Productivity with OmniFocus and DEVONthink Pro 2 October 4, 2009Posted by judismith in Automator, DEVONthink, Email, Interoperability, Macintosh OS X, OmniFocus, Productivity Tools.
I’ve just spent the weekend tweaking my workflow to deal with the over abundance of information that my job generates. OmniFocus is my key app since that’s where I keep all my tasks.
To complete the picture, I started comparing all of my information managers – Yojimbo, Evernote, DevonThink Pro and even the good old OS X Finder. Then I ran across a brilliant workflow by Rob Trew on the Devon Technologies Forums. As Rob puts it, verbs are maintained in OmniFocus and nouns are kept in DEVONthink Pro. He’s written some very nice AppleScripts to facilitate the workflow between these two apps. One script will create a matching project in DEVONthink for the project in OmniFocus. Another creates an OmniOutliner file in the DEVONthink project as a notes document. There’s another script to archive the project out of OmniFocus and into DEVONthink when its done. I encourage you to read Rob’s post and visit his website.
In working through that process, I discovered that in addition to Rob’s scripts I needed a few other things. My workflow involves scanning documents into DEVONthink since it does optical character recognition, making the resulting PDF searchable. After I scan the document, I need to create a task in OmniFocus to ensure that I don’t forget what I was supposed to do with that document. So I wrote this script that will create an OmniFocus task in the Inbox from a document record.
One other thing I needed to adjust is that I get a lot of information via email. If it is a task, no problem. I can use the OmniFocus clipping service and a new task is created with an attachments and the email text. The problem is when I have a document that I need to store as part of a project in DEVONthink. So I created this Automater Service (works on Snow Leopard, not sure about anything earlier) to grab the attachments from an email and create new records in the DEVONthink Inbox. It will also snag the email text and include that as a comment on the document record in DEVONthink. The Automator Service uses a Run AppleScript Action for the bulk of the work. So you should be able to edit it to your needs.
That pretty much settled it for me – at least for this month. I’m still holding out for the super automated task manager. Check back. I’ll let you know when I find it. Until then, OmniFocus and DEVONthink Pro with AppleScript come pretty close.
UPDATE: I’ve updated the Automator Service to add the URL for the Mail message to the DEVONthink Pro record so you can get back to the email message that had the attachment. The updated service is found here.
Put GMail on Your Desktop with GeekTool August 23, 2009Posted by judismith in GeekTool, Gmail, Google Apps, Macintosh OS X.
Tags: GeekTool, Gmail
Recently the folks over at Panic announced a cool new way to display critical stats on your desktop – Statoo. Like GeekTool, Statoo can put the weather, date, time, disk space, current song, and so on on your desktop. Unlike GeekTool, they do it all in a few clicks. Even more interesting was the ability to put email on the desktop. I hadn’t yet seen that done with GeekTool.
Intrigued by the email portion, I set out to have GeekTool display the most resent messages from my GMail inbox. This requires a little script fu, but not that much. Here’s what it looks like on my desktop.
The word “EMail is something I add as a header to this GeekTool module. Next, emails are displayed as the subject line first then below and indented slightly, the first few words from the body of the email. In the example above, the first email is my schedule from GCal. Since I’m writing this on a Sunday, I don’t have any events and the body is empty. The second email is some spam that GMail managed to miss. Then there is my reminder from Vitalist.com and so on.
To make this script work, we take advantage of the fact that GMail conveniently provides Atom feeds for any of your labels. You can access your feeds at https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom/<label name> where <label name> is the name of the label that you want to access. To access the feed for the inbox, we can take advantage of GMail’s built in “inbox” label. So the URL to access the feed for the inbox is https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom/inbox. This also works for Google Apps users. The URL is https://mail.google.com/a/<your company domain>/feed/atom/<label name> where <your company domain> is web domain that you use with Google Apps and as above <label name> is the label that you want to access. So the URL to access the feed for the inbox of a Google Apps user with a domain of somecompany.com is https://mail.google.com/a/somecompany.com/feed/atom/inbox.
OK, on to the script. I built the script with just a few variables for you to change. I’ve listed it below but you can download the complete script here.
