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Hours Time Tracking App: Usually $7, Now Free

April 26, 2015

Hours-Icon-512While OfficeTime is my go-to iOS app for tracking where I spend my working hours, I often use the Hours app to track my time doing chores, writing projects, and other related tasks. (I most often access it through its really handy Today widget, and just swiped down to start a timer to see how long this blog post takes!)

Normally $6.99, now the app is free, to celebrate the release of the Apple Watch and the accompanying Hours app. (P.S. What do you call apps on the Apple Watch? Applets? Seeds?)

It’s got a beautiful interface, decent exporting features, and is really easy to use without thinking about–which is as a time-tracking app should be.

 

Image from Tapity Press Kit

Image from Tapity Press Kit

 

Check it out here, or read more about the app here. Also, those of you who use and enjoy it now–it’s coming to Mac soon.

Ulysses for Mac (and iPad), Reviewed (2/2)

April 25, 2015

Ulysses-Mac-1024x1024

 

I enjoy my writing medium more than ever before, now that I’m writing daily in Ulysses.

I started to review the app here; now I conclude my review of Ulysses for Mac.

 

3. Getting Text Out of Ulysses

 

You need to know a little bit about Markdown to fully utilize Ulysses. This is from their help manual, which takes the form of a series of interactive Sheets in the app:

“Ulysses uses so-called minimal markup to define, not format or style, text passages. The full list of available definitions is accessible via ⌘9, and it should have you covered left to right. From headlines to lists, to images and footnotes, you simply assign meaning to text passages by entering some easy to remember shortcuts.”

(P.S. I just used that keyboard shortcut and drop-down menu to make the above a block quote… or I could have just typed in “>” before the quotation.)

It’s taken me a little time to learn Markdown (though there’s really not that much to it), but once you have, you can take advantage of Ulysses’s export options.

Again, from the help files:

“Now for the fun part: Ulysses can output your writing to a host of standard formats, such as Plain Text, RTF, HTML, ePub and even PDF. It does so by translating your plain text input based on the definition of the minimal markup. If your brain starts to hurt, here’s a simple example…”

Markup in Ulysses

Markup in Ulysses

Here’s why I could write this two-part blog post series in Ulysses (using Markdown), export it to html in WordPress, and then have you read it now as if nothing ever happened: Ulysses “will translate the emphasized passage to semantically correct <em>, and the headline will be tagged with <h2>.”

The idea here is that once you know and use Markdown, you don’t really have to do much by way of thinking about formatting.

When you’re ready to export, you can click to bring up the window at right (or type the shortcut ⌘6):

Quick Export.ee71088e320440328497c3009a53a17e

From here you can preview, copy your text to clipboard, save it to a file, or open it with various apps. (I use Nisus Writer Pro to open my Ulysses sheet as a text file.) You can see your text as RTF, PDF, HTML, plain text, or even a nicely formatted ePub so you can publish your own ebook. Ulysses automatically converts your markup to its proper formatting in the finished product.

The Quick Export function is varied and rich enough, but it takes some fussing to get your text to look how you want it. (This fussing starts to defeat the purpose, in my opinion, of the supposed simplicity of using Markdown.) You can go to Preferences and add your own Styles, so can customize how your text exports, if you need more than just the default Styles Ulysses gives you.

 

Styles in Ulysses

Styles in Ulysses

 

But this is more effort than unaccustomed writers may appreciate having to make.

There is a Style Exchange where users post their own formatted style sheets, which you can download to your own Ulysses.

And if you do decide to go all in with Ulysses (I’m there), there is a reference guide you can work through to figure out how to make your own Styles to export just how you want.

(See also here for a succinct overview on Ulysses’s blog about exporting.)

 

4. Ulysses as a Writing Experience

 

I love writing in Ulysses. Required export efforts and occasional iCloud syncing frustrations notwithstanding, it is a beautiful app in which to put down and rearrange words. It’s smooth and visually appealing. And Ulysses really does accomplish the dual goal of the developers to be (a) distraction-free in its layout yet (b) still give you easy access to any feature a writer would need.

