder alternative. The rest of them have taken different approaches to the task of replacing the Finder.

Forklift is:

"The most advanced dual pane file manager and file transfer client for macOS."

Nimble Commander is:

"Dual-pane file manager with classic design."

Commander One Pro is:

"Perfect dual panel file manager for Mac that flawlessly combines an FTP client for Mac and an Amazon S3 browser and provides you with the built-in Mac Terminal emulator making it super easy for you to manage all the system processes."

fman is a new addition to this marketplace. It is marketed as,

"A modern file manager for power users.
Beautiful, fast and extensible."

fman - dual panefman - dual pane

It has the usual, in this category, design of a two-paned file manager.

It is distinguished by being:

  1. Cross-platform (macOS, Windows and Linux)
  2. Extremely keyboard centric and hence super fast.
  3. Extensible with plug-ins.

Cross-platform

I don't care about this feature. In fact, I almost look at this as a negative. The macOS has features which are not shared by the other OS'es.

Finder ServicesFinder Services

For instance, Services, is a Mac only feature. I want my file-manager to support Services. I have a few services which are useful. Because of fman and its cross-platform focus, I don't get to access them in fman.

Cross-platform as a feature, is useful to those who work in multiple platforms and their subscription to fman means they can use the same product in every computer platform they are using. That is a product feature which is desired by some, but it looks like a lowest common denominator approach to product design to me. I miss out on the macOS goodies and have no interest in other computing platforms. This is not a selling point to me.

Extremely Keyboard Centric and Speed

fman is extremely keyboard centric. There are a few things you can do with a mouse but for the most part, you use the keyboard. I am not a fan of the mouse/trackpad. I love the ability to do everything through the keyboard. This is the one feature which made me fall in love with fman. The added feature is the ability to customize all the keyboard commands. You need to edit a json file of keybindings and that lets you customize the commands to your liking. Your inner geek is going to be in heaven.

The inherent speed of fman comes from two features: The Go To Command and the Command Palette.

The Go To Command

fman - the go to commandfman - the go to command

⌘ + P gives you the Go To command in fman. Gives you an input box and a dropdown of your recently visited places. The input box supports name completion, When you find a match, hit tab and move on to the next part of the path. Makes the process of switching between directories effortless and fast. Wicked fast.

The Command Palette—You Look Familiar

fman - Command Palettefman - Command Palette

Sublime Text users will find fman's implementation of the Command Palette familiar. ⌘ + ⇧ + P gives you access to the Command Palette and it works like the Sublime Text 3 Command Palette. You can start typing the command you are looking for, select it from the dropdown list and hit enter. The command executes instantly. The dropdown list also shows you the keyboard command associated with the command helping you learn them.

fman can be used extensively from the keyboard. Besides the Go To command and the Command Palette, you can start typing the name of a file in any directory you are in, and it takes you instantly to the matching file. You can switch between the two panes by hitting the Tab key. This is a great way of managing your files and fman makes the process intuitive, fast and efficient.

Extensible with Plug-ins

A unique feature of fman is the support for plug-ins. You can find them here. Plug-ins have the ability to extend the features/commands of fman. I am curious to see what the users of fman come up with to extend the features. One of them already has a VimNavigation plug-in for fman. Geeks are lovely people.

Plug-ins have the ability to make the program and your life better. In fman, you select a bunch of files and copy them on to another folder and the files in the original folder still remain selected. It is a pain that there is no built in deselect command. Richard Guay, who is an absolute treasure, has written a plugin called DeSelect, which lets you deselect the selected files by the keyboard command ⌘ + x, or the command deselect in the command palette. Made the process easy and painless.

This is the promise of plugins. It is going to fill in the holes in the feature set of fman and generally improve the functionality of fman.

I am certain that we will be clamoring for a plug-in manager soon. I am looking forward to that.

Observations From a macOS User

Being cross-platform means the focus is on designing a product that all platforms might find useful. That means that elements which are specific to an individual OS has the potential of being ignored. That is my concern with fman. These are some of the things I would like fman to support in macOS:

  1. Services: I have talked about this earlier.
  2. Tags: I have a whole slew of Hazel rules which are dependent on tags. Using fman I have no access to tags. If the goal is to be a Finder replacement, you have to give me access to the tags interface.
  3. Open With…: I live in text files. Sometimes I want to edit with Sublime Text 3. Sometimes I want to edit with iA Writer or Caret or Byword or CotEditor. I can achieve this in the Finder by selecting a file and right clicking through to the Open With… menu and picking the application I am interested in. In fman, you have the default text editor to open text files. fman uses the default app assigned by the OS to open files, so the only option is the default. I am sure that doesn't work out. I want to use a plethora of apps to interact with particular files, depending on what I want to do to them. Preview to look at images, Acorn to edit images, and so on. There must be some way to achieve this through plug-ins. That would add value to the user experience.
  4. Recycle Bin?: Don't make me use metaphors which make no sense to me. Recycle bin? What the hell are we recycling? My file is going to come back as what? What are we saving here? Can we call it the trash please? Microsoft saw that trash was taken and decided to name their trash bin with a cute eco-friendly phrase, Recycle Bin. Didn't make any sense then, doesn't make any sense now. Can we just call it Trash. Please?

fman - recycle thisfman - recycle this

If you underline the Y in Yes and the N in No, shouldn't I be able to press that letter to get the action? Instead I have the option of tabbing between the options and hitting enter, to choose it. The letters would make a good alternative choice.

Build a Community

One of the main features of fman is plugins. The developer needs to build a community of users who are going to provide users with the benefit of their creativity and expertise. That is what is going to make fman thrive in the marketplace of two-pane file managers. Build a forum, let users interact, let them make your product better. Give them a place to improve your product. Learn from Sublime Text 3 and Atom.

Conclusion

These are the things I love about fman:

  1. The Command palette.
  2. The Go to function.
  3. The keyboard centric operation.
  4. The extensibility provided by plug-ins.
  5. The speed of the program.
  6. The customization of keyboard commands.

I haven't been this excited about a file manager since I was first introduced to Path Finder many years ago. fman is a worthy addition to the macOS utility belt and I am going to keep using it. It is important enough to my workflow that it is now included in the list of three apps1 which automatically launch on my computer every day at 6 o'clock in the morning waiting for me to wake up at 6:15.

The developer is accepting registrations in time limited chunks. The price is now $13 and subsequently $10/year, for the next four days. It is scheduled to go up soon.

I heartily recommend fman. If you are interested in the category, you should move on it soon.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie


  1. 2Do, Bear, and now, fman

macOS Finder fman