Welcome to the lab.

The 60 Mac Tips winners

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Congrats to the six winners of the full 60 Mac Tips shebang! Volumes 1 and 2 on iBooks and streaming/download on Vimeo.

  • Jimmy Hartington
  • Ronan
  • Eric Bouchut
  • David Watkin
  • Marek Petruš
  • Derek van Ittersum

For those who didn’t win, you can pick up a copy and support independent writers and Mac nerds!

A reminder that the iBooks and Vimeo versions contain the exact same tips, just different ways of getting to them.

Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing!

Markdown Service Tools 2.16

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First, a quick reminder that there’s still time to enter the 60 Mac Tips giveaway and win $80 worth of awesome mac tips in iBooks and Vimeo streaming/download formats!

And now, a quick note that I’ve improved the “Clean Up Smart Quotes” service in the Markdown Service Tools. I also renamed it to “Clean Up Smart Punctuation,” so if you have the Smart Quotes version installed, you’ll need to delete that to avoid duplication.

The service now also converts invisible whitespace characters. These happen a lot when clipping from websites where horrible WYSIWYG editors have inserted a bunch of non-breaking spaces ( ) and the clipper’s entity conversion turns those into control characters. Then markup like emphasis breaks. So now you can just run “Clean Up Smart Punctuation” and it will convert curly quotes, guillemots, ellipses, and remove invisible characters that make debugging without an advanced code editor quite difficult.

See the project page for more info and a download link!

Win a free copy of 60 Mac Tips: Volume 2

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To help promote 60 Mac Tips: Volume 2, I’m running a giveaway. Six winners (drawn by KILLOTRON Giveaway Robot X1) will get both volume one and volume two, in both the iBooks version and the Vimeo streaming versions.

In case you missed the announcement yesterday, 60 Mac Tips: Volume 2 is the second (obviously, because it’s brilliantly titled to ensure clarity) installment of “60 Tips” in the MacSparky Field Guide series. The first one came out a few years ago, and it’s been updated as well. Tips that didn’t work anymore have been replaced, and tips that changed have been updated. So that’s 120 Mac tips from a couple of pros2.

Both the iBooks and Vimeo versions have the exact same tips, but the streaming version is a bit more universal, given you can access it from any device. I mean, there are Mac users with Android phones, (I’m told). If you can’t get the iBooks version in your country, or just prefer to save a few gigs in your iCloud storage, you have options.

In return for this amazing opportunity to win an $80 bundle of 120 tips and almost four hours of video, I ask only that you share this post far and wide. Sure, it will statistically lower your chances of winning a random drawing, but c’mon.3 Here’s a link to make it easy:

Share on Twitter Facebook?

The drawing will occur on Monday, October 9th, 2017 at 12:00pm CST. Winners will receive 60 Mac Tips Volumes 1 & 2, in both iBooks and streaming/download format (Vimeo), an $80US value. All you need to do is enter is your name and email, one entry per person, duplicate entries automatically deleted. I promise, as always, your email is never used for anything other than notifying the winners, and the database is cleared after every giveaway. One entry per person, winners will be notified automatically.

Sorry, this giveaway has ended.

Don’t forget to share. Please and thank you!

  1. He got an upgrade this year. Facial recognition or something.

  2. I’m going to just go ahead and call myself that. Forgive my lack of Minnesotan humility.

  3. It also doesn’t increase your chances of winning, because I hate that. No “share to enter” crap.

60 Mac Tips: Volume 2

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A few years ago, back when the Macworld conference was still a thing, I did a presentation with David Sparks and Merlin Mann. We delivered 60 Mac tips in 60 minutes. It was quite a feat, and a dizzying amount of information. David and I decided to turn that into a more usable compendium, and released 60 Mac Tips on iBooks. Today we’re announcing Volume 2.

Volume 2 is a collection of entirely new tricks and tips to make you more efficient on your Mac. 60 screencasts and two hours of video demonstrating and explaining each tip. I joined David and Katie on this week’s Mac Power Users to talk about creating the book.

They’re geared toward everyone, from beginner to advanced. To me the difference between a “user” and a “power user” is their level of curiosity, not their current level of skill. If you’re someone who buys a book like this, you have the curiosity. We’re aiming to give you new skills.

Topics include:

  • macOS
  • Siri
  • keyboard shortcuts
  • Spotlight
  • Automator
  • Safari
  • Mail
  • Apple Notes
  • Apple Photos
  • Terminal tips
  • third-party apps.

I had a great time working with David on this, and I hope it shows in the final product. I think you’ll enjoy it.

You can get the new book in the iBooks Store for your Mac, iPad or iPhone. The iBooks Store version was created in iBooks Author and includes the highest quality interactivity available.

We’re also offering this book as a streaming/downloadable product from Vimeo. The Vimeo version also includes closed-captioning and higher fidelity video (1080 vs. 720 in the iBook).

60 Mac Tips, Volume 2 from David Sparks on Vimeo.

One More Thing

We also updated Volume 1 to version 1.2 on iBooks. We replaced tips that didn’t work anymore, and updated tips that have changed. The update is free on iBooks if you own the first volume already. Otherwise, you can get it on the iBooks Store or Vimeo Streaming/Download.

MultiMarkdown Composer 4 (+Giveaway)

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MultiMarkdown Composer has been my top pick for serious Markdown editing for quite a while now. Version 4 is a big upgrade from the previous version, and I’m excited it’s finally available to the public.

I’m going to talk about a few features, but if you already know how great Composer is, you can always jump to the giveaway form.

MultiMarkdown Composer 4 has been in the works for a few years now, undergoing a complete rewrite. Long enough, in fact, that it’s been through a couple names in the process. Its final incarnation is a free “Basic” app on the Mac App Store, with in-app purchase for the Standard and Pro versions. It was worth the wait: it’s fast and packed with amazing features you don’t find in other editors.

MultiMarkdown 6

In the process of the rewrite, Fletcher Penney wrote a whole new version of MultiMarkdown. MultiMarkdown 6 is technically still in beta, but is well-tested and I haven’t had a single issue with it in MMD Composer 4.

There are a few syntax changes to note. Most of them won’t be an issue, though changes like requiring table captions to be after the table instead of accepting it either at top or bottom might throw a few people (and existing MMD 5 documents) off. Some of the new syntax, though, is brilliant.

The Text Editor

First, let’s talk about why this is my favorite editor. Back in 2012 I penned a list of features that my dream markdown editor would have (and a followup). A healthy number of these made it into the first version of MultiMarkdown Composer, and more with each version. Here are some of the features from my list that are available in MultiMarkdown Composer:

  • Bold/italics shortcuts
  • Maintain indentation when hitting return
  • Automatically continue lists, incrementing numbered lists automatically
  • Automatically pair common characters (brackets, parens, backticks, quotes, etc.)
  • If a paired character is typed while text is selected, wrap the text in the pair
  • Pasting a link with text selected creates link syntax
  • Autocomplete reference titles, so typing a square bracket creates a pair and then typing inside of it searches the document for any title: url (or footnotes) lines and uses typeahead completion.
  • Table of Contents
  • Shortcuts for indenting lines and paragraphs and moving them up and down
  • Tools to turn text into lists and convert lists between bullet and numbered
  • One of my favorites: ⌘↩ will start a new line without inserting a linebreak in the current line

The editor adds some other great touches as well, including elastic tabstops and commands to convert block types between blockquotes, lists, plain text, and fenced code blocks. There are even options for instantly title-casing headers, controlling list spacing, and formatting the next line in tables automatically.

The MultiMarkdown Composer editor also provides highlighting for Markdown syntax. Text with strong syntax is bold, emphasis is italic, headlines and links are highlighted, etc. And you can create your own themes, allowing you to do anything from removing all highlighting to customizing your own color scheme. The list of elements the parser provides for styling is very complete.

The Preview

Composer’s live preview is something special. It’s fast, essentially 100% live as you make changes. It can be customized with CSS themes as well. One of my own themes, Pretentious, is included in the distribution.

The synchronized scrolling is amazing. Wherever you scroll to in the editor, the preview matches the position, even if there are a bunch of images or other rendered elements that would make the preview a significantly different length than the editor. A video from Fletcher demonstrates it well.

Composer also integrates with Marked 2 via the Preview With Marked command (⌥⌘P).

Document Stats and Other Tools

Every editor window has an unobtrusive stats bar at the bottom, showing word, character, line, and paragraph counts. It can be toggled on and off with ⇧⌘I.

Then there are the sidebars.

The TOC sidebar shows all of the headers in your document. In the Pro version, you can even control the maximum depth of the table of contents, so if you use a bunch of level 5 and 6 headers, you can keep the list from becoming unmanageable. In the TOC sidebar, you can even drag headers around to re-order the document sections with a simple drag and drop. That feature even lets you nest sections, modifying their header level automatically.

The Reference sidebar shows you all of the reference links (and optionally footnotes) in the document, making it easy to double click them and insert them as a link.

The CriticMarkup sidebar, well that gets its own section.


One of the things you lose when you start writing in Markdown is the collaborative abilities of Pages, Microsoft Word, or Google Docs. That’s why CriticMarkup was invented, but it’s clunky to type by hand and doesn’t allow history. MultiMarkdown Composer takes care of one of those problems.

You can turn on “Change Tracking” and any changes you make to the document will automatically be converted into CriticMarkup syntax. You can set a comment (usually my initials) to be added to each change, allowing you to track changes from multiple editors. The Preview window can show you the original document, the markup version, or the edited document if all the changes are accepted.

It can also compare two files and convert the differences into CriticMarkup. Thus, you can have multiple versions of a document and create diffs between versions to share.

Then there’s the issue of accepting and rejecting changes. Composer offers a sidebar listing all of the edits in the document. You can select them and accept or reject them individually, or accept or reject all changes at once.

