David Sinclair's blog

Simon 5.0b14 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS. It is now feature-complete; the latest few updates have basically just been for the localizers.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is a beta release, with significant changes. It should be safe to use now; it isn't likely to change too significantly before the general release.
  • Please help me test it, to ensure a quality general release.
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 automatically get a version 5 license (that also works in previous versions); no upgrade needed.

Changes

  • Fixed an issue where adding the default Block filter to a test might not be used.
  • Several more changes for localization updates.

Want to try it?

It's getting nearer to general release, with no further features being added now, so I welcome more testing at this time.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Time Out 2.8b1 released

Announcing the first beta release of an update to Time Out, my popular break reminder app for macOS!

This first beta includes:

Added an option to skip breaks when Do Not Disturb is on

  • A new checkbox was added to the Exclusions page to also skip breaks when the macOS Do Not Disturb feature is on.
  • Useful for important meetings when you don't want any interruptions, including breaks. If you always leave it on, you might want to disable this option.

Can now show the time since the last break in the status item

  • Added options to the General preference for the status item, to show the time since the most recently completed break, instead of a countdown to the next one.
  • Useful if you want to see at a glance how long you've been working.
  • The icon can also show the label color of the last break that was done, instead of the next one due.
  • The tooltip for the status item now also includes the time since each break was done.

Control Time Out via URL schemes

  • A popular request: some functions of Time Out can now be controlled via URL schemes.
  • timeout://break/micro/start will start the Micro break.
  • timeout://break/micro/postpone1 to postpone the Micro break by the first postpone amount.
  • timeout://break/normal/postpone2 to postpone the Normal break by the second postpone amount.
  • timeout://break/mybreak/skip to skip "My Break"; use lowercase and omit spaces and punctuation for the break name in the URL.
  • timeout://break/micro/reset to reset the Micro break.
  • timeout://pause will pause breaks indefinitely.
  • timeout://pause/10m will pause breaks for 10 minutes (use "s", "m", "h", or "d" units, or no suffix for minutes).
  • timeout://resume to resume after a pause.
  • timeout://preferences to show the Preferences window.
  • Let me know if you want any other functions to be available via URL.

Other changes

  • Added the option to not register a purchase in the Mac App Store edition, or defer registering. Registering the purchase with Dejal enables restoring it on any of your Macs; if you don't register, you'll have to purchase again if you install on another Mac, or wipe your current Mac.
  • Entering your name is now optional when registering in the Mac App Store edition, or restoring a purchase in the direct or Mac App Store editions.
  • Updated the Pexels Nature theme.
  • Now prevents app expose during a break.
  • If the Advanced option to disable switching breaks etc is enabled, continuing typing is now also prevented during breaks. (Let me know if you'd prefer this were a separate option.)

More coming!

  • This is a beta release, and more improvements and fixes will be added in subsequent betas.
  • If you have any requests, let me know via the contact form or the Dejal Subreddit.

Want to try it?

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b13 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS. It is now feature-complete; the latest few updates have basically just been for the localizers.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is a beta release, with significant changes. It should be safe to use now; it isn't likely to change too significantly before the general release.
  • Please help me test it, to ensure a quality general release.
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 automatically get a version 5 license (that also works in previous versions); no upgrade needed.

Changes

  • Several more changes for localization updates.

Want to try it?

It's getting nearer to general release, with no further features being added now, so I welcome more testing at this time.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b12 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS. It is now feature-complete; the latest few updates have basically just been for the localizers.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is a beta release, with significant changes. It should be safe to use now; it isn't likely to change too significantly before the general release.
  • Please help me test it, to ensure a quality general release.
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 automatically get a version 5 license (that also works in previous versions); no upgrade needed.

Changes

  • Several more changes for localization updates.

Want to try it?

It's getting nearer to general release, with no further features being added now, so I welcome more testing at this time.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b11 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS. It is now feature-complete; the latest few updates have basically just been for the localizers.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is a beta release, with significant changes. It should be safe to use now; it isn't likely to change too significantly before the general release.
  • Please help me test it, to ensure a quality general release.
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 automatically get a version 5 license (that also works in previous versions); no upgrade needed.

