I often receive inquiries concerning ways to automatically pull a date from the text of a PDF document and insert it into the file name. This has, to some degree, become a Arthurian quest to automate file naming and use accurate dates. Since I first released Paperless, I've had several readers send in suggestions that involved very complex AppleScripts, multiple Hazel rules, and other devices that never quite seem to work.
Today, Paul Kim released Hazel version 3.1. The new version includes an improved content matching feature to include dates. This seemingly benign feature is anything but. It allows you to search the contents of a document for date formatted text. You can even set the type of date format you're looking for. For instance 6/19/13 or June 19, 2013.
If Hazel finds a date, it will then retain that date and save it, in essence, as a variable. You can then apply that variable later to the file. In this case, I'm going to use the date in the file name. Hazel even corrects the date format, converting the slashes to dashes. It's like magic. This new feature got me so excited, I made a short video explaining how to do it. My thanks to Johnny Knittle for providing the music.
Organizing conference calls used to be a lot of trouble. It required a pay service, multiple telephone numbers and access codes (that were always changing), and the simple act of getting word out to everyone about the details always took more time than it should have. Times are changing. I recently started using freeconferencecalls.com for conference calls. It’s a great, free service that gives you a single call-in number and access code that never changes. You don’t have to schedule anything with the service. You just send out the number, access code, and time to your call participants and get back to work.
At first I just kept these numbers in my contacts list and used a bit of copy and paste when necessary. After doing this a few times, I realized TextExpander was a much better solution. I’ve now put together a clever little TextExpander snippet that sends out the conference number, access code, and date and time for the call.
I’ve also added a fill-in snippet for the conference call agenda and a pop-up menu for the estimated length of time. I find that if you give people an agenda and time estimate going into a conference call, you’re much more likely to stay on the agenda and complete it within the estimated time.
Now when I have a new conference call to setup, I just open up an email to all the participants, fire off the TextExpander snippet, and send it off. In addition to saving me a lot of time, I think it scares the other participants to the call just a little bit.
I’ve actually got two of these snippets because I have two freeconferencecall.com accounts. One is for the day job (which gets shared with other participants at my office) and the other is for MacSparky.
Here is the snippet in action:
Keyboard Maestro is one of my favorite Mac utilities. They’ve recently released version 6 and it is a really great update. If you’re unaware of this application, you need to check it out. It lets you automate nearly anything on your Mac. The new version includes some great nerdy fodder. For instance, you can now trigger a macro when you plug in a USB device. Do you have a ScanSnap scanner and want the ScanSnap software to load when you plug it in? Keyboard Maestro can make that happen. The new version also can run macros when your Mac connects to a new network. For instance, if you want certain application to run when you arrive at work, Keyboard Maestro can do that. I also dig the new icon.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. We are going to do an updated Mac Power Users show on this application. (We last covered it in 2011.) If you want to get ahead of the curve, check it out now. If you bought version 5 from the Mac App Store (like me), you need to transfer your license and buy an upgrade from the developer directly. There is no way this app could comply with Apple’s sandboxing rules.
Hoban Press is sponsoring MacSparky.com this week. I’ve heard from many readers that love their new Hoban Cards pressed out of Hoban’s 1902 letterpress machine. I sure love mine. Evan and the gang are expanding.
Hoban Press specializes in custom letterpress printed items like Business Cards and Stationery. This is the best choice if you need to use your own logo or artwork. They also provide design and layout services.
Hoban Cards specializes in in minimal calling cards. This is a less expensive way to get into letterpress printing. Pick from among 12 beautiful, typographic calling card templates. These are perfect for individuals or businesses looking for a unique and classy alternative to conventional, mass produced, soulless business cards.
There is no doubt I’m a geek but I have to admit I really love handing out letterpress cards … like a gentleman. Use ‘MacSparky’ during checkout to receive free shipping.
If you have a unique product or service you'd like to advertise at MacSparky, let me know.
iWork '09 for the Mac released on January 6, 2009. 2009! That is 1,619 days ago. I use the heck out of iWork. In an industry that thrives on Microsoft Word, I surreptitiously write legal documents in Pages. I run a legal practice and publishing business out of Numbers and I largely pay for my shoes giving Keynote presentations. You could say I'm invested.
So when Roger Rosner took the stage on Monday and explained he was going to talk about iWork, I felt like I was finally getting the update for Mac that I've been waiting for so long. I know the tech world is full of hyperbole but in this case the term "so long" is correct.
