Tips: An Alfred Workflow for Launching .scriv Files in Marked and Scrivener Simultaneously

(UPDATE Jan. 2017: A kind visitor recently let me know that the original workflow I created years ago, had stopped functioning properly. I’ve since fixed it and wrote a follow up post here).

A heads up: As the title implies, this post assumes (or, in a way, suggests) that you have purchased Scrivener, Marked and the Powerpack option in Alfred 2.

One of Scrivener’s shortcomings (yes, they do exist) as far as Markdown support is concerned, is its inability to give an HTML preview of your Markdown syntax while you write in it. There is no workflow for accomplishing this other than exporting your MD or MMD, opening it in another editor that reads MD (or the converted html) and checking it there before cutting and pasting the code into your blog’s editor.

In all fairness, that’s not what Scrivener was created to do and just because I’ve found some slightly unconventional uses for it, I can’t expect the good folks at Literature and Latte to change their software to accommodate lil ole me. We all know Scrivener is much, much bigger than blogging and writing in MD and MMD.

The good news is that even though Scrivener doesn’t have an in-app html preview function for your markdown, there is one program that you can use in tandem with it that can.

That Program is Marked.

You can read about Brett Terpstra’s “Marked” in a slew of different places (including its recommendation in the comments on this site ) so I won’t write a review of it here (maybe another time). In a nutshell though, Marked is a realtime markdown converter that works with any text editor you throw at it. Open a text file in its respective editor, open Marked, then drag the same file into Marked and go back to the text editor to continue writing/editing. As you save your markdown document, you’ll see it update in Marked, displaying the converted HTML instantly.

Cool right? It’s also a game-changer.

Marked and Scrivener

Integrating Marked has made my blogging workflow in Scrivener much more streamlined because of Marked’s handling of MD/MMD as well as its plethora of options and amazing tools for authors. But, that all said, getting a file into each application is clunky at best and almost immediately after doing that a couple of times, I wanted/needed to automate that initial step so that it was smoother.

Enter Alfred

Alfred is another popular tool out there whose sole function is to streamline everyday tasks like launching multiple apps at once, finding files quickly on your computer, searching the web, quitting apps, shutting down or restarting your computer… you get the idea. It does all of this from your keyboard and once you get used to its commands, you’ll get addicted to not touching a mouse or track pad. In truth, it’s one of the first apps I install when I get a new computer.

But aside from these baked-in options that you get for free, you can also pay for the Powerpack option and unlock a slew of very powerful tools that give you immense control over your Mac. One of these tools is the ability to easily create custom workflows. Once I encountered the dilemma above, I dove in and immediately came up with a solution.

Now, one caveat. I am not much of a programmer, so I made my workflow out of the built-in modules that Alfred gives you out of the box. I am sure that with some custom scripting this workflow could be made even nicer (if you have suggestions for improvements leave them in the comments below please). That all said, I was really happy with how this workflow came out. To save you (and I) some time I’ve included a link to the workflow below, so that you can download it and add it to your own personal workflows in Alfred. Just download it, double-click and add it to Alfred. Easy.

The way the workflow works is you bring up your Alfred prompt. Type in the keyword, which in my case is “scrivmarked”, that then allows you to browse your “Documents” directory right in Alfred. Once you find the .scriv file you want to open, arrow down to highlight it and hit the right arrow key where you’ll find a file action to open the file in both Scrivener and Marked, arrow down to that action and hit enter.

AlfredFileAction

Make it Your Own

One of the best things about workflows In Alfred is that you can tweak them to suit your needs relatively easily. Hate my keyword? Choose a different one. Have your Scrivener project files in a different location outside of the Documents directory in OS X? No problem, tweak the search scope. These, and many other aspects of workflows, can be tweaked easily in Alfred without knowing a single line of code.

But, again, if you do know a way to make this better, I’d love it if you posted your modifications in the comments below! I am sure there are many ways to make this workflow even more useful to us all!

Useful links:

Writing and the Web: The Editorially Review

Editorially.com logo

UPDATE 02/13/14: I am absolutely bummed to hear that these super-talented developers are closing the doors on this exceptional project on May 30th, 2014. Read more about why here.


Here’s my original review:

I spend a good amount of time on this site reviewing native text editor apps and I do so for good reason; generally, they simply work better, are often more stable, and they allow you to save/edit your work in a more convenient fashion via key commands (command S is way quicker than hunting and clicking a save button on a web page’s UI, for instance).

That’s not to say there isn’t a place in my workflow for web apps. I do occasionally use the web-based counterparts to the native apps I have at my disposal, but that usually is only if I am not at my personal computer. In short, if given the choice between Evernote on the web or Evernote on the Mac/PC, or iWork’s Pages on iCloud.com versus Pages locally, I’ll always go the local/native install route.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of web apps becoming the norm in the (probably very near) future, but up until this year, there really hasn’t been anything I’d have taken a chance with writing a post or short story in. I don’t think I’d ever trust long-form writing to a cloud-based service, but short form? Definitely, if something captured my fancy.

