Date Sun 26 January 2014

My preferred text editor is Emacs. However, sometimes I maybe in a situation where Emacs isn't available. For example if I am using Chrome OS on my Samsung Chromebook.

I decided to look and see what cloud based editors were available. There are many text editor apps on the Chrome Store, but I wanted something that supported Markdown, which reduced the field considerably.

Markdown is great for writing structured text that can easily be converted into html or other formats. Another requirement was the ability to edit existing documents either on my own computer, or on a cloud service such as Google Drive or Dropbox.

Below is a list of applications I have tried, with some brief notes about each one. I am sure I have missed out on some really useful apps, so please tell me about any that you know about.

Dillinger

I must admit I really couldn't work out how to use this. That's probably just me and I am sure everyone else finds it obvious. It's an html5 based Markdown editor. However, when you look at the web site there is no obvious way to create a new document, or any "Getting Started" guide. You can link it to Github, Dropbox and Google Drive, but without being able to try it out first I didn't want to do this. I did have a look at the installation instructions on Github, thinking I might give it a try on my local computer. However, the instructions were so terse I didn't even bother trying.

Textdown

Can be installed from the Google Web Store. When I started it I was prompted for a document name and a new document containing the "What's New" text was created. The app is completely driven using keyboard shortcuts I could access the options using Ctrl-< and the shortcuts help screen using Ctrl-D. To get a preview it's Ctrl-P.

This app was a bit too minimal for me. If you want to be able to open and save files from the local file system you need to install Textdown Utilities. It's around 9 months since there have been any updates on the Github repo, so I assume the author has stopped developing the project.

Draft

This is a free web service that is designed to enable people to share text with other collaborators. You need to create an account (free) in order to use Draft. It's really more designed for collaborative work than just working on your own document.

  • Professional review of your documents (chargeable service)
  • Markdown formatting
  • Version control of your documents
  • Documents can be exported as html and text files.

WriteBox

A great distraction free text editor that understands Markdown.

  • Can link to Google Drive and Dropbox.
  • Configurable screen colours, font size, font, line height and width. Can toggle statistics and scroll bar.
  • Files can be opened from local drive, dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Preview mode.

StackEdit

  • Based on the Markdown library used by the StackOverflow and StackExchange sites.
  • Stores your document locally in the browser. Thus all your documents are available offline.
  • Documents are not shared between different browsers and computers.
  • If you clear your browsers data you may delete all your local documents. However, documents can be synchronized with a Google Drive or Dropbox account.
  • You can publish documents on a wide range of services using Markdown, html or a template giving you full control over the output.
  • Services supported for publishing are Blogger, Dropbox, Gist, GitHub, Google Drive, SSH server, Tumblr, WordPress.
  • WYSIWYG control buttons.
  • The screen is split showing the text you are editing and a preview. You can configure either a vertical or horizontal split.
  • The font is configurable (only monospace fonts are supported).
  • A number of themes to change the appearance are included and you can define your own.
  • Fully open source.

The Final Verdict.

With the exception of Dillinger, I liked all these apps. However, I felt that StackEdit was the one that was closest to my ideal cloud based text editing app.


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