the candler blog

Text & Death


I can’t be the only one who looks at Brett Terpstra’s prolific iOS text editors comparison chart and thinks of his own mortality, can I?

If you haven’t seen it yet, the chart in question is worth a peek even if you don’t care about iOS text editors. The methods Terpstra used to build the thing prove what a web wizard he really is. Most of the info was crowd-sourced into a Google spreadsheet and then built straight into the niftily designed chart. It’s an excercise in efficiency, a sort of data parkour.

What strikes me is the absurdity of the chart itself. It’s massive, covering not only every known text editor in the App Store but also every feature. And it gets pretty granular. “Reading Time,” the ability of an app to display the approximate time it will take to read the current document based on its length, gets its own row, for example.

I’m not here to mock Terpstra’s product. Not at all. It is an invaluable snapshot of what is available right now in an increasingly cluttered marketplace. As I’ve written before, I buy a lot of text editing apps. I use them all for different writing tasks or to cater to my different moods.

What freaks me out is how excited I was when Brett published his chart. Looking at it, all I can think is how ridiculous the whole plain text craze has become. I’m as guilty as anyone of obsessing over the tiny details in these apps, and I love that there is now a resource where I can quickly drill down the exact feature I need. Here’s the thing, though: the perfect text editor doesn’t exist.

I should know, I’ve bought (almost) all of them.

If I’ve learned anything from perusing Brett’s chart, it’s that I need to stop worrying about apps and just write more. It really grates on me when people spout motivational platitudes like that1 but I think it’s applicable here.

Life is short and the considerable time I spend wondering which app has the best Markdown implementation2 is time thoroughly wasted. Write more, shop less; all of this will end someday.

So thanks, Brett, for the perspective.

  1. Especially because people often say things like that to justify using Microsoft Word. Blech.

  2. Byword and Writing Kit are tied, by the way.