For a while now, I have been looking for a great app to help me write even when I'm on the go. There are a couple of reasons for my search, the first being my decision to prioritize my family over my job when my second son was born 10 months ago. Part of this decision included my own initiative to spend more time with my juniors, so I stopped using my laptop at home so that I can focus more on whatever my 3-year old son, Philip, is doing. However, I still need to write reports and so on every once in a while, so I try my best to do them on my iPhone.
The second reason was my increased responsibility at the office. A couple of months ago, I was assigned an additional role at my day job that made it very difficult for me to sit at my desk for more than two hours. The only gadget I carry around with me all day is my iPhone, so it has become my go-to device to write down notes.
Finally, when Camila and I decided to run this website, we agreed to write our posts in Markdown. Knowing that it's not always possible for us to meet in person to discuss each post, I knew I needed an iPhone app that allows us to work in seamlessly with Dropbox.
What Byword is
Byword for iOS is an excellent writing app for the iPhone and the iPad that has built-in support for Markdown, Dropbox and iCloud. It provides a simple and focused environment for writing, and has all the key features such as font selection, word count, auto correction and spell checking.
What makes Byword special
First, it has a remarkable built-in support for Markdown. Surprisingly, there aren't many apps in the App Store that provide a good built-in support for Markdown, and Byword stands out amongst these. The app creatively uses the extra space above the virtual keyboard on the iPhone to insert a sliding panel that consists of the most frequently used Markdown shortcuts, such as *, #, hyperlinks, images and list items. There is also a feature to preview our writing, which is really helpful. And, even though I don't need the HTML export nor the Print features with our use cases right now, I can think of some people who would use them frequently.
The second thing I love about Markdown is its decision to include an undo button in the sliding panel. This has proven many times to be a more reliable way to perform undo than shaking your iPhone. It's small things like this that make me really appreciate Byword.
Here's another example of the small details that you can't live without once you've gotten used to Byword: the left and right arrows. I'm sure you recall how difficult it is to precisely place your cursor on the iPhone. It usually involves several taps before you can get anywhere near your target. Even so, you might need to move one or two characters forward or backward. These arrows allow you to place and navigate, rather than zoom and drag. Trust me, this is priceless.
Lastly, the Dropbox sync is essential for me. Based on our experience writing for this website, this feature allows us to work interchangeably between our Macs and our iPhones, and have our work peer-reviewed quickly. While other apps may provide built-in Dropbox sync, I believe that Byword's approach of having a single folder to be synced is the easiest for collaborative work.
If you're a blogger on the go and you want to always be productive, you might want to have a look at Byword for iOS. If you're writing in Markdown then Byword is one of the best tools that are carefully designed to achieve maximum productivity. If you need to work collaboratively via Dropbox or juggle notes between your devices via iCloud, Byword has a really solid implementation of these sync features. Finally, even though there are other apps that are more complex and apps that are simpler, I believe Byword provides the perfect set of features for our use cases.