In January 2009, when iWork '09 was released, I was thrilled. They added some revolutionary new features (like Magic Move and Instant Alpha) that immediately both made me more productive and made my work look better. It was love at first sight. By early 2010 I was ready to fall in love again. What new feature would iWork get to make me look smarter? Then Steve took the stage to introduced the world to the iPad and a fully working version of iWork for iPad.
"That's okay", I told myself. "They didn't have time to make a new Mac version. In 2011, I'm going to get a new iWork for my Mac and I'm sure it will be double the sexy." Then 2011 rolled around and iWork for iPad got a lot better but there was no new Mac version. Indeed that has been the case every year since 2009. Apple has iterated repeatedly on the iOS versions, taking them a long way. I've been consoling myself on this lack of Mac update with noticeable improvements on the iPad. Now I can even track changes in Pages on the iPad. Incredible.
Nevertheless, I still look at the iWork '09 box on my shelf and think wistfully about four years' worth of innovations that never shipped. "This year", I told myself as WWDC approached. "This is the year that I will get a new version of iWork for Mac." What we got instead was a promise of some future update for the Mac and a demonstration of iWork for iCloud, a product which, in its current form, I will almost never use.
Don't get me wrong. What Apple did with iWork in a web browser is impressive. I didn't think it was possible to pull off the intricate graphic operations they demonstrated at WWDC in a browser. Nevertheless, the web versions of the iWork apps aren't as good as the native Mac versions. I won't be able to manage tiny granular animations and object transitions the way I can on my Mac. Those four year old features I love aren't going be in the iCloud versions any time soon.
I understand web apps are a large part of the future of computing and the advantage that comes with any modern web browser—even one on a Windows machine—running iWork. However, this isn't something us iWork users in the trenches need right now. We need power and innovation on the platform we use every day. We need a new Mac version.
Also missing from the iWork for iCloud presentation was any mention of the best reason to put an office app on the web, collaboration. I've never been happy with the feature set of any of the web-based office solutions. They don't have the features we get with native apps and are often ugly as sin. There is, however, one redeeming feature in collaboration. Multiple people can work on the same online document at once. Google has mastered this so that I can write one paragraph while watching a colleague (or two or three colleagues) write another paragraph on the same page. iCloud for iWork doesn't support this. Maybe online collaboration is on the roadmap for iWork for iCloud but there was no mention of it on Monday.
What I'd really like is for Apple to stop toying with my heart. It's okay to start building web versions and continue to improve upon the iOS versions. All of that is important. However, before doing anything else, deliver a new version of iWork for the Mac that throws me head over heels in love all over again.
Macworld's first look at iOS 7 gives a nice feel for the big update. It's been a few days now since Apple unveiled iOS 7 and it seems like the general consensus is that this new look gives Apple a place to grow where the prior look didn't have much future. While I have no inside knowledge, I suspect getting this new look presentable in time for WWDC was Apple's own Manhatten Project and there are probably a lot of really great stories about how they pulled it off. That being said, I think they will refine it quite a bit in the early days something akin to what happened in the early days of Mac OS X. While I'm largely a fan of iOS 7, I can't stop looking at that white stuff around the new Safari icon and wonder, "what the heck is that?"
The original "vision" for the Mac Power Users included not discussing news and rumors. We made an exception for this week's WWDC which had many new announcements relating to how both Katie and I see using our Macs, iPads, and iPhones in the future. Episode 142 is, therefore, up and ahead of schedule. I know this episode is different for us but I think it came out pretty good. The first few minutes of the episode also includes an interview with Jean MacDonald with an update of her App Camp For Girls project.
This week's episode of the Mac Power Users features an interview with Alex Lindsay. Alex travels 250,000 miles a year and has some great ideas for traveling with technology. Alex is also has some really interesting projects going on including a visual effects school he helped establish in Rwanda. This episode is a good one.
I'd like to thank doo.net for sponsoring MacSparky.com again. doo is a Cloud based paperless management service. You can connect all of your document sources and doo does the hard work of indexing and organizing your documents for you with automatic intelligent tagging. This provides the basis for an extremely efficient search. Moreover, with cloud-based document storage, you can access all your documents no matter where you are and what device you are holding. The new version 1.2 now even includes support for external hard drives. Learn more at doo.net.
I went through a few Twitter apps before shelling out for Tweetbot and haven’t looked back since. I like how well it syncs my timeline between devices and it is just very well designed and a pleasure to use. I maintain the Twitter account for my school (@pbvmschool) and a personal/professional account (@techedvance) and Tweetbot handles multiple accounts very well.