And it just so happened that an online editor did.

Enter Editorially.com

PC Layout

Editorially.com accomplishes so many things well that I am starting to wonder if they jacked into my brain specifically.

Editorially is a web-based text editor app for writing on and for the web (or offline too as it turns out, more on that below). Aside from a pleasing and intuitive UI, it’s feature set is what ultimately bowled me over. Here’s the laundry list of things that you get when you sign up for an account:

  • Baked in support for Markdown syntax (it’s supported beautifully and inline). If you’ve visited here before, you’ll know I’ve got a soft spot for MD and MMD and if you do too, you’ll quickly discover just how much Editorially was literally made with it in mind. Be sure to check out their Help page, it’s all kinds of useful.
  • Autosave. It autosaves constantly without lag and pretty much in real-time. I can’t stress how important (and impressive) this actually is. And if you lose your connection during an autosave? It’ll save a copy of your draft in your browser’s cache (modern browsers only). I mean, how cool is that?
  • Collaboration. Got a piece of writing that you want someone to edit or proofread? Editorially has you more than covered with inline comments, track changes with check-in-check-out editing. It’s quite simple for you to invite people to comment, discuss or even take control and edit your files! Give a person a control of your document and they get preoccupied and leave it locked? Not a problem! Ask for control back and if the document has been idle for over 60 seconds, it’s back in your hands.
  • Versioning. You can’t have collaboration without versioning. Editorially knocks this out of the park with a version created with each autosave. You can also diff and compare versions as well as add notes to specific versions to reference in the future. Cool in a browser? Yes. Helpful in making your forget you are writing in a browser? Definitely!
  • Activity Feed. Wondering if your editor/s checked and edited the document you invited them to view? Look no further than the handy built-in Activity Feed. It’ll tell you who edited what and when, as well as provide timestamps for when your document auto-saved.
  • Different Publishing/Export Options. A recent update gave folks the ability to post their markdown to WordPress (.com and self-hosted with Jetpack enabled) or to archive a copy of your work to a folder on Dropbox. I used both for the very post you are reading right now. Both export options worked flawlessly.
  • Other import and export options. But wait! There’s more! Currently you can start a new document by importing a plain text file (.txt, .md, or.markdown) and it’s even more robust in the export category allowing you to export to many file formats including .html, LaTeX (.tex), Rich Text (.rtf), Word (.docx) and even ePub (!?!). I do wish there was a PDF option but, frankly, I’m shocked a web app can do all of this already. That all said, the developers at Editorially are cooking up even more export options in the future and I can always export locally and print to .pdf easily enough.
  • Responsive Design. Somehow the folks at Editorially.com made their site and all of its functionality fully responsive. This means it’s thoroughly usable on a pc, tablet and yes, even a damn smart phone. As web developer and a writer, I seriously can’t believe they pulled it all off. It’s a joy to use and a sight to behold. Even if you don’t end up using their services, you owe it to yourself to check this site out on every screen you can find. If only to see the future of the web/web apps and how high the bar’s been set.

Changing hearts and minds…

As amazing as the above list of functionality is for me to recount, what caused me to pause and smile the most whilst using Editorially was it’s ability to make me pine for the functionality and usability found in a web app, to be in my native apps. If you write in Markdown, Editorially is a no-brainer. Hell, if you simply write for the web (or simply write), there is no reason why this couldn’t (and shouldn’t) be your go-to editor. My wife and colleagues and I use this to collaborate and edit each others work.  Furthermore, I am not ashamed to say that I use it sometimes just because it’s a joy to use. It represents a paradigm shift in my eyes. I really do think it’s the future in many ways.  In fact it wouldn’t surprise me at all if local installs of Office suites are extinct in a couple of years after using Editorially for a few months.

I wouldn’t have thought that a year ago, but I do now.

Obviously I’m a fan…

Clearly I’m smitten with Editorially and all they’ve accomplished. But don’t take my word for it. Go and sign up and give it a spin. At the very least I think it will change your stance on what web apps are capable of today, you sure can’t beat the price (spoiler alert: it’s free) and at best, it’ll give you a very capable alternative to mix things up in your writing workflow. I love it and I am willing to bet that you will too.

The Web: The Current State of RSS

IconAs many of you might’ve heard in the last few weeks: Google’s “Google Reader” service is going bye-bye. .

But that doesn’t mean that RSS is going with it.

While I am not terribly surprised in this day and age by how many people have no idea what RSS actually is, I am very surprised by the amount of folks who think that RSS, as a technology, is synonymous with Google’s Reader service.

