If there is one genre of app that I have more than my fair share of, it’s text editors. Since launching techēse, I have been seeking the perfect writing environment that gives me the least resistance to getting words written. I started with OS X’s TextEdit, and eventually found myself doing my long form writing in TextMate after I began writing in Markdown.
TextMate worked for a time. It is very much a coding environment. And even though Markdown is a syntax that relates to code, it is very much a writer’s syntax versus a coder’s syntax. TextMate is great for coding. But it has never satiated the writer in me.
I started using Byword just about a year ago on my Mac, when it added Markdown syntax highlighting and declared its focus to be the best Markdown editor for writers — which it most definitely is. In fact, nearly every article here has been written in Byword.
Byword is great on the Mac. But often I want to write on my iPad, and even sometimes, though rarely, on my iPhone. I’ve used Dropbox to sync and either Elements or iA Writer, which are both fine writing apps. But I have long wished for Byword on my iOS devices.
Today, the wait is over. Byword for iOS is here.
I’ve been beta testing Byword for iOS since early December last year. It’s a universal app with iCloud and Dropbox support.
Byword for iOS also has a handy keyboard accessory which shows word and character counts (tap it to switch between the two or show both simultaneously). The accessory can also. Be swiped to show quick cursor arrows and common syntax used when writing in Markdown. There are two different parts of the accessory for Markdown, pictured below.
Byword also allows you to preview Markdown, export as HTML, send as an email, and print. It also includes TextExpander support.
Byword for iOS doesn’t yet have the dark theme like the Mac version, but it is coming in a future update.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the update to the Mac version, which now has iCloud integration. iCloud on the Mac is still pretty clunky when it comes to setting up files to be synced. That’s definitely a limitation of OS X Lion, which should be alleviated this summer by OS X Mountain Lion’s revamp of the Open/Save dialog.
First, on the Mac, you have to save the file locally. Then, while the file is open in Byword, you click the File menu and then click Move to iCloud. Once the file is in iCloud, everything becomes pretty seamless. Setting up a file within iCloud on iOS is straightforward. Just click the + button from the file list and give it a name.
In fact, you can have the same iCloud file open on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad, then type on one device and watch it appear on the other two a moment later. It really feels like magic.
Byword for iOS is a fantastic, well-designed app that gets out of your way and let’s you write. It also has the best Markdown-optimized keyboard accessory I have seen on iOS yet, making it hands-down the best tool for a writer using Markdown.
If you are a serious writer, you need Byword.
P.S. This entire review was mainly written on the iPad, with a little bit on the iPhone and Mac, kept in sync the entire time with iCloud.