I've been a fan of Terminology by Agile Tortoise since it debuted in 2010. There are a lot of dictionary apps on the App Store, but most are bloated messes that foist multimedia experiences and games on me when all I want is a definition or synonym. Terminology has alway been just about words. With today's update, the app has been redesigned from the ground up with new features that make it a must-have research tool for anyone who writes.
Posts tagged with "writing"
Today, Manton Reece launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for Micro.blog, a platform for independent microblogging and a related book on the subject. Micro.blog has a lot in common with social networks like Twitter, such as replies and favorites, but with an important difference. Instead of locking users into a proprietary system owned by someone else, the content created by individuals is owned and controlled by them. As part of the Micro.blog service, Reece is also building publishing tools with Markdown support, including a native iPhone app, to help people get started with microblogging.
At the core of Micro.blog is an critical design decision – the separation of publishing from social networks. That choice ensures that the microblog content you create remains yours to publish at [your-name].micro.blog or anywhere else you can host a website. At the same time, Micro.blog doesn’t ignore existing social networks. Microblog posts can be cross-posted to other services, which has the potential to give users the best of both worlds – control over their content and access to the broad audiences of services like Twitter.
In addition to Micro.blog, Reece is writing a book on independent microblogging that makes the case for the format and provides practical advice on how to start a microblog. Backers of Reece’s campaign can choose from a variety of rewards that include Reece’s book, early access to the Micro.blog service, free months of the Micro.blog service, and stickers.
New social networks have come and gone over the years, but Reece’s focus on decentralizing microblog publishing from social networks is unique. I had a chance to speak with Manton about Micro.blog at WWDC and know how much time and thought has gone into this project. The campaign is off to a great start and I’m excited to try it soon.
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.
There’s a reason why there have been so many different notebook-style apps on iOS and the Mac over the years. Media-rich research projects and reference materials benefit from the familiar metaphor of a notebook as a way to organize everything in one place. The difficulty, though, is balancing organizational functionality with editing tools. Good organizational tools like search, sorting, and sync are a must, but apps that go too deep into editing features can quickly become a bloated mess. Go too light, and the editing features aren’t of much use.
Notebooks by Alfons Schmid is an iOS and Mac notebook app that has excellent organizational tools on iOS and the Mac. With solid search, sorting and sync options, your notebooks and documents are always readily available to you, which makes it a great research tool, especially on iOS. Notebooks' editing tools are a different story. Notebooks for iOS strikes a nice balance with excellent text and PDF editing tools. The more recently released Mac version of Notebooks, however, doesn’t go much beyond text editing, which is a little disappointing.
Whether Notebooks is right for you will depend on the extent to which you want to edit files stored in it and, if so, whether iOS or OS X is the dominant platform you use. People who work on iOS will love the power of Notebooks; on the Mac, Notebooks is closer to a viewer app and may not be sufficient to meet your needs.
I think in outlines. I suppose that’s because it's what I was trained to do. You see, when I was in law school, we would make elaborate outlines of the subjects we studied to prepare for exams. So over time, I developed a knack for breaking down topics into their component ideas and imposing a hierarchy on them. Nowadays, I still make outlines, but they are usually simple ones that I create while taking notes or brainstorming ideas. I discovered OutlineEdit from Robin Schnaidt recently, and it immediately stuck with me. The speed with which I can get ideas out of my head, into an outline, and then move them around has made it a go-to tool when I’m working on my Mac.
You may wonder why we don’t allow you to really publish from Ulysses, as in “publish a story, not just a draft”. For one, Medium’s API has just been released, and we wanted to stay on the safe side. We don’t want you to accidentially publish something you didn’t intend to, or in a state you didn’t mean to make available to the public. Plus, some of Medium’s advanced options, such as pull quotes and fancy header images, are not available yet, so we figured you might love to tinker around a bit, before you really commit your piece.
Lastly… we all make mistakes, and right now there’s no way for us to allow updating your stories from within Ulysses. So again, we figured it would be best to do drafts, since you can have as many drafts as you like, mistakes and all. Plus, this will only get better in the future, so there’s room for anticipation and excitement at your end, too.
