I finally found a multi-platform text editor with Markdown support that syncs to Google Drive: [Writebox](http://writeboxapps.com).
Note: This document is written in Markdown so that you can get a sense of how it works. Markdown is a markup language for text. For example, the first sentence of the document shows how to write a link with Markdown: you place your text in [ ] followed by the web link surrounded by ( ).
Writebox is a minimalist text editor, much like Byword, Plaintext, and many others. The editors tend to have several features in common. For example, see Jordan Golson's article "[Byword: One of the best iOS apps for distraction-free writing](http://www.techrepublic.com/article/byword-one-of-the-best-ios-apps-for-distraction-free-writing/)".
Like most of these editors, Writebox syncs your files to Dropbox. However, Writebox also syncs with Google Docs. For me, that makes a big difference, because — as a Google Drive user — all my files remain stored in a central place. I can open a Writebox text file in Google Docs if I need to collaborate. Enterprises that use Google Apps should like that feature, as well.
Writebox offers both Android and iOS apps, works in most modern browsers, and also installs and runs as a Chrome app. Start a file on one device, sync, then continue working on another. Multi-platform support is definitely a strength, as many minimal text editors work within a single ecosystem. (For example, Byword works only on Apple devices as of July 2014.)
The Writebox mobile apps provide a key feature that mobile Google Docs apps lack: word count. For many writers, word count is essential. Writebox displays line, word, and character counts for your documents.
Writebox supports Markdown, which is useful if you intend to post your writing online. Markdown provides a way to add formatting and links in text files. For example, Writebox supports Markdown for **bold**, *italics*, and [links](http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/). Edit your document in plain text, then select a Markdown "preview" option to see how it displays.
Web writers tend to like Markdown, because the files remain both human-readable and web friendly (Figure A). You might think of Markdown as a "middle way" alternative between coding in HTML (on the simplest level) and creating a heavily formatted Word document. To learn more about Markdown, I suggest Gene Wilburn's free book on the topic, [Markdown for Writers](https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/342055).
Example of plain text and a Markdown preview. Note that Writebox displays the word count at the bottom of each screen.
The plain text files Writebox creates can be opened by nearly any text editor on any platform. Natively created Google Docs can only be opened using Google Docs: you have to export a Google Doc to another format to work with your content elsewhere. Write and save your files in plain text, and you'll be likely to read and edit those files for decades.
One thing Writebox doesn't do is auto-save your work (at least as of July 2014). On the web or in the Chrome App, you'll need to periodically hit the Sync button or press [Ctrl]+[S]. On Android or Apple mobile devices, you'll need to tap options to Sync. An auto-save or periodic save would be most welcome. (In my opinion, people should never have to think about saving their work; systems should save automatically.)
Writebox is free to use in your browser or as a Chrome app. You'll only need to pay for mobile versions: the Android app costs $2, and the app for Apple mobile devices costs $1.99. Find links to all versions of the app at the developer's website, [WriteboxApps.com](http://writeboxapps.com).
Writebox doesn't replace Google Docs or Microsoft Word. It serves a different purpose. Use Google Docs to create and edit a document with other people. Use Microsoft Word to format a complex document for printing. Both work well for their respective tasks.
If you want to edit plain text files and sync them to Google Drive from mobile devices and your browser, Writebox is the tool to choose. Tell us about your experience with Writebox in the discussion thread below.
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Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.