Way back in the day, back when word processors were all the rage, I cut my digital writing teeth on WriteNow, considered by many experienced (a euphemism for old) Mac users as the best word processor ever.
Those days are gone and Mac users today are flooded with gargantuan writing tools, writing systems, and the cluttered messes that are called Word and Pages, as well as a growing list of minimalist tools for writers; clutter free utilities short on features, long on price tag. This is the search for the perfect word processor.
Alas, The Search Has Ended
Yes, enough is enough. Writing has changed and so have the tools. I began this search for the perfect word processor a few years ago when development on Bean for the Mac ended. It wasn’t that Bean was so feature laden. It wasn’t. It was much like WriteNow with a perfect blend of speed and performance with the writing toolset most of us needed and wanted but nothing more. And Bean was, and still is, free.
For a few years I’ve waded through dozens of writing tools and I’ve come to a conclusion. The perfect word processor only exists in history. Today’s crop of tools fall short in one way or another, and when and where and how writers write has changed, too. These days I write on my Mac, on my iPad, and occasionally on my iPhone, and I want to keep what I write available wherever I may be at the moment.
Here’s one that comes close. It’s called iA Writer. It’s good. It’s been around a few years. It runs on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. It gets updated every so often. It’s minimalist and distraction free but familiar, in a word processor sort of way, yet has some of the tools 21st century writers might like (but I do not).
iA Writer features built-in templates to get started, imports and exports Markdown into Word documents (the latter I don’t mind, the former I have no idea who uses it, but it’s everywhere these days).
Here’s what I like. iA Writer syncs between devices using iCloud. Preferences give you access to GoogleDrive an Dropbox. I’ll take whatever sync options I can get.
The latest version features an integrated File library so you can view what you’ve written without leaving what you’re writing at the moment. Files can be navigated, organized, sorted, and, of course synchronized.
What’s missing, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the generation of tools we use these days, are the standard word processor toolbar, floating palette of tools, and the gazillion options that must be learned but seldom get used.
iA Writer is billed as a text editor but that’s the wrong term. It’s not a text editor in the sense of a programmer’s text editor, but more like TextEdit on your Mac but without so many distracting options.
Instead of tools which are visually distracting and cumbersome to learn and master, iA Writer remains simple, but has enough statistics to be useful, a good preview state, a fullscreen mode, and more. But not too much.
Is iA Writer the perfect word processor? No. But it’s useful and might find a place in your heart and on your Mac. The conclusion I have these days is that writing has become ever more personal, with plenty of tools to satisfy almost any writing requirement or style (hence the lack of a perfect word processor) or methodology.
Different strokes for different folks.
These days I’ve been using Scrivener and trying Ulysses because they are more writing environments that incorporate simple writing tools with organizational capabilities that go beyond the perfect word processor. I don’t process words anymore. I write.