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Yesterday, a package containing the JustThree Fortnight Planner by my friend Sam Hotchkiss and his mother Carol, arrived at my doorstep.  Those of you who have spent time with me, know that I love lists, notebooks, and pens.  While I often use Todoist for many of my daily tasks, there’s something magical about quality paper and handwriting. A pen gracefully flowing on quality paper brings feelings on permanence and beauty.

Needless to say, when I was told that I could possibly enhance my daily back-pocket notebook that hold so dearly, with one specifically tailored to people like myself with ADHD, I expressed a bit of a “shut up and take my money”-like reaction. The thought that I could receive a prototype, while shaping the future of it based on my needs and feedback, gave me unprecedented optimism that my ADHD-induced daily chaos and forgetfulness could be relieved; if only a minuscule amount.

Simple, minimal, and attractive

Because nearly everybody reading this is likely hearing about the JustThree Fortnight Planner for the first time, I feel it appropriate to first describe the physical aspects of it.  The design is rather minimal, which is ideal for those of us who need to get rid of panic-inducing clutter, but robust enough to show that it is more than my typical Moleskine notebook in my back pocket.

Because JustThree is meant to be something carried around daily, the size is excellent.  Kept to a standard size, most people who already carry a daily notebook will find the size easily recognizable and accommodating. Considering it is meant to be of daily use for an entire 2 weeks, I’m rather amazed at how thin it is.  Holding side by side, JustThree is about 2/3 thinner than my daily Moleskine, and about a 1/2 inch shorter. It doesn’t seem like a big difference, but it’s certainly a bit noticeable, while maintaining a familiar form factor.

The cover is made of high quality cardboard, that will better form and wear based on how you carry it. The printing and design of the cover allows for simplicity with a bit of elegance. Because the JustThree is meant to be used and set aside, start and end dates are also printed on the front, allowing for easier indexing of completed notebooks.

Due to the cardboard cover, it does appear to show “finger goo” a bit more than I prefer. Being the hermit developer that I am, I already have a bit of grease from the pizza I was devouring at my desk while initially beginning with my journey. It shows some character on the lightly stained cover, but just may be a reflection on my need to be a desk-bound sloth with too much attention to detail and not enough sleep.

Inside, the paper is quality, but not necessarily what I prefer.  It’s hard to explain in words, but the JustThree’s paper doesn’t quite seem up to par for my tastes when compared to my typical Moleskine. The best way that I can describe it would be more of a thinner, more rigid paper when compared to a more plushy paper in my Moleskine. I’m terribly picky when writing, and while not a deal-breaker, it causes me a small amount of discomfort.  Ideally, if a Molekine version of the JustThree were to be released, even for a premium, I would much prefer it over the existing paper.

Taking a peek inside

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Enough of the prettiness and on to function. The first page of the JustThree contains spaces to enter your name in the event of unfortunate loss, as well as a listing of the top 3 priorities that fortnight. Because of its placement on the first page, I feel it will provide a constant reminder of what needs to be achieved in the time period.

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Next, are total of 4 pages to better list overall tasks to be performed during the fortnight.  2 of these pages are listings of things to do for yourself this fortnight, and the other 2 are things to do for others. Personally, I’ve never considered noting things to do for others within my various to-do lists and calendars, but I love the idea. Because plans over the next couple weeks are laid out ahead of time, better critical thinking can be done to make not only increase productivity over the time period, but also assist in becoming an overall better person.

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Following this pattern, weeks are also broken down to their own dedicated pages, with additional space for notes. This is where the name JustThree really begins to reveal itself. Often times, I place far too many things on my to-do lists with unrealistic expectations of myself. With JustThree, there is only space for 3 tasks to do for myself, and another 3 for tasks to do for others. This lack of space is entirely intentional, and provides a clear understanding of the week to come without becoming overwhelmed by tasks.

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Daily items are laid out similarly to the weekly outlook in having 3 daily items that to be completed for yourself and others. Why 6 daily tasks when there are only a total of 6 weekly tasks? Because unexpected goals pop up, and prioritization is done for you before you even realize it. Because of the intentionally limited space, I’m forced to organize my tasks based on priority. If something pops to up, I can place it within my daily tasks without impacting my weekly or bi-weekly goals.

