Now that I have finished working on NaNoWriMo, that took up quite a lot of my November, I can get back into creating web content using my 27 inch iMac. This morning I created a movie using ScreenFlow, which has to be the best screen recording software for the Mac. I have lately been using Google Chrome as my web browser and I think it is a marvellous application and it gets even better when you add extensions to increase its functionality. The use of ScreenFlow, Google Chrome and another application called Keyboard Maestro, is really what makes using a Mac such fun. Every Apple owner could be having fun with Keyboard Maestro, it is not just for the Mac insider users.
The Evernote Google Chrome extension
I have installed an extension into Google Chrome that allow me to clip either whole pages or sections of text and images have them put into Evernote. Evernote is what I use to collect all sorts of information from the web pages I visit. I know that some people like to use Instapaper for this, but for me, Evernote is just perfect. The extension also will do a search through my Evernote captured notes at the same time as it searches using the Google.com webpage. That is quite a useful facility, to be able to easily see previous notes
Amplification of Web Content
Another extension tool I use an awful lot in Google Chrome is Amplify. Amplify is a web service which allows me to share either my own content that I post to my websites, or content that I have found on other websites, I just want to tell my followers about. I can share something to about 15 sites very easily, I only have to add a title and a bit of a description and I am done.
In Chrome I also have an extension for Bit.ly. This allows me to create short URLs that I can track the usage of. As you can imagine, for a content creator it is important to know which promotion tools for telling the world about the articles I write, are working the best. Bit.ly also gives you a QR code for each URL that you shorten using the service. Maybe I will get a T-shirt with a QR code printed on it one of these days.
Letting it all hang out
Another super little extension is called Hangout Canopy. What this extension does is to allow me with one click to be able to see the hangouts that are taking place in Google plus in real-time, as in right now. After clicking the button, I see list of hangouts and it is very simple to click and join any hangout that takes my fancy. There is also a button within this drop-down extension which allows me to create my own hangout. I don’t tend to do the hangouts very often, because I have such a poor Internet connection. I get less than 1 MB down and only around 200 kb going out.
Listening to podcasts for application suggestions
During the week I was listening to the Mac Power Users podcast. This podcast is run by David Sparks and Katie Floyd and originally when it first started was far too insipid to be properly suited to power users. It has got better over time and in the latest episode they were talking about a tool called Keyboard Maestro. While listening to it, I did wonder if Keyboard Maestro really was going to be useful or not, seeing as we have AppleScript and Automator is available within OS X Lion. I was able to download a trial version of the software and I have been able to find a use for it. Perhaps I would still have not bought the application except for the fact that there was a discount code available from the Mac Power Users podcast which brought the price down by 20%. This made the application good value for what I wanted to do with it.
Automating your Apple experience
I have in the past tried to use Automator and I also looked at AppleScript and one of the things that Automator is not very good at, is recording what you do and being able to play it back. So far with Keyboard Maestro, I have found it to be much better at recording keystrokes and mouse clicks. It also has a range of actions that can be used within macros that work across applications. As you would expect I do an awful lot of work with text and there are a number of things that I would like to be able to automate, in order to save myself time. Simple things such as when I export a list of keywords from Keyword Strategy, I need to take it so that they are changed from being each keyword in a line by itself to being separated by commas in one single line. I have been able to create a macro which lets me do that with a hot key, rather than having to deal with it in a very tedious way. It is also possible to have Keyboard Maestro use automations created in Automator and AppleScript as well as with other programming languages such as Perl.
Automating with Keyboard Maestro and using Markdown
Keyboard Maestro lets you bring in macros completed by other people and I was able to find one which helps me to do some markdown text manipulation. I had already been using an automation technique within Textmate to make a reference link with Markdown, but this new way of doing it with Keyboard Maestro is even faster and more convenient. It takes the URL from the Safari web browser and puts it into the correct place at the end of the document in TextMate and presents me with a dialogue for a name for the reference. It works a treat and I could also use it in other applications in which I could write using the Markdown syntax. You can find out more about Markdown by looking at the John Gruber website, Daring Fireball. The reason that you should be using markdown or multi-markdown is because of the longevity of the syntax. Markdown uses simple plaintext without any weird proprietary codes or formatting, that might work this year and not next year. Anything you write with Markdown now will be available to be read in any text type editor in perpetuity.
Other Markdown Editors coming
There are a number of text editors that are becoming available for both the iPad and also for use on the Mac, that allow you more easily to write in Markdown and also give you an instant view of what the Markdown text looks like when converted to HTML. At the moment I am using an application called Marked in conjunction with either Dragon Dictate or Text Mate. There are other applications such as iA Writer, which are fairly new on the scene and do a good job of Markdown editing, as well as showing you how you getting on while you’re doing it.