Announcement: Build Your OmniFocus Workflow →

Today I’m very excited to announce a book: Build Your OmniFocus Workflow. I’ve been hard at work on this for the last 3 months – but not alone. My fabulous co-author, Ryan Dotson, has been hard at work right along side me (admittedly with a timezone difference) – and we have 150 pages ready for you!

This book is designed, as the name implies, to help you build a workflow which works for you with OmniFocus – whether you’ve never used the app before, or if you’ve used it for years and just want to improve your setup. It is comprised of five sections:

  • First Steps: Getting OmnIFocus set up with a basic setup.
  • Fundamentals: Walking you through the default perspectives, and expanding on your current setup – plus diving into settings.
  • Advancing: Diving much deeper, including custom perspectives, creative uses for tags, review and onwards.
  • Final Horizons: Honing your workflow to get the most out of your system.
  • Our Workflows: Ryan and I get personal and tell you about how our setups work.

Throughout the book there are tips, notes, personal comments, and most important of all: activities for you to complete in order for you to create a set up which allows you to be productive and which will hopefully also allow you to feel like you’re fully in control of your life.

Rose has been doing amazing work as long as I have followed her and this is no exception. I bought this instantly and I am about halfway through it right now. While some of the things aren’t new for me (I have been using OmniFocus off and on the past 5 years), it is still a great way to rethink how I use OmniFocus. I am taking this book as an excuse to start a whole new database and use the teachings of this book as my guide. So far, it’s working great for me.

Go buy yourself, or someone you know, a copy of this now before the price goes from $25 to $30.

Blogging on a Mac Instead of My iPad

Lately I have been using my Mac more and more, and the reason for this is because I find it to have a much easier workflow for my writing than an iPad. This isn’t to say that I can’t do my work on an iPad, I can and I have, but because of apps like MarsEdit and Marked 2 I find that the iPad isn’t my preferred device for writing anymore.

One of my reasons for this are the apps, and how they have improved my workflow when it comes to my writing.

MarsEdit

MarsEdit is probably the go-to application I will tell anyone who is using a WordPress website to use. It has a solid reputation behind it, and it is all apparent after using it for you site. It is built a lot like a standard Mail application with each post being its own item and the data you want to see right there in rows. It allows you to see all your posts easily and select one that might need to be edited or shared.

Once in the editing mode it supports Markdown, HTML, and plain text editing. It is also a really nice Rich Tech editor similar to the WYSIWYG editor WordPress used to have before moving over to Gutenberg. If you want Markdown syntax highlighting, this sadly isn’t the app for you. I spoke with the developer some time ago and I got the feeling that Markdown syntax highlighting isn’t something in the works. I could be wrong about this, and I hope I am, but as of right now there is nothing of the sort in MarsEdit.

Once you are done editing your post, things like the post title, slug, categories, and tags are all available to edit and assign prior to going live. The tags you even have saved on your WordPress website show up when entering them in MarsEdit. You can even use custom fields for things like the Daring Fireball-style Linked List Plugin where you can enter in a custom field with a link and make that URL the hyperlink to your title. You can see a good example of that on my post about the new podcast by Greg Morris called And You Are?.

Finally, this application supports image uploading, meaning that you can insert your image in a post on MarsEdit and when you do hit publish that image is then uploaded to WordPress and attached to the post automatically. This isn’t necessarily anything new as apps like Ulysses also do this. That said, it is a nice touch to not make users have to upload their images and then add them through some kind of library or manually copy the image URLs over.

MarsEdit isn’t just a very nice editing tool for blog posts, it also provides a wonderful array of admin tools as well. For instance, if you want to get the link to a post on your website, you can just select the post and press control+command+C and the link for the post is copied.

Not only that, but with a simple plugin on your browser you can make link-posting on your website a cinch. Simply select the text from an article you want to share, click on the MarsEdit browser plugin and, with the power of the Quick Posts setting in MarsEdit, the link from the site where you selected that text is then formatted however you want for link-posting.

All in all, I think that MarsEdit is a great buy for the price, and if you give it time and really start using it regularly it can be the one and only application you need to post to your blog.

