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Posts tagged with "plain text"

CriticMarkup: Plain Text Syntax for Editorial Reviews



Gabe Weatherhead is a good friend who writes and makes great stuff. Together with Erik Hess (MacStories readers may remember his particular iPad workflow), he launched CriticMarkup, a new project I’ve helped testing for the past few weeks.

Essentially, CriticMarkup is a plain text syntax for marking up text in editorial reviews. For someone who writes in Markdown and works with a team on a daily basis, CriticMarkup is the missing piece of a puzzle that required using clunky software like Word for Mac to do any sort of change tracking or markup. CriticMarkup feels like an extension of Markdown in that it allows you, through a simple and easily understandable syntax, to insert additions, deletions, substitutions, comments, and highlights into plain text.

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Send Selected OmniFocus Task to Plain Text File

I save a lot of stuff into OmniFocus: bits of text, URLs, emails. I used to save favorite tweets into it, too. The app’s Quick Entry panel is so easy to invoke and so well-integrated with core parts of OS X  that, most of the time, I find myself clipping information that shouldn’t be into OmniFocus at all. However, I also find the process of manually going through that information beneficial to my workflow: it allows me to mentally and practically separate actionable items (tasks) from things to read and things to write (Instapaper material and my future articles, essentially).

I have created a simple AppleScript to send the selected OmniFocus task to a text file. The script is meant for how I use OmniFocus; hopefully you’ll find it useful as well. Feel free to modify it.

Typically, when I decide to go through my OmniFocus inbox, I find a lot of tasks that are actually ideas of things I want to do or write. Ideas don’t go into OmniFocus. Until those ideas become actionable items, I send them to a text file so I can elaborate on them and see if they can evolve. Like I said, most of the time those ideas are for new articles.

I store all my notes in a single Apps/ directory on my Dropbox. Based off the same AppleScript, I have created a Keyboard Maestro macro to create a new text file for each processed task; this is for ideas I know will turn out to be single, standalone articles. For ideas I’m not so sure about, I prefer to append them as text to an Ideas.txt file I keep in Dropbox as an “everything bucket” for inspiration. Read more

SearchLink: Markdown Links Without The Browser

I don’t know how Brett Terpstra finds the time to do everything he does, but I do know I enjoy the results.

Brett’s latest effort is SearchLink, a system Service to generate Markdown links automatically for a variety of web services. In Brett’s words:

SearchLink is a System Service for OS X that handles searching multiple sources and automatically generating Markdown links for text. It allows you to just write, marking things to link as you go. When you’re done, you run it on the document and — if your queries were good — have your links generated automatically without ever opening a browser.

Essentially, SearchLink is a Ruby script that, in the background, generates valid Markdown for inline links inserted in plain text. These can be links pointing to a Google search, a Mac App Store or iTunes search,, Wikipedia, and more. Instead of having to switch to the browser when you’re writing, you can just write using SearchLink’s simple syntax. Once you’re done, run the Service, and SearchLink will contact web APIs to transform your text into the first/best result for your query, formatted in Markdown. Read more

Best MultiMarkdown Previews On iOS

As a quick follow-up to my Nebulous Notes post on MultiMarkdown macros, I decided to put together a quick representation of how various apps I have tested handle MultiMarkdown previews on iOS.

For reference, this is the text I previewed in each editor:

It’s a mix of regular Markdown (reference, inline links, bold and italics, section headers), MultiMarkdown (footnotes) and regular HTML (the centered image). I always write with this combination of syntaxes because that’s how articles end up on MacStories. The mix is also a good stress test to see how an app can handle various implementations of Markdown and HTML simultaneously.

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Visualize OmniFocus As iThoughts Map, OPML, Or Plain Text

iThoughts for OmniFocus

iThoughts for OmniFocus

A few weeks ago, Michael Schechter found a way to export an OmniFocus for Mac database to OPML to visualize it in mind-mapping apps like iThoughts and MindNode. In the post, he wrote that, however, he was reaching to the Mac community to see if anyone would be able to build a more powerful and reliable solution with filters, color options, and more control on the exported data. RobTrew picked up the task and, on the OmniGroup Forums, released an initial script to export from OmniFocus to OPML.

Then, yesterday, Rob released a new version of the script which adds native iThoughts support and plain text exporting options, as well as settings for colors, templates, and filters.

I tested Rob’s script with my OmniFocus database, and after several improvements he made to the script, I feel comfortable enough with linking to it here. Unlike other solutions, Rob’s script looks directly into the SQL OmniFocus database cache to get its data – quite a feat on its own. But there’s so much more the script can do if you start customizing it. Read more

OmniOutliner, Plain Text, and Nebulous Notes

OmniOutliner, Plain Text, and Nebulous Notes

A few months ago, I asked if there was a way to produce plain text-based outlines and import them into OmniOutliner for iPad while preserving indentation. Today, Jeff Hunsberger has posted a nice overview of his setup, which doesn’t include OmniOutliner but relies upon the same “trick” I use – speeding up plain text outlining using Nebulous Notes’ macro functionality.

