Software: Mou App Review

Mou editor window screenshot On it’s site, mouapp.com, the text editor “Mou” is aptly described as “The missing Markdown editor for web developers”. And, for me anyways, it truly is. I’ve been using it for several weeks now and I wanted to share my thoughts on how I found it and how it has found it’s way into my writing/blogging system.

If you write in Markdown, you’ll know that there is no shortage of apps out there that cater to it. But many of them merely export to html or maybe, if you’re lucky, give you a popup preview pane to view what you’ve created before you do.

With that in mind, I went on the hunt for a Markdown editor that worked differently. First and foremost, I wanted something that could accurately display my Markdown inline. A lot of Markdown editors to date give this kind of visual feedback on screen, but most of the time it’s just an indicator showing you that you’ve successfully applied the proper syntax. It doesn’t show you what it will look like when it’s translated into html. So, as I mulled through a pile of research on the editors I Googled, I was surprised that I couldn’t find an editor out there that gave me this type of feedback. I couldn’t, that is, until one night the good folks at Scriptogram tweeted to the world an app that was in beta called “Mou”. Not only did they specify that it was built for web developers using Markdown, but that it also offered many options that some of the editors did not.

Naturally, I was psyched at the possibility of finally finding the editor I’d been searching for! Of course, I still had to use it. :)

Well, I did and I am happy to report it is now definitely my go-to Markdown editor on the Mac (it’s Mac only by the way. It also only runs on 10.7 or higher.)! There are a lot of reasons why I chose it and, honestly, the bulk of these features can be found in other editors. But the most important ones are all here (including a few that I didn’t even know that I needed) in one tidy package.

Here’s a rundown of the key features that tipped the scale for me:

Split Screen Edit Window for Realtime Markdown to HTML Conversion

Mou editor window screenshotI actually wish I could film this, because it’s hands down my favorite feature. When open Mou, you’ll notice immediately that the edit window is split down the middle to show your Markdown code on one side and it’s translation to HTML on the other. But what’s really awesome is, as you type your Markdown on the left side, it is updated with the html conversion on the right,in realtime! There is a second of lag as the program does it’s thing, but I tell ya, this instant feed back is fast, beautifully implemented and unbelievably handy when you want to know how your code is going to look when you post it up for the world to see.

This all said, Mou’s default setup only shows your code in the raw html format, the CSS of the site you are posting to could, and will, change what you see on the right (sometimes significantly). The good news? You can import your site’s CSS into Mou if you want to have an even better representation of what your end product will look like.

Post Function

Post to ScriptogramA very close second in my running for “favorite feature”, is Mou’s “Post” function. This site you are reading runs onScriptogram’s framework, and Mou’s ability to post to a site running on Scriptogram is some wizbang hoodoo that I am glad just works. Once you put your Scriptogram site’s unique ID into Mou’s preferences, it becomes an option under the File>Post menu.

I gotta tell ya, not having to log into the back end of my site to post something is just damn convenient. It’s easy to use and it works every time.

Oh and if you’re a Tumblr user, it can post to that too!

Auto Complete

Supports Auto CompleteLike any code-based language, Markdown has a syntax logic that, while super simple, readable and easy to use, still needs to be upheld in order to work. Mou does a great job at making sure that your code (spelling and grammar too) is correct through it’s auto-complete functionality. When you type a “(“it automatically places a “)” in front of your cursor. This is a wonderful time-saver! In fact, it actually makes me want to use Mou as an everyday text editor for anything (which of course you could) and I sometimes do.

I could go on about the other ways that Mao’s autocomplete works, but if you use Markdown in your day-to-day, you’ll have to trust me when I say it makes writing in Markdown even more simple to use.

Themes

Mou supports custom themesThemes are in just about every text editor out there now. That all said, Mou’s are great and it’s nice to have it added in with everything else in such a robust program. Customizing any text editor to your liking is is key and with Mou it’s easy to do.

There are other cool features too!

