A Quick Look at Blogging in Plain Text with Write.as

by: Scott Nesbitt | 02 January 2019

A few years ago, I published a bi-weekly newsletter. I gave up doing that, mainly because I felt that I’d reached the point where the reward wasn’t quite equalling the effort.

In late 2017, the crazy idea of bringing that newsletter, or one like it, popped back into my head. Worse, the idea wouldn’t go away. That’s always as sign that I have to do something with the idea or risk losing my mind.

However, the newsletter needed to take a different form. That newsletter would be what English author Warren Ellis describes as a link station. I didn’t want to send out a list of links via email every week. I wanted my link station to be something a bit more. So, I decided to publish the newsletter as a blog.

I’d been looking at a service called Write.as for a while and decided to use it for my newsletter. It turns out, Write.as is perfect for what I had in mind. And it’s a solid, simple platform for a more traditional blog, too.

Let’s take a quick look at blogging with Write.as.

Why Write.as?

In 2015, I briefly chatted with John O’Nolan, founder of the blogging platform Ghost. O’Nolan mentioned that he worked for Automattic (the company behind WordPress). But he found that WordPress had:

too much stuff everywhere, too much clutter, too many (so many) options getting in the way of what I really want to do: publish content

And, as I understand, things with WordPress haven’t gotten much better …

Write.as takes O’Nolan’s idea to almost an extreme of minimalism. It does one thing and one thing well: it lets you write and publish without any frills. That Write.as supports Markdown and plain text and is open source are bonuses as far as I’m concerned.

Getting Started

You don’t need to sign up for an account to publish using Write.as. Head over to the website and start typing. Anything that you publish hits the web anonymously.

Signing up for an account gives you a bit more control over what you post, and offers several features. In case you’re wondering and/or can’t be bothered to click that link, there’s a free account and two paid tiers.

Let’s say that you’ve decided to sign up for an account. On the sign up page, you enter your user name (which also becomes part of your default Write.as URL — for example, write.as/yourName), your password, and your email address. After you log in, you can either post anonymously or set up a blog.

To set up a blog, click the New blog link. Type a name for your blog and then click Create.

Creating a blog in Write.as

Write.as is a blank canvas — no buttons, not controls, no frills.

A new post

And here’s what a post looks like while it’s being written:

A new post

Type what you want to type. You can format it using Markdown or use plain text. When you’re ready to share it with the web, click the Publish button.

Simple, no?

You don’t need to use Write.as to draft your posts. You can do it offline. I have a template that I use for The Monday Kickoff, which I fill in during the week and then paste into Write.as on the morning I publish a new post.

Other Features

While its minimalism and support for plain text are, for me, the main attractions of Write.as, that doesn’t mean the platform is entirely bare bones. Here are some of the most interesting features of the service:

You can change the font you use with a post. On the editing page, hover over the Font icon (it’s the third from the top left) and choose either Serif, Sans-serif, or Monospace. Your choice only applies to the post you’re writing. If you want to change the fonts for all of your posts, you need to edit them individually.

You can add images, either by pointing to one on the web or by using Write.as’ sibling service Snap.as. That latter is only available with a Pro account, though.

A few other things you can do are:

While it’s not related to plain text, you can password protect your blogs or make them private so only you and people you share your blog with can see your posts. And, as I mentioned a bunch of paragraphs back, you can post anonymously.

Final Thoughts

Write.as is definitely not for everyone. Some people and some businesses do need a bit more of the complexity and the features that a platform like WordPress offers.

On the other hand, Write.as is perfect for anyone who wants to get a feel for blogging, or who just wants to put their words online quickly and without worrying about themes or plugins or anything like that.

It’s that simplicity, and that the platform is completely plain text, that makes Write.as attractive to me. Will it work for you? The only way to find out is to jump in and take Write.as for a test drive.