Changes

  • Several more changes for localization updates.

Want to try it?

It's getting nearer to general release, with no further features being added now, so I welcome more testing at this time.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b10 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS. It is now feature-complete; the latest few updates have basically just been for the localizers.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is a beta release, with significant changes. It should be safe to use now; it isn't likely to change too significantly before the general release.
  • Please help me test it, to ensure a quality general release.
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 automatically get a version 5 license (that also works in previous versions); no upgrade needed.

Changes

  • Several more changes for localization updates.

Want to try it?

It's getting nearer to general release, with no further features being added now, so I welcome more testing at this time.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b9 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS. It is now feature-complete; the latest few updates have basically just been for the localizers.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is a beta release, with significant changes. It should be safe to use now; it isn't likely to change too significantly before the general release.
  • Please help me test it, to ensure a quality general release.
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 automatically get a version 5 license (that also works in previous versions); no upgrade needed.

Changes

  • Several more changes for localization updates.
  • Fixed rare crasher.

Want to try it?

It's getting nearer to general release, with no further features being added now, so I welcome more testing at this time.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b8 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is a beta release, with significant changes. It should be safe to use now; it isn't likely to change too significantly before the general release.
  • Please help me test it, to ensure a quality general release.
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 automatically get a version 5 license (that also works in previous versions); no upgrade needed.

Changes

  • Several changes for localization updates.
  • Removed the Mount and Specific DNS services, as they used obsolete macOS features and would need significant changes to update. If you used them, please let me know!

Want to try it?

It's getting nearer to general release, with no further features being added now, so I welcome more testing at this time.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b7 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is a beta release, with significant changes. It should be safe to use now; it isn't likely to change too significantly before the general release.
  • Please help me test it, to ensure a quality general release.
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 automatically get a version 5 license (that also works in previous versions); no upgrade needed.

Changes

  • Several changes for localization updates.
  • Updated the Simon License Agreement to allow sharing a license between multiple computers that you own, so you only need to buy one copy of Simon for each Mac you sync under your iCloud account. Each person in an organization still needs their own license.
  • Plus other tweaks.

Want to try it?

It's getting nearer to general release, with no further features being added now, so I welcome more testing at this time.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b6 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is a beta release, with significant changes. It should be safe to use now; it isn't likely to change too significantly before the general release.
  • Please help me test it, to ensure a quality general release.
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 automatically get a version 5 license (that also works in previous versions); no upgrade needed.

Services, filters, and notifiers now organized into groups and recents

  • On upgrade, the built-in services, filters, and notifiers will be moved into new groups, to better organize them.
  • Any that you've already put in groups won't be moved, and any you have added also won't be touched.
  • To avoid overwhelming you with options, the Test Editor pop-up menus on the Service, Filters, and Notifiers pages by default now only list items that are in active use, or recently added.
  • That includes items that are used in the test being edited, any un-paused tests, or added in the past week.
  • There is a new Show All Services (or Filter/Notifiers) item at the bottom of those menus to show all, organized by groups. That toggles to Show Recent Services to go back to the compact menu.

Other changes

  • Several changes for localization updates and dark mode improvements.
  • Plus other tweaks.

Want to try it?

It's getting nearer to general release, so I welcome more testing at this time.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b5 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is an early beta release, with significant changes. Probably best to wait for the general release, unless you're keen. Use with caution!
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 are eligible for a free upgrade; contact Dejal for details.

Powerful custom output for Find Regular Expressions filters

  • When using Find First, Specific, or All Occurrences, the Output menu now includes a Custom option, that shows a field where text with replacement operators like $1 etc can be included.
  • This can be used to search for multiple capture groups, e.g. "title":"(.+?)",".+?"department":"(.+?)", and output a custom formatted value that includes them, e.g. $1 ($2).
  • This is different than the Find & Replace, as those replace the found text in the output, leaving the rest intact, whereas the Find ones output only the matches or their custom format.
  • If a regular expression is malformed, and takes too long to evaluate, it now times out after 5 seconds.

