Once upon a time, in the early days of iOS’ life, note-taking apps on the iPhone and iPad were, strictly speaking, for text-based notes. The original Notes app, pre-iOS 9 makeover, was designed for text alone, and yet despite that limitation it remained the most popular notes app on iOS.
Times have changed. Today Apple Notes is a powerhouse tool for not just typed notes, but also images, document scans, checklists, sketches, rich links, and much more. Apple’s aggressive development of Notes forces third-party contenders to up their games as well, and that’s exactly what Agenda has been doing over the last year.
Agenda is a note-taking client that integrates with your calendar in a way unlike any other app, enabling tying your notes to specific calendar events so they’re easy to keep track of. Recent updates have meaningfully complemented that core purpose, adding Reminders integration, extensive keyboard shortcuts, and file attachments. Over the last couple weeks the app has also launched not one, but two more significant updates, versions 7 and 8, which expand Agenda’s capabilities further with drawing and handwriting features, alongside iOS 13 enhancements such as dark mode integration and document scanning.
Earlier this year Ulysses debuted the best implementation I had seen of single-app split view on iPad, enabling working in two documents at once or editing a document while simultaneously seeing its export preview. In today’s Ulysses 18 release, that proprietary implementation has been replaced by iPadOS’ native multiwindow capabilities, bringing more power and flexibility than was previously available. Today’s update also integrates with iOS 13’s dark mode and other new design elements, makes automation easier than ever with Shortcuts parameters, and offers a gift to Dropbox users who have long had their Ulysses capabilities restricted.
Days away from Apple’s big September event, and likely just a week or two from iOS 13’s public release, this is often a quiet time for app releases. Generally that’s true for the summer as a whole, with developers heads-down working on big fall updates, but it’s especially the case the closer we get to Apple’s iPhone event. Today, however Bear has released the type of wide-ranging update that’s rare to see pre-OS launches. Bear 1.7 introduces a variety of big and small changes that improve many facets of the note-taking app. The update enables locking individual notes, or locking access to the app altogether, it brings two new themes and 33 new tagcons, there’s now emoji auto-complete, live note links, Apple Watch improvements, and more.
Apple has a big update coming to Reminders in iOS 13, and despite all that’s changing in the app, one important thing is not: developers will still be able to integrate with Reminders so you can create, check off, and manage your tasks from a third-party app. The latest app to take advantage of this is Agenda, the date-based note-taking app which launches full Reminders integration in version 6.0 today on both iOS and the Mac.
While some apps aim to be a complete Reminders replacement, such as GoodTask, Agenda’s approach is to use Apple’s built-in task system for two main purposes: creating to-dos linked to Agenda notes, and complementing the existing calendar integrations.
Earlier this spring, in its last major update, Ulysses added Split View editing on the Mac, a feature that was thoughtfully implemented and which I immediately wished existed on iPad. Today, in version 16 of the app, Ulysses on iPad gains its own powerful split view editor, plus adds a new native publishing option: Ghost joins the existing WordPress and Medium integrations.
In August 2017, The Sweet Setup introduced a video course designed to equip users to get the most out of Ulysses, the popular Markdown text editor. Today, that ‘Learn Ulysses’ course is being expanded and revised in a major way. Everything has been completely modernized with entirely new videos that replace the previous set, plus the addition of brand new videos, written tutorials, and setups covering a variety of in-depth topics.
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.
When a productivity app feels like it’s reached maturity, it’s in a dangerous position: if active development is neglected, the app will start to stagnate amidst a changing world, but on the other hand, if change is pursued for its own sake, the app can easily become bloated and an inferior product overall.
Ulysses 15 for Mac and iOS deftly navigates those potential dangers by offering thoughtful enhancements to existing features, plus new features that truly serve to enhance the core task of writing. There are improvements to image previews, writing goals, export previews, and keywords, plus big upgrades to how the editor can be set up on both the Mac and iPad.
The core app remains largely the same, but it’s now more compelling than ever before.
As I wrote in my roundup of must-have iOS apps, I’ve been using iA Writer as my text editor, primarily because of its integration with Working Copy, beautiful typography, and syntax highlighting mode. As a non-native English speaker, I find the latter particularly useful when editing articles. iA Writer was updated to version 5.2 last week, and I’d like to point out a few welcome enhancements in this release.