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Another SublimeEvernote Update

Thanks to the great contributions of Emanuele D’Osualdo, there a number of updates to SublimeEvernote, including:

* Open note: fetch from Evernote, convert to markdown
* Update note: save edits to an opened note back to Evernote
* Caching of notebooks
* Markdown2 updated to 2.2.1

If we can at some point verify that this fork works with Sublime Text 2 (an ongoing problem, since I’ve fully migrated to 3), I think it should be added to Package Control. I need to contact jamiesun and ask if he is willing to merge the fork into the original repo or if he would rather have this listed as a new package.

Any Sublime2 users willing to test?

Update 02/15/14: Emanuele has added another series of commits that includes support for tags & notebook selection in the form of YAML metadata. This is a welcome and much-requested feature. Time to update.

App Review: Grocerytrip for Evernote

Screenshot of Grocerytrip for iOS 7 For years Paprika has been my go-to recipe management and grocery list application, and I think it is the best solution of its kind. In moving more of my work to Evernote, however, I have tried to instead use Evernote’s Food app, which builds a cookbook from your clipped pages. It’s great. But it also lacks any sort of grocery list feature.

Enter Grocerytrip, a third party solution from Honeycrisp Apps and a recent winner at the Evernote Devcup. Grocerytrip’s concept is simple enough: You add a “grocerytrip” tag to your recipes, and the Grocerytrip iOS app builds a shopping list based on the ingredients in those notes. If used with the Evernote Food apps, Grocerytrip has the potential to turn Evernote into a recipe management solution on par with Paprika or YummySoup.

I typically compile my grocery lists as checkbox-based notes in Evernote, and these were the first things I imported into Grocerytrip. The results were impressive. Grocerytrip generated a shopping list from those items, broken down by aisles, with additional data hidden in an info pane. Awesome.

The process of importing actual recipes, however, was less than successful. I have a large collection of clipped slow cooker recipes from A Year of Slow Cooking, and Grocerytrip struggled to differentiate between ingredients and instructions. Before leaving for the store, I had to spend a few minutes pruning items like “add and drain rinsed garbonzo beans” from my list. This problem could be solved by modifying Grocerytrip to look for checkbox lists of ingredients in a given note. A user would have to manually adjust the ingredient lists in their clippings, but this would be just a few seconds of work to make the auto-generated lists much more useful. As is, the list building logic wasn’t ideal for my uses.

While Grocerytrip has a visual simplicity that feels at home in iOS 7, it could also benefit from a few usability adjustments. For example, I couldn’t find a way to delete items from my list. Since the app had misinterpreted my recipes, this was a problem. I decided to remove these from my list by simply checking them off and then hiding completed items. However, while at the store, I accidentally checked off a few items before actually finding them. I then had to go into settings, show completed items, uncheck the item, hide completed items again–it was a drag. I would like to see Honeycrsip add a couple of simple gestures to Grocerytrip: swipe to delete an item, and pinch between two items to show the last hidden item between them.

It’s obvious that Grocerytrip is in its early stages, and if you’re willing to do a bit of work–especially in building your own shopping notes–it’s well worth the $2.99. I suspect that additional development and refinement will make Grocerytrip an essential Evernote app.


Dismissing Evernote Announcements

Screenshot of Evernote for iOS 7

Evernote quickly released a beautiful iOS 7 update, and it makes their mobile application much more usable: It’s faster, simpler to navigate, and easier to quickly add notes. It incorporates the best parts of the current flat design trend and the iOS Human Interface Guidelines. It’s 90% perfect.

Their misstep, however, is in adding an announcements category to the home screen (something they’ve also done on the Mac platform). I see three major problems with this:

  1. This targets all the wrong audiences. Power users will have already read this content elsewhere–via RSS or Twitter or Facebook. Casual users will ignore the announcements and never think twice about them. (How many times have you seen an iPhone/Android phone with 10+ pending app updates?)
  2. Prime screen space is lost to promotion. Even in an app I know well, I read from top to bottom. I can’t rearrange this content, so whenever there is a new announcement (which I already saw on Twitter or via RSS or in the Mac app), I have to dismiss the notification.
  3. The announcements are a pain to dismiss. I have to click the announcement link, click the notification to load it, press the back button, repeat the loop for each announcement, and then return to the main menu.

I understand that Evernote wants to share the great work they’re doing. This is, however, the entirely wrong way to approach that sharing. If they must include an Announcements section, at least let the user rearrange or remove the content quickly. A major appeal of Evernote is the platform’s flexibility and extensibility. Such rigid design decisions (especially on a platform where pixel space is at a premium) undercut that core strength.

OmniFocus and Paid Upgrades

Old image of the Kinkless GTD logo

This evening Ken Case, the OmniGroup CEO, announced the company’s plan for OmniFocus and iOS 7, which seem to be simple: Paid upgrade.

There’s typically a good bit of complaining from the general nerd public when it comes to any major paid revision of iOS software. There is an expectation of free updates (blame Apple), and a wariness to invest more money in software when the App Store is 100% a buyer’s market. I do my best to not fret over such things: Developers need to be paid, and free updates don’t keep the lights on. I get it.

But I’m starting to feel a bit of discontent with OmniFocus, and this might be the moment I break away and try something else.

The backstory: I started using Kinkless GTD, the predecessor to OmniFocus, in 2005. I had just started graduate school and just read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, hoping to improve my organizational system beyond the paper-based planner that (barely) got me through undergrad. If I nerd this up, I thought, I can find a system that works. Kinkless required only OmniOutliner, so I bought into the system. Eight years later, long after the Omni Group has turned what was once Kinkless into a productivity success story, I continue to use the system.

When I consider what I’ve invested in the OmniFocus suite–$25 for OmniOutliner in 2005, $38 for OmniFocus in 2008, $20 for iPhone OmniFocus in 2011, and $40 for iPad OmniFocus in 2011–I’ve paid about $15/year to the OmniGroup. Not bad for essential software.

But OmniFocus is also beginning to show signs of age, of a piece of productivity software designed in 2005–when our work, and how we organized it, was much different. More and more I find that I am reorganizing my work to fit into the OmniFocus model rather than using OmniFocus to better organize the way that I work. I had hopes that the next major update to OmniFocus for the Mac, now delayed, would alleviate these problems. For the moment, at least, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

For years OmniFocus was the only major player in the productivity game. Today there are plenty of alternatives. And it’s difficult to drop another $20/40+ on the application when there are plenty of cheaper, more sync-friendly, collaboration-based, and platform-agnostic alternatives.

I hesitate to change my project management system after the semester’s start, but maybe this is Omni’s way of asking me to reconsider how I organize my work–and how I might be able to simplify that system.