There’s so many new focused writing apps for the web this year, it’s hard to keep track of them all. But they almost all have one thing in common: they require you to use Markdown for formatting. You could just write in plain text, but if you want italics or bold text, or just want to add a list or a link, you’ll have to use Markdown. It’s not hard to use, per se, but not everyone loves typing extra characters for formatting. That’s why there’s still the tried and true rich text formatting like you’d see in Word, Pages, and even the Gmail editor. It’s just not something most focused writing apps use these days.

If you love rich text editing, and still love focused writing apps without all the clutter and nonsense, you’re in for a treat. The brand-new drft is just what you’ve been waiting for, and we’ve got exclusive invites for our readers. (more…)

It’s US Thanksgiving today, the day we set aside to eat turkey, play (or, more likely, watch) American football, and hopefully spend at least a few minutes of reflection about what we’re thankful for from the past year. And so, why not think about the web apps you’re most thankful for at the same time? They’ve changed how you worked, freed you from legacy apps, made you more productive, and likely saved you money. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

And it’s been a great year for web apps, especially as a writer, with so many new writing web apps coming out. It’d still be hard for me to pick my favorite, but I must say that I’m very grateful for Draft, Editorially, and Penflip, all three of which have already proved useful in my work this year. Draft especially has been rather phenomenal at getting so many new features over time, which has been so fun to see — and helpful as a user. Penflip, the newest of the bunch, is going to be very interesting to watch over the coming months.

That’s far from all of the new web apps this year — it’s hard to think of the world of web apps in 2013 without thinking of Typeform, Apple’s new iWork for iCloud apps and the redesigned core iCloud apps, and more. But that’s for later, when we’ll soon be rounding up the best apps of 2013 for your reading pleasure.

So today, we’d love to hear what brand new web apps you’re thankful for in 2013. Tell us why you love the app, and how you use it – and it just might end up being featured in our best of 2013 roundup.

And while we’re taking about being thankful, hey: thank you for being part of our community!

Sifting, and searching, and scanning, and scrolling, and squinting. The latest headlines smother my timelines, but encountering a story that is of true interest is a chance event — which is why I usually turn to RSS. When in the company of my feeds, I only receive articles from publishers I can rely on to provide high quality, genuinely interesting content.

Unfortunately, this hand-picked approach is a bit of a closed shop. The likelihood is that I’ll miss great stories from publishers I don’t follow closely, and there’s the propensity for this setup to get a bit stale.

So, I’m interested to see if Sulia — a news recommendation platform that offers intelligent filtering by subject — can provide a suitable, more open alternative. But can diversity and precision really work well together?

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A lot of what we all do with our computers these days is online. A very large proportion of us forego the comfort of an email client and rely instead on a web based mail service such as Gmail or outlook.com. In recent years there has been a big push from a lot of big name companies — the likes of Google, Adobe and Microsoft — to encourage their customers to work increasingly in the cloud.

It is likely that the widespread use of webmail has helped to make the idea of breaking away from the confines of desktop software, but the ever-increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets can probably also claim some responsibility. The ability to work on the move on a smaller-screened device is obviously very liberating, but there are new considerations to keep in mind. It is all well and good being able to work away from the desktop, but there will probably come a time when you want to work on a regular computer rather than a portable device. Of course, you can plug your phone or tablet into your computer and copy files back and forth as required… but this is too much like hard work!

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Collaborative writing has been one of the many things the web was supposed to simplify, and yet it’s still as broken as it’s ever been. Live co-editing like Google Docs offers only works for a very few niche scenarios, and newer tools like Draft and Editorially only work great for one writer and one editor giving feedback on a finished work. And the old style of emailing documents back and forth — or the slightly updated version of saving them to a shared Dropbox — is still far from ideal.

There’s one tech tool that’s seemed promising recently, though: git. The geeky version control system used most famously by GitHub is designed to let software developers collaborate on code, and is the very reason people around the globe can contribute to open source projects. Code is just text, of course, so earlier this year two dozen mathematicians wrote The HoTT Book collaboratively using GitHub. That was quite an undertaking, both for its unprecedented collaboration and for using git for writing even when it wasn’t exactly designed for it.

