Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Academic workflows on a Mac

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Over at the Macademic blog there is a list of good software on the Mac that is particularly useful for academics, teaching, writing, etc. I’ve used most of the software on this list (or at least experimented with a lot of them), but everyone’s workflow is different. Some of these will only frustrate your writing experience, especially if you’re diving into a big project like a dissertation that has unparalleled citation and formatting demands. So tread lightly and don’t make an impulse purchase, if that is your temptation. When I began writing my dissertation I had hoped to use something other than Microsoft Word, but I quickly found out that other applications would be unacceptable for submission. I wrote my prospectus in Scrivener, but I had to spend a couple of days after it was completed just converting the file into a .doc for review. That process was a real pain, particularly with in-text citations and footnotes. The writing experience in Scrivener is excellent, however, just not suitable for the parameters of a dissertation. 

What software do I really need for academic work on Mac? | Academic workflows on a Mac

A. General tools

LaunchBar – a launcher and an automator (€24) /alt: Alfred, check here for comparison

TextExpander* – Mac typing shortcut utility (€35)

1Password* – password, identities and other sensitive information management (€40)

Dropbox* – file sharing (free) /alt: Box

B. File and e-mail organizing and management

Hazel – file management automator, indispensable for managing reference files (€20)

Papers – managing scientific articles, also used for annotation, citation and bibliographies in writing (see D); check Macademic reviews (€60) /alt: Sente, Bookends

Foxtrot – a professional search engine; “goodbye haystack, hello needle!” ($40 or $130 for the professional version) /alt: Leap, DevonThink, HoudahSpot

MailTags – tagging mail messages in Apple Mail ($30)

Mail Act-On – processing and organizing email with keyboard shortcuts in Apple Mail ($25)

C. Calendar, task and project management

Fantastical* – natural language calendaring, part of the Macademic Ninja Kit (€16)

BusyCal – professional calendar management (€40) /alt: Mac’s native Calendar

OmniOutliner* – outlining for brainstorming and project planning; also used for writing outlines (see D) ($50 or $100 for professional version) /alt: MindNote

OmniFocus* – unparalleled task management app extensively reviewed on Macademic; however tempting it is, don’t try to put all your life in there! ($40 or $80 for the professional version /alt: Things, TheHitList, TaskPaper

D. Note-taking, research and writing

NValt – plain text and markdown no-frills note-taking (free) /many alternatives

Evernote* – capturing text notes, documents, images, photos and screenshots and sharing them including on iOS devices (free with some paid features)

Ulysses – a rapidly evolving software for taking and organizing notes using searches, tags and folders; I use it extensively for teaching (€37) /many alternatives

OmniOutliner* – writing outlines, also used for project management (see C) ($50 or $99 for the professional version) /many alternatives

Byword* – simple and efficient text and markdown editor for Mac (€8) /many alternatives

Scrivener – writing software, especially suitable for theses and other complex texts ($45)

Pages* – Apple native word processor producing beautifully formatted documents, features sharing through iCloud (free with OS X) /alt: Mellel, Nisus

Microsoft Word for Mac – very powerful word processor, a standard for many publishers and in the Windows world, sometimes irreplaceable but should not be over- or misused (various pricing models) /alt: MellelNisus

Papers – citation and bibliography management, article annotation, also used for managing scientific articles (see B) (€59) /alt: Sente, Bookends, EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero


E. Data processing, presentation and graphic design

Microsoft Excel for Mac – an extremely powerful electronic spreadsheet (various pricing models) /alt: Numbers

OmniGraffle – vector graphic software for diagrams and other illustrations ($100 or $200 for the professional version) /alt: Adobe Illustrator, iDraw

Keynote* – the most powerful presentation software with amazing possibilities (free with OS X) /alt: Microsoft Powerpoint, Prezi

PDFPen – editing pdf files ($60, $100 for the professional version) /alt: Adobe Acrobat


Written by Josh Philpot

July 5, 2014 at 11:43 am

Helpful apps for writers

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I like to test new iOS apps for writing. The ones below are not “writing apps” per se, but tools for writing. If you want a comprehensive look at all the known iOS text editors for iPhone and iPad and the feature set of each, check out Brett Terpstra’s iTextEditor roundup. It’s very helpful for nailing down the exact features you’re looking for if you plan to do a lot of writing or blogging on your iPad.


