Earlier this year, I promised myself that I would get more work done using the iPad. The plan was an ambitious one: after three years of writing, researching, and online communication done exclusively using my MacBook (and, perhaps to an extent, my iPhone) switching to the iPad as my main work machine did indeed seem like a daunting task at first. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized the long-term benefits of giving the iPad a fair chance as a full-time writing tool would outnumber the perks of using a device I am accustomed to. With a mature ecosystem of apps that sees great new software coming out every week and a Retina display on the horizon, starting to use the iPad as my main computer was an investment.
The experiment has been a success so far. I use my iPad a lot more, I enjoy it, and, more importantly, the device is helping me work smarter because it lets me focus more on what I do for a living: writing.
If anything, the only negative note is that the iPad has given too much choice when it comes to picking a single writing tool. See, on the Mac, when I need a text editor, I usually fire up Text Edit (rigorously set in plain text mode) and forget about it. But there is no Text Edit for iPad. And all those text editors on the App Store look so tempting.
What follows is an overview of the four text editors (for writing, not coding) that I have preferred using in the past three months. Like TJ Luoma, I have bought many of them. Almost too many, to the point where I needed to stop fiddling already, and get the writing done. Because while I’m one for supporting developers and buying apps and paying for the tools I use, there is a line between “trying software” and “using software to work better”, and I had crossed that line with my curiosity for text editors. So I took all of them, tested them, and deleted the ones I didn’t like. I kept the ones with Markdown formatting and Dropbox sync. I didn’t include recent additions to the ecosystem like iA Writer (for iPhone) and Byword, as I need to test them more accurately. Eventually, I picked four apps.
Some smart folks have already written about the note-taking apps/text editors they like and use. Mine doesn’t want to be a comprehensive comparison that takes into account all the possible options from the App Store. It will likely lack the app you like, and yes, it’s also very likely that it’s not here for a reason. In this article, I am just comparing four apps that, taken singularly, allow me to write for the site; these four apps can stand on their own. However, they have their differences, which is why I am, ultimately, going to choose one and stick with it. The apps are universal, and while I am primarily looking at their iPad versions, almost all of the features I mention are also available on the iPhone.
I have no doubt new iOS text editors will come out, activating my curiosity trigger again. Until then, these are the four text editors I was most impressed with. (more…)