You can keep notes and goals aligned to a given Sheet (i.e., document), and view them from the Attachments pane, or detach them and see them as their own free-floating windows. This really enhances the experience of writing in Ulysses. You can also bookmark paragraphs and favorite Sheets, so navigating through stacks of writing is easier than you’d expect.

I’ve used Ulysses to help inspire me to finish a couple of mid-sized pieces of writing recently—pieces that I was interested in but lacking some motivation for at the time of having to produce them. I told myself I could use Ulysses to write, and the prospect of using that environment made a big difference!

I know this may be silly, but if you have some emails you need to compose that you have been putting off, writing them from Ulysses can be like a spoonful of sugar.

 

A Few Desiderata

 

There are a few things I’d like to see Ulysses offer in future updates, the lack of which have detracted (even if slightly) from my experience of using the app:

  1. I would love there to be an easier way to adjust formatting in the Quick Export options (i.e., having something like the equivalent of a formatting toolbar which you can select for output, rather than having to do it through Styles). Also, I haven’t found a way to easily adjust image sizing (from Ulysses) when exporting a Sheet to a blog post–a process itself which could stand to be more fully automated.
  2. The iPad app does not currently support the Navigation by headings feature I so appreciate in Mac. In fact, the same icon/button is present in iPad, but does something totally different. 

     

    Navigating by Headings

    Navigating by Headings

     

    I do hasten to add, however, that the Ulysses for iPad app is stellar, easily one of the best apps in the App Store and my current favorite app for iPad.

  3. It would be lovely if there were a way to include the word count as part of the Editor screen. It’s easy enough to find it in the Statistics or Goals portion of the Attachment pane (and both of these pop-ups can be torn off and left free-floating), but a simple word count bar at the top or bottom of the Editor would be nice. The iPad app does offer something along these lines.
  4. I believe this is mostly the fault of the iPad’s lack of support for .rtf, but getting writing from Ulysses on iPad into a format that is .rtf-ready (not to mention .rtf itself) is just about impossible. If you can hop over to Ulysses on a computer, it’s doable, but iPad alone won’t really work for moving your content to rich text.

By the way, my love for Scrivener has not changed, and it’s still a fuller-featured environment for getting lots of research and snippets organized—and has its own really nice distraction-free writing mode.

But Ulysses is on iPad now, too (Scrivener: not yet, but close-ish), and it’s beautiful on the Mac, so when I’m doing long periods of writing, I primarily use Ulysses at as many points along the way as I can.

 


 

You can download a free demo trial of Ulysses for Mac here. More about the iPad app is here. Check it out, and play around with it for a bit. It’s helped me really rediscover my love of writing.

 


 

Thanks to The Soulmen Gbr, developers of Ulysses, for giving me a download for the review. See my other AppTastic Tuesday reviews (yes, this one is a few days early) here.

BibleWorks 10, Just Released

April 20, 2015

 

 

BibleWorks 10 just came out today. From the press release:

After four years of intensive development, BibleWorks 10 is now available – with a substantial list of valuable additions that will enhance your ability to study God’s Word. Please click HERE to watch our introductory video.

In BibleWorks 10 you will find an impressive array of new search capabilities, along with some important exegetical resources, that significantly enhance its already substantial toolbox:

• High-resolution tagged images of the Leningrad Codex
• Two new NT manuscript transcriptions
• Nestle-Aland GNT 28th Edition
• New English Translation of the Septuagint
• Danker’s Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the NT
• Instant lemma form usage info for Greek and Hebrew
• 1,200+ high resolution photos of the Holy Land
• EPUB reader & library manager
• Complete audio Greek NT
• Customizable window colors
• Dynamically adjustable program text size
• Mac and PC versions.

We have a series of videos
HERE that give you more info on each of these!

I hope to write more soon. Check out www.bibleworks.com in the meantime. 

My New Favorite Font Is…

April 17, 2015

…Avenir Next. It looks like this:

 

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge image above

 

(That’s Ulysses, my new favorite writing app.)