You can buy MarsEdit 4 today for your Mac for $49.95. Which seems high, but if you want a powerful one-stop shop for posting your blog, MarsEdit is by far and away worth the money.

Marked 2

Marked 2 was an app I didn’t think I needed when it came to writing and blogging on the Mac, but once I finally used it I instantly added it to my workflow.

Marked 2 is a simple app on paper, it allows you to open a file with Markdown and see real-time updates to it. Outside of what this does “on paper,” the flourish and polish of this app makes proofreading and quality control smooth and simple.

Along with adding bold text and italics whenever the syntax shows up, it does things like shows the full URL of a link when you hover over it.

It can show the length of selected text with things like world count and character count and sentences in the selection. It allows you to review and check the version your readers will see, making it the last application necessary before hitting publish.

It also has an incredible editing system to show you where you can improve on your writing and grammar. It reminds me a lot of the Hemingway web-app, showing where you write in passive voice, or when you are using words that have preferred alternatives. So instead of saying something is “very large” it could show you something like “enormous” or “gigantic” making for it to be a much more pleasing thing to read.

Finally, Marked 2 also allows you to export the finished product as a slew of different file formats. You can save the finished post as things like a Markdown file, a PDF (paginated and continuous), or even HTML if you want to share it to something like MarsEdit and not have to worry about your WordPress website supporting Markdown formatting.

Marked 2 was the editor I needed when writing as I never feel that my work is worthwhile until I meticulously comb over everything and rewrite draft after draft. Now, with the editing tools and system I can use that as a finish line to when I can stop trying to make it perfect and start making it public.

You can get Marked 2 for $9.99 right now, or become a SetApp subscriber and get access to Marked 2, Ulysses, and a slew of other great apps.

Bringing it All Together

Now that you know both the apps I cherish on the Mac when it comes to my writing, let’s explain the process in my writing and blogging on the Mac.

I first start writing my draft in a text editor. Which is usually Ulysses on the Mac, which can be an alternative to MarsEdit if you just want a text editor that can post to WordPress. One thing I prefer with Ulysses is that it does have Markdown syntax highlighting, allowing me to see more clearly the differences I make when I want to bold or italicize something. However, I am not a fan of how Ulysses handles your posts after you send it off to be posted. It just stays right at the folder you had it in. From there I have to figure out what to do with it. Eventually what I decided to do was make a folder called “Posted” and throw everything I am finished with in there for safe keeping. Once that got cumbersome I decided to make Ulysses my app for writing, and Marked 2 and MarsEdit for editing and publishing respectively.

Anyway, once I am done with my first draft I export the Markdown file of the post to Marked 2 and have both apps side-by-side and make changes to the according to the Keyword Highlight Drawer in Marked 2.

Once done there I send the post to MarsEdit. Once there I add the metadata I need and make sure everything in the post is how I want it. Once I am happy with it I then send it to Rocket Panda for posting.

Conclusion

The workflow is a little crazy seeing that I am using 3 apps to get one post out on to Rocket Panda, but I feel that if I were to exclude any of these in my blogging process it would make for a lesser product.

One thing that I think is something that I prefer over the Mac is just how easy it can be to edit posts and make changes with ease. When it comes to iOS and the WordPress app, which is the only decent app to handle WordPress content on iOS, it is still clunky and ill-fitting to the styling of iOS.

When I am using MarsEdit and Marked 2 on my Mac it feels like it is the perfect way to make sure that my writing is the best that it can be.

Manage Subscription →

Stephen Hackett of 512 Pixels came up with a really sweet solution on how to quickly access your iTunes subscriptions. IT seems like a simple Shortcut once you get into it, but I think some of the best Siri Shortcuts are those that are so simple you wish you’d come up with it.

Apple Subscription Siri Shortcut

What this shortcut does is open a URL to Apple’s Subscription Page and from there iOS users automatically get sent to the iTunes Store app and it shows your subscriptions.

Again, a simple URL allows you to access something that would take several menus and taps to get access to otherwise. Which, to me, is a perfect example of what automation can do for you.

You can download the shortcut here and give it a go for yourself.

And You Are? – Daryl Baxter →

Greg Morris has something special here with And You Are?. Hearing episode one with Daryl Baxter also just makes so much sense. The laid back nature of this is something I can get used to easily.

