Via Email

To continue with my series of posts wrapping up the first year of legomac, I thought I’d share my writing and publishing workflow. I always like hearing how other people work, and I think my strategy is a little unusual.

From what I’ve gathered, there are two main established systems for publishing a blog. If you’re a casual writer, the browser suffices. Typing directly into WordPress or any other service is easy and fast. The other way, usually for more serious bloggers, is to choose a favorite text editor like TextEdit, Byword, or MarsEdit and save posts to your hard drive. After editing, posts are uploaded to the website and published.

I dislike WordPress’s browser composition page, so I tried experimenting with text editors last year to find one I liked. That wasn’t perfect either, since few programs let you seamlessly sync between a computer and an iOS device. That’s gotten a lot easier with the advent of a whole new genre of minimalist writing apps which invariably sync well. At the time though, nothing fit my needs. Another problem was the limitations of writing in plain text. As the name implies, plain text prohibits style formatting unless one writes in Markdown or HTML, and including all that code was a real pain while writing. I’m much more of a GUI type, and I’d much prefer just hitting command-b.

So I resolved my dilemma by turning to the oldest tool I could find – email. The issues I was running into with sync, saving drafts, and formatting were all solved by the Apple Mail client on the Mac. WordPress allows users to post via email, so I just compose a new message, style it however I want with Mail’s capable formatting controls, and hit send. I can even include inline photos, videos, or tags with ease.

The best part is the ease of transferring drafts to any other device. I use my iCloud account with legomac, so I can fire up on any computer and have an attractive and full-featured writing app at a moment’s notice. I’ll never lose a draft or lack a complete history of every post I’ve ever sent.

At this point, you might be wondering how this all translates to my iPhone. After all, doesn’t work in mobile Safari, and the iOS Mail app doesn’t do formatting. For composing on the go, as I am right now, I use iOS 5’s handy text expansion feature. I’ve configured shortcuts for the most common HTML style commands, and now I only need to type a few letters to autofill a command that would take forever to type on a touchscreen. For example, this blog uses links in every single post. On my iPhone, I type “href” and get “text” instead. Pasting in the URL is a piece of cake. I can do bold and italic text in the same way.

This system is both efficient and platform-agnostic, yet completely native on the devices I use every day. The many minimal writing apps on the App Store look great, but what’s more minimal than using the default Mail apps? It works for me, better than I thought it would. Now bus rides to work can be spent composing a new post, and it’ll be available on my work computer as soon as I arrive. It’s the future, using the tools of the past.


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