April 21, 2020
Working in a Tree-View in Gingko
Price: $15-$90 one time purchase, depending on your ability to pay.
Warning: This Is an Electron App
I am hesitant when it comes to electron apps. I don’t like them. I don’t live in a cross-platform world and the compromises you have to make to live in an electron app are not worth it to me. However, I am still writing about Gingko. Why?
Gingko is unique in the macOS space. It gives you the ability to write your content in a tree view. Reminds me of an outlining program called Tree, which has disappeared from the Mac App Store and the Internet but had a great implementation of a tree-view based outliner. Gingko is the nearest thing I have found to Tree. In fact, I find Gingko better than Tree because of it’s Markdown support.
What does Gingko do?
“Provides structure to your prose.”
Gingko gives you a tree-view structure to the prose that you write. You can break your content up into sections and concentrate on writing individual sections while working on a long-form document.
It is CommonMark complaint, letting you write in Markdown.
What does that mean?
You can write in levels. You can see the structure of your document. Work on any section or level that you feel like at the moment. You can move sections around and it is all available to you in an interesting tree view. Makes working in sections easy. Makes organizing the flow of your content convenient and easy to manage. This is useful when you are dealing with long-form content.
Gingko has an online implementation for what is considered Version 1.0. The documents you produce online and on the desktop version, Version 2.0, will be sync-able in a future version of the desktop app. The desktop version is a cross-platform application and you can sync your documents through a cloud-based storage solution like Dropbox or Google Drive. I am using Dropbox.
Gingko has an automatic backup service built in. It backs up all your documents, although there is no interface to this. I have no clue what the backup schedule is or how you go back to a previous iteration except by opening the backup file and checking out its contents. Not convenient but it is satisfying that there is a backup in case I need to go back to a previous iteration of the document.
Gingko is a writing app. I can break up the discussion of a writing app into two categories:
- The interface.
- The writing environment.
The Interface or What Do I Like in Gingko
I love the ability to see my document in a tree view. I can move the sections around to make sense of the internal logic of the piece. It is an interesting implementation of the idea and I am fond of it.
The keyboard commands are well implemented. You can move around your document using only the keyboard and that makes the process of writing and editing efficient and pleasurable.
Gingko keyboard commands
I like the little popup in the left corner which shows me the relevant keyboard commands and they change depending on the context that I am in.
Gingko keyboard commands change
I like the ability to zoom in and zoom out. Makes the text stand out when I am writing and is helpful to direct attention to the section I am working on. The implementation increases/decreases the size of the font displayed. The other sections are grayed out in the program. This lets you concentrate on the content you are writing/editing.
The Writing Environment or What I Do Not Like in Gingko
Gingko is a Markdown based text editor. It handles the text editing part without any of the frills that are common to this category of application.
The Markdown implementation needs keyboard commands and could include the following:
- I should be able to highlight a series of paragraphs and turn it into a list(ordered/unordered) with a keyboard command. Same is true of block quotes.
- I would like to be able to highlight a word or phrase and paste an URL on to it, to turn it into a Markdown formatted link.
- Lists need to auto-complete.
The writing environment needs work. It is usable as is, if you don’t mind entering almost all of your Markdown code by hand. Bold(⌘B) and italic(⌘I) are supported, but that is about it. If you are looking for the niceties of a modern Markdown based editor, Gingko has a certain amount of growing up to do.
The lack of spell check is a glaring omission. There are macOS system enhancements which are not supported. Two spaces turn into a period, and the first letter of every new sentence is capitalized through the macOS keyboard preference pane. This is not supported in Gingko. This is not an Electron thing. Typora, an Electron program, supports these conventions, why not Gingko?
In no particular order, these are some suggestions to improve Gingko:
- Please include the system spellcheck.
- There should be a default setting for font choices. Having to change the font settings for every new document is painful.
- The undo function needs work. It is unreliable.
- The online help and description of this product is woefully short. A listing of all the keyboard commands would be helpful.
- The Markdown implementation needs keyboard commands.
- The editing component of the program needs work.
