9 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When Sending Email

How many hours a day do you spend writing emails?

We love it, we hate it — we can’t stop using it. Many of us spend a quarter of our working days in email, writing to each other, moving projects forward, connecting to new people.

Email is a form of everyday writing — and if you’re writing poorly, in a rush, or you don’t know how to compose your message for maximum impact, you can end up losing business, friends, or missing out on opportunities.

For all the hacks there are in email efficiency, sometimes we forget to hack ourselves — and use our words more cleverly to get what we want.

Here are 9 mistakes you might be making in email — and how to fix them.

1. Sending emails only when you need something.

The best time to build any relationship is before you need something, not waiting until the moment you need something. A friend of mine gets into the habit of sending five thoughtful emails each Sunday night to check in with people who he likes, admires, or thinks of. An email might look like a quick note of congratulations or a touch point to say hi:

“Hey, saw some great news about you — just wanted to say congratulations! I love watching what you’re up to through my various news feeds, and I wanted to send a note to say how much I hope you’re doing well.”

It’s a great way to remember to reach out to folks you want to be in touch with, and an actionable way of practicing gratitude.

2. Forgetting that there’s a person on the other side of your email.

Just as you wouldn’t walk into a friend’s house for dinner and bark out a command, often those little niceties in the intro and end of a message can go a long way. Social cues aren’t dated constructs; they’re valuable warm-up phrases in communication. Start by saying hi, comment on someone’s latest achievements, and wish the other person well.

“Hey stranger! It’s been a long time. If Facebook’s telling me the scoop, it looks like you had an eventful Spring…congrats on all of your successes!”

3. Using the first person too much

Many emails — and essays — are written exclusively in first person. Shift the focus to the recipient and consider what they want, need, or would like to hear. After writing an email, scan it quickly for how many times you use the word “I.” See if you can edit some of them out.

For example: “I’m teaching a new writer’s workshop this Spring, and I want help sharing the program. I think you’d be interested in it” (all “I” statements) can be turned into:

“Hey, Leslie. A while back we chatted about ways to improve your writing skills — and it seems you might like this writing workshop for creatives that just launched. Enjoy taking a look and let me know if this is what you were looking for.”

4. Sending the email at the wrong time

Just because you’ve written it now doesn’t mean it needs to be sent at this exact moment. Delaying the send is one of the most powerful and underutilized tools of emailing.

Evaluate whether or not the message is urgent and needs to be replied to immediately. If you’re cleaning up your inbox during your scheduled time, fire off the messages that are urgent and consider sending messages in the morning.

Scheduling emails to be sent in 24 or 48 hours gives you (and your clients) space to breathe between nonurgent projects, and it also sets up a rhythm of communication whereby your client no longer expects you to reply instantaneously. The more structure and parameter you give to the form of your messaging, the easier it is for the client to learn what to expect. You can either train someone to expect instantaneous answers at all times, or to learn the rhythm that’s best for you and your business.

Then, in the case of an emergency, if the client emails and you need to solve the problem straight away, you can send a quick message late in the evening or on a weekend. In this scenario, you become the hero to your client.

5. Sending to too many people

More recipients in the “To” field does not mean that you’ll necessarily get more answers. In the age of digital marketing, people who blast messages in broadcast form without understanding who is in the “to” line can erode their chances of a message being opened.

A perfect email is one that’s sent to exactly who it needs to go to, with a specified desired outcome.

The more specific you can be about who you ask, the better. Asking everyone in your network is bound to get you a bunch of silence in our over-connected world, or unsubscribes and un-follows across your various platforms. It’s better to ask three people who are very well equipped to answer your query than 15 people who aren’t interested at all.

The more specific you can get about who should be receiving the message, the better. One direct ask that results in a yes is better than asking 50 people who don’t respond (and spamming their inboxes).

6. Knowing nothing about the person receiving your email

Do your homework on the recipient. One great tool to glean fast information about who you’re talking to is Rapportive, a sidebar that lets you see the latest public posts (and a picture) of the person you’re communicating to.

