The straightforward and the scary of text editors

Listen, text editor or word processor: they’re both ugly terms and you can probably marshal brilliantly incisive definitions for what they are and why they are different but they both things you can write in. I think of a word processor as being something capable of handling complex books and a text editor as something for notes. But I have written – hang on, let me check, – just shy of 300 articles for this year and every one of them was in a text editor.

Some of them have been about text editors and I want to show you two that I think represent extremes of this market plus a third I say lies in the middle but which I adore. The first is Simplenote, which was recommended to me by MacNN’s Charles Martin and after a couple of months using it I wrote:

Start quick, get on with writing, finish and move on. There isn’t a Save button in Simplenote, and we just had to look to find that out: it never occurs to us to save, we just know everything always is saved. Compare that to Pages, where Apple tells us it is constantly saving yet we can’t shake that command-s keystroke twitch. One reason we trust Simplenote so readily is that we can see the result: write something on the Mac version, and it’s right there on the iOS one immediately.

We also like the fact that we often compile pieces we’ve written in a dozen different places, and can just paste them all in. No remembering to find some Paste As Special tick box, no reformatting, no format painter, just text right in. That suits us well for weblinks, too, as they just go in as text the way we intended.

Hands On: Simplenote 4.1.1 (OS X, iOS) – William Gallagher, MacNN (16 June 2015)

Simplenote is simple but not all that powerful and nor does it need to be. At the other end, though, you get Editorial. While Simplenote is across Mac, iOS, Android and – via the web – also PCs, Editorial is only for iPad and iPhone. It is so powerful that it honestly frightens me:

Look at the improvements in version 1.2, a more significant update from 1.1 than it sounds. It adds folding for Markdown and TaskPaper, it’s got new bundled workflows, and behind that blank screen, it has new modules for its native programming language, called Python.

If you don’t know what all this means, then in theory you never have to. You can ignore every bit of it, and just write in Editorial whatever you need to write. Yet that would be like buying one of those pens where you have to click to get the ballpoint nib out — and then never clicking it. You could make marks on the paper, but you’d know you were denying yourself the ink and color this app is capable of.

It’s capable of so much that Editorial has fans. Microsoft Word doesn’t, but Editorial so definitely does. Nobody’s actually called it life-changing yet, but they have called it worklife-changing, and they weren’t kidding.

Hands On: Editorial 1.2 (iOS) – William Gallagher, MacNN (17 June 2015)

Since I wrote that review I’ve kept Editorial on my iPad but I can’t help myself, I keep turning to Drafts 4 to write. I love that app and I love that while for some indefinable reason I just enjoy writing in it, it also has some welly.

I’ll open it in a flash, write something immediately and only then think about where I’m going to use it. I’ll write down a stray thought and maybe seeing it there on the screen I’ll think yes, that’s something I should definitely do – so I’ll tap one button and the text goes off to my To Do app, OmniFocus. Maybe I think that’s something I should tell Angela – so I’ll tap one button and it’s sent to her by text message. And on and on and on. As many things as I can need or think of, and all with one button. Sometimes that button takes a lot of setting up, but once it’s done, I can tap away at will.

I think what’s significant is that there is such a range now of software you can write in. So much so that I can spend happy hours trying them all out instead of actually writing anything. Excellent.

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