i(Pad)OS Handwriting Update: Apple Scribble #amwriting

Illustration of using Apple Scribble
Apple Scribble works on iPads compatible with Apple Pencil

It’s been a while since I reviewed the state of i(Pad)OS handwriting. Part of the reason for my recent purchase of an Adonit Note+ was just so as I could check out Apple’s new iPad handwriting input, Scribble.

Apple Scribble

I’m a big handwriting input fan. I wanted to like Scribble. I really, really did. I tested it with Scrivener and Ulysses, as well as Bear, Pages, Word, Notes, and Google Docs.

Folks, it is not ready for prime time.

Scribble’s fine for short text messages, data entry fields, and the like—text fields that don’t wrap. At least it’s no worse than hasty keyboarding. I’ve seen posts on the Scrivener forum that suggest it’s useful in pure editing mode. People find its ability to select by circling text a big help, and if you’re only substituting one word for another its quirks aren’t as challenging. But attempting to write a paragraph longer than one line drove me to screaming frustration, then back to WritePad in short order.

Scribble recognises handwriting well. It also recognises fast—too fast, and I can’t slow it down. So then I have a stray mark that may or may not be a letter, and may or may not be the beginning of a word I was trying to write. Convincing Scribble to erase any stray mark I accidentally make is an exercise in futility. I can’t erase a single letter, only an entire word. Undo in that case undoes too much—all the text I’d written since I started Scribbling. I can pop up the Scribble keyboard, but I find that I need it so often I just need to leave it open. If I’m going to do that why not just use a handwriting keyboard to begin with?

In order to use Scribble inside text that wraps, you need to have really tiny handwriting that will fit inside a normal line of text. If you stray, your writing will “scratch” over text you’ve already written in the previous line or the next, erasing it. I used the Undo button so much just trying it that I did more undoing than writing. Other possible solutions are zooming (not possible in Ulysses), enlarging the text, or triple-spacing lines, but the last two I’d need to revert later when I switched back to typing.

I could restrict myself to only adding text to the end of a document—but even that didn’t work for me. There was never enough space at the bottom for me to write without deleting, not even in Scrivener or Ulysses with typewriter mode turned on. (Yes, I have big handwriting. I don’t know how other people write so small as to be able to fit their signatures on the tiny spaces available on most forms.)

Recommendations:

While Scribble is fine for short text messages and data entry in online forms, I still recommend handwriting keyboard apps for significant text entry in editing and word processing apps. The keyboards avoid the space available problem simply by providing a dedicated data entry area. An added benefit is that they’re also usable on iPhone.

If you’re one of the folks who prefers to use a note-taking app, then copy-and-paste large batches of recognised handwriting, you can give Scribble a try, but I suspect you’ll prefer your current method of working.

My recommended handwriting keyboards, in order of my personal preference:

  1. WritePad I (iPad) / Penquills (iPhone): Each takes time to set up to recognise your handwriting well, but I find the ability to remove mis-recognitions and typos before committing text to document to be a plus. (I prefer the “continuous handwriting” setup, in which I write over my previously recognised text to commit it to the document and start a new recognition, to the “recognition delay” setup, which is more like Scribble: The text is recognised and committed automatically after a configurable delay.)
  2. Selvy PenScript: The current handwriting keyboard most like the late lamented “MyScript Stylus”. It’s my favourite of the “automatic entry” handwriting keyboards (i.e., your handwriting is recognised and automatically committed to the document after a brief delay, like Scribble, WritePad/Penquills with recognition delay enabled, and MyScript Stylus). The recognition delay is configurable (I prefer a slightly longer delay) and alternate recognitions are provided so you can correct mis-recognitions immediately with a single tap.
  3. Mazec: It recognises English handwriting. However, it neither automatically commits your handwriting after delay (Scribble, Selvy PenScript) nor does it permit continuous writing by writing over the previously recognised text (WritePad, Penquills). No, you have to tap Enter after every recognition. It also recognises far fewer languages than either of the other two options. I suggest trying it only if neither of the first two options suits.

Nimbus Note v. Evernote: The Review #amwriting

Nimbus Notes logo
versus

Evernote Logo

Overview

Nimbus Note is a serious competitor to Evernote, particularly the latest (as of 21 November 2020) versions of Evernote’s clients. It is faster, and has 90-95% of Evernote’s feature set available. However, it does not possess nearly as many integrations as Evernote, neither to web apps nor to Mac/iOS apps. If a stand-alone note database works for you, Nimbus may be your Evernote replacement. If you depend heavily on Evernote’s many integrations, however, you may need to search further.

Feature Comparison between Nimbus Notes and Evernote:

(Reference: Nimbus v. Evernote Comparison on the Nimbus website, as well as Compare Plans, from the Evernote site. I’ve left off business plans and free plans—the free plans are closely comparable, save Nimbus has no device limits, preferring to limit the total number of notes in its free plan. So this table compares individual paid plans—apples to apples, as it were.)

