Update on the Macademic Ninja kit

The Macademic Ninja kit posted a while ago  included TextExpander, LaunchBar, Hazel, 1Password and Dropbox. I still love and constantly use all of these small apps. But in the last 1.5 years five other apps have also become critical for freeing space for real workDefaultFolderXFantasticalNValtTaskPaper and Pomodoro.

  1. DefaultFolderX lets you assign OpenMeta tags while saving files. It is invaluable for managing reference files especially used in combination with Papers, DevonThink and/or Tags. It also has a shortcut to produce a list of folders which you’ve recently used. For example, you’ve started to work on a manuscript and created a Scrivener file in a specific folder for that project. Then you’ve created a figure in OmniGraffle or another program and want to save it in the same folder which you’ve just used. In DefaultFolderX it’s enough to press ⌥↓ to see this most recent folder. If you press ⌥↓ twice it will show you the prior folder etc.
  2. Fantastical is a ‘natural language’ calendar tool. It lets you add events without lifting your hands from the keyboard. It works as follows: you press ⌥Space to invoke Fantastical and type something like”next Wed noon new course w. Alex for 2 h /phone ↩” and press ⌥Space again. This adds an event “new course with Alex” at Nov 14, 2012 12:00-2:00 pm to the Phone meetings calendar.  Compare this to switching to your Calendar app, turning to the next week, clicking on Wednesday noon, adjusting the duration, selecting the right calendar, etc. Using Fantastical means that I enter calendar events without being distracted from my main work.
  3. Pomodoro structures your work in uninterrupted 25-min slots, which is essential for writing and other tasks requiring full concentration. Pomodoro can also block your Skype and stop other distractions. Naturally, there is a convenient shortcut to start a pomodoro (for me ^⌥⌘↑).  A recent update allows to choose a name for a pomodoro from open OmniFocus projects . Since pomodori slots can sync to a calendar I can easily see how much productive time you have spent on a project.
  4. NValt is a system for managing plain text notes such as writing snippets, meeting minutes, quotes or references. It’s lighting fast and makes it very easy to search for notes, especially if you follow a naming system, and it allows OpenMeta tagging (so that your notes will show in DevonThink or Tags alongside your reference files).
  5. TaskPaper is my favorite light app for lists which are moving too fast for OmniFocus, such as things to discuss with particular people or corrections to introduce in a manuscript. TaskPaper uses plaintext, but is a bit more structured than NValt so that you can assign items to ‘contexts’ and hierarchies, mark completed items as @done and archive them afterwards. TaskPaper also has a great quick entry shortcut ⌘⇧↩.
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About Aleh Cherp

Aleh Cherp is a professor at Central European University and Lund University. He also coordinates MESPOM, a Masters course operated by six Universities.
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10 Responses to Update on the Macademic Ninja kit

  1. NightHawk says:

    While I’ve found NValt to be very useful tool (I always wanted to have a Wiki like personal notes) it lacks the ability to write formal stuff like formulas, etc. or embed Latex code. Any suggestions here?

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    • A. Gautier says:

      How about just writing LaTeX code ? After a while it reads just like the printed stuff ! To be really fancy your can \input{} the NValt file in a main.tex for processing.

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      • NightHawk says:

        Thanks for the reply. But, I am not quite sure if I got your response right.
        What do you exactly mean by “After a while it reads just like the printed stuff !” ? And why I would write a separate .tex file to include a NValt file, because as far as I know you are restricted to .txt and .rtf formats inside the NValt ecosystem.
        Please could you describe in more detail your workflow, I am really interested on it.
        Thanks!

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      • A. Gautier says:

        @NightHawk : I mean that if all I want is to write down some math (not typeset it) I will write a^2+b^2=c^2 in a plain text file, that will be readable enough so that I can skip on typesetting.. If I want to typeset it I might write correct latex code (say $ a^2+b^2=c^2$) and use a do-all latex file that reads, say,

        %!TEX encoding = MacOSRoman
        %!TEX TS-program = pdflatexmk
        \documentclass[12pt]{article}
        \usepackage[whatever you need here]
        \begin{document}
        \input{/some_path/my-nvalt-file.txt}
        \end{document}

        and just update the line that says “\input{my-nvalt-file.txt}” as I go.

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  2. NightHawk says:

    @Gautier thank you for such a detailed explanation. The only drawback as I see is creating a Latex document for including it and compiling it outside the nvAlt environment (the file won’t appear in the NVAlt anyway).

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  7. NightHawk says:

    Just recently run into the Notebook application (http://www.circusponies.com/notebook/stay-organized). Looks promising! Aleh, have you tried into integrating it to your workflow ?

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