Welcome to the lab.

And then there were interactive Bunches

Here’s the latest stuff in Bunch 1.3.1!

This is all the result of a combination of new (better) ADHD meds (I refer you to the last couple episodes of Overtired) and the fact that the latest developer seed of Big Sur fixed the blurry PDF issue that I’ve been dedicating an inordinate amount of time to working around, so I suddenly have a little extra time in my day. Thank you Apple. For fixing what you broke, I mean. But still, I’m grateful.

(I’ll do an official announcement post on the Marked bug when this fix makes it into the stable release and is available to everyone.)

So what’s new with Bunch?

Web Excursions for January 13, 2021

Web excursions brought to you in partnership with MindMeister, the best collaborative mind mapping software out there.

Slow Feeds
I’ve mentioned Slow Feeds in the past. It’s an iOS RSS feed reader that lets you filter your feeds by posting frequency.

Now, back and at version 6, Slow Feeds is simpler than ever. It’s a free download, but you can buy an upgrade to Super Slow Feeds to get unlimited access to older posts and lower posting frequency filters.

Sorted3
I mentioned Sorted3 back in 2017. They’ve just come out with a Mac companion version (Catalyst) of their streamlined todo/scheduling app. It’s definitely worth a look.
What I Use Now Instead Of Google
A good list of alternatives to Google for everything from email to web searches.
Cyber Attribution Report
Writing a post-cyber-attack press release and need a nation state actor to blame? This page will generate everything you need. (humor)
Sendy - Send Newsletters 100x cheaper via Amazon SES
I’ve been mentioning this lots of places, but I’m really excited about it. Pointed out to my by Tyler Hall on Systematic, this self-hosted newsletter app lets you send trackable emails via Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) for a fraction of what major email services like Mailchimp will charge. If you have a medium-to-large mailing list, it’s more than worth every penny.

Check out MindMeister and start brainstorming, collaborating, and boosting productivity.

Bunch Updates

I’ve released an update to Bunch (v1.2.9) that all current users will appreciate.

The universal change is related to some beachballing that would happen any time you quit a bunch. It turned out to be the AppleScript I use to save and restore desktop wallpaper. I made this routine only run when the Bunch actually has any commands that modify the wallpaper, and made it faster when it does run. So you should see a lot less “spinning” when launching and quitting Bunches.

Secondly, I added a syntax for specifying a delay. You just add a tilde (~) immediately followed by an integer at the end of any app, script, or command line. So to have an AppleScript command delay by five seconds, you would use:

* say "I've been waiting" ~5

The delay only affects the current line, and things after it in the Bunch won’t wait for it to complete. I played with adding a full pause command, but Bunch is very asynchronous when it launches everything, and it would be an inefficient refactoring to make that work.

Lastly, new Big Sur-style icon.

CLI Update

In related news, the Bunch CLI is now a gem and can be installed with gem install bunchcli. Once it’s installed, just run bunch -h for an overview of commands.

The update is available for current users under Bunch->Check for Updates. Learn more about Bunch and download the latest release on the project page.

Brett’s Favorites 2020

Happy New Year’s Eve! As has been my tradition for almost a decade now (since 2011!), I’ve compiled some of my favorite apps and things for the last year. Not a complete list, of course — I like a lot of things — but a good overview. Enjoy!

Side note: I apologize for the lack of posts this last month. A combination of being (thankfully) stable with my bipolar (my manic episodes are great for blogging…) and being pretty sure my ADHD meds aren’t working anymore has led to me mostly just being able to do what’s absolutely required without a lot of room for creative pursuits. Hopefully I’ll turn a corner on all that soon. Thanks for bearing with me!

Anyway, onward!

Remove the proxy icon hover delay in Big Sur

I’m usually a good sport about macOS updates. I find stuff to like, and deal with the bugs as they get worked out. I’m not feeling as generous about Big Sur. Among many annoyances I have is a relatively (well, very) small one: Apple hid the proxy icon behind a rollover with a delay in Finder.

If you’re unfamiliar with them, proxy icons are the little icon to the left of a document title in the title bar. They act as a proxy for the document/file, allowing you to drag from the title bar to any application that accepts that type of document.