Executive Summary: Nimbus has clearly built its feature set around competing with Evernote. Its table has an exhaustive list of tiny features which it has but Evernote does not, but unaccountably misses some features Evernote has that it lacks. (I’ve dropped a vast number of lines from the table that simply said Evernote-Y, Nimbus-Y.) Here are the high points:

  • Nimbus doesn’t support handwriting indexing. This is a bummer for me, but Evernote’s handwriting indexing is hardly of any use if I can’t use Evernote.
  • Nimbus does not yet support PDF annotation. Of course, that’s why you have Evernote Skitch…
  • Nimbus has more restrictive upload/traffic limits than Evernote, but then it’s also cheaper.
  • Nimbus has more table support than Evernote, and table-based database capabilities which Evernote lacks.
  • Nimbus “folders” are equivalent to Evernote “notebooks.” Nimbus can nest folders, but Evernote can’t nest notebooks.
  • If you want to share a thing that was a notebook in Evernote without sharing your entire database, you’ll have to put it into a separate workspace in Nimbus.
  • “Nimbus Capture” is a browser-based technology. At least on Mac, the equivalent is “Evernote Helper” which is accessed via the menu bar. Evernote Helper is easier to access, but is more limited in what it can capture.
  • Nimbus can embed video in a note, which Evernote can do only by attachment.
  • In general, even at the individual paid level, Nimbus is more oriented towards collaboration than Evernote. Collaboration features that in Evernote are reserved to Business accounts are available in the Nimbus Pro Plan.
  • The editor differences boil down to “Nimbus has block editing and Evernote doesn’t.” This is no longer true with the new Evernote clients, but since those clients are unusable as of this writing, who cares?
  • I find the web clipper browser extensions comparable, despite Nimbus’s bragging about how theirs are better.
  • The “Sharing and Security” differences add up to some of those collaboration features I mentioned above.
  • Nimbus’s table to the contrary, Evernote has many key integrations in the Apple and Web universes that Nimbus simply lacks.
  • Nimbus supports several education privacy compliance standards that Evernote evidently does not.
Nimbus Note v. Evernote Features Table
Premium Plan (Evernote) Pro Plan (Nimbus)
Pricing
Monthly Pricing (USD) $7.99 $4.99
Annual Pricing (USD) $69.96 $24.99
General Features
Team Members (Including Owner) Unlimited Up to 5
Total Notes You Can Store Unlimited Unlimited
Monthly Upload/Traffic Size 10GB (upload) 5GB (traffic)
Total Workspaces 1 Only in business version 5
Support Access 2 Email and Live Chat Priority Support
Note Taking and Complementary Products
Image Capture 3 Y Y (Nimbus Capture)
Video Capture N Y (Nimbus Capture)
Screenshots Y Y (Nimbus Capture)
Screen Recording N Y (Nimbus Capture)
Folder and Subfolder Hierarchies Only folders Y (Unlimited Nesting Levels)
Workspaces N Y
Color Coding N Y
Commenting N Y
Spreadsheets N Y
Databases N Y
Password Protected Public Sharing N Y
Note Editor Capabilities
Outliner / Table Of Contents N Y
Insert Quotes N Y
Convert Table Into A Simple Database N Y
Insert Date and Date Edit (Calendar) N Y
Insert Date Reminders In A Note N Y
Tables and Database Features
Create Rows and Columns Y Y
Duplicate Tables N Y
Duplicate Columns N Y
Hide/Show Row Numbers N Y
Set Column Names N Y
Sort Columns N Y
Insert Dates And Edit (Calendar) N Y
Insert Ratings N Y
Web Clipper Capabilities
Clip Page Fragments N Y
Clip Images Only N Y
Save Yahoo Emails N Y
Edit Clipped Content Before Sending To Note-Taking Service N Y
Create Tasks N Y
One-Click Page Saving N Y
Sharing and Security
Access Permissions N Y
Sharing Permissions N Y
Editing Permissions N Y
Real-Time Editing N Y
Real-Time Collaboration N Y
Server Backup and Restore N Y
Education Compliance
FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act) N Y
COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection) N Y
CSPC (California’s Student Privacy Certified) N Y
iKeepSafe (Privacy Compliance Organization) N Y
Integrations
i(Pad)OS Shortcuts app Y N
i(Pad)OS Widget 4 Y N
WatchOS App Y N
Zapier.com Y N
iOS URL scheme Y N
Many iOS, PC, Mac, Android, and Web apps including but not limited to Noteshelf, Daily Notes, and Spark Mail. See the Evernote App Center for a somewhat complete list. Y N
Google Drive 5 Y Y (Embed)
YouTube Y Y (Embed)
Vimeo N Y (Embed)
Github N Y (Embed)
Google Map N Y (Embed)
Typeform N Y (Embed)
Figma N Y (Embed)
Twitter N Y (Embed)
Invision N Y (Embed)
Other Features
Live Chat Y N
PDF Annotation Y N
Screen-to-Text Recognition (OCR) 6 Y Y
Document Search and Image Recognition Search for text inside images, PDFs, and Documents

  1. Individual Evernote doesn’t need workspaces, because you can share a folder with someone else. The smallest thing you can share in Nimbus is a workspace. 
  2. I can’t see the difference between Evernote’s “Email and Live Chat” and Nimbus’s “Priority Support”. On the other hand, Nimbus’s support is astonishingly prompt. 
  3. Nimbus Capture is browser based. 
  4. Okay, Evernote lost its widgets and Watch app with the update. But if you haven’t updated, these features are still in Evernote. They might return to the new clients! And Nisus doesn’t have them at all. 
  5. Nimbus will embed a lot of file types that Evernote will add as note attachments. 
  6. Nisus doesn’t support handwriting recognition and indexing, which Evernote does. 

