September 30, 2018

Paper Floats a Cursor to Keep You Focused

Paper iconPaper icon

Product: Paper
Product Web Site: Paper… for writers
Price: Free
In-App Purchases: Personalization & Writers Tools: $9.99 each.

Paper is an interesting product. It is a minimal text editor which supports both plain text and rich text modes. I am going to ignore all of its rich text goodness because I work in plain text and rich text is irrelevant to me.

Ostensibly geared towards minimalism in its features and implementation, Paper is a deep product which provides users a curated set of options. It tends to hide its options through a novel implementation of menus changing based on whether you have the ⌥ key pressed or not. For instance, this is the Format menu with no ⌥ key pressed.

Paper FormatPaper Format

This is the same menu with ⌥ key pressed.

Paper Format + OptionPaper Format + Option

Paper does this with all its menus. It tries to hide complexity from the user but gives the user the opportunity to delve in to the complexity when the user wants to. It is a commendable goal, letting the user have the option of easing into the intricacies of the program if they choose.

The Floating Cursor

Borrowing the feature from Word’s “smooth cursor” animation, Paper has a cursor which flows along the screen. You type and the cursor glides along the screen. The cursor is colored blue, I guess that is borrowed from iA Writer. In fact, Paper looks and feels like an ancient incantation of iA Writer without the elegance of the customized Nitti font, or the support of a modern Markdown implementation, like MultiMarkdown or any attempt to tackle your file hierarchy.

The origins of the features of Paper might be a tad questionable but the effect of the cursor gliding on the screen is hypnotic and compelling.

How Well Does Paper Do Markdown?

Paper supports the basic implementation of Gruber’s Markdown. It is significant in that the specs were last updated on 17 Dec 2004. Markdown has evolved significantly. Paper supports the basic implementation and does that well. I am not certain that is enough in the current marketplace.

Paper competes with products which are distinguished by their support of one of the advanced variants of Markdown. That means that Paper lags in supporting the following Markdown elements:

  1. Footnotes.
  2. Tables.
  3. Task Lists.
  4. Subscripts and Superscripts.
  5. Citations.
  6. Glossary.

This is not a comprehensive list. You can go to MultiMarkdown Guide to see what a modern day implementation of Markdown looks like. There are products in the marketplace which support the full-suite of a modern Markdown implementation and they are all competing with Paper.

Paper competes with:

  1. iA Writer: The Focused Writing App for Mac, Windows, Android, iPhone and iPad supports a customized MultiMarkdown.
  2. MultiMarkdown Composer v4 supports MultiMarkdown.
  3. MWeb - Pro Markdown writing, note taking and static blog generator App - MWeb supports Github Flavored Markdown (GFM).

This is not a comprehensive list. There are a ton of other competitors. So, in this mass of competitive products why would you adopt Paper?

The developer feels that there is a space available in the marketplace for a product which supports basic Markdown and gives people an environment to write in without the full-featured support of a modern Markdown implementation. He could well be right. The reviews on the macOS App Store seem to support this point of view. Paper is well-reviewed by its users.

I am not so certain but I am aware that I am far removed from the usual user. I am comfortable with Markdown. I live in Markdown. My needs are not typical. For those starting out in Markdown or just looking for a program to write in without a specific focus on Markdown, Paper is not a bad solution.

Paper Features

This is a list of the features which I found interesting in Paper:

Paper Font ChoicesPaper Font Choices

Font Choice: Paper gives you a pre-defined choice of fonts to write in.

Paper Paragraph OptionsPaper Paragraph Options

Paragraph Format: I love that Paper gives me the option of specifying Line Height and Spacing for my paragraphs.

Paper Focus ModePaper Focus Mode

Focus Mode: Paper gives you a choice of Paragraph or Sentence in its Focus Mode. This is similar to the behavior in Byword.

Paper Line LengthPaper Line Length

Line Length: Paper lets you set your preferred line length.

Polyglot Clipboard: I was confused about what “polyglot clipboard” was. This is the developer explaining the feature:

A clipboard that knows many languages/formats :) Basically, you can copy (export) into many formats and paste (import) from many formats.

Copy Markdown from Paper and paste to a rich text editor like TextEdit and it will insert Markdown as formatted text. Copy from TextEdit and paste to Paper and it will insert formatted text as Markdown. Pasting Markdown to a plain text editor will insert Markdown as is, of course.

Holding Option key in Edit menu reveals options to import/export HTML from/to clipboard. There is also an option to “Paste as Plain Text” in case you don’t want to carry over any formatting to Paper. This option changes to “Paste and Match Style” in Rich Text Mode to match the same feature in rich text editors like TextEdit.

