March 31, 2021

TaskPaper IconTaskPaper Icon

TaskPaper - The Text-Based Outliner

Product: TaskPaper
Price: $24.99


I was sad to give up on org-mode. Not interested in the task-management aspect of it. Intrigued by the content creation features of org-mode. The only downside? You have to deal with Emacs. Unfortunately that was a no-go for me. I was disappointed with that.

I tried out a couple of the plug-ins which lets Sublime Text deal with org-mode, and they weren’t right. I was giving up the quest and then remembered, TaskPaper.

TaskPaper is a treasure

TaskPaper is a text editor with outlining power. It is not as full-featured as org-mode but it does perform a subset of the functions.

At its core, TaskPaper is an outliner. It is a text-based outliner. You can make lists with it. You can fold and unfold sections. It is a competent outliner with the added goodness of being a text file which any text editor can deal with. No lock-in.

You can organize your life with it. It handles projects, tasks, notes and @tags. They are elegantly implemented and TaskPaper is an absolute joy to use.


TaskPaper is well-documented at Introduction · GitBook. You can go through the documentation to learn what the product can do.

My Use of TaskPaper

TaskPaper WindowTaskPaper Window

I am using it to write. Anytime I need an outline, TaskPaper is where I go. It is a pleasure to write in.

Four features I am fond of:

  1. Typewriter scrolling.
  2. Supports macOS conventions. “Lazy typing” included. That is two spaces turn into a period. The first letter of a new sentence is capitalized.
  3. Keyboard commands galore.
  4. Fold, focus, and filter to concentrate on the section you are writing.

The other advantage of using TaskPaper is that there is a fantastic Sublime Text plug-in called PlainTasks which lets you deal with TaskPaper files in Sublime Text. I can use TaskPaper when I want a deep dive into an outline or list. When it comes to quick edits, Sublime Text with the PlainTasks plug-in lets me stay in the “one-editor” to rule them all.


If you like text files, want an organizer, and a competent text-based outliner, TaskPaper is the answer. Jesse Grosjean, the developer of TaskPaper is an absolute genius for giving us this versatile tool.

TaskPaper is recommended heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Additional Resource: TaskPaper 3 - Matt Gemmell

TaskPaper outliner
March 22, 2021

Text Editor Preferences

I came across two articles which intrigued me.

Nova Review: Panic’s Code Editor Demonstrates Why Mac-like Design Matters - MacStories

I looked at Nova and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me. I am not a programmer, code is not my focus. I want a capable text editor and Nova was focused on code. But the descriptor “Mac-like,” got my attention.

What is “Mac-like?” I have been thinking about this for a few days now. I know it when it is not “Mac-like.” Try any Java app and you will know what I am mean. But those are the extremes. What distinguishes one product from another in terms of “Mac-likeness?”

The easy criterion is an evaluation of the support of macOS technologies. Does it support the Services menu? Does it support Versions? Is it integrated with the OS, or does it stand on its own? There are several of these that you can use to determine whether a program is “Mac-like” or not.

The focus of the article is “Mac-like design.” What is that? They look the same to me.

This is Sublime Text editing this article.

Sublime TextSublime Text

BBEdit editing this article.


This is iA Writer with the same article.

iA WriteriA Writer

Jason Snell, a respected member of the macOS community, in Mac apps yes, text preferences no – Six Colors, focused on the following paragraph:

One of my main frustrations with pretty much all of the popular code editors out there (and I’ve tried most of them, including Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, Atom, IntelliJ, and Eclipse) is that none of them are Mac-assed Mac apps. They’re all clearly cross-platform apps with design senses that differ significantly from those of Mac-first developers.

You can see a microcosm of this fact just by looking at the preferences of these apps. For many of them, the ‘Preferences’ menu bar item is actually a submenu from which you can navigate to ‘Settings,’ as well as other more nebulous options. If that doesn’t already offend Mac users, a common theme in those settings screens is for them to be literal JSON text files that open in the editor. You then manually edit the text to adjust options.

