My ongoing and seemingly never ending search for the perfect writing app continues, but with less urgency since the popular and free Bean was upgraded to run on more recent versions of macOS, and the Mac’s Notes app has become something of a mini-word processor that syncs well everywhere.
Remember, there is no shortage of good writing tools for Mac users, but I’ve become more enamored with apps that work everywhere you want to be, which is to say, Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Two popular Mac writing systems, Scrivener and Ulysses run on iOS, too, but today is all about a Bear with improvements.
Bear It All
Bear is one of those new breed Mac writing tools which has fewer writing features than traditional word processors, yet just enough tools to make it a clean, light, useful, faster, easy to learn, and mostly uncluttered writing experience. Yes, there is a Bear for iPhone and iPad but certain tools and functions as well as multi-device support requires the ongoing subscription (get used to subscriptions; more are on the way).
I found Bear a pleasure to view, quite familiar to use, and with a growing feature set.
Because Bear is somewhat minimalist in nature it doesn’t take much effort to master, yet it becomes something of a bridge between a mini-word processor like Notes, a markup and text editor for programmers, and a minimalist notes app with a few extra features with the subscription version.
- Smart Data Recognition of elements like links, emails, addresses, colors, and more to come
- Hashtags to quickly find and organize notes however you like
- One-tap formatting on iPhone and iPad with a custom shortcut bar
- Focus Mode hides notes and other options when it matters
- All your notes are stored in plain text for the ultimate in portability
- Effortless, secure, and private multi-device sync via iCloud
- Advanced Markup Editor that supports and highlights over 20 programming languages
- Rich previews while writing so you see prose, not code
- In-line support for images and photos
- Use Cross-Note Links to build a body of work, quickly reference other notes, and more
- Quickly add todos to individual notes to keep yourself on task
- Multiple themes to offer a style for everyone
- Multiple export options including HTML, PDF, DOCX, MD, JPG, and more
There’s much to like here. Bear comes with multiple themes and typical Mac smart data recognition options that include email addresses, colors, standard URLs, etc. There’s a custom shortcut bar on the iPhone and iPad versions for one-tap formatting, and hashtags to use to organize notes and find topics.
Other useful options that all such notes or writing apps should have include a simple formatting bar, and statistics for words, characters, read time, and total paragraphs.
In other words, Bear has plenty to like and even more if you don’t mind the subscription model, which, to be fair, is modest on a monthly basis, but adds up over time. Because Apple added a subscription option to Mac App Store and iOS App Store apps, expect to see more high quality apps adopt to a monthly or annual upgrade fee.
Bear on the Mac is a decent experience. Bear on iPad is not bad, but depends upon your keyboard choice. iOS does not have the page navigation tools you find on a Mac keyboard.
My jury is still out on subscriptions for apps. For some, I’m willing to pay without a blink. For others– Mail Butler, I’m looking at you– I do so begrudgingly because one function isn’t found elsewhere. Otherwise, if you want a better than minimalist writing tool, Bear is a good place to look and $1.49 a month or $14.99 a year is not too much to Bear.