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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Where the hell is the Escape key on the iPad Magic Keyboard?

Change the behavior of the modifier keys on iPad

If, like me, you rarely use the caps lock key, you might be interested to learn that you can remap it on a hardware keyboard in iPadOS. I mapped mine to Escape.

How to Remap Modifier Keys on iPad When Using a Keyboard

  • Launch the Settings app on your ‌iPad‌
  • Select General -> Keyboard
  • Select Hardware Keyboard
  • Select Modifier Keys
  • Select the key that you’d like to modify …
  • Select the action that you’d like to perform when tapping the chosen key

That’s it.

iPadOS 15 multitasking and keyboard shortcuts

If you are a regular reader, then you are aware that I switched my entire workflow to my 11” iPad Air. It does everything I need to do from writing, handling email, texting, messaging, reading, watching videos and more. I still have my 2015 13” MacBook Pro because I use it to run Hazel rules, which is something that I can’t do on my iPad.

iPadOS 15 has made the iPad even better. The new multitasking features and Globe key keyboard shortcuts have made working on the iPad even more Mac like. It’s fucking wonderful!

If, like me, you use an iPad as your main computing device, check out Chris Lawley’s video for getting your arms around all the new features in iPadOS 15.

iPadOS 15 Walkthrough: EVERYTHING You Need To Know! – YouTube

🔗 Link Post: From TextExpander to Keyboard Maestro again

Another great Keyboard Maestro macro from Dr. Drang. I haven’t been using my MacBook Pro lately, but I definitely wanted to be sure that I have this macro in my toolbox in if I switch back from my iPad. It was straightforward to put together following Dr. Drang’s instructions included in the article.

Dr. Drang writing for And now all this:

After a good bit of thinking, I canceled my TextExpander subscription today. This is not the first time I’ve left TextExpander—I dropped it when Smile first adopted a subscription payment model about five years ago, and stayed away even when Smile listened to the complaints and lowered the subscription price.

[…]

So I’m back to using Keyboard Maestro as my snippet expansion tool. It works well, and I didn’t have to do too much work to switch over. In a rare display of forethought, I didn’t delete my snippet macros. I had merely disabled them when I started using TextExpander again—now I just had to re-enable them.

[…]

And I decided to tackle the one big advantage TextExpander had over Keyboard Maestro: the ability to make a new snippet quickly. By combining AppleScript with Keyboard Maestro itself, I now have a way to make a KM snippet out of what’s on the clipboard.

For example, let’s say I’m writing a report about products made by Mxyzptlk Industries. To make a snippet for that name, I copy it to the clipboard and invoke my new Make Temporary Snippet from Clipboard macro. That brings up this window, where I can define the trigger (I chose “;mi”) and adjust the expansion if necessary. After clicking OK, I have a new snippet in my Snippet – Temporary group.

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.

RSS reader NetNewsWire 6 is out for iPhone and iPad with iCloud sync

NetNewsWire 6 for iOS is now available on the App Store! This release brings new features — iCloud sync; sync with BazQux, Inoreader, NewsBlur, The Old Reader, and FreshRSS; home screen widgets; special support for Twitter and Reddit feeds; and more.”

If you’re not using RSS now is a perfect time to give it a try. NetNewsWire is free and with version 6, you can now use iCloud for syncing, saving the cost of a paid syncing service.

The one thing Apple Notes is missing

Quick note and tags are coming to Apple Notes in iPadOS 15. Even though these are nice additions, I doubt that Notes will become my everyday note-taking app, and here’s why.

Many of the notes that I take throughout the day are notes that I will want to do something with later. A note may become a task in Things, a reminder, or event in Fantastical, a new draft for this blog in Ulysses, or a journal entry in Day One. Missing from Notes is the lack of export options or actions to get notes out of Notes. This is a dealbreaker for making Notes my everyday note’s app. That’s why I use Drafts. Ya know, the old saying “text starts here”. Any text starts in Drafts, including stuff that may eventually end up in Notes.

That said, I do use Notes as cold storage for notes that I seldom reference. I have several hundred of these notes and Notes is the perfect place for them.

🔗 Link Post: Think Globally: The iPad’s new universal keyboard shortcuts

Jason Snell writing for sixcolors.com:

I’ve seen the future of the iPad, and it’s hidden under a key.

The future of an entire platform is a lot to pile on a single plastic square, but here we are. Down in the bottom left corner of Apple’s keyboards is a new key labeled with the picture of a globe. Initially intended for supporting multiple languages, in iPadOS 15 the Globe key has become something much bigger: it’s a symbol for global keyboard shortcuts.

In iPadOS 14, if you hold down the Command key, you can see a list of app-specific features and their key equivalents. It’s like a quick-reference card for keyboard shortcuts. In iPadOS 15, Apple has expanded this feature to make it more like the iPad equivalent of the Mac menu bar—not only does it list keyboard shortcuts, but it can list every command in the app, and you can click any of them to execute them. iPad apps that build out the Mac menu bar for their Catalyst version can pick this feature up for free. It’s another way that the Mac and iPad are increasingly complementing one another.

Then there’s the Globe key. Hold it down in any app in iPadOS 15, and you’ll see a different set of commands, all of which can be applied globally. (Get it?) These menus are full of shortcuts to switch to the home screen (Globe-H), open a Quick Note (Globe-Q), activate Control Center (Globe-C), and pretty much any other system-level area.

The Globe menu also contains loads of keyboard shortcuts to control multitasking. You can put apps into Split View and Slide Over, pop them back into full screen, and cycle between apps, all via Globe key shortcuts.

[…]

Clearly, there’s a lot more work to be done, but I’m excited that Apple is staking out space for keyboard shortcuts that can work across different apps. This Globe-key kid has potential. We should keep them around and see what happens next.

I agree with Jason. I’m excited for iPadOS 15 to get here so that I can start using these keyboard shortcuts.

Reeder 5 iCloud feeds sync revisited

I’m a long-time Reeder user for RSS. Not long after Reeder 5 was introduced I tried out the new iCloud feed sync feature. At the time I wrote that I wasn’t impressed.

I wanted to try iCloud feed sync thinking I could cancel my free Feedly account. I’ll share a couple of issues that I experienced and ultimately sent me back to using the free version of Feedly. First off I found iCloud feed sync to be much slower than Feedly. In addition to being much slower, often times feeds timed out and didn’t sync.

A few weeks ago I was having some sync issues with Feedly and while I was waiting for Feedly to fix them I decided to give iCloud feeds another go. And you know what? It’s now rock solid! It is so good that I’m leaving Feedly behind. I have had no issues with time-outs and in my opinion sync is just as fast as Feedly.

As a side note, David Sparks recently wrote about switching to Reeder 5 and using iCloud feeds for managing his RSS.

Looking at my toolset for managing RSS, it’s getting expensive. I currently use a Feed Wrangler account ($19 per year) to manage my feeds, Unread ($20 per year) to view my threads, and Instapaper ($30 per year) for read-it-later. In addition to being expensive, there is a certain amount of mental overhead that comes with managing data between three services that I would prefer to avoid.

[…]

This newest version of Reeder does a good job of managing your feeds, displaying your articles, and giving you the ability to set them aside to read later. It does all of this in one application, and in addition to the iPhone and iPad apps, there is also a Mac app. A nice bonus is that Reeder is a one-time purchase. There is no subscription involved. Instead, the developer releases a new version every few years that you buy over, but it is still far less expensive than what I paid for subscriptions. Reeder for iPhone and iPad is $5. On the Mac, it is $10.