I’ve been using Zotero for over a year now. It is one of the elements that allowed me to leave Evernote, as it can automagically fetch scientific papers and their metadata for me, store web pages, clip PDFs from my browser etc.

Thanks to Nick Milo and Eleanor Konik discussing Eleanor’s Zotero/Obsidian workflow on YouTube, I found Bryan Jenks’ video on the same topic. Bryan Jenks’ nicely explains something I had seen other people reference.

First he discusses two Zotero plugins that are very useful to me:

  • Zotfile, this allows me to annotate and comment an article, and then extract and store that inside Zotero, with links back to the paper and the location in the paper the annotations and articles belong to.
  • MDnotes, which allows you to export material from Zotero in markdown.

Together they allow me to higlight and annotate an article, and export that as notes into my Obsidian notes. Even better, those notes have the links to the paper and page of an annotation still in them. Clicking them opens up Zotero in the right article, in the right spot. This way context is maintained while I further process my notes, and the actual reference is just a single click away.

This is already very nice and smooth.

Then towards the end he mentions another very useful thing: Dean Jackson‘s Alfred workflow for Zotero, Zothero, which a.o. allows fancy search methods of my Zotero database right from my main screen.

Half an hour very well spent, thanks to Bryan Jenkins.

I am finally getting to learn AlfredApp Workflows. Previously they looked rather daunting to me.

Since I moved to a new laptop I’m learning to do more with AlfredApp (it is Mac only, and I use the paid PowerPack option). On my old laptop I first only used it for custom search, such as finding a business on Open Street Map. Later I added the automated expansion of text snippets, which saves me a lot of typing during the day.

AlfredApp also allows you to make Workflows, where you string together triggers, inputs, operators, actions and outputs to automate tasks on your machine. I had previously looked at Workflows but they seemed complicated to me, judging by some example workflows I downloaded that weren’t at all clear to me. Early this morning I came across this video of Automating All The Things, where Aron Korenblit talks with Chris Messina about using Workflows (it was early and I did not jot down where I found the vid, in someone’s RSS, mastodon stream or someplace else, so HT to whoever pushed it in my stream)

this is just a screenshot from the video that links to the video on YT, not a video player: I didn’t want to embed YT video.

This morning I reckoned I wasn’t going to watch a 87 minute video, but I was wrong (though I did jump forward a few times). Chris takes Aron through the basics of building your own Workflows, and I now get what they are and how to build my own. First I’ve added some fairly easy things, like having typing ‘read’ open up my fresh articles in my TinyTinyRSS feedreader instance, or typing ‘blog’ followed by a type of post, e.g. ‘blog bookmark’ open up the correct editing window for it. Next, I will be thinking through my local routines and context switches, and how I might be able to assist myself by automating them. The video starts with a few quick tips on how to make AlfredApp easier to access and use for yourself, so it can get embedded in your muscle memory.

Now I’ve moved from TextExpander to Alfred and am creating new extension text snippets in Alfred, I encounter questions to solve dynamic content of snippets. Particularly with dates. Alfred’s dynamic snippet possibilities for dates are somewhat limited of themselves. Finding this tip from 2017 in the Alfred forum by one of the admins and following her pointer to this overview of unix date format patterns was very helpful.

Where Alfred only looks at the date and things relative to it, with those patterns you can do anything, as long as you remember Alfred starts from the date itself.

So getting the week number is {date: w} and last week’s number is {date -7d: w} (todays date minus 7 days, -1w won’t work). And getting the things like Q4 is {date: qqq}.

I use these snippets to create dynamic links in my Obsidian note files. E.g. I have a weekly review note, which ends with a link to the previous and the next weekly review file. The file names are along the lines of ‘W 2020-43 Review’. I create links dynamically with Alfred using the snippet, with the dynamic parts between {}:

[[W {date -7d:YYYY-w} Review | previous week review]]  [[W {date +7d:YYYY-w} Review | next week review]]

I have been using TextExpander for a long time to speed up typing by using keywords for often used and repeating snippets.

Things like .TZ to type my name Ton Zijlstra, .url to type my blog’s url https://www.zylstra.org/blog, and .@blog for my blog’s mail addressblog@zylstra.org. That way filling out a comment form on a blog is .TZ .@blog .url, and then the comment.

With their latest release TextExpander has gone the route of so many software packages, and started charging a yearly subscription. I don’t mind buying software but paying yearly for the same package adds up quickly over the many software tools I use. I don’t mind the occasional payment for an upgrade (I happily pay Tinderbox $100 every time I do a major upgrade), but forcing a subscription on me is a form of economic tethering I fundamentally dislike.

So whenever a software tool moves away from ‘pay me once now, and pay again once you choose to upgrade’ to ‘let us set the frequency of payments’ I try to move away from that software tool. Currently I am moving my TextExpander snippets into Alfred, a tool that does the same thing next to doing a whole host of other things and that I also already had installed.