Interview: ClockworkEngine and Their Markdown Masterclass, LightPaper

Blogging is no longer an activity which requires a seat in front of a desk, and mobile writing apps are now an essential part of the online writer’s toolbox. A shining Android example in this genre is LightPaper, the Markdown-compatible, feature laden baby of the folks at Clockwork Engine.

Adam Morgan of Clockwork Engine recently spared me some of his time to talk about his company’s work and Android development in general…

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Check our full review of LightPaper to know more about the app and its capabilities.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to AppStorm. So, down to business – here’s where you tell our readers who you are, and what you make.

Thank you for reaching out to us. Clockwork Engine is a partnership of two of the senior engineers (Morgan himself and his co-founder, Ashok Gelal) working for MetaGeek, where we make killer wireless visualization tools for one of the best companies in the NorthWest. Clockwork Engine was started as a way for the two of us to collaborate on our evening side projects. Our first released project was SpyGlass, a disk visualization tool for Windows, our second released project was LightPaper for Android, and our most recently released project is LightPaper for Mac, which is still in open beta. We use Clockwork Engine as a way to stay up on current technologies, and to have some fun.

Adama Morgan and his Clockwork Engine co-founder, Ashok Gelal.

Adama Morgan and his Clockwork Engine co-founder, Ashok Gelal.

Thinking about the Android version, did you decide to create LightPaper on the back of personal text editing needs, or were you trying to fill a gap in the Play Store?

A little of both. As developers, we spend a huge amount of time in editors, and have a vested interest in having great editing tools. Markdown, beyond being a great medium for bloggers, is also a great medium for both documenting and planning your work. Looking around, we found a decided lack of beautiful, modern, holo themed Markdown editors for Android. Further, we were looking for a good way to cut our teeth on building editing tools. We have big plans for the editor space.

Looking around, there aren’t that many high quality Markdown-compatible text editors available on Android. Why do you think that is?

Firstly, I think that Markdown isn’t finished gaining traction. Secondly, writing a decent editor is easy, but writing a great one is considerably harder.

I can see that with LightPaper, your design philosophy was absolute minimalism. What was your reasoning for this, and did you consider any other visual avenue?

We find simple and clean to be beautiful; it’s a common theme across all of our software. There was never another avenue for us.

The app is simple. Text editing doesn't get much more basic and the Preview view is fantastic.

The app is simple. Text editing doesn’t get much more basic and the Preview view is fantastic.

Looking over towards iOS, there are some fine examples of minimal text editors which are not unlike LightPaper. Did you look around for inspiration while you were building your app?

Not so much iOS apps as Mac writing apps.

I would guess that the majority of your users are tablet owners, due to the easier typing available on a bigger screen. Would I be correct?

Of any single device, the Nexus 7 is the single largest LightPaper consumer. That being said, tablets make up only about 20% of LightPaper installs.

A question I like to ask all developers – what test devices do you use in your battle against fragmentation?

Between us, we have a Nexus 4, a Galaxy Note II, a couple of Nexus 7s, and a Nexus 10. After that, we have to lean heavily on Android emulation tools.

What would you say your biggest challenge is as an Android developer? I assume it isn’t purely plain sailing…

Because we do this for fun, and have great day jobs, it’s mostly ‘plain sailing.’ 🙂 I can see where being a full-time Android developer could be some hungry work. Fragmentation isn’t the issue, but getting visibility for your apps is, to my mind, the biggest challenge.

Taking everything into account, would you say that Android is the OS to be developing for right now?

I think that a well-established developer in any OS can do well. Getting well-established is the uphill battle.

And finally, LightPaper has received plenty of feature upgrades since its launch, so I assume you’re planning to add more?

Absolutely. We love a great editor, and have definite plans to improve the ones we have, as well as make some great new ones.

Thank you and Goodbye

Once again, I’d like to thank Adam for talking to us, and I’d also like to wish both of the guys at Clockwork Engine the best of luck with their current and future ventures.

LightPaper can be downloaded for free in the Google Play Store, and a Pro version is on offer for $1.99. Interested? Why not make your first port of call our review of the app.