MindNode icon MindNode 6 is out today, and having been a part of the beta I thought it was high time I shared some of the many ways I use

Lots of things for me start as vague ideas, this often happens in Drafts, but for multi faceted ideas that need exploration – like this blog post, I then move things over to MindNode – specifically I do this using an action which makes use of MindNode’s URL schemes – you can get the action from the Drafts Action Directory.

Focus Mode in MindNode on the Mac

I’ve been doing a lot of things at work recently that involve hierarchies – one thing branching into more, which in turn branch into more. I’ve been showing this as we progress throughout a meeting with MindNode, so we start the meeting with the centre point, or main node, and progress from there. This means as people are discussing ideas I can reflect it visually on the whiteboard, and I have a pretty graphic to send them afterwards! The enhanced presentation mode in MindNode 6 has been very helpful for this, letting me show off notes that I’ve made on areas, or even to lock the view while I zoom in on something else and tweak a spelling mistake.

A few features of MindNode 6 have been game changers though – first of all, multi select. You can do this with a finger or an Apple Pencil – and it’s exactly what it sounds like, letting you select multiple nodes. You can then move them all, copy them, or do whatever you want or need to do with them.

Searching for stickers in MindNode

I also love how you can search for stickers, the team was smart and assigned multiple keywords to each sticker – so searching for “sign” gets me, among other things, the warning sign – as does searching for “warning”!

Outline Mode

Another way I use MindNode is to give me a good overview of projects, the folding and unfolding of nodes comes in handy here, allowing me to zoom in and out as needed. Add to this the new ability to hide connections and I have a great way of looking at everything, or just the key areas – helped by the focus feature which lets me fade out everything else. I love the ability to switch to outline view too – while I tend to prefer visuals, sometimes you just need a list – like when you’ve planned out a packing list! Being able to switch to the outline view also shows me things from a new perspective – which often helps me to fill in gaps in my plans.

It’s hard to describe use cases for MindNode unless you’ve previously used a mind mapping application – but when you need to structure keywords, and text it’s a great place to start.

MindNode 6 is out now and is a free upgrade for all MindNode 5 users. The Mac app is also part of Setapp.

A lot of things in my life involve working around time zones – David Sparks lives in California, so when organising a time to podcast with him that’s a 9 hour difference, add a podcast guest and unless they’re in the same time as one of us, you have a headache!

For a long time I’ve used Klok as my go-to widget for checking what time it is somewhere, and recently I added Time There, an iMessage app, to help me find future times for appointments, meetings, and everything else. This wasn’t a great system though, Time There is really for planning things in the next few days so going beyond that involves a lot of scrolling, and Klok means you need to calculate everything yourself. I use Fantastical as my calendar and that has timezone support too – so you can add an event at 8am San Francisco time and it shows up at 5pm Vienna time, but this works after you’ve planned the event, still leaving you with the task of figuring out the when which is the most difficult part.

Enter CalZones – by David Smith, maker of Sleep++, Workouts++ and Activity++. He is familiar with the problem I and many others face – and decided to make the app for us! CalZones starts by giving me a month overview of my calendar, I tend not to have too many appointments in one day, and the coloured dots below each date indicate how many events I have and which calendar they are on.

In the app settings, you can configure your timezones and for each time zone, you can give it a custom name and an abbreviation. This means that I can call SoCal time “David”, but central time “Stephen” so I can skip that mental overhead of remembering who is in which timezone. These timezones then show up as a vertical scroller when creating and editing events, letting me see the time selected for all of my favourite timezones. These timezones also show up in the widget, with your preferred names, giving you a quick reference as to what time it is where – or in my case, for whom! The expanded widget shows you these in a linear fashion, and tapping on a time in the future jumps you straight to the event creation page for that time.

Along with specifying your time zones you can also control which calendars you see, your preferred theme and icon, work day times, week start, and how event times should be displayed. The latter is very useful allowing you to see that the event you’re looking at starts at 7pm local time, but 10am in the organisers time.

The daily calendar view is where your chosen colour theme comes into play. It highlights working hours (set in your preferences), then non-working hours before midnight, and then the hours after midnight until the working day starts – in three colours. This lets you see how hospitable the time is to your fellow participants, and helps you avoid scheduling something at 3am instead of 3pm by accident.

