With Keyboard Maestro, you can automate just about anything. In addition to teaching you all of the mechanics of Keyboard Maestro, this course includes a number of walkthroughs of automation workflows you can use, download, or alter to automate your own Mac.
I have previously written about trialling MarsEdit but ultimately the app didn’t stick.
It will be interesting to see if the software establishes itself as a consistent part of my blogging workflow. The big challenge is that there are so many great writing apps on macOS (and iOS), so competition is intense.
I am always searching for the perfect notes app, and the best way to integrate that into my workflow. I’m not sure I have found the former and I haven’t achieved the latter, but I keep trying. It’s ultimately a Sisyphean task, because there’s always another note taking app just around the corner which will constitute a new way of working with it. Nevertheless, I try.
With our proliferation of devices it’s no longer enough to have a decent desktop-based notetaking process. Access needs to be ubiquitous, and that means cloud sync. While a few years ago that would limit the candidates significantly, nowadays sync is the price of entry. When the iPhone arose and syncing was hard, the best option was Simplenote. This app used its own sync engine to provide lightning fast sync. I had a large number of notes in Simplenote, but it was convoluted getting them on my Mac, which required Dropbox and NVAlt – an app which I love the concept of but it never really grew on me.
Nowadays there are an abundance of options, such as Apple Notes, OneNote, Notability, OmniOutliner, and the list goes on. The problem with this is fragmentation. Taking notes is one thing, finding them again later is quite another. If I don’t have all my notes in one location, they may as well be lost. Plus that location needs to be available wherever I am and whatever device I have to hand. Spotlight search is useful, but I want to know where that note is, and I don’t want to have to trawl through search results to find it.
For the moment I have settled on Bear for notes. It syncs reliably across iOS and macOS, it supports Markdown syntax and can export into a variety of formats. It also looks really pretty.
Despite my use of Bear, I haven’t totally solved the fragmentation problem. I continue to use Goodnotes for handwritten notes taken with my Apple Pencil, DEVONThink Pro for reference material, and Ulysses for long-form writing. So stuff remains scattered.
And so my stone rolls back down the hill…
With a hat tip to Gabe Weatherhead at MacDrifter who put together his list of favourite Mac applications for 2017, I am following suit.
Third party apps are what make a platform great. Despite the macOS ecosystem perhaps not being as vibrant as it once was, it is still served by a wonderful cohort of professional and hard-working developers. Even though I’ve bought their apps, I sometimes feel I owe them more because using their software is what makes using my Mac both fun and productive.
There’s a long tail of apps I use beyond those included in this list. Yet these I have detailed below are those I used extensively in 2017 and that I value and enjoy. These are the apps that I would most miss if they suddenly went away.
1Password for Families
Online security is no joke. It’s easy to dismiss password hygiene as tin-foil hat material, but when you think how much of our lives are conducted online, I don’t want a veneer of security — I want an ironclad guarantee. 1Password guarantees I can have unique complex passwords for every site that I maintain an account. I have no idea what any of these passwords are. But I do know my password to unlock 1Password. After that, it’s nothing but
⌘-\ to long me in anywhere.
1Password for Families | US$4.99 per month
I’ve waxed lyrical about OmniFocus before. Without this app there is no way I would be able to keep all my balls in the air. As much as parts of its design frustrate me, and the pace of its development is glacial, it works. Every day it delivers value by making my life easier. There are sexier to-do apps out there, but OmniFocus is rock solid.
OmniFocus Pro | US$79.99
My wife doesn’t have Launchbar installed on her MacBook. So when I try to use it, I feel lost. After years of use Launchbar feels an extension of the operating system and is completely engrained in my muscle memory. I switched to Launchbar years ago after Quicksilver became unstable and I’ve stayed ever since. I know others swear by Alfred, but I’m definitely a Launchbar guy.
Launchbar | US$29
I love this app even though I do have to work hard to find a truly worthwhile use for it. I definitely underuse Bear, but I really like it. For the emotional response, I’m keeping it in my list. But there is still a nagging feeling that between Apple Notes, Ulysses and DevonThink Pro, I really shouldn’t need this app. But it is really nice.