  • It’s super fast! It feels like a light weight editor when you use it and it’s burned through anything I have thrown at it quickly.
  • A word/character/byte counter
  • A really simple export to HTML or PDF option (that can even include your css too!)
  • View Controls with Enhanced CJK Support for folks around the world writing in character-based languages the run vertically.
  • Supports OSX’s full screen mode and autosave function (a life saver if you need something from a previous version)
  • A powerful set of keyboard actions that allow you to write your Markdown even faster.
  • Incremental Search for looking for things easier and granularly within your document.

Seems Awesome Right? So Where Do You Get It?

Mou currently is in Beta, but every build that’s dropped has been rock solid in my usage. The good news is that this awesome editor is free right now because of it’s beta state! Eventually it will be for sale (price TBD) when it reaches version 1.0 release. But if you donate to the development (highly recommended), you’ll get a free upgrade when that version is ready!

Links:

  • Mou App: http://mouapp.com – download link is that bottom of the page. If you can, feel free to donate!
  • Develper: Chen Luo
  • Twitter for the app: @mou
  • Twitter for the Developer: @chenluois

PLEASE NOTE: All images in this post are from Mou’s site.

Software: All About Digital Memory

I’m constantly amazed by how much my brain is bombarded by information (let alone raw stimuli) every second of everyday. If I’m honest, most of it is completely useless fluff; entertainment at best, advertisement at worst. But a good amount of it is still worth looking at and remembering. In it’s current state, my life doesn’t always allow the time to look at everything when it presents itself. I mean, how could it? Because of this fact, I’ve come up with a few app systems that allow me to curate most, if not all of it. I figured I can’t be the only one with this kind of life, so I thought I’d do a post about the different apps I use to remember things and how I specifically use them. Most of the apps I am about to talk about are free and are available on many different platforms. So this isn’t yet another Mac-based software post. I know I tend to focus on those.

Also, please note that these aren’t reviews of these apps. Some of them I use to their fullest extent, but most them, I use for that one function that they do extremely well. The good news is that most of these apps have been around for a good amount of time and have been reviewed extensively. So feel free to Google them afterwards if you want to know more about them. As always, I’ll also have links at the bottom of this post to their downloads and dev sites.

Ok. So, here we go. Without a doubt the following instances come up several times a day for me:

  1. I come across an article, review, link to an event, video, etc. that I either want read later or share with another person. There’s one caveat though: I have no intention of keeping it. I’ll read/view it later and then I’ll delete it.
  2. I come across web content that is more of a resource. Something that I will need and continue to reference in the near and very distant future. It’s that tidbit or object that you know you’d absolutely regret losing or forgetting.
  3. Lists. We all have them! Grocery lists, to-do lists, gift lists, travel prep check lists… they’re those lists of important things that you check off immediately after you do them. When the list is done? You happily delete it feeling that warm sense of accomplishment.
  4. Tiny notes. Particularly ones that you need to share across devices. Like a Post-it note but more permanent. I won’t need it all of the time, but if I am flaking out and just can’t remember, it’s in it’s separate app waiting.
  5. Password and Account info. Between my wife and I alone we have, sickeningly, close to a hundred different logins to a host of websites that vary from yoga studios, to credit card accounts. We could use the same user ID and password for all of them, but shouldn’t and we don’t (nor should you). For this, I need an app that wrangles all of these accounts and passwords, so that they are easily found and encrypted to the hilt.

Those are the scenarios! Now I’ll go through each app that I use to combat them.

Situation One: Disposable, yet still worthy of consumption…

Instapaper Logo

For these situations I rely on “Instapaper“. Marco Arment’s Instapaper is worthy of an entire post alone on this site, but when it comes to shelving a movie review that I really want to read but don’t have the time to? Instapaper is perfect and is my go-to app. Through it’s applets and API I can send anything on just about any app on any platform (computer, phone, tablet) to my Instapaper account to read later in it’s now extremely popular stripped down format. No distractions, stripped of ads, viewable offline, lots of choices to suit my reading aesthetic, all wrapped up in a solid, dependable platform.

I use Instapaper to save so much of what I find in my daily travels on the internet crazy that the service is free. And when I’m done with the content, I delete it! I don’t have to, there are plenty of options to archive things in Instapaper, but it’s not how I happen to use it. Browser-based, it’s available anywhere there’s an internet connection. There are also native apps on iOS and Android platforms as well, and though I don’t own an Android device, the iOS apps work flawlessly.

