Quick thoughts on iA's Writer for Mac

May 31, 2011

Last week Information Architects released Writer for Mac, which had been eagerly anticipated by a lot of us writing geeks for some time.

Everyone these days loves holding up as a virtue the fact that many writing apps are coming with fewer and fewer customization options. When I see these sorts of comments I usually just roll my eyes, and that's exactly what I did when I saw the first bullet point in Writer's website copy: "iA Writer has no preferences. After opening the program, all you can do is write." *Yawn* We get it, you took options out. Great. You're hip.

That said, I must admit that I've been looking forward to this app ever since I first used its iPad counterpart last year. As I recently wrote about, the iPad app turned me on to Bold Monday's Nitti Light font, which I bought (for $75) and now use in nearly every app on my Mac. It of course is the font iA chose for its Mac version.

For its $18 price, I was a bit disappointed to not see support for the ODB Editor protocol, without which I can't use QuickCursor to route data in and out of the app. This means that any time I want to write something I either have to copy out of and paste into whatever app I use to store draft posts (currently nvALT), or use Path Finder to dig around my Dropbox folder. What is this, 2005? Surely support for this sort of thing is coming.

Despite that letdown, I've quite enjoyed writing with the app, and have lived in it a fair amount since buying it on launch day. Also, for some (clearly) irrational reason, I love the oversized, light-blue (cyan?) cursor, just as I did on the iPad. I'm on the fence about "focus mode," which dims everything other than the sentence you're currently writing, but maybe I just need more time with it. I'm a big fan of the auto-Markdown formatting, which is beautifully implemented, and the "reading time" metric is a nice touch.

Going forward, I think I'll continue using Writer for most of my long-form writing, and maybe for everything if they eventually add support for the ODB Editor protocol.

Given that you can't modify anything about the app (including the font, font size, line width, background color and text color), it won't appeal to many, and frankly, I think the inability to change the font size may be the most user-hostile thing I've ever seen. We've all got different screen resolutions, pixel densities, eyesight capabilities, etc., and so it seems silly to prohibit the adjustment of such a personal variable. Hopefully they'll ease off their we-know-best attitude in future updates--this isn't a typewriter.

One final thing about the app that really bothers me is that it defaults to a window height tall enough for just nine lines of text; the window basically is a 2x1 rectangle. Is there really no way to change this? Every time I want to type something in the app (without going full screen) I have to drag the window and make it taller?

Relatedly, this is the last writing app I'm buying this year. I'm done. This space is beyond saturated. Between nvALT (which is what I write in most), Byword, WriteRoom, Ommwriter, TextMate, BBedit, etc., I just can't take it anymore.

(See also Ben Brooks' take on the app.)

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