Here at MakeUseOf.com, we are all creative writers (I like to call myself that). As wordsmiths we use our fair share of text editors and online writing tools. My preference has been for tools that let me write without distractions. There’s something about visual clutter that comes in the way of focus. As you know, Writer’s Block being as bad as it is, on the web it is a constant struggle to stay focused while working.
There are a few things I ask of any writing application or a text editor. Yes, it should be minimal but it should have a few features to aid the words I key into the screen. Privacy is on top of the list. The ability to back up my work is close behind. Then, a little bit of markdown support is always welcome. WriteApp is a relatively new online writing tool that ticks all three boxes.
We recently featured it in our Directory section. I think it has enough to offer for a closer look. But just don’t confuse it with WriteApp.net which is note taking app for iOS.
WriteApp Is Not Just a Tool but Also a “Place”
WriteApp aims to be an all-embracing writing environment that you can use to keep a journal, write a book, write blog posts, or anything that needs you to just write in the simplest way possible. WriteApp says it’s a writing platform for anyone who wants to write privately but also share notes selectively. Here are its key features if you just want to skip ahead and try it out yourself:
- Security: Set your notes as public or private. Two factor authentication is a comfort.
- Organization: Keep your related notes together in notebooks.
- Formatting: The editor supports Markdown syntax, code blocks and syntax highlighting.
- Back Up: The Export feature is in beta. You can also download your notes as text files.
- Mobile: Access the mobile version of the text editor.
WriteApp is still a work in progress. The good thing is that it is being actively developed, so expect to see some improvements come along. So, just register and log into the site to start your first note.
The Business of Writing on WriteApp
The WriteApp interface is simple in the best traditions of minimal text editors. A title box and the writing dialog area make up one part of the screen. You can see the options for customizing the look of your note on the right. WriteApp gives you quite a few themes to work with. The font face also changes with the selection of the themes. So, pick one you are comfortable with.
Two controls are worth mentioning – Live Preview and Standard view.
WriteApp supports Markdown. Live Preview helps you quickly see the display format of your content. Standard View is the interface you would most likely choose if you hanker for a distraction free writing environment. It removes all the controls and just gives you a plain interface to write upon, depending on the theme you choose. So, choose your theme (I prefer the darker colors), decide if you want to turn on lines or not, and then click the cross-arrowed button to get into the standard view.
All notes by default are private. You can hit the button to toggle-off the privacy settings and make them shareable with a custom slug. All public notes are available at https://writeapp.me/your-username. To save your notes, you have to come back to the default view.
You can also download your notes as .md formats (Markdown) which can be opened by any text editor like Notepad. Downloading your notes to the desktop or shift it to your Dropbox folder is a good way to keep them backed up. If you have too many notes piled up, it’s better to use the Export option under Settings. Though, the developer warns that it is very much a beta feature and may not work smoothly. In my trials it didn’t.
Managing Your Notes with Notebooks
You can organize all your notes into discrete notebooks. The organizational part of this app can be accessed by clicking the Notes link on top. Click on the area where it is written – Plans for world domination. Enter a name for the notebook. Click on the red New Notebook button to create your first notebook. One of the quirks is that the Plans for domination notebook remains even if you delete it from the Settings screen.
There are no filters to trawl through a multitude of notes; but the search is quick and responsive. Finally, you can go into the Settings and delete any notebook you want to. The Settings screen also allows you to set up your public profile.
Features To Like
WriteApp is still undergoing development. But already there are some features to like:
- WriteApp allows you to insert code blocks. Automatic syntax highlighting is also a big plus. These makes it a writing environment, coders can also use.
- WriteApp has integrated a commenting platform powered by Disqus. You can trigger discussions around public posts with a Disqus account.
- WriteApp lets you send notes via email. Use firstname.lastname@example.org for private notes and email@example.com.
You can upgrade for free to take advantage of Notes by Email and 2-factor authentication which are Premium only features. If you start with a free account, you can still upgrade for free though the offer blog post says it was till January 2013. The developer is trying to build up mass for his app. There’s nothing wrong with it, as WriteApp has promise and the features to meet that promise. This is an early look, even then tell us about your first impressions. Do you use minimal text editors for distraction free writing online? How would you compare WriteApp with the rest of the tribe?