Terminology is the primary app that I use as my dictionary/thesaurus. The app’s core feature, “search,” is available through a button in the lower left corner of the app in the bottom toolbar. If you hit the button, a search field comes up showing the iOS keyboard, ready for you to search any word of phrase. In the recent edition of the app (v. 3), the search menu appears upon opening the app, which is a handy feature. Terminology also syncs between devices, so all of your saved words will appears on any iOS device that you own as long as the app is installed. The app also has a bunch of call-back actions for the advanced user, but I keep it on my home screen primarily for quick access to definitions or for word suggestions. Terminology is available in the App Store for $2.99.



WriteRight is actually a text editor, but it offers enhanced features for synonyms, antonyms, and phraseology via a pop-up menu. You only have to select a word and an endless list of synonyms and related phrases will be displayed. Its powerful grammatical engine “recognizes conjugated words, either feminine or plural, suggests synonyms and then replaces those words with their conjugated synonym counterparts, matching gender and number, person and tense.” It’s $2.99 in the App Store.



Phraseology was created by the same guy who made Drafts, a great app for taking short notes and exporting them to your notebook of choice (like Evernote or Byword). Phraseology can be a text editor if you like, but its primary function is to help you improve on what you’ve already written. The app can give you a bunch of statistics about your project, like your word count or how many characters you’ve used, but it really shines in creatively displaying your word usage and the parts of speech that occur frequently in your project. The apps calls this “speech syntax highlighting,” in which Phraseology highlights the following elements of speech in big bright colors: Nouns; Verbs; Adjectives; Adverbs; Pronouns; Determiners; Prepositions; Conjunctions. The image below shows what this looks like. It also lets you know how easy it is to read your writing and the grade level. The app is $2.99 in the App Store.

Phraseology1 Phraseology2


Wordbook is a standard dictionary app that has all the relative features like definitions, synonyms, antonyms, etc., but also allows for user notes. So if you want to write word or phrase associations with certain words or phrases, this app allows for that. When I started the PhD program at SBTS, I used to keep a Word document of word associations that are relevant to biblical studies (to avoid redundancy, mainly), and this app would be useful to that end. If you’re into etymologies, Wordbook also has an extensive library of root word origins. It’s $2.99 in the App Store.


Writing Aid

Writing Aid combines word definitions with meanings and synonyms. It also handles expressions nicely, and suggests alternatives for phrases and idiomatic sayings. It’s only $0.99 in the App Store.


Written by Josh Philpot

March 3, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Technology, Writing

The Preface of My Dissertation

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On Friday I will graduate for the second time from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The first time was when I completed the MDiv in 2009, and now four years later from the PhD program. I had the opportunity to write a “Preface” for my dissertation, which I had never done before. So in reflecting on this process, I wrote the following:

This project would not have been possible without the guidance of the many people who encouraged me to pursue a seminary degree, and who were faithful to support me through to its completion. This entire dissertation was written from Spring, Texas while serving as Pastor for Worship at Founders Baptist Church. I am deeply thankful to Founders for allowing me to spend this last year writing. The people of Founders have been truly amazing in their display of love for me and my family. I am especially thankful for Pastor Richard Caldwell for his constant care and support, as well as his interest in my topic.

My interest in Exodus 34 and the episode of Moses’ shining face began with a discussion outside of the office of my supervisor, Dr. Duane A. Garrett, who was completing a commentary on Exodus at the time. He suggested that I write a paper on this passage seeing that it was commonly misunderstood, especially in evangelical circles. My later work on Exodus 34 was generally well received, and so Dr. Garrett suggested that I consider it for my dissertation. I am extremely grateful to him for his support and guidance during this process, and for taking me on as one of his doctoral students.

My doctoral studies began while I was serving with Dr. James M. Hamilton Jr. on the pastoral staff at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Hamilton has influenced me pastorally and theologically more than any other person. I am grateful to him for his friendship and love for me and my family, not to mention his keen insight on all Old Testament matters and comprehensive biblical knowledge. Out of all the things I miss about Louisville, I miss serving with Dr. Hamilton the most. Thank you for modeling a strong work ethic, humility, sincerity, and biblical preaching.

