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Author Topic: Inspire Writer  (Read 2230 times)

Dormouse

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Inspire Writer
« on: February 23, 2022, 08:43 PM »
Why have I never heard of Inspire Writer?
(I suppose another way of thinking about it, is 'how did I hear about it now?' and I'm not sure I can answer that either.

It's a minimalist wysiwygish markdown editor.
And I really mean minimalist. Minimalist in looks, minimalist in features and virtually no settings that can be tweaked. Though not minimalist in cost - it's not expensive but it is paid software whereas most markdown editors on Windows are free. $30 atm, same price as iA Writer.

Many similarities to iA Writer and Ulysses to my untutored eye as a non-Mac user who tried the iA Writer trial, but never felt any value in using it. It feels as if there's a macness about it. I like the dark theme (which is what I use) much better than the iA Writer theme which always felt to starkly black and contrasty. This one is remarkably similar in tone to my preferred theme on Obsidian (Obsidian Nord).

  • It has typewriter mode, but no focus mode apart from making the edit pane full screen.
  • It has import from docx, HTML. I didn't try HTML, but the docx imports never worked.
  • There's no ability to move files around, or headers around in the outline.
  • There's no folding on headings (and it accepts a #heading instead of requiring # heading).
  • There's no way to have more than one file open at a time that I could find - only one window, no tabs, only one pane.
  • Switching view modes is slow. Slower than any markdown editor or word processor I have used before. Usable, but noticeable.
  • The markdown syntax it has available is very limited. inspire-writer-in-dark-mode.pngInspire Writer
  • But does have images, tables etc working simply enough
  • Only two themes (light and dark). I suppose the light theme is okay, but don't use them so can't compare. I do like the dark theme.

Looking at the above, it looks much more limited than all the free editors I, and most people, use.

So why would anyone consider paying money for it?

Well, it actually looks like a neat little editor for writers. It has the necessary features (bar underline and folding) but isn't weighed down by the tonnes of useless garbage most markdown editors smother themselves with. It looks nice and easy on the eye (though would benefit from a focus mode - FocusWriter would be a good implementation; maybe adding a sentence option). There are four predefined tags - Urgent, ToDo, Draft and Published - which points to writers being their target market.

And it does have useful features.

There's an option for live spellchecking in up to three languages (not that this is something I often turn on).
There are statistics for selection and whole document (characters, sentences, paragraphs, pages - though I'm not sure how the pages are calculated).
There's a comment syntax (++ for a line/section; %% for blocks)
There's a very nice set of export options - Ghost, Medium, WordPress (+ PDF & HTML) and especially .docx. I really like this one. It presents the option of exporting into a number of styles (Modern, Elegant, Formal etc), allows a preview, and then the options are to save, to put into clipboard or to open in a selected program - such as Word. So no need to create documents if that's not needed, which suits my Workflowy purposes ideally - though I still need to do my copying from Word itself to get the paragraphs I need - Enter appears to = New Paragraph; with Shift-Enter = New Line, but the 'paragraphs' are really markdown lines, and the new lines are soft line breaks.
Autosave is quite fast (at least in external files) and it has a regular backup schedule.

So all that's quite nice. And all of that is for files living in the file explorer, being shared with other editors. There are a few more features, for those files created in or imported to the Library. (I assume that the library is some type of database. Imported files stay where they are, there's just a new copy created in the library; the new copy is not synchronised with the original file.)

Possibly the most important of these is that the files in a Library folder can be moved around the sequence easily and that individual files can be selected for export using the usual Ctrl or Shift options, which makes it very easy to put together a long document/book for export to Word or PDF. These 'sheets' can also be split or merged as desired.
There's also a note/sticky note feature (only one per sheet) and session word counts (and goals).

Do I like it?

Yes I do. Despite the lack of folding, I can imagine using it as my main writing interface. The export options to Word are great. It's very simple; all the options it has are useful to me (most writers, I imagine) and there's nothing else getting in the way. For those that want them, the Scrivener like scene/chapter/book type options seem functional. It happily works as a normal markdown editor on external files as well as those in its database, though with slightly fewer features (I think its file explorer gives it an advantage over WriteMonkey 3 in this regard). I'm happy to buy it for my writing and happy to use the other editors for notes and anything that needs their more advanced capabilities.

I came across the following review, which specifically compares it to Ulysses, so I feel that my impression of macness is probably on the mark.

