I often need to write a piece of text between 200 and 2000 words: an abstract of a talk, a blog post or an administrative memo. This is longer and more complicated than an occasional note but much simpler and shorter than, say, a full-length article. I do such writing in Byword, a beautiful Mac app which takes plain-text writing to an entirely new level.
I used to prepare such texts in Scrivener, but I found it far too complicated for simple one-piece texts. It takes time to open and its many bells and whistles easily distract your attention. In addition, you have to make a decision of how to organize your short disconnected writings. Scrivener is made for organizing texts, but all the choices it gives become a problem when you don’t want to think how to organize your files, you just want to write and send them away. Starting a separate Scrivener project for each small text is impractical and distracting. For example, I used to keep three separate Scrivener projects: for research, teaching and administrative texts, but it quickly became confusing, because I could not decide or remember whether a particular text is for research or for teaching. In addition, even on MacBook Air starting (and closing) Scrivener is a pretty slow business.
In the last several months, I have been using Byword for writing all my short texts. Byword is extremely simple and well-designed. As soon as I start I go into its Fullscreen mode (⌘-Enter) and type away. I normally use Markdown although I am not very good at it (and you don’t need to know what it is to use Byword). I really like Byword’s ability to complete brackets (of all shapes) and quotation marks. After finishing my writings I export the text into .RTF, Word, or HTML format or simply copy and paste it into a document or email. For bloggers or Web page editors Byword offers a possibility to copy HTML to Clipboard, which is very convenient. Byword for iOS devices has been recently released as well. Interestingly, it uses iCloud synchronization of your texts between your Mac and other devices (see review and screencast from MacSparky).
I like Byword so much that I have even started using it for initial stages of writing longer articles. Most of my texts are now “born” in Byword and only then transferred to Scrivener for subsequent re-organization, compiling etc. The arrival of Papers 2 makes it possible to insert citations in Byword. Bibliographies can then be automatically added either in Byword or in Scrivener or other later-stage applications.
I save my Byword files in the same directory where I save all my NValt notes. This is of course on the Dropbox and thus accessible from other computers and my iPhone. To make Byword files visible to NValt and Simplenote I make sure to add .txt extension to their names. Otherwise I simply follow my naming conventions (described here and updated here). This makes searching for these short texts (through NValt) lighting fast if I need them later. Sometimes I also add Open-meta tags to particularly frequently used texts.