Today was the annual Apple announcement of shiny new iPhones. If you’re a Scrivener iOS user, and considering a new phone, you may wonder which of the new iPhone XS and XS models will display the Scrivener binder in landscape mode.
Literature and Latte have said that iOS Scrivener uses the iOS size classes to determine whether a device can display the Binder in landscape mode. The key to this is whether the device has “Regular” width in landscape mode. According to the size classes just published for the new iPhones, the following new models have landscape regular width and therefore will display the Binder in Scrivener:
iPhone XS Max
Other models that display the Binder:
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone 7 Plus
iPhone 6S Plus
iPhone 6 Plus
Note that the new iPhone XS (not Max) will not display the Binder in the sidebar, just as the older iPhone X did not.
I was already convinced by gaming headsets. Who cares if they have LED decorations that pulsate in poisonous green? They are comparatively inexpensive, have excellent noise attenuation, great microphones, and decent sound, for far less than, say, a Bose noise-cancelling headset.
Well, I have been converted by LG’s UltraWide gaming monitors, specifically the LG 25UM58-P.
When I first encountered one of these petite (25 inches diagonal) monsters I thought it looked so strange that I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want it. But it was part of the shared monitor pool at my co-working venue (Kleverdog), and I decided to borrow it one day. Then I started borrowing it every time I went to Kleverdog and someone else hadn’t checked it out first. Finally, I asked for one for a wedding anniversary present. (Yes, ok, other women ask for diamonds. I ask for computer hardware. Hubby is used to this by now. Every once in a while he asks if I’d like a nice diamond instead, but this time he simply, charmingly delivered.)
It is nothing short of amazing to work with a nominally standard HD resolution (1080p) monitor that is so crisp. Not only is it crisp, it’s crisp in CinemaScope. Seriously. This beast has an aspect ratio of 21:9. CinemaScope’s narrowest aspect ratio was 2.35:1—or 21.15:9, less than one percent wider.
Crisp is wonderful, and as for wide, it’s like this:
The older model 25-inch LG UltraWide I used at Kleverdog had a DisplayPort input, which worked perfectly with my MacBook Air 11’s Thunderbolt 2 port. But newer LG models only have HDMI input. With a proper cable, HDMI 4K to Thunderbolt 2 (rare, but they can be had), this would not be a problem. But I have only a 1k HDMI cable, which connects to my Mac via a Mini DisplayPort (not Thunderbolt) to DVI adapter, connected to a DVI to HDMI adapter, all of ancient enough vintage that 2560 x 1080 support at 60 Hz refresh rate is out of the question.
The solution: A little utility called SwitchResX. This tool is not for the faint of heart, because it asks permission to modify your MacOS system files, even if only the resolution store. Fortunately, I found a complete set of instructions, Running 2560×1080 on LG 29UM57-P on an old MacBook Pro OSX El Capitan. I had to follow each step exactly, but the happy result was a set of 53 Hz (down from 60 Hz, but really I can’t tell the difference) resolutions that I can use with my old cables. So now my desk at home is graced with a monitor that is physically smaller than my old 1920 x 1080 ViewSonic, but which is so much easier on the eyes and more versatile at displaying apps that every day I marvel. “Wow! I can read that! And that! And that! I can make my text smaller!”
OK, I’m easily amused. But still. A long, cool, monitor.
Hello. I’ve never heard of aeon timeline! What is it? How do you use it alongside scrivener? How does it benefit your writing?
Excellent questions, all.
What is Aeon Timeline?
Aeon Timeline is an application available for Mac, Windows, and iOS. The blurb from the developers’ website reads:
VISUAL TIMELINE SOFTWARE > The timeline tool for creative writing, project & case management Writers > Designed for writers from its very inception, Aeon Timeline helps you plan, write and edit your story > …
It goes on to describe benefits to project managers and lawyers. To an extent, a writer (particularly a self-published writer) is also a project manager, and certainly lawyers can be writers, too! But I’ll focus on my use with Scrivener to write fiction.
Aeon Timeline events can sync to a Scrivener project. In particular, “tags” in Aeon Timeline are “Keywords” in Scrivener documents, and Aeon Timeline colours are Scrivener document labels. Event names sync with Scrivener document titles, and event summaries sync with Scrivener synopses. For other event properties in Aeon Timeline, you have the option to create custom metadata in your Scrivener project, and sync those properties as well. These include start date, end date, event arc, and participants. (These are the event properties from the default Aeon Timeline fiction template that I use. There are more that I ignore.)