His comment?

As Alex writes, design matters, Mac-like design doubly so. And if an app decides to display its preferences as an editable text file, I’m never going to use that app. Hard No.

I find myself compelled to write about the efficiency of using text files as preferences for complex programs like a text editor. This gives me an opportunity to write about the preferences of Sublime Text.

The Sublime Text Preference Setup

Sublime Text has preferences it codifies in JSON files. There are a plethora of these.

  1. The Default Settings file and a User Default settings file
  2. The Language-Specific settings file and the User Language-Specific settings file
  3. The Distraction Free settings file
  4. Each package you install can have a default settings file and an User settings file.

Let’s deal with the Default Settings File.

Default Settings File

The Default Settings File in the beta of version 4 of Sublime Text is 780 lines of commented JSON goodness.

For instance,

    // Set to false to prevent line numbers being drawn in the gutter
    "line_numbers": true,

    // Set to false to hide the gutter altogether
    "gutter": true,

You don’t edit the default settings file. If you want to change the default behavior, you add the setting to your personal settings file. For instance.

    // Set to false to prevent line numbers being drawn in the gutter
    "line_numbers": false,

    // Set to false to hide the gutter altogether
    "gutter": false,

You would add the previous section to your personal settings file to ensure no line numbers and no gutters.

Another example:

    // Disables horizontal scrolling if enabled.
    // May be set to true, false, or "auto", where it will be 
    // disabled for source code, and otherwise enabled.
    "word_wrap": "auto",

    // Set to a value other than 0 to force wrapping at that column 
    // rather than the window width. See "wrap_width_style" for 
    // extra options.
    "wrap_width": 0,

This is the section which defines the properties of word_wrap. Or how or where you want the word-wrapping to work.

My settings:

    "word_wrap": true,
    "wrap_width": 90,

I want word wrapping to be on and to wrap with 90 characters on a line.

This is my settings file:

    //Words added to the dictionary

    // Controls auto pairing of quotes, brackets etc
    "auto_match_enabled": true,
    //exclude from GoTo searches
    //Requirement of MarkdownEditing package
    //look of folders in the sidebar
    "bold_folder_labels": true,
    //look of caret
    "caret_extra_bottom": 5,
    "caret_extra_top": 5,
    "caret_extra_width": 2,
    "caret_style": "wide",

    "color_inactive_tabs": true,
    //default theme and color_scheme
    "color_scheme": "Packages/Color Scheme - Default/Breakers.sublime-color-scheme",
    "theme": "Adaptive.sublime-theme",
    // Draws text centered in the window rather than left aligned
    "draw_centered": true,
    "draw_white_space": "none",
    "enable_live_count": true,
    "fade_fold_buttons": false,
    //files to exclude from side bar
        ".EagleFiler Metadata.plist",
    //font and size
    "font_face": "Input Mono Narrow",
    "font_size": 18,

    "highlight_line": false,
    "highlight_modified_tabs": "enabled",
    //default packages which are ignored by me
        "Batch File",
        "Text Pastry",
    //Words Ignored by the spell check
        "show_pretty_keys": true,
    "line_numbers": true,
    "line_padding_bottom": 6,
    "line_padding_top": 6,
    "match_brackets": true,
    "match_brackets_angle": true,
    "match_brackets_braces": true,
    "match_brackets_content": true,
    "match_brackets_square": true,
    "mini_diff": false,
    //Required by OpenWith plugin. I can open a file in another editor.
            "name": "BBEdit",
                "iA Writer",
            "name": "iA Writer",
            "name": "TaskPaper",

    //saves the current document when you move away from it
    "save_on_focus_lost": true,
    "scroll_past_end": true,
    "show_git_status": false,
    "show_line_endings": true,
    "spell_check": true,
    "translate_tabs_to_spaces": true,
    "trim_trailing_white_space_on_save": true,
    "word_wrap": true,
    "wrap_width": 90,
    "auto_complete": true

The settings are self-evident.