But what if GitHub was reinvented around writing? That’s what Penflip, a new git-powered writing app, aims to find out.

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There once was a time when I followed gaming with verve and passion, soaking up every out-of-ten score in the Official Playstation Magazine, and cursing Nintendo for somehow making the latest Mario Kart game even more irritating than the last. But time has passed, and I no longer have my finger quite on the pulse.

However, I still do hear about most of the latest releases, one way or another, and I pay special attention to game launches with something interesting, unusual, or notable about them. A recent example was the launch of Zoo Tycoon, of which I learned thanks to my AppStorm colleague, Marius Masalar, and his fine taste in tweeting.

Whilst the sight of yet another Zoo Tycoon game was not terribly striking, the initiatives that Microsoft has taken, alongside the production of the game, are.

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Our sponsor this week, Xehon, is a new app for keeping up with almost everything in your digital life in a totally new way. It’s got an incredibly basic interface that lets you add in the modules you want to turn it into your own web app. You can make your own file storage system, design basic graphics and flowcharts, organize pictures, write online documents in specific sections that can be moved around as you want, keep track of your appointments on the calendar, and even blog or run a forum, all from one Xehon account.

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You’ll be able to work on any web browser, or natively on your Mac or PC with its Adobe Air-powered app. You can even easily use Xehon from your Android phone thanks to its free app in the Google Play store. And you can try it for free, then pay just for the amount of data storage that you use in the app.

Xehon is a bare-bones attempt to rethink how a number of the most popular web apps should work, and it’ll be exciting to see the new modules they add to the app going forward.

Think you’ve got a great app? Sign up for a Weekly Sponsorship slot just like this one.

I’m a huge Dropbox junkie. I’ve got 19 GB of free space that I’ve managed to secure over the years (being a student and inviting friends used to help, especially before Dropbox really exploded over the past few years). But cloud storage is tricky, and I’m the paranoid type who believes you should never rely on only one storage solution — even if it is “in the cloud.”

I was intrigued when I heard about another cloud-solution that claimed to offer a few advantages to the Dropbox setup. It’s called NTI MiST. NTI has been in the software game for a long time, and have seen tremendous success in the industry. Read on to find out whether MiST continues to improve on their sterling reputation, or if it can replace or work alongside Dropbox.

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I never did like Facebook. In fact, I only joined the benighted data-grabber two years after I started tweeting. Perhaps this reluctance was an indication of my desire to communicate, rather than staying up to date with my friends’ latest FarmVille scores. Maybe I didn’t want to be the plaything of an advertising network. Or, I suppose that Zuckerberg might have been right, and I really was so darned anti-social that I detested my friends and never wanted to see their annoying faces again [note: sarcasm].

All the same, I joined. And now, I’ve had enough.

Except, there’s a problem with the Facebook-leaving sentiment, however appealing, fashionable and written about it might be. When you delete your account (…he says, as if such a thing were possible…), you’ll still want to keep in touch with your close friends when you can’t see them, and with your relatives on the other side of the world, who still want to see your latest pictures. You’re going to have to find an alternative.

Okay, so let’s have a think. Ah, yes, of course: Google+.

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Paginated publishing is back. When we originally turned away from print in favour of the digital world, web formats ruled the roost. But sales of touchscreen devices have boomed in recent years, and the knock-on effect has been to return the most natural format for reading to the ascendancy.

This arrival at full circle has triggered a brand new kind of platform — the e-publishing CMS. We may be just three years into the tablet revolution, but there are already numerous options for the journalist or novelist wanting to self-publish digitally. Apple’s introduction of iBooks was followed by the launch of near-frictionless services such as Origami Engine, ReadyMag and Type Engine, and many more have arrived since. It is a seriously competitive market.

Yet, I think the outlook for Creatavist, a new “web-based storytelling platform,” is actually quite good. A mammoth array of content options awaits potential users of this beta offering, and it also has the backing of Nicholas Thompson, the editor of The New Yorker’s website — he co-founded the developing company, in fact. So, can this new kid on the block make a meaningful impression?

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