You can do it one of either two ways:
If you’re a pre-planner:
Start in Aeon Timeline. Develop your characters, set up story arcs, and work out your outline as timed events. Then, when you’re ready to start writing,
Create your new project in Scrivener, save and close it.
Go back to Aeon Timeline, and select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.
In the Sync pane that appears, under Warnings, right-click the events you want to have in Scrivener and add to Scrivener.
If you do minimal advance planning:
Start in Scrivener and build your structure in the way you’re most comfortable. If (or when) the timing of events begins to get confused in your mind, or you believe you’d benefit from seeing things laid out linearly with durations,
Creat a new timeline in Aeon Timeline.
Select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.
How does it benefit your writing?
It depends on your working style. I know some people use it instead of outlining in order to see a graphic representation of their novel in chronological order as they plan, before they ever write a word of body text. Myself, well, as I’ve discussed, I’m not so much a detailed planner. But in general, it allows you to create characters, story arcs, and events (which can be imported from, and thereafter synced to, Scrivener.) I myself will use it once I get into the nitty gritty of writing, to keep track of such things as “OK, if this all started in early November, how long would this have taken? How about this next thing, here? No, wait… that’s a Sunday. That venue wouldn’t be open on a Sunday… so when did this have to start? What day will this next thing start?”
And so forth. Since at one level the stories I write are mysteries, timing of events becomes important. So here’s a timeline of a novella I’ve published:
It takes place over two weeks in June of 1880, in London. This image only includes the main storyline, with backstory and villain actions “offscreen” displayed in different arcs. I personally use labels in Scrivener for status (and don’t use the status metadata at all. But if you use it, it’s pretty easy to add an event property and sync it with Status in Scrivener.)
I had to think about such things as:
How long would it take someone to cross a portion of London on foot in 1880?
How about in a cab? (Often slower, due to traffic. Los Angeles is nothing new under the sun.)
What time would servants be returning from their Sunday half-holiday?
Aeon Timeline is designed to make it easer to keep things like that straight. Afterwards, as I described above, the dates and times I decide on can be saved with the Scrivener documents to which they refer. So when I’m writing, I don’t make mistakes like having folks set out across the city in the morning, when it’s already afternoon…
It’s not for everyone—-I understand that. But if you think visually and want the duration of things clearly displayed, it’s a godsend.
One other thing I do is import the timeline into Scrivener’s research folder as an alias. That way I can view the timeline’s QuickLook in Scrivener, and click on the Edit button to launch it in Aeon Timeline.
Today, like every Thursday, I’m spending the day in Santa Clarita, California. It’s not the most exciting place in the world, and it’s thirty miles from my home in the San Fernando Valley. But my husband works here, and every Thursday evening we have a date here. So I usually come up early.
I spend most of my time in one of the older sections of the community, Newhall. The Old Town Newhall library is lovely and a good place to do some writing. But until I had my February Blues SAD wake–up call, I ignored William S. Hart Park.
The park offers light hiking, wildlife, and lots of sunshine. I’ve even taken the ranch house tour. I found myself identifying with the old actor—Mr. Hart really liked his tech. In the 1920’s, he spared no expense to electrify everything in his domain—a radio in every room. An electric record player. A projection room. An electric buzzer to summon the next course from the kitchen in his dining room. A for-Gosh-sake intercom. Yes, an electric refrigerator. They didn’t have electric food warmers, so he had a lower-tech food warmer installed in his dining room (a fireplace with a very small firebox underneath a huge stone slab, called a French food warmer.)
My, my. Now I don’t feel quite so bad with my MacBook Air, iPad, Fitbit, and iPhone. And our own home intercom. And our smart thermostat. And every other member of the family also having a laptop and iPhone, and tablet if desired. And our cable TV and internet and HD screen and Apple TV (Mind you, all this while the plumbing needs… oh, a lot of work. And my wardrobe is… challenged. Tech comes before shoes or more than one working shower. Seriously.)
Time to go back to writing fiction on my tech. And yes, I have been writing fiction. I haven’t reached the daily word counts I’d like to see, but something is better than nothing. Heigh-ho!
So, welcome to my renovated blog! I’ve chosen a simple theme, Twenty Sixteen. The color scheme is gray and silver, of course. I added a header with a silver dragon, partly hidden in mist. And of course, the blog still has two columns on wide screens (otherwise, how could I deal?) My fonts are still selected for legibility before beauty (but I think they’re quite attractive, nonetheless.) I’m pleased that this new theme underlines links—I always worried that links were hard to notice in my old theme, and manually set them in italics. No more need for that! And the adaptation to small (phone) screens is much more adaptive—no more one-letter columns of text beside the images.