# Thanks to Dave Taylor at http://www.askdavetaylor.com for the great tutorial on accessing and parsing RSS feeds with a shell script
echo “EMail” # Puts the word “Email” at the top for a header to the module
# Provide your log in credentials
# NOTE – you MUST replace the @ in your username email with %40 or the script will fail
username=’user%40gmail.com’ # username is your email address with @ replaced by %40. For Google Apps users this will be user%40yourcompany.com
password=’password’ # your password
# Set the label that you want use
label=’inbox’ # the GMail label that contains the email you wnat to display
#Set the Wdith of the output
width=’45′ # The number of columns wide that you want the output
# Required for Google Apps users
domain=’yourcompany.com’ # Your company domain – only needed for Google Apps users
# If you are using Google Apps put a # at the beginning of the first url= line and remove it from the second url line.
url=’https://’”$username”‘:’”$password”‘@mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom/’”$label” # GMail users
#url=’https://’”$username”‘:’”$password”‘@mail.google.com/a/’”$domain”‘/feed/atom/’”$label” # Google Apps users – remember to edit your organization’s domain in domain variable above
# Do not modify below this line
if [ $# -eq 1 ] ; then
headarg=$(( $1 * 2 )) # $(( )) specifies that you’re using an equation
headarg=”-8″ # default is four email messages
curl –silent “$url” | grep -E ‘(title>|summary>)’ | \
sed -n ’2,$p’ | \
sed -e ‘s/<title>//’ -e ‘s/<\/title>//’ -e ‘s/<summary>/ /’ \
-e ‘s/<\/summary>//’ | \
head $headarg | fmt -w “$width”
Once you have modified the file with your information, save it to a location with the name gmail.sh. I use a GeekTool folder inside my Documents folder. Then you will have to make the script executable. To do that, assuming you saved the file as above, open the terminal and enter
chmod +x ~/Documents/GeekTool/gmail.sh
While you are still in the Terminal, to see if everything is working, try running the script by entering
If you’ve done everything right, you should see the subject lines and a summary of the body for first 4 messages from your inbox listed in the terminal.
Once you’ve saved the file and added the execution permissions, we can now go over to GeekTool. Open System Preferences and select the GeekTool module. Then click on the button for a new entry and select Shell as the entry type. The enter the command to run the script file in the command box
The script is set to take an argument for how many messages you would like to see. It will default to 4 messages, but you can alter that by putting a dash followed by a number at the end of the command. For example if I want to see 10 messages instead of 4 the command would be
sh ~/Documents/GeekTool/gmail.sh -10
You can see the GeekTool set up in the picture below.
That’s it! adjust the GeekTool settings to your liking or to match your awesome desktop and enjoy. I look forward to seeing GMail on the desktops featured Lifehacker from the Flickr Lifehacker Desktop Show and Tell pool.
Journaling Disks using Drive Genius 2 December 27, 2008Posted by judismith in Macintosh OS X, Utilities.
Tags: OS X, Utilities
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I snagged a copy of Drive Genius 2 in the recent MacUpdate Promo bundle. If you have never bought into one of the promos, I recommend that you check it out the next time it comes around. You get a lot of great software at a significant discount. Drive Genius alone was worth the price of admission.
Yesterday, in the December 26th, post Christmas sales, I purchased a new terabyte drive to house my burgeoning photo and media collection. While I had already used Drive Genius to “slim” my existing hard drives by eliminating duplicate files, unused localizations and older cache content, this would be my first use to initialize a hard drive.
One thing I noticed immediately was that the interface for initializing the hard drive was rather spare. It lacked all of the different initialization options that Apple’s Disk Utility provides. Normally this would be a good thing. However, I was curious about selecting whether or not the drive would be journalled – a process that Apple uses to track drive activity to use in case of a failure.
According to all of the documentation that I could find, including the Drive Genius user manual and most blogs “reviewing” the software, the check box to select journaling is under the “Repair” option. However, after searching through the Drive Genius interface, the Journaled option check box is located under the “Information” section in the details tab. This seems to me to be a more logical choice for placement. I hope they updated the user manual soon.
<RANT>As a side note, bloggers who purport to “review” a piece of software should actually look at all of the features that they are writing about and contribute something original instead of copying whole paragraphs out of the product’s user manuals.</RANT>
iCal, Exchange, GCal Sync Update December 21, 2008Posted by judismith in Calendar, Google Apps, iCal, Macintosh OS X.
Tags: Exchange, GCal, iCal, Sync
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Well, its that time of the year again when I revisit the state of iCal syncing. This time there is a lot of progress to report.
First up – who could miss the announcement that Google Calendar now officially supports CalDav – the same open calendar standard that iCal speaks. This means that your Google calendar can be right on your OS X desktop in iCal. Changes made in iCal sync to Google and vice versa in a matter of seconds.
On the Exchange front, as predicted in my last post on this topic, the release of Exchange 2007 with its use of more standardized web services has allowed at least one company to come out with a product that will sync your iCal with Exchange. Sync’Em is in version 1.15. According to their website, Sync’Em will sync more than just your appointments. It will also sync your contacts, tasks and notes. For those of you who still have to live in a place dominated by Microsoft technologies, this just may be your ticket. (Thanks to all who commented about Sync’Em).
