Write with whatever you want, sync with Notational Velocity

September 14, 2010

For the past few months my writing setup seemed to change with the wind, but recently I've settled fairly comfortably into a solution that allows me to both write with the Mac application I prefer, and access with my iPad/iPhone the text files that application generates.

It's all really very simple. I write all of my blog posts, including linked-list posts, in TextMate, using a method I devised. As explained in that post, I generally prefer writing in TextMate because it gives me ultimate freedom with respect to syntax highlighting; in this particular blog-writing case, that syntax is MultiMarkDown, a derivative of Markdown.

The plain text files I create with the TextMate blogging bundle get saved to a particular folder, which I interact with via a Stack in the Dock, sorted as a list by date created. (This actually is the only interaction with the dock I ever have on my machine.)

The second piece of my text-writing puzzle is Notational Velocity, the simple and powerful note-taking app for the Mac that syncs with Simplenote (which is fast becoming the go-to service for text-syncing apps). I set NV to use plain text files (instead of its database option) and point it to the folder referenced above where I store draft blog posts. After adding NV to my list of apps to be launched at login, it never again needs to be touched — it's always open, but hidden.

As long as NV is open it routinely will poll the folder I've told it to use, and sync that folder's files with Simplenote, even if those files were not created with NV; so, I can use TextMate to generate new files, and know they'll be synced automatically when I save them to the appropriate folder. Then, of course, because the files are synced with Simplenote, I can retrieve and modify them on the iPhone/iPad1 via the wonderful Simplenote apps.

It obviously works in the other direction too; i.e., I can create new files on my iphone/iPad via the Simplenote apps, and as long as NV is running on my Mac those new files will be added to my Stack, where they'll wait patiently for a little TextMate love.

So, I get to write on my Mac using my ideal text editor, and access the text files on both my iPhone and iPad, all while sacrificing nothing. It's kind of the perfect setup for me2.


  1. After struggling to find a real use for the iPad (other than a few games), I've settled on using it mostly as a mobile word processor (with a Bluetooth keyboard of course). (For most things portable I much prefer the iPhone 4 to the iPad.) It's nice to pull away from your daily driver and bang out a post without any distractions. Relatedly, Griffin's A-Frame iPad stand is great for this sort of thing.  

  2. For now of course; I've a feeling I'll switch to a PlainText/Dropbox solution once the PlainText apps are available. Yeah, you can do something similar with Elements now, but I've some niggles with the app, including its unattractive icon. ;)  

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