Category: Blog (page 1 of 13)

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.

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!

Tablet Habit is now Rocket Panda

As of today Tablet Habit is now Rocket Panda. Before I go into the full reasoning why I wanted to share with you what has been going on with me for the last few weeks.

To make a long story short, I have been having a bit of an issue defining my blog. As I have said before, Tablet Habit was a blog for me to explain how I use the iPad as my main device and it was a way for me to express my love for iOS and the iPad. That all changed once I started using my 2017 MacBook Pro.

I started to slowly move more and more things to my Mac and less work on my iPad. Which brought on something of an identity crisis. I gained readers because I was an “iPad guy” and drifting away from that seems like I was cheating my readers out of what they wanted.

My first idea was to move things from Tablet Habit over to Mac Habit.

Logo for Mac Habit I made

Logo for Mac Habit I made

After a lot of work building a new website from scratch and importing all of my old posts over, Mac Habit was inches away from taking over Tablet Habit. I was excited, nervous, and anxious to show everyone the new website I was going to be using. But then a question popped in my head.

“What makes Mac Habit any different than Tablet Habit?”

The original answer I had was Mac was a more universal term for Apple blogging, and it was something that wasn’t tied to anything other than Apple. It wasn’t a device-specific name like Tablet Habit. Which sounded fine, but I wanted something even more freeing than Tablet or Mac as my name.

I spent days, even weeks, trying to come up with a new name. Then, during a shower I was taking the name Rocket Panda came to my head and I loved it. It wasn’t specific to any kind of topic or idea, and the name stuck with me like glue. If you ask me what it means, I will say it is just a cool name that I enjoy, and that Rocket Panda doesn’t need a topic or underlying meaning. It is just something that is catchy and easy to pronounce and type out without any kind of mispronouncing or misspelling. In short, I like the name way more then Tablet Habit or Mac Habit.

Seeing as this is my blog, and has always been a personal endeavor for me, having a name that isn’t tied to a specific topic seemed to be the right choice.

This website will still have all the things you loved about Tablet Habit, including all the old posts. The only change you will notice about this site is that it has a new name and a new color scheme to match the flames coming from the Rocket Panda logo. I may deviate from posts about Apple, but this is and forever will be a personal blog where I share my thoughts on things. It will always have my authenticity in it and I like to think people read my stuff because of my personality I put to the page, not the topics that I write about.

If you want to follow Rocket Panda on social media or make sure you have the right RSS feed subscription you can find all the links below. If you have any questions, comments, concerns feel free to mention Rocket Panda on Twitter or email me directly.

I thank all of you for being loyal readers and sticking with me over the last year with Tablet Habit. Here’s to many more with Rocket Panda!

🚀🐼

Links

Shortcuts 2.1 Update – Matthew Cassinelli

Matthew Cassinelli, a former employee for Workflow, has been crushing it on YouTube lately. His video explaining the changes and updates in Siri Shortcuts 2.1 is well worth the 5 minutes of your time.

It is so good I am linking his video instead of sharing one of the shortcuts I made. You can subscribe to his channel or watch the video below.

Why Today at Apple Made the Keynote

One thing I think that was most interesting on the new Apple Event Keynote wasn’t the new devices, but the fact that Today at Apple was given time on stage.

For those that don’t know what Today at Apple is, it’s a series of workshops that Apple Stores offer for anyone to come to for free and learn things you can do on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone. I am sure there are others as well, but it’s been something that hasn’t been talked much about in the Apple tech community.

The Today at Apple workshops may not be geared towards those who are tech savvy. With that said, Apple giving time for it on stage today in between the release of some much-needed updates (Mac Mini and MacBook Air) and interesting innovation (iPad Pro) shows that Apple isn’t just here to make you think that your iPad Pro 10.5” isn’t good enough anymore. They want you to harness that power with what ever device you have.

As Tim Cook said in the keynote after they announced 60 all-new sessions coming to Apple Stores, it is something that no one else has.

For me personally I have never been to a session, but after today I have been looking at upcoming events and workshops at my local Apple Store and am very seriously considering making the 55 minute drive to go to one of these.

Some sessions mentioned in the Keynote include Siri Shortcuts, and a session called Small Screen Magic which is all about making short movies with the Clips app. They also provided an interesting background with other new sessions that are intriguing to say the least.

Screenshot from the October 30th Apple Event

Screenshot from the October 30th Apple Event

Apple really outdid themselves today with the new devices. But I think they equally outdid themselves 18 months ago when they launched Today at Apple and made it possible for their users to learn from the team at Apple just what kind of things they can make on their computers.

It is also worth noting that when this part of the Keynote happened the entire audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music went into an uproar of enthusiasm and excitement. It is indicative just how important sessions like this can be for users, and I can’t wait to see what I have been missing out on.

Learning GTD: Starting From Scratch

When I started reading Getting Things Done, I was in a spinning world of chaos. I had many different plates spinning at the same time and no way of making sure that nothing fell through the cracks. I needed a system.

So, as a challenge to both my co-host of A Slab of Glass, Christopher Lawley, and myself I set out to read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen cover to cover to see just if GTD was something that would work for me. After chapter one I was all in.

I wanted to use this methodology immediately. I did brain dumps, set up a task manager, and started making boat loads of contexts and tags and folders. I thought I was finally getting to where I wanted with a system that worked for me. The reality was that I was on a high setting up all these productivity things, and I was no closer to getting my work done.

If I am being honest, I was even further from getting the big things in my life done. I did all the things I thought I needed to do to get my life in order and start Getting Things Done, but in reality I just took the foundation of the methodology and ran with it, without thinking on a much higher level.

I was worried about having a task manager that handled everything I threw at it, without actually throwing anything at it. I put the cart before the horse, and that is where I think a lot of people end up when starting a brand new productivity system. This all stops now for me.

I have decided that over the next several weeks I will be starting from scratch in Getting Things Done, and do what David Sparks suggested when he was on A Slab of Glass episode 19:

Do not try to create an entire system in a day. I think what you should do is you should make a list of things you want to improve. What are the key elements of a task management system? There’s capture, how do you capture tasks? How do you process tasks? How do you complete tasks? How do you review projects? Those are the big 4 steps. And pick one of those and say, “How am I going to get better at this?” And do that for two weeks, or a month, or two months, or whatever it takes to just internalize that and say, “Okay, I am just crushing it on capture, now how am I going to process tasks?” If you try to do it all at once it’s just overwhelming and nothing sticks. It’s just like learning keyboard shortcuts or anything you do. Bite off small pieces and fully digest them. And then take another piece, but don’t try to eat the whole elephant in one bite, you’re going to have a problem.

So the first thing I am going to work on is capturing. I need to figure out a system that will work for me and what will allow me to make capturing thoughts, ideas, projects, tasks, and anything else that comes to mind. I need to make it second nature to take those ideas in my mind and put them somewhere I will go back to later to process them.

All of this will be part of an ongoing series on Tablet Habit I like to call “Learning GTD.” Capturing will be part one of this new series, and I can’t wait to share this journey with all of you as I try to make my life more organized and less chaotic.

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