Sunday, February 28, 2010

Simple AhK Script for Simplenote and ConnectedText

This script will paste the contents of a Simplenote entry into ConnectedText. It's still raw, but it works.

^p::
clipboard =
SendInput ^c
Clipwait
clipboard=%clipboard%
WinActivate, ConnectedText
SendInput !t
SendInput %clipboard%`n
SendInput {PgUp}{Del}
IfWinActive, Confirmation
   return
else
   SendInput !e
   return
return

Just select the note (with title) and press CTRL-p. It will activate ConnectedText and paste a topic with the same name as the Simplenote topic. If a topic with that name already exists, it does nothing. (I'll fix that later.)

It works from both the Simplenote Website and the Chrome Plugin (and both from the note view and the editor).

Simplenote and Chrome

As I said in one of my earlier posts, I bought an iTouch. The main reason was that I am doing research and some writing in a library which is not as quiet as I would like it to be. Listening to music seems preferable to listening to students work on their papers.

This is, however, not the only thing the iTouch is good for. Among other things, I can also read the New York Times on the Subway. The Stanza reader is also useful. Since buying the device, I have also read Thomas Mann and Oscar Wilde.

While the iTouch is not designed for note-taking, it works tolerably well in a pinch. The only trouble is how to get the Notes from the device into a PC. At first, I thought that Evernote was the ticket. It allows synchronization of the iTouch and the PC by way of its Website. It is, however, much more than I need (and the interface just does not click with me).

Meanwhile, I have found another setup that for now seems to be preferable. It's the combination of Simplenote, Chrome, and the Simplenote Chrome extension. Both the Simplenote application on the iTouch and the Simplenote extension on Chrome synchronize with the Simplenote Website. You can easily add, edit, or remove content on either the iTouch or Chrome. You can, of course, also do this on the Simplenote Website.


The beauty of the browser extension is that you have all the notes you made always available and thus can copy and paste them into a desktop application for permanent storage (which, in my case, is ConnectedText). This bridges the divide between the Mac and the PC. The setup is so efficient and so beautifully implemented that I will switch from Firefox to Chrome just for this reason. A further benefit is the speed of Chrome. [1]

I should perhaps also point out that there is a version of Chrome for OS X.

1. For an interesting report on Chrome, see here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

WikiCreole

There is a project that has the creation a standard wiki markup language as its goal. It's called WikiCreole.

It's essentially completed. Here is the markup:


I don't know how important such a standard is. In any case, it's easy enough to transform ConnectedText's markup into WikiCreole. Indeed, most of ConnectedText's markup is identical with it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Going Minimalist

Here is another post on Notational Velocity (and Writeroom) by Douglas Barone. On the same blog, you also find interesting ideas about a File System Infobase Manager, some of which might be implemented in other note-taking setups as well.[1] The latest post sings the praises of "going minimalist."

It's too minimalist for me, even though I just did a very foolish thing: I bought an iTouch and am experimenting with Evernote as a "universal inbox." I am in the process of revising my earlier views on the wisdom of keeping such an inbox on the Web.

But this change of mind does not mean that I am "going minimalist" myself ... Still, ... take a look at this:


1. See also the earlier post on Lo-Fi, in which I referred to this approach already.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Notational Velocity and Nottingham

Notational Velocity is a simple, perhaps even simple-minded, application for note-taking. In Mac-speak that's called "elegant." It has three panes, one to type in a search term, one to show some headings of notes, and the last for the note itself. It saves information in text format (which can be encrypted) and it has incremental search. That's it.

The program is like a card index without systematic order. Indeed, without any order at all. The chaos of notes can be navigated only by searching or browsing.

It's Amish computing or "software minimalism" at its most radical and therefore can count on a loyal congregation of the faithful and a steady trickle of curious CRIMPERS who might like the idea (but usually will soon abandon it again for what appears as greener pastures).

Nottingham, a clone of Notational Velocity, added syncing to the iPhone using Simplenote, Spotlight integration, Evernote import, and Markdown previews. It also changed the note pane to look like a yellow pad.


The most recent version of Notational Velocity follows suit and adds "native" synchronization with Simplenote, or via files with WriteRoom for iPhone and Dropbox.

Notational Velocity is freeware. Nottingham is shareware ($14.95).

There is nothing quite as elegant for the Windows platform, unless you count the freeware application Scrapbook.[1] It has only two panes, but it sports a menu and toolbar. They are really not needed, as almost everything can be done by keyboard. The search opens a second window. Perhaps the developer, Eric Nitzsche, can be persuaded to make it look and feel even more like these two very elegant programs :).

