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Craft – the new macOS/iOS sensation

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Posted by MadaboutDana
Jan 12, 2021 at 02:26 PM

 

Although Craft has been mentioned on this forum, I can’t see a dedicated thread on Craft anywhere, so I’m starting one here.

Craft (website: craft.do) has been around for a little while, but last year matured into something really quite exceptional. It’s not a conventional outliner, but does have outliner-like attributes, notably the ability to nest pages within pages within pages.

The basic model is precisely that: the first thing you do is create a document (a top-level page). When you create the document/master page, you can start writing text on it. Each paragraph forms a block, and you can spontaneously transform each block into a sub-page. You can also group multiple blocks and transform them all into a sub-page. Nested sub-pages can be formatted in various way, so they appear as highlighted blocks or as cards (prettier, and capable of being arrayed alongside each other). You can embed pages in sub-pages to any depth. You can also insert images and PDF files. PDF files can be annotated.

A sub-page can also be converted into a separate document. The fairly powerful search function tracks text down to any level in your page hierarchy.

This model is already unusual, but what sets it apart and makes Craft truly alluring is the beautiful formatting. Sound silly, doesn’t it? But Craft is a truly gorgeous writing tool, with a very comprehensive set of keyboard shortcuts. It also works (very) well on iPad and even on iPhone. Although you can’t create your own styles, every style and formatting option created for Craft has been very carefully thought-out so that it looks as clear and attractive as possible. It also supports multiple open windows (a big relief after the disappointment of Agenda); there’s full windowing support on iPadOS, too.

Even more impressive are the sharing options, however. You can save out pages (including their subpages) as PDFs, Markdown files, Textbundles, and MS-Word files. You can also share them using “secret links”, which create gorgeous documents hosted on Craft’s own website. In fact, Craft’s own help files on the Craft website have clearly been generated directly from the app using secret links (to take a look at the “Getting Started” help section, for example, see https://www.craft.do/s/gy4OMeABSTIlUw). You can send links to the generated web pages to friends or colleagues and even give them permission to comment on them (they don’t have to own Craft to do so, although see below for more on another option: shared workspaces).

PDFs are especially amazing. If your page has nested subpages, the PDF will faithfully replicate them in linear form (i.e. master page first, then subpages, then sub-subpages, etc.), complete with links to the master page and backlinks to the original reference text. In fact, Craft is worth acquiring for its ability to generate beautifully interlinked PDF documents alone.

There are plenty of other things Craft can do, but I urge Mac/iDevice users to take a look – if you want to experience it in full, they offer a month’s subscription for not a lot of money which allows you to play with things like folders, shared workspaces (yes, you can invite other Craft users to share a workspace with you, in which case they can access your documents directly in Craft – the app preserves a history of activity, changes etc.) and a couple of other features.

I’ve only touched on the main points above, but the app is in very active development and has, thus far, met with a rapturous reception. The developers are amiable and responsive.

Oh, and did I mention that pages include backlinks, and that besides linking to pages, you can also link to individual paragraphs/blocks…?

Have fun!
Bill

 


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Jan 12, 2021 at 05:31 PM

 

Hi, Bill,

Thanks for starting this Craft thread. If anyone is interested, I wrote a superficial review of Craft and posted it as a Craft document online:

https://www.craft.do/s/3dyJhymyZVrE14

I’ve become more impressed by Craft since then, but I am still having trouble figuring out what I can do with it.

Steve

 


Posted by MadaboutDana
Jan 12, 2021 at 05:40 PM

 

I’m starting to view it as a potential writing tool of considerable power. Possibly even as an organisational tool – I’ve been experimenting with writing a hierarchical project management tool using Craft, and it’s been surprisingly successful. So successful, in fact, that I’m thinking of trying it out with a team.

But I agree, it’s a very different concept that takes a little while to position in one’s head.

I’ve suggested to the developer that integration with Apple Calendar and Apple Reminders would be useful, as would transclusion (you can copy and paste a document into a page, whereupon it turns into a subpage; you can turn any page into a separate document. But transclusion would make it even more flexible).

What I didn’t suggest, but should have, is tagging. But I’m reluctant to make too many suggestions because I think Craft deserves careful contemplation with a view to establishing exactly what it’s good for. It’s very good fun to play with, for a start… ;-)

Cheers,
Bill

 


Posted by MadaboutDana
Jan 12, 2021 at 05:55 PM

 

I’ve added a comment to your published review, Steve, just to demonstrate one of the unexpected benefits of Craft ;-)

 


Posted by Stephen Zeoli
Jan 12, 2021 at 06:08 PM

 

Nice! I didn’t know about this feature.

 


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