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Blogging on a Mac Instead of My iPad

  • December 10, 2018
  • Blog

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.

How a Talk at SXSW From 2009 Helped Me Be a Better Blogger

  • April 24, 2018
  • Blog

I listened to a talk from 2009 by John Gruber and Merlin Mann from SXSW about blogging, and it caused a carnival of thoughts to swirl in my mind. This is me trying to articulate them.
I had never listened to this talk before, but because I started listening to the podcast Back To Work it made me want to listen to it as after being brought up so much in the first few episodes. I wanted to know if it still holds up, to see if the blogging platform is a shell of its former self. This talk couldn’t be more true today than it was then.

The talk, titled How To: 149 Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog with Credibility, was about an hour in length. Which made me sad because an episode of the The Talk Show can run twice that on average. I wanted more, I felt like there was a great deal more to learn from.

Why You Should Blog

It started with John and Merlin explaining one of the main points: to write about what delights you. To write about what you’re obsessed with. This main point would come up again and again throughout the talk. At one point Merlin would say:

“How do you know that you should start a blog? People keep telling you to shut up.” – Merlin Mann

I can’t say I am not part of this group. My fiancé is tired of me talking about Apple news, working on my iPad, and my feelings on productivity. It is something I have obsessed on in some capacity for years.

After this, they talk about how you can’t, and probably shouldn’t, make everyone happy. Merlin says it best when he explains how he admires John because John’s voice and passion outweighs any obligation to make people happy. He doesn’t go out of his way to upset anyone but he also is steadfast to continue the path he feels is right. This is something I think I lack, and that I should be more assertive at times. Too often I try and be a cheerleader and suppress my negative feelings on certain things, and I think they are valid concerns I should be addressing. I don’t plan on making this blog a place to gripe and complain all the time, but there is a place for that concern and the feelings I have.

Finding Your Audience

Next on their list is finding an audience. Gruber explains his ideal reader is “another version of me.” The crowd laughs, almost as if to say “he can’t be serious,” but I feel the same way as John. I write on Tablet Habit because I imagine myself reading a blog like this that I never started. I imagine myself looking for a place that has similar feelings on Apple, iOS, and using an iPad as a main computer. That is my main motivator for writing here. There are other factors at play, but they are all distant seconds to the strong feelings I have to write about what delights and, at times, upsets me.

“Make something really kickass and try to impress the people you really love.” – Merlin Mann

When Merlin said this, I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement. This is something I have felt for as long as I started podcasting back in 2009. Find someone you want to impress, and ask yourself every time you hit publish if that person will like it or think it’s garbage. If it’s the latter, do better. If it’s the former, send that thing to everywhere you can.

With that said, it is important, they say, to not try and piggyback off someone else’s success. A great example they provide with this is Ted Koppel, who found success as a broadcaster during the Iran hostage crisis. It caused the ABC show Nightline to be made, and it elevated Koppel to be one of the most well know journalists in that era. Side note: Nightline continues to be a great program of long-form news that I find to be more digestible than anything local or national news programs make today.

But the point they bring up, originallly made by Ira Glass from NPR’s This American Life, is that you can’t be Ted Koppel, he already exists. I can’t be John Gruber, or Merlin Mann, or Federico Viticci, those people already exist. What I can do, as they explain, is to learn from their work and try the things they did to get success. This goes for anyone looking to have success in a creative field, whatever your definition of that may be. Learn, but don’t emulate. Take their work and learn how they do the things they do.

The New Printing Press

Gruber then mentions an old saying:

“It is great that we have freedom of the press, but the only people that really have freedom of the press are people with a printing press.”

He goes on to say that “everyone has a printing press now thanks to the internet.” This is a point that especially made me think.

I worry that the “golden age” of blogging is behind us. I feel that it was great to have this ease of disseminating information when the internet was more in its adolescence back on 2009. The internet is now a giant gorilla dwarfing every other piece of media day in and day out. The internet is no longer where the cool kids are. It’s where corporations, national news, and conglomerates come to spread their message. Is the internet killing the little guys like the printing press did so long ago? I thought so at this point in the talk, but that soon changed.

When to Get Serious About Your Work

All of these pieces of advice and truth are great, but the most poignant point made throughout this was when Gruber took out a sheet of paper and explained that this was an email that Merlin Mann forwarded to him just before the talk. It was an email from a “20 year old kid” asking Merlin what he can to to get serious with his blog. What Merlin said came down to 3 short and direct pieces of advice:

  1. Give away more stuff than you think you should, and make it easy for people to get.
  2. Focus on diverse secondary revenue streams and always have your new and replacement ones.
  3. Don’t do stuff that seems profitable, but potentially messes up the reason people like you.

Not only is this advice sound, it is timeless. You could tell someone today these three things and they would all still be worthwhile. This isn’t just for bloggers. Artists, writers, journalists, painters, photographers, and YouTubers can take this advice and go a long way with it. Then John said something.

“The internet is awesome, it is totally fucking awesome. It is not just that we all have a printing press now … it is that we can do it better.” – John Gruber

This is what made my worries of corporations on the internet go away. Both Merlin and Gruber explained that corporations and big business are still failing to be anything other than giant billboards on a small screen. They don’t give anything away, they don’t offer the value indie bloggers give on a daily basis.

Making Money

Finally, the two talk abut money and making a living on what you create.

“Don’t become too obsessed with the thing you want to make money on.” – Merlin Mann

This is probably the best quote to summarize this section. Money is important, but if you first think about wanting to make money and then start a blog, podcast, or something else creative it will almost always fail to meet your expectations in the time frame you set. If you instead flip it around and make something you love and then think about how you can make money with it your odds of success dramatically increase. There is no guarantee that you will make a living, or even a nickel, doing what you love but if you have a solid foundation the chances that house you build collapses on you decreases exponentially.

Final Thoughts

This talk, 9 years after it was first given, is still timeless and something I think anyone looking to seriously create a blog, podcast, portfolio, or YouTube channel. It manages to give you actionable advice while also providing the higher level of thinking necessary to make sure you are doing things the right way with the right reasons.

If you want to listen to it you can do so on 43 Folders, or just download the file directly here.

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