Markdown tools for bloggers

There has been an explosion in both the quantity and popularity of markdown-based writing tools over the last twelve months. The likes of web-abased Editorially, desktop apps such as MarkdownPad and Mou and even whole blogging platforms — Ghost being the example — have pushed what’s essentially a niche and geeky way of writing into the mainstream.

In my ever-continuing quest to work more efficiently and find the perfect writing tool, I’ve tried a huge bunch of different platforms over the last year. There’s no single markdown editor that does everything, but nearly all of these do one or two things really well. To see what works for you, you’re just going to have to see which one of these sounds like it would best suit your needs and give it a go. Without further ado, then, here are the best markdown tools for writers, split up by category.

Wait, mark-what?

Okay, okay, let’s back up here a little and explain a little about what this markdown thing even is. In a nutshell, markdown is a writing language designed and built for web writers. As the original release post from 2004 explains:

Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).

It’s a straightforward way to write HTML without the HTML, basically. By extension, it’s a faster way to write for the web. That’s why it’s great, that’s why I use it, and I suspect that’s why you’re reading this to find out which tools are the best for writing for it. Ready? Let’s actually get going.

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I went to Argos and it left me thoroughly confused

I’m headed to University next weekend, and in preparation for that, I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of shopping.

I’ve essentially needed to buy at least one of everything — kitchenware, bedding, bathroom stuff… a loo brush. Heck, I even got a new laptop. It gets very expensive very quickly, and that’s led to me spending far too long on HotUKDeals (a UK-specific “deals” community – kinda like Reddit, just for stuff that’s good value) and the like, trying to squeeze marginal gains in value out of the purchases which are going to have serve me for at least the next three years.

Last week, in search of a duvet (and informed via Hot UK Deals of a particularly good value duvet that was only available in-store), I headed to Argos.

For the benefit of those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Argos, it’s basically a mix of mail-order catalogue shopping, Amazon and a normal bricks-and-mortar store. You go in, choose what you want from the catalogue, note down the product numbers, take the numbers to the checkout and then wait five-odd minutes for the items you’ve ordered to magically appear.

You then carry them home.

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Fixing truncated RSS feeds

Truncated RSS feeds — where only an except of a site’s content displays in its feed — are possibly the most annoying thing one can find on a site one wishes to follow. When you’re cruising through your RSS reader, it’s a real pain to see all of the lovely content you subscribe to and then find ten 50 word entries, cut off mid sentence and ending with “CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING”.

I’ve given up reading many great sites because I can’t consume their content how I want to, and that’s sad.

I get why people create truncated RSS feeds; the idea is if you only offer a snippet of content, people who want to subscribe are going to come and visit your site instead. That increases page views, ad impressions, and the site gets to work its magic of hooking one-time viewers into becoming long term, signed up readers.

Trouble is, it doesn’t really work like that. If I grab a site’s RSS feed, it’s because I want to know when said site has new content I can read. If  I like the content, I’ll click through and browse through the comments, perhaps add my own and maybe even tweet it. For me, RSS is a way of putting all the content I might be interested in in a central place, and from there I can find the stuff I’m actually interested in.

I’m still subscribing, and I’ll still visit the site, provided the content is interesting.

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Addicted to redesign

As I write this, sevenironcows is undergoing its very first redesign. Nine months after I launched the site, rocking a purpose built ‘personal’ theme (which I later released as Empty Spaces, a free/pay-what-you-want download), the site is in need of something which better shows off the quantity of content I’ve amassed since the start of the year.

I started redesigning fairly late last night, and went to bed in the early hours thinking I was done. This morning when I booted up my desktop and took a poke around the ‘finished’ design, I decided it wasn’t actually done after all and set to work again.

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I went to Stonehenge and all I got was this crappy photo

Whilst driving down to Devon with Heather yesterday, we figured as we were going to be driving past Stonehenge, we’d stop for lunch there. It seemed like a good idea.

Sadly, the area around Stonehenge is a terrible, terrible place for traffic, and we spent an hour crawling along the two mile stretch leading up to the World Heritage Site. One does get quite a good view from the road, though!

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