Bi-directional linking between anything using Hook

A few apps have offered some form of bi-directional linking, but it was Roam Research that made it famous. I’ve been using Roam for more than a year and it has transformed the way I take notes. It’s the way Roam does bi-directional linking that has me hooked.

Roam is great at connecting nodes within Roam, but the missing, er, link, for me has been the connections between files and other apps. For example, I’m not using Roam for my todo list, but I don’t like using my todo list for notes, either. If only there was a way to link all these things together somehow.

Enter Hook – Find without searching

Hook is basically a tool that lets me connect things that are related to each other on my Mac. I can connect an email in MailMate with a task in Things or a Github issue or a note in DEVONthink or a blog post or…you get the idea. I can even connect my notes in Roam with stuff in nearly any app or file.

What’s really helpful is that when I link something to something else, the link goes both ways. That means that if I’m viewing a file in the Finder I can, for example, link to the web page from which it was downloaded.

Another feature I’m experimenting with is “Hook to New”. This reminds me of using Org-noter in Emacs, but lets me annotate everything and without having to use Emacs.

I’ve been using Hook to New as a way to annotate files and web pages. For example, while reading a web page I trigger Hook (Command-Shift-Space) and hit Command-N. This creates a new Markdown document, opens it in BBEdit, and creates a Hook link from Safari to the note and from the note back to the page in Safari. The difference between this and putting a link and notes in Roam is that I can jump to the notes directly from the web page, while I’m reading it. And back again.

Previous attempts to integrate Hook into my workflow have failed. This time, however, I’ve learned from Roam the value of backlinks, which gives the whole concept a better chance of sticking.

Curio 14 public beta

Curio is one of the nicest, best-looking, useful, and thoughtful apps I’ve used. George, the developer, is insanely responsive and helpful.

I started using Curio in 2006 and never stopped for more than a month or two at a time. Here’s why I sometimes stop using Curio:

  • I think I’ll be going all-in with the iPad (there’s no Curio for iOS)
  • I decide that plain-text only is the way to go
  • What if I switch to Linux?

I come back each time because Curio is so good. It’s just so damn pleasant to use. I’ll open a Curio document I created for some project from years earlier and after just a few seconds I am able to wrap my head around everything related to the project. It’s all about the free-form visual layout. No matter how much I want to just write everything down in, say, Emacs, I end up admitting that I’m a visual thinker. Curio excels for people like me.

There’s a public beta of Curio 14, so of course I’m trying it. Version 14’s tentpole features most interesting to me are “Journal” and “Auto scoot”. The Journal is just a handy way of creating a date-based tree of idea spaces with specific templates. Here’s what one of the built-in templates looks like.

Curio's Creative Planner journal template

Or there’s the “Meeting” template

Curio's Meeting journal template

Of course these can be customized as desired, and they are still idea spaces that can be used like any other in Curio. I’m looking forward to giving the journaling features a spin.

The other feature I’m excited about is called “Auto scoot”, which I must admit is an adorable name. If I have a text or other expandable object in a space, and there are other objects below the text object, those objects below will automatically move (scoot) down and out of the way. This sounds minor, but is kind of a big dea.

Curio 14, as with every update, contains dozens of thoughtful and useful new features and tweaks.

Check out the Release notes.

More notes about Mylio for photo management

I started using Mylio for photo management a few days ago and it’s gone swimmingly so far.

I still prefer keeping my photos organized as files in folders on my hard drive. I use Capture One for editing raw files, and then I export the “keepers” to what I call my Digital Print Archive. This is comfortable for me. It feels permanent and manageable. The problem is that I lose out on the features of tools like Apple Photos or Lightroom or Google Photos. I don’t have face recognition or automatic organization by date and/or location. I don’t get automatic sync across devices. I feel left out.

For the past couple years I’ve added everything in my DPA to Google Photos. This way everything is available everywhere, at least for viewing, and I get all the fancy tools. Still, Google gives me the creeps. I could use Lightroom but I don’t want to rely on a cloud solution.

This is where Mylio comes in. Mylio doesn’t use a cloud. It syncs peer to peer whenever devices are on the same network. When they’re apart, changes are saved locally until re-connected. There is some form of https-based sync, but I’ve not investigated how that works

I started out by using my DPA folder as a “Source Folder”, meaning all changes to that folder are mirrored to all devices running Mylio. All managed files are also synced to one or more “Vaults”. The key difference here is that I can use any number of things as Vaults and everything is mirrored to each of them. Currently, I have a single vault on an external USB drive. The beautiful part is that my folder structure is mirrored both ways. In other words, I can move files around in folders, create folders, etc, and that same folder structure is synced to the Vaults and each device. It’s like the best of both worlds: Local management and cloud sync all in one.

