Re-thinking digital data management

I’ve been rethinking how I store my digital data. I used to keep it in plain text markdown files. More recently I have been keeping it in apps like Bear, Ulysses, or Apple Notes. I’ve never been comfortable with this method because of the lock-in. And, use I know Bear and Ulysses have export options.

To get a better idea of how people store their digital data I started a thread titled “Conflicted! Data storage – Individual files or proprietary database format?” in the MPU forums.

What I gleaned from the comments was that more people favored storing data in individual files. Several people use Devonthink or EagleFiler while others use a folder structure in Finder. The subject of finding files/search came up. HoudahSpot was mentioned a few times as a Finder search app alternative to Spotlight.

Researching HoudahSpot lead me to this blog post by Brett Terpstra.

For those of us who have shifted from folder hierarchies to search as our primary method of “filing,” Spotlight has become a way of life. And where Spotlight falls short, HoudahSpot steps in and fills the gaps. I’ve said it enough that it sounds cliché to me, but HoudahSpot really is steroids for Spotlight on macOS.

The decision I made was to go back to individual files. All my digital data is now in a shallow folder structure in Finder as individual files. I can access these files with any text editor on any platform. And searching with Alfred or HoudahSpot I can find absolutely any file I’m looking for.

Instapaper finally gets a badly needed update

I have been super critical of Instapaper lately. I wrote on Medium about how over the past year it has gone to shit. Not only that but I along with others thought that it was abandoned which prompted me to write an Open Letter to the developer asking them to fix or sell the app. Then a few days ago I wrote about the app that I was going to use in place of Instapaper.

Yesterday, Instapaper was brought back from the dead with version 8.1. I immediately subscribed to Premium again.

What I’ll use in place of Instapaper

I recently wrote about my disappointment with Instapaper, my long-time read-it-later app. I also wrote an Open Letter to the Developer asking that they either fix the app or sell it. Since I don’t have much hope for either of those things happening, I’ve been on the hunt for a replacement.

There are several other read-it-later apps to choose from. Pocket, Reeder, Goodlinks, Matter, Readwise, and UpNext to name a few. UpNext and Readwise are both in beta and early access sign-up is available. I’ve tested UpNext, and I’m on the early access list for Readwise.

Here’s what I’m looking for in a read-it-later app. A clean, attractive reader view, highlighting, and highlight export.

My number one choice would be Goodlinks. As I recently wrote:

In my opinion, GoodLinks is one of the best read-it-later apps out there. The reading experience is excellent. Articles and reading positions sync between devices via iCloud. And best of all it’s a one-time purchase for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

The only thing that’s missing is highlighting and highlight export. A recent addition to Goodlinks is the ability to export a full article as markdown, plain text, or PDF. I received an email from the developer Ngoc Lou stating “Highlighting and notes are planned. I’m working on it.”

For now, I’ve settled on Matter. It does what I need, plus a lot that I don’t need or want. But it lets me highlight my articles, export the highlights, and save them to Obsidian. The reading experience is good but could be better if there were more font choices. Another nice feature is being able to listen to articles.

How to create a reminder in the Reminders app from macOS Mail

One of the things that keeps me from using Apple’s Reminders for all my todo needs is the ability to forward an email to Reminders like I can in Things.

Well, according to Mac Geek Gab Episode 908 listener Dave, there’s a hidden and undiscoverable way to do just that. “It turns out that one can create a reminder from an email message by control clicking or right-clicking on the subject field of the email. When you do this, the contextual menu that pops up includes a share menu which contains among a few other things Reminders. Clicking anywhere else in the message will not work.”

I checked it out. It works. I found that selecting the subject then control clicking or right-clicking works better. It’s also fairly easy to add a date, time, or note to the reminder if you want to.

This also worked on iPhone and iPad for me.

Chrome 97 lets you erase all data and information a website stored on your visit

I don’t use Chrome but I know a lot of Mac users do use Chrome or a Chromium-based browser. Chrome 97 released yesterday comes with a significant Security & Privacy improvement that I want to bring to your attention.

