Write: A Great Text Editor With Extensive Sharing

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Anybody that knows me can easily attest to my “minor” app addiction. Given that I do a fair amount of writing, it’s only natural I have a stronger propensity toward writing apps. I have however reached a point where I feel I’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see in a writing app. Their features start to blend together and it becomes increasingly harder for an app to stand out in the sea of iOS text editors.

Write, with some rather unique features and extensive sharing options similar to Drafts, managed to surprise me and shows that there is still much that can be done in an already saturated field.

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Getting Started

Write, like most modern iOS text editors allows me to sync my documents with the cloud. It currently supports Dropbox and iCloud but unlike other popular apps such as Byword or iA Writer, the services are mutually exclusive meaning I have to choose one or the other.

The two mutually exclusive sync options.

The two mutually exclusive sync options.

iCloud sync was only recently introduced and it shows — lacking some of the functionality available with Dropbox sync that makes Write stand out. Furthermore, although there is a Mac counterpart, it doesn’t sync with iCloud meaning that documents stored there are only accessible on other iOS devices (provided Write is installed and set up to sync with iCloud too).

Dropbox sync, however, is a whole other story. After having linked my Dropbox account, Write immediately created a new folder with which to sync with. Fortunately it was easy enough to change this to another folder of my choosing, after which, it promptly started downloading my documents.

Write will sync changes when back online. It will however overwrite anything change on Dropbox in the meanwhile (being fixed currently).

Write will sync changes when back online. It will however overwrite anything change on Dropbox in the meanwhile (being fixed currently).

Write, unlike many other editors (even the more popular ones), keeps an offline cache of all my files. This allows me the leisure of working on them even when I don’t have internet access. When I finally come back online, all my changes are uploaded to Dropbox immediately.

File management in Write is stock full of niceties too. Tap and hold on any file or folder and a small sheet pops up with a scrollable preview of the file or folders content, buttons to edit, delete or obtain a public link for sharing (iCloud only allows sharing a file).

Scrollable preview of file contents, easy access to public dropbox link and edit button.

Scrollable preview of file contents, easy access to public dropbox link and edit button.

Another feature I’m quite fond of and happy to see in Write is the ability to mark a file as a favourite. Each file that is starred will then be gathered in a special, easily accessible folder, independent of its original location (this feature is also present in WriteUp with the added benefit that I can also pin folders for easy access).

Write As An Editor

The writing experience in Write is customisable to a degree. By simply tapping and holding 2 fingers on the text area, a small sheet drops down. This allows me to choose between various fonts and font sizes. My only gripe with this is that I have to cycle through each font as there is no drop-down with a list of available fonts. From here I can also tweak the brightness and toggle night mode.

Quick access to fonts and night mode.

Quick access to fonts and night mode.

The Extra Keyboard Row

Any modern iOS text editor worth its weight in salt sports an extended keyboard row — and Write is no exception. Its implementation, however, needs much more work and attention.

It’s riddled with unnecessary buttons while completely forgoing much needed ones. As an example, there is no tab button however there is one to quickly insert .com. Also missing are parenthesis and brackets, something much needed in Markdown editing and buried 3 layers deep in most keyboards. While on the topic of buttons, their design lacks consistency and polish.

Convoluted and inconsistent buttons make for an inferior user experience. Notice the Image and Markdown buttons.

Convoluted and inconsistent buttons make for an inferior user experience. Notice the Image and Markdown buttons.

It’s not all bad though, for this extra row holds one of the best implementations of a cursor I’ve seen to date. A single tap toggles between navigation and selection mode. Then tapping and dragging anywhere on the screen moves the cursor as easily and smoothly as if I were on my Mac’s trackpad (the only exception being when selecting text beneath the keyboard, it doesn’t scroll to accompany the selection).

Uploads image to Dropbox and inserts the link in the document.

Uploads image to Dropbox and inserts the link in the document.

