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Lifehack Presents: The WriteMonkey Mini User Guide

Lifehack Presents: The WriteMonkey Mini User Guide

    There is a lot of attention given to “distraction free” and Markdown writing environments now-a-days, but most of them being for the Mac. There seems to be a lack of these environments on the PC. In my quest to find a Markdown editor for Windows I came across WriteMonkey. WriteMonkey gives the user “an extremely stripped down user interface, leaving you alone with your thoughts and your words”.

    I would say that’s about right.

    Anyways, let’s dive into WriteMonkey for Windows and show you what you can do with it.

    Installing WriteMonkey

    Installing WriteMonkey is a little different than the normal “click, click, click” type of Windows installation. First download the WriteMonkey zip file from their site and then extract it to the Programs folder on your machine. Once that is done you will have a WriteMonkey executable there that you can run or create a shortcut for your desktop or quick launch.

    First run

    Remember how I said that WriteMonkey is a distraction free writing environment? Well, on the first run of the program, WriteMonkey will remind you of that by making itself full screen. Your start menu goes away, title bars, everything. You could just start writing this way, but if you want to get out of this mode simply hit the escape button to get back to a windowed screen.

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    You will notice that your title bar of your window says “SCRATCH”. This is the default name for a new window, kind of like a scratchpad. You will also notice that there is no menu bar. To get to all of WM’s options simply right-click the screen.

    Options galore

    I sort of lied when I told you that WM was a distraction-free writing environment. At first glance it looks that way, but after you dig in, especially to the preferences, you will be distracted. But, the nice thing here is that there is some handy things that you can do in the settings of WM. Let’s walk through them now. First, to get to your preferences menu. You can right-click and choose “Preferences”, or simply hit F10.

    Adjust your colors, font, and display

      Adjust colors and fonts

      The “Screen Elements” tab will allow you to change your font and the colors of your screen. You can change the font to any font you have installed in Windows. My personal favorite is to have a Consolas font with a darkish gray background and off-white text. But that’s just me.

      There is also a nice feature called “Save to permanent slot”. After you have made your color changes, by clicking this you can save your color and font scheme to easily switch back and forth.

      Adjust your screen elements

      In screen elements you can enable the Info bar that shows at the bottom of your screen. You can see the name of your file, how many words you have committed, the current time, and even the status of your file.

      You will notice a check box called “Show visual progress bar”. This option will enable a bar along the bottom of your window that shows how far you are in the word count that you can limit to yourself under the “Progress” option (F12).

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      To get a menu bar back in windowed mode, click “More” and choose “Show standard menu bar in windowed mode”.

      Open & Save

      The Open & Save tab give you options of what you’d like to see on startup, how you want the program to launch and shut down, and even gives you an option to make incremental backups to a certain directory. Also, if you want to keep WM running even when you “x-out” the program, you can enable a “soft-exit” that will minimize it to the system tray rather than closing it completely.

        Setup replacement text

        Replacements

        The replacements tab lets you setup special text “snippets” that expand to whatever you want them to. For instance, you can use the snippet “/sig” to insert your name, or “aaddr” to insert your address. Snippets are a very handy way to save some time while writing.

        Jumps

          Use Jumps to navigate

          Jumps allow you to include regular expressions to identify special headings and markdown syntax so you can use the Jumps menu to navigate your document. If you are using Markdown (which you should be, by the way), you can open the Jumps dialog by right clicking and selecting “Jumps” or simply using ALT+J. With Jumps you can simply click on the headings, bookmarks, and paragraphs that you want to go to. It makes navigating your document a breeze, especially if it is long-winded.

          Also, to bookmark something in your text (so the Jumps menu will see it), right-click and choose “Bookmark” or press ALT+M. There will be two ‘@’ symbols that are entered. After them, type the name of your bookmark without spaces. Then you will see it in your bookmarks menu.

            Lookup things from your document

            Lookups

            Lookups are pretty darn amazing. Basically, you can select some text out of your document, hit a key combination, and your browser will open to whatever search engine you would like and search for the highlighted text. Need a Brittany Spears picture for you 500 word masterpiece? No problem. Select “Brittany Spears” and press ALT+4. This will search for her in a Google Image search.

