BBEdit 13: It Sucks a Little

Bicycle for Your Mind:

BBEdit is the pre-eminent text editor on macOS. I have owned a registered version of the product since version 5. It is one of those instant updates for me. I hear about a new release and I instantly update. I did the same thing on this version. I won’t ever again.

There are some very solid points in this post.

As someone who was considering buying BBEdit and trying it out, these points of frustration were the catalyst for me to decide not to.

Bye-Bye iPad

Update: A couple of people have asked if me not having an iPad means the end of A Slab of Glass, it is not. Christopher and I both have talked about the podcast being more than just about the iPad, and we have been making strides to do that over the past few months. So no, A Slab of Glass isn’t going anywhere.


After about 2 months of it collecting dust, I decided it was time to say goodbye to my iPad Pro and consequently the iPad Lifestyle. There are a couple of reasons for this, but I will stick with the one that is worth talking about: I simply don’t use an iPad anymore for my work.

No, this isn’t a “you can’t get real work done on an iPad” article. I have gotten real work done on an iPad for years and loved it, but due to some changes in my life the iPad isn’t the best tool for the job anymore. Here’s why.

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Now You Know How It Feels

Craig Hockenberry writing for Iconfactory:

Are you one of the many people affected by a MacBook keyboard failure?

If so, you now have the slightest hint of what it’s like to live with a disability. You can’t use a product like everyone else and it’s preventing you from achieving your goals.

Maybe you say “screw it” and write an article for the Wall Street Journal without those keys. Or maybe you hang on desperately to an old laptop (these words are coming from a MacBook purchased in 2013.) An external keyboard might be a temporary workaround.

But there is a clear distinction here: you have a course of remedy. You can take the laptop in for service or choose a different model. And while a failing keyboard is definitely a problem, it pales in comparison to someone’s permanent disability.

Craig makes a great point here on this matter and I think that it is something many of us don’t think about regularly, including myself. Apple has done great work for accessibility for those with disabilities and I hope they continue to do so. That said, the burden also falls on the developers, and I hope they are paying attention.

Drafts 5 for Mac

From Tim Nahumck:

For many years, Drafts has been the place on iOS where text starts. But for all of those years, there has been a missing component: a macOS counterpart.

That ends today.

Drafts for Mac has finally been released to the public. Last time there was a major release, I wrote the Macstories Review. But when it comes to a Mac and how best to integrate Drafts into the macOS ecosystem, I’m simply not the right person to do the review justice. But thankfully, one of my favorite internet people reached out to me privately about writing the review for it, and I was thrilled to even be asked. To be clear: they didn’t owe me that, but it is honestly a nice feeling to feel respected within this community. They also reached out to Federico about writing for MacStories, and he agreed.

So, it’s my pleasure to point you not here for a review, but over to MacStories where Rosemary Orchard has written a review of Drafts for Mac.

Rosemary Orchard writing for MacStories:

The quest for the perfect text application – for some of us it has been a lifelong goal, or at least it feels like it. I realised very early on in my computing life that I did not enjoy playing with formatting in Word or Pages, and when I discovered that Markdown provides the ability to make items **bold** or _italic_ with just a few simple characters, I felt like I had finally found my text formatting holy grail.

Many years ago I discovered Drafts for iOS, and the idea appealed: you open the application and type. No creating a new file, or trying to decide what to do with the text before the thought is fully formed, just open, type, then decide. I frequently need to jot down notes, save links, and have found being able to write without thinking too much about where the words need to go, and how they’re going to get there, is extremely helpful in today’s world of constant interruptions.

Last year saw Drafts 5 released for iOS with even more capability than before, allowing you to truly customise it to be the text editor you’ve always dreamed of having. There was only one small but important snag – no Mac version.

Today there is a Mac app. It is what many of us have been waiting for, albeit with a few missing features at the moment. Drafts for Mac has landed.

It’s great to see two of my favorite people on the internet write about the new Mac app for Drafts 5. I played around with the beta and Greg Pierce, the sole developer of Drafts 5, has been doing a fantastic job with it. I can’t wait to see more improvements to come on the Mac app as time goes on.

Blogging on a Mac Instead of My iPad

Lately I have been using my Mac more and more, and the reason for this is because I find it to have a much easier workflow for my writing than an iPad. This isn’t to say that I can’t do my work on an iPad, I can and I have, but because of apps like MarsEdit and Marked 2 I find that the iPad isn’t my preferred device for writing anymore.

One of my reasons for this are the apps, and how they have improved my workflow when it comes to my writing.

MarsEdit

MarsEdit is probably the go-to application I will tell anyone who is using a WordPress website to use. It has a solid reputation behind it, and it is all apparent after using it for you site. It is built a lot like a standard Mail application with each post being its own item and the data you want to see right there in rows. It allows you to see all your posts easily and select one that might need to be edited or shared.

