February 28, 2017

Five More Finder Tips

Finder IconFinder Icon

QuickLook

Finder QuickLookFinder QuickLook

Select one or more files in the Finder, press the Spacebar. You are going to get a Quick Look window. You can resize this window.

Finder QuickLook IndexFinder QuickLook Index

If you have a multiple selection, the button which shows four squares is an index sheet display. Click that to get a look at all the files in an index view. Or, hit the arrow keys to go from one file to another. You can click on a particular item to display it in the index view. If you want to increase the size of the display, hold the ⌥ key to zoom in.

You can select files in the Finder and press ⌥+Spacebar to go to a fullscreen slideshow of the items.

Quick Look works with all kinds of files. If you don't see the contents of a chosen file, it might need a QuickLook plugin. There are two places online which are a good source of Quicklook plugins. They are:

Download the relevant plugin you are looking for and put it in the Quicklook folder which is inside your User Library folder.

Let Autocomplete Work for You

Finder AutoCompleteFinder AutoComplete

In the Finder's Go to Folder prompt (⇧+⌘+G) type part of a folder name, press to autocomplete the folder name. If you come across multiple matches, this will list the folders in alphabetical order, pick the one you need with the arrow keys and hit enter to complete the path.

Let's Learn Some Keyboard Shortcuts

Finder Go To MenuFinder Go To Menu

Listed as choices for the Sidebar, these are folders you go to often. Learn the keyboard commands. It will be easy to navigate to them. These work in the Open/Save dialog box too. When you are in an application and want to save a file, you press ⌘+S and you get the Save dialog box. You can type ⇧+⌘+O to go to the Documents folder.

Bonus Tip - Screenshot of a menu: In the Finder take your mouse and choose the Go menu. When the dropdown menu appears, keep holding the mouse on the Go menu and press ⌘+⇧+4. Your cursor is going to turn into co-ordinates, keep the cursor on the Go menu and press the spacebar. The cursor will change into a camera. Keep it in the contents of the Go menu and click. You are going to get a screenshot of the Go menu. Keep it on your desktop and periodically highlight it and press the spacebar. Quicklook will show you the screenshot. Try to memorize the commands. When you use these commands, they will get ingrained into your muscle memory and you will save time traversing the file directory on your Mac.

Copy the Contents of a File

Copy Contents IconCopy Contents Icon

Product: Copy Contents on the Mac App Store
Price: Free

Not an utility you need all the time but it is useful when you need it. You have a file in the finder and you want to copy the contents of that file into another file you are working on. Copy Contents lets you copy the contents of a file without having to open an application.

Copy ContentsCopy Contents

Choose a file in the Finder, right click on it. You are going to get the dropdown menu. Choose Copy Contents. Go to the application you are working in and Paste (⌘+V). This works with all kinds of text files, CSV files and markdown files. Doesn't work with pdf's, docx, or pages documents.

Arrange and Sort

Finder ArrangeFinder Arrange

You can group Finder items by attribute by choosing an option from the View>Arrange By sub menu. If you hold down the ⌥ key, the Arrange By option changes to Sort By. This lets you sort by a secondary attribute. Useful if you want items grouped together.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Finder
February 22, 2017

Making Bear Work With OperatorMono

I have been using Bear - Notes for iPhone, iPad and Mac for my notes and general writing.

Bear Editor PrefBear Editor Pref

Bear ships with the ability to use San Francisco, Avenir Next, Helvetica Neue, and Menlo. They are nice but I miss OperatorMono.

I must advice that the steps you need to take to manage this switch of fonts is a little weird. Most Mac users are used to choosing a font from a font list without much thought. This is different. This will need a dive into the innards of the application and some editing of files within the innards. So follow along carefully. The good news is that you don't have to be afraid. If you screw something up and Bear refuses to load. You can delete the application. Download it again from the App Store and you are ready to get to work.

First Step: Finding the File/s to Edit

Go to the Applications Folder. Find Bear. ⌃click (or right click) on the application.

