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Review: Information Architects iA Writer

by on March 8, 2011

Text editors for the iPad are a dime-a-dozen, or so it seems. For the past few weeks, I’ve been using an iPad app for composing a number of posts here on SchwarzTech. Made by Information Architects, iA Writer is a 99¢ (originally $5) app that is missing many features of full-blown word processors for one reason—focus.

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While the iPad can do many things you typically would think of a computer handling, it does have one major difference—only one app gets screen time at a time. Because of this, you are not distracted by files on your desktop, what IM just came in, who’s tweeting what, or what gossip just got posted on Facebook. Instead, you have to actually work, but there’s always the game of formatting and the iPad’s on-screen keyboard. In landscape mode, the keyboard is pretty good, especially once you get used to it, but certain symbols still require a few extra keystrokes.

iA Writer aims to change that, almost making the iPad into an ’80s-era computer where the screen merely shows what you are typing and nothing else, in a predefined (yet pleasant) monospaced font. It reminds me of turning the iPad into a modern Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100, a favorite of mobile journalists because of its simplicity, semi-ruggedness, and design. Essentially, the only thing you can think about is what you are writing and it seems to work pretty well.

What iA Writer adds is also notable—extra keys to the on-screen keyboard. An extra row is added that features word-skip keys, a dash, semicolon, colon, double quotes, single quotes, parenthesis, and left/right cursor keys. For those who write for the Web, we’d really like to see the inclusion of < , >, and & for quick markup. Still, these keys save a lot of shifts/symbol taps, but do take sone getting used to.

The only other things the interface features are a word count, estimated time to read the document, and controls for file selection, creating a new document, or sending the entire text to the clipboard or email. If you want even less, there is a button for Focus Mode, which hides the last bits of tradition interface and greys out all but the current few lines of text. Talk about being in the zone. Rounding off the features are Dropbox support, autosaving every few seconds, and opening to the last active document. If we had to complain about something, we’d like a color mode of light-text on a dark background for lower-light text editing.

Some may argue that iA Wrtier is overpriced given its very basic included features, but for anyone who wants to get some writing done without any distractions, and have a clean, uncluttered, compatible text editor, iA Writer is a must for any iPad. It caters to a different type of work compared with Pages, and even when used with Pages can be a great place to start a big—or small—writing project.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

Anyone who wants to turn the iPad into a written content creation device should give iA Writer a spin, especially at the lower price of 99¢.

Pros: Simple & clean interface, extra on-screen keys, easy-to-read font, Focus Mode

Cons: Lack of light-on-dark display option (more of a wish list item)

Rating: 10/10

The Facts

Product: iA Writer
Company: Information Architects
Platform: iPad (1, 2, 3), iPhone (released months after original review)
Price: 99¢ (iTunes US Link)

This post has been filed in iOS Apps, iPad, Mobile Devices, Reviews