March 24, 2019

Bring to Front Hotkey

Keyboard CommandKeyboard Command

Relevant URL: Bring-to-Front Hotkey - Zettelkasten Forum

In the forum dedicated to discussing both Zettelkästen and The Archive, an user, jgro made an interesting feature request.

He mentioned that in nvALT, there is a Bring-to-Front hotkey where irrespective of what program you are in, you can press the user-assigned hotkey and it brings nvALT to the foreground and pressing the hotkey again takes you back to the application you were working in. The Archive lacks this feature and he wondered whether that could be added?

nvALT Bring To FrontnvALT Bring To Front

I realized that I use Alfred to achieve something similar. I have a keyboard command assigned to launching The Archive and I invoke that when I want to switch to it. When I want to switch away from it, I usually invoke the keyboard command assigned to the application I am switching to, and that is how I move back and forth between applications.

Alfred Launching ProgramsAlfred Launching Programs

Another user, Basil, came up with a much better idea. He has a Keyboard Maestro macro he uses.

Keyboard Maestro Bring To FrontKeyboard Maestro Bring To Front

He presses the keyboard command and it makes The Archive the frontmost application. When he presses the same keyboard command while The Archive is the frontmost application, the macro takes him back to the previous application. He has this set up for a host of applications he uses all the time.

I am impressed with the ingenuity users bring to the task of using computers and making their workflows efficient. I decided to adopt this to my workflow and now have a slew of macros designed to do that.

Slew of Keyboard Maestro macrosSlew of Keyboard Maestro macros

Thank you to forum members named jgro and Basil for making my life better.

Thank you to Lukas for the keyboard photograph.

Note: Basil uses Karabiner Elements to map his Caps Lock key to a Hyper key (a ⌃⌥⇧⌘ key). I am using ⌃⌥⌘ as the modifier key. His is the more elegant solution.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

The Archive macOS Keyboard Maestro
March 19, 2019

Keychron K1 for My Typing Needs

The Keychron K1The Keychron K1

Product: Keychron | Wireless Mechanical Keyboards for Mac, Windows and Android
Price: $74

I was using a 87-key Das Keyboard. It has the Blue Cherry switches. Pretty and loud. It is not a keyboard designed for the Mac. So, the function keys are not Mac aware. I liked it. I have used it for over four years now and there is nothing wrong with that keyboard. I love the feel of the keys and the keyboard is solid and well built.

I got tempted by a new keyboard which came across my radar. The Keychron K1 is new, it ships a Mac specific version and it is relatively cheaper than the competitors. I got myself one of those.

The keyboard works great. These are not Cherry switches. They are Fraly low profile switches. They have a nice feel to them. It is a different feel to typing on the Cherry. When you type on the Cherry switches you feel that you strike the keyboard with some degree of violence. These is a strange flow to the typing on the Keychron. Your fingers glide over the keys and it doesn’t require or encourage the same kind of violence that is second nature on the Cherry keys. It is a change and I am acutely aware of it. The sound is muted compared to the Cherry and it is a nice rollicking sound that I get into when I am in the flow on this Keychron. It is hypnotic and something that I am growing fond of.

Backlighting is Distracting

The Keychron is the first time that I have used a backlit keyboard. I am used to the backlit keyboards on the MacBooks. They are understated. There is nothing understated about the backlighting on the Keychron. I don’t like it at all. There doesn’t seem to be any way to turn it off. I have to manually choose one of the less intrusive options and turn down the backlighting completely. Couple that with the location of the backlighting key (called the Lightbulb key) which is just to the left of the arrow keys and easy to hit when you are trying to find the arrow keys and you will get a good idea of how frustrating this is. I hit the key by mistake at least once a day. Painful.

The good news is that in the newly designed The Keychron K1 version 2, they have switched the position of the Lightbulb key. They have introduced a key in the position of the old Lightbulb key. This is a definite improvement. This was made possible by dumping the Dictation key.

Connectivity Options

The keyboard can connect over bluetooth or be wired. The battery life is pretty good. I like the ability to connect with the iMac, MacBook Air and my iPhone with the same keyboard. Makes the process of getting familiar with the keyboard easier.

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a mechanical keyboard, this is a good choice. Get the newer version and you won’t have to deal with the pain from the Lightbulb key. It is well designed and does perform well for me. The keyboard is cross-platform and can be used with a Windows/Android machine too.

Recommended.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Other Reviews

A Brief Review of the Keychron Bluetooth Mecahnical Keyboard for iPad – Shawn Blanc

The New Keychron K1 Mechanical Keyboard is a Gorgeous Piece of Hardware // Bright Pixels

Keyboard macOS iOS
March 11, 2019

WriteMapper IconWriteMapper Icon

WriteMapper Brings Markdown to Mind Mapping

Product: WriteMapper
Price: $39.95 to $109.95

What Do You Need to Write?

Thinking and writing. These are the two activities that writers are engaged in. Whatever you are writing, these are the two activities integral to your process.

