iA Writer Is My Killer App

It's taken me a long time to identify a killer app. Since purchasing the iPad, I've experimented with many different use cases attempting to find a justification for it. I love technology and Apple products, but, was hesitant when the iPad arrived. Other than being cool, I couldn't understand a device that lived between my phone and laptop.

I held out on purchasing my iPad until the 3rd generation was released. It's taken me 6 months to find a reason for owning it. For me, there was no killer app.

Evernote came close by syncing and indexing my notes and writings, between my phone, iPad, and desktop, but fell short with the experience of writing content. I found the interface too distracting to write in.

I first discovered iA Writer for the Mac and started using it because it supported markdown by default. I immediately noticed iA Writer didn't complicate its identity. The developers narrowed their focus on the experience of writing and nothing else. For instance, you can only write and edit plain text documents. It doesn't support Word formatted documents.

This limitation may seem like a big deal, but it's not. The developers prioritized the writing experience instead of file support. They've made writing enjoyable.

iA Writer is the first app I've used where the iPad experience makes sense. It's ironic because, on it's surface, the iA Writer interface is simple. But it isn't the interface that makes it the killer app. It's little features make the complete picture.

Many applications, including Evernote, do document syncing. iA Writer makes it a rewarding experience. Writing anything becomes seamless. It is truly amazing and hard to describe. Having thoughts, nicely formatted and synced across three devices, is unusually rewarding.

I've been using iA Writer to write my blog posts and love the experience. I wrote this article, in bed, before going to sleep on my iPad. When I woke up, I edited, the document on my desktop with out additional work. All technology experiences should be this rewarding. Jeff Atwood recently tweeted that tablets are doing to laptops, what laptops did to desktops.

After using iA Writer I agree. I now understand how writers, like Warren Ellis, can use their iPads for writing.

Outside of document syncing and markdown support, iA Writer has a few other unique features that are great for writing content.

Full-Screen Writing

Writing should be an experience left to the mind. There were too many distractions when writing in Evernote. Although a blank screen can be intimidating at first, it isn't distracting. One problem I see most people have when they write is the lack of focus. They are unable to remove themselves from the world and pay attention to their words.

Full screen mode allows your mind to focus. It's a canvas for words. It allows words to easily flow from the mind, to your fingers, and arrive on paper.

Dictionary by Default

I don't know the definitions and usage of many words I use.

After reading On Writing Well, I've been focused on using words correctly. The author describes how we complicate our writing to sound smart.

When you highlight a word and right click, the first option is to define it. This little design decision has made my life harder, because it isn't the first option in other programs like Chrome. I wish it was.

Focus Mode

Focus mode (Ctrl-D) highlights only the current sentence and deemphasizes the rest of the text. This helps with editing. You can easily identify sentences that are too long or too short just by moving through the text.

Along with full-screen, I write with this option always on. I find it easier to focus on the current sentence I'm writing.

If you don't end up using iA Writer after purchasing for your desktop and iPhone/iPad, it's still a worthwhile investement. For $6, the risk versus reward calculation is worth it. I've spent far more money on apps that do far less.

Written: December 26, 2012

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