WriteDown - a Markdown text editor with syncing support ($0.99) by NGUYEN VINH is a Markdown text editor for your iPhone with some powerful features.
If you don’t already know, I’m a huge Markdown nerd. Ever since I discovered John Gruber’s Markdown syntax a couple of years ago, I use it for everything, especially my daily writing here at AppAdvice. It may take a bit of getting used to, but once you do, then you will wonder how you ever wrote without it.
Currently, all of my writing is done in my favorite writing app of choice, Byword. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t like to try out new writing apps — the geek in me likes to try out a lot of different things to see which one works the best for my personal workflow. So of course, when I heard about WriteDown, I had to at least give it a try.
Personally, I find the interface for WriteDown not as polished as other apps, like Byword and iA Writer, but it looks like it will fit in well with iOS 7. This is due to the “flat” theme that it has, complete with the singular buttons. However, I did not find WriteDown as intuitive as other apps of the same genre — in fact, at times it feels a bit cumbersome.
WriteDown does support three methods of cloud data storage: Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive. These can be linked up in the Settings, which are accessed via the “hamburger” button in the top left corner. There are plenty of other options found here, including a passcode lock, appearance settings, default file extension, and more.
While I’m happy that there is Dropbox integration, I was unable to find a way to change the default folder that WriteDown saves in. It will create a subfolder in Apps named “WriteDownApp.” This is a bit irritating, as I prefer to just link up writing apps to my root Dropbox folder, so that all of my .txt or .md files are able to be edited in that app. I sincerely hope that the developer considers changing this in a future update.
To create a new note, you can tap on the “New Note” button in the top left, or simply pull the screen down (this can be toggled in the settings). Now this is where I get a bit frustrated with WriteDown, compared to other apps. The first thing that you will be required to do is to give the note a name, and make sure that it’s not a duplicate name, otherwise the app won’t let you create it (it doesn’t just add a –1 to the end of it like other apps do). Then you can increase the “reading time” in increments of one, though I personally don’t have much use for this. To start writing, you will need to tap on the pen icon, which I didn’t understand — why not just tap on the empty note area to bring up the keyboard? WriteDown currently just adds unnecessary steps to your writing workflow.
WriteDown has a decent writing view, which can be in full-screen or not with just a tap. The keyboard will be extended with a Markdown shortcut row, which features buttons for headers, bold, italics, lists, quotes, links, and images. There is also a special trackball cursor button that makes it easy to move the cursor around without your finger getting in the way.
Perhaps I’m spoiled by other writing apps, but I do wish WriteDown had more than one section for the extended keyboard row. Having a word count and more buttons for character shortcuts would have been nice to have, as you can find in Byword. With only seven real options while writing, it can seem a bit limited.
A nice thing though, is the fact that WriteDown comes with an easily-accessible in-app browser (tap on the “Safari” button in the top bar). This is great if you do more research-oriented writing, like with Writing Kit. If you need a refresher on Markdown, slide to the left to reveal a little cheat sheet. You can also quickly get a Markdown preview by pulling the screen down. To save your work, just tap on the checkmark.
While it is not the most streamlined process, WriteDown does get the job done. However, I did encounter several glitches during my testing, where it looked like the app was frozen, thus not getting the writing I was doing. This happened more than once (I’m on iOS 6), so it does still need some more polishing before it’s fully ready.
The biggest problem with the app, though, is the fact that you won’t be able to edit your notes after saving them. For a writing app, this makes no sense whatsoever. At least, I wasn’t able to find a way to edit them once they were saved. You would think that the pencil icon on each note in the file list would bring you to an editing screen, but it only takes you to what you entered in previously. You can swipe on notes to reveal a contextual menu where you can upload, get information, copy it to the clipboard, or delete it.
On the plus side, each note has a brightness toggle in the top left corner, and there are several options that can be brought up via the “share” button in the bottom corner. The buttons here are bright and colorful, which I liked, but I did not understand why there needed to be different actions for Content and Title. There are also third-party app actions, similar to what you would find in Drafts. You can also create a PDF from your note.
Going back to the list view, you can email your entire list of notes, which I suppose could be handy if you are working together with someone on a project, or something of that sort.
While WriteDown has a good concept, I am not finding it usable for daily work. There are too many steps involved, which is not what you want in a mobile app, especially for writing. The current process of getting a new note in and not being able to edit it later is confusing and very frustrating, to say the least. The glitches and crashes are also a huge drawback — I wouldn’t want to trust a crashy app for my long writing pieces, after all.
I did enjoy the customizable themes and appearance options in WriteDown, and the clean interface, but these were not enough to save the app. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done before this is even usable, at least for me. For now, I recommend Byword, iA Writer, or Elements for your Markdown writing needs on the iPhone.