Blocking macOS Big Sur Upgrade

Macos Big Sur Blocker.png

The more Apple nags me to install macOs Big Sur, the more I am determined to do it when I’m good and ready. Apple has become intolerably aggressive about users updating their devices in the past couple of cycles, but there are plenty of sane reasons a user might want to avoid that, especially in the first few months. At the moment I want to block macOS Big Sur.  I may upgrade eventually, but I have a simple reason for being cautious. 

I rely on a bunch of hacks for compiling my thesis and managing citations that have caused me headaches to setup, and OS updates have caused problems in the past. Between Pandoc, Zotero with Better BibTex and the various ruby wrappers that automate it, like Pandocomatic and Scrivomatic, I have system that feels precarious While I understand these tools well enough to use them, I am a dabbler not a developer, so troubleshooting them takes up precious time.

Not only have Apple been messing with the Shell in the past couple of upgrades, but they are also deprecating Scripting languages. Some of those changes already happened, but it was messy after the macOS Catalina upgrade, so I’m not going to risk it before I try to automate thousands of citations while compiling a dissertation.In short, first hand experience says macOS updates can break things, as early adopters found during exams! Also, forcing people into things is just not cool. Not to mention all the privacy related shenanigans.

What to do? Well, again Apple are making this harder all the time.

If you just want to get rid of the nagging badge, you can run this in your terminal

defaults write AttentionPrefBundleIDs 0
killall Dock

Sadly, the mechanism that generates these notifications lives on like a zombie somewhere deep in the system, so you will probably need to run this command again when the nagging comes back. 

If you are concerned you might bork it and accidentally install the upgrade, a helpful man called Hannes Juutilainen has made an app for systems admins that can be used by little people too. Note, you will probably need some minor terminal chops to get rid of it if you do eventually wish to upgrade. The app is called Big Sur Blocker.

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Apple Hypocrisy and Cynicism on Privacy and Everything Else

The recent mess that arrived with the macOS Big Sur upgrade had a lot of people shaking their fists at Apple, and not just for the now standard device bricking and server crashes. The latest version of macOS says a lot about Apple, but it should already have been obvious that at best they are an incredibly cynical organisation. This is not an exhaustive account, but it says enough a lot about Apple hypocrisy and cynicism on privacy and everything else.

To start, Apple claims that Privacy is a fundamental human right with a couple of large caveats. First, Apple are the arbiters of that privacy, and second they are immune to their own principles and rules. There is also something deeply troubling about a corporation that trades on the idea of human rights for gadget users of the global north while actively lobbying against legislation that would hold companies to account for using Uighur forced labour. And, it is worth noting Apple were caught doing this after they produced their much touted Human Rights Policy. This is not simply cognitive dissonance, it is plainly cynical behaviour. But we should not be surprised, Apple continues to defend their supply chain, but the ideological drive of über production in itself is killing people. Apple has long been accused of worker violations in Chinese factories, but foreign workers don’t seem to matter to the optics like greenwashing is.

It should be clear Apple are not the benevolent force so many people seem to think they are. But here’s the really concerning thing for me, Apple is such a religious phenomenon that much of its fanbase is so genuinely fanatical that it is impossible to get through the fog. Cue articles defending the benevolent trillionaires, or look at the divide and conquer public relations that praise Apple’s limited concept of sustainability — claiming carbon neutral targets while at the same time building more obsolescence into products, and denying users the right to repair or parts to be recycled . Or for that matter, witness the mental gymnastics performed on Daring Fireball to justify Apple’s systematic pattern of global tax evasion.

If Apple think differently, they think differently to you. Even the privacy pledges don’t hold up, under the surface Apple has seized on a competitive advantage that is about monopolising control of its on user base, offering privacy to users in some parts of the world as a marketable feature, while being complicit in widespread surveillance in other parts of the world, and actively participating in Chinese State censorship. Even their method for diverting trackers is about control, as they don’t exactly stop you from being tracked, instead they act as a gatekeeper for tracking — check the campaign by My Privacy is None of Your Business .

