Ever since the Surface Laptop 4 landed on my desk a few weeks ago, I’ve tried to use it as my only computer.
There’s one caveat to this, which is video editing. Switching to Windows for that task would be a significant effort and one for which I don’t have the time at the moment.
But everything else? Surely I could make the move from macOS to Windows without any trouble?
Windows appears to be significantly hampered in one key area and it’s a deal-breaker for my business.
It started off fine
I really like the Surface Laptop 4. I even like the Alcantara keyboard cover.
Getting back into Windows has been super easy, too. Sure, it’s amusing to see Windows XP design flourishes still in existence, and the presence of a noisy laptop fan feels like I’ve stepped back in time. But the overall experience has been fun.
I’ve enjoyed not really knowing what I’m doing or where to find stuff. It’s a journey and one which Windows makes relatively easy.
Email, team collaboration and working on the web (Edge is a brilliant browser) have all been a cinch. I’ve not felt like reaching for the MacBook at all during those tasks.
Sadly, it all changes when I want to get down to the business of writing.
Writer? Should’ve bought a Mac
If you’re reading this article you might be aware that it’s one of many that I publish each week. I write daily for the Mark Ellis Reviews brand. But I also write a significant number of words each week for a couple of my clients.
I therefore need a tool for the job. This is not Microsoft Word, and nor is it a bare-bones note-taking app or text editor. It’s something in between.
On the Mac, I use Ulysses, which is hands-down the best writing tool I have ever used. It has helped me develop a process for my blog writing that enables me to transfer words from my brain into a number of formats and destinations as efficiently as possible.
When I switched to Windows, I knew I’d need something similar, and I was conscious that Ulysses is currently macOS-only.
Fine, I thought; there’ll be an equivalent app for Windows.
I’ve been through several Windows-based writing apps in the search for an alternative to Ulysses. Calmly Writer, Simplenote, Markdown Monster and even the desktop version of WordPress. None of them gives me what I need.
In fact, once you start searching for ‘the best Windows writing apps’, or ‘alternatives to Microsoft Word’, you inevitably come to one simple conclusion.
You should’ve bought a Mac.
All of the best writing tools are clearly on macOS. They all look great, have large feature sets and are clearly developed by people who know what writers need. Windows feels terribly underserved in this category and I cannot fathom why.
iA Writer is a case in point because the Windows version lacks the ability to export your work to WordPress, which is a dealbreaker for me. Why is this feature available on macOS but not Windows?
I’m on the verge of giving up, and it’s such a shame.
What I want from a writing app
I don’t think my requirements are that outlandish. You might tell me otherwise.
This is what I need from a writing app.
- Distraction-free writing: A blank screen with a flashing cursor and live word count. Nothing more.
- Simple Markdown support: Markdown has been a godsend for me when it comes to formatting for the web. But I’m no expert, therefore it needs to be dumbed down and not detrimental to the distraction-free writing experience.
- Document management: The ability to create a folder structure within the app helps me keep my work organised and easily discoverable.
- WordPress export: One-click publishing from the writing app to WordPress saves me so much time every week.
- DOCX export: I have to deliver certain pieces of work in this format, but I will never start a writing job in Word. Sorry, Bill.
- Cross-device syncing: I want my work stored on the cloud and immediately accessible across different devices within the same ecosystem (I don’t expect cross-platform syncing between macOS and Windows).
That’s it. Ulysses nails all of the features above. I cannot find a single app on Windows that matches it. Even my podcast co-host Rob has struggled to find a solution, and he’s far better than me at discovering stuff like this.
Regardless, it shouldn’t be this difficult to find a decent writing app on Windows. Why is it? Have I missed something? Can you help me?