Nisus Blog

Pronounced "Nice-us"

 
 
 

AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch

May 21st, 2021 · No Comments

Apple previewed new features for people with disabilities in a post on their newsroom page. There are several great features being added but the one feature that stood out to me was AssistiveTouch on Apple Watch. It allows users to control their watch without touching the screen.

According to TechCrunch “You can activate it either by selecting it in the Assistive Touch menu, or by shaking your wrist vigorously. It then detects the position of your hand as you move it around, allowing you to “swipe” by letting the cursor linger at the edge of the screen, or interact with things using a pinch or clench.” How great is that?

Apple says this and the other features will be available as an update, though no timetable was released. The sooner the better, please.

→ No CommentsTags: Dave · General

Happy No Pants Day!

May 7th, 2021 · No Comments

This is something I live every day, but I had no idea there was an actual No Pants Day!

Happily it’s for a good cause. Read all about it at Comics Kingdom, or see the history of No Pants Day on National Today.

Whatever you do, take off your pants and celebrate (tastefully, of course)!

→ No CommentsTags: Dave · General

Nisus Writer and Custom Keyboard Layouts

April 30th, 2021 · No Comments

A topic that recently arose on the Nisus user forums is whether or not Nisus Writer comes with any custom keyboard layouts. While we don’t provide any keyboard layouts, Nisus Writer does support all layouts that are available system-wide on macOS. That includes all the default layouts provided by Apple as well as any customized keyboard layouts.

To enable additional keyboard layouts (also called input sources) on your Mac you can visit the macOS system Keyboard preferences. You’ll see a host of keyboards available:

Once you’ve enabled a keyboard layout for your Mac you can use it all your apps. In addition Nisus Writer has special language features that can help you automatically switch the keyboard layout based on the language of your document text.

You can also create your own keyboards using tools like Ukelele or search for existing pre-made custom keyboards. For example, here’s a custom Yiddish keyboard layout for the Mac.

The sky is the limit when it comes to customizing text entry.

→ No CommentsTags: Martin · Nisus Writer Express · Nisus Writer Pro · Tips

New Intel Ad Features A Mac That Doesn’t Exist

April 25th, 2021 · No Comments

Intel is having quite a marketing run of late. This latest ad (courtesy of 9to5Mac) is just about the worst of the lot:

If I had to guess I would say someone in marketing at Intel is not paying attention. No Mac as of this writing is using Intel’s 11th generation processors. The “gamer” in the photo is wearing Beats headphones. He appears to be wearing a watch, and it wouldn’t shock me to learn it is an Apple Watch. It’s just sloppy. Intel is a multi-billion dollar company. I’m pretty sure they have good people in their marketing department. How did this get through?

→ No CommentsTags: Dave · General

M1 Mac mini Review

April 18th, 2021 · No Comments

After much thought and a generous sale price I purchased a new M1 Mac mini. It’s the step up version (8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage). I’ve used it for a couple of weeks now and I’m enjoying it.

Without getting too deep in the weeds, here are the pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Compatible with every app I use (your mileage may vary).
  • Hardware works as expected. 
  • Runs cool no matter what I’m doing. 

Cons:

  • I can no longer use my mini as a space heater. 
  • Can only use two monitors (that’s not really a con for me). 
  • Bluetooth issues at times. 

Needless to say I am delighted. The Developer Transition Kits (DTK) were not known to be bastions of reliability as they were barely alpha quality hardware. The M1 mini is a different story. It has been, apart from a few bluetooth issues, very reliable, from set up to everyday usage.

My Intel mini can get very warm at times running tasks you wouldn’t think would tax the machine. For example, at set up Spotlight starts indexing the hard drive. When I did this on the Intel mini it got very warm and the fans kicked in quickly. The M1 mini didn’t even get warm during this process, and finished the task much quicker than the Intel mini. I was astonished to see how easily the computer handled this task.

