Cloud-based writing is already a pretty crowded space. On one hand, you have big players like Google Drive and Office 365 offering you full fledged office suites on web & mobile devices and on the other hand, there’s Editorially, which just wants you to write better. The service has been available in private beta for a few months now, but recently opened their doors to the public, letting anyone sign up for an account and try the service out.
Once you’re logged in, you are presented with an overview of all your documents, who owns them, their state (Draft, Review, etc.) and when they were last modified. Creating a new document is a breeze, with Editorially also allowing you to import a document (.txt, .md and .markdown only) from your computer. The first thing that strikes you when you open a document on Editorially is the simplicity. There is literally nothing except for a thin bar at the top of the editor to distract you from your writing experience. It’s like iA Writer without the Focus Mode. But one thing that Editorially completely demolishes iA Writer with, is its typeface. We have a particular preference for Avenir, but the font used in Editorially — JAF Facit — could make even that venerable font pause for thought. It is a joy to behold, and it makes writing a real pleasure. Similar to iA Writer, however, there is no customization.
The Navigation bar at the top contains options for viewing all your documents, opening a new document, viewing a Markdown ‘Cheat Sheet’, comparing different versions of the current document, exporting and collaboration tools. These collaboration tools – Collaborators, Activity and Discussions – are the heart and soul of Editorially. Much like Google Drive, you can invite other people to either Read and Comment or even to Edit documents. The people you invite are displayed in the Collaborators menu and changing their privileges is as easy as clicking a button. Your collaborators can comment on specific parts of document by highlighting them (Discussions), or comment about the entire document as a whole (Activity).
However, when you are editing a file, there is no visual representation of any comments on screen. You’ll have to open the Activity/Discussions menu for that. In their quest for simplicity, perhaps the designers went a little too far. Editorially also only allows one user to write at a time (something Google Drive handles really well) , and if you want to pitch in, you’ll have to “Request Control” from the navigation bar. It’s not really collaboration if one person has to close a document for you to edit it. On the other hand, saving and comparing different versions of a document is quite fantastic. The Versions Timeline UI is identical to the slider in the “Post revision” feature in WordPress. You can see a horizontal line plotted with dots, the sizes of which are proportional to the number of changes made. From here, you can choose a version to work on or compare it with a different version. The changes will be highlighted in blue.
Editorially is fast and minimal. If you just want to write, and bring your friends along to help you, you’re all set. The typeface, the incredibly snappy web editor and the collaboration tools makes for some fun writing. Editorially doesn’t have an iOS or Android app (yet), but the web client is manageable if you really need to edit something while on the go. We did encounter some problems while testing, like email notifications for changes/comments showing up hours late, if at all, but the service is currently in public beta and under active development. Any feedback the developers receive will be invaluable and will only help make Editorially better. You can register for an account on Editorially by clicking here.