We don’t often review software here on The Methodology Blog, but one new product drew our attention. It’s a text editor called Editorial, and has profound implications for personal productivity.
The application is currently available for the iPad, but the concepts have been around a long time in other (although obscure) tools. A review in Macworld notes:
Editorial serves as a full-featured text editor that … allows users to build custom “workflows” to automate their work. Nonprogrammers can build these workflows without writing a single line of code.
[These are] mini programs that you can assemble Lego-style using a wide variety of canned actions. This is a genius concept; rather than trying to include every conceivable text-handling feature into Editorial, the developer has provided a relatively easy way for users to build those features themselves.
That’s right: Editorial is not a feature-rich application. And when it comes to improving your productivity, sometimes the secret is in what you build for yourself, rather than what is built in.
The article explains:
Several workflows come with the app. For example, the Copy All workflow grabs all the text in the document (without your having to highlight it) and copies it to the clipboard, either as text or HTML. The Paste As workflow takes the clipboard contents and permits you to paste it as paragraph text, a code block, or a block quote. You can use these workflows as they stand, but they’re also useful for learning how to build your own.
So how does this work? First of all, imagine all of the usual productivity-enhancing techniques in your favorite word processor. You probably use things like search-and-replace, or automatic creation of bulleted lists, or various keyboard shortcuts to create headings. These are all the kinds of tools that you might build and tweak yourself in an application such as Editorial.
Another review by Federico Viticci outlines a different example:
When I’m writing an article, I tend to come up with an idea for a paragraph or a point I want to make later in the piece, and, to make sure I don’t forget about it, I quickly append it at the bottom of the document.
Chances are, you’ve experienced the same thing. So how do you set that up in Editorial? With a five action custom workflow:
Should you go out and buy Editorial right away? Maybe. If you’re already using a text editor (and you’re already familiar with systems like Markdown) then this could be a great purchase.
But if you’re not using a text editor to create and manage content, then studying this app may be more about changing your perspective. Most of us tend to use tools to accomplish direct tasks leveraging the built-in features. We rarely think about building our own features.
That’s a totally different way to think about productivity at work, and one worth considering.