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I bought Byword

17 Jan 2014

2014-01-17 14:10:29 -0600

[Update: Byword has a show-stopping bug related to external keyboards and I will probably be requesting a refund.]

I bought Byword.

Well, I should clarify. I bought Byword for ios.

I already own the mac version and frankly I hardly ever use it these days.

Actually, now that I've got my mechanical keyboard wired up to my ipad, I've started doing most of my long form writing on the ipad.

I'm digging Editorial so far, but it has a show stopping bug for me. One that I don't know yet if it affects Byword as well.

Specifically, I'm about to hit the bottom of the screen on the ipad and find out if the line is hidden.

Well, that's not good.

Byword is worse than Editorial in regards to this bug.

In fact, enough so that I think I may request a refund on an app store purchase for the first time in my life.

Here's what happens.

Both for Editorial and Byword, when you're using an external keyboard, and you hit the bottom of the document, your text becomes obscured by the custom keyboards that both apps happen to have.

In Editorial, when you hit the bottom of the screen, your last line of text is half-obscured by the keyboard.

In Byword, it's worse, much worse.

Your last two lines of text are completely hidden by the custom keyboard.

By accident, I just happened to discover a workaround that makes the situation somewhat more tolerable and it appears to work in both apps:

As a somewhat tolerable workaround, if you enter editing mode with the external keyboard already connected, the document will behave a little better.

In Byword, it will make the cursor "sticky" to about the middle of the screen (meaning that when you create new lines at the bottom of your file, the screen will keep your text cursor at about the middle of the screen).

In Editorial, it will make the cursor sticky near the bottom. You'll have enough whitespace above the keyboard and your last line of text that you'll never have to worry about the current line actually being hidden.

Whether related or not, I did experience some wonky movement in Byword when I was scrolling up and down in a document with the external keyboard, where one cursor press up or down would send it several lines in one direction or the other. It wasn't happening consistently though, so I have no idea what caused it.

Here's where this workaround doesn't work:

If you disconnect your bluetooth keyboard in the middle of the session, you're screwed. The behaviour will go back to hiding text at the bottom of the screen.

Why this matters:

Okay, so maybe most people using external keyboards aren't going to be constantly connecting and disconnecting them, but my current workflow is to use one of those bluetooth mimicing keyboard programs on my computer. This means that when I want to actually use my keyboard on the computer itself, I need to disconnect it from the ipad.

It does look like at least one of these apps gives you the preference of leaving the bluetooth connection open even when not active, which will make this bug more tolerable.

There are other cases where a normal user might need to disconnect a keyboard, ya know, like batteries dying.

But probably far more common is the fact that this bug affects you if you enter editing mode without your keyboard connected.

So let's say you start a new document and then realize that you need to connect your external keyboard. Guess what? You're going to have a bad time.

The "fix" in those cases is to leave the document and go back into it, all while the external keyboard stays connected.

Like, to do this, you could pull up the file browser on the left side (if you're in landscape mode) and then go back into your document.

My advice to both developers:

What really sucks here is that I bought Byword specifically because I wanted to try something else while I wait however long it takes for Editorial to move past v1.0, and then as it turns out, Byword has this same bug but much much worse (again, with Editorial, you can somewhat read your last line of text; in Byword the last two lines are completely invisible).

Both apps seem to also suffer somewhat from the belief that they're going to be the only text editor actively editing the documents. Again, maybe I'm really weird, but in writing blog posts in text format, I have had several cases where it's useful for me to jump over to my computer and paste in some code or something else directly in the document. And then it seems to be somewhat of a crapshoot to see if the app will realize that it's been edited remotely.

I can say this though, Byword actually has a conflict manager. That's cool. But again, it doesn't even necessarily see that a document has been updated, which makes the conflict manager tons less useful.

Okay, I think I might know what can trigger the wonky scrolling in Byword: scrolling by finger and then scrolling with the arrow keys on the keyboard. That doesn't seem to be a consistent way to trigger it though.

I can also confirm that the iphone suffers from the same text hiding bug.

I'm kinda torn now that I know of a semi-acceptable workaround to the text hiding bug. Specifically, because I was also looking for a good editor on the iphone.

And just like that I'm getting more wonky behaviour. And this time it's even better: using shift select plus the up arrow key is selecting a seemingly random number of lines.

I have no idea what starts the wonkiness, nor do I have a clue what resolves it.

Frankly, I think I should just ask for a refund. Byword looks nice but it's clearly not ready for primetime for my specific workflow. Neither is Editorial of course, but I haven't had nearly as many bugs in Editorial.

And though I'd like to find one editor that I love to use on both the iphone and ipad, I don't have to do that since I'm not expecting to be writing anything more than notes here and there on the iphone.

So yeah, I guess I'll be initiating my first refund request on the app store ever.