Ulysses, MindNode and DayOne are excellent writing, planning and journalling apps, respectively. Many would argue they are best of breed in their respective categories and perhaps even their main reason for using Apple hardware. Certainly I feel this way and I’ve done a fair bit of research over the last little while to find these gems and have enjoyed getting to know them better.
In this article I’d like to show you how to link between the documents of these apps, but first a bit of background.
What is Mac-like?
Although Ulysses, MindNode and DayOne are standalone, unrelated apps, you’ll find many people that use all three. If you had to find a quality that unites them I think it would be how Mac-like they are. “Mac-like” is a funny term when you think about it and it may confuse some readers yet it appears on almost every description page of Mac software. In truth only a few apps properly live up to that title. There’s a huge amount of design aesthetic that’s gone in to Apple’s own apps and indeed many of the best 3rd party apps. Luckily for developers it’s all catalogued in a document called The Human Interface Guidelines. 1
One of the key aspects of Mac-like software and the Apple design aesthetic is application interoperability. 2 The original way to achieve this was through drag & drop and indeed this feature has remained unchanged for several decades now.
Fast forward to 2015 and you have excellent apps like Ulysses, MindNode and DayOne, and of course they have all considered interoperability carefully as each one imports and exports their data to multiple formats. 3
But one Mac-like feature that seems to be missing is how to link between the documents of these apps. Here are my suggestions.
Ulysses to DayOne
Well DayOne is a very developer-friendly app, so they’ve done a bit of extra work and it’s quite easy to invoke the app from other apps and indeed open specific journal entries.
Here’s the format to use
Just drop that in a Ulysses link dialog like so:
To get the unique ID of a journal entry, select the entry and hit Info > Show Entry in Finder and use the filename without the extension.
UPDATE 1: Sadly this great feature no longer works in DayOne2. I’ve contacted the authors requesting it to be reinstated.
Ulysses to MindNode
Going from Ulysses to MindNode took a bit more research. After a brief exchange with both software authors, one of the Ulysses support team discovered that just using the OS X file protocol was enough to invoke MindNode from within a Ulysses document.
Here is the process I used for getting the link:
- locate the MindNode document in the relevant iCloud drive sub-folder
- To do this, command click the icon to the left of the document name in the title bar of MindNode and select ‘iCloud Drive’, the Finder will come forward with the relevant document file selected
- Drag the file to the Terminal app to get the full path
- If your file or any parent folders have spaces in the names, the Terminal will escape them with backslashes, you need to remove these
- ensure you add the “file:///“ protocol at the beginning of the path, with 3 forward slashes
- place the result in a Ulysses link dialog box as per above
But there are still a few more gotchas to get it to work. Normally this should work in the HTML preview but because of a glitch you have to further specify “open in Safari”.
Try it, click the link in the Safari webpage. It should pop the Finder to the foreground with the MindNode document selected. Not ideal. But if you want to view the actual document in MindNode, the trick is to preview the document as a PDF.
Running at over 700 pages long, few developers bother to read the HIG. It’s a shame because it’s rare that a proven success formula is so well documented.↩
The ability for various apps to work together harmoniously and pass data to each other. ↩
These apps are also some of the best examples of how to allow users to shift effortlessly between devices without interrupting workflow.↩
With yesterday’s release of version 6.2 of Runkeeper, you can now do a run without having to carry along your iPhone. That’s a relief because it seems to be what the watch was designed for. I got in the habit of using only the watch and the Workout app, but it’s painful to sync the runs back into Runkeeper, you basically have to enter them manually on the website.
But with the latest release of the app, all the boxes are ticked:
- Runkeeper registers a workout and sends it to HealthKit, along with the basic stats for your run
- with watchOS 2.0, 3rd party apps can now access the watch hardware including the heart rate measurement sensor, so that’s also saved
- there’s no GPS on the watch so the distance is estimated with the pedometer/“motion co-processor”
Distance Estimation Under-Reported
On that last note I’ve found the estimated distances to be slightly under-reported, I’d estimate by 5%. I have a route I’ve been doing for ages and I know it’s 5km, and the watch reports 4.8km, both in Workout and Runkeeper apps.
Grant Access to Heart Rate
A mistake that I think everyone will make when using the app “headless” for the first time: failing to grant the needed permissions on the iPhone.
