Tag Archives: Dropbox

Moving from iPhoto to Dropbox

Who is this for? Those looking to move their images out of iPhoto and into Dropbox.

For those who were tempted by Unbound, here are two ways to make the move from iPhoto to Dropbox:

A Wish For Mailbox and Dropbox

While on the subject of fantasy apps, Dropbox acquired iPhone email startup Mailbox today. At the moment, all this seems to ensure is that Mailbox will continue to have the resources and talent it needs to continue creating a world class email application.

While I’m tempted to rattle off my wish list for Mailbox, I find myself thinking bigger.

Take the storage capabilities of Dropbox and add in the fact that Mailbox already needs to pull your emails onto their servers. Then combine that with real talent and resources. While you’ll certainly get a better email application, this could also lead to a better email service.

What Mailbox is able to accomplish using the labels in Gmail is impressive, but limiting. A lot more becomes possible when you’re actually building a better inbox, rather than a better app on top of it. While it’s unlikely that this will come to be, it’s enjoyable to imagine what could emerge if both teams decided to push the limits and blend the benefits of their services. We just might find ourselves with a real alternative to Gmail…

Once again, it’s fun to dream.

Check out our Mike on Mics interview with Orchestra CEO Gentry Underwood from earlier in the year to learn more about Mailbox and their future plans for the app. Congrats to Gentry and the team at Orchestra, this acquisition is well deserved.

Moving Your Notes From Simplenote to Dropbox

A while back, I explained that due to data loss, I was abandoning Simplenote to sync my text files with nvALT in favor of a combination of Dropbox and Notesy. What I didn’t offer at the time was step-by-step instructions for making the move. Now that Brett Terpstra, one of the developers of nvALT, has made it clear that there are issues between Simplenote and nvALT that are unlikely to get resolved (in addition to the issues I was having with the Simplenote iOS app), I wanted to give those who need it a walkthrough for making the move from Simplenote Sync to Dropbox Sync.

Moving is simple, but in order to save yourself a mild panic attack, you’re going to want to do things in a certain order. You may have already taken a few of these steps, but just make sure to follow along to ensure that you don’t have the moment of panic where you think you’ve lost all your notes (I’ve been there… it sucks).

Step one: Ensure your notes are saved individually rather than as a single database:

  1. Open Preferences in nvALT (you can get here through the menu bar or by hitting ⌘-,)
  2. Go to Notes and then navigate to Storage
  3. Make sure “Store and read notes on disk as:” is set to “Plain Text Files *”

Your default settings will look like this:

Default Settings - nvalt and Simplenote Sync

Once you’re done with these steps, they should look like this:

Change nvALT to Plain Text Files 1

Step 2: You need to disable Simplenote Sync:

  1. Go back to Preferences if you’re not still there (again, you can get here through the menu bar or by hitting ⌘-,)
  2. Go to Synchronization
  3. Uncheck the box next to Synchronize with Simplenote

If you do this before you move your notes, you’ll have a legacy backup of everything up to this point in Simplenote. While I’ve never needed this, it’s a nice to have backup.

Once you’re done, your preferences should look like this:

Disable Simplenote Sync

Step 3: Move Your Notes To Dropbox

Now it’s time for the big move, what we’re going to do is copy all of your notes over from their current folder to a new one in Dropbox:

  1. Go to nvALT and click on any note.
  2. Hit Cmd-Shift-R to open the folder with the selected note in Finder.
  3. Hit Cmd-A to select all notes
  4. Hit Cmd-C to Copy all of your notes
  5. Before you leave, take note of where these notes are, you’re going to need it later (you can also just leave this folder open). If you can’t see this at the bottom, to go View in the menu bar and hit Show Path Bar.
  6. If you haven’t done so already, install Dropbox
  7. Go back to the Storage section of nvALT’s Preferences screen
  8. Select the drop down menu next to “Read notes from folder:” and select Other… to open up the Finder
  9. Navigate to your Dropbox folder
  10. Click on New Folder and name it as you see fit (I use Notes). Notes: You can also put this folder in a sub-folder within Dropbox, but considering how often I use it, I prefer to keep it in my main folder. Also, for some reason , I occasionally have to select this folder twice in order to make the change stick. If you select the folder and find that the drop down is not showing the correct folder name, just do it again and everything should be fine.
  11. Close out of nvALT
  12. Open Finder and navigate to the new Notes folder in Dropbox
  13. Paste your notes into the new folder
  14. Hit Cmd-V to paste your text files into the new folder
  15. Once your notes have copied over, reopen nvALT and you should see your data. Note: To confirm that you’re now pointing to the correct folder, create a new note titled TEST and see if it shows up in your Dropbox folder.

