Save Your Scraps with LaunchBar and nvALT

There are two kinds of edits: ones where you read what you just wrote, throw up in your mouth a little and start banging on the delete key and another where you like what you said, but don’t like how it flows with the piece you are writing. I may be alone here, but there are times where the words just don’t work in whatever I am writing, yet I can’t quite bring myself to kill them off. More often than not, I save these fragments end up at the bottom of my document under the title scrap, but over time, they get spread so thin over so many documents that I almost never come back to them.

Since these are often usable ideas and usable text, I did the same thing I always do… Find the right tools to help you make the most of these scraps. This time around, it is a little bit of magic involving our good friends LaunchBar and nvALT.

The setup is going to be a bit geeky, but once things are up and running, you can quickly and seamlessly pull your scraps into one document. It creates a hub for your errant ideas that eventually can serve as a resource every time the well runs dry.

Here is how you go about setting things up:

Step 1: Press and hold down the keyboard command you normally use to evoke LaunchBar. This will ask if you want to activate Instant Send. Say yes. From now on, if you select text and press and hold this command it will be sent into LaunchBar for you to use as you please. Note: You can also choose some alternate methods for activating Instant Send in LaunchBar’s preferences.

Step 2: You need to confirm that nvALT is set to store files as individual text or rich text rather than a single database. When doing this, take note of the folder you are using to store these files as you will need this for the next step.

Step 3: You have to make sure that LaunchBar is indexing the folder with all of your nvALT files. Activate LaunchBar, hit the preference gear on the drop down menu, go down to “Index” and select “Show Index”. Hit the plus symbol on the bottom right and add the folder. Note: If you are using Lion, you may need to access the hidden “Library” folder. If so, hit Command-Shift-G and type ~/Library/. You will usually find the Notational Data folder in the folder titled “Application Support”.

Step 4: Create a new, blank text file in nvALT titled Scrapx or XScrap. This will make it easier to access the file.

From here, you are all set. Now, the next time you have some scrap you’d like to save, all you need to do is select some text in any application, activate LaunchBar’s Instant Send by pressing and holding the LaunchBar command1, type the name of your scrap file and hit enter to append the text. I shot a quick screen cast showing you how it works:

After you’re done saving the text, you can delete it from the original document, but I like to leave it there. This way, if I want to expand on an idea in my scrap document, I can quickly identify and reread the post from which it originated.

How about you? Do you look for insights amongst your scraps? Are you bothering to look backwards for the ideas that might move your writing forward?

  1. Or whichever alternate keyboard command you might have chosen. []