Bringing Responsiveness to Apps
iA Writer for Mac is the first native text editor that uses a responsive design. Why did it take so long?
The main request we’ve heard for iA Writer for Mac from customers is the ability to change font size. This would be a simple feature to add, but we just didn’t give in. Why?
Why so arrogant?
While some critiques suggested Writer’s typography was due to our aesthetic arrogance, this is not true. The reasons why Writer had only one typeface and font size were:
- One of the main distractions of other text editors is fumbling with fonts. Despite varying preferences and a legacy of over-small type from 20 years ago, finding the right typeface and text size is not a matter of taste.
- Smaller font sizes are good for reading and editing, but seeing the text up close helps you focus when you’re crafting your prose sentence by sentence.
- The font size we chose was not ideal. It was a compromise — a size that would deliver good results on most Mac Screens. We were always aware that on some older screens the font would seem rather big, while on newer screens it would seem a little too small for the best writing experience.
We knew there was room for improvement. We have spent a lot of time thinking about a solution that keeps Writer’s simplicity and still allows different font sizes. First we tried to find a technical approach to check resolution and pixel density, changing font sizes for different screens. But that solution required us to add separate reading and editing modes, and seemed a little too control freak-ish, even for us.
The solution: a responsive design
Inspired by our deep experience designing for the web, we’ve given Writer for Mac a responsive design, changing the font size based on window width. This maintains the text’s typographic proportions, zooming in and out without reflowing the text. I don’t know why it took us so long to find this obvious solution. However, given that no one else has done it, the simplicity of this solution is perhaps not as obvious as it seems in hindsight. With all the custom features built into Writer for Mac, like Focus Mode and Auto Markdown, technically it was not as easy as you’d expect. But we’ve taken the time to address these details, so that this new feature feels obvious and natural.
While we experimented with liquid resizing, we decided to go with a three-step adaptive layout. This is why:
How we write with Writer for Mac
We’ve been testing prototypes for months now, and this seemingly simple change has completely changed the way we write. Here is how we use the three font sizes:
- Big size for difficult writing: Seeing your sentence from close slows down your pace. This is particularly helpful if you have a tough subject to write about, that requires you to take one step at a time. Especially when paired with Focus Mode, this helps you write that difficult scientific paper, poem or philosophical text.
- Medium size for Writing and editing: This works well for quick, easy writing and editing.
- Small size for reading: Some writers like to use a small font size to write because it allows them to see the surrounding text. However for many people a small size reveals too much text. Seeing too much text can lead to fast typing, careless thinking, and the temptation to stop writing and start editing. Some texts (and some writers) will benefit from this, but we find the small size works best for moving text around, “big picture” edits and reading what you’ve written.
Another way to use the different font sizes is to order open documents by importance. Resize the window to the small size before putting it into the background, and make the text bigger for the window that you are actively working on. Use a medium size for secondary texts.
Two more things…
While we think responsive design is the stand-out feature in this version, there are other exciting additions and improvements. Writer for Mac now has selection-sensitive word count, a more powerful find and replace and an HTML preview panel. The really good news is that, it’s a free update. If you don’t have it yet get your copy now, while it is on sale at half price.Ð