Here’s how to select a note and open the folder in Finder:

Select a note in nvALT and show in Finder

Here’s where you can find the location of your data in Finder before moving it over to Dropbox:

Path to your nvALT Data

And here’s where you want to click to start change the location of your data and to create the new folder in your Dropbox folder:

Change nvALT Data Folder

Followed by:

Make a dropbox folder 1

Step 4: Remove Your Old Notes

Last but not least, you want to remove your old notes. This will eliminate any duplications when searching for notes and avoid any scenarios where you end up working on an old, unsynchronized file. The first and easiest way to go about this is just to select all of the files in your original folder and delete them. There’s currently a copy in your new Dropbox folder (which will continue to be updated as you make changes) and a legacy copy on Simplenote (which will not continue to be updated as you make changes) that can be accessed through the Simplenote iOS app or web interface. If, like me, you’re crazy and want to keep a copy of the original Simplenote database on you machine (just in case…), you just need to do the following:

  1. Go back to Storage in the Notes tab of Preferences in nvALT
  2. Change “Read notes from folder:” back to the original folder (this is the path that I mentioned you should keep track of in Step 3). Note: Once again, you may need to do this twice to make sure the change sticks.
  3. Exit nvALT and reopen. If you TEST note does not show up, you’ve done this right. You can also test this by pressing Cmd-Shift-R and checking the path at the bottom to ensure you’re in the original folder.
  4. Go back to Storage in the Notes tab of Preferences and change “Store and read notes on disk as:” from “Plain Text Files *” to “Single Database (Allow Encryption)”
  5. When you do this, you will be asked if you want to move the individual files to trash or if you want to keep the files. Trash them, but don’t worry the notes were saved as a single database.
  6. Change “Read notes from folder:” back to your Dropbox file (again, you may need to do this twice to make the change stick) and, if it doesn’t happen automatically, change “Store and read notes on disk as:” back to “Plain Text Files” once more.

Note: This ensures that the notes will not show up in searches, but if you ever find it necessary, you can switch nvALT back to this database. It’s probably easier to just remove the files, but like I said, I’m a bit crazy.

Once you’re done, nvALT will pull from the Dropbox folder, your files are accessible by an array of iOS applications (I use Notesy, you can read more about why here). Since making the switch to Dropbox and Notesy, I haven’t lost a stitch of data. While I occasionally run into conflicts, they’re handled in a way that ensures that no work gets lost. There may be geekier ways to get this done, but this straightforward method will let you get your data out of Simplenote and into Dropbox.

If you know of a better way to make the switch, let me know and I’ll be sure to update this post with any better methods.

Plain Text Primer: nvALT 101

I wanted to offer up a basic starting point for bloggers and web workers who use a Mac and are looking to get started with plain text (if you’re not sure why you might want to do this, start here). This will not be a comprehensive dive into the myriad apps you can use. It will be a focused and targeted approach for:

  • Storing and Accessing Your Plain Text Files
  • Naming and Tagging Your Files
  • Formatting Your Files For The Web
  • Exporting HTML For The Web
  • Learning A Few Tricks

This may sound like a lot, but these will be brief overviews that give you just enough to get you started, while offering everything you would ever really need. For those looking for power user tricks, I will also be linking to more comprehensive sections on naming and formatting files.

Storing and Accessing Your Plain Text Files

The best practice for getting started with plain text files starts with a single step: Download nvALT (I strongly suggest the public version of the latest beta). nvALT is a free note-taking tool with some great features for plain text and markdown editing. It serves as the foundation for my plain text workflows. It stores all of my text files in an environment that is lightening fast for creating and searching through notes. I use nvALT as a repository for everything. It holds small reference notes, conversation logs with essential clients, random quotes, thoughts and ideas as well as serving as the home for every draft and post I’ve created for this site over the past two years. Creating and finding files is easy. Start typing in the field at the top of the app and nvALT will automatically start filtering out documents that match what you’ve entered. If nothing matches, simply hit enter to create a new document.

NvALT Search and Create Field

Now the stock settings of nvALT are great on a single machine, but considering many of us have multiple computers and almost all of us would like access to our files on our iOS or Android devices, its best to start by making a few quick changes.