This brings me the recent updates in Apple operating systems, in particular macOS Big Sur. If you weren’t already aware, there has been a lot of consternation about Apple bypassing VPNs. This might be little misleading, as any decent VPN will still protect you, however Apple has gone to ridiculous lengths to hide their own processes and to ensure firewall apps that control the flow of connections cannot stop system process from calling home. I think the Register put this best in their headline: Apple’s privacy pledges: We sent dev checks over plain HTTP, logged IP addresses. We bypass firewall apps

There is more to the more to this of course, Apple will continue to push its status as champions of privacy as long as it provides a competitive advantage, but nobody should be fooled into thinking this is anything more than a marriage of convenience. Between the introduction of macOS Big Sur and their own in-house silicon, Apple is moving towards unprecedented control over its computing platforms. There has been so much hyperbole from the fanbase about the performance of M1 chips, but that is really a byproduct of what is ultimately a land grab. Apple’s motivation for this is control, not security, and certainly not privacy. They have steadily been eating into the landscape that made OS X such a richly extensible platform in the past few years, in the previous release of macOS they blocked access to spotlight indexes for popular third party search and contact, and they are so well known for pinching apps they like for new system features there is a word for it, sherlocking.

Apple like to tout their innovation chops. But innovation is also gated by Apple as they slowly destroy all independence on the platform by requiring anything that runs on macOS to be approved and notarised by them. This is no doubt another step towards App Store only apps on the Mac, it will happen eventually.

This might seem like a grab bag of gripes, but the wide range of issues mentioned speak got the general cynicism that so many in the bizarro world of the Apple fanbase seem unaware of. Apple’s massive user base could do so much more to hold them to account, instead we have the aberrant contemporary phenomenon of tech company fandom. Large tech companies like Apple are essentially utilities companies these days, think of that when you next see Tim Cook signing his autograph to an unboxed iPhone. We are all in this one way or another, but we would do well to engage in a bit of consciousness raising.

And, while we are on security. Apple’s focus on security starts to look pretty hollow in the face of the recent zero day exploits

DEVONthink Markdown Annotations with Highlights and CSS Stylesheets

Devonthink Highlights Annotations Macos.png

Here are a couple of quick tips for DEVONthink markdown annotations using the Highlights PDF app, and CSS Stylesheets. 

Annotations with Highlights App for macOS and iOS

The new version of Highlights is by no means a complete app. The search functionality is basic, it cannot access a document outline and one of the best features from the previous version is gone 1. It’s also a comparatively pricey app. For all that, it has a few neat tricks that other PDF apps don’t have. One, it still writes annotations out into a neatly formatted markdown file with neat page links, however now it also automatically grabs metadata for journal articles to head up the annotations. It also does some impressive things with the OCR layer of a PDF, allowing smart copying of citations and extraction of tables — although to be honest this makes the lack of search functionality all the more surprising.

However, the next trick is where Highlights makes itself almost indispensable. With a single click it will export your annotations to your archive of choice, with a few pre-linked apps like Bear, Keep it, Quiver and so on, or direct to file for any other app. With all those apps the page numbers will appear as Highlights callback links, so when you click on the page number, as long as the original pdf is still available it will magically open on the right page.

For DEVONthink users the export is even better. Highlights comes with a DEVONthink script that will replace the page links with DEVONthink-links. If you keep your documents in DEVONthink, your exported annotations will be magically linked to the document in your database.

Highlights macOS Markdown Annotations
Highlights automatically extracts annotations to Markdown


Styling Annotations in DEVONthink with CSS

One of DEVONthink’s hidden features is the ability to add style sheets for markdown documents. If you know a bit of CSS you can create your own, as per the DEVONthink blog , or find more detail on the DEVONthink forum

If you’d rather grift a pre-made stylesheet, there is no better place than Brett’s Marked 2 Style Gallery. Or you can use his very handy StyleStealer Bookmarklet to grab the CSS from any site you like the look of. Incidentally, if you really want to dig into previewing markdown documents, Marked is the best tool bar none — it even works as a Pandoc processor. Marked 2 also comes with Setapp.

