October 6, 2021
nimblenote Is a Simple, Keyboard-Driven Notetaker
Price: Free (donations encouraged)
nimblenote is another Notational Velocity clone. nimblenote is keyboard driven and Markdown compliant. It is a cross-platform application, with versions for macOS, Windows and Linux.
It is a simple program for fast note-taking. To access the preferences, you have to go to your
Library>Application Support>nimblenote folder to find a file called
nimblenote.json. You can add the following line to the file to get nimblenote to deal with a different folder for your notes than the program default.
Replace the (username) with your username, and direct nimblenote to the folder of your notes. I threw about 1400 files at nimblenote and it chugged along with no problems.
If you type
? in the unibar, you will get access to help. It is not extensive. The program doesn’t do much. The
Esc key switches focus between the unibar and the editor window.
This is not a program competing with the major players in the note-taking space. It is a simple note-taker. A quick in and out tool which lets you keep a folder of notes and lets you access, add, remove, and manage the notes in that folder.
nimblenote could become better with the following additions:
- Let me use my own fonts.
- Give me control over line spacing.
- Additional themes would be welcome.
nimblenote is heartily recommended. It is a free, fast, and competent note-taking tool.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.
September 16, 2021
Planck EZ Helps Me Write
Product: Planck EZ: A Powerful, Backlit, Open-Source, 40% Mechanical Keyboard | Planck EZ
The Planck EZ
It has 47 keys. It is tiny. When the keyboard lights are on, it is a little overwhelming. It feels well made and it is pretty. It is ortholinear. It is customizable.
Ortholinear? What does that mean? Look at the positions of Q, A, and Z. They are on a straight line. In the usual keyboards, they are staggered. Straight on an ortholinear setup. The logic behind the ortholinear setup is that fingers typing on it don’t have to travel as much. That is less stress on your fingers and the typing speed increases.
The Planck Without the Light Show
Without the light show, it is pretty. This is a wired keyboard. No Bluetooth. Works with USB Type C and USB Type A.
You have a choice of 8 Cherry MX Switch varieties and 5 Kailh Switch Varieties. The switches are hot-swappable, you can mix and match if that is your wish. I got the Cherry MX Browns. They are quieter than the Blues and I like the feel of them. I don’t know about the Kailh switches, I stuck to the familiar Cherry switches.
Making the Keyboard Your Own
With only 47 keys, you have to make space for the other keys. The Planck does that with layers. See the keys on the left and the right of the diminutive spacebar? Those are the keys you use to switch layers. The default setup comes with 4 layers:
- A lower layer is accessed by pressing and holding the left layer key.
- A raised layer is accessed by pressing and holding the right layer key.
- The base layer, and,
- The adjust layer is accessed by pressing and holding both the left and right layer keys.
You can add layers to the configuration. 28 more (for a total of 32). That is more layers than I can manage. I am still using the default layers and have not ventured away from that. Need to get used to the location of the keys I have set up before I make more layers.
The Oryx configurator is what you use to configure the keys. You can find my configuration here. You can add a spot color to individual keys to use as identifiers. The configuration is easy. You modify the layout, you download the configuration to your computer. You drop the configuration on Wally. And let Wally flash your keyboard.
The base layer
This is my base layer. Pretty standard. I added the Hyper key. I use that a lot. Also customized the Enter key. It is Enter if it is tapped and the Right Shift key when it is held down. Not sure that I need that anymore, having discovered the joys of Auto-Shift. More on that a little later.
I was already getting used to the VIM directional keys (h,j,k,l) so the arrow keys in a line don’t seem to bug me as much as I thought they would. I am still getting used to the placement of the Tab and the Esc key. Debating whether I should switch them around. Other than that, the base layer is perfect.
The lower layer
The lower layer. The cluster of brackets gets a lot of use. They are colored differently from the other keys. Might consider different colors for the
* keys to be easier to locate. Those keys get used extensively when I am writing in Markdown (which is all the time). There are some media keys on the bottom right. They get a fair amount of usage. The Oryx key is on the bottom left. Not sure whether that is useful at all, I haven’t used it in the time I have had the keyboard.
