June 6, 2022

iA Writer 6 Adds Wikilinks

Writer – iA

iA Writer adds Wikilinks as its new superpower.

Wikilinks lets you connect to other files in your library. Enclosed in square brackets, Wikilinks are exported and published as normal text.

To create a Wikilink, type two [’s and the name of the file you want to link to. iA Writer will auto-complete the name from files in your library. It will show you a drop-down menu of file names, you can use the arrow keys to go up/down the choices, choose the one you want, hit ↵, and iA Writer will complete the name, add the trailing ]]’s and you have created a Wikilink.

If you want to link to a file that doesn’t yet exist, type two [’s and the name of the new file you want to link to, hit ↵. You can now ⌘-click on the file name to go to the new file and type it’s content.

There are a few nice touches to creation and dealing with Wikilinks in iA Writer:

  • You can select text and press the [ key twice to wrap the selection in two pairs of square brackets.
  • In the Wikilink, you can add a new title to the link by typing a vertical bar, | after the destination and adding a title.
  • ⌘-click or ⌘↵ on a Wikilink to open it in the Editor.
  • You can navigate back to the original file by using the history buttons in the title bar, or by pressing ⌃⌘←. You can go back and forward, by holding ⌘ and swiping right or left anywhere in the document.

Linking between files has become a cornerstone of the new generation of knowledge management products like Roam Research, Obsidian, and Logseq. They all include a feature called Backlinks. When you link to a file, the linked file now includes a section which links to the original file. These are called Backlinks. iA Writer doesn’t include this ability. It is on the roadmap.

Wikilinks is a great addition to the program. It is something that is an ancillary to the Content Block feature.

Content Blocks are designated by typing a /and the name of the file whose content you want to include. This lets you add the content of a different file to the document you are working on. Effectively you can break up your writing into small files and then bring them together by assigning a collection of Content Blocks in the order you prefer. In preview mode, you can see the document with the Content Blocks added.

Wikilinks is a similar addition except that it is a link to the file and not its content.

Use a combination of the two to achieve your goals.

iA Writer in its sidebar has the ability to list your favorite files and you can switch from one to the other by pressing ⌃(1-9) depending on the order of the listing of files. What happens when you have more than nine files you have to access regularly?

I created a file called Repository, where I added some of the other files I access regularly as Wikilinks. Makes the process of moving to your files easier.

Some of the Other Improvements in Version 6

  • Hashtags can be now added anywhere in text.
  • Autocomplete suggests hashtags as you type.
  • Metadata improvements.
  • Metadata keys can be used as variables in text, and they will be automatically substituted for export and in Preview.
  • All-new highlight colors: yellow orange pink purple blue green

The complete list of improvements is available in the change-log.

From developer:

https://ia.net/topics/ia-writer-6-now-with-lasers

Wikilinks make it easy to connect, browse, and rediscover your writing. Wikilinks are enclosed in double square brackets: [[link]] in Editor is shown as link in Preview. Wikilinks are exported and published as normal text, allowing you to enrich your notes with connections hidden from everyone else. To make a wikilink, just type the opening [[ and the name of the file you would like to link. Editor automatically inserts the closing ]]. Autocomplete shows all files that match the name you typed. You can navigate an autocomplete popup with up and down arrows. Press ⏎ to insert a wikilink into the document and move cursor after the closing ]]. Press ⇥ to insert the wikilink and keep cursor at the end of the inserted text. You can also select text and press the [ key twice to wrap the selection in two pairs of square brackets.

Seamlessly Integrate in Text

Use a vertical bar to add a separate title: [[destination|title]] becomes title. Add text immediately after the closing bracket for plurals and verb forms: [[link]]s becomes links.

Library Locations

To link to a file in a different Library Location, begin the link with the Location name: [[Location: link]]. Autocomplete does this automatically when you select one of the results.

Navigation

To open a wikilink in Editor use its contextual menu, ⌘-click, or ⌘⏎. Wikilinks are directly clickable in Preview. iA Writer remembers document navigation history, so it’s easy to go back to the previous document using the history buttons in the title bar or ⌃⌘←.

How Wikilinks Work

When you open a wikilink like [[link]], iA Writer finds the nearest file that matches the given name. A file in the same folder be preferred over a file in a subfolder, and a file in a subfolder will be preferred over a file in a parent folder. When you open a wikilink that includes a Location name like [[Location: link]], iA Writer will find a file that matches the given name, starting at the root folder of the Location. Files closer to the root folder will be preferred over files deeper in the folder structure. Wikilinks in iA Writer are designed to find the destination file with minimum information. Autocomplete always uses the shortest unique link that will find the destination file. It will append a file extension when there is more than one text file with the same extension. It will append the parent folder name when there’s more than one file with the same name.

