December 14, 2019

2019 Review

Winding RoadWinding Road

Interesting year.

These are the ten things I found notable.

  1. NotePlan was updated to 2.0 and includes the ability to sync with both the Calendar and Reminders app. It is a well-rounded application to manage your notes, your events and your tasks.
  2. Notebooks for iPad, iPhone, Mac and PC • Notebooks got updated to 2.0 and is a full-featured MultiMarkdown based editor for all your devices.
  3. Alfred - Productivity App for macOS was updated to version 4. It is an app I use 130+ times a day. I paid for the Mega Supporter Powerpack license when I bought it. It is the best money I have spent on software.
  4. Keyboard Maestro got updated to version 9. This is another app which is crucial to the way I use the computer.
  5. Scrivener | Literature & Latte was updated to version 3. It includes complete support for MultiMarkdown. If you write, anything, you owe it to yourself to check out this application.
  6. The venerable text editor BBEdit was updated to version 13. BBEdit includes a ton of Regular Expression goodness baked in. I wasn’t impressed with the update, but mine is decidedly the minority opinion.
  7. Opal: Easy notes and organizing got updated to a 64-bit application and it is the main outlining program I use. There are other outliners which have more features, but I like Opal. I have been using it for too long to switch.
  8. Zengobi Curio - Note Taking, Mind Mapping, Brainstorming was updated to version 13. Including the goodness of MultiMarkdown it is an application which gets used all the time. Whenever I have to think things through, Curio is the application I go to. It has all the tools to help me make sense of the topic I am wrestling with. A unique tool to help me think.
  9. Drafts | Where Text Starts reached macOS with Actions. Drafts has the potential to completely change the way text is edited on macOS. I am looking forward to using this application more in my workflow.
  10. nvUltra - Searchable, portable, MultiMarkdown notes is still in beta. Getting ready for release soon. This is going to blow your socks off. The NDA stops me from talking about details. Expect a detailed write-up when this gets released.

It was a good year for software. Personally, it was a mixed year.

  1. The state of politics intruded on my psyche. It is depressing what is happening in the US, UK and India.
  2. The book is coming along and I am looking at end of second quarter for a release.
  3. My iMac (27inch, Mid-2011) is still holding up. The MacBook Air (13inch, Early 2015) is letting me play with Mojave. I am in love with both machines.
  4. I promise to write more in the coming year. This seems to be a promise I make every year.

That is all for the overview of 2019.

Have a good holiday season folks.

Thank you for reading. Thank you to those who got in touch and discussed various topics. You are the people who keep me writing and sharing. Thank you for making me feel useful.

Note: Thanks to Ivica Džambo · Photography for the picture.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

macOS
December 12, 2019

Actions Arrive in Drafts on macOS

drafts icondrafts icon

Product: Drafts for macOS
Price: $19.99/yearly or $1.99/monthly for Drafts for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and macOS.

I have covered Drafts in a previous article.

Drafts version 16 ships with Actions. It is well implemented and makes Drafts a compelling solution for folks looking for a text editor.

In my review I had made the following suggestions:

How Can the Drafts Experience Be Improved on macOS?

These are some suggestions to improve the experience of using Drafts on macOS:

  1. Actions.
  2. Typewriter Scrolling.
  3. A keyboard command to tag multiple files.
  4. A way to export multiple files out of Drafts as individual files. I can merge them together and export the whole thing as one file, but that is not an ideal solution. I want a bunch of individual files to be exportable at once.

Actions have been implemented. They are fantastic.

You can tag multiple files at once. Select them and assign them a tag. Doesn’t have a keyboard command, I used Keyboard Maestro to assign a keyboard command and I am happy with that.

Typewriter scrolling is missing. I am unhappy about that. Makes writing in it a painful experience. Although strangely, when you reach the bottom of the page, the caret jumps to the middle of the page and you continue typing. It is an improvement but somewhat disconcerting.

The ability to export multiple files at once as individual files is missing and it is a serious omission. I don’t like to be locked into one program and this is a friction point which makes me stay away from Drafts as my main text editor.

Some Interesting Actions

This is a list of actions I found interesting:

Actions are grouped around a theme. Some of the groups I have found interesting are:

Conclusion

I am excited by Actions. I am sure that the thriving community around Drafts is going to extend Drafts in interesting ways. I am eagerly waiting for that to take off. At this point, Drafts is already a great solution for your text editing needs.

Typewriter scrolling and the ability to export multiple files are the only remaining friction points for me. Hope they get added soon.

Drafts is a one-of-a-kind product in the text editing space and I recommend it with some reservations.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

drafts macOS
November 18, 2019

Input - One Font to Rule Them All

I love monospace fonts. I am not a coder but I like the look and feel of monospace fonts on screen. I find them easy to read. Writing in markdown, monospace fonts help me with lists and tables.

I came across a presentation by David Jonathan Ross on YouTube. He is the designer behind Input. The presentation taught me a lot about monospace fonts. You can watch it here: Cracking the Code - David Jonathan Ross - btconfDUS 2016 - YouTube

One of the intriguing things about Input was the customized version that you can generate for yourself. Customized and generated for you. I like that.

Customized InputCustomized Input

I was intrigued by two things.

  1. The ability to have the * character in the middle of the line.
  2. The insanely-curly brackets. I love those.

The other feature of Input which I have grown to love is the outsized punctuation marks. The period, the comma, the exclamation point, and the others are all large and prominent. Easy to distinguish one from the other.

I am using Input Mono for all of my writing, in all of my editors. You can generate your own version and use it for your writing here: Input: Fonts for Code.

For those of you who prefer proportional fonts, Input has a sans and serif version which you can check out.

Input is free for private/unpublished use.

