Speed up Evernote: “Automate that Elephant”

The very best version of Evernote is the one that you have with you. So the iPhone one is rather gorgeous and very handy. The iPad one is slightly less gorgeous but I use it considerably. And the Mac one is fine but I use it the most because I’m at those keys all the time – and because it has the very quickest, very best way of entering a new note.

It is gorgeousness defined.

Whatever you’re doing on your Mac, tap two keys and an Evernote note drops down from the menu bar. It’s a blank note at first and you can just type in it like a scratchpad: I use it most when the phone rings and I need to jot down some details.


Write your little scratchpad note and, if you want, save it to Evernote and get on with your work. Very often it’ll turn out to be that I needn’t make any notes about that call so I’ll just delete anything I’ve typed and carry on.


The real gorgeousness is that you don’t have to delete or to save, you can just leave it there. Make a note, carry on with your work, and then later on tap those two keys and instead of a new blank note, you’re back in that one you were writing earlier. Whenever that was. Yesterday. Last Tuesday. Last March. Just carry on adding to it.

So if I’m researching something online, for instance, I’ll pop a link in there to remember for later and then I’ll add to it with whatever other details I find as I go. At some point, I’m done and everything I need is in that one note hanging off the menu bar. Tap and it’s in Evernote.

That one thing makes Evernote for Mac extremely fast.

But it’s a rare day that you see a sentence containing the word Evernote and the phrase ‘extremely fast’ unless that sentence is pivoting around the word ‘not’.

Wherever there is a good thing that’s sometimes a bit slow, someone will find a way to speed it up. You would hope that it would be the Evernote company and I do think the software gets better and better.

The Evernote company does let you email directly into your notes so, just as I do with OmniFocus and tasks I have to do, if something comes in email that I want to keep, I’ll forward it. Just as I have a secret OmniFocus email address, so I have a secret Evernote one. And so does every user of either of these, whether they know it or not. You get it automatically and you use it or you don’t, it’s completely up to you. But whenever you can use a secret email address into your notes or your To Do task, it means you can be anywhere, on anyone’s machine, doing anything and can zap a note or a task off in the certainty that you will pick it up later.

But then some people make apps whose sole or main function is to let you rapidly write Evernote notes. I’ve tried a lot of them. I keep coming back to one that isn’t dedicated to Evernote at all: Drafts. The Drafts app is quick because when you open it, you are immediately typing what you want to write: there’s no choose a new blank document, no closing the last one and saving it, just open and start typing. Then when you’re done, you can choose to send it to Evernote.

Or anywhere, really. That takes some setting up the first time you use it but thereafter, wallop. Open, write, send, close, done.


There is yet another way. I’d like to point you at something which I think is just a pixel or three beyond my own techy grasp but which looks extremely useful. It’s a series of scripts for working with Evernote in an app called Keyboard Maestro. Again, it’s a Mac one and again it’s one that I happen to be trying out at the moment. I like it a lot for the very few, very little things I get it to do with me but it turns out you can do a lot more.

Oh, my lights, such a lot more. Here’s a very detailed and terribly promising article with every detail of scripting Keyboard Mastro to run Evernote faster: http://rocketink.net/2013/12/evernote-filing-suite.html

I was wrong: Apple’s best apps 2013 list is much better

It is still the case that if you go to the Best of 2013 in iTunes, you get a brief page of the very best and those we disappointing. But underneath that there are a couple of lists of categories. It looked to me like the kind of thing iTunes always does, that everywhere does, of chucking in related links. It is. It is exactly that. But.

But it’s more. I was going to check a thing on The Omni Group’s website and exactly as I was thinking it’s strange that OmniFocus 2 for iPhone wasn’t a Best of 2013, I found that it is. It said so, right there on their site. And so is their OmniPlan for Mac.

I followed their links right back to iTunes and found a fair few applications that are exactly what I would think are the best. I’m not saying there should be a category for what William Gallagher calls best, but they are ones that I think make our iPhones, iPads and Macs as truly tremendous productivity tools they are.

For iPad, that list includes Editorial – which I’m still looking at – and for iPhone it includes OmniFocus 2 plus IFTTT and Launch Center Pro.

Go check it all out on the iTunes App Store and please be smarter than I am.

App Santa deal now on

Run. Don’t figure you’ll remember to get around to maybe doing this after Christmas. Run to App Santa for one of those very rare things: a sale on software that isn’t a bundle where you get a lot of crap and one decent application. This set has more than a dozen genuinely good and first-in-their-class (or at least nearer to that an the junk we usually see).

And you don’t have to buy it all. Just grab the ones you need and know you’re getting 30% off.

I already have about five of them and use two (1Password and Launch Centre Pro) every day.

Here’s App Santa:

Productively waste your time on some gorgeous books

I’ve found this somewhat too late for Christmas, but Brain Pickings has published a collection of recommended books about writing. Usually I don’t like writing books much – cough, even though I’ve written one. And The Blank Screen is usually about the kinds of productivity ideas and systems and software that helps everyone, not only writers. But this is for writers.

The piece argues that it’s also for readers, that it’s fascinating to see inside the mind of writers. I have my doubts. That just sounds like something we writers would say.

But certainly there is a lot here that is about the philosophy of writing, of making and breaking habits, and I felt like I learnt a lot simply from reading the review and its quotes. I still think my credit card is in danger, though.

One thing: Brain Pickings compiled this from a slew of previous articles and while it’s divided up into sections for each recommended book, it’s remarkable how repetitive it all is. 

