August 2, 2022

PlainPad IconPlainPad Icon

PlainPad Is a macOS Compliant Text Editor

Product: PlainPad
Price: $1.99

PlainPad “is a clean editor for plain text files,” is how the developer describes it.

PlainPad WindowPlainPad Window

Two things struck me about PlainPad:

  1. macOS compliance.
  2. Customizability.

Let’s discuss these in detail.

macOS Compliant

  • PlainPad supports Services.
  • It supports the macOS feature, Versions. You can switch back to a previous version of your document if you want.
  • It supports “Lazy typing.” Two spaces turn into a period. The first letter of a new sentence is capitalized. You have to set this up in the system Keyboard>Text preference pane.

iA Writer supports these. Typora supports these. Obsidian doesn’t. Nor does BBEdit (it does support Services). I was amazed to find a cheap little text editor so macOS compliant.

PlainPad is Customizable

For a simple text editor, PlainPad is a customizable solution.

PlainPad Preferences GeneralPlainPad Preferences General

You can choose to auto-save your documents and choose a default extension for all your files. In my case, it is .md for Markdown documents.

PlainPad Editor>Font & ColorPlainPad Editor>Font & Color

You can choose your own font. I have been using the SF Mono from Apple. You can get it here. It is easy to read and I like it.

PlainPad Preferences Editor>SpacingPlainPad Preferences Editor>Spacing

You can tweak line height and paragraph height.

PlainPad Editor>CursorPlainPad Editor>Cursor

The iA Writer cursor in PlainPad.

PlainPad TypographyPlainPad Typography

This is where the magic for “lazy typing” happens.

PlainPad FullscreenPlainPad Fullscreen

You don’t have to see the text bound across the whole screen in full screen mode. You can define how wide you want the full screen window to be. Makes it possible to work in full screen mode.

For a simple editor, PlainPad does provide you with the tools to customize your environment.

Recommendation

If you are looking for an editor to grow into, the free-version of BBEdit is the better option. It is not as macOS compliant as PlainPad, but it is a lot more capable an editor.

If you are looking for a small, smart macOS compliant tool to take quick notes and have a text editing application within easy reach, you can use PlainPad. That is what I use it for.

I recommend PlainPad.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

macOS text editor
July 18, 2022

QuestionsQuestions

QB 010: A Few Questions

I got questions from readers on What Is the Best Writing App for Me? - Bicycle For Your Mind.

The main questions were:

  • Why did you stop using Obsidian?
  • Why did you recommend BBEdit, and not Sublime Text?
  • Have you tried Zettlr, or QOwnNotes?

Why did I stop using Obsidian?

  • The non-native nature of the product drove me batty.
    • Missed “lazy typing.” (Two spaces turn into a period, and first letter of a new sentence is capitalized.)
    • Missed the Services menu.
    • Disliked the way it dealt with Alfred expansions. I rely on Alfred for my text expansions and Obsidian will periodically choke on them.
  • Obsidian felt heavy to me. Everything is a little slow and Drafts, iA Writer, and BBEdit don’t suffer from that. I don’t know whether that is a function of Electron, or the number of plug-ins installed, or my old machine. Felt like I was walking through sand when working in Obsidian.
  • I am not convinced about the need for a graphical view. I never used that.
  • I miss block links, but it is not critical.

I have Obsidian installed and use it for certain tasks, but it is not a central part of my workflow.

One of the tasks I perform in Obsidian is to get the content from a webpage, convert to Markdown and save in my vault. I use a plug-in called kevboh/obsidian-pluck: Quickly create notes in Obsidian from web pages.. Slick.

Why did I recommend BBEdit, and not Sublime Text?

  • The advent of VSCode has changed the marketplace. I am uncertain about the long-term viability of Sublime Text. It is difficult to compete with a free solution. In that context, I couldn’t recommend Sublime Text for a new user. I have more faith in the longevity of BBEdit than I do for Sublime Text.
  • Sublime Text is a cross-platform application. BBEdit is more narrowly focused. It is a macOS only solution. That made me reason that it is probably protected from the market dominance of VSCode.
  • Of course, I might be wrong in this assertion, but that was the thinking behind my recommending BBEdit instead of Sublime Text.

Zettlr and QOwnNotes

I have tried both. I am not fond of either. Zettlr crashes on my machine too often and QOwnNotes looks too ugly.

Present State

Drafts is where I start a document. I move on to iA Writer for editing and tweaking the writing. I use BBEdit for large documents.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Thanks to Anete Lusina

questions
July 10, 2022

QB 009: Tyro Keyboard Maestro Macros

Product: Tyro — Keyboard Maestro Macros for Apprentices
Price: $1.99

This is unusual. Folks don’t usually charge for Keyboard Maestro macros. In fact, developers provide macros, extensions and additions for free. They might have a donation link or a buy me a coffee link, or some other way of generating some gratuity, but they don’t sell a collection of macros.

I was curious. I tried it out.