The raised layer
The raised layer. The numbers are on the top. The End/Home/PgUp/PgDn cluster is useful. Some more media keys at the bottom right. The slash key is a toggle between the backward and the forward slash. The Planck simulates some mouse controls. Left and right-click with the mouse is on this layer.
The adjust layer
The adjust layer. You get this by holding down the raise and lower keys. I like the number pad, that is here. There are some hardware toggle keys to turn on/off backlighting and other adjustments to it.
The advanced settings
The advanced settings. Auto-Shift is a fantastic feature. A long press on a letter key and you get the capitalized version of the letter. Makes typing a lot more fun. I am in love with Auto-Shift. Makes it difficult to use another keyboard after getting used to this, it has made me type so much better. I have Auto-Shift turned on for everything and it is a feature I am using extensively.
I didn’t take any formal instructions on how to type. I learned by chatting on IRC and BBS’es when I was almost thirty years old. I have lots of bad habits. I am sure I use the wrong finger for particular keys and am not efficient at typing. When I first got the keyboard, it was a right mess. Couldn’t type on it without bunches of mistakes. It was a difficult two weeks. It got better the more I used the keyboard. It is still not perfect, but it is not a frustrating exercise anymore. I can instinctively keep on putting words on the screen without thinking about where the keys are. That is a noticeable improvement.
The Planck is habit-forming. Moving from it to the Air keyboard is an absolute nightmare. Mistakes galore. Auto-Shift compounds the problem.
Once you get used to it, The Planck is a joy to type in. I am slowly getting there. Why are all keyboards not like this? Auto-Shift, the ability to customize the keys, and the color-coded keys make the Planck a worthwhile investment for me. The ortholinear setup is something that took a little getting used to, but I have no pain in my hands now. I can type on this the whole day, and I do, every day, with no pain.
If you are not constrained by space or money, you might consider the ErgoDox EZ: An Incredible Mechanical Ergonomic Keyboard or the ZSA Moonlander: Next-gen Ergonomics | zsa.io | Store. But if you are looking for something smaller and cheaper, the Planck is a great alternative.
I am ecstatic with my use of the Planck. This is turning into a workhorse and I am enjoying putting words on the screen with it.
I have to thank Matt Gemmill for the inspiration. He wrote three articles on the Planck and they helped me:
- The Planck Keyboard - Matt Gemmell
- 40% Keyboard Layout for Writing - Matt Gemmell
- Compressing Your Keyboard - Matt Gemmell
Thank you Matt. And thank you ZSA Technology Labs, Inc. for making a good product.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.
July 26, 2021
BBEdit 14 icon
BBEdit 14 Protects You From “Untitled Text” Infestation
I promised myself that I wouldn’t update to the next version of BBEdit based on my experience with BBEdit 13. BBEdit 13: It Sucks a Little is what I had to say about it.
BBEdit got upgraded to version 14 and in spite of my best intentions I couldn’t resist. I ponied up the upgrade price and proceeded to test it out.
I am not a coder. My perspective on BBEdit is that of a person who uses it to write. Blog posts, books, articles and doodles in text is what I use it for. If you are a coder, my comments on BBEdit are not going to be relevant to you.
As usual, BBEdit does a great job of documenting everything that has changed in their release notes. Go through that to get the complete picture.
The biggest feature in this version is Notes.
The reactions on Twitter to this new feature:
Looking over BBEdit’s list of new features in 14, and that new Notes functionality - worth the upgrade cost just for that (dang, it’s like they know their user base!). I’ll be cracking open the ol’ wallet today.
I also use Drafts, and I’m really looking forward to checking out this new Notes thingie in BBEdit 14. (I have slightly less than 305 untitled documents, but will probably benefit greatly.)
