About Drafts for Mac and in general

Drafts is the app the made it fastest into my iPad’s dock and stayed there. (The “and stayed there” part is significant as the Files App found its way into the dock even faster, which was before I had used it even once. Just because—well, hoorah, there’s a Files App, just like the Finder in macOS, so let’s put it into the dock where it belongs! Suffice to say that I removed it equally fast after I had learned that in its first iteration it didn’t do much but take space of dock’s then very limited capacity.)

Drafts belongs to the kind of apps I love: An app I can tailor to my needs and afterwards in daily use it does fast, precisely, and reliably what I have set it to do. Which is in this case: I want to write. Not to pick a notebook with a colourful cover, chose a file format, and give the note a title first—but write! And only after I have finished I decide if I tag the note &c. And then I send it to its destination. And maybe all with one tap on an action. Add a customizable keyboard row to the mix that allows to compensate the shortcomings of the iOS keyboard.

Drafts is often referred to as the “Swiss Army Knife” of text but that is only true for the free version. The for-pay version is a factory for Swiss army knifes.

What adds to Draft’s own merits is the fact that the main target app for my texts written in Drafts is DEVONthink to Go, the iOS companion to DEVONthink on the Mac. Which is crucial to my workflow. And DTTG happens to be not good for taking notes while it works fine with x-url schemes. As does Drafts.

So when Drafts switched to a subscription model I did not hesitate to subscribe although I am not at all a friend of subscriptions. (What made the decision for a subscription easier was the fact that the data in Drafts is only transient. If I ever had to stop the subscription for financial or other reasons I would not lose any data. I just mention that because I am not at all a friend of subscriptions.)

And now the macOS version. It is not there yet. Not at all there. Which in general is okay with me. Apple might tell us that developers only have to tick a box and boom! the iOS app is a macOS app. But we all know that at least for a bit more complex apps it takes a bit more than that.

What did surprise me though was how useless it is. Solid foundations first, actions not yet implemented, understood. But right now Drafts for Mac is almost a dead-end. Share works, but, naturally, only to other apps that offer Share and note by note.

Export? But again only note by note! And while earlier versions did generate file names but containing unwanted Markdown markups the latter provides only “DraftsExport.txt”. It is still not even possible to set the file extension permanently!

Drag & Drop? No sir, not with us.

And where are the tags I have assigned to the text in Drafts after export?

When over in the DEVONthink forums Drafts was mentioned—lots of praise there too—I was pointed in the right direction: The notes in Drafts are not single files but data base entries. And its tags are not “real”, i. e. macOS/iOS tags but attributes of these data base entries.

That has not been important on the iPad, but on the Mac it is. Because macOS is way less restricted than iOS, there are actual background processes. Processes not only controlled by the OS but by the user.

What I mean is: If Drafts did not use a data base but was a shoe box app with actual md/txt files in an accessible folder, DEVONthink or an app like Hazel could process these files. Maybe in dependence from their actual tags. This would work before Actions were implemented. And even afterwards in many user scenarios it would work faster than Actions because it is automated.

The data base format and the Mac version already have backfired to the iOS version: Since with every start a data base (not just a small number of single notes) gets synchronized, Drafts on the iPad is not as fast ready to write as before. It’s no biggy, yes. But still.

And it doesn’t stop there: iOS/iPadOS on one hand is still restricted but on the other has evolved. X-Url schemes are not anymore the only way to exchange content between apps. There is an evolved Files App and there is Open In.

Saving single notes in a specific folder in iOS would allow to make more flexibly use of these notes in other apps. As opposed to notes being data base entries.

To end this lengthy posting quite abruptly: Am I all wrong about this?

You are not wrong about this, in general, but hold your horses: actions for mac are coming soon - Actions on the Mac Update

It was also clear that it will require some time to write a mac pendant to the ios app, since it has be written from scratch and there is only one developer for both apps, as far as I understand.

I’m not sure if you are seeking an answer or just wanted to share your workflow needs. There are certainly arguments for and against file-based storage - but that is not the road Drafts choose, nor is it something that is likely to change.

There are many great text editors out there that work with files, and the database backend give Drafts some truly unique advantages in the ways it can work with data, store additional information about content, quickly query it to provide different views of your data, etc. - as well as avoiding many of the pitfalls of files and folders which make capture quicker and easier.

As far as the Mac app’s capabilities, we are very close to shipping action support in the app - and heard overwhelming over the years from users that just being able to sync there data would be a huge benefit for them, so we did not hold up availability of the app until actions could be finished. The Mac app is a native Mac app (AppKit), so is a complete rewrite of the user interface - not an “iPad app on Mac” Catalyst port - these things take time.