Pro Writing Aid Software – For the Grammar Nazi?

Saw an offer going on MacHeist to buy two years of Pro Writing Aid for $45 – although you need to add the sales tax. Total came to $54 at the final payment screen. My previous subscription was for three years and I’ve been tempted lately into buying the lifetime subscription. The lifetime subscription at full price is $240, and I didn’t want to pay that out all in one go. I thought it better to keep on the lookout for similar offers and pay every couple of years. Pro Writing Aid is a fantastic tool which looks for problems you might find in your writing. The more you edit what you write, the better you get at writing. I expect the software will find fewer problems after I’ve been using the editing software for longer. Could have bought the Grammarly grammar checker instead, but Pro Writing Aid is just that bit better. It does intensive deep checks on the text. The software looks at structure, readability and basic grammar. Pro Writing Aid will look at the style of writing and also check for overused words. I’m smiling like an idiot to find out I can dictate into the Mac version of the software. I could also use Scrivener for the dictation and work with Pro-Writing Aid.

Finding problems in real-time

Real-Time icon at the top of the screen informs how many mistakes found in the text so far. At this point, it’s telling me about nine possible mistakes in the draft. Ten by the end of that sentence. I can see words underlined with red. Yellow underlines adorn other parts of phrases within the writing. The text with red lines are spelling mistakes. Only one of those at the moment because I’m using dictation and I don’t get many spelling mistakes. The red line is under a word which Pro Writing Aid doesn’t recognise and I will add that to the list of recognised words.

Lots of reports to check the text.

The summary report goes into deep detail of all the problems found. Any problems raised are advisory only, ignore if you wish. One thing it does is to check for sticky sentences. A sticky sentence is one with lots of glue words which don’t really do anything useful. They are only present to stick the useful, hard-working words together. Pro Writing Aid recommends sentences should only be about 40% sticky. It’s not too difficult to rewrite sentences to cut out glue words and make the whole piece much more readable.

Possibly tedious though satisfying at the same time

It takes time to go through your text to check out all the problems. There are words to delete completely, sentences to rewrite and thinking is required. After you’ve gone through the text three or four times with various reports, you have a piece to be proud of. I like to go with the Hemingway style of writing. Short to the point sentences are easy to read and make more sense to the reader. I also have another grammar software called Hemingway which is useful but doesn’t go into the same detail. The goal is to produce good writing which our readers enjoy. Good result if no glaring mistakes are present to slap the reader in the face. Without a doubt, I will use Pro Writing Aid regularly during the next two years. Could even buy the lifetime subscription next time.

The only problem you’ll end up with is deciding when enough editing is enough.

Related Posts

Get Notes into Agenda

There’s nothing I like better than trying out new software. I’ve been looking at the software which combines notes, reminders and calendaring. It’s called Agenda and it’s a pretty little thing! It is basically a note taking application which allows you to have an emphasis on dates. You can just put a date on a note or you can connect it to a calendar event. Whether this is of any use to you depends upon how you do notes and what your notes are for. You can already do this sort of thing with the Apple Notes application to a certain extent. I’m just looking at the Notes application now and I can see that each of the notes has a date and time at the top of it. Agenda takes it further. The other application which encroaches upon what Agenda can do is Reminders. Maybe the way you work and organise yourself being able to use one application instead of three will work out for you.

Free or go Premium?

Agenda does have advantages and you can use it for free. However, to get some of the benefits you might pay for the application. Either on iOS or Mac and iOS you can go pro with Agenda. I don’t like the way you have to pay separately to go pro on the Mac and on iOS. When I’m using Day One I can use all the premium features across platforms. If you get just the iOS version you have to get a discount code to upgrade to the full package across platforms.

Working out how to use the Agenda App

I keep trying out at this Agenda application and I like the look of it. I sometimes feel like I can’t quite get my head around how I would use it. You have projects and categories to work with. You put your projects into categories to give it some top-level organisation. You also have an inbox where you can just throw stuff. Then you have various notes inside your project. Inside the notes you can put all sorts of information. Header text, various types of lists including checkboxes if you wish. You can even use bold, italic and underline. You can take a picture with the camera or you can choose a photo from your photo library. The photos show up as thumbnails, with or without a title. Tap on the photo and it will fill the screen. If you want the photo to show fullscreen you need to use the premium facilities. One of the useful things you get in Agenda is tagging. Add a tag anywhere in your note. Tags are handy because you can search for them later. There is another form of tagging where you can link to a person. As I’m trying these things out and comparing them to the Notes application it’s making Agenda look quite good. You don’t get any sort of tagging with Apple Notes.

