Welcome to the lab.

Recap: Apr 16th, 2014

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Some posts of interest from the last week:

Sponsor: PDFpen for iPad (Apr 10th)
A big thanks to Smile for their continued support of BrettTerpstra.com. If you work with PDFs (or just regularly need to digitally sign them), PDFpen is an amazing tool
A Service for getting sums from selections (Apr 10th)
This one got linked by LifeHacker and others. I didn’t realize it was going to be that handy for everyone else, too.
Sum: PopClip extension (Apr 11th)
The above service gets even more powerful when you stick it in PopClip and add some extra parsing… complete with options for internationalization right from PopClip’s configuration panel.
Fantastical 2 for iPad, review and giveaway (Apr 12th)
You have ONE MORE DAY to sign up for one of 10 free copies of Fantastical 2 for iPad. Giveaway ends at 12pm on the 17th.
doing 0.2.5 (Apr 12th)
A huge update to my doing utility for command line activity tracking. It’s officially out of hand.
SearchLink 2.1.1: blogger friendlier (Apr 13th)
SearchLink got a couple of updates (and a fix) this week, and it’s become an absolutely essential blogging tool for me. I’ve heard other people like it, too.
OTask OmniFocus CLI is back (for now) (Apr 14th)
I patched up the OTask tool for adding OmniFocus tasks from the command line. It has a limited lifespan due to changing libraries, but it works for now!
Systematic 92 with Ryan Irelan (Apr 15th)
I had a really, really fun conversation with Ryan Irelan on Systematic this week. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Recaps are a quick, curated summary of one week’s posts on this site. You can keep up on the site with RSS, or subscribe specifically to the Recaps and get weekly updates in digest format.

SearchLink fixes (2.1.2)

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I just uploaded SearchLink 2.1.2 with some fixes and improvements.

Among other niggling issues, if you had Amazon affiliate information set to empty or false (i.e. disabled), it would always insert an inline link, regardless of preferences. This is fixed.

I also added a preference that you can include in your ~/.searchlink file that determines whether iTunes searches have a Google fallback. If itunes_fallback is set to true and iTunes returns empty results, it will run a Google search with keywords based on your search terms and the type of iTunes search you were running (podcast, artist, software, etc.). If the result ends up being from iTunes, it will still append your affiliate link if it’s configured. This option defaults to false, so you need to add it to the config if you want to use it. Just add a line…

itunes_fallback: true

…to your ~/.searchlink file. More info on the SearchLink project page, and an example configuration file can be found here.

SearchLink has turned out to be one of the most useful writing tools I have, and I’d like to continue developing it as I can. If you find any bugs, please do report them. Also, if you use it as much as I do, I don’t mind donations at all, or even a small monthly contribution.

SearchLink v2.1.2

Generate Markdown links from web searches without leaving your editor.

Updated Wed Apr 16 2014.

More info…

Systematic 92 with Ryan Irelan

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Systematic logo

I knew I liked Ryan Irelan from watching his videos and some brief contact around the internet, but I didn’t expect to enjoy talking to him as much as I did on Systematic episode 92.

Ryan — in addition to being Vice President of Tech at Happy Cog and offering his own array of tech education videos at Mijingo — has a fascination with the story, details and craftsmanship of “mundane” objects, which made for an interesting start to the episode.

The episode went a little long, but mostly because we started talking music. Bruce Springsteen, specifically, but we eventually broadened the discussion.

It was a lot of fun. Check out the episode at 5by5. I hope you enjoy!

Web Excursions for April 14, 2014

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If you’re not looking to use an entire framework like methadone or GLI for your Ruby CLIs, here are some awesome tools to alleviate some common issues with writing command line scripts in Ruby.
I don’t know why it took me so long to discover these, but they’re really handy plugins if you use Sketch.app.
A really handy tool for quickly generating baseline grids and vertical rhythm.
Faster Sass debugging and style iteration with source maps, Chrome Web Developer Tools and Grunt
I just got this working last night and it’s awesome. The Chrome Inspector can point me right to a line in a Sass partial… (requires bleeding edge Sass/Compass).
The end of the GIF is nigh: Meet the GFY
I just got into using LICEcap thanks to Zachary Kain, and animated gifs are becoming more a part of my life than they used to be. Thus, this is fascinating.
Github Cheat Sheet
So much goodness in here. I honestly didn’t know about help.autocorrect and had forgotten that t will open a file explorer for a repo on the GitHub website. My life is better now.

