capsule review

Byword for iPhone and iPad

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Byword

I recently reviewed the Mac OS X version of Byword, and developer Metaclassy has since released an iOS counterpart. With the same basic concept-providing a simple, minimal text and Markdown editor-the iOS version of Byword offers some unique features.

The iOS and Mac OS X versions work together via iCloud document syncing, and the iOS iteration of Byword also supports Dropbox. So even if you don’t use Byword on your Mac, you can access documents with the iOS app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

Key Features: A row of buttons above the on-screen keyboard in Byword lets you quickly apply Markdown formatting or navigate using arrow keys.

Byword for iOS cannot replicate the quick formatting “popover” that the desktop application has, using an interesting approach on iOS: The developer calls this “a swipeable row above the keyboard.” This three-section row of buttons lets you quickly apply Markdown formatting and paired characters (such as pairs of quotes or brackets), and it even has arrow keys, something the iOS keyboard desperately needs, so you can navigate in your text documents. (On the iPhone, there’s also an undo key in this bar.) One section of this row displays word and character counts; you tap to change from words to characters to words/characters; it would make more sense to just display both, rather than having to tap to change.

The app offers a number of ways to export text. You can export to HTML, converting Markdown formatting to the appropriate HTML. You can export via e-mail, sending your text as rich text, plain text or as an attachment. And you can copy the HTML converted from your Markdown formatting to paste into, say, a blog posting interface. You can also print if you have a printer that supports AirPrint.

Byword for iOS is limited in the fonts available, offering only four choices. In addition, you can’t change the font size at all; this is a big limitation for me, as none of the fonts suit me, and I would like to be able to choose a different size. Many iOS text editors offer these choices, and Byword’s approach seems a bit limiting.

It’s important to note that Byword for iOS cannot open RTF files you create with the desktop version of the program, so if you do use Byword on Mac OS X and create RTF files, you’ll need to either convert them to plain text or choose another iOS text editor.

Byword for iOS offers some very useful features, notably the quick formatting options and arrow keys on its “swipeable row.” Its font limitations may be problematic to some, but the ability to sync with both iCloud and Dropbox makes it a versatile iOS text editor for anyone who works with text or Markdown files.

[Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville. Kirk is the author of Take Control of Scrivener 2.]

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Byword

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