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            You can also setup other search engines and use the [lookup] string to append the text to the search query. For instance, if you wanted to use DuckDuckGo as a search engine, you could create a new lookup and give it this URL:

            http://duckduckgo.com/?q=[lookup]

            Profiles

            If you have gone crazy tweaking and customizing the look, feel, and options for WM, you can go ahead and create a profile to save them. Press F10, click on the “Profile” button on the bottom left, type in the name you want to save the profile as in the “Profile name” box and press “Save”.

            You can create a number of different profiles and switch back and forth with the profile’s screen. Nice.

            Markdown support

            The reason that I found WM was because I was looking for a Markdown editor for Windows. There are so many of them for Mac that it’s sort of hard making the decision. But for Windows, the choices are much more limited. WM does a decent job of handling Markdown and also exporting it as HTML to be used for web writing.

            We won’t go into how to write in Markdown (because we already have), but there are some niceties that WM affords a Markdown user like being able to highlight and bold something by pressing the standard Windows Ctrl+B, or italicizing by Ctrl+I.

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            Export

            Here is where WM excels. If you know how to use Markdown and are anywhere close to being decent with CSS, then you can create some exporting options that can help you produce finished documents for web or even for PDF and printing.

              Markup export

              To export your writing right-click and choose “Markup export” or press Ctrl+Shift+E. From here you have some options. You can export to Print preview, export to your default web browser, or even export to Microsoft Word. When you are exporting you can choose a stylesheet that will format you text in a certain way, edit the stylesheet and use it, or even get some additional templates from the WM site (that is, when they become available).

              Usually my process is to export to my default web browser, right-click in the web browser window, select view source, and then copy my HTML output from there and use it. I do wish that there was an option to export to HTML so it got rid of the middle steps, but for now this is acceptable, especially because of all the other awesome stuff that WM can do.

              You can also choose to export the file that you are creating to a folder so you can use it or save it for later by clicking the “Export to folder” box.

              Conclusion

              If you are looking for a writing application / Markdown editor for Windows, the WriteMonkey is the choice. There may be a few others out there, but none that come close to what WM can do. With its fullscreen mode, Replacements feature, and markup export options, WM is hands-down the best Markdown editor for Windows.

              There is a lot to the program and this mini guide just touched the surface to the cool things that you can do with WM. Happy writing!

              More by this author

              CM Smith

              A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

              Design Is Important: How To Fail At Blogging 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 6 Unexpected Ways Journaling Every Day Will Make Your Life Better Why Getting Things Done is the Best Productivity System For You How to Beat Procrastination: 29 Ways to Beat It Once and for All To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System

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              Last Updated on February 15, 2019

              How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever

              How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever

              Achieving personal goals deserves a huge amount of celebration but setting these goals in the first place is a massive achievement in itself.

              While the big goals serve as a destination, the journey is probably the most important part of the process. It reflects your progress, your growth and your ability take control and steer your life towards positive change.

              Whatever your goal is, whether it’s losing 20lbs or learning a new language, there will always be a set amount of steps you need to take in order to achieve it. Once you’ve set your sights on your goal, the next stage is to take an assertive path towards how you will get there.

              The aim of this article is to guide you through how to take action towards your personal goals in a way that will help you achieve them strategically and successfully.

              1. Get very specific

              When it comes to setting your personal goals, honing in on its specifics is crucial for success.

              It’s common to have a broad idea of where you want to go or what you want to achieve, but this can sabotage your efforts in the long run.

              Get clear on what you want your goal to look like so you can create solid steps towards it.

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              Say you have a vision on retiring early. This goal feels good to you and you can envision filling your days of work-free life with worldly adventures and time with loved ones.

              If retiring early is a serious personal goal for you, you will need to insert a timeframe. So your goal has changed from “I’d like to someday retire early and travel the world” to “I’m going to retire by 50 and travel the world”.

              It may not seem significant, but creating this tweak in your goal by specifying a definite time, will help create and structure the steps needed to achieve it in a more purposeful way.