The Results Are In: Bear Wins the Evernote Replacement Race #amwriting

Bear app logo
The winner—Bear!

I wrote about considering Nimbus Note as an Evernote (EN) replacement in my last post, and you’ll get the detailed review I promised in my next post. I gave it a thorough trial, but I didn’t neglect to test other possibilities. I tested Ulysses, OneNote, and Bear as well. Somewhat to my own surprise, I’ve settled on Bear.

As an ADHD non-student adult, I have some different needs for a notes app.

  • My primary need in a notes app is not writing-related. As long as typing doesn’t suck, I’m fine. But everything—everything—goes into my notes. Research. Project planning. Grocery lists. I take photos. I scan documents. I clip from the web. I use Siri dictation. I handwrite and scan the images. I seldom actually type a note. In short, I need a lot of different ways to get information in, plus fast, legible retrieval.
  • I’m poor at categorising. I use big obvious buckets—”Recipes” “Writing” “Everything else”—yet sometimes I still miscategorise (I found a chapter outline in my Recipes folder yesterday.) Search needs to “just find it,” fast, no matter where I put it.
  • I have vast amounts of data—2,200 notes and counting, a total of about 2.5 Gb.
  • I need it all the time.

With these priorities in mind, here’s how the candidates stacked up:

  • Nimbus Notes: Web, Mac, PC, Android, iOS. This is the one I ought to have liked best, based on my research prior to testing. Its editor is not bad for a block editor. And it was fast (or faster than EN is now—a pretty low bar). Its price point was apparently lower than Evernote. Nonetheless,
    1. Its pricing is based on total traffic rather than simply on upload traffic. With 2.5 Gb data and three devices to sync, I blew through 5 Gb of traffic fast.
    2. Several of my transferred notes clipped from Wikipedia were illegible, with images overlapping text. I don’t have time to pretty it up just so as to read my research.
    3. Getting stuff into Nimbus Notes was a pain. Its client apps are just not well-integrated into either the Apple universe or the Web app universe. I could have dealt with one, but not both.
  • OneNote: Web, Mac, PC, Android, iOS, and probably others. I gave it a go. It does have handwriting indexing, after all.
    1. It connects well, but only to the Microsoft universe. I visit Microsoft Universe as little as I can.
    2. OMG, its editor sucks! You tap or click accidentally in the middle of the page, and you start typing right there. This is the crap I left Microsoft Word about. Not an editor for someone who prefers Markdown.
    3. Complex Web clippings were also not legible.
    4. It’s very hierarchical. My system of big buckets with minimal differentiation would be hard to implement there.
  • Ulysses: Mac, iOS. I already pay for a subscription, and it’s often mentioned in note apps lists. It will use Dropbox, to which I also subscribe. I love its writing environment. But…
    1. Ulysses is very writing-focused. Getting anything other than writing into it is a pain.
    2. It’s pretty darn hierarchical, for all its tag system.
    3. It’s less well connected to the Apple universe than you’d think. In particular, it has no Shortcuts actions pre-supplied.

Bear (Mac, iOS):

I didn’t want to like it because it uses iCloud sync, which I despise. Yes, I’m an Apple customer and was an Apple developer off and on for 25 years and I loathe iCloud. There, I said it. Not sorry.

  • Yet, Bear uses a real database back-end. Wow! The Bear folks don’t try to roll their own. Further, they don’t try to hide their technology from the Unwashed Masses. Already I’m impressed.
  • Its editor… is nicer in some ways than Ulysses’ editor, mostly because it sticks closer to Markdown. It could be a bit more flexible about colour and font, but overall a B+.
  • All my old notes are perfectly legible (even though tables I use a lot will get some cleanup.)
  • Its tag system is more flexible and less hierarchical than even Evernote’s.
  • Retrieval is fast and accurate. It slows down some on my iPhone, but that’s understandable with 3 Gb of data to troll through.
  • It’s well connected to the Apple universe. I’ve had no problem getting stuff in.

Is Bear perfect for me? No. Nothing’s perfect. Old Working Evernote would be closer (because I’ve spent 7 years leveraging it) but I’m not likely to get it. Given that, Here’s my Bear wish list:

  • An alternate cloud service, either their own or Dropbox. Probably not practical, but if iCloud stops working (as it did last year for a few weeks when Catalina was released) there’s nothing the folks at Bear can do about it except try to keep the customers calm and wait for Apple to… uh, stop being distracted and fix it.
  • Search inside images and PDFs.
  • Index handwriting.
  • iOS search inside notes. My web clippings are often l-o-n-g. Mac Bear does this already.
  • Connection to web automation services like IFTTT and Zapier.
  • Just a smidgen of collaboration. The ability to share a single tag with one other person would do.

But overall, I’m happy with my choice.

