iOS App Review: Write for iPhone

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At this point, I think just about everyone knows I have a thing for iOS text editors. My proclivity for plain text and my love of my iDevices means that I track innovation in this arena pretty closely. A new app in this category has recently caught my attention: Write, a Dropbox-based text editor for iPhone.

Editing

The editor in Write is pretty standard, with an extra keyboard row offering instant access to some common second and third-screen characters. The appearance of the editor can be quickly adjusted by holding two fingers down on the screen, which pops up a dialog where you can change fonts and turn on “night mode” (inversed colors). Oddly, it includes “Marker Felt” and “Papyrus” font options. To each their own.

It supports Markdown preview, and the keyboard row can slide to the left to reveal Markdown-specific formatting tools. It lacks a “smart return” for list continuation, etc., but it’s smart enough that when you type an asterisk as the first character of a line, it adds a space after it. I found list indentation to be a little difficult, though.

File management

When you first launch the app, it defaults to starting a new note immediately. In the settings you can configure it to open the file list on launch instead, depending on your intended use for the app.

You can save the current file to Dropbox while editing by just pulling down on the screen. In preview mode, the same gesture provides a quick-delete capability. Of course, it will auto-save if you switch documents or start a new one.

Swiping from left to right reveals the file list. Write uses an app-specific Dropbox folder (which is also used by its lightweight Mac counterpart found here). You can Quick Look files by pressing and holding the filename, and you can “star” files for quick access from a second tab in the list view.

There’s a search bar in the file list for searching document titles. Unfortunately, there’s no full text search (or in-document search). That would be a very nice addition.

Gestures

One thing I’m impressed by is the generous use of intuitive gesture controls. The pull-to-save and pull-to-delete functions are handy, and the press-and-hold Quick Look is outstanding, but the rest of the gestures are gathered from other sources and standard interactions. What Write did correctly, in my opinion, is the right combination of existing gesture-based actions into one app.

One feature that’s not unique to Write but well-implemented here is the keyboard cursor control. Tapping and holding a button in the middle of the main extra keyboard row lets you drag around the screen to move the cursor (caret) position. Textastic, WriteUp and others have this feature, but here’s what I love about this one: the line up/down threshold.

When you drag up or down, there’s a certain distance you have to go before it activates the cursor movement. My biggest complaint with the implementation of this feature in any app has always been that — when dragging horizontally — the movement jittered up and down if my path wasn’t perfectly horizontal. This solves that. I didn’t see this listed in their marketing materials as a specific feature, but I love it.

Sharing

Swiping from right to left on the editor screen opens up the sharing options. Similar to Drafts, there are pre-configured actions and services, and you can add your own using url schemes.

Write includes integration with Twitter, Tweetbot, Poster, Facebook, Cloudapp, Evernote, Google Drive and others (and can disable any you don’t use). There are quite a few internal options as well, including emailing, previewing, printing and copying options. It can even put a public link to the current file on Dropbox into your clipboard.

Should you buy it?

Write is $0.99 on the US App Store. It’s a low price for what I consider an exceptionally well-done app. You probably already have most of its features via other applications, though, so whether you want to drop another dollar into the text editor well will have to be your decision.

Keep in mind that if you’re editing long-form documents in Markdown, you’ll miss some of the more advanced editing features of other editors which are more specifically geared to that purpose. And if you’re just scratching quick notes, it might be overkill. For everything in-between, Write is a standout editor in its class, combining intuitive gestures, Dropbox file management and a wide range of sharing and export tools.

Want to take a shot at yet another iOS writing experience? Check out Write in the iTunes App Store.