I use nvALT everyday. It holds all my lists, TaskPaper to-do’s, references and ideas. It’s the application I use to capture most of my thoughts.
This post isn’t a review, it’s just a short piece on how I’ve setup my nvALT. So, if you just started using nvALT I suggest you read Michael Schechter’s “Moving Your Notes From Simplenote to Dropbox”, and, if you are looking for more tips and trick on how to enhance nvALT probably the best source is Gabe Weatherhead’s Nerdquery.
I’m a fan of the vertical layout – that’s what has drawn my into using Notational Velocity years ago in the first place. Unlike in the screen shot, I have it setup to use the maximal vertical space on my screen so that the windows stretches from top to bottom. The vertical layout makes nvALT feel like one is using a magical really narrow all-in-one plain text manager – I enjoy it even more on my 11” MacBook Air where there isn’t too much screen real estate available.
I have set note previews to ‘hidden’ because I like the impression of the list view giving me a more simplistic overview. In addition I only use tags in my notes and disabled the official, OpenMeta, tag view.
My color setup is:
Foreground Text (Andale Mono, 13):
Update: You can download the color scheme for the Apple Color Picker along with the Byword theme for Markdown previews here
Remapped And Enhanced Shortcuts
|Toggle Notes List||⌥⌘S|
|Open Document in Marked.app||⇧⌘M|
|Toggle Preview Window||⌥⌘P|
I changed Export Note to something else because I use a Keyboard Maestro palette as a kind of sequential hotkey (just like what Apptivate does) to let me choose from an array of editors.
Toggle Notes List is a macro that shows or hides the notes list in nvALT in case I need to view or edit a larger note and don’t feel like switching to another app. I choose
cmd-opt-S because I’m used to it from the Finder. In almost all apps that have a drawer or can switch between a dual pane mode I’ve mapped this shortcut to trigger that behavior. This helps me maintain a certain level of consistency all over my system, just like the
ctrl-opt-` shortcut which I mentioned in other posts and which always triggers an app specific palette to show up.
This is the simple macro is use:
Open Document in Marked.app is already in my editors palette, but since it’s such a great application it deserves an extra hot key. This macro has an AppleScript behind it which opens the note in nvALT wether you selected it in the list or currently in editing mode (– I’m terribly sorry that I can’t find the source of this script anymore):
tell application "System Events" to tell process "nvALT" set p to value of text field 1 of group 1 of tool bar 1 of window 1 set homeDir to (path to home folder from user domain as Unicode text) -- set f to POSIX file (homeDir & "Dropbox/Notes/" & p & ".md") as alias set f to (homeDir & "Dropbox:Notes:" & p & ".md") as alias end tell tell application "Marked" open f activate end tell
I only write in Markdown so I don’t need nvALT’s rich text formatting capabilities. Bold and Italic are macros that are mapped to Brett Terpstra’s Markdown Service Tools services.
Update: I disabled “Enable Markdown Completion” by accident – Brett was so nice to point it out to me. More details in the comments for how something like that can happen. The option is not in the settings, it’s in the menubar under Preview.
I have remapped
shift-TAB to outdent aka “shift right” since I’m used to getting my selection outdented from the other editors I use. My brain kept on forgetting that in nvALT this hot key switches between the search field, notes list and the note editor – I can do this with
cmd-L and the
Naturally, I changed the shortcuts with Keyboard Maestro rather than in the System Preferences Keyboard pane. This way my changes sync to my other Mac and in my opinion it’s a cleaner approach of managing shortcuts.
I’m a big fan of text expansion. In the meantime a major part of my TextExpander snippets live in Keyboard Maestro. Here are my two main reasons why this is the case:
- Kaushik Gopal’s was the main reason why I finally started using Keyboard Maestro as a serious replacement for TextExpander. His article about using 2x
SPACEas a suffix for string triggers initiated the spark and finally I could dismiss prefixes like
, . -– I always had trouble remembering those.
- Keyboard Maestro brings the advantage of palettes to the table. This means I don’t have to remember countless hot key combinations, but get the chance to build sets of logically related groups
Why palettes and why text string triggers?
As I started building up my macro palettes for text expansion I noticed that I quickly ended up with more and more palettes. This also meant more hot keys to remember. I continued creating palettes until I reached a point where I simply failed to retain the dozen shortcuts I assigned and which I needed to call them up.
It is a fact that one already saves a lot of brain real estate for remembering hot keys since all there is to do is type one shortcut to bring up a palette which then again tells the user which letters or numbers he assigned to the actions that he put in the palette in question (e.g.
M. Open Apple Mail).
What bugged me was that I couldn’t use string triggers for calling up a palette. When I want to expand text snippets it is certain that I’m inside of an text editor and that I’m in writing mode. Hot keys are fast, but they throw me off track and interrupt my flow – last but not least because I have to come up with the correct hot key. Most times a logically related group would be more ideal for keeping me focused. For instance
fruit SPACE SPACE could open a palette like:
- dragon fruit
This is more reasonable for me to grasp and my mental lexicon has no troubles recalling this information.
For those of you who prefer to see this in action I put together a short 18 second screencast:
How to do this?
- Create a normal Keyboard Maestro group – mine is called “Hot Triggers: Strings for Palettes”. All palettes you would like to summon with a string should go in this group.
- Copy the macro from the screen shot above. This macro is trigger via a string – here
emoticon SPACE SPACE.
- All that is left to do is adding an AppleScript which simulates pressing the hot key combination – choose a complicated one which doesn’t get triggered by accident. I choose:
- Now start building your palette like this:
- Lastly, create your text expansion macros:
If you want to take the shortcut and export your TextExpander snippets as Keyboard Maestro macros then visit Nik’s Crappy Blog for an AppleScript which does just that – it literally saved me a ton of work.
Keyboard Maestro doesn’t support this feature officially. This hack isn’t intended and that’s why Peter Lewis, the developer behind Keyboard Maestro has given me these words of wisdom – it’s a warning a you should read it too:
I don’t think I’d support string triggers for palettes, for the same reason that multiple matching string triggers that generate a conflict palette disable the deletes. The reason is that the deletes are potentially wildly dangerous (eg, imagine if they appeared when you have mail messages or files selected).
So typed string triggers with deletes are only used if I can be reasonably sure you’re still where you typed the string (and I rely on you to be sure you only type it in a typing context).
I used Hot String Triggers for palettes for quite some time now – so far nothing went pear shaped, but this must not mean your text is save if you are a fast app switcher or trigger too many stuff at once.
About a week ago I discovered that the Omni Group provided the excellent Solarized templates which iPad users of OmniOutliner know and come to love as a download.
Solarized is the famous color palette from Ethan Schoonover. Visit his website to find out more about the color combination. It basically works in all light conditions and is easy on the eye. You can find it in all flavors for almost all editors – it’s just that good.
Well, what did I do? To be honest I just downloaded the offered templates from the Omni Group and prepared the styles for OmniOutliner for Mac so that I can use the context based auto-formatting which is a great feature of the OS X version of the application.
You can download them here on my GitHub.
As a bonus I threw in one of my own templates which I use for taking notes at University.
If you plan on doing your own templates but have no clue how to do it, head over to Gabe from Macdrifter – he has written a tutorial which covers all that you need to know to get things started and he also linked to the Omni Group how-tos.