Favorite iPad Apps for Writers

To follow up on our recent look at iPhone writing apps, I decided to spend some time putting together a list of favorite iPad writing apps. While it’s hard to argue that an iPad is a proper replacement for a laptop or computer, sometimes it does make a handy writing tool. And the right app makes all of the difference in the world.

Gizmodo (“Information Architects’ Writer, or Building the Perfect iPad App”) has some insight on the thought process that went into the iA Writer writing app —

“the group outlines the many decisions they made in their quest to design the perfect writing environment for the iPad.

The key to good writing, they say, is focus, and the guiding principle of Writer was to minimize distractions. That means no autocorrection, no scroll bars, and no cut and paste. Just you and the text. A Focus Mode even blurs out everything but the three lines you’re currently working on, keeping your focus locked on the sentence you’re writing.”

Aside from the name (ugh), it’s one of the better writing apps out there: a simple and clean design that is actually really good for writing. If you’re looking for a good writing app to start with, it’s worth a visit to their website: www.iawriter.com.

Two features in particular which impressed me:

  • Focus Mode: “Focus mode does not only limit the field of view to one sentence at a time, it also makes sure that the eyes do not need to wander too much around the window while writing
  • Reading Time: “Page numbers work well for physical objects where they have a physical frameset that you can touch, but they are pretty much meaningless for digital text. We believe that reading time is a more useful measure

Different apps suit different kinds of writing. Here’s a list of some favorites —

Favorite $0.99 writing app: Clean Writer. Very simple word processor app, with some minimal customization options (font, background) and syncs to Dropbox. Might be too simple for some. But, dude, it’s $0.99

Favorite iPad app for book planning and writing: Manuscript ($6.99). I rather like this one. It’s marketed as an all-in-one solution: “Whether you are writing an entire novel, a short story, or even articles for submission to magazines, Manuscript for iPad takes care of the details and lets you focus on writing. This all-in-one writing app will take you from pitch to a publication ready document, in four easy steps” — and guides you through the process (Pitch, Synopsis, Chapter Outline). Also has a nifty Storyboarding feature with index cards.

Favorite iPad app for outlining and brainstorming: OmniOutliner ($19.99). It’s a lot of money for an app that does outlining. But, it does outlining really, really well. Check out their website for more features and see what you think.

Favorite iPad apps in lieu of a real notebook: Moleskine (free) is kind of fun, and looks neat.

But Notebooks for iPad ($8.99) is a much better, full-featured app. It has a ton of file format support: text, HTML, RTF, PDF, MS Office, iWork, photos, iPhone Notes, and Safari web pages. One of the more expensive options, but really a solid and very functional word processing app.

Favorite iPad app for handwriting app: Penultimate ($1.99) is pretty one of the best, if not the best note-taking apps for the iPad. And fun to use, too.

Favorite app for poetic inspiration: PortaPoet ($1.99). Much easier than keeping a rhyming dictionary on hand.

Favorite app for all-purpose sketching: Adobe Ideas ($5.99). For the visually-minded, this is an impressive amount of software to use as a digital sketchbook.

Favorite app for anything PDF-related: iAnnotate PDF ($9.99). I use this all the time. Has all of the annotating tools, document library management, and importing/exporting you could want.

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Here is an excellent list, courtesy of CopyBlogger, “8 iPad Apps for Brilliant Writing” — in particular, the very well-organized and manageable Chapters app and the journal-styled Chronicle app are well worth checking out.

Check out @iPadGirl: “iPad Apps For Writers,” with a very helpful comparison of various iPad writing apps.


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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