‘From Raw to Cooked to Sushi’

In iA Writer 5: From Raw to Cooked to Sushi – iA:

In every design iteration, our individual versions evolved from the raw, to the complex, to the simple. Overall, we have reached a point where our adventure now leads, not back to a raw app, not onward to a more complex app, but upwards to a simpler app.

An interesting look and preview of what’s to come in iA Writer. Especially the hint that a Windows version might be in the works is interesting.

but we are now more than ever focused on offering iA Writer on different platforms.

Check the post for more info.

‘No more Copy and Paste Headaches’

WordPress introduced an Add-on to use Google Docs as a tool for writing and publishing:

When you’re ready to save a Google Docs draft as a blog post, go to the Add-ons menu and open WordPress.com for Google Docs. A sidebar will appear where you can add WordPress.com or Jetpack-connected sites […] Click the Save Draft button — when it’s saved, a preview link will appear so you can see how it looks on your site.

This is a welcome surprise, and one that actually might solve a few problems for me.

Over the past few years I had mainly used plain-text workflows, but in the recent past found it more comfortable and faster to use the WordPress editor, or the Press-This bookmarklet and only for the occasional longer article switched to a text-editor. Using Google Docs for those is a natural fit for me. I use it anyway already, has the features that I need (a document outline view comes to mind), it is available everywhere and works offline as well.

Plain text editors have served me well over the years, but in hindsight caused me more friction than I feel necessary and I feel it’s days are numbered. This is just another step, but that is going to be another post.

My Complete Atom.io Package List for Writing Markdown

Even though I continue to juggle back and forth between iA Writer and Atom.io for my humble writing needs I have come to like my Atom.io setup and enjoy the fact that with it I am close to the ultimate cross-platform writing Markdown editor.

I have been happily working with Atom.io as my default Markdown editor and writing up and have refined my setup a little over time. Since my last post(s) quite a bit of time has passed and new and interesting packages have been released or improved.

By the time of this writing I would go so far to say, that I have managed to set up a (Markdown) writing environment that is just the way I want it to be. I’m almost ecstatic. To remind myself of the setup, and to make it easier to set up the editor on a new machine, I thought it necessary to do one write-up with all packages that I use.

Continue reading “My Complete Atom.io Package List for Writing Markdown”

Setting up Atom.io as my Markdown Editor

I recently had to admit to myself that too many options are not good for the way I work. Once I have the chance to fiddle, I will do so and eventually not get much done. This happened when I realized that, even though I very much enjoy Ulysses.app, it ultimately doesn’t work well for me simply for the reason that I tend to tinker with themes and fonts and eventually not get much done. Hence I switched back to WriterPro, which allows to literally no customization.

Even though I was happy with it, I had the issue coming up that I needed to have a text-editor available on the computer at work. I have my own user account on the machine but I have no intention to sign in with my iCloud credentials into a machine which is also used by other users only to have access to Writer Pro, and with it my files1. I had to come up with a solution.

This led yet another time to a search for a nice editor that suits my needs. I (re-)tried a few which I knew, yet all either disappointed or simply where not what I was looking for. Since I at some point in the past have tried to set up Sublime for writing, it dawned me that I could look into how Atom.io would hold up. I have been using Atom.io for a couple of weeks to edit the code of this blog and it feels more user-friendly to me. Since you read this, you can guess that it didn’t took long before it was clear that I had a winner. It even swayed me over to use it a my go-to-editor on all my machines.

I was sure that somewhere someone must have done the same and eventually found a very useful introduction into how to Atom.io for Markdown Editing2 on a Microsoft blog.

One of the interesting things from the post:

If you’re working in a folder that contains a lot of Markdown files, don’t even try using the tree view. It’s 100x easier to use ctrl-t3 and then start typing the file name you want to open. This will search through the directory structure for files that match the text you’ve entered, and you can then click the one you want.

Perfect, just what I like.

