This is not a normal app review. This is about how I am using iA’s Writer Pro. How I think it fits my usage.
Table of Content
- First impression
- Trying it myself
- Do it yourself or buy it
Who I am and who I am not.
I am an author with two books published. And I teach courses face-to-face and online with videos.
I am not an editor. I am not even any well trained writer.
I wrote a lot, books and course materials. I have been finding text editor that works for me.
My requirement for the text editor:
- It must be distraction free
- It may boost my writing speed
- It uses nice typography. At least it doesn’t look ugly.
- I can write on Mac and iOS. (Writing on web would be a plus, but not required)
I watched the video on Writer Pro’s website and it sounds impressive. I almost bought the app right away. Because of the expensive price, I search for reviews before buying it.
Then I found it is full of 1-star reviews on App Store, complaining how the app doesn’t work as the video promotes.
After reading those negative reviews, I would say this pricing is insane for an upgrade of writer. (And yes, I would treat it as an upgrade)
After cooling down for several days. I started wondering why iA is so confident in such pricing strategy with an app that seems crappy to consumers.
I started thinking how the workflow works. May be we were all misunderstanding something.
I read a lot of negative reviews.
And read the Writer Pro’s blog article three times.
And I found an old article from iA on prices and features.
I start understanding why Writer Pro works like that.
Trying it myself
After 10 days thinking and researching, I bought the app.
Surprisingly, It just works.
I am not bias on the iA Writer Pro. I believe editor choice is always a never-end debate because every one have their own needs. So here is how this one fits my needs.
How the workflow really works
In the current document based workflow, everything is a document. Notes are just small chunk of text.
The workflow is just four different folders holding the documents.
So if you have the original iA writer and you used folder. You can create the same workflow by creating that four folders.
But the Pro makes the mode (folder) switching so easy that I can promote my writing to the next mode inside the document. This sounds silly, but it really mentally changes how I write on that document.
In note mode, I know all I have to do is dump things from my mind into words, regardless of the grammars and typos. I write without checking anything.
In write mode, I write with care on how the essay flows. But I know that I should edit much. It is like the 1st draft or 2nd draft.
In edit mode, I carefully polish each sentence and words, so that each sentence leads to another one in logical way.
When I think the writing is done, I put it into read mode. So every time when I need to write, the done essays do not appear in the list and block my way.
It is not something software can do much on having different modes of writing. It happens mentally in your mind. iA uses different typefaces for this purpose.
iA uses typefaces to distinguish modes. I think this is a brilliant take. The different typefaces help switching my mental into different writing modes.
The typeface in note mode makes the text less readable. That’s great because I am forced to just keep writing without looking back of my text.
In write mode, it uses the same Writer’s font and make me like home. The fixed width typography makes me write and think how the logic flows.
In edit mode, the serif font makes it read like a final draft. And I can have a glance on how paragraphs connect to each other easily.
With just the typefaces changing, it provides the same distraction free environment across modes. All I can focus is the content of my writings (with different kinds of actions based on modes). Nothing else. This is the most important thing when I write, isn’t it?
The file stack
I could imagine the concept of stack is useful. It allows switching among related files. Especially in this file based workflow.
I can search for a list of related notes and reference them with swipe gestures.
For example, when I am writing this post, I put fresh ideas into separated notes. When I search “writer pro” for a stack of related notes and my main essay. I can then swipe among them for quick access to the notes and merge them into the main essay (by copy and paste).
But the search sucks. It doesn’t guarantee to provide me an accurate stack of related documents. I would like to manually manage my stacks, as a project folder or something like smart folder with conditions. From the response of iA, I believe they are improving this aspect.
The Apple’s NSLinguisticTagger
Someone mentioned that Apple provides the functionality to all developers to analysis the content into verbs, nouns, sentences.
From the iOS documentation, I believe the SyntaxControl™ makes use of the NSLinguisticTagger class. That, however, doesn’t mean any developer can just open Xcode and write 10 lines of code to get the same result of Writer Pro. What that class gives you is just a list of matched result, nouns, verbs, conjunctions, etc. you still need a lot of work to make the highlighting polish and bug free to use.
What I don’t agree about the iA is that they try to get the patient of this words highlighting feature. That’s fine for a trademark but I think patients in software create barrier in innovation. [Update: Sorry that I just realize they dropped the patients pending. It’s Great!]
How about the lack of Dropbox sync?
Just like the original iA writer, I need the ability to write anywhere whenever my idea comes. All my devices are from Apple so iCloud sync works for me. I did use Dropbox a lot but I’m fine that the process of writing sits in iCloud and then I move the output to wherever I want.
How about the markdown preview?
I don’t need this preview feature because I don’t like the idea of previewing markdown.
I think the philosophy behind the invention of markdown is that human can read the plain markdown text easily.
Markdown is not another markup language that transform text into well format text. Markdown is a plain text that use some kinds of notations to make the text readable with more information — emphasized text, links.
By the way, that’s why I like using the footnote style for links in markdown. It doesn’t break the sentence with a long URL.
Do it yourself or buy it
There are a lot of criticisms on the lack of features and how easy it is to create similar work flow in other writing apps. One can mimic the same workflows with folders; the same typography trick; the same words analytics feature.
The question is, if my hourly rate is $50 and I used more than one hour to try making these same features myself, that 40 bucks already worth the price. So I buy it.
Writer Pro fits my needs.
I want an editor that can let me focus on writing, getting the words dumped from brain, then get the words polish.
I am not seeking an editor that I would use it as the only app in my entire workflow, such as publishing. My output may be an HTML file, a doc file, a report with open office templates. What is the output doesn’t matter. What matter is the writing process. I have an environment that I can focus on the content itself, regardless of its input and output.
I think it is not the point to compare writer pro with other writing tool. The point is, is the writing app you are using works for you and makes you write better.
For me, Writer Pro just works. It doesn’t come with any fancy features that exist in other writing apps. But it works for me that make me focus to write, and thus makes me write better.
I have been using it daily now and I feel more productive and inspired in writing than any other apps I have ever used.
This is all I need and it already worth the price for me.
But no, it is not perfect for me yet. For example, the lack of internal document search makes iPhone difficult to write a long essay, say an entire chapter of my book writing.
I would like to see the following improvement in the future of Writer Pro.
- A better stack management to group documents.
- A versioning system with diff annotations.
- An internal search within the document, on iOS
Every one has its own needs on text editor, right?