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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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              Last Updated on March 30, 2020

              20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

              20 Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

              Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

              If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

              1. Create a Daily Plan

              Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

              2. Peg a Time Limit to Each Task

              Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

              3. Use a Calendar

              Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

              I use it. It’s even better if you can sync your calendar to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are. Here’re the 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track .

              Find out more tips about how to use calendar for better time management here: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

              4. Use an Organizer

              An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

              These Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools can help you organize better, pick one that fits your needs.

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              5. Know Your Deadlines

              When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

              But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

              6. Learn to Say “No”

              Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

              Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

              7. Target to Be Early

              When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

              For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

              Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

              8. Time Box Your Activities

              This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

              You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: Get What Matters Done by Scheduling Time Blocks

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              9. Have a Clock Visibly Placed Before You

              Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

              10. Set Reminders 15 Minutes Before

              Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

              You can learn more about how reminders help you remember everything in this article: The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

              11. Focus

              Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

              Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

              Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

              12. Block out Distractions

              What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

              I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

              When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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              Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

              13. Track Your Time Spent

              When you start to track your time, you’re more aware of how you spend your time. For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

              You can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that works for you.

              14. Don’t Fuss About Unimportant Details

              You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

              Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

              15. Prioritize

              Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

              Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

              16. Delegate

              If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

              When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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              17. Batch Similar Tasks Together

              For related work, batch them together.

              For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

              1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
              2. coaching
              3. workshop development
              4. business development
              5. administrative

              I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

              18. Eliminate Your Time Wasters

              What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

              One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

              While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

              19. Cut off When You Need To

              The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

              Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

              20. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

              Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

              More Time Management Tips

              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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