This notion couldn’t be further from the truth!

As it turns out, our valued RSS feeds are very much alive and well.  It’s just the medium that we all (myself included) chose to read all of these feeds in, that is going away.

So now all we have to do is choose an alternative.

Since I am in the same dilemma that many of you are in, I thought it’d be a good service to show the services I’ve been thinking of transitioning to. Here they are in no particular order of importance:

  • Feedly.com – These guys’ membership EXPLODED after Google’s announcement. Their service will take care of your mobile RSS fix, with apps on the all major mobile platforms. Desktop and laptops will have to live with the web client but from what I’ve seen, that experience is clean and pleasant to look at.
  • Newsblur is a bit more hardcore for RSS wranglers, but the added functionality comes at a price ($2 a month for anyone with more than 64 feeds) and, worse, they are no longer accepting free accounts for folks with less (a restriction that is, for now anyways, temporary). If you are willing to pony up the cash though, they offer a lot of great functionality that many other web-based services don’t, like nested folder structures for folks who like to organize their feeds, feed refreshes every minute, built in keyboard shortcuts and native mobile apps for both iOS and Android. Not bad!
  • UPDATE 06/20/2013: Black Pixel just launched the public beta of NNW 4.0. To check it out, click here to download.  –  For a Mac user, NetNewsWire is a great alternative. Die hard fans got a good shot of adrenaline after Google’s news dropped. The company that bought NNW, Black Pixel went somewhat dormant after their purchase years ago, but now with a major competitor out of the way they are gearing back up to fill that gap.  Having used NetNewsWire on my Mac and iOS (iPhone and iPad) platforms in the past, I am very comfortable in saying that, as an application, it’s a solid product! But it’s missing a very crucial bit of functionality still: feed sync between desktop and mobile platforms. This was the main reason I ditched their product years ago and it’s still the reason why I hesitate to go back. Still, they are making a renewed commitment to bringing reliable sync to their platform, so it may be worth jumping back in. If feed sync isn’t important to you at all, I can heartily recommend this service without hesitation.
  • Also in the Apple-only arena is Reeder which, up until now, has been pretty much solely catering to the Google Reader platform. The developer of the app Silvio Rizzi, has now come forward and made commitments to a multitude of feed alternatives to quell his rabid fanbase (both of which my partner in crime and I are a part of). I have the utmost trust in Rizzi’s skills. Hands down, if you are an iOS/OSX fan, the attention to detail that he puts into is native apps is far and away the best RSS experience I’ve experienced to date.  If he delivers on his promises (and I have no reason to believe he won’t) we Mac users will be well cared for.
  • Another paid web-based client that is getting some attention is feedbin. Like Newsblur, Feedbin also charges $2 a month, but it’s layout is super clean, it’s got tagging for organization, lots of import options and claims of being super speedy in its feed delivery! I haven’t used it personally, but a lot of developers I admire are getting behind them.
  • The last option I will offer is from the folks at FeedAFeverFever got a good amount of attention for its novel approach at serving up your RSS info.  Some of the attention was good, and some of it was a bit mixed. Still, I wanted to offer it up as an alternative because it’s always worth checking out the folks who are trying to do something different with a service you and I use every single day.
  • UPDATE 03/28/13 – A great recommendation from wordshepherd.comThe Old Readerhttp://www.theoldreader.com –  “It looks and acts very much like Google Reader pre-Google+, before they nuked their sharing tools. So you can follow your friends’ shared items, and comment on them, all in a self-contained, curated ecosystem.” – haven’t checked this one out yet, but I certainly appreciate the social aspects involved in this implementation. Sometimes things don’t need fixin’! Thanks David!
  • UPDATE 06/26/13Digg Reader also launched their own RSS Reader today! It’s super stripped down, but with Digg integration baked in. So if you are into Digg and want that service wedded to your RSS addiction than click here. There’s also an iOS app, with Android love  “coming in the next few weeks”.

So, those are just a smattering of the “Google Reader replacements” I’ve encountered that are getting good or, at worst, interestingly mixed press. The web-based options will always be your best ally because they are OS-agnostic. If you can find one that also offers a quality native mobile OS experience, than that will always be the icing on the cake.

If you have any alternatives that I missed, please add them in the comments below! I’ll update the post immediately with your recommendation and a link back to your site! ;)

In the meantime, good luck with whatever alternative you go with! I will certainly offer an update with whatever I end up choosing.

Honestly, the key thing to remember is that you don’t have to say goodbye to those web sites out there that have given you content in the past that you enjoy on a sporadic non-Twitter-like level.  They still exist and, in most cases, are better than ever! :)

RSS on the web hasn’t changed at all.  Far from it.  If anything, it’s just being given that all-too-rare opportunity to evolve!