Texts: A Deceptively Powerful Text Editor

Minimalist text editors burst on to the Mac app scene a few years back (actually the Soulmen were pioneers of this field back in 2002, but the truly minimalist apps came out years later). Since that time, there has been a proliferation of minimalist text editors—some would even say the category is too crowded. Many of these editors incorporate Markdown or MultiMarkdown syntax for formatting, with some even providing a live preview and standard keyboard shortcuts for applying syntax (see Byword).

I was searching for an app that would easily create HTML, but display the text as rich text, and stumbled upon Texts. I was in for a big surprise when I discovered just how powerful this “minimalist” text editor is. Read on to find out what I mean.

UI and Standard Features

At first glance, Texts seems to be just a stripped down text editor, but as I demonstrate below, looks can be deceiving. There is no toolbar and literally just a couple of icons (full screen button and the window sizing buttons), leaving you with just your text. This app is going to force you to use keyboard shortcuts, which is fine because there is a keyboard shortcut built in for almost everything, and the shortcuts are very easy to learn.

An example of the Texts interface from a recent post on Mac AppStorm.

An example of the Texts interface from a recent post on Mac AppStorm.

Texts also includes the standard OS X document management features such as support for versions, full screen editing and duplicating documents. That’s of course as you’d expect in a modern text editor on OS X.

Texts in full screen view.

Texts in full screen view.

Copy to HTML and Paste MultiMarkdown

For the past few weeks, I have been using Texts to write articles and blog posts. I simply type out the text how I want it to look inserting hyperlinks, headings, formatting, block quotes and more where I need them, without even thinking about syntax. Once I am done, I simply select all of the text and then hit the key combo alt-cmd-c to Copy as HTML and paste it into the WordPress HTML editor. The formatting has worked every time.

These are the paragraph and text editing menu options. Notice you can also quickly format equations, code blocks, and references.

What if you already have something written up using Markdown or MultiMarkdown syntax? Texts can handle this too. Simply copy the text and then choose Paste as Markdown and then select MultiMarkdown format from the menu bar. The text is now displayed as rich text and you can continue to write and format the document as you please.

Importing and Exporting

The import and export options are what makes Texts a powerful text editor that clearly sets it apart from other minimalist text and Markdown editors. Although Texts stores documents as plain text, there are plenty of options for exporting your document as rich text. I have written a couple of shorter documents, about five pages, in Texts and then exported to RTF. I then opened the exported RTF in Pages to make some final adjustments to the document such as page numbers and line spacing. This process worked flawlessly for me. The formatting was spot on and I enjoyed writing the documents in the clean, ultra-focused Texts UI.

I also tested out exporting documents as Microsoft Word and PDF files. Again I had no problems, and the formatting was accurate. PDF and .docx files file exports also support any images you inserted into the document using Texts (simply right click and select Insert Image in Texts to add images to your document).

Exporting to PDF and RTF formats requires downloading Pandoc and Xelatex.

I had one issue with exporting to an HTML5 document. I emailed the developer and received a response within minutes. I sent him the document in question and he emailed me back explaining the problem along with the HTML file I was trying to produce. I was very impressed with the support to say the least.

As far as importing goes, I tested importing HTML and MultiMarkdown using Texts. Granted, I didn’t have any advanced MultiMarkdown syntax in the documents like tables, and the HTML documents were just simple blog posts, but in my testing the documents imported just fine.

Texts has a lot of import and export options. Many of which are not covered in this review.

Texts has a lot of import and export options. Many of which are not covered in this review.

Missing Features

Surprisingly, there is no word count function. This was the main issue I had with Texts. I actually had to copy and paste into another app to get word counts for articles and papers. There are also a couple of standard OS X text editing features that were absent—cmd-delete does not delete the current line, and there is no option to look up a word in the built-in dictionary. It would also be nice to have an option to change the default font, currently there is no way to change the font in your Texts documents. I was also surprised at the lack of an option to export documents as .md files. It seems reasonable that this would be included as an export option given that the app already works well with MultiMarkdown.

Final Thoughts

I am glad to have stumbled upon this app. It truly is a hidden gem. I don’t use the app to its full potential—for example, I have no need for the EPUB and XeLaTeX export options—but I have to say that it works great for what I use it for. I have always thought there should be an app that works like a rich text editor and produces HTML in the background, and as it turns out, Texts is that app. Adding in the powerful import and export options, Texts becomes a very powerful all around text editor.


Summary

Texts is a minimalist text editor with a kick. It stores rich text formatting options in plain text files and provides tons of export options.

9
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