Drafts for iOS

Some people bake bread. Others collect watches. Some watch birds. I collect iOS text editors. Scratch that, I spend an incredible amount of time considering, testing and playing with text editors on iOS. It all started out looking for a text based nirvana. Ultimately my quest for that perfect editor has come up short as it has now dawned on me that the perfect text editor doesn’t exist. Rather what I have come to realise is that there are several amazing editors that have a number of strengths and weaknesses. The trick is to find the collection that best compliment each other in your quest for capturing and further developing your thoughts.

My collection of apps that I love on iOS are:

  1. iA Writer
  2. Editorial
  3. 1Writer

To that collection I have recently added Drafts as it has become my replacement The Archive on the Mac. My long held belief that the modal design established by Notational Velocity1 was/is the ultimate method for capturing and searching for text. Drafts introduces another way that is equally as powerful, only different.

Getting Over the Omnibar

In The Archive, once you open the app, the cursor is in the omnibar which lets you create or search for a note. In creating a note, you type in some words, which then become the name of the file and the first line of the new file. It’s an incredibly powerful concept that has not been replicated successfully on iOS yet (although there have been some flawed attempts).

Drafts does away with the search. For Drafts, by default, the first thing that you are allowed to is start writing in a blank file. That is where you start. If you want to search, there are three ways, press the search icon in the bottom right hand corner (prime location), press shift+command+f or pull down to reveal the search. The reason this is better for iOS is the fact that this entire app is replicated on the iPhone, with a single exception (that I can find), which is pinning the sidebar (this seems to only be available on the iPad).

Getting Over the Clutter

One of the things that drove me away from using Drafts was that I thought it was too cluttered. I had bought into the minimal aesthetics provided by iA Writer and I liked it that way.

Except Drafts is more function over form. In many ways, this app is the total antithesis of iA Writer. The icon isn’t great (although you can change it). Both the overall graphic direction of the app and the iconography for the groups sidebar leave a lot to be desired. I’ve quickly learnt not to care.

Being able to write whatever I want and then call up a function and publish to my website in microseconds makes the function trump any ugly iconography found within the app itself. That is where I started seeing that there is more to this app than meets the eye. I published exclusively from it for 2 months before realising that all of my thoughts should live in here. Thoughts that need to be expanded upon can get moved over to iA Writer for a more refined experience.

Workspaces

The Archive has a similar feature to this, except it wasn’t graphically implemented as elegantly as this. This feature is available, but it is mostly hidden.

What I love about this particular feature is the fact that I can flip between different frames of mind. I want to write some thoughts about engineering? There’s a workspace for that. Something for this site? There’s a workspace for that. General reference texts? Yup, there’s a space for that.

Deep

Rearranging the text within a file, as per blocks, sentences or lines is an excellent idea that I’ve not encounter anywhere else. The fact that it has a shortcut for just about everything shows that the developer understands what is important. Version history for all your text is there and readily available within the app. And on the list goes. @cm called this app deep which is such an excellent description of what this app has to offer.

Subscription Model

I don’t agree with the subscription model used and would have preferred if the subscription model established by Sketch was used instead. You pay once and continue to use the app that you paid for at that point in time for as long as you want. For 1 year you get all monthly updates. If you want future updates after that year, you have to pay again. Not sure what happens to all my Workspaces when the year is over tbh.

Having said that, there is plenty of room for the app to improve. The aforementioned graphical shortcomings. The selection of themes could be better, maybe something similar to those provided in iWriter Pro. The fact that there isn’t a baked in path to exporting the text as a series of files, which goes against some of what I want (but there might be a pretty easy workaround for that).

These are quibbles in what is otherwise one of the most pro writing app on any platform.


  1. I wish I could find out why that website is still live? It’s not been updated in nearly a decade and from memory the app stopped working years ago. [return]