Tag Archives: tips

Write a post on your TV

I can comfortably write in Simplenote, WordPress, or Day One apps on our TV. If I don’t want my laptop on my lap, or my iPhone in my hands, this is another option.

I starting writing instructions, but realized Apple has solid support documents. :)

  • About AirPlay Mirroring in OS X — AirPlay Mirroring lets you send what’s on your Mac screen to an HDTV wirelessly with Apple TV.
  • iOS: Use AirPlay Mirroring — You can use AirPlay Mirroring to mirror exactly what’s on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to your HDTV via Apple TV.
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Where I profess my love for Alfred

Alfred is one of my besties. Without needing to reach for my trackpad, I have so many cool activities available from my keyboard, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t dug into all of its features. Most of these are work related.

Alfred usage 2014-04-23

Forty custom searches helps speed my workflow. A few dozen snippets, such as:

  • pre–defined replies, some with dynamic placeholders to be substituted for a URL
  • my home address
  • email addresses
  • frequent usernames and URLs; the latter used when replying to site owners at work
  • email signatures (personal and work)
  • ASCII art

Handy calculator. Blazing fast file navigator (I rarely use Finder). A custom workflow that opens my work applications with a single keyword. Several other nifty workflows from talented, determined people. System commands, like Sleep, Shut Down, Empty Trash, or Quit All Applications.

Display large text across your screen so you can share with someone across the room — and everyone in between. (Command-L, or Command-Option-L to display a phone number rather than a calculation.)

Most importantly, instead of using Google to check spelling:

Why do you love Alfred? I’d love your suggestions — please leave a comment!

Write The Docs EU — Christine Burwinkle — Pairing with designers to create a seamless user experience

I’m at Write The Docs EU today in Budapest and will post semi–unpolished notes from sessions throughout the day after each talk finishes.

Christine is a tech writer from Atlassian, who is best known for Jira and Confluence.

  • Went from five to thirty designers in the last two years.
  • Goal: Help casual users, too!
  • Ten tech writers, 400 developers.

Techniques borrowed from designers are used for their writing.

Three main design principles (printed and framed, hanging on their office wall):

  1. Be familiar
  2. Grow with me (help users become power users)
  3. Give me clarity

Aside: Android UX principle is her personal favorite.

Audience/Personas — they printed them everywhere.

Designers took a year–long project:

  1. What role is a feature targeting.
  2. What is assumed skills/background
  3. How do

Leverage data from designers to help them craft better documentation.

Measure success by piggybacking:

  • Usability testing to determine if they need documentation, and publishing FAQs (if necessary).
  • Analytics results.

Diving into borrowing design techniques

Workshopping example: Empathy maps (to bring focus to the user)

  • Better understand their feelings “before and after” a situation
  • Work backwards from the “after” situation to create an ideal state, and empower users.

They’re huge fans of Post–Its:

  • Easy to move ideas around.
  • Excellent for separate collaboration and brainstorming.
  • Inexpensive, mobile, and fun!

Workshopping example: Sparring sessions

  • Critique session to bring group thinking into design and planning.
  • Confirms if goals are met with the prototype.

Sparring with TWs (technical writers)

Before the session, TW sends:

  • Draft to discuss
  • List of goals in the document

Superb sparring session tips

  • Timebox!
  • If your team is given to negativity, try positives–only for five minutes. Fantastic idea!
  • Make sure everyone is heard. Use a checklist, or give everyone one minute to list feedback.
  • Leave with at least three action items.

Workshopping example: 6–ups

  • Divide a sheet into six parts.
  • Focuses on ideal solutions.
  • Gets out of thinking in words. (Draw!)
  • Great method to build on ideas from colleagues.

