It’s taken me a while to get here, but I’m pleased to report that I’ve finally built the ultimate blogging toolkit.
It helps me write and publish posts quickly but, more importantly, enables me to focus on the craft rather than the tools themselves.
Trust me – I’ve tried most options when it comes to software that aids writing and publishing. Word (yuck), Scrivener (a beautifully complex writing tool but hampered by a shoe-horned Dropbox sync), and many of the stripped-back writing tools such as iA Writer.
None of them quite fit the bill, and that’s partly because of the way I publish my work.
The Mark Ellis Reviews brand has a strict posting schedule and one which takes into account two platforms. It’s a profitable and immensely enjoyable arm of my business, but it wouldn’t be possible without this writing toolkit.
My blogging strategy
Before I dig into the toolkit itself, I should probably explain how I approach blogging.
Although YouTube is the primary distribution channel for my thoughts, ramblings and reviews, nearly every video starts life as a blog post. This means I need to get my thoughts down quickly and without an ounce of hassle.
I also need to find as wide an audience as possible, which is why, after crafting the blog, I publish it to both my own website and Medium. Indeed, you could be reading this article on either platform (Medium’s super-useful import tool ensures my website retains the original rights to the piece, so there’s no worry about duplicate content penalties).
This means I have three tools to work with; the word processor (that feels so 90s, but it’s still an accurate description), WordPress and Medium.
This is the toolkit I’m using to make it all possible.
Stage one: Ulysses
As noted, I’ve used both bloated writing apps (hello, Microsoft Word), and those that have been stripped back to the point of being nothing more than a white screen and blinking cursor.
It’s taken me a while to realise I need something in-between, and Ulysses is the perfect fit.
If you want Ulysses to be a stripped-back writing app, it does the job admirably. There’s plenty of white space and the user interface elements are considerately designed. But if you want to go a little further and make use of Markdown (this is turned on by default and has taught me a lot about John Gruber’s text formatting syntax), or maintain a comprehensive library of your work, Ulysses is just as capable.
It syncs beautifully with iCloud and works on every Apple device I own. I can attach multiple notes to the stuff I’m working on for reference, work on articles side-by-side and gain detailed insights into the reading time and makeup of my work.
But what I love the most about Ulysses is how effortless the writing experience is. I’ve honestly never enjoyed writing as much as I do with this app to hand. It’s also a great companion for my beloved M1 MacBook Air.
However, Ulysses has one killer feature which makes the publishing process ridiculously straightforward: WordPress integration.
Stage two: WordPress
Once I’ve written and polished my blog in Ulysses, it’s time for it to head towards its first publishing destination: my website.
Before Ulysses, I’d have to carefully copy and paste my raw blogs into the WordPress editor and format everything manually. This would result in missed links, poor formatting and, even worse, lost time.
Ulysses includes the simplest, most effective WordPress export I’ve ever used. You can export directly to your WordPress blog either as a draft or published piece (I always choose the former), without any manual work on your behalf, and it works flawlessly. Providing you use Markdown, you’ll discover that every link, heading and piece of text formatting ends up looking like it should on your website.
You can even add categories, tags and the featured image as part of the export. And, if you want to get super efficient, Ulysses also gives you the option of changing the URL slug and publishing date.
You barely need to go into WordPress at all. I do because I’m a bit pernickety about this stuff. But these days, it’s purely for a quick check to ensure everything’s ok. I simply hit ‘publish’ once I’m happy, and the blog is there for all to see.
Ulysses isn’t a power app in the traditional sense, but the influence it has on my day is just as impressive as Final Cut Pro. I couldn’t undertake my ambitious publishing schedule without it.
Stage three: Medium
I love Medium, but the last thing I’d want is for it to become a burden during my blog publishing process.
Thankfully, the team behind this massive blogging platform have made the life of content creators like myself ridiculously easy.
Once I’ve published my blog on markellisreviews.com, I can import it into Medium by simply copying and pasting the URL. Some minor formatting changes on my behalf follow before the blog is ready to be published on its second home. It really is that simple. And this final stage of the blog’s journey means I now have two audiences for it, all off the back of a writing process that is as straightforward as it should be thanks to Ulysses.
I switched to-do apps recently, having spent longer than was necessary using a complex GTD tool I simply didn’t need. But that’s not going to happen with my blogging toolkit – I can say that with complete confidence.
I’ve always been the type of person to stick with a device, tool or piece of software when it becomes so ingrained within my daily work that switching to something else is an unbearable thought. This has led me to an admittedly narrow-minded way of viewing certain technological advances, but it works for my business.
Blogging is an integral part of the Mark Ellis Reviews brand, and I need a toolkit that doesn’t get in the way of the creative process, whether it’s because of poor functionality or simply too much of it.
Are you the same? What’s the one toolkit you rely on each day to make your work effortless? Get involved in the comments!
Interesting you mention Scriveners syncing problems with Dropbox – I have noticed this. I’ve used Scrivener for a few years now and though it is very good, it does have a huge learning curve – if you’re not careful you can find yourself fiddling around with settings and watching Youtube tutorials about it more than you’re actually writing! I recently discovered Dabble – http://www.dabblewriter.com. I may give it a try though I’m not keen on yet another subscription. I will certainly check out Ulysses.
[…] used the iPad Pro as my primary writing tool. When I first bought the Magic Keyboard, I installed Ulysses and transitioned fully from the Mac to the iPad for blogging […]