As my working life gets busier I’m increasingly finding doing the writing and thinking type of work on my laptop unfeasible. There are too many applications, too many distractions and I could easily be back in code or email or something else that isn’t what I planned on doing. I’m also finding the “cognitive heft” of writing on a laptop to be burdensome. It’s a laptop, a nice retina screen and virtually no limitation to what I can do with it. It’s also kind of pain to carry around.
So, lately I’ve thinking more and more about writing on a simpler device. Like my iPad.
Writing on the iPad and using it as a laptop-like device isn’t anything new. Publisher of MacStories, Federico Viticci has been doing it for more than a year. In fact, it was an important part of how he worked and maintained the MacStories website while undergoing treatment for cancer.
My desire to simplify the tool I use to write and brainstorm wasn’t motivated by a serious personal health challenge but did gain speed after the release of Editorial, an iOS app for writing and creating workflows.
Editorial is a plain text editor that supports Markdown syntax and allows you to create custom workflows to process that text. This could be as simple as a quick way to trigger a Google search from a selected word to an entire workflow for publishing .
The workflows use pre-defined componenets (much like Automator in OS X) but you can also customize your workflow using your own Python code. Editorial makes several libraries available to you so you can do almost anything you want, including communicating over XML-RPC with an application on a server.
What I’ve put together (by modifying an existing workflow for WordPress) is a workflow for publishing from Editorial (where I’m writing this post) right into my ExpressionEngine installation for EE Insider. Because of the ability to research right inside of Editorial using the built-in web browser and related workflows, I can do almost everything I need for EE Insider right inside of one single app. Exactly what I wanted.
My Publish to ExpressionEngine workflow makes it simple to take Markdown formatted content in Editorial (I send it as Markdown right to EE without converting), choose a category for it and then send the entry to ExpressionEngine to be published. After the new entry is published, Editorial launches the built-in web browser to the EE Insider homepage so I can review and make any necessary edits. Sadly, any edits have to be done in the EE Control Panel. I wish I could edit right in Editorial like I can with MarsEdit.
The magic all happens via the Metaweblog API, which ExpressionEngine already supports via the Metaweblog API module. You do need to set up the module in order to use this workflow but it’s simple and takes just 30 seconds.
Here’s a video of what it’s like to use the workflow.
If you’re into writing on your iPad or want to try, you should use Editorial. It can be daunting at first but take some time to get used to how it works and think how it would best for you. There’s a great collection of existing workflows assembled by Gabe Weatherhead that are a good starting point.
For a thorough and complete introduction to Editorial, bookmark and read the extended coverage on Macstories by Federico Viticci and Macdrifter by Gabe Weatherhead. Both are excellent and include videos and sample workflows to help you get started.