And more…

There are a bunch of “Clean Up” tools in version 4. My most-used one is definitely “smart punctuation,” which will go through and convert curly quotes and apostrophes, ellipses, em and en-dashes, etc. into Markdown syntax. This is a big deal when trying to avoid encoding and rendering errors in other apps.

It can also clean up metadata, lists, wrapped paragraphs, tables, and html entities. And it can do them all at once for the whole document, if you like.

Composer also has multiple export options, including HTML, EPUB 3, OpenDocument, LaTeX, and TextPack (the bundle format that I and The Soulmen created).

In the Pro version, you can also create custom text expansions, a la TextExpander. When a shortcut is typed, MultiMarkdown Composer will insert your defined text into the document automatically.

There’s also an advanced undo mode called History Mode (Pro version) that makes it easy to step backward and forward through every change in the document.

The Versions

As I mentioned, the basic version of MultiMarkdown Composer 4 is free on the MAS. It’s somewhat limited in functionality, but you can try it out, and if you like it, upgrade to the Standard or Pro versions.

The Standard upgrade ($14.99 US) gets you:

  • The ability to open multiple documents at once
  • Print
  • Export (HTML, EPUB 3, OpenDocument, LaTeX, and TextPack)
  • Full use of the sidebars (TOC, References, CriticMarkup)
  • Custom Theme support

The Pro upgrade ($29.99 US) gets you:

  • Text expansion
  • History Mode Undo
  • Sync all your settings and themes
  • Limit depth of the Table of Contents

If you start with the standard upgrade, you can move up to the pro version at any time for the difference in price ($14.99 US).

So, to summarize, MultiMarkdown Composer remains my favorite Markdown editor on the market. There are times when an editor like Scrivener or Ulysses make sense, but for writing this blog and all of my other journalistic endeavors, MMD Composer is my standard. Check it out on the Mac App Store.

The Giveaway!

The basic version of MultiMarkdown Composer is free on the App Store, but I have four (4) codes for the full Pro upgrade. The giveaway will run until Noon CST on Friday, Sept 29, 2017. Winners will be chosen at random by the Giveaway Robot, and all you need to do to enter is provide your name and email. As always, these are not stored after the giveaway and will never be used to contact you except to send you your codes if you win.

Sorry, this giveaway has ended.

nvALT 2.2.8, because I got High (Sierra)

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So any and all users who’ve upgraded to the High Sierra preview has had issues with the nvALT. I know this because of the number of emails and tweets and various other means of complaining that are absolutely not the GitHub Issues page I try so hard to point people to for such communication. Also, because I’m running High Sierra, too.

I had almost given up on a fix. Notational Velocity’s code uses low-level file APIs, and it looked like there was no way I was going to get them all updated and working with the APFS filesystem in High Sierra. Turned out it was just an incorrect volume capabilities check (credit to Jacob Bandes-Storch). A couple of other fixes (credit to Vivek Gani) and it’s running fine.

If you’re already on High Sierra, you’ll have to download directly (below), and for everyone else you should see the automatic update and I highly recommend using it.

Here’s to nvALT’s survival until BitWriter gets back on track!

Brett (and David, who is in no way responsible for the contents of this post.)

nvALT v2.2.8 (128)

A fork of Notational Velocity with MultiMarkdown preview and advanced Markdown editing capabilities. Other good stuff.

Updated Tue Sep 19 2017.

DonateMore info…

P.S. I accidentally found this “positive” remix of the song referenced in the title. Funny.

Web Excursions for September 18, 2017

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Web excursions brought to you by MightyDeals.com, featuring great deals on software, training, and design resources.

Paste for Mac 25% off
If you don’t have a clipboard manager yet, Paste is great. Unlimited clipboard history, pinboard views with previews, and a lot more. 25% off right now.
Sublime Text 3
So Sublime 3 is finally official. I’ve been using it in beta for long enough that this isn’t a huge deal, but despite Atom having a larger developer community, I’ve stuck with Sublime primarily because it’s stable, it has every package I need, and it’s not an Electron app.
A really nice version of Monokai for Sublime Text 3. I found a link in the description to ColorSchemeUnit which looks like a great unit testing tool for those publishing Sublime themes.
0k/shyaml: YAML for command line
Probably because of my Jekyll usage and Ruby in general, I’ve taken to creating most configuration files in YAML instead of JSON. Parsing it from a bash script has always been a pain, though…
This will only be of interest to VW and Audi owners who happen to enjoy saving a ton of money by getting their hands dirty. But seriously, with cheap replacement parts and detailed tutorial videos, I’ve already saved over $1000 over taking my aging TT to a mechanic. (And that’s not even including the money that Harold Kachelmyer helped me save on a clutch replacement…)
FLAC to MP3 Mac - Convert FLAC to MP3 Format on Mac OS
A macOS app for speedy conversion of FLAC to MP3 and other audio formats.