Of course those same Exchange 2007 web services have enabled Apple to promise out of the box Exchange interoperability with Mail, Address Book and iCal. So you may not want to throw down the cash for those Sync’Em licenses until Snow Leopard debuts. If you just can’t wait until mid to late 2009 to access your Exchange data natively in iCal, Sync’Em looks to be your only choice at this point for iCal/Exchange syncing.
Tags: Calendar, Entourage, Exchange, iCal, Mac
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With the recent non-event of the release of Entourage 2008, we haven’t seen much of an improvement in the Mac calendar landscape. Apple has released the iCal Server as part of Leopard Server. But Outlook doesn’t work with the iCalendar standard.
So I’d like to hear from all of you Mac users that work in a mixed environment. How do you deal with calendaring?
Information Organizers for the Mac November 20, 2007Posted by judismith in Macintosh OS X, Productivity Tools.
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In my job I have to do a lot of research and I usually have multiple simultaneous projects. What this means is that when I come across information that I need, I have to store it in a way that I can reliably find it later. Storing is not the hard part, finding it later is.
If you are like me and tend to gather gigabytes worth of information on almost a daily basis, you know the struggle of keeping it all organized. There are numerous information organizers that take different approaches to keeping your bits of information organized. I have tried a number of them: DEVONthink Pro, Circus Ponies’ Notebook, Bare Bones Software’s Yojimbo, Chronos’ SOHO Notes, and Journler.
For me the key feature of an organizer is that I need it to be present without being intrusive. Syncing ranks fairly high on the needed features since I work across multiple Macs. Finally, it must be easy to gather, categorize, search and retrieve information. I don’t ask for much.
DEVONthink Pro, for me is the least intuitive for collecting information. It does have great integration with the OS and has scripts everywhere you look. There are lots of really nice features like updating the content in your database from the file system or the web. It also has quite a number of ways to view your information, search, index and so on. If you are a professional researcher, this is the tool to get. However, there is no sync and it is the most expensive of the lot.
Notebook, by Circus Ponies, takes a page approach to storing information, just like a spiral bound notebook. This is a great little app and one that I used for about two years. I really liked the way it handles media of all sorts. One of my requirements is to know the page where I clipped a particular bit of information. Notebook captures those URLs. In the end, I found the page metaphor too limiting.
Yojimbo is a sleek, pretty, and very functional application. I love the little Drop Dock panel that sits at the side of your monitor. There is good OS integration with scripting support and a Quicksilver plugin – yes for me Quicksilver is a necessary part of the Mac OS. Best of all Yojimbo uses .Mac syncing. The bad news is that in Yojimbo you cannot have nested folders. They say that this is due to their strategy of using tags. That would be find, except the ability to add tags at the point of information capture, such as dragging to the drop dock or capturing information with the Quicksilver plugin, is missing.
SOHO Notes has all of the great features of Yojimbo, but in fact too many great features. SOHO notes just adds way too many things that I don’t think I would ever use. This makes the application cluttered. On the good side, information capture is easy at every point. There is the ability to have nested folders, to sync with .Mac and they also have a drop dock implementation. They go one better than Yojimbo in that their drop dock works even when SOHO Notes is not running.
Finally there is Journler. Journler takes aunique approach. It is more of a writing application that also allows me to store reference material. Journler makes it easy to acquire and interact with my reference material. In fact it assumes I am going to write something about items I enter so it creates a blank journal entry that the reference item is attached to. You can have multiple reference items per entry. It couldhave much better OS integration. While it does have good scripting support, at the moment there are a dearth of scripts. I like the iLife integration – as someone quipped, “Journler is like iLife for your writing”. Journler also has a great price and licensing strategy – if you are making money with it pay for it, otherwise its free to use. The biggest drawback for Journler is that it does not sync.
Overall, Journler tends to fit the way I need to research and write at the moment. If I have to get more serious about this researching and writing thing, I’ll probably look at DEVONthink Pro and just do all of my research work on my laptop.
Calendar and Clock on Your Mac Desktop September 17, 2007Posted by judismith in Calendar, Desktop, GeekTool, Macintosh OS X.
One thing that has been missing from the Mac OS is a readily accessible calendar. Since I can *never* remember the date, I frequently need to be able to glance at a calendar. While I use Mail as my email client, because there is no integration with Exchange and iCal, I use Outlook for calendaring. I don’t want to have to bring up Outlook or even iCal just to see what the date is.