Report improvements

  • Fixed reports not uploading as scheduled.
  • If the preference to use simple status icons is enabled, the reports now use that style too.
  • The report templates are now listed in alphabetical order.
  • Tidied the report list content.

Sound notifier improvements

  • System sounds are now available to play.
  • The sounds are now listed in alphabetical order.

Want to try it?

Please read the warnings and release notes above before jumping in. This is a beta release, not ready for primetime quite yet.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b4 released

Here is another beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Please Note

  • This is an early beta release, with significant changes. Probably best to wait for the general release, unless you're keen. Use with caution!
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 are eligible for a free upgrade; contact Dejal for details.

Added a Debug menu for rarely-used diagnostic options

  • Added a Debug menu for options that were previously available only via defaults write Terminal commands.
  • The Debug menu automatically appears during the beta, but can be shown during a general release by holding down the Control, Option, and Command keys on app launch.

Other changes

  • Fixed an issue that prevented Script-based services from working in tests.
  • Fixed an issue with the Email notifier that prevented the helper from starting.
  • Fixed a layout issue where list contents could be too narrow.
  • When using the Setup Assistant to import Safari bookmarks, now prompts for the bookmark file, if it can't be directly accessed due to macOS security restrictions.
  • Improved syncing.
  • Fixed some crashers.

More coming later

  • I wanted to get a beta release out so brave people can begin kicking the tires. There is more planned for version 5.
  • Don't expect rapid updates; it will slowly improve over the next few months, and go into general release when deemed ready.
  • Please let me know of any issues you find via the contact form or the Dejal Subreddit.

Want to try it?

Please read the warnings and release notes above before jumping in. This is a beta release, not ready for primetime quite yet.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

DejalNews #81: Time Out 2.7, Simon 5 betas, SheetPlanner, Caboodle, New Year posts

DejalNews header

DejalNews 2021-01, issue #81

Welcome

Happy New Year! 2020 was a trying year for many, but hopefully 2021 will be better for all.

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

I don't believe in New Year resolutions, but am trying a Yearly Theme this year. My theme is the Year of Consistency, so as part of that, I'm going to try to be more consistent in publishing these newsletters.

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Time Out 2.7

Since the previous newsletter, Time Out version 2.7.1 has been released.

This update includes a new app icon, plus a number of changes for compatibility with Big Sur, including being built for Apple's new M1-based Macs, in addition to Intel ones. It also includes a much-requested new feature to ask to start a break, improvements to the break preview feature, adds several new break themes, and much more.

Read the blog post for more information on Time Out 2.7.

Simon 5 beta

There have also been a couple more beta releases of a major upgrade to Simon, my website and server monitoring tool. Version 5 includes a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs! Tests and other data can be viewed and edited on any of your Macs, and checked on a specific Mac, plus notifiers can be performed on any of the Macs, even a different one than did the check. For example, have a Mac in a data center do a check, and play a sound or speak some text on the Mac on your desk if it fails or changes.

Version 5 has lots of other improvements, including the ability to check if other synced copies of Simon are still working, a new Link Checker filter, to validate all links on a web page, a Server Result filter, to easily check result codes, an iMessage notifier, to send a message, and much more.

The subsequent betas added a new Speak Error notifier, a completely new app icon, and more improvements. There are some issues still to address, so there will be more betas before this is in general release, but it's making progress.

Note that Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade after the beta period. Pricing and release date to be determined. But anyone who buys now or since September 1, 2020 will be eligible for a free upgrade.

Read the Simon 5.0b3 blog post to see the new icon, and the 5.0b1 post for screenshots and more information.

SheetPlanner 2.0

One of my consulting projects is SheetPlanner, a powerful macOS app featuring an outliner with custom columns, notes, links, timeline, calendar, and more. Version 2.0 was just released, the culmination of a year of work, which makes the outliner features available for free, so everyone can have an excellent outlining tool. It also adds several great new features, including multiple sheets in a document, my nemesis the print preview, and much more.

