Using Siri Better to Write Posts and Messages

It’s not convenient to explain punctuation to Siri, but if it’s just occasional, or you don’t have your hands free, these commands can save some time in the editing process.

I think it’s best if you use Siri inside a text editing app like Drafts…It’s easier to edit things there, and sometimes Siri botches things so using the service by pressing and holding the home button still feels a bit risky.

Jordan Shirkman does a fantastic job explaining the best way to use Siri on your iPhone/iPad. He also has the best list I’ve ever seen of punctuation commands for Siri.

Personally, I go back and forth between his method of speaking text into Drafts and just making an audio note in Evernote. I generally try to keep my documents as text, if possible to make sure they’re searchable, but when I need to get an idea out quickly or it’s technical in nature, I find it works better to make them an audio note in Evernote and transcribe later.

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Using Drafts and Launch Center Pro/Workflow to Open Evernote Notes Directly

This past summer I stumbled across Jeffrey Kishner’s helpful post about using Pythonista, Drafts, and Launch Center Pro to create a direct link to any Evernote note on iOS. I have been using that workflow quite a bit to easily launch Evernote notes directly on my iPhone. Some of the notes I want to have quick access to are my Bible Verses to Remember and Prayer Requests notes.

There were a few things about the script that seemed like they could be optimized:

  1. There’s no need to get the link to the note from your Mac, you can get it directly from the iOS Evernote app.
  2. The manual of your six-digit string and the s.. in the Evernote URL could easily be automated.
  3. There workflow overall didn’t seem to be automated enough.

So I decided to try my hand at eliminating Pythonista from the workflow by using the new JavaScript actions in Drafts 4. To someone who knows JavaScript, or programming in general, I’m sure the script I hacked together is hideous, but it works, and to me that’s all that matters.

To check it out look for the Create Direct Link to Evernote Notes link on my projects page.

Fixing the BibleDraft Text Verse Action To Send Multiple Verses

The other day I needed to send my wife a series of Bible verses. This is one of the reasons I wanted a tool for quickly getting Bible verses on iOS. Well, as I went to text her, I realized that I'd made a sloppy error when building BibleDraft 1.1 – I had not built the multiple-verse functionality to group references and passages. So I took 15 minutes last night to fix that.

If you use BibleDraft to get Bible verses on your iPhone or iPad, please update to 1.1.1. Let me know if you have other issues.

BibleDraft 1.1

I’ve been hard at work (in the little spare time that I have) on some new projects and my use of BibleDraft has also continued to evolve. I want to thank Greg Pierce at Agile Tortiose for being so generous to tweet a link to the project on NYE 2014. I was amazed at the amount of traffic that came to my little blog (in 2 days I had more traffic than I had since I started blogging 18 months prior) for a little project about using Drafts for iOS as a Bible app. I had no idea people were so curious about it.

So, if you’re using BibleDraft, I have a little update for you. I just updated the script to v. 1.1. With BibleDraft 1.1, you can now:

  • Quickly send a Bible verse on iOS using the new “Text Bible Verse” action
  • Use a semicolon ; to separate multiple passages in addition to new lines of text
  • turned off links to the corresponding verse on ESV Bible Online. It’s actually off by default now. The “Preference” to turn them on is at Line 63 of the code.
  • if you do choose to have links on, the link ids are now much less hideously long

For more info on the entire project, check out the BibleDraft page in the projects section.

Also, if you’d like to use BibleDraft but don’t have Pythonista, would you let me know? Tweet to me and let me know if you have Editorial. I’m trying to see if I spend the time moving the entire project over to Editorial for greater appeal.

BibleDraft 1.0

Today I’m happy to finally put a project I’ve been working on for quite awhile on this site. The project is called BibleDraft and you can find its home on my new projects page.

BibleDraft1.0

The Background

Since the big thing in movies in the last 10 years has been origin stories, let’s start with the background[1] on this script. Continue reading

Using Drafts and Pythonista for Quick Bible Verses (ESV)

This workflow has been turned into the BibleDraft project. Visit that page for more info.

