Ulysses III – An IDE for your writing

I’m fascinated by writing apps. So much in fact that I believe I have purchased every one that has ever been made. I’ve even tried using development apps like Sublime and PhpEdit but nothing ever felt just right. I can’t explain it but it was always some little issue that drove me crazy.

This all changed when I found an app called Ulysses III. At the core it’s a nice markdown writing app much like some of the others on the market. But that is where the similarities end. It is minimal yet extremely powerful.

What I enjoy most is the sidebar and the library of all your files, sheets as they call them. I’ve seen a few apps do this but something about having everything together in one app makes me feel good.

All files are backed up to iCloud and are available on the Mac and iOS via their free companion app Daedalus Touch. I do most of my writing on the Mac but having the iOS app is great for jotting down quick notes while on the go.

Where the app shines is in those little features that are out of the way unless you need them. They have mastered making a simple app.

A simple app isn’t simple by virtue of having fewer options, a simple app is simple because of usability. — Ben Brooks

From the folder level you can set goals, see statistics, and add custom/smart folders. These same things can be done on a sheet level, as well as custom tags.

The writing environment is also nice. It supports markdown with some added features such as comments, notes, and annotations. You can really do some series writing in it. In fact you can even split a sheet which would come in handy when writing your next novel.

The export is another great thing. You can export as markdown to your clipboard, send to marked app, export a PDF, email, or iBooks. They even have a styles exchange where you can install different themes for both exporting and the writing environment. Here is my current customized theme:

ulyssesIII-theme

Along with all these it even has a quick open (command + o) which is similar to Sublimes command + p or PhpStorm’s recent files. Fully searchable.

Ulysses III is an IDE for all your writing.

———

So far I’ve only used it for blogging but I am planning on releasing the next volume of the Artisan Files e-book with it. I feel like with the export templates and the feature set it has, I can generate a nice looking e-book. Not only that but save me the headache of using iBooks. I never could fully figure that app out. 🙂

The only downside is the export doesn’t appear to support mobi files. I am hoping an app like Calibre can help here. Only time will tell.

I’m very pleased with this app and on my list it’s a must have.

Switching to PhpStorm

A few months back I retired Sublime Text from my day to day coding and have since switched to using PhpStorm as my go to editor. I do keep Sublime around for quick editing, writing blog posts, but I haven’t missed it otherwise. PhpStorm has a lot of nice features that you don’t realize sublime is missing until you switch. Here is my mini review on what I’ve found in the few months of using PhpStorm.

Git and Github

I have found the git and github integration brilliant. I really like opening issues right in the ide and it creating a new branch/workplace. At UserScape we do a lot with Trello and only use GitHub Issues for bugs so I don’t get to use this as much I would like. Maybe one day some one will integrate Trello. 🙂

Committing is also something I really like doing without having to leave my editor. It has this integrated via command + k. Or if you are old school you can just open the terminal tab. My personal preference is to visually commit so I only use the terminal when I have small changes.

Find Anything

Another huge feature is the search everywhere. I have this mapped to “command + t” to match Sublime but the original is a Double-Shift. This is way more powerful than Sublime though. You can find files, classes, actions and preferences. I really like the actions searching because I have a mental block and can never remember them. This is probably why I don’t enjoy VIM or anything else that requires me to learn key maps. As an example I like splitting the window so I just “command + t” type vertical and BAM the action shows and it splits. Maybe I want to diff the file, again command + t type annotate. These are huge time savers for me.

Terminal

The terminal integrated is brilliant. We use grunt for all our js and css and have a simple watch/reload task. So when I start editing I just open terminal run grunt watch and then open a new terminal tab for anything else I may need. Deploying, artisan, composer, etc.

Code Complete

PHP code completion is very nice but believe it or not I find the code complete in html and less way more beneficial. It works just as nice as the php auto complete and does a very good job filtering css classes to find the one you want without having to hunt it down. It also has great support for CoffeeScript (The ONLY way to write JS). 🙂

Themes and Interface

This is one area I do find frustrating at times. The default theme is Darcula and it is a huge improvement over previous versions and you can find a ton of themes at PhpStorm-Themes or my recent favorite Spacegrey. What frustrates me is the font adjustment and line-heights. Fonts typically look good at bigger sizes but when you set the size to 10 or 11 they just don’t feel crisp like Sublime. The line height is also crazy. You set it to 2.0 and then you get a monstrous cursor.

Tips

If you are currently using Sublime and want to try PhpStorm here are some tips I have. I would hide all the panels and just move in slowly. I started with just as a code editor and then slowly experimented with features until I found my ideal workflow. It has a huge number of features that I don’t understand and/or haven’t cared to fully investigate.

Expect it to be slower than Sublime. A lot goes on under the hood for finding things, auto completing, etc and it’s always going to be slower than sublime. I only really notice this at times but that first launch you will.

Laravel is my framework of choice and the code completion doesn’t work great with the facades. A work around is to add this composer package

"require-dev": {
    "barryvdh/laravel-ide-helper": "1.*"
},

Next go and watch some videos and read some posts that highlight features and show you tips you would otherwise miss.

All in all so far the features outweigh the annoyances I have so I am going to stick to using it for the foreseeable future. Big IDE’s aren’t for everyone, but I encourage you to give a PhpStorm a chance. I think you might just like it.

