December 13, 2021 at 7:37pm

The King Is Dead; Long Live the King

Update: 14 December 2021:

John, a kind reader of this blog emailed me to correct the record regarding the age of these apps. I imply below that Quicksilver predated Launchbar when in fact Launchbar is the oldest of the crop. In my usage, Quicksilver was the first King - it was my gateway drug to this application category. But Quicksilver was not the first.

A few days ago I noticed that Launchbar was consuming excessive CPU cycles on my iMac. I quit the app and relaunched. Same thing. I rebooted my Mac. Same thing.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I went to the website of Alfred, downloaded the app and purchased the Powerpack immediately.

After perhaps a decade(?) of daily use I was over Launchbar. For the last few years it had seen very little development. The developer was showing it no love - no blog posts, no forums or user community, and its attempt to copy the Alfred workflows’ feature had fallen flatter than a pancake. Now, I couldn’t even rely on it being an efficient system application.

So I threw my years of muscle memory in the bin, and I’m working with Alfred from this point forward. It’s different - and I’ve had to tweak a few settings to align with my view as to how an app launcher should work - but it’s working. The main adjustment I had to make was to allow for arrow keys to traverse the file structure.

My main frustration is that it doesn’t seem to automatically include files and folders in the default search when the trigger keys are depressed. Instead I have to type a space to enter into file search mode. I see in the preferences that you can include these in the default search, but the app includes text that seems to be warning me off doing that.

It also doesn’t have the instant-send feature of Launchbar. While that was neat, I didn’t use it so often that I desperate miss it. It was a nicety, but I can live without it.

What I can report about Alfred is that it works without fuss. It is currently using 0.2% of CPU time. It lets me search and act on files. It is fast.

Launchbar has been the reigning King since it took crown from Quicksilver. It has now passed the throne to Alfred. Long may it reign.

software alfred launchbar review
August 17, 2021 at 1:01pm

Tot, Redux: iOS Edition

By way of follow-up to yesterday’s review of Tot, I can confirm I’ve bought the iOS version.

software review
August 16, 2021 at 9:50pm


Update: The day after writing this, I bought the iOS version of Tot.

My friend and Hemispheric Views podcast co-host Martin Feld is Mr. Default. He likes Reminders. He like He likes Calendar. Not for him the world of OmniFocus, MailMate or Fantastical. No sirree. Keep it simple, keep it made by Apple. Except… he uses Tot. I’m sure he uses Notes as well, but Tot. Not Drafts.

I installed Tot on my Mac when it was released, because as with anything made by The Iconfactory, it’s worth a look. I didn’t get it. It offers a 7 note maximum. It has limited Markdown support. Mostly, though, while the macOS app is free as in beer, the iOS version of the same app is AU$30.99. For a tiny notes app? So my exploration of Tot ended, and I went back to Drafts, and DEVONthink, and iA Writer, and Craft, and the list goes on.

Recently, I raised again my frustration with my note and file management system”. Martin reminded me of Tot. So I’ve been giving it another try. This time, my verdict feels quite different.

The limitations seem useful. The restrictions seem like helpful guiderails rather than annoyances. This all comes at a time when I’ve cancelled my automatic renewal of Drafts - an app I appreciate for its power, but hate because of its interface.

I’ve been using Tot on macOS only over the past few days. At this stage I can’t comment on how it works on iOS because I haven’t spend the money. I think I will, though.

I’ve written this short article in Tot (yellow page). It’s delightful. And, icing on the cake, this is a Mac-Assed Mac app which has full support for all the niceties of macOS, including Services. I love using Brett Terpstra’s SearchLink service. Tot loves using it too. After a week of reading about 1Password ditching native code in favour of Electron, the joy of using a native app is sweeter than usual.

So Tot. Write in it. Put ephemera in it. Switch between plain text with markdown and rich text. Share it somewhere else. You’ve got 7 notes. Use them wisely.

software review
July 22, 2021 at 12:32pm

BBEdit 14

I want to use and love BBEdit. I bought version 13 with a similar thought and feeling. That purchase seems like it was only a few months ago - in fact, I checked to see if I was eligible for the free upgrade. According to my receipt stored in 1Password, however, my v13 license was acquired on 21 December 2019. Time flies, especially in 2020, the year of our COVID.

I am not a coder. I don’t do any development. I understand the theory of regex and grep but rarely use them. I write an occasional blog article in Markdown, such as this one.

I have a bunch of well-designed Markdown editors that are purpose-built for writing blogs in Markdown. They have grammar-checks and nice management of links, images and feature great preview modes. They feature typewriter mode. As best I can tell, this is still not implemented in BBEdit 14.

But BBEdit is a Mac classic. It can do virtually anything with text (if you know how to drive it). That brings up the real weakness of BBEdit - a lack of support for the new user, and modern tutorials. BareBones, the developers, are old men. They write great documentation1 but offer zero modern promotion and support. The manual is great, but how about a YouTube channel with some tutorials? Where does a beginner start with this application?

The features added to BBEdit 14 seem helpful to developers. That’s not me. Jason Snell demonstrated some clever manipulation that can be achieved to help produce blogs. I don’t know how he did it. He talked about AppleScript, but didn’t provide the code. I presume this trick wouldn’t work out of BBEdit’s box.

Herein lies the problem with BBEdit. It’s great. It’s wonderful. It’s built for people who already use it and know how to use it. However, I would say this to the team at BareBones: if you’re building a software application, perhaps at some point you need to turn an eye to the new users. The ones that might otherwise choose the free Visual Studio Code. The ones who might already use the copy of iA Writer they own, or Drafts, Craft or Ulysses. Users like me?

I want to use BBEdit. But why should I? Perhaps I shouldn’t.

BareBones 14. I’m sure its great. But I can’t know, because I’m not experienced enough to say.

  1. The manual for BBEdit runs over 400 pages.↩︎

software review
July 11, 2021 at 4:19pm

Another Crack at Git

Not long ago on this site I stated that I was fed up with git and that I was switching back to Dropbox. I did. It was still infuriating because I refuse to install the Dropbox client for this one measly application.

So I’m back to git. Instead of using Atlassian’s Sourcetree for managing the files on my Mac, this time I’m going with GitHub Desktop. I chose Sourcetree the first time around because it was a native Mac app whereas GHD is an Electron app. Problem with Sourcetree was that I didn’t like it. Doesn’t matter how standards-compliant something is if it’s unenjoyable to use. So, despite the Electron-ness of Github, here I am. If you know of something better, let me know. There is an app called Gitfox in Setapp but I remember it didn’t wow me when I looked at it previously.

So this time I’m using GHD and have connected it to BBEdit. Last time I tried to use iA Writer. iA Writer offers a lovely writing environment but I felt I was fighting against it and iCloud sync the whole time. I never quite build the mental model for how it all hooked together. BBEdit is a code editor at its heart and it still a fine, stable writing application. It will do the job just fine.

On the iOS side of things I’ve reinstalled Working Copy. The problem is which text editor to use. Last effort I was using iA Writer. Do I stick with that? My friend Jason uses Textastic. Maybe that’s what I should go with?

Of course, the thing that none of this software shenanigans solves is actually writing. That’s still on me to do.

blot git dropbox workflow
July 11, 2021 at 3:46pm autism youtube