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.)

Taking My Business on the Camino (Part Two – Software)

In part one of this series I went over the tale of how my wife and I decided on hiking the Camino de Santiago this fall. For me (and I imagine many of us), aspects of my life can’t be suspended while we are gone – chief amongst them, my freelance web development business. So, through research, I’ve settled on bringing my iPad and bluetooth clamshell keyboard, using an unlocked iPhone 6 as a mobile hotspot whenever WiFi isn’t present.

In part two of this series, I want to cover the software I am going to be utilizing on this trip. Quite simply, without the iOS apps I’ve found, this entire situation wouldn’t be possible. It isn’t a perfect setup, as there are certain isolated objectives that I will have to perform (or would be better performed) on my MacBook Pro. But with the apps I’ve purchased and now thoroughly tested, I am confident that I can keep the day-to-day aspects of my business up and running  while I am away for these seven weeks.

So let’s dive in shall we?

Please note: these won’t be in-depth reviews of apps, just quick descriptions of how I will use them during my journey.

File Transfers – Coda for iOS

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I am a web developer/designer and I spend most of my time coding in Coda 2 for OS X. Diet Coda, when it first dropped, was capable (and ambitious), but it couldn’t provide the functionality, fit, and finish that I needed to perform any heavy lifting or transferring of files from my iOS devices to my client’s web servers. It just didn’t click for me. That all changed though when Panic Inc. rebuilt Diet Coda into Coda for iOS.

It is, frankly, jaw-dropping how they transitioned literally everything I need from Coda 2 on the Mac, to my iPad and iPhone. And with Panic sync, I was up and running with all of my settings and client profiles in less than 5 minutes! Coda for iOS was officially the first iOS app that made me hopeful for running my business on my iPad. Whether you are making edits to existing sites or even creating new ones from scratch, Coda for iOS has your file transfer and coding needs completely covered. Add the fact that it’s a joy to use on your iPad (or iPhone – yes, it’s universal) and it’s a no-brainer for anyone that works in web development own.

Site Content Updates – Editorial and Drafts

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In addition to building sites, a lot of clients keep me on retainer to help with their content needs. For content going live on the web, I often draft text (in Markdown) in OMZ Software’s Editorial. This way I have a copy of anything I draft synced to Dropbox. From Dropbox I can share direct links to the files I’ve created to clients if they need to vet anything before it goes live, or I can use the robust workflows in Editorial to convert the Markdown I’ve written into clean html, posting it as a draft to any sites my clients have (currently all WordPress).

The UI/UX (which I use in dark mode) is so clean and well laid out that I often look forward to drafting content, or just writing in general, on my iPad before doing anything on my Mac. I should also note that I use Editorial extraordinarily lightly compared to other users out there – it’s an unbelievably powerful program – but for what I use it for, it’s perfect for my needs.

For all other text situations I use Drafts by Agile Tortoise. Drafts handles text in such a swift and agile way that it’s become muscle memory to me for any emails, notes and other text of mine that needs to be shared with other apps in iOS. It’s also universal, making sharing my drafts between my iPhone and iPad effortless.

Last, but not least, both Drafts and Editorial have baked-in support for TextExpander snippets. These snippets save me a ton of time, more of which I will talk about below.

I’ve also written stand alone reviews on both of these apps (Editorial and Drafts) on this site. You can read them here and here if you want to go a little more in-depth.

Social Media Wrangling

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One of the other services I help keep clients up to date with, is their content on various social networks. For automation I’ve found Buffer’s iOS apps to be more than capable. Pair it with their share extension, and you’ve got a frictionless way to keep your Buffer queue filled up with lots of things to share. For all social networks (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc…), I use the official apps with the sole exception of Twitter, for which I currently use Icon Factory’s Twitteriffic. For onesy-twosy Twitter and Facebook postings, I use Linky which, aside from being extremely capable (its share extension is amazing), is also a pure delight to use.

Between these apps, wrangling and contributing to social feeds on the iPad is an absolute breeze. Once iOS 9 drops and there are more split-view-capable apps available, my workflows will get even better!

Photo and Video Editing

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Occasionally a client needs me to cut up some video or edit some photos. For the video edits I use Apple’s own iMovie and I am continuously amazed at how capable this program is. I can splice video into chunks rearranging them, apply color correction, add narration or text overlays, even speed up and slow down specific bits – it’s really quite remarkable what I’ve achieved with this program.

Similarly with photo editing, I’ve found Pixelmator to be shockingly intuitive and fun to use. Having thoroughly used Pixelmator on the Mac, I am already familiar with the ins-and-outs of the program. Luckily, the nuances and workflows I use daily, translated flawlessly to iOS on the iPad.

Of all the discoveries I made during my research this month, it was diving in deep with these two programs that genuinely amazed me the most. In some cases (especially with iMovie) I found myself wanting to hop onto iOS instead of OS X to do edits! Really powerful stuff.

Project Management

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This one is easy. For keeping all of my client work in order and scheduled appropriately, I use Omnifocus. I’ve yet to find a single app that works exactly like my brain does like Omnifocus. On iOS it’s light and nimble, allowing me to queue anything up and view everything else I have in the pipeline. Quite simply, my business wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does without Omnifocus knitted so tightly into the mix.

For all other client info and asset organization I use Evernote which, admittedly, has gotten quite bloated over the years. However, it doesn’t have a rival that fits quite into the mold it has created for itself and I like that I can keep anything that needs archiving, in one place.

It’s also where I keep passport scans and vital personal info for trips. So yeah, Evernote has become a vital travel companion.

Time Tracking and Monthly Invoicing

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For time tracking, I use Hours on my iPhone. Keeping time tracking on my phone helps me separate the process of keeping time whilst working on my iPad. It may seem counterintuitive, but give it a shot sometime. I think you’ll find it’s a good separation of daily duties. Hours also exports to PDF and CSV, making it easy to share hours spent, and their respective descriptions with my iPad.

For invoices, I have templates set up in Apple’s own Pages. I fill them out and export them to PDF where I then add a signature using Smile’s PDF Pen, an app that is brilliant at so many things when it comes to marking up PDF documents.

Are there better options out there? I am sure. But for my needs, this works just perfectly. After the PDF’ed invoices are complete, I share them to a new email, immediately switching to Smile’s TextExpander Touch‘s custom iOS keyboard where I have a text snippet for each client set up. I type in the client’s respective snippet, it pre-fills the email with text and the correct dates, and I hit send. Easy peasy!

Storage and Back ups

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For cloud storage, I predominantly use Dropbox. I’ve been using it for years, it has outstanding iOS support, great UI/UX, and it allows me to share files effortlessly. It also gives me a great place to back up documents, making them available anywhere there’s an internet connection. I’ve also got accounts/apps for OneDrive, Box, and iCloud, the latter of which I am forced to use when syncing my Pages and Numbers documents between my Apple devices.

I also have my MacBook Pro backed up to Backblaze, so any files that synced to Dropbox will sync to my Mac in the U.S. and then be backed up to Backblaze without me having to think about where to move files to achieve backup redundancy. If I need any files from my Backblaze backup, I can use their excellent iOS app, which couldn’t be more intuitive to use in a pinch.

Accessing My MacBook Pro at Home

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I doubt I’ll need it, but in case I do have to access my Mac at home, I am using Edovia’s Screens which is an amazing VNC client that allows you to tunnel into your Mac from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. On the iPhone it’s a bit cramped, but on the iPad? It works like gang-busters! There is of course a bit of latency, but not much (we’ll see if that differs overseas) and, with a bit of patience, I will be able to accomplish anything my MacBook Pro can… from my iPad, which never ceases to amaze me.

This will undoubtedly be my “Plan B” when disaster strikes. But it’s a solid one, and the added confidence it supplies is pretty priceless.

Communications

When email doesn’t work fast enough, in addition to an international SIM, I’ve got Google Voice/Hangouts, Facetime video/audio, as well as Skype. Everyone’s familiar with with these and I sure am grateful they exist. Keeping contact with my clients will be my chief obligation while I am gone, and these apps handle every form of that without issue.

Shattering Preconceived Notions

With the tools I’ve mentioned above, I genuinely feel confident that I can keep my freelance Web Development business running while abroad. Do I have some apprehension? Maybe a little, but that’s only because I’ve never done anything like this before. In reality and real-life practice, I’ve already run my business on my iPad for weeks now and I’ve only grabbed my MacBook Pro once. That’s right, just once, and it was to delete a single folder off of a client’s web server – a task that I am sure could’ve been accomplished on Coda for iOS, but I couldn’t figure out how and I was in a rush.

There’s a shift that’s occurring right now in the tech community. For years, we’ve been constantly told that you can’t get “real work” done on an iPad, and yet there are folks out there that do it constantly every single day. I’m about to count myself as one of them, and I couldn’t be happier with that decision.

I leave for the Camino on September 10th and I won’t be back until November. I’ll post more updates on how this setup is going after we return from Spain!

Click here to go to part 3 of this series where I talk about how everything turned out!

