Most of you know me for the Mac Power Users Podcast that I co-host with David Sparks. On that show we regularly talk about productivity tools and workflows that allow everyday Mac users to become “Power Users.” One of the questions David and I are most often asked is about some of our own workflows, specifically about how we create the podcast. This month I thought I’d take a sneak peak behind the scenes and talk a bit about some of the productivity tools, tips and tricks that I use produce the show with the hopes that you can use some of these ideas in your own life.
TextExpander is one of my most used tools on my Mac, and now iOS. In a nutshell, TextExpander allow you to pre-program longer “snippets” of text that you can expand by typing just a few keystrokes. You can use TextExpander with individual words and phrases or to compose entire documents. I use TextExpander daily for everything including correcting typographical errors, adding email signatures, filling in boiler plate text and more.
For the podcast TextExpander is an invaluable tool, especially when you take advantage of the fill-in forms that allow you to customize snippets based on the circumstances. We receive hundreds of bits of email feedback each week and I still try to provide a reply to everyone who writes in, that simply would not be possible without TextExpander. I’m able to use TextExpander to create standard responses or bits of responses and then customize my emails using TextExpander.
I also use TextExpander for filling in pre-configured blocks of text I have a number of custom created TextExpander snippets with HTML code for creating the shownotes each week. I also have pre-configured snippets for sending off instructions to guests. This allows the show to maintain accuracy and uniformity.
Another tool I use for managing the flood of email we receive each week is Sanebox. I receive easily 100 email messages each week with feedback relate to the podcast and that volume of email in my inbox would simply be overwhelming. I’ve been a long-time user of Sanebox to automatically filter my email. All unimportant emails are filtered into a “SaneLater” folder while I’ve tweaked the filtering so that show feedback goes into a custom “Feedback” folder.
As a general rule, I process through the SaneLater folder at least once a day and make adjustments as necessary. Having a separate Feedback folder is nice because it allows me to pop into the Feedback folder as I have a few extra minutes and work through the backlog.
With Sanebox I can create rules and exceptions so emails from certain people or with special keywords always end up in my inbox and I’m less likely to miss important messages. Managing the massive amount of email I receive simply would not be possible without this tool.
Another important aspect of the podcast is scheduling. At least a couple times a month David and I will have guests on the show to share their workflows. Scheduling can be difficult , especially when you’re dealing with multiple hosts who span several different timezones. I use a couple of apps to assist with scheduling.
TimeZones by Jared Sinclair allows you to at glance to check the time in a number of time zones but its killer scheduling feature is “Quick Check” which allows you to look up a future date and time anywhere in the world and convert it to local time. I was recently trying to schedule a recording with a guest in Amsterdam and another in California and Time Zones worked beautifully.
Once we’ve coordinated a date and time I use Calendar Paste to create a calendar event. Think of Calendar Paste like templates for calendars, you can create a number of common events and include the title, location, duration, specify which calendar, alert information and any notes. Calendar paste will remember this and when activated, pre-populate a new calendar event leaving you to select only the date and time. For scheduling Mac Power Users guests, I’ll create an event on a shared calendar, and my pre-populated Calendar Paste template includes in the notes field a few paragraphs of standard instructions and technical information for our guest. I entered this information once when I setup Calendar Paste and I never have to enter it again. When it’s time to schedule a podcast, I select the “Record Mac Power Users” template from my list and an event is created leaving the only task for me to send an invite to the appropriate guest in my calendar app.
The final tool I use extensively for automating podcast production is Hazel. Hazel is an App that will allow you to automate file management. You can setup specific folders for Hazel to watch and then perform certain actions based on a series of if/then criteria.
For example, when we record an episode of the podcast both David and I each record our individual audio tracks and then I make a separate audio recording of the Skype call. These tracks are then combined in post production (in a method sometimes called creating a “double-ender”) to produce optimum audio quality. After a show is recorded I have to compile each of these separate pieces of audio and send them off to our audio engineer. Hazel helps with this process.
Once we’re done podcasting for the night David has to upload his file to me. Problem is, in the past he would forget which would delay the editing process. After forgetting a few times, David setup a Hazel rule on his computer to automate this process. On David’s computer Hazel is set to watch for his audio recording to finish (configured based on attributes that is unique to his recorded file) and re-names the file appropriately and saves it to file we share on a Transporter. Without David having to take any action, the file is uploaded to me. Likewise I have a Hazel rule setup on my end to watch the destination folder for the file when it arrives and take specific action on the file to process it and save it in a specific location with my audio file and prepare it to send to our audio engineer.
We also have a volunteer who assists us with preparing shownotes each week. I want to make sure that I get a preview copy of our show off to the volunteer as quickly as possible so they have plenty of time to prepare the shownotes. Hazel watches for the Skype recording (based on criteria I setup that is unique to the file) and as soon as I’m finished recording an episode I use Hazel to upload a copy of the Skype call to a shared dropbox and trigger an automator action to prepare a pre-formed email to our volunteer advising them the show has been recorded and is waiting for them in the dropbox.
We’ve recorded more than 250 episodes of Mac Power Users over the years and using these tools and workflows have helped streamline the process and keep production on track. I hope you’ve found a few useful ideas here that you can use in your own work.
Disclosure: Smile, makers of Text Expander, Transporter and Sanebox are sponsors of Mac Power Users
This article first appeared in the May 2015 Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly via Newsstand on the iPad. You can find out more at http://www.screencastsonline.com/magazine/