In the few weeks I’ve been using this app it’s been indispensable – and it earned a spot on my home screen within just a few hours. For people who never deal with timezones, this app might not be for you, but it’s a solid app and those of us who need something like this are very grateful for its existence!

CalZones is available on the App Store today for $4.99.

You can find out more on David Smith’s blog.

In episode 21 of Automators, David and I were joined by the lovely Dr Drang! You may have heard him on a few other podcasts, including Mac Power Users.

We dug into getting started with HyperCard and HyperTalk – back when those were available, these were created by Bill Atkinson – and there’s a story about him having to submit the number of lines of code he wrote when he was working on QuickDraw that made me smile!

Nowadays Dr Drang mostly using Python to program his automations – with a dose of AppleScript and Keyboard Maestro to get certain information.

Regular Expressions are something we talked about in depth, they’re hard to explain – let alone on a podcast, but as David said – they’re essentially a special language for searching. One thing I forgot to say on the podcast was that regular expressions can and do vary between languages – but the basic rules stay the same which makes things easier! If you want to get started with Regular Expressions then Regex 101 is a pretty good place to get started – you can input plenty of sample text and it highlights what you’ve matched as you go, as well as explaining your expressions and having the quick expressions area in the bottom right-hand corner.

Another thing we talked about are things you don’t necessarily want to complete to automate – such as sending invoice emails or creating the harsher reminder email to pay an overdue invoice. This is something well worth keeping in mind when creating automations – even if you can automate it the whole way through, it’s good to have some human intervention in some areas. And in some places, you can’t automate things – such as adding a repeat to a reminder, so you need to step in and do something.

Local weather is something lots of people want! And while Weather Underground has shut down you can still use Dark Sky’s API if you want to program your own solution, and for an “out of the box” solution you could use Netatmo and Carrot weather – I do both of these!

Drafts is one of my favourite applications ever and it was great to hear Drang break down his blogging workflow and how it makes use of the great automation features available to us in the app. The Drafts Action Directory is an excellent resource and all of the actions there can be installed whether or not you’re a pro user of the app.

Handling missing input in Shortcuts

One tip I talked about in regards to Shortcuts is checking if input is present – and I have a fairly standard setup I use to handle this:
* Count Items
* If equals zero
* Get photos/files – depending on what you want
* Else: get the input provided to the shortcut.

This means that when I run my shortcuts from the widget screen, Drafts, Launch Center Pro, or directly within Shortcuts, I don’t get confused when it doesn’t work.

It was excellent to have Dr. Drang on the show, and I hope you enjoy the episode!

Thank you to Luna Display and TextExpander for sponsoring this episode.

Listen to Automators 21: Invoicing, Writing, and Regular Expressions with Dr. Drang

Anker recently released a USB C to lightning cable, and while there are dozens of USB A to lightning cables out there, USB C cables which are approved for iPhone are new.

 

My first impression after opening the Anker box is that this cable is thick, when compared side by side with an Apple cable it isn’t that much thicker though – just enough to give one a feeling of solidity, I plan to keep this cable in my on the go cable bag and am confident it won’t be as susceptible to the kinks that inevitably happen with thinner cables.¬†As with all Anker cables, it comes with a nice cable tidy on the cable – as these attach to the cable with a mini loop they don’t go missing easily, and that means that with my always on the go everywhere lifestyle my cables are more likely to stay wrangled.

The cable works like you would expect it to work, I plugged the USB C end into my MacBook Air charger, and the other into my iPhone Xs Max with the battery pack attached, I did not try to measure the speed scientifically, but it felt like it charged just as fast as the Apple USB C cable which is what is most important for me! I also used it this morning to pair my Magic Keyboard to my MacBook Air – and as expected, it worked fine!

What I do like about this cable is the rounded corners and moulding where the connectors connect to the cable – these are less likely to snag on things, and combined with the thicker casing on the cable itself also increases its lifetime for people who bend their cables near the connectors. We all know someone who abuses cables and probably internally wince when they do so to ours!

Anker’s Lightning to USB C cable is definitely well made, and with it being cheaper than the Apple version I’d wholeheartedly recommend it instead if you’re in the market for a cable that can connect your Mac to your iPhone, AirPods, or new iPad (aside from the latest Pro models) directly.

Thanks to Anker for sending me this cable to review!

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