I've been keeping an eye on Medium, and though it's not for me, they've managed to reignite interest in the idea of a blogging platform – and any respectable blogging platform needs an API. While I won't move MacStories away from WordPress, it's good to know that I have another solid option if I should ever decide to use another platform for another website. To me, Medium looks like a cool company that's trying something new. And I think that's more important than ever to empower as many potential writers as possible.
On that note, don't miss Daniel Jalkut's first look at the Medium API. Daniel has been developing MarsEdit for several years, and he's the voice I trust when it comes to blogging APIs and native clients.
My iPad writing setup primarily consists of Evernote, Editorial, and WriteRight, three apps that I use to research, write & edit, and proofread my articles, respectively. For the past few months, I've been using Greg Pierce's Phraseology 2.0 for iPad, which is out today on the App Store and which I consider a must-have companion app for people who write on the iPad and want to craft better text.
Just a little over three years ago, I found myself unemployed, so I started MacStories. It wasn’t easy. Not because of WordPress, FTP, or getting black pixels to appear on a white background. I’ve never had a problem with putting words on a screen.
It wasn’t easy because where I live, a small town in Italy, writing about technology sounds a lot like “I spend my days at home looking at a computer while I drink coffee” . Which, to be fair, is a pretty accurate representation of my daily agenda. But how I do it, and why I do it, and understanding the whole idea of seeing technology as more than a bunch of cables – well, that was the not-so-easy part.
It still is. I know it will be for a long time. And yet I keep typing on this keyboard because I think it’s worth it. I do what I can by writing about my experiences.
Because, hopefully, thanks to technology, our kids will have a better future.
Because twenty years from now, people won’t “find out” they have cancer. They will know in advance, thanks to technology.
That’s quite a goal I, and others like me, are priding ourselves upon, you’d argue, when, effectively, what we do is reviewing apps and reflecting on the latest news. In practical terms, that’s what I do. But I see it as more than that.
Writing is about making connections.
In the past three years, I’ve seen how the great technology writers I look up to are able to make connections between topics and streams of thoughts: they look at the big picture.
On the flip side, technology writing, a scene that’s built on its very distinct and yet cohesive communities, has created connections between people. I wouldn’t have met the MacStories team if it weren’t for writing and following the same writers. I wouldn’t have gotten to know friends like Shawn, Stephen, Gabe, David, Matt, Matthew, Justin, Brett, and many more.
In fact, if it weren’t for this little writing thing of ours, I wouldn’t have met any of you.
Great writing creates connections inside and outside of text.
Marco Arment’s The Magazine falls exactly under this aspect of writing. It’s about people who love technology, delivered as a curated collection of articles from great writers. In a way, it’s the opposite of Instapaper: while Marco’s more popular app is what you make of it, The Magazine is Marco’s own vision. So, yes – you’ll have to trust him on this one.
I’ve never met Marco in real life. We’ve exchanged emails a couple of times and perhaps replied to each other on Twitter. The other day we talked about pears on App.net. But see, the great thing about the Internet is that I genuinely like this guy only because of his work and passion for technology.
I think The Magazine is a promising and notable initiative for a variety of reasons. Firstly, for as much as I praise the tech community, there are aspects of it that I’m not particularly fond of. I don’t like rumors and linkbaity headlines. Sometimes I think that it’s too much when a site tries to tell me everything about a topic with 20 articles. In the words of Marco, The Magazine will take a “a measured approach to the big picture” with “meaningful editorial and big-picture articles”. Or, as Guy English writes in “Fireballed” for the first issue, The Magazine is both old and new. It’s old in that it won’t share the same publication schedule of most blogs; it’s new, because it should encourage writers to create more, new “timeless pieces” based on a business model that their “Fireball Format” website wouldn’t probably allow. I suggest you read Guy’s article in the first issue (there is a free 7-day trial).
I’ve heard from several people who received copies of The Magazine in advance that, in hindsight, the idea is obvious. Get articles from great writers and make an app out of it with new content available periodically. To me, The Magazine seemed “obvious” more because of the technology it’s built with.
Earlier this week I wrote a post on how to hide Newsstand from iOS 6. The Magazine is entirely based on Newsstand, and, a year after the launch of iOS 5, it’s the first app that gives it a purpose, at least for me.