OTask OmniFocus CLI is back (for now)

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It’s been a nerdy weekend. Surprise.

I usually use TaskPaper when working on coding projects, and I have an array of tools for working with it from the command line. Every once in a while I do need to add a task to OmniFocus (where I keep my non-coding todo lists) too, though. I used to use my script “OTask” for that, but it’s been neglected since Mavericks came out and wasn’t working for me anymore.

I’ve updated the script to work with Ruby 2.0 (which comes with Mavericks), and made the intallation much easier by packaging it up as a gem. You can just run gem install otask in Terminal to get started (may require sudo gem install otask). It’s not super-polished, but I got it to a point where it was working smoothly for me and thought I’d share.

Note: If you use Xcode 5.1 and have trouble installing the gem, see this post for a fix.

The reason the headline says “for now” is that this script was based on appscript, which is a dead project and its days of working on OS X are numbered. Still, it’s working great right now on my Mavericks machine, so I’d say it’s got a little time left.

In a nutshell, OTask lets you add OmniFocus tasks directly from the command line, and optionally include project (#proj) and context (@cont) tags that will resolve to the closest matching project and context names. Add d(tomorrow 3pm) and a due date will be set. End the task with a space and an exclamation point to flag it (otask "finish your dinner d(5pm) !"). Anything in parenthesis besides a due date marker is considered to be a note and is added to the task’s note section.

The details of the tool and its syntax are on the OTask project page. It’s been tested with OmniFocus and OmniFocus 2, which you probably don’t have yet. It will work when we all get there, though. If you do have the beta of OmniFocus 2 installed, it will default to using that, I believe. It is for me, anyway.

There’s a Launchbar action in the project notes, and making one for Alfred would take 2 minutes. Both launchers already have OmniFocus scripts available, though, so I’m not spending much time on that.

If you’re an I-like-the-command-line-but-I-still-need-OmniFocus kind of person, check out OTask.

SearchLink 2.1.1: blogger friendlier

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Version 2.1.1 of SearchLink is up, and it adds only one new feature. It’s one I’ve been using a lot, though, so I figured I’d better go ahead and share it.

If you’re anything like me (no one’s accusing you), you use reference links when blogging in Markdown. I tend to put all of the links I know I’m going to use into a block at the top of the post, and then just use [text][link title] notation to reference them. Well, SearchLink’s newish ability to work without bracket syntax is great for setting those up, but it outputs inline links that I then have to edit into reference format. No more.

With the newest version, just put a colon at the end of the search string and it will output a reference link instead.

That’s it. More info on what SearchLink actually is on the project page.

SearchLink v2.1.2

Generate Markdown links from web searches without leaving your editor.

Updated Wed Apr 16 2014.

More info…

doing 0.2.5

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Version 0.2.5 is a big update to my doing project. It’s so huge that I’m overwhelmed at the prospect of explaining it all. The project page is updated with all of the new commands and features, and you can run doing help or doing help [command] to get more information on flags, switches and arguments. You can also see a summary of all the new features in the changelog.

The biggest new features are HTML output, additional viewing commands (like yesterday for stand-up meetings) and new tagging, archiving and time tracking features. Also, I’d like to thank everyone who’s contributed pull requests on GitHub (like the yesterday command). You’re all awesome.

I plan to do a few posts on what you can do with the latest version:

  • Time tracking and getting totals for various projects based on tags
  • Outputting stats and data to CSV files and web pages
  • Colorizing and customizing output for a prettier command line experience

I’m taking a break from this project for a while now, though. I have things I need to actually be doing, if you know what I mean.