In case you are feeling brave and love the look of Input, the developer provides a System Font Replacement here: Input: Fonts for Code — System Font Replacement. I am not using it. But you can if you are so inclined.

Input in all its forms is heartily recommended.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Thanks to: Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels and David Jonathan Ross.

font macOS
October 13, 2019

BBEdit 13: Keyboard Maestro to the Rescue

Two of the things that irritated me about BBEdit in BBEdit 13: It Sucks a Little - Bicycle For Your Mind:

  1. No support for substituting two spaces for a period.
  2. No support for capitalizing the first letter of every new sentence.

The solution for me is Keyboard Maestro macros.

The Problem

When you create a macro to turn two spaces into a period, the next letter is just a letter to Keyboard Maestro and not the start of a new sentence. You have to build a macro which does both. Turn two spaces into a period and capitalize the first letter of the sentence which follows.

The macro1.

Macro 1Macro 1

There must be a way to do this elegantly. My approach is the brute force one. One macro per letter. This particular one takes two spaces followed by the letter a, and changes it into a period followed by a space and the capitalized letter A.

You have to duplicate this for all the letters of the alphabet. The brute force.

What About a New Paragraph?

We need a new macro for the situation where you type two spaces followed by two returns and a new sentence2.

This is the macro I use for that.

Macro 2Macro 2

Again, brute force application of the macro by repeating it for every letter of the alphabet and you have a solution which lets you be lazy typing.

Is This Worth It?

I could type better, but I have the same features available on the iPad and macOS and I have gotten into the habit of doing this. I should undo this bad habit but in the meantime, these two sets of macros work in BBEdit, Sublime Text 3 and TextMate.

Problem solved with a definite absence of elegance.

The third thing which irritated me about BBEdit was the lack of typewriter scrolling. I haven’t found a solution for that yet.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Thanks to: Pixabay for the image.


  1. My expertise with Keyboard Maestro is at a novice level, though I have used it for a while. My macros are minimal but effective and they are designed to do a job and that is the extent of it. There must be elegant solutions that elude me. I am not a programmer and it shows. If you can improve these macros, please send me an email and tell me about it. Thanks.

  2. I always use two returns to separate my paragraphs. If you use one return get rid of one of the \r.

BBEdit Keyboard Maestro
October 6, 2019

BBEdit iconBBEdit icon

BBEdit 13: It Sucks a Little

Product: BBEdit 13
Price in the App Store: $39.99/year
Price from developer: $49.99
Upgrade price from previous version: $29.99

Bare Bones Software | BBEdit 13 has always been good at providing detailed release notes. Available here.

BBEdit is the pre-eminent text editor on macOS. I have owned a registered version of the product since version 5. It is one of those instant updates for me. I hear about a new release and I instantly update. I did the same thing on this version. I won’t ever again.

These are the additions to the program highlighted by the developer:

  1. Pattern Playgrounds
  2. Grep Cheat Sheet
  3. Improved Dark Mode and appearance switching
  4. Text Transform

Grep is fantastic, and your ability to sling text around will get to the next level if you are comfortable with this technology. This is a geeky feature which should be adopted by more people and this is a good attempt by a leading developer to increase its adoption and use. But it is a feature which is geared towards the more geeky segment of their audience.

Secondly, there are a host of solutions which are available at a much cheaper price which help you understand and use grep:

  1. Patterns $2.99
  2. Regex-Regular Expression Tester $13.99
  3. RegExRX $4.99
  4. Expressions $7.99

The difference, of course, is that Pattern Playgrounds is built into the text editor. How significant is that?

There are a host of other features which you can read about in the release notes. But these were the ones the developer decided to highlight.

Why Am I Unhappy?

I am not a coder. I use a text editor to write everything. I write in Markdown, preferably the variant of Markdown known as MultiMarkdown. This criticism is from the perspective of a writer who deals with text files of the Markdown format.

No Support for Typewriter Scrolling

I am tired of looking at the bottom of the screen when I am working on a document. What is the problem?

Atom supports it, VSCode supports it, Sublime Text 3 supports it, every Markdown based text editor on the macOS supports it. iA Writer, MultiMarkdown Composer, Byword, MWeb & Highland 2 all support it. What is the problem?

I understand that you don’t use it. Come on. You are telling me that the appearance and color schemes are important, but typewriter scrolling is not?

macOS Native?

One of the features which most BBEdit users proudly proclaim as a selling point, is the native nature of the application. It is available only on the Mac platform and I have heard about developers who went and got a Mac only because they wanted to run BBEdit. Fantastic. One drawback to this story.

It is horse shit.

Since at least High Sierra, I have been able to do this:

System Preference Keyboard PaneSystem Preference Keyboard Pane

This setting lets me capitalize the first letter of a new sentence. It also lets me press the spacebar twice to get a period.

BBEdit doesn’t support it. CotEditor does. The Markdown based text editors that I mentioned before? They all do.

I understand that this is a feature which might get in the way of code editors when they are slinging code. Make it a preference. Let people who are working with prose, and not code have access to system settings and system features.

Don’t tell me that the product is Mac native when it behaves like a cross-platform application or an Electron application. That is horse shit.

Supports Mojave and Catalina Only

I can’t run it on the iMac. The iMac is too old for Mojave. It can only run on the Air. The developer must have had his reasons for dumping High Sierra. I have a perfectly working old machine and I am not going to upgrade till it dies.

Conclusion

This is an underwhelming update. The new features are not compelling. The omissions are irritating. The rest of it are bug fixes. I hope Craig loves it.

Yes. BBEdit sucks a little.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Update:

A couple of reviews which are more favorable:

BBEdit 13 Simplifies Pattern-Based Searching - TidBITS

BBEdit 13 review: A lucky number indeed for revered macOS text editor | Macworld

macOS bbedit text editor