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Friday, August 28, 2015

The CloudAge™ Author: Scrivener, and Dropbox

In our last installment, we were discussing how to sync your Scrivener app on Mac OS X using Simplenote, using the built-in tools in Scrivener to connect to a Simplenote account.

If you don't have—or don't like—Simplenote, you do have other options available to you. As we discussed in an earlier post, you can tell Scrivener to sync with an external folder, and that folder can reside basically anywhere on your Mac. If you put your external folder in your Dropbox folder (or a sub-folder of it), you can access it anywhere you can access Dropbox; editing them can then be done in any RTF or plain text editor that can open files from Dropbox.

Caveat: if you plan to use a plain text editor, such as iaWriter (US $2.99), you must set up the External Folder Sync to use plain text, rather than RTF files. Also, if you have an outline already created, or have some idea what your structure will look like, I have found it easiest to make sure the files I think I am going to want already exist, even if they are empty, before I even set up the External Folder for syncing. You may feel differently, and that's okay!

Some of these options include the lightweight PlainText 2 (free, does offer in-app purchases), Byword (US $5.99), and others. In the interest of brevity, I'm only going to cover Plain Text 2 today, since getting other apps to work is very similar.

The gist of getting any particular app to connect to Dropbox, if it offers that option, is to tell the app you want to use Dropbox—usually in the settings for the app itself—and then adding Dropbox as an option there. The app will usually launch the Dropbox app for you, which will then ask you if you want to allow that app to connect. Giving it permission then returns you to the original app, where you may have to wait for the app to sync with the Dropbox files. Also, while many apps offer Dropbox sync by default, others may offer it only as an in-app purchase upgrade.

For PlainText 2 users:
Plain Text 2 offers Dropbox sync as well, and linking it is very easy.

First, open Plain Text 2 and there will be an option along the left edge to link to Dropbox. Clicking on this will ask whether you want to link Plain Text 2 to the entire Dropbox hierarchy, or only to the App folder for Plain Text 2.

In my example, I just went ahead and linked to the entire Dropbox folder, since I might want to edit already existing documents; if you've not linked Plain Text to Dropbox before, this is probably the better option, unless you will go back later and edit Scrivener's Sync to External Folder option to put your project's files under the Plain Text folder on Dropbox.

Whichever option you choose, tapping it will launch the Dropbox app, and ask if you want to allow Plain Text 2 to access Dropbox. Tapping on Allow will link the two, and then take you back to the Plain Text 2 app, where Plain Text will warn you that Dropbox sync cannot be done in the background, and to keep the app open while syncing occurs. Depending on how many files you have, and how much space, this can take a couple of minutes over WiFi.

Once it syncs, you should be able to tap on the Dropbox icon on the left side, and see your files & folders. Tap your way through the file hierarchy until you find the Draft folder you set up in the External Folder Sync in Scrivener. Select the file you want to edit, and go to town!

If you want to create a new file in Plain Text 2 and have it ready to sync, make sure you are in the Draft folder, and tap the "new file" button (the icon at the bottom of the left sidebar, a square with a pencil through the upper-right corner). Then, type away!

In either case, whether you are editing existing files or are creating new ones, changes to the Scrivener project must be synced back. Once you have the project open in Scrivener, click "File->Sync->With External Folder Now" to bring the changes back up (and, also, push down any you may have made while in Scrivener).

Any new or modified files will appear in the Binder in Scrivener, under the "Updated Documents" collection. To reveal the collections, if they are not already visible, click on the Collections button at the top left of the Scrivener toolbar

(And, to reveal the Binder, if it is hidden, click the Binder button on the far left). Now, you'll have a Scrivener project with all your edited, and new, documents from Plain Text 2 on your iPad!

One final caveat, before we part ways today:  Plain Text 2 (like many other editors) will automatically save the file using the first line of the file as its title. This also means that, like many other editors, you shouldn't edit the first line of the file once it's been synced to Scrivener. Until you sync it, you can edit it ad hoc, no big deal. But once it's been synced, it's best to leave it alone. My suggestion is to immediately give the file a first line title that will be useful in Scrivener (Scrivener will later add its own internal information to the title anyway), and then never worry about it again.

If anyone has a question, feel free to post a comment below, or shoot me a note on my Facebook Page (BacilDonovanWarren), or on Twitter (@BacilDonovan).