7. Forgetting to send updates or interim messages

If you’re waiting for an important message from someone, the time spent waiting for a delivery can seem interminable. If there’s a long delay in sending an item that’s highly anticipated or expected, or you’ve experienced a few hiccups — send a one-liner email to update your receiver on the status of the project. You’ll know that you need to send a quick note when you start to get anxious about not delivering or they seem to be a bit flippant.

Here’s some sample copy for you to use:

“Hey, friend. Just wanted to send a quick update about the delivery of our proposal. We’re set to get you something by next Friday, but we might be a few days early. Talk to you next week! Let me know if you have any questions in the meantime.”

“Hey, friend. I know we touched base last month and I’ve been far too slow in getting back to you. I’m still working through the pile on my plate, but I should have something in the next 2–3 weeks. Didn’t want to keep you guessing! Talk soon.”

8. Making messages too long

Depending on the nature of the message, emails can vary from a few words to thousands of words. The longer the email, the less likely that someone will read the entire thing. Long emails generally mean that a larger strategy, framework, or document might be in order.

Some companies shift to using four-sentence emails and linking to longer pieces of work through Google Documents, Asana, or Basecamp (or other project management software). Here at One Month, we use Asana for project management and Slack for internal messaging, so email is never a nuisance in getting internal messages relayed.

9. Using email exclusively

Efficiency does not necessarily mean one single system. Often, redundancy in communication can be extremely helpful, as each tool (video, chat, email, Skype) adds a layer of human nuance back into the correspondence that’s happening.

Laura Roeder’s digital marketing team is distributed across multiple countries, and in order to stay in touch (and in concert with each other), they focus on “over-communication,” through the use of multiple tools at once.

Now, let’s talk about four ways to focus on writing better emails:

Tell sticky stories

Everything makes more sense with an illustration. Highlight and example, illustrate an ideal customer avatar, or tell a specific instance of a problem you had. Setting the context and the stage (that seems obvious to you, the writer), makes it easier for people to understand the pain point, the context, and the reason why you’re writing. When people can see your story — who you are, where you come from, why you’re doing what you’re doing — it’s easier for them to become a part of it.

Use the four-sentence, one-link rule

Keep your email to under four sentences (or five!). Focus on the pain point or problem you’re solving. Limit yourself to only one link. If you have to, make that link a document.

Be responsive and reflective

Observe how others communicate and adapt your style to meet them midway. Customize your communication by mirroring the style of a received message. Does someone send short messages with formal addresses? Respond in style.

Bookmark emails that you love with Evernote

Use the vast number of emails in front of you (and in your inbox) as clues to great messaging. Watch what emails you open first and are most excited about. Create a few folders in your mailbox system for great introductions, sample short messages, and thank-you notes that you like. Keep these for future use if you’re ever in a bind. In any art, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel — and paying attention to great writers (and what we personally enjoy) is a great way to get started.

Email is our number one form of communication, which means that everyone is a writer.The most powerful thing you can do in both your personal and business life is learn how to write well and tell great stories. Messages that persuade, content that converts, and language that inspires action are critical for getting what you want.

When you improve the way you write and learn how to design better messages, you will resonate with the reader, improve share-ability, and increase the bottom line.

Next week our Content Marketing class launches — are you on the list to find out when it opens?

What about you? What email mistakes do you see people making all the time that you wish they would fix? What’s the greatest email you’ve ever received?

How to Say No

There are a lot of great blog posts and books out there about how we should all say ‘No’ to more things in order to focus more on what really matters.

This seems pretty obvious to most people. But why is it so difficult to actually do?

I think it’s because most people don’t actually know how to say ‘No.’ They don’t have the words or the script, and so they fall back to saying ‘Yes’ because it’s socially polite or because they feel some responsibility. Saying ‘Yes’ is easier than saying ‘No.’

So here’s a handy cheat sheet on how to say ‘No.’ Bookmark this page and come back to it when you need it.

(Most of these I’ve collected over the years from places like Essentialism by Greg McKeown, and a few of them are my own.)

