My Mac Blogging Tools: TextWrangler, Markdown and Safari

Why I’m writing this:

I was recently at a blogging meeting and discussed the tools that I use. Everyone seemed to think it sounded complicated. In truth, it is simple, elegant, and makes it very easy to search my blog posts for errors before posting.

3 Steps to Better Blog Content

1 – My first tool is TextWrangler.

It’s a free and powerful text editor. It’s made for writing code, so the default font is monospace, and it doesn’t check for spelling errors. I have a quicksilver trigger that performs three tasks: soft wrap text, check spelling as I type, and finds all misspelled words.

2 – I write the text using Markdown syntax.

It makes it easy to add the formatting syntax while I’m writing without it getting in the way of my thought process. I’ll share some quick syntax examples at the end of the post. Basically Markdown uses easily read special characters for emphasis.

TextWrangler and Markdown work together well. The Markdown conversion to HTML takes place by a Perl script that translates the syntax into HTML.

Grab a copy of Markdown from Daring Fireball:

Unzip the package and you will find a few files. The one that you are looking for is

Move to /Users/YOU/Library/Application Support/TextWrangler/Unix Support/Unix Filters/ (replace YOU with the name of your OS X user account).

When you’re done composing the text file you’d like to convert to HTML, you trigger the script. If you use System Preferences Keyboard, and set a keyboard shortcut for ⌘-M, it makes things easy to remember and use.

3 – I save the file as HTML, and load it up in Safari to see how it will look with formatting. I tend to do most of my editing in TextWrangler. Monotype text makes it easy to see typographical errors, but Safari rendering the text to a web view gives me a good idea if anything looks funny.

A few of the basics, and my most commonly used syntax:

For those of you who are new to Markdown, here are a few bits I think you’ll use right away.

* or _: Italics/Bold. Text wrapped in one will be italicized, and two will be bold

#: Headers, # for H1, ## for H2, ### for H3, and so on.

>: Blockquotes, one at the front of every paragraph.

*: Unordered Lists, one at the front of each paragraph.

1.,2.,3.: Numbered Lists, number followed by period as list markers.
[text](link): Inline style links.

Hopefully this is helpful to more than just the few I was talking with at the ZAGGblog meeting. I feel like TextWrangler, Markdown and Safari make it easy for me to work quickly and without barriers to my thought process.

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