TyroTyro

Tyro is a collection of macros. It’s three groups of macros:

  1. Screenshot macros
  2. Window Management macros, and
  3. A couple more.

They are useful. The goal of the macros is to teach you how to use Keyboard Maestro and they provide some insight into that. I like the window management macros and am glad to have that in the arsenal.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Keyboard Maestro
July 5, 2022

QB 008:  m-cli – Swiss Army Knife for macOS

Thanks to  m-cli – Swiss Army Knife for macOS – Bram.us for introducing me to rgcr/m-cli:  Swiss Army Knife for macOS

I installed this through The Missing Package Manager for macOS (or Linux) — Homebrew.

m help gives you a list of the commands that  m-cli can execute.

airdrop
appearance
battery
bluetooth
dir
disk
display
dns
dock
finder
firewall
flightmode
gatekeeper
group
hostname
info
itunes
localhost
lock
network
nosleep
notification
ntp
printer
restart
safeboot
screensaver
service
shutdown
sleep
timezone
touchbar
trash
update
user
volume
vpn
wallpaper
wifi

Some Examples

m airdrop
Options: [ status | on | enable | off | disable | help ]

Explanation:

m airdrop status
airdrop status

m airdrop on
turn on airdrop

m airdrop enable
turn on airdrop

m airdrop off
turn off airdrop

m airdrop disable
turn off airdrop

Some more useful commands:

m appearance darkmode
Options: [ YES | NO ]
Whether to use dark versions of interface elements

m dock autohide
Options: [ YES | NO ]
Enable/disable Dock’s auto hide feature

m dock magnification
Options: [ YES | NO ]
Turn magnification on/off

m dock position
Options: [ BOTTOM | LEFT | RIGHT ]
Change Dock’s position

Explore the others on your own. Most of them are useful and they are all easy to reach through the Terminal.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

terminal macOS
June 14, 2022

iA Writer 6 iconiA Writer 6 icon

Product: Writer – iA
Price: $49.99

iA Writer 6 Adds Wikilinks

iA Writer 6 adds Wikilinks as its new superpower.

Wikilinks lets you connect to other files in your library. Enclosed in square brackets, Wikilinks are exported and published as normal text.

To create a Wikilink, type two [’s and the name of the file you want to link to. iA Writer will auto-complete the name from files in your library. It will show you a drop-down menu of file names, you can use the arrow keys to go up/down the choices, choose the one you want, hit ↵, and iA Writer will complete the name, add the trailing ]]’s.

If you want to link to a file that doesn’t yet exist, type two [’s and the name of the new file you want to link to, hit ↵. You can ⌘-click on the file name to go to the new file and type it’s content.

There are a few nice touches to creation and dealing with Wikilinks in iA Writer:

  • You can select text and press the [ key twice to wrap the selection in two pairs of square brackets.
  • In the Wikilink, you can add a new title to the link by typing a vertical bar, | after the destination and adding a title.
  • ⌘-click or ⌘↵ on a Wikilink to open it in the Editor.
  • You can navigate back to the original file by using the history buttons in the title bar, or by pressing ⌃⌘←. You can go back and forward, by holding ⌘ and swiping right or left anywhere in the document.

Linking between files has become a cornerstone of the new generation of knowledge management products like Roam Research, Obsidian, and Logseq. They all include a feature called Backlinks. When you link to a file, the linked file now includes a section which links to the original file. These are Backlinks. iA Writer doesn’t include this ability. It is on the roadmap.

Wikilinks is a great addition to the program. It is something that is an ancillary to the Content Block feature.

Create Content Blocks by typing a /and the name of the file whose content you want to include. This lets you add the content of a different file to the document you are working on. You can break up your writing into small files and then bring them together by assigning a collection of Content Blocks in the order you prefer. In preview mode, you can see the document with the Content Blocks added.

Wikilinks is a similar addition except that it is a link to the file and not its content.

Use a combination of the two to achieve your goals.

iA Writer in its sidebar has the ability to list your favorite files and you can switch from one to the other by pressing ⌃(1-9) depending on the order of the listing of files. What happens when you have more than nine files you have to access regularly?

I created a file called Repository, where I added some of the other files I access as Wikilinks. Makes the process of moving to your files easier.

RepositoryRepository

Some of the Other Improvements in Version 6

  • Hashtags can be now added anywhere in text.
  • Autocomplete suggests hashtags as you type.
  • Metadata improvements.
  • Metadata keys can be used as variables in text, and they will be automatically substituted for export and in Preview.
  • All-new highlight colors: yellow orange pink purple blue green

Highlight colorHighlight color

The complete list of improvements is available in the change-log.

A Note About Pricing

The price of iA Writer has increased from $29.99 to $49.99. The update is free for existing users.

I don’t understand that. From my records, the last time I spent money on iA Writer was June 19, 2011. I spent 17.99. I am not sure whether this was the macOS version or a combo of the macOS and iOS version. I am getting the latest version for free? After eleven years? That is insane. Apple needs to allow upgrade pricing on the Mac Store. Subscription pricing sucks, but this pricing model is not right either.

Conclusion

iA Writer keeps evolving and it is a central part of my workflow at this stage. It is the program I use for all my writing. It is simple and powerful at the same time. That is a difficult attribute to pull off.

I recommend iA Writer heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

macOS markdown writing