1. See the comments for a reference to the older version of Notational Velocity.
Friday, October 29, 2010: Resophnotes is at least as elegant and available for Windows. See here. It's now at version 1.1.5.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wiki Markup to Rtf

It is actually fairly easy to reformat basic Wiki Markup to to basic rtf with AhK. Here is a script that does this for ConnectedText:

F10 & q:: ;Footnotes to Rtf
clipboard :=
Send ^c
ClipWait
clipboard = %clipboard%

StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, %A_SPACE%`/`/, %A_SPACE%`{`\i%A_SPACE%, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, %A_SPACE%`(`/`/, %A_SPACE%`{`\i%A_SPACE%, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/%A_SPACE%, `}%A_SPACE%, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`,, `}`,, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`., `}`., All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`;, `}`;, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`:, `}`:, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`?, `}`?, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`!, `}`!, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`), `}`), All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`], `}`], All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`', `}`', All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`", `}`", All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `/`/`n`r, `}`n`r, All

StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, %A_SPACE%`*`*, %A_SPACE%`{`\b%A_SPACE%, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*%A_SPACE%, }%A_SPACE%, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`.,`}`., All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`,,`}`,, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`;,`}`;, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`:,`}`:, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`?,`}`?, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`!,`}`!, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`),`}`), All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`],`}`], All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`',`}`', All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`",`}`", All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `*`*`n`r, `}`n`r, All


StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `n`r, `\par, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `[`!, \chftn{\footnote \pard\plain \s246 \fs20 {\up6\chftn}, All
StringReplace, clipboard, clipboard, `!`], }, All
Run, Notepad.exe
Winwait, Untitled - Notepad
SendInput ^v
Sleep, 900
Send ^{Home}
SendRaw `{`\rtf1`\ansi`{`\fonttbl`\f0`\fswiss Helvetica;`}`\f0`\pard
Send {Enter}
Send ^{End}
Send {Enter}
SendRaw }
return


Instructions: Select the passage you want to convert; press F10 and Q at the same time. Notepad will open and the conversion will start. Once the conversion finished, save the file with the name of your choice, using the rtf extension. Open it in your word processor.

What it does: It translates italics to italics and bold to bold. It will also translate ConnectedText's footnotes to footnotes in rtf.

I have tested it with Atlantis. It works.

It would, of course, be possible to translate other formatting as well, but I don't need much more, so I have not implemented it. It should also be easy to adapt the script to other Wiki Markup. But I don't know of any personal wiki application that implements footnotes as well as ConnectedText which is one of the many reasons why I use it.

For information on the rtf file format, go to Rich Text Format and scroll to the bottom where the links to the different versions are.

Are Word Processors Stupid and Inefficient?

In this old but apparently still popular paper, Allin Cottrell Allin Cottrell argues that a word processor is a "stupid and grossly inefficient tool for preparing text for communication with others." The main argument is that "preparing printable text using a word processor effectively forces you to conflate two tasks that are conceptually distinct and that, to ensure that people's time is used most effectively and that the final communication is most effective, ought also to be kept practically distinct." In other words, WYSIWYG is "evil."

Instead, the author argues that we should all use TeX and that it would be best to use it with Emacs. If you use Unix or Linux, this approach might end up looking roughly this way:


I am not sure this is the way to go. TeX is not for the faint-of heart. Indeed, the conceptual overhead of TeX, or perhaps better: the amount of time you will have to invest in learning and maintaining the skill you need, will for most people rival the amount of time spent in uselessly formatting documents in a common word processor. Of course, if you have to work with complicated mathematical or logical formulae, you might hav to use it. But for most of us, it would be overkill.

It seems to me that a better way to go is to use a light-weight lightweight markup language, like Markdown or ReStructuredText. Scrivener, for instance, uses a version of Markdown called MultiMarkdown. Another approach would be to some kind of Wiki Markup—which, of course, is precisely what I do.

This is a middle way between using a fancy word processor, like Microsof Word, and Amish Computing or Lo-Fi writing.

In the end, however, you will end up submitting your work in "rtf" or "doc" format anyway. You don't have to use MsWord, however. I use Atlantis which allows you to save your files in a variety of formats, icluding rtf, doc, and even docx and OpenDocument (ODF) format. It does both footnotes and endnotes in the same document, something which MsWord has never been able to do.

What is really needed, I think, is the capability of easily transforming documents written in some kind of markup language to rtf or other word processing formats. Scrivener has these features, and that makes it most interesting in my view, not the fancy-schmantzy index card metaphor and the lame outliner.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Turn Old Notes into Toilet Paper

Look at this! Perhaps a bit expensive for personal use ... but what about the office or the university?

Seems better than the recycling bins—at least to me.

No further comment!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Trunk Notes

Trunk Notes is a personal wiki for the iPod Touch. See here and here . It can be bought for $3.99, if you have an iTunes account.[1]

It uses MarkDown for formatting. One thing I don't like about it is that it uses only WikiWords (i.e. CamelBack spelling, or two capital letters in a word, or in their lingo: "A WikiWord is two or more words squashed together with each word beginning with a capital letter"). The other is that I don't use an iPod, even though I have been tempted more than once to buy one. :)

Given the recent move by apple to restrict the iPod even more by forcing a software developer to remove USB support from its Stanza reader, I am inclined to resist temptation even more.[2] Why would I want a device that is ever more tightly controlled by a company that tells its "customers" how they can and cannot use a device I have paid good money for? The very concept of a device that needs "jailbreaking" to make it freely usable seems very Orwellian to me.

1. See also MyWiki, which needs an iPhone (by which I was never even tempted :)).

2. Even more unsettling is that the developers could not discuss the reasons for having to remove USB support because they were strictly "forbidden from discussing the specifics of [their] conversations with Apple on this matter".