Re-Discovering Nebulous Notes

June 9, 2012 ☼ ArticleWriting-Tools

As you know I am indeed a tad obsessed with finding the perfect text-editor on iOS. At this moment I think I can positively say that I have tried a significant amount of the apps over on Brett’s list yet still there hasn’t been a perfect contender for me. It’s getting closer all the time though.

Having purchased a stupid amount of editors already, I am though benefitting from frequent app-updates which bring occasionally long-forgotten editors back to my attention. And this was the case with a recent update of Nebulous Notes.

Even though I have tried the app in the past, I never really got into it. The latest update though changed this entirely.

The new, much nicer and absolutely homescreen-able icon aside[1] the app features, according to the release notes, several improvements with Dropbox syncing. This made me curious as a few other editors tend to give me annoying conflicts. From my, so far admittedly limited testing, syncing with Dropbox appears to be very reliable and unlike some other apps, didn’t cause any conflicts.

After spending only a few minutes with the app I quickly learned that it can be easily customized, hence offers the chance to create the right environment for me.

Turning the App Into A Markdown Dream

As so many other writing apps it features an extra row above the keyboard (which by the way is off by default) but with the difference of it being customizable not only with individual letters or functions, but also with macros. Think of this as adding one-key TextExpander shortcuts. I set up the (extra) row with just the macros that I need and placed them just where I want to them to be. How great is that?

One macro that I find very useful, and which I found only in one other app, is a dedicated select macro. That together with some auto pairing macros makes editing so much easier and faster. In fact in many instances it actually feels to be much faster than on the desktop.

I took some time to get all the macro-keys the way I wanted them to be, but once I was done, I was a good step closer to the functionality that I always have been looking for[2].

Yet there’s more

The app has a built-in Markdown-Preview which also offers the option to easily add a custom CSS file. It even supports font embedding via an _@import_ rule. From there on the possibilities are almost endless.

I easily could embed this blogs’ CSS and getting a wonderful preview of the post. Would I have pointed the CSS-preview straight to my original CSS every change I make there would be immediately in my preview as well!

Screenshot of Markdown Preview with Custom CSSScreenshot of Markdown Preview with Custom CSS
Screenshot of Markdown Preview with Custom CSS

Want to make a PDF? Opening the generated HTML of the preview in a tool like PDF Converter easily creates a PDF on the iPad including the custom CSS.

A Little Wishlist

So far, I have been very satisfied with the app, and once I was done with setting up the extra-row, I quickly started to feel very comfortable with the app. Looking at the features of the app I indeed miss only very few features. In fact it’s only two:

  1. MultiMarkdown or MarkdownExtra support

    I do need to work a lot with tables, and as you can see here in this post I do like to work with footnotes as well, hence support for either flavour of Markdown would be nice.

  2. Wider Margins

    For the greater part I work in landscape orientation and I would find it easier to write once the margins were a tad bigger or at least customizable.

Will this app stick? Well, this is something that I definitely can’t say at all. I tend to change my favourite writing solution on a very regular basis, but at least for the time being this is actually doing quite nice. Still one can’t be sure what is going to be my favourite in about a week or two.

  1. This is indeed a shallow reason, but it surely helps the putting an app to homescreen or even into the dock.  ↩

  2. I am still fine-tuning my selection but once I’m satisfied I will post them here on the blog.  ↩

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