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October 15, 2022

Use What You Like!

This was originally written in September 2022 for the Hemispheric Newsletter as part of One Prime Plus for the Hemispheric Views podcast.

All too often, we get into these deep philosophically adjacent discussions about one app vs. another or that service vs. this one. The reality is that nothing in our daily life is one size fits all, and software/apps/services are no different. I have a like/dislike relationship with sharing my setup” or my workflow” online. I like the idea that my sharing will somehow lead someone to a better setup for their needs. The dislike comes from how unstable most of my setups are from month to month. Like many people, I genuinely enjoy trying different things and experimenting, but I will not stick with something simply because that is what I already set up. If alternate workflows form in my daily doings, I am ready to throw everything away and start over with different tools.

Two real-world examples

Example 1: Drafts

Here is an excellent example of what I am getting at. I wrote this blog post in May about Drafts workspaces and how I was capturing stuff on my Mac. Well, it’s September now, and very little of that is still how I operate. I have not been using Drafts for a couple of months, with Tot in its place. I spent more time on the curation and process than what was going into it. I have a nice flow with Tot and am very happy with how it has served my needs. So, is that blog post now worthless? I don’t think so; I believe it still provides value for that right person who comes along at the right time in their Drafts use. Fishing people will cast a bunch of nets in hopes of catching more; I do the same with software in a weird way, I guess.

Example 2: Things

I have used every task manager that has ever come out (and a lot that never actually launched). The one that I always came back to was Things. It seems like the best possible option for how I want to accomplish stuff. Guess what? Life changes over time, and so must the task list.

Task list shakeups generally occur for me when starting a new position or a completely different job entirely. The most recent change came with a new job in a new industry. The use of Things began to show holes very early. It was nice for me, but when it came to getting things in and out or collaborating, it was a bit on the siloed side. I then split my tasks between personal’ and work.’ Personal in Things and work in an Asana board. This setup worked ok, but I prefer everything in one place. I still maintain there is no work-life balance” only balance.”

I then began checking out all the apps again and landed on Todoist. It has both lists and Kaban-style boards, so I can tune things the way I want them. I also took this opportunity to simplify my task list organizational structure drastically. It was way too complicated to be maximally effective.

Parting thoughts

Let people like what they want! If we all used the same stuff, it would be very dull. Do I poke fun at Andrew for using every outliner under the sun simultaneously? Absolutely. Do I jab at Martin for using only stock first-party apps? Of course! That’s just friendly ribbing, and that is fully encouraged!

Screenshot of Arc Browser
My Happy Browser Setup

Screenshot of Todoist
My Happy Task Setup

Warning: Apps are subject to change without notice!

Todoist Things Asana Drafts Tot Tasks
May 26, 2022

TextExpander Expansion with Stream Deck

If you have been wanting to run TextExpander snippets via your Stream Deck on your Mac but it hasn’t quite worked using the built-in text plugin, I have good news, it is possible with a few easy tweaks!

First, a couple of prerequisites to get this all working

  1. A Stream Deck
  2. Stream Deck Software
  3. OSA Script” Stream Deck plugin
  4. TextExpander app

Next, let’s pick a TextExpander snippet we want to use. For this example, I will use xte which expands to TextExpander.

Screenshot of TextExpander App

Now, the setup.

In the Stream Deck software, go ahead and set up a new button using the OSA Script plugin. To set up the button, select AppleScript and then use the following AppleScript

Screenshot of Stream Deck App

tell application "System Events"
    keystroke "xte"
end tell

Be sure to temporarily disable TextExpander when adding the abbreviation to the AppleScript section to avoid expansion within your script.

One last thing to check on, make sure to add the Stream Deck app to the Accessibility allow list and then close and reopen the Stream Deck app.
Screenshot of Accessibility

You are now set to trigger TextExpander snippets via your Stream Deck buttons! 🎉

TextExpander Stream Deck
May 18, 2022

A Few Little Mail Features

There are a bunch of different third-party mail clients1 on macOS. I have tried just about all of them. They all have pros and cons. As much fun as it is to try them all, using them all helped me to understand that there really are only a few little features that I want and need and I can do them all with the clean and simple Apple Mail client. So here goes:

What features do I actually use?

  1. Multiple Account Support (with color-coding inbox for easy identification)
    The first part is very basic and just about every client supports this, Apple Mail is no different. The second part is generally handled automatically by third-party clients. Apple Mail on the other hand required some modification. I accomplished this via rules. See screenshots below. Screenshot of Apple Mail showing mail being color coded

Screenshot of Apple Mail showing the rules creation

  1. Occasional Snoozing”
    Some people like this feature, and some do not. It’s another feature that a lot of third-party clients have. I use it from time to time and in order to get this kind of functionality with Apple Mail, I use SaneBox. Rather than being able to pick any arbitrary date, I have defined some constraints by creating 3 folders for snoozing. 1 Day, 3 Days, and Next Week. The function is pretty simple, move mail from Inbox to the folder and then it comes back to the inbox in that amount of time. Screenshot of Apple Mail showing the 3 folders for snoozing

  2. Blocking Junk
    The junk mail filtering on my email accounts is really good but sometimes you need a nuclear option for incoming mail. For this I find the Blackhole feature of SaneBox to be second to none! Put something in there and you will never hear from them again. Done.

  3. Automatic Sorting of General Mail”
    Automatic sorting by rules is great but it’s kind of manual. Another great thing you can do with Sanebox is train mail. The vast majority of mail we generally get is not something you need to see RIGHT NOW so I have the majority of my mail route automatically to The Feed”. This basically means that when something hits my inbox, I know it’s actually important for me right now. I can then check on The Feed” whenever is convenient.

  4. Flagging
    I use flags in Mail as a way to keep track of things that are in a holding pattern for some reason. This is different than snoozing in that I am not sure what the timeframe will be and this keeps me from constantly dragging the same thing into a snooze folder over and over again. I like that there are different colored flags in Apple Mail vs just a binary flag or not flagged state in other apps. I use colors for different things. The flag colors I use most often are Red (related to a company), Blue (related to actual people), and Yellow (related to purchases). Using consistent colors helps me to quickly narrow in on what I might be looking for. These colors sync to iOS as well so that’s a nice bonus.
    Screenshot of Apple Mail Flag Colors
    Another great tip from Miraz is to rename your flags from generic color names to make it even more customized.

Overall, this setup has yielded a pretty nice and manageable result! My only issue is the inability to sync the color rules to iOS. Bummer, but in reality, most of my mailing” happens on the Mac, so 🤷‍♂️.

  1. Mail Clients: Spark, Airmail, Canary, Outlook, Edison, Newton, Big Mail↩︎

macOS Mail SaneBox Fastmail
May 13, 2022

Drafts Workspaces

First, a little background.

I am not going to talk about the infinite ways that Drafts Actions can do stuff. Also, the following might not be groundbreaking info for hardcore Drafts users. This is more about the structure of the info being added to Drafts.

It’s best if the friction to capturing is kept to a minimum, so I have the following three keyboard shortcuts set up to handle just about everything I could need in terms of adding information or finding information. I keep them all next to each other so it’s very easy to remember and trigger.

Quick capture keyboard shortcuts

command+space = Alfed Quick Search / Launch
option+space = Things to-do capture
control+space = Drafts Quick Capture

Before Drafts Workspaces

  • I had a single all Workspace
  • I wasn’t tagging
  • The inbox held everything
  • I had no idea what the status of anything was.

After Drafts Workspaces

I now have six Workspaces!

  1. All (see all Drafts in one place!)
  2. Untagged (quick way to see any Draft not tagged)
  3. Personal (stuff for me and stuff for home)
  4. Hemispheric Views (podcast related items)
  5. TextExpander (work stuff)
  6. Blog (blogging and writing)

Screenshot of Drafts Workspaces

My Personal Best Practices

  1. Try and tag every draft before adding content. If I don’t, I have the untagged workspace as a catch so I can review and sort appropriately.
  2. Use a tag structure. First tag (me hemisphericviews textexpander blog) to assign to workspace, and then add more tags as metadata. The first part is more important than the second.
  3. Don’t be afraid to archive to avoid your workspace inboxes getting too large.
  4. Use flags! Flag stuff so that you are going to be coming back to work on. Within the workspace, you can optionally have it sort flags to the top (that’s what I do).

If you have been using Drafts in a mostly basic fashion (as most of us do) hopefully these few little tips” will help you get even more out of Drafts!

Drafts Workspace Notes Alfred Things
May 1, 2022

iPad Bonus Screen

This was originally written in April 2022 for the Hemispheric Newsletter as part of One Prime Plus for the Hemispheric Views podcast.

I have been using a 24” iMac (M1) for a bit now and I think many people are somewhat surprised that I find a single 24” screen to be enough space” for day-to-day computing. Having used much larger monitors historically, I suppose I am a bit in the surprised camp as well. Since my move to the iMac, there has only been one activity that left me wanting a more optimal setup for app windows. This is all related to video communications and working remotely 100% of the time.

When you work remotely, you have two general options for communication.

  1. Text-based. Slack, Teams, etc.
  2. Video-based. Zoom, WebEx, etc.

The video-based portion is where I felt things were lacking. When I have a Zoom window open with all the participant squares showing, I like it to be at the top of the screen as close to center as possible. This makes it so I am generally always looking at the person I am speaking with since that is the location of the camera on the iMac. Given you can only shrink Zoom so much in the vertical direction you are left with only around 2/3 of your screen left for content that you may need to reference while talking to people.

Enter, iPad bonus screen!

I have a 2018 13” iPad Pro that is not being used so why not put it to use!? We have already established that I want the camera to be as close to the participants as possible so placing a monitor to the right or left side is not optimal. Below the iMac is too far from the camera, so what is left? Bingo! On top!

Now you ask, how the heck do you put an iPad on top of your iMac? Balance it, magic, hopes and dreams? Those are all options, but I went with a slightly different approach; hardware!

Here is the shopping list to get this all going:

The Elgato mount is super sturdy and holds the iPad with no problem. There is no wobble at all. If the iPad is wobbling, the whole desk is wobbling, including the iMac, so no issues there. I definitely wanted this setup to look as sleek as possible, so the 180° USB-C cable is a great option so you don’t have a cable sticking way out the side.

I will say right now, using the stand I used is not the easiest way to go. You can get screen mounts with clamps that wrap around the device and then attach to the standard tripod mount (1/4-20) of the Elgato mount, but I really wanted the visual of it floating above the iMac. For this, I removed the foot of the iPad stand. Then I drilled and tapped a 1/4-20 thread into the upper portion of the magnetic mount, and attached that to the Elgato mount. It’s not super difficult, but definitely not tools that most people would just happen to have around. So really the mount part has some wiggle room based on what you are ok with from a construction standpoint.

iPad Bonus Screen Parts

Finally, the last, and easiest step, connecting it to your Mac via Sidecar. This is so easy now with the latest version of macOS. You can do it all from the menu bar. I am using the following settings to maximize screen availability.

macOS Display Options

Photo of iPad above my iMac

iPad Monitor Sidecar Elgato
Jason Burk | 1999-2022! | 🧛‍♂️
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