June 11, 2018
Alfred Workflow 02 - System Commands, Clipboard, and a Couple of Workflows
The Alfred Workflow 01 - Caffeinate Control - Bicycle For Your Mind was the first in this series.
Today I am going to write about some system commands which are built into Alfred.
Alfred System Commands
Accessible through the System pane in preferences, this is a collection of useful commands you can use in Alfred to perform system tasks.
All of these can have assigned keywords. Pick ones you are going to remember. I use the one for Screen Saver, Empty Trash, Sleep, and Toggle Mute several times a day. The first time you use these commands they might not show up at the top of the list, find it and select it from the list and Alfred learns your preference. Next time, the command shows up at the top of the list.
There are several clipboard apps in the marketplace. I don't need them. Alfred provides me with the clipboard functions I need. I want my clipboard to contain text. I don't need to keep images or files in the clipboard, except for immediate use. It suits me that I can ask Alfred to keep only text items on the persistent clipboard. You can choose to keep your clipboard contents for three months.
You can assign a viewer hotkey, I use double tap on the ⌘ key. I sometimes use the
clipboard keyword. You can choose to have snippets show up in the clipboard list. If you have a lot of snippets saved in Alfred and sometimes forget what the contractions are, this comes in handy.
Alfred Clipboard Merge
Clicking the Merging tab in the Clipboard preference pane leads you to the best feature in the Alfred clipboard. The ability to merge items to form one clipboard item. I can copy a bunch of individual items and merge them all into one big list while copying them.
Hold down the ⌘ key and double tap C to merge items together. When you are done with the collecting of items, you paste (⌘V) the merged clipboard into your desired application. This is a great way for me to keep a list of URL's or a list of items I need to remember. Anytime I feel the need to collect information together and keep them corralled into one space, I find myself using the merged clipboard feature in Alfred.
Alfred Clipboard Advanced
You can choose applications you want the Alfred clipboard feature to ignore in the Advanced tab of the Clipboard preference pane. It is a good idea to keep your password manager in this list.
A Couple of Workflows I Find Useful
I am going to highlight two workflows that get a lot of use. I didn't write these. I am grateful to the people who did. They have made my life easier and efficient. Thank you.
Add to Instapaper
Add URLs to Instapaper via Alfred is a workflow which gets a lot of use. It is a simple workflow. When I find a page on the Web that I do not have the time to read but want to get back to at a later stage, I save it to Instapaper by using this Workflow. When I have the time, I go to Instapaper and catch up on my reading.
derbingle is the author of this workflow. Thank you.
Alfred App Version
Everyday I go to MacUpdate to see what are the new programs which have been released, and which are the programs that have been updated for the Mac. I am not always sure that I have the latest version of the program installed on my Mac. This is not a trivial task. Go to the Applications folder on the hard drive, find the application, Get Info on the Application (⌘I), and check the version number. AppVersion makes it easy. I type
av, hit Enter, and then type the name of the Application, and Alfred tells me the version number with the help of the App Version workflow.
Vitor is the creator of this workflow. Thank you Vitor for this and a whole host of other workflows which make my life easier.
Alfred Usage 2018-06-11
Alfred with Mega Supporter Powerpack is one of those investments I have made which pays off everyday. I can't imagine using a Mac without this application.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie
June 7, 2018
James Herriot: The Vet from Darrowby, Yorkshire
All Creatures Great and Small
All Creatures Great and Small (All Creatures Great and Small Book 1) by James Herriot: Kindle Store
All Things Bright and Beautiful
All Things Bright and Beautiful (All Creatures Great and Small Book 2) by James Herriot: Kindle Store
All Things Wise and Wonderful
All Things Wise and Wonderful (All Creatures Great and Small Book 3) by James Herriot: Kindle Store
The Lord God Made Them All
The Lord God Made Them All (All Creatures Great and Small Book 4) by James Herriot: Kindle Store
Every Living Thing
Every Living Thing (All Creatures Great and Small Book 5) by James Herriot: Kindle Store
James Herriot, a vet who practiced in a town called Thirsk (Darrowby in the books), close to the Yorkshire Dales wrote a series of novels. They dealt with his experiences as a vet in the 1930s-50s.