Step 1: Store Your Notes As Plain Text Files

When you first download the app, everything is stored as a single database. This makes it impossible for you to access and use individual notes in spotlight searches, in other applications and on your mobile devices. Changing this is simple:

  • Go into the preferences (you can access this from the menu or by hitting CMD-,)
  • Go to the “Notes” tab
  • Change “Store and read notes on disk as:” from Single Database (Allow Encryption) to Plain Text Files*

NvALT Storage Settings

Step 2: Move Your Notes To Dropbox

Next we want move our files to Dropbox so that they are being redundantly stored in the cloud and so that they are accessible on our mobile devices. We will need to remain in the same “Notes” tab in the preferences. Once you’re there:

  • If you haven’t already, install Dropbox
  • Select “Other” from the “Read notes from folder:” drop down menu
  • Go to your Dropbox Folder
  • Create a new folder inside Dropbox for your notes
  • Select that folder for your nvALT notes

I suggest calling your new folder inside of Dropbox “Notes” and that you not place it inside of another folder. This way it’s easy to find all of your notes when you attempt to use it along with an iOS or Android text editor. If you’ve done this correctly, it will look like this:

NvALT Dropbox Folder Settings

If you don’t already have a Dropbox compatible text editor for your iPhone or iPad, I suggest you swing by Brett Terpstra’s searchable list of iOS Text Editors. My app of choice is Notesy for the iPhone.

From here, you’re all set. Your plain text files now live in a Dropbox folder and your entire library is setup in a way that can be used with Spotlight, other apps and devices.

Naming and Tagging Your Files

Now this next part may take some getting used to, especially for those who are used to putting all of your documents into specific folders, but stick with me. nvALT keeps everything in one folder. As your library of notes grows, this can be intimidating, but I’ve found a very lightweight system that make it exceptionally easy to store and locate your files.

Naming Your Files

I use a naming convention that is effectively stolen from Merlin Mann (and by that, I mean it is entirely stolen from Merlin Mann). My file names include one of several category keywords, a one-to-five word description (this should be whatever you’re most likely to type when searching for this file) and the creation date. I know this sounds confusing, so here are a few of my own examples:

  • Blogx — Blog Post Title — 11–05–20
  • Workx — Any work meeting or writing project — 11–05–20
  • Ideax — Actionable idea — 11–05–20
  • Thoughtx — Tangent for blog or idea — 11–05–20
  • Runx — Running lists of books, unprocessed to-dos, calls, etc (no date)

For those who are wondering why I place the x at the end of the category keyword, it is so that when I search for files, I don’t pull up everything that includes that word (another Merlin tip). I also use TextExpander to speed up the creation of the titles, for a deeper look at naming your files in order to avoid folders and easily find exactly what you’re looking for, click here.

Tagging Your Files

Everyone uses tags differently, but I tend to use a very limited number of them in nvALT. The category keyword in the naming convention above serves as a tag and use is limited as these tags do not carry over into most iOS and Android text editors. Regardless of this limitation, I find tags useful for logging the current status of my various writing projects while on my Macs. Drafts are tagged as @Working; completed, yet unposted pieces are tagged as @Editing; published posts are tagged @Posted and abandoned ideas are tagged as @Killed. Since I also capture ideas for posts and leave these untagged, I can always search for Blogx (my category keyword for posts), sort by tag and see all of my unused ideas (this is also helpful for reviewing and killing the bad ones). When storing your notes as individual plain text files (as discussed in the section above) the tags will be searchable in Spotlight, which can also save you time when searching for your files. You can experiment with how to use these, but I’d tread lightly.

Formatting Your Files For The Web

As I discussed in my initial plain text primer post, Markdown is an easy and very readable way to format plain text with bold, italics, headers, block quotes, links, lists and images in a way that can be quickly exported to HTML. While the latest version of nvALT has some really nice Markdown support, I prefer to write and format anything longer than a short note in a text editor called Byword. It’s just a nicer environment for writing (nvALT while functional, is not the sexiest of apps) and it has great Markdown support.

So how do we make this work? Well one of the things I love best about nvALT is the built in external editor support. You can set it up so that by hitting a single keyboard command (CMD-Shift-E), the file you are currently working on will be opened in another text editor of your own choosing. Upon saving or closing that text editor, the changes are saved back to nvALT. You can set your external text editor by going back to the preferences (through the menu or by hitting CMD-,) and setting your “External Text Editor:” of choice from the drop down menu in the “Editing” tab.

Rather than doing a deep dive into external editors and Markdown, I encourage you to review my post on integrating nvALT and Byword, John Gruber’s Markdown page and my post on using two of my favorite applications, TextExpander and Keyboard Maestro, to speed up the creation of Markdown syntax.