If I had to pick one thing that excites me the most it is Rosetta 2. All of the software I used on the Intel mini I brought over to the M1 mini using Migration Assistant worked without issues. I would say that the most impressive feature on these new breed of Macs is Rosetta 2. 

The downside for me is the bluetooth is flakey at times. The keyboard and mouse lose connection for a bit, and it comes back just as quickly. It’s better now that Apple has addressed it, but it’s something to watch. 

Overall, I’d give 5 thumbs up to this new M1 mini.

Have you made the leap to the new Apple Silicon? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. 

→ No CommentsTags: Dave · General

Multi-Key Keyboard Shortcuts

April 9th, 2021 · No Comments

I’m a big fan of learning keyboard shortcuts. It’s nice to save time and avoid reaching for the mouse. Apple provides some basic macOS system preferences to customize keyboard shortcuts across apps, but Nisus Writer’s enhancements go much further.

Nisus Writer of course lets you customize the keyboard shortcut for any menu command. But an even bigger help are our multi-key shortcuts. You can choose whatever mnemonic is clearest to you. For example Command + H1 can apply the “Heading 1” paragraph style. To activate this shortcut:

1. Press and hold down the Command key.
2. Type the H key (press down and release up).
3. Type the 1 key (press down and release up).
4. Release the Command key (so it is now up).

Nisus Writer collects together all the pressed keys while the Command key is down and then matches the full shortcut at the very end, once the Command key is released.

Aside from activating any single regular menu command, you can also assign keyboard shortcuts to intermediate submenus. For example you might assign Command + OR to show the “Open Recent” menu. Once the menu is expanded on screen you can use the up/down arrows (or autocomplete typing) to select the desired submenu and open the corresponding file.

All these little tricks may take some small time to learn and set up, but once you do we hope you’ll see how much of a pleasure writing can be with Nisus Writer.

→ No CommentsTags: Martin · Nisus Writer Express · Nisus Writer Pro · Tips

Copybara & Pasteybara

April 7th, 2021 · No Comments


Source?

→ No CommentsTags: General · Martin

Big Sur is Dominant

April 1st, 2021 · No Comments

For the first time since its official release in early November 2020, macOS Big Sur’s usage has finally achieved a majority.

The chart above shows Big Sur’s usage rate amongst all users of Nisus Writer Pro (for those that opt-in to sharing anonymous system metrics). You can see that Big Sur’s usage for March 2021 has finally reached 50% of all our users.

Should you update to Big Sur if you haven’t already? There are many considerations, but by most accounts Big Sur is one of the better recent Mac system updates. Especially when compared to Catalina, which was notoriously unstable and obsoleted a lot of software. If you’re still worried about making the jump you might read this Big Sur rundown from our friends at TidBITS.

→ No CommentsTags: General · Martin

Intel Anti-Mac Ads Are Odd

March 28th, 2021 · 1 Comment

Over the last week or so there has been quite a bit of talk about this new series of Intel ads. If you haven’t seen them, they feature Justin Long, the actor who was in the famous “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials, pointing out the differences between the M1 Macs and PCs using Intel chips in the new commercials.

The ads bash the M1 chips found in the MacBook Air and Pro. No surprise, as most benchmarks and real world performance show the M1 chipset is faster and more power efficient than most Intel chips. While the ads are effective at pointing out there is more choice on the PC side, they fail to show anything that is exclusive to Intel chips. The things they highlight can be done with AMD chips too. Oh, and there is a gratuitous “walled garden” mention on the Intel GoPC page

My question is who is the intended target of these ads? The general public? I doubt it. If they wanted to reach the computer buying public they would give Microsoft ad money to produce these commercials. Also, why isn’t Microsoft running these ads? This is something Microsoft should be doing, not Intel. 

If I had to guess who they were for, I would say Intel employees. Those employees have spent years hearing how they have repeatedly failed while Apple, the company the new Intel CEO referred to as “… a lifestyle company”, has become an innovator in the consumer chip sector. 

