One of my favorite times every year is right around the beginning of August. Not because of the weather – summer where I live – but rather it’s when beta season is in full swing. Apps are putting polish on features, the full update scope is set, and everything starts to feel stable. And there’s nothing better to me than a new Drafts update to coincide with new OS features, bringing new uses of the app to my répertoire.
With the release of iOS and iPadOS 14 this year, it might seem on the surface that the updates to most apps are minimal. Widgets are the hot new feature of the operating systems, along with the visual changes of macOS Big Sur. While most apps will benefit from these changes, the productivity category will be greatly helped. And like Shortcuts, Scriptable, and others, Drafts benefits greatly from these new changes. It might take you a bit of time to see how this will fit your use cases, but once you give that some thought, it will open up new opportunities for you to use the app.
This week on MacStories Unwind:
- MacStories Weekly
- Creating file launchers with GizmoPack and Shortcuts
- Member shortcut requests answered
- A research workflow using Instapaper, IFTTT, and Shortcuts
- Safari tab controls in iPadOS
- Q&A, links, and more
- John’s Pick:
- Federico’s Picks:
Drafts 20, the latest update to the powerful text editor and capture tool, introduces an excellent feature for creating in-line links to other drafts, workspaces, or even searches.
I’ve always appreciated the ability to link notes inside of other notes, like what’s available in Bear, and that’s exactly the behavior that Drafts 20 enables. By typing an existing draft’s title inside of double brackets (e.g. [[Draft Title Here]]), you can create a Wiki-style link to that draft that can be tapped or clicked for instant access. For research purpose especially, I’ve found this functionality useful in the past, and I’m glad to see it in Drafts.
One nice detail of Drafts’ implementation is that you can use the same syntax to create links to brand new drafts; if you type a title in brackets that doesn’t currently exist, the app will automatically create a new draft with that title. The system is smart enough, too, to work with only partial titles entered. For example, with an old draft titled “Apple Card Now Available for All US Customers,” all I had to type in brackets was ‘Apple Card’ for the link to be created. The only enhancement I hope to see in a future update is auto-complete suggestions when typing a draft’s title so you can ensure you’ve entered the correct one.
Linking to other drafts is certainly the primary appeal of the new bracketing syntax, but developer Greg Pierce has included a handful of advanced options too that make the feature even more valuable. As detailed in the update’s release notes, you can bracket not just other draft titles, but also links to your existing workspaces, a search term inside the app, or even a Bear note. My favorite options, however, enable creating one-tap links to Google or Wikipedia searches. By typing google: or wikipedia: then a search term, all inside double brackets, Drafts will create links to initiate those types of searches. The added flexibility afforded by these links, alongside the new links to other drafts, makes Drafts a strong research and database tool, alongside all the other things the app’s great at.
Drafts 20 is available on the App Store.
When Drafts for Mac first arrived, I knew there were great things to come – not that it wasn’t an excellent app already! But since that time, Drafts for Mac has evolved. What was previously a functional app is now functional, automatable, and more importantly a flexible tool that can mold to fit your workflow.
Since Drafts first released, there have been numerous new features. Notably, it now supports multiple windows. This means you can have as many Drafts windows open at once as you like. I’ve taken to assigning different Spaces to different projects, enabling me to have Drafts open with its relevant Workspace in the same area as other apps.
As well as this, Drafts for Mac added batch tagging (and untagging) drafts. This has improved my workflow dramatically, as I can process the items that land in my inbox and need filing much faster. Another excellent feature is the addition of dictation (for macOS Catalina users). Especially with the demise of Dragon Dictate for Mac, this feature is a great way to talk at your computer and let it do the typing.
The headline new feature, though, is something Drafts for iOS fans consider the heart of the app: actions.
One of my favorite things about Drafts is its quick adoption of the new OS features that come year-over-year. Not only are they quickly adopted, but they are well implemented, carefully considered, and provide increased capability for both existing and new users alike.
