Plain Text Markdown Housekeeping

The introduction of Ulysses III motivated me to do some serious plain text markdown housekeeping, by which I mean plain text app and markdown app housecleaning. I'll admit, I've been an app slut. I've been flirting with plain text editors and dedicated markdown apps for a couple of years. All of the apps had something good to offer, but not one was a perfect fit, until Ulysses 3.

Aside: My plain text related fickleness reminds me of my, long ago, lifeguard days, before I met my wife. 🙂

My OS X writing environment changed overnight. Ulysses app is meticulously crafted and superb; it's nearly perfect, for my needs, at v1 and has tremendous upside potential. The best review of Ulysses III I've seen, so far, was written by Matthew Guay at mac.appstorm.net. Update (20130503): Here’s another great review, this one was written by John Martellaro at The Mac Observer.

It was a fairly easy decision to remove most of my dedicated markdown apps. I found removing Byword difficult because it has served me very well and I have great respect for the app's developers. Update: I reinstalled Byword. (see below)

Reviewing my use of plain text editors prompted an entirely different thought process. I used BBEdit until TextMate appeared. I used TextMate until its development all but ceased. Recently, I've been having fun with Sublime Text, but:

  1. I don't write code (except markdown, HTML and CSS)
  2. I now prefer Ulysses app for markdown
  3. I always enjoyed creating HTML and editing long text documents with BBEdit
  4. I don't need a cross-platform app
  5. I am biased toward 'Mac-only' developers

I decided to return to BBEdit.

Summarizing, my plain text markdown housekeeping lead me to add:

to keep:

  • Byword (see Update below)
  • Texts app (an amazing app, early in its life cycle)

to remove:

  • FoldingText
  • MultiMarkdown Composer
  • Sublime Text
  • Taco HTML Edit
  • Textastic
  • Text Wrangler (upgrading to BBEdit)

and note that I had already removed:

  • Coda
  • Chocolat
  • iA Writer
  • Markdown Live (Life)
  • Markdown Pro
  • Mou
  • skEdit
  • TextMate
  • VoodooPad
  • WriteRoom

Update (20130411): Byword is back because of a Ulysses III app problem.

Drafts App

Drafts app icon

Drafts app is like a magical pencil for iOS (iPhone and iPad). It doesn’t draw, rather, it captures notes from your muse.

“A Short Pencil Is Better Than A Long Memory.”

An old aphorism states, “A short pencil is better than a long memory.” The secret to creativity is to capture your ideas, as quickly as possible, before they disappear into the ether. Once you’ve captured a great idea, getting a project started becomes much easier.

Q: When do you do your best visualizations?

For many people, their answer looks something like:

  • in the shower
  • when I first wake up
  • while I’m jogging
  • when I’m alone with nature

My iPhone is almost always nearby, so I can quickly capture moments of illumination with the Drafts app.

Drafts app screens

Plain text and markdown: That’s the ticket. 🙂 The Drafts app has become the starting point of my plain text, markdown workflow. My preference is to use it in landscape mode. I’ve set the apps appearance to a light yellow background and I use the FFTisa font. I’ve set my iPhone documents to automatically sync with the iPad version of Drafts. At my leisure, I’ll briefly edit my best concepts on the iPad before saving them to Dropbox. My best ideas then get fleshed out in Byword or FoldingText on my iMac. One of the beauties of plain text and markdown is that it’s straightforward to move documents between plain text apps.

  1. capture ideas with Drafts app for iPhone
  2. iPhone Drafts’ documents sync with the iPad version of Drafts
  3. edit concepts on the iPad
  4. save to Dropbox and
  5. flesh out the best project ideas with FoldingText and the best blog post concepts with Byword.

Draft’s output options are very impressive. I’ve output documents to Agenda, Byword, Day One, HTML, Mail, Markdown, Things and Tweetbot in addition to Dropbox.

Drafts app output

Drafts is a great value. Consider investing a couple of bucks so that you’re ready for your Eureka moment. You’ll be glad you did.

>> Visit Agile Tortoise, the developer, to learn more.

It takes a very clever developer to create a simple, straightforward app where everything works in an obvious way.