Once you have the stylesheet you want to use, link it via the DEVONthink settings and enjoy the new pretty look of your exported annotations and other markdown documents. The file path is hidden under the Media settings tab in DEVONthink preferences. Once you drop tyhe file in, all of your markdown documents will pick up the styling. This is how my markdown documents look in DEVONthink now: 

Note: For anyone wondering about this stylesheet, it’s called Avenue. Taken from the original Marked Gallery.

Smart Group for Annotations


Devonthink Annotations Smart Group
Devonthink Annotations Smart Group


This is a basic rule to collected all documents with annotations into a smart group. It has two parameters:

  1. Kind is PDF/PS
  2. Where PDF Annotations is not 0

This gatheres your annotated PFDs into a single group. From there I can simply open the document in Highlights and export the markdown document back into DEVONthink. The next step is to automate the process of updating the files when new annotations have been added. DEVONthink is designed to handle multiple copies of documents, so this requores some lateral thinking, stay tuned for an update on that.

  1. In the original app you could edit the annotations markdown file like it was a note

Show and Tell Links – 4 December, 2019

Links for Egg Heads

Firefox’s Fight for the Future of the Web | Guardian

I was a Firefox user for many years. I can’t really account for how I stopped using it, but I’m sure it had something to do with how slow and messy it had become. That, and the convenience Kool Aid I drank that kept me using Safari. The Firefox comeback that started with the Quantum build in 2017, is for real. If you care about an open, decentralised, private and healthy web, you should be using Firefox. It should help that it is a better browser than either Chrome or Safari. 1

Zotero Connector for Safari 13 (Beta)

For the refuseniks who stick with Safari, that other wonderful open source tool for research, Zotero, has released a Beta version with a new connector. It is a very basic version, however, without the advanced settings and proxy tools that come with the full version — see above.

Roam Research – A note taking tool for networked thought.

I’m usually not much for Web Apps, but this is an interesting tool. I have an instance running with Nativefier to make it a Faux native, which is better than a browser tab.

Zettel Network Visualizer | Github

Speaking of notes, there is a lot of interest in zettelkasten these days, thanks largely to the work of The Archive developers. The forum is very active, and occasionally you get things like this.

Something Completely Different…

A Foundation Course in Reading German | By Howard Martin, revised and expanded as an open online textbook by Alan Ng

This one is not a tech thing, but a niche suggestion. Anyone studying continental philosophy will immediately recognise the value in a course that teaches you to read German, you can’t read Hegel via a phrase book.

  1. Despite what you might have heard Firefox is generally faster than Chrome, and it consumes on average 30% less RAM.

DEVONthink Sale for Black Friday Weekend

If you have been sitting on the fence about purchasing DEVONthink, this weekend would be a good time. I wrote up some brief thoughts on the recently released DEVONthink 3.0yesterday, with a simple workflow for managing my reading.

These are the details for the sale:

Starting November 29th, 2019, from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, DEVON technologies sells all its software products as well as upgrades for 25% less.

If you looked into DEVONthink in the past, but were turned off by the dated look, DEVONthink 3 is a massive improvement.  The new version is the most useful software I own, I’m not sure how I would manage my thesis without it.  The sale will run all weekend, so you have a chance to download a trial before you punch the ticket.

Devon Technologies also offers discounts for students and educators, see the details here.

DEVONthink 3.0: New Tricks for Reading and Research

Devonthink 3.0

DEVONthink is one of the only software suites I remain unequivocal about. I’m a keen user of DEVONthink to Go for iOS, and I was happy to recommend previous version of DEVONthink Pro for macOS, even as it aged considerably. However, the recently released DEVONthink 3.0 has modernised and enhanced already excellent software. It is integral to the way I manage my research.

