Ulysses 2.6 – An Update to My Favourite Text Editor

Ulysses-iOS-1024Regular readers of the site would be aware Ulysses has been my writing tool of choice for over two years now, and I must admit that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. The latest update to this Apple Design Award-winning app released a few days ago adds some great new features in version 2.6 which are likely to appeal both to current users or those on the fence about giving Ulysses a try.

Ulysses 2.6 adds direct publishing to WordPress (in addition to Medium which has been a feature for a while now); Dropbox support on iOS (in line with what already existed for the Mac); Quick Open via Global Search on iOS; typewriter mode on iOS; and full voiceover accessibility.

This is certainly a fantastic update, and is perhaps a game changer for some, though given how I currently work in Ulysses, for me it merely adds a little more icing on the cake.

Dropbox support

Having used iCloud syncing without issue during the past couple of years, improved Dropbox support across devices is indeed a nice addition however my writing will continue on in iCloud. At this juncture its also worth mentioning “my writing” amounts to what you see published on this site at somewhat irregular intervals. With the exception of one large project two years ago which incidentally brought me to Ulysses in the first place (syncing perfectly at the time I might add), everything else remains short to medium form blog posts.

That said, I do know there are those for whom Dropbox integration is a deal breaker, so it is perhaps a big addition in some quarters. I can say though, a quick duplicate, drag and drop will be nice to create a Dropbox version of each post in addition to my iCloud “published” archive. Said duplication on iOS to this point having been managed via the Workflow app.

Direct publishing to WordPress

Of those new features, for me, direct publishing to WordPress will probably be the main change to my day to day use of Ulysses. Admittedly, I never really found my select all-copy as HTML-paste into the WordPress editor overly difficult, however also remember the days of hitting the publish to WordPress button back when I was writing in Byword. Given that was about three years ago: (a) it has taken Ulysses some time to get there (as acknowledged in The Long Overdue Update moniker given to this release); and (b) clearly I haven’t missed it much either.

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 6.03.47 AM
Direct publishing to WordPress
Of course depending on the particular method of publishing to your blog, there may be larger benefits to the WordPress support. One of the more detailed explanations of such a change is seen in this piece by Ben Brooks — longtime champion Ulysses and now working exclusively in iOS for publishing to The Brooks Review:

This one feature has made Ulysses the only iOS app I truly need in order to blog. So cool.

Typewriter Mode

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Typewriter mode has never been a big thing for me, however I must admit to enjoying the increased serenity of a highlighted sentence (or line, or paragraph — choices within the typewriter mode settings) I’m working on, as the previous text fades into the background. Personally I prefer sentence highlighting, which also serves as a nice real-time reminder of just how each one is growing as you write.

Quick Open

Quick Open is also a handy addition, however I typically don’t have more than half a dozen sheets in each of four different folders going at any given time, so finding where I need to be isn’t generally too much trouble.

In closing

I’ve intermittently shouted from the rooftops about Ulysses before, which is perhaps why I haven’t warmed up my voice too loudly about this update — despite some fantastic additions this time around. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love the app, and haven’t really considered shifting since my first month or so of using Ulysses, so it’s all cream on top for me now. Of course I also do not wish to be overly flippant about the efforts developers put into these types of improvements and updates, on what is a rock solid, stable, and brilliantly efficient app.

Truth be known, at this point of Ulysses’ evolution, continued refinement and iteration on top of that rock solid base suits me perfectly. No doubt however in a couple of months if I stop and think – I’ll probably wonder what I ever did without the direct publish to WordPress feature, and as I finish the latter half of this post on my iPad — that typewriter mode really is killer.

Bravo The Soulmen — love your work.

Press app for iPhone – logging your coffee journey

App IconFirst things first. If ever there were an app icon that encapsulates the predominant themes of this blog — surely this has to be it.

Brilliant. Er…except that I didn’t think of it first.

After coming across Press a few months ago, I have begun to slowly add some coffees into the database for future reference.

As is the case with many great independent apps, Press was borne out of one man’s frustration — from the App developer’s contact page:

I’m Jeff Hatz, the sole developer of Press. I was frustrated with the lack of quality coffee apps on the App Store, so decided to write my own. I hope you love it as much as I do.

Love it? Indeed I do sir — indeed I do.

What is it for?

Press is an app which contains a number of features to assist you in both brewing and logging notes about the coffee you drink:

IMG_4267Log detailed notes about the coffees you drink, and see a world map with pins for each if the coffees you enter. Use the built in brew timers courtesy of Corvus Coffee Roasters, or add your own, to brew a perfect cup every time. Expand your knowledge of coffee in the Resources section.