Bear Show Package ContentsBear Show Package Contents

You are going to get a drop down menu. Choose, Show Package Contents. The Finder windows will show you the contents of Bear, the application. Click on Contents. Then on Resources.

Bear Font ThemesBear Font Themes

I didn't like the Menlo font. I didn't mind the others, but I didn't like the Menlo font at all. So, I decided to change the Menlo theme. You can choose any of the others you want. The System one was more complicated, but if you have come this far, you are willing to live on the edge. Go for it. Let me know how it worked out.

Second Step: Editing Menlo.theme

You have to hold on to the ⌥ key and drag the file Menlo.theme to the desktop. You can't drag it over. If you do, it makes an alias. You have to hold down the ⌥ key and drag. That makes a copy of the file on the desktop. Compress the file by ⌃Clicking on the file and choosing Compress "Menlo.theme" from the drop-down menu. This is your backup in case everything goes to hell. Now open Menlo.theme by again ⌃Clicking on the file and choosing Open With and a text editor from the drop-down menu. I chose CotEditor, any text editor will do.

Bear Menlo ThemeBear Menlo Theme

It is a plist file. It is a dressed up XML file. You can edit this in a text editor. A cursory search and I found three places which refer to the Menlo font.

Bear Menlo Theme ContentsBear Menlo Theme Contents

I changed the references to Menlo to OperatorMono. I chose OperatorMono-Book for the paragraph and monospace font, and OperatorMono-Bold for the Title Font. I saved the file. You can use the name of whatever font you want in replacing Menlo. Make sure it is the actual name of the font file. I put in a space between Operator and Mono and that didn't work till I realized that the font file was OperatorMono.otf.

Replace the Original Menlo.theme

Take the edited Menlo.theme and drop it in the folder called Resources you got the file from originally. Overwrite the old file. You will be asked to authenticate this replacement. Type in your system password and you are ready to go.

Launch Bear. Enjoy your editor displaying your choice of font.

Caveats

Bear Post SwitchBear Post Switch

This is an unauthorized hack. The developers of Bear obviously do not endorse such aberrant behavior. I have been using the application for a week since the switch and everything is working out fine. I have not done any damage to the application or the cosmic order of things. Of course, this is not a hack which is going to last through an update. I will have to repeat this when Bear gets updated or the developer adds the ability to use our own fonts making this hack unnecessary.

In the meantime, I am enjoying Bear with OperatorMono.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Bear Hack
February 19, 2017

Avoid Tabula

Tabula IconTabula Icon

Product: Tabula
Price: $4.99 for macOS; $2.99 for iOS (both products discounted for launch)

Tabula is a new distraction free writing app for macOS and iOS. It has an interesting approach to the issue of formatting.

The claim is that the product has something called Automatic Formatting and that means:

Tabula uses intelligent algorithms and grammars based on natural composition to understand the way you've laid out the page and style it automatically. There's no markup or special syntax unless you prefer it.

It can handle lots of different writing styles, from blog posts to class notes to shopping lists to quarterly reports.

Tabula promises to understand the nature of your document by its content or arrangement of content and formats the document automatically. I have two problems with the approach:

  1. Why does one need this?
  2. Tabula is bad at it.

Why Does One Need This?

The problem lies in the nature of text files. By definition a text file is a slew of characters which are devoid of any style. So, you choose a font and a font size, and that is it. The characters in your text file are displayed in that font and that font size. That is it. A text file doesn't do bold, doesn't do italic, doesn't do any formatting. It is a good system to write code. But even there, modern code editors have introduced syntax highlighting designed to make code more readable. Syntax highlighting doesn't add anything to the text file, it takes elements in the code and colors them differently to make code more readable.

While working in text files, there have been several attempts to provide a framework where the author can define formatting elements. The goal is to control the look of the output. So, you write in text files, define some formatting elements, through some code, and some parser or interpreter takes your document, looks at the code, and outputs a formatted document ready for the printer, or a pdf file, or an html file for posting to the web. There have been several attempts at the definition of the code and the resultant parser: LaTex, reStructured Text, & Markdown are all examples of this attempt.

