iA Writer

There’s a lot to like about iA Writer for Mac, because there’s almost nothing to it.

Pure simple elegance.

iA Writer does only one thing, it edits text. And by text I mean MIME-type text/plain in files that ends in .txt, with support for a well chosen subset of Markdown for formatting, not rendering (see the screenshots for examples).

There are no preferences to set, because everything is just so, any change that you’d normally use preferences for, would be a regression.

It is opinionated software. No doubt some people will hate it, but I like it very much. And I love that some people stick their neck out and make that kind of software.

A beautiful monospaced font is used, in just the right size for extended writing sessions, the cursor is an easily identifiable blinking blue line, taller than all letters, just to make it stand out more. When the text scroll off the screen it fades out a little before the edge, which is very pleasant.

There is a “Focus mode”, toggled with ⌘-D, as a way to concentrate on the current sentence, the rest of the text is faded, but still visible, and I must say it works much better than I would have expected, and it also ensure that what you’re writing is in the middle of the screen, not at the bottom as in most other editors.

The editor feels natural as a fullscreen editor, but can be used as a windowed editor too, where it comes up with a title bar that disappears and reacts just like the QuickTime player, and it’s got a minimal kind of scrollbar that fades away when it’s not needed. And in windowed mode it can’t be resized freely, it will only let you resize down to a size where horizontal scrolling isn’t needed and you have the minimum margin left over for everything to look good. And when you make the window wider the text stays the same width, because that is the right one anyway.

When in windowed mode you can hover the mouse over the lover 15 pixels or so, and a status bar will fade in, showing whether Focus mode is off or on to the left, and, right aligned, show number of words, characters and an estimated reading time. The latter is a really nice touch.

Being a version 1.0.0 there are a few bugs. Some special glyphs, like ⌘, ⌥ & , are not rendered, and as I’m writing right now in windowed mode, the title bar is obscured by the menu bar at the top of the screen, so I can’t grab it and move this window around. My 2 and 4 year old kids have been let loose in the program, so maybe that’s why it got messed up like that… Very annoying. New Windows are created with a visible title bar. Probably the kind of bugs you get when you make that much custom chrome for an app.

It is also annoying that the app refuse to open filenames not ending in .txt, given how it supports Markdown. At least supporting .markdown files or some similar extensions would be nice. Then I could plug iA Writer in as editor in my blog script for this site. I’d like that a lot.

I am sure 1.0.1 will fix these smaller issues.

All said, I love iA Writer, and I am sure you will too, if you’re into distraction-free writing.