Like I said, this change is tiny, but it’s the kind of thing where I can’t really understand the motivation for doing it. It seems like a regression to me, no matter how I look at it. I haven’t found a way to sneakily bring them back, but I did find a way to at least remove the ~1s delay between hovering and the icon being exposed.

Thanks to Herman van Boeijen for this one:

defaults write com.apple.Finder NSToolbarTitleViewRolloverDelay -float 0

Running that in Terminal and then restarting Finder (killall Finder) will make the proxy icon display immediately when your cursor rolls over it. It’s a start., but I’m still uncharacteristically grumpy about this whole OS.

Marked 2, Big Sur, and blurry PDFs

Ok, so here’s the deal. Marked works on Big Sur. If you’re using it for previewing your Markdown or exporting HTML, it should continue to work perfectly for you. But if you, like a majority of my customers, use Marked to output great-looking PDFs, you’re going to run into some trouble that will take me a while to sort out.

The short story is this: on Big Sur, for whatever reason, generating PDFs using WebKit outputs a raster image rather than a vector PDF as it has always done in the past. This means it can’t be zoomed, text isn’t selectable, and it’s basically a useless PDF. The workaround is simply to export to HTML, load it in Safari, and then print to PDF. You can get even better results using Firefox, but I’ll be posting a knowledge base article on that. You’ll lose some of Marked’s more advanced export features, but you’ll get a nice vector PDF out of it.

Allow me to explain a little further why this isn’t working, and why I’m not prepared for the release of Big Sur today.

When I first tested on Big Sur months ago, this problem became apparent. I filed bug reports and posted to forums but apparently I was the only person seeing this. This is mostly because the version of WebKit that Marked uses was deprecated a while ago, and most people had moved on to using the newer WKWebView. This wasn’t an option for Marked at the time, though, as WKWebView completely lacked printing and PDF capabilities until recently.

Switching to WKWebView meant major changes to Marked. I mean a complete rewrite of thousands of lines of code. And because the process meant losing major export functionality (among other losses), there was no justification for doing it. Zero. So I hoped that this PDF bug would be fixed and I wouldn’t have to make the switch until WKWebView was actually suitable for use.

WKWebView has finally added some of the features I need, though implemented in such a way that I still can’t fully replicate the functionality Marked had with the older WebView. And if I implement the latest features, it risks becoming incompatible with older macOS versions, meaning I’d have to have two entirely different apps available if I wanted to maintain customers who, for various reasons, haven’t chosen to update their OS. Which isn’t a trivial number these days.

After spending days and weeks on workarounds, I’ve come down to completely bypassing WebKit for the PDF export functionality. It’s still a major rewrite, and the available functionality, especially around customizable headers and footers, will change, but it should allow me to continue offering solid PDF export across OS versions. It will also significantly improve DOCX export. There will be a loss of ability to use custom themes for exported documents, but I’ll be working to allow PDF and DOCX custom themes once I get the basic functionality (re)implemented.

To summarize: if you update to Big Sur right now, your PDF exports from Marked 2 will be ruined. I’m working on the issue, but there are major changes coming that may take me months to implement. The HTML-to-web-browser solution should get you through, though, so it shouldn’t be a showstopper on updating your system.

Hook 2.0 and updated CLI

Version 2.0 of Hook is out, and there’s a lot to talk about. Creator Luc Beaudoin was on Mac Power Users recently, discussing Hook among other things. You can see everything that’s new in the Hook 2.0 Release Notes.

If you’ve checked out Hook in the past but weren’t sold, take a fresh look at it. There’s an updated UI, including a full browser with previews for hooked items, pinned hooks, and an expansion of the way hooks can act as bookmarks. As part of this, the API was significantly changed (all for the better), thus the command line interface I wrote for it (which relies on Hook’s AppleScript library) required an overhaul.

The CLI has several new features, including a command for searching bookmarks by url or name, fzf for selecting files to operate on, and built-in shell completion scripts for bash, zsh, and fish. Check out the project page and see the GitHub README for full documentation.

If you already have the gem installed, you can update it to work with Hook 2.0 using gem update hookapp.