Welcome to the lab.

Working from home can be magical

We here at BrettTerpstra.com take COVID-19 very seriously. We’ve all transitioned to working from home and maintaining social distance, and to providing you with all of our reading materials online for your protection. So, business as usual.

Seriously, though, how are you holding up? This Coronavirus thing is a big change, huh? Not so much for me, but I feel for all of the people who are newly working from home. It can be quite a transition.

There have been endless articles on how to work from home. And so many of them are wrong in one way or another, yet each proclaims itself to be true for you and your productivity. The fact is that working from home means a lot of different things, and every individual has to find their own rhythm. And for some of us, it’s downright magical compared to working in an office.

Web Excursions for March 24, 2020

Brett holding map

Some things to play with when you’re not working (from home).

Web excursions brought to you in partnership with CleanMyMac X, all the tools to speed up your Mac, in one app.

Slideas Markdown Presentation Editor for Mac
Some serious competition for Deckset here. A Markdown-based slide deck generator and presenter with support for a wide array of layouts, media types, and even full chart/mind map syntax. The built-in editor offers syntax highlighting and autocompletion. I wish some of the styles had better spacing, but you can also customize your own themes with CSS, which I might take a crack at.
DOTKey on the App Store

DOTKey is an exciting new way to type. Unlike traditional keyboards with their “one size fits… nobody” approach, DOTKey offers a user-friendly experience that adjusts to your hand instead of forcing you to adjust to it. With DOTKey you can type quickly and accurately–even with one hand–without needing to look at the keyboard as you type.

Mailbrew - Beautiful Automated Newsletters
A handy service to create automated newsletters with content from your favorite sites, including YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Google News, and more.
Irradiated Software makes a bunch of great tools, including Cinch, Tuck, and SizeUp for macOS window sizing and control, but I’m linking this page specifically for the free tool “ShortcutDetective,” which listens for globally-assigned shortcuts and tells you what app is intercepting it. Good for debugging those shortcut assignments.
The ADHD Essentials Podcast with Brendan Mahan, M.Ed., M.S.
If you’re on the lookout for ADHD resources, the ADHD Essentials podcast is definitely worth a listen.

CleanMyMac X

Judging the value of automation

Rube Goldberg machine
Image credit rubegoldberg.com

I automate everything I can. I enjoy the process of building automations in myriad contexts, using myriad tools. And I frequently have to assess whether I’ve spent more time automating something than I’m actually going to save using the automation.

I often think about the benefits of automation in the context of time savings. It makes things more efficient, removes drudgery. But I’ve realized over time that the real benefit of automation is avoiding mistakes.

When I automate something (anything), I’m defining the steps that need to be included to complete the task. I’m no longer relying on my memory to ensure that every step is complete or the specific ways in which a step should be completed. This is especially useful if it’s something I don’t do very often, which means that my normal calculation for “was it worth automating” is actually moot: if it helps me do the exact same thing one time a year later, that’s often worth as much as any amount of total time saved in my life.

My automation tools run the gamut, from snippets in TextExpander that make sure I’ve conveyed all of the right information to an email recipient, to build scripts I developed for a coding project, to bedtime home automation sequences I built using Homekit. All of these prevent missed steps and undesired results.

So from now on, instead of saying “this automation saves me one minute every time I do this four-minute task,” I’m going to try to additionally look at it from the perspective of how much pain it saved me had the task been done incorrectly, and how much time I would have had to spend re-learning a process after it wasn’t fresh in memory anymore. Those aspects add value to any automation and shouldn’t be discounted.

And it will help me sleep better at night, knowing I don’t waste as much time as I think I do.

NiftyMenu 1.0

As part of my Marked 2 documentation update over the weekend, I ended up putting some more time into my (admittedly insane) NiftyMenu project. This project made me look crazy when I first posted it last year. This update is not going to help. I will have to shoot over 180 screenshots before I break even on time invested… but it’s really fun to play with.

If you missed it, NiftyMenu is a tool that perfectly recreates any Mac application’s menu bar as an HTML playground, perfect for taking screenshots. It allows you to lock a menu selection in position and add callouts, ready for perfect screenshots.

If right now you’re thinking “that kinda makes sense, but a brief screencast sure would help, and probably not make you look any more insane,” you’re in luck…

New Marked video: Finding the Answers

I spent some time this weekend updating the Marked 2 documentation. In addition to the content editing, I also ended up reworking some of the tools I use to build the documentation, ranging from automated screenshots to the help builder system that turns a folder full of Markdown files into the Marked 2 documentation.

As a result of the help update and several fixes, there’s a new release out on all channels right now. I also parlayed my own satisfaction with the documentation project into a new tutorial video. I could make videos about every feature (and hopefully eventually I’ll cover most of them), but if I were going to show users one thing, it would be a tour of the documentation and the ability to find all the answers it contains. So that’s the next video:

YouTube Video

I also made a quick one about the Custom Style Gallery that I mentioned last week.

YouTube Video

I’ll keep making more as I have time, but it will be time to start doing marketing for nvUltra soon!

The new Marked Custom Style Gallery

I got stressed out on Monday night and couldn’t sleep. Anxiety’s a real gut punch. But I turned it into work on something I’ve been meaning to get to for a long time: I present the Marked 2 Custom Style Gallery (2.0, really, but the first actual finished product).

All of the available styles are in the GitHub repo. But GitHub repos aren’t sexy, and it’s been a poor experience for typical users. The gallery provides a grid view of thumbnails with links to a full theme browser (which I’d built previously). If you’re browsing on your Mac, each thumbnail also has a link to install the style instantly in Marked on the same machine.