I was exposed to his books in my late teens. I have gone back to them time and again. Herriot had a wicked sense of humor and the stories are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. They are also imbued with the frustrations and sadness which are integral to the act of looking over the health of a whole village of animals in a farming community. They transport me to a simpler time. He talks about a profession I have no exposure to, about a world I have no clue about, a time when I did not exist. I enjoy every minute I spend there. Herriot has a lovely way with words. His descriptions of the weather, the countryside, the smells and the people jump out of the pages and fill me with insight and longing. Insight into a world I do not know and longing for a long gone era. I love the books and the milieu they live in.
There is a a TV series from the BBC. I enjoyed that too. The TV series does take liberties from the original stories, they introduce a few extra characters, but it is a beautiful watch. If you love the books, it is worth your time to check it out.
My "mean aunt" introduced me to James Herriot. I thank her for the gift. It has given me a lot of pleasure.
As you can tell, I recommend anything James Herriot wrote heartily.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie
June 4, 2018
iA Writer 5.0 Keyboard Commands
iA Writer Light Icon
iA Writer 5.0 has added/changed a few of the keyboard commands. Here is the new list:
|New in iCloud
|New in Library
|New in Library in Window
|Print Plain Text
|Find and Replace
|Show Spelling and Grammar
|Check Document Now
|Unordered Task List
|Ordered Task List
|Mark Task Complete
|Text Size Zoom In
|Text Size Zoom Out
|Show All Tabs
|Enter Full Screen
|Enable/Disable Focus Mode
|Enable/Disable Syntax Highlight
|Show Previous Tab
|Show Next Tab
|Commands Without Menu Equivalents
Hold down Shift with any of these to create/extend a selection.
Previous/next word: ⌥← and ⌥→
Start/end of the line: ⌘← and ⌘→ (Also with ⌃)
Start/end of the document: ⌘↑ and ⌘↓ (Also with ⌃)
Use ⌃⇥ and ⌃⇧⇥ to switch between Organizer, File Browser, and Editor without taking your hands off keyboard.
In the Organizer, you can ⇧-click to select contiguous files or ⌘-Click to select multiple arbitrary files.
Emacs keyboard commands which work in iA Writer
This is a selection of Emacs commands which also work in iA Writer.
||Deletes from the cursor to the end of the current line
||Inserts a new line after the cursor. The cursor stays in the current line
||Moves the cursor one character to the left
||Moves the cursor one character to the right
||Moves the cursor down one line
||Moves the cursor up one line
||Moves the cursor to the end of the current line. If you use word wrap, the cursor moves to the physical, not the displayed, end of the current line
||Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current line. If you use word wrap, the cursor moves to the physical, not the displayed, beginning of the current line
||Scrolls down within the document
Additions Made Through KeyboardMaestro
There were some menu items which I thought would be improved by adding keyboard commands to them. I used KeyboardMaestro to add them to iA Writer.
Table of Contents
|Add Table of Contents
|Add Page Break
|Add Horizontal Rule
These are the keyboard commands I know of. If I get to know any more, will add them to the list.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.
May 29, 2018
iA Writer 5 Manages Files & Folders
iA Writer Icon
Product: iA Writer: The Focused Writing App for Mac, Windows, Android, iPhone and iPad
App Store: iA Writer
Price: $29.99. Free upgrade from version 4.0
Version 5.0 of iA Writer got released today. I have been testing the beta out for the past couple of months. The application retains its minimalistic ethos and the sparse writing environment enhanced with Focus Mode and Syntax Highlighting. It has added in version 5.0, the ability to manage your files and folders.
Before I go into a discussion of the features, I want to talk about my ideal Markdown based writing environment.
