Typed, the minimal writing app and markdown editor for OS X, arrives on the heels of Microsoft’s long, long overdue update for the OS X version of their popular office suite, Office 2016, and with it a freshly updated version of Word.
Whether rented or bought, Word – as part of Office – is still way more expensive than many of its competitors, many of which are completely free. Some of you may wonder why some might still choose paying for a word processor when there’s OpenOffice, Google Drive, and other options out there, including Apple’s own Pages and TextEdit (both of which are included with every Mac purchase).
Moreover, Microsoft’s Word has become, for many, feature-bloated to the point of explosion, and there are times when even simple default programs like Notepad or TextEdit don’t offer enough. Specialty programs like Scrivener or what seems like hundreds of others can be expensive or too feature-specific,
Worse still, everyone has an idea what a ‘good’ interface should be, and that opinion can be as varied as the writer’s own subject matter. The craze took on new life when it became known that fantasy writer George R. R. Martin said he uses the defunct WordStar program to write his bloody series, as did conservative writer William F. Buckley, Jr. until his death in 2008. Using his trademark wit Buckley said of his reliance on using the abandoned software ”I’m told there are better programs, but I’m also told there are better alphabets.” Hey, we love what we love.
In effect, distraction-free writers have become the new hotness, and that’s a very good thing. So can Typed set itself apart from the myriad of vanity typing programs already on the market?
Developer Realmac Software, as you might have guessed from the name, prefers OS X as their platform-of-choice, having brought simplified, yet mentally refreshing, programs to the Mac like RapidWeaver (web design), Clear (reminders), and Ember (digital scrapbooking). Their motive is simplicity, distraction-free environments where the creative process can blossom away from the hustle and bustle of feature-bloat and scads of toolbars. Generally, they succeed.
Typed looks every bit a program made for Apple users, unabashedly so. In fact, with its super minimalism and pop-up style menus it looks more like an iPad program than Mac, but with its bubble-centric boxes, and clean design this is a program that looks great not only nestled in the dock but up and running.
Typing Using Typed
The default view is a simple, attractive box that attempts to distance your attention from the rest of the world. On each boot-up you’ll get an inspirational quote from a familiar writer, presumably to help keep you motivated on becoming one yourself. Available background colors are white, sepia, and black (and should look familiar to iBook users), and you’ll be able to turn on/off the transparent fuzz for even more seclusion from the evils of the real world.
Typing produces a pleasant green cursor that almost appears to quiver as it shuffles from one character to the next. Basic text formatting options (bold, italic, blockquote, and body sizes) are available via menus, and a handful of Apple-friendly fonts are available (Typed Pro, Menlo, Avenir Next, Helvetica Neue, Courier, Georgia), as well as variable text-sizes, alignment options and word/character counts.
Typewriter mode is here, with its continuous scrolling, yet absent the oddly reassuring clicking sounds found in other programs. Other nice additions are transformation effects to help make uppercase/lowercase and capitalizing words or entire sentences easier. Page orientation lets those users with portrait-mode screens take advantage, and a cool Speech function lets Typed read your words back to you without much fuss. Paragraph/sentence focus options let you concentrate on the paragraph or sentence you’re working on, graying out everything else, in you like your tasks singular and focused.
Then we’ve got Zen Mode, which is the real selling point of Typed. Here your typing space is transformed into a virtual garden of bliss, full-screen, and worlds apart from all your problems. OK, maybe not worlds apart but it’s a nice interface shift that can even play relaxing sounds if you so wish,
The only issue with Zen Mode is, ironically, its interface. Turning on Zen Mode puts Typed in a full-screen mode that, unlike most other options, can’t be turned off via the handy side menu – you have to physically go into the taskbar to disable it. The same goes for the ambient sounds and music, which are only accessible via the taskbar and several clicks from the true ‘Zen’ motif Typed is aiming for. Why these critical options weren’t included in the side menu for easy access is perhaps a mystery only a true Zen master could answer…
Markdown and File Issues
I’m not a big markdown users – OK, I never use the stuff – but plenty of you do. Love or loath it, the rise of markdown usage has made typing processed text even speedier, especially for those of you weaned on HTML and other computer-era typing inclusions. Typed has full integration for the markdown crowd, so that’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about.
But use Typed for more than a demo and you’ll start to encounter cracks in its seemingly calm exterior, ones that threaten to disrupt one’s inner peace and calm, i.e. your productivity.
Typed lets you save natively to the Mac, as well as other cloud-based systems like Dropbox and iCloud, as well as any other virtual drive that’s natively linked to your system (i.e. Google Drive). This is pretty standard for most writing software, but I did find some issues that may come up if you plan on using Typed – and only Typed – as your sole writing app.
For starters, Typed has very limited exporting options: HTML, RTF, and the .md markdown format. Exporting to HTML or RTF let’s you do just that – export your work to an HTML or RTF file for uploading to sites/blogs or sharing with others. Copying to HTML works, too, but that won’t help when you’re working across a variety of machines or sessions.
Unfortunately, exporting to RTF basically eliminates any further editing as Typed doesn’t support importing the file back in for further editing. Importing HTML files works, but you’ll have HTML markings everywhere with no easy way to clean up the document. Interestingly, if you’re needing to work with multiple formats Typed lets you open both .text and .doc files, though the latter will include Unicode garbage in front of the actual text, which is left essentially fine.
I realize that Typed isn’t being sold or marketed as a multi-format word processor, but to have such a mix-match of supported and unsupported formats can lead to confusion for those who want to replace a supposedly complex writing tool with something that’s supposed to simplify their writing lives. Typed feels more like a WYSIWYG HTML editor than a writing app, which isn’t surprising given its developer’s history, but it should be compatible with those formats it exports to.
One big issue is dynamic usage. Clearly, Typed is aiming itself toward the tech-friendly crowd, the kind that blog, text, and multitask without batting an eye. Unlike some of its competitors in the ‘simple typing’ field, there’s no companion app on iOS or Android. The website lists such an omission in their FAQ, but states they have no plans to port Typed to iOS anytime soon. For this Realmac recommends Metaclassy’s Byword, a full-fledged iOS writing app that’s also available for the Mac and offers deeper integration with different plarforms than Typed does.
And then there’s the inescapable comparison issue with a program like Typed. Its biggest competitor for distraction-free typing is Information Architect’s wildly popular iA Writer, famous for its use by popular writers and its constant presence on both Apple and Google’s app store charts. At this time there’s nothing Typed does that iA Writer can’t do better, and with more robust features that work across platforms. It’s difficult to recommend Typed over iWriter at this time, especially since iWriter has a cheaper ‘regular’ option available.
For what it’s attempting Typed is a decent distraction-free typing solution for those needing solace in a feature-packed world of options, but the strange design focus on blogging and other online-only arenas make it feel more like a stripped-down HTML editor than a dedicated writing tool. For those of you who don’t mind such things, Typed may be the program for you, or at least a valid option. Those needing a wider range of formats and better integration with widely-used programs, however, may want to hold off.