Back in June, I wrote on MacStories that I was evaluating whether Drafts 5 could replace Editorial for my Markdown automation and become the app I use to write my annual iOS review. Putting together these longform pieces involves a lot of writing, editing, and navigating between different sections; the more I can automate these tasks, the more time I can spend doing what actually matters for the review – testing the new version of iOS and ensuring the review is up to my standards.
What I’ve ended up creating has almost all of the same functionality as Fantastical, but since it does not rely on launching an external URL scheme, is considerably faster. You can enter multiple events, each on a different line, and have them all instantly added to your calendar without even launching another app.
When writing my review, I needed a way to navigate between the different sections, and all of the subheadings I had created. I had developed an action to navigate to each of the markdown headers, which I was happy with at the time. It was nice to have that functionality to switch around where I was in my review.
Well, I’m happy to say that I have been Sherlocked.
Drafts 5.2 came out while I was in San Jose for WWDC, and I’ve been meaning to check out the new features since I started getting back into a normal routine. Tim Nahumck, of course, has a great overview of the changes in this version of Drafts, along with some useful examples you can download.
As Tim points out, the ability to navigate headers of a Markdown document through a dedicated “section popup” is a terrific addition to Drafts. Few text editors designed for people who write in Markdown get this right; one of the reasons I still keep Editorial on my iOS devices is because it lets me navigate longer pieces with a header navigation tool. However, the implementation in Drafts 5 is more powerful, modern, and can be controlled with the keyboard (you can invoke the switcher with ⌘\ and, just like Things, dismiss it with ⌘. without ever leaving the keyboard).
There are few apps I’ve ever used which made a lasting impact on my daily workflow. But for years now, the singular app that’s been the foundation of my iOS use has been Drafts. The app has lived in my dock since I first picked it up, it’s the single most important app I use on the platform, and it’s the only paid app I mandate to anyone looking for must-have apps on iOS.
Drafts is the bedrock app from which I build all my productivity. It’s the single point of text entry that shares to any app, whether through the share sheet, a simple action, or a custom and complex action. Any time I have an idea, I put it in Drafts. Tasks to add to my task manager? I do that from Drafts. Something I want to write about on my blog? That idea starts in Drafts too. It’s the focal point for everything I do.
But times change. Apps age. New features are added in the OS that need to be integrated, which cause some developers to pull the plug. So today, I’m saying goodbye to Drafts 4. And it’s getting replaced by the only app that could possibly replace it: Drafts 5.
David Sparks, who has made screencasts for companies like The Omni Group and Smile Software, does a great job of showing how easy it is to get started with Drafts, but also exposing some of the powerful ways Drafts can interact with other apps like Dropbox.
Agile Tortoise’s development of Drafts never seems to slow down. Today, version 4.6 was released with a long list of new features and refinements. Here are my favorites:
Trash Can: Drafts now saves 30 days of deleted drafts in a trash can from which they can be restored, which makes writing in Drafts safer than ever.
Interface Enhancements: The Drafts editor has been refined to improve the readability of your drafts, especially on the iPad.
Automatic Dark Mode: Drafts can now monitor the ambient light in a room, and turn its dark mode on and off according to a brightness threshold that you select.
Box Support: Last year the MacStories team started using Box as part of our document collaboration workflow, which makes Box support especially welcome. Much like Drafts’ Dropbox and Google Drive support, you can now create files in Box, and append and prepend to existing Box files.
Today Widget: Drafts 4.6 debuts a redesigned Today Widget with a streamlined look.
Icons: Drafts has added many action icons, which I like because it makes it even easier to identify my Drafts actions.
There are also some treats in Drafts 4.6 for power users too:
Open in Drafts: Instead of opening Safari, you can set a URL action to open URLs in Safari View Controller, which keeps you inside Drafts. The Agile Tortoise blog includes a couple good examples of this that search Google and DuckDuckGo.
‘replaceRange’ URL Scheme Action: When used with an x-success callback parameter in a URL scheme action, ‘replaceRange’ can replace selected text in a draft with the results of a URL scheme call to another app. This is powerful stuff, and means you can do things like send selected text to Agile Tortoise’s dictionary app, Terminology, to look up a synonym, select it, and return it to Drafts, replacing the originally selected text. A similar action works with my app, Blink, where the selected text kicks off a search. After you select an item from the results, Blink sends an affiliate link back to Drafts, replacing the selected text with the link. I have more detail, and a demonstration of the Blink action on squibner.com. Both of these actions work on any iOS device, but the first time I saw them in action with both apps running in Split View on an iPad Pro, I was blown away. Writers will love these actions.
Include Action: You can now incorporate one action into another by reference, which makes building actions more modular.
With version 4.6, Drafts continues its steady pace of innovation by continuing to redefine what a text editor can be, which is why it has been one of my go-to text editors for many years now.
Drafts 4.6 is a free update for existing customers, and $9.99 for new users.
Released today on the App Store, Fantastical 2.4 adds support for Japanese and a new drafts feature that, once again, shows how Flexibits is building a smarter calendar app with delightful little touches.
A great update to Drafts was released earlier this week, and it’s got some interesting changes for users who manage a lot of notes or save bits of text in the same notes on a regular basis.
The Drafts extension can now offer to append/prepend whatever it receives (some text, a URL, etc.) to existing notes – useful to keep a running list of items without ending with multiple notes or having to merge them manually every time. This is useful for me when I want to assemble lists of links I can use for MacStories or Relay.
The Drafts Share extension (used from the Share sheet in other apps) now supports appending and prepending to inbox drafts as well as capture of new drafts. To use these options in the share sheet, tap the “Append” or “Prepend” buttons at the bottom of the window and select the draft to add the text to.
You can also run an action on multiple notes at once now:
When using the “Select” and “Operations” options below the drafts list, there is now a “Select All” option to quickly select all drafts in the current tab, and a “Run Action” operation to apply an action to multiple drafts. “Select All” is particularly useful to quickly archive all drafts in the inbox, for example. The “Run Action” operation lets you quickly select multiple drafts and run an action on them. When selecting this operation, the action list will be shown to select the action to run. Some actions (such as ones that leave Drafts) are not supported for multiple selections and will be grayed out in the list.
The most impressive aspect of Drafts is how Greg Pierce manages to keep the app simple and powerful at the same time with features that are there but not in the way. That’s an exercise of restraint and good design that can’t be appreciated in other apps. Drafts is $9.99 on the App Store.
I missed this last week, but Drafts has been updated with a useful Workflow integration to easily create actions that can trigger workflows with text. From the Agile Tortoise blog:
Drafts 4.1.2 has added a new “Run Workflow” action step to provide integration with Workflow app from Desk Connect. This step makes it easy to fire an workflow in Workflow app with a single tap. The action step can be configured with the name of a workflow, has a template to construct the text sent to the workflow and optional flag for whether to return to Drafts after execution. Under the hood, Drafts is constructing x-callback-url URLs to trigger the workflow, but this makes it much easier for the novice user than constructing them yourself in Open URL action steps.
Similarly, the latest version of Workflow has added a shortcut to create a Drafts action:
As an added bonus, the latest update of Workflow has added an option, when viewing settings on a workflow, to “Add to Drafts”, which will open Drafts and automatically create an action, setup with a “Run Workflow” action step, ready to go. This feature will be rolling out over the course of the next couple of days, so if you do not see it immediately in Workflow, try again later. For more details, read the Run Workflow action step documentation.
I’m using this to quickly send links copied from Twitter (which still doesn’t support the iOS 8 share sheet) to Workflow via Drafts, and it works well.