They have for a long time been conceived as two distinct functions requiring different tools. Writers, on macOS, use outlining software like OmniOutliner to think through things. The visual thinkers prefer mind maps. They use applications like iThoughtsX, or MindNode to help make mind maps. It helps the writers think in lists or spatial elements and it lets them see the connections between items.

Writing is conceived as a two-step process: writers having ostensibly finished with thinking can move on to the task of writing with whatever tool they have chosen for that function.

This conception of a two step process has led to specialization in the field of software design. Tools for thinking. Tools for writing.

What is the ideal?

Thinking and writing are not distinct activities. They are intertwined with each other. You write to think and you think to write. Why do we need to have applications which are specialized? Or, in other words, wouldn’t it be better to have an application which does both? Help you outline or mind map, and let you write.

MindmapMindmap

WriteMapper tries to answer that need. Build around the concept of the mind map, WriteMapper is equipped with a sophisticated mind map function. It is a well designed, well thought out mind mapping application.

Markdown EditorMarkdown Editor

However, it doesn’t stop there. You can write in it. Incorporating a fully featured Markdown based, distraction-free text editor, WriteMapper takes the product beyond the abilities of a mind mapping application and makes it a writing application.

Some of What WriteMapper Brings

WriteMapper Color TagsWriteMapper Color Tags

Color Tags: You can color your mind map nodes and that would show a grouping of sorts. A grouping of items which fit some taxonomy.

Keyboard Commands: WriteMapper is chockfull of keyboard commands. Most of what you need to do has a keyboard command assigned to it. Makes the process of working in the program easier and if you learn the commands, you are going to be proficient in making mind maps and writing your content in it.

Emoji Support: Your node titles can include emojis if you are so inclined.

Auto-Save: The program has a useful auto-save function. You can work in it without being afraid that you are going to lose your work. Gives you peace of mind.

Full Screen: WriteMapper is beautiful in full-screen mode. Both the mind mapping function and the editing function are well designed full-screen environments.

Task Status: You have the ability to designate the completion status of any node. It is an implementation of task-status which lets you see at a glance what is complete, what needs work and what needs to be started.

WriteMapper Full Document PreviewWriteMapper Full Document Preview

Full Document Preview: The Full Document Preview makes it possible to see your whole editing document at one time. Lets you see where you are in the flow. Interestingly this is one of those commands which do not have a keyboard command. This is a function which needs a keyboard command.

Windowed EditorWindowed Editor

Ability to See the Mind Map While Writing: You can edit a node while keeping the main mindmap in another window. The edit window can be a separate window. This lets you see where you are in the flow of the content and gives you direction about what you need to cover and the issues you need to tackle in the particular section you are writing.

Improvements

WriteMapper is a well designed application. However, it can be improved. These are some of my suggestions:

Multiple Title Nodes: At this point, WriteMapper supports only one main title node, but thinking doesn’t work like that. The program needs to be able to support multiple main title nodes for it to be useful. Yes, you can make the program tackle one major node and then branch off in different directions in child nodes but that is a hack which makes the main title node too restrictive. Multiple title nodes would make that process more efficient, but I have my reservations about whether that can be implemented in the present design.

Flowing Content Nodes: WriteMapper envisions the edit process as editing a discrete node. For instance:

Node EditingNode Editing

I have a section of the document which is dealing with the description of what WriteMapper brings to the genre. It is a node which has five sub nodes within it. When I try to edit the main node, this is what the edit window gives me.

Individual Edit WindowIndividual Edit Window

The content does not include any of the content of the sub-nodes. This is not convenient. This is how it should look.

Flow Edit WindowFlow Edit Window

The edit window of the node needs to include the contents of its child nodes. As a writer, I am not editing a discrete node when I am writing. There is a flow to the thinking and that is designated by the content of the child nodes. If I choose to edit the document at a particular node, I would like the ability to edit the child nodes too. That is the flow of the document. In the present incarnation of the product, you are restricted to editing the content of individual nodes and there is no ability to include the content of child nodes in the mother node. That breaks the process of writing into individual nodes. You can see the full document preview in another window but that is not exactly what I am looking for. I am looking for the ability to edit the whole content of a node at one time. That would make the product more conducive to flow rather than the restrictive mode of writing one node at a time.

Licensing: WriteMapper licenses the product in the following way:

  1. Single: $39.95 (regular price $59.95) for a single computer.
  2. Universal: $49.95 (regular price $119.90) for two computers.
  3. Family: $109.95 (regular price 299.75) for five computers.

It is an Electron app, which is available for macOS, iPad ($19.99) and Windows. I don’t know the world of Windows software but this is not how it works on the macOS software space. For instance, BBEdit lets you use your license for the product on any number of computers you want to use it on, as long as they are yours. The Mac App Store lets you use any software you buy from it on 5 devices. I don’t know any software where the license is for one computer only. WriteMapper lets you switch the registration between machines by deactivating the license in one and activating the license in another. But this is work which no one else makes you do on the macOS space.

The Competition: Curio

WriteMapper is not the first application to tackle this problem of having one tool for both thinking and writing.Curio is the other application in this space which has effectively molded these two functions for a writer. WriteMapper does significantly less than Curio. Curio provides you a plethora of tools for your thinking process and provides a complete MultiMarkdown text implementation in the latest version. Read about the previous version, here. Through its use of idea spaces, Curio has the ability to have both your writing content and mind mapping content on the same screen. It also has the ability to have multiple mind maps on the same idea space.

