Drafts 5.5 – The Markdown Update

The latest Drafts update brings some improvements with Markdown syntax. In addition to the standard Markdown (which has been simplified to represent the original Markdown specification), there are two additional syntax options: MultiMarkdown and GitHub Markdown. MultiMarkdown is a flavor which allows for footnotes, tables, citations, etc. GitHub Markdown is a different flavor of Markdown which supports extensions created by GitHub for rendering on their website, and includes the extensions for strike-through text and tables. I personally use MultiMarkdown, the format with which I’ve been most comfortable writing.

One thing that is included with MultiMarkdown as an option is Critic Markup. Looking through the guide, there are several helpful elements that can be used for editing my writing utilizing Critic Markup. I can highlight some substitutions, additions, and deletions. I can highlight text to show something I might want to work on later. I can also add a basic comment somewhere that won’t be shown in a preview. And with this action, I can easily add any of them with a tap and a text entry, which inserts it in the proper format. This is helpful for creating and previewing the documents in Drafts, and gives users the flexibility to mark up files and save them back to a cloud service. I can see myself using this a lot for longer posts or large reviews. I’ve even modified my own site preview action to render the MultiMarkdown via scripting, as well as updating both my standard and linked post WordPress publishing actions to do the same.

Critic Markup in Drafts vs my site post

There are additional Workspace options for sorting. You can now include flagged drafts in the archive tab – the same way it is done today with the inbox – as well as optionally sort the flagged drafts at the top. And of course, support for using these is also added to the script object. This allows you to give a bit of priority to Drafts in your inbox, depending on how you have your workspace configured. I liken it to something like Gmail: there’s a giant inbox of drafts, and you have a starred list that can be used to filter priority; you can also option to have the starred emails on top to bring them into focus, or have them in their separate list. This smart addition enables more focus on key drafts in your list.

There are some other small improvements and fixes; you can read the full list here. It may seem like a small update to some, but for the advanced users of Markdown, this is a fantastic update. What this should give users a glimpse of for the future of Drafts: custom syntax highlighting. Currently, the following syntaxes are supported: Markdown, MultiMarkdown, GitHub Markdown, JavaScript, and TaskPaper. Whereas I love the new Critic Markup portion of MultiMarkdown, I would love to be able to customize my own syntax. When I used Ulysses for writing, I really liked some of the comment, highlight, delete, and other markup styles. Part of what makes Drafts so versatile to each user is the myriad of ways which it can be customized. Controlling the editor in this fashion would, to me, make the editor the most powerful on iOS. No other editor would allow for syntax highlighting for writing and coding in the same way. I know this will at some point be on the horizon, but that cannot come soon enough. I’ll patiently wait for it after the Drafts for Mac release.

Drafts 5.4: Siri Shortcuts, WordPress, and More

Me, writing for MacStories:

Drafts 5 was recently updated to version 5.4, which brings a host of new features. While there is support for iOS 12's Siri shortcuts and all that they have to offer, there are also other important features that have improved the app's capabilities significantly.

It’s a really great release. And I was thrilled to write it for MacStories. If you haven’t checked it out, head on over and read it there.

PCalc 3.8 With Siri Shortcuts

Federico Viticci, writing for MacStories:

Even though I don’t consider myself an advanced PCalc user (I mostly use the app for conversions and basic operations), I’ve grown to appreciate the convenience of running frequent calculations with Siri and I’ve started integrating PCalc with the Shortcuts app in some interesting ways. As a result of its adoption of Siri shortcuts in iOS 12, my overall usage of PCalc has increased: I don’t necessarily open the app more often, but I access native PCalc features either via Siri or Shortcuts from all of my devices.

I own PCalc and use it often for work. I use it in my widget as well. But I really don’t use it much more beyond that. Reading what Federico has done with the app has me wanting to try a bunch of new things with the world’s best calculator.

I’m excited to see this integration via Siri Shortcuts, and I’m intrigued by the possibilities that lie ahead with other apps providing the same integrations.

Piques of the Week: Volume 15

It’s been a bit since I’ve done one of these, but I wanted to share some of the things that have been piquing my interest as of late. I’ve made some good purchases on a few times, and wanted to share them.

iPad Case with Pencil

For a long time, I used the Logitech Create. Then I switched to the Smart Keyboard, as it made more sense to me. I purchased a back cover that I thought was ok, and then a magnetic pen holder. But… I really missed how the Create was able to hold my pencil for the few times I use it. Based on my Amazon search history, I ended up finding a new iPad Case w/ integrated Pencil holder. And it’s really what I wanted in the first place.

The case provides a rubberized surround, which integrates the Pencil holder. There are two small cut-outs on the back side of the Pencil, so that I can remove it quickly. Once I’m done, the Pencil is secured, nearly encapsulated by the rubber. It also has a cutout for the Smart Keyboard attachment, and doesn’t interfere with anything. This is by far the best combination I’ve used for portability and mode switching. I also know that there are cases like this for the other size devices, so give those a look as well if you’re not using the 9.7″ like me.

Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Microphone

When I started in to my podcasting life, I had purchased the recommendation de-jour for a microphone: the Blue Yeti. And that mic has served me well for a while. But one thing that has been a problem for me as of late has been the recording device that I use, a gifted 2009 Mac mini. It’s an ok device for this purpose, but it’s getting a bit long in the tooth.

So, in a quest to simplify things, I wanted to mirror the setup first mentioned by Jason Snell on Six Colors. This idea of recording on iOS only really appeals to me, as I don’t edit on a Mac. So I set out on my quest to start this process now. I sold my Yeti and picked up the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB/XLR Microphone. While I haven’t recorded an episode yet with it, I have done multiple sound tests. And it’s on par with the Yeti for quality, but it has one benefit for where I record: a reduction in background noise.

I’ve changed my entire setup now, which is great. I need far less around me, and I’m happy about it. I think the recording will sound better on my end overall, and I’ll be happier using it. I did encounter a bug where iOS is not letting me use the mic for FaceTime or Skype calling. This was possible before, and is a bug that has been introduced in iOS 12. I’ve sent in reports on it, and I hope it gets fixed before release.

Newer Boom Arm

In the change of microphone, the weight has decreased significantly. And now that I don’t need foam around the mic like I did before, I wanted to try it on a boom arm. I picked up the Neewer Boom Arm and bought a shock mount for it as well. It’s up and out of the way when I don’t need it, but it’s right there when I do. I would have liked a slightly longer arm, but it does the job well for being inexpensive.

All of this stuff is really driving towards making an iPad-only life a reality. There’s really only one thing preventing me from going that route forever,1 and I can’t wait until Apple makes it possible. I even picked up an iPad stand based on another recommendation, pairing the iPad with the Magic Keyboard when recording. This puts the iPad right at eye level, which is better than constantly looking down. The whole thing feels like an overhaul for me, without costing me a ton of money; the only purchase left is the Zoom H4 recorder, which I can wait on for a while. This setup – even though it may not seem simpler – makes me feel like I’m headed in the right direction.

  1. I need a way to upload external mp3 files into my iCloud Music library. I can only do this in iTunes on the Mac currently, and I don’t want to spend $$$ on a new one.