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Byword's simple interface belies its publishing power.
Nerds love plain text. Ask anyone who's ever spent 45 minutes stripping weird code out of a Microsoft Word document destined for the web, and they'll tell you why. A good text editor is a necessity for anyone who creates web content, and the new Byword 2 is a great one.
Byword 2 fits somewhere in between a full-fledged word processor (like Word or Pages) and TextEdit. The focus here is on your actual content. Like other text editors, Byword ignores stuff like mail merge, page layouts, tables, and other advanced bells and whistles common to modern word-processing applications. Instead, Byword offers a clean, minimal interface to keep you focused on creating. There are only two interface options: a light version with dark-gray text on a light-gray background, and a dark version with light-gray text on a black background. You can do a little bit of font tweaking, but beyond that, there's nothing to fiddle with in Byword, and nothing to distract you from writing.
But don't let Byword's simple interface fool you. The application fully supports Markdown, a markup language for formatting text created by Apple pundit John Gruber. Using a simple system of text-based syntax, Markdown can turn plain text into HTML code ready for publishing on the web. It's a great system, and Byword also displays styled text in-line as you type, so you'll have an idea of what the finished product will look like. There's also an HTML preview mode that removes Markdown syntax and displays your finished product.
Byword runs ten bucks in the Mac App Store. But for maximum text-crunching goodness, you'll also want to pony up another $4.99 to add the publishing feature as an in-app purchase. For anyone publishing online, exporting HTML from Byword for web use is a fantastic feature. The extra five bucks lets you publish directly from Byword to Wordpress, Tumblr, Blogger, and Scriptogram blogs, as well as directly to your Evernote notebooks. Instead of copying and pasting, you can set up accounts on multiple services, and publish new content to them with a keystroke. It's a huge time-saver, and well worth the upgrade fee.
Byword also comes in an iOS version ($4.99) and the two versions can talk to each other, syncing your documents via Dropbox or iCloud, so you can edit and publish documents seamlessly from a Mac, iPhone, or iPad.
Thanks to the clean interface and onboard publishing features, Byword has become my new go-to app for everything from grocery lists to meeting notes, and yes, writing this article. It's got everything I need, without any of the bloat of a word processor. While the few preference settings leave Byword as not terribly customizable, the lack of things to fiddle with is a great reminder to stop clicking stuff and actually do some work.
My only real complaint is with the limited features of the publishing feature. Adding tags or categories requires typing them into a text field when you publish. Pulldown menus of your tags and categories, or auto-complete of recently used options, would be a great addition.
The bottom line. Byword was already one of our favorite text editors, and the new publishing feature is well worth the five bucks.
OS X 10.7 or later, 64-bit processor
Awesome new publishing feature.
Publishing requires additional in-app purchase. Limited customizability.