Joe Fedewa, writing at How-To Geek

Chrome 97 makes some changes to the Privacy and Security settings. You can now delete all the data stored by a website. Previously, you could only delete individual cookies. This new setting can be found at Settings > Security and Privacy > Site Settings > View Permissions and Data Stored Across Sites.​

Open letter to the developer(s) of Instapaper

Instapaper has long been my favorite read-it-later app. I still use it, but with trepidation. In recent months it has become unreliable and has fallen into disrepair.

Recently while working with a small group of articles on my iPad, the app kept locking up. Moreover, sync wasn’t working between my iPad and iPhone. Getting frustrated, I went to the App Store to check out the recent reviews. What I found was that I’m not the only one experiencing issues with Instapaper. There were complaints similar to mine plus many more including Kindle sync no longer working, disappearing articles, and Instapaper not appearing in the share sheet. To top it off, the developer isn’t responding to any support requests and the app hasn’t had an update in over a year. Has it been abandoned?

Instant Paper, Inc., the current state of Instapaper is shameful! Please fix it or sell it to someone who will.

Oh, here’s an option. In a quote, Matt Mullenweg of Automattic told David Pierce of protocol on December 21st, 2021 that he would be interested in Instapaper.

And if that’s the plan, there are plenty of places left for Automattic to explore. “I would have loved to have Instapaper or Pocket,” Mullenweg said when the topic of reading apps came up.

​Or maybe Marco Arment should buy it back and get it working as Brent Simmons did with NetNewsWire.

🖇 Search Safari open tabs from Alfred

Gabe Weatherhead, writing at MacDrifter

Lately I’m frustrated with Safari.

I typically have several Safari windows open, each with a different group of related tabs. When I want to switch to a specific tab it’s a tiny awkward dance of flipping through windows and then CMD-Shift-Backslash to open the Safari tab overview search. It’s not a great experience, especially if I have a Safari window in another space.

There’s a really nice solution to this problem with using an Alfred workflow. It’s some clever work that uses javascript to list all of the browser tabs. It also has separate triggers to search Chrome, Brave, Edge, and something called Vivaldi.

Alfred Tab Search
Alfred Tab Search

I have found this Alfred Workflow to be particularly useful when I have lots of tabs and multiple windows open. You can download the workflow here: https://github.com/epilande/alfred-browser-tabs

My favorite iOS apps for 2022

2022 is nearly here. It’s the time of year that I evaluate the apps that I’ve been using and decide which apps I will use for the coming year. I find that writing this out helps me better evaluate the apps that best fit my workflows.

My Hardware:

  • 2021 24” M1 iMac with Touch ID Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2, and Trackpad
  • iPhone 11
  • iPad Air 4th generation with Magic Keyboard and Trackpad and Magic Mouse 2
  • Apple Watch 44 mm Series 4

Web

Communication

Calendar, Tasks, and Notes

Reading

Writing

Utilities

Health and Fitness

My favorite Mac apps for 2022 is here.

Uninstalling “Grammarly for Mac” app breaks “Check Spelling While Typing”

A few days ago I noticed that “Check Spelling While Typing” had stopped working on my iMac. A google search led me to these two MPU Talk forum threads:

Spell check turned off? – MPU Talk

Uninstalling Grammarly Desktop app breaks macOS spell checker – MPU Talk

If you uninstall Grammarly for Mac and the system spell check is not working in apps such as Mail or Notes, do the following:

Open Terminal and copy and paste the following:

defaults write -g NSAllowContinuousSpellChecking -bool true

Restart the affected apps (or your whole computer).

Yes, I had deleted the old Grammarly for Mac app and installed the new Grammarly Desktop app. So, I’m going to assume that’s what happened. It appears that uninstalling the new Grammarly Desktop app also breaks “Check Spelling While Typing”.

Running the terminal command fixed “Check Spelling While Typing” for me.

My favorite Mac Apps for 2022

2022 is nearly here. It’s the time of year that I evaluate the apps that I’ve been using and decide which apps I will use for the coming year. I find that writing this out helps me better evaluate the apps that best fit my workflows.