Is this painful? They grow on you. If you spend time with the editor, you aren’t going to consider whether this is “Mac-like” or not. You are going to know how it works and that is the important consideration.

Language Specific Settings

MarkdownEditing - Packages - Package Control, which is the package I use, to write Markdown, supports Markdown, MultiMarkdown, and GFM (Github Flavored Markdown). Each of these variants have their own preference setup. I use MultiMarkdown. I am going to focus on that.

This is my MultiMarkdown specific settings file:

// These settings override both User and Default settings 
// for the MultiMarkdown syntax
    "auto_complete_delay": 30000,
    "auto_complete_selector": "source, text",
    "auto_match_enabled": true,
    "color_scheme": "Packages/Color Scheme - Default/Breakers.sublime-color-scheme",
    "theme": "Adaptive.sublime-theme",
    "highlight_line": false,
    "highlight_modified_tabs": true,
    "bold_folder_labels": true,
    "enable_table_editor": true,
    "font_face": "Input Mono Narrow",

    "font_size": 18,
    "line_numbers": true,
    "line_padding_bottom": 6,
    "line_padding_top": 6,
    "mde_match_header_hashes": false,
    "save_on_focus_lost": true,
    "spell_check": true,
    "table_editor_syntax": "Auto",
    "translate_tabs_to_spaces": true,
    "trim_trailing_white_space_on_save": false,
    "word_wrap": true,
    "show_git_status": "false",
    "mini_diff": "false",
    "wrap_width": 90


Not complicated. Takes getting used to but the settings are self-evident. And customizable by variant of Markdown. Some of the settings are duplicates of my default setup but I include them in the MultiMarkdown settings because I like them and don’t want them to change if I change the default.

The Sublime Text preferences allows me to customize the environment depending on the file I am editing or the syntax I am using. For instance, I deal with TaskPaper files in Sublime Text and for that I have a different font and a different theme from the one I use with MultiMarkdown files.

Distraction Free Settings

Sublime Text has a different set of settings for the distraction free mode.

    "font_face": "Input Mono Narrow",
    "font_size": 20,
    "color_scheme": "Packages/Color Scheme - Default/Mariana.sublime-color-scheme",
    "theme": "Default Dark.sublime-theme",
    "wrap_width": 90,
    "line_numbers": true,
    "gutter": false,
    "save_on_focus_lost": true,
    "auto_complete_selector": "source, text",
    "auto_complete": true,
    "typewriter_mode_scrolling": true


One of the advantages of Sublime Text is that I can activate typewriter scrolling only in full screen mode. In regular windows, typewriter scrolling isn’t active.

Tweaking themes

I like the default theme that Sublime Text ships with. But I don’t like the color of the cursor. I want to change that, but I don’t want to have to change the theme for every update of Sublime Text. I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Sublime Text lets me edit the default themes and keeps the edits in a User Settings file, separate from the theme file. When Sublime Text gets updated, my theme changes stay the way I had set it up.

These are my changes to the default theme:

// Documentation at
            "blue3": "hsl(198, 100%, 56%)",
        "caret": "var(blue3)",


I got the iA Writer caret into my theme. I am pushing the blue cursor across the screen.

The Modern Text Editor

BBEdit is the benchmark when it comes to the descriptor of a Mac text editor. It has a long history of being the text editor in the Mac market.

Explanations for the Preferences are on Page 219-248 in BBEdit User Manual(13.5.1). That is 29 pages of explanations for what the settings do. In addition, there are, what BBEdit calls Expert Preferences. These are statements which you have to input in the Terminal to get particular behavior that you are interested in.

BBEdit is defined by the continuous iteration it has gone through. Everything has been tweaked and polished to arrive at this state.

The preferences are well-designed, comprehensive and, if I may say so, “Mac-like.” They are so only because of the heritage of BBEdit, not because it is “Mac-like” to tweak default statements in the Terminal.

