43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Apple, Macs & OS X

MacWorld SF 06: What's not to miss?

My question to you: what's exciting on the show floor this year? Anything I shouldn't miss? Any exhibitors want to make a case to the Bay Area (and out-of-toen) geeks reading this? Beckon us unto your booth (and do feel free to offer free schwag and discounts to 43F Geeks in the bargain :)). NB: the usual admonitions on self-linking are lifted for this one -- provided they're tasteful and do indeed point to info on your exhibiting company (yes, I'll check).

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iCal hack to automatically add alarms

Groby Unplugged » Blog Archive » Making a better iCal

Robert Blum has come to my rescue with this handy little iCal hack -- it automatically adds an alarm to new events. It's currently hard-wired with a "one day before" alarm (happily, also my preferred default from Entourage), but Robert plans to add some flexibility in the 0.2 release next month.

(It still kind of amazes me that this feature isn't baked right in to iCal, but I'm wildly grateful to Groby for picking up the slack.)

My txt setup

The explications continue.

It's been a while since I talked about how I'm using text files, and my post a while ago on Quicksilver appending reminded me of a few little changes I've made over the past year or so that my fellow text geeks might find interesting.

Reviewing: Why text?

Like a lot of geeks and aspirational geeks, I do as many things as possible in plain text files. I've endlessly sung the praises of text on 43F, but in a nutshell, they're portable, efficient, tiny, and almost endlessly mungible. They're the lingua franca of Unix and most of the civilized world.

As you'll see, I use text files for any variety of things, although my favorite use is for making and maintaining lists. The aforementioned append functionality lets me quickly add items to any file with nothing but muscle memory and a few keystrokes. Best thing ever.

I also write in text files as well as store large amounts of reference information. Text is very easy to swap into HTML (I keep almost everything in Markdown format), and text is wonderfully searchable, whether using Spotlight, Find & Replace, or just via incremental search from within the editor.

Point being: I use applications like OmniOutliner, iCal, and (formerly) Entourage to organize the relationships between silos in my life; but text files are the living repositories for as much of the actual information as I can manage.

Getting a system

Like everything, this text system benefits from a loose organizational framework that lets me quickly create and change files without having to worry too much about what it's called, where it goes, and how I'll find it again. So here's a few high points from my text world.

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My kGTD setup

Related to today's earlier post, a number of people have written over the past few weeks with curiosity about kGTD ("Is it worth buying OmniOutliner Pro?" "Is it worth buying a Mac?" "Will I be able to vanquish all foes?"). While I'm not prepared to do a major sales presentation, I am happy to oblige the folks who wanted to see how I've set mine up. Also gives you a little window into my current contexts (as well as my atrocious personal habits).

Screenshot here (best viewed full size): comments and questions will be entertained.

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James Fallows on Mac thinking tools

Mac Programs That Come With Thinking Caps On - New York Times

_The Atlantic_'s James Fallows -- who also wrote one of my favorite pieces on The David -- has done a piece for the New York Times_ on the various "thinking tools" for the Mac. He covers all the goodies, including Devonthink, Tinderbox, Circus Ponies Notebook, AquaMinds NoteTaker, and my current steady date, OmniOutliner Pro (including a nice shoutout to Ethan's _amazing Kinkless GTD for OO).

These programs are of obvious interest to the Mac community, but the much larger community of non-Mac users also has good reason to keep an eye on them. Some are simply better than their current Word counterparts, illustrating features and approaches that PC users will want once they have seen them. The companies making two of the programs discussed here have announced forthcoming Windows versions.

Others may follow next year, when Apple Computer begins producing Macs based on Intel processing chips like those that PC's use. That change will make it easier for software vendors to create both Mac and PC versions of their programs; the introduction of the Mac mini, discussed here two months ago, makes it easier and more practical for users to switch back and forth between platforms.

[ Thanks, Brian Oberkirch ]

Quicksilver's Append: An updated appreciation + Robert's troubleshooter

Append to 2: Electric Boogaloo

The Quicksilver feature that will most dramatically change how you work is probably "Append to..." (or, when you prefer, "Prepend to..."). We first covered this back in the Bronze Age of 43F, and it's come up again repeatedly here, in the podcast, and elsewhere. And with good reason, I think. It's jaw-droppingly useful, and is the single best way I know of to ensure that "ubiquitous capture" can always occur without causing disruption or unnecessary modal change.

To review, for you new kids, Quicksilver, when properly configured (more on that in a minute), will let you add a line of text to any text file on your Mac. As long as it's included in a QS catalog someplace, you're a few fast keystrokes away from capturing your brilliant but ephemeral idea without stopping what you're doing. This is huge, in practice, believe me.

A few uses we have loved?

  • Got some great cookies at work today? Add "milk" to your "groceries.txt" file
  • Found a broken link in a disused site of yours? Append it to "urls to fix.txt"
  • Just had a great idea for Mom's Christmas gift? Add it to "mom xmas ideas.txt"
  • Found a great quotation you don't want to forget? Drop it in "quotes.txt"
  • Just suddenly remembered the name of the girl you had a crush on in kindergarten? That goes in "people to google.txt"
  • Finally thought of a great response to a flame you got? Acidly add it in "l'esprit descalier.txt"

As I said to the Tinderbox group on Saturday -- this approach is the most efficient way I know of to get it all down whenever you're at your Mac:

  • create receptacles for information you want to collect ("name of thing you're collecting.txt")
  • get fast at learning how to Append via Quicksilver
    • It should be pure muscle memory
    • Consider adding QS keyboard triggers for appending to your five most used lists
  • review your collections periodically as needed (daily for "groceries," annually for "good names for notional Marx Brothers")
  • continue through life never worried you're missing something good

This is all partly in the service of bubbling up (and lovingly rehashing) something I adore, but it's also to share some very useful advice from the de facto Vice President of 43 Folders, Mr. Robert Daeley. As Robert notes, there are several problems that can cause QS to barf on your append functionality. Tracking down the exact cause has sometimes driven friends of 43F to the brink -- so much did they crave the Power of Append.

Well, friends, Robert has come to the rescue with this handy guide to finding what the hell is wrong with your setup. Many thanks to him.

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Yahoo! Music Mac Dis

Yahoo! Music Mac Dis
Originally uploaded by Michael Ferguson.

Mr. Ferguson turns up what has to be my favorite Mac nastygram in a while.

You Fiona Apple fans with one of those useless "modern" browsers can pick up a copy of this 8-year-old long-abandoned dinosaur over here.

May I also recommend grabbing an "I like Ike" pin, a T'pau cassingle, and possibly an "Ayatollah Assaholla" t-shirt?

(Try your luck with Yahoo! starting here.)

Update 2005-11-18 15:40:00

Ari wrote:

The Yahoo! music service is indeed stuck in the dark ages with respect to Mac support. Fortunately, there's a Greasemonkey script called pkLaunch that lets Firefox users open these videos in an external program -- even if they're on a Mac or Linux. The script is updated frequently, which is an unfortunate necessity, since Yahoo! constantly changes things to try to break it.

Thanks, Ari.

Faking fullscreen mode on your Mac

Faking Fullscreen Mode

I forget where, but someone once mentioned that you could probably emulate fullscreen mode in most OS X apps by using the "Universal Access" PreferencePane (if I'm stealing this idea from you uncredited, send the link and I'll correct the error with my thanks).

Anyhow, this rules. Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty fast to set up, and if you're as easily distracted as I am, it's a handy way to minimize distractions and force yourself into focusing on just one thing.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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