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Joel on Software

Composing in TextMate with MarkDown

by Joel Spolsky
Monday, September 11, 2006

Normally I use CityDesk to compose things for Joel on Software, but the long articles on recruiting were written from home where I have a MacBook Pro (CityDesk is Windows only).

I was trying to find appropriate software that I could use to compose long articles that felt smooth on a Mac, that generated extremely clean HTML, and that generated curly quotes (“”) which I've grown fond of, especially for longer articles.

The combination I found that made me happiest was TextMate in Markdown mode. It was a surprisingly good experience. TextMate is an "emacs inspired" editor for the Mac, with tons of build-in stuff for editing different types of text files that they call Bundles. Markdown is a very simple way to format text, for example, putting *asterisks* around text that you want italicized; it generates nice clean HTML. Even Markdown  source is quite clean and still highly readable, useful if you need to post the same content to Usenet or use it in plain text somewhere.

I have a few complaints though:

OS X antialiasing, especially, it seems, with the monospaced fonts, just isn't as good as Windows ClearType. Apple has some room to improve in this area; the fonts were blurry on the edges.

Also, I don't understand all these people who say that Macs never crash. I probably had to reboot the MacBook Pro (hard reboot -- hold down the power button for five seconds) about every two hours. It was always the same problem: the Wifi network would go down for a second, something which happens to everyone, but on Windows, it just comes back, while on the Mac, I get a spinning colored ball and everything is frozen. Everything. Forever. If I try to wait it out the beachball will still be spinning the next morning. If anybody is aware of this problem and knows of a specific fix I'd love to hear of it. It was like a Windows 3.1 deja vu all over again thing.

I still have to say that composing large amounts of text with Word 2007 on Windows XP is a better experience, all told, because of the autocorrection and the better screen display.

One more note -- all the pictures I've published in the last few days are of the Fog Creek office, of course, taken recently by photographer Gregg Conde.


Have you been wondering about Distributed Version Control? It has been a huge productivity boon for us, so I wrote Hg Init, a Mercurial tutorial—check it out!

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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, a New York company that proves that you can treat programmers well and still be highly profitable. Programmers get private offices, free lunch, and work 40 hours a week. Customers only pay for software if they’re delighted. We make Trello, insanely simple project management, FogBugz, an enlightened bug tracker designed to help great teams develop brilliant software, and Kiln, which simplifies source control. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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