I’ve used a good number of writing apps and services over the last couple of years. From Pages, iA Writer and ByWord on the Mac and iOS, to Draft and Editorially on the web. All of them have their upsides, but every single one has fallen flat in one aspect or another.
So, when Realmac Software, the team behind RapidWeaver, Ember and Clear, announced they were looking for testers for their new writing app, Typed, I couldn’t help but sign up for the beta to see what they were working on. In this post, written using Typed, I’ll share my thoughts on the application as it stands at version 1.0.
The design of Typed is incredibly minimal. When you start writing, the UI fades away leaving just the words you’re typing. They rest on what looks like a pane of frosted glass, just in front of your desktop background image. This makes it incredibly easy to focus on what you’re writing, whilst also meaning you don’t just have a white screen in your face all day.
The UI pops into view when you move the mouse to the left or the top of the window. Along the left are three icons. The first, a T, let’s you change the background colour and font of the application, as well as decide if you want a responsive layout or to choose your own font size and column size. During my testing, I kept this as responsive, so that the text and column width adapted with the size of the window.
The second icon, a pair of glasses, sends you into a preview mode. Away goes the markdown, and it’s replaced with a fully formatted version of your text. This is great for checking what something will look like, or reading something through without having to read around markdown syntax, but I wish it would use different styles for different header levels. Currently, a level one heading looks exactly the same as a level three heading whilst editing. (Though, I’ve been told a fix for this may be in the works).
Lastly, on the left, we have the share icon. This loads up the Mac OS X share sheet, which makes it very easy to share what you’ve written by email, Message, AirDrop, or through any social extensions you may have installed from other applications.
Moving the mouse to the top of the screen will, obviously, bring up the menu bar. Here you can check all the commands available as well as turn on word and character counts which will display unobtrusively in the top right of the window.
As you may have guessed from my earlier mention, Typed is a Markdown editor. This means that instead you can format and insert links, etc into the text using the Markdown syntax defined by John Gruber of Daring Fireball. If you’re interested in learning this syntax, you can read more about it at http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/.
Typed has keyboard commands built in for Markdown formatting, and they follow the conventions used in a lot of other Markdown and text editors. Pressing Command (⌘) and a number from 1 to 6 will set the different heading levels. Command and 0 will set the selected text to body. Command+B and Command+I trigger Bold and Italic, as you would expect. Command+’ invokes a blockquote, Command+K inserts a hyperlink, and Option+Command+I inserts an image.
All of the syntax is rendered in the window, so these built in commands are a great way to learn Markdown as you write, whilst also making some of the more frequent operations incredibly quick to invoke.
Typed is all about helping writers write better. To this aim, RealMac have included a “Zen Mode” which plays ambient music in the background. This can be enabled from the menu bar. (Early versions of the software had a button for this in the left hand side of the window. It was often confusing what this button did, and I think it’s a good thing that it was moved to the menu bar).
I tend to write with a Spotify playlist in the background (as you may have seen at the bottom of my more recent posts), but Zen Mode is good for those times where lyrical music is distracting, or you just want some ambient noise and not have to faff around finding the right thing. It’s an interesting feature that I’ve not yet seen in other text editors, and it seems you can change the nature of the soundtrack from the preferences menu (as well as some other settings).
Is Typed worth it?
The Good Points
Typed is a very good app if you want something that takes over your whole display and helps you focus on what you’re writing. Its different themes and fonts all look great, especially on a retina display, and the Zen Mode is perfect for those times you just want some ambient music in the background.
Its support of Markdown, and ability to export as HTML and RTF, fit perfectly with my workflow, but may prove a very small learning curve when you get started.
The Bad Points
My main problem with Typed, though a small one, is the lack of different styles being applied to different level headers when editing and previewing the document. In other Markdown writers I’ve used, as you increase the number of #’s preceding the title text, the title has got smaller. Typed doesn’t currently do this, and it makes seeing which level you’re at in preview mode slightly more difficult.
Beyond this, an issue some may have is with the lack of iOS application. With Typed only released today, and RealMac already having made iOS counterparts for many of their applications, I don’t see this being an issue for long, but it may put some off from purchasing straight away.
Should you buy Typed? Yes.
Typed 1.0 is a great first entry into the world of writing apps from the great team at RealMac. Having used their products, including Clear and LittleSnapper, for a long time, I know that they’ll bring love and attention to Typed over the coming months and years, and that they can only do this with the support of paying customers.
If you’re looking for a writing app that gets out of the way and just lets you write, give Typed a try. If you like it, why not show your support and love for the app by buying it? It’s the sensible thing to do.