Markdown is the one which has gotten a lot of attention lately. The move to write for the web and the plethora of available tools has made this an active product category in the writing space. Markdown takes text files and adds code to the text file. For instance, to make something italic in markdown, you surround it with one *. That is interpreted by the markdown parser as italic. If you are outputting an html file, it will use the html code for emphasis and convert the *'s into appropriate html code.

As with anything that is trendy or hot, there are people who are not enamored by the system. They are the people who are "Markdown-averse."

Tabula is trying to cater to this niche of customers.

You write a document and Tabula will fill in the code. The only problem is that no parser can read your mind. So you have to start a word with a ` or enclose a phrase with two `s to indicate to Tabula that you are looking for an italic word or phrase. This is not much different from markdown at all. It is a different markup to achieve the same thing.

Another example, in Markdown you signify a header by appending #'s in front of the header text. Your choice of number of #'s defines the level of the header. In Tabula, you achieve the same effect by having a capitalized word in a separate line or a sentence with at least two capitalized words in a separate line. Tabula doesn't do multiple levels of headers, it does one level.

Tabula Is Bad at It

Software is not good at reading your mind. The more control you want over your output, the more specific you have to be. There is nothing automatic about Tabula. It is marketing hype which Tabula doesn't deliver on. It is another markup language masquerading as automation.

To understand that this is another markup language, this is a quote from their website:

If you would like to license the Tabula parse system for a project of your own, please contact us directly.

Tabula is a markup system which is pretending not to be one. And it is an ill-defined markup system. Markdown is a better alternative. Tabula doesn't do levels of headers, doesn't do footnotes, doesn't do bold, doesn't do nested numbered lists, doesn't support code blocks, doesn't support block quotes.

The only question I have after using this product is, "Why?"

Conclusion

Avoid 'Tabula.

Learn markdown. It is easy. Here is an online tutorial.

I spent $7.98 of my own money to review this.

Alternate Take

A favorable review of 'Tabula: A new distraction-free writing app: Tabula | Welcome to Sherwood

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Tabula Writing
February 8, 2017

PDF Converter Ultimate Does Conversions on iOS

App IconApp Icon

Product: PDF Converter Ultimate
Price: $9.99 for individual type of conversion or $49.99 for all of them.

The convert to and from PDF seems to be an active product category and there are a bunch of players in the space. I have covered products in this category before Able2Extract Professional 11 Slings PDF Files Around Like a Boss - iPadpedia, and Convert PDF's to Word - iPadpedia.

Converter File LocationConverter File Location

PDF Converter Ultimate being an iOS product interested me. It converts files to and from PDF. It is comfortable with a host of file formats and is good at the conversions. You can convert files which are hosted on your device or from a slew of cloud services, including Box, Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive.

Interestingly, the files are uploaded to the Cometdocs servers, and the conversion is done there and then pushed to your iOS device. The heavy lifting of the conversion is handed over to the servers and that means that your iPad battery and speed are not important to the conversions. It is an efficient way of dealing with the conversions. The files once pushed to the iOS device are deleted from the servers.

Converter DropboxConverter Dropbox

You point the program to a cloud service, in my case, it was Dropbox. The contents are listed. You pick one.

Converter Dropbox FileConverter Dropbox File

The content of the files is shown in the window. You press Convert, the button on the top left.

Converter ConvertConverter Convert

That gives you a drop down menu of your choices.

Converter ShareConverter Share

After converting you have the ability to share the document through the share menu of iOS.

Conclusion

PDF Converter Ultimate does a good job of converting regular documents and scanned documents.

When you need the ability to convert to and from PDF files to a plethora of formats on iOS, PDF Converter Ultimate is a good choice. It is recommended heartily.

A complimentary copy was provided by the developer looking for a review of the product.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

PDF iOS
February 5, 2017

Curio Helps You Think Things Through

Curio IconCurio Icon

Product: Zengobi Curio - Note Taking, Mind Mapping, Brainstorming
Price: $59.99 to $139.99 (Price for academia $89.99)

Curio is a strange beast. It is unlike any other application available on the Mac. It is a collection of tools to help you in your quest to produce content, think things through, and manage your life.

