Nifty date stamped note stencil

A customer wrote earlier today asking how he can create a text figure that included an automatic date and time stamp as the first line.

I thought the solution was pretty slick so I'm posting it here for everyone to enjoy.

1. Create a new text figure by double-clicking on the idea space.
2. From the main menu choose Insert > Variable > Figure Date Added > Medium Format.
3. Press spacebar.
4. From the main menu choose Insert > Variable > Figure Time Added > Medium Format.
5. Press return.
6. Type "This is a note."
7. The resulting text figure should look like this:

{%FigureDateAddedMedium} {%FigureTimeAddedMedium}

This is a note.

8. Hit Escape to stop editing the text figure. Note that variables are now rendered with the date and time the figure was added to your idea space.
9. Right click on the text figure and choose Save As Basic Figure Stencil and give it a name like "Date Stamped Note".

Now, whenever you want to add a date-stamped note to Curio just click the Insert toolbar button, then click Styled Shape or Stencil, then choose your nifty new stencil in the Personal > Stencils category.

The date and time within the note will automatically update itself to the actual date and time the note was added to your project.

Of course you can use these nifty date and time variables with any sort of figure in Curio. If you want a date-stamped index card or list, just insert the variables in there and save the result as a figure stencil.

Curio 8.1

Curio 8.1 was released today with a bunch of new features, tweaks, and fixes including new PDF highlighting colors, a nifty single page spread PDF, a cool Insert > Space menu, much smarter Curio hyperlink handling, better window restoration, and tons of fixes with Calendar syncing and Notes inspector handling.

Read all the details here in our Curio 8.1 release notes.

Curio will automatically alert you that the new update is available. Or choose the Curio > Check for Updates menu item to grab it now.

Backups and peace of mind

I just finished an email exchange with a customer who had deleted a Curio 7 section, confirmed the alert that appeared stating that the deletion is non-undoable, and then realized he clicked the wrong button after watching over a year of notes disappear.

There are some recovery techniques we can use in Curio 7, as long as the project isn't re-opened. And there are even better recovery techniques we can use with Curio 8's more robust internal file architecture. But, in this case, it was too late to recover this particular data.

Accidents will occur, hard disks fail, bugs happen, and lightning will strike without warning. This is where a great backup strategy can save your valuable data.

The easiest, in my opinion, is Time Machine. Built into OS X since Leopard back in 2007. It backs up all changed files every hour to an external drive. I use OWC's drives and have always found them fast, quiet, and reliable. Lion added encrypted backup support and Mountain Lion added support for rotatable drives. The interface for exploring older versions of your files is intuitive and easy to use. For the cost of a cheap drive (about $100) you have peace of mind and incredibly fast local backups.

Next, a cloud backup service is highly recommended in addition to a local backup. I personally use BackBlaze. They offer unlimited backups and support monthly, 12-month, and 24-month plans. Paying $95 for two years of unlimited backups to an offsite cloud is a pretty darn good deal. Other services include CrashPlan, Carbonite, and Mozy.

You can also implement a whole-disk backup plan with either Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper. Either application can create a bootable backup disk on an external drive -- basically an exact, up-to-date copy of your internal drive. So if you have a catastrophic disk crash you can simply boot off this external disk and you're instantly up and running with no need to re-install OS X and recover from either Time Machine or a backup service.

Lastly, don't forget about services such as Dropbox. Their free 2GB plan is perfect for creating periodic backups of your important files. Just Option-drag them to your Dropbox folder to quickly sync them up to their cloud.

On a related note, you may be wondering why Curio doesn't use Lion/ML's Versions feature. I'd love to but it doesn't support super large project files very well. When it needs to create the archived version it will freeze the main thread, and thus the UI, to make that backup copy. For large projects, this can result in a significant delay (measured in minutes). More details are here in the forums.

If you don't have a backup strategy then please take a few minutes to check out some of the links above.

Keeping it simple

There were several objectives in mind for the Curio 8 release but the key mantra was simplicity.

Coincidentally, during this period of development, I read Isaacson's fantastic Steve Jobs biography. Steve repeatedly pushed the goal of delivering a simple product and service. Where everything just works. Where the focus is on the user experience. This deeply resonated with my new mantra.

I stepped back and looked, not just at the product, but at everything Zengobi and focussed on simplicity.

Yes, Curio 8's new user interface is vastly simplified compared to its predecessor. Every screen was scrapped and re-written to create a better experience. Likewise, the internal file format and code architecture were re-constructed to be more robust and to more easily facilitate future extensions and new functionality.

But then other areas outside of the core Curio product were also tackled.

The user manual was re-written to make it more useful as you stepped through the user interface.

The Getting Started project bundled with Curio was re-created to better offer a guided tour of the major features.

The trial system was scrapped. Instead of the confusing default trial and extended trial dual process we now have a simple, longer default trial. Also no more obtrusive dialogs getting in your way during the trial, and no more extended trial "spam" going to your inbox.

The website was re-designed and re-built. Many pages were combined or eliminated. A calmer, less cluttered, and more informative look was delivered.

Instead of three editions of Curio, which required a confusing feature matrix for potential customers to decode, we brought out a single super-fantastic product. This simplifies the purchasing process and greatly reduces support inquiries.

With a single product the online store was also greatly simplified. Yes, we could have maintained the confusing crossgrade/upgrade matrix, say a range of $49.99 to $79.99 depending on what you currently own, but that's against the simplicity mantra. Based on past experience we know that would have created confusion as customers made incorrect orders leading to support emails, partial and full refund requests, and frustrated re-orders or cancellations.

With new pricing, primarily in honor of our 10th anniversary, we also no longer have separate retail and academic stores. Instead we simply offer a single store with a lower price for everyone. I'm no longer deluged with emails from financially strapped non-profits, charities, religious institutions, the recently-unemployed, and self-financed startups requesting the academic price. Everyone gets the same low price.

With a single product with simplified new and upgrade pricing the store database, store code, purchasing scripts, and purchasing database were all greatly simplified with far fewer erroneous orders.

In the end, you have a better experience at every stage and I have more time to produce the features and products you want.

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