Posts tagged with "text editor"

Editorial 1.2 Brings Powerful New Text Editing Features, More iOS Automation

If I had to pick one iOS app I couldn't live without, that would be Editorial.

Developed by Berlin-based Ole Zorn, Editorial was the app that reinvented text automation in 2013 and that pushed me to start working exclusively from my iPad. Editorial is a powerful Markdown text editor that combines visual Automator-like actions with a web browser, text snippets, Python scripts, and URL schemes to supercharge text editing on iOS with the power of automation. I spend most of my days writing and researching in Editorial, and my workflow depends on this app.

Editorial also has a slow release cycle. Zorn likes to take his time with updates that contain hundreds of changes: Editorial 1.1, released in May 2014, brought an iPhone version and custom interfaces, making Editorial feel like an entirely new app. The same is happening today with Editorial 1.2, which adds support for the latest iPhones, iOS 8 integration, custom templates, browser tabs, folding, and much more.

Editorial 1.2 with iOS 8 support is launching right after Apple's announcement of iOS 9, but the wait has been worth it. The new version builds upon the excellent foundation of Editorial 1.1, and the enhancements it brings vastly improve the app for users who rely on its automation features and Python interpreter.

Rather than covering every single change, I'll focus on the 10 new features that have most impacted the way I get work done with Editorial on a daily basis.

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Part of Speech Highlighting in Editorial

Editorial developer Ole Zorn has created a workflow showing how the new Editorial can tag parts of speech in text to highlight lexical classes like nouns, verbs, adjectives, and more.

The linguistictagger module is a new Python addition in Editorial 1.1 and it's reminiscent of the part of speech highlighting found in apps like Phraseology and Writer Pro. In Editorial, you won't get any editing features, but the basic syntax highlighting will still come in handy to understand how you write when reading a document in the Syntax preview.

Also from Zorn, check out two UI workflows to display a sidebar for Wikipedia and a Markdown preview while writing in the text editor.


Nebulous Notes Updated for iOS 7

Nebulous Notes, a Dropbox-enabled text editor with a macro system, has been updated for iOS 7 with a design refresh and fixes for iOS 7.1 (via Macdrifter).

Nebulous Notes is the app that kickstarted my interest in automating tasks on iOS thanks to its macros, and while I've switched to Editorial for my daily writing, Nebulous Notes is still a great choice on the iPhone. Combined with Byword for publishing, Nebulous Notes lets you speed up writing on the iPhone to assemble posts on the go; the macros that I published in October 2012 still work today, and some additions to the macro system were brought with version 6.1 released in November 2012.

Nebulous Notes is available at $4.99 on the App Store.


Matching URLs In Editorial with John Gruber’s Regex Pattern

Editorial for iPad

Editorial for iPad

When I'm writing in Editorial, I often need to make sure I'm dealing with a valid URL in the system clipboard, the document editor, or in a variable. To do so, I've long employed John Gruber's liberal, accurate regex pattern for matching URLs, which has reliably allowed me to confirm that a workflow is about to handle a proper URL rather than a string of text that contains something else. Gruber recently improved the regex pattern again, and that seemed like a good opportunity to briefly detail how I've integrated his pattern in my workflows.

The key to match URLs and provide error-handling features in Editorial is to use a conditional block based on a regular expression pattern. Editorial comes with this functionality built-in: given a regex pattern, a block of actions can be run only if a value (plain text or variable) matches the pattern. In this way, you can run a set of actions if you have a URL, and another set if you don't have a valid URL.

I've created a simple workflow that can be installed and reused as a preset in other workflows. The workflow, called Match and Open URL, consists of a single If block that checks for a URL contained in the clipboard. If you have a URL that matches Gruber's pattern, the URL will be extracted from the clipboard and launched in the browser; if you don't have a URL…it's up to you to provide an alternative.

Editorial makes it extremely easy to build this kind of advanced workflow with just a few built-in actions. Gruber's single-line version of the regex pattern can be pasted in Editorial's If action with no modifications; inside the If block, the text in the clipboard is passed to a Find action that extracts a URL using the same, untouched single-line regex pattern. The extracted URL is opened in the browser and a HUD alert is displayed.

Combining Gruber's regex pattern and Editorial's workflow system can yield interesting results. You could use a variable instead of the system clipboard to match URLs; you could implement the pattern in a Repeat block that performs a set of actions for every matched URL found in the target text; instead of having my workflow inside an If block, you could match a URL among other bits of text, extract it, and do something with it. Editorial is a text automation playground and your imagination's the limit.

You can download the workflow on Editorial Workflows' website, and check out John Gruber's regex pattern here.

