Once research is done, there are six main things every blogger needs to do:
- Format content
- Add images and embeds
- Publish to a CMS
Writing is key to the process, in case you didn’t notice, so any tool designed to make blogging easier needs to really focus on the writing experience. You only need glance at Desk for Mac ($30) to see developer John Saddington, himself a longtime blogger, understands this.
By default everything is out of the way – it’s just you and your words. Even the top of the window fades away once you start typing, and the toolbar at right and document stats at bottom are understated.
Compare this to the default WordPress interface, where a variety of icons and buttons (not to mention your browser) mean only a small portion of your screen is devoted to writing.
If you want to focus on writing, it’s easy to see the appeal of Desk. But not everyone loves minimalism, and all those buttons and other elements are obviously not useless – you do occasionally need them.
If you really want to focus on writing, it’s important that the three other things you need to do – formatting text, adding media, and submitting your work to a variety of publishing platforms – are as simple as possible.
For me, Desk hits that sweet spot. Let’s go over the reasons why.
Formatting: Markdown Or WYSIWYG
I’ve made my love of Markdown clear in the past. I think if you’re writing for the web, learning to format your documents with Markdown will save you a lot of time.
If you agree with me, good news: Desk supports Markdown. Just write the way you usually would – you can preview your output in a seperate window if you like.
There’s no syntax highlight as you’re writing, which some Markdown users will surely miss, but everything works otherwise.
But of course, not everyone writer uses Markdown – some people still prefer to see their formatting as they type, and to use buttons or keyboard shortcuts to make their text look how they want. Desk works for these users too – just highlight any piece of text to see your formatting options.
All the functions commonly used by bloggers are just a click away, and you’ll see the formatting changes you make in both the primary writing interface and the preview window.
For the scatterbrained among us who love using both Markdown and WYSIWYG, Desk is perfect: you can combine both in a single document, and Desk will combine everything before publishing. Say you find it faster to paste links using Markdown, but want to bold text using a quick keyboard shortcut – Desk will accomodate you.
Basically, however you prefer to format things, Desk gives you quick access to all the formatting options bloggers depend on.
Images And Other Media
When Windows users tell you that Live Writer is the fastest way to blog from your desktop, I think the biggest speed boost they get is with image uploads. I’ve yet to see a web-based CMS that makes uploading images quick: adding an image generally means interrupting your workflow with an upload dialogue.
Desk, like any good blogging app should, makes images simple. Just drag an image into your post, and there it is.
You can resize and align quickly, and also add a link.
Adding images is easy, but there’s no native support for embeds – meaning you can’t preview a YouTube video or tweet you’ve embedded without opening your post in your CMS. This might make some nervous to publish without checking first.
Publishing Your Work
So you’ve written, formatted and added images to your post: now what? Desk supports publishing to a surprising variety of platforms.
I publish primarily to WordPress, so that’s what I set up Desk with. When it’s time to publish, I need only bring up the sidebar menu and pick which blog I want to publish to. From there publication (or submitting to drafts) is only a click away:
I can also bring up more options, if I want select categories, add tags and upload a featured image.
The specifics vary depending on where you’re publishing, of course, but most of what I need to do before publishing a post is easy to do from here. When I’m ready to submit, Desk will convert all of my Markdown, formatted text, images and more into a cleanly formatted post.
I’ve used this for a few weeks, submitting posts to editors on this site and publishing directly to my own blogs, and I haven’t run into many issues. Publishing with Desk is a lot faster than my old ritual of pasting text into WordPress and uploading images individually. I bet it can save you time too.
If you primarily submit to a particular blog with the same settings, you can even add a “Quick Publish” shortcut to get your content online in just one click.
Can You See Yourself Using Desk?
If you’re a blogger, I’d love to know: what do you think of Desk? Do you think this could help you out? Let me know what you think, and also feel free to point out where you write. I’d love to chat about our craft.
If you think your ideal app is elsewhere, you could check out Blogo, which my collegue Matt said is the blogging app you’ve been looking for. It offers a few things the writing-focused Desk doesn’t, such as comment management and an image editor. Personally, I’ll keep using Desk, but choice is always appreciated, right?
What do you use to compose your blog posts?