Edit Mac Scrivener 3 With iOS Ulysses, Part 2: Prepping Your Existing Scrivener Project #amwriting

Scrivener and Ulysses CAN get along

Articles in this series:

Part 2: Prepping your existing Scrivener Project

Introduction

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about changing your Scrivener habits in order to edit with Ulysses, eventually. In Part 2, I’m going to talk about changing your existing project so that it compiles with the Scrivener “Convert MultiMarkdown to Rich Text” option ON, and so that it syncs as smoothly as possible with Ulysses. Believe me, you want to do as much as possible of this work before you start syncing and editing with Ulysses. If you’re new to my articles on how to edit Scrivener projects with Ulysses, please review “Is this workflow for you?” in Part 1. You’re about to make some significant changes to your existing project, and I wouldn’t want you to put in a few hours of work on it and then blame me if you don’t like the result… If you’re not sure, I suggest you start with a new project making the changes to the base preferences I suggest in Part 1, and then skipping ahead to Part 3. Or, you could make a fresh copy of the Scrivener Tutorial Project (in Scrivener, use the menu item Help→Interactive Tutorial to make a new one.) and follow along here in Part 2 without touching your work-in-progress (WIP) until you’re sure you understand the needed changes. But if you’re brave and reasonably certain, I’ll provide directions so that you’ll be able to revert your entire WIP (if needed) or any part of it. Just as a reminder, you’ll need to type Markdown and MultiMarkdown directly into Scrivener. If you need to, you can review them here:

Ready?

Let’s make a backup and a bunch of snapshots!

First, use the menu command File→Back Up→Back Up To… to make a backup of the project you’re converting. (From now on I’ll refer to that project as your WIP, even though it may be a copy of the Tutorial.) Be sure to tick the “Back up as ZIP file” checkbox underneath the file list to make the backup a compressed archive! Save the backup somewhere other than your usual backup folder, so that you can find it easily (I suggest the Desktop.) With that backup tucked away as insurance, let’s make named snapshots of all your WIP’s files and folders.

  • Select all the top-level folders in your Binder.
  • Use the menu command View→Outline→Expand All to show everything in your Binder.
  • Use ⌘-A or Edit→Select All so that all the documents in your Binder are selected.
  • Use Documents→Snapshots→Take Titled Snapshots of Selected Documents.
  • Give the snapshots a name, like “Before Ulysses Conversion” or whatever else takes your fancy, and click OK. (Any document that isn’t text, or is empty, will be ignored.) It may take a while, if your WIP is large. Get a fresh cup of your caffeinated beverage of choice.

Now you can not only revert any individual document to its “before Ulysses” state, you’ll be able to see what it looked like before you started, so you can check your progress. Finally, before we start the changes, I suggest you turn on View→Text Editing→Show Invisibles. Some of what we must do involves changing the number of spaces, tabs, and returns in your text. It helps to be able to see them.

Convert Inspector Comments and Inspector Footnotes

This one’s easy, and easy to reverse as well.

  1. In the Binder, select all the text documents that you think you might ever compile.
  2. Put the editor into Scrivenings view. It may take a few seconds to load if your project is large.
  3. After the view loads, put your cursor somewhere in the editor.
  4. Display the Inspector, showing the Comments and Footnotes tab.
  5. Nothing there? You’re done. Move on to Update Paragraphs, below.
  6. If you have some, ask yourself this question: Will I ever need to have these in the Inspector again?
  7. If your answer is yes, scan through your comments and footnotes.
  8. If any comment or footnote has more than one paragraph, remove the paragraph breaks. (I like to put in a bullet so that I can easily restore the paragraphs after I return the comments to the Inspector.)
  9. After you’re done, put your cursor somewhere in the editor again.
  10. Use the menu command Edit→Transformations→Convert Inspector Comments to Inline Annotations.
  11. Use the menu command Edit→Transformations→Convert Inspector Footnotes to Inline Footnotes.

If later you need to put your comments and footnotes back into the Inspector, use a similar process but instead use Edit→Transformations→Convert Inline Annotations to Inspector Comments and Edit→Transformations→Convert Inline Footnotes to Inspector Footnotes. It’s easiest if you restore paragraphs after you’ve transformed the comments and footnotes back to the Inspector.

Update Paragraphs

First, if you haven’t already, follow the directions I referenced in Part 1 for removing any “body style” or “normal style” from your project, and the directions for changing your default paragraph style to block style throughout your project. Here are the links again:

At this point you’re probably cursing me: “Darn you, Dragon, now I couldn’t find where my paragraphs begin and end if I didn’t have ‘Show Invisibles’ on!” This next step is where you fix that.

  1. Once again, in the Binder, select all the text documents that you think you might ever compile.
  2. Somewhere in the Scrivenings view, select the ¶ symbol at the end of a paragraph and copy it.
  3. Now choose Edit→Find→Project Replace… and paste the ¶ symbol once into the Find box and twice into the Replace box. It should look like this:Project replace dialog for replacing one return with two.
  4. Click “Replace.” In the “Project Replace Cannot Be Undone” alert, click OK.

From now on, you’ll need to press “enter” twice after each paragraph. This paragraph formatting will make it obvious if you don’t! It quickly becomes habit.