Taking My Business on the Camino (Part One – Intro)

When I asked my wife what she wanted to do when she graduated massage school in August, I half expected her to say “let’s rent a cabin for a week or two in the mountains”. I figured it would be a request that, you know, would be logistically easy for me fulfill while still running my freelance business and spending much-needed time with her as she decompressed from a challenging year of study.

So when she said “Let’s hike the Camino!!” my jaw, understandably, dropped for a few seconds.

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The Camino de Santiago is historically a Christian pilgrimage that starts in southern France, down through the Pyrenees mountains into northern Spain where it terminates in the city of Santiago de Compostela. It’s 500 miles, can take weeks (or even months) complete, and it’s something we’ve always wanted to do.

Connecting While Away

I’m a freelance web developer and my business consists of just me. Leaving my client-base hanging for a month and a half without support simply wasn’t an option. My inclination was to say “there’s just no way I can do this”. but then I thought about it some more and began researching web connectivity along the route we would be taking. I was relieved to see that my initial hunch was right. Every day would begin and end in a city or town and all of these stops had multiple options to connect to the internet. Additionally, my iPhone is unlocked, so when there isn’t a wifi connection, an international SIM card would bridge the gaps in connectivity between stops. I’d simply make my phone a hotspot when needed.

Connectivity was no longer an issue!

But then another challenge presented itself.

Traveling Ultra-Light to Avoid Light Fingers

One of many amazing things about “the way of Saint James” is that not only is it hundreds of miles long, it’s also hundreds of years old. People have walked it for a very long time and, as such, towns, villages, and cities have built an entire economy around it. Each stop along the way offers shelter to pilgrims, so we would not have to bring a tent. In fact, everything I’ve read is telling me not to bring very much at all: just a few changes of clothes, rain gear, needed toiletries, wallet and a passport. So the thought of me bringing my trusty MacBook Pro along with so little else, suddenly seemed foolish (not to mention heavier than anything else that will be in my bag).

The other issue is theft on the Camino. It doesn’t happen often, but apparently it does happen enough for hikers to be quite wary and warn anyone who will listen online. Having traveled to a few places on this planet, I am not naive to the fact that theft can occur anywhere. Nonetheless, it did key me in to thinking about hardware alternatives. Without a doubt, if my MBP got pinched while abroad, it wouldn’t be the end of the world (I’ve got redundant backups and such), but it would be an enormous setback for my clients, not to mention my wallet.

So I needed something light as well as something I could part with, without breaking the bank. I initially eyed the new retina MacBooks for their weight, but then back-tracked because of their price and lack of horsepower. I also looked at Chromebooks for their price, and though I was psyched to see how far they’d come, in the end I balked at what they still lacked. Then I looked at my iPad Air 2 and wondered what was possible. It was light to a fault, way less expensive (since I already owned it), and had plenty of horsepower for what I needed it to do. All I needed was a proper keyboard.

keyboard&ios9

iOS 9 to the Rescue

I typically don’t run OS betas on my main devices, but when I saw the recent iPad-only features added into the recent betas of iOS 9, I took the plunge once the public beta kicked off. As of the last version (mid August), iOS 9 feels more stable than ever. And with its improved inter-app communication, multi-tasking, and keyboard support, my iPad feels more and more like a workhorse, and way less of a consumption device.

To prepare in advance, I’ve been using it as my sole productivity device for four weeks now and I’ve been genuinely surprised to see it accommodate 99% of everything I’ve needed to do to keep my business running and my clients happy.

Coupled with the highly recommended QODE™ Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2, there isn’t much that I’ve encountered that I can’t conquer with this setup alone.

What About Software?

Ah yes. About that.

My hardware needs have been met, I will be traveling super light, and connectivity is no longer a concern… but quality web development is only as good as the tools you have at your disposal.

I mentioned above, that in my pre-prep there was very little that I could not accomplish with my current iPad and keyboard setup. But hardware has only been half of the equation. In truth, the software is where all the magic has been happening. Luckily, the iOS dev community has created some beautiful, highly capable tools that will help me accomplish my day-to-day.

Click here to go to part 2 of this series where I talk about the software I will be using on the Camino.

Tips: Getting Your Markdown in Scrivener to Display Quicker in Marked…

Hey everyone! Just a quick and easy tip for all of you folks who use Marked as your Markdown previewer when writing in Scrivener.

One of the microscopic issues I have with using Marked in conjunction with Scrivener is the lag between when you write your Markdown (or any text) in Scrivener, it autosaves, and a few seconds later it shows up in Marked. This isn’t a bug in either programs – Marked shows what your document looks like after it is saved, and Scrivener autosaves after a preset amount of time after you stop typing (usually a matter of seconds).

