This post is geared towards users who are writing using Markdown to format their text and most specifically publishing their writing to the web such as a blog. Most specifically the article is designed for those
- that are Markdown writers
- learning to write using Markdown to format their text
- and those interested in Markdown as a tool to write and post to the web or a blog
In addition, this post is meant for those who would solely like to write and post offline. That is, rather than going to your blog site and logging in and copying your HTML output from your Markdown editor to the website you’ll use tools that can be used for offline posting. This has many advantages in that you don’t have to tinker around in the underpinnings of your blogs website. Further, these offline tools I’m going to discuss are what I consider the best to write in. The online editors work but they are not nearly as nicely designed for the pure art of writing. Offline publishing of your written work has the added benefit of stearing you entirely clear of having to enter your blog site except possibly to look at statistics of views etc.
Not intended for…
The post though is not really meant for those who want to learn Markdown itself. There’s a growing abundance of material on the web to help with that endeavour. David Spark‘s book Markdown is an excellent tool to understand what Markdown is all about and how to use it. It provides not only words that describe Markdown but there is an abundance of audio/visual aids in the book.
Also, at ScreenCastsOnline there is an hour long tutorial Markdown and more …. which provides a broad brush view of this excellent approach to writing. However, I just have to caution, although ScreenCastsOnline is an excellent site to find all kinds of tutorials on various software products for the Mac and IOS (you do have to be a member to view most tutorials), if you know nothing about Markdown and watch this episode I’ve highlighted you might feel you’ve just entered the Twilight Zone as I did. I believe David Spark‘s book is the best place to start if you want to learn Markdown and if you do the benefits are great.
Three Excellent Tools for Writing and Blogging Offline
In this section I’ll review three excellent tools for writing and blogging offline, two of which I covered fairly extensively in a previous post. The following two tools I use for the writing portion of my posts are:
These two tools, as I’ve discussed and will recap on in this post I feel are the best for Markdown writing. If you do buy Markdown by David Sparks you’ll find Byword is what he uses and he does all his demos using this editor.
The third tool that can be used for everything, if you so choose, from the writing, previewing and actual publishing is:
It is bar none the best offline publishing tool we Mac users have available and it natively supports writing in external editors such as Byword. You might feel quite content using just Marsedit for everything however, I think Byword is the best Markdown editing tool as previously discussed in Tools for Writing this Blog.
The one thing I should mention is that I previously used MacJournal which is a fabulous offline blogging tool. However, I’ve become a Marsedit convert for a variety of reasons but one is its native support for Byword and Markdown.
To follow the flow in which I put together a full post from beginning to end I’m going to start my discussion of these tools with Marsedit and end the post with a further discussion of Marsedit.
Begining and Ending with Marsedit
Marsedit is a great Markdown tool for offline publishing of documents to the web. I’m going to start this section discussing how I use Marsedit with the other tools mentioned. However, it is a tool in which you can do it all both the writing and the publishing. So if your so inclined give it a go as it alone may fit the bill. It provides both a nice writing environment while at the same time a preview window to see how your Markdown document will look fully formatted as you write.
This window shows on the left the editor with its Markdown symbols. On the right is the preview window of how your formatted document will look. In this case you are viewing the creation of this document that is being written in Byword and that’s why there is that little dropdown box in the editing window saying that when you quit Byword the Marsedit editor will be updated. So as I drop in photos as I did here, I quit Byword and drop the image in at the location I’ve chosen in Marsedit. It gives me the option of uploading now or uploading with the document. If you are using an external editor you’ll want to upload now so you can see your image in the external editor but if you’re solely working in Marsedit you can upload the text and images all at one time.
I’ve jumped one step ahead though as we have to ready Marsedit to work with Byword which is very simple. First, in preferences, choose your external editor that you’d like to use. At this stage, you should also setup Marsedit to work with the blogging site you post at and in my case that’s WordPress. Again, this is very simple as all you need do is in the setup choose your blogging system, enter your userid and password and Marsedit will do all the work in creating the link and pull down your current posts as in the following image:
To ready Byword now as your Markdown editor, from the main window just simply choose File edit with Byword and Byword will pop up with a clean page ready to go. I minimize my Marsedit windows at this point and am left with just my outline, written in Notebook on the left, Byword in the centre and the I start Marked to preview my document as I go along as in the following image:
Its now time to leave Marsedit behind except to bring it up to add images and at the very end to publish our document. To do that it is important to remember to quit Byword. This will populate Marsedit with your new text. You can now drop your image into the location you want that image to be inserted and upload it to your website. Finally, you then reopen Byword from Marsedit, restart Marked with a fresh image of your Byword file taken from the very top of the Byword screen and just to the left of the filename and drop this image on the Marked icon in the dock and the preview window will open.
