The battle of the Markdown enabled, typographic, full screen editors

Update 2011-10-22: Dan informed me with a comment that Byword has received significant updates since my first review. I have therefore updated this review accordingly. Thanks Dan!

iA just released its writing application iA Writer for Mac which is very similar to Byword for Mac (which in turn was very similar to iA Writer for iPad ;)). On the surface, both these apps look quite similar, but there are quite a few differences once you start using the applications. This comparison will be a simple feature by feature comparison.

  • Color scheme: Byword has two, a light and a dark. The iA color theme and the Byword one are basically the same. iA Writer however, uses a paper-like texture as background. Also notable, is that iA Writers cursor is light blue and slightly thicker than a regular cursor (actually, it is just a bit thinner than the size of the gap between two characters).

  • Fonts: iA Writer offers no choice (applies to both font size and font face) by design. Byword gives the user a choice of five preset fonts (Baskerville 17pt, Cochin 17pt, Courier 15pt, Georgia 16pt and Helvetica Neue 15pt), but also allows the user to select any other font using the standard OS X font selection dialogue. iA Writer uses Nitti Light somewhere around 20pt by Bold Monday, the same font as in the iPad version of Writer.

  • Markdown: iA Writer is definitely in the lead here. Markdown is recognized and nice stuff is done with the text in the editor. For example lists using asterisks have their asterisks put in the margin, whereas asterisks used to put emphasis to text result text being underlined. Headings in iA Writer are also highlighted. Markdown support in Byword is in the form of a preview mode. In my experience, I have never had much use of Markdown previews in any application. Syntax highlighting on the other hand, is very nice. iA Writer’s syntax highlighting is also nice as it also has some layout magic thrown in (similar feel to the kind of Hogbay’s TaskPaper).

Update 2011-10-22: Byword has since my first review added syntax highlighting, or rather, de-lighting, as characters part of recognized Markdown syntax are faded into the background. The font weight is also changed depending just like in iA Writer. ByWord does not change the layout (no list indents, or outdent of ‘#’ heading markup). ByWord also added an additional feature which iA Writer does not have — completion of parenthesis, just like TextMate. It also adds them in on either side of a selection. I think this is great!

  • Focus Mode: iA Writer gives you an on-off switch. Byword gives you a choice of different focus modes/forces you to choose. Byword’s focus can be set to either a specific number of lines (1-9 lines) or to a paragraph. iA Writer’s focus mode seems to have some heuristics built on. It defaults to a single sentence, but certain (undocumented) conditions extend the focus to the previous sentence (current sentence is still focused). Scrolling using the trackpad (and mouse I assume) in iA Writer temporarily disables the focus mode, which is resumed as soon as a key is pressed.

Update 2011-10-22: Byword has since my previous review added functionality for temporarily exiting focus mode when scrolling with the trackpad/mouse and then resuming the previously selected focus mode.

  • Full screen mode: Byword has a scrollbar near the text. iA Writer’s full screen scroll bar is located at the right edge of the screen and disappears when you start writing. Choice between two different widths. Both iA Writer and Byword fade the text into the background at the top and bottom of the page. iA Writer’s fade is complete after half a line, whereas Byword’s fade is slower – one line. Also, iA Writer has smaller top and bottom margins – about one line. Byword’s top and bottom margins are about four lines. Byword has three width settings for fullscreen mode; Narrow (40 characters), Medium (58 characters), and Wide (80 characters). iA has one width setting at 64 characters.

Update 2011-10-22: Byword has been updated to also fade the scrollbar, and it seems like fade gradient has also been adjusted to half a line.

  • Windowed mode: Both apps loose their chrome when you start to type. iA Writer retains the exact column width of 64 characters per line. Byword on the other hand, re-flows the text if the window is narrower than the chosen width.

  • On screen information: In full screen mode, iA Writer does not present any information. In windowed mode, iA Writer has a status bar indicating whether Focus Mode is turned on or off, current word and character count and the total reading time of the text.

