Elements 2.0: Beautiful Markdown Editing

A few weeks back, Second Gear updated their note taking app Elements to version 2.0. This added a completely redesigned UI and lots of new sharing support. The app functions as a Markdown editor in the cloud with full Dropbox sync support. It has a bunch of other basic features including printing, TextExpander, sharing to the web or publishing on Tumblr or Facebook, word counting, and the ability to export as HTML or PDF.

Elements is a fully universal iOS app, so you can use it with your iPhone and iPad seamlessly for the price of one app. It’s also very helpful to have when you write a note down at work and then want to find it once your phone has died. Read on to discover more about the potential of Elements 2.0…

Getting Started

Elements' start screen.

The first thing you’re going to want to do once you’ve purchased Elements is sign up for a Dropbox account.

If you don’t already have one that is!

This can be done easily once you’ve launched the app, but if you already have one then please skip to the next section. A Dropbox account is required to use Elements and is extremely useful in the case of a broken device or crashed app. It will ask for your name, email and password to sign up for the free service. Now that you’re into the app, go ahead and explore the interface. There is a nice “Welcome” document that the developer has included to ensure ease of use, so take a look at that.

Design & Interface

Main Elements folder view.

As you probably noticed by the screenshots, Elements has a very attractive and minimalistic interface. It has a custom interface like most of the new apps that have been released recently. Personally, I love the textures and backgrounds that the app has.

It also comes with a dark theme for people who like something different or need to do some night editing. You can enable this by opening a document and then tapping “Aa” (top right hand corner) -> Theme -> Dark.

Dark theme.

Elements also comes with a very nice default font called “Museo Sans.” It’s low contrast and solid for typing most documents. If you don’t care for the default font, then don’t worry because there are some additional ones (listed below) that you can change to by simply tapping the Aa -> Font and tapping one of the ten included fonts. Please note that this will change the font for all your documents. I’m not sure why, but it should be fixed in the next update.

Features & Functionality

There are a lot of features in Elements that are worth mentioning, here are a few of them:

  • Dropbox sync so nothing is lost.
  • Markdown previewing – an essential for making sure the document will look good when displayed elsewhere.
  • Word count, character count, and line count.
  • A “Scratchpad” for quickly jotting down ideas for future.
  • Exporting capabilities such as emailing, publishing to Facebook or Tumblr (which I especially love for posting to my blog), and exporting as a HTML or PDF file.
  • Printing support.
  • Ten simple fonts to choose from – these usually fit any normal document.
  • The ability to create a folder in Dropbox without the need of a computer.

As I said, lots of great features. The only thing is, there are a few features that could improve it even more. These include:

  • The ability to move a document from one folder to another.
  • Fix the font-changing issue that I mentioned earlier.
  • A wider range of editing capability, such as Word or Pages documents.
  • Rich text extension.
  • Box.net support would be very nice as an alternative for some people.
  • Could use WordPress and Blogger support for people who don’t necessarily use Tumblr.

Options & Customization

 

Settings pane

Elements provides a range of different options for the advanced writer, such as a different file extension or margin size. These options can be found either on the main screen under the little gear icon in the top left hand corner or in a document under the text preferences (Aa).

The developer tries to make this app as simple as possible by not confusing you with a lot of features and options, instead giving you just enough to get the job done comfortably. Hopefully they’ll add some more popular fonts in the future…

Compared

Now that you’ve read all about Elements, you’ll probably want to know how it measures up next to the competition. For the most part, it’s much like iA Writer, but with a few more settings to tweak and a dark theme for night editing.

The key feature with Elements is its Dropbox sync feature. Since it uses a method of cloud syncing your documents, it’s nearly impossible for them to be lost. Dropbox is certainly a reliable host for your documents and doesn’t have a record of losing anything thus far. In addition to being able to see your documents safe online, you can also edit them on multiple devices since there is a Dropbox app for nearly every platform. This provides a universal experience that most Markdown editors don’t include at this time.

iA Writer does have Dropbox sync, but Elements just feels more stable and simple for the most part. Also, iA Writer lacks the sharing capabilities that Elements includes – Facebook and Tumblr. Elements will get you more for your money in the long run.

There are also other competitors such as Nocs, which is free and has the same idea behind it, but the ugly interface that’s identical to Dropbox fails to provide a distraction-free experience. Nocs would be considered a more straightforward editor that doesn’t have any significant features to offer that make it unique.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for an app that will provide a very simple writing interface and looks nice throughout, then this is exactly what you need. If you want something more robust, maybe you should try Pages or Quickoffice.

I use Elements to write papers for school, as well as notes in class. It works great since the formatting is easy and the iPad is a portable device. In the end, Elements is a great investment for whatever the use is, be it note-taking, blogging, writing an email, composing an essay, or writing this post. It can do it all and back up your work at the same time, which gives it the upper hand in the Markdown editing market.


Summary

Elements is a dedicated Markdown and Dropbox powered text editor for iOS. Elements allows you to view, edit, and share plain text documents on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. All of your data is stored in a folder on your personal Dropbox account so that it's accessible from any device you have.

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  • wvit

    About the font problem that you talk about (Please note that this will change the font for all your documents. I’m not sure why, but it should be fixed in the next update), I understand that it’s because it is the font of the editor not the font of the document.

    I think elements is more like a textedit or notepad, a simple text only editor. I buy it and keep using it because it is as it is.

    Here are some paragraph cut from the developer website:
    Elements is a beautiful, versatile text editor for iOS. Elements allows you to view, edit and share __plain text__ documents on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

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