Navigation History

Navigation history keeps track of the files you recently opened using wikilinks, Library, or Quick Search To go back and forward, hold ⌘ and swipe right or left anywhere in the document Click the history buttons in the title bar Or use ⌃⌘← and ⌃⌘→

Hashtag Improvements

Hashtags can be now added anywhere in text Autocomplete suggests hashtags as you type Consistent styling for hashtags and other links Show a hashtag in Quick Search with ⌘-click or ⌘⏎

Autolinks

All web links and email addresses are automatically detected Open a link in browser or compose a new email with ⌘-click or ⌘⏎ Control how autolinks, hashtags, and wikilinks are exported in Markdown preferences

Content Block Improvements

To add a content block, type / at the beginning of a line and the name of the file you would like to include Autocomplete suggests files from your Library A path to a file is no longer required. Filename-only content blocks automatically find the nearest matching file Open a text content block with ⌘-click or ⌘⏎ If the content block file doesn’t exist, it’ll be automatically created and ready to type

Metadata

Metadata is a simple key-value format for storing additional information about a document, hidden from export and Preview.

Document Metadata

Document metadata is placed on top of a file, and must be enclosed with three dashes:

Author: Jane Smith Date: January 1 — Metadata keys can be used as variables in text, and they will be automatically substituted for export and in Preview: Kind regards, [%Author]

Global Metadata

Metadata that applies to every file can be defined in Markdown preferences. Global metadata has the lowest priority, so that a document that explicitly specifies its author will always use that value when a variable is used. Content Block Metadata Content block metadata is placed immediately after a content block, optionally enclosed with three dashes: Letter.text Name: John Smith Date: January 2

Content block metadata has the highest priority.

Images support title, width, and height attributes: Image.png Title: Chart Width: 50%

Look and Feel

Completed tasks are faded and crossed-out All-new highlight colors: yellow orange pink purple blue green Choose your favorite highlight color and configure completed task appearance in Editor preferences

Editor Improvements

Editor automatically inserts closing brackets Select text and type an opening bracket to wrap selection in matching brackets Added indent width preference Changed strikethrough shortcut to ⌥⌘U Changed highlight shortcut to ⇧⌘U Changed code shortcut to ⌘J Added code block command with shortcut ⇧⌘J Disabled spell checking, autocorrection, autocapitalization, and smart punctuation in code Set up ⌘E shortcut to use selection for find Changed shortcut to mark task as completed to ⌥⌘X

Other Improvements

Changed Library shortcut to ⌃⌘S Task list items are searchable with Smart Folders and Quick Search using [ ] and [x] Text stats include content blocks and take metadata variables into account Added ability to show and sort by date created in Library Added fuzzy Library Path matching to Quick Search Added an option to always show the title bar Replaced Delete in Library with Move to Trash, hold ⌥ to delete immediately Stopped asking to keep document changes by default, configurable in Files preferences If you like the updates, please leave us a rating on the Mac App Store. It helps a lot.

https://www.macstories.net/reviews/ia-writer-6-adds-cross-document-linking-metadata-and-more/ iA Writer’s autocompletion feature works with content blocks and tags too. Content blocks are a way to embed the content of one file into another. With iA Writer 6, type a slash character and begin typing the name of a file. As with wikilinks, the app will suggest files in your Library. Pick one to add as a content block, which will appear in the format ‘/document.md’ in iA Writer’s editor. Switch to preview mode, and the entire contents of the document block you added appear inline. iA Writer can also autocomplete tags anywhere in a document based on any you’ve used before.

Also known as YAML frontmatter, iA Writer now supports metadata. Key/value pairs placed between sets of three dashes at the beginning of a document can be used as variables in the document and will not appear when it is exported or previewed. In the body of a document that includes metadata, enclose the metadata key in square brackets with a % symbol at the beginning of the variable name like this: [%Creation Date] and the variable will be replaced with its value throughout your document. Here’s how it looks in practice: Defining metadata and using it as a variable in a document’s body text.

iA Writer includes a handful of additional changes worth noting too. By holding down ⌘ and swiping on the editor or preview pane, you can navigate backward and forward through your document history. Likewise, holding down ⌘ and swiping across the Library provides a fast way to navigate its history. Web links and email addresses are autodetected by iA Writer, and if you ⌘-click on them or press ⌘⏎ when the cursor is inside the text, they’ll open in your browser or start a new email message, respectively. Plus, completed tasks are struck out and dimmed, there are six new highlight colors for emphasizing text, and there’s a new lightning bolt arrow button on the iPad version’s toolbar for quick access to common formatting controls. Finally, it’s worth checking out the app’s complete release notes because there are several additional small ‘quality-of-life’ changes and changes to keyboard shortcuts worth reviewing.