Exporting HTML For The Web

Last but not least, you want to be able to take your Markdown document and extract the HTML for posting your content to the web. While working in a document, you can toggle the preview window from the menu (or just hit CTRL-CMD-P), this will show you what your formatted text will look like. You can then hit “View Source” at the bottom of the window to see the HTML and copy out exactly what you need. From there you’re ready to paste this directly into your content management system of choice (although newer CMS platforms such as Squarespace allow you to post directly in Markdown).

If you’re looking for a more advanced way to preview your files, I strongly suggest you check out Brett Terpstra’s Marked app (Brett’s also one of the two developers who created nvALT, so it’s a nice way to support him as well). It offers great export options including PDF versions of the formatted file, the ability to use custom templates for previewing your text and a slew of power user features. I have one that mimics the CSS of my website, allowing me to see exactly what the final text will look like as I write.

Learning A Few Tricks

I’m not going to go crazy here (even though I could), but consider learning the following keyboard shortcuts as you use nvALT:

  • Press CMD-L at any time while in the app to “Search or Create…” your files
  • Press CMD-R while working in a note to rename the file
  • Press CMD-Shift-T to tag the file you’re working in or to bulk tag multiple selected files
  • Press CMD-Shift-E while working in a note to access your external text editor of choice
  • Press CTRL-CMD-P to open the Preview window
  • Press CMD-Shift-R if you ever need to access the file you’re working on in the Finder
  • Press CMD-, to access the preferences

There’s way more than that, especially when it comes to some of the Markdown formatting magic that has recently been added to nvALT, but learning these basic keyboard commands will help you move around the app a lot faster.

This should be more than enough to get you started. It may seem like a lot, but once you dive in, I think you’ll find nvALT to be a fast and easy way to manage a tremendous amount of text files. And considering the combined cost of nvALT (which is free), Byword and Marked is $9 (normally this would be a whopping $14, but Byword is currently 50% off), I think you’ll agree that it’s an affordable approach as well.

If you have any questions about how to best get started with plain text files using nvALT, please let me know. It’s a great app that has changed the way I capture and expand of my thoughts.

Update: This post includes affiliate links, because I’m shameless and stuff.

The Apple Updates That Matter To Regular People

While all of us geeks dance and sing about USB 3, Retina displays and 0.71″, there are other humans… regular humans, who couldn’t humanly care less. While I’m ready to give up at least one, if not both of our kids for the MacBook Pro with Retina display for no other reason other than I really, really want one, it doesn’t change much for the everyday Apple user (read: normal people1).

Let’s look at everything Apple announced and what it might mean to everyday users:

MacBook Air and Pro Updates

This will make no difference to anyone other than us (and I’m not even sure that all that many of us are tempted). The biggest possible impact is the availability of larger SSD drives which might appeal to digital pack-rats. All of the updates are great; none of them change anything.

MacBook Pro with Retina display

Tempting, damn sexy but really, really, really expensive. As the price comes down and the screen quality comes to the MacBook Air, this will be a huge deal. Today, it will be a drool-worthy purchase for those whose wives are better than mine and are willing to sell off a child. As I shared yesterday, Devir Kahan makes the best possible argument, explaining:

This really seems like the first real professional-grade portable machine. This is the sort of thing that really makes me consider going laptop only (with a Cinema display for at home).

He is also right that long-term, this is the future of all laptops, but for right now this is every geek’s fantasy and an every-person’s unnecessary luxury.

OS X Mountain Lion

Shawn Blanc really got this right before the keynote went live. There are tons of tiny details that will make life better, but iCloud is the one that will make life different. Geeks have spent years stringing together synced notes, reminders, contacts, calendars and most importantly files (we do love our Dropbox). With Mountain Lion, Apple took all of the fear, confusion and most important of all, work out of this for everyone else with iCloud. We’ve been heading this way for a while, but with Mountain Lion, everyone, even technophobes just became a whole lot geekier without having to actually get geekier (you lucky bastards). I still have my concerns as to Apple’s competency when it comes to the cloud, but the ease of synchronization across all Apple devices will be a major temptation when Mountain Lion arrives next month.

