iA Writer – Minimalist, distraction free writing [Review]


iA Writer icon

For me, one aspect of being more productive, is to avoid distractions. Word Processing packages are great, if you need all those advanced features, but I have found a simple text editor is a great way to focus on what you are writing, without having to worry about the layout. I wanted something that allowed me to concentrate on writing, rather than get distracted by fiddling with font sizes and paragraph settings. You can always import text files into your word processing application after if you need to.

User Interface

iA Writer – Information Architects Inc. is about the most minimalist text editor you can find. There is no danger of wasting time fiddling with font sizes or changing fonts because you can’t. The App doesn’t have a preference setting, let alone a toolbar. It is the ultimate distraction free writing environment. The software developers have created one of the most beautiful text writing interfaces I have ever seen.

The App use Nitti Light an attractive, sans-serif font, set on a grey-white lightly textured paper like page. The text is rendered in inviting dark grey, with a lovely large cyan coloured cursor.

IA Writer UI

The App has a full screen mode, so that you can remove all those other distractions from your screen.

IA Writer Fullscreen

The App also has a wonderful Focus Mode, that switches to typewriter scrolling, placing your current sentence in the middle of the screen. All the writing before and after the current sentence is grayed out, allowing you complete focus on writing. In focus mode you can move between sentences by using the [CMD]+[ALT]+[arrow keys].

IA Writer focus mode

Markdown Support

The app also supports Markdown. Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers (HTML is the markup language used to format webpages). Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to HTML. Markdown allows you to add formatting information by using text, rather than more complicated and difficult to read HTML coding.

For example using **[text]** is Markdown to identify strong (bold) text. So when you write;

**put this in bold**

Then when it’s imported into an application that supports Markdown and converted into HTML it will appear as;

put this in bold

Although iA Writer supports Markup, you don’t have to use it. By default the application saves files in a plain text format. You can export a document that includes Markup either to a Rich Text Format or HTML.

iCloud Support

iA Writer is also available for the iPad and iPhone.

IA Writer iPad

It is one of the first applications to use Apple’s new iCloud document and data sync service. To enable this functionality on your Mac you needs OS X 10.7 Lion. Make sure that ‘documents and data’ is checked on in your iCloud preferences.


To be able to save your document in iCloud, you first need to save your document locally. To move the document to iCloud click File>iCloud>Move to Cloud.

IA Writer Move to Cloud

The iCloud Sync service works very well and iA Writer is an excellent iOS text editor. Now you are able to automatically Sync your iA Writer files between your iOS devices and all your Macs.

Using iA Writer to create new emails

If you want to use iA Writer to draft your emails you can use Mac OS X services. There is a service which takes highlighted text in any App, including iA Writer and automatically create a new eMail.

To set this up, go into system preferences and choose Keyboard preferences.

System Preferences

Click on Keyboard Shortcuts tab, then make sure New Email with Selection is checked on in the services section.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Now select the text in iA Writer that you want to put into a new email, and click on iA Writer > Services>New Email with selection. OS X will then open Mail (if not already open) and create a new email with your selected text.

The developers of iA Writer are looking to add additional export options in future updates to the App, and proper email support is one of the items that they are considering adding.




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