DEVONthink 3.0 Can Feel like Cheating

DEVONthink 3 is a remarkable piece of software. The Devon Technologies crew don’t do small, you’ll be peeling this onion for a while. If you come from the previous version of DEVONthink, the user interface is immediately familiar, yet modernised in all the right ways.  If you were one of those people who liked the idea of DEVONthink, but couldn’t stomach the way it looked, the new interface has taken care of that. I spend most of my day in and out of DEVONthink at the moment as I finish writing my thesis. Not only do I rely on it, I actually enjoy using it —and this at a time when the likes of Apple continue to suck the joy from computing.  The advanced search functionality alone has always made DEVONthink worth it, and even that has improved, but it can do a whole lot more.

Smart Rules

DEVONthink has always had serious automation tools. However, it has traditionally relied on deep AppleScript hooks and actions donated to the native macOS Automator app. Then there is the AI engine that can help automate the classification of documents, along with its core heuristic data analysis. Beyond that, the global inbox means a little forward thinking can always bring third-party tools like Hazel into play before the DEVONthink sorter takes over.

Most of this functionality is now built into the app itself. With DEVONthink 3.0, we now have granular, dynamic user automation built into the software itself. The automator actions are gone, but in their place are user definable automation tools for building the kind of smart rules, and smart groups that Mac users will be used to. From the liner notes,

Last but not least, we have massively extended DEVONthink’s automation options for version 3. Smart rules perform actions based on events and search queries, where events can be anything from a scheduled time to the arrival of a newly imported document. You can also attach one-time or repeating reminders to any document. They support several alarm options including running scripts. Insert dynamic data in templates, imprints, or smart rules without requiring any programming skills.

If you’ve ever built an advanced search in Finder, or made a smart playlist in iTunes (er..Music app), the logic will be familiar. If you’re a hazel user, you’re laughing.

Using Smart rules with DEVONthink to Go for iOS

The iOS version of DEVONthink has a few hidden elements in the navigation menu that hint at what be available in future releases. By all accounts, there are plans to port the syncing of smart groups at least.1 In the meantime, we are left with workarounds. To be fair, as much as I like this stuff to just work out of the box, finding workarounds gives one an excuse to get familiar with the new functionality in DEVONthink 3.0. It doesn’t take long if, like I do me, you are simple people with simple needs.

I do most of my academic reading and annotation on the iPad, so settings up a smart group to pull readings across automatically would be ideal. However, as DEVONthink can create replicants of documents2, we can approximate this behaviour with a smart rule:

DEVONthink 3.0 Smart Rules

Then, in DEVONthink to Go we set the group to download always. Now anything I label for iOS is automatically synced to that group, and ready to read on my iOS devices. Better still, as DEVONthink supports edit in place, I can use any PDF app that can access the native iOS files and my annotations are automagically synced back to my Mac.

I have another smart group setup that groups all annotated documents once they are synced. I generally use the excellent Highlights app to export my annotations in Markdown when I review them, but I’m working on automating that part too.

  1. Can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with the way this is communicated in the forums any times.
  2. For the uninitiated, replicants are clever links to master documents that make it appear there is a copy without actually creating one. It’s a kind of spooky action for documents.

DEVONtechnologies | DEVONthink 3.0 Public Beta

Devontechnologies Signet.pngIf you have followed this site with any regularity, you will be aware it has been idle for a while. There are reasons, of course. It hasn’t been completely abandoned, but it became unsustainable to run it as it was. So it will be a little quiet while I look at changing things. The idea is to open it up. Whatever happens, there will be no hedging.

In the meantime, in case you missed it. DEVONthink has had its first major upgrade in a gazillion years. The public beta has been available for a little over a week. If you were ever on the fence due to the interface, those fears should be allayed. The new version has all the old power underneath, with all the modern polish of a slick native app. It still has some rough edges, and it remains as niche as ever. Still, if you have a lot of data to manage, and need advanced search functionality, there is nothing like DEVONthink for Mac users.

You can download the public beta for free and check it out for yourself from the Devon Technologies site

Zotero iOS Shortcuts: Better BibTeX Citation Keys

Zotero Ios Better Bibtex

This is the long awaited iOS Shortcut for Zotero to extract Better BibTeX citation keys for Pandoc. I know a fair few people have been waiting on this, apologies it has taken so long to post. If you need more detail, read on, otherwise the shortcut can be downloaded below.

Zotero and Better BibTeX

There are a couple simple but important reasons I use Zotero, and the standard BibTeX support is not one of them. The web API allows me to build these shortcuts, but more importantly Zotero is an antidote to the closed and proprietary reference management systems of big academic publishers. 1

Despite the importance of both those things, if it wasn’t for the Better BibTex plugin I would almost certainly be using Bookends. The Zotero desktop app is a glorified browser, and an ugly one at that, whereas Bookends is a powerful native app. But I digress, the point is Better BibTex improves Zotero significantly, and I find it to be the best way of dealing with Pandoc citations. If you don’t use it already, you can look into it here.  Or if you want a visual guide, for anything to do with plain scholarship using Zotero I recommend the excellent tutorials by Nicholas Cifuentes-Goodbody

If you already use Better BibTeX and you’re looking for an iOS solution, you may find this useful.


  • Better BibTeX  writes custom citations keys to an ‘extra’ field. For most people that won’t matter, but if have other plugins running there is always a chance the crude regular expression I have written to extract the keys will run into problems. 2
  • Make sure your keys are ‘pinned’ on the desktop, if they have an asterisk next to them they will not get written to the web database, meaning the shortcut will break. This is the most common reason the shortcut doesn’t work
  • Unlike the previous shortcuts, this version searches the entire library by default. It seems most users prefer that. If you want it to search a particular collection, it is easy enough to change the URL for the API call. The Zotero documentation includes examples of how the URL should look. You can also look at other versions of these Zotero shortcuts that use a collection instead of the library.
  • If you want to use the shortcut with multiple text editors, delete the final ‘open in app’ action and use multitasking to paste the keys.
  • The shortcut should run fine from the share sheet, but the best way to use these shortcuts is via the widget.

As always, any problems drop me a line.

Download Zotero Better BibTeX Shortcut

Ios Zotero Shortcut
Zotero Better BibTeX






Important: If you are an iOS only user, and do not maintain your Zotero database on a desktop, this shortcut will not work for you. You need to use one of the earlier versions.

  1. e.g Mendeley has an API, but it’s made by Elsevier ↩︎
  2. If anyone with actual RegEx chops wants to improve the expression, please let me know and I will update the shortcut ↩︎

Plain Text Notes with The Archive and Zettelkasten

Plain Text Note Taking

One of the most read posts on this site is a brief note praising Brett Terpstra’s wonderfully robust plain text notes app, nvALT. I’d wager the popularity owes much to a lack of alternatives. Note takers have never had so many apps to choose from, but nvALT still has significant advantages over most plain text note taking apps to come after it. There are very few native apps for macOS that leave notes unmolested in the file system. Fewer still that support features to make them noteworthy for academic work.

Take the popular notes app Bear. It is delightfully designed, aesthetically pleasing, and feature rich. Easily one of the best notes apps, perhaps even one of the better markdown editors for writing. At the same time, it is kind of cutesy and opinionated. Moreover, it is built upon a significant design decision that counts against it. By using a database to store notes, Bear is an ostensibly plain text notes app that ultimately obscures its data.

Bear is not alone in that of course, the same is true of other popular Markdown and writing apps, like Ulysses. Even the excellent note taking utility Drafts — which will soon be available on macOS — ties notes up in a database of sorts. 1 Where iOS is involved, CloudKit sync makes sense for these apps, especially given Apple’s mobile file system remains so half-arsed and piecemeal. 2 Nonetheless, the result is data that remains for all practical purposes beholden to those apps, in need of processing if you want to access it elsewhere. In a strange sort of way, it means more data tied up inside the Apple leviathan.