Agenda to get things done

You could use this Agenda application as your GTD application. There is a Today view which obviously shows whatever is due for today. The view called On the Agenda doesn’t show you everything within the application. When you create something within a project somehow or other it appears in that year. I was expecting that to be just for notes which have had a date or a calendar event assigned to them. I’ve just found out there is the little dot to the left of the title in a note. If that is filled it is marked as being On the Agenda. The note will then appear in the On the Agenda view in the sidebar. This small icon also allows you to mark the note as being done, completed. The other option is to pin the note to the top which is a premium feature.

There are lots of different ways to organise yourself with this application. Use that icon of the top of the note next to the title to have notes directly available in a special section in the sidebar. Mark when a note is completed. Then within notes themselves you can have checkboxes. This means that separate tasks within a project can be ticked off as done. There are a number of levels within the Agenda system.

Sidebar on the right side

The sidebar you pull out from the right side is your calendar. Tap on a note and you get the option to –

  • Go to Note
  • Mark as completed
  • Quick Reschedule (premium feature)
  • Edit (premium feature)
  • Show in Reminders – this will open up the Reminders application and highlight the note.

To Go Premium or Not?

I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to go premium with this application. I had a couple of choices. One was to not bother at all. Stick with using the Calendar app, Reminders and Notes. Second option was to go with just the premium on iOS. This was coming in at €12. All go all in and get the Mac version as well. To get everything the price bumped up to €28.

Agenda in All Places

After experimenting and playing with the application for quite some time I decided to go the whole hog. I like having all my information available wherever I am. I use my Mac about as much as I use my iOS devices. I like to be comfortable when I’m writing and use dictation. I get the best dictation on my Mac using DragonDictate. So it’s obvious I need to have Agenda in all places.

I like the Agenda app and being able to organise my notes in a way which works well as a GTD method. The tagging is going to be useful for searches. There is a vibrant community of people using the app giving ideas, tips and tricks on how to get the best from Agenda.

What Next with Agenda

My next trick will be to get automating ways to capture text, ideas and notes from various sources and probably using Shortcuts apps to do it. I already have got a Drafts action to send text to Agenda. Drafts is great for plain text but sometimes you need rich text with images in your notes.Agenda doesn’t have the option to add handwritten notes or drawings as you can in Notes app. My handwriting is terrible anyway.

Checking Out iPadOS beta

iPadOS First Look

Great to have the icons on the screen smaller and fitting more of them per page. Even when you have the today view pinned to the left side of the first screen you still have more app and folder icons. Good to finally pin your widgets.

Reminders Improvements

Completely different layout of the app. A big area on the left side which has Today, Scheduled and All buttons at the top and then the lower part is the list of lists. Then right at the bottom of that is your button to Add List. The interface works nice and fast when you change between the views. You get a limited number of colours to assign to your lists. There’s a small dot on the top right corner of the right side of the screen. Also from that button you can select reminders and do some rearranging or deleting. Show completed tasks in the list if you wish.
When you have a task selected there is an info button giving you access to the details of the task. Add notes, set alarms and reminders including location based reminders. Set the priority to low, medium or high. The final option is to move to another list if you like. An easier way to move an item to another list is to drag and drop. Easy Peasy…

The New Siri voice

There isn’t a huge change to the Siri voice, but she does sound a little bit nicer!

The Joys of Beta Running

You can run multiple app in Slide Over. Drag them on top of one another. Slide your finger up from the bottom of the screen to see the apps fanned out across the screen. For the life of me I can’t get to switch between the apps at the side of the screen. I have to get them to fan out in a stack and choose the one I want. Try too many times and it crashes the operating system, then nothing works. You can expect things like this when running a beta. Certainly not advisable to put a beta on your work machine. I have the iPadOS set up on my old iPad Pro. I had to to a reboot to get things moving again. Such is the beta life living on the edge of technology. When it does work, it will be great.

Pinned Widgets

It takes a while to learn how to set up all these new views and ways of working. I had the widgets pinned to the left of the home screen and I wanted to get rid of it. I hunted through the settings and finally did some GoogleFoo to find I need to scroll to the bottom of the widgets to tap on edit to turn it off. Then it was still on the screen. So I thought I’d done it wrong. Nope, I just had to swipe it off the screen. Sorted!

The App Store is different

There used to be a button on the bottom of the screen for updates. Now you have to hit your picture Nat the top right to go to account and see pending updates. For the moment nothing is updating. I have 104 updates waiting in the wings. It will be next week before the public beta drops and some of these bugs will be fixed. Like I said good job I put it on a spare iPad.

There’s more

The Files app is getting some love. You’ll be able to use generic external media. Local storage gives you the opportunity to create folders, save files and reorganise at will.

Other things I like about the new iPad

I was seriously tempted to get the 11 inch iPad instead of the 12.9 inch. It wasn’t the difference in price that was tempting me. It was more to do with the weight of the object and of the perceived size. I was thinking that a small one would be nice. Easier to carry around the house. But after looking at the two devices side-by-side in the Apple Store I’m sure getting the largest size was the best idea. In any case, the new iPad is still smaller and lighter than the iPad it’s replacing.

It’s taking a while to get used to the Face ID being the way to get into the iPad. But, it’s okay and I don’t suppose it will be long before I have it in there as muscle memory. When typing on the keyboard it’s super that my hands are close to the keyboard. It’s easy to lift a finger and to tap on the screen to get the suggested word from the iPad. The keyboard has a decent touch to it. Initially I was thinking that the short depressions for the keys were going to be insufficient. That isn’t the case. It works really well and it only takes time to get used to the layout. It was fortunate I was able to get a English international keyboard and didn’t get stuck with the Spanish one. I wasn’t sure they would have them in stock in the Apple Store in Barcelona.

I just got a notification on my watch

I have no idea what the notification is for. I woke up the watch to have a look and there was nothing there in notifications. I suspect the notification was coming in for the exercise rings. Maybe my son has just completed a task or closed one of the rings in the exercise app and the watch was letting me know.

Lots of space to fill

I’ll be able to use this new iPad as a main computer if I want to. If I’d bought the 11 inch model I perhaps would’ve gone for the 512 GB , But as it is I have the 256GB and with it being double what I had in my previous iPad I think I should be fine. Even if I start to edit more videos on the iPad because of it being faster and more capable, I don’t expect to fill up the storage too fast. I have it set so that most of what I put there goes into my iCloud storage anyway. I’m still running with the 2 TB of storage on iCloud.

Grainy image looks lo res

I’m going to have to change the image on the front screen. Because it looks a little bit too grainy for my liking. I will put on one of the backgrounds I have downloaded from Pinterest. It makes the screen looks like it’s got only low resolution by using a grainy picture.

Trouble backing up

This morning I’m trying once again to get the old iPad to be backed up on the computer. Yesterday I tried to do that with the iTunes application and also with iMazing. I seem to be running into a problem and I’ve got no idea what it was. I also need to sort out something with Day One.

My best Journal app

It was taking forever to get Day One loaded up onto the new pad. It wanted to put on a second account I’m not using. I was having a problem with the passwords for the accounts. In the end I tried the password from the wrong account in the proper account and it worked. Based on a different email. I also need to contact the people at Day One and quote a reference number to get them to let me link with iCloud.

Learning Airtable Database App

I joined a choir of old fogeys and it seems I’m the most technically competent. No big surprise there then! There are many people of my age who have no interest whatsoever in computers. In the choir there are at least two couples who share an email address. They are not sufficiently into the tech world to have an email address of their own. Still living in a previous century or millennium. When you have a group of 65 people and you need to communicate effectively it’s a good idea to use a database. This came about when organisers of the group needed to find out who were going to be able to attend an event. They also needed to know if they planned to take food afterwards. One of the questions we needed to deal with was if a bus was going to be required. Obviously there are drinkers in the group who don’t want to drive. Good plan, I hate drinking and driving. It was extremely tedious and annoying to try and do this with asking the questions in an email. We needed a solution to this problem.