Daily productivity is further enhanced with the inclusion of logging. These logs include 1-10 markers for productivity level, an attractive and unobtrusive way of delegating time, as well as spaces for mood, sleep, substance intake, and exercise. If kept up with, it seems that it could provide a quality understanding of patterns in my daily life, as well as a bit of constructive guilt. It feels good to mark things down and check off boxes,. If I leave the exercise box empty, I’m going to feel lazy and work to get something in that box each day.

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At the very back of JustThree, there is a traditional to-do list marked for additional items that don’t quite fit into a prioritized goal, but are intended to be remembered. I’m the sort of guy that has to use a calendar and to-do list for things as simple as cleaning off my desk or sending a quick email to someone, so this is a must-have. The inclusion of a more abstract list of tasks adds a bit of relaxation to the hyper-productivity of JustThree.

Overall first impressions

Overall, I’m quite excited to see JustThree grow into a tool that I rely on. I’ve an absurd amount of guided productivity notebooks, but always seem to go back to my generic, lined Moleskine. While that usually works great, it’s harder to track goals and progress. JustThree takes those ideas and lays them out in a way that causes critical thinking and prioritization to not only increase productivity, but also quality of life.

Of course, I’m not entirely sure how well I will be able to stick to it at the moment, or how useful it will become over time, but I have high hopes for it. Expect to see another post in a week on my progress.

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People like getting me to test things.  Maybe it’s because I give them perspective on what I would like to see.  Maybe it’s because I have OCD and small bugs will annoy me.  Maybe it’s just because I enjoy beating the living shit out of people’s projects.  Whatever that reason is, it allows me to play with various products and look at them as critically as I want.

Occasionally, I’ll come across something that I genuinely don’t have anything to criticize.  Post Promoter Pro is one of those things.  As you will see later in this article, there are improvements I would like to see, but nothing deal breaking.  In fact, it solves problems that I really didn’t know I had.

Initial reactions

A few weeks ago, Chris Klosowski and I were chatting and he recommended that I take a look at Post Promoter Pro.  Many of you know that I don’t post as much as I like, and am far more active on social media.  In other words, my initial impression was that it’s a cool idea but I didn’t really think I had a use for it.

I’m not selling anything on this site, so there really isn’t much to promote.  Sure, I usually post a link to Twitter or Facebook when I decide to write something, but why do I need a plugin to do that?  Well, I’ve been proven wrong.

Setup

With my handy dandy license key and plugin zip file in hand, I took the plunge and installed it on this site.  Not a dev environment; my production site with A2 Hosting.  I can see the look of terror in your eyes from here.  Hooray!  Nothing broke.  Alas, installation was typical so I’ll spare you the details.

Inside the settings main page, the basic settings are available in a simple layout.  Post Promoter Pro definitely gets kudos for this.  Shiny options screens with lots of settings and UI elements may look great in screenshots, but when I want to actually get something done, all I want is a few easily understood options.  It seems like a minor detail, but makes a big difference when you need to make a quick change.

Inside the main settings, you can enable/disable Post Promoter Pro on different post types, set default text, and a few handy things for support/debugging such as turning on debug mode.  Nothing fancy, and options are intentional; just how I like it.

After I activated my license key and selected my post types, I jumped over to the Social Settings page.  Each social media account is laid out nicely in a list table that is familiar to anyone who has even touched WordPress for 5 minutes.  Once again, this comes back to the point about the simple UI.  I don’t want to have to re-learn how to navigate your plugin; I just want it to work. List tables are the way to go.

Currently, Post Promoter Pro supports auto-posting from Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (does anyone actually use LinkedIn other than to receive spam from headhunters?).  There isn’t any sort of complex setup here, just OAuth for each account.  Click to authorize, log in, done.  There aren’t any 3rd party sites or API keys, and the only place authorized to use my social media accounts is my site.  For the paranoid like me, that’s a big deal.

