Online Web Editors Writing

Working offline

I’ve been building web pages for over 15 years now, and one thing I know is that the web is not stable. Things happen that cause problems and the more you can do to protect yourself and your work the better. 

So an exchange I had on a forum I read was very interesting. I asked the question “what offline blog editor do you use?” And this prompted several replies. At first I was pleased, as I was hoping to get suggestions for offline editors. Right now I use MarsEdit, but there are some things about it that I don’t really like, so I was wondering if there were other options out there. 

I went to the forum to read the replies and they all were a variation of this: “I just edit my posts right in WordPress. Why do you need an offline editor?” And this devolved into a discussion of internet availability and speculation that perhaps my region was somehow inferior because I needed that type of protection for my work. 

I Had the Last Laugh

Last week, the east coast of the U.S. experienced debilitating power outages lasting many days and affecting millions of people. Plus, to add to that, cloud computing services were knocked out as well, rendering big online services like Netflix unavailable. Anyone online working on her blog post when the power went out would lose her work. And several friends of mine report that even after the power came back on, it took another couple of days to get the internet back up and running. 

Anyone with a generator (or a laptop with long battery life) and an offline blog editor would be able to keep on writing posts to publish after the internet was restored. Anyone who relied solely on WordPress would be out of luck. 

Why Not Just Use an Offline Text Editor?

Those of you who know me might be surprised to learn that I’m beginning to prefer writing in WYSIWYG editors. Note, I don’t mean writing HTML or building web pages, I mean actually writing. When I’m working on a story or article idea it’s much more pleasant to just type my words rather than have to worry about HTML tags and attributes. 

Many WYSIWYG editors have gotten more effective at creating decent HTML without intervention, and there are lots of writing tools out there to write various things. I have tried a lot of them. For some reason, none of them (so far) have met all my needs. Some of the things I can’t seem to find:

  • I would like a way to store all my articles in one place, within the program itself. 
  • I would also like to have the files stored offline.
  • I want a WYSIWYG editor that will export to HTML that looks decent and doesn’t add a ton of extra tags.
  • A really cool editor would be able to output as ePub or mobi to create ebooks.
  • I want a way to store ideas within the editor so that I can come to one place and write new articles based on ideas I’ve had at other times.
  • I would like it to be able to post to WordPress blogs without a lot of hassle, including adding tags, categories, dripping content at a later time, and so on.
  • I want an editor that I can customize to have it use things like curly quotes and other typography automatically.
  • I’d like the editor to be able to connect to my iPad so that I can work on things there, perhaps through Dropbox. 
  • I want a full screen mode that fills up the whole screen, not just a narrow window in the middle. 
  • It would be nice to have research capabilities built into the editor so that I can search for links or look things up quickly without having to leave the editor.

I have found many editors that will do some or even most of these things. But it seems like most editors either consider themselves to be “web” editors — they build web pages — or “text” editors — they write text such as for a novel.

One editor I found that does a majority of these things is Scrivener. My problem with Scrivener is the output. Yes, I can get it to output HTML, but it adds a lot of stuff. And I struggled for a long time to get it to output text the way I wanted it to. It is one of those programs that is very powerful, and has tons of features. But the immense number of features is part of what makes it difficult for me to use. 

MarsEdit is a blog editor that does many of the blog-related features that I want, but it relies on the blog concepts of posts and drafts and doesn’t do anything to help me keep track of the articles I’m working on or ideas I might have. 

MacJournal appeals to the part of me that writes journals, but I don’t like how it outputs HTML, and for some of the sites I write for, the HTML has special rules (for instance the CMS won’t allow certain tags). So I find myself doing more post-writing editing of the HTML, which brings me back to my standby:

Komodo Edit provides me with almost no writing features, it’s just a text editor. But if I’m willing to do my file and idea management outside of the editor then it works okay. 

Idea for this Post

This post had been in my head since I read all the comments on my forum post about offline editors, but it came together when I read the article on the Huffington Post: Amazon Power Outage Exposes Risks of Cloud Computing. I use cloud computing a lot. But I don’t feel comfortable using it as my only backup or storage tool. I know it’s tempting to want to use Google Docs or iCloud, but I live by my writing, and I’m not willing to risk my livelihood on these systems.

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