June 15, 2021

Obsidian and Kanban

Check this out:

A Kanban BoardA Kanban Board

A Kanban board in Obsidian. Reminds me of Trello. In a text editor. It is plain text and Markdown.

Kanban in MarkdownKanban in Markdown

You can drag and drop between categories. When you put a task in the Done category, you can check it off as done.

Did I mention, that this was all in a text editor? In plain text? Using Markdown?

How Is This Voodoo Possible?

This is possible through a community plug-in called mgmeyers/obsidian-kanban: Create markdown-backed Kanban boards in Obsidian.. Thank you Mr. Meyers.

That is it. I am showing you the basic implementation of it. You can add dates and build a task manager in it with as much detail as you like.

I found an interesting theme for Obsidian, Braweria/Spectrum: Spectrum is an Obsidian theme.. This has a dedicated section on designing your Kanban boards with CSS. I borrowed from that to include it in the Solarized theme I am using. The Spectrum theme is beautiful and I switch between Solarized and Spectrum depending on my mood. Thank you Ms. Wiktoria Mielcarek.

Takeaways

In a move, I cannot explain, I have moved all of my writing and note-taking to Obsidian. I wanted the challenge of learning something new and exploring a new program seemed to be the right way to go about that.

Obsidian is at the core a Markdown focused text editor. That is it. But with a published API for plug-ins, developers are adding amazing features to the core program. This Kanban plug-in is one example of that. I am blown away by this. I can’t wait to see what other things I discover.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

obsidian macOS kanban
June 9, 2021

IconIcon

VSCode as a Markdown Editor

Product: Visual Studio Code - Code Editing. Redefined
Price: Free

There is nothing right about this adventure. A Microsoft product? An Electron product?

I have lost my mind.

I blame Gabe Weatherhead. He talked about how he is enjoying VSCode and I got curious.

I am not doing any coding. That is not my focus. I am writing. Taking notes and doodling with words. That is what I use a text editor for.

How does VSCode fare?

Short Version: Surprisingly well.

Now for the much longer version.

Initial Roadblock

The best extension for Markdown is Markdown All in One. It makes Alfred, Keyboard Maestro, and aText - Text template, shortcut, expansion for Mac and Windows text expansions not work.

In Alfred, you can click the Features>Snippets>Auto Expansion button, go to the Tweaking pane and make the Simulated key event speed a notch lower than Fastest. That works. However, that makes Obsidian lose the ability to handle snippets from Alfred. That was a solution I did not care for. I like working in Obsidian.

The other solution I found was going to the Keyboard Shortcuts preference in VSCode and turning off the markdown.extension.onBackspaceKey. It has a key assigned to it. Delete it. I don’t know what that keyboard command was supposed to do, but it fixed the issue. The expansions work and the Alfred expansions work on the Fastest setting.

Experience of Working in VSCode

In VSCode, I am writing Markdown, text files, and the occasional JSON and CSS based theme files. The experience of using VSCode as a code editor might be significantly different from mine.

As a Markdown focused text editor it does a good job.

Easy Entry of Markdown Syntax

VSCode has a pull down menu which gives you the common Markdown syntax when you press ⌃+[Spacebar]. You choose the option you are looking for and the cursor is put in the middle of the syntax and you continue writing.

Markdown Shortcuts gives you a list of commands in the command palette which makes the entry of Markdown syntax easy.

ShortcutsShortcuts

Extensions I Found Useful

One of the strenghts of VSCode is the extensive extensions library available for the product. Developers across the world have made useful extensions and you can add them to the program. Choose the ones you think are the most useful to you and get writing.

These are the extensions which I have found useful:

  1. Markdown All in One
  2. Markdown Footnotes
  3. Markdown Shortcuts
  4. Markdown Todo
  5. Bracket Pair Colorizer 2
  6. Dictionary Completion
  7. Numbered Bookmarks - Visual Studio Marketplace
  8. Numbered Bookmarks
  9. Typewriter Scroll Mode
  10. Word Count

Writing in VSCode

VSCode is nimble for an Electron application. I found it to be quick and responsive for my needs. Using it on an old iMac (mid 2011 with 16 megs of memory), it has no performance issues. I can keep a bunch of files open. I can move between them and the program chugs along.

I have opened large files (>8 megs) in it. It isn’t as fast as BBEdit 13, or Sublime Text, but it is fast and stable enough for work with larger files.

One of the things I like about VSCode is the smooth scrolling cursor. You push the cursor along and it helps focus on words appearing on the screen. You turn it on through the settings of VSCode.

Smooth CursorSmooth Cursor

A setting which I find useful is the location of the sidebar. On the right. Keeps your editing window from moving around when you hide/display the sidebar (⌘K ⌥B).

Sidebar to the rightSidebar to the right

The abundance of extensions means that the program supports almost everything. Two extensions which I was glad to find were:

  1. CriticMarkup for Visual Studio Code
  2. Better Fountain

Customization and Settings

VSCode is customizable. You can spend a lot of time doing that, but once you are done, you can have an editor which you love writing in.

The settings are presented two ways. The tab pane preferences with a good search function:

GUI settingsGUI settings

and a JSON file representation:

JSON SettingsJSON Settings

Pick your favorite and customize the editor to behave like you want it to.