Quality Point: Line Breaks

Do you ever use line breaks within a paragraph? (They show up as “↩︎” when you have Show Invisibles on.) If you do, you’ll need to change each one to two spaces plus a new paragraph (“・・¶” when Show Invisibles is on.) Use the technique of copying and pasting into the Project Replace dialog above to change all these now.

Update Bold and Italic Text

This isn’t hard, but it is tedious if you have a lot of these. (If you use a keyboard macro utility, you can automate this. I’ll give keystrokes so that you can do that easily, but as I don’t use such a utility myself, I can’t tell you how to set it up.)

  1. Change Scrivener preferences to use underscores as italics markers. Open Scrivener→Preferences…, and in the Sharing panel under the Export tab, uncheck “Convert underscores to underlines when converting Markdown”. It should look like this: Scrivener Preferences dialog for adjusting underscore meaning
  2. You should already have your “compilable” documents selected from above. If not, please select them and place your cursor at the beginning of the Scrivenings view.
  3. Use the menu command Edit→Find→Find by Formatting… (Keystroke: control-option-command-F “⌃⌥⌘F”)
  4. Set up to search for italics. It should look like this: Scrivener "Find by Formatting" dialog set up to search for italics
  5. Go ahead and click “Find.”
  6. Repeat the following steps until you’ve processed them all:
  7. Move to the beginning of the selection. (Keystroke: left arrow key “←”)
  8. Type an underscore. (Keystroke: shift-hyphen “⇧-“)
  9. Select the italics again. (Keystroke: shift-option-command-G “⇧⌥⌘G”)
  10. Move to the end of the selection. (Keystroke: right arrow key “→”)
  11. Type another underscore. (Keystroke: shift-hyphen “⇧-“)
  12. Select the next italics in the Scrivenings view. (Keystroke: shift-option-command-G “⇧⌥⌘G”)
  13. Start over from step 2, but this time search for bold, and type two asterisks “**” instead of a single underscore.

Some folks use a style for italics and bold. Life with Ulysses will be much simpler if you don’t. To de-style your italics and bold, just delete the styles you used for them from the Styles list (Format→Style→Delete Style and choose your italics or bold style from the menu.) The text will still be formatted (though again, life with Ulysses will be simpler if you don’t bother in future and use underscores and double asterisks instead.)

Convert Tables

A word about Scrivener tables in general: In my opinion, Scrivener’s tables are the most problematic feature of its editor. Users on the Scrivener forums who live and die by tables (many are scientific writers) often don’t bother; they create their tables in a spreadsheet app, format them there, and paste the result into Scrivener, more as a placeholder than anything. Then, after compiling to DOCX or some other intermediate format, they do a final polish of the table formatting. They may even go back to their spreadsheets and re-paste the tables at that point. If you use that philosophy, then MMD tables are just another kind of placeholder, and you can use my conversion process to produce them almost straight from your spreadsheets. If, on the other hand, you’ve always used Scrivener tables directly, I’m going to suggest you use a spreadsheet app as an intermediate step to convert your Scrivener tables to MMD tables. (You can produce them by hand, as you will lists later, but it’s going to be a slower and more error-prone process.) Here’s my process:

  1. You should already have your “compilable” documents selected from above. If not, please select them and place your cursor at the beginning of the Scrivenings view.
  2. Once again, open the Edit→Find→Find by Formatting… dialog. This time, we’ll choose “Tables” from the dropdown menu, like this: Scrivener "Find by Formatting" dialog set to search for tables
  3. Click Find, and at your first table, open the Inspector to the Snapshots panel. Find the original table in the snapshot (which won’t have the extra “enters” we put in!)
  4. Select the entire table in the snapshot and copy it to the Clipboard.
  5. Open your favourite spreadsheet application. (If you don’t have one, Apple’s Numbers is free on the App Store.)
  6. Create a new spreadsheet and paste in your table. Save the spreadsheet if you like.
  7. Now select what you just pasted, and copy it (the spreadsheet app will have added important information, like row and column numbers, that you can’t see.)
  8. Go to the Tables Generator site. Use its “File” dropdown and select “Paste Table Data…” Do so and click “Load.” Then click the “Generate” button beneath your pasted-in data.
  9. That’s it! You’ll see a MultiMarkdown version of your table. Click the green “Copy to Clipboard” button.
  10. Back in your main editor pane, select the table and the empty line after it as well.
  11. Use the Format→Table→Remove Table menu command.
  12. Paste the MultiMarkdown table over the remains of your old table.
  13. The output from the tables generator site is basic. Add such things as alignment tags and merged cells if needed.
  14. Repeat steps 3-13 until you’ve converted all your tables.
Convert Links
External links

Once again, we’ll use Find→Find by Formatting…, this time searching for “Web/File Link”. The dialog will look like this: Scrivener "Find by Formatting" dialog set up to search for external links Click “Next”, then for each link you find:

  1. Put square brackets around the link, and an empty pair of parentheses after it, like this: [Google it!]()
  2. Right-click or control-click on the link, and select “Copy Link”
  3. Paste the link into the parentheses. Your link should now look like: [Google it!](https://google.com)
  4. You can right-click on the link again (“Google it!” in my example) and select “Remove link” if you like.
  5. If you prefer reference-style links, that’s fine! But don’t set them up now. When we start syncing and editing with Ulysses, we’ll configure it to use reference links if you prefer, and these will be converted.
Internal links

Repeat the process for external links above, but this time search for “Document Link”. For each document link you find, insert an inline annotation (shift-command-A) at the beginning. It should look like this: Internal link tagged with an inline annotation Use whatever tag you like. (If it’s an obvious link like a table of contents link, you can skip this, but remember that without some sort of clue, you won’t be able to tell the difference between internal links and plain text in Ulysses.)

