Realizing the full potential of Arrange Mode

The more I work with “Arrange Mode,” the more I sense its potential. But what’s really missing is the ability to select multiple blocks/lines/sentences and apply actions to them - just as can be done to lists of drafts (which is really very powerful). This is a feature request that has been made a few times before: for multiple indents and, more generally, for selecting multiple items to arrange within a draft. But I’d like to streamline the request and then illustrate a couple of possible use cases. If others feel this is useful, please join in with further examples or just “like” this.

My proposal:

When you switch into “Arrange Mode” you immediately[^1] see the “handles” down the right side and empty radio buttons down the left side. You can then select multiple blocks (or lines, or sentences – whatever is selected) and apply actions to them.

Some examples:

  • Formatting selected blocks as heading level 2 or quotation block or code block or bold or indented.
  • Quickly selecting multiple blocks for deletion (without having to long-swipe or tap-and-confirm on each one).
  • Inserting an extra line-space after each selected block (great for breaking up selected paragraphs).
  • Merging selected blocks into the clipboard or a new draft.
  • Multiple applications of “New Draft from Selection,” thereby breaking up long texts or an outline into multiple individual drafts – simplifying the workflow suggested by the incomparable Tim Nahumck.
  • Ditto, but then also directly apply actions to the new drafts generated, in the background. (E.g.: selecting four blocks of text, and have them go out as a text message to someone in sequence of four separate text messages, or generating three reminders from selected sentences while journaling.)
  • Appending/prepending text to multiple blocks (e.g. when adding Taskpaper-formatted due dates to multiple lines before exporting to a task manager
  • The list goes on…

I think that there are lots of advantages here. In addition to being able to select multiple blocks, the beauty and power of “arrange mode” is that it’s so often much faster than touch-based selection, because everything is already divided up into chunks.[^2]

[^1]: I’m not seeing the advantage of the current implementation of arrange mode, where you first have to tap on “Edit”. It seems more intuitive to immediately reveal what you can do with the blocks.
[^2]: A nice additional touch would be to have the block that “focal” when activating Arrange Mode correspond to the last cursor position in the draft. This is particularly important for long drafts.


There some good idea here, I won’t comment on all them, but few comments:

  • Multiline select/moving is not supported in Arrange Mode on iOS because the underlying table view drag and drop support does not support multiple line reordering. I’ve requested this feature from Apple, but no action. It does work on the Mac version.
  • Arrange mode used to open in table view “edit mode”, which shows the delete and re-order drag handles, but changed when drag and drop became available - this also conflicts with the ability to edit inline on iOS, which is a feature quite a few people use.

On the whole, however, I think this is bit more than arrange mode was intended for. It’s not meant to be a place you do a lot of editing, just some tweaks - especially since changes you make are not saved until complete. Some of the things you mention are better handled with actions (like appending/prepending to lines) and would clutter the interface for users who want the basic implementation.

Thanks, Greg! That helps clarify the complicated considerations you’re weighing. (Also: nice to learn that “Remove” can be applied to multiple selected blocks on macOS. I’ll be using the heck out of that there, but I’d still like to see it on iOS/iPadOS.)

Perhaps I can boil the features I’m interested down to two distinct types:

  1. Create New Drafts from Selected Blocks”: this would open up lots of possibilities by creating a new draft for each selected block. Then, but jumping to the list, it would be possible to run actions on selected drafts, as in the “multiple text messages” example I mentioned.
  2. Applying Formatting Actions to Selected Blocks”: this is basically the first bullet I mentioned above. I think what I’d ideally like is for the keyboard-toolbar pop up when one starts selecting blocks – just the way this happens when you select text – so that you’ve got all the actions at your fingertips to run on the selected text.

Just to illustrate, here’s a use-case: I would quick-draft a blog post, then select the lines that will serve as headings, and then apply the “Title Case” action, followed by the “Heading Level 2 ✪##” actions to the selected lines. (For that last bit, it would be nice if the selection did not automatically clear after running an action on it.)

For your second point’s examples, they sound very much like tweaks to the actions you are using. You could set the selection in the editor to what it was at the start on the title change action, or even combine the two into a single action which changes the case and adds the headings before it replaces the original selection.

The only difference is to select and update each time.

Or you could mark the headings as you go and then have an action that title cases every heading line in a draft.

Perhaps I’m missing something in your response, but my point is about taking advantage of the potential in “Arrange Mode.” It has the advantage of making the blocks (or lines, or sentences) available for modification. Combining different modifications into a single action is a different point.

You did get me thinking though, and this may help to clarify my proposal. In Drafts for Mac, I used ⌘-select to select two lines, and then applied a service to them (Brett Terpstra’s service “md - Emphasis - bold”, which wraps each item in double-asterisks). What that does is interesting, but it’s definitely not what I’m looking for. (See the first two screenshots.). Apparently, this way of doing multiple selections of text cuts the text, applies the formatting, and then pastes the merged text at the cursor location. Perhaps that’s useful for something, but what seems much more useful is to be able to apply the formatting in place. (As shown in the last screenshot.)

  • On the Mac, you can select multiple chunk of text with the mouse:

  • The result I got but didn’t want:

  • Here’s the result I was trying to get but had to generate by applying the formatting one line at a time:

Seeing this helps me understand something agiletortoise earlier, about “table view”. I suppose that what I’m looking for is for “Arrange Mode” to treat a draft as a table, with each sentence/line/paragraph treated as a cell, and then to apply actions in place to the selected cells.

I think the OP is basically asking for this to be a New Line/Block Mode (as opposed to the more general Character Mode).

There are times when it’s fiddly to do things in Character Mode - such as selecting a bunch of lines, whether disjoint or not.

So this would be a useful mode to extend. But, as @agiletortoise says, Table View doesn’t have the basic functionality required.

I remember Marco Arment talking about the limitations and how it was a pain to subclass it. (I think iOS 11 gave him some relief in that area, but don’t quote me on the version.)

The other thing is I’m sure @agiletortoise has a bunch of other things on his ToDo list…