Note: The screenshot above shows a beta version of Editorial, currently in testing.

TextTool: Text Manipulation On iOS



It used to be that, to do nerd stuff, you had to get a Mac or PC. As iOS progressed over the years, however, developers saw that users were spending a lot of time trying to do work on their iPhones and iPads, and started building utilities that packed powerful functionalities in what looked like “just an app”. We got Drafts and Launch Center Pro, calendar apps and password managers just as powerful as their desktop counterparts, and, of course, apps to script iOS and a text editor with its own workflow system. To sum up: iOS is still maturing, but there's no shortage of nerdy apps and utilities at this point.

iOS is great for quick text entry thanks to the portability of an iPhone or iPad mini, but doing advanced text manipulation is a bit tricky unless you want to get dirty with Editorial and Python scripts. On the Mac, it's easy to fire up Automator and create a workflow that takes a line of text and turns it Into Title Case or UPPERCASE; even going the extra mile and building services to take selected text and indent it or swap spaces with tabs takes a few minutes, but it's doable with a basic knowledge of built-in OS X tools. On iOS? There's no Automator (yet?), so, until today, if you wanted to do automated text transformations you'd have to get Editorial and Pythonista or use some of Launch Center Pro's (limited) text filters.

Craig Pearlman noticed this problem and built TextTool, a $4.99 Universal app that comes with 28 built-in text transformations that you can use inside the app's text editor or chain to other iOS apps with URL schemes and workflows.

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First Look at Editorial 1.1

Ole Zorn:

Editorial 1.1 will require iOS 7. I know that some of you won't like this, but sooner or later, it's inevitable, and all iPad models that run iOS 6 also support iOS 7, so this doesn't mean leaving any older devices behind. iOS 7 is so different from its predecessor that it's a lot more difficult to support older versions than it was with previous upgrades.

I'm especially a fan of the last point in the "New Features" list. Editorial's looking good on iOS 7.


Review: Tyype HD for iPad

Text editors on iOS are always difficult to review. More or less everyone who writes on a computer or other digital device has a favorite mobile and desktop text editor, and is accustomed to the workflows connected to it. To give an example, I am totally in love with iA Writer. Its easy iCloud sync options, readable typography, and Focus Mode fit my needs. I don't need Markdown, lots of different fonts, or an extensive amount of settings. I just want to write, and with iA writer I found the perfect, distraction-free environment to do so.

However, when I recently discovered Tyype, a new iOS text editor by Polish app development company Appvetica (who also developed apps like QRSight, an OS X QR code scanner), I got curious. Their clean, minimalist website and product video promise a text editor with easy text navigation, selection, and copying using custom gestures. Its interface seemed easy to understand, and the icon looks gorgeous. So I went ahead, downloaded Tyype HD for the iPad (which I'll refer to as "Tyype") and starting writing with it. Unfortunately, I have to say that Tyype does not work as great as it is shown in the demo video on the app's website. But it's certainly not a bad app either. Read more

WriteUp 3.0

In my original comparison of iOS text editors, I included WriteUp, a fast and powerful Dropbox-enabled app that stood out thanks to its support for folders and sub-folders, exporting options, and versions. Prior to settling with Writing Kit for my daily iPad writing efforts, in fact, I had been using WriteUp as my go-to text editor – version 2.0 of the app was solid, but in the end not as powerful as Writing Kit.

Version 3.0 of WriteUp, released today, adds new powerful functionalities to speed up the process of working with multiple Dropbox folders and notes, bringing a new built-in web browser to augment the app’s research capabilities with split view. I have been testing WriteUp 3.0 for the past two weeks, and while I won’t completely switch from Writing Kit just yet, this new iteration of the app has stayed on my iPad because of the very specific features it introduces.

Split View

If you write on the web, split view is kind of a big deal. Being able to take notes and write blog posts while referencing a webpage on the other side of the screen is something we do every day on our Macs, yet it has been increasingly difficult to find iOS apps – especially iPad apps – that can get it right. In the past months, I have tried several applications that promised to allow me to “take notes while browsing”, yet most of them either failed at delivering a serious text editing environment to begin with, or simply didn’t function as advertised.

WriteUp 3.0 takes a nice first step on the right direction by offering a built-in web view that you can use in full-screen or split mode by hitting a Lion-like controller next to the address bar. There are no tabs, no bookmarks, no search box – just a URL field, a refresh button, icons to navigate, and an action menu. The latter is called “research actions”, and it allows you to open a link in Safari, copy it, email it, send it to Pocket or Instapaper, or “insert it into the note”. This option will basically copy the link to WriteUp’s clipboard highlighting the dedicated link button in the extra keyboard row, allowing you to open anInsert Link panel with the address already copied. Unfortunately, unlike Writing Kit, WriteUp 3.0 still doesn’t let you select words in text and only wrap those within Markdown links; I hope better Markdown auto-wrapping options will come in a future version of WriteUp. Overall, I also still prefer Writing Kit's custom keyboard row.