1. Ignore the Request or Lie

I don’t really like these options — I try to respond to every email I get, and I think a good personal virtue is to tell the truth in most situations, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Are you coming to my birthday party next Saturday?

But if you’re very busy or don’t have time to craft a thoughtful response to a request, you can ignore the request or lie about being busy:

Thanks for the invitation! I’d love to come but I can’t, I’ve already committed to something this weekend.

If you’re going to lie, be vague. Even though specific excuses are more believable, they’re also more likely to be called out, and you may find yourself having to remember things that you lied about.

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” — Mark Twain

2. Don’t Respond Right Away

The first important advice I’d give to someone who has trouble saying ‘No,’ is to not commit to things immediately.

Are you free to grab dinner next week?

When someone asks you to do something, especially if there’s some sort of time or social pressure involved, avoid saying ‘Yes’ (or implying it) right away.

I don’t know what my schedule looks like yet. Can I get back to you later this week?

This is more of a delaying tactic, but if you have a hard time finding the words to say ‘No’ while on the spot, delaying can be a really helpful way for you to remove yourself from the situation so that you can deliver a more thoughtful ‘No’ later.

Just make sure to actually get back to the person later— you don’t want to be known as the person who never follows up.

3. Defer to Some Time in the Future

If you’re really busy, but you’re being asked for something you wouldn’t mind doing at some point, you can suggest a later time in the near or distant future.

I’m really busy working on a product launch this week. But I’d love to get together once it’s finished. Do you mind reaching out again in a few weeks?

4. Propose a Low Commitment Alternative

Because I make my email very public, I get lots of emails from people asking if they can take me out to lunch or coffee to “pick my brain.”

I was wondering if my cofounder and I could take you to dinner/lunch, we’d love to tell you what we’re working on and pick your brain.

Because “brain picking” meetings can be exhausting and unstructured, I usually propose an alternative:

Sorry — I can’t meet up in-person — but I’m happy to help. So email me any question anytime. I’m not good with big general, “Here’s my entire situation — what do you think of it?” kind of questions, but pretty good with specific questions.

In this case, I’m offering to answer their questions asynchronously over email rather than in person or over the phone. I’m also requiring that they be specific with the questions they’d like me to answer (which is a reasonable request), because vague questions can be harder and take much longer to answer.

5. Propose a No Commitment Alternative

There are a few good ways to respond that don’t require you to commit to anything personally.

Sometimes I get emails from several people asking me the same question. For example, since I’m an alumni, people often reach out asking me to review their Y Combinator application:

If you have time for a quick chat, we’d love to hear about y’alls experience at YC, and if there are any pointers or advice in general you feel would be important for the interview or for a startup that is at the beginning of the YC process.

What I usually do here is politely decline and send a blog post or other resources that might be helpful:

I really appreciate you reaching out and asking for a review. That means you put a lot of trust and faith in me, and that means a lot. But I’m getting a lot of requests like this at the moment, and I have to say no unless I already have a strong pre-existing relationship with someone. It’s just too much to commit to helping out each person I’d like to help out.

I’m sure you’ve run across my two posts about your question before, but in case you haven’t, you might want to check out: how to get into Y Combinator and what I got out of Y Combinator.

I also keep a few pre-written ‘Reading Lists’ in Evernote that I send people directly over email (here’s a link to my Coding Reading List).

Sometimes it can make sense to suggest someone else who may be able to help — like if you’re being invited to give a talk somewhere but you can’t make it.

Don’t forget that just because you can’t do or aren’t interested in whatever you’re being asked to do, doesn’t mean the request wouldn’t be interesting or useful for someone else. (Just make sure you ask first before forwarding the request along.)

6. Respond with Your Own Request

Though I’ve never tried this myself, back in 2013 my friend Mathias used to get a lot of requests for Skype calls, so he created a Google form that he would ask people to fill out before he would agree to a meeting.

In order to help me decide when to do Skype calls or when to meet up in person, I’ve created a Google form with some basic questions that I will ask you to fill out: [link to Google form]

His form consisted of questions like:

  • What would you like to discuss / talk about?
  • What’s the purpose of the session?
  • What would be the ideal outcome of a potential session?
  • What do you believe that I can bring into the conversation?

I think this is especially clever since it allows you to still help out those who really need it, but also conveys the point that you’re going to be doing work for someone, so they should be thoughtful about it and not take your time for granted.

I reached out to Mathias recently and he mentioned that these days he directs people to his preferred channels —Whatsapp, iMessage, Twitter DM – instead.

There’s a similar tactic that you can use when an authority figure makes a request that you can’t really say ‘No’ to:

Sure, I’d be happy to do that. Which of these other things would you like me to deprioritize?

In this way, you’re basically saying ‘I can’t possibly do this and all the other things you’ve asked me to do’ and putting the onus on the other person to decide what you shouldn’t do.

7. Deliver a Thoughtful Rejection

When you just flat-out have to say ‘No’ to someone, you will want to come up with a tactful way to do it.

I once got an email from a friend of a friend asking me make an introduction to someone I knew.

It looks like you’re connected to X on LinkedIn, would you mind making an introduction and endorsing my startup?

Here’s one I sometimes use when someone I don’t know reaches out to ask me for an introduction to someone I know:

I really appreciate you reaching out and asking for an introduction and endorsement. That means you put a lot of trust and faith in me, and that means a lot. In this case, I don’t feel comfortable making an introduction for a few reasons:

– I don’t know you. You seem like a great person and we have a few friends in common, but I prefer to have met someone at least once before publicly endorsing them and the things they’re working on.
– I also don’t know anything about the quality of the product itself.
– Finally, I’m not very well-informed about the space your startup works in. That makes it especially hard for me to assess the value here, but also makes my opinions much less valuable.

The key elements to a thoughtful rejection are: Thank them for their request and show appreciation. Do it sincerely. Talk about how you feel rather than how things are. Someone is much less likely to be offended if you say “I don’t feel comfortable doing this,” rather than, “I won’t do this.” Keep the tone light and direct. Don’t play games or be vague. If you want, offer them some alternatives such as those in #4 and #5.

Bottom line, here are some general guidelines to follow that will make it easier to say “No”:

  • Separate the decision from the relationship. Sometimes you want to say yes because of the person, but make an effort to separate the two. If it’s not something you would normally say yes to, don’t do it just because someone special is asking.
  • Saying “No” gracefully doesn’t have to mean using the word “No.”
  • Focus on the trade-off. Saying ‘Yes’ to one thing often means you’re implicitly saying ‘No’ to other things you may want or need to do.
  • Remind yourself that everyone is selling something.
  • Come to terms with the fact that saying “No” will make you less popular in the short-run.
  • People will respect you more because they will see that you value your time. 
  • Remember that a clear “No” can be better and less painful for the other person than a vague or noncommittal “Yes.”

Can you think of any other ways to say no that I forgot to mention? Or do you have any other templates that other people could use? Post them in the comments. Then take a second to share this with one person who you think should say ‘No’ more often and make their life better!

What is Javascript?

Key Takeaways

JavaScript is a programming language. It’s one of the three front-end languages. JavaScript is responsible for the “behavior” of your Website. It’s how HTML elements and CSS style animate and move around on the page.

There are many popular JavaScript frameworks (i.e., free code to help you succeed). Some of the popular JavaScript frameworks include: jQuery, AngularJS, Backbone.js, and Handlebars.

Your Assignment

Additional Resources to Keep You Learning

5 Of The Best Blogging Platforms

Are you ready to kickoff your content marketing strategy, but confused about which platform to choose to start your blog? If so, then you’re in luck. In this post, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of each option. You will get a clearer idea of the best blogging platform for you. A strong blogging strategy can help elevate your personal brand or business as an authority within your space.

WordPress

WordPress, a popular CMS (content management system), is the most widely-used on the internet today and one of the best blogging platforms available. Technology profiler BuiltWith has identified that 15.8 million websites currently use it, compared to the next most popular CMS system Joomla, used by under 2.7 million websites. Web Technology Surveys found that of websites using content management systems, 58.7% are using WordPress.

