By Mike Riley on Tue, 11/02/2010
The Apple iPad App Store is rapidly filling up with a slew of various text editing applications, each featuring their own unique approach to the job of entering and editing content. Edito is one such application optimized for the entry and interpretation of Markdown, a shorthand markup language co-created by Mac enthusiast John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame. Due to the endorsements of Markdown by notable personalities in the Mac community (Merlin Mann of 43 Folders, for example), and support of the syntax by various blogging sites and programming tools, Markdown is making its mark, so to speak, on the World Wide Web.
Edito’s approach to Markdown is as simple as the Markdown syntax itself. The single document surface is presented with a cork board metaphor background, complete with a simulated stack of papers affixed with a piece of translucent tape indicating the theme being applied to the rendered markdown. The graphic of a sharpened pencil remains fixed on the screen. At first, I thought the pencil a might have some purposeful function, such as selecting markdown symbols or erasing areas of text, but it remains fixed and non-functional – just a graphic embellishment. While it looks nice, the purposes of this immovable pencil image began to annoy me after a while, since it had the inadvertent effect of drawing my attention to it while I paused to organize my thoughts. Another oddity is the non-standard Save icon. Other editors on the iPad automatically save the document’s state whenever exiting the program. Edito does as well. I asked Edito’s author, David Mendels, about the intended purpose of the Save icon, and he replied that the toolbar will be redesigned in the upcoming 1.2 release, available in about a month or so.
When benchmarking Edito against other recently released or updated editors, there are a couple features it is lacking. For one, it has no integration with third party file services like Dropbox or Box.net. In the version I reviewed, the only option is to cut & paste the text into another text editing application that supports these features, email the text as the email body of the text or rendered HTML, or send these formats as an email attachment, or copying the file to a computer desktop via iTunes file sync. With regards to the various cloud-based file storage services, David mentioned to me that "we've been looking at various ways to implement DropBox principally, and iDisk in other releases. The focus is on DropBox right now, as it is the main request from our customers."
Second, while I found the enhanced keyboard strip helpful, it would have been even better if the placement brackets were smarter. For example, if I highlighted an area of text and then pressed the square brackets, asterisks or parenthesis accelerator key, Edito could have intercepted the normal replace function with the ability to enclose the selection in the selected marks. And while pressing either the brackets or parenthesis combo keys do create matching pairs of the characters and places the cursor in the middle of the set for faster input, it would be nice to have arrow keys similar to those found in iA Writer to navigate them when positioning text around these syntax markers.
These small annoyances are offset by Edito’s design enhancements. As previously mentioned, the helpful addition of character accelerator row to the soft screen keyboard are most welcome, since the symbols feature the most prevalent Markdown symbols. The Markdown cheat sheet (a reproduction of Jeremy Stretch’s cheat sheet_markdown.pdf) can be instantly accessed by touching the blue light bulb tab in the upper left corner of the document window. The built-in browser aids in quickly looking up web addresses and various reference links. Most important of all, Edito includes a Markup viewer that renders the document currently being edited. This viewer is accessed via an icon located on the far right of Edito’s toolbar. The background style of this rendered view can be changed to nine built-in types via the sprocket icon on Edito’s toolbar, but this aesthetic enhancement is only for Edito viewing and does not affect the final formatting or Markup code in any way. I preferred rendering with the ‘Swiss’ theme, though the default ‘Clean’ view is also attractive and functional.
Edito is a commendable first attempt at a productivity-boosting Markdown editor for the iPad. I am also encouraged to know that many more features are being planned by the application's developer, including Markdown Extra (support for tables, for example), MultiMarkdown (some time after the upcoming 1.2 update) and printing via Apple's upcoming iOS 4.2 upgrade for the iPad. Any iPad owner who prefers formatting their documents in basic HTML and is interested in the productivity gains incurred by using Markdown should check out Edito.
Product: Edito for iPad
Developer: Cagnosens SARL
Rating: 4/5 stars