If that is true, I get what they were going for with these ads, but I also think they are misguided and desperate. If it isn’t true, then Intel needs to put their heads down and get to work. The performance and power management gap is going to get wider, and no attack ads are going to change that narrative. 

→ 1 CommentTags: Dave · General

Garamond Font Discouraged by U.S. Court

March 19th, 2021 · No Comments

We all know the importance of using an appropriate typeface. This week courts in Washington, D.C. have officially placed Garamond on the naughty list:

the court has determined that certain typefaces, such as Century and Times New Roman, are more legible than others, particularly Garamond, which appears smaller than the other two typefaces

This is absolutely true. Garamond has a distinct aesthetic that can be nice to look at, but it is smaller and always felt a bit cramped to me with its tight kerning.

A very old version of the Nisus website actually briefly used Garamond for certain text elements. That was over 20 years ago! But it was probably always a poor font choice for a webpage.

→ No CommentsTags: General · Martin

Big Sur and Sandbox Folder Names

March 12th, 2021 · No Comments

Apple made some changes to the file system for macOS Big Sur. The big underlying change is the new cryptographically signed system volume that prevents tampering with system data (for better and worse). There is also another little change to what you see in the Finder when you browse sandbox folders.

As you may know, every app that adopts macOS sandboxing is given its own sandbox folder. This folder holds all local information for the app, like your app preferences. If you don’t ever give a sandboxed app access to additional files or folders (eg: by choosing extra locations in file handling dialogs), then you can be sure that everything the app stores on your Mac is kept in its sandbox. It’s a great idea. Not only does it increase security, but it also makes apps easier to uninstall: just delete the app and its sandbox.

Each sandbox folder’s name corresponds to the app’s internal identifier. For example: Nisus Writer Pro’s sandbox folder name is com.nisus.NisusWriter. That’s perhaps a little obscure, but it ensures sandbox folder names are unique. All sandbox folders are stored in a single location on your Mac, inside your home folder at:

~/Library/Containers

Big Sur changes how container names inside that folder are displayed in the Finder. Instead of showing identifiers you’ll see actual app names. That is generally an improvement, but it does also create some confusion.

The above Big Sur folder listing shows the problem: apps with related services may have several sandbox folders, which now all display using the same name. There’s one for Mail’s Spotlight importer, another for Mail’s sharing extension, and so on. But there’s no way to know which folder is the primary sandbox for Apple Mail.

This impacts InfoClick, our email search app, because it’s no longer obvious which Mail sandbox folder stores your emails. The Finder and standard file dialogs on Big Sur simply won’t show you the real folder names. Luckily there is still a way to choose the proper folder using the Go To Folder command. You can still paste the folder’s path to ensure you select the proper folder.

→ No CommentsTags: InfoClick · Martin · Tips

Apple Wants Their DTK Back

March 6th, 2021 · No Comments

According to several reports it appears that Apple would really, really like developers to send back the DTK (Developer Transition Kit) Mac mini.

Thanks again for participating in the Universal Quick Start Program and committing to building great apps for Mac. We’re following up with shipping instructions to return the Developer Transition Kit (DTK) that was loaned to you as part of the program. Please take a moment to review these details and ship all DTKs back to us by March 31, 2021.

As we mentioned in our last email, upon confirmed return of the DTK, you’ll receive a credit for 500USD in the form of a one-time use promo code valid until the end of 2021. You can use it toward the purchase of a new ‌M1‌ Mac or other Apple products ordered through the Apple Store Online.

From what I have heard from developers who have access to the DTK, most are very happy to send them back. It appears the DTK minis are at best alpha level hardware. There are reports of many hardware and software issues. Also a bit slow compared to their M1 cousins (the DTK runs an A12Z chipset found in the current iPad Pro). Yet I know that a few of these will pop up on eBay as collectables with ridiculous pricing attached. Someone is going to buy one of these (looking at you, Stephen Hackett!) and I can’t understand it. On the other hand, Nisus still has a Power Mac G4 Cube in near perfect working order, so there is that.

