Back to MailMate

What I wanted to do was to use Apple Mail on my Macs. I even did it for a while. Mail’s simplicity is comforting and it makes mail look nice.

What I ended up doing instead is to go back to MailMate.

I have 3 mail accounts; Gmail, Fastmail, and Protonmail. I would like to manage Gmail and Fastmail from the same app. I tried using their respective web apps but I just don’t enjoy it. Never have.

Apple Mail sometimes goes wonky on me and I never seem to figure out what causes it. This time, for example, all of my messages sent from Gmail ended up in my Fastmail account’s Sent folder. I tried every combination of changing/removing/re-adding SMTP credentials/servers/accounts but could not get it working right. I then started seeing messages in “smart” mailboxes that should not have been there. Considering how much time I spend in email, these little annoyances add up.

MailMate is a little “heavier” and not as pretty, but it has always worked flawlessly for me and does everything I could ever want.

Fallback Tools

It’s fun to try new things. I experience a strong fear of missing out when it comes to gear and software, so I try almost everything. What if that other thing is better? I should try it!

The New Thing is always fun and interesting, and it some cases I decide that I no longer need the Old Thing and go all in.

Then it happens. I stumble over some missing feature or unanticipated side effect so decide to fall back to the thing I know. The Old Thing. Sometimes it’s only to get over the current hurdle, but most of the time I end up staying with my old standbys. My fallback tools.

Software examples are: BBEdit, Apple Notes, OmniFocus, Apple Mail, Tinderbox, DEVONthink, and Curio. For photography gear it’s a Leica M6, Fuji X100T, Tri-X, HC-110, and 5×7 RC paper.

I’m currently trying Capture One again for image management and editing. My fallback tool is Lightroom, so we’ll see what happens there.

Experimenting with new tools is my favorite meta hobby, but it’s good to know there are things I can always count on.

DEVONthink – Import Files and Folders

2018 08 20 devonthink import

There’s a lot to be said for using the Mac’s Finder for long-term, portable, stable storage of files. It’s always right there. Add Dropbox and everything is seamlessly synced across both of my Macs.

On the other hand, there’s DEVONthink, which is where I’ve kept important files and documents for a number of years.

Once in a while I get it in my head that I need to remain as OS-independent as possible. DEVONthink is Mac only, so I export everything into matching filesystem folders and swear that “All I really need from now on is the Finder and Spotlight!” It’s such a relief knowing that everything is in its place and not dependent upon expensive third party software.

Here’s what happens next.

I periodically scan all of my paperwork (bills, receipts, letters, etc.). This gets me a folder full of PDFs to deal with. I like things organized, so I drag them one at a time into the proper folder inside my “File Cabinet” folder. It’s a pain, and reminds me that DEVONthink has this magic way of suggesting a destination for each file, based on its contents. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough that I mostly just hit “Move To” for 95% of the new files and they are automatically put where they belong.

Then there’s searching. DEVONthink searches are faster and at least as accurate as Spotlight. The key is that the results are super easy to browse and preview and search terms are nicely highlighted for me. I can always find what I’m looking for more quickly using DEVONthink. Plus, it’s a more pleasant experience.

The iOS version of DEVONthink is darn nice and everything syncs quickly and (finally) reliably. The DEVONthink databases are exposed as folders in the iOS Files app, so it’s almost like having it both ways.

Let’s be honest, I’m a Mac user and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. Seems a shame not to take advantage of a superior way of working.

So, I open my DEVONthink libraries, select File->Import->Files and Folders… and swear I’m never going to change my mind again.

Agenda Mac

2018 08 19 agenda logo

I’ve tried using Agenda for my notes several times and only recently has it “stuck”. Here’s why.

I am not trying to keep everything in it. Agenda doesn’t work for me as an “Everything Bucket” and that’s what I was trying to use it for. Instead, I’m using it only for time-based, project-related notes. Anything that involves specific dates or that could benefit from a nice, chronological history becomes a “project” in Agenda. Agenda’s deep calendar integration is super useful for planning and reviewing.

The “aha!” moment for me was when I realized that each project in Agenda becomes like a little blog for that project. I love blogs! Thinking of project notes this way is helpful, and has prompted me to take better and more consistent notes for work projects.

I’m looking forward to a couple of features that should make Agenda even more useful to me.

  1. The ability to archive projects somehow. I’m currently dumping them into an “Archive” category but that’s not ideal
  2. Inline files and images. I’m nervous that being able to drop files and images directly into notes will become a slippery slope toward the “Everything Bucket” problem, but it certainly can come in handy if used sparingly.

What I’m supposed to be doing today is packing more boxes. What I’ll probably do today is sit here and overthink everything that happens on my computer.

Digital Black and White

I have always disliked the idea of converting digital photos from color to black and white. As with film, I feel that one should decide if a photo is to be color or black and white before pressing the shutter. It's tempting to always shoot as Raw files and convert to black and white later if desired. That's the best answer for most people, but not for me. As convenient and flexible as the color-to-black-and-white process can be, it feels wrong. It feels like cheating. If I see a black and white photograph and know that it was originally shot in color, it's less meaningful to me. Fake, somehow.  I prefer black and white images to color, and I want to make black and white images even when shooting digital. I shoot black and white using only in-camera JPEGs rather than converting from color. The Acros film simulation in the X-Pro2 is terrific right out of the camera. I like the look.
Gene (2017). X-Pro2 Acros simulation
Shooting black and white using in-camera JPEGs also helps me avoid the urge to try every possible post-processing option. When converting from color to black and white I tend to tinker with VSCO or Nik or any number of other plugins and filters. As fun as that can be, it wastes time and leads to an inconsistent and haphazard style. As far as I'm concerned, the only true black and white photos are made using black and white film, but I don't shoot using only film. I'm ok with digital black and white photos as long as they were made that way to begin with.