iA Writer ($4.99) by Information Architects, Inc. is a writing app that aims to let the user focus solely on their words and nothing else.
If you write a lot, then you know how distracting it may be to have a bunch of features in a note taking app that draws away from purely focusing on the words. iA Writer changes all that.
The first thing you’ll find when launching the app is a document that talks about the basics of Writer and how to use it. This is pretty good to keep around for a while until you get yourself familiarized with the app, since it is a bit different than most other apps of the category.
One of the most important things about the app is the fact that there is Dropbox integration. So once your Dropbox account is linked, your files can be synced into a subfolder (Writer) in the main Dropbox folder. Unfortunately, files will have to be manually synced since there doesn’t appear to be any automatic syncing so far, from what I’ve noticed. To save files, you’ll have to go to the folder icon on the too menu bar and hit the ‘refresh’ button. Documents will be saved as a .txt file in the Writer folder.
Now lets get to the magic of writing with iA Writer – composing new documents. To do so, just tap that ‘compose’ button on the too menu bar and you’ll be presented with a new, blank document. Tap that ‘New Document’ title bar at the top if you want to rename it.
The main magic of the app lies within the body of your text. You can write in both portrait and landscape mode – both orientations are the same in terms of layout and design. You will notice that there is an enhanced keyboard, which is what sets the app apart from others. There is a extra set of keys on top of the standard keyboard that exists only to help make writing easier on the iPad.
There are buttons to jump to the beginning or end of a word, common punctuation characters (including the beginning and end parentheses) so you don’t need to switch keyboards constantly, which is great. The final set of buttons on this extra layer of keyboard is to move to the left and right by single characters, something that I never understood why the native keyboard doesn’t have. The end result of this extra addition on the keyboard is a faster and more intuitive experience that I’m pretty sure most writers would appreciate.
Additionally, the app skips out on word counts since it believes that reading time is more efficient. On the top menu bar is a small reading time count as well as character count. If you look closely, depending on where you have the cursor, there will also be a blue time that will show up in the right margin – this is the approximate reading time up to that point (of the cursor).
The final element that makes Writer unique is the fact that you can really focus. Notice the lock in the corner? Tap that, and the top menu bar disappears and only the last three lines are visible and editable. The purpose of this is to help you focus and concentrate on your writing and nothing else. It makes you read your work more carefully and really think about it. If changes need to be made to any text above the last three lines of the current selection, just tap on the lock again.
The only drawback of this ‘focus’ mode is that you can’t do copy & paste or have spellcheck or autocorrect. I suppose this is to help you focus (not really the lack of c&p though) but is just a bit irritating considering that we’ve all gotten so used to our type being corrected automatically. But I think in the end this helps us to become better writers (maybe).
The font used in the app is called Nitti Light. This font is used because it represents what we normally see in ‘drafts’ and makes us read our text slower but at the same time, it is not tedious to look at. Because of the theme of focus, there are no other font options – that is not the point of Writer. The point of Writer is to focus on your words only.
The last thing that Writer features is e-mailing of text and copy (all) text. When e-mailing it, it sends the entire .txt file as an attachment.
Overall, as a writer, I can see myself using this app a lot. It just makes the experience of writing on the iPad a lot better (it’s that keyboard extension I tell you!). This is still a 1.0 app so it’s not perfect (especially that Focus mode – I need spellcheck and autocorrect!). I also noticed that it is sometimes hard to get the punctuation from the extension on the first tap – it may take more than one tap to finally get it to show up. It also should have 2-way syncing with Dropbox – it currently only syncs by Writer to Dropbox, not the other way around.
But if you’re a writer with an iPad, then iA Writer is definitely one writing app to check out.