Monday, August 24, 2015

CloudAge writing with Scrivener and Simplenote

Yes, it's been a while since our last installment in this series, Scrivening in the CloudAge (with Scrivener), so let's not delay any longer with idle chit-chat!

… Except to say that Scrivener seems to be nearing readiness on the iPad, having recently gone into a private Beta test phase. I am going to attempt to become a public beta tester for it, when they make that available, but I will definitely test & review it for you when it is released if I am not able to become a beta tester. And that, of course, the reason for my delay is that I switched from my iPad as my only portable option, to a MacBook Air, and have been unintentionally neglecting the iPad as my writing tool because of that. I am here to redress that imbalance!

So if you're a current Scrivener user, and already have or are planning to install Simplenote (free) on your iPad, here's how you connect Simplenote to your existing Scrivener projects.

First, launch and login to Simplenote on the iPad (create a free user account, if you have not yet done so).

Next, on your computer, open the project you wish to be able to use in Simplenote, within Scrivener on your computer. Next, go into the "File" menu, and select "Sync->with Simplenote …", as shown:

When you select the "with Simplenote …" option, a sheet will appear, permitting you to login to the Simplenote servers. Use the same username and password as you used on the iPad.

Please note that the Project keyword field is mandatory, as this is the method that Scrivener uses to sync with Simplenote.

Next, you're greeted with a sheet to select which documents should sync between Scrivener and Simplenote for this project. By default, this is set to "Select documents to sync", which is the recommended setting. The rationale behind this setting is that you should sync only the documents you will work on remotely, saving space and bandwidth. For example, you might wish to work on text documents within the "Draft" folder (the generic name for the project's main content, whether a short story or a manuscript, etc.), as well as Characters, but not the Places or Setting items.
The settings for "Take snapshots of affected documents before updating", "Insert blank lines between paragraphs", and "Delete from Simplenote any project documents not selected for syncing" are enabled by default. Deselecting "Take snapshots" will stop Scrivener from making snapshot backups of the selected files before uploading, and before syncing back, and is not recommended (that is, leave it selected, that way it will make snapshots of the local file before any changes are uploaded or synced). Inserting blank lines between paragraphs will insert a blank link after any paragraph in the Scrivener document. Delete from Simplenote will remove from the Simplenote service any documents which are present in Simplenote—and are part of the current project—but which are not selected to be synced. As an example, lets say you work on one chapter at a time. You create a new folder for the chapter, and sync that folder and all of its subfiles to Simplenote. Then, after several weeks of editing, etc., you regard the chapter as finished, and sync all your changes back into Scrivener. Next, you work on chapter 2, create the Chapter 2 folder and some subfiles, then mark them for sync to Simplenote. If you then un-check the Chapter 1 folder & files, and leave "Delete from Simplenote any project documents not selected for syncing", all of the Chapter 1 files & folder(s) will be deleted from Simplenote (though, since you've already synced up from before, you will not be losing information). This can be a handy way to stay focused only on the highest-priority items, by removing any files that have already been finished and leaving behind only the ones that are still being edited.

Once you've selected the items within Scrivener to sync, click "Continue" and you'll be presented with a sheet asking about importing from Simplenote. First, it will prompt you for the location in the current project where you'd like Simplenote documents to be placed. This will, of course, depend on what you're doing; if you are using the iPad as a research tool—say, by taking your iPad with you to the library or to wherever you do your research—then you might choose to have Scrivener add Simplenote files to the Research section of the project. If, instead, you are working on only one chapter of your novel on the iPad (maybe you'll be on a business trip and want to work on the new chapter while you're away), you can select that folder instead. There will also be a section to the left where any notes already marked for this project will appear (as you can see, there aren't any for now), and a section to the right where other notes from Simplenote will appear; you can elect to or not to sync any or all of these items.

Once you've selected where to sync these files, and which ones to sync, click Continue and it will sync the files you've selected up to Simplenote, and any you've told it to bring down from Simplenote. It should then give you a "Sync Complete" message like the one on the right.

Next, open Simplenote on the iPad (or iPhone, if you prefer), and you should see a list of notes in the main viewing area, as shown. Here is a brand-new Simplenote installation, with no previously existing files (the only note listed, "Getting the most out of Simplenote", is automatically created when Simplenote creates your login).