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2022, 05:36 AM »
I have now bought my license for the program.
I mention this because it has an offer of a free license for a review and I'd like to emphasis that I haven't taken advantage of it.
I will update this thread with further thoughts as I have them, which I'm sure I will.

mouser

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2022, 05:40 AM »
I appreciate you sharing this review with us!  :up:

Deozaan

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2022, 10:56 PM »
Thanks for this. And very good timing! I've started thinking recently that I would like to find a decent WYSIWYG Markdown editor, so it's nice to see more of what the options are.

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2022, 11:14 AM »
a decent WYSIWYG Markdown editor
This is a very particular kind of editor. It seems to have lifted some very detailed features from Ulysses and is aiming at the same market except on Windows. I have it in mind to check Ulysses features to see the detail of what it has left behind. I also intend to describe some of the issues I have encountered when I have enough for a post.

I think I've tried all the WYSIWYG markdown editors on Windows (some only briefly I admit), and others that seemed to have something to recommend them. I'd be very keen to try more, if you come across new ones (I still don't understand how Inspire evaded me for so long when I ought to have found me in its target demographic).

As a general purpose editor, I think Typora is clear of the field. WYSIWYG, easy to work with, excellent import/export. Fair number of configuration options.

So why would I prefer to write in Inspire than Typora? That's a very good question and I don't have a very good answer. Typora has more themes; it has focus as well as typewriter mode. it doesn't misinterpret wikilinks, configurable shortcuts. Maybe it feels slightly clumsier. It doesn't have a database (so no switching sheet sequence to make a complete document - but I wouldn't use that much anyway). For most people, I would say that Typora would be better.

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2022, 06:57 PM »
I don't have a very good answer

But now I do

Convenience

I think this is the core of the attraction. Comparing Evernote and OneNote a decade ago, Evernote was growing rapidly in popularity despite OneNote having many more features, and I think that's because most people found it convenient in a way that OneNote never has been. It did enough, it was simple to use, and was reliable.

The edit screen is nice to look at and work with. No distractions. It's something that sounds simple, and ought to be simple, but it's not often achieved; near misses impress by being near. And as I'm working on this, I notice my attention entirely on the text. As it should be. But rarely is even in programs with edit panes that occupy the whole screen with nothing but text visible.
2022-02-26_17-40-10.pngInspire Writer
The image above includes the ribbon. True full screen edit mode loses that.
2022-02-26_17-49-36.pngInspire Writer

And the key feature, is one that I'm not completely sure about - it has a database. AND it can use its file explorer to work with external files - importing into the database is not required for 95% of the features. The only other markdown program I know that can work with local files and has a database is WriteMonkey 3 which I also like. Ulysses must do too.

Since my aim is relying on local files, why am I finding a database so attractive? That's convenience and flexibility especially for Work in Progress. Now this database doesn't offer more than a small proportion of WriteMonkey's flexibility. And it's clunkier and harder to access - more akin to Scrivener's model. WriteMonkey's Snippet Repository is wonderful, easy and tucks itself completely out of the way when it's not needed. Unsure about that phrase? - no problem, just cut it into the repository; want to rearrange all the sentences, well just stick them in the repository and play copying them back here, there and everywhere. So Inspire's advantage isn't at that level. It's partly in the head (database - temporary - won't get lost) and partly practical. The sheets in the database don't actually live anywhere. Start them, play with them, move them around; they don't need to crystallise into files until until you're happy with them. No need to worry about where they should live or what form they should have (rather similar argument to those users put forward about Roam). It helps Inspire work as a hub.

Because it is also very good at helping the text into a final form and then distributing it wherever it's wanted. This isn't just the range of export options, but the way they are handled. Whatever format is chosen, there's the option to look at a preview of what will be exported, and that can be placed on the clipboard, opened with a chosen external program or saved as a file. Since it also imports a range of text files (docx, md, HTML, htm, txt), that makes for a complete function as a hub (I know the docx imports I tried, mostly failed, but they said they would investigate, and I've seen no other report of such problems). I'd never been particularly taken with Ulysses' feature set, despite its evangelical popularity with Mac writers, but, since it is apparently a much more capable program than this, I can see that it must be a very good program indeed.

Comparison with WriteMonkey 3

Having mentioned it above, and indicated WM3's superiority I ought probably to address the comparison directly. WM3's database has the same flexibility in reordering, searching etc as Inspire's. Inspire doesn't have an equivalent of the snippet repository. Dealing with external files is different - WM3 will import an external file and then synchronise its database with that file; it doesn't work with the external file directly.