Thanks for reading! I’ll continue to bring you writing productivity and writing technology information in my cool new web wrapper.
I’ve gone ahead and gotten a Setapp subscription. All it took to push me over the edge was two more apps.
I’m already paying a subscription for a password management app–and one is now included with Setapp. And then there’s the remote desktop app, for which I used to also pay a subscription. I’ve done without rather than keep paying for an app I seldom use–but as a remote desktop app is included in SetApp, well…
Bottom line, the Setapp subscription is now paid for with the subscriptions I formerly bought for Ulysses, password management (now covered by Setapp’s Secrets app), and remote desktop service (now covered by Setapp’s Jump Desktop.) Future paid upgrades for apps I already own (Aeon Timeline 2 and iThoughtsX) are gravy. And there are many special-purpose apps included that I no longer need to worry about. Project management? If I need it, I’m covered. SQL? Heaven forbid I should ever need it again, but if I do I’m covered.
And as for all those itty bitty utilities included in Setapp–there is a new one among them, Bartender, which provides a unique service. The Mac, of course, has exactly one menu bar, which starts getting cluttered with utilities rather quickly if you collect them at all. Bartender hides those menu bar utilities until you need them, so they’re no longer hidden behind the app menus in an app with tons of menus like Scrivener. I love using my iPad as a second monitor, and now I can both put Scrivener there and use all my menu bar utilities there. Woot!
So, in Ulysses, Revisited I hinted at an interest in Setapp. Setapp is a software subscription service for Mac OS, costing US $9.99 per month, or $107.88 per year (a discount of slightly over 10%). Ulysses is included with a Setapp account; and the Ulysses MacApp store subscription rate is $4.99 per month, or $39.99 year. Depending on whether I want to subscribe monthly or annually, I’m either 37% or 50% of the way to the cost of a Setapp subscription just with Ulysses.
Setapp offers 105 apps (some of which I’ve already bought.) The thing with Setapp is that because it’s subscription, I pay neither initial purchase price nor upgrade fee with any app. I can just download from Setapp and be assured that I’ll get purchase price and updates included.
So, $108 per annum for 105 apps with upgrades included. Is that a good deal?
It could be a very good deal, for someone who hadn’t bought any of the apps outright. I checked on the Mac App store, and on the web: those 105 apps represent $2,440 of outright purchase price. That alone would pay for nearly 20 years of Setapp subscription.
But wait a moment… there’s a certain amount of overlap among the apps. Just looking at blog editing apps, there’s Ulysses,Blogo, and Focused. I consider it unlikely that a blogger is going to use all three.
And 36% of those 105 apps are $10-and-under utilities. Again, there’s some overlap—Declutter and Unclutter are both desktop organising apps, and it’s doubtful that a user will use more than one at once. Four apps are available for absolutely free—which means that should I use one, I’m paying Setapp for the convenience of having found it for me. I suppose that if I find a free app particularly useful that’s a valuable service, and it means that the app is not dunning me for “donations” (presumably), but it’s hard to see how much monetary value I should assign to that.
Many of those little utilities are available on the Mac App Store. There is so much pressure from customers in the Mac/iOS App Stores resisting any upgrade cost, that many inexpensive apps never issue paid upgrades. They’ll beg their users for “tips” (via in-app purchases) first. Again, it’s hard to see an ongoing value for which I would be paying Setapp.
Not all of those apps are of interest to me. I’ve left my software engineering and database administrator days behind. While the programmer’s editors and SQL engines are worth their hefty price tags, they’re of little benefit to me personally. So again, they add no value to a Setapp subscription.
And then there’s the negative impact on my productivity. A new piece of software, for me, is the same as buying a fancy new toy, say a massive 3D puzzle. I’ll put hours and hours into finding every possible feature, trying it, and deciding whether it’s useful to me, and if so, under what circumstances. Yes, to me, this is playing. I probably don’t need 105 new toys to distract myself with. “Oh, look, here’s a SQL engine! Now what can I do with THAT? And an editor that will run every known Mac programming language? And which of these three blog editors is best for me? Maybe I’d better try them all…”
I might not come up for air for months.
I can see where Setapp would be valuable to someone who wanted to have specialised tools available for a specific task on an intermittent basis. If you really need SQL, sure, a $9.99 one-month rental beats heck out of buying a $110 DBMS. And if you qualify for the educational 50% discount, it’s a steal—go ahead and get it for Ulysses alone. You’re bound to find something else useful. But for me, anything I need on an ongoing basis—well, I’ve already bought it, including four of the more expensive included Setapp apps, and alternative solutions for half a dozen more.
