Apps Used Daily: Pedometer++

When you sit in front of a computer like I do for the better part of a typical 8 hour day, you need an activity to clear your head at the end of all of it.

Some people go to the gym, some play video games, some journal about their day – whatever it is that helps you hit that reset button – you do it. It gets the cobwebs out, making you feel refreshed and ready for another day.

What do I do? I have a walking practice. Part physical activity, part meditation, communing with the open air has become such a critical part of my physical and mental health. So much so, that I wanted to start tracking it.

Luckily, iOS offers a TON options. I started off by using the Nike+ Run Club app. It was free, it offered maps of the routes I took, and it kept track of my “runs” (even though I was walking). But it was also overkill, with too many taps for me to get to information I merely wanted to glance at.

I just needed an app I could open, glance quickly, and see how far I’d walked in a day.

Enter Pedometer++

When I started researching pedometer apps for iOS, Pedometer++ immediately bubbled to the top as it’s really well thought of in the app dev community. I was fortunate for that too. Researching apps can be a lot of fun, but it can often turn into a rabbit hole scenario and I didn’t particularly want that kind of situation whilst looking at step tracking apps. So, having seen it, I downloaded it and took it for a spin.

Perfect choice for me.

After a week of use, I knew I had a winner. When I open Pedometer++ it immediately presents each day’s steps as a bar in a graph. If the bar is red, you haven’t walked much at all. If it’s orange you’ve done ok, but you haven’t reached your daily goal (which you can set in Pedometer++’s settings). When it hits green? You get treated to a celebratory burst of green confetti!! It may seem silly, but I have to confess to smiling each time I see that confetti fly. That light gamification is a fun touch.

It’s those little flourishes that make Pedometer++ an app I use daily. I appreciate the attention to detail that went into this app’s admittedly spartan layout. Everything pops and is easy to read at a glance. Colors are crisp, type faces stand out yet stay out of the way, and the spacing of everything is just all-around pleasant to look at and interact with.

As far as accuracy is concerned, Pedometer++ syncs with iOS’s baked-in Health app, surfacing the data from your phone (and/or Apple Watch, if you have one, I don’t) within the app. I found it to always be accurate on the distance I walk while, albeit rarely, off on the number of steps I’ve taken. Otherwise, it seems  entirely in lock-step with my stride and gait. It also displays elevation gain, which it offers as “floors” of stairs you’ve hiked up.

An outstanding iOS widget.

One last thing that I’d be remiss to not point out is Pedometer++’s Today Widget.

It offers the perfect amount of UI from the app itself, right on your lock screen. It loads quickly and works like a charm when I take my phone out mid-stride and tap the lock button to wake my iPhone.

A++ for my needs.

I wouldn’t write about Pedometer++ if I wasn’t smitten with it. It truly is that perfect blend of clear and concise data delivery that doesn’t look boring or bland. I truly look at it several times a day and it’s a perfect companion for my daily walking practice.

I think you’d like too!

Links:

Tips: *Revisiting* My Workflow (again) for Launching .scriv Files in Marked and Scrivener Simultaneously

Back in May, 2014, I created an Alfred workflow that allowed for you to target a specific directory that houses your project files in Scrivener, select your file, and open it in both Scrivener and Marked 2 simultaneously for live preview markdown rendering whilst working in Scrivener.

The theory behind why I created it can be read in the original post here.

A few months ago a kind visitor to this site left a comment stating that the workflow I created, no longer worked properly. It’s been years since I constructed that workflow and since then Alfred, Scrivener, and Marked have gone through several versions, so it didn’t necessarily surprise me that something came unplugged.

Either way, it was an opportunity to revisit the workflow, and I am happy to report that I’ve since fixed it!

If you think the workflow could be of service to you, here are the steps to get it up and running.

One crucial checkbox:

Getting this workflow to function properly involves checking a box in Marked 2’s preferences. So before you do anything:

  1. Launch Marked 2 and click the “Marked 2” menu in the upper-left and then click “Preferences”.
  2. Click the “Apps” tab at the top of the preferences window
  3. Then, under the “Scrivener” section, check the “Open .scriv files in Scrivener when opened in Marked” box. Once checked you can close the preferences window if you want.
Install the workflow in Alfred.

Installing workflows in Alfred is still super simple. If you want to save some time, you can download the workflow file here. Once downloaded, double-click the file and that should drop you into Alfred’s workflow preferences pane, prompting you to import it.

That’s it! From here, you can tweak the workflow to better suit your needs. For instance, I’ve got my .scriv files stored in my “Documents” folder, so you may want broaden, or narrow, the workflow’s search scope.

In short, feel free to make it your own.

The steps to invoke the workflow haven’t really changed:
  1. Bring up Alfred and type “scrivmarked” (again, you can change this keyword in Alfred’s workflow preferences).
  2. Use you arrow keys to scroll up or down to highlight the project you want to open.
  3. Once highlighted. Hit the right arrow key.
  4. Scroll down to highlight “Open in Marked and Scrivener” hit enter.

That should open your Scrivener project in both Marked and Scrivener, ready for you to write blog posts or any content for the web!

Useful links:

Automation: Getting Your Words From Scrivener (iOS) into WordPress

Like many out there, I’ve been enjoying the heck out of Scrivener for iOS. The portability, the familiarity with the desktop client, the functionality therein… we all know it was taking its sweet time getting here, but I think we can all agree that the finished product surpassed our expectations.

One thing I was curious about though, was how I could port my original blogging methodology in Scrivener for the desktop, to Scrivener on iOS. I was even more curious as to whether there were even better ways to blog with it on the go, since iOS hardware is so damn portable.

Luckily there is, and I wanted to share it with the folks that may not know.

A little help from the iOS app ecosystem…

Out of the box, Scrivener doesn’t export text to blogs and it shouldn’t. That’s not its core purpose. For me at least, this omission of functionality wasn’t a let down. The good news though, is that there are plenty of apps out there that can pick up the slack in this regard and the one that did this best for me was an app called Workflow.

Now Workflow could merit its own post worth thousands of words alone. I’ll save you the geeked-out deep-dive though and simply say that, as its name suggests, Workflow is a universal iOS app that provides automated workflows for you on your iOS devices. It can accomplish a shocking amount tasks without a jailbreak and one of those tasks is exporting text from any iOS app to your WordPress blog via an action extension.

Keeping it simple so you can get back to blogging…

Instead of walking you through the process of how to create this workflow within the app, the kind developers of Workflow allow you to share your workflows via URL schemes. So all you should have to do is buy the app (on sale right now at a steal for $2.99 USD) and click this link here to install the workflow I created for you all, automagically! After the workflow shows up in the Workflow app, all you have to do hook up your blog to the workflow (by providing your login credentials) and tweak the settings within the workflow to taste.

I personally have mine setup to output to draft mode, allowing me to manually add a title and categories/tags before publishing live on my site. You can set it to however you like though.

Also, for all of you markdown lovers, I have set this workflow up to create markdown from rich text! So get on up and get your MD on!

“Sounds great! Got it all installed. How do I use it though?”

Once you have everything setup the way you like, all you have to do in Scrivener is simply write your post. Once that’s complete do the following:

  1. Highlight all of your text and copy it. Then tap the “Share” option.
  2. On the share sheet that pops up, look at the action extensions (bottom row) and look for the option to “Run Workflow”. This will then bring up the Workflow automations you currently have, one of which will be the Workflow you got from this post. Protip: If “Run Workflow” isn’t showing up, scroll all the way to the right of that row. Tap more. And add that option from the list that shows up of available actions.
  3. Just tap that, fill out any field prompts, and let Workflow do its thing!
  4. Once the workflow finishes, log into your site and verify everything is published as expected.
  5. Enjoy more blogging from your favorite writing app on the go!

That’s it! If you have the official iOS app for WordPress you can actually blog completely desktop free from any iOS device at your disposal! Pretty awesome right?!

So, from the top, here’s what you need to make this all work:
  • A phone or tablet the runs iOS.
  • Scrivener for iOS (though, this Workflow can work with ANY text editor on iOS).
  • Workflow (it’s universal so you just buy it once and it works on iPad or iPhone. Workflows will sync between the two devices as well.)
  • WordPress for iOS (if you want to not think about blogging on a desktop again.)

Product Review: Oristand

At the beginning of this year I made a decision that I was going to make more of an effort to stand while I worked.

Being in the web development field since college, I’ve spent countless jags of time sitting, often with horrible posture, churning out code. I’d try to get up and walk periodically, but that act wasn’t happening nearly enough to resemble a practice that could remotely be considered healthy.

Maybe it was because my lower back was aching more than normal or, more than likely, it’s because I turned 40 this year. Either way, I realized I could be taking better care of myself by doing some pretty basic things.

So, obviously if I was going to stand more whilst working, I’d need a standing desk. But it took less than a minute-long Google search to see how cost prohibitive decent standing desks were. There was simply no way I could justify the cost. I could stack phonebooks (remember those?) up for my monitor and keyboard, but stability becomes a major issue with that setup. I’m reasonably handy with tools, so I even thought about using discarded scrap wood from my local hardware store to build something from scratch. It would be a cheap option, but it’d also look pretty shabby and if I needed to move it, quite cumbersome.

The whole situation – simply trying to do right by myself – was becoming quite irritating, almost to the point of complete abandonment. But then a friend at my co-working space mentioned Oristand. I’d never heard of it, but it sounded brilliant.