Runkeeper opens a dialog on your phone (which is probably sitting at home) requesting permission to access the heart rate sensor the first time you run the updated app. You don’t see this until after you run is completed and you’re back home. What you do see is an empty reading for your heart rate on the watch app which makes it look like something is broken. It works fine after you grant the access.
Another strange thing is Runkeeper reports the run as “manually added” which obviously it’s not. If was funny to see this after having to manually add so many other runs. I actually went out and bought a new armband for the iPhone 6s since the previous one didn’t fit and the day it arrived, the Runkeeper update went live in the App Store. I thought they would take ages to support “headless”.
Smart Pause/End Choices
In an improvement over the Workout app, if Runkeeper on the watch detects the phone is not present, it only allows you to pause the workout, not end it, since it can’t be saved without the networking on the phone.
Animated book reviews: what a great idea. That is exactly what you get over at the FightMediocrity Youtube channel. And a great selection of books too.
Basically you should upgrade to the latest version of OS X, El Capitan, right away if possible, the performance improvements are amazing. I haven’t seen my mac operate with such silky smoothness and fluidity for what feels like … years. It’s great.
One of the easiest ways to demonstrate this is 3 fingers down on the trackpad to see all Safari windows, or 3 fingers up to see all windows of all apps. There is no comparison to Yosemite.
Overall I’ve found most of my apps work fine and indeed better than before. Really noticeable performance improvements can be found in
- Mail, Safari and Launchpad
- huge difference when you make something fullscreen, finally feels like right animation.
- Flyover tours in Maps.app – no comparison with Yosemite, all jitteriness is now gone, the animation run silky smooth
Still testing out the rest.
There is a list of compatible/incompatible apps building up over at Macrumor’s forums and I will list bugs as I find them here:
- Apple Mail: there is one serious bug where IMAP fetching for any gmail accounts fails. There seems to be a bug where the port number is updated to zero which causes the authentication to fail. It’s easy to fix, go to Mail > Preferences > Accounts > Advanced and in the port field you will see a zero, change it to 993 then change accounts in the source list to prompt the app to save you changes, see here; on a subsequent launch of the app the SMTP passwords for 2 accounts disappeared, re-adding them in Mail > Preferences > Accounts fixed the problem
- ok this problem in fact seems to come from Google in fact, now they’ve decided that anything other than logging into gmail in a browser is “insecure” http://take.ms/6ILaY
- Bartender: the icons don’t show up in the Bartender bar at first, but eventually fresh when you play with the settings
- Monosnap: this is dead in the first EC update; update: only on retina screens
- Notes.app: it seems to have trouble finding the iCloud (main) account, I edited a note on my iPhone then all of a sudden the account was found on the Mac
- Spotify: the works but crashes frequently
- Calendar: notifications seem to get stuck. You get a badge for pending invites but even after you accept/decline the badge persists. Restarting the app 2-3 times clears it
- Messages: the badges are a little messed up, you read a new message and the badge doesn’t clear for a while …
- Preview: weird bug where you can’t zoom into some PDFs, you get a blank view
- keyboard: first time I’ve ever seen this, after a sleep/wakeup cycle my external USB keyboard was not recognised. Plugging it in/out of various USB slots did not help, restart fixed it
- USB CD-ROM drive: Interestingly, support for an external Mac CD-ROM drive is dead, you can’t even slip a DVD in after you plug in the USB drive.
- wake from sleep probs: as widely reported, it happens every once in a while that my Mac doesn’t even wake up, the screen just stays black. Hold down Power key for 10 seconds …
Macrumors also has a list of reported bugs.
I should also mention it wasn’t easy getting El Capitan to download.
Update: Beta 2
Only changes from above mentioned.
- Maps app won’t even stay open, crashes after few seconds, continuously (from the crash log, the exception note: EXC_CORPSE_NOTIFY… )
- Preview: above bug fixed
Update: Beta 7
Wow it’s been a rocky ride. Had I known it would be this rough I’m not sure I would have taken this route. For around 3-4 betas the Mail program was unusable, either crashing when selecting flagged emails, or just randomly crashing.
