iA Writer Pro review

Writer Pro is a professional writing app from the creator of the very popular iA Writer. The new app adds some interesting pro features to iA Writer such as workflow and structure and retains some of the best qualities of iA Writer its gorgeous fonts and minimal interface. It isn’t without its flaws though and if the negative reviews in the App Store are any indication, most folks will skip this upgrade and stay with the original iA Writer.

I’m a fan of iA Writer, the app sits prominently in my dock and I use it for most of my writing. I like the simplicity of a clean typing sheet that lets me focus on content. The tool doesn’t make my writing any better but it does make me happier.

With pro now the writing tool actually makes my writing better. It does so with a first of its kind way to focus on structure. Using a drag tool you can analyze your syntax by highlighting your nouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions and more. At first glance it seems like a trivial feature but in reality it is a powerful tool that can greatly impact the quality of your writing.

The app runs on Mac and iOS devices and uses iCloud to sync seamlessly between all of your devices. I started writing this article using the Mac version on my 15″ MacBook Pro Retina while sitting at my desk in the office. About halfway through the article I left the office to grab a coffee at a nearby shop and am now composing using the iOS version on my iPad Air. The article was waiting for me, fully synced up as soon as I launched the iOS app. I didn’t have to think about it, do anything, it just all worked. Being able to write on any of my devices at anytime is empowering. iA Writer isn’t the first app to nail this experience but they do nail it.

iA created custom fonts for Writer using a different font for each section of the app: Notes, Writing, Editing and Reading. The interface is minimal so iA uses the fonts and the color of the cursor to denote the active stage of your workflow. I could see this being confusing for some folks but quickly adapted.

After installing iA Writer Pro on my iPad which still has iA Writer on it I was prompted to import my documents into Writer Pro. I accepted and watch as a dialog painstakingly dragged across the screen but I could not find any of those imported documents in Pro. It is disappointing that I cannot easily edit my iCloud saved documents in Pro without opening them first in iA Writer and choosing the option open in and then selecting Pro.

iA Writer on the iPad is gorgeous but the interface is clunky. The documents are presented in a list format with a list for each section. There is a search box that is case insensitive and no folder support making it hard to browse your content. Even worse is the quirky number that appears on each document and means absolutely nothing. I don’t know what the designers were thinking when they decided to number your documents so prominently in the app.

Also clunky on the iPad is support for external keyboards. Sentence structure selection options are located on the pop-up keyboard. This poor placement results in problems when you are using an external keyboard because it is hard to get to those functions. An iPad with a bluetooth keyboard is probably the number one use case for iA Writer Pro on iOS so I’m scratching my head wondering what iA designers were thinking.

iA Writer has Dropbox support, iA Writer Pro does not. The folks at iA say that Dropbox support is coming in a future version. This lack of support in a so called “pro” product is causing a lot of folks to leave bad feedback in the App Store. Usually a pro product has more features not less than its “non-pro” sibling.

I’m sure the folks at iA will address the issues above and even considering those issues I still think iA Writer Pro is a great app. I whole heartedly believe in the design principals pushed forward by iA and I think they’ve created a cutting edge way to write. Once they figure out the kinks this will become the writing app of all writing apps. I’ve already incorporated it into my workflow and for $20 it was a no brainer.

Published by joshkerr

Josh is an 8x startup founder and angel investor.

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