Specialist Requirements For Editing Text

It’s something we all have to do on our computers, editing text, maybe in iWriter or in Scrivener. Most of what I do requires getting ideas out of my head and into plain text. It’s the words and the ideas that are important and for sure I don’t need to create a Word document for that. There are times when you do need to take it a step further and publish. You have to decide which application to use to best suit your purpose. Is the text you are going to produce going to a webpage, an e-book, a document to be printed or is it something to be sent off to a social network site. Within those different uses for the text there are other considerations. When you’re sending off to a webpage can you put it in as plain text, markdown, rich text format or does it have to be in HTML code? If it’s going to be in e-book, is the final destination for the Kindle, a standard e-book or are you thinking along the lines of a fancy book for iBooks on the Apple platform. Documents to be printed need to be set up depending upon the length of the document and whether you will be printing internally or sending it off to a printer. If it’s just a couple of pages and mostly text then you can use Pages on Mac and iOS. If it’s more pictures and just a little bit of text you might decide to use something like Affinity Designer. For sending off to a printer, all you can do is to talk to them and find out the required format. A good way for that sort of printing would be to send out as a PDF. A lot of what we produce these days is destined for a webpage. Sending off to something like WordPress, Blogger or other similar blogging platforms you have the choice of working with markdown, plaintext to use in the platform editor, you might even need to throw it in as HTML text.

Choosing the application for writing and publishing

When you’re initially producing the text you don’t always know what the final destination is going to be. So it’s often the best idea to work in plain text and that means no formatting. This allows you to concentrate on the words and the ideas you’re producing. You can decide later how to move it to the next stage. There’s an application on the iOS platform called Drafts and I’d love to see this on the Mac OS X platform. As soon as you open it up you can throw in your ideas in the form of plaintext. The application then gives you automated options for sending the text to other applications. It works really good if you’re planning to send something off to the social networks. Start by putting in the 140 characters or less for a tweet and then press the button to send it off to Twitter. While you are still in the same note you can adjust it and add to it, to make it into the proper length for a Facebook post or for wherever. So you can end up with the same idea extended and developed for various places all from the same starting point. The closest you have on your Mac to this way of working would be to use something like a Byword. You can work with plaintext or markdown and there are export options allowing you to send it out in those two formats or as Rich text, or HTML code. I usually prefer to work with markdown and export out to HTML code to use in the application Mars Edit, the blogging software. Another advantage of using Byword is that it is going to give you access to those text documents on iOS with iCloud synchronisation. It doesn’t matter where you start or finish the document, it’s just there wherever you need it. There are other markdown editors available that will give similar functionality.

Organising your text files

There are plenty of people who still like to use the old school way of organising files into folders and subfolders. The drawback of with this is you have to have your folders and subfolders already created hand always make sure that files go into the correct places. Put some think into the wrong place and you’ll never find it again. Well, not unless you do some searching with Spotlight. A better and more modern way of organising your files is to throw everything into one document folder and to use the tagging system that’s been available in OS X for some time now. You can add more than one tag to a file and that’s equivalent to having the file available in multiple folders. You don’t have too add words into the file name to help you find them again based upon relevance. Just make sure you add the tags as you create the file (you can add tags later also) and it’s quicker and easier than jumping around in folders and subfolders. Well worth the effort in using tags when you save a file.

Organisation of your text

You can also use an application that will have some sort of internal system for organising your files. If it’s for keeping track of notes you could use something like NValt which has a good search system built-in. If you’re working on longer documents then you might use something like Scrivener or Ulysses. Both of these will let you work in plaintext or markdown and output the words in a variety of formats. You can create groupings of documents such as a group for chapters of a novel. You could have a separate group which is where you keep all of your blogging documents. Scrivener does just about everything, but has a bigger learning curve and can seem complicated. Ulysses on the other hand is simpler in its approach while doing the basic text manipulation activities well. The advantage of using Ulysses would be that you can have your text documents available in a pair of applications, one for the Mac and one for iOS. The people who make Scrivener have promised they will be doing a version for iOS at some point in time, but it is a long time coming.

Working with code

For short simple documents in HTML any text editor will do the job. If you going to work with something that is a longer more complicated document then a coding editor is a very good idea. One good advantage of using a coding editor is that it will colour code the text you put into it. It makes it very easy to see which bits of your text are content and which bits are code. You will be using themes which will give you different colours for different parts of the code. Some themes you’ll use specific to the coding language, which is good as it will give you visual clues for what you’re looking at. In the code editor Atom you might see functions in pink text on black background while comments are in blue. Variables will be in white and other parts of the code could be in yellow text. Code can be difficult and complicated to follow, so having it in all the different colours makes it easy to read. This is more the case when you are coding with something like Python or JavaScript but it’s also handy with HTML or markdown code. The Atom application is a text editor that does code, but you could also use something specific to a coding language such as Pycharm, which is the one I’ve chosen to work with Python. The other advantage of using this sort of coding editor is that it will also give you access to the software for running the code. As well as creating files which will be programs you can run within the application, you get a command line where the code will run as soon as you press enter.