Cachondeo Choir

Google Spreadsheet vs Airtable

My first idea was to use the forms available in Google documents. It seemed like it would work to have a spreadsheet table. The form would dump the information into the right places within the spreadsheet. It didn’t take long for me to find out a plain old spreadsheet wasn’t really going to do it as far as data organisation was concerned. People were filling the form in more than once and corrupting the data. Or it was possible for them to fill in the form and for us to not know who had filled the form in. It’s for this reason I decided to jump into Airtable which is available on the Mac and also for iOS. You can also use a browser-based version. On the whole, Airtable is highly configurable and easy-to-use. The feature set is not the same on all platforms though. Can’t make forms in the iOS apps for example. 

Learning Airtable on the job

So I have been learning as I go with Airtable. It wasn’t difficult to set up the initial table or base as they call it. I could then add other tables to give me the specific forms. It did take me a while to work out how to make it so form fillers could only choose from the list of names on the form. I was also able to make it a required field. No chance of someone filling the form in and not letting us know who they are. To make sure you have database integrity it’s best to have specific pieces of information in just one place. With Airtable you can use Look up fields to use the data from where you have put it in the base. If a piece of information is possible to add in two places, how do you know which one is the most up-to-date or the correct one?

Airtable Is Easy-To-Use

Airtable is easy-to-use and yet at the same time quite powerful. The professional database features don’t get in the way of you putting your first database together. Like most things it’s a good idea to start simple and work your way up piece by piece to more complicated setups. Fortunately, there are a good number of Airtable tutorial videos available on YouTube. These are available from Airtable themselves and also from third parties. A combination of both of these sources and you have more than enough to make a really good database.

It’s still not all plain sailing with my choir database

I’m still running into an inability to collect all of the data. This is nothing to do with the usability of the forms from Airtable. It’s all to do with cantankerous old men and women who can’t be bothered to fill in forms. The only way I find around this issue, is to go and speak to the individuals concerned and asked them directly for the information. I have to fill in the form for them. I still can’t work out why it is some people are averse to technology. The usability of software and hardware has improved over the years. It’s not necessary to be scared of breaking the computer. There’s no need to worry your soul or mental well-being is going to be compromised by using the latest technology. Being Good and Geeky is possible at any age if you’re prepared to open your mind to the tech world.

Import the Data from Google Spreadsheet

I started off by importing the data from the Google spreadsheet. I was then able to work on the field type for each of the pieces of information. There are a lot of field types available to take account for all sorts of data. You can have pictures, checkboxes, multiple selections, various forms of number and text fields and you could even include barcodes.

Sorting and grouping the data

I like the way that you can create different views of the same base. For example I have the main view which shows all members and then I can have a view which shows just the tenors or just the sopranos. You can view the data sorted in various ways or split into groups. I found it easier to set up views showing just tenants or just sopranos because of the way I set up the information in that particular base. The choir members could choose multiple options in the job field. For that reason it didn’t lend itself well to showing in groups. It’s not a problem though because Airtable shows me the information by creating separate views.

Database Collaboration

One of the best things about our table was the ability to use it for collaboration. I was the person in charge of the database and I gave other people access to the database on a read-only basis. This meant the people organising various events could see the data which had been collected. I didn’t allow them to jump in and edit it in any way. It was safer that way.

Sharing the Forms

The forms I was able to share in a number of ways. I could just share a link for the members to go to a webpage provided by Airtable to fill in the form. I was also able to embed the form into the choir website. The forms do have the Airtable branding unless you go for the paid version of the software.

Airtable Is Free to Use

To get started with Airtable it is free to use. For many people the free to use facilities would be enough. I got credits from Airtable for introducing other people to the database. These were the people who I added as collaborators.

Differences between Catalina dictation and Dragon dictation

I’ve just got my hands on a huge list of commands for dictation in Catalina operating system which is coming this autumn. These are also available in iOS 13 and iPad OS. There are 127 dictation commands and none of that includes the extra commands required for Voice Control.

