iA Writer is the productivity app every Apple user needs

Image: iStock/scyther5

If you are a Mac or iPad user who regularly writes texts, writes reports, produces blog and social media posts, or writes documents professionally, iA writer may be the most useful app you didn’t know you needed. This fact holds true even if you usually only compose emails, Google doc notes, and Microsoft Teams posts.

What are the benefits and features of Markdown apps like iA Writer?

Because iA Writer uses Markdown, the lightweight markup language that simplifies formatting, you can write text that can be used in multiple places – a common need when preparing information about products, services, advertising, marketing, technical and financial performance. This means you don’t have to suffer repeated frustrations importing your text into various applications (including Word, Pages and Adobe products), cloud programs (such as CRM, financial and ERP platforms) and web services (Ghost, Medium, and WordPress among them).

iA Writer is not unique in this regard. Common features of popular Markdown apps include the ability to export to HTML, Microsoft Word, PDF, and rich text file formats, support for common Markdown language text formatting code (such as single asterisks for italics, double asterisks for bold, and the pound symbol for headings), iCloud file storage compatibility, dark mode support, and cross-platform compatibility (Mac, iPad, iPhone, and even Windows).

SEE: Apple Silicon M1 Mac Buyer’s Guide: 2021 iMac vs. 2020 MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. Mac mini (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What are the alternatives to iA Writer?

iA Writer includes all of these features, similar to competing products from Bear, Password, MacDown, Marked 2, Professional Markdown and Ulysses. But iA Writer’s combination of a simple yet elegant user interface, an easy-to-navigate organizer for locating and storing files, customizable menus, basic time-saving templates, and focus elements. Optional points that help improve writing help explain why I’m seeing more and more other media mentions and authors admitting to app addiction. iA Writer adds a unique blend of additional features in a way that truly assists the writing process.

Bear is a Markdown application that supports over 150 programming languages, so you can also write all your code there. You can encrypt individual notes with facial recognition and use hashtags to find specific information. It is available for free on the App Store and has a Bear Pro option for $1.49 per month or $14.99 per year.

Password is simpler than most iA Writer alternatives. It includes full Markdown support. You can preview your documents in the app, export to HTML, PDF, rich text, or post directly to Medium, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and Evernote. The new version has a premium upgrade to allow posting to WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Scriptogram, and Evernote. It requires a one-time $5 in-app purchase.

MacDown is an open-source Markdown editor for those who write code in Markdown. MacDown creator Tzu-ping Chung said it was modeled after Mou, which was created by Chen Lou, but Chung added a few extras. MacDown includes highly customizable Markdown rendering, syntax highlighting in fenced code blocks, and sophisticated auto-completion. It’s free.

Mark is a preview for Markdown and other plain text markup. Use it with your favorite text editor and it updates every time you save. With document preview, review and export features, you can work in plain text with the benefits of formatting. Marked also has a basic AppleScript dictionary and URL scheme, making it easy to integrate into your workflow. It works with text editors from Vim and Emacs to Sublime Text and TextMate, Markdown editors like MultiMarkdown Composer, Byword, iA Writer, Ulysses, Scrivener, VoodooPad, MarsEdit and more. It costs $13.99 one time.

Professional Markdown has a live preview while you write. You write in plain text on the left, while the right panel shows you what it will look like live. With Markdown Pro, you can write great-looking documents, notes, essays, and term papers using plain text to mark up your formatting. The website claims that you never have to take your hands off the keyboard when typing. It supports full screen, autosave, version history, the ability to pick up where you left off, UTF8 support and more. It costs $5.99 one time.

Ulysses is considered one of the best writing apps out there. Exclusively for Mac, iPhone, and iPad, it’s for writers who don’t write code — rather fiction, blog posts, research papers, and more. Writers appreciate its enjoyable and focused writing experience, combined with efficient document management, seamless syncing, and flexible exporting. The app is free to download, but in order to use all of its features, it offers several membership plans from $5.99 per month to $49.99 per year.

How to use iA Writer?

Writers and professionals who regularly have to write for work know how easily distractions derail the process. iA Writer helps solve this problem by encouraging and helping writers maintain focus. Although the program has simple menus and exponentially fewer options than, say, Microsoft Word, iA Writer’s focus mode (Figure A) helps you focus on your writing and minimize distractions automatically. Either way, the program’s writing-focused features still offer a host of useful options – automatic highlighting of unrecognized words, multiple export capabilities, PDF previews, common formatting choices, multiple displays and seamless cloud storage integration to name a few – which aid the process of writing, creating, operating, producing and editing.

Figure A

iA Writer’s Focus Mode helps busy professionals resist distractions and keep their writing activity on track.

The app also helps improve the actual quality of your writing. With the ability to quickly enable highlighting of adjectives, nouns, adverbs, verbs and conjunctions in different colors automatically as you type, repetitive and unnecessary words become easily apparent.

Why is this important? As an English major with a fresh BA, a seasoned journalism mentor once forbade me from using adjectives and adverbs in press releases. I was puzzled. Wasn’t that part of the purpose of a promotional ad, to play up the drama? But he taught me a lesson that has proven true time and time again throughout my career: the best communications are short, to the point, and free of unnecessary text.

SEE: M1 MacBook Pro vs M1 iPad Pro: Which is faster in the real world? (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The program itself is low load. The application requires few CPU cycles and little memory. I don’t even recognize iA Writer as placing a load on my Mac, iPad (whose iA Writer presentation is shown in Figure B) or iPhone, it loads and responds so quickly to input and feedback. Its footprint is tiny. Yet everything I write—from client reports to news articles to blog posts—comes easier.

Figure B

The iPad version of iA Writer offers the same simple interface as the Mac, helping to maintain focus by taking advantage of simple, easy-to-read text.

With iA Writer’s simple interface that focuses and prioritizes writing, I find my attention more focused and my output more efficient. Because iA Writer uses an easy-to-read monotype font by default, my confidence boosts after typing a few sentences. the New Yorker recently commented on this phenomenon, noting how the font’s equal spacing of every letter and punctuation mark generates a sense of progress not found using formats that don’t devote equal space to every character. Admittedly, it’s weird, but it does result in a real sense of progression.

Fortunately, you can discover iA Writer without obligation: A free try of the program is available for Mac users. iPadOS users, however, have to shell out $29.99 for the iPad app. But, to be fair, you receive both the iPadOS and iOS version when purchasing the program from the Apple App Store. Just be prepared to pay an extra $29.99 for the Mac version. Both purchases so far are the best investments I have made and are helping me start 2022 in a pleasant and productive way.


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