Categories
review

Writing on Ulysses: A Dream

I have always had a love hate relationship with writing content but recently I went back to writing on Ulysses with a 2 week free trial and have been enjoying writing on my iPad from anywhere.

Firstly I am not a fan of the new pricing model with a yearly subscription at £37 for all your devices but I understand developers have to eat and there are only so many copies of a specialised application like this that you can possibly sell. £37 per year is a small price to pay for a application that has allowed me to write so much content in only the first 3 days.The editor is amazing and synchronising via iCloud is flawless.

One thing I would say is writing on the iPad is better with an external keyboard and that does limit the portability some what, however, it still blows away carrying around a full laptop.

Ulysses supports full iCloud synchronisation between iPad, Mac and iPhone all in the 1 subscription price which is perfect. I can literally carry all my writing in my pocket and never have to worry about not been able to write when the inspiration hits. The applications also work offline and I have never had an issue resynchronising my changes next time internet is available.

The application also has support for publishing directly to WordPress, Ghost and Medium. I have not tried the later 2 however the WordPress publishing is a dream. Images and content are all uploaded to WordPress seamlessly and quickly with no hassles or even having to leave Ulysses and go to the WordPress dashboard.

The built in export to PDF with theming is nice although I have to say I am not a fan of any of the built in themes. Nor have I found a theme in their online library that I have not had to make a few changes to. Creating new themes is easy if you know a little CSS so I have not struggled with creating my perfect PDF export style.

In addition to PDF and publishing platforms Ulysses can also export to HTML, Word and ePud none of which I have tried or have a need for at the moment.

The application is designed for writing everything from client proposals, blogs posts and website to content to the next great novel and this shows in its simplistic approach with hidden power. As soon as you start typing the interface gets out of the way allowing you to focus on exactly what you are meant to be doing, writing.

The typewriter mode is something that is very under-rated. As you type your place in the document doesn’t descend with as it gets longer, instead the document scrolls up just like it would on an old school typewriter This is something that allows you to keep an extreme focus on your text and in my case I have found I am able to type much faster and more accurately with the typewriter mode turned of and highlighting my current line.

The application uses Markdown XL for formatting and on iPhone and iPad they have thoughtfully included a quick action bar on the keyboard to access all of the formatting characters.

Finally the part that I found really makes this application work every penny of the £37 per year subscription is everything syncs. If I add a new export style on my IPad it is available on my iPhone and Mac within seconds.

I have only been using Ulysses for a few days and I am sure its real power is still to be uncovered. This is an application I highly recommend to anybody that has to do any form of writing on a regular basis.

Categories
how to

Speed Optimisations on WordPress

For years now I have loved WordPress and used it to power just about every site I build. It is however a very heavy system and doesn’t run at its best out of the box. It has taken years but I have now perfected my speed optimisations on WordPress using W3 Total Cache and CloudFlare. Below is a outline of the setup with more details to be released in future posts as I write them.

The first step to making WordPress run fast is a good server. I am currently using Nginx web server natively with no Apache in sight on a 4 core Digital Ocean VPS with 8GB if RAM (currently around 40 sites on the server). In front of this I use CloudFlare for caching and DNS.

CloudFlare plays a key role in this as you will see going forward. CloudFlare not only caches my static content but also the HTML for brochure style content sites with no special functions. This means my server will not even be involved in the requests for busy websites with everything coming off the edge location on the CloudFlare network.

The final piece of the puzzle is W3 Total Cache, a very powerful plugin if you know what you are doing. This is also what allows me to purge the CloudFlare cache when pages within WordPress are changed.

CloudFlare Page Rules for Extreme Speed

The free plan on CloudFlare allows 3 page rules which is enough for brochure style sites and blogs like this site. We are going to create 2 rules to tell CloudFlare how to cache our site.

  1. Cache everything
  2. Don’t cache WP Admin

Assuming you have already added your domain to CloudFlare and changed your name servers this step is very easy. Navigate to your site on CloudFlare and click the Page Rules tab across the top.

Click ‘Create Page Rule’ and enter ‘yourdomain.com/*‘ . Then click ‘Add a Setting’ and select the options as shown below before pressing save and deploy.

