Distraction-free writing with Writer for iPad app
By Darren Quick
September 23, 2010
Ahhh, the glamorous life of the professional writer. Spending untold hours alone in a room staring at a screen awaiting inspiration with no guarantees of attracting the interest of a publisher, let alone readers, after baring one’s soul on the page. Many successful writers will say, when in the grip of the Muse, they go into a kind of trance with thoughts flowing faster than they can be written down. But inspiration is a fickle thing and, once found, often difficult to hold onto. A new iPad app from Information Architects called Writer for iPad is designed to remove many of the distractions that can send inspiration packing and give writers a better chance of maintaining focus.
Even though word processing programs like Word and Pages are a godsend for editing text, many writers actually still prefer a typewriter or even the handwritten word to get ideas down – at least for a first draft. Others opt for basic text editors such as NotePad or TextEdit because they offer a relatively distraction-free interface. The folks at Information Architects have taken this to the next level with a simplified interface that removes all of the unnecessary distractions of standard word processors, such as auotcorrection, scroll bars and cut/copy/paste.
To assist a writer in maintaining focus on what they’re writing, Writer for iPad has a feature called “Focus Mode” that combines the best of both the analog and digital world. Focus mode creates a noise-free writing space that blurs out everything except the current three lines of text that are being worked on.
The developers say this approach takes advantage of the limitations of writing text by hand, where there a limited number of words in your field of view and editing is messy. In comparison, text on the screen quickly becomes labyrinthine and can lead to a chaotic loop of crisscross editing that destroys the organic structure of the original thought. The developers don’t suggest writing in Focus Mode at all times, rather, “the idea is to use it when you get stuck, blinding out everything else.”
Recognizing that good typography is also an essential part of the writing process on a screen, the developers consulted a number of type, screen and graphic designers and settled upon a monospaced font called Nitti Light that was created and optimized for the iPad. The developers say this font forces the reader to read slowly and precisely without being tedious to look at. Writer also sets the text size, column width, leading and contrast for the best reading experience in both portrait and landscape modes so you can focus on what really matters – writing.
Instead of relying on page numbers, which are fine for physical pages but can be near on meaningless for digital text, Writer for iPad uses reading time for the measure to assess the quantity of text. Placing the cursor at a point within the text will provide an approximation of how many minutes and seconds it will take to read to that point.
Although the onscreen keyboard sees the addition of row of keys at the top of the standard iPad keyboard with arrow keys and quick access to frequently used punctuation, I’d still be opting for a physical keyboard such as Apple’s Bluetooth keyboard or the Jorno folding keyboard we looked at recently.
The app also features Dropbox integration for synching documents to the cloud without having to go through iTunes. Apple’s recent announcement that AirPrint wireless printing will be coming to the iPad (and iPhone and iPod touch) in iOS 4.2 is sure to come in handy for users of the app as well.
Version 1.0 of Writer for iPad is available in the App Store now for US$4.99. The development team at Information Architects is now working on updates to add word count and sort out a few minor bugs in the current version. The team is also working on a desktop version with an advanced Focus Mode and “cool editing features.” If they put half as much thought into it as they have with Writer for iPad it will no doubt be worth considering as well.
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