All of that works seamlessly in Rich Text Mode as well. You can, for example, copy some Markdown from a plain text editor and paste it to Paper in Rich Text Mode. Paper will insert this Markdown as formatted text.

For a product which supports both plain text and rich text, this is an interesting addition and customers who work in both plain and rich text are going to get a lot of use out of this feature.

This is a product which is designed with care and attention to detail.

Conclusions

If you are interested in a Markdown based text editor there are better choices in the marketplace. On the other hand, if you are not completely sold on Markdown, and want a well designed environment to write in, Paper is a solid choice. It is a conglomeration of features from the best of breed in this category and it is a pleasure to follow the floating blue cursor around the screen.

Paper is recommended for folks who are new to Markdown, or are not enamored by Markdown.

An Alternate Review: Paper is a unique macOS text editor for iA Writer and Word 2016 fans

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

macOS Markdown Text Editor
September 25, 2018

iA Writer Tackles Tags

iA Writer IconiA Writer Icon

Product: iA Writer
Price: $29.99

Version 5.0 of iA Writer introduced the ability to handle folders and favorites to the minimal Markdown based text editor. Version 5.1 takes a swing at tags.

Tags are implemented from inside the documents. You type the tag into the document and the program automatically adds it to the tag list or adds the document to an existing tag list if this was a pre-existing tag. Tags are an organizational aid which makes iA Writer powerful.

iA Writer HashtagsiA Writer Hashtags

Folder support made it possible to live in iA Writer with all my documents. Tag support lets me live in iA Writer efficiently.

iA Writer SmartFolder CreationiA Writer SmartFolder Creation

Along with tags has come Smart Folders.

iA Writer SmartFoldersiA Writer SmartFolders

Smart Folders makes it easy to manage a huge collection of notes.

iA Writer GoTo MenuiA Writer GoTo Menu

The new organization is depicted in both the Library sidebar and the Go menu.

Conclusion

iA Writer started out as a simple piece of digital real estate with a pre-set font and a thick blue cursor to tackle your writing needs. It has evolved. It is a feature rich Markdown based writing environment which has the ability to tackle all your writing and file-management needs in one program.

I live in it. I consider the present iteration of iA Writer to be the best Markdown based writing environment available on the macOS.

iA Writer 5.1 is recommended heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Additional Reading

The folks at iA talk about iA Writer and tags. Write to Organize - iA Writer: The Focused Writing App

iA Writer macOS Markdown
September 16, 2018

SuperTab Supercharges the ⌘+Tab Experience

SuperTab IconSuperTab Icon

Product: SuperTab
Price: $10 (50% off sale)

The stock macOS function of ⌘+Tab is the list of running apps. Mac users are used to that and use it for switching between applications. SuperTab adds a slew of features to the ⌘+Tab function.

You can define any keyboard command you want, in my case I use ⌥+Tab. This way you can have the standard behavior through ⌘+Tab, while you enjoy the goodness of SuperTab through ⌥+Tab.

SuperTabSuperTab

SuperTab gives you complete control over the content of what it calls, Tab Rows. You have the choice of showing the following:

  • Active Applications - list of active applications. This is the usual system behavior.
  • Dock Items - the items in your Dock.
  • Application Windows - the individual windows in your applications. Thanks to the new tab behavior in macOS, you get to open all your tabs in one tabbed window, and SuperTab does not have the ability to show you the individual tabs. It gives you access to the whole tabbed window. That reduces the benefit of having individual application windows accessible.
  • Recent Applications - this is the list of recent applications you have used.
  • Recent Documents - the recent documents you have opened.
  • Dropbox or Desktop Contents
  • Folder Contents - you can specify the folders you want to access.
  • Calendar Items - see your Calendar Items and their details.
  • Clipboard History - the recent contents of your Mac’s Clipboard.
  • Snagit Captures - preview, copy, share and open your Snagit Captures.
  • Tagged Items - the files, folders & applications with the Tags or Labels you specify.
  • Sidebar Items - items that appear in the Sidebar of Finder Windows.
  • Custom Items - this includes saved Spotlight searches, System Preferences, Web sites and a whole host of other items.

SuperTab Preferences

SuperTab Preferences 1SuperTab Preferences 1

SuperTab is a mature product and it shows in the way the product is designed. There are several ways you can choose to invoke the product.

SuperTab Preferences 2SuperTab Preferences 2

You get to define how the SuperTab window looks and behaves.

SuperTab Preferences 3SuperTab Preferences 3

Supports multi-screen workspaces and gives you complete control over the behavior of SuperTab once it is invoked.