Check out SheetPlanner!

Caboodle

Speaking of which, for those of you have used Caboodle in the past, or are still using either version 1 from Dejal or version 2 from Before Dawn Solutions (who acquired it a number of years ago), you may like to know that while Caboodle is no longer available, it has a path forward: the aforementioned SheetPlanner. I wrote an importer for both version 1 and 2 Caboodle data in SheetPlanner, so you can import your data without having to export first, and without losing anything. It even supports decrypting encrypted entries.

If you use Caboodle, migrate over to SheetPlanner.

Featured blog posts of 2020

Every year around the New Year, I write a series of blog posts. The first highlights blog posts on interesting topics written the previous year, other than app release posts and DejalNews posts.

In 2020, those posts included the introduction of the r/Dejal community on Reddit, celebrating 25 years of consulting work, a bunch of tips on Time Out and Simon, and more.

Check out the summary of posts from 2020.

Dejal Year in Review: 2020

Another traditional New Year post is to recap the state of the Dejal and consulting apps; what updates they got during the year. Plus reviewing how my plans for the year panned out.

Take a look at the app updates in 2020.

Looking Ahead: 2021

The last in the New Year series is forward-looking: giving some vague indications of what's in store for Time Out, Simon, and potential new apps. Plus consulting and more.

Read my thoughts on 2021 projects.

Time Out gifts

If you haven't already taken advantage of a free gift of Time Out, my break reminder tool, it's not too late.

Become a supporter at no cost. This permanently unlocks all of the current features.

Please share this link with your Mac-using family, friends, and colleagues, so they can enjoy the benefits of regular breaks too.

Stay safe

Stay safe everyone! Please enjoy the Time Out gifts, stay home, use masks, keep a safe distance from others, and hang in there. We'll get through this.

- David

Looking ahead: 2021

Yesterday I published my annual Dejal year in review post for 2020. Today, let's look ahead for what's in store for 2021.

I have released some betas of Simon version 5, a massive upgrade of my pro macOS app to monitor websites and servers. So of course finishing and doing the general release of that is a priority for 2021.

I have a long list of improvements planned for Time Out, my popular break reminder app, so will release version 2.8 or 3.0 this year. I'm currently leaning towards calling it 3.0, but may go for 2.8, depending on what features I include. Since the supporter model helps fund development, there's no need to keep major upgrades a secret; there's no special upgrade price.

As mentioned yesterday, I also have a couple of new projects in various levels of development. One that I started in 2019 has been put on the back-burner, as it used the Dark Sky weather APIs — which will be shut down at the end of this year, as Apple bought them last year. I'm hoping that Apple will release a weather SDK, otherwise I'll need to find an alternative. (I won't say anything more about this app yet, other than that I use the prototype every day.)

The other one is something I've wanted for years, to scratch my own itch — which is how many of my apps have got their start. I spent some time over the holidays refining the design, and creating the prototype project. I plan to work on that in between other projects this year, and hopefully will get it to a releasable state before the end of the year, though we'll see. Working on new projects like these is a great way to experiment with new technologies like SwiftUI, Combine, etc.

A big chunk of my time is always spent on consulting work, and I don't expect this year to be any different. I'm continuing to work on SheetPlanner, NewsBlur, Turn Touch, and possibly Client Folder Maker this year, with ongoing improvements to each.

It's almost certain that Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) will be virtual again this year, which suits me fine. I don't think I'll be attending any conferences in person for quite some time.

It'll be another busy year! Here's hoping that 2021 will be better than 2020.

Dejal year in review: 2020

Happy New Year!