There are two versions of WordPress. There is the hosted version, WordPress.com, which allows you to create a blog without the need for a domain, web hosting, or technical hassle. While this is the easiest and least expensive of options, it’s not as flexible as using the WordPress software on your own hosted domain.

Using the WordPress software on your own hosted domain allows you to have full control of the design, functionality, and content on your website. Thanks to its popularity, you can find thousands of themes (templates / designs) to get just the look you want for your website. You can also find thousands of designers who can create something custom or customize a theme that you like into something unique.

You can also find thousands of plugins to enhance the functionality of your website. This means that you can do pretty much anything on your WordPress website. From customizing the search engine optimization settings to adding contact or email opt-in forms to your blog sidebar, you will have options. You could even start your website as a blog and expand it to include anything you want, including an ecommerce website, forum, membership site, or social network.

As far as content goes, you have the ability to backup your content on a daily basis through the use of plugins, services, and hosting companies. Unlike people who only post to their Facebook page or other social profiles, you never have to worry about waking up one day to having lost your entire profile and thus, all of your content.

In short, there is very little you can’t do with WordPress software on your own hosted domain. This makes it the most scalable platform for your personal brand or business. You won’t have to worry about hitting a limitation that would lead you to having to move all of your content to another platform.

For those who do not like the idea of dealing with the technology-aspect of WordPress, there are plenty of options. You can choose WordPress-specific hosting companies like WP Engine or Synthesis, both of which cater only to WordPress websites and include security, backups, and superior WordPress software support.

This means that you can have the full benefits and features of WordPress with little technology hassle. You can learn more about using the WordPress software on your own domain at WordPress.org, as well as see a showcase of some of the top sites using WordPress.

WordPress.com

While we mentioned that WordPress.com is not going to be as flexible as using the WordPress software on your own hosted website, it is the next best bet if WordPress sounds good to you, but you are just not ready to deal with web hosting and seeking out themes and plugins for your website. It’s a good one for people who want to have the option of easily moving their content down the road.

Here’s what you need to know about using WordPress.com:

  • There are 374 themes to choose from, 194 of which are free.
  • Certain features, such as using your own domain name (you.com versus you.wordpress.com) or having an ad-free website, will require you to upgrade to paid plans starting at $99 per year.
  • You can’t install plugins designed for websites using the WordPress software on WordPress.com websites. This will limit your options for things like custom opt-in forms, custom search optimization, and more.

One of the biggest challenges for those who intend to eventually move from WordPress.com to the WordPress software on their own domain are the links. WordPress.com uses a specific link structure (you.wordpress.com/date/post-name/ or you.com/date/post-name/). If you can’t use the same URLs when you move from WordPress.com to your own domain, you will lose the links you have received to your content and the social sharing counts (social proof) for your content.

If your goal is to simply get your content going on a platform that would be easy to transfer to WordPress software down the road, WordPress.com is your second best bet to just using the WordPress software from the start.

WordPress.com does offer an export of your content, should there be any need to do so. With any hosted platform, it’s best to get a backup of your content regularly. This is in case you should lose your account or the platform should go out of service.

Medium

Medium is a hosted platform that has taken off in the last year and quickly become a top blogging platform. It’s beautiful and minimalistic design allows you to focus on what matters most in your content marketing strategy: your content. There are no themes to pick, plugins to install, or features to toggle. You simply write your content.

Signing up for Medium is easy too. You can use your Twitter or Facebook account and get the added bonus of automatically building an audience based on the people you are connected with on those accounts. As new people join, if they are connected with you on Twitter or Facebook, they will also be connected with you on Medium.

Depending on their settings, anyone connected to you on Medium will be alerted to new posts you write and posts you recommend on Medium. This means that if someone recommends your post, their audience will be notified about it. Hence, you’re getting built-in content promotion.

With that said, there are no customization options for your Medium blog. You can’t add opt-in forms to a sidebar that doesn’t exist. It does not allow you to add your own social sharing buttons. You can’t customize the SEO fields. It’s simply a place to create and consume content.