Put my discomfort at playing hide and seek with my data against the future proof and flexible plain text notes of nvALT. It should be clear why I claimed nvALT was still the best plain text notes solution. Now it seems, despite the affection I still hold for nvALT, there is finally a better option available for markdown notes. I believe The Archive has taken over the mantle of best plain text notes app on macOS.

The Archive

I reached out to Christian Tietze earlier this year to review his other app, the markdown table generator, Table Flip. I was messing around with Deckset at the time, so I liked the idea of generating tables for presentations. As it happens I very rarely use Markdown tables for anything these days, so I can’t do Table Flip the justice it deserves. Having said that, if you should need Markdown tables regularly, it is exactly the tool you need.

I had heard of The Archive before that exchange, but I wasn’t looking for yet another way to take notes. I have grown weary of consumer geeks mistaking the tool for the work, and even more weary of the bizarro apple fan world in which notes apps are somehow second only to task managers for the tech mode du jour. I had seen a few posts about The Archive, but I overlooked it after a casual glance. I figured aesthetically it wasn’t for me. I was wrong.

Since then, between a realisation that my notes are an embarrassing shambles, and my curiosity with a growing enthusiasm among academic nerds for zettelkasten, I took another look. After downloading a trial and using it in earnest for about a week, I purchased it outright.

It’s still early days, but The Archive is exactly what it needs to be. An antidote to lollipop iconography, cartoonish design, and the electron powered assault on native apps. It is lean, purposeful, clean, and fast. A wonderfully native app built on plain text purism. I was wrong about the aesthetics. A simple and elegant templating system makes the Archive customisable in the right way. It was trivial to craft a theme of my own, crimping colours and fonts from apps like iA Writer and Drafts — and toning down the coloured aspects of the interface that put me off to start with. There are still some rough edges to be ironed out, but the app is still very new.


The minimalism alone is enough to recommend The Archive, but the purpose of its design is what makes it really interesting. If I’m honest, it’s probably another reason I looked right past it initially. The Archive is built around the needs of a modern, digital approximation of the Zettelkasten. A structured note taking system descended from sociologist and functionalist, Niklas Luhmann.3 Luhmann’s work is not my jam — far from it — but, I hadn’t properly considered the virtues of implementing a suitably bespoke version. Or indeed, that the modern Zettelkasten is bespoke by default. 4

If that seems cryptic, a precise definition of zettelkasten is likely to be counterproductive. Short of saying it is a loosely defied method of constructing an archive of notes. An archive built upon layers of nodes and connections. If you want to know more, however, Christian and Sascha have a growing archive of their own at the Zettelkasten blog. In case you don’t already know how philosophical note taking can be, you have been warned.

There you will find examples of Zettelkasten built with apps as diverse as Sublime Text and Trello. You could potentially build a Zettelkasten with Bear if you felt so inclined, with some concessions to its idiosyncrasies it could work. I wouldn’t, but there you go. It has been done with Evernote, of course, but trust me when I say that’s a much worse idea. 5 Myself, I have no interest in locking up my data in either proprietary formats, rich text, or obscured databases. 6 Besides, if you are interested in crafting a Zettelkasten from your notes, why not build it with an app that was designed for the purpose. An app that, as it says on the box, is nimble and calm.

On Using the Zettelkasten

The Zettelkasten blog is a kind of sprawling object lesson. Part demonstration with a whole lot of reflection on research based note taking. There is a post overview if you’re looking for a front page, although by design there is no how-to guide as such. At the same time, the most succinct and recurring advice is this: start taking notes and your archive will take shape. If the move from thinking of your notes as singular annotations, to both particular and part of growing whole is subtle, it is also more than enough method.