I have long had the desire to have quick access to the text of bible verses. Maybe I want to email it, text it, put it in Day One, or just have it for my immediate consumption. I've always felt that the Bible apps were too slow or had too many taps for that time when you just need to get the verse and move things forward.

So while on vacation this summer I took two of my favorite apps, Drafts and Pythonista and built a very simple Bible action. Drafts is perfect for this because when you open it up, it's ready to accept text. And I'd already modified a Python script for Editorial to take sermon notes with inline Bible verses. So I took those two tools and created a simple Drafts action to:

  1. Take the draft, needs to be a Bible verse (call me Captain Obvious)
  2. Send the reference to Pythonista
  3. run a Python script entitled “quick ESV verse” and have Pythonista pull the reference text from the ESV Bible's API
  4. Return the reference as bold markdown with the verses on the lines below it.

And that's all the action was designed to do. For the 3 people in the world who:

  • use Drafts
  • use Pythonista
  • use the ESV translation
  • are dissatisfied with the speed of looking up verses in their current Bible app

I hope you find this helpful. Grab the “Quick ESV” action for Drafts and create a script in Pythonista entitled “quick ESV verse.py” with the code below or if you have the “New from Gist” workflow installed in Pythonista you can get the link here.

Update 1: I realize that the way I tweaked the Drafts Action now requires Drafts 4. Some of you may still be running Drafts 3. If that’s the case let me know and I’ll update the script so it works on both versions

Using Editorial on iOS to Build The Ultimate Sermon Notes Tool

One of the things I love about our new pastor at church is that he sends out an outline of his sermon on Fridays to all the small group leaders along with discussion questions. This is great because it’s allowed me to take much better notes on Sundays and to be focused on the content of what our pastor is saying, not just taking detailed notes.[1] My main workflow for doing this has been to take the email or PDF of the sermon outline, copy it into Drafts, take my notes there, and then send it to Evernote with a custom action that puts it in my “Jesus” notebook, tags it with “Sermon Notes”, and adds the date stamp to the note title in my preferred format.

A Few Issues with Drafts

Taking my sermon notes in Drafts has been fine, but I’ve found myself fairly limited by the way Drafts is setup to work. Drafts was designed for, well, drafts. Type a quick note, send it to Evernote. Type a quick text and send it out. You get the picture. Longer-form writing isn’t in the app’s purview, and that’s what sermon notes have become for me.

The main issue I was having was getting text from the Bible apps into Drafts. I wanted it done with a URL scheme, but there aren’t any Bible apps that I’ve been able to find using the X-Callback-URL scheme. So I was

  1. opening Drafts,
  2. then opening a Bible app,
  3. copying the text to the clipboard,
  4. switching back to Drafts,
  5. pasting the text as a new draft,
  6. sending the text to TextTool for cleanup using a Drafts action, and
  7. switching back to the sermon notes draft.

This workflow was eventually simplified somewhat by incorporating a Launch Center Pro action, but it was still way too cumbersome. So I was searching for a way to keep my mind more focused on the sermon than the technology for note-taking.

My Issues With The Bible Apps Available On iOS.

Before moving on to how I solved my problem, let’s just discuss the state of Bible apps on iOS. On my Macs I use Logos Bible Software for all my bible study needs. I have primarily used their great iOS app as well for my mobile study, daily devotions, and for reference during sermons. However, the Logos app has this odd formatting issue. If you copy text and paste it into another app, it includes all sorts of weird formatting, specifically related to footnotes.

In the screenshots below you can see the footnotes in Logos for iOS are in superscript. Well, when those get copied in plain text and pasted, they get converted to regular text, sometimes with zero-character spaces between them as shown in the second screenshot.

Logos for iOS
Logos for iOS
Text Pasted from Logos for iOS into Drafts
Text Pasted from Logos for iOS into Drafts

So I was looking around for other iOS Bible apps and came across the ESV Bible app for iOS. Ironically, it was my wife (not a techie), who I noticed using the app, so I gave it a try. When it was formatted into plain text, the results were much nicer (screenshots below), and thus I was able to clean them up in TextTool with a simple wrap function.