WriteMapper is a cheaper alternative to Curio ($99.99 - 139.99).

Recommendation

WriteMapper is an Electron application. That leaves me cold because it doesn’t support macOS features like Text Substitution, two spaces do not turn into a period and every first letter of a new sentence is not automatically capitalized. Those are little things I have gotten used to and don’t want to unlearn them. Cross-platform products often run into these shortcomings.

WriteMapper is a capable mind-mapping application and the Markdown based editing function is well-implemented. If you work in cross-platform environments, then WriteMapper makes sense to check out. If you are a Mac only consumer, Curio is a better product.

WriteMapper provides a seven day trial. You can download the product and try it out for yourself.

The developers of WriteMapper provided me a license to review their product.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Mindmap Markdown macOS
February 5, 2019

IconIcon

uFocus the Focused Text Editor

Product Site: uFocus – Desairem
App Store Link: uFocus
Price: Free

uFocus WindowuFocus Window

uFocus is a distraction-free, Markdown based writing application that lets you create and manage plain text files.

We have a lot of these, why am I writing about uFocus?

uFocus brings a few extra things to the genre of Markdown based text editors.

Specialities

Modus MenuModus Menu

Sound: uFocus plays old style typewriter sounds when you hit the keys on your keyboard. It is an odd feature which helps me focus on the writing.

NoWayBack: If you find yourself editing and not writing, uFocus’s NoWayBack feature can make the process easier. You are not allowed to edit your content. Type. Editing is for later.

Library: You can add folders of text files to the uFocus Library. Lets you manage the files and have a whole slew of folders containing text files attached and available to the program.

Usual Slew of Features

uFocus is a competent Markdown based editor. Doesn’t support the esoteric features like tables and footnotes, but does support basic Markdown.

Typewriter Scrolling: uFocus supports typewriter scrolling saving you from looking at the bottom of the screen all the time.

uFocus Keyboard CommandsuFocus Keyboard Commands

Keyboard Commands: Keyboard command support in uFocus is inconsistent. Not all commands have a keyboard command assigned to them. The basic Markdown is supported but the program features are not. I want a keyboard command toggle for Typewriter Scrolling, Highlights and NoWayBack.

The other problem I have with the keyboard command implementation is the non-standard choices. Full Screen Mode is implemented through ⌃⇧F. That is not standard. The Apple standard implementation is ⌃⌘F. Moving lines up and down is also non-standard, ⌥⌘↑ and ⌥⌘↓ is usually ⌃⌘↑ and ⌃⌘↓.

Adopting non-standard keyboard commands leads to conflict with the users setup of Keyboard Maestro and Alfred macros. Requires the user to learn new habits for familiar commands and that is not ideal.

Fonts: uFocus lets you use your own fonts for the program and that is appreciated. Most of these distraction-free editors have barely concealed fascist tendencies which manifests in severe restrictions on user font choice. uFocus stays away from that morass and you can use whatever font you like.

uFocus Dark ModeuFocus Dark Mode

Themes: Only a light and dark theme without the users having the ability to modify and use their own themes. Pity. I like Solarized.

Suggested Improvements

  1. Standard keyboard commands.
  2. Autocompletion of lists.
  3. Auto-pairing of brackets and other Markdown syntax.
  4. Full support of an advanced Markdown variant like MultiMarkdown or CommonMark.

Conclusion

If you are looking for an immersive, capable Markdown editor, uFocus is not a bad choice. It has the added advantage of being free. If you use something else, it is a good idea to have uFocus in the mix of applications that you use. There are times when the typewriter sounds are exactly what you need to jumpstart the writing of the epic you are stuck on.

Recommended heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

macOS MarkDown text editor
January 7, 2019

iconicon

iA Writer Continues to Mature

Product: iA Writer
Price: $29.99

iA Writer got updated to 5.2.1.

It brings along a few significant updates.

New Font

iA Writer now has three font choices.

You can read about it at iA Writer has three custom made writing fonts that are available for download. I love the new Quattro. I am thankful to the folks at iA for making the fonts available at iaolo/iA-Fonts: Free variable writing fonts from iA. I am using them in Ulysses, BBEdit and Sublime Text 3. They are great on screen.

Integration with KaTeX

KaTeX – The fastest math typesetting library for the web is now integrated into iA Writer. If you are into mathematics, you are going to love this.

Microsoft Word Export

This version overhauls and makes comprehensive the docx export from iA Writer. For those of you who need this, this is a great addition to what is essentially the best Markdown based text editor on the macOS.

iCloud Improvements

iA Writer now supports Documents & Desktop in iCloud. If you are using iA Writer on iOS, this is a great addition and will make it possible to deal with all your Markdown based writing on iA Writer.

There are some other improvements. iA Writer is working hard to consolidate its position as the best Markdown based text editor on macOS. I work in it everyday and I love the program.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

ia writer macOS ios markdown