For the last 7 months, I’ve been using an iPad as my main computer. I wanted to learn the best ways to use it and forcing myself to make it my main computing device was the way to do that. At the same time, I was wondering if I’d ever use a Mac again since Apple was in the middle of a five-year period in which it had ignored the Mac.

I’ve moved back to the Mac for most of my work and the M1 is a big part of why, of course, but not the whole story. I missed the automation that I developed in apps like Keyboard Maestro, Alfred, and Hazel.

So, now I have a new 2021 24” M1 iMac base model with the Touch ID Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse. My iPad is now my mobile device.

My Hardware:

  • 2021 24” M1 iMac with Touch ID Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2, and Trackpad
  • iPhone 11
  • iPad Air 4th generation with Magic Keyboard and Trackpad and Magic Mouse 2
  • Apple Watch 44 mm Series 4

Web

Communication

Calendar, Tasks, and Notes

Reading

Writing

Utilities / Productivity

My favorite iOS apps for 2022 is here.

The trouble with BBEdit for new users

I’ve had BBEdit / TextWrangler installed on my Mac ever since the day I got my first Mac. I have never used on it consistently because it has never clicked with me.

The other day, I was experimenting with it again, thinking that I would like to use it more often. I even downloaded MarsEdit to go with it for publishing to this blog. Sadly, I gave up and put it away, just like I always do. I don’t get it!

Andrew Canion puts the trouble with BBEdit for new users perfectly.

But BBEdit is a Mac classic. It can do virtually anything with text (if you know how to drive it). That brings up the real weakness of BBEdit – a lack of support for the new user, and modern tutorials. BareBones, the developers, are old men. They write great documentation1 but offer zero modern promotion and support. The manual is great, but how about a YouTube channel with some tutorials? Where does a beginner start with this application?

[…]

Herein lies the problem with BBEdit. It’s great. It’s wonderful. It’s built for people who already use it and know how to use it. However, I would say this to the team at BareBones: if you’re building a software application, perhaps at some point you need to turn an eye to the new users. The ones that might otherwise choose the free Visual Studio Code. The ones who might already use the copy of iA Writer they own, or Drafts, Craft or Ulysses. Users like me?

I want to use BBEdit. But why should I? Perhaps I shouldn’t.

BareBones 14. I’m sure its great. But I can’t know, because I’m not experienced enough to say.

🖇 Verizon opting iPhone users into data collection and tracking

Andrew Paul, writing at Input

A new program innocuously titled the “Verizon Custom Experience” is sold to users as a way for the company to “personalize our communications with you, give you more relevant product and service recommendations, and develop plans, services and offers that are more appealing to you.” To accomplish this, all a Verizon subscriber needs to do is… allow the company access to all the websites you visit, apps you use, as well as see everyone you happen to call and text.

Well, okay, so that’s a bit misleading. You don’t “need” to allow access — Verizon already default granted it. You can manually go in and change a few settings to remedy the situation, though. Here’s how.

Emma Roth, writing at The Verge

In April, T-Mobile started automatically enrolling users in a program that shares your data with advertisers unless you manually opt-out from your privacy settings. On AT&T’s privacy center, the company says that it collects web and browsing information, along with the apps you use, and that you can manage these settings from AT&T’s site.

I checked my account settings in the Verizon mobile app and sure enough I was opted-in. This is total fucking bullshit!

Here’s how to opt-out:

  1. Visit the My Verizon app, then click on Settings (the gear in the top-right corner)
  2. Once logged in, scroll down to Manage Privacy settings.
  3. Select the phone you want to update.
  4. Toggle off “Custom Experience” and “Custom Experience Plus.”

Grammarly now has a desktop app for Mac

I didn’t realize that Grammarly now has a desktop app for Mac until I ran across this post by timstringer on the Mac Power Users forum

With the recent addition of Grammarly Desktop 44, Grammarly can now be used in many native Mac apps. This is something I’ve been wanting for years. It’s great that it’s arrived and is so widely supported!

So far, I’ve successfully used Grammarly in Mail, Notes, Pages, Keynote, Drafts, and Ulysses. Works like a charm!

