[July 2011 Update: iaWriter is now available for MacOS! This means that – combined with Dropbox – you can edit the same iaWriter files on both your Mac and your iPad/iPhone without conflicts]
I wouldn’t say that iA Writer is revolutionary but I would say that it does a good job of reinvigorating the word processor for the iPad.
Since Microsoft Word became the defacto standard, it pretty much killed innovation in the sector. All word processors trended towards the same bloatware: unnecessary toolbars, piecharts, page editing tools, etc, became the norm. Instead of streamlining and improving the process of writing, word processors became so feature rich that they became complicated, overwhelming and, quite frankly, often counter-productive. People spent more time choosing (and abusing) fonts and clip art than actually writing. How many of those features that we paid for (and pay a great deal for), do we actually use?
But as Sun Tzu mights say, turn your competitors strong point into their Achilles Heel…
If Whole Foods had pitched the idea of an over-priced supermarket to to me while everyone else was competing for the lowest prices, I might have turned them down. But I would have been wrong, wouldn’t I?
Well, iA Writer does the same with word processing by throwing out all the features you’re used to and starting with a blank canvas.
iWriter is innovative in its purity and simplicity. It turns the word processor on its head by removing all those features that Microsoft injected into theirs. It refocuses the process of writing back on the writing itself… not on the formatting. Stop worrying about making your document pretty and just write the darn thing!
There’s only one font. There are only two ways to view a document. There’s only one place to store documents. Simple, simple, simple.
In order to do this, iA Writer has employed a presentation structure that employs special fonts and special views. One of my favourite views is the “Focus Mode”, which greys out all the words except the current sentence and the last couple of sentences you’re are working on. The net effect of this is to focus you on the point you are trying to make without losing your place within the document.
The interface is clean and crisp, which makes it delightful to use. It has a virtual keyboard with some nice features, including the ability to jump the cursor to the beginning or end of a word.
Simplicity can only be taken so far. Document filing is a problem. Basically, your documents appear in one giant long list, which isn’t very useful to people working on lots of things and who need nested folders.
iA Writer recently included DropBox support. This means that my iWriter documents can be synced with DropBox and edited elsewhere. When they make a roundtrip back to the iWiriter App, however, they show up as an additional version of the document +1. I suppose this prevents people from overwriting something important when they accidentally work on the same document in two locations at once… but it does create some additional complexity.
Also, syncing is not automatic, nor a background process. You must have the App in the foreground and hit the refresh button to force a sync with DropBox.
I would be very excited if iA Writer could integrate itself with more Apps and resources built-into the iPad. For instance, you can email a document but that’s about it. It doesn’t integrate with Evernote or SugarSync, two Apps I use a great deal.
This is a very simple word processor that loads quickly and lets you focus on the craft of writing. It is inexpensive and a pleasure to use.
It would be much better, however, if it could integrate with other third-party Apps besides DropBox but, otherwise, it really does what it says on the tin.
Get the App from iTunes: