In the past I've suggested a particular workflow to creating body copy for web pages: write the text in Microsoft Word (taking advantage of the program's inline grammar and spell checking, correct typography, and easy exchange of the file with clients), then transfer the text into your web editor of choice, clean up the markup, and use the resulting HTML in your web page.
It is a system that works well, and is still my go-to option. But sometimes you just need to create a quick bit of text with markup: for example, writing a few paragraphs for a blog entry, or a short article for a CMS. For such a task the Word-DreamWeaver route takes too long, and DreamWeaver by itself is too much (and won't do correct typography).
Enter a compromise between the two: the markdown editor. Invented by John Gruber (of Daring Fireball) and the late Aaron Swartz, Markdown exists at a halfway point between a fully-featured webpage creation tool and a text editor: using a few, instinctive text shortcuts, a markdown process will take this:
###Preparation List for the Zombie Apocalypse
A few things I will need:
* Food and water for at least 60 days (*very important!*)
* Shotgun (**60 more shells needed**)
And transform it into this:
<h3>Preparation List for the Zombie Apocalypse</h3> <p>A few things I will need:</p> <ul> <li>Food and water for at least 60 days (<em>very important!</em>) <li>Shotgun (<strong>60 more shells needed</strong>) <li>Axe</li> </ul>
My personal favourite markdown editors are Mou and Macdown. Both offer the features supplied by Word – inline spellcheck, correct typography – but generate correct markup at the same time. They also have excellent specific features: the easy ability to add images, search based on patterns, auto completion, and support for multiple languages. Both also have a minimum of buttons: simply start them up (Mou is less than 2MB in size) and start typing. This article was written in Mou, which is (as of this writing) only available for Mac, although there are other markdown editors for Windows: MarkdownPad is very similar to Mou.
If you're familiar with HTML, and need a tool to do basic markup without getting in your way, I'd encourage you to look into markdown editors: you might just find that they remove several steps from a task that should be about expressing yourself in human language, not wrangling tags.
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