2013’s Best Books on Writing and Creativity

Tips and a sale on 1Password

I picked 1Password as one of the pieces of software I am dependent on and there’s now a sale. You can get this password manager – seriously, it’s so very good – for 30% off. That’s for the Mac version only but the iOS one is also gorgeousness. With the sale, the price is $34.99 US or £24.49.

Checking that price for you, I also found that Agile Bits has a blog with a new and handy tip. My one criticism of 1Password is that I’ve somehow ended up with a lot of near duplicates or redundant old versions of logins and passwords but there is a way to fix that.


Jane Austen, making us proud

This is what I call productivity: not tools, not theories, but a writer writing. I have adored Jane Austen since I read her line that “pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked” and here she is, superbly telling a guy where he can shove his ideas for her next book:

“I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life”

Read more on Brain Pickingwww.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/12/19/jane-austen-on-creative-integrity/

Fluffy fluff ough

You’re wondering what that means, I know. Let me explain that it is auto-correction: I typed a string of letters, more shaking my had across the iPad keyboard than even tapping, and Editorial changed it to fluffy fluff ough.

I’m testing Editorial. It’s the fairly new iPad app that has had the most rave reviews and I couldn’t quite see why. Most ravers go on a lot about how great it is when you’re writing in Markdown, but I never do. Markdown is a simplified HTML for coding websites, it’s a way of doing what you need to do without remembering coding strings. I like the idea, but I already know HTML and it’s actually rare that I do anything more than simple, unadorned text online.

So many good reviews and so many enthused comments, though. I tried looking into it and for once there are no handy YouTube videos showing you walkthroughs or whatever. I found some very bad YouTube videos. But nothing bad and helpful.

And given that it was only £2.99 and given that I was just given an iTunes gift card, I bought it. First impressions are that I like that auto-correct but it’s an odd thing: Editorial did a sterling job with that nonsense text but it won’t automatically change itunes into iTunes as iOS normally does.

I done display font. I do very, very much like that the iPad onscreen keyboard has a small extra row with symbols, though I hope I can change them to ones I use more often than every type of bracket under the son. (It’s the parentheses I blame.) Oh! When I tapped that opening bracket, Editorial also put in a closing one after my cursor. That’s very coding-handy but I think it’ll be useful in normal writing sometimes too. It’s a nice touch.

But the real reason I am writing this to you is that I want to see if I can write it to you. Right now, The Blank Screen blog is a test that I’m running on WordPress. Can I write something here in Editorial and send it directly to WordPress?

Apparently I can through a workflow. This is the other great feature that gets mentioned and which I do at least conceptually understand. Editorial lets you automate a lot of work. I’m a fan of automating things that can be automated and which are right chores if you don’t. But I’m not clear how it works here and I know nothing whatsoever about the system or language Python that it uses.

So I’m finding out. If I can’t use it or if I learn that it isn’t useful for me then I have wasted some time but I’ll know more and that’s never a waste. If it is useful and if I can use it, then I’ll save a lot of time over the long run. I am definitely and always in favour of spending a little time now to save a lot later. If only I was as financially astute.

One thing. I thought the most useful of the little extra row of symbols would be the apostrophe but where the rest of this text is plain, the apostrophe is not. Maybe I have to write in this Markdown. I don’t know.

But let’s get this to the test WordPress blog and see what happens. I’ve installed an Editorial workflow written by the creator of Editorial and which posts text to WordPress. I haven’t done anything else: haven’t given it the address. I took a look at the code and can’t immediately see where it asks me for one or where I can set one up, so I’m going to save this document and then run the workflow.

Run the workflow and step back.

Failed. I failed in that it asked if I were writing a normal or a linked post and I don’t know. And it failed with a line 15 runtime error. Checking line 15…

Can’t tell for sure what line 15 is: it’s either a kind of block 15, the fifteenth step in the sequence, or it’s a line 15 of code and I can’t see how to examine that closely.

What I can surely do is email this text and that is one what to get it into the blog, so I’ll do that.

I want to say to you that if you’re picking up a critical tone or a questioning of Editorial, you’re smart but it’s not quite that. I have exactly zero criticism of Editorial so far. (And I have a fair few things to praise in it.) What I’m examining here is not this software, it is specifically whether this app is going to be useful to me in my work here, right now. I have side questions like how in the world did the line Fluffy fluff ough just appear in the middle of the previous sentence as I was writing it, but that’s something to ask about later and delete now.

Mac Observer: 6 Must Have iPhone Travel Apps

I can’t brig a sentence with a digit. Can’t. Consequently, the site Mac Observer has to have a name check in the headline there. It’s as if they knew I’d be quoting them.

The rest of the headline tells you all you need to know except this: the article is US-centric and the route finder they mention, Waze, is less of a big deal in the UK.

Also, I prefer FlightTrack Pro to their plane choice. But I’m in absolute agreement about TripIt. That recently came out in a one-off payment version instead of either free with ads or an annual subscription. I don’t travel enough to make use of the subscription benefits but I do use TripIt more than enough to find the ads a pain.


Priority Matrix To Do app free today only

Very soon now Apple will shut down the innards of the App Store for Christmas so things that go free will have to stay free for a week or two. But if you fancy something, always grab it right now. Even if you don’t have time to try it out and even if you just delete it, get it for free now and it is always there for you.

Which is another way of saying that I’m rushing you this information about a free To Do app quickly. And so haven’t tried it myself.

I’m not keen on prioritising tasks, I’d rather just do them, but if you’re more into assessing urgent vs important then this is at least worth a look.

Priority Matrix for iPhone – Best to do list app for managers by Appfluence LLC https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/priority-matrix-for-iphone/id409077093?mt=8