I say send it back, get your 500USD credit and get a new M1 Mac and hope they fix this issue.

→ No CommentsTags: Dave · General

M1 Fever

February 20th, 2021 · 4 Comments

I have to admit my resistance to the new M1 Macs is eroding quickly. Between the universally positive reviews from both reviewers and customers alike, I’m struggling to stay M1 clean. I have my eye on a Mac mini, but I think I would also enjoy a fanless MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro that has all day battery life.

It’s not that I need one of these computers. I have a fairly recent mini that I quite like. I really don’t need to upgrade. Yet, I’m being pulled into upgrading like a moth to a flame, or Guy Fieri to a diner. I’ve seen the mini for as low as $599 US at more than one place, and these sales are making things worse. Twice as fast and off the charts efficient is a combination that’s hard to resist. Add in sale pricing and I’m in serious trouble. 

Do any of you have one of these new M1 Macs? If so, please leave a comment below. I’m interested in your opinions on these new machines. 

In the meantime I’m going to keep resisting. For now. 

→ 4 CommentsTags: Dave · General

Urdu and Digital Typography

February 12th, 2021 · No Comments

There’s a lot of complexity that goes into the display of text. Text features like ligatures, small caps, and font substitution surface some of the complexity, even for languages like English whose Latin letters have been part of technology since the very beginning (ASCII encoding was standardized in the 1960’s). For languages whose letters and typography aren’t as simple as English things are much harder.

This article on digitizing the Urdu language explains the bigger challenges. It’s fascinating to read about:

The shape of each letter changes, depending on the letter that comes before and after … In 1980, Mirza Jamil wrote out every combination of Urdu letters that he could think of — roughly 20,000 by most accounts.

The traditional nastaliq script also requires that letters change their height based on their position within a word. There’s a slant to everything, so the text looks like the “wings of flying geese”. You can see the slant in this sample image of nastaliq:

It’s wonderfully artistic, but a difficult writing system for fonts and technology to properly handle.

→ No CommentsTags: General · Martin

M1 Mac Boot Options

February 5th, 2021 · 1 Comment

Remember when you needed to use various keyboard shortcuts to boot your Mac into Recovery Mode, or to reset your PRAM? If you have a Mac with an Intel chipset, you still need to remember these shortcuts. However, if you have a new M1 Mac (I’m not jealous of those of you who purchased one, not at all!), it appears that you can forget those shortcuts. 

According to an Apple support document, you now access the various boot modes by holding down the power button for 10 seconds. You’ll then see a new Recovery Options screen that shows your boot drive and an Options icon that will show you the various boot modes that are available. All the boot modes you are used to are there, plus a few new ones.

So to sum up, booting into Recovery mode on an M1 Mac no longer requires memorizing keyboard shortcuts. I have to admit it’s going to take a while before I unlearn these shortcuts, but this is progress I suppose.

Oh, and if you do own one of these M1 Macs, please hesitate to tell me, even though I’m really not jealous of you at all. Really. 

→ 1 CommentTags: Dave · General

Upgrades And The Mac App Store

January 29th, 2021 · No Comments

We have been receiving quite a bit of email on this subject lately, so I thought I would explain how to qualify for upgrade pricing if you have purchased from the Mac App Store. 

The Mac App Store does not allow developers to offer upgrade pricing. That leaves customers with two choices:

  • Purchase Nisus Writer at full price on the Mac App Store. 
  • Purchase directly through our store.

If you would like to purchase through us to receive the upgrade discount, you can follow the excellent instructions Martin provided in our FAQ (which answers many, many Nisus app related questions). Alternatively, you can email your Mac App Store receipt as proof of purchase.

Please know that while we make more money from direct purchases, feel free to buy from wherever you like. All of our customers are treated and appreciated in the same way. 

→ No CommentsTags: Dave · InfoClick · Nisus Writer Express · Nisus Writer Pro

Extract Text from Images

January 22nd, 2021 · 5 Comments

Nisus Writer recently added a feature that allows you to extract editable text from your photos, scans, PDFs, and other images. This process is often called optical character recognition (aka OCR).

