Big Problem with Markdown Apps

There’s a big problem with Markdown apps. 🙂

Q: What’s the problem?
A: It’s much too easy to switch to the latest, greatest, OS X distraction-free, text editor. This one is prettier. That one makes it easier to write and blog. The monster advantage of plain text is that you’re not locked into a specific application. Unfortunately, that can also be a curse.

Surely, that’s only a problem if you’re an app developer? Well, no, it can also be surprisingly distracting, if you’re easily seduced by new, competing applications.

It’s no secret that Byword app is currently my favourite markdown editor. That said, I recently had a look at Desk app and then Typed. The Typed app got my attention.

Typed app icon

  • Typed is a pretty application – gorgeous, minimalist and completely at home on Yosemite
  • there’s no window clutter, controls (writing view, preview and sharing) only appear when you mouse over the left margin
  • the typography on my 13” MacBook Pro Retina Display makes composing for the web as sublime an experience as writing can be
  • there are plenty of font options and sizes, but I wish Typed and all editors offered font scaling/zoom (bigger/smaller)
  • I prefer the ivory background and it’s oversized, colourful cursor (you also have a choice of white/light and black/dark backgrounds)
  • word count is nicely placed at the top right
  • extensive keyboard shortcuts are easy to remember
  • the autosave implementation is reassuring
  • Zen Mode surprised me, because the music didn’t distract me, as I feared it might
  • HTML preview and HTML export couldn’t be easier
  • I even like the app icon.

Comment: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let’s just say, there are significant similarities between Typed and Byword.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
– Charles Caleb Colton

While trialling Typed, I experienced a few hangs, after cutting and pasting. I also saw considerable markdown-display funkiness. To be fair, Typed is a v1.0, I know Realmac Software will get it sorted. Based on their team’s history the fixes are likely to happen in the near future.

Typed has potential, but I’m sticking with Byword, at least for now. Byword is currently ahead of Typed in both functionality and stability. In fact, Byword is so good, you really have to wonder why I keep trying out all the new stuff?

Update: I just read and enjoyed David Sparks post about Byword and Typed. David is clearly much less fickle than I am, but he arrived at the same conclusion I did. We both love Byword! In my case, the only question is, “Will the love affair last?”

Ulysses III App Problem

I was seduced by a fresh, very pretty face; specifically the Ulysses app’s UI. Then, suddenly, rudely, I was brought back to reality by my Ulysses III app problem. After successfully using Ulysses to write a blog post about markdown app housekeeping, I was in the midst of writing another post when I experienced a minor disaster. Here’s what happened: Ulysses III crashed and wouldn’t restart without crashing again and again and…

My problem began with a simple operator error. I pressed command + w intending to close the Marked app preview window, but instead closed the Ulysses window (I hadn’t recognized, that at some point, I’d made Ulysses the active window). There’s no ‘Undo’ for being a putz. 🙂 When I pressed command + q to quit Ulysses, the Apple crash reporter appeared. Ever since then, whenever I attempt to launch Ulysses, I’m locked into an Apple and/or The Soulmen crash reporting/crashing loop. So, my new Ulysses III app is temporarily out of action. In addition to completing the Ulysses in-app crash form, sometime yesterday afternoon, I also completed the feedback form at the Ulysses website. I haven’t, yet, had a response, which is completely understandable, because they’ve experienced a very successful App Store launch, so they’re busy. Their small team is getting lots and lots of feedback. I just hope I haven’t lost my documents which were stored locally, not in iCloud.

When it comes to OS X productivity, a ‘hot off the press’ app, loaded with the very latest whiz-bang features isn’t necessarily what you need. I learned that the hard way with Ulysses III.

In my housecleaning post, I mentioned that it was a little distressing for me to remove Byword from my applications folder. Well, Byword is back and, unsurprisingly, it’s performing reliably, as it always has.

Comment: One of the biggest advantages of composing with markdown syntax is that it’s plain text, so there’s no lock-in to a proprietary format like Microsoft Word. Ulysses app stores documents in a database, even when you save locally, i.e. not to iCloud. In a situation like the one I’m still experiencing, I can’t get at my, database-confined content because Ulysses won’t launch without crashing. Although Ulysses enables export to plain text, I didn’t do that before the first crash. If I had created my documents with Byword, Texts app, or almost any other plain text or markdown editor, I’d be able to open and edit my stuff with a different editor; as it is I’m stuck. I’m also wondering if the Ulysses database will increase backup times?

Correction (20130413): You can store local files in Ulysses, “…click plus sign in the left bottom corner and select “Add External Source”, then select “Edit…” in context menu for the created external source and select “Always assume Markdown syntax”. Tip via Fedor Sheremetyev, developer of Texts.

Ulysses III app is destined to become a stellar writing environment, but as my situation illustrates, there can be teething problems, even with the best apps. I’ll update this journal entry after I’ve heard from the Ulysses team.

Update (Support responds): The Soulmen Support folks responded about a day after I contacted them. Initially they suspected an Apple iCloud problem, but that definitely wasn’t it because my documents were stored locally. Next they asked me to send them a crash report and system information. Although I had previously filed a report, they couldn’t find it. Then the weekend arrived and support communication ceased. A forum post solved my problem. After three days, it was nice to see Ulysses launch successfully and reassuring to see that my content was still there. When Ulysses’ support’s communications resumed Monday, they echoed the forum post I discovered over the weekend; i.e. Use terminal to reset Ulysses III app’s settings to resolve the crashing problem. All communications from the Ulysses folks were courteous and focused on getting Ulysses running again. I suspect the app’s first update will correct the problem I experienced. Rest assured these folks are professionals and Ulysses III has tremendous potential. The first update v1.0.1 appears to have solved my problem.