This little extra row also holds a gem that I’ve found incredibly useful and surprised nobody has thought of it before. When I tap on the button to insert an image, I’m presented with a sheet with three options:

  • Enter Image URL — this will insert a Markdown formatted image link with the image URL highlighted, ready for substitution. My quibble with this is that it adds some dummy text that I later have to remove and if I per chance have some text selected, it will simply be overwritten.
  • Choose from Photo Library and Take Photo — these last two options are what is truly innovative in Write. Whether using an image from the Photo Library or taking a new photo, Write will upload the image to Dropbox and then include the image link in my document. I would have preferred though, that it added a Markdown formatted link, but the sole fact that it does this has proven incredibly useful and game changing for me.

Unique Features

Write is rife with gestures and while most of them are pretty standard and serve only to reveal panels (sharing, files/folders, additional options and settings), the developer decided to take a novel and unique approach to the pull gesture.

Writes innovative pull gesture at work.

Write‘s innovative pull gesture at work.

When editing a document, pulling down on the title bar will save it (with a fun animation). If viewing an already saved document, the very same gesture will delete it. This can be disabled in the settings if desired, but I’ve found it to be a fun and quick way of saving my work.

Device Sharing

Another truly unique feature — one that I initially dismissed as a mere gimmick — is device sharing. This allows me to setup two iOS devices. One serves as the host (where text will appear and be stored) and the other can act as a remote keyboard, clipboard or both.

Two devices connected, making for a great editing session (the wife wasn’t too happy though, she missed her Mini).

Two devices connected, making for a great editing session (the wife wasn’t too happy though, she missed her Mini).

When using the remote keyboard, auto-correct, auto-completion, double tap space for period and the wonderful cursor from the extended keyboard are missing. On the plus side, I have a huge keyboard that allows for very quick text entry.

The remote clipboard, makes research on the iPad evermore painless. I can quickly capture snippets of text and have them immediately show up on the other device. Having persistent history means I can navigate between apps, copy more text and never loose what I had previously copied.

Export & Sharing

Out the box, Write has extensive third party integration, supporting services such as Facebook, Evernote, Google Drive and even CloudApp. It also has support for third party apps such as Clear (iPhone only for now), Tweetbot and Poster (no longer available in the App Store).

Extensive sharing options easily accessible.

Extensive sharing options easily accessible.

Write also took a page out of Drafts’ playbook, allowing me set up additional sharing options by leveraging the power of other apps URL schemes. Although not nearly as powerful or versatile as Drafts’ implementation, it’s a solid start. Likewise, I can hide and organise services to best suit my needs. Write also has a URL scheme of its own: writeapp://note?title=<note title>&content=<note content>. 

To create a note with the default timestamp naming, leave title field empty.

Negative Aspects

Throughout the use of the app, I’ve come across a few issues that I feel should be improved upon.

For one thing, I’d like to see the developer do away with the dummy text added when tapping on buttons such as link, table and image. Having to go back and delete said text is tedious and unnecessary. I would also like to see the inclusion of smart of lists and a more refined and better laid out extended keyboard.

There were also a few odd bugs here and there that I wasn’t able to replicate though at times — it seemed as if the cache had frozen, not reflecting changes to the file and folder structure.

Final Thoughts

Admittedly I’m rather finicky when it comes to apps and I pay a great deal of attention to the small details. In most cases they may be minor things, but things that pester me nonetheless. For that very reason, more often than I care to admit, many apps are tested and then summarily deleted.

Although plagued with a few minor details that would otherwise irk me, Write has earned a much coveted spot on my iPad. Its tight integration with Dropbox, extensive and customisable sharing options and device sharing make for a very promising app.

If you’re in the market for a versatile and powerful editor then give Write a try. With a clean minimal design, great features and a dedicated developer, it’s poised to become the editor to beat.


Summary

Write is a text editor with extensive sharing options and tight integration with Dropbox. It is ideal for anyone looking for a solid Markdown-capable text editor.

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