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Posts tagged with "text editor"

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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1Writer Update Includes Open in Place and Drag and Drop Support

Before I moved to Ulysses for most of my writing, I used 1Writer. At first, it was how I accessed my large collection of NVAlt notes when I wasn’t at my Mac because its search is exceptionally fast. Over time though, it became my primary text editor because it syncs with iCloud and Dropbox, works with Markdown files, has excellent export options, is highly customizable, and supports URL schemes and JavaScript actions. I don’t use 1Writer as often these days, but it remains one of my favorite text editors, so I was glad to see it has been updated to take advantage of new iOS 11 features.

The latest version of 1Writer supports Open in Place via iOS 11’s new document browser. Tap the omnipresent plus button in the lower right-hand corner of 1Writer and choose ‘Open Other…’ to launch iOS 11’s document browser. 1Writer has tinted the navigation elements of the document browser, which helps remind users that they are still in 1Writer, which is a nice touch that not all apps bother to support. With Open in Place, 1Writer can edit the Markdown or plain-text files of any file provider. For example, that allows me to grab a draft from one of our MacStories GitHub repos via the Working Copy file provider to make edits to the original document without creating a local 1Writer copy of the file.

1Writer supports Open in Place.

1Writer supports Open in Place.

1Writer also supports two-way drag and drop. I can drag any document from 1Writer’s document browser and drop it into another compatible app that accepts text like iA Writer, Byword, or Notes. I was also able to attach a 1Writer file to a message using Apple Mail.

Dragging into 1Writer works too. 1Writer can handle text and URLs, so it disregards images included in something like a note from the Notes app, but will set up Markdown syntax for an image if you drag in just a photo. If you drag into an existing 1Writer document, the text and links are appended to the end of the document.

1Writer has also added support for smart punctuation, which, for example, replaces straight quotes with the curly variety, and is iPhone X-ready.

1Writer is one of the most versatile text editors available. The addition of Open in Place means the app can be used with a wider variety of apps than ever before and drag and drop eliminates the number of steps needed to get text into and out of 1Writer. If you’re looking for a text editor that is at the forefront of iOS 11 technologies, 1Writer is an excellent choice.

1Writer is available on the App Store.


Ulysses Announces Move to Subscription Pricing

Ulysses, the popular text editor and 2016 Apple Design Award winner, announced today that it has adopted a new subscription pricing model. A post on the Ulysses blog by Ulysses co-founder, Marcus Fehn, covers the details:

  • Users can try Ulysses for free for 14 days before deciding whether to subscribe. After 14 days, Ulysses works in a read-only mode, but documents can still be exported.
  • Ulysses subscriptions are $4.99/month or $39.99/year.1
  • Subscribing unlocks both the iOS and macOS versions of Ulysses.
  • Students can subscribe for $10.99 for six-month periods.
  • Existing users can take advantage of a limited-time lifetime discount equal to 50% off the monthly subscription price.
  • Users who recently purchased Ulysses on macOS will be given a free-use period of up to 12 months depending on when they purchased the app. Users who bought Ulysses on iOS can receive up to an additional 6 months of free use.

Existing versions of Ulysses for iOS and macOS have been removed from the App Store and Mac App Store, but have been updated for iOS 11 and High Sierra, so they will continue to work for now if you decide to not subscribe. However, new features will be limited to the new versions of Ulysses that were released on the app stores today. I downloaded both versions and was impressed by the seamless transition, which explained the move to subscription pricing, the limited-time discount offer, and automatically gave me two free months of use even though I bought the apps nearly two years ago.

My personalized onboarding for the macOS version of Ulysses.

My personalized onboarding for the macOS version of Ulysses.

In addition to the announcement on the Ulysses blog, Max Seelemann, one of Ulysses’ founders, wrote a post on Medium explaining the company’s thinking behind moving to a subscription model that is worth reading. It’s a backstory that has become familiar. Pay-once pricing is not sufficient to sustain ongoing development of professional productivity apps like Ulysses. While Ulysses has enjoyed success, funding the kind of development that pro users expect through growing the app’s user base is not sustainable in the long-term. As Seelemann explains, several options were considered over a long period, but ultimately it’s subscription pricing that gives Ulysses the security and flexibility needed to maintain the app.

I’m glad to see Ulysses adopt subscription pricing. I can’t say that would be the case for every app I use, but I use Ulysses every day. I want it to be actively developed and available for a long time. The tricky part about subscriptions, as we’ve discussed in the past on AppStories, is that the value proposition for each person is different. One person’s mission-critical app might be another’s nice-to-have app and the success of a subscription model depends on picking price points that appeal to a sustainable segment of users. However, the flexibility that Ulysses has adopted with different monthly, yearly, and student pricing tiers in comparison to its pre-subscription pricing strikes me as an approach that is well-positioned to succeed.

Ulysses is available as a free download with a 14-day free trial on the App Store and the Mac App Store.


  1. A full rundown of pricing for each country where Ulysses is sold is available on its pricing page↩︎