One of the best ways of becoming better at something is to simply do it and reflect on it afterwards, to iteratively become better for every attempt. This is true for everything from software development, meditation and even developing yourself. To become better at reflecting on my day, I started asking myself a couple of questions each night, as part of my evening ritual before going to sleep. Continue reading
I have gone through a decent number of text editors geared towards writing, and while most of them have been quite workable and even pleasant, there has always been something missing. My demands are fairly simple, and the gist is to focus on the writing experience and not having to deal with minutiae, like saving revisions and naming files. Continue reading
One of the most prominent apps when thinking about productivity is without a doubt the green note-taking app with the friendly elephant called Evernote. There are apps available for virtually every platform and device imaginable, and it will sync virtually anything from photos to large files. There is one area where Evernote currently is lacking though — the actual note-taking and organizing notes into notebooks and the user experience to make that happen. The recently released app called Alternote has set out to change all that.
Ghost is a recently released blogging platform based on Node.js and probably a direct competitor to established platforms such as Medium.
According to the author of Gust, Ghost was in its conception thought to be a WordPress plugin but morphed into an entity of its own, and this is where Gust comes in.
At the begining, Ghost was supposed to be a fork of WordPress. Then there was a talk of a plugin, that would give a next-generation admin panel for WordPress. But in the process it became a new blogging platform, built on Node.js. This plugin is an attempt to bring the nice and clean admin panel of Ghost back to the WordPress ecosystem.
I gave it a go in my test WordPress installation and I am really impressed by it, given its early stage in the development process. Just a couple of iterations more adding support for featured image, post format and custom fields, and I could probably use it.
Its strengths lie in the realtime Markdown preview pane, which works really well. It currently doesn’t reflect the current website theme though, which may or may not be an issue.
I have been an Evernote user for the last couple of years, and for a long time it has been the only viable option for note syncing between the Mac, iPhone and the web (and recently the iPad). Supporting multiple notebooks and a hierarchical tagging structure, as well as RTF note editing capabilities and GPS location has made it into a very appealing catch-all application.
What brought Evernote over the top however, is the automatic OCR scanning of uploaded images. This basically means that you can find an image by searching for text contained within. I used this feature on a daily basis when snapping pictures of whiteboards during meetings with the iPhone application. Instant meeting notes people!
The problem with Evernote
There is just one problem — Speed. Evernote for iPhone is just a tiny bit too slow for using all the time. You know that one small thing you really should have written down, but you could just not be bothered to open the Evernote app since that would just take a few seconds too long. Instead of using Evernote for exactly what it is designed for, I sometimes pop open Apple’s note app and jot it down there instead (and later of course forgetting all about it).
Okay, I lied, there are some other minor problems besides the speed issues. When writing longer notes, or articles such as this very one, it feels tremendously important to have editing history. Maybe I am just spoiled by using Subversion and Mercurial all the time, but I feel having the possibility to revert back to previous versions of the text makes experimenting fun, and making it easy to try new things. Evernote has no editing history that I am aware of, except for the standard undo/redo available everywhere.
Just for the fun of it, another annoyance with Evernote is the lack of auto-save on the iPhone and iPad. If I am writing something and want to save, I will exit editing mode when saving the article and have to reopen it to continue writing. Why is there no auto-save in the edit window, or at least a save button that keeps the writing window open?
Simplenote enters the ring
I have lately become aware of a semi-new contender in the note-syncing market called Simplenote. In one corner we have Evernote with a million bells and whistles, while we on the other hand have Simplenote with its simplicity and focus on content. The only real feature of Simplenote, except for the obvious feature of writing plain text, is its support for tags.
Okay, I lied again. Simplenote has limited support for revisions, which means that you can go back 10 “increments” (30 in the paid version) of changes. I am not sure about the voodoo in the calculation of these save increments, but at least you have limited support for going back in time to restore an alternate version of your file.
On the happy side of things, Simplenote has very fast and simple (haha) iPhone and iPad applications, which automatically sync to the cloud as well. They have support for tags and the search function is quick and accurate as well. Another nice-to-have-but-not-entirely-necessary feature is the fullscreen edit mode, which cuts out all distractions and lets you focus soley on the words themselves. Think of it as WriteRoom for iOS, but with a white background.
What I say
I have just started trying out Simplenote, so I have no idea about the long-term affects and issues that may crop up. I am somewhat worried about the tag management, since it does not seem to be any way of renaming a tag without having to manually rename the tag in all individual notes. There is no support for tag hierarchies, which may or may not be an advantage — I am not sure yet. The tag drop-down in the website seems limited as well. I would like a list of all tags, almost like folders, where I can dive down to the notes themselves.
In addition, I would like the ability to search for notes within a certain date period in addition to the normal tag and keyword search, or perhaps even a date calendar where I can select the date range and visually see the number of notes written on certain dates.
Another issue I have with Simplenote is the lack on an official application for Mac OS. There are lots of third-party apps, but no one works the way I want. Until such application comes out, the next best thing is to use the website directly, which works remarkably well and is very fast to be honest!
I will keep on using Simplenote for a while, and if it continues to work as fast and easy like now (and if there is a Mac app coming), it is a winner in my book.
What other people say
Shawn Blanc says that All You Need is Simplenote, and John Gruber writes a post regarding Evernote and Simplenote. For an insight into what other people put into their Simplenote, have a look at Minimal Mac’s article What’s in your Simplenote?.
