These days most of my writing begins with a Field Notes notebook. As I have written previously on this blog, I carry one with me almost everywhere and use them to capture inspiration and ideas. Eventually, those ideas need to be shared and that means they have to be transferred into a digital format. After going through a writing "dry-spell" last summer and consequently re-architecting my entire writing process, I made a conscious choice to eschew high powered, feature-bloated word processors for a more simplified approach. I wanted to focus my attention on the act of writing - getting the words and thoughts out of my head and into good form on the page and screen. So many of the "features" found in Microsoft Word or Apple's Pages actually get in the way of that process. I wanted something simpler.
Early last summer, I started trying out a number of Mac text editors with the hopes that they would offer a solution to my problem. I had several criteria that guided my search. The right application for me would have to have: cloud sync to Dropbox, iPad and iPhone versions for writing and editing on the go, good typography, a full screen mode, word count, the ability to save files as plain text, and no floating palettes. This led me to several choices: WriteRoom, Byword, PlainText, and iA Writer. A number of other text editors seemed to be either too complex (such as those designed for writing code) or too ugly to consider.
While WriteRoom, PlainText and Byword are fine products, I settled on iA Writer for a number of reasons. First, iA Writer has no preferences with which to fiddle. On the Mac, you can choose to enter a full screen mode which hides all other open apps so that you can direct your attention to working on your current document or FocusMode which allows you to direct your attention to one sentence at a time in your open document. Other than those two choices of writing modes, there are no other options. Being something of perfectionist, I can easily detour off the task of writing and spend an inordinate amount of time selecting just the write font in which to write or tweaking the best background color for my writing environment. With iA Writer you get one font and one background but this is not a problem as they are both perfect for my tastes. They not only work to minimize distraction, they work together to create an elegant writing environment.
Like many of the other text editors, Writer has Dropbox support and was the first Mac/iOS writing app to integrate with Apple's iCloud. Regardless of which cloud platform you choose, syncing is seamless and error-free. This allows me to write in the same beautiful enviroment on each of the devices I use and access my current work wherever I am - home, office, or on the go.
iA Writer's Mac and iOS versions are solid and reliable with almost identical capabilities. Indeed, I believe that Writer began its life as an iPad app and was later ported to the Mac. What had been missing was an iPhone version and the developer filled that gap a couple of weeks ago with the release of an updated universal iOS version that provided support for the iPhone. This was a generous move and one that is much appreciated. Something that took a couple of days to sink in as I used Writer on my iPhone 4S, was the ability to use the voice dictation built into iOS 5 running on the 4S to dictate my thoughts directly into the app. This has made capturing ideas and inspiration almost effortless. When you combine that with Writer's flawless cloud syncing, you end up with a powerful tool to dictate your ideas into your phone and have them "magically" appear on your Mac. And if you are fortunate enough to have a new iPad you can do the same thing because it also allows for voice dictation. Whenever I dictate a document into my iPhone or iPad, I feel like I have stepped into the world of Star Trek where everyone talks to computers instead of typing. It is a wonderful taste of the future.
All of these things work together to create a writing environment that allows me to work wherever inspiration might strike. This is the best of Apple and third party software working together to make my life easier and better.