Writing in Tabs

Last week I mentioned that the thing I liked most about writing in Google Docs was using tabs. It made a difference for me. I was able to keep my notes in one tab, my outline in another and my work in progress in a third. If I wanted to look up something, all I had to do was CONTROL + TAB between them. It sounds like such a simple thing but it makes a difference if all you want to do is check something in your notes and then get back to writing. This is important for me. I often write in 10-minute sprints these days. The ability to refer to something fast helps keep me in the flow and make the best use of my writing time.

In the end, I abandoned Google Docs and went in search of alternatives. Long term readers of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of both Markdown and Dropbox. I planned to use both. My basic strategy was to keep a separate folder for every project in Dropbox. I save all the documents relating to that project there. By using this combination, I can even access my markdown files on my Android phone using Jotterpad or iaWriter and Dropbox.

On the Mac, there is an embarrassment of good plain text word processors that you can use with Markdown. I own Ulysses, Folding Text, Byword, and iaWriter and I can recommend them all. All are available in the App Store. Mostly I use Ulysses, and Byword for blogging because it can upload straight to WordPress. (Ulysses can do this too but not so well in my opinion.)

On Windows, where I spend a good deal of my working time these days, I use WriteMonkey. This is a brilliant, simple word processor that does pretty much everything I want. One problem was that on my Lenovo 100S it loaded slowly. It also does not do tabs. Having discovered the joys of tabbing my way through my work, I wanted to be able to do that as well. I started looking for alternatives.

Since the release of Sierra, MacOS users have things easy. Sierra lets you use tabs with pretty much any app. This is an area where Apple have managed to live up to their old slogan. It just works. I have tested tabs on Ulysses, Folding Text and Byword without any problems.

On Windows, tabbed word processors are not common, except among one class of text processors, those used by coders. One of the joys of using Markdown is that it’s just plain text. You can experiment with almost anything, and the basic file format stays the same. This allows you to switch between apps with ease. In swift succession, I tried out Komodo Edit, Notepad ++ and Sublime Text. All have a free or trial option, and one, Notepad ++, is completely free. They were great. They had other benefits too. They were stable. Even on an underpowered netbook like the Lenovo, they loaded, ran and searched through files fast.

Of them all, I liked Sublime Text the best, particularly after I read this excellent article. It is stable, sophisticated and easily customized and extended. It works on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. It is the only Windows program I have ever used that can be skinned to look as beautiful as the zenware apps on MacOS. (You need the markdown editing plug in for this.) I currently have it looking almost exactly like Byword on the Mac. It’s nagware, which means you can download it and test it indefinitely for free but you’re supposed to by a license if you like it. I did. At $70, it was not cheap, but it was worth it. I’ll do a full review soon.

It seems like a lot of money and time to spend in search for one simple thing, but it’s worth remembering I use this software to earn my living and I use it every single day. If it saves me a minute here and a minute there, those savings swiftly add up.

Armageddon Protocol Goes Wide


My first Stormtrooper 13 novel is now available on Kobo, Apple, Smashwords and the Nook. I wanted to experiment with launching it in Kindle Unlimited. The results did not overwhelm me. I’ll be releasing all my future indie books wide from now on.

If you’re interested in finding out when my next book will be released as well as in getting discounts and free short stories, please sign up for my mailing list.



  1. Consider plugging a second screen in so you can have your work on one screen and your notes on the other. As a coder I now find it difficult to work without multiple screens.

    • I suspect it would be the same for me, Mark. I do a lot of work just walking around with a laptop or when traveling, so there are times when it would be impractical.

Leave a Reply