Software: Permute Review

Hey everyone, sorry this blog has gone a little dormant in the last two months. Truth is, I’ve been busy with work 1. For the first time in a while though, I had a down day and felt like writing, so I thought I’d whip up quick review on an app you may find useful! Just a heads up though, the app is Mac-only. Good? Good.

Being a freelance web developer that wears a lot of different hats when it comes to client work, I’ve found over the years that I’ve come to rely quite a bit on file converters. Whether it’s changing a .wmv file to an .mp4 or .jpg’s into .png’s, I am always amazed at how much time I spend converting files that clients hand to me into something more web-friendly – or just more useful to the rest of the world.

If you search for file conversion apps on the web, you’ll find there are hundreds out there and they all predominantly do the same thing: change your existing files into a different file format. I’ve tried more converters than I care to remember 2 but the one I’ve settled on is Fuel Collective’s app, Permute.

Permute does two things extremely well – media file conversion, and getting out of your way.

3-dc476a288c004037735e7fc212ccae4d

Media File Conversion

Any good file converter should be able to handle a variety of file formats and Permute handles most, if not all. From AAC to XVID, Permute will handle 99.9% of anything you need to throw at it. Conversion processes occur lightening fast and, yes, it does batch conversion as well, handling multiple simultaneous conversion processes with the utmost ease. Have a folder of images that you need to change along with a couple of video files? Just drag them into Permute, set your file format, and hit the "Start" button.

That’s it!

4-7dd874d04cb3f260bed43b68df1b0273

Getting Out of Your Way.

A lot of the file conversion apps I’ve tried in the past had convoluted workflows, making me click a variety of buttons and toggles before I can even start the conversion process. Those wasteful tasks are gone with Permute.

1-71a69fe357db0e85126d1bad4d385f1f

When you fire up Permute, you are presented with a very spartan grey box instructing you to drag and drop your files into it. Once you do that, you only have to choose the file format that you want to convert to and then click start. It’s so simple and straightforward that it got me wondering why this UI/UX hadn’t been adopted by other more popular conversion utilities years ago.

2-43326ba35dde786375bc4469a66fb380

It also has builtin support for OS X’s notification center, so that when it’s done with each file conversion, it will let you know with a modal window floating in from the top right of your screen.

What It Doesn’t Do (that you may need).

What Permute doesn’t do, and this by design, is allow you to tweak its existing presets on a micro level. Yes, you can change a few standard settings that you’ll find in any "Save As" process, but if you are looking for access to a HUGE toolset of changes before the conversion process begins, than Permute is not for you. It is meant for the "set it and forget it" crowd – those folks who prefer streamlined ease over sweating the details of filters, audio track separation/modification, color changes, or other high-end production editing.

It also only focuses on media files. Images, audio files, and videos. At the time, that’s all it will convert.

But if that’s all you need than I can’t recommend Permute enough. It’s lightening fast, incredibly easy to use, and I’ve yet to have a botched file conversion.

Rock solid and absolutely worth your hard-earned cash if you are in the market for a new media converter.

Links:

PLEASE NOTE: All images were created by the fine peeps at fuelcollective.com. I did not create these.


  1. not complaining one bit though, it’s a great problem to have

  2. or admit

Writing: Scrivener as a complete Blogging System

About a month after I used Scrivener to finally finish a novel I started years ago, I got the idea of trying to use it as not only a staging area for posts here on my blog, but also as an infrastructure and archive of it as well. My system is admittedly quite basic, but I thought I would share it as it’s become critical and amazingly helpful since I’ve set it up. I figured the more basic it is now, the easier it would be for you all to adopt; modifying it to fit your needs.

Here goes…

Each Project is a Year

Project Year

Start a new project in Scrivener (File > New Project or shift-command-N on the Mac), choose a project template (whatever you are used to), and change the title to the year you are writing in. I originally thought I would call it “Posts” but, for me anyways, it quickly became too unwieldy and chaotic. I wanted this system to be simple yet powerful, not muddied with years of content.

