Byword Review - My favourite text editor

I'll start my Byword review by stating that Byword is a beautiful app and has become one of my favourite apps overall. It's awesome.

Why Byword?

But why go for Byword when TextEdit comes bundled with every Mac and it's a very capable application?

Well, Markdown is why. Ever since I started writing in Markdown I’ve been looking for a simple text editor that supports it.

All I really wanted was an app that:

  1. Converted Markdown to HTML.
  2. Looked good.

I went to the Mac App Store and found several that met my two requirements. After reading up on the most interesting ones, I narrowed it down to two options: iA Writer and Byword. Both very similar.

Byword vs. iA Writer

iA Writer looks amazing, and I really like the font it uses: Nitti Light. I wrote a comment about iA Writer after an excellent review by Ben Brooks, and came very close to buying it. I actually use and love iA Writer for iPad, so it seemed like an obvious choice.

However, it turns out the font looks huge on a big screen and there’s no way of customising it. iA Writer has no preference pane. And although I think minimal options are a great idea, the fact that font size is set means it looks different on different screen sizes, which makes writing on a big monitor a aweful experience.

Byword prefrerences pane

Byword, on the other hand, has the perfect preferences pane. As you can see in the screenshot, Byword lets you customise:

  • Colour scheme: Dark text on light background or light text on dark background
  • Column size: Narrow, medium, wide. Perfect for different screen sizes
  • Font: Again, solves the screen size problem
  • Text Format: Plain text, rich text, or markdown

Byword has exactly what I want. No more, no less. Did I mention Byword is awesome?

Byword feels extremely simple in use, but has a good combination of features that get out of the way when you don’t need them. Like:

  • Full Screen, which removes everything but the text
  • Paragraph Focus, which fades everything except the paragraph you’re typing
  • Typewriter Mode: which centres the line of text you’re writing so it’s always in the middle of the screen (my favourite)
  • Word and character count
  • Export to different formats: It can convert Markdown to HTML, RTF, Word, PDF, Latex

I use Byword with the black text on white background as I find it easier on the eyes. It’s really a light grey background and dark grey text, which looks so much better than just black and white.

I use a “medium” column size on my MacBook as it’s easier to read. It makes the column size similar to a pocket book.

Even though Byword comes with a few good font/size combinations built in, I chose to use the open source Inconsolata XL. It’s a version of Inconsolata that adds a bold version. It’s a monospaced font that reminds me of writing on an old typewriter.

I also set the deafult text format to Markdown. Byword does a great job with it. It gives you a visual representation of what you’re writing. For example, bold and italics actually turn into bold and italic font. And Byword turns links into a very light grey that almost disappears into the background. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s a great way to write in Markdown.

Hopefully this Byword review is useful. I highly recommend it.

You can get Byword from the Mac App Store.