Convert Lists

Sadly, we can’t search for lists with the “Find by Formatting” command. Instead, we’ll search for tab characters. This may find a few things that aren’t lists. We’ll just skip them.

  1. You should already have your “compilable” documents selected from above. If not, please select them and place your cursor at the beginning of the Scrivenings view.
  2. Open the Edit→Find→Find… dialog. In the Find box, hold down the option key and type the tab key. You should see a blue right-arow “→” in the Find field.
  3. Click “Next” until you find a list. It should look something like this:
    ◆   Foobar
    
        ⁃   Foo
    
        ⁃   Bar
    
    ◆   Foobat
    
        ⁃   Foo
    
        ⁃   Bat
    
  4. Select the entire list and choose Format→Lists→None. The bullets or numbering will disappear.
  5. Remove the blank lines between items.
  6. Open your Inspector pane to the Snapshots panel and find the list to use as a guide. Using Markdown list syntax, recreate the list in the main editor as closely as you can, using hyphens instead of bullets, and simple numbers followed by periods for enumerated items.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 until you’ve converted all your lists.
Convert Images

Embedded images, images linked to image files within your project, and images that Scrivener linked to files outside your project—all are invisible in Ulysses, and can be accidentally deleted from your text simply by using Ulysses to edit the paragraph they’re in, like internal links. (You’ll have the means to fix this, never fear, but why deal with it if you don’t have to?) I’ll give you options so that Ulysses won’t touch your images.

  1. Once again, use Edit→Find→Find By Formatting… while you’re viewing a Scrivenings session of your compilable documents. This time, search for images.
  2. For each image you find:
    • Option 1: Put an inline annotation tag in front of it, just as you did for internal links. If you are willing to reinsert images from your snapshots if you accidentally edit their paragraphs with Ulysses, this is by far the fastest option.
    • Option 2: Create a Markdown image insertion for the image. This is much safer than Option 1. Ulysses will never mess with your image insertion unless you deliberately delete it.
  3. Right- or control-click on the image in Scrivener. If the popup menu has the item Save As Picture… in it, it’s an embedded image. Use the menu item and save the image to your hard drive, outside of any cloud drive. Do not save it to either Google Drive or iCloud Drive! The compiler will not be able to load it from there.
    Or
    If the popup menu has the item Reveal In Binder in it, it’s linked to an image that’s in the research area of your project. Go ahead and select Reveal In Binder, click on its revealed filename in the Binder, and use File→Export→Files… to save it as you would an embedded image, above.
    Or
    If the popup menu has the item Reveal In Finder, it’s an image already linked to an external image file and you need not save it.
  4. Navigate to the image in the Finder. Use the Reveal in Finder item in the popup menu, or navigate to where you just saved the image.
  5. Right- or control-click on the image in Finder.
  6. Hold down the option key. You should see an item in the popup menu that says, Copy “myimage.jpg” as Pathname.
  7. Continue to hold down the option key and select that menu item.
  8. Return to Scrivener. Delete the image, and type the Markdown syntax for an image insertion. Inside the parentheses, type “file://” and then paste your pathname from step 5. Your final image insertion should look something like ![](file:///Users/MyUserName/MyFolder/myimage.jpg)
Styled Text Cleanup

I’ve already suggested that you not style most of your text. Every time you edit a paragraph containing styles with Ulysses, you’ll need to reapply the formatting when you return to Scrivener if you want to retain it for compile. Do think critically about the styling you really need—Can you style this at compile time rather than in the text? Would it be easier to adjust the styling after compile? Do you really need both underlining and italics? Limit your styles to what you do need (I find I need blockquotes, attributions, and small caps occasionally in body text, and a few more styles in front and end matter—title pages, tables of contents, acknowledgments and the like.) Delete the others. Then follow these steps for each of the remaining styles:

  1. You should already have your “compilable” documents selected from above. If not, please select them and place your cursor at the beginning of the Scrivenings view.
  2. Once again, open the Edit→Find→Find by Formatting… dialog. This time, we’ll choose “Style” from the dropdown menu. For each style you have,
  3. Search for text with the style.
  4. Put an inline annotation with the name of the style at the beginning of each paragraph that contains the style.
Odds and Ends
  • If you have styles that include tabbed text, put them inside fenced code blocks, like this:1
    ```MyStyleName
    §This style   uses columns         separated
    §by tabs.      These are    sometimes useful
    §for things like manuscript       headers in
    §very old-     fashioned          submission
    §guidelines
    
    ```
    

    The problem is not that Ulysses will strip the style—of course it will, if you edit the paragraphs with Ulysses. No, it’s Scrivener’s MMD→RTF conversion that will strip out the tabs before compile. I’ve used section markers to show the lines that are styled. You must have an unstyled empty line before the closing fence.

