Having discovered Markdown completely by accident many years ago, I quickly got hooked on the concept and dropped Apple’s Pages and other apps to focus on plain text documents. The most important feature for me wasn’t Markdown itself—it was the knowledge that I’ll be able to read and access my files in the coming years without issues. It might seem ridiculous that we should worry about such things, but I have a set of 3.5” floppy disks with my school projects in various obscure formats which are completely unusable today.
My wife and I are currently on vacation in India, lounging on the beaches, eating fresh shrimp every evening and having a great time. Before we left though, two things happened—I changed my writing workflow and spent some time with Dan Counsell of RealmacSoftware, talking about Markdown writing tools.
I returned home this evening, away from the cold weather outside, glad to finally let my bones absorb some warmth. Having a few minutes to spare before dinner, I started browsing my Twitter timeline and saw something extremely sad—my heart goes out to James Thomson. He must be truly crestfallen.
I’m extremely proud (and a little frightened) to present our first photography album and travel guide for the iPad written in English. The idea first came to me after using my webpage to show my photography and talk about our family’s travels — it was a sub par experience and I didn’t have full control over the layout. Since I use Adobe Creative Cloud for various other things, I decided to try to leverage their tools and create the whole album in InDesign, to my exact specifications.
I had the opportunity to beta test the wonderful PCalc by James Thomson for these past few weeks and I’ve really come to love it, especially on the iPhone. You can read my short review about the iOS version here.
The two other new features that got me hooked are support for Handoff and PCalc’s widget. Handoff — one of iOS 8’s new features — means that I can start my calculations on my iPhone and should I choose to pick up my iPad, a little icon will appear on the lockscreen, allowing me to continue where I left off. I’ve actually had a few situations where this worked out perfectly. The only downside is that Handoff support in iOS 8 is still a little bit finicky — sometimes it just refuses to work.
I’ve also been using the OS X version and unfortunately, Handoff only worked correctly between iPad and iPhone – I just couldn’t coax anything useful out of it on OS X on either of my computers. James rolled out the update in the Mac App Store a few days ago and I just updated it a few minutes ago. At first it didn’t work at all with my iPhone 6 and iPad mini 2… and then I had the idea of turning on Bluetooth on both devices, to test it again (this did not work earlier during the betas). The PCalc icon appeared in the lower left hand corner of my lockscreen immediately. And it worked the other way too!
Tweetbot and I have been having an affair since its inception. From iPhone, to iPad and Mac, I simply cannot fathom using another app for my daily Twitter fix. And I’ve tried. A lot of them. Most of them? Probably not, but near everything available for iOS and OS X. And none of them come close.
PCalc has been available in various forms and on different platforms for more than two decades — James Thomson, the man behind it, has taken care to keep it updated over the years, transitioning quickly to new operating systems when they came out. It was in the App Store on day one and it did very well, according to its maker. I’ve been lucky enough to beta test it for a while now and I can quite frankly say that the new 3.3 build, which supports iOS 8 and it’s new features, is my favourite version.
As you may or may not know, photography is one of my favourite hobbies. As soon as I heard that Marek Moi was working on a new app, I reached out to him to get me on the beta program. Thankfully, he obliged and provided me with some unique insight into the design process. My enthusiasm was based on his earlier project — Dearest Bialowieza Forest [App Store link] — which featured Jaroslaw Chyra’s photography from that beautiful region of Poland. Marek rewrote his entire engine for Bison bonasus and the results do not disappoint — it offers a truly immersive experience into the work of photographer Krzysztof Onikijuk.
I currently use two fitness trackers — a personal Jawbone UP24 and a Garmin Vivofit review unit. I’ve worn them daily at the same time, on the same right wrist for over two months now, comparing their step counts. Their final tallies tend to differ and it seems that the UP24 has the better algorithm of the two. I do however also carry an iPhone 5S in my pocket throughout the day and the built-in M7 coprocessor allows for another reference point. I started using David Smith’s (yes, Underscore-David-Smith) Pedometer++ [App Store link] a few days after it was released and despite it being extremely simple, I’ve grown to like it — it’s my current go-to app. I’ve also tipped him on occasion, hoping he’ll keep on working on it. I must note that I also have a Withings scale at home — a gift from my father a few years ago …
I use RSS readers on a daily basis. In fact, I cannot imagine functioning without one and I haven’t found anything that could replace them in the near future. Twitter? I would need a seperate account or perhaps a carefully tailored list. Flipboard? Doesn’t suit my preferences. Anyway — I use various devices to follow the feeds I subscribe to and I spent hours customizing my lists to suit my needs, the one labeled ‘must-read’ especially.
I’ve been using FruitJuice [Mac App Store Link] for the past few months on a daily basis on my 2013 MacBook Air. It launches at login and lives in my menu bar, discreetly notifying me how long I should remain disconnected from my charger to retain optimum battery capacity. Although it appears to suggest the same scheme each and every day, it does so depending on your Mac model — the suggestions differ greatly on my friend’s Retina MacBook Pro for example.
I’ve long been a fan of distraction-free writing tools, ever since admitting to myself that I’m a Markdown addict. Writing in plain text, with just the most basic formatting, is something I started believing in ever since I started having issues with my documents between various… versions of Microsoft Word. I don’t know what will be the standard in the next five or ten years but I do know that I want to be able to access my data without any hassle.