In addition to working with the above-mentioned apps, I can confirm that it also works with iA Writer. I’m also told that it works with Obsidian and Slack.

tim has also written an on/off toggle macro in Keyboard Maestro which comes in handy.

While I appreciate having access to Grammarly across many of my apps, I don’t always need to be checking my spelling and grammar.

I created a simple Keyboard Maestro macro (tied to ⌥⇧⌘G) that toggles Grammarly. This way I can easily fire up Grammarly when I need its services and shut it down if it’s getting in the way or is not needed. This macro also automatically closes the window that is displayed when Grammarly launches.

Goodbye 1Password

I stopped using 1Password in July 2019 when it stopped working with Safari 13 in macOS Catalina. At that time, I tried Enpass but eventually settled on Bitwarden which I’ve been happily using since. I went Premium about a year ago.

Even though I switched to Bitwarden, I didn’t delete 1Password from my devices, thinking that if Bitwarden didn’t work out that I might want to switch back. I never found a reason to switch back, and I’m glad I didn’t because now with 1Password 8 standalone vaults will no longer be supported.

Since standalone vaults are no longer supported with 1Password 8 I didn’t see any reason to keep it installed on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad. If you’re searching for an alternative, I can highly recommend Bitwarden.

macOS Safari has a disappearing extensions bug

Last Wednesday I needed to log in to a website and to my surprise the Bitwarden extension had disappeared from the toolbar. I went to Safari > Preferences > Extensions to enable it again and found that it was no longer listed. Then I noticed that the Goodlinks, and Wipr Extra extensions had also disappeared. What the hell!

I emailed Bitwarden and Goodlinks support, hoping to get an answer as to why this happened and how to restore the extensions. Here are the responses that I got and how to get the extensions back:

This is posted in the Wipr FAQ:

Wipr Extra Is Missing

If you can see Wipr Part 1 2 and 3 in Safari’s Preferences under Extensions, but not Wipr Extra, you’re being bit by a bug. Safari can’t seem to reliably index Web Extensions like Wipr Extra.

Note that this affects all Web Extensions, not just Wipr, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Please complain to Apple – the more people complain, the sooner they’ll fix this.

The following Terminal command has been reported to fix the issue (at least temporarily):

/System/Library/Frameworks/CoreServices.framework/Frameworks/LaunchServices.framework/Support/lsregister -f -R /Applications/Safari.app

I got a similar response from GoodLinks support in an email.

Hi Loren,

Could you try quitting Safari completely and running this command in Terminal?

/System/Library/Frameworks/CoreServices.framework/Frameworks/LaunchServices.framework/Support/lsregister -f /Applications/Safari.app

If it still not work, try restarting your Mac after running that command.

Thanks,

Ngoc

I can confirm that the terminal command reinstated the missing extensions.

Mac Migration Assistant broke Alfred file search on my new M1 iMac

My attempts to resist getting a new M1 Mac failed. I’ve now taken delivery of a base model M1 24” iMac with a Touch ID Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse, and Magic Trackpad.

After migrating data from my old MacBook Pro to my new M1 iMac, I ran into an issue with Alfred. File Search was broken.

If this happens to you, here’s what you need to do to fix it:

First, make sure all Permissions are enabled.

Then follow the instructions in this Alfred support email sent to me by Vero:

Hi Loren,

This is an issue in macOS Monterey that affects primarily users who migrate data from another Mac. We’ve established in this forum thread that rebuilding your Mac’s index in full resolves the issue for everyone:

https://www.alfredforum.com/topic/17462-file-search-in-macos-monterey/?do=findComment&comment=90299

The first steps to follow when results seem unexpected is to rebuild your Mac’s metadata. It’s usually because the data being provided by macOS is incorrect (even if it appears correct in the current Spotlight cache), and rebuilding ensures that all this information is refreshed by the OS.

Even if you believe you’ve already reindexed, please follow the steps below specifically (as it involves deleting a cache first and ensuring Terminal has suitable permissions).

