iA Writer for OS X Review

This is my first full-on article writing attempt about iA Writer. It’s is a pretty straightforward writing program that enables you to forget about everything else and just put your thoughts down in text. iA Writer is currently available at the Mac App Store for US$9.99.

What struck me as the most interesting when I read through the initial user’s manual was how similar the commands used to control text in iA Writer are to Wikimedia’s commands. Instead of cluttering and distracting toolbars at the top of the window, iA Writer relies on simple text commands to guide the formatting of the document. This takes some time to get used to, but if you’re a distraction-prone writer (like me), you’re more likely to enjoy an in-line editing tool with simple text commands in the long run.

The background of the text document itself is what really made me want to drop the US$9.99 to purchase the app. I’m one of the 5% of the population who suffers from a form of Dyslexia that makes reading black text on solid white backgrounds difficult. With writing as my primary source of income, it’s important that I get everything as accurate as possible before sending my article to our in-house editor for grammar and spelling checks. Reading over what I’ve put down in the article is difficult using the built-in WordPress editor, and having a text editor that defaults to a more natural off-white textured background with slightly grey text makes reading over my work much easier.

By default, as-you-type spelling and grammar checking is turned off, but this is an easy thing to change using the edit menu at the top of the screen. As I’m typing this now, any spelling issues iA Writer detects are being pointed out and auto-corrected with an indicating underline letting me know what was corrected. This distracting line fades as I continue to type. The same goes with grammar errors.

What struck me as most interesting after having used the text editor for some time was the focus feature. If you mouse-over the window, a focus button appears in the lower-left corner (which quickly fades when you stop moving your mouse). After giving this button a click, everything except for the sentence you’re working on is faded into the background, giving you the ability to see exactly what you’re writing sentence by sentence without having to seek out the period. This is by far the best feature of the program, and one that I would absolutely enjoy as a writer.

When moving your mouse across the screen, or pausing during your writing, word and character counters appear. In addition, an estimated read timer lets you know how long the average person would take to read the article you’re punching out. This is a great tool if you’re writing a commercial script or anything that requires reader engagement to be kept within a specific time frame.

iA Writer is a minimalist text editor with a lot going on behind the scenes. Thankfully, all the bells and whistles about the program are hidden from the writer, allowing me to concentrate on exactly what’s most important: writing.