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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.

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