- Mail: even on Beta 7 the Rules don’t work at all. You set them then after a few launches the target folder for a rule is forgotten. Perhaps Apple is not aware of this?
- Bluetooth/Mouse: This bluetooth issue also existed in 10.10.3 but was eventually fixed. Basically if you use more than one mouse for your Mac you’re in big trouble. For example, the case where you have a laptop and you use it at home with one mouse, then at work with another mouse because you don’t want to cart the mouse around with you on the go. The current version of the problem is more severe than before where you could kill the bluetooth daemon blued and the re-spawned instance would work. I’ve just tried restarting the mouse around 10 times, and attempted pairing the same amount of times, and neither worked. A full reboot of the machine plus deleted the mouse profile and re-establishing it seems to work. A massive PITA. I find it quite interesting the OS X developers don’t appear to have the hardware equivalent of unit tests that would catch these kind of regressions.
- Dual Monitors: For a long time, the problem has existed that windows you put on the smaller Monitor (the laptop), reappear 95% offscreen, and you have to pull them all back to appear within the screen bounds again. With Beta 7, they go completely offscreen, in the case of Mail you can restart the app again to see the window.
- Calendar: Major glitches from the last release appear to be only partially fixed, when you enter an event and it reverts to “new event” when you tab out. Fixed: you can paste events into a date in Month view, this worked in b6 but required a restart of the app to update the UI.
- System Prefs, iCloud: This is more stable in b7, it was totally broken in b6, sometimes you could select sections in System Preferences, the window wouldn’t redraw and showed artefacts from previous states, iCloud accounts requests froze and crashed the app .. now seems back to normal
Astropad is a new solution that proposes to turn your iPad into a Wacom style graphics tablet so you can use it as a drawing/painting tool with your Mac. The website and promo video are slick, and my expectations were quite high. Probably the main sales tool that worked on me was the line about “built by former Apple engineers”.
Installing and setting up the apps was smooth – the concept is the iPad app is free, and the Mac app is free to try for 10 days, then $50 to buy. If it worked as well as a graphics tablet definitely this is a more attractive price. An entry level Wacom is £70 and a decent one £299. My stylus, an Adonit Jot Touch, was easily recognised.
I’ve done a lot of drawing and painting on the iPad with pretty much all the available apps, and at least 3 of the leading styluses (styli?), and my main complaint is that the device’s surface area is too small. So the prospect of being able to use the 24” screen plugged into my retina Macbook Pro as a canvas was exciting.
Initially Astropad selects an area the size of your iPad, on your Mac screen. Despite having a retina iPad 5, this worked out to around 1/2 the real estate on my screen. My Mac painting app, Sketchbook Pro, needed to be fit within the bounding box, which was fairly easy to adjust. But then I had 3 issues:
- the brushes and items on the Sketchbook Pro toolbar were too small to select on the iPad, it took around 5-6 taps to get the tool selected
- there is a big circle that Astropad puts permanently on view, it’s a tool to zoom and pan, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it disappear
- there’s a tool panel that’s a vertical, black bar that occupies around 1/6th of the width of the iPad screen. At one point I mysteriously got it to disappear for a minute or so, but given that the iPad screen is already small, this proved really annoying the rest of the time. With a lot of fiddling I managed to fit Sketchbook Pro’s 4 floating toolbars and the main canvas into the Astropad surface area reflected on the iPad, and squeezed them such that the Astropad black toolbar (notably always present in Astropad demo videos) still took up its required screen space. The annoying circle pan controller was moved to a bottom corner out of the way.
The main issue I had is that this product is designed to work Cintiq-style, and when you think about it, it has to be that way. In other words all interactions must take place on the iPad, and your Mac screen is really just a monitor, you can’t use it as part of the feedback loop while drawing. In other words you have to make marks on your iPad (of course) but you also have to look at the results on your iPad, not the computer monitor. When you move your stylus over the drawing canvas before making a mark, you can only see where it will land if you look at the iPad, which gives you the visual feedback. What a proper graphics tablet can do which so far is not possible with any iPad emulators is let you know the cursor position before the stylus comes into contact with the tablet surface and makes a mark.
So this was a no go for me. To Astropad’s defence it has to be said the app, website and videos are all very attractive and well made, and it already has some positive reviews, but this is not a graphics tablet replacement, at least not for me.