  • Statistics: Both iA Writer and Byword count the number of words and characters. As mentioned earlier though, only Byword displays them in full screen mode as well as windowed mode. iA Writer also has a reading time estimate.

  • Find/Replace: iA Writer uses a Find/Find & Replace bar at the top of the screen/window. Byword uses a popup in the top right corner of the screen/window. Byword has a search history and an option for case sensitivity. There is no case sensitivity option in iA Writer. Byword highlights all instances of the found word. iA Writer only highlights the current found instance.

  • File Formats: iA only does plain text using the .txt extension. Byword supports both rich text and plain text. If a plain text document uses a Markdown file extension, Byword assumes it is written in Markdown. iA always assumes Markdown.

Update 2011-10-22: iA Writer now supports the .md extension and uses it as its default.

  • Spell checking: iA has turned this off by default. Good choice.

  • Keyboard shortcuts: iA Writer has sentence level movement bound to cmd-left/cmd-right, i.e. the cursor moves to the next and previous sentence using these keyboard commands. Regular line begin and line end are accessed using fn-left/fn-right. Byword keeps the system default of moving to the beginning and end of line when using cmd-left/cmd-right. Both Byword and iA Writer move the cursor to the beginning/end of the paragraph using opt-up/opt-down. The full screen shortcut is the same for both Byword and iA Writer – cmd-. Focus mode shortcuts however are different. iA Writer used cmd-d whereas Byword has several for its many focus modes; cmd- for line focus and cmd-opt-1 for paragraph mode.

Final thoughts

Writeroom was the first dedicated commercial fullscreen text editor which sole feature was to provide a minimal, distraction free writing environment. Several other apps followed which provided similar functionality. I would like to say that Byword is not much different from Writeroom or the applications that followed Writeroom. In my mind, Byword is a Writeroom-like application that uses an iA Writer for iPad inspired theme. This theme however is a very nice and useful theme, and it works quite well. iA Writer for Mac however, feels like a new kind of dedicated fullscreen editor that has evolved from the Writeroom-like applications. iA were the first to introduce focus mode with their iPad app. Byword wanted to do something similar, but iA’s approach is better in my opinion. The Markdown support is also more useful in iA Writer. Byword has support for reading Markdown (and that is not really needed – the whole point of Markdown is for it to be readable even as markup), iA Writer has support for writing Markdown.

Since these are all paid apps, I should mention price. Byword (USD 10) is almost half the price of iA Writer (USD 18). Writeroom is selling for about USD 25 which is USD 7 more than iA Writer at the moment, and USD 15 more than Byword. I think Byword is definitely worth USD 10, unless you already have Writeroom as you can just chose your font and colors in Writeroom to mimic those of Byword unless you want Bywords focus mode and better width settings in window mode. If you want the better focus mode though, I would recommend you choose iA Writer which gives you a really good support for writing Markdown. The one reason not to choose iA Writer would be if you want to write Rich Text, in which case, Byword I think is the best choice (unless you want to choose you own foreground and background colors, in which case you should choose Writeroom).

Update 2011-10-22: Byword has added features which mimic those of of iA Writer. In addition, Byword has parenthesis completion like TextMate which I think is great. Which app you choose is up to you. All apps are great, but which is best for you depends on your needs as always.

Update 2011-11-07: I found this review by Brett Terpstra (Marked, nvAlt) which informed me of some really cool and useful keyboard shortcuts which are not available in e.g. iA Writer. I have started to use them now, and they are great!

