Category: Link

nvUltra

A successor to nvALT, you say?

The biggest difference is that it works with multiple folders and sub-folders. You pick a folder, it indexes it, and you can use it just like nvALT. But then you can open another folder, or create a new one and start editing. It allows you to create folders anywhere, maybe one on Dropbox or iCloud Drive that’s shared, one on an encrypted disk that’s private, one for work, one for home, one for every writing project. You’re not limited to tags (though you can search by and sync with macOS tags within the app), and you can sort your notes into subfolders as well.

nvALT is one of those tools that’s not as polished on the UI front as, say, Bear or Ulysses — but it’s so fast that I still use it for note-taking (especially when hooked up to another editor like Byword for writing longer notes). Speed is a big part of UX.

Robin Rendle on Blogging with Eleventy

Robin Rendle boils it down in his post, “Eleventy and Netlify”:

What do I need now? Well, I just need a box to type markdown in and a button to publish it.

Robin’s journey reflects a lot of how I’m approaching the future of this blog. I’ve basically narrowed it down to three broad choices:

Of those three choices I was initially most excited about using Gatsby, mostly because I find the component model of React to be helpful (in some cases). Gatsby has been iterating at a very fast pace, however, and I find that it’s always been a struggle to keep up with the tooling.

Eleventy feels like a more narrowly-focused option, and I like that (thus the quote from Robin above). I’m going to dig into it some more (I particularly have some questions on how search would work) but I was glad to see Robin documenting his decision-making process, as well as his journey through his new blog infrastructure.

Upgrading From an iPhone SE to an XR

Michael Tsai (whose SpamSieve I used for a very long time) writes about his experience going from an iPhone SE to one of the newer iPhones. I currently use an SE, and this paragraph on the tradeoffs between physical size and screen space is particularly relevant:

I wasn’t sure whether I would like the size of the screen. With the iPhone SE, I could easily reach everything with one hand, and this wasn’t the case even with an iPhone 6s. The iPhone XR is quite a bit larger. In fact, I found that it’s so large that I hold and use it in a different—unapologetically two-handed—way, and the adjustment has been easy. Being able to see so much at once is an incredible advantage. I’ve long known this on the Mac, where I’ve always tried to get as much screen space as possible. But, in a way, it’s more true on the phone because it’s so cramped to begin with. Modern iOS and apps are less information dense than before, and they no longer seem to be optimized for 4-inch displays like when that was the flagship size. I miss those days, but at this point I don’t think even a new small phone would bring them back.

FWIW: I shifted from Android back to iOS to return to a smaller form factor, and that very same year Apple released the iPhone 6, inaugurating a new “standard” size for the iPhone. I am doubtful that we’ll see an update to the SE-class size.

But perhaps that isn’t something to mourn too deeply. As Om Malik notes while surveying the advent of foldable phones:

We have gone from voice to app-centric form factors. The next form factor will be multi-modal and very visual. A device that marries a wearable, a pocketable and a hearable could become the catalyst of the next shift. Let’s use Apple as an example. Imagine an Apple Watch, AirPods, and augmented reality (AR) glasses married to a phone serving as an edge server. That could be the next form factor, and who knows if we would even need the intermediate device.

Jon Hicks on Using an iPad Pro

In his post “Using the iPad Pro as my main computer” Jon Hicks writes:

The iPad Pro wouldn’t have had any attraction for me if it wasn’t for the Pencil – it’s all about this ‘new’ input method. It feels just right. With a keyboard and mouse my hands are rested and fairly static, but something about designing on the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil and gestures feels a bit like how the graphic design process was when I first started in industry. The Pencil could be a scalpel, chinagraph pencil or Rotring Pen, the iPad surface a paste-up board or draughtsmans table.

Jon captures a lot of what I love about using the iPad Pro (I had a set of Rotring drafting pens growing up, a gift from my folks when they noticed how much I loved to draw.) 

For me it’s not about replacing everything I do with my laptop — it’s more that for certain things (sketching/illustration, editing photos) the iPad + Pencil works so much better than a mouse (or trackpad)-driven solution. I often say that I think of the iPad as the accessory to my Pencil, not the other way around.

Ethan Marcotte’s Career Advice

Ethan Marcotte with some succinct, evergreen advice:

Set up a blog somewhere, anywhere, and write as much as you can. If I’m in a position to hire you, I don’t just want to see the quality of your final mockup, your finished set of templates: I want to learn how you got there. I want to read what worked, what didn’t, and the decisions you made along the way.

Ethan said in three-ish sentences what took me an entire column to say.

Robin Rendle on RSS

Robin Rendle has a nice piece on RSS, reading, and writing on the web1. Robin covers some of the ways RSS helped writers find community, and writes about the current state of the RSS ecosystem. He also writes about the benefits to publishing on your own site instead of a platform:

Folks now seem to recognize the value of having your own little plot of land on the web and, although it’s still pretty complex to make your own website and control all that content, it’s worth it in the long run. No one can run ads against your thing. No one can mess with the styles. No one can censor or sunset your writing.

That brought to mind a short blog post from a few years ago by Frank Chimero, “Homesteading”. The original is no longer linked on his site, but Internet Archive has a snapshot. Frank writes:

I’m returning to a personal site, which flips everything on its head. Rather than teasing things apart into silos, I can fuse together different kinds of content. Instead of having fewer sections to attend to distracted and busy individuals, I’ll add more (and hopefully introduce some friction, complexity, and depth) to reward those who want to invest their time. I won’t use analytics—actually, I won’t measure at all. What would I do with that data anyway? In this case, it’s just more noise. The singular thread that runs through everything is only “because I like it.”

I’ve found it useful to have a little of both as part of my daily reading: it’s nice to interact with folks on-the-fly via Twitter, but that’s a different mode than the leisurely exploration of a personal site that feels akin to browsing someone’s bookshelf and sensing the history behind each item. My own RSS habits took a dip a few years ago as my Twitter use peaked, but lately I find myself drawn more and more to RSS, a quieter space that seems to give a better return for my time.


  1. It seems wholly appropriate that I ended up reading Robin’s post because of RSS — I had missed it in the Twitter stream, but I subscribe to Susan J. Robertson’s RSS feed, and she linked to it a few days ago. (I realized that I only followed Robin on Twitter, not via RSS. That’s all fixed now.)