Situation Two: Non-disposable Resources. In other words, that stuff you want to keep.

Evernote Logo

In these cases, I rely almost exclusively on “Evernote“. Evernote is one of those software solutions that is completely adaptable. There are just so many ways to use it! Their approach is simple: offer any and every way that you could think of to upload anything digital, permanently to the cloud. Oh, and make it super easy too!

Me? 95% of the time that I use it, I utilize their very handy web-clipper browser add-on to send snapshots of web sites onto Evernote’s cloud storage. I do tend to tag my additions and add them to folders, but that isn’t really necessary. Once clipped into Evernote, your entry is saved, completely searchable and, at the very least, auto-organized by date. Just a couple weeks ago I saved a dozen different web sites on shower heads. Tagged “shower”, it was simple to bring up everything I’d found weeks later when I was ready to pull the trigger and buy one. Easy!

But you can also use it in other handy ways. A perfect use case of this is when I used it the other day when we bought and enjoyed a bottle of wine while out for dinner. After we drank the wine I took a picture of the label on the bottle, tagged the variety (“red” “malbec”) and, because I took it with my phone, Evernote used the GPS coordinates to log where the photo was taken, so we could remember where we drank it. Months later, we wanted to have the same wine out for some friends who were coming over for dinner. When I was at the wine shop, I opened up Evernote on my iPhone and knew precisely what I was looking for. It also helps A TON when someone asks to help you.

This exact same approach is also incredibly handy when you park you car in an airport parking lot before leaving on three week trip to India. Take pic of the lot and space number. Save it. Get on with life and focus on other things. Simple.

In the end, Evernote’s service is definitely one of those “what you make of it” situations. But don’t let that deter or overwhelm you. Trust me, I don’t even use it tonearly the degree that others do. My workflow is simple by design and, because of that, it’s been pretty damn invaluable over the years.

Situation Three: Lists

Grocery IQ Screenshot

There are three types of lists that I typically keep.

  • Lists before an event, like a vacation, making sure we have everything we need.
  • Grocery Store lists.
  • Any trip to a hardware store inevitably should have a list.

In this case, simple is always better for me. I don’t want any crazy or feature-rich todo app. I just want something with text, check boxes and something that syncs across devices. The syncing option is only optimal to me for when my wife and I head out to the dreaded grocery store. With a list that syncs between our phones, we can divide and conquer. She knows I grabbed the eggs because she sees that I checked it off when I went down the milk aisle. If this situation sounds bad ass, that’s because it is. ;)

My apps of choice are “Grocery IQ” for grocery stores and Apple’s own “Reminders” app on the Mac and on iOS for everything else. Both sync across multiple devices. Grocery IQ gets a leg up over Apple’s own “Reminders” app because it offers up coupons as well as the ability organize your list by aisle if you already have your favorite grocery store layout memorized. It’s super simple to use and always handy when someone is home and remembers something while you are on the way to the store.

Apple's Reminders App Screenshot

The “Reminders” app is baked into iOS (so it’s free), syncs with iCloud and is backed by Apple, so you can’t go wrong with it. It’s quite simplistic (just multiple lists of check boxes and text) but it does what it does very well.

Situation Four: Tiny Notes

Apple'ss Notes App Screenshot

What’s a “tiny note”? Tiny notes are those incomplete sentences of info that you need handy at any given moment in time. An example of this is an address to a party or a security code into someone’s place that you occasionally visit. It’s not worth permanently archiving, but it’s also not really disposable either.

A perfect use case for this is my sister recently moved into a new flat that has a security code at the front door. She told it to me and I instantly jotted it down on my phone. I don’t want to memorize it right away and I certainly don’t want to keep badgering her for it whenever I visit. For all of these scraps of important andconvenient info, I use the “Notes” app in iOS. It’s super basic, baked into iOS (again, it’s hard to beat free) and because I don’t use it for anything else, it’s not terribly crowded with other bits of info. As of today, I still only have one note in the app with a small list of things that I need occasionally and because it’s synced through iCloud, I don’t need to read it out loud or send it in an email or text to my wife. I simply tell her it’s in “Notes” and she knows exactly what I am talking about.