I know, I know, not a big deal. But did you know that you can change the amount of time it takes for Scrivener to autosave? You can! It’s in the preference pane. Open up Scrivener, head to into the preferences menu and click the general tab, you’ll find in there.

ScrivPrefPaneShot

You can go as low as 1 second (I tried 0.5 seconds, no dice) in this field. Set it to that and close out of preferences. You should see a bit of an improvement to when Marked displays your Markdown now. It doesn’t get rid of the lag completely, but it does make it much less noticeable, creating a more seamless experience between apps.

So if it’s been distracting you or worse, keeping you from pairing these two juggernaut apps, try tweaking this auto-save time increment lower and see if that makes the experience any better for you. I know it did for me.

Software: Typed Review

Anyone who has been to my site a few times knows my affinity for Markdown and the many editors that support it. This last week the folks at Realmac Software dropped their most recent entry into the Markdown editor arena and I thought I’d do a quick review on it for you all.

A New Spin On An Old Idea? Not really.

When Realmac first announced the beta of Typed (one that I was not included in, for what it’s worth) I was intrigued by their pitch, but was not exactly champing at the bit to try it out. Spartan Markdown editors have been done before and adding what they call a “Zen Mode” into the mix isn’t exactly a new idea. Omm Writer launched its editor specifically on the auspice of its fullscreen, non-existent UI, low friction, zero-distraction edit mode years ago, and they implemented it exceptionally well. People really loved/love what they did with that idea (myself included) and since then, droves of other developers have implemented their own take on full-screen, distraction-free writing.

So my first thought was, are these guys REAL late to the party?

After using Typed for a few days now my answer is: not exactly. In fact they might be just on time.

Delight Is In The Details.

What Realmac did exceptionally well was create a new version of an old idea with an attention to detail that other Markdown editors lack.

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In short, though there is nothing new here, you can’t take away the fact that Typed is simply a joy to use. Everything it does is intuitive, simple, and very polished. The lack of options/preferences is certainly reminiscent of iA Writer’s UI. Except in Typed, you can find everything you need (if you even need it) by mousing over to the left where a preferences pop-up menu fades into view. There you’ll find a beautiful variety of font pairings to choose from as well as two other separate theme views (one of which is “night mode” for those tired eyes during late night writing sessions), you’ll also find the requisite HTML preview mode, as well as the baked-in share sheet extension that comes with most apps in OS X Yosemite. It’s all implemented thoughtfully, appearing when you need it and literally disappearing when you don’t.

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To complement Typed’s “Zen Mode” (which is basically the full screen mode we’ve all come to know), there are 8 separate looping music tracks you can use if you really need the background noise. They are all pleasant enough and certainly calming (particularly with headphones), but they are also somewhat buried and hard to find unless you know where to look, which I found a bit counter to everything else Typed does so well. That’s a small, non-essential quibble though.

Lastly, there are a few other options up in the top menu bar of Typed. Specifically export options and keyboard shortcuts for commonly used Markdown syntax. And for those who like to keep track, a word/character counter can also be found in the top right.

Aside from that, what you see is what you get.

And what you get, frankly, is delightful to use.

Since it dropped last week, I’ve already fired it up several times for a variety of jobs. I did so simply because Typed felt like the right tool for my writing needs at the time. Your text is laid out beautifully and the layout flows perfectly whenever I have to resize my window or pop out of full screen mode to grab something. The translucent background picks up everything behind it subtly (it can be turned off by the way) and everything responds immediately, with zero lag.

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It’s hard to put into words, but Typed, despite all of its similarities to other apps, captures a solid writing interface that you can trust, all the while giving you distraction free writing that is purely just that.

So far I’ve loved using it when I just need to get something down. Those singular moments when you write a letter, draft out a blog post… anything that simply needs to be, well, typed. I wouldn’t write a novel or anything long-form in it (that’s for Scrivener). I also wouldn’t write anything that needs a proper editorial workflow in it either (that’d be a job for Writer Pro).

Do the Markdown editors I mentioned above have more to offer features-wise? Absolutely. But none of those offer the polished experience quite like I’ve found with Typed. Not to mention this editor doesn’t seem to even want to be that feature rich and I personally think that’s what makes it so appealing.  All of that attention to detail that Realmac puts in to this editor pays dividends to you, the writer. By creating a clean writing experience with tools that are not far out of reach, Typed becomes an experience to look forward to. It’s a starting point. A clean sheet of paper waiting patiently for you to begin.

Realmac is currently offering a trial period to use the full version of Typed for free. I whole heartedly recommend checking it out if you are looking for something new to add to your text editor tool kit.

**All pics found in this post were taken directly from Typed’s own press kit.**