Give this episode a listen, you won’t be disappointed.

Capture – Learning GTD

When it comes to GTD, the first thing you are introduced to is the idea of “Capture.” For the most part it’s straightforward. You can’t store your ideas without getting them out of your head, so you need to have a system in place to make it seamless and second-nature to go from idea to capture.

Without capture you have nothing but a bunch of things swimming in your mind taking up a bunch of space. With this in mind I knew I needed to work on the things that I was going to be using to capture my ideas and tasks. Which starts with what was coming into my life. So I started writing everything out and organizing the different things that come into my life that may require, action.

As you can see, there are a number of different things I use to capture my ideas, and many different types of things I need to capture. Which basically boils down to three categories: digital and analog.

Digital Inputs

For the digital, I wanted to decide on apps to use to capture those things into my task manager of choice. What I needed was a way to send things from each of these sources to my task manager.

Email was the first thing and was simple to configure. A simple Share Sheet option made sending the emails I received to Things 3 a breeze. I also could set up an email account to forward to Things 3, but I preferred a share sheet option as it didn’t require me to have to send an email to myself and clog up my messages.

From there things like Twitter, RSS, text messages, and Overcast, I had to put these ideas and tasks into my system manually. As I use Things 3, I can either use Siri Shortcuts to input something or I could also have a Drafts 5 action in place to send anything I make on a new line to Things. Which isn’t perfect, but it gets the job done without issue.

Finally came my digital notes. This was ultimately the hardest thing to handle as I have been using a combination of Drafts 5 and Bear to handle my notes over the years. When starting from scratch I wanted to take a long hard look at what each of these apps are for, and I eventually decided that Drafts is where everything would start. I decided this because it made things easier for me to decide what I wanted to say and then think about where they go second. Instead of trying to think of whether what I have on my mind is better off in Bear or as an item in Things, I decided to forgo that line of questioning and make Drafts 5 my go-to input app. From there, I can send it to the respective app once I am done capturing my thoughts.

Tim Nahumck made a great point in his Drafts 5 review about this saying:

At its core, Drafts remains the app it has always been: a place where text starts. It is the quintessential app for trusted capture of text. There are other writing/note-taking apps out there that are great in their own right. Some are more suited for long writing and research, while others are good for simple note-taking. But none of them replicate the functionality that Drafts carries on iOS, where integrations built into the app provide powerful, customized actions. This is where the strength of Drafts really shines: it can be the central hub from which everything flows.

Drafts 5 was always an app I loved. Now that I have real guidelines on how I am capturing anything in my digital life it makes Drafts 5 my go-to application for all of my text input.

Analog

Now comes the more difficult area of my life, the analog stuff. There are times where I want to capture things in my Field Notes notebook over Drafts 5. The reasoning could be as simple as I don’t have access to my phone or iPad at that time, or that I want to sketch something out and using my hands is faster than using a keyboard or iPad. In both scenarios I write in my notebook and now have to capture it digitally into my task manager or note-taking app.

Originally I thought scanning my notes and saving them in Bear would be sufficient, but after a few tries with that it made searching a pain. So now I make it a point at the end of each day to go through my notebook and decide what stuff I want to digitize in Drafts what things I don’t. This is technically part of the processing section of GTD but as I see it moving things to one cohesive system is so important I have to make it a habit I never break. For me, i consider it more a capturing process over actual processing as I am just throwing these items in my “Inbox” of Things 3 and deciding what to do with it later.

While my notebook and my digital input covers 95% of my life, there are still instances where snail mail and other paper documents appear and I need to find a way to handle them in my GTD system. Which leads me to one of the most important things I have learned in GTD: having an “In” box at your desk.

I take these paper documents and keep them in my “In” basket by my desk and make it a point at the end of my day to, along with looking over my Field Notes, go through and add these documents to either my reference material (Bear) or my task manager (Things 3). Again, this is technically processing but I think it is still worthy of mention here before I really dive deep into the processing section of GTD.

Conclusion

In short, I think doing this project allowed me to not only get a handle on what things I have coming at me at a regular basis that requires my attention, but I also now have formed a better understanding of how to manage them all in one trusted system. Which, if you ask me, is the hardest part of this whole GTD process.