Tidy Your Menu Bar

Mac Bartender icon

Have you noticed that the number of useful Mac OS X menu bar apps is mushrooming? For example, are you using Cobook and Fantastical? If your answer was “yes”, I’m betting that, like me, you’re making use of a growing list of impressive menu bar apps. Are those apps gobbling up your menu bar real estate and threatening to run into the ‘Help’ menus? Mine were, until I discovered the Bartender app. Is it time for you to tidy your menu bar?

>> check out the Bartender app

Essential Mountain Lion Apps

Mountain Lion

Every time Apple introduces a new version of OS X, I whittle my applications folder down to just the essentials. Here’s my Essential Mountain Lion Apps list:

64 bit apps for OS X 10.8 (I’ve added links for the apps I use every day.)

32 bit apps for OS X 10.8

Once again this year I’ve removed dozens of applications, a few will eventually be reinstalled, but most of the apps I’ve uninstalled will never return. Interestingly, my Essential Mountain Lion Apps list has gotten shorter, but my Mac App Store list of ‘Purchases’ is constantly growing; which only makes sense if you realize I’m including the long list of apps that still feature grey ‘INSTALL’ buttons. OK, I’m clearly a sucker for a deal. 🙂 Remember when purchasing a new application meant a trip to the store and an outlay of hundreds or even thousands of dollars? Speaking of expensive applications, you’ll notice that Adobe Design Suite Premium and Microsoft Office have not reappeared on my list; they’ve been gone for years.

20120819 => “Go further”: An online contact found my “apps I use everyday” links, useful, but asked me to “go further and list the five apps you use the most”.

Top five, most used, essential mountain lion apps:

  1. Google Chrome
  2. 1Password
  3. Reeder
  4. Clyppan
  5. Byword, but FoldingText is already a contender

Note: About a month ago, my list would have started with Safari and a month from now, it could be Safari again. Both browsers are fast, but Chrome’s extensions are increasingly compelling. These days, I very rarely use Firefox. OmniWeb and Opera aren’t even installed.

FYI, here’s last years Best Lion Apps list for reference and here’s my Snow Leopard list.

Note: I’ve taken a little flack for including VirusBarrier in my list of ‘Essential Mountain Lion Apps’. Although it’s absolutely true that my fellow Mac users and I have had very little reason to be concerned about malware in the past, times are changing. Apple is selling more Macs and, unfortunately, sooner or later, our Macs will be targeted regularly. In March 2012 around 700,000 Macs, worldwide, were infected by Flashback and I’m convinced, that attack was just a wakeup call. Thus far, I’ve found VirusBarrier has been a “set it and forget it” anti-malware solution. It runs all the time and I haven’t noticed any downside to the real-time protection it delivers.

Best Mac Clipboard Manager

Clyppan icon

Q: There are dozens of clipboard managers, so, is there really such a thing as the best Mac clipboard manager?
A: Clearly, we’re all different, so, your workflow will determine which clipboard manager will best suit your needs. I recently discovered a clipboard manager that fits my workflow perfectly. More about that later, let’s start at the beginning…

Q: What’s a clipboard manager?
A: A clipboard manager stores the data you ‘Copy’ and ‘Cut’ instead of just overwriting the previously saved clipboard item. If you’ve ever copied something, then copied something new and only then discovered that you needed, but lost your first clip, you’ll understand why a clipboard manager can be a time saver.

If you’re not already using a clipboard manager, what’s holding you back? Almost all clipboard managers will massively improve your ‘Copy’, ‘Cut’ and ‘Paste’ workflow. I’ve paid for most of the Mac clipboard managers. Some were used for a very short period of time, while others served me well for years. My most recent favourites have been iClip, iClipboard, PTHPasteboard Pro and now something new (see below). I set PTHPasteboard Pro, and previously the other two, to magically show my clipboard data whenever I pushed my cursor to the right of my screen. It’s worth mentioning that iClip looked like it had been abandoned, for years, but, recently, it has made a comeback. In my opinion, both iClip and iClipboard spend to much time looking pretty, while PTHPasteboard Pro focuses on functionality and gets almost everything right.