  • I’ve given methods that don’t require any adjustment to the standard built-in compile formats. If you’re willing to edit compile formats, you can do all sorts of things—and you probably will. Some of the things I’ve set up:
    • Using Markdown tags to tag styles instead of inline annotations.
    • Colour-coding Scrivener styles to match colours I’ve set up in Ulysses for things like block quotes, header styles, and centred text.
    • Colouring text inside inline annotations in Ulysses to match the annotation colour in Scrivener.
    • If there’s any interest, I may do a blog post on this sort of advanced cross-formatting.
  • Image storage for Markdown: Using your own hard drive for image storage works perfectly well and will save you from slips of the keyboard. If you’d like to see your images while editing in iOS Ulysses (at least in preview mode) I’ve found you can store them two places:
    • On a website you control. Even a WordPress.com blog will do. Upload the images and use their URLs from your website in your image references.
    • On Dropbox. (NOT iCloud Drive. Sorry.) If you have Dropbox on your Mac, store the image somewhere in your Dropbox folder. Right click on the image file in Finder, and select “Copy Dropbox Link.” Use that link in your image references, but edit the link slightly: Change the dl=0 at the end of the link to dl=1. This will let Scrivener access the image for compile as well as giving you visibility in Ulysses preview mode on iOS.
  • Tag placement for italics and bold: Ulysses likes its bold and italics tags to be surrounded by whitespace, like this:
    … greeted me with a hearty _¡Hola, amigo!_
    Most of the time you can achieve this by simply including your punctuation inside your tags. But if you follow Chicago Manual of Style recommendation for dashes—em dashes are not set off by spaces—you may be in trouble if your italics/bold start right after your em-dash, as Ulysses will arbitrarily decide that of course you don’t want italics or bold to start in the middle of a word! And will put a helpful backslash in so that your italics or bold is messed up on compile.
    The easy way to get around this is to use CMS’s alternate recommendation of space-en dash-space. If you really want your em dashes, set up a compile substitution rule to convert space-en dash-space to em dash. (If you have no idea what the differences are among em dashes, en dashes, and hyphens, don’t worry about it. Just be aware that if your italics or bold don’t show up after compile, this peculiarity of Ulysses may be the reason. In Scrivener, search for a blackslash followed by an underscore or an asterisk to find and correct this problem.)

  1. You can do this for any Scrivener-styled paragraph that doesn’t have any Markdown inside. I like it; the styled paragraphs really stand out in Ulysses, and they’re easy to find in Scrivener even if the style is accidentally stripped. It’s just that for tabs to survive, you must use code blocks for styles incorporating tabs. 

Razer Hammerhead BT Headset Review #amwriting

I can’t imagine trying to get heavy writing done without a headset of some kind. I use headsets as distraction filters, hearing protectors, telephone speaking/listening devices, and occasional dictation devices. Sometimes I even use them to listen to music. I’ve reported before on how well gaming equipment suits my writing needs (The Gaming—Writing—Dictation Connection, Long, Cool Monitor). This little lurid-green-and-black beauty is my latest acquisition:

The Razer Hammerhead BT Headset

Razer Hammerhead BT Headset, $99.00 MSRP

My Summary:

Overall *****
Noise Isolation ****
Sound *****
Microphone ***
Setup ****
Comfort *****
Ease of Use ****
The (Really) Good:
  • The Razer Hammerhead BT has great sound by my standards.
    • I often attend live classical music concerts, so while I don’t insist on audiophile quality sound, I don’t care for artificially inflated bass either. This headset inflates the bass, but not enough to annoy; it only slightly inflates bass past compensating for the usual feeble bass of in-ear headsets. Otherwise, frequency response sounds pretty darn flat, which suits.
    • It sounds as good as my wired Audio-Technica ATH-ANC33iS headset with my iOS devices. The problems reported with BT headsets (lag, poor sound quality compared to wired) are not present.
    • It produces the best darn sound I’ve ever gotten out of my Mac. I’ve made the aptX codec active (see this article by John H. Darko for how) and the sparkling highs rival those of my old component stereo system. But even before I activated aptX it did as well as my A-T.
  • It does a similar job of noise isolation compared to my Audio-Technica headset. The Razer eliminates more high-pitched noise; the A-T is better on the droning low-pitched stuff (due to active noise cancellation.) (N.B. All comparisons of noise isolation were done with Comply foam eartips on each headset.)
  • The inline control unit contains the microphone, as customary. The unit is larger than usual, and easy to use. The microphone hangs naturally pointed at the user’s face. The controls works well with iOS and with MacOS.
  • It exceeds its advertised battery life of eight hours.
  • The Razer has a two year warranty! Even if there are durability issues I should be covered.
  • The flat ribbon wired connections among the components should be sturdier than the round wired connectors of my A-T.
  • Again, the machined aluminium earbud bodies should be sturdier than those made of plastic.
The Indifferent:
  • The Razer microphone. It performs well enough, but it’s neither particularly well suited nor poorly suited to dictation in noisy environments. It does OK for dictation in quiet environments. People I’ve been on voice calls with report decent call quality. I need not grab it and hold it in front of my mouth in order to be understood, as I did the A-T microphone. In short, it works well but not outstandingly so.
  • The magnetic shirt clip works well for thin fabric, but its grip is problematic on anything thicker than a t-shirt.
  • The silicone eartips are decent quality. Note that the double-flange eartips are only provided in size medium. If you have large or small ear canals, you won’t get the extra noise isolation of double-flanges with the provided eartips. (This doesn’t bother me as I replace manufacturer’s eartips with Comply foam eartips anyway.)
The Quirky:
  • Not only does the Hammerhead BT have two-tone green and black cables but also the earbuds’ logos slowly pulse with lurid green light (“breathing”) while in use. This, ah, feature can’t be turned off directly, from iOS, or from Mac. It might be controllable from Android or Windows—I have no way to check.
  • The knurled grips on the earbuds irritate some users’ ears, but I haven’t noticed any problem.
  • The provided carry case is huge for the size of the headset. Yes, it has a nice custom-moulded interior; nonetheless it’s more than twice the volume of the little case I used for my A-T headset.
  • The charging port is in the inline control rather than the transceiver/battery compartment. Strange.
Conclusions:

The Hammerhead BT delivers on low lag, noise isolation, and good sound. It should work well for mobile gaming, and it certainly serves my humble writing purposes. At $99 USD (MSRP), it’s comparable in price to the wired Audio-Technica noise-cancelling in-ear headset, and 30% less expensive than A-T’s in-ear Bluetooth model. It’s a third of the price of Bose noise-cancelling in-ear sets. With its two-year warranty, it’s a solid bargain.

A Warning About Counterfeits:

Several reviewers on Amazon report receiving counterfeit Razer headsets. The counterfeit headsets are flimsy and perform poorly. Needless to say, Razer won’t support them, and they can’t be registered for warranty. My suggestions:

  • Buy from Amazon directly—be sure that the product page says “Sold by and shipped from Amazon.com” when you buy. Avoid third-party sellers.
  • OR—Buy from Best Buy or other major brick-and-mortar retailer.
  • OR—Buy from the https://RAZER.com website.

And finally, register your warranty at http://razerzone.com/registration as soon as you receive your headset! The information you need is all on the outside of the box; you needn’t break the shrink wrap. If you can’t register it, then it’s likely counterfeit and you should return it for a refund ASAP (if you can).

“Distraction-Free” Writing Software v. ADHD #AmWriting #CampNaNoWriMo2016

Figure 1.Top: Scrivener Composition Mode Bottom: Ulysses Full Screen ModeIn these minimalist environments, I'm more likely to wander away or become hyperfocused.
Figure 1.
Top: Scrivener Composition Mode
Bottom: Ulysses Full Screen Mode
In these minimalist environments, I’m more likely to wander away or become hyperfocused.
I am ADHD. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean simply that I am noticeably more distraction-prone than most people — although that is certainly true.

What it means is that I can’t control my level of focus.

Think about that for a moment. It means that I can’t control whether my mind flits like a butterfly from — Oh, look! A squirrel! — subject to subject. Nor can I control whether I become “hyperfocused” and unable to break my focus on an activity. (Please note that hyperfocus is not the creative “flow” state that people talk about. I wish.)

There is no “medium-focus” state wherein I can choose what to focus on. This means that trying to protect myself from distraction is like a pig trying to sing. It wastes my time, and only results in me getting depressed when I compare my results to expected results.

Take a look at the Figure 1 above. Scrivener has its “distraction-free” Composition mode. Ulysses is ALL distraction-free mode. The theory of such a display is that all the “displacement” activities the author uses to avoid writing disappear and she has no other choice except to write.

I’ve tried it. My results:

  1. My brain throws a distraction. With no bright colors or flashing lights to hold me, I wander away and do something else. (90% probability.)
  2. I hyperfocus on my text so that I forget where I am, whether I need to go to the bathroom, and how this text is supposed to fit into my novel. (10% probability.)

Just looking at either screen induces panic. I’ll forget what I’m supposed to be doing, one way or the other — I know this as surely as I know the sun rises in the east. Hyperfocus is as deadly to my productivity as lack of focus.

Figure 2.With both my timeline and my project detail displayed, I have a better chance of staying in the neighborhood of my task.
Figure 2.
With both my timeline and my project detail displayed, I have a better chance of staying in the neighborhood of my task.
What I do is surround myself with distractions — positive distractions. A timer goes off to remind me — not to take a break, but to reassess what I’m doing — every twenty-five to thirty minutes. I surround myself with as much temptingly cluttered screen real estate as possible that’s related to my work in progress, so that when (not if) my brain throws a distraction, I am at least likely to be drawn to something writing-related. (See Figure 2.) I think of this not as distraction-filled but as target-rich. Then when the timer goes off, I can get back to writing. I never, never hide clocks or battery indicators — if I’m lucky I might notice them when I’m hyperfocused and they’ll bring me out of my trance.

Not that the timer always works. When I become hyperfocused sound seems to slide off my brain. If that happens, my only hope is that I notice that I need to go to the bathroom before my chair gets soggy…