This brings me to one of the many features I find valuable in Post Promoter Pro: the ability to select a specific Facebook page to post as.  I hate switching between accounts and authorizing specific pages using Facebook Apps, and this solves that problem elegantly.

It seems like nearly everyone on this planet (any probably other planets too), use Google Analytics to track their traffic.  Most of the time, traffic sources and landing pages are tracked.  You’d be surprised how many people don’t even know what campaigns in Google Analytics are or how to set them up.  Post Promoter Pro has the option to automatically use a campaign to handle tracking of traffic that was generated using it.  Why is this cool?  Because it can actually tell you if the plugin is worth it.

If you’re like me and have a habit of trying to fit your full URL and the content describing it into a 140 character tweet, Post Promoter Pro supports Bitly for URL shortening.  It seems like a minor detail, but the number of people who overlook this simple integration is astounding.  Of course, shortening only scratches the surface when you think about the other features such as analytics that Bitly provides for free.

In addition to those features mentioned, you can do other things like set default social networks to use and use Twitter cards.  Since those are fairly self-explanatory, I won’t go over those.

Overall, the Post Promoter Pro settings are simple and intuitive.  Nothing flashy to distract you and exactly what you need.

Usage

Post Promoter Pro’s overall usage flow is dead simple and unobtrusive.  Hell, you don’t even set it and forget it if you want to so that it sends out a default post every time you make an update.  If that’s all it did, I wouldn’t be very impressed, so let’s look at what it can do.

When I publish a post, sometimes I don’t want it to go everywhere.  While my social media accounts intertwine quite a bit, my Facebook is primarily consists of family and friends while my Twitter mainly people in the WordPress community.  That’s not to say that they don’t overlap to a large degree, but my mom doesn’t care about why the WordPress REST API is awesome.

Post Promoter Pro adds a simple meta box below the post content so that you can select which social media accounts it should go to, what it should say, and the image to use for the preview.  Each social media account can have completely different content based on your demographic.  For businesses posting to their customers, that’s a big deal.  Different things work to convert sales on different social media outlets, and businesses know that when promoting their content.

For the lazy like myself, you can set each post to use the featured image for the preview content. If you’re an overachiever, a custom image can be used.  Images are a good thing when posting to social media. Don’t be extra lazy and post without some form of image attached to the post.

Post scheduling

There are a few different ways I could describe post scheduling in Post Promoter Pro, but the ones immediately coming to mind are “the bees knees” and “the bomb diggity”.  This is easily my favorite feature in Post Promoter Pro.

Remember when I said that I usually just share the link on social media after I publish a post?  Now I bombard your feed a few times over the next week with it.  I make sure you see super cool pictures of my cat.  Blame Post Promoter Pro.

Every time you make a post, you can schedule it.  I’m not just talking about a one-time thing either.  When I publish this post, it will schedule a tweet to get sent in the morning, in the evening to cover different schedules.  Missed it on the first day?  Well, another is going out the following day.

I’m a late night guy.  It’s 1:30am as this review is being written and I’m sleeping when most people’s mornings start.  Posting right now would be nearly pointless and just get buried in everyone’s feed.  But what if I schedule it to go out in the morning when people are having their coffee and beginning their day?  Kablamo!  Instant eyes on my writing.

Post scheduling is awesome.  You should use it, if only to be lazy.  After all, you have better things to do with your time than remember to post at 6pm or create a campaign in Hootsuite.

What I’d like to see from Post Promoter Pro

I find Post Promoter Pro ridiculously valuable and it’s become a core part of my workflow, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have room for improvement.  Here’s what I’d like to see in future versions.

Content recycling

Remember that old post you posted a year and a half ago about this groundbreaking thing you found?  Neither do I.  The ability to recycle old content could be super useful to rejuvenate old things like an interview or tutorial.

Internal analytics

Google Analytics and Bitly are great for analyzing larger amounts of data, but what if I just need to know what time my posts are most successful, directly in my WordPress dashboard?  I’m a writer and developer, not a social media guy.  If I can just take a quick glance at recommended times or days of the week to share content, I’d be one popular guy.

