Drafts 5.5 – The Markdown Update

The latest Drafts update brings some improvements with Markdown syntax. In addition to the standard Markdown (which has been simplified to represent the original Markdown specification), there are two additional syntax options: MultiMarkdown and GitHub Markdown. MultiMarkdown is a flavor which allows for footnotes, tables, citations, etc. GitHub Markdown is a different flavor of Markdown which supports extensions created by GitHub for rendering on their website, and includes the extensions for strike-through text and tables. I personally use MultiMarkdown, the format with which I’ve been most comfortable writing.

One thing that is included with MultiMarkdown as an option is Critic Markup. Looking through the guide, there are several helpful elements that can be used for editing my writing utilizing Critic Markup. I can highlight some substitutions, additions, and deletions. I can highlight text to show something I might want to work on later. I can also add a basic comment somewhere that won’t be shown in a preview. And with this action, I can easily add any of them with a tap and a text entry, which inserts it in the proper format. This is helpful for creating and previewing the documents in Drafts, and gives users the flexibility to mark up files and save them back to a cloud service. I can see myself using this a lot for longer posts or large reviews. I’ve even modified my own site preview action to render the MultiMarkdown via scripting, as well as updating both my standard and linked post WordPress publishing actions to do the same.

Critic Markup in Drafts vs my site post

There are additional Workspace options for sorting. You can now include flagged drafts in the archive tab – the same way it is done today with the inbox – as well as optionally sort the flagged drafts at the top. And of course, support for using these is also added to the script object. This allows you to give a bit of priority to Drafts in your inbox, depending on how you have your workspace configured. I liken it to something like Gmail: there’s a giant inbox of drafts, and you have a starred list that can be used to filter priority; you can also option to have the starred emails on top to bring them into focus, or have them in their separate list. This smart addition enables more focus on key drafts in your list.

There are some other small improvements and fixes; you can read the full list here. It may seem like a small update to some, but for the advanced users of Markdown, this is a fantastic update. What this should give users a glimpse of for the future of Drafts: custom syntax highlighting. Currently, the following syntaxes are supported: Markdown, MultiMarkdown, GitHub Markdown, JavaScript, and TaskPaper. Whereas I love the new Critic Markup portion of MultiMarkdown, I would love to be able to customize my own syntax. When I used Ulysses for writing, I really liked some of the comment, highlight, delete, and other markup styles. Part of what makes Drafts so versatile to each user is the myriad of ways which it can be customized. Controlling the editor in this fashion would, to me, make the editor the most powerful on iOS. No other editor would allow for syntax highlighting for writing and coding in the same way. I know this will at some point be on the horizon, but that cannot come soon enough. I’ll patiently wait for it after the Drafts for Mac release.

Fantastically Good Parsers for Drafts

One of the small, but powerful for which I use Drafts is sending multiple events to my calendars. And for a long time, I’ve used the power of Drafts’ automation to send those events to my calendar via Fantastical.

That is until Peter Davison-Reiber created something amazing.

The great thing about using Fantastical for this purpose is the natural language parsing capabilities: I can simply type out a calendar event the way I need to type it, and it will populate it for me. But thanks to the incredible scripting capabilities in Drafts 5, it is possible to create the date and time parsing aspects – the part where Fantastical excels – and put that right into an action in Drafts.

The end result is as advertised – fantastically good. Not only does it replicate the way I input events into my calendar, but it does it even faster now that it’s all native in Drafts. There is no longer a back-and-forth dance with the action to create multiple events. It runs quickly, and I can move along with what I was working on when it is completed. I can also include locations and durations as well. I can even use the calendar shortcut syntax (example: /w for my work calendar) with the action. It is a really robust solution.1

And if that wasn’t enough, Peter requested the changed in Drafts 5.3 which provide the same parsing for reminders as well, which replaces the other aspect of Fantastical for me. You can include the level of priority denoted by exclamation marks ! and use the reminder list denoted by the same shortcut syntax as the calendar (/inbox).

These two actions are what I had envisioned in the GTD module of my review. This is a case where I knew that they were going to be possible, but I do not have the technical knowledge to create. Initially, I wanted to create one based on some unique syntax, similar to the Send to Things action. But what Peter has done here exceeded my expectations and is fantastically awesome.

Cheers Peter!