SuperTab Preferences 4SuperTab Preferences 4

SuperTab is keyboard focused and it gives you the option of a few commands which let you act on a chosen item through the use of keystrokes. Makes the process of working in SuperTab fun and you get to efficiently sling around keystrokes to control your Mac.

Conclusion

SuperTab performs a subset of the actions performed by utilities like Alfred and Keyboard Maestro. If you are not using these macro utilities, you can adopt SuperTab to gain a chest of utilities which are convenient and useful.

This is a mature product which is well-designed, stable and full-featured and is a great product to add to your normal day-to-day workflows with your Mac.

I liked the product but find that I use Keyboard Maestro and Alfred to perform most of the tasks that SuperTab brings to the Mac. Of course, SuperTab is not competing with the macro utilities. SuperTab’s charm is that it works out of the box and doesn’t require you to write workflows or macros to do any of its tasks. For non-technical users, SuperTab is a great product. For those of you comfortable with writing code, you might want to look at Alfred and/or Keyboard Maestro.

SuperTab is heartily recommended for novice users and users uncomfortable with code.

A licensed version was provided by the developer for a review.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

SuperTab macOS utilities
September 3, 2018

Timing 2 Tracks Time

Timing iconTiming icon

Product: Timing 2
Price: 3 versions with prices of $29, $49, and $79.

I am productive. Or as productive as I care to be. I am not obsessive about productivity. I have discovered over the years that the quantity of output is not as important as its quality. It is also true that when I give a topic some time to stew, my work improves. Thus, I am not obsessing over the need to improve the quantity of output. I am trying to improve my focus and cut down on distractions, if possible. That was the motivation behind trying out Timing 2.

Timing 2 is a deep product which tracks your time spent on macOS. It observes what you are doing on your Mac and categorizes your activities. You get to see how you spend your time on the computer and how productive you were. You can also manually enter the tasks that you are performing and get a good idea of how much time you spent on each task.

Timing 2 has the added benefit of generating great reports and that will help you to bill clients.

Automatic and Manual

The feature which makes Timing 2 useful to me is that it is capable of tracking your activities on the Mac both automatically and manually. When I am working on files in the Finder, Timing 2 assigns that time automatically to a category of activities called File Management. When I am writing this article, I assign the time to a project called Timing in the category of projects called Writing-Blog. This lets you be both prescriptive and normative in your interaction with Timing 2 and it works beautifully.

Support

One of the things that struck me about Timing 2 is the effort the developer puts in to help the user with the product. There is an email course and a Timing Knowledge Base with a few videos to help you along. The Timing Blog helps clarify and inform. Daniel, the developer makes a concerted attempt to help users with his product and the result is both involved and informed consumers.

How does Timing 2 help?

August 2018 ReportAugust 2018 Report

I am not always conscious of what I am doing on the Mac. I am reading Mac news and I come upon a theme for Sublime Text 3. I download it and start tweaking it to be just right for me, and I find that I am trying to figure out some CSS code in the theme which I don't understand and do a Google search for the explanation and very soon I am in the rabbit hole and going deeper. Two hours are gone. I don't mind that activity. That is the only way I can learn. The problem is that I might not want to engage in this activity right now. I could push that to a time when I am not at my productive best and handle that exercise at a less productive time. Timing 2 helps me be aware of the difference.

Timing 2 helps me be aware of the time. Helps me be cognizant of the time spent on projects and time spent on productive and non-productive tasks. That is all I need to self-monitor. That is what Timing 2 does for me.

I use it as a nudge. A nudge informing me of what I am doing with my time. The result is an awareness which leads to me being more productive. I am thankful to Timing 2 for guiding me towards an increased productivity and focus.

Conclusion

Timing 2 is a well-designed, well thought-out product. It works reliably and can help you in multiple ways to track both your time and your productivity.

Timing 2 is recommended heartily.

A review copy was provided by the developer.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Other Reviews:

Hands on: Timing 2 tracks your billable hours and Facebook use on the Mac

Timing macOS productivity
August 30, 2018

Nothing to do with the content. Just cute.Nothing to do with the content. Just cute.

Links of Note 2018-08-30

You can use Typora for Markdown tables or use this:
Better table processing — Erica Sadun

I must admit I am thinking of this too.
Dear Twitter — Part Deux | Infinite Diaries
As a germ of an idea, I am @macosxguru@mastodon.cloud.

I read this and found that my problems with Ulysses were well captured by Chuq. The key line was:

I need real markdown. And Ulysses is mostly Markdown…

Why I’m giving up on Ulysses | Chuq Von Rospach

Nice resource.
Google, but for colors.
Picular

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Markdown Twitter Ulysses Colors