Announcing Wardrobe

This site has always been my own little personal playground. I am constantly changing the design, the platform, and just experimenting.

Over the past few weeks I started building a brand new backend that I named Wardrobe. This was built from the ground up using Laravel 4, and Backbone.js with Marionette for the admin. The main goal was to create something minimal and simple to use.

Features

Even though it is minimal it still includes what I feel as the most critical features.

  1. Content
  2. Tagging
  3. Post Slugs
  4. Post Scheduling
  5. Post active/draft

Even though these are core features I only think content is a priority so everthing is hidden away but still quickly editable via the content toolbar.

Technologies

Because Laravel is awesome and very flexible I used that for the backend. The administration area is built using Backbone and Marionette to make everything feel super fast.

I have the luxury of being friends with the author Taylor so he made sure the backend was architecturally pure using service providers. Currently the backend only supports content stored in a database but because of the service providers swapping this out for flat files or some other service will be very easy.

I have used flat files with Jekyll and Statamic in the past but at the end of the day a database is so much easier to work with and I didn’t want to force a square peg in a round hole. 🙂

All the administration is written using CoffeeScript and follows a lot of the same principles as Brian Mann covers in his BackboneRails tutorials. I then use grunt to compile and concat everything.

Statamic

If you have followed this blog over the years you know I am always changing something. So this may not surprise you that I have switched blog platforms, again. I had been using Tumblr which is perfect for my normal posting routine. Sharing quick links, photos, quotes, and occasional articles. As much as I liked Tumblr some things just irked me.

  • They control your data
  • No easy way of setting up redirects in bulk
  • No importing

Mainly the control of my data is what I didn’t like. I want all my content stored where I can do what I want with it. Of course, they do offer an API but what if one day they stop providing it?

I did have a short stint of using kudos which is a flat file Laravel app created by Ian Landsman and it worked great for me. Except for one major drawback. You still have to open your editor and write the post and then push. Just too much work for me and my number of posts went down considerably. I guess I am just lazy 🙂

A few weeks ago I came across a new cms named statamic and quickly applied for the beta. I ended up getting just before it was officially released but had enough time to play with it and enjoy how they set up the system. Everything is stored as flat files just like the jekyl flavor. But with one huge difference and that is the ability to post from an admin section. Which still just creates flat files.

So now I can post quickly from the admin and later on when I feel like it sync with git so I have a full off site backup of all my posts. Even though the cms is pretty basic the possibilities are pretty much limitless with what you can do with it. For instance, I have duplicated my whole Tumblr setup with it. Now I have all four post types and it really wasn’t much work. Just a few hours over two evenings.

Statamic is commercial but the pricing is very fair and I don’t mind paying for something top quality with support. All my little questions have been answered quickly and with a good answer. So yes I fully endorse what they are doing and excited to see them grow.

I will miss the Tumblr followers, but I always have an rss feed you can use to keep up to date 😉

Hosting

Another negative is hosting. With Tumblr it is free and well you can’t beat free. I tried aws but it was to expensive for me. I am outside of my year free micro and it seemed like a micro was running around $30 a month. I started researching other hosting options and was going to go with a shared system but meh. I would rather have full access to do whatever I want. After browsing what felt like weeks I settled on Linode and was lucky enough to get in when they offered a $100 credit. Woot. 🙂

So now this site is running on Linode with Ubuntu, Nginx, PHP5-fpm, and apc. All data is stored in a private git repo at BitBucket.

My Top Mac Apps of 2011

I always like reading lists of apps that developers use on a daily basis and I love finding ones that I have never heard of or never gave a chance. As 2011 comes to a close I wanted to share my favorite apps that I use on an almost daily basis.

CodeIgniter

Not a mac app but still the framework I use every single day and write posts about all the time. 🙂

Alfred App

This is a must for every computer that I own. I love the quick application launching, calculator, and custom commands you can use.

Sparrow

Previously I was using just the standard mail app but when 10.7 came out I really disliked it. So I found Sparrow and have been happy ever since. It is nice and light and does just enough for what I do.

Git-Tower

I don’t always use a git gui, but when I do I choose Tower. I like the quick visual diffs and the clean layout. Another great git gui is gitbox which I use as well.

Mamp Pro

I use Mamp Pro just because it is easy. I like the fact that I can setup vhosts through a gui and not have to worry about installing apache, php, and mysql. Another benefit is that I work with a bunch of designers and with us all using Mamp I know what I build will run on their systems with out me having to do anything.

Sublime Text 2

This is my code editor of choice right now. It is awesome and you should try it if you haven’t. More Sublime Text Posts

Fake App

I found this a few months ago and it is really great for browser testing and inspired by Automator. So it is really simple to setup and use.

nvalt

I use this every day to create notes, ideas, and write out features before starting coding. I have this setup to sync with dropbox so my notes are always available. More Tips

Sequel Pro

I have to connect to several dbs throughout my day and this app makes managing mysql a breeze.

CoRD

CoRD is a Mac OS X remote desktop client for Microsoft Windows computers using the RDP protocol. At work we have a lot of old legacy sites that are running on windows hosting and I really like this app because of its speed compared to others I have tried.

Common Ones

For other common day to day applications I use Chrome as my browser, iChat, Textual IRC, dropbox, and Feedly for my rss feeds.