Ever since I started using Android, I’ve been looking for a beautiful text editor with Markdown and Dropbox integration. I might have been spoiled by my experience with iOS, but nobody can deny the great apps available for writers in that ecosystem. I’ve always hoped to find something similar in simplicity on the Android platform, without sacrificing the advanced functionality many Android users often scoff about when they see iPhones.
I’ve tried just about every Markdown-related app available on Google Play, but I never felt I had found one that suited my needs until recently with Lightpaper Pro. It isn’t perfect, but it has most of the functionality I’m looking for and then some. Read on to find out if Lightpaper Pro is for you.
Markdown, Dropbox and Android, Oh My!
Lightpaper supports Markdown and Multimarkdown with a really nice Preview mode. I sadly can’t say that about too many Android text editors that I’ve used, so it’s important to take in that the app is as beautiful as it is functional as a text editor.
In the paid version of the app, there are features like optional extra keyboards for quick access to Markdown formatting. The paid version also includes a Distraction Free Mode that highlights only the paragraph you’re writing and makes everything else disappear. This is supposed to increase focus for writers who spend more time editing than they do writing.
The app integrates with Dropbox, but it creates a subdirectory in the Apps folder by default and I can’t find a way to provide access to every folder I use in Dropbox. I find this problematic with the way that I work, since this can lock me in to one app at any given time. My favourite text editors allow me access to any file I want in Dropbox, and I wish Lightpaper could offerthat as well.
That being said, on a purely aesthetic level, Lightpaper is easy on the eyes. Regardless of whether you’re on a phone or a tablet, it really scales beautifully. In fact, the app really shines on a tablet. It’s gorgeous. There are a couple of bugs with the app’s fullscreen mode, but I suspect they don’t appear on every device. The bugs I’ve seen are all a result of Android’s fragmentation and could be out of the developer’s control.
Don’t let that dismay you, though: Lightpaper is largely a fantastic user experience that’s unrivalled in my experiences on the platform. The Distraction Free Mode is among the nicest I’ve seen in any text editor and I never felt a desire to change the default font (although that can be done with ease).
There isn’t much about the app that isn’t visually pleasing, and I believe that’s really important. Writers spend a lot of time writing. It’s important to us that our workplace is functional as we need it to be and as beautiful as possible. Lightpaper has us covered.
Markdown is really meant for people who write on Internet-based publications like blogs or webzines. To that end, there is support for blogging built right in to Lightpaper. Because Markdown is essentially a visual markup syntax for HTML, Lightpaper is able to convert your text into HTML and upload it directly to WordPress or Tumblr. If you sign into your account on either service, all of you have to do is choose Blog from the sharing menu and choose what account you want to publish it to.
I have a Tumblr account that I keep active to experiment with, and I saved my Lightpaper review as a Draft there. It was instantly available for me on Tumblr’s website to review.
I’ve yet to see a service like this that has been perfect, but this is the closest I’ve encountered. It works better than copying and pasting HTML code into my personal website, which is great. There are no massive formatting errors, and I think most people are going to be able to post to blogs without fear.
What Lightpaper Gets Completely Right
It’s really the blogging capability that made me realize how powerful this app really is. Lightpaper’s greatest trick is how powerful it is. It’s an extremely lightweight app. In fact, on my Nexus 7, it weighs in at 4.2mb. There are four different themes, but all of them are starkly plain and simple. In fact, simplicity seems to be Clockwork Engine’s greatest design philosophy.
That being said, beneath that simple exterior is an extremely powerful word processor that rivals anything I’ve used on the iOS platform. The settings are easy to access and the app itself is easy to use. Tutorials don’t feel necessary, despite what’s going on beneath the hood. This is the sort of thing that every developer should strive for.
I think the Pro version is worth paying for, if only because it adds more power while keeping the app simple. You can probably get by with the free version of the app, but Pro features like the Distraction Free Mode and Markdown/Multimarkdown keyboard trays are well worth the couple dollars for any serious writer.
Room for Improvement
No app is perfect, though. Lightpaper is still a relatively new app, and there’s lots of room to grow. First of all, I think that some actions, like swiping to the left to see the Markdown preview, need to be more visible. The feature is useful, and I wish it was in the app’s menu as well.
It would also be nice if the app included a Markdown/Multimarkdown Syntax Guide. The app includes a sort of tutorial document that guides you through the app’s many features, but newcomers to Markdown with the app have no built-in cheat sheet.
This is something I think a lot of Markdown editors, not just Lightpaper, would be wise to consider. There’s a lot of potential for a really polished in-app Markdown guide, and I’d love to see how Clockwork Engines would integrate it.
Finally, the Dropbox integration needs to improve. It’s not bad right now — at least it’s there and easy to use — but I want access to everything in my Dropbox folder instead of just Lightpaper’s folder. I hope Clockwork Engines makes more use of Dropbox’s open API in the future.
My Final Thoughts
Do you need a Markdown editor on your Android device? Are you looking to post to your blog directly from your phone? Do you value smart design and ease of use? If you answered yes to any of these questions, or all of them, then you need Lightpaper. Without a doubt, it’s the most promising Markdown text editor I’ve tried on the Android platform.
It’s not perfect, but I look forward to seeing how the app grows with time. Lightpaper is taking me one step closer to not needing an iOS device on hand to make it through a workday, and I highly recommend it.