The modern text editor is a complicated beast and developers are trying to design a preference system which consumers can understand and use. The ability to set your preferences for the editor in a text file is an attempt to do that. It is different from the approach that BBEdit uses, but it is not an aberration. The Unix ethos which is fundamental to the modern day macOS, is equipped with two text editors, Vim and Emacs, which both use text file based preference setups.

The consideration should be efficiency and not a nebulous quality like “Mac-like design.”

I have to revert to what I wrote in the last article:

The best text editor is the one you know how to use.

If you are happy with the text editor you are using, keep typing. Spare me the assertions about what is “Mac-like design” and what isn’t.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

text editor macOS Sublime Text
March 17, 2021


The One Text Editor

I have been looking for the one text editor that I can use for all my writing.

One text editor. For all my files.

I write notes. I maintain a few lists (Markdown based lists), I am writing a book. I write blog articles. I doodle with words. I convert all my digital books into text files and read them in a text editor. I want to do it all in one application.

Revisiting something I wrote, iA Writer 5 Manages Files & Folders - Bicycle For Your Mind, these are the requirements I have of the text editor:

  • Markdown support. Both syntax highlighting and ease in writing Markdown. I want support for all of Markdown. MultiMarkdown is preferred but CommonMark or Github Flavored Markdown will do. That means support for tables. Support for footnotes. Good keyboard command support for Markdown syntax.
  • The ability to use my own font. Input Mono Narrow, if you are curious.
  • Themes. Light theme for windowed documents, and dark theme for full screen.
  • Typewriter scrolling.
  • The ability to manage a whole bunch of folders and files within the folders. Fast search to locate an individual file when there are thousands of files to search through.
  • Ability to handle large files.
  • Regex support
  • Support for macOS conventions. Two spaces turn into a period. The first letter of a new sentence is capitalized.
  • Projects and workspaces support. I get distracted and want to be able to select individual silos of files to work on. Projects and workspaces let me do that.
  • Ability to quickly go to individual files. There are a few files I access several times every day. I want to be able to navigate to them. A keyboard command to switch to and between these files is preferred.
  • Ability to go to different sections of a large file. A keyboard command and I can get a drop-down list of the headers in the file, select one, hit enter and go to it.
  • User selected markers and bookmarks would be a nice addition.
  • Folding. I want to be able to fold/unfold sections when I am writing.
  • Backups and automatic saves are preferred.
  • Alfred and Keyboard Maestro text expansions have to be supported for me.

Short Version

There is no editor which does all the things I want. Any choice is a compromise.

I chose Sublime Text.

Much Longer Version

I tried a whole host of editors and did a deep dive into them. These are my observations. Both the positives and the negatives.


Org mode in Emacs was an absolute revelation. I loved it. Not the task management component, I have no need for that. But the content creation component. It is the best outliner implemented in text files that I have come across. Markdown mode in Emacs is full featured.

The learning curve was brutal. You have to live in Emacs full-time and tweak till you get it to the stage where it is usable. Any small change throws things off and you are back in the rabbit hole. It was an incredible time sink. The payoff for that obsessive tinkering is huge. You can customize the editor to do everything you want it to do. The downside is that you will spend a lot of effort tearing your hair out in frustration. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have much hair left to give to the cause.

The experiment with Emacs ended a few months ago. I was sad about that. It is a great editor and org mode was fantastic but it chokes on large files. That was unexpected and unacceptable. I moved on from that.


I got tired of waiting for Ulysses to improve their handling of Markdown and let my subscription lapse at the start of the year.

Ulysses has a great environment to write in and if you are not writing Markdown, it is a beautiful place to live in. But it is constrained by what it can handle. It isn’t good with lists or notes. The organizational elements are okay, keywords make it efficient and the new style check is useful.

The downside of Ulysses is that the support and implementation of Markdown is asinine. I write in Markdown and don’t want to put up with that anymore. Hence the move away from it.