I added the iA Writer cursor color to VSCode:

    "workbench.colorCustomizations": {
        "editorCursor.background": "#1EBDFF",
        "editorCursor.foreground": "#1EBDFF",
    },

You can, through GitHub, sync your settings to be used in all your machines. It is built into the program and that makes it easy to have the same customized environment available in all your computers.

Oh, before I forget. There is a great Solarized theme available. Find it at Better Solarized.

Conclusions

VSCode performs surprisingly well for an Electron application. The Extensions Marketplace makes the editor shine. It is fast, stable, and a pleasure to write in.

The criticism is generic to Electron apps. Non macOS compliance. No support for Services. No support for the system spell checker and text entry shortcuts built into the macOS. No support for the ability to type two spaces to get a period, or the ability to capitalize the first letter of a new sentence. This is what I call “lazy type.” The absence of that is annoying.

Sublime Text is the closest competitor to VSCode. It is a commercial application. It is “more” macOS compliant. It uses the Services menu, and doesn’t let you “lazy type.” The Markdown plugin for Sublime Text, MarkdownEditing is better. The GitHub Markdown Snippets makes it easy to work in Markdown. I also have the advantage of being comfortable in Sublime Text, there is no good reason for me to switch to VSCode.

If I do switch to an Electron app, it will be Obsidian. It is focused on Markdown and has a feature set geared to note-taking.

If you are new to text editors. VSCode is a good choice. Distinguished by being free and supported by a vibrant extensions ecosystem, it is the dominant text editor in almost all platforms at this point.

If you can live with Electron, VSCode is a good solution for your Markdown based text editing needs.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

macOS vscode markdown
June 3, 2021

Hidden BarHidden Bar

Clean Your Menubar With Hidden Bar

Product: Hidden Bar
Github: dwarvesf/hidden: An ultra-light MacOS utility that helps hide menu bar icons
Price: Free

Hidden Bar is not needed on the iMac. But on a laptop, it is essential.

This is the menu bar on the MacBook Air.

Menu bar sans Hidden BarMenu bar sans Hidden Bar

As you can see, there are way too many icons. They are a distraction. They have little notifications which pop up, they change depending on what the program is doing in the background and I don’t care for any of it. I would like to see them when I need to.

Hidden Bar lets me do that.

Menu bar with Hidden BarMenu bar with Hidden Bar

Everything hidden except the ones I want to see. LittleSnitch activity, Wifi status and battery state. The rest of the stuff? Hidden.

This is the menu bar unhidden.

Menu bar unhiddenMenu bar unhidden

When I need to, I can expand the menu bar or contract it when I don’t need it. Makes for a better environment.

Hidden Bar has well designed preferences.

Hidden bar preferencesHidden bar preferences

Dozer Is Another Alternative

Mortennn/Dozer: Hide menu bar icons on macOS is another free and open source application which does the same thing.

Bartender is Another Choice

Bartender is a commercial application which does the same thing with a few more features. It costs $15 to buy.

My Choice

I chose Hidden Bar because this is not a feature which I want to spend $15 on. Your decision might be different. They are all good solutions for a clean menubar without distractions.

I recommend Hidden Bar enthusiastically.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

macOS
May 23, 2021

MenuwhereMenuwhere

Menuwhere Lets You Ignore the Mouse

Product: Menuwhere · Many Tricks
Price: $3.00

Once in a while, you run into an app which does one thing and does it well. Menuwhere is an example of such an app. Menuwhere gives you a dropdown menu with the frontmost app’s menus at the current mouse location. Like this,

In ActionIn Action

The Menuwhere web site does a job of being amusing and giving you an extensive rundown on what the product does. I am not going to repeat it here. Go read it. It doesn’t do much, so it is going to be a quick read.

I like Menuwhere because it lets me keep my hands on the keyboard and not have to mouse my way to the menubar. It has become an essential part of the workflow. Specially for apps where I do not know all the keyboard commands or for those menu items which do not have a keyboard command assigned to them.

Recommendation

Menuwhere is recommended heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

macOS menuwhere
May 9, 2021

Warning Before Changing a File Extension in the Finder

I am pleasantly surprised when after all these years of using macOS I discover something I didn’t know.

A few iterations ago, macOS added a Rename… item in the Finder contextual menu. You could select a file/files in the Finder, ⌃Click and get a drop-down menu which included the option of Renaming the files.

RenameRename

The only problem was that the Finder would seek confirmation for each item you wished to rename. The same dialog again and again. It was unusable if you wanted to rename multiple files. I had taken to using a product called A Better Finder Rename when I had to rename files.

I came across Disable confirmation dialog when changing File Extension in macOS Finder - Ask Different which solved the problem of the confirmation dialog.

This is the process:

You choose the Rename… option from the contextual menu after selecting a bunch of files, you get this dialog box:

Rename to what?Rename to what?

When you fill in your requirements and hit Enter. You get the following dialog box.

Are you sure?Are you sure?

In Big Sur, Apple has added the Apply to All option, which was not present in High Sierra. You can click this and the OS won’t bug you anymore.

But you can get rid of this annoyance completely by going to Finder preferences. In the Finder, type ⌘,. Choose the Advanced tab, and deselect this:

Never AgainNever Again

Thank you. This is so useful.

I still find A Better Finder Rename to be a valuable tool for file renaming. Unlike the Finder, it lets you sequence a series of steps to rename your files. It is a useful utility and one I rely on all the time.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Finder macOS