It’s not a bad thing, especially for those who are looking to simply build exposure for their personal brand. But it may not be the best thing for businesses. Especially those looking to convert readers into customers, as the best you can do is link back to your main website.

Medium does offer an export of your content, should there be any need to do so. With any hosted platform, it’s best to get a backup of your content regularly, in case you should lose your account or the platform should go out of service.

LinkedIn Publisher

LinkedIn has been allowing industry experts to blog on their network for a while. Recently, the option has been expanded to most LinkedIn members. To use LinkedIn’s blogging feature, you will just need to find the Publish a post button on your personal profile news feed. It will be right next to the buttons to share an update or photo on LinkedIn.

This brings to light the first major limitation of LinkedIn Publisher — you can’t use it with company pages. With Medium, you can simply sign up using your company’s Twitter profile. But on LinkedIn, you have to use your personal profile.

While that limits you from creating a blog for your business using LinkedIn, it does allow you to tap into your personal profile connections in a unique way. LinkedIn sends a notification to all of your first-degree connections (people you have connected with on LinkedIn) when you publish a post on your personal profile.

Your connections don’t have to opt-in to this. The only way to opt-out is to unsubscribe from the notifications dropdown itself. This makes your first post on LinkedIn special in the sense that everyone will get notified about your first publication. After that, it will depend on whether you have left enough of an impression for your connections to stay subscribed to your notifications.

So be sure to make your first post on LinkedIn count. This will ensure that people will want to hear about your next one.

Similar to Medium, you have no real customization options for your LinkedIn blog. You can add images and text to each piece of content. However, there are no themes to choose from or sidebars to build. Again, the only call to action you would be able to include would be a link back to your website.

Another downside to using the LinkedIn platform is the fact that you have no real control over your content. If LinkedIn decided to kill off their blogging platform, downloading your content and importing it to another platform would not be very seamless.

Facebook Notes

Facebook offers a feature called Notes for profiles and pages to use to share long-form content. The key difference at the moment is that Notes for profiles has been upgraded to a Medium-like format. Notes for pages is still using the format that existed years ago, which is clunky at best.

This means that you can blog using Notes on your personal profile or business page. Notes tend to get a little better visibility in the Facebook news feed. It isn’t much and your connections are not notified of a new note publication unless they have explicitly signed up for notifications from you.

For those looking to build up their reputation specifically on Facebook, Notes are a good way to go. You even get a little content promotion from the Notes page, where people can see notes published by their connections.

Similarly to Medium and LinkedIn, there are no customization options for your Facebook Notes, other than adding images and text to each of your posts. Calls to action can only be made with a link back to your website.

Also, exporting your content must be done through a full export of your entire account history. If Facebook decides to kill off Notes, you will have to export all of your notes and re-enter them on a new platform.

Using All of the Platforms for Distribution

There is an alternative to choosing one platform over the other, and that is to choose them all. While it might sound a little overwhelming at first, the goal isn’t to create unique content for each of these platforms. Instead, you will create one unique piece of content on your main platform. Then you will distribute that content on the other platforms mentioned above (Medium, LinkedIn Publisher, and Facebook).

Here’s why you would want to do this. You are going to have fans that prefer discovering content on Medium. There will be people who are connected to you on LinkedIn, but not anywhere else. You are going to have people who scroll down your Facebook profile page looking for more info about you.

Distributing content from your main blogging platform to other platforms allow you to get more reach for your content. All you have to do is find a way to summarize the main post. Then you can link back to it in posts on the other platforms.

You can expand this strategy to include some of the other best blog platforms to. This could include Tumblr, Blogspot, Quora, and pretty much any other platform that allows you to share long-form content. In addition to reaching your audiences on those networks, you will be building links that Google search can follow back to your main piece of content to index it.

So instead of considering an all or nothing strategy, consider an all strategy instead. The more you distribute and promote, the better your overall content marketing results will be.

The Best Text Editors for Beginners

What text editor should I use?

What is a text editor, and why does it matter which one I use?

