Lots of us have folders full of apps for working with photos — our Beyond Instagram post is a perennial favorite, and we’ll revisit photo apps tomorrow. But when it comes to writing, most of us use far fewer tools. There’s WordPress.com. There’s your word processing program of choice. There’s… actually, that’s pretty much it.
Between us editors, there are a few WordPress.com features, apps, and browser extensions we rely on for writing, editing, and keeping track of topics, ideas, and notes. Today, we’re focused on writing.
You probably find yourselves writing the same way we often do: right into the post editor box on WordPress.com. We know some of you also write in a word processor and paste your text into WordPress.com, which can lead to formatting snafus. For those who prefer to write first and then copy/paste, who like a cleaner writing environment, or who want a way to write offline, there are a few tools we dig.
Markdown is a way of adding formatting like links, headings, and bulleted lists right from the keyboard with simple additions like asterisks to *bold* text or underscores to create headings. (Get the details here.) If you like Markdown, enable your blog to use it under Settings >> Writing. Now, you can type Markdown right into the text editor and your hands don’t have to leave the keyboard while constructing a post.
In the visual editor, you can turn on distraction-free writing to strip the page down to only the publishing basics. When you start to type, everything other than your words fades out. To turn it on, click on the “Toggle Full Screen” button (it’s the one that looks like an oversized “X” — second from the right in the top row).
Apps We Like
Sometimes, you don’t want to write in WordPress.com. That’s okay, there are times when we don’t, either — times when we want to write while offline, or make use of a feature in another app. Here are a few that tickle our editorial fancy:
- OmmWriter. Sometimes writing is meditative, and this distraction-free writing app takes that to the next level. OmmWriter blocks out everything on your screen except your words and adds soft backgrounds to suit your moods, with audio tracks or keystroke sounds to focus your fingers. I’m loving it for playful free-writing time. (Available for Macs, iPads, and PCs; pay what you want.)
- aiWriter. aiWriter also offers distraction-free writing along with a few other bells and whistles, like support for Markdown. For a different writing experience that can help you work through a thorny post that’s challenging you, try its “focus mode:” it grays out everything but the sentence you’re currently writing. (Available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, $4.99.)
- Byword. For those who like writing in Markdown, Byword supports it and lets you push your finished pieces to your blog. (Available for Macs and iPhones/iPads at $9.99 and $4.99, respectively. Publishing directly to a blog requires an additional in-app purchase.)
- SimplyNoise and Coffitivity. If aural noise distracts you more than visual noise, SimplyNoise will play one of a few white noise options to help you get in the zone. It’s especially useful with headphones if you like the energy but not the soundtrack that comes with coffee shop-blogging. If you like the noise but not the crowds, Coffitivity pipes a café into your living room. (Both web-based, both free.)
(If you still want to write you posts in Microsoft Word, be our guest — just use the “paste from Word” button to avoid a majority of the maddening format issues that come with cut-and-paste.)
In future installments, we’ll look at our favorite features and apps for editing, collaboration, and organizing ideas and material, and tomorrow we’ll circle back to photo apps.
Are there tools that help you be the best blogger you can be? Share!