If you were a pixel on the wall of our team’s Basecamp, listening to our conversations, you’d know that we’ve been looking for the perfect Markdown-powered Mac blogging app. There’s blogging apps for the Mac, but if you like writing in Markdown in apps like Byword and iA Writer (and we do), there’s none that fit your workflow perfectly.
So instead, we each have our favorite writing apps, export our text as HTML, and paste it into WordPress. It works, but it’s far from seamless.
That all changes today, with the hot-off-the-press Byword 2. It has built-in publishing to WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Scriptogram, and Evernote, and a handful of other improvements. If you need a focused Markdown writing app and a blogging app, it’s the one app you need.
Byword’s already one of the most popular Markdown writing apps on the Mac, right along with iA Writer. If you already write in Markdown regularly, chances are you already own one of them if not both. We called Byword a “beautifully minimal writing environment” in our original review of the app, and as you may have noticed in our roundups of Apps we Use, many of our team uses Byword as their default writing app. Of the two, Byword’s always been the more configurable, with a light and dark color scheme, font and font size options, and — most notably — a rather nice Rich Text editing mode that’s often forgotten by those of us who prefer writing in plain text.
Once you’re done writing, Byword let you export your document in Microsoft Word format, PDF, RTF, HTML, or LaTeX, or just copy your text as HTML to your clipboard to paste into another app. With formatting preview, a rather amazing assortment of powerful keyboard shortcuts for text editing, and equally powerful iOS apps synced via iCloud, Byword was everything you needed to write, save in almost any format, or take your text to another app.
Publish is the new Print
However, it wasn’t everything you need to publish. You could, of course, copy the HTML from your Markdown in one click, then open your blog’s online admin, make a new post, and paste the content in, but that’s quite a few steps. That’s where the new Byword Premium comes in. It’s a new $4.99 in-app purchase addition to Byword. Byword 2 is a free upgrade for existing users, but to get the new publishing features, you’ll need to purchase that extra.
For that one purchase, you’ll get the option to publish to as many WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, and Scriptogram blogs as you want. You’ll get an option to purchase it when you first run Byword 2, or you can buy it anytime later from the menu. Once that’s done, you’ll just need to login to your blog(s), and you’ll be ready to publish.
Next time you want to write a blog post in Byword, just type it up as normal, then press CTRL+Option+CMD+P, select your blog, then enter your post title. You can (thankfully) set the post as published or draft, add tags, and depending on your CMS, set the post’s category and permalink. Then, hit Publish, and seconds later it’ll be safe on your site in HTML format. Publishing worked great in my tests, and took literally 5 seconds or so to publish a normal length post.
It’s nearly perfect, but is missing one major thing: image support. You can’t upload images from Byword right now, and even if you drag-and-drop images into Byword or enter them in Markdown formatting, they won’t be uploaded. The Byword team says they’re working to “better support other media in your posts” going forward, but for now, if you want to include pictures or other media in your posts, you’ll need to publish as draft, and then add your pictures from your browser.
Byword as Your New Notebook
If you don’t write blog posts regularly, there’s still a reason you might want to buy the Publishing upgrade: Evernote. Among the blog options, Evernote is the odd-man-out, since Evernote is primarily the place to store your own private notes (unless you’re using a tool like Postach.io to publish a blog from Evernote). It even feels a tad odd with the way it’s integrated in Byword, since it’s in the Publishing options.
Regardless, it’s a great option to have around if you like to write in Markdown, use Byword by default, and don’t care to keep Evernote open all the time. You can now write anything down in Byword, then publish it as formatted rich text to Evernote (complete with a title of your choice — though it’ll use the file name by default — and any tags you want to include).
The integration isn’t perfect. You only get to pick the notebook you want to use when you add Evernote to Byword, and you can’t pick which notebook you want to save to individually each time. You’ll have to go to the options and change that if you want to. There’s also no way to save your raw Markdown text to Evernote, as it converts it to rich text by default. But, it does give you a great way to quickly save notes to Evernote without having Evernote open, in a way that works better if you’re used to writing in Markdown anyhow. And that’s very nice to have.
There’s More, Too
The new publishing options in Byword are great, but they’re not all that is new in Byword 2. You’ll also find a new option to copy your text in Rich Text format, which is great if you want to write, say, an email in Byword. Just write it with normal Markdown formatting, copy as Rich Text, then paste it in your email app.
The preview view has been updated as well. It’ll now keep your current scroll position in your document when you view it in the preview. You’ll also notice a new Publish button in the bottom of the preview, which gives you a nice way to first write, then make sure everything looks perfect, and finally publish, all without clicking back and forth.
Finally, all the changes in the Mac app are in the iOS apps too, so you can now use Byword for iOS to publish to your blogs and Evernote as well.
The New State of App Upgrades on the App Store
If you use Byword to pen blog posts, or would love a new way to save notes to Evernote straight from your default writing app, then purchasing the new Byword Premium upgrade shouldn’t be a tough decision at all. It’s a $4.99 in-app purchase, which is quite a reasonable price for the new features.
The new version of Byword is free if you’ve already purchased Byword in the past; otherwise, you’ll first need to buy Byword for $9.99, and then buy the Premium upgrade for $4.99, making the total package $14.98. Without the Premium upgrade, you’ll still get a best-in-class Markdown writing experience, and if you wanted a blogging app, the extra cost shouldn’t be that frustrating.
It’s interesting to see Byword, one of the early Mac App Store successes, coming to its second version which it’s giving away for free to those who already bought the app, while adding the actual new features in an in-app purchase. We can debate all day if in-app purchases are the best way to add new features to apps, but at least it gives our favorite app developers a way to add major new features while still giving the free-forever upgrades that App Store users have come to expect. It’s a new way of life in the App Store economy, and if this is an example of things to come in other productivity apps we love, it’s not a bad start.