  1. There is a limitation of creating recurring events via the API. This may come in the future. 

Drafts 5.1 Update

While I’m working on another large post, I wanted to put out at least a small bit about some of the added features in the 5.1 update of Drafts that has been released.

Tag Filter Improvements

I really love the addition of tags, and more importantly, workspaces. I did, however, have a couple of gripes about the features. My single gripe about filtering using tags from the review:

A nice addition to tagging not present in the app is an or function, which would expand the filtering to get drafts that are tagged with red or blue instead of red and blue as it is today, giving better functionality to the feature.

This has now been fixed. Whether in the tag drawer or within a workspace, you can specify “All” or “Any” for the tags. This distinguishes the behavior of the tags so that you can include the correct one(s) as you filter. For example, I have a GTD workspace. Previously, I’d have to rely on a single tag for this to work, and I settled on gtd. But now I can create new tags to not only add new drafts with similar tags, but I can also provide context within the workspace. I can have tasks, events, lists, calendars, etc. included in my GTD workspace simply by choosing “Any” for the tags.

Tag filtering has been improved

This added flexibility I wanted to see has been quickly added, which is already reaping dividends for my productivity. Now all I need is the ability to set a default action group for my workspace, and I’ll be all set.

Action Debugging Features

Action logging has been added to the action drawer. In the top right corner of the drawer, you’ll see a clock-like icon located in between the search and menu icons. This contains the log of every action run, rather than finding it in the draft information screen, which is on a per-draft basis. This not only provides a nice log, but provides quick access for when you’re de-bugging scripts. I’ve been doing a few large scripts as of late, and it has been saving me time along the way. You can also delete the logs as you go, if that’s your particular cup of tea.

In addition to the log, individual action steps can now be disabled in your actions by swiping on the step in the action editor. This is useful when you want to troubleshoot errors and check steps along the way. Another useful option for this is for when you are someone who likes to move around apps. For example, many of you know that I like to change up my task management app of choice. Rather than create all-new actions every time I switch, I can simply disable the URL block for GoodTask and add a new URL block for Things or OmniFocus or 2Do. I don’t need to clutter up my action drawer with similar actions that are based on a URL scheme any more. I’m going to need to refactor some of my actions, but I can already see how this is going to benefit me in so many ways. I’ve even done a packing list action for you already to show you how it works.

Event Action Step

You can now create calendar events by simply tapping on an action which brings up the default system card for event creation, as you would see in Calendar.app. There is a simple default action in the directory which creates a single event that takes the first line of your draft as a title, and the body of the draft as a note. You can select the rest of the parameters as you would in the calendar. when completed, you’re back in Drafts, ready to go.

I’ve already modified this to take a selection rather than a draft (I don’t usually use the note field in a calendar event entry), so that I can quickly add meetings or personal events from a larger note, rather than having to create a new draft when I want to create an event.


We’re a month into the new version of Drafts, and already there’s been some added features which were missing from the previous version, as well as some carefully considered features to help make life a bit easier for users. There are some other small features added, so be sure to read those in the release notes.

Drafts 5 Review

My review of Drafts is out. But it’s not here, not exactly anyway…

Drafts 5: The MacStories Review

I reached out to Federico a year ago and asked if he had anyone slated to write the review.1 I suggested to him that I would like to write it for MacStories, that I would be happy to do so. It wasn’t long before he responded “yes, let’s do this”.

It was an amazing experience. As the production of the review progressed, that feeling only increased. The entire Team at MacStories has been delightful to work with, and I couldn’t be happier than I am now with everything that has transpired over the past few months. It has been an honor to work with that team!

Writing while Greg was developing Drafts 5 through the beta process was a valuable insight into app development. It is rare to directly see the careful consideration an app developer makes when rolling out new features. Using the Slack channel as a sounding board, he would often listen to the suggestions being made; if he ever thought it was the wrong thing to do, he would state why instead of just “no”. I know he has more planned for the future, and I’ll be sure to follow-up when he does.

You can read the review at the link above. And if you aren’t a member of Club MacStories, you should sign up: there’s an ePub version of this as well.

Thanks again to Federico and the team at MacStories for giving me the opportunity to write for them, and for you the readers. This has been a labor of love for me, and I hope that shows through in the review.

Thanks to all of you for reading!


  1. I cannot believe that it has been a year.