Avenir is a pretty smooth font, too:

 

Avenir font

 

Adrian Frutiger designed them both. You can read more about the Avenir font family here.

PCalc: A Stylish and Full-Featured Scientific Calculator App

April 13, 2015

PCalc Icon

Looking for a good scientific calculator that your kids (or roommate) won’t make off with, because it’s downloaded as an app to your iOS device? (Which your kids or roommate might also abscond with, but still….)

PCalc is a beautifully-designed, dynamic calculator for iPhone and iPad, available in the App Store. Below I review the definitely-worth-its-$9.99 app. There is a free, “lite” version available here.

PCalc functions with zero lag, and has a really nice layout, which you can change to suit your preferences:

 

This image via TLA Systems Ltd.

This image via TLA Systems Ltd.

 

I liked that view so much I didn’t even think to look for different display options till weeks later. But then I found this:

 

Orientation View w Ticker

 

And this:

 

Another nother View

 

And also this:

 

Another View

 

The developer describes the app thus:

PCalc is ideal for scientists, engineers, students, programmers, or indeed anybody looking for a feature-rich calculator for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

It includes an extensive set of unit conversions, a paper tape, an optional RPN mode, engineering and scientific notation, as well as support for hexadecimal, octal and binary calculations.

My favorite feature–that I’ve not seen in any of the other five or six calculator apps I had downloaded and promptly deleted from my phone–is that PCalc can run conversions for you: currency, in the kitchen (good for those of us who still can’t go fluid ounces to cups, which is ALL of us), energy units and more.

 

Conversion_Cooking

 

Listening to the new Kendrick Lamar, I might want to know how many square miles 40 acres is. With PCalc, I have my answer within a few taps:

 

Conversion_Area

 

It has a bunch of Constants stored, to which you can add your own:

 

Constants

 

Constants_Atomic

 

There are also a ton of functions this app can perform that I probably would have loved in my high school Calculus class, but would have trouble with now. You can do more when you rotate to landscape mode:

 

Landscape View

 

Note the Ticker Tape underneath the number up top… that’s your computation history! You can even swipe back from the results screen to have PCalc re-perform your last operations.

This is a highly advanced calculator. I can’t say whether science and math students can put away their TI-80-whatevers, but they should at least download PCalc first.

Need to quickly figure a tip, or something else? Without even unlocking your device, swipe down to the Today view and find the best-looking, most functional widget you’ll probably see on iOS 8:

 

 

Even Apple’s own Calculator app does not have access from the swipe-down Today view.

PCalc is a fantastic app, and the last non-graphing, scientific calculator app you’ll ever put on your phone. See the full feature list here, and look at many more screenshots here.

 


 

Thanks to TLA Systems, the makers of PCalc for iOS, for giving me a download of the app for this review. See my other AppTastic Tuesday reviews here.

Free Online Accordance Webinar I’m Teaching Thursday

April 13, 2015

Accordance Live Online Training

 

On Thursday I’ll be presenting an online training Webinar for Accordance Bible SoftwareSetting Up Workspaces.

The webinar is free, and you can register here. It begins at 2:00 p.m. EST and goes until 3:00.

Here is what I’ll cover:

1. Terminology: Panes, Tabs, Zones, Workspaces

 

2. Setting Up a Simple Workspace: Bible, Commentary, User Notes

 

3. Setting Up a More Robust Workspace: Multiple Bible Texts, Multiple Commentaries, and Tools

 

4. Creating Different Workspaces for Different Tasks

 

5. Multiplying the Power of Workspaces: Sessions

 

6. Additional Q and A

Accordance has quite a few other free online trainings coming up, too. Check them all out.

Kierkegaard: “Christ Enters Through Closed Doors”

April 11, 2015

 

Søren Kierkegaard, in an 1837 journal, wrote this about the so-called “doubting Thomas” post-resurrection Gospel account:

If Christ is to come in order to dwell in me, that has to transpire in accordance with the heading of the gospel for the day in the calendar: “Christ enters through closed doors.”

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