Features:

IMG_4275In list form, Press has the following features:

  • Coffee Notes
  • Brew timers
  • Map
  • Today Widget (quick brew; last coffee added)
  • Advanced Options
  • Resource page (links to books, blogs etc)
  • Share sheet integration (export and sharing options)

As lovers of all things coffee, I am sure we all have our own methods of brewing with our various devices, so I must admit I have not really used the built-in brew timers.

I would note however these are customisable, and you are able to add your own, featuring the timer name, coffee/water ratio (allowing calculations based on changes in dose), dose, grind, temperature, notes, and brew stages.

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Overall, the app has a really nice UI, which is attractive to look at, yet functional enough to get the job done very smoothly, with a few extras such as Markdown formatting and a custom URL Scheme for users on the geekier side of the spectrum.

Perhaps it is worth mentioning longevity and storage. Although each coffee logged is merely a text file, adding numerous photos I expect would add to the data storage requirements of the app. Were I to use this over a few years, with say, a few hundred coffees and associated photos, I wonder about the storage requirements then, and perhaps cloud support might come in handy. For now, this is not an issue.

In terms of longevity and back up options — exporting to Day One or Evernote works like a dream, with the resulting output reminiscent (minus the associated photo) of some Drafts app templates for coffee logging I have seen around the web.

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Output to Day One

 

My favourite features

There is a lot to love about Press, though my favourite features (and reasons for downloading the app in the first place) are definitely the integrated map and notes sections. Locations of origin appear on the map once the region is added to an entry, allow zooming, and have an info button which changes to a popover noting the particular coffee featured in that location.

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Other great features include the customisable notes fields (through the settings pane), auto-capitalisation throughout the notes input fields, and a next button during text input which avoids the need for scrolling and tapping into the subsequent field.

Beyond the specifics, I’d say it is great to have an attractive, well thought out and extremely functional app which allows me to track coffees I have tasted when out and about, or those I have roasted myself at home.

Photo support was also added in March of this year, and has added a whole new dimension to how I plan to use the app going forward.

As my home roasting involves pencil and paper1 for recording time, temperature and any notes commenting on particular aspects of the roast, linking this IMG_4298data to particular coffees after brewing and tasting involves collating the data together in a spreadsheet — which I admit is not always updated. With the photos feature in Press, I have begun to snap a photo of the roast notes page which I now keep right inside the app with the tasting notes and rating of the particular coffee — perfect!

In conclusion

As you can gather, I do believe this is a great app for logging many aspects of your coffee journey over time.

Yes, I can link in my roast data to the brewing and tasting profiles through the photos feature, but I can also see this used for capturing those moments when sharing a wonderful brew with a partner or group of friends.

Press strikes what I believe is a perfect balance between allowing the recording of “enough” data and the flexibility to add more, in a beautiful and highly efficient way. With ongoing support, the developer has laid the groundwork for perhaps even more features in the future.

Oh and how about that icon?

Press for iPhone is available from the App Store, and is well worth the $AU3.79 you’ll pay.

  1. Currently the Science edition of the Field Notes Arts and Sciences seasonal release, and a Blackwing 602 for those interested. A perfect combination for the purpose I might add.

Quotebook 3 for iOS

The sign of a great app? It does what it sets out to do, does it reliably and efficiently, and looks great while doing it.

Icon SmallWhen news of a major update to the iOS app Quotebook appeared in my Twitter feed recently, it made me realise what a great app Quotebook is. Why? Because it fits all the above criteria, and made me immediately think “an update, that’s always most welcome, but it didn’t really need one”. Further, though I was happy to retweet this news noting it was one of my “favourite apps”, I could not recall specifically the last time I had used it. Oh, it will never be deleted, and contains some of my favourite quotes, however again the sign of a great app – it is there for a purpose, and there when I need it.

What initially drew me to Quotebook (probably a couple of years ago now) was the specificity of it’s purpose. Sure, I could have saved some quotes in a notebook or with a tag in Evernote; kept them as text files in Dropbox or Drafts; or even tabled them in a spreadsheet, which I have also done in the dim distant past. Quotebook seemed like the perfect solution to keep these pieces of text together with their author and source if necessary.

I admit, at times specificity in an app can be limiting, however in this case it is spot on. Look at what you need after all: the quote; the attribution for the author or speaker; the source; and tags to group quotes should you desire. Add a great looking interface and seamless syncing between my iPad and iPhone, and there you have it – a favourite app. Remember, that was before the update.

We now welcome Quotebook 3, which has been completely redesigned from the ground up, by developer Lickability:

Quotebook 3 is our biggest release ever. We’ve completely redesigned and rewritten the app, making it easier than ever to collect your favourite quotes and give them context and personality.