Drafts is another solution which I tried out for a while. I love Drafts. It is improving. Customizable and extendable through actions, Drafts is an absolute treat. The community around the product is helpful and the developer is responsive and efficient.

I found it hard to move away from Drafts.

There were three problems I had with it:

  1. Inability to handle large files.
  2. Lack of the ability to fold sections.
  3. The friction of dealing with a database backend. I like text files. Using Drafts meant that I had to be aware of moving things out of Drafts all the time. Conceptually it makes sense, start writing in Drafts, and move the content to your editor. In reality, that is a pain. I managed to often forget to export the file when I was done with it. It introduced an extra step to the process.

Using Drafts meant that I had to have other solutions to back up my usage. I needed a program to manage my large files. I needed another program to manage my notes folder.

I didn’t like the lock-in which using Drafts implied. If my notes are in Drafts, I am reliant on Drafts. The export function of Drafts is limited. You can export files individually or a bunch of them together into one file. There is no option to export a whole bunch of files individually. That doesn’t work for me.

I must admit though that this was accompanied by a certain amount of angst. I love Drafts. It is useful software but my need was one application to rule all my writing, and Drafts didn’t meet that goal.


Obsidian is an Electron application. Which means that it is non-standard when it comes to the macOS. I use items in the Services menu, not possible in Obsidian. I use the macOS spell-checker. Not available in Obsidian.

Obsidian is treading new territory in the field of note-taking. It is conceptualizing the notion of “knowledge management.” It is geared towards being your “second brain.” Towards that end, it is introducing the ability to have links and back links between your notes. It is trying to provide you a roadmap through your note-taking. Academics are drooling at that feature set. People who are serious about their note-taking are excited by Obsidian.

It has a published API (in beta), for developers to write plug-ins for the basic product. And people are writing these plug-ins. They are increasing the utility of Obsidian for all users. A note-taking software with a plugin infrastructure. I am excited by that.

It has almost all the features that I write about at the start. Full support for Markdown. Keyboard commands galore. Keyboard commands which can be user defined. Folding. Ability to deal with large files. Great search and organization abilities. Obsidian is near-perfect. Except for two things:

  1. Non native.
  2. Memory hog. Electron apps by design eat memory.

Obsidian is a free product for personal use. They have a revenue stream geared towards publishing and syncing. But you don’t have to use that. I paid up for Insider status, because I was excited by the product and wanted to contribute to its growth.

I haven’t given up on Obsidian. I use it regularly to see what is going on with the product. The plugins and the development of insider builds keeps me checking on the progress and I might switch over to it one day. But at this point, I am not sold on the non-native nature of Obsidian, or it’s extreme appetite for memory.

The Main Contenders

Now we deal with the main contenders: iA Writer, BBEdit, and Sublime Text.

I could have chosen any one of these and been happy with the choice. They are all capable of being the one text editor which handles all my needs. I have spent the better part of the last five years switching between them. I am tired of this switching behavior. I am aware that not using one of them exclusively hampers my ability to get familiar with the product. Two of these three, BBEdit and Sublime Text are deep products which need a certain amount of immersion before you are going to be familiar and comfortable with their feature set. The keyboard commands aren’t going to be melded into your fingers if you are constantly switching around. Your comfort with the application is going to be a function of how much time you spend with it. That comfort will ensure that you are going to be productive in it.

iA Writer

iA Writer is an exception in this crowd. It is a simpler alternative. It has a smaller feature set than the full-fledged editors. It is easy to get comfortable with it. There are less things to learn because the program does less. It is a Markdown focused text editor. It doesn’t write .json files, or any other file. It is good at handling Markdown. There are keyboard commands galore.

iA Writer is the only one amongst the main contenders, which lets me, what I call, “lazy type.” Two spaces is a period. First letter of every sentence is capitalized. macOS compliant. Drafts is the other program which lets me “lazy type.”