As we start a new year, let's review what happened with the Dejal apps in 2020:

My popular break reminder tool, Time Out, had a significant update in 2020, to version 2.7, adding support for macOS Big Sur, including a new app icon and other improvements, plus a much-requested option to ask to start a break, an improved break preview, several new themes, and much more. It finished the year at version 2.7.1.
My pro app to monitor websites and servers for changes and failures, Simon, had a couple of beta releases of a major upgrade, to version 5.0. This added support for syncing via iCloud, including editing on multiple Macs, performing checks on a specific Mac, and receiving notifications on different Macs. It also refined the web service, added a new Simon Status service, a new Link Checker filter, a new Server Result filter, an iMessage notifier, and many more improvements.
Pack, a simple iPhone app to make it easy to pack for trips, didn't have any updates in 2020. Not a great year for travel anyway.
Date Stamp, an iMessage app to provide customizable date stamp stickers, also didn't have any changes. Since few people seem to use iMessage stickers anymore, I'm unlikely to update this, though I still think it was a fun concept, and turned out really well.
Chicken GIFs was a sticker pack featuring many fun animated GIFs of my chickens. Apple removed it from the App Store in 2020.
I also have another couple of new apps in various stages of development. More about those in the future.

Consulting

Dejal also produces macOS and iOS apps for other companies, under the banner of Dejal Consulting.

I spent 2020 working on a big 2.0 update of SheetPlanner, a pro-level outliner, planner, todo, calendar, and more. Version 2.0 was just released, and the outlining features can be used for free forever; learn more on the SheetPlanner website. I'm really proud of how this update turned out. I'm continuing to work on this app, so stay tuned for more enhancements throughout the year.
I have continued to work on the iOS client for NewsBlur, a popular RSS reader, including some significant improvements in the works.
I've done some improvements on the iOS and macOS apps for the Turn Touch remote, a beautiful wooden remote for your smart home, though it has been mostly sidelined by the above two.
I've also worked on Client Folder Maker, a macOS tool to make custom hierarchies of folders, and will have more on that soon.

I am currently fully booked up for the next several months at least, but am always interested in talking with potential new clients. If you have a macOS or iOS project you'd like help with (or a custom Simon enhancement), check out my consulting page for more information.

So how'd the 2020 vision go?

Last year I published the pun-titled 2020 vision post, predicting plans for 2020. As everyone knows, 2020 didn't turn out quite as expected, with a COVID-19 pandemic affecting the entire world.

But while I was certainly impacted, the pandemic didn't cause any real change for my Dejal apps; I indicated that I expected to update Time Out to version 2.7, which I did (and 2.7.1), and I did the majority of the work the big Simon version 5 upgrade, which is currently in beta. And I made great progress on my consulting projects, too.

Non-development things didn't fare so well; I wrote about planning to attend WWDC (and even had a hotel room booked for the expected week), but it went virtual in 2020 — which I suggested would be better anyway back in 2012. I did take a week to participate in that; while I missed the meetups with other developers, attending from the comfort of home was indeed much better.

There weren't any other conferences last year. And my wife and I had to cancel a 3-week trip to New Zealand a week before we departed, as things started to lock down back in March. We'll get there in due course!

But considering how 2020 went for a lot of people, we survived better than most, especially thanks to living on five acres, and being used to working from home and stocking up supplies, since we're 25 minutes from the grocery store.

Thank you

Thank you and welcome to my new customers, and many thanks to the long-term customers who are still enjoying my apps, and of course my consulting clients. I really appreciate your support.

Featured blog posts of 2020

My blog posts often just cover new releases, but sometimes I post general-interest topics. Some highlights from 2020 included:

I hope you enjoyed these posts.

Simon 5.0b3 released

Here is a third beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Version 5.0b3 includes a redesigned app icon in the Big Sur style. Yes, I just got the icon updated for the squircle style, but I didn't like the old icon in a squircle, so decided to try again, with a completely new icon. It is inspired by the previous one, modeled after an antique TV, but now slightly more modern:

New app icon

Please Note

  • This is an early beta release, with significant changes. Probably best to wait for the general release, unless you're keen. Use with caution!
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 are eligible for a free upgrade; contact Dejal for details.

Big Sur

  • Updated the app icon (again) for the Big Sur squircle style.
  • A fun little easter egg is that in addition to the icon "screen" showing static while loading, the knobs turn.
  • Just for fun, changed the Dock icon unviewed indicator to a "BREAKING NEWS" TV-style chyron.