Each Month is a Folder

Folder Month

I chose to break my posts into months but it would be just as easy to make each folder a site topic or category. I personally like months because I can generally remember about when chronologically I wrote a post. Also, if I search my blog and find it, it makes the post that much easier to find in my Scrivener project.

This is also a great opportunity to shift to corkboard view and add notes to each month so that you can either see what you wrote about at a glance, or maybe attach a note about a life event that occurred that effected your writing at the time. It’s up to you (obviously). Sometimes I don’t add anything, but I am glad I have the option when I do.

Believe it or not, this is the core structure of my blog writing system in Scrivener – a project is a year, a month is a folder.  Once this is set up, open the month you are currently in and create a new document.

Each Document is a Post

Document Posts

Here’s where your writing comes in. You can keep it simple and write the entirety of your post, save it, and then copy and paste the text into your blog of choice. Or you also have the opportunity to leverage Scrivener to its fullest! A lot of folks use Scrivener for short and long form writing and they should, there’s nothing out there that is better for that. But one of Scrivener’s secret weapons is its ability to export MultiMarkDown into clean and precise html. Which is perfect for a blog’s built-in text editor.

If you are familiar with markdown syntax, it’s a huge shortcut for exporting your writing easily into perfectly formatted html code (what your browser reads and translates into a web page). If you are interested in learning it, you can find everything you need to know right here. The learning curve is far from steep and it could save you a ton of time going forward.

*UPDATE* 09/27/13 – If you are interested in getting Scrivener setup to export MMD markup, I posted a companion piece to this post walking you through how to do so.  You’ll find it right here.

Markdown Export

Of course if you are not into learning that kind of stuff, that’s cool too. You don’t have to. A lot of blogging platforms handle copy and pasting text from word processors into their WYSIWYG editors quite well now, parsing your pasted text into HTML the best that it can. Still, the clean code that Markdown generates eliminates a lot of guess-work (and potential html clean up when a blog editor translates your text incorrectly) and I am immensely grateful that the kind folks at Literature and Latte had the foresight to see a need for it from their customers.

Ok, enough about my love of markdown! There are other tools you can leverage that cater very nicely to blogging. Many of these I am sure you are already familiar with, but I figured I’d hit them anyways.

Word Targets

Word Target

When I blog I like to set a word count target. Generally in Scrivener this is a goal for you to strive for, but with blogging it’s particularly great to know when you should start wrapping things up or stop completely and jump into edit mode. I like to think of it as the warning track on a baseball field giving you a heads up before your run head-long into a wall, or in the case of blogging, becoming too verbose.

Synopsis and Document Notes

Synopsis Notes

I often like to use the coveted right column in Scrivener to add notes, reference external links/topics, or even other posts that this post is linked to on my blog… just about anything else that is useful to you the author, but not necessary for your readership.

It’s a little extra work for you, but helpful at-a-glance down the road.

Corkboard View For Your Posts

corkboard view

This is something that, once you use it, you are always giving yourself a high-five in the future for doing so. I can’t tell you how many times this view in Scrivener has saved me from digging into pages and pages of text to find that one post that I wrote about topic “X”.

On each card, I add the date it was posted and a very brief synopsis. Make it part of your workflow, you will not regret it.

ProTip – if you do utilize Scrivener’s right column and fill out the synopsis field, the cork board view uses that text as the content displayed on the card.

Meta-Data

metadata

I may be getting a little too much “in the weeds” on this one but, I thought I’d throw it out there nonetheless. As you add more and more posts, you may want to consider assigning meta-data or “tags” to the content you produce. This will help organize your content a lot more efficiently and make it all infinitely more searchable in the future.

Start with broad topics and then hone in from there.

Many of you won’t need this, but Scrivener does such a bang-up job of its implementation of it, I thought I’d mention it.