Recently, in preparation for the release of Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, I’ve been reviewing all of the apps I use. I decided to have a look around to see if there was a 64 bit, 10.8-ready, clipboard manager that might suit me better than PTHPasteboard Pro, but I really didn’t expect to find anything. Interestingly, I discovered a very impressive, actively-developed app called Clyppan that, for whatever reason, I hadn’t happened upon previously.

“Clyppan is designed to be sleek, simple, elegant and get out of your way.”

Clyppan window

The combination of Byword, in full-screen mode and Clyppan makes me smile. I set Clyppan to launch at login and to always paste plain text. I love Clyppan’s keyboard shortcuts:

Global (available everywhere)

  • ⇧⌘C — Hide/show Clyppan
  • ⇧⌘V — Rapid paste

and when Clyppan is active

  • 1–9 — Paste favorite and hide Clyppan
  • ⌘1 — Switch to “All”
  • ⌘2 — Switch to “Favorites”
  • ⌘3 — Switch to “Most Used”
  • F — Toggle clipping as a favorite
  • ⌘L — Show current clipping
  • Space — Hide/show the Quick preview window
  • ⌥⌘F — Search
  • ↩ — Paste the selected and hide Clyppan.
  • ⇧↩ — Put the selected item on the clipboard, ready to be pasted, but do not hide Clyppan.
  • ⌫ — Delete selected clipping
  • ⌘, — Preferences
  • ⌘Q — Quit Clyppan

Note: Clyppan is intended for cutting, copying and pasting text, it doesn’t handle graphics and other data types. For my workflow, Clyppan is the best Mac clipboard manager.

Clyppan was selling for $2.99 at the time this post was written (20120724).

>> Check out Clyppan here

Dynamik Home Business Website Bliss

Dynamik Theme for Genesis Framework

Anyone who manages their own home business website will question my title for this post, because, as we all know, every website is capable of creating an occasional headache. That said, three straightforward steps will enable you to experience home business website bliss, or something very close to it.

Background: I’m a big fan of simple solutions, but a home business website also requires a lot of flexibility, top-notch security and it needs to exhibit more than a little elegance. When my WordPress adventure began, I chose an attractive, free theme that I later discovered contained malicious PHP code; not a good thing. My first WordPress premium theme was Frugal, which eventually became Catalyst. Although I was thrilled with the flexibility that Catalyst’s child theme, Dynamik, offered, I ended up switching to the Genesis Framework. I made the switch because of rave reviews by a couple of business owners I respect and because of comments made by high-profile gurus Matt Mullenweg, Mark Jaquith and Jay Baer. Recently Eric Hamm, the brilliant developer of Catalyst, released the Dynamik theme for the Genesis Framework. Dynamik and Genesis: Two of my favourite WordPress things, together at last. Dynamik is a website tweakers paradise, but more about Dynamik a little later… first, let’s get back to the three straightforward steps to home business website bliss:

  1. Choose to host your own WordPress blog
  2. Order the Genesis Framework from StudioPress
  3. Order the Dynamik theme for Genesis

Dynamik theme for Genesis Framework

Millions and millions of people, worldwide, use WordPress, the WordPress developer community is huge and help is really easy to find. Genesis has quickly become “the industry standard of design frameworks”, it’s secure and SEO friendly. The Dynamik child theme for Genesis completes the WordPress puzzle. Dynamik offers maximum flexibility to folks, like me, who want to tweak their website’s design, but who do not posses CSS expertise. The following short video will give you a glimpse of the options Dynamik brings to the Genesis party.

>> check out the excellent Dynamik for Genesis website

Tip: When you visit the Dynamik website be sure to click the ‘Features’ tab.

VirusBarrier Antivirus Mac

VirusBarrier icon

VirusBarrier window

Q: VirusBarrier Antivirus Mac? What happened to Bitdefender? I purchased Bitdefender Antivirus Mac eleven days ago and posted about it just a couple of days ago; so, why am I writing about Intego VirusBarrier today?
A: With Bitdefender, a full-system malware scan takes forever and although that’s understandable once, I didn’t anticipate having to do the whole thing again a week later. Yes, I had clicked the preference to NOT rescan already scanned files, but it did it anyway. I suppose I could have scheduled full-system scans overnight, when I wasn’t using my Mac, or perhaps, Bitdefender support might have been helpful, but I decided to test VirusBarrier because I liked their pitch:

“You chose a Mac for a reason. So why choose security software from a Windows vendor? We are Mac experts creating products exclusively for Mac. …While makers of Windows antivirus have recently entered the Mac market, only Intego has been protecting Macs exclusively since 1997.”