This was funny:
BBedit like: We learnt a lot of you use unsaved untitled texts as notices, so we built this as a new feature! Me: I DON’T HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT! Also Me:
Just wanted to express my appreciation for the new @bbedit 14 notes feature. It will come in very handy, as one can see from the screen cap below with my 300+ untitled text documents.
I don’t know what these people are on about. I use the Scratchpad for random notes. The same Scratchpad for everything. If it results in something useful, I save the relevant content in a new document. I don’t have a single “untitled text” document hanging around. An unsaved document? What are you smoking, mate? Why would you do that? Save the damn file, put it where it belongs and move on to the next thing. I am realizing that mine is a minority opinion. BBEdit users do this all the time. The stability of BBEdit ensures that even if you quit the program, the documents you have unsaved show up in the next restart. You can have a bunch of these “untitled text” documents hanging around forever. The thought of it makes me break into hives.
Notes is a way for BBEdit to provide a solution to this particular behavior. I am not sure it is going to work. BBEdit lets you have collections, folders really, and introduces organization to the collection of unsaved notes. I am not sure that these users are looking for organization. They would be improved by some. BBEdit provides that now. It is an interesting implementation of a feature which will benefit BBEdit users, if they use it.
I assigned a keyboard command to the New Note command (⌃⌥⌘N). It takes the first line of the note as the filename, giving you an idea of what the content is. Doesn’t need you to save anything or do anything extra. You can make a new note from the contents of your clipboard or from a selection of text in any program. Useful feature when you are doing research, collecting information. The notes are in a proprietary package in the BBEdit Application Support folder. You can see inside the package and find your notes. The file names don’t mean much, but the plain text files are available if you want to get at them.
The notes show up in the Open File by Name (⌘D) command, you can search for individual files if you have a large collection of these notes. Search is by filename, not content.
I use Projects in BBEdit. I assign folders of text files to a project and I can manage those folders in BBEdit. I create, edit, rename, move and delete these documents in the sidebar and that is the organization I am used to. I can have collections of documents in these projects depending on what particular writing project I am engrossed in at that moment. It works. The Notes function is a replication of that functionality in a new window. Unsure how useful this is going to be, but I am trying it out.
LSP and Anaconda
These are two new features geared for coders. LSP might let me use linters and there are good ones for Markdown syntax and general writing. I am going to explore adding those to BBEdit. But these are not critical to my life.
BBEdit 14 has brought back the Clipboard Window. Accessible from Edit>Show Clipboard, this gives you access to the many clips you have generated across an editing session. Unfortunately, these don’t last across restarts. I rely on Alfred for that feature and this new addition doesn’t add much to the workflow for me. Alfred lets me have unlimited clipboards from all the applications which use the system clipboard.
BBEdit Legacy Icon
You get to choose BBEdit’s application icon. You can choose between Default, Classic, Legacy, or for the people who are incredibly resistant to change, the TextWrangler icon.
What Is the Allure of BBEdit?
Remember the following truism:
The best text editor is the one you know how to use.
I like BBEdit. I prefer Sublime Text and VSCode. I like Obsidian for my writing and note-taking. Why do I keep upgrading BBEdit?
In no particular order, these are my reasons for having BBEdit installed and current on my machines:
- BBEdit is solid software. I cannot remember the last time I had a crash in BBEdit.
- BBEdit deals with huge files without any problems. I can throw any size file at it, and it doesn’t balk.
- This is deep software which does a whole host of things which even after almost two decades of using it, surprises me. Cat For Stitching Files Together
- BBEdit has excellent support. An active forum, a responsive technical support group, a fantastic manual, and an active developer, all add to the pleasure of using this product.
- It is gloriously old-school. It looks old-school. It gives you the opportunity to use a decades old application icon.
Why do I prefer Sublime Text, VSCode and Obsidian over BBEdit?
The plug-in ecosystem built around the competition blows BBEdit away. Look at Foam | A personal knowledge management and sharing system for VSCode.
Look at the following screen shots of a CSS file in both BBEdit and VSCode.