              2. Identify the preparation you need to achieve your goal

              It’s easy to set a goal and excitedly, yet aimlessly move towards it. But this way of going about achieving goals will only leave you eventually lost and feeling like you’ll never achieve it.

              You have to really think about what you need to do in order to make this goal possible. It’s all very well wanting it to happen, but if you just sit back and hope you’ll get there one day will result in disappointment.

              Self-managing your goals is a crucial step in the process. This involves taking control of your goal, owning it and making sure you are in a great position to make it happen.

              In the early retirement example, this would mean you will need to think about your financial situation.

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              What will your finances ideally need to look like if you were to retire early and travel the world? How much money will you need to put into your retirement fund to retire at 50? How much extra savings will you need to support your travels? You could also start researching the places you’d like to travel to and how long you’d like to travel for.

              Outlining these factors will, not only make your goal seem more tangible, but also create a mind shift to one of forward motion. Seeing the steps more clearly will help you make a more useful plan of action and seeing your goal as a reality.

              3. Breakdown each step into more manageable goals

              The secret to achieving your goals is to create smaller goals within each step and take action. Remember, you’re looking for progress, no matter how small it may seem.

              These small steps build up and get you to the top. By doing this, you also make the whole process much less daunting and overwhelming.

              In the early retirement scenario, there are several smaller goals you could implement here:

              • Decide to make an appointment with a financial advisor asking what financial options would be available to you if you were to go into early retirement and travel. Get advice on how much you would need to top up your funds in order to reach your goal on time.
              • Set up and start to make payments into the retirement fund.
              • Research savings accounts with good rates of interest and commit to depositing a certain amount each month.
              • Make sure you meet with your financial advisor each year to make sure your retirement plan remains the best one for you. Research new savings accounts to move your money into to reap the best returns in interest rates.
              • Start investing in travel books, building up a library that covers where you want to go.
              • Think about starting a language course that will help you get the most out of your travel experience.

              4. Get started on the journey

              Creating a goal planner in which you can start writing down your next steps is where the magic happens. This is where the real momentum towards your dream starts!

              Create a schedule and start by writing in when you will start the first task and on which day. Commit to completing this small task and feel the joy of crossing it off your list. Do this with every little step until your first mini goal has been reached.

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              In the early retirement example, schedule in a meeting with a financial advisor. That’s it. Easy.

              As I mentioned before, it may seem such a small step but it’s the momentum that’s the most important element here. Once you cross this off, you can focus on the meeting itself, then once that’s ticked off, you are in a position of starting a profitable retirement fund…and so the momentum continues. You are now on your journey to achieving your dream goal.

              5. Create an annual review

              Taking a step back and reviewing your progress is essential for keeping yourself on the right track. Sometimes you can be moving full steam ahead towards your goal but miss seeing the opportunities to improve a process or even re-evaluate your feelings towards the goal.

              Nominate a day each year to sit down and take a look at your progress. Celebrate your achievements and how far you’ve come. But also think about changing any of the remaining steps in light of new circumstances.

              Has anything changed? Perhaps you got a promotion at work and you feel you can add more to your monthly savings.

              Do you still feel the same about your goal? It’s normal for our desires to change over time and our personal goals need to reflect this.

              Perhaps you’d like to take someone new with you on your travels and you need to take this into account regarding timelines. Are there any new steps you want to add as a result?

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              Remember, reflection is a useful tool in realigning your goal to any changes and it’s important to keep on the right trajectory towards it.

              Strive to become the best goal-setter you can be

              Having personal goals gives you purpose and the feeling of becoming a better version of yourself.

              But it’s the smaller steps within these big goals that the growth and achievement really lies:

              • Whatever your goal is, make sure you get specific on when you want to achieve it. This helps you focus on the necessary steps much more efficiently.
              • Research the actionable steps required to get to the end result and…
              • Break these down into smaller, manageable goals.
              • Create a daily or weekly schedule for these smaller goals and start the positive momentum.
              • Reflect each year on your goal journey and purpose, readjusting steps according to changes in circumstance or desire.

              Keep going and always have the end goal in sight. Remember the ‘why’ behind your goal throughout to keep you motivated and positive.

              More Resources About Setting & Achieving Goals

              Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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