Paying for Gingko
I love the pricing structure for Gingko. The idea that you can pay a variable price based on your ability to pay isn’t something that gets much encouragement in the world of software. I appreciate what the developer is doing here.
Gingko is unique in the marketplace. It supports a tree view depiction of your document. No other program, that I know of, provides this feature on macOS. Gingko provides a keyboard driven interface. You can ignore the mouse and live in Gingko with only the keyboard. Makes navigation within the document efficient. I like working in it.
It is a simple idea, well implemented. The editing environment needs work. Improvements to that would make this an absolutely killer application.
If the idea of a tree-view structure of your document strikes you as something that could be useful to you, Gingko is a great answer to that quest. You can try it out at Gingko 1.0. The desktop version 2.0 has a 30 day trial and you can kick the tires of that before you adopt the program.
I recommend Gingko heartily.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.
Note: I was provided a review code by the developer when I asked for one.
March 8, 2020
WordCounter Keeps Me on Track
Product: WordCounter for macOS
Price: $19.99 (Educational discounts are available)
WordCounter is an application for people who write in different programs. For instance, I write in Drafts, iA Writer, nvUltra, Sublime Text 3 and Ulysses. I want to keep a record of how much writing I am doing and WordCounter lets me do that. It counts the words that I have written in the programs I write in. A running count of the number of words that have been typed throughout the day. Plus statistics. Plus graphs. For the math geek in me, this is nirvana.
The idea is to improve your productivity by keeping a tab of where you do your most writing and locate the environment which helps you be productive.
Yet another view
It is a menu bar utility. You can export the data and be as involved with the output as you want to be. For me, a rough look at my productivity is all I am interested in and WordCounter fills that niche perfectly.
Christian Tietze is the developer behind WordCounter. He is transparent about the product development process and what you are getting for the license fee you pay for. He provides a roadmap for the product and lets you know where the product is in relation to the roadmap. You can find the roadmap for WordCounter here. This transparency is something that is unique in the marketplace, and increases my trust in the developer and investing in his software. This is the roadmap for The Archive, another product from the same developer.
How Could WordCounter Be Improved?
I write in two machines. The iMac and the Air. I would like to consolidate the data from these two machines into one. I can do it, but it is a matter of processing the output on my own, or file and project progress monitoring. I haven’t figured this out yet, so can’t talk about it. If WordCounter was tied to iCloud and consolidated the data automatically, when linked to the same iCloud account, it would certainly be more useful to me.
WordCounter is useful to me. It is perfect at what it does. Keeps a tab on the words that you generate. It is an interesting addition to my work environment.
WordCounter is highly recommended.
Christian Tietze also develops TableFlip - Simple Table Editor for Mac, and The Archive (macOS) • Zettelkasten Method. He provided me with a review license when I asked for it.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.
Alfred Workflow for WordCounter
Alfred workflow for WordCounter: Alfred Integration for Word Counter App - Display Latest Typing Word Counts on Mac
March 3, 2020
Tot Doesn’t Work for Me
Product: Tot • Your tiny text companion
Price: Free on macOS; $19.99 on iOS
Tot is a scratchpad with seven pages. It is marketed as “Your tiny text companion.”
In Tot you can collect and enter the pieces of text which are important, but ephemeral in nature. Task lists, phone numbers, reminders and pieces of code are all little things which you can hold in Tot. Not going to be useful for long but meaningful in the near future is what Tot is best suited for.
It supports the basic Markdown syntax. I mean basic. Bold. Italic. Links. Nothing else. Numbered lists don’t autocomplete. Lists don’t autocomplete. No footnotes, no endnotes, no tables, none of the advanced Markdown additions. It is meant to be quick, minimal and pretty and it lives up to that claim.
It has a word count attached to the sheet that you are writing. You have the ability to use the macOS share menu to send the text to the destination that you want.
It syncs the seven sheets with iCloud. So, you can access the data between your macOS and iOS devices. Yes. The app has an iOS version. I am going to come to that later in the article.
It is pretty. The seven sheets have different colors and when you are in one of the colors, the icon changes to that color. The developer wrote about it, Dy-nam-ic! • The Breakroom. Tot supports light and dark mode in Catalina and it is beautiful.
