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iA Writer 5.4 Adds New Export Options, Local Backups, and Hashtag Suggestions

Over the holidays, the iA Writer team released version 5.4 of its iOS, iPadOS, and Mac apps, which added improved export options. The iOS and iPadOS apps also gained local backups and hashtag suggestions.

The new export feature adds the ability to share, export, print, and copy from the app’s Library using context menus. On iOS and iPadOS, each of those commands is available by long-pressing an item in your Library and picking from the popup context menu. The experience is similar on the Mac, where the same options are available when you right-click on an item in the Library. iA Writer’s release notes say that publishing is available via context menus too, but the MacStories WordPress setup doesn’t work with iA Writer, and I don’t use Ghost or Medium, so I haven’t tried that feature.

iA Writer includes a new Copy Markdown Action.

iA Writer includes a new Copy Markdown Action.

The alternatives for getting text out of iA Writer have been expanded too. The update’s Copy action has added a Copy Markdown option that makes it trivially easy to copy your work and drop it into another iOS or iPadOS app or paste it into a Mac app using Handoff.

Better yet, the Copy Markdown functionality includes content blocks to the copied text. That way, if you split a long document into multiple files, copying the Markdown of the main document will automatically incorporate the externally referenced files as content blocks. It’s an excellent way to assemble a long-form story and paste it into a content management system or another app with just a couple of taps. Together with the app’s existing copy, share, and export options, iA Writer has become one of the most versatile text editors when it comes to delivering your final text in the format you want and where you need it.

A local backup is saved as your document is edited.

A local backup is saved as your document is edited.

On iOS and iPadOS, iA Writer 5.4 has also added local backups, which are accessed from the action button in the toolbar, by swiping left on or long-pressing an item in your Library, or using Quick Search, which Federico covered in his review of version 5.3 of the app. Backups of your files are created as you edit them, and reverting to an older version is as simple as selecting the one you want and tapping ‘Restore.’ If you change the name of a document, the app keeps the older backups under the file’s original name. You can also navigate to the root level of your Library folder structure from the backups of the document you are currently viewing, allowing you to browse every local backup created by iA Writer on your device.

The strength of iA Writer’s backup feature is that the backups are local. iOS 13 has been a buggy release, and iCloud Drive continues to cause trouble for some users. By creating a local backup, iA Writer provides its users with a copy of their work on whichever device they’re using that isn’t affected by sync or other cloud-based issues.

In my testing, the new backup feature worked well and provided additional peace of mind that my work is safe, which I love. I did run into a bug when navigating back to the editor from the backup view when I entered it via the Library’s context menu. The editor lost the focus, so I had no cursor or keyboard, though it’s an issue that can be fixed by tapping into another document and then back to the one you’re editing. Hopefully, that will be fixed soon, but for now, the workaround is simple, and the issue is easily avoidable by not using the context menu to access backups for the time being.

iA Writer’s hashtag suggestions appear in the row above its custom keyboard.

iA Writer’s hashtag suggestions appear in the row above its custom keyboard.

Another iOS and iPadOS-only feature that’s new for version 5.4 is hashtag suggestions. Hashtags aren’t a feature of iA Writer that I use, but the update makes accessing hashtags more convenient by displaying the most recent three in the row above the app’s custom keyboard if your cursor is on an empty space. Alternatively, if the cursor’s inside a word, the top row offers to convert the word into a hashtag. It’s worth noting, however, that hashtag suggestions are not displayed when iA Writer’s custom keyboard is displayed as a popover on the iPad Pro.


In the broader scheme of iA Writer’s development, version 5.4 is a relatively minor update, though it does reinforce why the app was chosen as the MacStories Selects App of the Year. iA Writer has been a category-leading text editor for years, but it continues to receive regular updates that incorporate the latest technologies on every platform in ways that refine the experience for users and expand the app’s capabilities.

There’s an incredible amount of power tucked away behind iA Writer’s simple UI. That power is always just a tap or two away, but stays hidden until you need it, which is my favorite sort of pro app UI.

iA Writer 5.4 for iOS and iPadOS and for the Mac is available as a free update for existing users.



iA Writer 5.2: Better Typography and External Library Locations

As I wrote in my roundup of must-have iOS apps, I’ve been using iA Writer as my text editor, primarily because of its integration with Working Copy, beautiful typography, and syntax highlighting mode. As a non-native English speaker, I find the latter particularly useful when editing articles. iA Writer was updated to version 5.2 last week, and I’d like to point out a few welcome enhancements in this release.

