Notes and more to Devonthink

The year has just begun. A few days ago I published my Essential Mac Apps story and guess what? I’m making changes.

I wrote that I’m using Apple Notes for all my notes. Last week I began to have regrets. The reason, I’m uncomfortable having my notes in a proprietary database system.

I started considering other options including moving back to text files. The advantage of text files being there is no lock-in. They are more accessible and reliable. Another benefit is the ability to change client apps seamlessly. Edit one file with iAWriter, edit another with 1Writer, and a third with Byword. So I settled on moving my notes back to text files.

Over the holidays DEVONtechnologies put all their apps on sale at 30% off including upgrades. I took advantage of the discount and upgraded Devonthink to version 3 even though I wasn’t currently using it.

After moving my notes to text files actually, .md markdown files, I decided to put Devonthink to use. I indexed all my working files notes included to Devonthink. I chose indexing over importing so that the files would still be accessible in Finder.

Now, my bookmark collection, notes, personal files, research projects, and writing files are all in Devonthink.

Maestral: An open-source Dropbox client for Mac

Dropbox has taken a lot of heat from users lately. They aren’t happy with the app that’s now part of the Dropbox install. Like me, most users would like to have the Finder integration only. That said, I only have a couple of Dropbox folders that I would like to have on my Mac but I don’t want them enough to have the new Dropbox app installed.

Last week macosxguru mentioned Maestral in his 2020 Review. Maestral is a light-weight and open-source Dropbox client for macOS and Linux. It uses the public Dropbox API and integrates with Finder just like Dropbox used to do. I’ve been using it for a few days and have had no issues.

If you’re interested in Maestral an app bundle is provided for macOS High Sierra and higher and can be downloaded from the Releases tab on the Maestral GitHub page.

My 2021 Essential iOS Apps

Every year towards the end of December I evaluate the apps that I’ve been using and what I will use for the next year. I find that writing this out helps me better evaluate the apps that best fit my workflows. Once I complete my evaluation, I summarize it in a post on this blog.

Another reason for this post is that visitors are always asking me which apps I use for specific tasks. To keep from repeating myself over and over, here’s the list of apps that I use.

My setup:

  • MacBook Pro early–2015 13” (soon to be replaced with a MacBook Air M1/8gb)
  • iPhone 11
  • iPad 5th Generation (which I rarely use these days)
  • Apple Watch 44 mm Series 4

Table of Contents

Web

Safari – Safari is my browser of choice. I use Wipr with Safari to block ads, trackers, cryptocurrency miners, and other annoyances.

Communication

Fastmail – I’ve been using Fastmail for email ever since I left Gmail over 6 years. I also use it for calendar, and contacts.

Fastmail has an iOS app, that I use.

Messages – Messages is how I communicate with family and friends.

Calendar and Tasks

Fantastical 3 – Fantastical is my calendar and task app. It integrates perfectly with my Fastmail calendar appointments and events and Apple Reminders tasks.

Due – Due is where I keep all my reminders. What I love about Due is that it repeatedly notifies you of overdue reminders until I mark them complete or reschedule them.

Reading

Reeder – Reeder is what I use for my Feedly RSS feeds. Anything that I want to read I save to Instapaper for reading later.

Twitter – Twitter is for news and the feeds for apps that I use.

Writing

Drafts 5 – I’ve been using Drafts for several years. Drafts is a launching-off point for text – use the actions to copy it, share it, or deep link into other apps and services.

1Writer – I don’t write on iOS but I do some proofreading and editing and for that I use 1Writer.

Apple Notes – Notes that I want to keep long-term go in the Notes app.

Day One Journal – I keep a lifelog in Day One.

Utilities / Productivity

Bitwarden – Gotta have a password manager.

Scanner Pro – Scanner Pro is also part of my paperless workflow. I use it to scan paper documents into PDFs with OCR that look clean and professional.

TunnelBear VPN – TunnelBear is my VPN for security on public WiFi and web browsing privacy.

PCalc – PCalc is my stock calculator replacement. I use it for its additional features and customization.

Health and Fitness

Apple Fitness – I use the Workout and Fitness apps with my Apple Watch to track my daily activities.

To keep my mind occupied during workouts I listen to podcasts in Overcast.

My 2021 Essential Mac Apps

My 2021 Essential Mac Apps

Every year towards the end of December I evaluate the apps that I’ve been using and what I will use for the next year. I find that writing this out helps me better evaluate the apps that best fit my workflows. Once I complete my evaluation, I summarize it in a post on this blog.