Recently, over on the excellent Lifehacker.com blog, there was a post showing off some tricked out Mac desktops. I was intrigued by a number of samples. A number of desktops made extensive use of GeekTool such as this entry from Mike Harris. While Mike’s entry was intriguing, all that information was a little over the top. However, Bill Israel’s entry had just what I needed.
To create this clock and calendar combo, you will need GeekTool and a couple of shell scripts. Once you have installed GeekTool, open System Preferences and click on the GeekTool icon. Follow the documentation to create a new entry and locate it where you want on your desktop. Enter this script into the text area under the command tab: cal | sed “s/^/ /;s/$/ /;s/ $(date +%e) / $(date +%e | sed ‘s/./#/g’) /”. One thing to note is that you will want to use a monospace such as Monaco so that the dates in your calendar will align properly. You can set the update interval to something relatively long.
To create the clock, follow the same sequence, except use this script: date +%I:%M. You can find out more about the parameters for the date function in the man pages for date (in the terminal enter ‘man date’ or visit one of the online man pages for ‘date’.
QuickSilver Reference Library September 17, 2007Posted by judismith in Macintosh OS X, Quicksilver.
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|QuickSilver is arguably the most useful application on the Mac. I have replaced much mousing around with a few keystrokes. I no longer use the Dock. Long live the command line.However, because of its complexity and inscrutable interface, it is also arguably one of the most difficult programs to learn how to use much less master. To aid with learning QuickSilver I have recently located two resources, both authored by Howard Melman; QuickSilver Quick Reference and QuickSilver User’s Guide.|
iTunes Crashes when I add Artwork to an Imported Video September 9, 2007Posted by judismith in iTunes, Macintosh OS X.
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I was getting ready to go on a short trip so I was loading up iTunes with some videos that i ripped. That way I would have something to watch on the plane and in the hotel. I’d done this before but I had never changed the artwork so that it would look like the movies that I purchased from the iTunes store.
For those of you who don’t know how to add artwork to your videos, just right click (Cmd-click) on the video in the iTunes. Select “Get Info” and then click on the Artwork tab. You can drag and drop a picture from the web to the box there or you can click the add button to navigate to an image stored on your hard drive.
So of course I use Google image search to find an appropriate image. I drag it over to the artwork frame under the Artwork tab of the Get Info dialog box. When I click OK, within a few seconds I would get the spinning beach ball of death. iTunes was not responding. So I would force quit the application and reopen it. The movie would then be corrupted. I would see a white box where the poster frame was displayed. If I tried to play the movie, iTunes would crash.
Turns out the solution is very simple – patience. Apparently it takes a few MINUTES for the artwork to be added to an .mp4 file. By contrast it only takes a few seconds to add artwork to an .mov file.
Manage Your Tasks at Remember the Milk with Quicksilver September 2, 2007Posted by judismith in Interoperability, Macintosh OS X, Quicksilver, Remember the Milk.
Remember the Milk is a deceptively simple web application that lets you manage tasks. The power lies in the ability to manage my tasks from where ever I am. I can add tasks from my Blackberry with a simple SMS or email. I can create a task by forwarding an email to RTM. I can access all of my lists on my Blackberry with a mobile interface. Now by combining Twitter and Quicksilver – the ultimate Mac productivity tool – I can send a task right from Quicksilver with a few key strokes.
The blog at Baron VC links to a script called “tweet”. Unfortunately the instructions for using the script on the Baron VC blog are lacking some details to get the script working correctly.
Set Up Twitter
Connect with RTM
Once your Twitter account is set up, you will need to set up the RTM Twitter Service. RTM will generate a character sequence that will validate your account for use with Twitter. You can go to your twitter page to send a direct message with the number from RTM.
Keychain Access to Your Twitter Account
Once that is done, if you don’t already have an entry for your Twitter account in your Keychain, you will want to manually add one by opening Keychain Access and adding a new password item. The name should be http://twitter.com. Fill out the user name and password with your twitter username and password and save it.
Get the Script
Download the script from Baron VC or copy and paste it from the blog of its originator, codahale. Put the script into the ~\Library\Application Support\Quicksilver\Actions folder. If the folder doesn’t exist, create it. Quit and restart Quicksilver (Cmd+Ctrl+Q).
Sending Tasks from Quicksilver
To send direct messages to Twitter from Quicksilver, activate Quicksilver, press the period key. Type d rtm and then your task information. Hit the Tab key and type as much of “Tweet” as you need to until tweet.scpt pops up in Quicksilver. Press Enter and your task is on its way to your RTM Inbox.
There is much more that can be done with Twitter and direct messages. See the instructions at the RTM Twitter Service page.