For about a year I’ve been using a Mac software package, Ulysses, to write most of my blog posts. I enjoy writing in Markdown, assisted by the software, and publishing to HTML. Unfortunately, the developers changed from a “pay up front” model to a subscription model, and the time has come for me to part ways with the software.
Why Move Away?
The software is migrating to a subscription fee of $4.99/month; for people who already plunked down $75 for the iOS and Mac apps, they can receive a discounted rate of $2.50/month.
The thing is, Markdown is a relatively simple language to learn. Once you learn the syntax, it’s no more difficult to use than basic HTML. Paying $30-$60/year for software that does little more than prettify text and sync to the cloud is silly when we already have services like Dropbox which do that. If I used features beyond what I currently do, I might find value in the subscription, but I don’t at present.
Where Am I Moving To?
The blogging software package I’ve chosen to continue my Markdown adventures is… Atom! Atom, a free, open-source development environment, is maintained by GitHub.
- It’s free.
- It’s open source.
- It’s a highly-extensible IDE that can do more than just write.
- For example, I can flip to a new tab and develop in PHP or Python.
- It’s community-supported.
- It’s got tons of plugins.
- Many of my favorite Ulysses features are available as plugins in Atom, such as word count and progress bars.
- It’s unlikely to go away.
- It’s unlikely to change its pricing model.
- If it does, the community will fork it to a new, free version.
- It’s no more work to use Atom than Ulysses.
- It’s no more work to convert Atom HTML exports than Ulysses HTML exports.
- It’s cross-platform, so my Windows friends can learn with the same tools I use on a Mac.
Why Is Atom the Best Choice For Me?
Given my blogging workflow, Atom fits best as a drop-in replacement for Ulysses. My usual workflow goes something like this:
- Mind map of more complex posts
- Bullet point list for simpler posts
- Write post first draft in Markdown
- Revise and edit in Markdown
- For posts with data, use other tools to generate data and visualizations
- Load graphics to Flickr
- Generate header image in Canva
- Load header image to Flickr
- Export Markdown to HTML
- Clean up HTML in BBEdit with scripts
- Load HTML to WordPress
Because each stage of the process is discrete, I simply remove one tool and put another in its place.
Finally, Atom is extensible and scripting support is built-in, so over time I may be able to do more of those workflow steps listed above in an automated fashion.
Should You Move to Atom?
It’s important for me to point out that my workflow probably doesn’t match yours. Thus, if your workflow is significantly different, using Atom (or any other tool I mentioned) may not make sense. Use whatever works best for you; if you don’t routinely code in Markdown and/or use a development IDE, something like Atom might slow you down instead of speed you up.
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