If it is as easy and prevalent as it looks, Dictation on the Mac has the potential to be huge. It will all come down to execution here (e.g. how well it plays with long-form writing, how easy it is to activate and deactivate), but it seems like a no-brainer for quick bursts of text such as quick email responses, Tweets and Facebook status updates. And while we’re on the subject of Facebook, as much as the geeks will hate this, the rest of humanity will love these features, both on OS X and when they come to iOS 6.

iOS 6

Speaking of Apple’s mobile OS, I’m hoping that there will be a lot more to see here when the next iPhone is launched, as what we saw was a bit of a disappointment. Sure it has a lot of small touches (the Phone app updates look great, Passbook has monster potential and as I said, Facebook integration will please everyone but the geeks who hate Facebook), but there was little that was game-changing here. Many will disagree and hail the new maps and turn-by-turn directions as innovative, but anyone who has been dying for GPS probably already has one. FaceTime over cellular is interesting, but few use it even when on WiFi. I could be wrong, but I don’t think cellular access will do much to increase activity here. The new Siri features are nice, but limited, and Apple still didn’t address the biggest issue: it’s dependability (or more accurately, its lack thereof.)2. I’m hoping that the keynote will serve as more of a tease before we see the new phone later this year. That said, I have a feeling that we just saw the majority of what’s to come in iOS 6.

Geeky rant (’cause I just can’t help myself): While I would have loved to see updates to the homescreen and springboard, what I was really hoping to see here was better API’s for Siri (the ability to change which apps Siri uses for existing functions like reminders would have been a nice start) and deeper integration between 3rd party and Apple’s own applications (JUST LET ME USE TEXTEXPANDER WITH THE MAIL APP AND I’LL SHUT UP ALREADY). I figured that getting both of these would be a long shot, but was hoping we would see one or the other with iOS 6.

On the long-term front, the fact that Apple is unifying our cell number with our Apple ID is interesting to say the least (and if I was a phone carrier, I might just go as far to say concerning). The ability to take phone calls on our Mac and iPad diminishes the importance of the phone carriers and sets up some interesting possibilities for the future.

My geeky griping aside, Monday seemed like a great day for Apple users. It’s a continuation of steady, iterative improvements to their hardware and software as well as yet another step in the collision of their mobile and desktop platforms. While I don’t think it really changes much of anything, that’s ok, because it continues to make everything just a little bit better. Which is usually all that the average Mac user is really looking and hoping for.

What do you think about the latest updates and offerings from Apple?


  1. And no, I’m not insinuating that Windows users aren’t normal, I’m just limiting the scope of this particular post.  

  2. Not that they were likely to address this publicly.  

Paper Beats Tech

Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks fame. Gini gets a daunting amount of things done. She blogs daily, she’s launching an educational site, she runs a growing PR agency and just published her first book, Marketing in the Round (GO BUY IT NOW!) with Geoff Livingston. And if that isn’t annoying enough, she does it all with a piece of paper. I’m always in awe of just how much Gini manages to do with so little. I often suggest tools and she just sort of laughs at me. Without further ado, here’s how Gini does it all…Note: While I’m away this week toiling away in the desert (read: I’m working and playing in Las Vegas) I’ve asked a few friends to step in and take over for me. Today’s guest is

Gini Dietrich's To-Do ListI love technology. I love Evernote and Instapaper and Dropbox and Google Reader and alerts in my calendar that tell me when it’s time to do something.

I’m always the first one to jump on a new social network to check it out and determine if there is something there we can pass along to clients to make their lives more efficient.

But I keep going back to the tried and true method of a paper task list.

I blog (a lot) and I read (a lot) and I use technology to help me do both of those things. Instapaper and a good old fashioned copy of a link into a draft blog post in WordPress work really well for me.

So why can’t I give up my paper task list?

I don’t know if it’s because I spend most of my nights on planes, without access to the web, or if it’s because I get great satisfaction from physically checking something off my list, but I just can’t give up the paper method.

Just last week, Michael Schechter wrote a great blog post about keeping yourself more organized. In that he included ways to manage your to-do list.

He said:

Without a way to store the things you need to do, you will find yourself overwhelmed and you will notice things slipping through the cracks. No matter how good you are, it’s improbable that you can keep this all together without a system. For some, that will be as simple as a sheet of plain paper; for others, robust task management systems like OmniFocus will do the trick.

My Suggested Tools: OmniFocus for iOS and OS X, Due App for iOS, Fantastical for OS X, Listary for iOS and David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner.

I’m pretty sure he was channeling me when he wrote, “For some, that will be as simple as a sheet of plain paper.”

Mike’s suggestion: $79.99 for OmniFocus.

Gini’s suggestion: $14.99 for 12 packs of 100 sticky notes in any color you desire.

Long live the paper to-do list with dates written in chronological order and little boxes drawn next to each for the satisfying check when you’re finished!

How do you manage your to-do list?

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communication �rm. She also is the founder of the professional development site for PR and marketing pros, Spin Sucks Pro, blogger at Spin Sucks, and co-author of Marketing in the Round.

Be sure to give her grief on Twitter. She’s probably getting far less of it while I’m away.