Lately I have been switching between this and Yahoo Weather. Both are very good and I like the design of each, even though they are very different. The simple animations that both of them have are nice little touches that add to the user experience.
I use Evernote for storage of reference materials. Usually these are things that I find online that pertain to my work. I also store notes for my graduate school studies here. I frequently link text in one note to another (explained here) which is helpful when studying and writing. The best part of Evernote is that everything is searchable. I am intrigued by the reminders that were just added to Evernote last week but haven’t used them much yet.
I tried Apple’s podcast app when it was released and again when it received a major update but wasn’t satisfied. Downcast is great and allows me to easily manage the large number of podcasts that I listen to. I keep audio podcasts on my phone and video podcasts on my iPad.
This has been my RSS reader of choice for several years now. I’ve tried others but always end up coming back. One thing that is frustrating is that the iPhone version seems to be in active development and utilizes some new UI elements that don’t exist on the iPad version yet. The iPad app also lacks some of the features of the iPhone version. For example, I would like to be able to subscribe to feeds on the iPad. I haven’t decided what I am going to do when Google Reader dies in a few weeks but it sounds like Reeder is planning to continue on with other RSS services.
I use Checkmark for location and time-based reminders. Apple’s reminders app is just too tedious for setting a time or location (I rarely use Siri for this type of thing). Checkmark is well designed and works flawlessly. It also has recurring reminders which I use to help me remember to do certain chores around the house weekly. I have tried to use OmniFocus for this but Checkmark does the job just fine. If it’s not in OmniFocus, it ends up here.
I used Byword for quite a while but encountered a few bugs and the app hasn’t been updated in over a year so I started looking for something new. I settled on Notesy because it has full text search and still has all of the features of Byword that I need. I usually have about two or three dozen text files going at any one time. I use them as scratchpads for things that I am actively working on like agendas and notes from meetings. Everything is synced through Dropbox. I trust that if something goes wrong, Dropbox has all the different versions of my text files and I can go back and restore them if necessary. I use a PC at school but can edit my text files with a great free utility called ResophNotes. It’s no nvALT but it works.
I started using OmniFocus in January and have written a bit about the experience on my blog. I do not use OmniFocus on the Mac, but might start once they release 2.0. This app has become essential for me because I wear many hats as the sole administrator at my school and there is a lot to keep track of - more than my brain alone can handle. OmniFocus allows me to look at everything quickly to determine what needs to be worked on next and helps me remember what I was doing before I was interrupted by all the things that come up during the school day. I’m getting to the point where I don’t remember what I did in previous years to keep track of things.
I moved Apple’s calendar app to the third page of my iPhone and put it in a folder along with all of the other apps I don’t use and never find myself opening. Fantastical is a more than adequate replacement. It’s a well designed app and just keeps getting better with each update. I wish it were available as a native iPad app.
Drafts is an app that I never thought I would need, but is now essential. It sits in my dock and I open it right away anytime I have anything I need to write down. It is so nice to not have to think about what app to open when something pops into my head. I just open Drafts and jot down the item and then send it where it needs to go. I am particularly fond of the feature that lets me append and prepend text to files in Dropbox. This is very helpful for adding to the lists and meeting agendas that I keep in Dropbox. I also use Drafts to write down quick notes when I am doing classroom walkthroughs or adding tasks to OmniFocus.
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
I don’t have any apps that I’m embarrassed or feel guilty about using. I will occasionally try a game but they usually don’t stay on my phone for more than a day or two. There are just too many other things I would rather be using my phone for and I’ve never been much of a gamer.
What is the app you are still missing?
That’s hard to say. I’m sure that there will be something that comes out someday that I will wonder how I ever lived without. It will probably be an app like Drafts that I never even knew I needed until after it was on my phone.
How many times a day do you use your iPhone?
I would never even try to count this. It is always with me when I am at school, often in my hand as I’m walking through the hallways. No one even blinks an eye any more when I have it out at meetings, classrooms or while talking to a teacher in the hallway. I don’t have a very good memory but the iPhone makes people think that I remember everything.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?
This might seem obvious but I like that I can do so much with a device that fits in the palm of my hand. I’ve had an iPhone for nearly two years now and still marvel from time to time that I can do so much with it. It’s also helpful to have such a good camera with me all the time. I will frequently take quick photos of student activities, special events, or a burned out light that needs to be replaced. There are fewer and fewer occasions where I feel I need a “real” camera.