  • easy to install, set up and use
  • fully optimized for OS X 10.7 (Lion)
  • won’t slow your Mac
  • doesn’t need to be deactivated when installing new apps
  • free 30-day trial

So far, so good, the initial full-system scan was much faster than Bitdefender was.

>> Learn more about VirusBarrier Antivirus Mac

Comment: I’m still hoping to find something as close to “set it and forget it” as possible. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update (20120424): Things I’m liking about VirusBarrier:

  • it apparently offered protection from the Flashback/Flashfake Trojan long before the story broke
  • it’s a modern 64 bit app
  • real time, always-on, proactive, malware protection
  • useful network tools are built into the app
  • funky looking, but very functional, instrument panel, user interface
  • the app icon
  • Intego’s website
  • and most importantly, I haven’t noticed any obvious slowdown as a result of the real time protection.

Update (20120425): I completed an Intego support request and was both surprised and delighted when I received a thorough response less than an hour later.

Update (20120427): VirusBarrier X6 is excellent, Intego Security Barrier isn’t. Because I was so impressed with VirusBarrier X6, I decided to upgrade to Security Barrier. I was charged $49.95 even though the cost difference between the two programs is actually $30. Intego sales explained that this was because I was upgrading and to be fair to Intego, the upgrade added one year to my subscription. So, what did I get for $49.95?

Other than VirusBarrier, the only Security Barrier app I’m actually using is Personal Backup and it’s a nice program, but it isn’t worth $49.95. I’ve scheduled a nightly clone of my startup disk.

I tested FileGuard and was not at all impressed:

  • garish low resolution graphics
  • a bright red warning that “Your subscription expired” which I gather is a ‘cosmetic’ bug that will be removed in a future update
  • the app lost track of my safes when I placed them in my documents folder
  • right clicking on the desktop shortcut offered a ‘Settings’ option, but failed to launch FileGuard and FileGuard’s settings when clicked.

I deleted FileGuard and I’m now using the excellent DropDMG to create my encrypted disk images. FYI, I’ve also used Knox and Espionage, but I find DropDMG serves many different purposes. I’ve added my encrypted disk images to my VirusBarrier X6 list of trusted files so that they’re not scanned.

Gmail does a great job filtering spam, so I didn’t need and don’t use Personal Antispam.

My kids are grown, so I didn’t find Content Barrier useful either.

My recommendation is to stick with VirusBarrier, which is excellent.

Bitdefender Antivirus Mac

Bitdefender Antivirus Mac icon

Q: Why am I using Bitdefender Antivirus Mac?

I’ve been using Macs since 1984 and until very recently, malware just wasn’t something I thought about; there simply wasn’t a compelling reason for concern. That changed when over 600,000 OS X users were afflicted with the Flashback/Flashfake Trojan in February, March and April of 2012.

“Security by obscurity, if it ever existed, is no more.”
– Ryan Faas, Computerworld

When I first heard about the Flashback botnet, I checked my Macs with the Bitdefender Virus Scanner. It:

  • was available for free at the Mac App Store
  • sported the award-winning Bitdefender engines, I’d read about previously
  • had malware definitions that were updated hourly.

Although, I subsequently discovered, my machines weren’t infected with the Flashback Trojan, I was astonished that Bitdefender uncovered a couple of malicious PHP scripts in my WordPress backups from 2009; frankly, I never would have guessed.

Q: Will we see more Mac malware?
A: Of course we will, albeit on a much smaller scale than what our Windows friends are likely to experience.

Although Apple security updates are always in the pipeline (examples for Mountain Lion: Gatekeeper and Apple Developer ID), I’ll admit I’m concerned that the Flashback Trojan was just the beginning of malware making regular appearances on the Mac. For that reason, I decided check out Bitdefender’s always-on, anti-malware solution called Antivirus for Mac.

Bitdefender Mac box

It proactively protects your Mac and it eliminates Windows viruses, as a bonus.