A Magic Box

To hear it described, Oristand sounds like a cardboard box and, well, it is!

And yet it isn’t.

It’s actually more like large-scale cardboard origami, than something you’d put your belongings in. Describing it is hard, so I’ll let Oristand’s promo video do that heavy lifting, then I’ll describe my time with it.

Pretty cool right? And at $25 (USD) I had to at least try it.

Earning a living on top of a cardboard box.

 

Once it arrived I brought it to my co-working space here in Durham, NC and placed it on my desk. Assembly couldn’t have been easier. It unfolds quickly and in less then 10 seconds, you will have it on your desk waiting for your laptop or monitor on the upper shelf and your keyboard and mouse/trackpad on the lower shelf.

One thing I noticed right away is that it is not adjustable in any way. I am 6 foot 3 inches tall and, ergonomically, it just wasn’t going work. I often combat RSI issues so, for me anyways, I needed to either raise my desk or put the Oristand on something higher. Luckily, I found some cheap plastic furniture risers (“footies” you put under each table leg) at a local store that lifted the desk to a perfect height. Solved!

Currently Oristand only makes one size of its stand. So if it doesn’t match your body type, you may have to tap into some additional creativity. Don’t give up!

Once the ergonomic issues were resolved, my Oristand worked completely as advertised! It’s easy to fold back up and carry to another location, it’s super light weight, and it’s takes up very little space if you need to hide it away for a bit.

It’s also WAY sturdier than I anticipated!

Many folks online were asking the manufacturers if it was sturdy enough for an external monitor and while they don’t officially endorse such behavior. I certainly can speak to the safety of doing so. I’ve got an early 2000’s Samsung LCD monitor that is many times heavier than my 13in MacBook Pro and I’ve had it up there non-stop for a couple of months now. So far the Oristand handles that weight without buckling or bending.

So though the Oristand folks don’t endorse putting an external monitor on their stand. I haven’t seen a single problem with doing so on my end.

Some additional nice touches.

Aside from the portability and surprising rigidity of Oristand, I was also pleased to find cutouts for cables for your monitor or non-Bluetooth peripherals.

Also being able to get an Oristand in different colors was a pleasant surprise.

Lastly, there isn’t a single standing desk out there that is 100% recyclable. Being made of only industrial strength cardboard, it feels good knowing that once my Oristand does start to break down, all I have to do is put it in my recycling bin and buy another one for $25.00.

Standing up for a healthier “me”…

As I mentioned briefly above, I’ve now been standing whilst working for a couple of months now. It’s uncomfortable at first and you should definitely take breaks (sit or go for brief walk), but I noticed my body feeling better overall after standing for just a few weeks. Really. It won’t take long to feel the benefits.

I definitely recommend raising your desk (versus raising the Oristand) to get your keyboard at the proper height for stability reasons. Other than that, I can’t think of single thing about this product that would keep you from not giving it a go.

Hands down. The construction of the Oristand and the convenience it provides for the price, make it a total no-brainer if you are looking to give your standing game a fighting chance.

Highly recommended! Go get one.

Read more about Oristand here.

Quick Tip: Creating an AlphaNumeric Passcode in iOS

Regardless of where you fall on the ensuing encryption wars, it’s good sense to have a robust passcode on your phone these days. And with the advent of Touch ID, it makes having a complicated passcode in iOS much, much less of a tribulation.

touchIDandPasscode

“Sounds great! How do you set one up?” Here’s how:

  1. Go into Settings.
  2. Then head into “Touch ID & Passcode”.
  3. Type in your existing passcode. Tap the “Done” link in the upper right corner.
  4. On the next screen, scroll down a bit and tap “Change Passcode”.
  5. Type in your existing passcode. Tap the “Next” link in the upper right corner.
  6. On the next screen, before you start typing in a new digit-based passcode, tap the “Passcode Options” link instead.
  7. Then tap the “Custom Alphanumeric Code” option.
  8. Type in the new alphanumeric passcode that you want, followed by the “Next” link in the upper right corner to continue.
  9. Retype your new passcode in and click “Done” in the upper righthand corner.

Boom! That’s it! Not sure why this valuable option is so buried in the settings but, at least it exists.

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Extra Credit/Security:

For additional security on your device, you can set your phone to erase itself entirely after 10 botched attempts at logging in. It’s a lot easier to set that up too! Here’s how:

  1. Go into Settings.
  2. Then head into “Touch ID & Passcode”.
  3. Type in your existing passcode. Tap the “Done” link in the upper right corner.
  4. Scroll ALLLLL the way down to the bottom of the next screen and toggle the switch to the right of “Erase Data”.
  5. Bask in the confidence you now have, knowing that pretty much no one on the planet can break into your phone and look at your private data!

Now, get on out there and enjoy your way more secure iOS device!