How to organise iCloud folders by name

Today I realised you can organise folders in iCloud by name, date, or tags. I assume the default is by date (as in modified date) since I'd never changed this before and that's what my Mac is doing.

I'll use Byword as an example, since that's where I just experinced it. I use just three folders. One for the files I'm actively working on, called Writing; one for drafts where I keep new ideas and unfinished drafts that are not urgent; and one where I dump all text files once I'm finished writing and I've published the content elsewhere, called Archives. I specifically put a number in the folder name so they were always in the same order, but today I noticed 03. Archives was first.

iCloud folders organised by name, date, or tag

It's a small thing, but one that really irks me. On instinct, I control-clicked (or right-click) on the gray area and got the option to sort by name, date, or tag. Easy fix.

But I wondered why I'd never notice this before. Turns out the order of folders in Byword for iPhone and iPad is always by name, and I almost always start new documents from an iOS device. In Byword for iOS you can choose to sort documents by date, but it affects only documents, not folders.

Review: Byword for iPhone and iPad

Background

When I discovered Byword for Mac I was an instant fan. The application did almost everything I wanted from a text editor at the time, and it was obvious the developers had put a lot of work and care into it. The attention given to even the smallest details was remarkable. I appreciate that. And so, I used Byword exclusively as my text editor on the Mac for a long time.

However, I found that I often started something in Byword on the Mac but didn't finish in one sitting. I wanted to be able to pick it up from the iPad and/or iPhone and continue writing whenever I was away from the Mac.

Back then, Byword for iOS didn't exist and few desktop applications had an iOS counterpart to sync with. iCloud was just a rumour. So, I saved Byword's text files in Dropbox and accessed them with multiple apps from the iPhone and iPad. I eventually settled on iA Writer for iPad.

That worked fairly well, although it wasn't an elegant solution. Then iA Writer became a universal app (iPhone/iPad) and added iCloud sync between Mac, iPhone and iPad. I purchased the Mac version and loved the sync, so I used this setup for a short while, but missed a few things from Byword.

Fortunately, Byword followed suit shortly after and launched their universal iOS app with iCloud support. It's amazing. I'm back to being a full on fan.

Byword for iPhone and iPad review

Byword on iOS is a beautiful app and a pleasure to write on. It's light grey background and dark grey text works well. It provides good contrast without trying the eyes.

The developers added an extra row to the iPhone and iPad keyboard in a very clever way. It's about half the size of the keys so it doesn't take up much space. You can swipe it left and right to get to 3 different views, one with word and character count, another two with Markdown shortcuts and navigation keys.

Markdown support

Byword for iOS is clever in the way it supports markdown. The additional row above the keyboard is a real time saver. One view gives you the main characters used in markdown (brackets, parenthesis, quotation marks, asterisk). Tap it once and the icon turns into the close state. The other view gives you shortcuts for headings, links, images, and lists. Tapping the link button types the full markdown syntax for links and puts the cursor inside the brackets ready for you to type the anchor text.

Another thing Byword has is markdown preview. I find this incredibly useful and it's one of the features iA writer doesn't have.

Sync

In Byword, you can sync documents via iCloud and Dropbox.

I find iCloud very good in real life use. It's fast and it has never failed. However, with Byword you have to choose either iCloud or Dropbox sync, you can't use both at the same time. I only use iCloud, so I don't mind this, but iA Writer does let you use both simultaneously.

Preferences

Byword gives you four font options only, and I'm glad they didn't add more. With too many options I tend to tinker with them instead of getting to work. This is one area iA Writer took to the limit with no options whatsoever. Granted, the font in iA Writer is beautiful.

You can choose between the common Helvetica and Georgia fonts, and also 2 relatively uncommon ones from the M Plus family, M+ C Type-1 and M+ M Type-1. I chose M+ C Type-1 and I love it. It looks particularly good in the iPhone's Retina display. I don't have a new iPad yet but I assume it looks just as good.

Byword also allows you to turn on or off autocapitalisation, autocorrection, spell check and text expander support.

Export options

This is where Byword shines and iA Writer falls down in my opinion. To get your writing out of iA Writer you can only email the plain text as attachment or text or copy/paste it into another apps.

With Byword for iOS, you can:

  • Export to HTML: to iCloud or iTunes documents
  • Export via email: as rich text, plain text, attachment (which exports an HTML attachment)
  • Copy HTML: perfect for blog posting. I use this all the time.

What's missing from Byword for iPhone and iPad

There are a few things I hope they add to Byword for iPhone and iPad soon:

  • Focus mode: It'd be useless in the iPhone because of the screen size, but I'd like it in the iPad. iA writer has it on iPad and it works well.
  • Markdown visual representation while writing: the Mac version turns headings bold and it makes the markdown syntax elements light grey. This makes it very easy to read and I'd like to see it in iOS.
  • Dark mode: When writing at night in the iPad, the dark mode would come in handy.

Summary

Both Byword and iA Writer are very good and it's a tough call choosing between them. It's mostly a subjective choice and both do the basics well (ie. markdown support, iCloud sync, clean writing environment, good fonts). I think the extra keyboard row in Byword is much better than the one in iA Writer. And if you need preview and specific export options, Byword is the winner.

Byword for iOS review

I'm still testing both Byword and iA Writer to see which one I'll settle with. They're both amazing apps which cover the basics beautifully, such as iCloud sync support, Markdown, and Mac, iPhone, iPad apps.

I wrote a review of Byword for Mac when I began using it for most of my writing, and I thought about following that up with one of the iOS app, but Federico Viticci at Macstories wrote a great review of Byword for iOS that's far better that what I could do, so I'll point you to that.

For those interested, I recently wrote a review of iA Writer as well.

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.