Hog Bay Software is known for creating great little applications. First was WriteRoom for distraction free writing then came TaskPaper for simple task handling in a text file. They also wrote the utility QuickCursor that allows you to edit text from any field in your favourite editor. All in all Jesse Grosjean has written some great apps.
Now he has done it again with Folding Text. The Folding Text website describes it as “Plain text productivity for geeks” and that’s a good starting point.
Like WriteRoom (or Byword) when you first run Folding Text you get a very plain window almost completely unadorned. The window doesn’t ever get more complex, indeed if you wish Folding Text even has a full screen mode.
You write using MarkDown syntax with one or two additions specific to Folding Text. The editor then allows you to fold sections of your document or focus on one particular part. It even uses the different heading levels to define a structure for your document, the number of hash characters defines the heading level.
One nice trick is the on screen display of inline formatting, after you enter the formatting the format characters disappear and you get your text in bold, italic or a clickable URL. To edit the formatting characters click in the formatted text and they are visible once again. This is a great feature and I’d love to see it in Byword.
Folding Text also offers two special modes, to do lists and timers. To enter to do mode add .todo to title of your list, then indent and add unordered list items to create items. Once you have created a to do list you get checkboxes, clicking on one adds @done to the list item. Timer mode supports a list of timed events. To enter timer mode add .timer to the title of your timer, indent and add a line for each step in your schedule and include the steps duration somewhere in the line’s text. To start the schedule, click on the time label to the left of the first step. The current timer step is highlighted in grey.
All this works together well, since everything is text based you can mix outliner elements, to do lists and timers in the one document and if you don’t want to see an element you can fold it away.
With folding, focussing and the two modes you have a smart little editor. The one missing feature that I really need is a word count. I really like to know a document’s word count as I write.
Grosjean is working hard on the editor, he recently added AppleScript support (which expanded and gained some good documentation in version 1.1) and has just added a beta version of user programmable modes to go with the todo and timer modes. At the moment it is well worth the $15 and I suspect that it will become more and more powerful over time. This plain text geek can’t wait.
I have to admit that I still don’t use Folding Text a great deal, I use Byword for writing and TaskPaper for my lists. I’ve started to explore scripting it with AppleScript and that shows promise. I paid my $15 as much for the promise of Folding Text as for the current reality, I suspect in the end I will more than get my money’s worth.