Using Writeroom with Coda to Write, Export Markdown

Mac OS X has seen its share of brilliant writing applications over the last several years, but it’s increasing hard to justify investing in any new ones. In particular, one of the latest newcomers in distraction-free/minimal writing environments, iA Writer, has me frothing with pixel lust. But since I already own a solid collection of word processing applications, there isn’t any real benefit in acquiring another one that the others can’t do nearly as well.

Unless, of course, there’s a sweet reason to. One of the great features iA Writer touts is the ability to transform a Markdown-formatted document into HTML. It’s a nifty, convenient trick. And completely useful if your brain is wired in Markdown markup language. So: how can we do something similar if we already have other tools?

Minimal Writing Environment with Markdown + HTML Export

For this example, we’ll using the following tools, all of which I have acquired over the years, and you may already use:

I’ve been sitting on Writeroom for months, not having much enthusiasm to pick it up and hammer text into it (I was too enthralled with Notational Velocity). My copy of Writeroom had come with a Macheist package back in the day, and as per usual, only a few of those applications really catch your attention. But recently, I took an interest in another product from Hog Bay Software, called QuickCursor. Its release on the Mac App Store quickly rejuvinated my use of Writeroom. (With a global shortcut, QuickCursor automates the process of moving text from one application to another for editing, and back again — e.g., from a form field in your browser to a word processor.) Ah-ha! No longer would Writeroom die a slow, neglected death in my Applications folder!

Now, while I love the aesthetic and typographic choices made in iA Writer, I found they could be nearly duplicated in Writeroom. Here’s how:

Writeroom Settings

Font You’re going to want to use a slick, fast monotype font like Inconsolata or Monaco.

Plus, you’re going to want to spruce up the writing environment for colors in Writeroom’s Preference pane:

Preferences > Full Screen, Full Screen Colors > Gray Scale Slider with the following:

  • Text Color: 25%
  • Page Color: 90%
  • Background Color: 90%

Boom. A great colored font shelled in an off-white background. Change your font to Inconsolata. Ah, wonderful.

And, depending on your screen resolution, set the full screen page width at an appropriate width (so page width hits about 65 characters):

Preferences > Full Screen, Full Screen Window

  • Pixel Page Width: 735px

If you aren’t satified with this look, mess around until you are. Then download the Markdown plug-in for Panic’s Coda.

Now simply compose in Writeroom, copy-paste your work into Coda and run the plug-in (ideally, down the road, this will be easier to do if Coda gets QuickCursor support — I’m sure you could write a slick little AppleScript to automate the process in the meantime.)

Distraction-free Becomes a Distraction

It’s a damned complex solution to mimick features of another application — especially if you don’t even have the other applications needed for this particular workaround. And, seriously: iA Writer is only $18.00, whereas the other two combined clock in at $125.00. Don’t be a cheap-ass.

And read this before you even begin thinking in terms of “distraction-free” writing environments. It can be a lot of nonsense and noise.