  • {Phrase} – Type spoken phrase into a text field or application
  • {Phrase} emoji – Type desired emoji into working space
  • Insert date – Insert date into working space
  • Enter that – Tap or click to return
  • Drop {number} – Drop desired number

You use the first one of these commands when you’re in whatever application you use for writing. Basically you speak and the words appear on the screen. The second one is more or less the same, except you can tell it to type in a emoji word such as winking face and get an emoji image. It’s obvious that Insert Date will put the date into the working space and Enter That will click or tap on return. You might be working with an online form rather than dictating into something like Ulysses or Scrivener. I have no idea what Drop Number does.

I’m wondering how the system will know what it is you have in the document. Does it keep track of the words it has given you through dictation? Will it know if you have made corrections using the keyboard? Does the system take into account in an artificial intelligence way, all of the things you do when writing dictation? These are important things to consider. With Dragon dictation if I make a change to a word using the correction editor it learns from its mistakes. The next time I say the same thing it will give me what I really wanted and not what it thought I wanted the first time around. I’d like to know if there is a Siri dictation dictionary which is personalised to me. Does it get to know about my vocabulary and and get better the more I use the system?

I have seen mentioned that the Catalina dictation system will keep a personalised vocabulary. You can add words to it which could be strange technical words or proper names you can’t expect a dictation system to know and understand. I can already do this in Dragon dictation and I use this to add markdown syntax to my text. I say the word header two and it will add a pair of hashtag symbols ## into my document. Or I will say doo-dah and I get the symbol for a bulleted list . This is for when I’m doing a list of items in something I’m writing.

In Dragon dictation when I want to make a correction I tell it to select the word I want to correct. When it is selected I can either type over the word I really want, choose from a list given to me or I can say the word I want again. Maybe it will get it right the second time around. In Catalina dictation there are a good selection of text editing commands. One of the most used of these will be – Replace {phrase} with {phrase}. This will probably work best when you’re reading through the sentence you have just created and you want to change one or a number of the words for something else which says what you want to say in a better way. If there is more than one you may get a set of numbers asking you to choose which one.

Making Corrections

There is also another command called Correct {phrase}. The way this works is that a selection of options pops up. This is a numbered list and you choose the number for the correct word. Another similar command is Correct that and you’d use this if you have used a previous command to select a part of your dictation.

One of the commands I often use with Dragon dictation is to say the command Cap followed by a word I want to capitalise. This just capitalises that following word and there is another command I can use Caps On if I want all of the following words to be capitalised. With Siri dictation in Catalina you dictate the words you want to be capitalised and then after that say the command Capitalise That. Another way to do this would be to issue the command Capitalise {phrase}. So it seems that there are ways to do what needs to be done with Catalina dictation, but using different commands. After using Dragon dictation for a number of years it’s going to take some time to get used to the new system.

The Meaning of Life and Selection

There are 42 different commands to help you select any of your text. Everything from select all to select next as well as selecting the previous word or the next word. You will also be able to select lines, sentences or paragraphs combined with – current, previous or next. You can even tell it to select the previous required number of characters, words, sentences or paragraphs. If you find you need to select more you can extend the selection by whatever count of item required. Many of these selection commands have equivalents with the word delete instead. So you don’t have to select and delete you can do it with one command.

What have I noticed missing so far

  • There doesn’t seem to be a mode you can use for spelling a word letter by letter into your documents.
  • There isn’t a mode specific for numbers. There aren’t any settings you can make to specify whether numbers come out as actual numbers all the words for the numbers.
  • There isn’t a heads up display correction window and maybe it isn’t needed. With DragonDictate the correction window gives me a number of options which I can either choose or edit.

Improvements to Dictation in Catalina

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of dictation. Even though I can type quite quickly I much preferred to write using dictation. It’s much faster and more accurate because you get fewer typos and misspellings. Lately I’ve been terribly disappointed that Nuance had decided to quit developing Dragon dictation for Mac. I’m sure this is a huge mistake, but I don’t think the company really cares. The Windows version of DragonDictate was always a couple of steps ahead than the Mac version. What they expect you to do is to buy software to run a virtual machine such as Parallels and to run Windows and the Windows version within that. It’s going to be a huge expense to put all of that in place. I really don’t like the idea of running Windows on my Mac. Even if when you are running Parallel’s in a compatibility mode it can be fairly seamless. So I was delighted to see in the WWDC Keynote 2019 mention of accurate dictation in the next version of the Mac operating system, Catalina.