May 26, 2022

What Is the Best Writing App for Me?

ChoicesChoices

This was a question I got asked by a reader a few days ago. There are so many choices and features to consider that it is not an easy question to answer. The needs of a user from a writing application varies. In fact, I am going to approach this from the perspective of user needs.

  1. I need an easy to use application.
  2. I need an application I can grow with. As my writing evolves, I want the application to provide me features which I will need.
  3. I will spend the rest of my life in this application. I will use it all the time, learn all of its nuances and live in it.

Caveat

I am not interested in rich text. I will concentrate on plain text applications with Markdown as the core markup for your writing. I am going to choose one product in each of these categories. There are a ton of competing products, but I am going to restrict myself to what I consider “best of class.”

Need an Easy to Use Application

Some of you are put-off by complex software. You have the need for a program which you can use to write, think, and take notes. You don’t relish the thought of reading a manual or a help file. You are looking for simplicity.

It is also a truism that if you find a program approachable and easy, you are going to use it more. If you like the note-taking program you are using, you are going to take more notes. Conversely, if you find the note-taking program intimidating, you are going to resist taking as many notes.

iA Writer

I recommend iA Writer for the user seeking an easy to use application to write in.

iA Writer is a minimalistic text editor which handles Markdown and gives you a simple environment to work in. The new version, which is in beta, significantly improves the editor. I will write about it when it is released.

I have written about iA Writer before:

I seem to write about iA Writer a lot.

If you are looking for a simple editor… What is a simple editor? An editor is simple when the learning curve is almost non-existent. You can launch the program and start writing in it without having to figure out too many things. How does that happen? The developer makes choices for you which make it possible for you to not have to go through an endless process of setting things up and customizing things to make the editor behave the way you want it to. A simple editor makes most of the choices for you and you can get down to the business of writing and not worry about things. iA Writer is an expert at that.

Please don’t confuse simple with lacking features. iA Writer is feature rich. It does a host of things which make it the perfect Markdown based text editor. It provides you a complete solution for all your writing and it does it without over-burdening you with choices. This is well-designed software.

Need an Application I Can Grow With

You belong to the category of users who don’t mind a learning curve, but don’t want it to be particularly steep. You are willing to grow in your use of the product. Discover the features and nuances at your own pace, while being productive in the meantime.

Obsidian

Obsidian is the obvious choice in this category. Obsidian can be a simple application if you want that. Yet it is capable of so much more that soon you are going to make it a lot more complicated than you want to. The plug-in infrastructure is the differentiator. They add so much to the program extending it in ways that you never thought possible, that you are going to have a lot of fun discovering things that it can do.

I have written about Obsidian before:

Obsidian is growing at a frenetic pace. If you adopt it, remember that there is a learning curve to expertise in Obsidian. As an auxiliary to the things that Obsidian can do, the program has a tendency to get away from you. Too many plugins and too many changes to the workflow will make this a difficult learning curve.

Obsidian is a deep program which you need to get comfortable in. You can use it for all your writing and it is the program with the best set of features in this marketplace.

These are more things for you to read if you are thinking of using Obsidian.

An Application for the Rest of Your Life

This was a difficult choice to make. If you are looking for a program which you are going to live in for the rest of your life and are looking for a feature-rich, “serious” text editor, the choices on the macOS are the following:

You can choose any one of these and get similar benefits. They are all fantastic solutions.

BBEdit

I will recommend BBEdit.

BBEdit supports the macOS better than the competition. It has better tech support than the competition and it ships with the most detailed manual that you can use to learn the ins and outs of the program. It is continuously improved by the developer and has had a long run on macOS.

You can’t go wrong with BBEdit.

An Exception

Scrivener. A rich-text solution. Scrivener is designed for writers, and brings a bunch of custom features to the task of writing. It is life-changing software.

It has a steep learning curve, but the good news is that you can start using Scrivener and grow into it. Don’t be intimidated by the learning curve. Don’t assume that you need to know all the intricacies of the software before you start using it. Dive in. Write. Learn as you go. Scrivener ships with a great manual and they have a helpful online community in their forums.

You can use Scrivener as a plain text editor. You miss out on some features like styles if you do that, but it is possible to use it as a plain-old text editor and you can compile Markdown documents from the program with little effort.

Conclusion

This was an interesting article to write. Restricting myself to only one choice in the three categories made it difficult.

Depending on your needs, you cannot go wrong with iA Writer, Obsidian, or BBEdit.

Happy writing.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Thanks: Carlo Martin Alcordo

writing macOS
May 24, 2022

QB 007: Back Tap on the iPhone

An iPhone feature. I didn’t know this one.

Open Settings>Accessibility>Touch and locate Back Tap. Back Tap lets you set a shortcut to an app or a feature through a double-tap or a triple-tap on the back of your iPhone. Yes. On the back of your iPhone.

