I tend to go through phases when it comes to the programs I do my writing in. Everything from bloated word processors to the geekiest of text editors will at one point or another have me in its throes.
What I’ve found recently is that as my writing life is fragmenting into a myriad of different projects, my writing toolbox has grown to encompass several different programs at the same time. Unconsciously at first, now on purpose, I’ve begun using several individual applications as distinct writing “areas,” where before I would likely have been using only one or two apps.
For example, I’ve contracted my use of favorite journaling program Journler by Philip Dow from being a catch-all repository for blogging, fiction, research, and personal journal to “just” the personal journal.
Journler has blog-editing capabilities in its current version 2.0.2, but I had some difficulties getting some of my more specialized site configurations to work (Drupal, especially); I eventually got the blog authoring app MarsEdit to work.
As I mentioned here recently, MarsEdit was handed over from Brent Simmons at Ranchero to Daniel Jalkut at Red Sweater. I’m looking forward to seeing what advancements Daniel makes, but for the time being MarsEdit has become my blogging environment, from which I post to ten different sites. Version 2.5 of Journler is in beta, tentatively scheduled to be released mid-March and promising a host of great improvements, so I might revisit this arrangement soon.
Simple writing isn’t the only necessity for me — research and “knowledgebase building” is another activity where a specialized application like Gus Mueller’s VoodooPad becomes invaluable. The ease with which a wiki can enable accumulating and cross-relating of info is awesome, whether it’s for administrative procedures at work or as a mini-encyclopedia for my latest fictional world. Powerful stuff.
The super-popular TextMate by Allan Odgaard has become my great all-around coding environment, for everything from HTML to Python. And thanks to the “Edit in TextMate” addition, I can pull text from just about any Cocoa app and edit it in TextMate.
This is definitely a GUI phase I’m going through. I’ve spent time in CLI phases, with pretty much everything going through Vim.
What I’m finding rather amusing about all these programs is a tendency for at least some of them to move toward a common set of features and technologies. Wiki-like links. Smart folders. Full screen modes. Tabs sprouting everywhere, even in Vim!
But given this, why shouldn’t I keep it all in one application? Wouldn’t that be more efficient?
Well, efficiency isn’t always the most important thing, especially with all this computing power at my fingertips. Taking that old-school limitation away, why not run six apps instead of one?
The way I’m operating now is almost like the Contexts from Getting Things Done — having discrete repositories for different kinds of writing helps me to focus.
What I won’t say is that this is the best way to operate for me, forever and ever. I’m sure in six months or a year, I’ll be in some new phase, maybe doing all my “writing” via podcast. ;)