How the new x-callback-url in Byword improves my writing workflow on the iPad

It's been more than a year now that I've been writing regularly for this site. Initially, I used Byword to write most of my earlier posts. Then, I made a switch to iA Writer, because I really like how iA Writer automatically changes the font size based on the window width. I find it easier to write in iA Writer than in Byword.

I write mostly on the Mac. But, there are often cases where I need to finish an article on my iPad, or even on my iPhone. I really enjoy writing on the iPad, except for the part where I need to switch back and forth between the text editor and the browser. That's why I prefer to research all the links that I will include in my posts on the Mac before I start my writing. Once all the links have been put into the draft document, I can easily write on any device without having to switch back and forth to the browser.

Camila and I work collaboratively through a shared Dropbox folder. She's responsible to copy edit all of my apps reviews. Even though it's perfectly fine to write the draft document directly on that shared folder, I'd prefer to write it in private first. Because both Byword and iA Writer support Documents in the Cloud, I can store my private draft in iCloud, and have iCloud sync it to all my devices. That way, I can collect the links on my Mac, and continue my writing on the iPad/iPhone.

A few days ago, Byword released a new update that adds x-callback-url support to its iOS app. It allows us to open an existing document, create a new document, append or prepend text to an existing document, or even replace the content of a document. It works for any documents stored in both iCloud and Dropbox.

With this new feature, I can remove the only reason why I need to start my writing on the Mac, and go iPad only. I decided to create a Safari bookmarklet that allows me to send the selected text and the article URL to Byword, append it to my current draft which is stored in iCloud, and return to Safari to collect more links. Because I use Markdown to write all of my posts, I can even have the bookmarklet to generate a Markdown link with both information.

Because Byword always uses Untitled.txt as the name of the first untitled draft document, I hardcode it as the name of the document being appended. Obviously this only works if you're working on a single untitled draft document at any given period.

Note: If you find yourself working with more than one document, you may need to send the information to Drafts first, and write in the document name on the last line, before triggering a custom URL action to send the information to the appropriate document in Byword. I personally find this a bit cumbersome, and not as fluid as working with a single untitled draft document at a time.

Because this bookmarklet tries to grab the currently selected text, it only works if you add it on the Bookmarks Bar in Safari. If you add the bookmarklet into the Bookmarks Menu, the current selection will be cleared as you navigate away from the browsing view into the menu. This prevents the bookmarklet from being used in Chrome or in Safari for the iPhone.

To show the Bookmarks Bar, you may need to go to the Settings app on your iPad, and turn on the "Always Show Bookmarks Bar" option for Safari.

I'm excited to see this new update to Byword. It helps me to start writing even when I'm away from my Mac. If you're a writer who uses Byword to write your posts on your iPad and uses Wordpress, Tumblr, Blogger or Scriptogram to publish your posts, you can use this bookmarklet to improve your writing workflow. My only wish is for Byword to add Squarespace as one of its publishing options. That way, I can write and publish my posts using only Byword and Safari on my iPad.