UPDATE: I’ve since purchased the Wacom’s Intuos Pro Medium (£299) and am very happy with the results. Ironically, I have Astropad to thank directly for pushing me towards this resolution. I was hesitant to spend the £300 but also annoyed by the idea to have 2 tablet style devices, why couldn’t one suffice? But the power of the Intuos Pro (the Medium is the minimum usable size) makes it clear that any “stylus on iPad solution” is just a gimmicky stand-in, at best something good for a quick sketch, but by no means a replacement for a proper graphics tablet. Selecting the right software to get the tablet working to its full potential was quite a tricky process, perhaps the subject of a future article.
Go to Activity Monitor, search for blued, and kill the process
With More Detail
At the time of writing OS X 10.10.2 is live and many of the grave problems with Bluetooth have been fixed. Those include
- mouse lag: the mouse was almost unusable for around the first 100 days of Yosemite going live
- audio lag: streaming audio via bluetooth was so poor it was unusable
10.10.3 is about to be released but one serious problem still persists, which is unbearable for anyone who faces it.
If you have a laptop chances are you want to move it from one location to another every once in a while. If you do this on a regular basis, like traveling between home and work, you may even want to have one bluetooth mouse per location, so you don’t have extra junk to carry back and forth. One thing the Mac in its current crippled bluetooth state does not like is connecting and disconnecting two different mice. No matter how many times you switch the mouse power on and off, or search for it in the bluetooth menu in the Mac, chances are it will never be discovered. After huge frustration I resorted to the Windows approach of restarting the whole machine, which basically should never be necessary, and the mouse is discovered right away.
So any easy way to shortcut that remedy, which seems the only way to get multiple mice working on the Mac, is just to start the bluetooth service. A non-tech way to do this is go to Activity Monitor, search for blued, and kill the process. It will restart immediately. Now your mouse will be visible 🙂
Perhaps Time Machine works in standard cases, but for some slightly edge cases it’s completely opaque. After much Googling I’ve finally discovered how to get my old photos from iPhoto back, they had been lost for over a month and I was just about to book a Genius Bar appointment in desperation.
The problem is when I upgraded to Yosemite my machine became so slow and unusable I had to reinstall the OS from scratch (the subject of another blog post). At the time I was abroad on a work trip so I thought I’d put my critical docs on a USB stick in case a Time Machine restore fails.
But even with the largest capacity USB stick I only had room for my critical docs, not my iPhoto library which was around 20gb at that point. “No problem” I thought, “I backup religiously, even my backups are synced to the web, so I will definitely be able to get everything back from Time Machine”. No such luck.
The problem seems to be if you reinstall the operating system, or even upgrade to a new major version, the Mac doesn’t recognise your backups as coming from the same disk, so they become inaccessible. When you connect to your Time Machine you can see your backup history in the Timeline on the right hand side but clicking on any dated bar doesn’t bring you back to that point in time, the save points appear to be inaccessible.
The solution is a massive hack, and definitely something that you’d never stumble into even after spending ages with trial and error.
- Hit “enter Time Machine”
- Press the key combination shift-command-C
- Then (very important) select a red bar to go back in time
Explanation: dull red bars represent backups you cannot access, bright red bars you can
- Then from Macintosh HD navigate to desired folder you want to restore
Backups will now be accessible and you can select the folder you want to restore.
Audiobooks are a great way to consume the written word. It took me quite a while to be won over by this medium, despite a 2 year campaign by a friend, but since I finished my first audiobook I’m fully convinced by the benefits of the format.
The woeful state of text consumption
Like all of us participating in social media we are bombarded by tons of articles that look like they must be essential reads. And proper books too, the list grows faster than we can keep up with. Are you like me with a large selection of great books on your shelf ordered from Amazon that you haven’t had time to read yet? Why is that? This article sums up pretty well why digital distractions prevent us from maintaining the focus required to finish a paper book from cover to cover. Audiobooks open up a new window however, they allow us to make use of low-focus time in our daily routines: traveling from A to B, grocery shopping, etc. They also provide us with an opportunity to get away from staring at a screen and take a step back from eyestrain.
Where to purchase Audiobooks?
