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Posts tagged with "text editor"

Drafts 5.5, MultiMarkdown, and CriticMarkup

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.

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My Markdown Writing and Collaboration Workflow, Powered by Working Copy 3.6, iCloud Drive, and GitHub

For the past couple of years, I (and the rest of the MacStories team) have used Working Copy to store and collaborate on Markdown drafts for our articles. As I explained in a story from late 2016, even though Working Copy is a Git client primarily designed for programmers, it is possible to leverage the app's capabilities to perform version control for plain text too. Each MacStories team member has a private GitHub repository where we store Markdown files of our articles; in the same repository, other writers can make edits to drafts and commit them to GitHub; this way, the author can then pull back the edited file and use Working Copy's built-in diff tool to see what's changed from the last version of the file and read comments left by whoever edited the draft.1

As I mentioned two years ago, this system takes a while to get used to: GitHub has a bit of overhead in terms of understanding the correct terminology for different aspects of its file management workflow, but Working Copy makes it easier by abstracting much of the complexity involved with committing files, pushing them, and comparing them. This system has never failed us in over two years, and it has saved us dozens of hours we would have otherwise spent exchanging revised versions of our drafts and finding changes in them. With Working Copy, we can use the text editors we each prefer and, as long as we overwrite the original copies of our drafts and keep track of commits, the app will take care of merging everything and displaying differences between versions. From a collaboration standpoint, using Working Copy and GitHub for file storage and version control has been one of the best decisions I made in recent years.

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Drafts 5.2

Tim Nahumck:

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.

In the upper right corner of the editor, there is a small triangle icon; when you tap the icon, you are presented with a navigation menu. Not only does this navigate headers in Markdown, but it also navigates projects in TaskPaper, and code blocks in JavaScript. It also include a top and bottom button, as well as a select all button.

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).

Speaking of Editorial, every update to Drafts 5 is pushing me toward converting all my old Markdown workflows to Drafts actions powered by JavaScript. Automation in Drafts involves a lot more scripting than Editorial's visual actions, but I feel like Drafts 5 is a safer bet for the future. I've been putting this off for a long time; maybe I should spend a few days finalizing the process before I start working on a certain annual review.

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Pretext: Files-Rooted Simple Markdown for iOS

Last month I was delighted to discover a new plain text editor for iOS, Textor, that focused simply on the basics of text editing. Though I valued Textor's minimalism, one feature I did miss was support for Markdown styling. This hasn't been added to the app since then, but fortunately, I no longer have to wait for it; a new app just launched that's essentially Textor with Markdown, and its name is Pretext.

Pretext integrates directly with iOS 11's Files app, making it easy to create or edit Markdown and plain text files stored across any of your file providers. Open the app and you'll see a document browser for choosing a file to edit; alternately, you can create a new file by hitting the plus button in the top-right. If you're creating a new file, Pretext asks you to set a file name, with the option of automatically prepending the date to it, and you can choose to make it either a .md or .txt file.

While the simplicity of Pretext's "just you and the text" environment is its greatest strength, the app does offer a few specific features that are of benefit to Markdown writers especially. First is the great keyboard shortcut support: all the basics of Markdown syntax can be done with a quick shortcut, including tasks like link insertion; because of this, Pretext offers one of the most efficient means of adding links to an article. The remaining few features of the app are found by hitting the share icon during editing, which offers access to the share sheet, the app's settings screen, and previewing your Markdown file as HTML – the latter is especially useful for anyone who publishes their work online. Options in settings include tweaking the text size, switching themes from light to dark, and a couple alternate app icons.

I've been using Pretext in beta for the last few weeks to edit Markdown files shared by other MacStories collaborators in Working Copy, and the app has been exactly what I need. I can open Pretext, make my edits aided by visual Markdown styling and keyboard shortcuts, and preview the finished product as HTML. All changes are then saved directly in the file's source.

Pretext is a simple utility, and isn't going to replace Ulysses for me as a daily driver, but for some people it legitimately could. Too often writing apps are overly complicated, and Pretext focuses on offering just what a writer needs: space, and a few key tools to aid the writing process.