The ESV App for iOS
The ESV App for iOS
The Raw Paste from the ESV app
The Raw “Paste” from the ESV app
The Final Product of TextTools Wrap Function
The Final Product of TextTool’s Wrap Function

This was fine, but it was still way too cumbersome for quickly getting Bible verses into my sermon notes, especially when the pastor was on a roll. I needed a tool that could help me when the pastor just starts listing off verses that support his point.

How Editorial Helped Me With Sermon Notes

I’ll be honest, I loved Editorial when it came out for about a month. Then iOS 7 happened. The app looked dated quickly and since iOS 7 broke TextExpander support, I essentially stopped using the app. But with the recent 1.1 update, I started using Editorial again quite a bit. So much so, that I started using it for my weekly sermon notes. It came to mind one Sunday, that if I could find a Bible app that supported the X-Callback-URL I could have my ultimate powerhouse for sermon note taking. So I pinged a few random people that I knew were into tech and Jesus on Twitter.

I want to thank everyone who responded. Ben Whiting, Jordan Shirkman, Phillip Gruneich, and Eric Pramono, you guys were great. Eric has an interesting post on how he uses Launch Center Pro and Pythonista to share verses. But eventually I discovered that the app I was looking for didn’t exist. As I was thinking through the problem that Sunday, I remembered something. The ESV bible[2] had an online version and just maybe, they’d have an API for non-commercial use.

BINGO!

The ESV site even had some sample script in Python, which is great because I don’t know how to script or program, I’m just able to reverse-engineer code occasionally. So, I built two simple workflows to make Editorial harness the ESV Bible’s API, and help me stay focused on the sermons and not technology on Sundays.

The Workflows for Editorial

As I mentioned above, I don’t know how to code, I simple reverse engineered some workflows and the sample code from the ESV API. There’s a lot of work that could be done on these scripts, but for now, they do what I need them to do. If you’re handy with either Editorial or Python and want to give me some suggestions, I’m all ears.


  1. My brain doesn’t do well with doing two things at once. If I’m taking good notes, I’m not generally actively engaged in thinking about the content.  ↩
  2. my translation of choice  ↩

Mr. Reader and Markdown Links

Tonight we were out at MyBurger with some folks from small group. I was talking to a friend who is in law school. We were discussing how technology can help his future law practice, and he asked me if I knew of an app that you could create your own wiki to track what is currently known about a case or a particular issue. He said he wanted to use his Feedly RSS feeds to save a section of an article, jot a few notes, and then save it somewhere for later recall. I told him I had an idea using Mr. Reader, Drafts, and Evernote.

Well I got home and finally purchased Mr. Reader to see what it can do. It’s actually really cool. My favorite feature is that it uses curly brackets to accept any text or data from the post and then automatically encodes it for you. That’s such a help for URL scheme beginners like me. I quickly ran into a problem, though. When I’d try to make the title of an article a markdown link while sending to Drafts, I would end up with an error. Because Mr. Reader uses square brackets like [TITLE] to pull metadata out of the post, it was getting totally confused when it'd see a normal markdown link formatted [[TITLE]]([URL]). I searched and searched around on Macstories.net, macdrifter.com, and did a few google searches to figure out what to do but my searches didn't yield and helpful results.

Finally I thought of the old-school method: check the developers site. Sure enough, the developer had already addressed that issue on the site. The solution is really quite simple, and you can find more on the developer's site.

Tip: Markdown formatted links for Day One, Byword, etc.

It's a little bit tricky to create markdown links, because they also use the square brackets [ and ].

Markdown link format: link text

The markdown brackets must be entered URL encoded as %5B for the '_[_' and %5D for the '_]_'. And they must be used outside my curly brackets {…}

Instead of

dayone://post?entry={blablabla “[TITLE]”}

you must use

dayone://post?entry={blablabla }%5B{“[TITLE]”}%5D{([URL])}