Once the files in your new Scrivener project have been synced, you will see those files appear as well. You can see here, the titles of these notes contain not just the filename from the Scrivener file ("Scene" and "Story"), but also the left & right parentheses ("(" & ")"),  left & right straight brackets ("[" and "]"), as well as the Project Keyword ("Testing Simplenote") and a number. In Simplenote, the first line of any note becomes the note's title, and in Scrivener the title is used to sync the files between Simplenote (the "remote"), and the Scrivener project (the "local"). When in Simplenote, remember do not edit the first line of any notes you sync with Scrivener, or those changes may be lost, overwritten, or otherwise mangled.

On the right, you can also see what the Simplenote interface looks like if you have the "notes" pane expanded (click the < at the top left of the screen). This allows you to pick and choose between seeing "All Notes" (that is, everything in your Simplenote account), or only notes with particular "Tags" (such as "Scrivener", which is automatically tagged to any Scrivener-synced document, or "Testing_Simplenote", which is the tag automatically created from the Project Keyword when it was created in the Scrivener project).

When you have been out and about on your iPad (or iPhone), and you are back to your computer ready to re-sync the changes you've made on your project while working on the iPad, you basically do the same steps: Select "File->Sync->with Simplenote …", and make sure that any files from Scrivener you wish to keep synced with the Simplenote project are selected; then, click "Continue" to select any new files that you wish to sync, which you may have created in Simplenote but are not yet in the Scrivener project, and click "Continue" again. This will sync any changed documents (creating a snapshot, first, if that option is selected), then push any new Scrivener documents to Simplenote, pull any new Simplenote notes to Scrivener, and then show you the "Sync Completed" sheet.

Now, you have an updated version of all documents on both Scrivener on your computer, and the Simplenote app on your device!

Please, feel free to post any questions below. Both Scrivener (links to support page) and Simplenote (links to contact page) offer support for their products.

Monday, August 10, 2015

I was your medic

I was your medic
—Bacil Donovan Warren

You might remember me, although I don't remember you,
It's nothing personal, you see—I very seldom do.
I treat a lot of people, and I see more every day;
Now, if the call was really bad, the memory might stay.

Especially if it involved a child—maybe yours?—
Whose face was blue, head slumping down, as we came through the doors.
You held her precious body out for us to lend a hand
"You must save her!" you screamed at us, as we calmly began.

Or was it from this call we ran, a couple months ago;
A flare up at a barbecue; a man who did not know
The gas had already been on, and tried to light the flame,
What I recall most about it: him, screaming out in pain.

As many of my colleagues know, I joke about our work,
None of it is intended to be rude; I'm not a jerk.
It's simply how many of us deal with the deathly ill,
The ugly truth about it, is that many haunt me still.

The agony in faces wracked with fear about the fate
Of a father, or a friend, who seems at Heaven's gate;
A tearful wail as medics fail to work their magic touch—
Sometimes, when I remember them, it really is too much.

And so I work to bury it, so deep inside my soul.
I let it out in little bursts as jokes—that is my role.
But many nights I lie in bed, because I cannot sleep;
The memories of those I've lost—into my brain they creep.

They torture me with thoughts about the things I did, or not;
Was there more I could have done? Just give me another shot!
The second, or the third or fourth, a chance to do again
And step back into history—remembering only then

That nothing that I do or say has made them come alive
I couldn't make it better then, and they did not survive.
So as I lay with the demon Doubt twisting in my head,
I circle into bitter thoughts, just laying in my bed.

One month turns to five or six, Doubt eating me from within
My coping mechanisms can no longer calm the din.
The demon leads me to the gun, I keep for safety's sake;
Ironic how I use it now, the cycle for to break.

I didn't think that anyone would get just how I feel;
I thought I would get laughed about—the medic who can't deal!
It tears my soul apart now when I dwell upon this pain,
I just wish I could have reached out and didn't have to feign

Being well: a happy face, be that medic you all know
Has it all together!—I tell you now, it's all a show.
If only I had taken time, to talk about these fears
I might not now be looking down, your faces wet with tears.

My memorial is over, my friends have said goodbye,
Some of them are back to work, while others will sit and cry.
I was your medic, at one time, but since I kept it in,
I took my life when demon Doubt no longer stayed within.

I beg you now, my medic friends, don't keep it buried down
Hiding under a false face; the station's duty clown.
Talk to someone who can help you deal with this Doubt.
I do not want another soul to accompany me out.

If you are an EMS provider, and you are feeling haunted & brought to the brink of suicide by those demons of Doubt, or the memories of the ones you couldn't save, you can get help: the Code Green Campaign has a lot of resources you can use to help with those. It sucks when we lose patients, but there is hope. You are not alone.