Blogging on the iPad With Byword and Daedalus

Recently, I started blogging on my iPad.

I quickly determined I needed a good writing app. I don’t care for the WordPress app. Writing in the WordPress editor in a mobile web browser is better, but still isn’t ideal.

On the iPad, I use Pages to sync docs with Pages on my laptop. It’s what I use for my journal. But Pages is a word processor. I wanted more of a minimalist, plain text editor. In the process, I discovered Markdown and thought it would be great for blogging.

I researched text editors that utilize Markdown (a great resource is maintained by Brett Terpstra). I was looking for a clean writing interface with Markdown support (and preferably Markdown preview). It had to have an extra keyboard row to make writing in Markdown on the iPad easier (preferably a customizable keyboard row).

After extensive research, I settled on Byword.

Here’s what I like about Byword …

Byword provides a minimalist, distraction-free interface. It incorporates a low-profile extra keyboard row with some helpful buttons (especially for Markdown). There are actually three different extra rows you can swipe between: one simply includes a word count; a second, the one I use most, includes some of the characters used in Markdown, which are buried on the iPad’s keyboard; the third extra row option includes other shortcuts for things like lists and links, but I prefer to use standard Markdown characters instead. Byword supports Markdown, and includes the ability to preview Markdown. It also allows exporting to HTML (to paste into the WordPress editor, for example).

Here’s what I don’t like about Byword …

Byword doesn’t offer much customization. I understand it’s a scaled-down, minimalist app (which I like), but a couple more font and color choices would be nice. It would also be nice to access Markdown preview in one or two clicks, instead of three. But what I’d really love is the ability to customize the extra keyboard row by adding or changing characters on the row.

This last item, a customizable keyboard row, is why I gave Daedalus a shot.

Here’s what I like about Daedalus …

The customizable extra keyboard row in Daedalus is pretty awesome! You can also change the look by choosing from different colors and fonts. Another awesome feature is the ability to tap in the side margins to move the cursor (tapping in the right margin advances the cursor one character at a time while tapping in the left margin moves it backward; double-tapping moves the cursor one word at a time). Daedalus also supports Markdown.

Here’s what I don’t like about Daedalus …

The biggest feature missing is Markdown preview (it’s much easier to proofread in preview than in draft mode, plus I can correct any Markdown errors). Daedalus doesn’t offer export to HTML, although I haven’t used that feature in Byword, either (I use a WordPress plugin that allows me to paste Markdown directly into the WordPress editor). I’m not a big fan of Daedalus’ concept of stacks and sheets (which seems to be Daedalus’ primary selling point). And, the interface is a little cluttered (the extra keyboard row takes up more space than Byword’s and the bar at the top of the screen doesn’t disappear to give more space like the one in Byword).

Here’s my current workflow …

I write my blog post in Byword or Daedalus. Then I paste it into the WordPress editor in the web browser on my iPad. I preview it there, then when it’s ready, I publish or schedule it. But if I’m writing a more involved post, such as one with photos, I prefer to compose it on my laptop.

Going forward …

Byword would be almost perfect if the extra row was customizable. Daedalus would be much better with Markdown preview (a future possibility, I’m told).

I will continue to be on the lookout for other new or updated text editors. But for now, I’m fairly content using these apps for blogging, with a slight edge to Byword because of Markdown preview, though I miss Daedalus’ customizable extra keyboard row.

I may also experiment with TextExpander Touch, which a number of apps, including Byword and Daedalus, support. This might open the door for other Markdown editors with or without extra keyboard rows. Either way, the search for the ideal text editor continues!

Any questions or comments about Byword or Deadalus? Or, do you have a favorite text editor? Let me know in the comments.

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