So now that I know what I need to do for every kind of input in my life and what apps and workflows I need to accomplish them, the next thing I want to cover is processing, which will come next in this series.

Until then, feel free to share with me how you capture your tasks and ideas on twitter. I would love to hear your workflows!

Brydge 10.5 Series II Review

If ever there was a time for me to talk about keyboards it is now that I have my Brydge Series II in hand. This keyboard was something that I was long waiting for and now that I have it in hand I think this is the perfect keyboard for me.

My History with Brydge

I was wary of this purchase after having more than my fair share of issues with the original keyboard Brydge came out with for the 10.5 iPad Pro. I had to send it back 3 times and after the 3rd time there was no charm and I eventually told Brydge to refund me in full. I was left with a horrible taste in my mouth from this company and I vowed to never give them my money ever again.

That all went out the window after hearing about the new Series II from Brydge and how it seemingly fixed all of its quality problems I had previously. I was elated to hear this and after some thought I decided to make one final exception for Brydge and gave them my money, and boy am I glad that I did.

The Pros

The Brydge Series II looks identical to the form factor of the original, the only thing that changed was the reliability of this keyboard was increased exponentially. No keys would fail to type, there were no more sticky keys, and the Bluetooth connection stayed true. It worked perfectly.

The Brydge keyboard has loads of features and checks every 99% of the boxes I had when it comes to a keyboard for the iPad.

The first is the layout of the keyboard allows me to touch type without issue and allows me to really fly on this thing without worrying if the key I am wanting to write with is going to work correctly or not. Not to mention, this keyboard doesn’t skimp out on anything, offering media keys and having arrow keys that aren’t squished and difficult to feel for. Finally, it has a dedicated home button to go back to the home screen with one press and to the multitasking view with two.

Brydge Series II Arrow Keys

Brydge Series II Arrow Keys

The Dedicated Home button

The Dedicated Home button

Not only is the keyboard layout something that warms my heart, the fact that this offers backlit keys is also a treasure to me. It is still something that baffles me to see Apple only offer backlit keys on MacBooks and never on a Wireless keyboard. I know that because of the size of the Smart Keyboards it isn’t feasible, but if Apple were to update their Magic Keyboard to offer backlit keys it would have been an instant-buy from me. I don’t use backlit keys often, but when I need it and not have it a small part of my brain goes berserk. Having my keys backlit allows me to write late at night while my fiancé sleeps and not have to have any house lights on1.

Downsides

The only downside I found with this keyboard, like so many others I have tried, is that it is Bluetooth instead of using the iPad Pro Smart Connectors. Seeing that this keyboard is specifically made for the 10.5” iPad it makes sense to me to have the connection to the keyboard be the Smart Connector instead. With that said, no one other than Apple and Logitech have ever made attempts to use the Smart Connector.nAfter speaking with a Brydge representative their reasoning actually made a lot of sense saying:

Here at Brydge we deliberately chose to use the Bluetooth 3.0 over the Apple Smart Connector as this technology does not limit our fundamental design. The Apple Smart Connector restricts the experience to a single viewing angle, while the Bluetooth 3.0 enables the flexibility to deliver a unique laptop like 180 degrees viewing angle.

With this in mind, this decision is actually something I feel is the better choice than to make the iPad only viewable in one angle. Even with the new Smart Keyboard, there are only two angles, one of which could be argued that is never used. So seeing that Bluetooth was the better option, it makes sense that is what Brydge went with instead of the Apple Smart Connector.

Conclusion

It is clear that Brydge has made gigantic strides to right the wrongs they may have inadvertently made in older models of their keyboards, and it is a breath of fresh air to see a company that cares so much about design be equally caring on the quality of their new products. As someone who has an “older” iPad Pro, seeing them update their products for this not only goes to show that they truly want to allow everyone to get their hands on something to write with, but also indicative of what is to come in their line up for the new iPad Pros.

The boycott is over from Brydge, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to buy this product, and if you want to make you iPad Pro equally beautiful and functional, there isn’t anything better the Brydge.

  1. The only light I use is a desk lamp as it isn’t as illuminating as the overhead light in the office.
« Older posts

© 2018 Rocket Panda

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