You would think that Audible (the Amazon company) would be a good provider to buy audiobooks from but they don’t have a very competitive offering. You are either required to take out a subscription which costs a minimum of £8/month, or you can buy their audiobooks one off; they are priced approximately double what the competition charges. For example I went to buy the recent Russell Brand audiobook Revolution and it was £12.99 in iTunes, and £20.99 over at Audible.
Recommended: buy your audiobooks on iTunes on demand (avoid any subscriptions)
It’s worth checking around however, you can buy your audiobooks from many sources, with or without DRM protection, and you’ll be able to have your library in one consolidated place.
Apple – iBooks or iTunes?
iBooks store (on the Mac desktop in iBooks.app or in the iOS equivalent) has a modest selection of audiobooks, but generally iTunes has a much wider range.
Recommended: iTunes or any audiobook provider, just go for best price
Desktop or mobile purchase?
This is a tricky one. Within the ecosystem of Apple’s media/content offering, all your purchases are available to you “forever” in iCloud regardless of which device you buy them on. This is with the notable exception of audiobooks and ring tones. Frustratingly, if you ever delete any purchases of the latter types, you will have to buy them again. For this reason it makes sense do all your audiobook purchases on your desktop computer, which most likely is part of some backup routine, so you don’t lose your paid content. Don’t think that because your iDevice backs up to the cloud that it will save your audiobooks – it won’t.
Avoid purchasing audiobooks on a mobile device
Which app to use for audiobook playback?
Almost certainly you want to do all of your audiobook listening on a portable device, and much more likely on an iPhone than iPad. The Music app on iOS is absolutely terrible for audiobooks – in short unusable. There is basically a zero percent chance that you will listen to your average length 8 hour audiobook without listening to a single song in between. The Music app can’t handle this and will always return you to the start of your audiobook every time you digress and play something else with the app.
Recommended: Audible app (by Amazon), free download on the App Store
Transferring content to your iPhone
You maybe be tempted to think, especially with iOS 8, that you can just Airdrop the rather large audiobook files from your computer to your iPhone. Think again. With significant amounts of pain it will transfer to your Dropbox app if you have that installed, but it will be impossible to get it into the Audible app from there. The only way is to use a cable (groan) and sync using the desktop iTunes app. Even then the new content will not show up. Look at the 3 main tabs in the Audible app on your phone, and from Cloud / Device / iTunes select iTunes and then pull the list down to kick off a refresh. Only then will your newly synced audiobook show up.
Use a cable and sync via iTunes on your laptop
Unfortunately there is a significant barrier to entry for enjoying audiobooks on an iPhone however once you work around the above caveats it is a very enjoyable experience. I personally find audiobooks a wonderful alternative to reading paper or online text as the format not only gives a break to the eyes, but almost always seems to allow for better retention of the material. This depends on your individual learning style, of course. In many cases the narrator has a lot of character and adds an extra dimension of enjoyment to the experience. What are your thoughts?
Update March, 2016
Apple has now changed the way iTunes works and audiobooks, like almost all other purchases, can be downloaded from the cloud at any time and on all devices. Hurrah!
The easiest way to buy new titles is (finally) what you’d expect, right in iBooks on your iPhone, where you will most likely listen to it, no more messy syncing/copying/transfering/backing up required.
I use a slightly older Mac Mini as the target for my backups and due to it’s 1GB RAM limit, it cannot be upgraded past Snow Leopard, OS X 10.6.8.
One of the Apple software updates in 2012/13 introduced a bug for this version of the OS where certain mounted volumes are automatically self-eject after 10 minutes or so. Despite tons of Google search results on the subject, it’s not easy to fix the problem.
I send my Time Machine backups to a dedicated TimeCapule disk, then mount the TC on the Mini and use Crashplan to sync the backups to the web, along with a few static files/folders.
Once the self-ejecting problem appeared my backup redundancy solution no longer worked. Seeing so many HDs die without warning over the years, I progressively became more concerned about finding a workaround to the problem.
What eventually worked was to mount the TC over SMB instead of the default Apple Filing Protocol (afp) formerly known as AppleTalk. I first had to resolve the TC to an IP using the admin tools on my router, then was able to mount it with SMB using the Finder’s ‘connect to server’ option, illustrated here: http://take.ms/cv3Zw