WM3 is even more minimal than Inspire, has the most wonderful folding capability (Inspire doesn't have folding at all) and I consider it the most efficient and productive environment for writing and text editing that I have encountered. BUT it has a totally unique design. Being in it all day might increase productivity by 50%, but when there's a need to move in and out then that's -50% instead. It also does not have the ability to interface with docx, its preview is primitive even for a traditional markdown editor and the editing pane is good (with many colour options) but, to my mind, not Inspire good. A hub it is not.

Ultimately it looks as if Inspire Writer just ticks an awful lot of boxes that I need ticking. I'll start addressing foibles and issues in my next post. When I've used it a little more.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2022, 12:04 PM by Dormouse »

Shades

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2022, 07:32 PM »
Thanks for this. And very good timing! I've started thinking recently that I would like to find a decent WYSIWYG Markdown editor, so it's nice to see more of what the options are.

In my adventures with AsciiDoc I went on a search for just something like this. It remains my firm belief that AsciiDoc or MarkDown would be so much bigger, if there was such a thing as a WYSIWYG editor for it. So onto the forums I went...and what a disappointment. I was far from the only one suggesting it, there were several threads about it and in none a satisfying answer was given. More like putdown's did occur. For a relatively civil and constructive set of forums that stood out to me. As MarkDown has a much wider adoption as AsciiDoc, you would expect that there would be someone (or a team) capable and willing to do so, for money and/or glory.

As I am bound to AsciiDoc because of work, I have very little interest or time to be using MarkDown in any shape or form. But I would be much more willing to entertain working with MarkDown if there was such a thing as a WYSIWYG editor for it.

And if I may continue the rant for a bit, why are there so many Git clients who are adamant at giving their users the choice in which way internal diffing functionality is presented? I love side-by-side diff'ers and I really don't like showing the original line and changed line below. That may work when there are minor and small amount of changes. But with side-by-side diff'ing, you see so much more, better for context too. But you would get the impression that those clients were made by the same persons that are behind AsciiDoc/MarkDown. Their way or the highway. What happened to let the user choose what works for them?

My boss has the same opinion. And so many open source Git clients do not provide this choice, he shelled out money for Git client 'Fork', because of this very poor stance of open source creators. I get also the impression that this is a divisive subject, in the same way as 'spaces vs tabs' is.

Sorry but had to rant about it for a moment.

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2022, 10:41 AM »
It remains my firm belief that AsciiDoc or MarkDown would be so much bigger, if there was such a thing as a WYSIWYG editor for it.

Agreed, up to a point: I think there's a limit to how much lipstick can achieve here.

I think plaintext is a great idea, but the specifications are rubbish. Being a precursor to HTML is a very limiting view of the world. Of potential uses. I've even started drafting out a better plaintext specification, just for my own interest.

[rant]
Spoiler
More like putdown's did occur.
Yeah. I find the Obsidian Discord and Forums exactly the same. Generally disdainful of those who use word processors. Fiercely aggressive to explaint markdown rules that they often don't understand. Fierce to defend markdown purity for the sake of interoperability - and this in an app that doesn't fully accept .txt or .markdown etc files! - despite the number of 'acceptable' markdown variations meaning consistency can't exist. Wiki-links are now used by a far wider range of programs than markdown links. One thing I don't understand, even from a purists point of view is why there isn't an editor that doesn't have a config page where users can specify which syntax is read and which syntax is written

[/rant]

But I don't think that need trouble you about programs like Inspire Writer and Ulysses. They utilise some markdown syntax, but also use non-markdown syntax. From their perspective markdown purity will always lose out to their view of usability. And, in the end, I don't think you will ever see real progress through markdown editors. It will come, I believe from programs like this that have a purpose who see that plaintext can be a better way of achieving their ends.

The big one will be when Word, or one of the other big word processors integrates markdown (or other plaintext) import and export. But that may be some way off; it wouldn't be hugely difficult to do, but wouldn't be a big gain for most of their users. Having to integrate all the complexity of documents, printing etc requires a substantial degree of complexity in both the program and the file format. There's a much bigger gain for programs like Ulysses and Roam who can do all the text processing using a database; they don't need to maintain individual documents just address them on import and export.

Hey Ho. On we go. TreeDBnotes ahoy.