Another reason for this post is that visitors are always asking me which apps I use for specific tasks. To keep from repeating myself over and over, here’s the list of apps that I use.

My setup:

  • MacBook Pro early–2015 13” (soon to be replaced with a MacBook Air M1/8gb)
  • iPhone 11
  • iPad 5th Generation (which I rarely use these days)
  • Apple Watch 44 mm Series 4

Table of Contents

Web

Safari – Safari is my browser of choice. I use Wipr with Safari to block ads, trackers, cryptocurrency miners, and other annoyances.

As we all know some websites don’t play nice with Safari. In those situations I use Firefox.

Communication

Fastmail – I’ve been using Fastmail for email ever since I left Gmail over 6 years ago. I also use it for calendar, and contacts.

Fastmail has an iOS app, that I use, but none for the Mac so I use the Fastmate app which is a native Fastmail-wrapper.

Messages – Messages is how I communicate with family and friends.

Calendar and Tasks

Fantastical 3 – Fantastical is my calendar and task app. It integrates perfectly with my Fastmail calendar appointments and events and Apple Reminders tasks.

Reading

Reeder – Reeder is what I use for my Feedly RSS feeds. Anything that I want to read I save to Instapaper for reading later.

Twitter – Twitter is for news and the feeds for apps that I use.

Writing

Drafts 5 – I’ve been using Drafts for several years. It’s the launching-off point for text for me. I use the actions to copy it, share it, or deep link into other apps and services.

iA Writer – iA Writer is my current writing app of choice. For preview I use Marked 2 side by side with iA Writer. Everything that I write goes through Grammarly for proofreading grammar and spelling.

Apple Notes – Notes that I want to keep long-term go in the Notes app.

Utilities / Productivity

Bitwarden – Gotta have a password manager.

Alfred – Alfred is Spotlight on steroids. I’d be lost without it.

Keyboard Maestro – Keyboard Maestro is another app that I can’t live without it. I use it for keyboard shortcuts, launching apps, opening files and folders and automating actions. It has a learning curve but once you start to get the hang of it you can do amazing things. I’ve written about Keyboard Maestro here.

PopClip – I use PopClip to manage what I do with selected text. I’ve written about PopClip here.

Hazel – Hazel watches whatever folders I tell it to, automatically organizing my files according to the rules that I’ve created.

Yoink – Yoink speeds and up my workflow by simplifying drag and drop. I’ve written about Yoink here.

Dropzone – Dropzone makes it easy to copy or move files to my favorite folders, open applications and uploading files to the Internet right from your menu bar.

App Cleaner – AppCleaner is my app uninstaller. I use it because it deletes all the junk that gets left behind when you drag the app icon to the trash.

Moom – I use Moom for window management.

Witch – Witch is my app switcher.

Bartender 4 – Bartender is the app I use to organize my menu bar. I’ve written about it here.

ScreenFloat – ScreenFloat is my app for taking screenshots and storing them.

TunnelBear VPN – TunnelBear is my VPN for security on public WiFi and for web browsing privacy.

PCalc – PCalc is my stock calculator replacement. I use it for its additional features and customization.

My 2021 Essential iOS Apps

 

Toggle Control Center with a keyboard shortcut in Big Sur

I installed Big Sur on my 2015 MacBook Pro the other day. One area that I wanted to customize was the menubar. There is so much blank space between the icons, it’s a gigantic waste of space and looks awful. Even after installing Bartender 4 to organize my menubar I wanted to move some items to the Control Center for better organization.

Now that I have items in the Control Center, that used to be visible in the menubar, I’ll be accessing Control Center more frequently. Rather than clicking Control Center, I wanted a keyboard shortcut to toggle it open and closed. I did this with a Keyboard Maestro macro.

Credit maxwellj02 for the apple script:

tell application "System Events"
    tell process "Control Center"
        tell menu bar item "control center" of menu bar 1
            click
        end tell
    end tell
end tell

By the way, my Big Sur install went perfectly and I haven’t had any issues.

Instapaper Mac app falls short

On November 11 Instapaper announced that a Mac app is available in the Mac App Store, thanks to Apple’s Catalyst technology. As a long-time Instapaper user, I was excited to hear this. Now that I’ve used the app for a few days it’s nothing more than a basic reader and lacks almost all the features the website and iOS apps have.