Captured from the Apple Video presented at WWDC 2019

Why is it in accessibility?

Because they put this dictation feature into accessibility rather than as a feature for all users I have to wonder what’s going on. It could just be a matter of emphasis. Apple likes to look after people who need accessibility features and should be commended on doing a fine job in this area. Putting the feature into accessibility doesn’t mean it can only be used by people who have a disability need. You’ll be able to turn it on and use it just because you like to dictate. Does Apple think the general populace are not interested in dictation? Has Apple created a professional dictation software which is really good but has hidden it away? I very much doubt Apple would create substandard software and put into accessibility because it wasn’t good enough for everybody to use.

Captured from the Apple Video presented at WWDC 2019

How good will Siri speech recognition be?

According to the website for the updates to the operating system OS Catalina, we getting “Accurate Dictation”. The dictation feature will give us the latest advances in machine learning for audio to text transcription. Apple also said we can add custom words. This is something I like using within Dragon Dictate. There are one or two words which come up from time to time that are not recognised by the software. This could be names of things or places. If you’re a writer you might have made up a name for a character or want to use a strange spelling. It’s all part of the creative process. Trying to read into the proposed dictation system “Voice Control” improves on the existing “Enhanced Dictation”. Seems like there will be three levels of dictation.

  • Standard Siri Dictation
  • Enhanced Dictation
  • Voice Control

Apple tells us the audio processing for Voice control happens on the device. I think that is the case for the Enhanced Dictation we already have. We have offline use and continuous dictation and you just have to turn it on in Keyboard settings. Use a shortcut to enable it.

Rich Text Editing

One of things which seems most promising with this new version of Siri dictation is the rich text editing. The webpage for Catalina tells us we can replace a phrase by saying “replace I’m almost there with I just arrived.” This looks pretty good because the software will find the words – “I’m almost there” and do the replacement. We’ll be using natural language to edit our dictated text. No need to use specific computer code words to give a command. I expect it will also be possible to tell the dictation software to select or delete a specific word. When a word is selected we’ll be able to say the word we want to use instead and it will be replaced. I’m looking forward to find out what other commands are going to be available. OS Catalina will give us both word and emoji suggestions. We are promised a new interface where we can just ask to correct a word and be presented with a list of suggested replacements. To select the word we want instead you say the number corresponding to the word in the list. Some of this I’m guessing at based on the description of the Voice Control feature on the Apple Catalina OS. It will need a proper testing. I’m hoping it will be good enough to say goodbye to Dragon Dictate for Mac.

In command of your computer with your voice

When I’m using DragonDictate in the messages app I can dictate the message and when I say the word “send” the dictated message is sent to the recipient. Catalina is promising it will have seamless transitions from dictation to commands. Other commands will allow us to open applications, search the web, use Spotlight. This is something we can already do in DragonDictate. I do sometimes use the Dragon commands to open in an application with my voice rather than resorting to the keyboard. There are other voice commands specific to people who can’t use a mouse or keyboard. These make the whole of an app clickable using numbers to make choices of sections of the screen in a grid, menus and buttons.

Research on YouTube

Since writing the above section I went into YouTube to look for videos showing Apple Voice Control. The changes to the software are only available within the developer betas. I don’t have access to those and I wouldn’t put those onto my main computers either. Apple have declared these early betas as the Wild West of operating system updates. Most definitely not something you should put onto the computer or iOS device you use on a daily basis. I’ll be waiting until the public betas are available for iOS. It’s also unlikely I’ll put a beta version of the Catalina operating system onto my Mac. Even if I am insanely curious it’s not worth messing up my iMac to have a quick look. The only way it would be possible would be to boot to an external hard drive with the new operating system. That way I could immediately go back to what I have now. I did find some interesting videos showing how Apple Voice Control works and it looks pretty good. Here is a video from someone called Soldier Knows Best on YouTube. I particularly liked the way he was able to edit the text by telling Apple voice control to change words which the dictation engine had got wrong.

Apple Voice Control on an iPhone

I don’t think the voice recognition is as good as with Dragon dictation as demonstrated in this very short clip. I’d be interested to know if the system can learn from the user. Can the artificial intelligence learn which words I use and how I spell them and improve over time. I’m certainly looking forward to giving this voice to speech conversion software a proper try in the autumn.