Bear | US$14.99 per year
My key authoring application in which I write blog posts, work reports and other bits and pieces. For report writing as part of my day job Ulysses has this year supplanted Scrivener. For my blogging, Ulysses has withstood challenges from Bear and MarsEdit. It is a wonderful writing app and I enjoy that I have access to it through my Setapp subscription. If I didn’t have Setapp, I would subscribe to Ulysses directly without a moment’s hesitation.
Ulysses | AU$54.99 per year
The archive. The place I keep all my reference, research and archival material. I don’t use it for all that it can do; for instance I don’t create documents in DEVONthink despite it having the ability to do so. But for archiving, storing and searching, nothing beats it.
DEVONthink Pro | AU$104.13
This is a cross-platform Java app, so it’s ugly as sin. It’s also about the only share market application available for Mac. Fortunately it works well and gives me all the information I need to track my portfolio.
StockMarketEye | US$99.95
I have never given up on RSS, even through the dark days after the Google Reader shutdown. I love the independent web and follow a range of sites religiously. On the Mac Reeder is the best way to do this.
Reeder | US$9.99
PDF Expert has replaced Preview for PDF viewing and editing. Preview’s editing toolbars have always been inscrutable to me whereas PDF Expert makes sense. The bugginess that was introduced to the PDF engine in MacOS Sierra was the final nail in the coffin and ensured my switch to PDF Expert.
PDF Expert | US$65.99
While the native Mac calendar app has improved, I still prefer having more power and flexibility to manage my calendars. While Fantastical always gets the glory as the sexy third party calendar option, BusyCal blends in and does the job quietly and effectively. I use this app daily. Its ability to save and restore different calendar sets give me helpful insights into my scheduled life.
BusyCal | US$49.99
I am writing this post in MarsEdit. MarsEdit is an app that I have always wanted to use, but never really have found a place for it. Now, with the new version released I thought I’d download it and give it a spin as part of the 14-day trial developer Daniel Jakult offers.
Recently I have been writing blog entries in Ulysses, which is great in that it uses iCloud for syncing and has clients for the Mac and iOS. So writing can be done anywhere. It also has a WordPress publishing engine so I don’t need to mess around to get my words on the web. Finally, Ulysses uses a flavour of Markdown which I am becoming much more proficient in using. Of course, I also already have a licence for Ulysses as part of my Setapp subscription.
MarsEdit is a much more traditional blogging platform. It defaults to rich text, it is Mac only, and it is more ‘feature rich’ than Ulysses. It offers a two-way connection to WordPress, meaning it can download an archive blog posts in addition to simply publishing which is the limit of the Ulysses offering. With my current workflow, if I need to make an edit to a published post I have to go to WordPress on the web and make the change. From that point on, my local copy on Ulysses is out of date; there is no concept of syncing – it just publishes. MarsEdit is fully sync-compliant so I can fix those pesky mistakes and maintain a single source of truth.
I do wish it had an iOS application, though. I imagine its code base is too entrenched in the Mac world to easily transition it to iOS, but it would be great to have a synced solution. This is where Ulysses excels – I can pick up the writing from where I left off from any device.
The other thing is typing in rich text. While ‘normal’ people prefer this (think users of Microsoft Word, which is rich text throughout) for blogging I do tend to prefer using plain text and Markdown. The code is apparent, I know what is happening, and it is easy to read. My experience with rich text transitions to HTML is that things go wonky. Of course, MarsEdit can edit in plain text and apply a Markdown filter, but it doesn’t seem like its natural mode of operation.
As I write this, I have been stumped as to how to add a footnote without resorting to pure HTML. In Ulysses with Markdown, this is an easy thing to do. In MarsEdit, it’s not apparent.
Using MarsEdit for this post has been an interesting adventure, but at this stage and for the type of blogging I do, I don’t think this app is for me.