Situation Five: Accounts and Passwords

Alt text

If there is only one thing you take away from this post, I hope it’s this: take the protection of your ID and password info seriously.

There are a lot of password generators out there and just as many apps that work well at encrypting and storing your personal info remotely and securely. I personally love, and use Agile Bits app “1Password“. They work on the simple premise that the safest password you could ever have, is one that you do not know. Basically it works like this. You have one password to memorize, and that is the password to the 1password app itself (see what they did there?). Inside this app is a highly encrypted database of all of your user ID’s and passwords (which can be created in-app with their password generator), support for full credit card info, personal documents, personal info, you name it. It’ll accept just about anything you want protected, yet accessible.

For all it is under the hood, it’s quite incredible how easy it is to incorporate it into your life! One way it really saves time, is in it’s ability to auto populate web fields with the click of a button when using their feature-rich (yet easy to use) browser plugin. Go to a site, click the 1Password button in your browser’s toolbar, type in the one password for the app, click the link that corresponds to the site, and you are on. It takes it from there, auto-populating the fields and even logging you in with an incredibly hard-to-crack password that you have no chance in hell of remembering. In addition to logins, the auto-population is borderline magic when you face situations where you have to fill out forms for anything online. Not having type in your mailing address or credit card info instantly becomes addictive.

It’s not all roses, there’s a good bit of manual setup involved, but once you get your info into 1Password, you are set and life becomes way more convenient (not to mention way more safe).

1Password also isn’t free, but in my opinion it’s worth every penny you spend and then some. I think you’ll find that you’ll use it mostly on your home PC, but it’s also available on iOS and Android devices as well.

Forget about forgetting…

So that’s it! With the above apps, I’ve streamlined a ton of useless crap out of my day to day. I no longer sweat nearly as much about remembering non-critical moments or things. In all cases I have access to everything on every device I own with a screen and an internet connection. Errands are cut short, time is gained, your important info is protected…. Even if you were to try just one of these above situations out, I promise you, you’ll see the benefits.

Give it a shot! Let me know what you think on Twitter.

App Links:

The fine Developers of these apps:

  • Marco Arment – Instapaper
  • Evernote.com – Evernote
  • coupons.com – Grocery IQ
  • Agile Bits – 1password
  • Apple – Notes and Reminders iOS Apps

    All pictures in this post are linked to either the app store or the developer’s own sites/presskits with the exception of the 1Password app logo which I’d be happy to swap out if they have an official presskit that I link to. Thanks! :)

Software: Drafts

If you haven’t guessed by now, you’re probably new to this site, and if so, welcome! If not, you’ll undoubtedly know that I am an iOS text editor enthusiast to the umpteenth degree! I really love what developers out there have done to create such robust and fun ways to create words and text on such tiny screens and devices!

Alt text

One that I’ve been playing around with for a good amount of time is Drafts. Drafts, on it’s own, is a very elegant and clean text editor that’s UI is completely spartan by design. It main function is for you to launch it, jot a note or idea down and close it. The app saves your work in a plain text format and the next time you open the app? It starts a new note. This wash, rinse, repeat philosophy is what got me to first buy and try the app. But, it’s only when you open up Drafts and use it for a bit, that you realize that this text editor quite unique and powerful.

Alt text

Aside from the impressive collection of fonts that the kind folks at Agile Tortoisebaked in, you also get the requisite font size selector and two other themes to mix things up a bit (white text on black and a “Sepia” toned dark brown text on tan based theme). There is also a new view in the latest version of the app that is quite handy called “Link” mode which makes all the links that you type in to a note, tap-able! URLs would be easy but this view also includes phone numbers and even addresses! Think about it, you get a phone number from someone, put it in Drafts, and instead of holding down on the text, making sure it’s selected, opening the phone app, copying it into the dial field and tapping dial, now all you have to do is tap the “Link” mode in the note, tap the number, then dial. It’s that easy!

