The latest iA Writer (v1.4) for iPad update really changed the app for the better. Writer has always been a fantastic full-screen text editor on the iPad, but previous versions felt as though all the development priority was given to the writing end of things, and none to the managing. It’s one thing to write […]
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Review Update: iA Writer for iPad

ia Writer

The latest iA Writer (v1.4) for iPad update really changed the app for the better. Writer has always been a fantastic full-screen text editor on the iPad, but previous versions felt as though all the development priority was given to the writing end of things, and none to the managing. It’s one thing to write something awesome, but what if you’re trying to write 10 awesome pieces over a long period of time and want those drafts to sync with different folders in Dropbox? Previous versions of Writer had trouble with the latter scenario, but this is no longer true of v1.4, which works better with Dropbox, syncs with iA Writer on the Mac via iCloud, and features a massively improved file system.

No More Dropbox Sync

Before I get into how much better Dropbox integration is now, let’s review how things used to be. Writer could sync with Dropbox, but only with one folder called Writer. Furthermore, text files that existed within Writer’s folder had to be deleted within the app, or they’d simply re-appear in other Dropbox clients the next time you synced Writer. In other words, it wouldn’t matter if I deleted ARTICLE XY in WriteRoom or Notesy, because if I hadn’t deleted the file within Writer, ARTICLE XY would come right back after I next synced in Writer. That was just silly, and I’m very happy to say that all silliness has been banned from the app as of this latest update. All that’s left is pure, unadulterated Awesome.

That’s because Writer on iPad now reads and writes directly to Dropbox, which means there’s actually no local storage of Dropbox files. The upside to this is that any file you edit while you have an Internet connection will be updated live…but if you pack up your iPad mid-sentence and head to a café without any Internet and restart there, you’ll be working on a local copy of the file saved only on your iPad. You’ll have to manually move the file back to Dropbox if you want the offline changes to sync with your other Dropbox apps. The system sounds complicated, but it has worked out well enough for me so far without having to think about it much. It also deserves mentioning that Writer can now read and create files or folders anywhere you please within Dropbox, which totally kills off the last complaint I leveled at the app. Writer is also the only writing app I know of that can move files from one Dropbox sub-folder to another (Daedalus Touch can do this, but the syncing system is so clunky that the solution doesn’t seem functional).

 

iCloud Sync

iCloud is a funny thing because Apple really hasn’t done a very good job of explaining how it works from a user perspective, and yet they’ve been advertising it like magic. iA Writer has been similarly opaque in the change notes, but they did write this FAQ on Dropbox vs. iCloud sync, which really helped me understand the differences. The one thing I don’t quite understand is the bit about Dropbox – if Dropbox is so complex, how come so many other apps already offer iCloud-like performance while syncing to Dropbox? Notesy, WriteRoom, Elements, and others all do a great job of saving the most recent versions of my notes to Dropbox, and in much the same manner as iA describes iCloud integration.

But that’s getting a little off-topic.

iCloud syncing works quickly and painlessly: create a file using the “+” button up top, tap on the “Document” text at the top to re-name your file, and you’re good to go. Changes sync live as long as your iPad has an Internet connection. If you own the Mac version of iA Writer (which is also fantastic) you’ll find your file waiting for you in a special iCloud menu. This fits nicely into Apple’s utopian “interact with apps, not files” vision, but for users like myself who use other text editors or simply sleep better knowing where their files are on a drive, iCloud has a long way to go. 

If I like using iA Writer on my iPad but use some other app to edit text on my Mac, then I’m still much better off with Dropbox than with iCloud. That’s because the iCloud folder that Writer syncs with isn’t easily accessible, since it’s meant to be accessed only by iA Writer on the Mac. Heck, the iCloud folder may not even appear on a Mac unless you have iA Writer for Mac installed, though I haven’t confirmed that. I’m not a fan of iCloud’s behaviour, but if you’re the kind of user who only really worries about a few files at a time, then iCloud Sync’s drop dead simplicity may be just right. I still prefer Dropbox myself.

Recently Opened

In a strange but welcome PC-esque touch, iA Writer actually has a fourth menu option in its Storage List. The first two are for iPad-only files, Dropbox, and iCloud, but there’s also a fourth option to see ‘Recently Opened’ files, which works just like it reads. Files you’ve recently opened – whether they be on your iPad, Dropbox, or iCloud – will be displayed in chronological order in this special folder. Awesome.

Recently Awesome

I’ve done a little of grumbling about iA Writer in the past, so I wanted to even things out by talking about how much the devs at iA got right in this release. Writer has always been fantastic for sitting down and typing without worrying about scrolling or distraction, but the experience is even better now that it has a capable file system behind it.

 

 
 

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