A week with iA Writer

iA Writer in Focus Mode

During a few days away last week I took the opportunity to do some concentrated writing, and to try out a little text editing app I've had my eye on for some time: Writer by Information Architects Inc.

I'm glad I did. Writer is radically simple - even austere - app that does its very best to invest the painstaking process of stitching words together with a sense of unhurried tranquility. It does so through a few unspectacular but extremely effective innovations.

There are no formatting icons. Text must be styled using Markdown, a simple formatting syntax. There's no choice in the matter, which is a good thing: when it's necessary to apply styling there's no need to move fingers away from the keyboard to click an icon - just apply a simple Markdown rule.

There's a full-screen mode which takes things a step further, hiding all operating system menus and just leaving a beautiful blank white screen. As I've written more than once on this blog, I like white, the mysterious field from which something always seems to emerge.

There is also a Focus Mode in which all text apart from the sentence currently under construction is greyed out. This simple trick makes it easier to stay in the present, to concentrate on the current line, and avoid the temptation to move away and fuss with surrounding text.

I actually really like Writer's being so prescriptive about how you work. You can't even choose a typeface: you just have to take or leave the simple, clear, workmanlike font that Information Architects have selected. There are just a few (good) options, which makes it easier to just get on with the task at hand.

There are other handy features, including the ability to export to PDF and HTML.

All in all it's the best digital emulation of the experience of writing with pen and paper I've yet come across. If you do much writing on a screen I highly recommend it. It's only $4.99.