Made-Up Bits

a personal blog, by Sven Seebeck -

Writing Tools revisited

In the recent past I haven’t writing much about one of my weak spots: text-editors. Mostly this is because I haven’t had much time to actually do sit down and write some things for the blog, and also because I have been actually rather satisfied with my setup and choice of applications.

Needless to say, that I still kept an eye open and looked for new applications and tools.

Even though my needs are limited, considered that I’m not a writer, more of a typer actually, it turned out that a one-size fits all approach, the editor to rule them all so to speak, doesn’t seem to work for me at all.

Not that I haven’t tried…

I wanted to have the one editor. The one that I can use for everything, the papers that I need to write at work, my blog posts, email-drafts and so on. I want it to be everything in one.

Since it doesn’t exist as a default I tried to set up Sublime Text to my liking. I came close to get it right. I spent hours configuring it. I searched for the right extensions, themes… it turned out to be pretty much of a time-sink.

Once I thought I got it done and started to use the app, actually sat down and did some work, it took only a little while before I started to change some things again.

Maybe it was just changing the font-size, debating whether or not to use a dark over a light theme, maybe even a solarized one?! Eventually it seemed to be wiser to give up and to return to what was familiar to me. To be clear about this, it’s not the app, it’s me who makes it so complicated.

I’m easily distracted, and once I have the possibility to tweak and tinker the bejesus out of something, I swear I’ll do that. If I can fiddle around with themes or try to implement some script which might make some things easier in the long run (something that I have anyway now idea of, and which reminds me of this splendid XCKD strip) I will do that. Come what might, and doesn’t matter how long it takes.

You get the idea and you can imagine what happens. Instead of actually writing whatever I planned to write down, I fiddle, distract myself until I’m either too tired to focus, or simply have to leave somewhere else.

As usual I had the solution already in front of me (actually on my hard-drive), but was just falling yet again for the temptation of finding the über-editor that might even fill the blank page by itself. The solution of course is what I have been using all the time on and off again: iAWriter, or in this instance, the latest iteration of the app (see, I can’t even here use the “old” one): Writer Pro.

iAWriter was the first editor that I really liked and I used it a lot for writing posts for my photoblog. For some reason I still though had the experimented with other apps, which, and I wrote about this very same issue almost two years ago, led me more to fiddle around, than to actually do the task at head: writing stuff.

Writer Pro essentially has four different modes, which represent different states of development of the text: Note, Write, Edit and Read. Even though the only difference between them is the choice of font, I find this separation very helpful. As unfocused as I usually work, I like how the app suggests to get a bit more organised. The write mode works like iA Writer and features Nitti Light, the monospaced font I have a weird affection to. It’s simply the best font for writing in my opinion. With iA’s focus on typography it is no surprise that also the other fonts for the other modes are real beauties.

For some reason, it is just this almost forced workflow which appeals to me. Every (new) document starts out as a note, hence makes me think a bit ahead and quickly jot down some notes, before continuing writing actual sentences. The general limited feature-set works as a natural let’s-go-and-change-some-things-around-here barrier. There where are no settings, there’s nothing to fiddle around with. It’s that easy.

What currently works rather well for me, is using two different setups for two different tasks: one for somehow longer and hopefully thought-through writing covered by Writer Pro and one for basically everything else. The latter setup is covered by Multimarkdown Composer on the desktop and Editorial on the iPad nicely synchronised through Dropbox.

I’m now a few weeks in with this setup and separating it like this feels very good. Yes, it still does have this new-car smell, but it works for me. But as well as I know myself though, I’m afraid I will write a similar article again in two-years time.

But maybe not.

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