What You End Up With

As with my long-form writing, Scrivener provides me with a one-stop-shop writing platform for my blog. If it could actually export to my blog (WordPress), that would be amazing! But don’t let that tiny quibble keep you from trying this idea out. With a little bit of groundwork applied up front, you get all of your writing organized and searchable, post by post, month by month, year by year.

One last perk? Exporting a project and getting an entire year’s worth of posts in pdf or epub format. Flipping through a retrospective of the last 365 days of your creative life is surprisingly satisfying to view on a tablet or even printed out if you want to feel the literal weight of your work.

Sort of like a yearbook for your blog! Only without the awkward interactions of asking for classmates to sign it. ;)

Tips: Creating a KeyBoard Shortcut for “Private Browsing” mode in Safari…


Window for enabling Private Browsing mode...

For a variety of reasons I often find myself going into “Private Browsing” mode when using Apple’s Safari browser on my Mac. Maybe I am on a public wi-fi connection at a coffee shop, or maybe I am using a friend’s Mac for a quick Google search and want to give it back precisely how I received it – private browsing mode can be a handy way of accomplishing “leave no trace” browsing whenever it is needed.

Regardless of the need though, I really hate the process of enabling it: once in Safari, click the “Safari” menu in the top left menu, click “Private Browsing…”, then click “ok” on the window that pops up shortly afterwards.

Is this really that much of a big deal to do? Of course it’s not. But wouldn’t it be easier if there was a keyboard command/shortcut to toggle private browsing mode on and off without touching your mouse or touchpad?

I think so and, luckily, it’s really easy to set up.

The Steps…

1. Click the Apple Menu in the upper-left corner of your screen.

2. Choose “System Preferences” from the drop down menu.

3. Select the “Keyboard” option under “Hardware”.

4. Click the “Keyboard Shortcuts” toggle at the top of the window.

5. Then click “Application Shortcuts” in the left column.

6. Now you just click the “+” button to add a new shortcut.


7. In the new window that pops up, select “Safari” from the top pulldown menu.

8. In the “Menu Title” field, type “Private Browsing”.

9. In the “Keyboard Shortcut” field, type what ever you want your shortcut to be. For me I chose “Command-Control-P”.

10. Click the “Add” button and you are done!

The Result…

Now when you are in Safari on your Mac and you want to quickly go into “Private Browsing” mode, all you have to do is type your new shortcut and it instantly toggles it on! To turn it off, just type the shortcut again. It’s that simple.

I am absolutely sure this tip can be found elsewhere on the internet (there’s no way this is a “new” idea). But I just wanted to write a quick walk-through on how to set it up for you all.

Hopefully it’s useful to you too! :)

Hardware: Review of Logitech’s K750 and K760 Wireless Solar Keyboards

Apple Bluetooth Keyboard

For the last few years, I have been using my ever-faithful Apple bluetooth keyboard for my wireless keyboard needs (Laptop, iPad, iPhone, Mac Mini, you name it…). I chose it for the following reasons:

  1. It’s got a good form factor
  2. It is ruggedly built (I have dropped it several times and it has kept ticking without a hitch).
  3. Despite it’s form factor it has got a full size layout for its keys (sans number pad). Which is always important. I hate feeling cramped while typing.
  4. It pairs relatively easily with devices and the Mac-specific hotkeys at the top are quite quite handy (particularly when used with the iPad)
  5. It’s easy to grab and slide into my bag when I need to just go.

But, that all said, there are a few drawbacks. Small stuff mostly, but chief amongst them is the Apple keyboard’s need of batteries to function and it’s ability to have it’s bluetooth connection turned on by accident (draining the batteries of both your device and the keyboard) if the large button on its side gets touched by a feather.

Both of these issues caused me to reevaluate my selection of a keyboard and at least start to research what is out there nowadays for alternative options. Suffice it to say, I found a lot!