Workshopping example: User stories

  • How does a user get to a feature? Is it controlled? From many different areas with different goals?
  • What does a user do before? What do they (usually) do next?
  • If they fall out of line in the process, documentation is needed for additional context.
  • Lo–Fi: Use colored stickers to “vote”, then build the document plan based on problem areas.
  • Australian slang: “Doco” is short for documentation. :)

Finding the right projects — look for:

  • A team that finds value in design and tech writing.
  • A designer who sees value in the docs
  • A new project that’s running lean and has some momentum.
  • Look for projects that are data–driven.

Explore and expand

  • Read design principles and techniques.
  • Follow UX blogs.
  • Write a documentation experience plan.

View an article with Instapaper Text only using the keyboard

As a happy, longtime Instapaper user, I need the Instapaper Text bookmarklet often when settling in for a lengthy read on my MacBook Air.

I’d like to share a tip that’ll save time of switching to your mouse or trackpad.

When the bookmarklet is saved to your browser, you can use it with the page you’re viewing by following these steps:

  1. Move your cursor to the address (a.k.a. location) bar by pressing Command + L.1
  2. Type the first few letters of the bookmarklet name (or the whole thing if you type quickly).
  3. Press Enter.

If you use folders in Instapaper2, you can take this a step further by saving the bookmarklet for those folders as well.


  1. Mac: Works with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari
  2. Pro tip. If you send saved articles from Instapaper to your Kindle, don’t mix text articles with media so those particular entries aren’t wasting space in that periodical (Amazon’s term, not mine). I have video, audio, and photo folders as well. 

Caveat when upgrading from Google Authenticator 2.0.0 to 2.0.1 (iOS)

If you upgraded to Google Authenticator 2.0.0 (see my last post) and recreated all your account tokens, I’d like to warn you.

Your old account tokens will be restored. This means it’ll be difficult to determine which ones are current.

Solution: Rename your current accounts before upgrading from 2.0.0 to 2.0.1 with these steps:

  1. Tap the pencil icon located at the top right corner.
  2. Tap on the name of each field to edit.
  3. When you’re done, tap the check mark located at the top right corner.

Google Authenticator 2.0.1 - Edit Step 1 Google Authenticator 2.0.1 - Edit Step 2

After you upgrade, you can confirm the new tokens still work, then delete the old ones.

My thoughts on NMX BlogWorld 2013

Brett Kelly and Bryan Villarin

Almost one month has passed and I’d say it’s a good time to share my meager notes of my experience at NMX BlogWorld 2013 in Las Vegas.

  • If you aren’t able to help a visitor with their super–specific question(s), give at least one takeaway so they don’t leave empty–handed. For example, someone’s blog was focused on browsing sites securely, and an Incognito window with Google Chrome was new to them. That was nifty.
  • For the most part, most attendees are shy. If someone glances in your direction, and they’re a few feet from your booth, introduce yourself or say “hello”. You never know.
  • WiFi will not work consistently.
  • Keep your laptop and phone charged.
  • Save a few relevant Twitter searches for the event/conference.
  • Bring business cards. I didn’t, and I won’t make that mistake again.
  • Carry a couple pens and pocket notebook.
  • After seeing a panel of speakers, open your notebook and write for 5–10 minutes about anything that comes to mind. Do the same thing at the end of the day. (This is also useful for everyday life.)

I also met Brett Kelly for the first time ever in real life and we took a photo. He’s super cool. (He spoke at “Productivity Power Panel: Learn the Tools, Tactics, & Workflows of Highly Productive Bloggers”, and I’ll post my notes from that separately.)

Overall, I had a great time working at the WordPress Happiness Bar in the exhibitors’ area with several other fine Automatticians, and I look forward to more opportunities like this in the future.

Link

Shortly after OS X Mountain Lion was released, James — or J–Huff, as I’d like to call him — let me know that I should give Mail another try. (I’m a longtime Mozilla Thunderbird user.) While I don’t have a HiDPI (retina) laptop, he said I would settle into Mail just fine, and will wonder why I ever used Thunderbird.