Once in the editing mode it supports Markdown, HTML, and plain text editing. It is also a really nice Rich Tech editor similar to the WYSIWYG editor WordPress used to have before moving over to Gutenberg. If you want Markdown syntax highlighting, this sadly isn’t the app for you. I spoke with the developer some time ago and I got the feeling that Markdown syntax highlighting isn’t something in the works. I could be wrong about this, and I hope I am, but as of right now there is nothing of the sort in MarsEdit.

Once you are done editing your post, things like the post title, slug, categories, and tags are all available to edit and assign prior to going live. The tags you even have saved on your WordPress website show up when entering them in MarsEdit. You can even use custom fields for things like the Daring Fireball-style Linked List Plugin where you can enter in a custom field with a link and make that URL the hyperlink to your title. You can see a good example of that on my post about the new podcast by Greg Morris called And You Are?.

Finally, this application supports image uploading, meaning that you can insert your image in a post on MarsEdit and when you do hit publish that image is then uploaded to WordPress and attached to the post automatically. This isn’t necessarily anything new as apps like Ulysses also do this. That said, it is a nice touch to not make users have to upload their images and then add them through some kind of library or manually copy the image URLs over.

MarsEdit isn’t just a very nice editing tool for blog posts, it also provides a wonderful array of admin tools as well. For instance, if you want to get the link to a post on your website, you can just select the post and press control+command+C and the link for the post is copied.

Not only that, but with a simple plugin on your browser you can make link-posting on your website a cinch. Simply select the text from an article you want to share, click on the MarsEdit browser plugin and, with the power of the Quick Posts setting in MarsEdit, the link from the site where you selected that text is then formatted however you want for link-posting.

All in all, I think that MarsEdit is a great buy for the price, and if you give it time and really start using it regularly it can be the one and only application you need to post to your blog.

You can buy MarsEdit 4 today for your Mac for $49.95. Which seems high, but if you want a powerful one-stop shop for posting your blog, MarsEdit is by far and away worth the money.

Marked 2

Marked 2 was an app I didn’t think I needed when it came to writing and blogging on the Mac, but once I finally used it I instantly added it to my workflow.

Marked 2 is a simple app on paper, it allows you to open a file with Markdown and see real-time updates to it. Outside of what this does “on paper,” the flourish and polish of this app makes proofreading and quality control smooth and simple.

Along with adding bold text and italics whenever the syntax shows up, it does things like shows the full URL of a link when you hover over it.

It can show the length of selected text with things like world count and character count and sentences in the selection. It allows you to review and check the version your readers will see, making it the last application necessary before hitting publish.

It also has an incredible editing system to show you where you can improve on your writing and grammar. It reminds me a lot of the Hemingway web-app, showing where you write in passive voice, or when you are using words that have preferred alternatives. So instead of saying something is “very large” it could show you something like “enormous” or “gigantic” making for it to be a much more pleasing thing to read.

Finally, Marked 2 also allows you to export the finished product as a slew of different file formats. You can save the finished post as things like a Markdown file, a PDF (paginated and continuous), or even HTML if you want to share it to something like MarsEdit and not have to worry about your WordPress website supporting Markdown formatting.

Marked 2 was the editor I needed when writing as I never feel that my work is worthwhile until I meticulously comb over everything and rewrite draft after draft. Now, with the editing tools and system I can use that as a finish line to when I can stop trying to make it perfect and start making it public.

You can get Marked 2 for $9.99 right now, or become a SetApp subscriber and get access to Marked 2, Ulysses, and a slew of other great apps.

Bringing it All Together

Now that you know both the apps I cherish on the Mac when it comes to my writing, let’s explain the process in my writing and blogging on the Mac.

I first start writing my draft in a text editor. Which is usually Ulysses on the Mac, which can be an alternative to MarsEdit if you just want a text editor that can post to WordPress. One thing I prefer with Ulysses is that it does have Markdown syntax highlighting, allowing me to see more clearly the differences I make when I want to bold or italicize something. However, I am not a fan of how Ulysses handles your posts after you send it off to be posted. It just stays right at the folder you had it in. From there I have to figure out what to do with it. Eventually what I decided to do was make a folder called “Posted” and throw everything I am finished with in there for safe keeping. Once that got cumbersome I decided to make Ulysses my app for writing, and Marked 2 and MarsEdit for editing and publishing respectively.

Anyway, once I am done with my first draft I export the Markdown file of the post to Marked 2 and have both apps side-by-side and make changes to the according to the Keyword Highlight Drawer in Marked 2.

Once done there I send the post to MarsEdit. Once there I add the metadata I need and make sure everything in the post is how I want it. Once I am happy with it I then send it to Rocket Panda for posting.

Conclusion

The workflow is a little crazy seeing that I am using 3 apps to get one post out on to Rocket Panda, but I feel that if I were to exclude any of these in my blogging process it would make for a lesser product.

One thing that I think is something that I prefer over the Mac is just how easy it can be to edit posts and make changes with ease. When it comes to iOS and the WordPress app, which is the only decent app to handle WordPress content on iOS, it is still clunky and ill-fitting to the styling of iOS.

When I am using MarsEdit and Marked 2 on my Mac it feels like it is the perfect way to make sure that my writing is the best that it can be.