There are little touches all over which makes iA Writer a treat to live in. It is great at giving you the ability to manage your files and folders. Lets you organize a bunch of favorite files and folders which are easy to switch between. Simple, efficient and fast.

I use it every time I publish something. But it is not my main editor for three reasons:

  1. No folding. iA Writer doesn’t let me fold sections. It provides an easy way to get to sections, but it doesn’t let you fold/unfold sections.
  2. The themes and the font choices. I like the themes (dark and light) and fonts iA Writer ships with. However, I want more choices. I want a solarized theme. I want the ability to use my own fonts. I get bored and having to make those choices gives me an opportunity to procrastinate and not write.
  3. The simplicity is alluring but it gives me the feeling that I am missing something. Both BBEdit and Sublime Text do much more. I miss all those features when I am in iA Writer. Markers and bookmarks. Workspaces. Regex searches. View invisible characters. Search for them. Replace them. There is a whole world out there and iA Writer, by its focused nature, keeps me away from that.

I think I am being silly. I keep telling myself that George Martin uses WordStar. I should be perfectly happy in iA Writer. Take advantage of its focus and live in it. I find myself struggling with that. I don’t have a good explanation or rationale for my behavior. I find myself longing for full-fledged text editors when I am working in iA Writer. I think it is the wrong call. But it is a call I made.

BBEdit and Sublime Text

The best text editor is the one you know how to use.

I know Sublime Text. I don’t know BBEdit.

I did a deep dive into BBEdit for the past few months. I read the manual. It is a great product. It is stable. Amazing support and full-featured. It deals with whatever you can throw at it and for those who are interested in acquiring a text editor for life, it is as good a choice as Sublime Text.

I prefer Sublime Text. Of the list of features I mentioned at top of this article, Sublime Text doesn’t let me “lazy type.” Besides that, Sublime Text does everything I want it to do. The added selling point? I know how to use it. I have lived in this for about five years and am wondering why I bothered to leave. Boredom makes you do strange things.

There are a few plugins which make Sublime Text the editor for me. They are:

  1. MarkdownEditing - Packages - Package Control. This is the package which makes writing in Markdown fantastic in Sublime Text.
  2. GitHub Markdown Snippets - Packages - Package Control. Another one which makes the whole process of writing Markdown simple.
  3. ColorHints - Packages - Package Control. Helps you create and tweak themes.
  4. PlainTasks - Packages - Package Control. Lets me use TaskPaper files within Sublime Text.

These four are essential to my use of Sublime Text.

I am going to stick to Sublime Text for the next six months.

Concluding Thoughts

I started out with Sublime Text about 10 years ago. Moved away from it and now I am back to it. Feels good to be home.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Note: Thanks to Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Addendum: Another person taking a similar journey. Looking For My Perfect App – Greg Morris
Another Perspective: What writing app is the right app? | by ldstephens | Medium

macOS text editor
March 11, 2021


Exciting Times

On the whole, I have been quiet for a while. That is about to change. I am going to return to a regular publishing schedule now that the drama in the US is settling down, and I am in a better mental space.

There are some major things happening in the field of note-taking and writing. Lots of new products. Improvements to old products. And general frenetic activity in this space. I can’t wait to go deep into some of these products and give you the rundown on them.

Obsidian Takes on Roam

Obsidian is a product which differentiates itself from Roam with the ability to work with your local files. This is an exciting product which is geared towards “Knowledge Management.” I am going to write a lot about this product.

For the time being, let me whet your appetite with one killer feature: A published API which lets developers design their own plug-ins. Think of the ecosystem of plugins that enhance products like Atom, Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, Vim, and GNU Emacs. I am glad to see this feature brought to a note-taking application.

Downside? Obsidian is an Electron app.

Logseq Also Takes on Roam

Logseq is a privacy-first, open-source platform for knowledge sharing and management. The focus is the same as Obsidian. But the implementation is more outliner like rather than a Markdown editor like Obsidian.

Logseq is also an Electron app on the desktop.