Text editors are programs that type simple text without the sort of formatting a word processor will so rudely slip in. No comic sans, no forced margins, no line breaks (I just tested this with a line of Python, and yep, I can make a line of code that will wrap around the planet if I want). A text editor is just you and your ASCII, absent bells, whistles, or beauty.

As you start out programming, you’ll quickly find your text editor is your best friend. Or your frenemy, depending on how coding is going that day. It’s essential to start figuring out which text editor works best for you. Like most tools, the basics of every text editor are the same. They all have a place to interface text (because, of course), most feature syntax-based color coding, virtually all feature hot keys and intuitive text features to lighten the load of a long coding project.

As you start out programming, you’ll quickly find your text editor is your best friend. Or your frenemy, depending on how coding is going that day. It’s essential to start figuring out which text editor works best for you.

There are already plenty of blog posts on what kinds of text editors to use, but I happen to be retaking One Month’s Python course at the moment, and felt like this would be a good opportunity to test out a few different ones (despite the fact that Eric expressly tells us to work with Sublime Text; we students are rebels).

I’ll mostly be looking at Mac-based editors (or cross-platform editors that work on Mac), because that’s the type of machine I’m working on. When you’re starting out coding, it’s also best to give yourself a little flexibility in terms of the tools you use; you don’t want to limit yourself to working on one platform because you never know where you’ll be working.

I’m also going to try to focus on editors that will be good for beginners. This is because that’s where I am with coding (and that’s where we all need to start).

(A brief aside before we start: I am ethically obligated by the higher order or people who write about text editors to point out at this point that text editors aren’t the same as IDEs or Integrated Development Environments. IDEs are more like Swiss Army Knives, whereas text editors are like screwdrivers. Word screwdrivers. A couple of the text editors we look at will tread the boundary between these.)

Sublime Text: $70 (or unlimited free trial)

This is the first editor I wrote code in, and there’s a soft spot in my heart for it. It passes what I think is the most essential test for any text editor, which is that it’s intuitive to start using. You just open up a file as you would with any interface, and can begin coding.

The extra features with it are pretty bog standard things like code folding. What’s code folding, I wondered, can I make code origami? Imagine my disappointment when I found out it just hides lines of code when I’m not actively working on them. Useful, but no cranes for me.). I like the dive in and begin aspects of Sublime Text. If you’re used to typing in a word processor, Sublime Text is a pretty solid introductory text editor.

If you’re used to typing in a word processor, Sublime Text is a pretty solid introductory text editor.

There’s also an open secret with Sublime Text: While the program isn’t free, it comes with an unlimited trial period. You should absolutely buy a copy if you love using it, but I like that there’s no deadline bearing down on me to make that decision.

VIM: Free

I’ll be honest: Vim scares the crap out of me. If Sublime Text is the cozy programming home I feel comfortable putting my feet up in, Vim is an enormous mansion set high atop a hill with a heavy iron gate between it and me. even downloading and installing Vim is fairly difficult, which makes it a tough text editor to touch if you’re new to programming.

That’s not to say that Vim is bad — far from it. Vim is a great text editor; it’s free, heavily customizable, has a huge community of users and a long history of use. You can make Vim work the way you want it to. It is so useful, in fact, that it’s occasionally compared to an IDE, because it has tools aplenty. Vim just won’t hold your hand. In fact, it sort of slaps your hand away while shouting at you “Get up! Learn to walk on your own!”

If Sublime Text is the cozy programming home I feel comfortable putting my feet up in, Vim is an enormous mansion set high atop a hill with a heavy iron gate between it and me.

All those tools, all that customization means there’s a pretty steep learning curve, which makes it kind of a nonstarter for a beginning programmer. In fairness, Vim’s designers are up front about its difficulty; personally, I’ll save real play on this for when I’m writing more advanced code.

Coda: $99; One Week Trial

I really liked playing around with Coda. This is another tool that feels more like it’s leaning toward an IDE than a text editor; in fact, despite what they say on their website, I’d go so far as to call it an IDE. It’s heavy on features like a built in Terminal interface, SSH connectivity, controls for pushing code automatically to a hub. It’s not exactly bells and whistles-free, but a lot of the features are easy enough to figure out and are essential tools for developing a web app.