Let’s see how text extraction works using a COVID relief notice I recently received from the United States government:

Once the image is in Nisus Writer Pro document, select it and use the Extract Text From Image command to generate an editable text version of the image:

Most of the text is correct and in sequence. There are a few minor errors and text misplacements, like the number 6 appearing before the title– perhaps caused by the Treasury Department’s seal alongside the main textual content.

Let’s try a few others images, like this paperback book and store receipt:

Overall pretty good! Usually editing extracted text is a better starting point than retyping something entirely.

The accuracy of the extraction will depend on a variety of factors including the quality of the image, whether text is slanted or rotated, the language and words in the text, and your system version. Nisus Writer uses Apple’s machine learning capabilities to accomplish this task, and requires at least macOS 10.15 Catalina.

Hopefully you’ll find a good use for this new feature.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Martin · Nisus Writer Express · Nisus Writer Pro · Tips

Jump Around Quickly While Writing

January 15th, 2021 · No Comments

One of my favorite new features in Nisus Writer Pro 3 is the Go To Content command. Whenever I’m writing a reasonably complex document I often want to jump around it, to consult material from other sections or simply work on different parts of the text. Nisus Writer has a Navigator sidebar that can aid in this task, showing key document structure like the Table of Contents or Bookmarks. But I wanted a faster workflow.

You can use the new Go To Content menu to see a list of available destinations, like all your Table of Contents headings. Or perhaps all text using a particular paragraph style:

This listing allows you to quickly filter by keyword or partial text, so you only have a few destinations to look through. This is a great way to find the desired heading (or other special content) and jump right to it.

Skip the Mouse
One thing I love about the new Go To Content command is that I can keep my hands on the keyboard the whole time. Using Nisus Writer’s multi-key shortcuts I’ve established a few shortcuts to trigger variants of the Go To Content command. For example: Command + GT for Go to Text in TOC, and Command + GB for Go to Bookmark.

Once a “Go To” dialog is open, it’s quick to finish the job via the keyboard:
1. Type a few keywords to narrow down the list of destinations.
2. Press the Down Arrow key to select the desired destination.
3. Press Return to jump to the destination text.

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t take that long to grab your mouse and click around, but it feels really great when you get something done using only the keyboard. You stay more focussed on your writing– in the flow. If you haven’t bothered to train your habits to reduce mouse usage, I suggest you give it a try. It can be a revelation!

Learn More
For more details on this new feature in Nisus Writer Pro, please see the Go To Content section of our user guide. It goes over some other details and tricks, like using the Go To Content dialog to produce a list of specialized search results.

→ No CommentsTags: Martin · Nisus Writer Pro · Tips

Nisus Writer Updates for Big Sur

December 22nd, 2020 · No Comments

Nisus Writer Pro and Nisus Writer Express recently added support for Apple Silicon and macOS Big Sur. But those versions still had some rough edges to smooth out when running on Big Sur. Today we’re happy to release Nisus Writer Pro 3.2.1 and Nisus Writer Express 4.2.1 to fix the most commonly reported Big Sur issues.

Aside from improving app behavior on Big Sur, these updates include a variety of other fixes which you can read about in the full Nisus Writer Pro release notes or Nisus Writer Express release notes.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Nisus!

→ No CommentsTags: Nisus Writer Express · Nisus Writer Pro

Apple Silicon Support for InfoClick and Thesaurus

December 22nd, 2020 · No Comments

If the elves brought you a shiny new Apple Silicon Mac we have some app updates for you. The new versions of InfoClick (our email search tool) and Nisus Thesaurus now run natively on Apple Silicon.

Aside from Apple Silicon support, InfoClick version 1.2.6 includes a handful of bug fixes which are listed on the InfoClick release notes page. There are no other changes for Nisus Thesaurus.

→ No CommentsTags: InfoClick · Nisus Thesaurus