… or tools follow up.
There’s a bunch of posts where I’ve described my workflow and the tools I use on a regular basis. And there’s a post where I described the process of removing some of them. I assumed that wasn’t the final stage, so today I’d like to describe some recent changes in my toolbox. With reasons, of course.
Let’s start at the beginning.
There are two posts on how to embrace minimalism with effectiveness in mind:
And there’s the most important one with a summary: The right tools
And of course the first one: Decluttering
Last weekend I made some more changes. There are two big ones that I’ll describe in detail, and some smaller ones that I’ll mention briefly.
Last time I moved from Apple Notes to Everlog, which was a good move – but that was just the beginning. I took the time to switch to plain text entries stored as .md files. I like to distinguish files with basic formatting like markdown from plain text, hence the .md extension. I also like to open some files in iAWriter and others in TextEdit or similar text editors. Different extensions allow you to separate them.
Anyway, why move at all? Well, I was getting a bit frustrated with Everlog’s Mac application. It’s mediocre, unfortunately, and the developer is concentrating on the new features of the iOS and iPadOS apps. I respect that, but for me, for my journaling, the most important factor is the writing environment. And that was the biggest shortcoming of Everlog. So it was time to find something new. The problem was that I had tried almost every journaling application in the past and there was nothing that could satisfy me.
Fortunately, my friend kel answered my question on Mastodon and inspired me to try plain text files stored in folders. Oh, it was a lifesaver. Really. I used to think I’d hate this approach as outdated and clumsy, but I was wrong. It’s liberating. When I write in a journal it is just me and the journal. No distractions. No gadgets. No bells and whistles. Just me and my thoughts.
That’s one reason it’s a great writing experience. The second is a backup system. Now my journals are backed up hourly by Time Machine, and I also regularly copy my entire internal Mac hard drive to an external one. I could automate this, but I prefer to do it manually and use the occasion for further cleaning. And there’s a third reason, the feeling of being free of applications. I know now that if I want to change something in my workflow, I can do it, I don’t have to wait for a developer. The fourth reason, and I’m surprised no one has mentioned this yet, is Spotlight indexing. The contents of text files are exposed to Spotlight, whereas journaling apps usually aren’t. This means that if I want to read my thoughts on any subject, or check my mental health, I can do it directly from Spotlight. It’s fantastic and I don’t know how I missed it.
And then there’s the final, ultimate reason. Longevity. I can keep my normal notes in Apple Notes because there’s nothing I’d miss if I lost access to it. But journals are the records I’d like to have fifty years from now. And there’s only one way to do that: the most universal file format. Plain text. I think it’s even more durable than paper, because I can have multiple copies, and it’s more portable than keeping a box of old journals. I also think it’ll be easier to read text files in fifty years’ time than my not-so-great handwriting on paper, which tends to fade over time. Having plain text files means I can use any machine to read and edit them, and I like working on the Mac and plan to do so for years to come, but who knows what will happen in half a century? It’s better to have a system which is potentially readable on different machines in different circumstances.
I ditched Mona and installed Ivory a few weeks after the previous post. I don’t want to discuss the reasons here, as it’s no longer relevant, because I got rid of Ivory and switched to the basic, stock, simple iOS Mastodon app (which also works on ARM Macs). It’s worse than Ivory, it’s more buggy and less fluid and less fun to use. And that’s a good thing. Since I switched to it, my use of Mastodon has decreased. I can still have meaningful conversations, but I don’t feel the urge to endlessly scroll and refresh the timeline. Also, the design of the Mastodon app is nice – very simple, very basic, but very iOS-ish and minimalist. I like it. And it’s free. I don’t mind paying for apps I use, but I religiously try to avoid subscriptions. Also, paying a regular fee for an app to scroll through social media – which is by definition a waste of time – is too much for me. So, Ivory is the best, but I questioned the basic idea of using social media and the result was that there’s no fucking way I’m going to pay a subscription for it. However, I did spend some time with each of the iOS and MacOS Mastodon apps and I’m going to write a longer post with my comments and recommendations for anyone looking for an app. The knowledge has been gained, so it’s a waste not to share it.
Read it later
I also deleted GoodLinks. Last time I wrote that I wasn’t sure I needed it, and now I know – I don’t. I’m not the kind of person who collects a lot of links and information – I read them, I comment on them when I feel like it, and I delete them. There’s no need to manage another app. Extracting text and removing ads is not a problem for me as I only use NetNewsWire to get new articles and I can use text extraction there. But to be honest, I’ve removed almost every source that doesn’t use full text in the feed. I think I have two people who don’t do that now, and I’m looking at you, waiting for you to do better!
I had a little app dedicated to keeping loyalty cards (and syncing them with Apple Wallet) but I only had two cards there and… seriously, I can keep them in Notes as scans or just stop using them. Loyalty cards are usually a scam anyway.
I’m sure it’s not the end and I’m sure I’ll change a lot in the future. At the moment I’m leaning towards the simplest and most minimalist tools I can get my hands on. I think it has to do with my general fatigue with digital tools, although I don’t want to use paper and pen for now. I’ve done it in the past, I like a good fountain pen, but I can’t back it up and I can’t guarantee the longevity of it, and leaving a rented flat means I may have to move at any time, and I’d rather have an external hard drive than a big box of four old journals. I’m curious to see if I’ll go back to more complicated and dedicated tools in the future, but for now I don’t think it’s possible.
Never say never, though.