After four years and over 1 Million downloads of iA Writer, we’ve introduced something new. iA Writer Pro is a writing suite that boldly goes where no other writing app has gone before.
The reception has been phenomenal. iA Writer Pro is dominating the App Store Rankings around the globe. In order to cope with the amount of questions, we’ve written about how and why Writer Pro works.
Inspired by Hans Blumenberg’s mind-bending book “Sources, Streams, Icebergs” (Quellen, Ströme, Eisberge), we referred to the writing process through the metaphor of a river while designing Writer Pro. A river grows when multiple sources (Note) join into a stream (Write), which spreads into a delta (Edit), before flowing into the ocean (Read).
We assumed that the kinds of documents and document states a writer works with could be categorized accordingly:
While a river provides a powerful metaphor, in practice writing resists a strictly linear process. A single note doesn’t transform smoothly into a draft, and from draft to editing is more of a Tango than a March. The common process is blurry, dynamic, and in many ways circular.
In earlier versions we attributed writing functions to writing states, making them modal. Note was focused on structure, Write had Focus Mode helping you to just write away, Edit had Syntax Control™ exclusively, Read had no functions at all. That was a mistake.
We discovered that this strict approach does not match the modus operandi of a writer. It becomes annoying when you have to switch modes to perform syntax functions. So we changed editing functions to work at all stages except for Read, where the file is locked. Now, Workflow states work as environments to focus on a specific task, and they’re integrated into Writer Pro for iPad and iPhone.
The typical use cases our beta testers had were as follows:
Add sources, citations, ideas, and sketches in Note, work on your drafts in Write, then switch between Write and Edit until the job is done. After that, move your document to Read.
iA Writer Pro works best if you sync your documents to all your devices over iCloud. And yes, since iOS 7.04 iCloud on Writer Pro has worked fantastically.
The font and color changes indicate at a glance what kind of a document you are working on. We took great care to choose the appropriate typeface for each category. (Warning: Effusive type geek alert!)
Chances are that once you see Syntax Control in action you’ll see the benefits immediately. When editing a text, writers subconsciously scan for bad signs. Theses signs form syntactic patterns:
Grammar and style rules do not improve text quality if you follow them blindly. Repetition is not evil by nature—unwanted repetition is. Long sentences work flawlessly when consciously crafted. Adjectives are efficient when chosen with care.
The longer you work on a text, the harder it is to find these signs. For example, using “Adjectives” under “Syntax” will reveal how many empty ones you overlooked. This might bore an absolute killer writer, of which, no doubt, there are many among you, but for the rest of us Syntax Control is a bonanza. Used after you thought your text was polished, most writers will find a mountain of mistakes and weaknesses. It changes the way you write, tightening up your prose. And if your first language is not English… Holy cannoli!
Syntax Control—distinguishing a specific aspect of the text to assist in editing—is a solid innovation, one we’ve been working on for more than four years. As with every serious design, once you have seen how it works and how effective it is, it seems obvious, but it was a long road to get there.
Why the need for new apps? Doesn’t Writer Pro mean you’ll just abandon iA Writer? Why don’t you just add the iOS 7 keyboard to iA Writer for iPad and iPhone? Well, we found the changes iOS 7 required were deep. Writer Pro is a clean rewrite based on our four years of experience. At the same time, we released an update for iA Writer for iPad and iPhone on the same day.
Why does it take so long to satisfy user requests, and why do you do radical stuff first? We believe that leading with innovation beats competing on features. Writer Pro does what no other app does, it provides a unique user experience (“everything goes away but the writing experience”, as Stephen Fry said), and does so without settings. We’d like to keep it that way.
iCloud has been a hell of a ride. We worked on it for a long time. It became stable in our latest iOS6 integration. Then came iOS7. With each update iCloud became more stable on iOS 7, and from iOS 7.04 we get better results than with iOS6. iCloud suffers a worse reputation than it deserves, yet it works incredibly well. Due to time constraints we were forced to go without Dropbox in Writer Pro for iPad and iPhone for 1.0. Dropbox integration is coming.
We have learned to keep our mouth shut about what we plan—while we would love to tell you about X, Y and Z, it would be… unwise. We have done big things with iA Writer, and this 1.0 release is a subset of what we have planned for iA Writer Pro. We can’t wait to show you.