CloudFlare Rules for speed optimisations on WordPress

Next we need to create a new rule that will reduce the caching level of key WordPress pages and WP Admin. Click Create Page Rule 1 more time. and enter the settings as shown below

It is important that this rule is number 1 on your list. If it is not simply drag and drop to reorder the list.

Optimising W3 Total Cache

This is where things get a lot more complicated. W3 Total Cache is a very powerful plugin, however, that means it has a lot of settings and options some of which can break stuff. If you don’t know what you are doing at this point I recommend getting a professional to help configure the plugin for your site.

First install the plugin from the WordPress repository. Once installed you will need to do you standard caching settings for HTML caching as a minimum.

Now under Performance on the WP Admin menu click extensions and enable CloudFlare. The click settings next to CloudFlare. It is here where I am going to focus on the exact settings I use and recommend you do the same.

W3 Total Cache for speed optimisations on WordPress

The above setting is by far the most important here. It is this setting that will allow you changes to be seen without waiting 7 days for the CloudFlare cache to expire. With this checked every time you save a page W3 Total Cache will send a request to CloudFlare to purge that page from its global cache and force the new version to be cached the next time the page is loaded.

Categories
Uncategorized

Dark Mode on WordPress

Since MacOS added dark mode I have loved working with it especially at night, however, not a lot of sites actually have a dark version and WordPress my most used web app is very bright.

This has lead me to using a more desktop applications instead of online apps to take advantage of dark interfaces and not blind myself with bright white screens in a dark room.

WordPress does have a plugin that one day may be included in core however this needs turning on and off and doesn’t detect the users system preference. That however is a small issue.

The plugin doesn’t work well with WordPress its self let alone third party plugins.

WP 5.0 Gutenberg Editor in Dark Mode

As the screenshot above sites even with the new editor included with WordPress 5.0 dark mode is not fully implemented.

The dashboard and other pages in WordPress look beautiful in dark mode howver this is still a half baked idea and doesn’t seem to be moving very fast.

Categories
Uncategorized

Email: A love hate relationship

As I become busier in my professional career and start some open source projects I collect email accounts and each account receives a different level of email. All this adds to a chaotic inbox and I needed something to organise it.

I like Outlook’s focus and other tabs but I hate Outlook on a Mac. After looking around I decided to go back to an old friend, Spark Mail by Reedle.

Spark gives you Gmail style sorting of newsletters notifications and personal email as well as something I wish Apple would do – sync my email accounts and signatures to my phone. Spark also adds in read mail tracking, spend later and remind me later for emails. Going even further Spark integrates with Todoist and Evernote to allow my to quickly action and sort emails a few times a day.

With Apple Mail I would spend around 30 minutes 3 times a day sorting email, now that is down to 10-15 minutes 3 times a day thanks to 1 click buttons to add stuff to my task list, save to Evernote and quickly reply with a few predefined messages.

Now all this was in Spark before but I never really used the application and always preferred Mac Mail because of email rules. Yes, Spark doesn’t have rules to sort your email automatically and have stuff skip right past your inbox. My Mac Mail rule list is over 50 and it keeps my inbox somewhat trim and proper minus the above mentioned grouping of email by type.

Categories
review

Journalling

I know it has been a long time since I publicly wrote on my blog and that is because a lot of what I used to write about I moved to a private journal – although that is changing and I’ll be posting back on here now as well.

Journalling is not just something for little girls it is a fantastic place to write in private. Log you life and give you something to reflect on in years to come. I have been journaling in Day One for about 3 months now and I am loving it. Yes, I am going to be working on a web based journalling application of my own but that is a different story.

One of the big reasons for the come back to WordPress is the new editor in WP 5.0 and my move from cheap hosting on to something that can actually load a page in a reasonable amount of time. These 2 combined have given some joy back to writing on the web and something I will be doing a lot more in 2019.

Tangent over, back to journalling. After only a few months of journalling when I got the end of 2018 and had something to look back on that documented my day to day life I felt I had achieved something with my time and 2018 wasn’t a total waste of everybody’s time. It gave me a real sense of being and great sight as to where I want to be at the end of 2019.

So what do I journal about:

  • Work: what I did, what I wanted to do
  • Family: what we do, what we want to do, things the children do
  • Ideas: detail out what they are and how they might work
  • Gratefulness: things I am grateful for
  • Learning: things I have learnt from reading and YouTube