Recommended Packages

In the aforementioned article are already a few nice packages listed for turning Atom.io into a really nice Markdown editor. But there are few more and for my purposes and needs I installed the following packages:

  • Markdown Writer
    Really excellent package and the heart of this setup. It does everything that I need. The only issue I had, was that Italics used the underscore and not the * asterisk which I prefer. Luckily this was easily adjusted in the Markdown-Writer Package ‘markdown-writer -> style-text.coffee line 8’ change the underscore to asteriks (even though I am on the brink of changing my mind on that matter).
  • Zen
    This is how I get the focused and clean editor that I am looking for. The options allow for some and customization which are helpful, such as activating showing wordcount (follows) and showing or hiding TABS.

  • Wordcount
    For word and character count, obviously.

  • Marked
    Well, preview with Marked. Of course this is Mac only.

  • Markdown Table Formatter
    This ones does the obvious and nicely formats Markdown tables. I surely don’t need this a lot, but it will come in handy from to time. This feature is already included in Markdown Writer but this script seems to work better for my liking.

Automation

Even though I enjoy all kinds of automation, I suck at actually doing the automation. Scripts are great when, well, you know how to script I guess. Something that I still have to learn.

One thing that I generally like to improve is my file naming. Of course I have a file-naming-system, I’m not an animal, but I’m not always good at actually sticking to it. The Markdown Writer package though takes the pain away from me. After setting up folders in the Markdown Writer package for Drafts and Posts everything just falls naturally into place.

Drafts are, as one would guess, automatically stored in the Drafts folder and once I am ready to publish (or already have done so) I invoke the Publish Draft command via CMD+SHIFT+P and the draft gets moved into the Post folder and renamed according to what I have specified. Just, what I always wanted. Bliss!

Themes

The amount of available themes both for the editor and the syntax is staggering and there surely is something for everyone. I have been trying a few, if not too many, only to realize that I prefer the included ones the most. The classic Solarized (both dark and light) and both One Dark and One Light are rather nice on the eye. One that I found to be rather well working for me is the Sepia Syntax theme, though I mostly use the Solarized themes.

Another very interesting one is the Pen, Paper, Coffee syntax theme which is specifically designed for text. It even supports Critic Markup, a markup language that I though, not take much advantage of.

Resume

Once pieces fell into it’s places and I started to get more familiar with the app and new workflows it has become very quickly a pleasant and very powerful app to work with. One that I look forward to spend a lot more time with.

Sure, figuring all this out, took some time, but in the process I also wrote this post and doing so learned a lot of new things. I sincerely hope that now, that I finally puzzled together the Markdown editor that I always wanted, that is not only Open Source but also Cross Platform, I will finally settle and stop this honestly very annoying switching.

In the meanwhile I have set the editor up with these packages on a few machines and it takes only a few minutes and it’s done. The only slightly annoying thing that I have encountered is that Finder Services and with it Brett’s Markdown Services don’t seem to work all the time. Also in an interesting side-note Folding Text is currently developed for Atom.io as well which is interesting as well. I haven’t looked into that though yet.

And yes, the font that I am using is of course Office Code Pro, which makes of course for an extra nice experience.


  1. As a matter of fact, the Mac still runs Maverick, so it wouldn’t work anyway 
  2. Considered that I haven’t been too familiar with the app I learned everything I need to feel comfortable using it from this post. 
  3. In fact it is CMD+t on the Mac 

My new favourite Writing Font

I have more than once been writing (not calling it whining for that matter) here about my weird obsession with the Nitti Font used by WriterPro and iA Writer. All attempts of getting used to another font more or less failed. Since moving all my typing over to Ulysses a void needed to be filled.

I was rather contempt with using Menlo since switching to Ulysses, yet every time I opened a file in WriterPro I was reminded how much I appreciated Nitti Light. Every now and then I considered purchasing it but the price-tag for all the weights I was interested somehow ticked me off. I’m not sure do I like the font that much.

I think I might have found the solution to this issue when I the other day learned about Office Code Pro, which is a modified version of Adobe’s SourceCodePro. I am familiar with Source Code Pro but always found the font a bit too technical for the lack of a better word. Turns out that I prefer Office Code Pro over SourceCodePro, even though I am not able to explain the difference between. It seems narrower and some of the characters have been modified. Overall the adjustments seem to make it a bit more Nitti-like. Which is a good thing.