I have the double-tap set for the Camera and the triple-tap set for the Magnifier. I need the Magnifier to read instructions on most packages. Getting old has its challenges.

This is a feature which I use a lot.

Thanks Macworld for teaching me this one.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

iPhone iOS
May 17, 2022

Bike IconBike Icon

Bike Outliner - a Bicycle for Your Outlines

Product: Bike Outliner
Price: $19.99

“Bike is a fast and fluid outliner—a simple tool that feels nice.” This is how Bike is described by it’s developer.

Does Bike live up to that description? The answer is “An emphatic yes.”

Bike is the best outliner I have used in a while.

Bike WindowBike Window

What makes Bike a great outliner?

  • Simple: Bike is simple. If you know how to work with outlining programs, you know how to work in Bike. Get familiar with the keyboard commands and you are ready to be an expert. This is well designed software which is a pleasure to use.
  • Performance: Bike is responsive, fast, and stable. It is comfortable with large files.
  • File agnostic: Bike deals with OPML files, text files and it’s own .bike files (these are HTML files). There is no lock-in. You can use Bike for a while and move on to something else for your outlining needs without any problems. Conversely, you can bring in files you have created with other programs into Bike and that is an easy process.
  • Focus and Hoisting: When I have a large outline, I want to be able to concentrate on sections. Bike lets me do that.
  • Keyboard Commands: Bike is superb at providing you keyboard commands to write and manage outlines in Bike. With a custom built editor, Bike is designed to keep you from the mouse/trackpad. You can do everything with keyboard commands and it makes the experience of editing in Bike fantastic. I love being in Bike and living in it. Find the list of Keyboard Shortcuts for Bike.
    • To give an example of how extensive the support for keyboard commands are in Bike.
      • Indent and Outdent are two things you do a lot when you are in an outline. You can indent and outdent in the following ways:
        • Tab and Shift-Tab to indent/outdent.
        • ⌃+⌘+Right and ⌃+⌘+Left to indent/outdent.
        • ⌘+[** and **⌘+] to indent/outdent.
    • I love this program.
  • Documentation: Bike is extensively documented at Bike - Bike. I love it when a new product takes the trouble of documenting it’s features. Makes the act of learning how to use it easier. You get value from your investment if you know how to use the product you paid for. Bike is excellent at that.
  • Different Modes: Bike has an editing mode which is what is supported by all text editors and outliners. In addition it has an “Outline Editing Mode.” While in text editing mode, press the ESC key and you switch to outline editing mode. Outline editing mode is useful when you are re-arranging the items in your outline. Try it. You might love it like I do.
  • Links: Bike has the ability to link the content of one document to another document. This is not restricted to Bike alone. The Bike link can be activated in other programs and as long as Bike is installed on the machine, it will work. Links can be directed to the path of the document, if that is what you prefer. Read about it Using Links - Bike.

Roadmap

At this stage Bike has an extensive roadmap. Themes and plug-ins are promised. This is a version 1.0 product. I would like some improvements to the basic product and they are listed next.

Improvements

  • I want to use my own themes and fonts.
  • Full screen sucks. I want the editing window in full screen to be smaller than the whole screen of the computer.
  • Typewriter Scrolling. I don’t want to look at the bottom of the screen when I am writing.

A Couple of Issues I Want to Address

Questions About the Future of Bike

A comment from the Outliner software forum: Outliner Software: New app, Bike

Ah! Jesse Grosjean does it again… The guy who created and killed Mori, Plaintext, Folding Text, Taskpaper for IOS, SimpleText, QuickCursor. I have lost count of how many apps he created and dumped (along with his customers). I won’t be fooled this time.

There is consensus amongst the participants of this forum. I know all those products. I paid for all of them, except Mori. I also know that Jesse Grosjean is a developer who keeps pushing the boundaries of what is possible in plain text files. TaskPaper is a fantastic product which has given me continuous service for almost a decade. Folding Text, an experiment, is working on the latest OS. I respect Jesse as a developer. And Bike is bringing me joy.

Yes there is a promised roadmap and no one knows whether it can be delivered. Bike, as is, at version 1.0, I am going to use extensively.

Bike Is Not TaskPaper 4

Jesse explains that in How does Bike relate to TaskPaper?

Recommendation

Adopting Bike into my workflow is a no-brainer for me.

I recommend it heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Note: The developer provided a license code for beta-testers of which I was one.

Update: Bike got updated to include the ability to use your own fonts. Yippee!!! Update 2: Changed name of product to Bike Outliner.

outliner macOS
May 5, 2022

SilhouetteSilhouette

Links of Note 2022-05-05

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Note: Thanks to Photo by Juan Nino from Pexels

links