SpringNotes is an outliner/task manager which is firmly in the Apple ecosystem. These are native implementations and they are macOS and iOS compliant. One purchase ($5.99) gets you installs on both macOS and iOS. SpringNotes is a Markdown based solution.

Org files without Emacs

Org mode in Emacs is fantastic and powerful, but you have to deal with Emacs. EasyOrg tries to take org files away from the Emacs learning curve and provide a friendlier solution. This is a huge task. Org mode in Emacs lets you:

  1. Use it as a task manager.
  2. Use it as an outliner.
  3. Use it is an authoring tool.
  4. Use it as a journaling program.
  5. And a whole host of other uses.

Org mode is a deep and amazing implementation. EasyOrg is focused on the task management portion of the feature set. It is a decent outliner, but it doesn’t, at least in this stage, pretend to be a complete replacement for org-mode in Emacs. I am not sure that it can ever get there. If you are interested in the task management functions of Org mode, you should check it out. You might be surprised at how well EasyOrg works.

Bear Is Testing Out Panda

Panda is the editor component of Bear 2.0. It is an alpha implementation.

These are some of the features:

  1. Complete CommonMark support. (Fantastic).
  2. A lovely table-editor. (Yippee).
  3. Resize and crop images. (Why?).
  4. Sketch your notes. (Must be an iPad thing).
  5. Folding. (Yippee).
  6. Footnotes. (Great).
  7. Hidden Markdown syntax. (FFS. Why?).

I am decidedly in the minority when it comes to my reaction to the changes. Consumers have been bugging the developers for all of these features and Bear 2.0 is going to deliver.

Try the alpha out to get a feel.

nvUltra Hits Choppy Waters

nvUltra is the other program in beta. There were rumblings of the product nearing final release and then… crickets. I have no idea what is going on, but I am excited about nvUltra. I have been on the beta for a long while and can’t wait to share the details on the product with you.

Apple Don’t Do This

Dashword is an interesting program. Reminds me of an outliner called Tree. But it is at best an alpha implementation. The program crashes, refuses to launch, behaves erratically, and is a general pain to use.

It has promise. If the developer can iron out the bugs, this is going to be an instant purchase for me. However, at this stage, it should not be available in the App Store. Being in the App Store implies a certain basic level of usability. Dashword breaks that expectation. I know it is free, but the product should have been in private beta and not in the App Store.

My Goal

I will do a deep dive into some of these programs and write about them in detail. I am excited about it.

BTW, thanks for reading, and I am glad to be back.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Thanks to Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

writing notetaking
December 25, 2020

Gratuitous Cat PictureGratuitous Cat Picture

2020 Review

2020 was fucked up in so many ways. I am struggling to make sense of it. I can’t get my head around some of the news.

  1. 300000+ dead and 74+ million are okay with it.
  2. Martial law in America? Being discussed in the White House?
  3. Tear gassing peaceful protestors on the streets of the capital for a photo op?
  4. An apostate waving a Bible around and that is okay?
  5. Chavez coming from the grave to monkey with our elections?
  6. Only a handful of Republican elected officials in Congress finding what is going on objectionable?
  7. The President of the USA explicitly addressing White Nationalists?
  8. Attempted murder is a crime. So is an attempted coup. This surely can’t be the “new normal.”

I could go on, but I am going to stop.

Two books which everyone should read:

  1. It Was All a Lie by Stuart Stevens
  2. Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America by Sarah Kendzior

News on the Apple Front

I am excited by Apple Silicon. Waiting for the iMac reboot. Praying that my old iMac(mid-2011) lasts till the new machines come out.

Big Sur is an improvement over Catalina but not by much. That might be a function of my lack of exposure. My main machine, the iMac is running High Sierra because it can’t run anything newer. I am using Big Sur on the Air, but with COVID restrictions, the need for portability is low. I need to use Big Sur more before I make up my mind on it.

Writing Software

I had a brief fling with Emacs for a while. It ended with me searching for a solution to my writing needs.