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
There are really only a few things that cross my mind on a regular basis. For instance, it would be nice if notifications would sync between devices. If I clear a notification on my phone I wish it would disappear from my iPad so that I don’t see it a second time. I would also add features to Mail for iOS. It would be great if it was more like Reeder and allowed the user to configure an action to take place with a left swipe, for example. Finally, I would fix some of the annoying aspects of Apple Configurator (the software used to configure large numbers of iPads at once) that Fraser Spiers and Bradley Chambers recently discussed on their podcast. I would also remove all skeuomorphism from iOS because it adds nothing to the experience. Hopefully we’ll see some of these changes unveiled on June 10th at WWDC.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks for asking me to share!
Today John Gruber, Brent Simmons, and Dave Wiskus jointly released an iPhone app, Vesper. If you were assembling a dream team of people to create a new application, I can’t think of a better roster.
The application is a replacement for the Apple Notes app and all of its yellow paper and marker felt font glory.
The real story about this application is the user interface. If this is an example of the direction we’re heading (I think it is) then I’m ready for the future. There are so many little details of this user interface that I love. For instance, when you slide a Note to the left to add it to the archive, the direction arrow slowly moves in relation to your finger and the color switches from grey to orange when you get far enough to archive. Transition from the main view to the new note view has just enough zoom. The app is flatter but not flat. When you slide the main screen to the right, it exposes a list of all notes that is clearly behind the main view.
It’s these little touches that I’m sure went through many, many iterations. This app helps you as a user without banging you over the head with Corinthian leather.
I’m really enjoying Vesper. It does have limitations. There is no synchronization available and, for that matter, no iPad or Mac version of the app to synchronize with. In a recent interview at Macstories, John Gruber explains they wanted to focus all of their attention on the iPhone application first. I suspect we’ll be getting additional versions for the other platforms and syncing in the future. In the meantime, I really love this app and I will find use for it.
Byword (Mac App Store) (iOS App Store) is one of my writing staples. I work in it every day. Indeed, I’m writing these very words in Byword. Yesterday MetaClassy released version 2.0, which is free to existing users and includes some nice upgrades. Byword now can save a Markdown document to rich text on the clipboard. Now you can write in Markdown and copy to rich text with one keystroke for later pasting in Mail, Pages, or a rich text web interface. Byword also now retains your scroll position in preview mode. This is a small thing but appreciated. There are several other small improvements, like smoother animation, speedier sync, and other under-the-hood improvements. It’s a great upgrade.
This new version also includes an in-app purchase ($5) with one-step blog publishing. You can now publish your Byword documents directly to WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Evernote or Scriptogram. If you are writing for any of those in platforms with Byword, this is a no brainer. Now it is just three steps: 1. write your text; 2. push a button to publish; 3. go drink like a tortured author. This is a nice upgrade and further solidifies Byword’s prominent position in my writing workflow.
Mac Power Users 140 is live. In this week’s episode, Katie and I blow through a lot of feedback. The outline was far-reaching including security, automation, writing, and a rapidfire section that covered a variety of topics. While this sounds boring, I think there was a lot of good content in the show.
Also, I guested on Adam Christianson’s MacCast where he asked me to pretend I was in charge of Apple and give my WWDC keynote announcement. I fell into the role like I was Sir Laurence Olivier. I even wore hipster clothes while I recorded. You may be surprised by my big announcement.
My friend Jean MacDonald was attending WWDC a few years ago and looked around the room. It dawned on her that she could only find three women in the room (including herself). Most people would say, “somebody should do something about that”. Jean said, “I’m going to fix that”. She’s doing just that. For the last year she has put many hours into creating App Camp for Girls. It's a fun place where girls put their geek on and make iPhone apps. It’s happening. It’s for real. Jean is now looking for help from the community. We need more women developers and this is your chance to pitch in. Check out the website and consider donating.
It's just a week until WWDC so Brett Terpstra and I are celebrating with a sale on our book, 60 Mountain Lion Tips. The book includes sixty of our favorite Mac tips with explanations and screencasts. It's a great book and it can up your game on your Mac. The best part is that now through Sunday, you can get it for just $2.99. Both Brett and I are proud of this book so check it out if you haven't already and tell your friends.
This week doo.net is sponsoring MacSparky.com. doo is a Cloud based paperless management service. You can connect all of your document sources and doo does the hard work of indexing and organizing your documents for you with automatic intelligent tagging. This provides the basis for an extremely efficient search. Moreover, with cloud-based document storage, you can access all your documents no matter where you are and what device you are holding. The new version 1.2 now even includes support for external hard drives. Learn more at doo.net.