You can’t highlight text, add notes, copy text, copy article links, delete articles from the article view, and the share sheet is non-functional.

The app in its current state is useless to me. Let’s hope the developer gets the app on par with the iOS apps and website.

Thoughts on Reeder 5 and iCloud feed sync

With Reeder 5, the option to sync your RSS feed via iCloud instead of using a third-party sync service such as Feedly or Feedbin was added.

iCloud Feeds

Sync all your feeds and articles with iCloud. Reeder 5 comes with a built-in RSS/Feeds service which will keep everything in sync on all your devices. Of course, this is optional. You can still just use one of the many third-party services supported by Reeder

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.

Reeder 5 supported third-party services

Feedbin, Feedly, Feed Wrangler, FeedHQ, NewsBlur, The Old Reader, Inoreader, BazQux Reader, and FreshRSS.

Is an iA Writer subscription coming to an App Store near you?

The two most popular markdown writing apps on Mac and iOS are iA Writer and Ulysses. Ulysses is a subscription and iA Writer is a purchase. When Ulysses went subscription many users got pissed, me included, and moved to iA Writer. I got over being pissed at Ulysses and today I use both apps.

Not surprising, iA Writer is now going to be transitioning to a subscription / paid choice (I’m guessing) with their next major update.

Here are the details:

Subscription or no subscription? That’s not the Question. – iA

Talking about subscriptions in public is a delicate matter. Apple is jealously watching what developers say. Competitors are watching and trying to get ahead of the game. Customers are watching and might get worried: What are they planning!? McKinsey suggests that you could offer both subscriptions and paid options in the transition from paid to subscription.

This is not where we are going. We believe in the choice and we want to bring the choice to buy or subscribe to all platforms. Customers like the choice, and we like it. Clearly, after seven years of offering free updates, there will be a new version of our apps at some point. And even though Apple doesn’t offer upgrade discounts, this, next to offering a choice, is exactly what we want to do. We just have to find a way around the hurdles. But we have lots of other things planned, that we can’t talk about yet. It won’t be a simple move from paid to a choice between paid and subscriptions. It will be even better.

Maybe subscriptions are not the best fit for productivity software. But, as laid out above, some do prefer subscriptions, especially if they are reasonably lower than buying the apps. In that sense, subscriptions will allow you to charge a fair price for your app and not compete in the race to the bottom. But if you offer the choice, you offer customers the opportunity to decide for themselves how they support you.

Copied clipboard manager app is back

After more than 2 years without updates, what was my favorite clipboard manager app Copied is back. I used it on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad. The great thing about it was that it synced across all my devices using iCloud. Not many clipboard managers do that.

With this update, it will become my main clipboard manager again. The new version 4.0 now has link previews, dark mode, Siri shortcuts, and improved compatibility across devices.

As a side note:

After I updated the app on my iPad and iPhone the Mac app version 2.0.7 stopped syncing. Frustrated, I uninstalled the Mac app and reinstalled it. To my surprise, the reinstalled app is version 4.0.0 which is compatible with the iOS and iPadOS apps. Remember to enable iCloud sync.

How to get the trackpad to ignore touches while typing

Do you get frustrated with how the slightest touch of the palm of your hand or thumb on the trackpad causes the text cursor to jump to a different position when you’re typing? I have and it’s been bothering me for some time.

Here’s how I solved this problem. I turned off “Tap to click” in the Trackpad Settings. Now when I’m typing and my palm or thumb accidentally touches the trackpad the text cursor doesn’t jump to a different position. I’m guessing this setting is on by default because I don’t recall having ever turned it on.

When I’m not typing, I like having “Tap to click” turned on. Since it’s not convenient to go into Trackpad Setting to turn it on and off all the time I looked for an AppleScript that I could use to toggle it on and off.

I found this one and it works fine.

Credit: Wojtek Witkowski on Github

tell application "System Preferences"
	activate
end tell
tell application "System Events"
	tell process "System Preferences"
		delay 1
		click the menu item "Trackpad" of the menu "View" of menu bar 1
		delay 1
		click the radio button "Point & Click" of the first tab group of window "Trackpad"
		click checkbox 3 of tab group 1 of window "Trackpad"
	end tell
end tell
tell application "System Preferences"
	quit
end tell

I’m using this script in Keyboard Maestro with the hotkey ⌘+⌥+9 to toggle the setting on and off. This will also work with an Alfred Workflow.