Drafts has become the primary program which controls my writing. Everything starts in Drafts. Notes, lists, blog articles, and miscellaneous doodling with text. It is the program which gives me the least friction. These are some of the features I am fond of:

  1. Fantastic quick input menubar addition.
  2. Full-support for Markdown. Actions geared towards Markdown input make the process of writing in Markdown easy.
  3. Integration with iA Writer, BBEdit and iThoughts when I need it.
  4. Lovely full screen mode with typewriter scrolling.
  5. Actions to perform anything I want.
  6. Full support of macOS goodies. Services menu, text replacements and everything else.
  7. No friction.

Drafts is a program with a database backend. It doesn’t support individual text files. But I write in it and when it is ready for archiving, I export files to individual text files and file in the appropriate folders. I have a plain text file backup and I get to use the goodies in Drafts to produce the content.

I can get rid of all the elements except the editing window and keep writing in Drafts without any distraction. It is Ulysses with full support for Markdown including tables.

I am happy with this setup. Drafts is making me write.


nvUltra is in beta. The product is coming along nicely. The last few months have been a little choppy but this might be the answer to the needs of a lot of people who are looking for a replacement for nvALT. I am looking forward to its release.


Obsidian is an Electron based note-taking application. I am going to write about it in detail once the beta period ends. At this point, it is too fast moving a target to adequately cover.

Geared towards “knowledge management,” this is a new program which is getting a lot of attention amongst the nerds. Concentrating on the creation of linked nodes of information, this is a different kind of note-taking program.

I am getting over my distaste of Electron apps to explore this program. One of the best features of the program? A published plug-in API. That means, developers all over the world have the ability to add features and capabilities through plug-ins. Think Sublime Text, Atom, VSCode, and TextMate, but for note-taking and knowledge management. I can’t wait to see what developers add to this program.


One of the things I noticed about Emacs was it’s struggles with opening large files and that surprised me. BBEdit has no such problems. I convert books I read from the .epub, .azw, .pdf, and .mobi files to text files and like reading them in a text editor. This gives me the ability to take notes in the document and have all of it searchable and indexed.

BBEdit, Sublime Text, and surprisingly, Obsidian have no problem dealing with these files. I like to use BBEdit to read these books. After my experience with Emacs, I wanted to settle on one program for all of my writing and BBEdit was the program which came closest to fulfilling that function. Drafts took over that task and I use BBEdit exclusively for my book reading. It is snappy, reliable and an absolute treat to live in.

Other Software


Alfred is crucial. I use this all the time. More than 130+ times a day.

Keyboard Maestro

Keyboard Maestro is another utility which gets used multiple times a day. I have all kinds of macros written in it. Anything which I find myself doing repeatedly gets turned into a Keyboard Maestro macro and that makes my life so much easier.

Path Finder

Path Finder is a Finder replacement. I love it. It does so many things better than the Finder that it is something that I am growing to rely on.


After 1Password moved to subscription, I moved my password handling chores to Enpass. It works and works fine. I am happy with it.


EagleFiler is my digital dump. I have everything I need to keep a record of in various EagleFiler files. Recipes, receipts, manuals of programs and things, and so on. It is fast, reliable and well-supported by the developer. In fact, there are two products from this developer which are crucial to my life. EagleFiler and SpamSieve, which takes me to the next crucial element of my digital life.


MailMate in association with SpamSieve manages my email. Lets me write in Markdown. Has fantastic customizable keyboard command support and it handles my email tasks. I have been using it for a few years now and have grown to rely on it to exclusively handle all of my emailing needs.


I hope the next year is better than the one we have been through. Hope you and your family stay safe and in good health. Happy New Year.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

Note: I was not sure that I would write the end of year post, but Loren provided me the inspiration at My 2021 Essential Mac Apps. Every year towards the end of December… | by ldstephens | Dec, 2020 | Medium.

Thanks to: Photo by Vladislav Murashko from Pexels