The Ideal Markdown Based Writing Environment
After reading Markdown Editors and Note-Takers | Welcome to Sherwood I have been thinking of my ideal Markdown based writing environment:
- Complete support of one of the advanced variants of Markdown. I am not devoted to a particular variant: CommonMark or MultiMarkdown. Support for one of them will do. What does complete support mean? The editor must support at least the following:
- Table support.
- Footnote support.
- Table of Contents
- ToDo items
- Individual text files. I don't trust proprietary databases. I am always scared when I am writing in Ulysses or Bear. They both feature proprietary databases and have been solid performers. I am still scared. Database corruption and the subsequent loss of all my writing scares me. Individual text files gives me peace of mind and the ability to use any editor I want. I would also like to specify an extension for use with Markdown files. I don't want the extension to be standardized to
.txt. In my setup,
.txt files are handled by Sublime Text 3 and Markdown files (
.md) are handled by my Markdown based text editor.
- The ability to manage multiple folders and documents like BBEdit or Sublime Text 3. What that means is that I can have individual folders and sub-folders containing text files strewn across my hard drive and I can manage all of them in the Markdown editor.
- Editor makes writing Markdown pleasant. Small touches which make the process of writing Markdown easier. I should be able to do things like copy an URL to the clipboard, highlight a word in the editor and press a keyboard command to turn the word into a link. A good table editor would be a bonus. Autocompletion of lists and completion of brackets are a requirement.
- A customizable preview would be nice. Failing that, a connection to a product like Marked 2 is required.
- I don't care for the Markdown syntax to disappear. I like how Typora renders Markdown, but it is not essential. I am comfortable with the way Bear shows all the Markdown syntax and don't need it to be hidden. I don't find Markdown syntax distracting. It is minimal in its footprint and I am used to it.
- Typewriter scrolling is an essential. I don't want to keep looking at the bottom of the screen when writing.
- I want a dark theme. In the evening, I want to be able to turn that on. My eyes hurt from looking at the screen the whole day. I would prefer support of Solarized - Ethan Schoonover but am willing to settle for a simple dark mode.
- I want keyboard commands. Keyboard commands should cover both Markdown entry and application specific features. I hate buttons and picking out commands from menus. If I am going to live in a Markdown based text editor it should give me the ability to perform most functions without a trip to the mouse. I desire keyboard commands so that I can keep my fingers on the keyboard and keep writing. I like standardized keyboard commands. Like ⌃⌘F for full screen, ⌃⌘↑ and ⌃⌘↓ to move lines up and down. I don't like it when developers change those standardized keyboard commands. Makes me unlearn something and learn something new and I am not excited by that.
- The application needs to support various export formats. The usual ones need to be supported: Markdown, PDF, docx, and html. Text Bundle support would be a bonus.
iA Writer Is Updated to Version 5.0
The folks at iA have been working on iA Writer for a while. They have defined what a minimalistic text editor looks like. Their customized version of Nitti and the blue cursor marching across the screen have become iconic. Along the way iA Writer has acquired syntax highlighting, a second font in DuoSpace, full support of MultiMarkdown, and tabs implemented the macOS way. In recent times, a successful kickstarter campaign to fund a Windows version, and its delivery has been one of the highlights of their progress.
Today they launched iA Writer 5 for the macOS.
In version 5, they tackle something that has been missing in the program. File management.
Most of the minimalistic Markdown based text editors tackle a file at a time. Some of them support the macOS tabs feature which means that you can tackle a few files as long as they are all open. They don't deal with the file hierarchy. They are applications which by design are removed from the file-system. That is not the way my writing life works. I have individual folders representing different facets of my writing. A notes folder for my notes, a journal folder for my daily journal and a blog folder for my blogging, for instance. Some of these folders have sub-folders and my documents are organized within those sub-folders.
I need to be able to interact with all my document folders in my writing software. I need to access documents in each of these folders, search amongst them to locate the file I need, sometimes move files between the folders, and generally do all my file-management chores within the context of my Markdown based text editor. I have been doing this in Sublime Text 3 till iA Writer 5 came along.
iA Writer had introduced the notion of a Library in version 4. But the process of adding files to particular folders in the Library was clunky. The feature was welcome but it was not particularly useful. In version 5, they have revisited the feature and turned it into a powerhouse.
iA Writer Library
They have introduced a Library and within that an Organizer.