 

The best options built specifically for the Mac, that weren’t built by Apple, seemed to be offered by Logitech. They have a great selection with a lot of options, but in the end I settled on their series of solar powered keyboards. They support all of the current Apple command key shortcuts, have zero need for batteries (fully charged, it can be used for three continuous months in complete darkness) and, in the case of the travel version, they have the ability to hot swap between multiple bluetooth devices. Which is handy if you need to quickly disconnect from one device and quickly pair with another (from an iPad to a desktop, for instance).

Here are the two I went with:Logitech K760 Wireless Solar KeyboardFor the iPad I went with the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760

Logitech K750 Wireless Solar KeyboardAnd for the Mac Mini I splurged and snagged the full sized Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 for Mac®

They both perform easily as well as their Apple manufactured counterparts and while they don’t feel as well built as Apple’s aluminum keyboards, they by no means feel cheap in any way.

Function-wise, they both have worked flawlessly. I love that the hotkeys (the “F” keys) that are in the top row of the Apple keyboard, can all be found on the Logitechs (the media-based buttons work even on the iPad!). Also, eco-stance aside, I really love that I don’t have to worry about having my rechargeable batteries around and charged up when my keyboard dies. The solar cell at the top, does change the footprint (and the aesthetic if that’s important to you) obviously, making the keyboard, in both cases, taller. But the exchange for battery life and the simple convenience of putting it in any kind of light to recharge it, definitely trumps these quibbles for me.

The bluetooth hot swapping on the K760? It works as advertised and is pretty damn amazing! Once paired up (easy to do as well) I was swapping between my iPad, iPhone and Macbook with a simple keystroke. It’s fast and way more convenient than I originally anticipated. Definitely not a gimmicky feature! It is the real deal and quite helpful.

One odd difference between the two? The K760 keys are WAY more “clicky” than the K750. So if you are into that, or are obsessive about stealth typing, than you may want to take a note of this. I noticed it right away.

Lastly, the K750 comes with a free app you can snag from the Mac App Store that gives you real time info on your charge and the amount of light/solar energy your keyboard is currently receiving. Pretty neat to bring up and watch, not to mention handy if you need to know how much juice your keyboard currently has left. Again, it’s only for K750, but it is well implemented on the Mac.

So if it wasn’t clear enough yet, I will come out and say it: I am pretty smitten with these keyboards! I’ve used the K750 for a month now and the K760 for a little over week. They have not given me one bit of buyer’s remorse. Quite the opposite actually. I wish more peripherals were made with this kind of utility and function.

Two thumbs up! Way up! Highly recommended!

Design: WTHR – A Simpler, More Beautiful Weather App

Hey guys,

This popped up on the ole radar this week and I thought I would share. If you know the intricate inner workings of my mind (poor, poor you…), you will know that I have an amazing soft spot for weather and, by proxy, weather apps.

WTHR iPhone APP

Well, a new one dropped this week called WTHR and it’s design is just too good not to share with you all. What I love the best? The screenshot above pretty much tells you everything that the app does! It gives you the weather of where you are at in a simple, clean and beautiful way. No radars, not barometers, no ten day forecasts… just the vitals.

Love the style. Love the delivery. Love the app.

One important note: It does have some issues with its first release. It leaves the GPS search running even AFTER you’ve closed the app. Pretty big bug, as that can lay waste to your battery life, but I am more than confident that they will fix that in the next release (a lot of weather apps have delivered with this bug). So, wait for the next release or snag it now for 99 cents (?! – link above).

If you love good app design and aesthetic, this a bit of a no brainer.

UPDATE 07/11/12

The developer for WTHR released an update to iOS app store, just yesterday (tookWAY longer that I would’ve thought) that fixes the issue above. You do have to reset your locations services though which can be found in:

Settings>General>Reset (bottom of the list) >Reset Location Warnings.

If you are just buying it now, you don’t have to reset a thing. Just use it an enjoy!

It’s a shame this bug slipped through the testing process. Oh well, it works great now!