What makes Curio unique is two things:

  1. Curio tries to implement in one application, tasks which are attempted by a host of single feature applications. Curio has a mind map component. It has an outlining component. It has an Index Card component. These are tasks usually performed by a dedicated application. In Curio, these are all available for you to work with.
  2. It provides you a freeform canvas where you are not constrained in any way. There are no restrictions to how you want to achieve your project goals. You have at your command a plethora of tools and you get to choose to mix and match those tools to achieve your goals.

Once in a while, you run across an application which is going to change the way you work. Significantly change the way you work. Thankfully doesn’t happen too often (that would freak out old people like me) but when it does, there is an excitement which hits you. You are on the precipice of forging into new territory, of traveling into a workflow where there will be new things to learn and experience but there are also going to be productive results from the learning. Curio gives me that feeling. It is a new way for me to experience the process of writing. Of thinking. Of exploring what the nuances are, what the dimensions are and they can all be in one space in one application, and I can be immersed in it. Because it is all available in the same application, I find that I am more likely to use them, I am more likely to give myself the opportunity to take the time to think about it. Take the time to organize my thoughts better. Curio has the potential of improving the quality of my content and that is something I am grateful for.

Review of Curio

Zengobi was very kind to provide me a license for Curio with the idea that I would review the new version 11.0. So here is the review.

If you are a person who is producing content. Any content. If you feel that your content can be improved by thinking things through, you should try out Curio. It has all the tools necessary to help you in the process of thinking, producing and managing your content related workflow.

Curio Working WindowCurio Working Window

While writing this article, this is how the window in Curio looked like. I am used to writing in iA Writer. iA Writer is a program where this article is going to end up, but in the act of writing in Curio, I find that I can move the process along by making a few mind maps or lists to help the process. To clarify my thinking. Curio through its set of integrated tools makes that process easy and efficient.

The developer makes the following claim about Curio:

The key point is that everything related to your project is stored, managed, and tracked within a single project file using a single, well-integrated application. You’re not juggling a mess of files scattered about your hard disk with a disparate suite of apps.

Curio delivers. It helps you manage your projects. It also helps you be more creative, more incisive, more efficient in the production of the content which is the central component of your project management. I have just started scratching the surface of this product and I am excited by the potential it shows.

Curio is available in three editions with prices ranging from $59.99 to $139.99. The features of each of these versions are listed on their site. Pick the flavor you prefer. I am covering the Professional version of the product.

Curio has the potential to change your life. It is heartily recommended.

Stacks of Tasks to Be Done

Curio Mind MapCurio Mind Map

Curio gives you access to several tools. I am going to concentrate on one of them for this article, Stacks. I will write follow-up articles on the others in the coming months.

Stacks are a great way of organizing tasks.

Curio StacksCurio Stacks

Stacks as implemented in Curio, reminds me of Trello. At any given point in time, I have a bunch of blog ideas listed under Ideas. I start work on one of them and move them on to the WIP Stack. I add components to the task at that stage: Write, Post to ipadpedia.net, Post to Medium.com & Post to Twitter. I move along that process and when all the components are done, I move them over to the Done Stack. I can assign due dates and other meta tags to each of these tasks.

It is a competent way of having a handle on the various aspects of a project whilst you are in the middle of it. Gives you direction and keeps you on track.

Conceptually, Stacks can also be used to include a product feature list to be implemented, then the move to a stack of those being worked on, and the corresponding move to the Done stack when the feature is implemented.

Stacks comes with support of a whole host of meta-data and it is a full-featured system of task management built right into Curio and its project management toolset.

Curio Meets EisenhowerCurio Meets Eisenhower

Another way of making use of Stacks is to design an implementation of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. Gives you an overview of the tasks which are on the platter and the relative priority of them. I implement this through a confluence of two tools from Curio, the Table and the Stacks. It gives me some sense of what is pressing at a glance.

So, this is Stacks as implemented by Curio. Helping you get a handle on your projects and the associated tasks which make up your projects.

Conclusion

I am excited by Curio. I recommend it heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Curio Writing