The left most pane is the Library pane. It has two sections:
Locations contain the folders managed by iA Writer 5. There is the iCloud folder which is shared with the iOS version. In addition, Locations can include any folders on your hard drive which you want iA Writer 5 to manage for you.
iA Writer Preference>Library
You can add folders to Locations by adding them to the Library pane of preferences, or you can just drag and drop folders from the Finder to the Locations section in the Library. Folders added to iA Writer 5 can have sub-folders within them. When you highlight a folder in the Library, the folders and files contained in it show up in the pane to the right of the Library pane. This is the Organizer pane.
iA Writer Favorites
Favorites are files and folders which you need regular or quick access to. You can designate a file or a folder as a favorite by control clicking on an item in the Organizer and selecting Add to Favorites from the drop-down menu. You can also drag and drop a file/folder from the Organizer to the Favorites section.
You can re-order the files and folders in the Library by simple drag and drop. Put them in any order you prefer. The order of the Favorites section is important. You get to access the files by keyboard commands (⌃+the number of the file/folder in the Favorites section). So the first file can be accessed by ⌃1, the second file by ⌃2 and so on.
This is a crucial feature, well implemented, which makes iA Writer a full-featured application for my Markdown based writing needs.
iA Writer Dark Icon
Dark icon: For those of you who prefer the dark over the light icon. You can get the dark icon for iA Writer by clicking on this toggle. I love it. Totally unnecessary but cool.
iA Writer Fonts
Two font choices: You can write in the customized Nitti by choosing Monospace or the customized IBM Plex, called iA Writer Duospace. iA Writer has had this for a while, and it is a good addition. I love both of these fonts to write in and they have a unique look which is synonymous with iA Writer.
iA Writer ToDo
Tasks and Task Stats: iA Writer now supports the MultiMarkdown task feature and gives you the ability to toggle tasks done with a simple click. There is a running tally of
(tasks done)/(total tasks). You can maintain separate todo lists or can have todo's in any document you are working on. It is a great way to remind yourself of unfinished tasks related to the document you are working on.
Is iA Writer 5 the Best Markdown Based Text Editor?
Based on my criteria at the start of this article I must say that iA Writer makes a compelling case in its favor.
- iA Writer supports all of MultiMarkdown.
- You live in the world of individual text files in iA Writer. You get to specify a default extension for your Markdown files.
- Version 5 of iA Writer brings file management to the toolset. Complete toolset of file management tools enhanced by the ability to drag and drop folders and files into iA Writer and between the folders managed by it.
- iA Writer is fantastic at presenting little touches which make the act of writing Markdown pleasant.
- User definable previews are built into iA Writer. You can also use Marked 2 to provide the previews.
- The Markdown syntax is not hidden and it is presented with syntax highlighting in both the light and dark theme.
- Typewriter scrolling with sentence and paragraph focus makes the process of writing pleasant. The only enhancement I would love in iA Writer is an user-selected point for the typewriter scrolling to kick in. Ulysses and Composer does a better job of this.
- There is a dark theme and a light theme in iA Writer. They are not customizable. It lacks support for Solarized.
- There is extensive support for keyboard commands. The ones missing I have included through Keyboard Maestro macros. Read about it here. Some of the keyboard commands have changed in this version, expect an updated version of this article to be posted next week.
- iA Writer provides the usual export options including Microsoft Word and TextBundle.
In my use, this is the best Markdown based text editor available on the macOS. Both Composer and Highland 2 provide a few more features but they fall short when it comes to managing your documents and folders.
I find myself using iA Writer all the time. It is the writing workhorse on my computer. Once in a while, I will switch to writing in Composer or Highland when I need a specific feature that they provide. It is iA Writer which is launched and active all the time and it is where the majority of my writing gets done.
iA Writer is recommended heartily.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie