Sometimes the world shifts imperceptibly underneath you, and though you notice something has changed, the difficult part is figuring out what to do about it.

For years, almost every commercial project I wrote was typed into in a heavy-duty word processor. But today finds me writing more blogs, landing pages, emails, and other “live” Web content.

And all the formatting applied in those word processors – and the sizable overhead needed for all the features I don’t need – get in the way of a good workflow.

And yes, after my switch from Vista to the more streamlined Linux OS (Ubuntu), I took a hard look at my workflow.

In the past, I typically wrote a few large projects simultaneously. Today, I’m more likely to juggle a lot of small projects.

Then there’s my list of blog article ideas for the multiple blogs I write. How do I keep track of those?

Simple. Steal From Programmers.

The simple text editor is a thing of wonder; little comes between you and your words, and the software pops up almost eagerly.

Still, after playing with several editors, I realized I needed more than a text editor – and turned a programmer’s editor into my online copy word processor.

Bluefish text editor in Ubuntu Linux
My Trout Underground blog project – the tabs at the bottom represent four of the 14+ files in the project.

“A programmer’s tool,” you say? It’s perfect (almost).

Programmer’s editors are fast and streamlined. They’re simple text editors on steroids – my two candidates also offer word count, spell checkers, very advanced search, and HTML cheat sheets – though many of the programmer’s features simply don’t apply to your average copywriter.

The key feature? It’s the – the “project” or “session” function.

Save Time With Projects

Different editors call it different things, but a “project” function allows you to save multiple files in a single project, so opening that project opens all those files.

For the blog/article/engagement marketing part of my business, that’s a godsend.

I created separate projects in my editor for each of my blog/engagement marketing projects (one for the Trout Underground, one for the Copywriter Underground, one for… you get the picture).

I start each day by opening each project in its own tabbed window (each file is a tab). When a new article idea rears its head, I simply open a new tab, type the headline, add any thoughts or links, and then “save” the project.

Next time I open the project, all my article ideas for that project pop up.

Throughout the day, all my projects windows are open, so I can steal a few minutes and work on an article – with little time lost to overhead.

Of course, that’s a blessing and a curse; I’m also confronted by my half-finished articles, unstarted articles, and the articles-with-promise-but-require-too-much-research. The universe, it seems, is yin and yang.

I Name Names

In the Linux world, I’ve settled on the Bluefish editor (actually a Web development editor). Gedit is the Gnome editor that does largely the same thing once you add a couple plugins (it’s a little slower adding HTML code, but a little better actually writing).

In truth, a lot of programming editors will do the job.

On Windows, I believe Notepad++ is free, fast, and does everything needed. I’m less familiar with Mac editors, but BBedit and TextMate are likely characters.

I can’t say I’ve fully entered Valhalla – Bluefish would be better if it offered inline spell checking and a running word/character count instead of modal versions of the same thing – but fewer ideas are being lost to a busy workday, and I’m managing a lot of small projects far better.

What’s Next for Writers?

The trend towards online copy is obviously not going away, but few tools have developed in response to that change.

Blog editors help make blogging easier, and a programmer’s editor makes simply online writing easier, but we have yet to see a single “online writer’s editor” that offers everything today’s largely online copywriter needs.

That includes things like speed, toggled HTML markup, file and project management, running word/character counts, the ability to post to blogs (including all the category/keyword/SEO stuff) — and all with enough formatting to send prettified documents to clients (including sample landing/Web pages with graphics represented).

Some word processors do act as virtual databases for the files, notes and links related to a single project, though they seem better suited to longer works (like novels or white papers) than short online articles.

Of course, no writer thinks their word processor/editor/pen is ever exactly right, which is part of the fun of this whole odd career.

The “online word worker” is a relatively new category, and I expect we’ll see the tools we like tailored to the job.

Keep writing (in whatever software suits you), Tom Chandler.

, , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.