The forum has examples of Keyboard Maestro automations, snippets and other innovations to help you along. The beauty of both the system, and The Archive as an app is there is nothing to lock you into a particular way of doing things. I found looking at examples of notes to be useful for getting started. You will find a baseline at, and Dan Sheffler has posted one as a GitHub gist.

My own setup is very simple at this point. My notes consist of front matter, body, and a reference section. I currently use Zotero to manage my references, with a combination David Smith’s applet  and Dean Jackson’s mind boggling ZotHero workflow for Alfred to insert the citations. Users of TextExpander can download my snippets below for both front matter and back matter to use as a guide, but I recommend building your own, or at least adapting these to your own needs. There is also a shamelessly basic Alfred workflow for opening the Archive with a search query. There is little point in creating one for note creation as the app already comes with a very useful hot key function for quick entry.

Reclaiming the Object of Note Taking

Evernote did a lot to confuse the object of note taking with their everything-bucket aesthetic. The push back against that has been encouraging for both the purpose of privacy, and in the rediscovery of a more deliberate practice of thoughtful note taking. nvALT, the long-time anathema to the hoarding elephant, received its last official update a little over a year ago. There have been whispers of a commercial replacement for some time, but the developers have other projects to keep them busy. I have no doubt it will be an outstanding candidate should it eventuate. In the meantime for all you plain text nerds, the Archive is worth a proper look. Even if you share my distaste for all manner of functionalism and its scions.


Text Expander Snippets

Simple Alfred Workflow

  1. Although, given the history and purpose of Drafts as a sort of weigh station for text it makes more sense.
  2. Frankly, iCloud Drive on macOS is also a mess in need of hacks to make it usable
  3. I don’t have much time for the kind of sociology Luhmann practiced, and there has been some suggestion the method is implicated in the ideas.
  4. And again,  not to confuse the subject and the object 
  5. I cannot put it better the Christian, who writes in the forum: ‘proprietary file formats do serve the devil’
  6. It is for that reason I recommend Notebooks for anyone who wants a feature rich, multipurpose notes app (not for Zettelkasten)  

Academic Software on Sale at Eastgate WinterFest 2018

My apologies to anyone hoping for a meaningful update, the site has been quiet for a few weeks while. Time is hard to come by, nonetheless new material is not far away. In the meantime, I draw your attention to the annual WinterFest sale from Eastgate. Some of the best apps  you will find anywhere for study and academic work are on the list, among them the most important software I own. These are the highlights:


One of only two reference managers I can recommend at present, Bookends is annoyingly good. I say that because I am currently invested in Zotero, while I continue to use the API for building iOS shortcuts. If it were not for that exercise, I would switch permanently to Bookends. It is everything I always hoped Papers 3 would be and never was. If you want a native referencing solution this is it.


I write in Markdown wherever I can, but there is nothing that comes remotely close to providing what Scrivener does for long form writing. I mean real long form writing. 1 If you’re crafting a dissertation, a thesis, monograph, or a novel get Scrivener.  Ulysses provides a well polished middle ground for writers, but Scrivener is much better suited for serious projects in my view. If you’re still writing in MS Word, do yourself a favour.

DEVONthink Pro

Another singular and irreplaceable tool. There are programs about that approximate some of its functionality, such as Keep-it, Eagle Filer, or Evernote in a pinch, but there is nothing that combines the powerful heuristic engine, security features and search capabilities. All of my data ends up in DEVONthink eventually.


Scapple was designed as a companion tool for Scrivener, but works just as well as a standalone utility. It is the simplest, most freeform mind mapping utility available on macOS.


I have all but forgotten how to type without TextExpander. By no means the only option for the job, though likely the best of them.

WinterFest 2018

For the entire list, and more information check out the Eastgate WinterFest page. As far as I can see, there doesn’t seem to be any indication of when the promotion ends. However, the promo code is the same for all the apps: WINTERFEST2018

    1. Sorry Apple Bloggers, long blog posts are not long form writing