First impressions: DwellClick

DwellClick is an interesting Mac applications which automatically clicks the left mouse button when your mouse stops. The idea behind this is to reduce the time your hand rests on your mouse/trackpad. The click is delayed by a certain time, visualized by a narrowing purple circle around your mouse pointer which I find is a really good mapping and mouse-click status indicator. DwellClick also recognizes when you stop your mouse over a “draggable” interface item, such as the window title bar and the scroll bar. When you stop your mouse above one of these items, instead of performing a single mouse click, DwellClick goes into drag mode which ends when the mouse stops again. This however, can be cancelled using the escape key. Drag mode can also be invoked using a iOS style popup which is displayed by pressing the fn key on the keyboard. DwellClick also uses “sticky” modifier keys, i.e. mouse clicks performed while holding down e.g. cmd can be done in DwellClick by first pressing and releasing the cmd key, then moving the mouse to click. The click will be performed as if the cmd key was held down. DwellClick has a 30 day trial which I just started yesterday. Here are my first observations.
  • I have become aware of how much “idle” mouse movement I have the habit of doing
  • My regular behavior after clicking is to move the mouse away from the place I clicked since I feel it is covering what I am looking at. This does not work well with DwellClick since this results in unwanted clicks. Perhaps DwellClick could hide the mouse after it has been still for a while. To help find the mouse later, perhaps it could highlight it a bit when the mouse starts moving the next time. 
  • When I am searching for a button to press – I usually let the mouse follow my gaze. In this way, when I find my target, my mouse pointer is already there. With DwellClick, I have to find the target with my eyes first, then move the mouse pointer there. Perhaps the delay of the mouse click could increase proportionally to the time spent moving the mouse up to a specified limit? This way, deliberate mouse click movements can have a quick response time, while still enabling explorative mouse behavior?
  • DwellClick makes me feel more decisive when I interact using my mouse as the mouse interaction is deliberate, not explorative (see previous bullet point).
  • Me being left-handed, using the fn key to bring up the popup dialog means that I have to cross my arms since my left hand is on the track pad and my right hand is the hand that is free.
  • My workflow for using the popup menu (double click/drag mode/right click) effectively is to move the mouse to the place I want to double click etc, then press the fn key with my left hand (moving it from the track pad) and then moving the mouse pointer to the action. Pressing the fn key stops the click countdown.
  • The “sticky” modification keys work well. For e.g. when I want to open a link in a new window, I would press cmd and then move my mouse to the link.
DwellClick feels interesting enough for me to keep trying it out. It does require another kind of mouse usage, but as stated by the DwellClick site, this is exactly what the point is – to adopt a less mouse intensive computer use.

Update 2011-05-25 10:36

I just found the advanced settings which can be set to not click while my finger is left on the trackpad. The countdown circle still shows, but no click is performed. This makes the previous point on increasing delay times invalid. This is a much better solution. However I would have preferred if the countdown circle was not shown it the “no click” setting was enabled.

I also came up with a trick which helps me cope with my desire to move the mouse pointer out of the way – after I click something, I move the mouse, then press the escape key.

Even though this requires an extra action on my part, I still feel more focused then before when my hand’s resting position was on my mouse. Now my hand rests on the keyboard. This experience of feeling more focused is quite weird. My current theory is that previously, I could just be moving my mouse around while deciding what to do next (not for minutes, but perhaps in streches of a few seconds). Now when this is not an option, instead of thinking of what to do next and exploring my screen with my mouse, I am only doing one thing at the time – singletasking! Even though the task of moving the mouse around is not very cognitively taxing, it still takes some resources which can now be used in other ways.

Ett rättvisare melodifestivalarrangemang

Alla låtar skickas in anonymt som ljudinspelning till en ännu existerande neutral stat – Neutralien, som inte har några medborgare (alla som håller på med administrationen är gästarbetare som roteras vart fjärde år). Låten får endast innehålla ord från ett nonsens-språk med ett vokabulär som inte betyder något utan man väljer ord beroende på hur man tycker att det låter. Alla ord har ett standardiserat uttal. Det finns ord så att alla uppsättningar av fonem blir nöjda.

Gästarbetarna i Neutralien ser till att plocka fram låtarna som klarar vissa musikaliska kriterier. Alla länder som deltar får registrera “röstare”. Röstarna får lyssna på en uppsättning bidrag från ett land. Röstare i samma land behöver inte nödvändigtvis få höra samma lands låtar. Om vi har länderna A, B och C samt röstarna 1-6 från land A, så kan följande vara möjligt ett möjligt röstschema: 1A, 2B, 3C, 4A, 5B, 6C. Röstarna rangordnar de låtar de får höra – d.v.s rangordnar ett lands bidrag. Offentliga spelningar av de landsuppsättningarna kan ordnas, men det är bara de registrerade röstarna som får rösta. Det kostar 1% av veckas lön att registrera sig.