Publishing Using the Shortcuts App From Drafts

I do my writing ✍️ in Drafts and I want to do it all on the iPad. So I downloaded the shortcut I found. The Drafts app is text only so I have to get images and then do a markdown link to its url.

I sent the image in through the Transmit app and used the action I have on a keyboard set of actions to insert the markdown code. With the preview action it looks like it worked.

Blogging from Drafts

Wanted to see if I could upload images too with shortcuts.

This was sent to WordPress from Drafts app. Don’t know how to sent images from there. Maybe I have to send them in with another app first. Maybe Transmit or one of the other new apps I dowloaded to try the other day.

Got the image in through the WordPress app on the iPad. Have to work out now how to get it to accept the markdown and convert it.

The action in Drafts send it as a draft post and it has to be published in the WordPress app too.

Also noted the WordPress doesn’t use the Gutenberg blocks I have got used to in web WordPress.

Keyboard Maestro Automation

More automation on the Mac

Keyboard Maestro Automation is great and I do love a bit of automation on all of my computers. I can’t help but love all the stuff I can do on iOS using Shortcuts application. So when I get working on my Mac I want to do the same sort of thing. The application Automator has been around for a long time and you also have AppleScript. I haven’t got into either of these applications much and I find I much prefer to use Keyboard Maestro. It just seems to be more accessible and more reliable. So when I have a problem to solve I’ll go to Keyboard Maestro before I look anywhere else. Something which will be really nice is if we had the Shortcuts application for the Mac. Given its success on iOS and the move towards iOS applications being compiled for the Mac with what Apple are calling “Marzipan” I can see that happening in the future.

Finding a problem to solve

You have to choose what it is you want to automate. This can be easy and it can be hard. The problem is we are so busy we are doing what we need to do and not remembering there are automation possibilities. It’s like when you’re cutting down a tree with a blunt saw and you’re too busy mopping the sweat from your brow to use the saw sharpening tool you have in the bag. Sometimes I think it would be a good idea to have a Post-it note posted front and centre on the computer to remind you. The note would say something like “Can you automate that?” or “Are you doing a task of repetitively?” We have something like this built into TextExpander which lets you know if you are consistently typing in a specific word over and over. A little message pops up to ask you if you want to create a shortcut. So I thoroughly recommend you doing whatever it takes to give yourself a reminder every now and then to look at your workflow.

My latest Mac automation

First of all I had to notice there was a problem which needed to be solved. I like to work on my Apple computers as if they are one big system. I need to have access to words I’ve written on the iMac when I’m away from home and I only have my iPhone or iPad with me. Same with going the other way and anything which I did on the iPad or iPhone should be available immediately and easily on my Mac.

iCloud or Dropbox

I used to use Dropbox as the service to synchronise files across the whole system, iOS and OS X. At the moment I have a problem with Dropbox not working for me properly on my Mac and so writing I’ve done in Scrivener can’t be synchronised. I’ll have to get the connection with Dropbox fixed at some point in time. On the other hand, I do have a preference for using iCloud and any writing I do on the Mac in Ulysses or Drafts is immediately synchronised to all my computing devices.

Where to do dictation – Which app?

I like to write in Scrivener because it accepts the dictation from DragonDictate just perfectly. If I try to do the same in Ulysses it will throw up errors and complain after a while. So what I do is to write in Scrivener and send that text to where I can use it everywhere. When I start the day I like to do a journal entry into Day One. I write this journal entry in Scrivener and then I have a Keyboard Maestro automation which select all of the text, copies it to the clipboard, opens up Day One, inserts the password as it opens up the application, starts a new journal entry and pastes the clipboard contents. I have also set it to close the application Day One after a few seconds. This gives me a chance to make sure the post has been posted correctly. It’s also enough time to drag in a photo from Photos app if I wanted. All I have to do to get this automation started is to type in two characters – d1.

