iA Writer Review - A quick look

Regular readers will know I used and praised Byword, so you might be wondering why I've now switched to iA Writer. The reasons are iCloud sync and iA Writer for iPhone, which was released a few days ago as a universal (iPhone & iPad) app.

Let me explain. My writing used to be done in Byword on the Mac and iA Writer for iPad syncing via Dropbox. However, when the developers of iA Writer announced they would support iCloud sync, I got excited and wrote this back then:

While I really like both apps and the process works fine, I've always felt it's not as elegant and effortless as it could be. For some reason, it just slightly annoys me to have to tap on the sync button in iA Writer to force a manual sync. And to have to open the files in Byword instead of them just being there.

I'd love for them to just sync automatically without me having to do anything.

The day iA Writer supported iCloud I downloaded iA Writer for Mac and gave it another shot. Sync worked flawlessly and all my documents were just there.

Another thing that changed was my computer. When I wrote the Byword review I mainly used a four year old 17 inch Macbook Pro and a 24 inch display. The font in iA Writer for Mac looked so big that I found it distracting. Now I've upgraded to a 13 inch MacBook Air and the font size is perfect.

The only thing missing was an iPhone app for those times when I have some time to write but all I have with me is my iPhone.

iA Writer Review

As I mentioned, the combination of iA Writer on Mac, iPad, and iPhone, syncing via iCloud is beautiful and effortless. There's much to like about iA Writer, but it's not perfect. Here are the highlights as I see them.

Main features

  • iCloud sync: It's great, but if you prefer it also supports Dropbox.
  • Markdown
  • Full Screen
  • Focus Mode: Slightly different than Byword as iA Writer highlights the current sentence and fades everything else. This feature is not in the iPhone version.
  • Word count, character count, and reading time: Reading time is quite useful.
  • Mac, iPad, and iPhone versions
  • No Preferences: Fire up iA Writer on any device and there's nothing to tinker with. Just get to the writing. This works except when you're using a screen larger than 13 inches though because the font looks too big. This is subjective of course.

What I like most about iA Writer

  • Font: iA Writer uses Nitti Light, a clean monospaced font that's well designed. It looks particularly beautiful on the iPhone's retina display and I'm sure it'll look even better in the new iPad.
  • Blue cursor: It just looks cool
  • iCloud sync across all your devices

What's missing from iA Writer

  • Preview HTML from Markdown: This is one feature of Byword that I really like and I hope iA Writer implements it. In Byword, you just click a button and you can see your document formatted. It's a quick and easy way of checking everything is as expected.
  • Convert to HTML: Another good feature in Byword that's missing in iA Writer. You can export as HTML, but not convert and copy to paste elsewhere without having to export a separate file.
  • Markdown preview in iPhone

Overall, I'm really happy with iA Writer. There are a few things I like about Byword that are missing, and it seems an iOS version of Byword is in the works so we'll see. I just wish they'd released it sooner.