While recording our “How Packed Is Your Mac?” episodes of the Mikes on Mics podcast, I was surprised to learn that my esteemed co-host was unaware of how to marry two of my favorite writing applications, nvALT and Byword. Technically these are two completely separate apps, but I use them as one. Both are geared to those of us who prefer to write in plain text and use Markdown to format our work for the web. Both have specific strengths that, when combined, form one hell of a writing environment.
nvALT serves as the backbone of this writing environment, but doesn’t meet all of my wants. You could certainly use it on its own to handle all of your writing, but I find it lacks in the looks department. It’s fine for quick writing projects, but it can ware on you when working on longer pieces.
Byword, on the other hand, is a dream to write and format your text into Markdown, but it doesn’t handle text files nearly as well as nvALT. Thankfully, the creators of nvALT seemed to know that the particular amongst us might want to use it in tandem with an external text editors and they decided to make life easy for us.
So Happy Together
To marry the two applications, open nvALT and open the Preference pane (you can do this by typing Command-Comma). Start at the “Notes” tab and change the default option for the field titled “Store and read notes on disk as” from “Single Database” to “Plain Text Files”. Then jump over to the “Editing” tab and go to the bottom and find the field titled “External Text Editor”. By default TextEdit will be selected, but you can change this to any application of your choosing “Other…” and selecting your text editor of choice from the your Applications folder. In my case, I selected Byword. From now on, when I press Command-Shift-E while working in any text file in nvALT and it opens right up in Byword.
Since I’m too lazy to do screenshots for you, here’s a very brief screencast that shows you how to set this up.
There is one little hiccup. I tend to be a bit of a moron and when working in Byword I will occasionally jump into Safari to grab a link and accidentally start working again in nvALT. This can cause some problems, so if you tend to be careless, you may want to use the following Keyboard Maestro macro. It opens the file in Byword and closes nvALT to ensure you don’t mix things up. I have this macro set to Command-Shift-W.1.
- If you are really careless, you can set the macro to Command-Shift-E and it will override the current command that leaves nvALT open. My reason for not doing this: it becomes a pain if I want to open a handful of nvALT text files in Byword. [↩]