Writer pro has been my main tool for blogging for about 5 months now. I really liked the workflows and tricks of editorial on the iPad and for a long time I used Evernote to insure I could access my writing from whatever device but Writer Pro has come along and integrated itself as my key tool for producing content for this site and others. Today I’m going to tell you about how (and why) I use Writer pro, What makes it a fantastic tool, what my complaints are, and what tools I’m looking at replacing it with.
My Old Workflow (and the problem with it)
In the past I used Evernote to do the majority of my writing. The key advantage of using Evernote is it’s ability to save notes online which you can access anywhere (as long as you have an internet connection). This meant that I could write something on a tablet and then finish editing on a PC (my pre-mac days) so I didn’t have to cart my computer with me everywhere and I could save ideas on the go. The biggest problems with this system are the file format which Evernote uses to save your notes are a unique type of HTML which only Evernote uses. To export a note to a blog, you have to copy the text (manually), paste it into the “text” section in WordPress and even then some errors might come up with erratic formatting. The way it looked on Evernote wouldn’t necessarily come across on the blog (or rather, it would come across and conflict the blogs formatting and style).
Furthermore, there was no support for Markdown nor a simple way to publish to a blog. This added a substantial amount of friction to use and complication to the process of writing and publishing. I really wanted a system that would keep the advantage of Evernote’s ever present system, where I could access any ideas from any device but also allow me to keep the advantages of some other publishing system which let me quickly send post to blogs. Plus I like an underdog and after all the criticisms I had heard about Writer Pro (even when compared to iWriter) I though it was worth checking out.
Finally, I found the idea of the different writing modes of writer pro, with specifically chosen typography, really interesting when considering how a tool can frame your mindset. Plus the editing tool of using focusing on certain aspects of syntax is a great way to raise awareness to your typical writing pitfalls.
How I use Writer Pro
Writer pro is a minimalist writing app for both iOS and Mac. You can sync your notes via iCloud and access all your notes in your different writing “stages”.
My writing ideas will usually come in one of two locations. When I’m out walking with my iPhone or when I’m sat at my desk with my Mac. In either situation I can have a Writer Pro with me. I simply open the app with a new “note” (in note mode) and then drop in the title of the post using a Markdown h1 tag. I’ll then try to quickly type out the structure of the post with subheadings or main points. Once I’ve got a structure, or have to get back to whatever is going on in front of me, I can close the app and it’s saved.
If I’m brainstorming ideas for posts but not writing out the ideas for the post, then I’ll just save them in either Evernote (with the publishing schedule), drafts for instant capture, or omnifocus if I really want to insure I write it up by a deadline. I almost never just save a title for a post in Writer pro, I always try to sketch an outline.
Next I’ll open up the app and search through the notes I’ve made and flesh out the post. This is a very general process of “just writing”, not focusing on the details or correct forms but just getting it on to the screen, which is 70% of the time my Mac, 29% of the time my iPad and about 1% of the time my iPhone. When I first got the app I would always switch the app to “write” mode, which has probably my favourite typography for writing in. I try to not focus on correcting spelling or anything here but just writing and
After this comes editing. There is a specific “edit” mode with another set of typography. I really Should use this setting more as one of the best tricks for noticing errors in your own writing is to change the format. It’s one reason why it’s so much easier to notice errors once something has been printed or published to a blog page. The change in format helps your eyes to see it again for a first time.
When I do switch to edit I notice more errors but honestly, I don’t do it as much as I should. I blamed the lack of keyboard shortcut…but there is one. Honestly, it’s laziness on my part. Similar to the last point point, I have all but stopped using the syntax tool. It’s another cool trick for drawing your attention to certain parts of speech, encouraging you to use more interesting adjective or verbs and framing your perspective when you edit. However, it takes time (as all good editing does) and sometimes I “don’t have time” (see can’t be bothered) to properly edit my writing.
Finally, I copy the markdown to HTML, open up the site in a web browser [or open the mobile WordPress app on iOS], paste in a new “text” format and then add in any images I need to. After adding tags, the category and all those other SEO features and settings, I’m ready to hit publish on the site.
What I like
The editing tools do really help to enhance my writing. They force you to spend a bit more time and care on what you have writing and not settle for average. Focusing on your syntax is something that is very difficult to do with another tool which doesn’t fade the other element of the syntax. Changing the typography brings a sense of freshness to your writing each time and helps to set a mind set of “write” “edit” etc.
I also love how the different settings helps to search between ideas within the iOS app and on the Mac document finder. It helps to find posts which need to be edited and also posts which are just a draft outline.
These features are present in other writing apps but the integration with a solid minimal writing app which supports Markdown, syncs over iCloud and is simple to pick up any device and start writing make for a really nice workflow to gain inspiration on the go, write out the post and then edit it all within a day or spread over months.
What I don’t like
But it’s not perfect. As you could see from the end of my workflow, this app is not really great for publishing to a blog or site, something I hear iWriter is much better for, and why many people criticised writer pro when it first came out as it feels like a step backwards in that respect. I have to find images, add in all the meta data and have another application or web browser to actually publish.
Although the editing tools are really useful they have one flaw, Me. If I don’t have the energy or focus to bother clicking on the control to switch writing mode from “note” to “write” then it stays in the original setting. This also reflects the novelty of the idea, although there is merit in the idea that different typography and mindset produces different results and, like Feng Shui, it can be good to set mindsets and tasks unique for certain settings, they are vital.
I’m not saying they have no value, quite the opposite, but many people will only use them if they have to and many more (even those who see the value of them) won’t even notice them at all.
What I’m looking For
Really my perfect workflow would be to have a tool similar to writer pro which can also easily publish onto a blog and incorporate images and meta data at the same time.
It would also have some form of connected notebook where ideas could be saved, even those which aren’t ready to be drafted or final titles, and where outlines could be saved and are obviously kept separate from posts which are in process.
There aren’t really any tools exactly like this but there are a few which seem to do well in one area or another.
Byword and iWriter
Byword and iWriter both sync and have multiple apps on iOS and OSX. They can also publish to blogs which is a huge advantages over Writer pro, but they are still missing some of the publishing details such as images and meta data.
Mars edit is a much better blog publishing tool but it doesn’t seamlessly sync between devices and it isn’t a “minimalist” or “distraction free” writing tool. I love the bare interfaces which focus on words and promote keystrokes over menus.
Dropbox syncing with different apps
It’s unusual for me to publish from anything but my Mac (though if I do go on the camino de Santiago this summer that will probably change). As such I only really need to insure that I can edit images on my Mac, save ideas and drafts on the iPhone and write up posts on the iPad. I could make better use of different writing apps which are specially designed for each platform (however, I feel that it’s better to have one app to rule them all).
I’m actually an Alpha tester for this in development app (by non other than Pressgram’s John Saddington) so I’m probably a little bias here. I’ve recently written and published a couple of posts onto MacDaily using just this tool. It’s still in Alpha so there are clearly some issues with it and there is no mobile option (yet?) but the huge advantage it has over other apps I’ve tried is that it is really easy to create posts on your mac and publish with no need to open a web browser. If this had a good note taking app (and minus it’s current bugs) then I’d bet that it would be my writing app of choice.
What is your blogging tool and workflow?