More social media accounts

Reddit?  Tumblr? Whatever social media account people use to debate how toilet paper should go on the roll (somebody please make this)?  More social media accounts means more attention and more traffic.  Why not?

The good news is, Post Promoter Pro appears to be super extensible.  I don’t imagine it would be very hard at all to handle that via add-ons; whether official or 3rd party.

Multiple accounts for individual social networks

What if I need to post to multiple Twitter accounts at once when something happens?  For example, a new update to a WordPress plugin could be tweeted on a company account and an individual product account.  It’s possible this was intentional as I believe it’s against Twitter’s TOS to post from multiple accounts simultaneously.  If that’s the case, then it entirely makes sense to leave it out to protect users.

Overall thoughts

Well Chris, I was wrong. I do in fact need Post Promoter Pro.  It’s far more useful than I thought it would be, especially for a small personal site like mine.  Well done.

Pricing is solid, settings are simple, and it does exactly what it advertises and so much more.  It’s now in my everyday arsenal alongside Gravity Forms and Pressmatic (take a peek at my Pressmatic review if you’ve never heard of it).  If it were legal, I’d marry it.

My opinion is to snatch up Post Promoter Pro before Chris reads this article and raises his prices, because it’s worth far more than it sells for.

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local by flywheel logo

Update 12/1: Pressmatic has now been acquired by Flywheel and has been renamed to Local. As the software in the current state is essentially the same, this review is being edited to reflect the current name. The best news is, Local is now free (I can only assume that a premium version will come in the future).

Update 10/2: The launch discount for Pressmatic (now Local by Flywheel) has now ended.  Because of high demand, I have worked with Clay to offer an exclusive discount to my readers.  The following link will automatically apply a 10% discount, and will appear as a coupon code upon checkout:
10% Off Pressmatic

Update 7/4: Some have voiced concerns about the pricing of Pressmatic.  Personally, I feel the pricing is accurate with as much time as it saves, as well as being a one-time purchase with lifetime support and updates; rather than a yearly license like many other tools.  Nonetheless, I brought these concerns to Clay and he has decided to offer a limited time discount on Pressmatic for $99.  He didn’t say how long he was going to offer it, but I would snatch it up before he raises the price back up.

Since the early builds, I have had the pleasure of testing Local.  For those unfamiliar with Local, it is a tool for creating local development environments, primarily for WordPress; created as Pressmatic by Headway Themes founder, Clay Griffiths, and now is owned by Flywheel and rebranded as Local.  As a user of both VVV and DesktopServer, I wasn’t sure if there was much need for me to even bother with yet another way to create local environments.  The same tools that I have been using for years still work just fine.  What possible reason would I have to switch? Well, I was wrong.  Local is the new king in town.

Is switching worth the effort?

It’s always fun playing with a new tool that hasn’t even been released yet.  While new and shiny is great, I have a specific workflow already with VVV.  When first presented with Local (formerly Pressmatic), I didn’t care about it much.  I thought it was great that a new product was entering the space, but it just really didn’t fill a need that wasn’t already taken care of by my existing solutions.

Over time, I watched Local (formerly Pressmatic) evolve and began to see more and more value in it.  It was becoming far more than just a tool to create development sites; it was beginning to resolve issues that I didn’t even consider.

After plenty of poking and prodding, I decided to give Local a solid shot.  After playing with it for a bit, I was quite impressed with the perfect balance of simplicity and the developer tools that I love.  That’s when I decided to start using Local full time.

The simplification of complex tasks

When configuring development environments, there are certain tasks that irritate me.  Often times, it requires something like editing configuration files, (un)installing packages, or at the very least restarting the container.  For me, any slight deviation in my time can completely throw me off my groove.

One of the best features I love about Local is that it is built with the advanced user in mind.  While anyone can spin up a WordPress development environment with Local, the ability to change things within your environment on the fly is where it really shines.

Need to change your PHP version?  Nginx to Apache?  Even the domain of your development site?  Pressmatic makes each one of these tasks as simple as clicking a button or selecting a drop down.  I have never seen a local development tool as simple and configurable as Pressmatic.