Tot Font change
You can change the font of both the rich text view and the plain text view in Tot. However the commands are situated in a non-standard location. Highlight the text, control click, and you get a drop-down menu. The change font, and font sizes options are in that drop-down menu.
Tot does a great job with handling links. Just drag a link into it, and Tot formats it as a markdown inline link with the page title and URL formatted right. Lots of mainstream Markdown based editors struggle with this. Tot does this great.
It is pretty. Or did I already say that.
For macOS Users
If sync to iOS devices is not important to you, Tot is free. Go grab it. If sync to iOS is important to you, then you might want to read on.
For iOS users
I am hesitant to talk about the price of a product. The reaction to the price is dependent on your conception of value. Our individual conceptions of value are different and thus I shy away from this discussion.
If you like Iconfactory Apps, and want to support them, pay the $19.99 for the iOS version and feel happy about it. I will point out the following:
- Drafts is a more capable application which will cost you $19.99/year. That subscription price will let you use Drafts on iOS and macOS and have access to the same documents.
- iA Writer is available on iOS for $8.99. You can edit your text documents in any text editor you want on the macOS and have them accessible to you on the iOS devices. iA Writer is a more capable MultiMarkdown based editor available on both iOS and macOS($29.99). You don’t have to use the macOS version of iA Writer if you don’t want to pay the price. Use any text editor on macOS. There are a plethora of free options available, including, BBEdit 13 & CotEditor.
- Kodex is a free code editor on iOS which can access files on Dropbox. It is free but you can tip the developer $4.99 for good karma.
- 1Writer is also able to deal with your Dropbox files and provides you a great environment to write notes in Markdown.
The need is for a quick note-taker. There are a ton of programs on the iOS which will let you take quick notes and have them synced to your other devices through iCloud or Dropbox. Those files are available and editable on macOS through any text editor you choose. I struggle to see the value proposition for Tot.
Tot is well designed and pretty. It is free on macOS. If you see the value proposition, you can adopt the iOS version too. For me, there are better and cheaper alternatives available on iOS. Considering my reluctance to adopt the iOS version, Tot is a no-go for me.
Tot is not recommended.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.
Reviews Which Are Much More Favorable
Tot Review: Collect and Edit Bits of Text - MacStories
Daring Fireball: Tot
The Iconfactory Tot/Tot Pocket review | Macworld
January 12, 2020
SuperDuper! and Peace of Mind
You need to have a backup of your main drive. Time Machine is nice but it is not enough. You need a complete bootable backup of your main drive. There are several products which let you do this. The two which get the most attention are:
- Mac Backup Software | Carbon Copy Cloner | Bombich Software available for $39.99, and,
I must admit that I haven’t used Carbon Copy Cloner(CCC) in a long time, I used to, but now I use SuperDuper. I have heard good things about CCC. Users report that they are happy with the product and it does a good job of backing up their hard drive to a bootable drive. That is all you need.
SuperDuper does a great job for me. I switched to it sometime in 2015 and it has been working great for me since.
I set it to “smart update” my internal drive to an external drive every other week and it does that. What is “smart update?” Only the files added/changed on the hard drive are backed up to the bootable backup drive. Takes a fraction of the time that a full backup would take. When it finishes, the backup drive is a mirror image of your internal drive. I run the process at night when I am sleeping.
The first time you backup, it takes a while since SuperDuper is engaged in making a mirror image backup of your internal hard drive to the external hard drive. It is copying all the files, and that depending on the size and usage of your internal drive is going to take a while. The incremental backups are a lot quicker.
Things Which Are Going to Happen
These are two things which are going to happen to you:
- You are going to die. Make sure that you tell the people you love that you love them. Make a will. Make arrangements for your funeral. You don’t want your loved ones to have to deal with that stuff when they are grieving for you.
- Your hard drive is going to die. Have backups. If your files are important, have multiple backup hard drives. Keep those drives dispersed in a few different locations.
I can’t help you with the first item on this list. However, for the second item, use Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper to make bootable backups of your hard drive.
Super Duper is recommended with gusto.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.