Posts tagged with "markdown"
I've long been using iThoughts to create mind maps for my longform stories, but I've been playing around with the latest MindNode for iOS over the past couple of weeks, and I'm intrigued. MindNode 4.5 for iOS adds the ability to export mind maps as TextBundle archives (more precisely, the compressed version called TextPack), which can then be opened as rich documents in Ulysses.
Launched three years ago, TextBundle is an archive format designed to let Markdown text editors exchange text documents that also contain referenced images. Ulysses, my favorite text editor, fully supports the TextBundle spec, along with the popular Bear and Marked. With the latest MindNode 4.5, this means you can now create a mind map that contains sub-nodes, inline images, and notes, export it as TextBundle to Ulysses (or other apps), and you'll end up with a Markdown-formatted sheet that retains inline attachments.
While writing in plain text with Markdown formatting is fantastic for file portability, there's the downside of .txt files not being able to act as containers of other referenced files (such as screenshots). Ulysses' unique handling of sheets breaks with the tradition of plain text files, but it enables for powerful additions to standard Markdown editing, including notes, keywords, and images. I've been writing in Ulysses for over a year, and its non-standard approach to Markdown hasn't been an issue because every time I publish a story or save a draft for a document I'm working on, I also save a second copy of the same file as a regular .txt in my Dropbox. This way, I enjoy the best of both worlds – Ulysses' richer editing environment, and the portability of plain text files synced with Dropbox.
With MindNode, TextBundle, and Ulysses, I can now create mind maps that contain images and notes, outline a document visually, and then copy it to Ulysses, where I can write, edit, and continue to see images referenced inline. This feels like a much better workflow than having to constantly keep my text editor next to a mind map. I'm going to test this system and evaluate how much it could be automated1 over the next few weeks, but, overall, it's a fantastic improvement for MindNode and Ulysses users.
MindNode 4.5 is available on the App Store.
- My ideal scenario: I would like to export a .textbundle archive from Ulysses and let Workflow turn local image references into images uploaded somewhere on the web. However, I can't figure out how to open .textbundle archives with Workflow, as changing their extension to .zip won't work. ↩︎
In a seemingly minor 1.7.2 update released over the weekend, the Workflow team brought a few notable file-based changes to the app.
Workflow's existing support for cloud storage services has been expanded and all file actions have been unified under a single 'Files' category. You can now choose files from iCloud Drive, Dropbox, or Box within the same action UI, and there are also updated actions to create folders, delete files, and get links to files. Now you don't have to switch between different actions for iCloud Drive and Dropbox – there's only one type of File action, and you simply pick a service.
Interestingly, this means that Workflow can now generate shareable links for iCloud Drive files too; here's an example of a workflow to choose a file from the iCloud Drive document provider and copy its public link to the clipboard. (Under the hood, Workflow appears to be using the Mail Drop APIs for uploads. These links aren't pretty, but they work.)
There's also a noteworthy change for Ulysses users. Workflow now allows you to easily extract details from Ulysses sheets using their ID. After giving Workflow permission to access your Ulysses library (which, unfortunately, still has to be done using a glorified x-callback-url method), you'll be able to chain Workflow and Ulysses to, say, get the Markdown contents of a document, extract its notes, or copy its title to the clipboard. The new 'Get Ulysses Sheet-Get Details of Ulysses Sheet' combo makes Ulysses automation much easier and faster.
If you work with files in Workflow on a daily basis, and especially if you're an iCloud Drive user, you'll want to check out the new actions and rethink some of your existing workflows. You can get the latest version of Workflow here.
Ole Zorn's Editorial was the text editor that completely reimagined how I could work from iOS. While I have since moved to Ulysses as my primary text editor, I still use Editorial almost daily for its unique Markdown automation. Editorial's combination of Python scripting and visual workflows for plain text editing is unparalleled and there's nothing else like it on the App Store.
After a couple of years without updates and a long TestFlight beta period, Editorial has been updated for iOS Split View and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. There are other changes (the workflow editor has been moved to the accessory panel and the Python editor now opens in a separate tab), but, overall, it's still the same Editorial you know and love, updated for the latest iOS devices. I've been using the beta version of Editorial 1.3 for several months now – being able to keep Editorial next to another app is great for editing and research, and moving back and forth between a document and a workflow is easier.
As for everything else, my coverage of Editorial 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2 still stands; Editorial is the text editor for iOS power users thanks to its excellent automation features, advanced Markdown editing, and TaskPaper integration. As I wrote in November, I still edit all my longform stories in Editorial. Despite the paucity of updates, I love the app as it's a shining example of pro software for iOS.
If you haven't played with Editorial in a while, now's a good time to check it out again (the app is also available at a discounted price of $4.99).
With the new Workflow actions, you can further automate Bear without writing a single URL scheme yourself. They are quite powerful: you can create new notes in the app, open a specific note in Bear (something Apple Notes can't do), and even turn a webpage into Markdown and save it as a note in Bear.
My favorite action, though, is 'Add to Bear Note', which can take any file or text and append it to an existing note. I have a Scratchpad note in Bear where I keep a little bit of everything, and with this workflow I can quickly pick a file or a photo and send it to the bottom of the note. Great stuff.
Bear actions are available in the latest version of Workflow.