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2022, 04:13 PM »
Because there doesn't seem to be written about using Inspire Writer on the net, and the degree of similarity in its design and syntax with Ulysses, I thought I'd see what I could find written about Ulysses.

The first thing I found was this on the main page of the website:
2022-02-26_19-27-01.pngInspire Writer
Hmm. I thought.

I can think of another program with a minimalistic writing interface and a much better ability to see everything and move it around.

2022-02-26_18-16-21.pngInspire Writer

And, unlike Ulysses, it has two types of tags, and a variety of coloured text and highlights.

2022-02-26_19-02-40.pngInspire Writer

Take a bow Workflowy!
(And it has kanban and wiki-links too.)

I've also found this blog page about using Ulysses, which I think is actually quite interesting about his methodology and how it's supported by Ulysses. Though maybe seeing it in a slightly Scrivenerish way. I think the features described are all in Inspire Writer.

Writing a novel with Ulysses

 So far, I don't think I've found a feature in Ulysses that's absent in Inspire Writer and I wish it had.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2022, 04:44 PM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2022, 07:14 PM »
degree of similarity in its design and syntax with Ulysses

Spoiler
I'll admit that I have some level of concern about the remarkable degree of similarity. Similar design, even to using the same symbols and syntax. I can see that some features are implemented differently though. I did once complain to Microsoft's store about them selling a Ulysses app that had a butterfly emblem and had nothing to do with the real Ulysses; it stayed there for a long time, but has now disappeared. OTOH, it's clear that Ulysses has no intention of developing for Windows; it allows some Ulysses users to work cross-platform using a similar but less good program (I can see that Ulysses might see this as a good thing rather than a problem) - see the review cited in my first post; it has been developing steadily for the last four years, and it makes no claim to be Ulysses or in any way related to it. If I had a Mac, I could check to see whether IW has any features that Ulysses doesn't, but I don't so I can't. I do know that Ulysses has features that IW doesn't because I can read about Ulysses and check IW for its presence. And, despite the concerns, I think the world is a better place for having the app available and I don't see any losers (with the Ulysses titled windows app, the purchasers were losers if they believed it was connected to the Mac Ulysses); I hope that belief's not influenced by self-interest.

If I had a Mac, I could check to see whether IW has any features that Ulysses doesn't, but I don't so I can't.
On checking Ulysses Guides, I find that it doesn't have tables: Inspire Writer does!

From Ulysses blog March 25th 2016:
We’re flattered by the requests to see Ulysses on other platforms. There are no plans to port Ulysses either to Microsoft Windows or to Android though. First, we’re true Apple enthusiasts. We have been using Apple devices in our professional and private lives for many years. We know these platforms well and would like to keep our focus on them. Second, both Microsoft Windows and Android greatly differ from Apple in their technical specifications, which means bringing Ulysses to them would be quite a lot of work for our small team. Nevertheless, thanks for asking.
Inspire Writer launched in 2017
There's a huge number of features that Ulysses has and IW doesn't (some small, some quite large) and a few that IW has and Ulysses doesn't. Improvements in IW have e emerged slowly, but steadily, over the last four years and they are clearly targeting the market of Ulysses users when they work on Windows.They wrote a blog post about this a few years ago. Certainly, if I ever had to use a Mac, I would, as things stand, subscribe to Ulysses having had this experience with IW.

I have delved further. I appear to have done some digging in 2017 (according to an email exchange I had with Matt (AeonTimeline)), and found that Inspire Writer was being sold then by the same company as was selling the fake Ulysses. I don't know if it was the same product with different branding, although it seems quite likely.

So, I don't feel I can recommend a product sold by a company that has in the past attempted to sell it fraudulently. OTOH, I do like the product. And copying ideas and methodologies seems par for the course in software. Libre Office deliberately imitates MS Office, Dynalist seems to be as much a clone of Workflowy with some differences and original code - that's pretty much the state of play between Inspire Writer and Ulysses afaics. And Microsoft are still selling this one, despite being aware of the history. And I'll carry on using it, though I will probably have a scout around for any other Ulysses alternatives that nmight be around.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2022, 05:35 AM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2022, 10:23 PM »
I continue to be impressed by Inspire Writer in use. I Posted in the Primitive thread about being surprised by finding it useful in note-taking. It's just very usable. Easy to concentrate on what I'm doing rather than the program - despite still having to check shortcuts.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2022, 04:38 AM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2022, 04:45 AM »
Observations so far

I'd like folding, but understand that IW's design means multiple tiny blocks which can be shuffled. The groups and sheets are the equivalent of markdown headings and text. For me it's the equivalent of the Scrivener approach of starting with little bits, but that's the way it is. It does have an outline, and it does allow it to be used for navigation, though not reorganisation. It recognises any line starting with a # as a heading.

