Don't panic, Panic

A couple of days ago, I was on an unplanned trip out of town when I learned that a client wanted a report right away. Normally this would not be a big deal, as I’d have my computer with me and could use it to put the report together. Unfortunately, this trip was rushed, and all I had with me was my phone. I suppose I could have explained my situation and arranged to send him the report when I got back to the office today, but thanks to Prompt and Transmit, both from Panic, I didn’t have to.

The report had been written a few days earlier, but I hadn’t issued it, as I was waiting for confirmation of a set of data. I was pretty sure the data set was good and had written the report under that assumption. When I got the expected confirmation, the only thing I needed to update was the report’s date. That meant editing a single line in the LaTeX source file and recompiling it into a PDF.1 Easy peasy on a computer, but I didn’t have a computer.

That’s where Prompt came in. I had set it up quite a while ago with the URLs and SSH keys necessary to access my work computer and the Leancrew server. All I had to do was log into the work computer, open and edit the LaTeX source file in Vim, and recompile the report PDF with the new date. I am by no means a whiz at Vim, but I know my way around it well enough to do a minuscule editing job like this.

I wasn’t quite done, though, because the new PDF with the right date was on my work computer, not my phone. I fixed that by using Transmit—which I had also set up long ago with the credentials to access my work computer—to copy the report PDF to my phone, where I could attach it to an email and send it off.

There are, I know, people who prefer to use VNC/Screen Sharing app like Screens for this kind of remote work. To me, trying to navigate a 27″ screen through a phone-sized porthole is more trouble than it’s worth. It’s true that Prompt limits me to the Unix command line, but I don’t find that especially limiting.

I did this work on the older version of Prompt. The new version had just been released, and I hadn’t updated yet. There are some nice things in the new version, including the ability, via 3D Touch, to go directly to one of your connections from the Prompt icon on the home screen.

Prompt 3D Touch popup

Even better, I think, is the new special character popup on the top row of the keyboard. In the previous version of Prompt, you had to toggle your through the sets of special characters until you saw the one you want. Now you can see all five sets at once and get to the character you want much more quickly. I wish I’d had this on Wednesday.

Prompt light theme

I do think the button at the far right of the extra row—which brings up a toolbar at the top of the screen—could use a redesign. The dark-on-dark is very hard to read.

Speaking of dark, if you have any thoughts of telling me that dark themes are better than light themes for terminal emulation, don’t waste your—and especially my—time. I hate dark themes, and no amount of patient explanation or citing of studies will get me to change. I spent my formative computing years typing on ugly light-on-dark terminals like this Infoton, and I am never going back. But if you want to see Prompt’s dark theme, here it is.

Prompt dark theme

No disrespect to Panic, who need to serve a wide variety of customers, but ick.

  1. Why didn’t I write the report in Markdown and follow my usual workflow? Initially, I did. I wrote the first draft of the report in Markdown, and generated a LaTeX file from it. This particular report, though, needed a table with formatting beyond the capability of MultiMarkdown, so there was no way to produce it without editing the (normally intermediate and untouched) LaTeX. Whenever I have to edit some portion of the LaTeX file directly like this, it’s more efficient to abandon the original Markdown file and work in LaTeX exclusively. Aren’t you glad you asked?