While getting accustomed to Mail, I tried to figure out a way for a keyboard shortcut to move selected messages to a folder I designate. (Reason: Mail uses a default “Archive” folder that I can’t change like my Drafts, Sent, Trash, or Junk folder. I previously setup an “Archives” folder.)

So, I’m really glad I stumbled onto Matt Gemmell’s post, “Favorite Mailboxes in Lion Mail”. I now have keyboard shortcuts to move one or more messages to any of these folders very quickly:

  • Inbox (Command-Control–1)
  • Archives (Command-Control–2)
  • Automattic (Command-Control–3)
  • @Action (Command-Control–4)

By the way, the reason why I used Thunderbird because it’s open source, and I could switch easily from Eudora. Isn’t that a blast from the past?

If you have any other Mail tips, please leave a link in the comments. Thanks!

Drag and drop files easily with Expose and screen corners [OS X]

The other day, Lifehacker posted about Yoink, which "[acts] as a Middleman for Dragged and Dropped Files, Is a Life Saver on Small Screens". Since I have an 11-inch MacBook Air, I’ve already found a workaround that doesn’t require additional software. Note: I’m still using OS X Snow Leopard.

  1. Go to System Preferences > Expose & Spaces.
  2. Under Active Screen Corners, set one or two corners as All Windows. (I have the two right corners set for All Windows, and the bottom left for Desktop.)

With the source and destination Finder windows open, drag the file(s) to one of the active screen corners, hover over the source folder, then drop onto the active window.

P.S. Hi everybody. I’m geeking out, and I’m okay with it.

Pronto writing in six steps

I don’t like hand writing as much as typing simply because I’m a slow writer. The faster I write, the less legible my words become.

It’s incredibly easy to get going with a MacBook Air (Oct 2010), especially since it wakes up from sleep so quickly.

Mac OS X on my MacBook Air

  1. Open lid.
  2. Enter password.
  3. Press Command + Spacebar to activate Spotlight (or whichever keyboard shortcut used to activate Quicksilver , LaunchBar, or Alfred App), type “Bean” or whichever text editor/word processor you use, then press Enter.
  4. Frantically type whatever thoughts are spewing from your mind.
  5. Command + S to save your document, then Command + Q to quit your text editor program.
  6. Close lid.

Windows 7

You can type the program name after pressing the Windows key.

Once you’re done writing, Control + S to save your document, then Alt + F4 to close the program.

Software

Which programs do I use to write? The following are essentially free simple text editing programs, designed with minimal features so you can focus on writing. If you like any of them, please donate to the developers.

I save these small text files to a dedicated folder within Dropbox[1. Affiliate link to Dropbox. "For every friend who joins and installs Dropbox, we'll give you 500 MB and your friend 250MB of bonus space (up to a limit of 16 GB)!"] only for text files, with a specific prefix to help me find it later. (e.g. BP means blog post in “BP – Pronto writing in six steps.txt”.)

Why not use Microsoft Word, Apple iWork Pages, or OpenOffice.org Writer? If you’re only working with plain text, you don’t need the extra features and bloat.

If you don’t know the HTML tags for post formatting, copy your text[2. Select All for: (Windows) Ctrl+A; (Mac OS X) Command+A], paste it[3. Paste for: (Windows) Ctrl+V; (Mac OS X) Command+V] into your blog post, then format and/or add links accordingly.

Android apps I use, plus a few battery tips

Overall, I’m very happy with the experience using my HTC Droid Incredible. I’ve had it for about ten days.

After a couple of days with it, I root my phone with unrevoked3. (Ambitious, huh? I guess Wil Wheaton recently did the same with his HTC Droid Incredible. Wheaton!!!)

Side note: Why did I want to root my phone? To uninstall apps pre-installed by Verizon Wireless that I wouldn’t use. (Crapware.)

