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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.

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              Published on July 15, 2019

              10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

              10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

              Habits are an important part of the direction you take your life, and — as I’ll share with you shortly — there are certain daily habits you can adopt right away that are guaranteed to improve your life.

              Think back to when you were just six or seven years old…

              At that age you probably didn’t have many habits. But, as the years went by, you picked up more and more good and bad habits.

              You may not have thought about it before, but habit forming never really stops.

              That’s why it’s never too late to change your habits and transform your life.

              So, if you feel burdened by your bad habits, start kicking them into shape by replacing them with these 10 positive, life-changing strategies:

              1. Go to Bed a Little Earlier and Wake up Earlier 

              Starting tonight, get yourself to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. And, then make sure you get up tomorrow morning 30 minutes earlier, too. This small change can have a BIG impact on your day. 

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              Instead of furiously rushing in the morning to get ready for work, the extra time will give you a golden opportunity to start your day off on the right note. You can drink a smoothie while sitting on your porch, spend 10 minutes exercising and stretching, and still have time to read a few pages of an inspiring book.

              2. Be Grateful for the Good Things in Your Life 

              Setbacks and obstacles are inevitable in life. But, with a positive mindset, you’ll be able to overcome most of these. And, when you do, you’ll boost your self-confidence. 

              This is something you can definitely be grateful for. 

              However, if worst-case scenarios are playing out in your life, then sometimes, to stay strong, you’ll need to keep your mind on the good things that are happening to you. For example, your relationship with your partner might be crumbling, but your career is continuously getting stronger. It’d be easy to feel downtrodden and miserable about your relationship problems —  but, it would be much healthier to keep your mind and gratitude on these things that are going well, such as your career.

              3. Drink Water All Day Every Day 

              I’m sure you’ve heard the advice of drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, but are you following that advice? If not, you’re robbing your body and mind of essential hydration. 

              With the right amount of water intake a day, you’ll be amazed how good you feel — and how good you look!

              4. Take 15 Minutes to Set Goals for the Day, and Then Tackle Them One by One 

              This strategy will put your life into a new stratosphere! And, it’s very simple to do. 

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              Simply spend 15 minutes in the morning (either at home or at work) planning what you need and want to achieve during the rest of the day. Once you’ve listed your tasks, the next step is to put them into order of priority. 

              For instance, you have three things to do: catch up with your emails, write a project update, and prepare a briefing for your CEO. It’s best if you put these in order of importance. In this example, your emails can probably wait until you’ve created your CEO brief and updated your project documentation.

              5. Turn Off Your Cell Phone (or Put it on Airplane Mode) When You’re Focusing 

              A 2012 study found that even looking at a cell phone or feeling it vibrate in your pocket can significantly distract focus and reduce your ability to complete complex tasks.[1]

              It’s no surprise really, as our thoughts are subconsciously drawn towards checking our phones when they’re switched on. It’s a bad habit — but one that most of us have. However, when you need 100% focus (like I do when writing my articles), then switching your phone off, or at least putting it into airplane mode, will free your mind and supercharge your focus. Try it and see!

              6. Walk as Much as You Can 

              Have you noticed that most people’s lives are sedentary? They drive to work, sit in front of a screen all day, then drive home and binge on the latest Netflix series. It’s no wonder there’s a growing epidemic of obesity and mental health issues. 

              Our bodies are made to move — so we should move them! This can be as simple as walking up the stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator, and going out for a walk around the block at lunchtime. In the evening, instead of arriving home and crashing on the sofa; spend 20 to 30 minutes walking around your block.

              When you make these things a habit, you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel. You’ll have less stress — and more energy.

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              7. Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

              How often do you stop, think and appreciate the “here and now”? I’m guessing not very often. But, I understand why. Modern life is demanding and fast-paced. There’s precious little time to appreciate the small things. 

              But, if you want to live a healthy and happy life, you must break out of this trap. You can do this by allocating 15 to 30 minutes each day for mindful meditation. This could be in a park, in your garden, or even in your lounge. The trick is to focus 100% on your surroundings. 

              For example, if you’re outside, watch how the leaves on the trees blow around in the wind. By keeping your focus on this movement, you’ll clear your mind from your usual stresses and strains. This will give you brain a much-needed break. And, as well as improving your mental health; you’ll find your creativity gets a boost, too.

              8. Ask for Help When You Need It 

              No one can know or do everything. Which is why you shouldn’t be embarrassed to delegate tasks to others when needed, ask questions when you don’t have the answers, and work with partners and colleagues to clarify intentions. 

              When I first set up Lifehack, I tried to do everything myself: blog writing, website creation, marketing, financial planning, etc. However, I quickly learned that it was much better to hire some help. Not only did this inject some fresh ideas and inspiration into Lifehack — it also made the whole operation way more enjoyable!

              9. Practice Self Care 

              Are you looking after yourself as well as you should? If not, then take steps to improve your diet, exercise more, and to speak to yourself with encouraging words and thoughts. 

              The latter suggestion is often overlooked. But how you speak to yourself determines how you feel, what you believe, and what you achieve.

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              10. Embrace Learning 

              You cannot transform your life without learning something new. That’s because the process of change forces you to adapt. But, many people stop learning as they get older, as they find the learning process boring and bothersome. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. It can be fun and rewarding. 

              Whether you decide to learn to play guitar or study the basics of accounting — embrace learning, and begin changing your world for the better.

              I’m sure you’ll agree that these 10 strategies are simple enough for you to start putting them into action in your life. (I suggest you begin today!) 

              Nevertheless, you’ll probably need to use some extra willpower for the first 30 days or so, as this is the typical length of time it takes to create a new habit. After that, these strategies will be part of your day-to-day life, and you won’t need to think about having to do them. In other words, they’ll have become habitual actions.

              If you need any further encouragement to get started with the 10 strategies, then consider this:

              Even just adopting one of the strategies can turn the tide in your favor. But, when you implement all 10, you’ll create an unstoppable trend towards success, health and happiness.

              So start making your life better — today!

              Featured photo credit: Javier Garcia via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Deborah R. Tindell and Robert W. Bohlander, Wilkes University: The Use and Abuse of Cell Phones and Text Messaging in the Classroom: A Survey of College Students

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