Sometimes it seems that apps comes in waves. It’ll seem like a whole category is stagnant, with nothing seriously new coming out in years — then all the sudden there’s several new upstarts competing for the crown with brand-new features. It’s felt like that this summer with iOS photo apps, and it’s been the very same with collaborative writing and editing web apps.
Google Docs was the state-of-the-art for document collaboration, and then Draft, and Editorially burst onto the scenes. We’ve looked at the former already, seeing how it is the word processor reinvented for the web, and how its grown to include a paid editing service, stats for your writing, plain text todos, and more. The latter, though, hasn’t picked up traction as quickly due to it still being in beta. Editorially is still interesting, and with hints being dropped of its future and expanded feature set, it’s more than worth a look.
The Editorially Workflow
Rich Text writing just as Word and Google Docs are designed for just doesn’t cut it on the web. We need formatting, sure, but that should never be the first thought when you’re writing. Instead, the raw text should speak for itself, with the least markup possible. That’s the very idea behind Markdown, and it’s taken the world of writing by storm, first in native apps on the Mac and now on the web.
Editorially is essentially what collaborative writing in Google Docs could be like, if you took all the formatting away and then super-powered it just writing. Co-founded by Jason Santa Maria and Mandy Brown of A Book Apart fame, Editorially is designed by a team who really knows what they’re doing when it comes to web development and writing. And it shows. It’s got the feature set exactly for what its designed for: collaborative plain-text writing and editing.
You’ll start with a blank document, or by importing your existing .txt or .md documents. Writing works as you’d expect, with formatting automatically appearing as you write in Markdown. There’s no editor settings, but the interface is clean and beautiful, and you won’t find much to complain about with Just Another Foundry’s FacitWeb typeface and the light+grey color scheme.
A quick CMD+S will save a version your work, but then it’s already being auto-saved as you type so there’s little to worry about there. You can grab some quick stats about your document at the top, or one-click export it in Markdown and HTML formats. If all you want to do is use Editorially as an online writing space, that’s likely all you’ll end up using.
That is, unless you make a mistake, or want to see how your document has progressed. Then, you’ll be glad you hit CMD+S along the way, as you can jump between versions of your document or compare the changes from the versions timeline. The circle buttons’ size reflect the amount of changes in each version, and you’ll be able to see the text removed and added through each revision. It’s not as much info as the complete revision history you can see at once in Draft, but Editorially’s implementation is nice as well — though perhaps more along the lines of what we’ve already seen in word processor apps.
Bring the Team
Where Editorially really shines, though, is with collaboration. Draft feels more designed for asking one other person’s advice on your writing, where Editorially is designed to bring in your whole team. You can quickly add collaborators to any document in one-click if they’re already on your team, and invite others via email equally easy. There’s no way to share a copy of a document with the world — but then, that’s not something most professional writers are going to do before honestly publishing. Instead, they’ll work with their editorially team — exactly what Editorially is designed around.
With that, there’s a number of team features that take Editorially beyond simply an online Markdown editor with version control. You’ll be able to select any part of your text and add a comment, and then others on your team can join in the discussion so you can work on the problem together. It’s much like in-line comments or notes in Word or Google Docs, but the implementation here looks far nicer, and doesn’t get in the way of the document itself.
Finally, you’ll find an activity panel, complete with a record of everyone who’s joined the document, major version saves on the document, and a space to add your own comments about the document itself. There’s also labels that fit perfectly with the writing and editing process, so you can mark the position your document’s in and set it as final when all the changes are saved and its ready to publish.
There’s More to Come
Today, Editorially is nice, and if you work on a writing team you’ll likely find that its far better for your work than Draft. It’s designed around working with a team and taking documents through several levels of drafts, edits, and review before being saved as a finished work. Draft, on the other hand, is aimed more at the sole writer, with none of the team features but more ways to save, publish, and follow up on your individual work’s results.
Draft’s moved very fast at adding new features over the past months, and Editorially is promising the same. Their team has promised on Twitter that they’re working on adding features such as an auto-generated outlines, customized and filterable labels, a tool to combine writings into groups or folders, Word document import, and more. It’ll be very interesting to continue seeing how it progresses, and we couldn’t be more excited to see not one, but two high quality Markdown-centric writing and editing apps on the scene today. That’s something we sure didn’t have last year.
Your Chance to Try Editorially
We’ve closed our giveaway — here’s to hoping Editorially will be open for everyone soon!
As mentioned before, Editorially is still in private beta, but I’ve got 2 spare invites that I’d love to share with our readers so you can give it a spin before it’s released to the public. Just leave a comment below and let me know how you plan to put Editorially to use, and I’ll pick 2 of the comments to get a trial invite.