Taio is an elegant, CommonMark editor

Note taking apps are everywhere and everybody seems to be using them as a “second brain”. The most powerful apps support Markdown, wikilinks, backlinks and a notes “map” based on links between them. Taio aims at becoming one of those on Apple’s platforms.

Taio is developed by a small dev team with a lifetime licence sold on the Apple App Store for less than 50 Euros. It’s an elegant Markdown editor with a broad range of capabilities, including text actions, source code editing, wikilinks, backlinks, and more. The app can be downloaded for free, but backlinks and a good number of power features require a subscription or a lifetime licence.

Taio supports CommonMark with table support and support for diagrams (js-sequence), flowcharts (Mermaid), and mathematical content rendered via MathJax. The Text Actions I mentioned earlier are scripts with a GUI.

The good

As a Markdown editor, Taio has everything that you could wish for. Its CommonMark base ensures compliance with an industry standard as does the support for GitHub syntax. It has plenty of themes and the customisation functionality ensures a personalised writing environment without making that the centre of gravity. Switching between the editor and other functionality like, for example, file management, is quick and easy.

Taio uses iCloud for synchronising across devices but you can have all your documents on your local file system if you prefer. Even better is that during my trying it out Little Snitch never caught it calling home. That means Taio respects your privacy 100%.

As a writing and editing environment, Taio is elegant and powerful. It lets you move entire lines up and down, save copied text to its own multi-clipboard, save text as snippets if you don’t have Typinator or TextExpander (which it integrates with) for repeated use, and more. For users who need them, it supports weblinks and wikilinks, as well as backlinks. Adding an image is as easy as dropping it on a page; Taio will create the correct Markdown link for you.

If you type a forward slash, a popup menu will appear that allows you to perform tasks such as applying a specific formatting to what you’re about to type, inserting an image, table, formula, blockquote and more, or linking to another document. You navigate an inline pop-up panel using the keyboard and selecting the right option for the job.

The so-so

A feature that I would like to see added is the ability to have document links auto-complete.

Taio supports the generation of a note’s mindmap or the graphical representation of links and backlinks between one note and others. In both cases — and in a lot of other cases as well — the dead-centred output panel cannot be resized nor moved out of the way.

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I first thought that the Graph View would work as it does in Obsidian, but it’s different. It graphs links from a selected note to others and allows you to jump to those others using that graph. Unfortunately, the centred panel is too small to be of much use and comes without navigation buttons, which means:

  1. jumping from a note with three links to one with two others, for example, won’t let you jump back to the first if the second lacks a link to either of the other notes,
  2. you can’t read the content from the notes behind the panel without closing it.

Taio has another context menu besides the inline pop-up. It’s a hovering menu that appears when you select text and it allows you to format text, or insert images and links.

However, if you’re a PopClip user, you’ll find that the menu sits under PopClip’s, and the pop-up panel this menu generates is of the type that can’t be resized or moved. This limits its usefulness, all the more so as you need to link to a file by way of a list with no filter or other functionality to narrow down your options. Furthermore, if you select the Link Document option, your selected text will be replaced by the link instead of being used as anchor/title.

Taio’s Search and Replace shines in potential as it includes Regex search. However, it again uses the inefficient pop-up panel for entering your query and the term you want to replace it with. When you click the Done button, another pop-up appears with a “Diff” header — Diff being the macOS file/folder line command — that shows you what will be changed.

Taio itself isn’t bug-free yet, either. Except for Search and Replace working slowly or not at all on my system, the app insisted on rendering an entire paragraph as a heading when there were three dashes below it without an extra return added.

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Verdict

I found the static one-sized pop-up panel frustrating and the graphing features a disappointment. The latter work on single notes while I expected an Obsidian-like functionality.

However, Taio is young and its editor is better than that of many competing apps — for starters, it follows the golden CommonMark standard.

I can see this app growing to become a serious contender for Obsidian and comparable apps. To make that happen, though, there’s work to be done to the pop-up panels and the graphing functionality. If the devs would invest time in those areas, I think they will soon scoop up all the macOS-based users of the Elektron competition in an instant.

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