  • Fully rewritten iCloud syncing
  • Add images and descriptions to authors and sources
  • Information about your authors and sources is automatically downloaded from Wikipedia
  • Auto-complete authors, sources, and tags from within the app, your contacts, and your music library
  • Import quotes from your Tumblr posts and Facebook profile
  • Tap into any author or source from the quotes screen to see more quotes from them
  • Discover and save random quotes from the app’s main screen
  • Share quotes to Tweetbot, Tumblr, and Day One
  • Improved Auto-Detection of quotes on your clipboard (including from iBooks)
  • x-callback-url support for the Quotebook URL scheme so other apps can add quotes seamlessly
  • Simplified settings

As you can see from the above list, the update is indeed a big one. I must admit the most pleasing thing I have found in using Quotebook 3 in the couple of days since the update is the fact that it works equally as reliably and consistently as the previous version, but is faster, looks better, and I agree, has a little more personality, to quote the developer. Although I guess consistent and reliable only gets you so far, as (searches Quotebook):

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
— Oscar Wilde

See – there when I need it, just like I said.

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Probably my favourite aspects of the update include the complete overhaul of the user interface, which is elegantly minimal; direct sharing to Tweetbot and Day One through the standard sharesheet; the ability to see information and other quotes from an author, or the information popover from the source (see screenshot below); also, the functionality of the clipboard auto-detection seems to have improved. A nice touch is also the ability to save random quotes now appearing on your main screen.

Quotebook_pop

Quotebook 3 is a beautiful, yet highly functional app which appears to be in for the long haul. Lickability have added enough bells and whistles with the new update to please many a power user, however have repackaged and improved the robust and delightful features that worked elegantly and efficiently all along.

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Developers say many things in press releases, however on this point from Lickability I most certainly concur:

Lickability has been and will always be concerned with all the small details that make apps great.

Must save that quote somewhere…

 

Also be sure to check out the review of Quotebook 3 by Federico Viticci at Macstories.

Quotebook 3 is available on the App Store for AUD$6.99, and is a universal app for both iPad and iPhone.

Wiser Web Wednesday

Wiser Web Wednesday – a weekly link to posts of interest from around the web by those wiser than myself:

Craft
With my Rhodia Ice 80th Anniversary Notebooks on their way, a timely interview with Scott Druce, Co-founder of Notemaker, one of Australia’s premier on-line stationery stores, from which my order has been shipped:
Craft Cubed Interview – Notemaker

Baristafail
An introspective piece from Josh Russell of Brisbane Specialty Roaster Cup Coffee, now 5 years on. I can happily say I have the opportunity to enjoy superb coffee roasted by Cup on a daily basis, for which I am eternally grateful. What else am I grateful for? Sentiment such as this:

Good coffee is putting people before the product. The product is then made better because of this.

I’ve met Josh a few times, and do not know him well, though I would put money on him achieving and sustaining the three personal goals he lists at the end of the post. A stand up local guy done good:
Long Term Goals

The Weekend Edition
Whether or not the events alluded to in this article about the merger of Cup Coffee (refer Cup link in Baristafail above for more information) and Coffee Supreme in any way relate to the sentiment above is not my business. In any event, as a keen consumer of coffee in Brisbane, I look forward to any step in the evolution of the industry as a whole (if it must change so be it, though I’ve always loved the Cup branding):
Cup Coffee Roasters pairs up with Coffee Supreme

Asian Efficiency
Although I find mind mapping incredibly useful, I probably don’t use the technique as much as I should. The guys at AE have posted a great article on a specific use of the technique to condense and consolidate information:
Mind Mapping for Condensing Material

Pennaquod
Over the past 6 months I have been furiously Pinboarding pen, paper and ink reviews for the time I may need to refer back before a future purchase. Perhaps Ian Hedley has now saved me the trouble, recently launching this “penblog search engine”, which aims to avoid the many ad listings which confront any product search these days, with pens and paper no different. There are some great sites already signed up, and I’m sure many more to follow. What a fantastic idea (and already in my favourites bar of course):
Pennaquod: The pen blog searcher

Pens! Paper! Pencils!
I must admit I clicked the Twitter link to this review yesterday from Ian with a little trepidation, as I had purchased a bottle of De Atramentis Permanent Blue a few hours before seeing it. As the link was loading my thoughts were of course – oh no, what if this is really bad?. Thankfully it seems to be a decent ink, and I do like the colour. By the way, if you need a few (hundred) other opinions, type this ink into the search engine at Pennaquod and have at it:
De Atramentis Document Ink Blue ink review