As I’ve written on Byword and how I use it in Tools for Writing this Blog I’ll just briefly recap my use of Byword and why I find it so appealing. I really actually quite enjoy writing in Byword. Markdown is designed not only to easily get the written word converted to HTML so that it can be ported to a web site and displayed with all its formatting but its all so intended to allow you just to write with simple codes that don’t get in the way of both the writing and the reading of your text.
Additionally, since you are writing in plain text, this is totally portable and any tool can use the text you write. Markdown tools can go a step further and take your Markdown codes and convert your printed word into the format you intended. Portability is of course very important for long after one fancy, dandy word processor dies and so too your text, your Markdown document or really text document can move anywhere. The words are not lost.
Soley Oriented towards Writing
Byword takes these principles and very effectively makes use of them by providing you with an environment solely oriented to just writing. It allows you to write in this completely distraction free writing environment. You don’t need Marked or an outline surrounding Byword if that’s not your style. You could just have Byword on your screen and hide everything else with Byword sitting front and centre for its one but truly efficient purpose of allowing you to simply write.
Byword provides some nifty tools to enhance focusing on the words your writing. It:
- provides you with just a plain sheet of very light grey paper and that’s it
- Formatting codes are greyed out as you write and text is enhanced in the format you’ve which aids you in focusing on your writing
- if you do not like manually entering the codes for bold you can just invoke many of these formatting commands via a shortut key such as command-B for bold or command – I for Italics
- if you want a truly distraction free environment you can go full screen and all you see is Byword’s words sitting front and centre on that screen however, I do find on a 27” iMac this is a bit much
- Byword even has a paragraph and line focusing mode that dims everything except the paragraph or line your concentrating on
That’s Byword. Its a wonderful writing tool and I’d highly recommend it.
Marked is not essential tool when you have Byword as Byword previews your formatted document either through a menu command or a shortcut keystroke but I find it‘s certainly a nice tool to have to preview your documents as you write. Rather than always invoking the Byword command to see how everything is looking you can just see a preview of your document as you write it. Should you notice something you’re not keen on you just stay in your text editing mode in Byword and quickly correct your formatting so its what you want. Bottom line, it saves time.
Marked was developed by Brett Terpstra who’s played a large role in the Markdown community. You can use Marked to preview any text document you might write using Markdown codes. It also supports some nice exporting features such as:
- Rich Text
Again, this is not essential for the Byword user as these are supported plus more but for those of you who might choose something different that doesn’t have the built in support for these formats it could prove handy. In my case I use it solely to:
- preview my document as I write
- proof my document for errors/changes
For the efficiency it provides it is well worth using.
Now that the document is proofed and we’re happy with the way it reads and looks its now time to post the document to the web. As I mentioned, this is all about offline writing and publishing on your Mac. However, you could if you so wanted go to your blogging site and paste the HTML code in to their editor. You would though have to upload all your images to the web/blogging site for insertion into the various parts of your document. However, I find a nicer and more efficient way of doing this is to do all of this offline with Marsedit.
Back to Marsedit to Finalize and Post
Its now time to post your finished piece of work. Marsedit makes it a breeze at this point. As we’ve been going along we’ve been uploading our photos to the web. Now all that’s left to do is post our Markdown document to our blogging site.
There are really only two things left to do but before you do you might want to take one last glance at your document in the Marsedit previewer window. Finally, to post you need to first convert the markdown written document into HTML for posting. In Marsedit this is simple. You just choose the menu command Edit in RTF and once converted your ready to post. Press the button Send to Blog and within a few seconds Notification Centre will advise you that you have successully posted your document.
Done. Jump over to your website using your browser to see your posted document. I think you’ll be surprised just how nice everything looks.
Perfect for the Hard Core Markdown Blogger
For those of you that blog a lot, offline writing and posting is a very enjoyable thing. It frees you of the tedium of working within the innards of your website provider although it is very useful to know how that works and whats available. Yet, this technique is very liberating and enhances the power of your Mac immeasurably allowing you to work with the writing/editing tools that you’re most comfortable with and find effective.
Give it Whirl
You can easily try Marsedit out to see if it works for you. They offer a 30 day trial period in which to try it and see if it both works for you and meets your needs. Once having posted using an offline approach I think it highly unlikely you’d return to anything other than offline posting.
With that said, its time to give whirl and see what you think. My guess is you’ll not only be happy with the process and results of your endeavours but you’ll delight even more in the power your Mac brings to the table to make you more productive in an enjoyable way. So have fun with this and enjoy!