A major update to iA Writer, the popular Markdown text editor for iOS and macOS, has been released earlier today. I didn't have enough time to test the beta of version 4.0, but I'm intrigued by the idea of file transclusion – effectively, a way to structure documents with content blocks based on local file references.
From the blog post:
We’ve made a swath of improvements in iA Writer 4. The meat on the bone is this new file referencing syntax. Every file reference you insert adds a block of content to your document, be it an image, table, or plain text file. These content blocks can then be ordered, stacked and chained with ease.
We think this syntax is a natural extension to Markdown, and it would please us to see other apps use it too. We’re a bit nervous since it’s a deviation, but we’d still like to try it out and hope it finds friends. We’ve published an introductory spec on GitHub to get the ball rolling. Hopefully, content blocks based on file transclusion will become a thing beyond iA Writer. One day all Markdown editors may work like that, but, as IBM famously said, why wait?
You can reference text files, images, and even .csv files to include in the compiled text output as MultiMarkdown tables. I think this is a genius way to handle file embeds in longer documents, and it's something I would consider for future longform projects. I'm not aware of any other Markdown text editor for iOS that implements a similar option. I'd also like to see iA go beyond local file callbacks (which only work with iCloud) and allow documents to be comprised of files stored in iOS document providers. iA Writer is one of the few text editors that fully support opening and editing files from external document providers, so extending that integration to content blocks would be the next logical step.
There's a lot to like in iA Writer; I don't think it's appreciated enough by iOS power users. The aforementioned integration with iOS document providers is solid, there are several editing tools such as writing statistics and parts-of-speech highlights, plenty of output options, support for iCloud versions, and more. I hope that iA will consider adding more features to the app's basic URL scheme in the future – one area where iA Writer is considerably behind alternatives such as Ulysses and 1Writer.
I'm going to play around with iA Writer for a while – I feel like the app deserves more attention, and I want to experiment with document providers and content blocks for MacStories reviews and our newsletters.
As I wrote in an issue of MacStories Weekly (exclusive to Club MacStories members), I recently moved my Club-related notes from the Apple Notes app to Trello. Because Club MacStories is a collaborative effort, it made sense to use Trello's project management features to let the entire MacStories team see my notes. However, moving those notes to Trello considerably decreased my usage of Apple Notes, which left me wondering if it was time to consider an alternative app for my personal note-taking needs.
I praised Apple Notes numerous times since its relaunch on iOS 9. I believe Notes and Safari are Apple's two best iOS apps, and I recommend Notes to anyone planning a switch from Evernote or OneNote. Notes is surprisingly advanced and fast; its iCloud sync is reliable; it even received support for collaboration in iOS 10. I've used Notes as my only note-taking app for over a year now.
After moving my most frequently accessed notes to Trello1, I looked at what was left in Notes, and I realized that I wanted to see if a different app could fill the gaps Apple didn't address. For everything Notes gets right, there are several limitations that have required me to change how I work: Notes has no native Markdown support, no automation features, and its organization system based on folders could use a revamp. I accepted Notes' shortcomings because I had no other choice; could a new app lure me away from it through the promise of features Apple would never ship?
My transition from Notes to Trello couldn't have come at a better time. I've been keeping an eye on Bear, a new note-taking app developed by Italian studio Shiny Frog, for the entire summer. Bear piqued my interest right away: like Notes, it was based on CloudKit sync, but Bear also strived to augment the experience for "online writers" thanks to Markdown, automation features, themes, tags, cross-reference links, and more.
As Bear betas went out to testers, I told myself I wouldn't need it because I was perfectly fine in Notes. But when I noticed that I was using Notes less frequently anyway, I took the plunge, moved my remaining personal notes to Bear, and put the app on my Home screen. This happened two weeks ago.
When I have to research and outline longform feature stories such as my iOS reviews, I use iThoughts. I wrote about my mind-mapping workflow in the Club MacStories newsletters before: essentially, iThoughts allows me to have finer controls over the way my mind maps look and how they work with external keyboards on the iPad.
I love the way I can structure a mind map in iThoughts to my needs, and several touches such as pasting images into nodes or quickly creating parallel or nested nodes speed up editing and collection of research material. Without iThoughts, my iOS 10 review wouldn't have been possible.
Today, iThoughts developer Craig Scott launched version 4.0 of the app with native Markdown formatting. Markdown was already supported in the iThoughts URL scheme to create templates; now, you can format text inside individual notes with standard Markdown and iThoughts will display it as rich text when you're done editing.
I took Markdown formatting for a spin today, and it's exactly what I hoped it would be (for instance, I like how links are automatically converted after pasting them in a node). This is going to be extremely useful in June 2017, but I also think it'll help me use iThoughts more regularly alongside my text editor.
TableFlip, by indie developer Christian Tietze, does something no other Mac app I know of does – it lets you create and edit Markdown tables in a familiar spreadsheet-like interface. Table syntax is part of Fletcher Penny’s MultiMarkdown extension of John Gruber’s Markdown format for displaying HTML in easily readable plain text. MultiMarkdown’s syntax for tables is handy for short tables, but can get unwieldy and complex with larger tables. TableFlip fixes that by letting you flip between a plain text document and a fully-rendered and editable version of your table.