The following is a list of Android apps I’ve installed and used so far:

  • Android System Info
  • Barcode Scanner – When checking prices at the Cal Poly Pomona bookstore, this saved me $162.57 (Breakdown: $62.11 immediately + $100.46 Amazon.com Buy Back, which I’ll do at the end of the quarter.)
  • Chrome to Phone – Opens links from Google Chrome on my desktop to my phone.
  • Clockr – A simple clock widget that displays text, not numbers.
  • Dropbox – Along with Epistle (see the next item), this lets me save photos to any Dropbox folder, keeping my phone storage clear.
  • Epistle – Synchronizes text files to/from a specified folder in your Dropbox account.
  • Gmote – Control playback of videos and music, browse your file system, or use phone as a keyboard or mouse.
  • K-9 Mail – Robust email client, better than the built-in app. I use IMAP with my email server. (See update below)
  • Mint.com – View your balances and budget. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support adding cash transactions.
  • Pandora [Radio] – I haven’t tried Slacker Radio yet.
  • [Google] Reader – The formatting looks good. I prefer this over visiting the website on my phone.
  • [Google] Shopper
  • Silent Boot – Silences the “Droid” start up sound when powering your phone on. Stay discreet if you’re in a quiet room and need to restart your phone.
  • Silent Sleep – Specify when your phone should be silent.
  • Swype (Beta) – If you’re sick of tapping an OSK, you’ll love this app. I was comfortable using it after a couple days. I can write fairly quickly.
  • Titanium Backup
  • TLDR – Saves articles for later reading directly to your Instapaper account.
  • TweetDeck – More powerful than the official Twitter app.
  • Uninstaller
  • Google Voice – I heart this.
  • WordPress – In case I want to draft/publish a blog post from my phone, this works very well.

After I root my phone, I uninstalled the following pre-installed apps:

  • City ID
  • Footprints
  • Skype – I might reinstall this if I needed. At the moment, I wouldn’t want to use it while I’m out and about.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

Battery life and task killers

From what I’ve read so far, it’s only bad to have rampant apps installed if they constantly use your CPU in the background. The Android memory system is pretty solid.

On Friday, I used my phone pretty heavily between classes. (TweetDeck, texting several friends with Google Voice, and Pandora.) It was unplugged between 7:00 AM and 1:45 PM. When I got home, my battery was down to 25%.

I might have to try the bumb charge method outlined in this HTC forum thread, plus remove the calendar widget. I technically don’t need it.

Actually, I should try one thing before trying another. That way, I know which factor was relevant. For now, the calendar widget is gone.

Otherwise, I’ll upgrade to the Seidio Innocell 3500 mAh Extended Life Battery shortly.

Note to self: With Auto-sync disabled and Background data enabled (Settings > Accounts & Sync), I still got notified of a text message through Google Voice.

Update 2011-01-09 22:10 — TweetDeck also updates with Auto-sync disabled. What apps are dependent on Auto-sync? (I’ll search for the answer eventually if nobody leaves a comment. Hehe.)

Update 2011-01-10

  • 06:15 — After charging all night, powered off phone, unplugged, then replugged the power cable. The orange light appeared, meaning the battery resumed charging.
  • 06:45 — Green light from battery charging.
  • 09:10 — Listening to Pandora Radio, checking TweetDeck, downloaded a few PDF files, and chatted with a couple friends through Google Voice (27 messages). My phone was on vibrate the whole time.
  • 10:50 — Battery level at 40%
  • 11:25 — While eating lunch and reading, my battery level went down to 28%. I checked my K-9 Mail settings and disabled background sync. (Settings > Global > Network)
  • 11:29 — Stopping the K-9 Mail service. Battery level at 27%
  • 11:42 — In class; battery level at 26 %
  • 12:50 — Battery level at 26%

For now, I’ve (sadly) uninstalled K-9 Mail and will resume using the built-in Mail app. I’ll resume my testing and publish a new post at the end of the week (so I don’t keep adding “clutter” to this).