Alt text

It also has sync but the folks at Agile Tortoise didn’t want to jump through the myriad of hoops that Apple makes you go through to hook your app up to iCloud so they went with the well-thought-of sync project “Symperium“. In my using of both Drafts apps for iPhone and iPad, I’ve found the sync to be almost instantaneous and, most importantly, reliable. Which has been a little bit of a sticking point for me with the somewhat recent implementation of iCloud sync in apps. The only catch though with going with Symperium is that it doesn’t allow you to sync with your Mac (or PC, yet…). Presumably, going with the more “open” Symperium service, would afford the opportunity sync cross platform/device, but that hasn’t happened yet, so the only way you’d be able to get your notes out of your respective iOS device is through the sharing options provided to you.

The good news? This is definitely where Drafts shines! When you use Drafts you could almost overlook the sharing button in the toolbar of your notes, but after you tap it… man… there are a ton of options!

Alt text

Here’s a rundown of the current list of services that Drafts hooks into, most of which I use (some of which I’ve reviewed on this very site):

  • Post to Facebook or Twitter
  • Email your notes anywhere
  • SMS
  • Save and append to Dropbox
  • Send to iCal (Calendar)
  • Create a Reminder in iOS “Reminders” app
  • copy it to the clipboard in iOS
  • Print
  • Save to Evernote (can also save as Markdown)
  • Send to Tweetbot (twitter client)
  • Send to Day One (journaling client that I love)
  • And last but not least you can choose “Open in…” which allows you to open the note in any other text editor that you have on your device.

That’s quite a list! And they keep adding more with each version that drops!

With these sharing options, Drafts has become a my springboard for whenever I even have a whimsy about sharing a piece of text in more than one place. They’ve made it too damn easy to not see it as your default app for that. If I wasn’t such an iOS text editor junky, I’d probably have this as my sole go-to editor.

Add in it’s full support of Markdown and it’s really a no brainer.

To date I’ve used it for quick notes (movie names, phone numbers, etc…), calendar events, to do lists, entire chapters of the novel I am writing, Tweets, Facebook posts (when I actually am on FB), blog posts (though not this one), and the list could go on and on but you get the point, this app is a tiny juggernaut.

So go get it! Highly recommended!

Where to get it:

  1. iPhone – $1.99
  2. iPad – $2.99

What about the guys that made it?

All images in this post were linked from Agile Tortoise’s own website.

Tips: Deleting Your Entire Music Library Off Of Your iOS Device Sans iTunes

I was fortunate to be part of the groggy masses that woke up at 3AM Eastern last Friday to secure the delivery of a new iPhone 5 this Friday. Yes, I know, that is really friggin early, but I am a fan of Apple’s stuff and I am huge non-fan of lines and über busy retail stores so, if I wanted the latest on the day it went on sale, it was worth the 15 sleepy minutes it took to pre-order one.

Actually, I should really do a post on how that pre-order went. It was quite the Apple commercial really. Another time.

What I really wanted to do was post up a pretty handy tip I found today!

Now this won’t pertain to all of you, but often, when I get a new i-device I like to start fresh. I used to redownload everything! Apps, music, resetting up all of my settings…

For apps now, it’s a little different. With Apple’s iCloud back ups it’s way too easy to get all of your apps back with out havng to redownload and configure them again (which, frankly, is a royal pain in the ass). It puts them back where you remember too. Easy peasy.

But with music, I do enjoy picking and choosing the songs that will take up all of those beloved new gigs of space.

So today I was really puzzled on what the easiest way to delete just the music from an iDevice was. Yes, I already knew the “swipe left and tap delete” method but, even on an artist level, that can take a good amount of time.

I just wanted to nuke it all.

I waded into all of settings menus for about 20 minutes before I folded and hit the omnibar to find if anything existed that could do exactly what I needed. Sure enough! There is!

Here’s the direct link to the tip on OSX Daily. It’s four brilliant and easy steps. It certainly isn’t obvious and I wondered just how many people knew about it, so I thought I’d share it here.

If this is something you want to do before you load up your new phone, it doesn’t get much easier than this! Just delete the music, make a back up, and restore your phone when it comes in the mail!