Sharing sites is dead simple

If you’re like me, you always have your client approve your work before delivery.  Usually this involved me either deploying to a remote server, or loading a local server on my machine which I had to reconfigure every time.  Nobody has time for that.

With Local, I can easily create sites and when ready, show them to my clients with a single click.  When done, all I have to do is turn the feature off.  Clients can view my local environment at any time, without the need to interrupt my workflow.  I seriously can’t get enough of this feature.

Did I mention easy testing on multiple devices?

There are quite a few different tools out there for testing on multiple devices.  It always seems that regardless of how carefully I check things with the iOS simulator or various other emulation tools, something is always slightly off.  There just truly isn’t a replacement for testing your code on the physical device.  Well, Local solves that problem.

Remember when I said I can’t get enough of the feature that lets you share your sites?  Along with that feature is the ability to send a text message containing the link to your environment.  Send a text, click, test, done.

Templates, exports, and duplication

We all have our go-to plugins that we use.  Installing them every time, activating license keys, etc. becomes old very quickly.  That’s where templates come in handy.  Any site created in Local can instantly be turned into a template.  Once a template is created, it’s as simple as selecting that template when creating a new site.  Now I just need to figure out what to do with all of this time I’m saving.

Sites can be exported at any time into an easy to manage package.  Not only does the site export include your files and database, but it also includes any configurations you have made.  Personally, I like keeping backups of my client’s sites in a few different locations for safe keeping, and Pressmatic allows me to back up more than I have ever before.  Along with their files and database, I now have backups of any custom Apache or Nginx configuration changes that I have made as well.

In fact, Local exports every setting you can possibly change in the UI too.  If I’m revisiting a client that hasn’t had work done in a while, I might not have their environment still on my machine.  With Pressmatic, that doesn’t matter because I have absolutely everything I need directly within the export file.

Extend all the things

In addition to using Local, I’ve dabbled with extending it as well.  Pressmatic is so easy to extend, anyone with basic JavaScript knowledge can do it.  If you have WordPress development experience, extending Pressmatic is even easier.  You’ll notice familiar things such as actions and filters all over the place.  Within about 30 minutes, I was able to create a basic extension with very minimal documentation at the time.

Because Local is ridiculously easy to extend, I suspect that various extensions will be popping up all over the place rather quickly.  I shouldn’t have to tell you why this is awesome.  Everything from custom Apache modules or PHP extensions could be installed as simply as downloading and enabling an extension.  We all love WordPress because of how easy it is to extend and community tools.  Local is no different.

More features I love

  • Easy on-click access to databases via Adminer
  • Automatic Sequel Pro connections
  • One-click Xdebug configuration for PHPStorm
  • Mailcatcher to test outgoing mail without flooding an inbox
  • Instant self-signed SSL certificates with one-click browser trusting
  • Automatic background updates
  • One-click terminal access, using either Terminal or iTerm
  • Instant multisite support

What I would like to see

While the export functionality makes it easy to export sites, I would like to see the ability to push and pull sites to and from production.  Local has already improved my workflow, and could do so further with this additional feature.

Instant conversion to/from WordPress multisite would be super cool to see.  Personally, I don’t have a whole lot of need for it, but I could see it being quite useful for those who do.

While you can create site templates with the push of a button, there aren’t any included by default.  Popular configurations (or even community templates) could be immensely valuable.

Overall thoughts

Overall, I’m quite impressed.  As the other folks at Rocketgenius know, I love doing things through a terminal and I’m stubborn in my old ways.  If it works, I typically don’t change it.  Well, I’m glad I gave Pressmatic a shot.  I am extremely impressed with the finished product and I can only imagine it will improve over time.

The development team is dedicated, and feedback is being provided daily by major players in the WordPress community.  Just as stubborn as I was about switching to Local, I feel like it would be just as hard, if not harder, to get me off of it.

Well done, Local. You’ve made a hell of a product and gained a fan for life.

Local is a tool that should be in every developer’s arsenal.  Grab a copy of Local and let me know what you think in the comments.  You might be impressed.

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