Posts by: Matt

Writing on Grammarly

OK, so I heard the hype and hard to try it. Grammarly promises to be one of the best writing apps of all time.

Writing Experience

The writing interface is very clean and minimal however it does lack a few things; mainly Markdown support. Not that you can’t write in Markdown with Grammarly, however, it doesn’t have previews or syntax knowledge to move # for headings out into the margins.

Grammar and Spell Checking

This is where Grammarly really shines. It doesn’t just correct your writing it explains why so you actually learn from your mistakes.

The way is is beautifully handled in the editor with the suggestions been only a click away in the right-hand margin. The suggestions are smart and actually work well.

Conclusion

There are some shortcomings and it’s not just the price of the premium offering which is a little steep at $30 a month.

The big drawback is writing on the web. An API to allow developers to integrate the technology into other applications and a Safari extension won’t go a miss.

SimpleTax Review

Ok so this is a little late for tax season in the UK but none the less I thought I’d put some words on screen about this fantastic service. Self Assessment Tax Returns are confusing even to the most seasoned freelancer or director and this is why accountants make such big bucks. Well no more.

For the last 3 years I’ve been doing it alone with SimpleTax. An online application that connects directly to HMRC with the aim of making tax simple.

So what makes them special is the clean category layout and allowing you to complete parts of your tax return each month or as expenses and income role in. They don’t ask for a total for the year and they don’t ask you to work out what your personal use was and deduct it from the total. Every is simple really.

When it comes time to file they will check your return for errors and highlight any thing you might of missed that can reduce your tax bill. If there are no errors they estimate how much income tax and class 4 NI you will need to pay and submit the form to HMRC for you. It really is that simple.

Since using SimpleTax not only have I saved £500 a year on my accountant but I have found additional things I can claim and brought my tax bill down.

Gust: The Best of Ghost on WordPress

Recently I wrote about the Ghost blogging platform and explained why I loved the admin interface and the beautiful writing experience Ghost is just lacking some of the features I need to replace this site.

Well if you are in the same position as me you are in luck. Thanks to a WordPress plugin called Gust. Gust brings the simplicity of the Ghost admin to WordPress.

When you first install the plugin nothing changes, this is becuase gust lives outside of the main WP admin and can be found at example.com/gust. There is a good reason for this, Gust will only handle pages and posts everything else you need to go back to the main WordPress interface.

The writing experience is very clean and polished with not a lot of fuss. You get your text editor on the left with full Markdown support and a real time preview on the right. There are a couple of controls along the button of the editor for featured images, categories and saving your work.

Gust UI

Images are handled in teh same way as Ghost, Add the image Markdown and on the preview a placeholder will show for you to upload your media. Just like in Ghost there are no alignment options and the image will be inserted at whatever size you uploaded it at.

Everything works very smoothly and changes are available in the standard WordPress editor. I see my self using Gust for the rare times I need to write something and don't have my Mac around. While the experience of writing in Gust is clean and nice it doesn't compare to a dedicated writing app like Ulysses.

Its Amazing What a Font Can Do

I’ve been wanting to redesign this website for some time and I’ve even looked at some new CMS platforms to run it on.

I want something simple and easy to read something very similar to Casper, the default theme on Ghost but with some extras that are just not available on the Ghost platform. I like the idea of large images header images, simple clean 1 column layout.

The truth is I just don’t have the time to dedicate to a new theme on this site. Instead I opted to make a few changes to the current theme for readability. I have changed the font face, size and spacing to make it easier to read. I will be including more images in my posts however they will not be the large full width images I had hoped to use. With the changes I have made today I feel happier with the site and will not be pushing for a complete redesign in the next few months.

Eventually I might actually redesign this site or even move off WordPress and on to a new clean CMS.

MailPlane

MailPlane is an extremely popular Mac OS browser wrapper for Gmail. It takes the Gmail web UI, wraps in an app and adds some smart additions making it feel a little more at home on the Mac.

Now I have switched around a lot when it comes to email clients in the search for something that works the way I want and always come back to Gmail. Despite is high RAM usage Gmail is still be best email client I have used. MailPlane doesn’t change that, because its just a wrapper that loads the Gmail web UI inside an application.

So those smart additions I mentioned, what are they?

Create and Attach

This may seem like a pointless feature but after a few weeks of using it you really get to rely on it. Instead of clicking Compose then attaching your file simply just drag your file anywhere on the MailPlane window and a new email will be created with your file attached.

Native Todoist Integration

Its no secret I’m a huge Todoist user and fan. MailPlane provides a handy menu item to send the email I am currently viewing to any project in Todoist. The task is created using the subject of the email and a comment is added with the full body text and a link back to the email in MailPlane.

Default Mail App

Now there are a number of work arounds for this and I may post some of them here in the future but having easy and system wide default mail settings is a nice touch.

Multiple Account Support

This is something I didn’t use due to the way I have my Google Apps account fetch my gmail.com email via POP but I can see how this will be very useful for a lot of people.

Conclusion

While I be using MailPlane full time? I planned to use it as my default mail app and every purchased the full version however I found myself back to using a pinned tab in Safari. I have no idea why because I loved my time with MailPlane.

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