The built-in web browser isn’t perfect: its performances aren’t comparable to Mobile Safari, and because of its size constraints, webpages will often be displayed partially, even when using the iPad in landscape mode. On a couple of times, I also noticed WriteUp would “freeze” a webpage without letting me reload it, and I really think there should be a dedicated Google button to relieve stress from the address bar. In spite of these few bugs and limitations, however, I can’t help but like WriteUp’s split view. It doesn’t let me drag & drop text between panels – I am not even sure that is technically possible – but it works in portrait and landscape mode, it’s dismissible with gestures, and, more importantly, it has already helped me write several news posts for MacStories when I needed to work side by side with webpages to reference quotes and other facts. It can only get better from here (idea: split view for multiple notes).

Pinned Notes, Favorites, and iCloud

The second major addition to WriteUp 3.0 is something I’ve been wanting from a Dropbox text editor for a long time, and which the app gets precisely right. WriteUp can now mark notes as “favorite” and make them available anywhere no matter the folder they are into. Furthermore, a separate “pin” option lets you pin notes at the top of any folder, and both favorite and pinned items are synced across devices running WriteUp with iCloud.

Here’s how I use this feature. As outlined in my Dropbox writing workflow, I try to keep a consistent environment of text files that are always accessible and up to date independently from the tool or device I decide to use.

Lately, I have unified all my notes, drafts, and lists inside a single Apps folder that I can access from Writing Kit, TaskAgent, Drafts, TextDrop, and my Mac. My “longer notes” are located in the root of the /Apps folder, with sub-folders for the aforementioned apps inside it. OS X and TextDrop make it easy to navigate through these as they have access to my entire Dropbox filesystem; most iOS text editors, on the other hand, typically force you within a single folder, and won’t let you move between sub-folders. Not only does WriteUp let me navigate notes and folders, it now also a) enables me to mark my most used TaskAgent list as favorite so I can see it in the main Apps folder and b) pin my Scratchpad.txt file to the top of the folder view so I’ll always know where I can quickly jot down notes and links (and if I happen to be cleaning up my Drafts folder, I can easily cut links, and copy them back to Scratchpad.txt without navigating back to /Apps).

Pinned and favorite notes have been a terrific addition to my workflow, and I found both the implementation and iCloud sync solid and reliable. It’s not for everyone – admittedly, several writers I know like to keep their Dropbox notes and folders in separate locations – but if you’ve been looking for a way to unify your text files and folders in a single view, WriteUp 3.0 should have you covered here.

Wrap Up

There’s a bunch of other neat additions in WriteUp 3.0. Markdown Extra (tables, footnotes, etc) is now supported, and the app can send notes to OmniFocus, iMessage, and publish to Tumblr. Terminology integration lets you look up or replace words using Agile Tortoise’s fantastic dictionary app; you can move “complete” folders to other locations in your Dropbox; and because Dropbox now lets you share files from any folder, WriteUp 3.0 can upload images, and give you a streamable link you can share or use as source for images in your notes. If you plan on serving images from your Dropbox account, this will come in handy.

In my tests, I experienced a few bugs with WriteUp 3.0. Sometimes, the built-in Markdown preview wouldn’t be displayed, forcing me to tap on another note, then select the previous one again to activate it; the app didn’t crash, but it failed to create a text file with “2.1” in the title (it wrongly recognized .1 as the extension, thus not creating a .txt file), and the bottom navigation bar (where the + button to create new notes is placed) isn’t displayed when using a Bluetooth keyboard. Fortunately, the developer has been extremely responsive, and I was told fixes, stability improvements, and new features are already underway now that 3.0 is available.

WriteUp 3.0 is a great update. In my opinion, Writing Kit still remains the most powerful text editor around, but, as I mentioned above, at the same time I couldn’t get myself to stop using the functionalities introduced in WriteUp 3.0 such as split view and favorite items. For those specific purposes – writing while referencing a webpage and browsing notes across folders – WriteUp 3.0 is superior to Writing Kit.

With strong sharing options, support for Versions (another feature most iOS text editors are lacking), images, custom CSS previews, and all the other features of version 2.0, WriteUp 3.0 has still some rough edges, but shows an incredibly promising, and possibly even more powerful text editing future.

WriteUp 3.0 is $4.99 on the App Store.