Tag Archives: editor

A (mostly subjective) review of Essay, the rich text editor for iOS

Essay is more fancy. Essay isn’t perfect either, but first, here’s what it does do. Firstly, it’s a text editor. Off to a great start there. There’s no accompanying web-app for easy access to my writings away from the iPhone, but it does sync the HTML-formatted files to Dropbox which is fine. For a writing app, it has some pretty advanced features. Things like rich-text, combined with pretty standard HTML stuff like lists (ordered, unordered), sections, paragraphs, and so on like in the screenshot above. You can create hyperlinks to other files within Essay, or to actual web locations. Bold, italic, underline, strikethrough — all present, all easily accessible through the custom keyboard add-on (which works brilliantly, by the way. Fluid, simple, all-round excellent implementation that could have been very convoluted indeed). The iPhone app is very new (just released today, in fact), so there’s no word count (that I can find, although I assume it is in the iPad version), and it even has a full blown web browser in-app to allow you to browse links.

The number one issue I have with Essays is that it isn’t fully native. Not that it’s a web app or anything like that, it isn’t, but that the main editor view is basically some glorified HTML interpreter. Let me tell you what I mean. While the editor tries its very hardest to appear native (at least it includes the standard text selection tools), it’s unlike any other editable text section I’ve ever seen. This is evidenced by a couple of factors:

  1. The marquee tool that appears when you tap and hold to finely place the cursor makes text look pixellated. I’ve never seen that before, on any app. Example: Essay, Simplenote. It’s not just the iPhone version that does this, it looks just as bad on the iPad too.
  2. The cursor blinks at a different rate, in a slightly different way to any other cursor I’ve seen.
  3. Selecting text is sloooow. There’s a lag associated with everything.

Points one and three lead me to the conclusion that it must be some sort of emulated HTML interpreter, not the native iOS text view that I know and love. I’m guessing it’s this non-native text view that allows such advanced features as text styling, lists, highlighting, and so on, but it’s also this non-native text view that has some serious drawbacks:

  • Selecting a part of text, hitting “select all” frequently results in the standard “cut copy paste” popup not popping up. Selecting a few words works, however.
  • Tapping the time doesn’t take you to the top of the current scroll view, like it does pretty much everywhere else.
  • Points one and three above — sure, pixellation is just a cosmetic issue, but having slow text selection is a functional one. It’s also terrible UX, that’s how much the cursor-placing lags.

It’s these small things that make Essay not what I’m looking for at the moment. Sure, it’s fancy — but when fancy comes at the cost of serious drawbacks I’ll have to turn down that particular offer.

via iOS Reviews.

Written by yours truly, of course.