Pretext is available as a free download, with a $0.99 In-App Purchase unlocking the app's dark theme and alternate icons.


Textor: The iOS Equivalent of TextEdit, Integrated with Files

Over the weekend, developer Louis D'hauwe released a new plain text editor to the iOS App Store. Textor is about as simple an app as you could get: while it does offer support for modern iOS technologies, like Split View on iPad, and modern iOS screen dimensions, like the iPhone X and iPad Pro sizes, it doesn't offer any kind of innovative features to pull you in. In fact, it doesn't really contain much in the way of features at all.

D'hauwe created Textor as a result of exploring what new iOS tools he would need before making the iPad his primary computer. His recently launched terminal app, OpenTerm, birthed from the same roots.

Textor is unique in how utterly stripped down it is, and it's that simplicity that makes it so appealing. Launch the app – which is free and open-source – and you'll see iOS 11's new Files document browser. This enables opening existing plain text files stored in any app that serves as an iOS file provider. You can open directly from iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, Working Copy, and more. You can also create a new document in any of these places by hitting the + button in the top-right corner.

Outside of the Files document browser, the only interface is found in the editor itself: a plain canvas with a purple blinking cursor. It's just you and the text.

Textor's lack of noteworthy features makes it a fitting TextEdit-equivalent for iOS. It also makes it unlikely to be the best text editor for you, unless your needs are extremely minimal.

Despite its bare-bones nature, I was excited to hear about Textor's launch because it happens to fit exactly the tiny niche I was looking for. My everyday writing is done in Ulysses, an app I absolutely love. But when it comes to editing other people's work, Ulysses isn't a great solution because its custom formatting engine doesn't play nice with existing Markdown drafts.

Every week as part of preparing the latest Club MacStories newsletter, I edit about ten different Markdown files stored in a GitHub repo and accessed through Working Copy. I've tried several quality apps for this job, including iA Writer, 1Writer, and Textastic – all can open files directly from Working Copy, but a variety of issues big and small make none of them the ideal solution. Textor does exactly what I need: opens documents via Files, allows me to edit them free from cumbersome frills, then saves them in place when I'm done editing.

There are a couple changes that would make Textor a better tool for me: auto-saving drafts so I don't have to hit the app's 'Done' button to save changes, and support for Markdown styling so I get a preview of what my document will look like when published. Those features aren't necessities though, and I don't expect to see Textor add them. Everyone will have their own list of two or three features they'd like, but Textor doesn't need to be feature-complete. The app exists to offer a no-nonsense writing experience with Files support, and it succeeds at exactly that.

Textor is available as a free download on the App Store.



Scrivener 3 for macOS Is More Flexible and Powerful Than Ever for Long-Form Writing

Many text editors are just that – text editors. They take a document-focused approach to writing that centers on creating text. It’s an approach that works for most kinds of writing. However, long-form writing is a different animal altogether that benefits from a project-based approach that also includes tools for planning, organizing, researching, and tracking. Today, Literature and Latte released version 3.0 of Scrivener for macOS with a long list of new features that cements its spot as one of the premier project-focused apps available on the Mac for long-form writing.

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Ulysses 12: Writing on iOS Has Never Been Better

This summer Ulysses announced a major business model shift, with its iOS and macOS apps moving from up front purchases to subscription supported. As tends to happen, the move stirred up some controversy. In my mind at least, the company’s reasoning was sound – as the app’s co-founder stated, “Writers want to rely on a professional tool that is constantly evolving, and we want to keep delivering just that.”

Today brings the first major update to Ulysses following its switch to subscriptions. Bolstered by Apple’s recent focus on evolving the iPad platform, Ulysses 12 is primarily an iOS release; while the Mac version gains some improvements, it clearly isn’t the centerpiece here. Ulysses on iOS gains drag and drop support, multi-pane editing, streamlined library navigation, and image previews – all of which make an already powerful writing tool even better.

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