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iA Writer 4 Adds Markdown Content Blocks

A major update to iA Writer, the popular Markdown text editor for iOS and macOS, has been released earlier today. I didn’t have enough time to test the beta of version 4.0, but I’m intrigued by the idea of file transclusion – effectively, a way to structure documents with content blocks based on local file references.

From the blog post:

We’ve made a swath of improvements in iA Writer 4. The meat on the bone is this new file referencing syntax. Every file reference you insert adds a block of content to your document, be it an image, table, or plain text file. These content blocks can then be ordered, stacked and chained with ease.

We think this syntax is a natural extension to Markdown, and it would please us to see other apps use it too. We’re a bit nervous since it’s a deviation, but we’d still like to try it out and hope it finds friends. We’ve published an introductory spec on GitHub to get the ball rolling. Hopefully, content blocks based on file transclusion will become a thing beyond iA Writer. One day all Markdown editors may work like that, but, as IBM famously said, why wait?

You can reference text files, images, and even .csv files to include in the compiled text output as MultiMarkdown tables. I think this is a genius way to handle file embeds in longer documents, and it’s something I would consider for future longform projects. I’m not aware of any other Markdown text editor for iOS that implements a similar option. I’d also like to see iA go beyond local file callbacks (which only work with iCloud) and allow documents to be comprised of files stored in iOS document providers. iA Writer is one of the few text editors that fully support opening and editing files from external document providers, so extending that integration to content blocks would be the next logical step.

There’s a lot to like in iA Writer; I don’t think it’s appreciated enough by iOS power users. The aforementioned integration with iOS document providers is solid, there are several editing tools such as writing statistics and parts-of-speech highlights, plenty of output options, support for iCloud versions, and more. I hope that iA will consider adding more features to the app’s basic URL scheme in the future – one area where iA Writer is considerably behind alternatives such as Ulysses and 1Writer.

I’m going to play around with iA Writer for a while – I feel like the app deserves more attention, and I want to experiment with document providers and content blocks for MacStories reviews and our newsletters.


iA Writer for iPhone Review

A few months ago, I decided that it was time for me to start a personal blog. I have been writing for MacStories for almost three years now, but I’ve never had “a place” to share my personal thoughts that wouldn’t fit in 140 characters or less. So as I was pondering the decision of trying to manage a separate, personal blog to share links and longer opinion pieces that I didn’t simply want to be short bursts on Twitter, I also decided that I would write such weblog exclusively from my iPad. The experiment has been a success so far, and that’s largely thanks to iA Writer, which starting today is also available on the iPhone.

Released as a universal update a few minutes ago on the App Store, I have been trying iA Writer for iPhone for the past few days, and I’m pleased to say Information Architects managed to squeeze (almost) everything that makes iA Writer great on the iPad and Mac (our coverage) into the iPhone’s smaller screen. Not only does iA Writer look great on the Retina display – it’s also functional and easy to use.

There isn’t much to say about iA Writer if you’re familiar with the iPad and Mac versions. It’s a minimalist take on plain text writing that focuses on letting you write without distractions with great typography, and only the essential features. There’s no cluttering interface with too many options. If most text editors and writing tools want you to feel connected with the web by adding social sharing functionalities, search look-ups, and various integrations with different services, iA Writer wants you to feel disconnected from the Internet’s noise to reconnect exclusively with what’s in front of you: text. Your words.

It’s called iA Writer for a reason – it’s about you, the writer, and the app, the digital writer. Everything else is secondary. That’s how I see this app.

This concept has been ported well to the iPhone. iA Writer can sync documents with iCloud and Dropbox across devices, and both are fairly reliable at keeping changes up to date and ready to be modified. Dropbox, as usual, can be slightly more “manual” in that iCloud is “invisible” in pushing and receiving changes automatically, all the time. Fortunately, iA Writer for iPhone has also a sync button, so if you’re not sure about the latest change fetched from the app, you can always hit Refresh and check that you’re getting the latest version of a document before you start writing. In my tests, iA Writer for iPhone was able to push changes to the same document already open on other devices, and I’m pretty satisfied with how iCloud sync turned out on iOS and OS X.

The core of iA Writer’s experience has been preserved in making the leap to the iPhone, but something’s got to give when you’re porting an app to the smaller screen. Either that, or iA simply didn’t have time to squeeze in more features – I don’t know, but as it stands now iA Writer for iPhone lacks Focus mode, and support for visual Markdown previews, which are both supported on the iPad and Mac. The iPhone app does, though, feature a custom keyboard with often-used keys placed in an extra row that also contains a drag handle to dismiss it (I love this aspect of the app), and arrows to navigate. The typing view of iA Writer 1.5 is now full-screen, which I think is incredibly better on iOS devices than being forced to always see window chrome. I do wish there was a gesture to quickly close a document without having to pull down the keyboard first, and I would like to see character count and reading time become available on the iPhone as well. I’m a big fan of the app’s separate storage for iCloud and Dropbox.