  • ******First, please pop open System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Full Disk Access and add Terminal**
  • Once you’ve done this, go to Alfred’s Advanced preferences, choose “Rebuild macOS Metadata”
  • ******Ensure that you check “Delete .Spotlight-V100 before reindex”**
  • Follow the steps in Terminal, and keep a close eye for any error messages relating to your index. 

Please let me know if there are any errors. Otherwise, if it proceeds smoothly, you may need to wait up to an hour for the reindex to complete. Once this is done, make your searches again and see if your results are more as expected.

If your issue persists, please provide the following information:

  • Your diagnostics file, by typing ?diagnostics into Alfred and attaching the resulting fileExamples of the File
  • Troubleshooting reports for the files you cannot find using Alfred
  • Details of exactly what you’re typing into Alfred and what results you are expecting to see

Cheers,

Vero

Apple CarPlay uses cellular data

We’ve been on a Verizon plan with only 2 GB of data for years and have only occasionally run out of data. Recently, we have been burning through it in just a few days. What changed?

We bought a new Jeep Wrangler that has CarPlay. According to this article by Jason Cross at MacWorld, “CarPlay itself doesn’t cost you anything. When you’re using it to navigate, message, or listen to music, podcasts, or audio books, you might use data from your phone’s data plan. Depending on your cellular data limits, that may end up costing you.”

We’ve upgraded our Verizon data plan and yes, it cost us more money.

Using a keyboard shortcut to trigger PopClip

In September 2017, I wrote a post on how to trigger PopClip when it didn’t appear using a Keyboard Maestro macro. With the release of PopClip version 2021.11 on November 3rd you can now set a keyboard shortcut in PopClip preferences. This comes in handy when PopClip fails to appear or disappears.

Guide to using the Keyboard Shortcut trigger in PopClip – How-Tos and Guides – PopClip Forum

PopClip 2021.11 introduced a new control in the prefs, to set a keyboard shortcut. This guide explains what the keyboard shortcut does, and how to choose, set and use it.

What the keyboard shortcut does:

It is a global keyboard shortcut that triggers PopClip to appear. Being global means it will be recognised by the system in whatever app you are using.

NetNewsWire 6 vs Reeder 5 iCloud sync

I’ve been using the free version of Feedly for RSS syncing with Reeder ever since I started using RSS. Reeder 5 introduced a built-in RSS/Feeds service using iCloud to keep everything in sync between devices. For privacy reason, I decided to start using iCloud instead of Feedly.

Here’s a friction point that I have with Reeder. It has three options for syncing background refresh, manually, and on start. My preference is background refresh, but with that option, I get a lot of feed timeouts. So, I’ve been using sync on start, which works fine but is really slow.

Now that NetNewWire 6 has iCloud syncing I’ve been checking it out. What I found is that NetNewsWire’s iCloud background refresh works flawlessly and manual syncing is lightening fast compared to Reeder.

This isn’t final, but I think I’m going to stick with NetNewsWire.

What will happen to PDFpen after the Nitro purchase?

PDFpen has been a part of my paperless workflow since I started it in 2017. Yesterday after reading about Nitro acquiring PDFpen on 9to5Mac I decided that it’s time to move on to a different app.

June 28, 2021 – Nitro to acquire PDFpen, expanding productivity to Mac, iPhone, and iPad users

Nitro Software Limited (ASX: NTO) (‘Nitro’ or the ‘Company’), a global document productivity software company driving digital transformation in organisations around the world, is pleased to announce the acquisition of PDFpen, a market-leading suite of PDF productivity applications for Mac, iPhone® and iPad®.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Nitro will acquire the PDFpen technology from US- based Smile, Inc. for $6 million in cash. The acquisition will be funded from the Company’s existing cash reserves.

According to the announcement, Nitro purchased the PDFpen technology (see the paragraph above). That brings up the question of what does that mean for the app? Does this mean Nitro will use the PDFpen technology to develop Nitro apps for Mac, iPhone, and iPad and PDFpen will eventually disappear from the app landscape?

In light of this announcement and not being happy with PDFpen’s incredible confusing interface on the iPhone and iPad, I’m now using PDFViewer, which has a free version which is perfect for limited needs.