Write for Dropbox - A Plain Text Editor and Notes App ($0.99) by Tanmay Sonawane is a slick new writing app that is sure to become a favorite among Markdown writers.
Ever since Byword for iOS came out almost a year ago, I’ve been using it as my primary text and Markdown editor on my iPhone and iPad. I’ve loved it because of the sleek interface, Markdown shortcuts, and many powerful features that it had. However, it is getting some very strong competition with the latest in the saturated writing app market: Write for Dropbox.
First off, if you have a Mac, I recommend downloading the free companion app, Write for Mac. This nifty app will sit in your menubar, allowing you to quickly create new plain text files with one click.
The iPhone version of Write is pretty polished, and I’m quite impressed. The app will launch first into a tutorial, which will show you the ropes of using it. As you go through this brief introduction, you will notice that Write actually differs from some of the competition with some amazing new features, which I’ll get to in a bit.
When you get past the lesson, you will want to link your Dropbox account. If you have the Dropbox app on your iPhone, it will take you to it to authorize. If you don’t, I’d imagine that the app will just ask for your account email and password.
Once Dropbox is linked and set up, Write will create a new folder for your notes, appropriately named “Write.” I could not find a way to point the app to my root Dropbox folder, which is how I have it set up in Byword, so this is a bit annoying.
Write will launch into a new note editing screen each time, which is great, as it makes it incredibly easy to immediately start jotting down what you need. Of course, I still prefer to use apps like Drafts or Scratch for quick text input, but if you don’t want to have a middle-man app, then Write could be a good solution.
When you create a new text file, you can rename it (default will be date and time) by tapping on the header bar at the top. All changes are synced immediately, so that’s handy. As you write, you will get an additional row above the main keyboard, with shortcuts to common punctuation, and another “page” to the row that features buttons for easy Markdown formatting. There is even a live Markdown preview button on the additional row so you can quickly toggle it on and off as necessary. Other apps, such as Byword, require you to access a separate menu to get a live Markdown preview.
One of the things I haven’t seen before, and it is completely new in Write, is the cursor trackpad that is in the center of the first page of the extension (the big, bold circle). To use it, all you have to do is tap and hold the button, and then without releasing, drag your finger around to move the cursor. This will select text quickly and easily, though it will take some time to get used to in order to get precise selections.
When you’re done writing or editing a file, you will want to save your work, which is done automatically. The moment you hit “Done,” Write will save and you will be viewing your document. The bottom will have a toolbar with several options: Sharing (also accessed by swiping the screen from right-to-left, swipes from left-to-right will reveal file list and settings panel), Copy Link (to the Dropbox file), Search text, favorite file (for easier access), live Markdown preview, file information, and full-screen view.
The Sharing menu has a lot of options, which remind me of Drafts. The actions you can take are split into Primary Actions and Third Party Apps, so there are lots of things that you can do with your text. Full-screen viewing and editing can also be toggled by pinching in and out on the screen with two fingers. Also, at any time, you can use two fingers to tap and hold on the screen to bring up the menu for changing font style, toggling night mode, and adjusting brightness.
Once you start acquiring a collection of text files, it can be a hassle to open up each one to see what content awaits you. On the file list, you can tap and hold on a file to bring up a Quick Look popover, which allows you to see the contents of the file without having to open it. This is an awesome feature that makes it worth the dollar for admission alone.
Write also features a nifty pull-to-save or pull-to-delete feature for your files. This is awesome because it makes it easier than ever before to save or delete files, and it has a cute animation that is revealed while pulling the screen down.
The settings for the app give users various options for their files, including: sorting files by, toggling the punctuation/Markdown toolbar, pull to save, pull to delete, sounds, automatic full-screen writing mode, passcode lock, and file list on startup. You can also customize the third-party app actions as well, and even add your own custom actions.
Overall, I’m really enjoying Write for iPhone. I love the interface, the sliding gestures for accessing menus and it introduces some new elements that make it easier for writers everywhere. It’s very close to replacing Byword form me, but it needs some improvements before that happens.
I need to get access to my root Dropbox folder for access to all of my .txt and .md files, instead of just having a separate Write folder for my notes. I also would like to be able to quickly edit a file by tapping anywhere on the text, instead of having to tap on the “Edit” button. I also would like to see more font options (I love using Avenir at the moment) added in the future. Oh, and of course, there needs to be an iPad version.
Still, Write for Dropbox – A Plain Text Editor and Notes App is a worthy option to check out if you are in the market for your “holy grail” text editor for your iPhone.
Get it in the App Store for your iPhone for only $0.99.