Workflow Changes

Given the release of Yosemite for OS X and iOS 8, I’m taking the opportunity to re-examine and revise my writing workflow. I write a great deal, not only books and articles for publishers, but blog posts and email. I am an Admin for a number of large Websites. Two of the Websites include not only site Admin, but Managing Editor tasks, including answering questions from readers and general user support for contributors. Both of these involves email either to individuals or to one of several private email lists. One of the Websites, Absolute Write, requres a fair amount of user / member  support, including writing (and answering) FAQs, emails, private email lists, local message systems, and the Absolute Write Website and blog.

And then there are the Websites I admin for various writers, and my own Websites.

It’s a lot of daily writing. And it’s fairly constant throughout the day (and night).

I have some workflow tools in place:

  • I use TextExpander on all my iOS and OS X devices, and it’s a huge labor and keystroke saver.
  • I use filters or “Rules” in Mail.app, but even so, I receive around 175 emails from individuals a day, and send about that many or more. ( I’m increasingly considering an alternative to mail.app, at least on iOS, just to reduce main-management frustrations.)
  • I use custom scripts and and droplets for many of my frequent tasks.

These are some of the changes I’m considering:

  • I generally draft my shorter articles and blog posts in BBEdit using HTML. I’m going to look more closely at using Markdown, especially because Markdown is thriving on iOS and BBEdit has built in support for Markdown.
  • I already use iOS a great deal for email triage (especially via my iPhone); I’d like to do more with email on iOS, especially responding to email on the iPad.
  • I’d like to try writing more of my shorter pieces on iOS. I can write longer pieces on the iPad more easily now with the Brydge + iPad keyboard.
  • I do a lot of writing in Google Docs/Google Drive, but for book-length pieces Google Docs is not optimal. I’d like to move to Apple’s Pages as my primary word processor, particularly given the newly released version of Pages with collaboration and sharing via the Web/iCloud and Pages for iOS, as well as on OS X.

I’m sure I’ll discover more ways to improve my workflow as I continue.

Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit 10

I’ve been waiting with great impatience for BBEdit 10 to be available from the Mac App store since July 19, when I read this enticing review by Adam Engst of TidBITS. Today, Apple approved BBEdit 10 for the Mac App store, and I’ve been benefitting from the re-design and new features already. Note that BBEdit 10 requires Snow Leopard or Lion, and Intel processors.

BBEdit is a text editor. It’s the more powerful version of the excellent and free Text Wrangler. BBEdit has features that TextWrangler lacks, like very powerful tools for HTML and CSS, though I suspect BBEdit is still used largely by programmers writing code, I’ve been using BBEdit for HTML since 1997.

I spend much of my day in BBEdit, since it’s so flexible and while it’s extremely powerful, BBEdit doesn’t get in my way when I simply want to write. I now use BBEdit even when I’m not writing HTML, just because it’s so very useful. You can remove various sorts of invisible leftover binary or odd characters, you can covert to ASCII, the Search and Replace features are very powerful, easy to use, and include GREP.

The first thing I noticed is that the Preferences have been completely overhauled; they’re compact and better organized; it’s much easier to find where a particular setting lives. Some of the more obscure Preference settings have been removed from the GUI, but you can still set them via Terminal, via Help –> BBEdit Help –> Expert Preferences.

Other items have been moved to the new BBEdit Settings window; you’ll find Settings under the Application menu (that is the BBEdit menu) in BBEdit. This is where your FTP/SFTP accounts and paths (Bookmarks in BBEdit parlance) are stored, as well as Search/Replace patterns you reuse, and your HTML Sites information.

New features include support for DropBox; that means you can create an Application Support folder in DropBox and move the BBEdit folder from ~/Library/Application Support/ to ~/Dropbox/Application Support/. That way you can share your templates, text factories, snippets etc. across all the Macs on which you use BBEdit. Packages, a related new feature, makes it easy to share ancillary files with collaborators via DropBox.

Another really cool new feature is the ability to edit files from a Zip archive, including using Search and Replace, and save them back to the archive. That’s nice, but what makes it a cool new feature is that ePub (or ePUB as Adobe would have it) books are really a collection of text and HTML/CSS files in a Zip archive. BBEdit 10 can edit those files inside the Zip. That’s very very cool.

Image of the HTML palettes in BBEdit 10In terms of HTML specific new features, there’s a popover that lists the attributes of a specific tag, and which allows you to choose all the attributes for the given tag. If you control-click a tag in your document, you can choose to Edit Markup, and display the popover. For those new to BBEdit, that image to the left shows two of the BBEdit Palettes associated with HTML and CSS. There’s also an exceedingly convenient Entities palette.

The re-design of the Document Window and the addition of a Project window, which allows you to group related files together are both very interesting; I previously turned off the option for the document drawer; it annoyed me, terribly, but the new Document Window is worth a look, and the Project Window might actually save me time and help with organization, especially with the use of the Scratchpad, a global note pad that has all sorts of use in terms of cleaning up text before HTMLing it, or stashing bits of CSS.

That said, I’m Profoundly Not Happy about the absence of the Phrase palette. I miss the easy select-text-and-click access to Em and Strong, but I’m absolutely beside myself at the absence of the Cite tag. Yes, I know, it’s still there in the Markup menu, but honestly, as a book-and-scholarship writer and blogger, I need easy, efficient access to Cite.

Normally, BBEdit is $49.99. Right now, until October 20, 2011, you can buy a new license for $39.99. I note that the educational price I paid for BBEdit Pro in the 1990s and first half of this decade was between $75.00 and $90.00. Anyone who purchased BBEdit 9 after 1 January 2011 is eligible for a free upgrade. If you’re a long term user of BBEdit you can still upgrade directly from Bare Bones Software, otherwise, you can buy BBEdit 10 from the MacApp Store. I suggest, if you’re new to BBEdit and cautious, that you might want to download and use the free 30 day trial of BBEdit 10 first.