Once I got comfortable adding my DPA folder, I also added other folders. Things like “Projects” and miscellaneous folders with avatars, watermarks, and misc logos and images I use other places. Here’s what my top-level folder view looks like now.

Top level folders in Mylio

Note the Apple Photos folder is just what you’d expect, all of my iPhone photos have also been imported. I used to manually import from my phone into Capture One. Now I don’t have to.

Mylio has a bunch of other tools as well. Batch renaming, automatic organization into folders, exports to Flickr, and so on. Here’s the area of Mylio showing my devices, locations, Exif summaries, etc.

Mylio nerdary

So far I only have around 20,000 photos in Mylio, but it still feels very fast. Syncing happens almost instantly. Best of all, everything is kept exactly where I want it.

Mylio is worth a look.

Arq 6 upgrade issues - Michael Tsai

Michael Tsai’s notes on the Arq 6 update:

Overall, it just seems like the app was shipped before it was ready

I still think that Arq, uniquely, gets the overall backup architecture right. Arq 6 makes major progress, but it also has some serious regressions. Most importantly, it needs more testing and refinement. I do not recommend updating right now. Arq 5 still works great. There’s no rush.

I’ve used Arq for years and it’s great, so I fully intend to upgrade. Just not right now.

Using Mylio for photo management

In Bringing my photos in from the cloud I wrote that “Photo Mechanic is my Librarian”. That may be changing now that I’ve started testing Mylio as a way to sync, backup, and manage my edited photos.

Here are a few reasons I’m testing Mylio:

  • Photos are synced quickly everywhere and the sync is very robust and seems to work well
  • Mylio does NOT keep my photos in any sort of “cloud” storage. Everything is managed right on my devices, as files that I can see right in the finder if I choose to.
  • When using “source folders”, Mylio maintains my original folder structure.
  • It has flexible storage rules. I can determine whether any device keeps full copies, thumbnails, or an in-between preview version.
  • Everything works offline and syncs when back on the network.
  • Vaults can be on internal storage, NAS, or even cloud storage if I wanted that.
  • I can keep multiple “vaults” which then gives me additional copies of each original.

I still export all “keepers” to full-sized jpeg files in my Digital Print Archive. I have this DPA set as the “Source” folder for Mylio. This means everything in the archive is immediately available to Mylio on all devices. If I organize folders using Mylio on my phone, the same folder structure changes are mirrored in the DPA. This is exactly how I want to work.

My old system required that I import iPhone photos occasionally and export them to the DPA from Capture One. Now, I have the iPhone’s photo library automatically imported to Mylio. I ruthlessly cull photos from my phone so I end up with only “DPA-worthy” photos anyway.

I’ve read reports of people with more than 1 million photos in their Mylio libraries, and they have nothing but good things to say about performance and capabilities. That’s encouraging.

So, Mylio is my new librarian. It replaces Photo Mechanic in that role. I lose some of the fancy bits of PM but I gain enough convenience features (e.g. face recognition, maps, calendar integration, etc) to make it worth the change.


When Tot was first announced, I rolled my eyes and dismissed it as yet another “minimal” note-taking app. I didn’t see any way it could be useful to me. If I want to hold some temporary text, I use Drafts or BBEdit’s Scratchpad or an Emacs scratch buffer.

But what the heck, the macOS version of Tot is free, so I gave it a look. After a week, I’m finding it to be a terrific solution to the problem it solves for me; a place to jot things down for later.

Tot works for me because it sets the right amount of constraints. BBEdit has only one Scratchpad, so keeping a bunch of unrelated text there can be confusing. Drafts can keep everything, so I end up dumping reams of text notes there and never doing anything with them. Emacs scratch buffers are ephemeral and I often lose track of them. The one permanent buffer I have configured suffers the same problem as BBEdit.

Tot, on the other hand, has room for just seven notes. Each note is represented by a circle. The circle is light gray if its note is empty. Once some text is entered, the circle turns color. It’s easy to see at a glance which notes contains text, and to pick an empty one. The clever bit is that once they’re all used, I know it’s time to clean things out and make room. Sure, this could be done in Drafts but the difference is that I _don’t_ do it when using Drafts.

I’ve been using Roam for most of my notes lately, so why not just drop the text right in Roam? I could do that, but what I find is that it only adds noise to my notes. Tot is for text that may or may not be temporary. In many cases, I simply delete it. Otherwise, I use it as a starting point for notes that I want to keep.

There’s an iOS version, which costs an expensive-for-iOS-but-totally-fair $20. I’ve bought the iOS version because it’s a good app and a handy counterpart to the Mac version.

So this simple little notes app that I’d dismissed as unnecessary has quickly become a core part of my workflow. What a nice surprise.