A web writer’s dream come true
by Giles Turnbull
You know me, you know I have an obsession with writing software for ages. I like to try out everything that comes along. Rarely has anything lived up to the gorgeous simplicity of TextMate and a bunch of folders in the Finder.
The difference for me, and this is something I consider fairly fundamental to my obsessive behaviour, is that a lot of what I write is destined for publication on the web. Right now, about 70% of all my paid work is for blogs and other web publications, and will never see the light of day in print.
If I were solely a print journalist, I’d probably have stuck with something like Scrivener or Mori or DevonNote years ago. They’re just the thing for managing articles where all you need to consider is the words.
But a web writer has to consider more than the words. A web writer has to consider the links, and to some extent, the presentation and formatting of the words. This is stuff that simply isn’t required for print content.
So the direct consequence of this is that most software that’s great for writing just words isn’t so great for writing words for the web. There’s a difference in the required output, and there’s a difference in the requirements of the software.
This is what lies behind my obsession. I’ve been writing for web sites for many years, but I’ve never really found the writing tool that fulfilled that very specific niche. It has to have certain features:
- easy integration with various blog tools and their APIs
- word count (live if possible, called up by command if not)
- treat plain text properly
- convert Markdown to HTML in situ and instantly
- have a full screen editing mode, and be able to flit between window and full screen with one button
- ideally, offer some degree of management of content, so that I can keep track of ideas-for-articles, articles-in-progress, articles-to-be-posted, and articles-posted-previously
Now I’ve known about MarsEdit for years, but haven’t sat down and tried using it properly. Not until a couple of weeks ago, when anger with WordPress-in-a-browser sent me scurrying for a client app that wouldn’t make me quite so cross.
And having downloaded and used it for just a few hours, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done so years ago. It solves many of the problems I was dealing with, and adds other features to boot. For 15 quid, it’s a marvel.
But there’s more: although MarsEdit doesn’t have everything, I can add things to it with a utility like ThisService. After an hour or so of of Googling and fiddling about, I have set up MarsEdit so that it can do everything on the list above. It can even do full screen editing, thanks to its helpful “Edit with…” command that can be invoked with a simple tap on Command+J.
I’m almost exploding with excitement about this. ThisService makes a sensible Word Count and use of Markdown possible in every app I have. Now I have them inside MarsEdit, which does all the article-management and talking-to-API gubbins too. And it copes very nicely with images too, just drag ‘em in. This is the software setup I’ve been looking for inside a single app for years, but it turns out that three very niche apps, working together, have provided the answer instead.
I’d urge any of you who regularly write for web publications – yes, both of you – to have a try with this setup and see if it makes you more productive. Cos I think it probably will.