Quick Look: Writer Pro for iPad

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I’ve now spent a few days with Writer Pro on my iPad and it’s feeling more like a puzzle than a tool.

Writer Pro is built to brute-force a certain approach to writing. There are four modes to the app: Note, Write, Edit, and Read. Each of these modes features a different font type and cursor colour, and each mode serves as a different folder for your text. The idea is that these subtle differences in each mode will lead the writer to think about a piece in a different manner. The Note mode features clean variable-width font, Write features the Nitti Light mono-space font that iA Writer was known for, and Edit and Read feature a font that feels more at home in iBooks than in a writing app.

One of the things I enjoy most about trying out different apps is the way they often require me to explore different ways of thinking about a given task. A developer’s philosophy is hewn right into the code. In the case of Writer Pro, however, the forced workflow doesn’t feel fully developed. In particular, the Note and Read modes just feel tacked on.

I do make notes as a series of quick one-liners during the planning stages of an article, but Writer Pro doesn’t give me any clever way of accessing them as I write. The only useful difference to me is that Note and Write act as different folders, which helps me mentally differentiate between the files that contain seeds of a draft, and actual organized drafts. However, this is nothing that my previous folder structure in iA Writer could not accomplish.

What would really be lovely is a keyboard shortcut and a touch-based gesture to bring up a note in a pop-over (perhaps from the top of the screen) while I’m in Write mode. Something like that would make sense to me, as it would provide a good reason for separating notes from active drafts in the Write folder, while still making great use of the iPad’s limited screen space.

When it comes to the Read mode, I have to wonder: how does this mode actually differ from the preview functionality already baked into Writer Pro? The only reason I can think of for using Read mode is to differentiate drafts in final editing stages from the ones that are now published. However, this was something that iA Writer and Byword already allowed me to do, and they allowed me more control in the matter as well. I place published posts in different iCloud folders based on the sites they are posted to, but Writer Pro treats all pieces of writing as part of one big list, without any differentiation or tagging system.

I’ll still keep playing around with Writer Pro, but I can’t shake the impression that it’s been over-designed as a tool. I am trying to start drafts in Notes and slowly graduate them to them to Write as I hash the ideas out, but I don’t have that wonderful feeling of clarity that I experienced when I first used software from iA. I remember loading up iA Writer, entering Focus Mode, and getting lost for a few hundred words. Writer Pro has lost that sense of clarity and simplicity, and the added complexity of the different modes has piqued my interest, but not necessarily made me more productive.

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