Scrivener to an iCloud synchronised app

So my plan was to do the same type of automation which takes my text from Scrivener and puts it into an application which synchronises through iCloud. My first thought was to send it to Ulysses. Ulysses is a fantastic writing application and I have used it to write, organise and compile complete books which I have for sale available on Amazon and the Apple bookstore. It uses iCloud for the synchronisation and it has never let me down. If Dropbox was working for me on my Mac – Scrivener Dropbox synchronisation doesn’t work great. You have to wait a short while for the synchronisation to do its thing when you open up the iOS version of the application. It is just a little niggling problem, but it has led me to find other ways to complete my writing workflow.

Drafts the Text Editor / Automator

Another option is to use the application Drafts as the receptacle for my dictation on the Mac. I have given it some testing and so far it seems fairly reliable. Even so, for the moment I still prefer to use Scrivener for my dictation. Drafts on the Mac is still in beta although that is due to change fairly soon. As soon as I have the full version of the application I will look again at my writing workflow on the Mac. I think Drafts could work well for me especially as I’m able to increase the size of the text. My old eyes prefer to have the text of bigger on the screen and make it easier to read. No need to have an extra step in the process, but for the moment….. Let’s automate. – Keyboard Maestro Automation

Creating a Keyboard Maestro Automation

There is a feature in Keyboard Maestro Automation which lets you record your actions, clicks and keyboard presses. So one way to create a new automation is to press record and see what you have at the end. If you’re using your mouse or Magic Trackpad the recording will record where you click on part of the screen. The problem comes round when you’re running the automation later. The application could be in a different part of the screen and the click to do something is not in the right place. It’s for this reason I prefer to use keyboard key combinations. So it’s a good idea to have a look through the menus and make note of the key combinations to operate the application. You can also get Keyboard Maestro to activate buttons in an app window. We all know the keyboard combinations for working with the clipboard whether we want to cut, copy or paste. You only have to work out if there are other keyboard combinations you need for your automation specific to the application.

Dragging and Dropping Actions

After you’ve created a new macro in Keyboard Maestro you can give your new macro a title. Then you can specify what your trigger is going to be and you have a lot of choices available. The one I wanted to use was a Typed String Trigger. It’s handy to use one of these because your fingers are already at the keyboard. Choose something you’re unlikely to use during ordinary typing such as d1, n1 or xxx or something similar. (Another possibility is to use a keyboard combination as a macro trigger.) Then start adding actions you want in your macro. You start this process by clicking on the green coloured round button with a + in it. This brings up a list of actions available.

Keyboard Maestro Automation

Finding Actions in Keyboard Maestro

Actions are grouped to help you find them and you can also do a search. There are three smart folders for actions – All Actions, Favourites and Third-Party Plug-Ins. After that there are a number of folders you can look into depending on whether you’re working with images, text, files, web and a range of others. There’s a reasonable number of actions available. You can even run other macros, execute AppleScript or JavaScript as well as control the flow of macro with programming type statements.
To help you get started it could be a good idea to run through what is you want to do manually. Then you’ll see easily what is you need to add to your macro to recreate it as an automation. Here’s a list of what I wanted to do with Keyboard Maestro Automation.

  • Select all text
  • Copy the selected text to the clipboard (or cut)
  • Open the application where I wanted to move the text to
  • Create a new document
  • Paste the clipboard contents
  • Cleanup the text
  • Add tags to the newly created document
  • Return to the application where I started – Scrivener

I needed to clean up the text because there was extra space in front of the ## at the beginning of the dictated text. I needed to do a find and replace to specifically remove that extra space. I experimented with doing this cleanup before copying it to the clipboard and also after pasting into the secondary application. I found it worked better after pasting. Sometimes you need to do some tweaking to get these macros to work. On a couple of occasions I’ve needed to add a pause of a couple of seconds to make sure the computer had time to complete the action. Keyboard Maestro is a super application for automating your day to day work on your Mac.

Keyboard Maestro Automation

Keep iterating and testing

When you have something which looks like it has all the steps, press the play button and give it a try. Or stop the editing process of the macro and go to the application where you want to use it. Test the macro and also the Typed String Trigger. If everything works as it should, give yourself a pat on the back and be happy. Sometimes you have to change something in the macro to make it work. Other times you can see how you could improve the macro and you’ll want to throw in more actions. It is fun to make these macros and satisfying when you have created a tool for yourself which saves you time with your repeating tasks in your workflow. Go and have fun making your macros. Let me know in the comments if you have made a good one. Let me know if you need help and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

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