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WriteMonkey: a lightweight text environment for Windows

I recently came across WriteMonkey, a very good “zen” — or minimal distraction — editor for markdown. This came along at just the right time for me to draft a couple of documents in a situation where I wanted to get away from the standard office software environment: I needed a bit of a break and wanted to just work in plain text with a little markup for a while.

WriteMonkey handled the task perfectly. It can push a document, styled per a custom style sheet or using its own built in CSS, to Word or HTML for printing or sharing — quite handy.

And then I discovered how much it has under the hood, and found that it’s more than an editor, but a full-on machine for working in text files. It has what it calls “jumps”: regular expression-based search terms that, when matched, can define the maching block of text with any arbitrary designation. Then a built-in navigator pop-up shows those blocks in a list. So, one could define a regex match with TODO at the beginning of a line and use the jump viewer to display all the TODO items in a file full of stuff. (This was the first thing I did, based on the tips at the writemonkey site).

I set up a couple more, too: A regular expression to show a particular header format in a journal file where I quickly dash off notes to myself, and one that shows the first part of text snippets from drafts of language I’m working on in other documents. There isn’t support for multiple windows (comes with the full-screen “zen” option), but WriteMonkey lets you quickly ctrl-tab between recent documents.

Finally, WriteMonkey has a built-in scratch space for every document, accessible via alt-r. It’s a great place for storing all those snippets and todos that accompany the main document, without cluttering up the main text. All that and it’s a portable app: No installation or anything required other than clicking the executable. In two days of use it was a huge help at creating a nice environment for doing the writing and organizing I had to get done.