Ultimately, it comes down to the writing experience, and iA Writer excels at this because it is an app that wants you write more by seeing less. This first version of the iPhone app might not be as powerful as its Mac counterpart, but it sure is a pleasure to look at on the Retina display as what really matters, in the end, is that you’re looking at your own words, and nothing else.

iA Writer 1.5 is now available at $0.99 on the App Store.


iA Writer for iPad and Mac Updated with iCloud

Sometimes you kids ask me about what writing app is shown off in my iPad screenshots or photos. More often than not it’s iA Writer, and it’s an awesome little thing.

If you can’t live without iA Writer, you should start checking both the iOS and Mac App Stores for an available update that includes improved Dropbox integration, and now iCloud support that works between Mac and iOS.

Here’s how it works. On the iPad side you can save a document to iCloud. Saving and managing documents is a completely enhanced experience: You can move documents between the local iPad, any Dropbox folder of your choice, or iCloud for shared and cloud storage.

When you open up iA Writer on the Mac, a new iCloud submenu appears under the file menu. You can pull your documents from the cloud. Just so we’re being clear — these documents are copied to your Mac in the library folder, but they’re not available in your documents folder. You’ll get a good idea about how iCloud sandboxing works here.

If you want to save a document to iCloud from your Mac, you need to save your document somewhere first. Only afterwards can you move it to the iCloud, where it will be moved out of its original location and into your Library. So technically you’re not supposed to know where these documents exist, but everything works as advertised.

iA Writer is a custom text editor that features FocusMode and a barebones writing environment with a giant blue cursor. Currently, iA Writer is 50% for both iPad and Mac versions — if you want the app, now would be a really good time to pick it up since you can get the suite for around $10.

App Store: iA Writer for the iPad | iA Writer for Mac


iA Writer Launches on the Mac App Store

Fans of the well focused Writer for iPad can now find their favorite editor on the Mac App Store. Writer for the Mac has no settings, with your only available options to write in a window or full screen mode. Unlike Byword, there is no support for a dark or light interface, however, Writer does have some syntax formatting for Markdown. Like the iPad, Writer also allows you to focus on a single line of text at a time, the idea being that you’ll be more focus on writing (finishing the sentence and moving on) than being distracted by editing, rereading, and revisiting previously written lines of text in the draft process. Writer is entering the market a premium price of $17.99 (and that’s with the entry 10% off discount), and we’ll be certainly be giving the text editor a thorough test before publishing our definitive review. After the break, we’ve included a short demo-video showcasing the app’s features. For more information, you can also check out the announcement on the IA blog.

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IA Writer Now iOS 4.2-ready

I’ve been waiting for this update: when IA Writer first came out, I couldn’t use it. I was already running iOS 4.2 beta on my iPad, and the app had a few bugs with the new operating system. The focus mode wasn’t working (and that feature is possibly the most important one in the app), custom keys didn’t match.

With the latest 1.0.2 that showed up a few minutes ago in iTunes, the app is finally ready for the elusive OS. Subfolders and auto-sync aren’t included yet, but they’re coming soon.

Finally, I can use IA Writer. Go get it, as it seems totally worth it.


Dialog Season 1 Finale, Writers and Writing: Wrap-Up

Today on Dialog, we conclude season one with a discussion of what we learned from each of our guests. Despite vastly different backgrounds, there were several themes that ran throughout our interviews with John Gruber, Frank Turner, John August, Carrie Patel, and Pierce Brown. To wrap up season one we revisit getting started as a writer, the impact and use of social media, influences and idea generation, getting past writer’s block, and the roles of hard work, luck, and privilege in succeeding.

Thank you for listening to season one of Dialog. We haven’t decided when season two will begin, but we’ll be back with an all-new set of guests and a different topic in the near future. In the meantime, if you missed any of previous interviews, go back and check them out. A big benefit of a show like Dialog is that the topics are evergreen and just as relevant today as they were when they were first published.

We also want to thank each of our guests for taking the time to chat with us about writing. Without the generosity of John Gruber, Frank Turner, John August, Carrie Patel, and Pierce Brown, this season wouldn’t have been possible. Thanks too to this season’s sponsors who believed in the show and supported it before we had even recorded the first episode.

You can find the final episode of season one here or listen through the Dialog web player below.

Sponsored by:

  • Astropad Studio – Turn your iPad into a professional graphics tablet. Get started today with a 30-day free trial.
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