Just by setting up those few macros, I have create a fully-realized meeting outline tool in markdown using Nebulous Notes. The outline in the same format I’ve been using for years and is searchable, extensible and ubiquitous thanks to Dropbox. The beauty of this is, after the meeting is over, the notes I’ve just taken are ready back at my desk – they can be inserted into an email to the team with a simple copy/paste.

My workflow is only slightly different. Firstly, I usually outline in CarbonFin Outliner on the iPad (Tree on the Mac), but sometimes good ideas strike when I’m already in my text editor, thus requiring me to write them down as quickly as possible. What I end up with is a rough structure of my thoughts that I want to further refine in OmniOutliner. From there, I’ll then export as OPML to CarbonFin Outliner. It sounds convoluted – maybe it is – but this setup works for me. This is how I built the outlines for my Mountain Lion and iOS 6 reviews, and I’m always looking for improvements.

As I discovered, OmniOutliner for iPad wants to receive tab-delimited plain text. So, unlike Jeff’s, my macro doesn’t have hyphens, just a tab that I can hit as many times as I need to indent text into lines and children. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like tab-delimited plain text can handle notes, but that’s something I do in OmniOutliner or CarbonFin Outliner anyway.

I would love to see proper documentation for plain text import in OmniOutliner; for instance, while OmniOutliner can export to plain text, if you try to re-import what you exported (I know, I like to reverse-engineer plain text), OmniOutliner will lose indentation. Similarly, I’d like to see import/export options in CarbonFin Outliner, which is still lacking from this standpoint. As for Nebulous Notes, the latest 6.0 version lets you chain macros, which makes the app even better.

Check out Jeff’s plain text workflow for outlines here.


Plain Text Primer

Plain Text Primer

Michael Schechter has kicked off a new series over at A Better Mess, detailing the basics of working with plain text. In today’s article, he covers nvALT, Brett Terpstra’s excellent fork of Notational Velocity.

nvALT is a free note-taking tool with some great features for plain text and markdown editing. It serves as the foundation for my plain text workflows. It stores all of my text files in an environment that is lightening fast for creating and searching through notes. I use nvALT as a repository for everything.

Personally, I’m a big fan of both plain text and nvALT. As I have written on multiple occasions before, plain text is portable, timeless, and it happens to work with some of the finest apps on the App Store.

Michael’s overview is a good starting point if you’re interested in plain text. Check it out here, and here.


Create OmniFocus Tasks From Drafts, Scratch, Or Any Text Editor Through Dropbox

Back in October 2010, I posted a tutorial on how to add new tasks to OmniFocus or Things using Dropbox, AppleScript, and PlainText by Hog Bay Software. In June 2011, I wrote about more ways to add tasks to OmniFocus (my GTD app of choice), and noted how I had only “scratched the surface of what’s possible to do with OmniFocus and task creation”.

I decided to slightly revisit my workflow now that several “quick Dropbox note-taking apps” like Scratch and Drafts have come out. These apps are already integrated in my daily routine, but the following method works with any text editor, and, obviously, using Dropbox is recommended if you want to be able to create tasks from anywhere. Read more

Organizing Everything With Plain Text Notes

Organizing Everything With Plain Text Notes



In a guest post for Macworld, Macdrifter’s Gabe Weatherhead shares some tips about his note-taking workflow, based on plain text files.

Like everyone else, I need to keep track of lots of bits of information. Some of those bits are as simple as the brand of salad dressing my wife likes; others are as complex as an outline for a multi-year project at work. Whatever the size, origin, and purpose of these bits, I keep track of them all by saving them in a reliable system of plain-text notes—a system that enables me to find any bit of information whenever I need it, in a form that makes sense to me when I do.

My workflow is similar to Gabe’s one. I store all my notes – rigorously in plain text format for data portability – in a single Dropbox folder, and I use a variety of apps and hacks to work with these files on the device at hand. The advantage of working in plain text is that I never have to worry about file conversion and corrupted databases – and when combined with Dropbox, it really all just works. Plus, I can stay assured that, twenty years from now, an archive of my notes will still be there, as plain text – like PDF – will likely be around.

On the Mac, like Gabe, I use Brett Terpstra’s excellent nvALT to switch between all my notes. I don’t use tagging, but I do use Alfred to peek inside the contents of my plain text files to find links or bits of text I had previously saved (like favorite tweets). Occasionally, I might write in TextEdit or Byword, but generally – no matter the app I’m using – Markdown previews are handled by Terpstra’s other insanely useful app, Marked. On iOS, as I recently explained, I tend to access my notes with a combination of Nebulous Notes, Writing Kit, and WriteUp depending on what I need. To quickly save notes into Dropbox, I rely on Drafts, which was recently updated to version 2.0.

I like plain text because it lets me write and access my notes the way I want to. As David Sparks once wrote, it’s timeless. Make sure to read Gabe’s post here for some great tips.