Install the latest release with gem install doing and let me know how it goes using GitHub issues. See the project page for details.

Fantastical 2 for iPad, review and giveaway

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You’ve probably heard that Fantastical 2 for iPad is out. I’m a bit slow writing about it, but not for lack of excitement. This is an amazing app, and even after leaving my job and having a lot less on my schedule, it’s a joy to use.

The basic idea behind Fantastical on all platforms (it’s also available on Mac and iPhone) has always been natural-language event entry. “Lunch with Dan at 2” turns into a full-fledged calendar event with automatic reminders. This holds true on the iPad version, which adds full support for dictation on devices that can handle it. It even expands the parser to handle repeating events and alarms right in the syntax when you create events or reminders.

What Fantastical 2 for iPad really brings to the table1 is a reconsidered layout and gesture setup that Flexibits has dubbed “The Fantastical Dashboard.” It’s a multi-pane view showing a day ticker, a list view and a calendar view. You can pull down on the day ticker to expand it into a week view, which is one of the many nice, gesture-based features of the app.

The Reminders support is outstanding. Your reminders are included in your calendar, but you can also swipe from the left side of the screen (or tap the checkmark at the top) and dig into your lists. Fantastical 2 supports dates, times and even setting up geofence reminders right in the application. You can use the same natural language style to add reminders, as well, just by starting with “reminder,” “todo,” “task,” or the more natural “remind me to…”

Swipe from the right (or click the magnifying glass) to enter a wicked-fast search mode for finding any of your events (including Facebook/calendar Birthdays). Tapping and holding on a day in the calendar, week or day ticker view starts a new task on that day. You just fill in the rest. There’s even TextExpander support, so you can create snippets for events you enter often. Events with sufficient data get add-ons like maps and easy contact links for invitees.

Fantastical works with iCloud, Google Calendar, Exchange and more systems, meaning whatever you already have set up on your iPad will just work. When you open the app for the first time, everything is already in place.

All of this adds up to an amazing application, and definitely my favorite in the realm of calendar apps. Fantastical 2 for iPad is currently $9.99 on the App Store as an intro price, and will be $14.99 after that. If you’re one of a lucky five people who sign up for the random drawing below, you can get it for free.

The giveaway

I have five TEN copies of Fantastical 2 for iPad to give away ($14.99 value). The contest is open to anyone that can make use of an App Store promo code. All you have to do is sign up below with a full name and email address (it’s private, and only for sending codes to you when you win). The winners will be drawn on Thursday, April 17th, at Noon CT. Best of luck!

Update: there were originally five copies available, but Flexibits decided that you all deserve double the odds of winning and provided five additional codes for a total of ten copies!

One entry per person, valid email required to win. Giveaway ends on 04/17/14 at 12:00 PM. I will never sell or misuse your email address.

I also encourage you to check out Federico Viticci’s in-depth review over at Macstories, and Gabe Weatherhead’s tips and tricks.

  1. tablet?

Sum: PopClip extension

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I turned yesterday’s simple “Total Numbers” service into a PopClip extension. Just select some text and all of the numbers in it are added up (with consideration for negative numbers). The result is shown in a popup and copied to the clipboard.

This version handles edge cases in number formatting a bit better, and is configurable for various locales.

The extension has options for setting the separator (like the comma in 1,000), the decimal delimiter (period in US, sometimes a comma elsewhere) and whether or not you want the output formatted with the separator for large numbers. You’ll see the options when you install the extension, and you can get back to them by clicking the pencil icon in the PopClip menu to enter edit mode, then clicking the gear next to the Sum extension.

Note that numbers can be anywhere in the text. They don’t have to be in a list or a table to work. They can also have currency symbols touching on either side and still be totaled up.

YouTube Video

The extension is part of the “Brett’s PopClip Extensions” bundle. Just download it and double-click any extensions to install them. This one is called “Sum.” The source code for all my PopClip extensions is on GitHub.

Brett’s PopClip Extensions v1.15

A few PopClip extensions for Markdown writing and other useful tools

Updated Thu Apr 10 2014.

More info…