Tag Archives: Federico Viticci

A Leap Forward for TextExpander on iOS

Who is this for? TextExpander users who have been hoping to see more of the functionality of the Mac come to iOS.

To date, TextExpander for iOS has primarily served as a sync engine between the snippets on a Mac and those on an iOS device. Their iOS offerings shared some of the functionality of the Mac counterpart, but it was primarily something you’d setup once and occasionally reopen to update your snippets. The real magic happened when you used it in tandem with other applications.

Today that changes with TextExpander 2.0 for iPhone and iPad. Rather than just serving as a conduit for your snippets, the latest update adds in essential functionality that has been missing from iOS including fill-ins and pop-up menus. A visit to the app makes it possible to take advantage of more advanced snippets and can send them to the clipboard, a text message or a new email message.

In addition to its own new tricks, Smile Software has also updated their SDK. This will make it possible for other applications to take advantage of this new functionality. You can already see this in action in latest version of Drafts.

While I agree with Federico Vittici’s thoughts on the design, his desire for URL Schemes to expand snippets and that it would be helpful “to build popup menus using variables as options, not just pre-defined text,” TextExpander 2.0 is a strong step in the right direction.

For more, be sure to check out Vittici’s comprehensive review over at MacStories. And if you’re yet to do so, be sure to download TextExpander for Mac, iPhone and iPad. It is easily one of the best time saving applications ever created and as you can see, it keeps getting better.

The Best Way To Learn Markdown

David Sparks has launched the latest MacSparky Field Guide. This time he is tackling the subject of Markdown along with Eddie Smith of Practically Efficient.

If you write for the web, you should learn to write in Markdown. It makes it easy to format your work to be converted to HTML for posting to the web. It also allows you to save your files as plain text, ensuring that they are essentially future proof. If you plan to learn Markdown, this is the way to do it.

Markdown itself is very easy to learn and use, yet it isn’t intuitive to decide how best to integrate it into your writing workflows. In this guide David and Eddie show you many of the possibilities that come from using Markdown. They also provide enough of a point of view that you won’t get lost in the possibilities.

The book itself is a blend of text, audio and video. It will help you get your head around the basics, gives you glance at some of the geeky goodness you can accomplish and tells you how some of the smartest people I know are using it to accomplish their work.

As with Paperless and 60 Tips (the two previous books in the series) Markdown is well written, easy to understand and the videos are well done. This time around David also added audio interviews to the mix. While they test the limitations of the iBooks format (I’d occasionally accidentally swipe or rotate the screen, both of which stop the audio. The screen would also time out during longer conversations) the audio interviews with Merlin Mann, Fletcher Penney, Brett Terpstra, Federico Vittici and Gabe Weatherhead are worth the cost of admission alone. As I listened, I found myself wondering if we will see audiobooks under the title MacSparky Field Interviews in the future (this is purely wishful thinking).

Bottom line, if you haven’t taken the time to learn Markdown or aren’t entirely comfortable with it yet, do yourself a favor and buy this book.

Note: David was kind enough to send me an advanced copy. I also used an affiliate link, because I’m shameless. That said, this really is a great book. It’s one that I will be gifting out regularly to anyone I know still using Microsoft Word.

The Shame About The Mac App Store

On the latest 512 Podcast, Myke Hurley and Stephen Hackett offered their thoughts on the state of Apple. It’s one of the better and more sensible conversations on the subject, especially when it comes to how Apple is serving the users that come to them through iOS. They also cover some of the amazing workflows that power users, like Federico Viticci, have created for their mobile devices.

Despite the fact that I’m writing this on my iPhone, I’m still more of a Mac power user than an iOS guy. And while I may write it on my phone, I will edit and format it on my laptop using a variety of applications working in concert. I see myself continuing to do most of my heavy lifting on my Mac for a long time to come. That said, they did an excellent job summing up how Apple is catering to new users–especially those who arrive at the Mac through iOS–while still allowing geeks such as myself to do as we please.

Mac App Store, Sandboxing and Discovery

The problem for me, however, still lies with the Mac App Store (MAS) and the current approach to Sandboxing. This is Apple’s method of “protecting systems and users by limiting the resources an app can access”, but the extent of these limitations is cutting applications out of the Mac App Store. I understand the need to keep users safe. But I struggle with the idea of making it harder for them to find powerful and useful applications.

I recently spoke about Sandpaper Apps here on the site. These are the applications like LaunchBar, TextExpander, Keyboard Maestro and Hazel. They are the applications that make my workflow and my overall computing experience better. Initially I was concerned that Sandboxing was the beginning of the end for apps like these. I admit this was panic. As time goes on, it is becoming clear that Gatekeeper will provide a way for geeks such as myself to have whatever experience we please.

But there is still a problem. While it doesn’t seem like they are going anywhere, none of my beloved Sandpaper Apps are in the Mac App Store. This doesn’t make them any less usable, but it makes them far less discoverable. While the MAS will not be the only way to purchase applications, it’s unlikely that new users who are accustomed to only purchasing through Apple’s own store will ever find or seek these kinds of applications. I understand that Apple’s current approach is meant to protect users, but they also protect them from a better way of doing their work.

At this point, applications can either live outside the premier venue for selling Mac apps or developers can kneecap their applications in order to comply with Apple’s current approach. This mean that applications have to become less discoverable or less useful. An application like TextExpander would have to exist outside of the store or limit functionality in order to comply. Either one is not a win for developers and is not a win for Mac users, old or new. It leads to less innovation and less financial motivation to continue making a great app even better.

Yes, You Can Still Get These Apps, But …

As Myke pointed out during the episode, apps that choose to live outside the ecosystem can still be purchased directly through the website. I worry that this is akin to saying that a musician still stands much of a chance by only releasing their new album at record stores (ask your parents). While there may not be a perfect answer, I still hope and believe that there is a better one than Sandboxing. Apple still tests every app that goes into their store and could easily create a “warning” similar to the explicit tag in iTunes.

None of this is likely to make a difference to Apple’s bottom line. The Mac App Store is doing just fine in light of recent changes. It’s just unfortunate that useful applications that make the overall Mac experience better are now harder to find and therefore less likely to be created moving forward.

Am I Overreacting? Probably, But …

I agree with Myke and Stephen that the problem is being blown out of proportion, but I still think it’s important to voice these concerns. Is Apple being evil? Of course not. Is it going to change how a user like me uses my Mac? Not one bit. But it will make it harder for the next guy (and it would have made it harder for a guy like me who arrived at this platform a few years back) to find the best way to get things done on a Mac. And while this probably isn’t going to change, it’s still a shame.

There’s a better way, and while Apple certainly doesn’t need to find it, let’s hope they find a way to keep the platform safe while allowing it to be as powerful as possible.

How A Crazy Person Writes

I’m going to keep this post blissfully short as the post I’m about to direct you to is very, very long. Regular readers of the site1 will not be shocked to discover that I use a wide array of tools to get my writing done. Over time, I shared and described the benefits of several of these apps, but it wasn’t until Gabe Weatherhead at Macdrifter invited me to participate in his excellent Writers Workflow series that I was forced to take the time to try and tie my entire process together.

For those who enjoy the geeky details of this blog and would like to better understand how an idea goes from getting captured in Simplenote on my iPhone to getting ready to be posted on this very site, this is the post for you.

A very special thanks to Gabe for lowering the standards of this amazing series2 and forcing me to take a step back from each individual applications and share what really matters: a process that has helped me to better execute my ideas.

  1. Especially those who have enjoyed the Techie Scheky series.  

  2. I mean Federico Viticci’s post came right before mine