I'm Matthew Setter. I'm a security researcher, privacy advocate, software engineer, and tech writer, who loves teaching people all that I know.
Gingkoapp - A Revolutionary Editor For Writers
Looking for an application giving you the ability to organize your writing like sheets of paper, with the power of a web-based app? If so, I've got the answer!
Looking for an application giving you the ability to organize your writing like sheets of paper, with the power of a web-based app? If so, I’ve got the answer!
In English class I was taught that the first step in good writing is to compose your thoughts; and that one of the simplest and most effective ways to do that, is by using separate pieces of paper.
This technique allows you to keep reorganising until the major themes are properly arranged. The catch is, when it then comes to fleshing out each point you then have to start with your trusty software of choice.
At this point everything becomes a single, monolithic, document. What if later on, you want to continue reorganising your document? It might be feasible, if what you’re writing’s only a few hundred or thousand words in length.
But if you’re writing a book? If so this is going to be a pretty difficult and cumbersome process. Speaking from experience, my latest book is up to 34,000 words – and it’s not even finished.
Whilst Microsoft Word, Pages, Libre/Open Office and others offer a vast array of functionality, what they don’t offer is one of the most compelling – painless composition and continuous organisation.
You can perform all kinds operations, such as formatting, adding footnotes and endnotes, adding tables of contents and insert near any kind of document or object. But as the document increases in size, the ability to reorganise it, so that it has the right composition, decreases.
As my upcoming book continued to grow and grow and grow, I was in just this situation myself. I’m self-publishing it through LeanPub, which I’ll write on in a future post. LeanPub works by writing each chapter in a separate file, then setting the chapter order by listing the file’s name, in order of appearance, in a separate table of contents file.
So, in a way, it provides more flexibility by just reorganizing the table of contents. This is a big step forward, compared with traditional editors, but it doesn’t quite go far enough — at least for me. So I started hunting around for better options, ones which allowed me to continue to work from anywhere in the world, yet which provided the level of flexibility needed for large publications.
After talking with colleagues, I came across Gingkoapp. What a find! Gingkoapp is an online application which takes ability to compose your thoughts separately and simply and brings it online.
Gingko Quick Demo
Creating Documents with Gingkoapp
Using a simple tree metaphor, your documents start as a single card, which forms the basis of your tree. From this first card you can add any number of new cards as needed and reorganise them until they’re in the right order. You can add sub-cards, add a card before or after the current one, split existing cards into separate ones and so much more.
In the image above, you can see a simple Gingko tree which containing the script of a video tutorial I made recently. You can see that it starts with the first card, Scaffolding a Phalcon Application, and that it has two sub-cards.
You can see at the top of the highlighted card, three symbols:
- three, green, horizontal lines
- a plus icon
- a cross icon
These form the core of how you work with the cards. By clicking and holding the horizontal lines, you can move the card after or before any other card and even add it as a sub-card of another. By clicking the plus icon, which is also available at the bottom of a card, you can add a new card before or after the current one. By clicking on the cross icon, you can delete the existing card.
How Do You Write With It?
To edit a card, you click use
ctrl + enter (
cmd + enter on the Mac), which puts the card in edit mode. You can also double-click the card. To finish editing, either click the tick icon in the bottom right, click
ctrl + enter again, or click onto another card.
In the image above, you see what the content of a card looks like. Whilst essentially plain text it uses the Markdown format to allow you to format the contents of the card.
If you’re not familiar with Markdown, it’s a way of formatting text documents, so that they can be converted to HTML (as well as other formats). Let’s step through the example above.
- The top four lines are headers and are preceded by 1 or more hashes (or pound symbols). 1 hash denotes the main header and 6 denotes the smallest one. So you can have the option to add up to six headers in your content
- Prefixing a line with a dash makes it a bulleted list; prefixing a line with a number and a full stop makes it a numbered list; and wrapping text in square brackets and adding a website URL immediately afterwards in round brackets creates a link
There’s lots more to the Markdown format, which I’ll go through in a future post. But suffice to say, writing cards, which display as perfectly formatted HTML is very straight-forward, requiring only about 30 mins to learn Markdown basics.
I’ve been using Gingkoapp for about 4 months now and am without equivocation impressed with it. It’s really revolutionised how I write, whether that’s for video tutorials, blog posts or books.
Of all the editors and online services I’ve tried, it’s far and away at the top of the list; what’s more, the online support is fast, effective and accurate. So if you ever get stuck, rest assured that you’re well looked after.
So that, in a nutshell, is Gingkoapp. It’s an online editor which gives you all the flexibility of paper, with all the functionality of a software application. Whilst you do need to learn the basics of the Markdown format, you only need the basics to get up and running. Then you’re up and running and you won’t look back.
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