My wife, Jenn, has been the constancy one needs when completing a large-scale project. Thank you for your endless prayers and encouragement, and your devotion to me when I grew weary from time to time. Thank you for your love, most of all, and for your commitment to being a godly wife and a mother. You bring more joy to me than you will ever know! And, “The heart of her husband trusts in her” (Prov 31:11).

To our kids, Isaiah, Eliana, and Mikaela, thank you for confirming for me each day that “the light of the eyes rejoices the heart” (Prov 15:30). I am looking forward to having many more mornings and evenings together!

Lastly, I am dedicating this dissertation to my parents, Gary and Pam Philpot. Your influence on me as a young man was a significant blessing throughout. And now, as a husband and father, I am beginning to understand just how important Christian parents are in the lives of their children. Thank you for your prayerful encouragement and loving example of a godly marriage. My prayer is that the Lord would “make his face to shine upon you” (Num 6:25) as you persevere in the gospel of grace.

Joshua Matthew Philpot
Spring, Texas
December 2013

Written by Josh Philpot

December 9, 2013 at 8:00 am

Tip on How to Replace Hyphens with En Dashes in MS Word

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Recently I was looking over a paper I had written for a seminary class which conformed to the SBTS Style Manual. This manual is unique to SBTS and is loosely based off of the Chicago Style Manuel (Turabian). But I wanted to submit this paper to a journal, and nearly every biblical studies journal requires SBL Style, also similar to Chicago style but much different from the SBTS style. One difference, for instance, is that SBL style requires en dashes between numerals (Gen 3:14–19) while SBTS style allows for simply hyphens between numbers (Gen 3:14-19). It’s a very small difference, but I guess editors are different people.

So who wants to go through an entire research paper and change all hyphens to en dashes?! I don’t, so after two minutes of googling I found this quick solution for those who use MS Word on a PC or Mac (I happily fall into the latter category):

  1. Go to “Edit” and click on “Find” or “Find and Replace” (or just Ctrl + “F” or Cmd + “F”)
  2. Click on the “Replace” tab
  3. In the “Find what” field type ([0-9])-([0-9])
  4. In the “Replace with” field type \1–\2 (notice the en dash in between, not a hyphen)
  5. Select “Use wildcards”
  6. Click “Replace All”

And there you have it. If you run this script all hyphens between numerals will be replaced with en dashes. If you have hyphens between words they will remain the same. Saved me a bunch of time. Might be helpful for others. Thanks to Phil Gons for the help.

Written by Josh Philpot

December 6, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Syncing Zotero with multiple computers

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Maybe you’re like me and you have a laptop for when you’re at school and desktop for home. Fortunately, Zotero allows you to sync your sources from both computers automatically. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. Create a account here
  2. Once verified, click on the Zotero icon on your Firefox web browser, then the “actions” button, and then “preferences
  3. Click on the “Sync” tab at the top
  4. Type in your username and password for
  5. Make sure “Sync Automatically” and “Sync Attachment Files in My Library using Zotero” are both checked
  6. Open your other computer and type in your log-in information in Zotero “preferences” as before
  7. Close the page and restart Firefox. Click on the Zotero icon again and either wait for Zotero to begin syncing automatically, or start the process by clicking on the “Sync to Zotero Server” button.

I did this on a Mac, so it may look a little different on Windows. The steps are essentially the same. Now every time I add a new source on my laptop it will show on my desktop as well, and visa versa.

Away with you, formatting demons! Be gone!

Written by Josh Philpot

October 30, 2009 at 12:22 am


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Let’s get honest with one another: How many of you, as you write papers, leave little comments in parentheses or in a footnote to remind yourself of the source you are quoting from, only to go back and spend two hours formatting your footnotes once you’ve finished your paper? I’ve been there, and I’m never going back. Zotero is the reason why.

First, an overview:

And here it gets awesome:

If you haven’t checked out Zotero yet, you should! It’s a free Firefox extension and a real time saver. While I’ve had to make minor changes to Zotero’s footnote info from time to time (mainly spacing), Zotero still helps with many of those pesky formatting issues. Plus, you no longer have to go back through every footnote and add the bibliographic information. It works with almost every style guide, including Turabian, MLA, and APA. Just add your source from Zotero, make whatever comments are needed in the footnote, and continue writing your paper.

Many thanks to Jim Hamilton for telling me about Zotero a few months ago, and Andy Naselli for telling him!

Written by Josh Philpot

October 28, 2009 at 12:03 pm