TextTool defies easy categorization. It’s a text editor, but not a place where text lives. You won’t find an archive of past text documents you've created. Instead, TextTool is a temporary place to write, edit, and manipulate text that ends up somewhere else.
Ole Zorn's Editorial was the text editor that completely reimagined how I could work from iOS. While I have since moved to Ulysses as my primary text editor, I still use Editorial almost daily for its unique Markdown automation. Editorial's combination of Python scripting and visual workflows for plain text editing is unparalleled and there's nothing else like it on the App Store.
After a couple of years without updates and a long TestFlight beta period, Editorial has been updated for iOS Split View and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. There are other changes (the workflow editor has been moved to the accessory panel and the Python editor now opens in a separate tab), but, overall, it's still the same Editorial you know and love, updated for the latest iOS devices. I've been using the beta version of Editorial 1.3 for several months now – being able to keep Editorial next to another app is great for editing and research, and moving back and forth between a document and a workflow is easier.
As for everything else, my coverage of Editorial 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2 still stands; Editorial is the text editor for iOS power users thanks to its excellent automation features, advanced Markdown editing, and TaskPaper integration. As I wrote in November, I still edit all my longform stories in Editorial. Despite the paucity of updates, I love the app as it's a shining example of pro software for iOS.
If you haven't played with Editorial in a while, now's a good time to check it out again (the app is also available at a discounted price of $4.99).
The Soulmen updated Ulysses for macOS and iOS with interesting new features today. On macOS, Ulysses added support for Apple's latest hardware and software features. If you have a new Touch Bar MacBook Pro, you can customize the Touch Bar with Ulysses functionality. In addition, if you have Sierra installed, multiple sheets can be open at one time in tabs, which is something that I've found handy as I work on things like the MacStories Weekly newsletter where I tend to jump among multiple documents editing and checking formatting.
Another addition to Ulysses on the Mac and iOS is TextBundle and TextPack file support. TextBundle is a specification for bundling together Markdown text and referenced images in a way that’s portable and avoids sandboxing issues for apps sold on the Mac and iOS App Stores. TextBundle files work with documents stored in external folders. I had no trouble creating TextBundles on my Mac, but on iOS, where I had less time to test the update, I could create a TextBundle document, but I was unable to add images to it.
The update to Ulysses also added support for importing Evernote ENEX files on the Mac, but I had trouble with it on one of my machines. After you export notes from Evernote as an ENEX file you should be able to drag the ENEX file into a Ulysses group, the sheet list, or onto the Ulysses Dock icon to import the file. That worked for me on one Mac, but not another where it crashed Ulysses. I can’t tell if my situation is an edge case, but in any event, The Soulmen are working on a fix. In the meantime, I suggest testing Evernote importing with a single note before trying to import a more extensive set. Finally, Ulysses already included the ability to set character, word and page goals for your writing, but with the Mac and iOS updates today, you can also set reading time goals.
Ulysses 2.7 is a free update to existing customers. New users can purchase Ulysses from the Mac App Store for $44.99 and the iOS App Store for $24.99.
A major update to iA Writer, the popular Markdown text editor for iOS and macOS, has been released earlier today. I didn't have enough time to test the beta of version 4.0, but I'm intrigued by the idea of file transclusion – effectively, a way to structure documents with content blocks based on local file references.
From the blog post:
We’ve made a swath of improvements in iA Writer 4. The meat on the bone is this new file referencing syntax. Every file reference you insert adds a block of content to your document, be it an image, table, or plain text file. These content blocks can then be ordered, stacked and chained with ease.
We think this syntax is a natural extension to Markdown, and it would please us to see other apps use it too. We’re a bit nervous since it’s a deviation, but we’d still like to try it out and hope it finds friends. We’ve published an introductory spec on GitHub to get the ball rolling. Hopefully, content blocks based on file transclusion will become a thing beyond iA Writer. One day all Markdown editors may work like that, but, as IBM famously said, why wait?
You can reference text files, images, and even .csv files to include in the compiled text output as MultiMarkdown tables. I think this is a genius way to handle file embeds in longer documents, and it's something I would consider for future longform projects. I'm not aware of any other Markdown text editor for iOS that implements a similar option. I'd also like to see iA go beyond local file callbacks (which only work with iCloud) and allow documents to be comprised of files stored in iOS document providers. iA Writer is one of the few text editors that fully support opening and editing files from external document providers, so extending that integration to content blocks would be the next logical step.
There's a lot to like in iA Writer; I don't think it's appreciated enough by iOS power users. The aforementioned integration with iOS document providers is solid, there are several editing tools such as writing statistics and parts-of-speech highlights, plenty of output options, support for iCloud versions, and more. I hope that iA will consider adding more features to the app's basic URL scheme in the future – one area where iA Writer is considerably behind alternatives such as Ulysses and 1Writer.
I'm going to play around with iA Writer for a while – I feel like the app deserves more attention, and I want to experiment with document providers and content blocks for MacStories reviews and our newsletters.
When preparing my review of Ulysses 2.5 for MacStories, I asked my fine Twitter followers for any questions they’d like me to answer. I covered some of them in my review, but it occurred to me that I left quite a few on the table. Here is my attempt to clean up.
Lots of great answers here. In addition to our review, I also posted an in-depth note on how I've been using Ulysses as my text editor in the latest Monthly Log for Club MacStories members. I'm liking this app a lot.
Maybe I'm biased because I'm a writer, but when it was announced in 2010, the iPad struck me as a device which could become a great tool for, amongst many things, my craft. A number of good writing apps (and accessories) have appeared in that time, but when I found Ulysses about a year ago, something clicked.
Made by an 11-person team in Germany called The Soulmen, Ulysses is pitched to authors, bloggers, students, and every writer in between. Much more than a typical 'distraction-free' Markdown editor that hooks up to Dropbox, I think of Ulysses as a writing environment. It has a full suite of tools including a post-Finder document system, the most thorough Markdown shortcut keyboard I've ever seen, the ability to split and merge documents, a unique approach to attachments, and so much more.
I'm writing this review because The Soulmen just released Ulysses 2.5 for iPad, Mac, and, for the first time, iPhone, though I'll focus on the iOS version for this review. The company told me this is the largest iOS update it's ever released, and having helped test the beta for the last couple of months and perusing the release notes, I believe it. Surprisingly, not only is this major upgrade that makes the iPad edition universal, it's free to existing owners.
With the modern maturity of the App Store and no shortage of writing apps with myriad specialties, though, how does a premium app stand out from the crowd?
Let's find out.
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.
Realmac released Typed, their new Markdown editor, as a direct sale product a little while ago. Today it hit the Mac App Store.
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.