Either way, it does, as does its origin Source Code Pro lack an italic version, which is somewhat of a bummer. Other than that, I really like the clean and crisp look of it. In fact even more so than Nitti Light. It is easily readable even in rather small sizes1 and it is even more beautiful with a dark theme. At times Nitti started to feel bit of grungy on the desktop and somehow didn’t really look sharp.

Since I was already at trying fonts again I started to fiddle around with a few more. I tried Fira Mono, Input and eventually Cousine, which I used to use a lot a few years ago.
I like all of them and all of them have something about them that I like, but overall I enjoyed Office Code Pro the most. It is the cleanest, feels light, is very easily readable in all sizes and looks good in both dark and light themes. Sounds almost too good.

The Test

Since I might have found a font that I like I thought the best test would be to stick with the font for a while and see if it sticks.

The plan, or challenge is to stick with Office Code Pro until the end of May and not try or switch to any other font. I actually went so far to remove all other custom monospaced fonts from my system to avoid the temptation. Also for the sake of a consistent experience, I installed the font in my editors on iOS (yeah Ulysses/Daedalus). This is in fact is a nice added feature in both apps.

At the end of May I will let you know, how the challenge worked out and if doesn’t feel right by then I will give another font a try. But not before June the 1st of course.

If you are intetested in the font as well, you can find it here on Github.

Note: I have no knowledge about typography whatsoever other than that I prefer some fonts over others just based on aestestics and personal preferences.


  1. I usually prefer not too small sizes, but still with this font it almost makes sense 

Markdown on WordPress.com!

Markdown on WordPress.com!

Markdown has arrived on WordPress.com! Some of you may respond with “Finally!”

Christmas came early this year, at least on WordPress.com. Markdown has been enabled. Did I say this is awesome. I have been hoping this will come for a while, but now WP.com has become the best place for me to blog.

And it will even work on mobile.

You can also write formatted text in Markdown from any of our great mobile apps. Just enable Markdown, install one of the apps, and write whenever inspiration strikes.

Did I mention that this is awesome?!

A Drafts Pro-Tip

Today is a bit of a relaxed day, and I thought it’s time for an half-serious pro-tip.

If you’re like me and literally use Drafts on iOS for every task imaginable you really want to check the Confirm Before Running checkbox for (auto) posting to App.net, Twitter or others.

This becomes even more important when you use Drafts also to write messages to loved ones 1 and you want to avoid sending them to any of your public profiles to prevent some embarrassing moments. Just sayin’.


  1. Not that this actually happened but it was too close already. 

Day One Update

Day One is without doubt one of my favourite applications both on iOS and on OSX and it is also one of those applications I wish I simply would use more often. Something which comes back to my mind with every update of the application.

And so it did last night again…

In the latest update tagging and a search function got added to the application 1, both features which I was hoping the app would get some day. These features will help me to get my entries a bit more organized more efficient. This together with the previously introduction of image attachments actually makes the app super useful. I just have to get around and start using it more.

Maybe I might finally get around and install finally install Brett Terpstra’s Slogger additionally to setting aside some time every now and then and do some journaling.


  1. And I am not even mentioning how useful I find the addition of footnotes. MMD for the win! 

Drafts gains native App.net support

With its latest update Drafts1 added today native posting to App.net and is getting yet one more step closer to the ultimate iOS text-input app.

I use it already for all my tasks on the iPad and it is without doubt the most used app on my device. Looking forward to see what the developer comes up with in the future.


  1. Yes, I am aware that there’s a certain danger that this blog might turn into a Drafts and Poster appreciation blog, but some tools are just too useful to be not brought up all the time. 

Byword.app get's an Update

My (by now) favourite text-editor Byword has gotten a nice update today. It sports now a dark theme, folders with iCloud, full-text search, export to PDF and also can connect to Dropbox at the same time.

I personally appreciate that the UI is now a bit more contrasty, hence easier to read, and that the menu/title bar (or however the bar would be called) now slides over the text field and doesn’t push it down/up anymore. I found this to be a tad confusing at times.

This latest update, together with Poster and Drafts 1 has now completed and perfected my writing-workflow on the iPad, which in fact is the tool I actually feel the most comfortable to write with. These are exiting times for text-file nerds.

Go and grap the update from the App Store


  1. I have a longer write-up coming this one, but I want to be thorough with my experience and not rush the post out.