Which do you prefer?
Look at this Markdown Editing Plugin for Sublime Text. Nothing comparable exists on BBEdit.
The problem is that plugins/packages were an afterthought in the design of BBEdit. It was introduced as a competitive reaction and not integral to the product design. A lot of features of BBEdit are just that, reaction to competition, added on to the product without it being a part of the infrastructure and it shows. For instance, Go>Commands… (⇧⌘U), why does it show documents? It is meant to be commands. Compare that with the Sublime Text command palette.
BBEdit Command Palette
Sublime Text Command Palette
Which makes sense to you?
The Open File by Name command (⌘D). Why is it by file name? The quick open commands in Sublime Text and VSCode lets me search by file name and content.
This is Dr. Drang on his Blogging package:
One of the things I don’t like about BBEdit’s package system is that scripts and text filters from the same package don’t appear together. Scripts are in the scripts menu (or palette), and text filters are in the Text▸Apply Text Filter menu (or palette). But Keyboard Maestro can handle that.
To make his package useful, he has to introduce another tool, Keyboard Maestro to the task. This is what happens when you hack in a feature which wasn’t something that you designed your product for.
Don’t tell me that this is what happens when you have old software. Emacs and VIM are both older and they don’t have the same problems with their plugin infrastructure.
When I work in Sublime Text, VSCode, or Obsidian, I get the feeling that I am on the cutting edge of text editing. I don’t get that feeling in BBEdit. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Being old and staid, BBEdit has a certain security to it. But I am acutely aware that I am missing the new shiny. You can discount the new features if you don’t know about them. However, it becomes difficult to do when you are exposed to them.
Periodically I have the desire to go all-in on BBEdit. I know I could do all my work in it. But then I realize that it doesn’t do the things my other editors do and I am not sure I want to give those up.
The reality is that BBEdit is perfectly usable for someone like me who writes in Markdown. Using Markdown Service Tools - BrettTerpstra.com or Zettt/km-markdown-library: Markdown library for Keyboard Maestro., makes it possible to live in BBEdit and Markdown.
The competition however does a lot more.
I upgrade to the latest version of BBEdit because it is my back up text editor. I will come back to it and live in it, if I ever need to. That security is what I am paying for. I hope I never have to use it, but that is the reasoning behind me upgrading.
Once in a while, I find myself writing without a clear idea of where I am going. This post is an example of that. Sorry.
I like BBEdit. I like the competition more. I hope BBEdit users use the Notes feature. It is nice. I am going to stick to projects.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.
Note: A few other reviews which are not as ambivalent as mine.
I found the following funny:
Dave Pell - @davepell: I don’t really need any of the @bbedit updates, but after all these years of happy usage, I buy every update. Old fogies of the internet unite! https://www.barebones.com
You might find this useful:
Script to Save all Untitled Text Documents as Notes
July 21, 2021
Moped Is a Fast and Free Text Editor
Product: RobertoMachorro/Moped: A general purpose text editor, small and light.
App Store Link: Moped Text Editor on the Mac App Store
Moped is a small and light text editor with interesting abilities.
- It supports “lazy typing.” Two spaces turn into a period. The first letter of a new sentence is capitalized. That is, it supports the macOS system settings. This alone makes it a product I enjoy using.
- It is quick. Quick to launch. Comfortable handling large files. Scrolling through a large file is easy and smooth.
- It has built-in themes, including Solarized (my favorite).
- You can use your fonts.
Moped is not competing with the likes of BBEdit, Sublime Text, or VSCode. It is a simple product geared towards helping you deal with text files. That is the extent of its ambitions and I like it.
Moped has a set of simple preferences.
You can choose a default language. In my case, Markdown. The theme. The font and the font size. Whether you want word wrap or not. That is it.
Moped is great as it is, however, I would like to add one thing to it:
Typewriter scrolling. I don’t like looking at the bottom of the screen. The ability to scroll the window beyond the last line would be an improvement.
Moped is recommended heartily.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.