This year with the release of iOS 13, iPadOS 13, and macOS Catalina, Drafts gains an updated look, improvements to the interface and navigation, full iPadOS support, and greatly improved Shortcuts integration. While this may not seem like a big list, I can assure you that the new features of the app are fantastic, and have made a monumental improvement to my daily workflows.
Let’s dive in to what version 15 of Drafts has to offer.
The quest for the perfect text application – for some of us it has been a lifelong goal, or at least it feels like it. I realised very early on in my computing life that I did not enjoy playing with formatting in Word or Pages, and when I discovered that Markdown provides the ability to make items
_italic_ with just a few simple characters, I felt like I had finally found my text formatting holy grail.
Many years ago I discovered Drafts for iOS, and the idea appealed: you open the application and type. No creating a new file, or trying to decide what to do with the text before the thought is fully formed, just open, type, then decide. I frequently need to jot down notes, save links, and have found being able to write without thinking too much about where the words need to go, and how they’re going to get there, is extremely helpful in today’s world of constant interruptions.
Last year saw Drafts 5 released for iOS with even more capability than before, allowing you to truly customise it to be the text editor you’ve always dreamed of having. There was only one small but important snag – no Mac version.
Today there is a Mac app. It is what many of us have been waiting for, albeit with a few missing features at the moment. Drafts for Mac has landed.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: you’ve probably heard of Marzipan, the Apple project to enable iOS developers to bring their applications to the Mac. This is not one of those apps. It is an app written from the ground up for macOS, which works as expected with the system features.
Tim Nahumck, writing about the latest Drafts update for iOS:
One thing that is included with MultiMarkdown as an option is Critic Markup. Looking through the guide, there are several helpful elements that can be used for editing my writing utilizing Critic Markup. I can highlight some substitutions, additions, and deletions. I can highlight text to show something I might want to work on later. I can also add a basic comment somewhere that won’t be shown in a preview. And with this action, I can easily add any of them with a tap and a text entry, which inserts it in the proper format. This is helpful for creating and previewing the documents in Drafts, and gives users the flexibility to mark up files and save them back to a cloud service. I can see myself using this a lot for longer posts or large reviews. I’ve even modified my own site preview action to render the MultiMarkdown via scripting, as well as updating both my standard and linked post WordPress publishing actions to do the same.
I’ve always been a fan of CriticMarkup but have never been able to get into it as it wasn’t integrated with the text editors I used on iOS. Considering how Drafts is my favorite option when it comes to writing and editing certain annual long-form stories, and given how I came up with my own syntax in previous years to embed comments in Markdown documents, I’m going to give this a try.
One thing the MacStories team loves to do is constantly try new apps, compare the serious contenders in each app category, and settle on the app that suits us best. Most of the time this app evaluation process takes place on a merely private level, for personal purposes, but today I wanted to share in public an in-depth comparison and analysis of two excellent writing apps: Drafts and Ulysses.
These two apps have been on my mind a lot in recent months. To share some context, I have used Ulysses as my primary Markdown editor almost exclusively since early 2016. During that time I’ve been very happy with the app, even through its transition last year to a subscription model. I’ve continued trying out the latest updates from Ulysses’ competitors, of course, but nothing else has stuck for me. However, there’s one app I’ve long wanted to give a serious look at, but hadn’t been able to until recently: Drafts 5.
Tim Nahumck’s review of Drafts was the first tug on my interest, causing me to follow updates to the app with a close eye. Then Federico had a successful experience writing his iOS 12 review in Drafts 5. Ultimately, I couldn’t resist giving the app a serious shot any longer.
Drafts and Ulysses are very different apps in many ways. However, they share in common being powerful Markdown editors. In this article I’ll walk through their similarities, divergences, and ultimately share which app I’ve decided to write in going forward. The goal is not to say which app is better, as the answer to that question is entirely subjective. Instead, I want to help you decide which app is likely best for you.
Drafts 5 was recently updated to version 5.4, which brings a host of new features. While there is support for iOS 12’s Siri shortcuts and all that they have to offer, there are also other important features that have improved the app’s capabilities significantly.