Brett Terpstra

22 posts on MacStories since May 2015

Brett is an independent Mac developer, author, podcaster, and blogger. He develops Marked 2, a Markdown preview app, and nvALT along with David Halter. You can find his podcasts (Systematic and Overtired) at ESN, and tales of mad code science at brettterpstra.com.

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THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

Daylite

The CRM with Apple Fans in Mind


Daylite 6 for Mac and iOS

Daylite 6 was released today for both Mac and iOS, and it’s a major upgrade for the business productivity app. Already boasting a complete set of tools for managing projects, clients, and tasks for an individual or workgroup, the new version adds a slew of new features that take the app even further.

One of the major highlights of this release is the announcement of “Daylite Cloud.” Previously, centralizing a group’s Daylite data required running a copy of Daylite Server. With Daylite Cloud, it’s all handled seamlessly, allows offline access, is cheaper, and has no barrier to incorporating it into your company workflow.

The task management features of Daylite have also expanded. The constraints of the previous Pipeline/Activity Set features have been augmented by a “Task Lists” feature, allowing free-form creation of task lists that might not be assigned to a linear timeline, with complete control over ordering, a new entry interface, and additional fields for time, location, estimated time, and other details. There’s also a new “Smart Filtering Bar” for viewing tasks by details such as assigned team member, category, or keyword.

The iOS version has new goodies as well, with features including Today Widgets, full filtering capabilities, and improved editing of Daylite entries. It also adds file linking tools which allow you to snap a photo and link it to one or more items in Daylite.

If you’re a Mail.app user, also check out the Daylite Mail Assistant. It’s not a new feature, but it’s impressive. It allows you to link emails to Daylite items, schedule meetings, and share data without a chain of cc’s and forwards, all from within Mail.

For a complete rundown of all the new features, check out the announcement post on the Daylite blog. You can learn more about Daylite on the Marketcircle website.




Zen Timer: Elegant Pomodoro on Mac

Zen Timer has improved my daily work life. I have ADHD, and I recently went through a snafu where my disorder was untreated for a couple of months. In order to get any work done, I needed more structured work time, so I gave the Pomodoro technique another go. It turned out to be a huge help for me, and if it can help someone with a level of concentration as hopeless as mine, I have to believe it’s a great tool for more “normal” people, too.

At its core, Pomodoro is a simple method of working and resting in timed intervals. There are a variety of timers available on Mac and iOS for this, and just as I was making the effort to start implementing the technique again, I found Zen Timer. It’s a beautiful and creative app for interval timing that immediately became part of my daily workflow.

Zen Timer generates an animated tree which grows during a work interval, and when the timer is up, the leaves of the tree fall to the ground and rest there while it counts down to your next work period. When the next work interval starts, the tree begins growing anew. Zen Timer generates a unique tree each time, and you can customize the colors, line thicknesses, transparency and more things that people with ADHD (or OCD…) probably shouldn’t be allowed to spend too much time tweaking.

It’s visually customizable, but I’ve found there’s a specific way I like to run it: I set the size of the window as large as it will go, make the window background transparent, and set it at the bottom of the viewport at Desktop level on one of my auxiliary displays. You can hide the timer and controls during work periods, so I’m left with an elegant tree growing on my desktop while I work. I customized my wallpaper and the tree colors, of course. Because I could.

While Zen Timer comes with intervals set to the Pomodoro defaults, its timer settings are easily modified to work with any lengths of time in each interval.

If you’re looking for a new Pomodoro timer on your Mac, or are like me and just need a better way to work, check out Zen Timer ($4.99 US) on the Mac App Store. If you’re curious, check out the developer’s website for an excellent video of Zen Timer in action.


Elegant Image Watermarking and Resizing with Watermarker 2

I’m a bit behind in mentioning it, but Watermarker 2 is out. This Mac app from developer (and former MacStories writer) Don Southard lets you quickly resize and add professional watermarks to batches of photos. It’s a great-looking app that elegantly accomplishes its goal.

You can use custom text, import your own logo or image, and apply a customizable strike-through “X” over an image (all with adjustable transparency). You can also add pixelation to an image to obscure parts of it, and annotate images with additional shapes.

Watermarker 2 offers powerful batch photo manipulation features such as renaming groups of files based on patterns and resizing using pixel or percentage constraints.

You can save your watermark settings as presets, and apply them to batches in the future with a couple of clicks. There’s even an Action Extension for sending images from other apps to Watermarker, and a Share Sheet for sending watermarked images to others.

Watermarker 2 Action Extension

Watermarker 2 Action Extension

Watermarker 2 is available for $14.99, both on the Mac App Store and through direct purchase (with a free trial available).


Instant Hosted Web Pages From Markdown With Loose Leaves

Loose Leaves is a handy (free) utility for OS X that takes selected Markdown text from almost any app and instantly creates a web page on the secure Loose Leaves server that you can link to and share.

Loose Leaves is available anywhere, and just a hotkey away in any app. If you’ve ever needed to share more than 140 characters, link long text in Trello or Slack, or just effortlessly share an idea from your notes, this is a handy tool to have.

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Acorn 5: Shape Generators, PDF Import, and More

I’ve been an Acorn user for years now. I first started using it as my primary photo editing tool because I could open, edit, and export a perfectly-optimized web image before Photoshop had finished bouncing in the Dock. Photoshop has improved its launch time in recent versions, but Acorn has stepped up its game, too.

Acorn 5 came out this week, and it adds some powerful new features. Notably, it adds tools for vector manipulation and generation, as well as additional bezier and vector tools, PDF Import, snapping to grids, guides, other shapes, and more.

If you’re a Photoshop user looking for an alternative, Acorn has the tools you’re used to: dodge and burn, hue and curve adjustments, custom selection editing, and everything you need to do advanced photo editing. Acorn 5 can even import Photoshop brushes. Given the wide diversity of custom brushes available on the net, this opens up a lot of possibilities.

Version 5 also adds additional non-destructive filters and adjustments for both raster and vector layers, and the new Shape generators and processors are stackable and non-destructive as well. The layer adjustments are stored in the native Acorn file format, so you can always access and update them.

Acorn still has all of the great tools from version 4, including professional photo editing tools, Smart Layer Export for automatic 1x and 2x images, and the best compression on exported PNGs you’re likely to find.

Acorn 5 is $24.99 US on the Mac App Store (also available for direct purchase, with a few small differences). Check out the website for more info, and read the release notes for a mind-boggling list of all of the new features.



Billings Pro Adds Mobile Estimates and Apple Watch Features

I’ve used Billings for invoicing and time tracking since shortly after I first started freelancing years ago. I recently (finally) upgraded to Billings Pro, and I’ve been testing out the most recent update to the apps for Mac and iOS. The latest version brings Apple Watch support, mobile estimates, and seamless integration of all of the Billings Pro features across all my devices.

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