Simplicity, in Real-time

Posted on January 5th by Josh C.

I love modern writing tools. There is something about the good ones that not only make writing more efficient, but actually make it more fun.

Google Docs is the first word processor that made me actually want to tell everyone I knew about it. I'd never heard of real-time editing until I used it. There is something magical about being able to see what the other person is writing as they type; it feels like you're thinking aloud together in the same room. The only problem I have with Google Docs is the fact that it does a lot. It's a full-blown word processor. When making notes, I obsessively colour code everything to reference the original source. I spend the same amount of time with the highlight tool as I do actually writing the notes. Then I found Byword.

Byword is about as far from Google Docs as a word processor can get. It's not real-time, it doesn't have WYSIWYG editing, it doesn't have a toolbar, and you'd be lucky to find a single button within the application. It doesn't have much at all - and it's awesome. I wasn't sure what to think of Byword when I first started using it, but after writing a few essays I was appalled at myself for not having found it sooner. Formatting with markdown only takes a few minutes to learn. I easily referenced notes by adding square brackets with an acronym for the source (eg. [WSJ]) and placing the link at the bottom. I can see the word count at any point to remind me to keep my work brief. The only things I needed from Byword were the ability to use it anywhere and the real-time editing of Google Docs.

I bet you can see where this is going. I created Typewrite to combine the simplicity of Byword with the real-time collaboration of Google Docs. Before I began, I thoroughly tested a few offline and online text editors that aimed to do something similar. iA Writer had many of the same features as Byword but only had a desktop and mobile application. Next I looked at Draft, a text editor with version control and accept/decline style offline collaboration. It worked great, but the text editor didn't have Markdown highlighting like Byword and it wasn't real-time either. Editorially was the closest thing I could find to what I wanted to create, but the interface had a toolbar reminiscent of Google Docs. Also, the editing wasn't truly real-time as I couldn't type with a friend at the same time without saving conflicts. There were a few other editors I came across that either had a different goal than I did for Typewrite or were highly simplified versions of Byword.

So after doing the research, I decided to go for it and create Typewrite, a simple, real-time collaborative writing environment. It's been about a month since I started planning and programming (pretty much non-stop) and so far I'm very happy with the results. I've decided now that it's ready for it's first public release, though I'm sure it's still got a few bugs here and there to iron out. If you find any, or have any suggestions, send a tweet to @Typewrite_io or an email to support@typewrite.io.

The Future

A few things didn't make it into this first public release of Typewrite, including a feature that's advertised on the landing page (Dropbox integration, but I promise it's coming soon!). I want Dropbox integration to be more than just import/export; I want it to actually sync with documents as they are changed. In addition, here are a few other things that will be coming to Typewrite in the near future:

  • Export documents as HTML, PDF and ePub
  • Full screen editing button (available now with Shift + Command + F on Chrome)
  • Simple documentation
  • API for developers

There are many more things I'm planning on adding eventually, including spell check, a publish to blog(s) feature, commenting, and the ability to compare different versions (rather than just the last saved version), all while keeping the key benefit of a simple interface, of course. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy using Typewrite. I'd love to hear you're thoughts on it if you have the chance.