Själva finalen hålls i en riktig lokal i ett riktigt land. Där får riktiga människor spela, men de får inte komma från det land som låten kommer ifrån. Ej heller får man veta vilket land som låten kommer ifrån. Festivalens värdland roteras mellan de som tävlar. När ett nytt land vill vara med och tävla hamnar det i slutet av rotationslistan.

Samma registrerade röstare får rösta i finalen som vid den första sållningen. Man röstar med relativ ekonomisk valuta, en “rekova“, inte “röster”. En rekova är 0,1% av en veckas inkomst. Den låt som får mest rekovor vinner. Registrerade röstare får rösta hur många gånger de vill. Alla pengar som kommer in till festivalen går till det land som ska ordna nästa års arrangemang. Efter att alla placeringarna är avgjorda avslöjas vilka länder som bidragen kommer ifrån.

I den verklighet där denna rättvisa melodifestival äger rum, finns det ej heller någon korrumption: rikare röstare ger alltså inte pengar till fattigare röstare för att de ska rösta på den låt de gillar. Ej heller förekommer spridning av låtarnas faktiska ursprung.

Really annoying stuff in Safari 5

  1. “Search in Google” opens up in current tab unless I press cmd at the same time.
  2. “Open in new tab” is the second context menu alternative (it should be the first).
  3. No omnibar.
  4. To much white-space in tab title area

Apple driver folk till självmord, eller hur är det?

Rubrik: Iphonetillverkare inför självmordsförbud
I ingressen14 anställda – så många har tagit sitt liv de senaste 16 månaderna hos Iphones kinesiska underleverantör Foxconn. Därför tvingas nu de anställda att skriva på ett kontrakt om att inte ta sitt liv.
Näst sista stycketUtöver Apple levererar Foxconn, som är ett av världens största elektronikföretag, till såväl Sony, Nintendo, Hewlett-Packard, Dell som Nokia.

I artikeln informeras det också om att det jobbar 500 000 människor på Foxconn, dvs 2,8 självmord/100 000 anställda.

Ännu ett exempel på massmedialt fokus på siffror som inte sätts i kontext. Jag säger inte att de har det bra på Foxconn, men jag säger att siffrorna presenteras utan relation till resten av verkligheten.

Låt oss kolla upp lite statistik hos WHO:

Då borde man alltså kunna säga att genom att de som jobbar på Foxconn löper mindre risk att begå självmord? Förmodligen inte. Men kan man säga att de 14 självmorden som ägde rum på Foxconn skedde enbart för att de jobbade på Foxconn? Hur vet man att de inte skulle ha tagit sina liv i alla fall (rent statistiskt)?

Allt måste sättas i kontext.

Uppdatering 2011-05-06 11:49: De som jobbar på Foxconn är förhoppningsvis inte barn, och förmodligen inte allt för gammla. Statistiken bör alltså gälla den åldersgruppen. Om man tittar på PDF:erna från WHO så ser man att i Sverige så är det människor mellan 35-64 som står för de flesta självmordsfallen. I Kina är det de mellan 25-34/35-44 beroende på vilket sample man tittar på.

Aged to Perfection | Blog | design mind

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But I still want to protect my screen and preferably the “glass” infront of the camera lens; but maybe it is time to remove the silicone skin.. if only the iPhone 3GS wasn’t so damn slippery.

Fontcase 2.0 Released – AppStore transition policy

So I have decided I will shortly be sending everyone who bought Fontcase in April or May an email. They can either join the queue waiting to receive a promo code, or if they want they can go and purchase Fontcase 2.0 on the App Store, send me their receipt and their Fontcase 1.0 license key and I will send them $30 back via PayPal.

So somebody actually did this 🙂