Lots of people who write articles or create content in any form, often find themselves generating lots of files. A writer will for instance probably have lots of article drafts laying around. Everyone have different solutions for revision control and backup, ranging from a simple manual file copy to using a full-fledged revision control system such as Subversion.
For everyone else, there is a simple solution for keeping backups of your work in progress, as well as being able to retrieve any previous revision. In addition to all this, it even lets you sync files between multiple computers and access your files online from any computer with internet access.
I guess you know by now that I am talking about Dropbox, a service available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It installs a small application on your computer which monitors a configurable directory for changes and uploads them automatically to the Dropbox servers.
The free version offers 2 GB of space, which should be enough for most people. For photographers and other people dealing with lots of large files, there also a premium option available which gives you 50 GB for $99 per year.
The web interface is beautiful and easy to use for navigating your Dropbox and downloading the files. This is also the place for viewing older revisions for your files and delete, copy, rename and delete them.
A very handy feature is the ability to share folders with other Dropbox users! If you are working together with other people in a project, just share a folder between you and everyone will instantly have access to all changes in the project folder – automatically.
There is even a way of sharing files with non Dropbox users. There is a special folder in the root of the Dropbox named “Public”. Putting files here makes it possible to right-click on the files and copy a public URL for it. To let other people download the file, it’s just a matter of sharing the link with them. They can’t of course make changes to it, nor view its revision history.
Another special folder in the Dropbox root is the Photos folder, which creates instant photo albums for viewing on the web by anyone. This is definitely the easiest way of getting a photo album up on the web, since you only need to copy or move the pictures to this special folder on your computer – Dropbox does the rest.
All iPhone users out there, and possible other phone owners, can access the iPhone web interface too for downloading files in the Dropbox. It is even possible to view the uploaded photo galleries.
There is a tour available on the website which explains all features more in-depth.
Upcoming features include:
- Timeline based undo
- Online visualization for any file type
- An iPhone application/interface that let us download files of interest (pdf, docs, pictures..)
- Watch any folder support (configurable per host)
- Better shared folder controls (permissions, etc.)
- Online edition for text files
- Add friends
- Improve Upload Speed
- Group accounts
Disclaimer: From this article it may seem like I work for Dropbox, but I don’t. I just like their service a lot!
Since switching to a Mac, there has always been one application for which I haven’t been able to find an equivalent. Windows users will undoubtedly have heard of Microsoft OneNote, which is the de-facto note taking application. Linux users have had Basket which does the same thing, but perhaps not as feature rich as OneNote.
There are lots of good note-taking applications out there for the Mac. None of these do however have the intuitive and easy to use interface bundled with the annotation features of OneNote. Some of the applications I have tried and have been using:
I finally found the Circus Ponies website which have a product called Notebook 3. I watched the screencast which shows most features in the application, and it seemed like a very interesting application to try out – and I was right.
Notebook 3 has everything one needs to read, write, collect and manage large information chunks. It can be used by students, in meetings, project management or almost anything. For an in-depth review, have a look at the above mentioned screencast.
The following image shows off some of the features of the application. Click on it for the full version.
So what are you waiting for? Head over to the Circus Ponies website and download the application.
Do you know other applications for the Mac which have similar qualities as OneNote?
Google just released a new web application called Knol. It is used to make it easy to share knowledge through article and in-depth guides. The service puts a strong emphasis on authorship, and every piece of information has one or more names behind it. From the announcement:
Knols are authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects.
An article may look like the following, which is a guide on how to backpack.
Much like Wikipedia, it is possible to make changes or at least propose them, since it is possible to modify the permissions for the written articles.
Support for Adsense is also built-in, which makes it possible for authors to actually make money from the content they publish on the site. If any significant amount of money will be generated by this is another question.
It is very easy to begin writing a new Knol. The interface looks like the following and features a light-weight WYSIWYG editor.
Knol might become a competitor for Wikipedia in the future, but I see it not as a competitor, more an enhancement to the online knowledge base. Since there is a real person behind each article, the contents is consistent and could be very reliable if written by a person knswledgable in the particular field.
WordPress for iPhone has been released, making it super easy to post to your WordPress blog on the go!
There have been reports on the iPhone crashing when using international characters such as åäö, but it will surely be fixed soon.
I will write a review when I have the opportunity to try it myself.
Micro blogging seems to have exploded this last year. Most of it is probably thanks to Twitter, but there are lots of other services popping up, such as Jaiku and Plurk, which have identified the shortcoming of Twitter and extended the service to include the missing features as well as adding more innovative extensions.
If you are new to micro blogging, you should definitely have a look at Twitter in Plain English by CommonCraft. It explains the very concept and how it can be a part of your everyday life:
My favorite micro blogging platform is by far Jaiku. It has the possibility to add “chat rooms” where people can add common entries, much like a chat. It also has proper support for comments, while Twitter does not. The one thing Twitter does have is an extremely large user base, and it does as well have lots of third-party applications for easier entry of “tweets”.
Since I like using Jaiku for the innovative features, I still want to be able to be part of the large user base of Twitter. This leads to services such as Ping.FM, Socialthing and hellotxt. These services enables you to add these messages to different platforms at the same time, while only posting once!
You can add me on the following networks:
They all basically contain the same posts, except for responses and other platform specific features.