App switcher

Other changes

  • Tweaked the Preview placeholder messages for services, filters, and notifiers.
  • Fixed trying a notifier (File > Notify Now) not working when the Preview is displayed.
  • Fixed the format of the Spotlight keywords.

More coming later

  • I wanted to get a beta release out so brave people can begin kicking the tires. There is more planned for version 5.
  • Don't expect rapid updates; it will slowly improve over the next few months, and go into general release when deemed ready.
  • Please let me know of any issues you find via the contact form or the Dejal Subreddit.

Want to try it?

Please read the warnings and release notes above before jumping in. This is a beta release, not ready for primetime quite yet.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Simon 5.0b2 released

Here is a second beta release of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs, plus a Simon Status service, a Link Checker filter, an iMessage notifier, and much more.

Version 5.0b2 includes an updated app icon in the Big Sur style:

New app icon

Plus other changes for improved Big Sur compatibility, a new Speak Error notifier, and sync improvements.

Please Note

  • This is an early beta release, with significant changes. Probably best to wait for the general release, unless you're keen. Use with caution!
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 are eligible for a free upgrade; contact Dejal for details.

Read on for the full release notes:

Big Sur

  • Simon is now a universal app for Apple M1 silicon and Intel on Big Sur; it also supports back to Sierra (10.12).
  • Updated the app icon for the Big Sur squircle style.
  • Improved compatibility.

Added a new Speak Error notifier

  • This new notifier will read out loud the text of the last error that occurred.
  • Especially useful when a failure or recovery occurs, though can be used with any test result.

Sync

  • Improved the efficiency and reliability of syncing.

More coming later

  • I wanted to get a beta release out so brave people can begin kicking the tires. There is more planned for version 5.
  • Don't expect rapid updates; it will slowly improve over the next few months, and go into general release when deemed ready.
  • Please let me know of any issues you find via the contact form or the Dejal Subreddit.

Want to try it?

Please read the warnings and release notes above before jumping in. This is a beta release, not ready for primetime quite yet.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

Time Out 2.7.1 released

Here's a quick update of Time Out, my popular break reminder tool, to fix a few issues:

  • Fixed an issue that caused text for the Text theme to be forgotten.
  • Fixed the Break Preview prematurely stopping.
  • Tweaked the new Ask to Start feature to immediately ask when due, instead of waiting for a natural break.
  • Tweaked the appearance of the status menu.
  • Worked around an issue with displaying a time like 23 hours 45 minutes as "0 seconds".

Want to try it?

If you are using the Mac App Store edition, you can update via the App Store app.

Similarly, if you are using the Setapp edition, it will handle that update for you.

If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download Time Out 2.7.1 now!

Time Out 2.7 released

I'm pleased to announce the general release of version 2.7 of Time Out, my popular break reminder tool.

This update includes a new app icon, plus a number of changes for compatibility with Big Sur, including being built for Apple's new M1-based Macs, in addition to Intel ones. It also includes a much-requested new feature to ask to start a break, improvements to the break preview feature, adds several new break themes, and much more.

Big Sur

Apple's latest version of macOS, Big Sur (macOS 11) has a number of refinements to its appearance. One that is immediately apparent is that app icons now look more like iOS ones, with a rounded rectangle (aka "squircle") shape, and often more bold colors.

Time Out's icon has adopted this style, taking the relaxing palm trees and smiling hammock that you know and love, and leaping through the frame into the scene, thanks to the excellent Matthew Skiles:

Time Out icon

Version 2.7 also includes several other changes for Big Sur compatibility, including using the Dejal green color for controls and the sidebar if the accent color in General System Preferences is set to "multicolor", and a number of other UI tweaks. It also fixes an issue where the break control panel could move downwards on each break in Big Sur.

Apple Silicon

As you probably know, Apple recently introduced new super-fast low-end Macs using Apple-designed "M1" chips. Time Out is now a universal app for Apple M1 silicon and Intel on Big Sur; it also supports back to Yosemite (macOS 10.10).

