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Windows Writing Workflow

I detailed my tools and methods for creating site content from the iPad yesterday, so today I want to highlight my writing workflow on Windows. My company-issued laptop runs Windows 7, and while I prefer Mac OS, I have run Windows a majority of my life and don't find it as horrible as some. Many of my requirements are the same, however, the tools differ quite a bit between what I use to write on Windows vs. Mac OS X or iOS.

Requirements

I write in Markdown no matter what platform I'm using, so I needed to find an appliation which would allow me to efficiently preview Markdown on Windows. Ideally, I'd like to have some Markdown-enabled composition tools as well. On a larger screen, I enjoy having a distraction-free writing environment. Since the site runs on Squarespace, I can easily pull up the web-based Squarespace composition window for publishing the post.

Apps

  • Google Chrome
  • Dropbox
  • Dark Room
  • MarkdownPad

I use Google Chrome for many parts of this workflow. I'm sure if I wanted to be a minimalist about post creation, I could do all of it in Chrome, but I prefer native apps when good ones are available. Google Chrome serves as my RSS reader (via Google Reader site) and Instapaper client (via the Instapaper website). I have yet to find native Windows apps that do either of these as well as Chrome. I use Dark Room for my distraction-free writing environment. I used OmmWriter in the past, but Dark Room is just more simplistic and has one killer capability that OmmWriter does not offer, transparency. I can have Dark Room running full-screen, yet have the opacity set to 75%. This lets me layer the writing environment over something useful, like a Markdown syntax cheatsheet, for example. If I'm creating a link post to someone else's content, I can have the text of that article behind my composition so that I can refer to it without even changing applications or my hands leaving the keys.

Once the post is written, I save the .md or .txt file to Dropbox, and then open that file in MarkdownPad. Sure, I could simply copy/paste from Dark Room to MarkdownPad, but I like to keep the post in plain text format in Dropbox. This allows me to open the post (if in progress) from other systems and appliations very easily and adds both a backup element and a level of flexibility. Once the file is open in MarkdownPad, I am able to proof and preview the Markdown. Once that is complete, the file is saved again and copy/pasted into the Squarespace post editor for publishing.

I had been skeptical that I'd be able to find a Markdown app on Windows that compared to those that I use on my iPad and iMac. I can say that MarkdownPad was a great surprise. While it is no Marked app (a Mac app developed by Brett Terpstra), it does its job quite nicely.

iPad Writing Workflow

I've been reading a lot about workflows and ways to be a creator with the iPad, vs. just a consumer of content. Below is the writing workflow I have started using. I thought it could be helpful to others, since there is no shortage of apps and tips out there.

Requirements

I had a few requirements that apps I evaluated needed to satisfy. I write in Markdown, so I needed the app, where I will do my composition, to support both Markdown syntax and Markdown preview. A keyboard with Markdown shortcuts was not a requirement, but was a "nice to have" addition. Export options needed to include both plain text and HTML. Dropbox sync was also a must. Brett Terpstra has put together a truly awesome iOS text editor comparison chart, located here. You can click on the features across the top and it will dim the apps that don't meet that requirement. I work from a few different machines/devices, so Markdown/plain text composition allows me to work with the files no matter what OS I'm dealing with at the time.

T&C runs on Squarespace, which has great iOS and Android apps for publishing. The app's post composer recognizes Markdown natively, but I prefer to write and preview elsewhere, and let the Squarespace app handle the publishing step.

Apps

  • Reeder
  • Instapaper
  • WriteUp
  • Squarespace

I read RSS feeds through Reeder, sometimes saving longer reads in Instapaper. If I'm creating a link post, these two apps are integral to consuming the info, which I then add my thoughts to via T&C.

WriteUp is an app that met all of my text composition needs on the iPad. I use Byword on the Mac, and they also offer an iOS app, but I find WriteUp to be perfect for my needs so far. It has Markdown keyboard shortcuts, which are really nice to have. I write, proof and preview the post in WriteUp. This syncs to Dropbox for long term storage of the plain text. When the post is complete, WriteUp exports the plain text to the clipboard and I paste it into the composition window in the Squarespace app. I'm able to tweak post settings, add tags and finally, publish.

That's pretty much it.