Our favorite iPad writing app

Editorial hero

As a writer whose primary device has been an iPad for two and a half years, I have a lot of feelings about writing apps. And, it’s no secret that the iOS App Store is replete with great ones. Here are just a few off the top of my head:

  • Byword — A simple and beautiful Markdown text editor. (We reviewed the iPhone version here and the Mac app here.)
  • Ulysses — For novelists and professional writers in general. (We reviewed the Mac app here.)
  • Day One — The ultimate journaling app.
  • iA Writer Pro — An opinionated app that takes the “minimalist text editor” concept to a whole new level, yet still offers unique, powerful features that set it apart from the pack.
  • 1Writer — Similar to Byword, just with a different aesthetic.

I’m probably missing some, and this isn’t even counting apps like Drafts, Simplenote, Vesper, and Evernote, which are ostensibly for notetaking but work just as well for general writing.

For me though, the king of them all is Editorial. It has four key features for me:

  • A built-in, multi-tab web browser. This is so handy when I’m in the research and link-gathering phase.
  • The browser includes 1Password support. I’ve found that I actually use the Editorial browser more often than I do Safari, so this is a real lifesaver.
  • A completely customizable preview pane, which accepts HTML and CSS code. This means I can preview exactly what my Spark Journal articles will look like right there in Editorial; no need to create a web draft first. It even lets you create multiple preview themes, so you could, for instance, create light and dark themes for day use vs. night use.
  • Last but certainly not least: The ability to create some pretty advanced workflows, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Basic Criteria

Whenever I try new writing apps, I always look for a handful of essential features:

  • Markdown support — Like many writers on the web, I write in Markdown syntax. Now, I realize you don’t need a special editor to write Markdown — that’s sort of the point — but being able to preview the HTML output of my documents before publishing is key. Bonus points if the text editor highlights Markdown syntax in-line so I don’t even have to switch to a preview pane to know that my syntax is correct.
  • TextExpander integration — I don’t know what I would do without my TextExpander snippets. I suppose I could always rely on the keyboard shortcut feauture built into iOS, but TextExpander is a vastly superior experience and I’d hate to go without it.
  • Universal compatibility — A fancy way of saying I want there to be both an iPad and an iPhone version of the app. I find this creates a far more seamless experience.
  • Document sync — Whether it’s with iCloud or Dropbox, I like knowing that my documents are being backed up to the cloud where I can access them from any device.

Without these features, I just wouldn’t feel at home in any writing app. Editorial doesn’t just meet these criteria — it exceeds them in ways no other text editor has yet been able to.

Notice that “minimalist writing environment” isn’t part of the list. It can certainly be a nice feature, but I’ll take Editorial’s “power user” features over additional blank space on my screen any day.

My Favorite Editorial Workflows

There was a time when the following list would have been much longer. Admittedly, I do still have a ton of workflows saved in Editorial as I write this, which I should do something about.

Many of them are now collecting dust, since (a) I’ve found a certain groove in my writing process where I don’t need as much automation as I used to, and (b) Editorial continues to add native features that copy (or improve upon!) functionality that previously could only be accomplished with workflows. One such feature is the ability to rearrange paragraphs via drag-and-drop, added in the version 1.2 update.

That said, there are still several workflows I find myself using often (click any link below to add that workflow to Editorial on your own device):

What Editorial Lacks

As much as I love Editorial, it’s not perfect (yet). These are my ongoing annoyances with the app:

  1. You know how in Safari you can tap-and-hold an image to bring up the option to save it to your camera roll? Editorial’s web browser has no such feature, nor have I been able to find any workflows that can accomplish what seems like a basic task. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to open a URL in Safari just to grab an image, rather than staying in Editorial where I’m already working. (Not to mention how often this causes Editorial to reopen from scratch, since I’m on an older iPad with less memory.)
  2. The web browser keeps no history between sessions. This normally wouldn’t bother me, except that if the app crashes or I’ve been away from the app a while, any tabs left open at the time either fail to reload the last page, or they manage to load the last page but forget everywhere else they’d visited previously. If Safari crashes, on the other hand, I can at least rest assured knowing that when I reopen it, all my tabs will remember where they’ve been.
  3. Settings and workflows don’t sync or backup automatically between devices. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to re-configure everything on my iPhone and iPad after a device restore, or when my Editorial beta has ended and I end up having to delete-and-reinstall when the App Store version fails to download correctly.

These quibbles aside, Editorial is truly the ultimate writing app for me. I don’t see myself switching to anything else in the near future.

Editorial is a universal iOS app and can be purchased on the App Store for $9.99.