So I’ve reluctantly decided to go ahead and pay my Ulysses subscription for blogging, and keep Setapp in mind. If some of those apps I already own start issuing expensive upgrades, I’ll take another look.
This venture into dictation… it sucked another six weeks of production time, and I have almost nothing to show for it.
Let’s start with the obvious: the Fool Proof Dictation method included 55+ minutes of warm-ups every single dictation session. Hello! ADHD here. I never made it all the way through. Not one. Single. Time. Without. Distraction. I don’t know why I thought I could.
It was mind-numbingly boring to read aloud ten minutes from a “best-seller in my genre” with punctuation in. Then dictate five minutes of “session goals.” Then do forty minutes of fiction dictation exercises (with punctuation in) not including five minute breaks in between.
The last was my downfall. A five minute break from one of the more boring things I’ve ever done? It was never five minutes, even if I remembered to start a timer. No, I didn’t start other apps, but so what? A half-hour of daydreaming later (or maybe an hour or more), I’d come back to this planet and realise that I’d lost momentum and I was no longer “warmed up.”
Sometimes I’d cheat and go ahead and dictate my scenes anyway. But there was a problem. I’m writing a historical-fantasy-mystery set in 19th century London. I want British spelling. My native accent is South Texan (perhaps it’s even a separate language.) Dragon Professional for Mac does not allow for the possibility that someone who speaks with a Texas accent might want to produce output with British spelling. It’s even worse with a speaker who inadvertently slips into bad British accents while dictating dialogue.
When it came time to transcribe the recordings I’d made (at last!) not even the simple exercises were transcribed correctly, not even to the level of typos I’d have made in typing it. I’d go back through the recordings, and yes my speech was clear. No background noise at all. But when I tried to train Dragon in transcription mode, it still made the same horrible transcription errors time after time.
I also had a problem with the lack of visual feedback using this method. I read very fast, so that reading is almost the only way for me to take in information without getting distracted. I really missed seeing my words appear on the screen. So, for about a week, I tried to dictate directly to screen.
In my favour, I’d largely gotten over the hesitation problem while dictating (the interminable reading from Conan Doyle did some good!) and Dragon is much more forgiving about pauses than the Mac’s built-in dictation. But the transcription errors persisted. I finally tossed in the towel last week.
Yes, it’s back to typing for me, or when the words are coming hard, back to a stylus and a handwriting keyboard. If I ever get carpal tunnel syndrome, I guess my writing career is over. Or I’ll use Mac dictation, because it’s too frustrating to use the best and get minimal traction.
The last time I picked up Ulysses, I rejected it because of its non-standard Markdown (Markdown ‘XL’), and the fact that it saves its iCloud Library in One Big File(TM), thus giving the lie to its vaunted “plain text” basis. But it’s getting a bit daunting to manage my blog on Dropbox with a true plain text editor (Editorial for iOS and TextWrangler plus Marked 2 for Mac.)
So I picked it up again, renting it for $5 for a month. And I am cautiously pleased. It looks like I’ll be able to keep tags and categories as Ulysses keywords, which will make searching for the last time I pontificated on a certain subject easier. Its WordPress publishing capability is very good. And I can even do tables (not that I’ve ever put tables in my blog, but hey, you never know) by using its “raw code” capability:
This is the result of putting that Markdown source into raw code blocks and uploading to WordPress:
Not bad. The only thing the other Markdown editors do to make tables easier is put up that grid of pipes (the vertical bars) and alignment indicators (the colons and hyphens.) I can build a table in another of my numerous Markdown editors if I need one and paste it in.
I’m not going to switch to novel writing in Ulysses. There’s far too much that Scrivener includes that Ulysses doesn’t (compilation, index cards, folders that are also text files, the ability to split my writing into the tiniest possible increments, and so forth.) Where would I put my beats? My chapter cards? Oh, yes, now that Aeon Timeline 2 (AT) syncs with Ulysses, all that stuff can be kept in AT and will live in notes in my Ulysses project, but there’s no corkboard (!) in that workflow. Not OK. I’d be reduced to planning everything in advance, because I really can’t get that info into a place I can play with it during production.
And as for Ulysses being less distracting, bullpucky. There is not now nor will there ever be a piece of software that makes it the least bit difficult for me to become distracted.
So the question is: Does Ulysses have enough utility to me as a blogging tool, to keep renting it for $5 US per month (or $40 US per year)? That’s a question I haven’t answered yet. The answer depends, in part, on my investigation of the Setapp Mac software subscription service. I’ve started the 30-day free trial–and will report back soon.