It's not bad at taking clips from the web. Images have to be pasted separately, but it's fairly seamless. Potentially makes IW quite a good inbox.

Generally fast, but importing a long markdown document took much more time than i anticipated.

Tables are straightforward (they don't exist in Ulysses at all).

The file splitting and merging functions are simple, effective and very useful.

Colour emojis appear in black and white when used. That's odd; makes it pointless to use them.

There's some fairly hinky behaviour with markdown and Obsidian syntax. Though I can see that some of it is actually useful:
  • It recognises any line starting with # as a heading.
  • Typing [[ automatically generates a URL link. Mmm. That seems to have stopped happening. That's good. But now it happens the minute the first closing bracket is typed. [[ ]] - but pasting it works.
  • Inconvenient behaviour like the above can be escaped by making it 'raw source' - that's putting a tilde (~) before the text. The tilde won't appear on the export, but the following text will.
  • Comments can be created with ++comment++ and comment blocks with %%. They don't show on export. This is useful.
  • It doesn't recognise #tags, but has its own internal tag system (same way Ulysses works). This means the tags exist in the database but not  any export. There are some advantages to that. @tags aren't recognised either but don't interfere with any other behaviour.
  • It doesn't have highlight as such. It has 'marked', using double colons before and after. Neither the highlight nor the colons are exported to markdown or plaintext, but are on export to rich text and docx. However, Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C followed by paste into any editor, does export the double colons, which can then be found and replaced. Again there are some advantages and disadvantages to this system.
  • Neither does it recognise strikethrough. Instead it has double pipes before and after. On markdown export, it applies the usual syntax; on rich text and docx export it strikes through the text; on plain text export the word disappears entirely.

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2022, 06:49 PM »
Typing [[ automatically generates a URL link.
...
doesn't recognise #tags, but has its own internal tag system
...
doesn't have highlight as such
...
Neither does it recognise strikethrough

If wanting syntax that works in markdown exported notes, the following works in Obsidian:
~[[wiki-link]]
~![[transclusion]]
~~~~strikethrough~~
==highlight== ; naturally ::==highlight in Obsidian and IW==:: highlights in both
@tags and #tags ; ~#tag works for beginning of line

I'm not sure what happens with a code export
''code block
Indents the contents and colours them in Obsidian and Typora
Nothing shows in source mode, and neither Obsidian nor Typora recognise the IW syntax if typed in directly
I don't need to know why. It may be useful. Possibly as an exportable comment.

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2022, 05:05 AM »
importing a long markdown document took much more time than i anticipated.
otoh, IW will only import one file at a time, so large files are still more useful than small ones.

n8wachT

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2022, 01:35 AM »

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2022, 09:55 AM »
Ghostwriter ... FocusWriter ... OmniaWrite

Hi n8wachT,
Can you say more about why you would suggest these as alternatives?
I see very little parity in workflows or features.

I like FocusWriter, but, apart from minimalism, it has very little in common with IW. No autosave, isn't a markdown editor, formatting only comes through in odt/docx/rtf..

I didn't know Ghostwriter, but it looks like a traditional markdown editor with a few writer statistics. And the install options (Windows portable only, Mac has to be built from source) just scream high friction and Linux based.

I only had a quick look at OmniaWrite. Initial warning that latest update solved some security issues was hardly inviting. Rigidly based on books, Chapters, Scenes. Seemed very limited from what I saw.

IW is polished and functional for both long and short-form writing. Ulysses might deserve the design credits, but IW is still polished. (I look at some of the recent 'imporvements' in Ulysses and can't help wondering whether they're reducing its polish.)

I've noticed that Ia Writer has a new outline function (Windows only - hasn't arrived for Mac yet). Big step for Ia but it's still navigation only - no manipulation - so doesn't really make it much more suitable for long-form.

Dormouse

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Re: Inspire Writer
« Reply #16 on: May 02, 2022, 11:07 AM »
I noticed that Inspire Writer introduced external folders one year earlier than Ulysses.