WonderPen Is a Tad Short on Wonder
WonderPen is another Markdown based text editor. It is from China.
One sentence review: It reminds me of Ulysses without all the attention to detail.
At the base, it is a Markdown based text editor. It is an Electron application. For those who care about that, it might be a deal breaker. For those who don't, this is an interesting product which lets you write on the Mac.
Like Ulysses and Bear it keeps its documents in a proprietary database and unlike them, it doesn't have an online component. No explicit Dropbox sync, no iCloud sync. Just a folder on your hard drive where the database resides. I suppose you can put the database in a Dropbox folder and access your documents through a second macOS device using WonderPen but I haven't tried that out.
It has some nice touches and some glaring omissions.
What WonderPen Delivers
WonderPen gives you a three pane window to write in. The sidebar on the left contains your document hierarchy. The middle window, the editing window, and a memo window to the right. Every document in WonderPen has the ability to have an assigned Memo window where you can comment on the document and the content for your own reference. It is a nice touch which reminds me of a similar feature in Scrivener.
You can preview your markdown and there is an usable full screen implementation.
The left sidebar is the project sidebar, you can toggle this on and off (⌘1). Like Scrivener and Ulysses, WonderPen gives you the ability to write in small chunks. You can have a folder which contains parts of an article you are writing. So, you don't have to write it all in one document.
You can move these component parts around by drag and drop or by keyboard commands. This makes the process of writing a long document and arranging it easier. This is important when you export the document, the export stays true to the hierarchy of files you have created.
If you have a ton of projects in the sidebar, you can reduce distraction by focusing on the project you are working on.
You can save snapshots of your work from a particular state and return to that state. The snapshot history is accessible from the button on the right bottom corner.
There is a dark mode and a light mode, but there are no themes or syntax highlighting in code blocks.
For an application which keeps your files in a proprietary database one of the important things to consider is how to get your documents out of the program.
WonderPen has a comprehensive set of exporting options, you can export to a PNG file, a PDF file, word document (docx), text, and HTML file.
I am interested in the text export and WonderPen does a great job of that. Giving me ample choices to make the product usable.
What WonderPen Doesn't Deliver
In random order of importance, things WonderPen doesn't do:
- Keyboard commands for Markdown. Yes, it does bold (⌘B) and italic (⌘I), but it doesn't support anything else.
- WonderPen doesn't automatically let you continue an ordered or unordered list. The whole process is manual.
- WonderPen doesn't support the autocompletion of brackets that makes Markdown writing easier. Nor does it make any effort to make it easier to include URL links in your documents.
- While it supports a well implemented full screen mode, it doesn't support typewriter scrolling.
- Doesn't support any form of spellchecking. There is a perfectly usable spell check function built into macOS, but WonderPen doesn't support that.
- WonderPen doesn't support text expansions built into macOS. Two spaces for a period or start every new sentence with a capitalized letter are not supported from the macOS system. This is disappointing because Caret which is also an Electron app does support the system features on macOS. So it is doable, WonderPen doesn't care about supporting those features.
- No support for Services, another aspect of macOS which makes it special and convenient to work in.
WonderPen Is Minimal in Its Preferences
You can assign a folder for WonderPen to keep its database. You get to choose the font of the editor and the font of the UI.
You get to choose to automatically backup, manually backup right now and access your backups through this preference pane.
WonderPen has promise. In its current iteration, is only a good place to write in if you are comfortable with Markdown. Otherwise there are better options available to you in the marketplace.
I liked the minimal ethos to the program. I like the approach to ordering your document contents through the sidebar and then exporting it out. The export options are adequate and I love the attention WonderPen lavishes on backups. Using the app to write this review I am enamored by its spartan UI. I find the lack of distractions helps me write.
The price is $9.99. Compare that to its more illustrious competitors: Bear costs $14.99 a year and Ulysses, costs $39.99 a year. WonderPen is not feature competitive with those products, but it has a similar three pane structure with the focus being on writing in text. WonderPen is the cheaper alternative. It is nowhere near as good as the competition but it is perfectly usable.
What is holding me back from giving WonderPen a full throated recommendation?
- The writing environment lacks polish. It lacks the care I associate with Markdown editors. No support for keyboard commands, no attempt to make Markdown writing easier. It performs more as a text editor and less as a Markdown editor.
- The support web site is in Chinese with a few English words strewn about. There is no way for a non-Chinese speaker to know the abilities of the program. There is essentially no documentation available for the non-Chinese speaker. If you make the app available in the US app store, it is a good idea to provide some English documentation.
- I personally wrote to the developer a week ago. No response yet. There might be a language barrier. But it does not fill me with confidence about the support for the program.
So, what does one say about WonderPen?
I like it. It does give you a platform to write in. Expect to write all of the Markdown syntax yourself. The library function is well implemented. The security of the data is explicitly maintained and supported. The export options are adequate. The memo function for every document is a nice innovation. The program has promise with some caveats.
It has a light version available for you to try out the product. Here. You can take it out for a test drive.
WonderPen is recommended for those on a budget.
Update: I heard from the developer of WonderPen. He says that improvements are coming. I am excited about the future of this application.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie