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.


These are posts about Quicksilver, which is a Mac OS X application launcher that also lets you build “functional sentences” on your Mac. Consider starting with an intro video.

Kinkless GTD .83: Enhances Quicksilver and iCal integration, much more

Kinkless GTD 0.83 [Relative Motion] | Kinkless

The wait is over, kids. Ethan Schoonover has just released his .83 version of Kinkless GTD, and, brother, does it ever bring it. (For an intro to what kGTD is, start here, then go here and of course, here.)

So, first great thing: the syncing problems people (including me) were having -- getting changes in Action views and iCal to get reflected correctly back in Projects view -- has been fixed most elegantly. So it's just a lot more usable and dependable right out of the box. But that ain't all E's been cooking up. Among the trove of new and updated features (cribbed from Ethan):

  • Everything syncs: all changes to all columns are now synchronized across all views of a task (Projects/Actions/iCal)
  • Deletions now handled with the good old delete key on your keyboard
  • Singleton tasks section, now a full citizen
  • Better QS action… and fancy “task shorthand” to make it easy to send a task to a specific context/project
  • Task aging

Visit the kGTD .83 release page for full details

Ethan, as ever, has done a terrific screencast explaining how the app works -- DO NOT MISS the video if you aren't "getting" kGTD, because it's super useful in showing exactly how it works -- plus I'm sure there will be lots of lively discussion over on the kGTD forum, so for today I'll just focus on my favorite improved feature: what Ethan calls "fancy “task shorthand.'"

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Transmit: Editing on a remote server

For a while now, Transmit -- my hands-down choice for all things FTP -- has had a feature that I adore, which is the ability to edit text files from a remote server directly in the local Mac editor of my choice (in my case, that's the very swell TextMate. This little bit of wizardry makes it really easy to quickly fix code, tweak style sheets, or correct spelling without that nightmarish 90s ritual of the re-re-re-re-reupload (which is particularly painful when you're working on a live application).

Well, heck. I just figured out that the latest version of Transmit takes this to a another (yes! yet! another!) level by letting you edit images on a remote server. I just opened a .png in Photoshop and saw the saved results immediately appear on the live box. Disco.

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5 handy Quicksilver triggers

Quicksilver triggers might seem like one more enigma inside of a riddle from the mind of our mysterious benefactor, Alc0r. Although writing documentation appears to be Alc0r's only kryptonite, triggers are actually pretty well described on the Blacktree wiki. Still, it feels like relatively few people I encounter are using them (most of my friends don't seem to even realize they exist). Since triggers have already been nicely introduced in some detail by Dan, I won't duplicate his efforts.

So, what's a trigger and why do I care?

Simply put, triggers let you associate a custom key combination or mouse gesture with any command you'd otherwise access via conventional methods in Quicksilver's paned interface. Once recorded, these triggers can be invoked any time manually or even programmatically (like, by a QS timer or a logical "when THIS happens"-type event).

This, as I've said before, is just huge. QS already gives you instant access to virtually any corner of your Mac with a couple keystrokes; but attaching that power to an intuitive keyboard command just takes things to another (yes! yet! another!) level.

I'll talk about mouse triggers a bit more in a future post, but for now, in the interest of spreading the word on this under-utilized piece of genius, here are a few ways I'm using keyboard triggers to control my Quicksilver world.

(A small favor: please thoroughly read the trigger documentation and Dan's post before asking for help with Trigger setup)

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"Send to Quicksilver" returns in 10.4.4

I was doing a little demo of Quicksilver for a few folks at Search Champs last week, when a truly amazing and life-giving thing happened: I realized that one of my favorite features of Quicksilver -- cruelly torn away by a heartless Tiger upgrade a few months back -- has returned following the 10.4.4 update. Best. Day. Ever.

For those of you who haven't seen The Light, you can now (again) select virtually any kind of thing on your Mac -- including text strings, URLs, Finder selections and so on -- and "send" it to Quicksilver by hitting "CMD-Escape". On the face of it, this sounds like a fairly modest functional addition, but, dang, is it ever powerful in practice. It's the primary and easiest way to pass virtually anything into Quicksilver, from where you can then do -- well -- practically anything, as we've seen.

For me this means I can type a bunch of crap in any old text file, select it, hit CMD-Escape (thus passing it off to the first pane in QS) and then TAB to "Prepend to... > 5ives_ideas.txt". Yet another way to push your information into interesting places without ever leaving what you're doing.

Now, it's also worth mentioning that, with the versatility of Proxy Objects, you can do the same thing from within Quicksilver. Get your head around ideas like "Finder Selection," "Current Web Page," and "Selected iTunes Album" and you start to see even more ways to quickly get where you need to be without breaking a sweat.

The more you use and explore Quicksilver, the more you see how its sticky little tendrils can be extended into nearly every corner of your Mac world. And if you missed Dan's excellent overview of the many new Quicksilver features that have sprung up in the last little while, do yourself a favor, and check it out. You may be amazed what all's hiding under Quicksilver's hood these days.

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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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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KGTD keeps getting better

Kinkless (Home)
Kinkless GTD 0.69 [Salt Water] (Download)

KGTD & QuicksilverYesterday afternoon at about 15:00 Pacific standard time, I realized that I officially had way too much going on. Too many scattered low-depth projects, countless "waiting ons," and a situation where seemingly infinite scintillas of work here and there were needed to keep two dozen plates spinning. It almost makes me understand what it's like for you people with jobs. Almost.

I'd already been meaning to have another look at the Omni Outliner-based Kinkless GTD, which -- after my heartfelt infatuation a month ago -- fell off my radar screen in a frenzy of air traffic that sent me into Extreme Tool-Reduction Mode™. Yesterday I realized the time was right and that KGTD would be perfect for this particular blizzard. Well, jeez Louise: I returned to find an already amazing project had actually gotten much better. I mean, damn, man.

The marquee feature for us Quicksilver flying monkeys is the addition of an Applescript for adding to a KGTD inbox from anywhere. I swear by these sorts of scripts (and currently use about 7 of them to generate Category-based Tasks in Entourage). Note that in the image above, you're seeing where I've created a Quicksilver trigger (F8) for the script plus its action via "KGTD Inbox > Process Text..." For what it's worth, this is a bit like putting your steroids on steroids.

The QS stuff alone is worth a look, because it frees you from the agony of the modal change, but I'm also intrigued by a bunch of other little finials in the latest editions:

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43F Podcast: A Phone Made of Human Ass

A Phone Made of Human Ass (mp3)

43folders.com - Everything--including this piece of crap phone--will eventually break. Prepare yourself by capturing what you want to be different next time. (3:55)

Rated...mmm...let's say "PG-13." Listen over at Odeo, and see a photo of the assy phone for yourself.

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Decision-making: Using Quicksilver to run long-term PMIs

I've mentioned before how much I dig the PMI tool for helping to make decisions. In a nutshell, it's a granular way to quantify all the likely good and bad things about a given decision, as well as the implications of making the change.

Typically you'd do a PMI at a sitting within a tabular program like Excel, and that's probably still the easiest and fastest way. But let's say there are things you just want to ruminate on for an indeterminate amount of time--low-impact changes that would still benefit from a large data set. You might try what I've started doing with Quicksilver and the mighty "Append to text file" command.

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David Allen: Handy lists to maintain

David Allen’s suggestions for lists that are handy to keep around.

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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