New option to ask to start a break

This update adds a much-requested new feature to ask to start a break, as a new option on the Break Schedule preferences page:

Ask options

If chosen, a time interval control appears to specify a limit, after which it should start anyway. This defaults to 5 minutes (also supports units of seconds and hours; like other interval pickers, tab to or click the units to edit via arrows, typing, or click again to show a menu). When a break is due with this option, the control panel will appear, with a button to manually start the break when you're ready, and the screen won't dim:

Start controls

When you click the Start Break button, the screen dims and the break continues as normal. If you don't click within the time limit, the break starts anyway; this is needed to avoid accidentally blocking subsequent breaks. As a helpful reminder, a countdown to auto-starting appears once halfway through the time limit.

Improved break preview

When clicking the Preview button on the Break Appearance page, the break now appears with a Stop Preview button to dismiss it. The preview has no time limit; it'll remain until dismissed. Dismissing the preview doesn't count as skipping it, so doesn't affect your statistics or daily limits:

Stop button

If you want to try the full break experience, click the Start button in the sidebar instead.

Several new break themes

The default "Icon" theme has been updated to use the new app icon, and a new "Round Icon" theme has been added that includes the old icon, if you miss that.

Other new break themes include a "Dejal Blog" theme, that shows the Dejal blog for news from Dejal, "Dejus Blog", that shows my personal blog, with daily interesting photos, and to complete the set, "Yellow Cottage Blog", that shows my homestead blog, with pictures of feral cats, ducks, chickens, and more. Check 'em out!

As an example of a static remote picture, there's also a "Ducks & Fish" theme, that shows that. You can edit the theme to show a picture of your choosing. Plus an "Inspirational Quotes" theme, that shows a quote for each break, a "Pexels Nature" theme, that shows a random nature picture, and "Photo Slideshow", that can be edited to show 10 local images of your choosing.

Pexels Nature theme

Plus a bunch of little quality-of-life improvements

When looking at the handy Activity view, sometimes you may want to know more precisely when an app was used (I know I do; I use this feature all the time). So I added the time range to the tooltips for breaks and apps on the Activity page.

A fun feature of the status menu (available to supporters via the General page) is that when you click an item in the menu, the full window expands out from the status menu. That looks especially nice when the full window is aligned with the status menu, so now the Advanced option to reset the position of the full window after displaying the status menu is a checkbox to keep that behavior, instead of a button for a one-time reset. So you can freely move the window around the screen, and it'll be back with the status menu next time, if that's what you want.

Speaking of the status item, I tweaked the size and alignment of it when only an icon or only the countdown is displayed, to look a bit nicer, and fixed break rows not highlighting properly in the status item menu on recent macOS versions, and worked around Apple bug with displaying a time like 59 minutes 30 seconds as "0d".

Another fun thing is throbbing red heart icons that appear to indicate supporter rewards. But some people didn't notice them, and were surprised when a feature reverted after the hour trial. So now the info popover for a reward trial automatically appears each time a page is displayed during the hour trial, to make that more clear.

Oh, and speaking of rewards, a reminder as a reward for reading this far: if you haven't already taken advantage of it, you can become a supporter for free at present; since March I've been giving it away to help people working from home. If you have already got that, don't worry; the new features in this update will be fully unlocked for you.

On the Exclusions page, it now skips breaks during a screen recording by default for new users. Existing users can see this blog post to add this exclusion. It now skips when using Zoom too; see this blog post.

Break Actions are a handy feature to play sounds, show notifications, and more, before, during, or after a break. I fixed a bug where they could occur incorrectly if manually starting a break while paused, and now list scripts in alphabetical order, plus fixed the Sound Action Repeat checkbox color in dark mode.

Finally, I added Dejal Reddit and other tweaks to the Help menu.

Phew, that's quite a lot of improvements!

Want to try it?

If you are using the Mac App Store edition, you can update via the App Store app.

Similarly, if you are using the Setapp edition, it will handle that update for you.

If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download Time Out 2.7 now!

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