I’d go so far as to call Coda an IDE. It’s not exactly bells and whistles-free, but a lot of the features are easy enough to figure out and are essential tools for developing a web app.

My favorite aspect of Coda, which you won’t find in almost any text editor, is a preview button that lets you see what the code you’re writing will look like live. This is a major time saver compared to pushing code, running it on a server, failing, pushing again, etc.

There’s definitely a bit of a learning curve for using Coda. So, if you’re just looking for a tool that lets you dive in and start writing some code, this is probably not the way to go. But with a little experimenting, it has some pretty powerful features you’ll want anyway. Worth the investment if you’re an intermediate coder who’s going to be sticking with it for a while.

Atom: Free

Basically, it’s like getting a knife that you can later turn into a scalpel and then into a LASIK tool.

Atom is a groovy text editor to work with. Its interface has a similar feel to Sublime Text’s, but the iconography of their file structure is ever so slightly more intuitive. It also has a convenient hotkey to list all available command functions. What makes Atom so cool to use, though, is that it’s open source, completely (and easily) hackable, and entirely user friendly. There isn’t any learning curve with it. You can dive right in and start entering code — but as you become more advanced as a programmer, you can make Atom a more complex text editor for your needs. Basically, it’s like getting a knife that you can later turn into a scalpel and then into a LASIK tool.

So which of these is the best?

From my perspective, which is to say the perspective of a novice, a good text editor is one that allows me to dive in and start coding, while also giving me room to grow and get more experience as part of a broader community. It’s what I like to call the bike shop problem. When you walk into a bike shop for the first time, odds are pretty good it’ll be a bit intimidating with all the experts walking around talking the talk. Odds are good you just want to get on a bike and go. The rest of the stuff you can learn later as you become more of an expert, but if you need all that expertise just to get on the bike, you’ll never get started.

It’s what I like to call the bike shop problem. When you walk into a bike shop for the first time, it’ll be intimidating with all the experts walking around talking the talk. If you need all that expertise just to get on the bike, you’ll never get started.

With this criteria, Atom is the best program on this list for letting you get started. It also gives you room to grow. Atom has a large community of users, just like a more intimidating program like Vim, but it also gives me room to start working with it right away. It’s intuitive and easy-to-use, but also expansive and flexible to the needs of its programmer.

To me, this is a great feature of any program. Especially one that I know I need to use as a long-term tool. Part of the frustration of working with a tool is the FOMO of it all. Am I really getting the maximum functionality out of my text editor? Is this the best possible tool I could be using? Atom clears that up by letting me build from a simple text editor to a more complex one.

Takeaway recommendation: if you’re a beginner, start with Sublime as your text editor. The unlimited trial is free, it’s easy to learn, and you can use it across multiple operating systems.

What is iOS Development?

Key Takeaways

  • Swift is the language used to make apps for iPhone, iPad, and Mac OSX (desktop) apps.
  • Why Swift? Well, You don’t really have a choice. Apple decided that part for you. The rule is: if you want to make an iPhone app, and get it into the Apple Store, then you’re going to have to develop it using Apple’s Swift programming language.
  • Before you start learning Swift, ask yourself: do you really need your project to be an iPhone app? If not, a prototyping tool might be the quickest way for you to develop a Minimum Viable Product. My first choice for iPhone prototyping would be Keynotopia, but also there are some great questions to check out over at Quora.

What is iOS? How to Learn Get Started Today

  1. Read Swift vs. Objective-C (5 minutes)
  2. Download Xcode from Apple’s App Store. Note: you’ll need an Apple computer to develop iOS apps. Windows won’t work (20 minutes).
  3. Browse the additional resources below, and choose the one that’s best for your next step!

Additional Resources to Keep You Learning

  1. “The Swift Programming Language” (iBook): published by Apple
  2. “Start Developing iOS Apps Today” (website): some programming experience will be helpful to understand these two resources.
  3. One Month YouTube tutorials for iOS