Jet Pens
I’ve been working my way through a trio of Pilot G–2’s recently, seeing if I can find a sweet spot out of the 0.38mm, 0.5mm or 0.7mm. It’s looking like the 0.5mm, however the G–2 is not my first choice for a cheap everyday pen (at the time they were the only locally available brand in three sizes). One I have not tried as yet is the Zebra Sarasa, which is high on my list. No doubt I will have a quick flick through the following guide prior to any purchase:
Zebra Sarasa: A Comprehensive Guide

Pen Paper Ink Letter
I’ve often thought I must test or at least seek out some nice brown ink. Perhaps due to a subconscious desire to combine my love off coffee and pens, though more likely simply because there are some great brown inks out there. Heath from PPIL has been hard at work looking at some recently, and, as you will see in the accompanying images to each post, some inks are brown (perhaps with a hint of red), and some, well…, aren’t. Thankfully inks are not bought on name alone:
Fountain Pen Ink Review: Waterman Absolute Brown
Fountain Pen Ink Review: Noodler’s Burma Road Brown

The Typist
Reviewing my app purchases for any business related expenses at tax time just about drives me crazy, so I cannot even imagine the amount of effort that went into this post. As I read the article this made me cringe:

To my surprise, there was no easy way to export all iTunes & App Store purchases to a spreadsheet. So yes, I’ve gone through 90 e-mail receipts that contained 126 purchases, adding the above metadata to each individual purchase.

Of particular interest is the overall amount spent on Apps over a four year period, and just how many remain on the device. A fascinating article and definitely one worth reading:
Four Years in Apple’s Ecosystem: An Expenses Report

In Use – Vesper 2.0 for iPhone

Although I use Evernote for storage and archiving of longer notes, articles, web clippings, PDF’s and the like, many quick notes are just that, short and quick. The type of notes which don’t require any further action, sharing or archiving until I need to refer to them again. When I’m standing in a shop, I don’t want to be searching through my filing cabinet for the pen refill model number, I simply need the notebook in my back pocket where this information is written. To me, if Evernote is my digital filing cabinet, Vesper is the digital notebook in my back pocket.

Vesper_Notes_ListVesper_home

I love Vesper, and it has been on my home screen for the past 4 months or so, being a fast and reliable way of taking quick notes with a minimum of fuss inside a great looking interface. If we go back to the notebook example above, Vesper is the book you grab when you may not necessarily need to write down a note, but simply enjoy writing in the pages with your favourite pen anyway. Yes – in my opinion the user interface is that good. I have never been a fan of Apple’s native Notes app, pre or post iOS 7, and if you are in any way similar, go and have a look at Vesper.

Vesper_settingsVesper_in_settings

Vesper supports tags, photo and text notes, has gesture based (L swipe) archiving, and the usual email/message or copy all actions. Notes can also be reordered or “prioritised” through a tap and hold to drag up or down the list.

Vesper_NoteVesper_Share

Have I mentioned Vesper is a beautiful app? From the design, colour scheme and font (love the smallcaps option for note titles), not to mention the understated icon on my home screen. The icon, incidentally, sits right beside Drafts, another app I use extensively for longer form note taking (e.g. notes while listening to podcasts; email drafts), which usually end up being archived to Evernote, Dropbox, or sent to other apps such as Omnifocus for further action. Of course, I acknowledge a great looking app is virtually useless if it does not have the functionality you require, however for the times I use Vesper, I don’t need anything else – and that is precisely it’s strength.

Why write about Vesper now? A recent free update to the app has now added Vesper Sync for your notes, a missing feature pointed out by any as a downside of the original release. Although the sync is essentially a back up as there are no Vesper iPad or Mac apps yet, Vesper will run at 2x on the iPad. Set up for a free (optional) Vesper Sync account is a simple process using an email address and password, and you are up and running. For those suspicious of a “free” syncing service, John Gruber on the Vesper blog:

Vesper Sync is not a free lunch, because Vesper is not a free app. Sync should be a feature, not something you have to pay extra for.

Although my note collection is very small, (I tend to delete or amend the 20 or 30 notes I have on the go), the syncing is fast and unobtrusive, both key aspects for my continued use of Vesper as a primary quick note/recall app (from what I understand the app scales well with larger note collections). This added feature now bodes well for the development of companion apps, and I believe the Mac app is first in line.

Read more on Vesper Sync and future plans on the Q Branch blog, and you can follow Brent Simmons engineering diary at Inessential.

Vesper 2.0 is currently available on the iOS App Store for AUD$6.49 (or the update is free if you already own the App).