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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.

Why I Use Time Blocking to Be Productive

  • March 28, 2018
  • Blog

If you are like me, you probably only think of a calendar app for appointments and time sensitive events happening in your life. You need to keep those events in a safe place so that they remind you of when, and where, you need to be. Which is all fine and good but what about that empty space? What do you do when you have nothing scheduled? For me, I decided to utilize my calendar more and fill up that white space. Some call it hyper-scheduling, other call it time boxing, but I call it time blocking.
Whatever you call it, it basically means that I plan everything in my day within my calendar app. If I have plans to write, it goes in the calendar. If I plan to edit a podcast, it goes in the calendar. If I want to work on more administrative work, it goes in the calendar.

But before I explain how, I think knowing why will help understand what brought this change.

Why Time Blocking?

The reason I started to do this is because I was frustrated with task managers for iOS. I wanted to go about task management from a completely different angle than I had been. My issues with task managers has boiled down to having a lot of things in one place, and then not knowing what to do with it. I know about the weekly review process Getting Things Done (GTD) has in place, and I have tried that. I just never seem to stick with it. I think my brain isn’t wired for a GTD-style task management system, which is a hard pill to swallow because I have been trying to use GTD for years with little to no success. It also doesn’t help when I have a lot on my plate in many aspects of my life.

I wear a lot of different hats. I write for Tablet Habit and do a weekly newsletter. I am a freelance podcast editor, I co-host two podcasts, and I also have a day job. Those are a lot of different things I handle on a regular basis, and I needed to figure out how to maintain and advance my goals for each. Enter Time Blocking.

How I Got Started Time Blocking

The first thing I needed to do with time blocking was to figure out what I need to get done each week in order to maintain the different areas of my life. So I got a pen and paper and started to write down everything I needed to get done each week and what area of my life that falls in to.

I had an idea of what I had to do it was now a matter of when. So I took the time sensitive stuff first and made all-day events for when I am doing things like posting podcast episodes and blog posts. They are things that need to be done that day, but not at a specific time. It also helps me keep track of these things because all day events are at the top no matter what. Which makes it super easy to find when I am skimming my upcoming week.

From there I worked backwards to determine when the drafts of my posts are “due” and when to have each episode of the podcast edited. Christopher Lawley edits A Slab of Glass so thankfully I just need to plan for each episode and record them. Getting Caught Up, however, requires me to edit each episode.

My plan is to have each episode editing 3 days prior to posting day. Since the show is a fortnightly show it isn’t too hard to manage that schedule. I gave myself 3 days before the release of each episode so I can work on things like show notes, chapters, and all the other things that goes into a podcast after it is cut. So far, it seems to be working.

Once I had an idea of where to put the time-sensitive stuff, I now had to put the rest in. My thought process for this was to theme each day of the week. For instance, I could have my Mondays be when my first draft of my big post a week is due. Or have Thursdays be when I outline the weekly small post. Then it isn’t a matter of me checking the calendar daily, instead I just need to know what day of the week it is and know what it is I need to get done.

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/444033B4-BBC8-46D1-8F70-8E580609AED9.jpeg" alt=""/>

I shared this in my newsletter, and I plan to write more about it there, but after I started putting events in my calendar I realized that I could be doing this way more efficiently on my Mac. By that I mean that handling events in a calendar and making sure every detail in it is correct can be tedious. It is doubly so when you then want to input custom repeating structures in it. So I decided to put the iPad down and crack open my MacBook Air to get this done.

I didn’t like the idea of needing to use a Mac to get this done. It’s something I hate to admit, but sometimes the iPad falls short, and this is one of those times.

Once I gathered my themes for each day it was a simple process of making events to match the theme, and then having them repeat where necessary. From there it is a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing.

I will say that I add things in my calendar from time to time and move my events for the day around if need be. This is done on iOS with Readle’s Calendars 5 app. I recently switched to this app from Fantastical 2 because it offered a much nicer weekly view.

This app, unlike Fantastical, doesn’t emphasize on the agenda style of planning as much. In fact, it resembled more of a calendar app you would find on Apple’s stock calendar app, but it offered natural language input which is one of the reasons I loved Fantastical. I am not sure how long I will stick with this, but I will say that I feel that Calendars 5 handles the fluidity of my system very easily once it is in place.

Conclusion

With this system in place there are a few things about this system that makes me nervous.

The first thing being that if I don’t stick with this and I miss something due to some unforeseen reason that I will just assume that my entire day will be shot now. A cartoon I recently discovered sums this up beautifully.

My second concern is that I will not know what to do when a new idea or task has to be done will go. For now I think the answer to this is going to be using either my current task manager OmniFocus 2 or use Apple’s Reminders app as it integrates within Calendars 5 natively.

There is going to be some testing and experimentation with this until I find a solution I am happy with. Until then though, you can follow along on my weekly newsletter. So if you are interested to keep up with this you can do so there. I also plan to answer any questions you may have about this or anything iPad/iOS related in the newsletter as well. To ask a question just fill out the form here.

How To Blog on an iPad

  • March 13, 2018
  • Blog

When blogging on Tablet Habit I have gotten the question of how I do it all from my iPad. It is a fairly simple process, but it can be hard to build from scratch, so I want to break it down here.
Before I get into it though, I want to make a quick note. I write in Markdown. If you write in Markdown this should be pretty easy to follow along. If you don’t know Markdown, you can find out more from the creator of it, John Gruber, on his site Daring Fireball.

Also, this is primarily for anyone using WordPress as their blogging platform. That is the service I use as well as a large portion of other websites on the internet. It is a free, open-source platform and is absolutely worthy of the praise it has received over the years. I will happily help those who use other platforms like Squarespace if they would like. Information on how to contact me is at the bottom of this post.

With that out of the way, I am basically going to format this as a step-by-step process of planning, writing, and posting on a WordPress blog.

Brainstorming

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/mindmap-photo.jpeg" alt=""/>

So the first thing is to brainstorm your article. You can do this in a Markdown app you will eventually write this in, or use a mind mapping tool like iThoughts and MindNode. You can even use a pen and paper. The only requirement for this is to get everything out of your head and onto a page or screen. Emptying your brain is key to allow for more mental RAM when actually writing the article. Don’t be afraid to dump anything and everything down, even if it has nothing to do with the project at hand.

Forget to take the trash out? Write it down at the bottom of a page or note on your iPad. Just get it out of your head and write it down. The less you have swirling in your mind the less distractions you will have when actually doing the work.

From there, clean out the things not about the blog post and put them elsewhere, like a task manager or even a different sheet of paper, you can deal with it later. Really focus your outline and/or mind map to one specific goal at a time, in this case it is the blog post.

Writing

Once you know the topic and have some kind of idea what you want to say, it is time to write it into a post. Open your text editor of choice and start using that outline you wrote as a basis of what you want to say.

Side-Note: If you want some good Markdown text editing apps I highly recommend Ulysses, Byword, iA Writer, or Editorial. There are a ton of posts elsewhere that will get in the weeds on Markdown apps so you’ll be able to find one that is right for you in no time. Anyway, back to the writing portion of things.

One thing I like to do is focus on one part at a time. This can be the introduction, conclusion, item 1 of 5 if you are posting a top 5 style post, or so on. For me, I like to have the introduction and conclusion done first. It helps me know what I want to have as the “meat and potatoes” of the post. Bookending the main points I want to make allows me to work with the constraints I put on myself. If that doesn’t work for you try something else out.

There really is no wrong way of writing, but I do have one piece of advice for anyone wanting to do anything on the internet: Really take your time and make something worthwhile here. Hang your hat on your work.

So get things right instead of just getting it done. Once it is done and you want to share it with the world, you have to know what to do with those words you’ve written to get on your website.

Exporting and Posting online

After writing the article, comes exporting it to WordPress.

There are a number of ways to do this but if you are using an app that has integration with WordPress you are halfway there. Ulysses and Byword both have this built in. From within the app with integration you can actually send your post straight to the WordPress website. Just login to your website and in the app there is an option to publish (if you need help finding it let me know what app you are using and I’ll happily help you out).

  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ulysses-publishing-500px.png" alt=""/>




  <img src="https://tablethabit.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/byword-publishing-500px.png" alt=""/>

Alternatively, if the app you want to use doesn’t have built in WordPress integration you can still post to your blog. You just have to use the app Workflow. You will need to convert your Markdown text into rich text. Here is a quick and easy Workflow you can use to accomplish this. It converts the Markdown text into rich text and then sends it to WordPress. Upon first use you will need to sign in to WordPress so make sure you have that information at the ready. But after that initial setup you are set to post away!

If you are using an app that is already rich text (Notes, Microsoft Word, etc.) then you can delete the conversion block in the workflow and just have it take the text and make a post on WordPress directly, or you can download this Workflow I made.

From there you can go to your WordPress post either in Safari or the WordPress app and you can edit the post, add a featured image, change the SEO or meta data, and then post it.

Uploading Images to WordPress

There is one more thing I wanted to share with you that helped me a ton. It is related to images. Uploading images to WordPress from an iPad can be a royal pain if you let it. I created a workflow that allows you to upload an image from Photos right to WordPress and then copy the link of that image so you can paste it into your Markdown text editor. It comes in handy especially if you write in Markdown and want to share that image within world. You can download that workflow here.

PLEASE NOTE: you will need to change the domain from tablethabit.com to whatever your domain is. Otherwise your links won’t be right. Also, this only works if you have a custom website as the link it creates is based on a custom domain. If anyone knows a way to make this work with a WordPress.com website I would love to know!

Congratulations! You just posted your blog using nothing but your iPad!

If you have any thoughts or ideas on how to improve this feel free to let me know on Twitter or get in contact with me.

iPad Setup Guide: Apple Pencil and AirPods

  • December 29, 2017
  • Blog

If you have an iPad or received on for the holidays chances are you also got some accessories for it as well. Two of the biggest accessories for the iPad Pro are the Apple Pencil and the AirPods. Both of which may need some help setting up, and we have you covered for that!

Pairing the Apple Pencil

When you take the pencil out of its packaging you might be wondering how you’re supposed to connect it to your iPad because as you can see, it has no buttons. Though it lacks tangible properties pairing is as easy as plugging it into the tablet itself. To pair your pencil to your iPad all you have to do is simply remove the cap and insert it into the lightning port on the iPad. After you plug in a notification will pop up asking if you want to pair the pencil to the iPad, hit “Pair” and your brand new Apple Pencil is ready to use!

Pairing AirPods

Pairing the AirPods is just as easy as pairing your ApplePencil. To achieve this all you have to do is open the AirPod case near the iPad and wait for the prompt to pop up on the screen. From here all you have to do is press “Connect” and you’re done!

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