Bitdefender Mac screenshot

Q: Why choose Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac rather than Intego’s VirusBarrier? Because it:

  • is less expensive
  • automatically updates definitions hourly
  • has an excellent reputation in the anti-malware community.

I’ve been running Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac without any obvious slowdown or other problems, it just quietly does its thing. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t detected any malware and, frankly, I hope it never does; but, from my vantage, better safe than sorry.

>> Learn more about Bitdefender Antivirus Mac

Comment: I stopped running Boot Camp, Parallels and VMware largely because every time I launched Windows there were malware updates galore that wasted my time. I spent more time updating than I did doing. Fortunately, it looks like Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac is going to be a “set it and forget it” kind of thing.

Update 20120419: I’m now testing VirusBarrier.

Premise for WordPress

Premise for WordPress

Q: Can Premise for WordPress really turn traffic into money?
A: Clearly, you’ll have to check out that claim for yourself, but if you host your own WordPress website or blog, you’re already half way there.

Premise:
The Complete Digital Sales and Lead Generation Engine
for WordPress

The Premise for WordPress, landing page* plugin helps you:

  • build landing pages inside of WordPress
    • Sales
    • Content (SEO)
    • Pricing Table
    • Email Opt-In
    • Video and
    • Tab Scroller
    • Thank You
  • sell anything, even digital products like software and books
  • set up password-protected content libraries
  • create membership sites and private forum areas
  • send content at intervals you determine
  • create PayPal check-out pages
  • accept recurring payments with automated access management

and, yes, Premise 2 will work with your current WordPress theme. What about SEO optimization? Yes, you’re covered. You’re also going to love the professional web graphics (over 1,000 images).

>> Premise WordPress details

How about in-page copywriting lessons and ongoing seminars? Current online Premise related seminars include:

  • The Chemistry of a Landing Page That Works: Brian Massey and Robert Bruce
  • Get More Traffic, Links, & Social Sharing With Landing Pages: Brian Clark and Derek Halpern
  • Premise Landing Pages and Google Adwords: Brian Clark and Geordie Carswell
  • The Premise Content Marketing Strategy Seminar: Brian Clark and Robert Bruce
  • Your “Magic Formula” For Success: The Conversion Trinity: Bryan Eisenberg with Brian Clark
  • Anatomy of a Landing Page: Bryan Eisenberg and Brian Clark
  • The Premise Guide to Effective Copywriting: Brian Clark and Robert Bruce
  • Magnetic Headlines Intensive: Jeff Sexton and Brian Clark

All the training information, including the audio seminars, is available in the Premise Member account area.

The Premise for WordPress plugin was developed by Brian Clark and the fine folks at Copyblogger.

Premise for WordPress

>> Get Premise for WordPress

30 Day, Risk Free Trial get unlimited everything (including updates and support) for $165

* "In online marketing a landing page, sometimes known as a lead capture page, is a single web page that appears in response to clicking on an advertisement. The landing page will usually display directed sales copy that is a logical extension of the advertisement or link."
— From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Markdown Theme

You know the drill, you’re using Chocolat app, Sublime Text or TextMate 2 and you’ve decided to try composing your WordPress posts in Markdown. That’s when you discover that the ‘.tmTheme’ that you’re currently using doesn’t include markdown syntax highlighting. Although you’re considering rolling your own theme, you’ve decided to search for a markdown theme that’s ready to go.

I’ve tested a few markdown themes, but my favourite is Made of Code.

Made of Code markdown theme colors

Options:

  1. IR_Black.tmTheme
  2. if you don’t write a lot of code and you haven’t already fallen in love with a text editor, I’m convinced you should have a look at the Mou app. Why Mou?

    • composing/previewing markdown with Mou is good fun
    • Mou’s available live preview will quickly teach you markdown syntax
    • Mou’s actions (keyboard shortcuts) automate most markdown formating for you
    • Mou’s themes are gorgeous
    • Mou is a superb example of OS X 10.7 Lion technologies nicely implemented by a very clever programmer.

Mou icon

>> learn about the Mou app

Related articles:

  1. Mou App Evolving
  2. Markdown Apps
  3. Adventures With Mac Markdown